Signs

Posted on July 25, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Think about your favorite signs that summer is coming. How do you prepare? Ask God to help you see the signs that point to His return and to be prepared.

Read Matthew 24:3-36 in your Bible.

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near—at the door!”
Matthew 24:32-33

The word near doesn’t necessarily mean Jesus will return today or even 10 years from now; near simply means Jesus has completed what was necessary for people to have access to God through Him and could return at any time.

Reread verses 32-36 carefully and think through these questions:

No one knows the specific time of Jesus’ return. List things in the passage Jesus listed as signs of His return.

Though no one knows exactly when Jesus will return, you can watch for changes in the world around you. Write the promises about these changes in verses 34 and 35.

Respond

Many people have tried to predict the day of Jesus’ return. Jesus said not even He or the angels know the hour, only the Father (v. 36). Always carefully compare anything you hear (or read) about Jesus’ return to the truth of God’s Word.

How would your life change this week if you lived like you really believed Jesus’ return was near? List at least three things you want to do differently and pray for God to give you an expectant heart as you wait for His coming.

For further study on Jesus’ return, read 2 Peter 3:10 and Revelation 1:1-3.

Behind the Story

The events described in verses 15-22 likely describe the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in A.D. 70. First-century historian Josephus identified “the abomination that causes desolation” as the shedding of priestly blood in the sanctuary several years before the destruction of the temple. Matthew, though, closely associated these events with Jesus’ second coming (v. 29-30). This implies these events closely parallel things that will occur immediately before Jesus’ return.[1]

The Point

Jesus will return, but we do not know exactly when. Believers must remain obedient and ready.

 

[1] Holman Christian Standard Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010). Accessed via mystudybible.com.


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The Truth About Jesus

Posted on July 18, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Listen to your favorite worship song. Ask God to open your heart to His truth today.

“But He looked at them and said, ‘Then what is the meaning of this Scripture: The stone that the builders rejected—this has become the cornerstone? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and if it falls on anyone, it will grind him to powder!’”
—Luke 20:17-18

Read Luke 20:9-19 in your Bible. Most biblical scholars believe the vineyard owner in this parable represents God, while the owner’s son represents Jesus.

• Match the story elements with what or whom they represent.

Vineyard
Tenant farmers
slaves
Owner
Owner’s son
Others (v. 16)

Israel’s leaders
Jesus
Old Testament prophets
Gentiles
God
God’s gift and promises to
Israel

• In what way do you see God’s judgment in this parable? His grace? Explain.

• Read Psalm 118:22, the verse Jesus quoted in today’s Scripture. Write your definition of a cornerstone. What does this help you understand about Jesus? Explain.

• Verse 18 upset the religious leaders because they knew Jesus “had told this parable against them.” What was their reaction? What stopped them from carrying out their plan? Explain.

Respond

• Evaluate your life. Is Jesus the cornerstone, the foundation, and strength of your life? Why or why not?
• Whom or what are you trying to make the focus of you life other than Jesus? Confess these things today. Ask God to help you focus your life on Jesus.

For further study, read Psalm 118, Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12:1-12, and 1 Peter 2:4-10.

Behind the Story

At its core, the parable reflects an issue of authority. Israel’s leaders rejected God’s authority through those He sent to them throughout history, the prophets, and even rejected Jesus’ authority. Though confronted by God’s Word (v. 17), the authority they claimed to revere, nothing changed. They wanted to hold onto their authority and power over the people.

Cornerstone (n.) = The cornerstone was placed between the corner of two walls as a connecting point. The cornerstone also symbolized strength.

The Point

God sent Jesus to proclaim redemption, but those who reject Him will suffer devastating consequences.


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You Don’t Have Forever

Posted on July 11, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Take a few minutes to thank God for the gift of today. Consider this: What would be left undone if yesterday were the last day of your life?

“And He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’”—Luke 13:6-9

 

Read Luke 13:1-9 in your Bible.

-In verses 3 and 5, Jesus spoke the same words. What was the action Jesus told the crowd to take?

-What consequences did Jesus say they would face if they did not act? Why is this important to you today?

 

Read Galatians 5:22-23.

-Galatians 5:22-23 lists characteristics of people who have trusted Jesus as their Savior. These characteristics are called fruit of the Spirit. Verses 6, 7, and 9 also use the word fruit to describe showing godly characteristics. How does the barren tree illustrate the way many people live their lives today? Explain.

-Reread Luke 13 verses 7–9 . The vineyard owner was fed up with the tree because it didn’t produce fruit like it was supposed to. He ordered the vineyard worker to cut it down. But the vineyard worker interceded and asked the owner to give the tree another chance. In the same way, God’s judgment will also come. People must repent before it’s too late.

Respond

Luke’s writing was not only a warning to the people of Israel, but also a warning to you today.

How does this passage challenge you in the areas of your spiritual life about which you tend to think, I’ll do that when I’m older? List some of those areas.

Journal a prayer, asking God to show you specific ways you can live more for Him now.

Jot down the names of two godly older Christians who can be mentors and help you grow spiritually. They could be camp counselors, church leaders, or even older friends. Ask them to pray for you to live more like Jesus each day.

For further study, read Jeremiah 21:8 and Luke 3:8–9.

Behind the Story

The fig tree was often used as a symbol for the nation of Israel (Matt. 24:32-33; Mark 11:12-14). Fig trees are slow to develop, but three years was plenty of time for one to become mature and bear fruit. The extra year allowed in the parable likely represented one final chance, as an act of God’s mercy and grace.[1]

The Point

The gift of another day is God’s grace, not His approval. Time is short, and judgment will come one day.

 

 

 

 

[1] Holman Christian Standard Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010). Accessed via mystudybible.com.


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The Stuff that Lasts

Posted on July 4, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Look around at the stuff you have and would hate to live without. Invite God to challenge your attitude about material possessions as you study His Word today.

Do you always want more—stuff, acclaim, respect, talent—or are you content? Why or why not? Record your response in your journal.

“He then told them, ‘Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.’”—Luke 12:15

Read Luke 12:13-21.

According to verse 15, does the amount of stuff you own matter? Why or why not? Explain.

The rich man focused on his possessions and constantly getting more stuff to enjoy. Read verse 20 again. Circle the word God used to describe the man at the beginning of the verse. Did God consider the man’s decision wise? Why or why not?

Now, read verse 21. The verse says the man kept his wealth for himself and was not “rich toward God.” Simply put, the rich man didn’t handle his possessions in a way that pleased God. Looking back at verse 21, where should your treasure be? What kind of riches should you have? What does that mean? Write it in your own words.

Respond

Where do you tend to place your confidence? Circle any that apply.

Your abilities

Good deeds

Hard work

Money

Possessions

Popularity

Jesus

By your thoughts and actions this past week, where would you say you’re investing the most—the world or eternity? How do you know?

Why does what you invest in matter? Journal some ways you can choose to invest in God’s kingdom.

For further study, read Psalm 39:6 and Matthew 6:19-20.

Behind the Story

Jesus was recognized as a rabbi. In Jewish society, rabbis normally handled disputes over family inheritance. Traditionally, the older brother received twice the inheritance. It is possible the man asking for Jesus’ help (v.13) was a younger brother. Jesus called out greed as the internal motivation and suggested being “rich toward God” (v. 21), meaning using what you have on earth to glorify God and make an eternal difference.[1]

Greed (n.) = A selfish and excessive desire for more of something (like money) than is needed.

The Point

In light of death, judgment, and eternity, placing your faith in Jesus and living for Him is more important than what you have.

 

 

[1] Holman Christian Standard Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010). Accessed via mystudybible.com.


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Deserving

Posted on June 27, 2017 by Karah

Pause

For at least two minutes, focus on words that describe God. If possible, say them aloud. Allow these words to help you set your mind on Him.

Read Luke 15:25-32

“‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’” —Matthew 20:13-15

 

Now read Matthew 20:1-16 in your Bible.

-What similarities do you see between these two Scripture passages?

 

-Your view of who is worthy of grace is different from God’s gracious view. What does today’s parable teach about God’s grace?

 

-Imagine you were one of the workers hired early in the day. Would you have a right to be angry? Why or why not? Explain your answer.

 

Though the early laborers agreed to a denarius for their pay, they were still upset because late arrivers received the same. What God gives to you or someone else is up to God. If God decided to give His grace based upon whether or not someone deserved it, no one would receive it.

Respond

Are you ever jealous over someone’s good fortune? Confess this to God with a grateful heart for His grace and goodness. How can you have a better attitude toward God’s grace for others?

In your journal, skip to a blank page and write Thanks for Grace. Record some specific situations that helped you recognize your need for God’s grace. Journal a short prayer of thanks for each one.

Behind the Story

This kind of daily hiring happened regularly during Jesus’ time (and still happens today in some areas of the world). Laborers waited in a certain area for a landowner or foreman to come by in need of help. They often discussed wages before they reached an agreement about the amount of work for the day. Working time differed depending on when a laborer was hired.

 

Grace (n.) = Undeserved forgiveness, kindness, or blessings from God.

 

The Point

God freely gives His grace to all even though no one deserves it.


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Join the Celebration

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Ask God to show you how to make choices that are pleasing to Him.

Read Luke 15:25-32 in your Bible. Then answer the questions below:

“But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’”—Luke 15:29-30

 

-Why was the older son angry at His father’s warm welcome of the younger brother?

 

-How did the older son describe his relationship to his father?

 

Skim over Luke 15:1-2. Pharisees and religious leaders believed they were righteous because they did everything commanded by the law. They didn’t think sinners deserved the same treatment as them in God’s kingdom. How is the older son like the Pharisees and religious leaders? Explain.

The father responded to his older son in verses 31 and 32. Read the verses and think about the father’s response. The father represents God in these verses. What does this tell you about God’s character? Explain.

How do you think the son responded to his father? In your journal, write the way you would respond, your initial reaction.

Respond

Self-righteousness is the belief that you are morally better than others. Do you ever act self-righteous, telling God all you’ve done for Him and how others are undeserving of His love? Write your answers in your journal. Examine your heart toward sinners. Use the questions below as a guide.

Be honest with God about the way you feel when someone doesn’t get what you think they deserve. Ask Him for a heart that rejoices in His mercy and grace.

Think about your family, school, or community. Who are the people who seem least likely to turn to Jesus for salvation and where do they hang out? Ask God to help you see ways you can be involved in His work in those places.

Behind the Story

Pharisees believed they had to live by the law to gain righteousness. Jesus immediately accepted sinners. To the Pharisees, this was unthinkable; they likely felt angry that sinners who received Jesus were immediately covered by His righteousness without having to perfectly keep the law. The Pharisees focused more on works, whereas Jesus focused on celebrating a repentant heart.[1]

The Point

No one deserves God’s gracious salvation. Knowing this we should celebrate when anyone comes to Christ.

 

[1] Robert H. Stein, New American Commentary – Volume 24: Luke, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1992), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 407.

 


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Welcome Home

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Take a minute to think of all the good things about your home and family. Think of at least five ways you’re thankful for each one, and then thank God for it.

Think about the longest amount of time you spent away from home? Was it camp? Where did you go? How did it feel to come home? Record your thoughts in your journal.

Read Luke 15:17-24 in your Bible.

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight . . . but while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.” —Luke 15:18b,20

Take a look at verse 18. Highlight the phrase, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.” How did the son’s words represent a repentant heart? Explain.

The younger son represents those who rebel against God. Because you are a sinner, the younger son represents you. The Father represents God. Why is it important to understand God welcomes us back when we repent?

Circle the father’s actions in verses 20 and 21. What do the father’s actions reveal about his character? His love for his son? His desire for his son to return to Him?

Think of the father’s character. How does this parable help you understand the love and compassion of the Father? Explain.

Respond

Repentance means you realize your sin, confess it to God, and completely turn away from it to follow Him.

-Complete the following: I am like the rebellious child because I ________. God is like the loving Father because He ______________.

-Think about your answers to the statement above. Grab your journal and list the son’s characteristics from Luke 15:11-20. Do you have any of those same characteristics? What steps can you take to get your heart right with God?

-What does this parable teach you about salvation and the nature of God’s redemption? What does it teach you about His eagerness to accept repentant outcasts?

-Have you repented and decided to follow God? If not, talk to your parents, a pastor, or even a camp counselor about the Gospel.

Behind the Story

The phrase “came to his senses” in verse 17 was often used to describe someone recovering from being mentally unstable. It also implies repentance.

The son came to a place where he could think more clearly about his situation, but also a place of repentance and renewal.[1]

The Point

Though we rebel against God, He welcomes repentant children home with joy.

 

 

[1] Robert H. Stein, New American Commentary – Volume 24: Luke, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1992), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 407.

 


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The Power of Persistence

Posted on May 3, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Think of what you’ve learned about Jesus and His character the past few weeks. Praise Him for the ways He has displayed those characteristics in your life.

“Or what woman who has 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her women friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” —Luke 15:8-10

Read Luke 15:8-10 in your Bible.

Read verse 8 again. When the woman realized she lost her coin, what did she do? Underline her three actions.

Ten coins may not sound like much to you, but it was almost an entire day’s pay for this woman. Think of a time when you lost something valuable. Did you drop everything to find it? What did you do to look for it?

Read verse 9 again. The woman made a request to her friends when she found her coin. In the verse, find her request and circle it. Why do you think she wanted to celebrate? Explain.

What is the similarity between the woman’s joy over finding the coin and God’s joy when a sinner repents?

What do the woman’s actions teach you about God’s persistence in pursuing you?

Respond

The woman did not give up until she found her missing coin. She was persistent. Persistence means you continue in an action until it is complete, no matter what circumstances you face.

How did God pursue you? How did you come to trust Jesus as your Savior? Grab your journal and write about it.

As a Christian, God continues to pursue you throughout life. How has this helped you grow in your relationship with Him? Explain.

For further study, read John the Baptist’s teachings about repentance in Matthew 3:1-12.

Behind the Story

Why was this one coin so important to the woman? In her day, one silver coin was valued at about 50 cents in today’s currency. The coin was called a drachma. Ten drachma equaled close to $1.50. That may seem like a small amount, but it was probably all this woman had. That is why she rejoiced when she found the lost coin.

The Point

God persistently pursues sinners, desiring their redemption.


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Just One Sheep

Posted on April 25, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Find a quiet place. Ask God to help you understand what He has to teach you in His Word.

“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’”

Luke 15:4-6

Just as the shepherd valued each sheep, God values each person.

Read Luke 15:1-7 in your Bible. Answer these questions:

In this parable, the shepherd represents Jesus. What does the story reveal about His character? About His love for you? About His desire to have a relationship with you?

In verse 5, the image of the shepherd putting the sheep on his shoulders meant the sheep was likely injured or weak. What does this tell you about the shepherd’s love for the sheep? Explain.

According to verse 7, how do you think you should react when someone repents?

Respond

Remember each person has value to God, including you and me. Consider how much the Good Shepherd loves you. Take time to think Him for His great love.

In your journal, list the names of a few people you struggle to love. Leave space beneath each name. Pray and ask God to guide you as you write at least one good quality about each person.

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin in your life. Repent today knowing all of heaven celebrates with you.

For further study, read Jeremiah 34:15 and Hosea 14:2

Behind the Story

Luke 15:1-2 sets the tone for the parables we’ll look at over the next few weeks. Jesus spent time with “tax collectors and sinners” (v. 1). The tax collectors were known for being dishonest and unkind. Sinners were those who did not acknowledge or obey God. Jesus spent time hanging out with them, because He loved them and didn’t mind going against the so-called social norms to bring people to repentance. The Pharisees were upset. They didn’t want to associate with or be near people who didn’t obey the law, so they thought Jesus shouldn’t, either. But Jesus knew His calling was to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Repent v.= Turning from sin to God.

The Point

A repentant sinner is cause for great joy and celebration.


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Because He Forgives

Posted on April 18, 2017 by Karah

Pause

Remove the distractions from around you; turn off the TV, music, and your cell phone. Ask God to prepare you to hear and understand what He has to say in His Word.

Skim over Matthew 18:21-35 and look back on the devotion, “Unconditionally Forgiven” from March 27th to remind yourself about what you learned when you studied the parable of the unforgiving servant. In your journal, jot down the main point of that devotion in your own words.

Dig a little deeper with these questions:

-What does this parable reveal about how God forgives us?

-What does this parable teach you about forgiving others? Explain.

-Now, turn to Ephesians 4:31-32. Answer the questions that follow.

“All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” —Ephesians 4:31-32

What do these verses have in common with the parable of the unforgiving servant? Explain.

Underline Ephesians 4:32. As a Christian, you have experienced God’s forgiveness for a debt you could never pay. According to these verses, how should that affect the way you interact with others, particularly those who have wronged you?

Why is it so important that forgiveness characterize the lives of believers? How does practicing extravagant forgiveness testify to the truth of the gospel? Explain.

Respond

Because you have been forgiven so much, you must forgive others.

Think about the people in your life. Are there people you refuse to forgive because you don’t think they deserve it? If so, write their names in your journal. Take steps to forgive that person today. Let him or her know you want to forgive because God forgave you of a far greater debt.

You may need to ask someone to forgive you. If God has used these verses to bring a person to mind, don’t delay in seeking his or her forgiveness. List your action plan in the margin. You can’t control the person’s response, but you can be obedient to God in seeking forgiveness.

Behind the Story

Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 were written to Christians. Knowing the struggle of living the Christian life, he charged them to put away the things that had characterized their lives before knowing Christ. He challenged Christians to treat one another with kindness and compassion because God had treated them that way. In doing so, the church would be built up and unified. This would help the world to see that Jesus does make a difference.

The Point

Because you have experienced God’s forgiveness, you must forgive others.


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