Freedom from Oppression

Posted on October 16, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

Take a deep breath and spend a few minutes contemplating the fact that nothing in the universe can separate you from the love of God.

“When He got out on land, a demon-possessed man from the town met Him. For a long time he had worn no clothes and did not stay in a house but in the tombs … then people went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and found the man the demons had departed from, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Meanwhile, the eyewitnesses reported to them how the demon-possessed man was delivered.” —Luke 8:27,35-36

Read Luke 8:26-37 in your Bible. Think through the following questions:

• Circle instances of the words “beg,” “permit,” and “permission.” Why do you think the demons made requests of Jesus?

• What does the description of the demons’ power over the man—and the demons’ terrible fear of Jesus—tell you about Jesus’ authority?

When the people saw the healed man calmly seated at Jesus’ feet, they were afraid (v. 35). Before, He had worn chains and shackles, living among the tombs. Jesus’ power delivered the man from the demons and into new life. He has the power to free us from darkness and give us new life as well. (See Eph. 5:8; 2 Tim. 1:10.)

• What does it mean to have new life?

RESPOND

The demon-possessed man did not do anything deserving Jesus’ presence or His mercy; Jesus came to him to set him free. In the same way, He meets us where we are—we don’t have to be “cleaned up” before we can come to Him.

• How does your own spiritual transformation compare to that of the man in this story? What has Jesus freed you from? Journal your thoughts.

• How has Jesus changed your life? Think of ways you can tell your story to others. If you haven’t trusted Jesus as Savior, talk to one of your camp counselors or a pastor from your church.

• For further study, read What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey (Zondervan, 2002).

BEHIND THE STORY

The demons in the story call themselves “Legion.” The word legion comes from Roman military language, concerning armed forces comprised of varying units of soldiers and weaponry. On average, a Roman legion contained around 6,000 men. The legion was also the system by which Rome established its dominance before and during the time of Christ. The use of the name Legion
in this story not only spoke to the number of demons that possessed the man, but also their rule over him.

THE POINT

Like the demon-possessed man, we were set free from an entirely hopeless state to one filled with hope, and we should share this hope with others.


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(REST)ORATION

Posted on October 9, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

Remember a time when God came through for you. Reflect on it and thank Him for His continued faithfulness.

“’Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for 18 years—shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’ When He had said these things, all His adversaries were humiliated, but the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things He was doing.” —Luke 13:16-17

Read Luke 13:10-17 in your Bible. Ask yourself:

Jesus’ healing involved not only the physical healing of the woman’s disability, but also spiritual healing by casting out the evil spirit. Not all physical ailments were caused by demons. Bible scholars suggest this was a rare case in which both occurred simultaneously.

• Why did the leader of the synagogue complain about Jesus healing on the Sabbath? Why is that significant?

Jesus considered changing this woman’s life as more important than the religious leaders’ imposing rules. He respected the Sabbath, but didn’t refrain from doing God’s work on that day either. Despite the Pharisees’ anger at Jesus for healing a woman on the Sabbath, God was glorified through His actions.

• Look at verse 17. Jesus’ _________________ were humiliated, but the _________ rejoiced. Why?

RESPOND

When Jesus healed this woman, people rejoiced. The religious leaders used the law to bind people, but Jesus came to change people’s hearts by setting them free from sin. He did not nullify the law, but fulfilled it. God’s law still guides our behavior even though Jesus provides our righteousness.

• Examine your heart. What are some of your thoughts and actions that need to change? Ask Jesus to continue to change your heart and help you see your need for Him.

• For further study on God’s law, read Exodus 20:1-17. How does God’s law guide your behavior as a believer? Explain.

BEHIND THE STORY

The Sabbath is a holy day of rest in Jewish law. Its founding comes from Genesis 2:2-3, which stated that God rested on the seventh day after He created the heavens and the earth. God’s rest didn’t indicate exhaustion. Rather, He suspended His work in order to delight in it, modeling this practice for His people and establishing it in His law for them (Ex. 20:3).¹ By the time Jesus was born, the religious leaders had instituted many additional man-made rules about what could and could not be done that day.

THE POINT

God’s law helps us to see our need for a Savior, but Jesus changes our hearts and makes obedience possible. God’s law then guides our behavior.

 

¹Glen S. Martin, Holman Old Testament Commentary — Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Max Anders, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2002). WORDsearch CROSS e-book, p. 88, Under: “Exodus 19-20 — God’s Top Ten List.”


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All Things Are Possible

Posted on October 2, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

Grab a pen, your Bible, and your journal. Find a quiet place and think of three things that you’re grateful for and thank God for those things.

Consider the word unbelief. What does this mean? When have you experienced unbelief and what did God do to help you believe? Journal about your experience.

“‘And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘If You can? Everything is possible to the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do believe! Help my unbelief.’” —Mark 9:22-24

Read Mark 9:14-29 in your Bible. Answer these questions:
• What did Jesus request of the boy’s father before He drove out the demon? Why is this important? Explain in your own words.

The father had the faith to come to Jesus and request help for his son, but he needed both faith and belief in Jesus for true spiritual healing to take place. Although, the disciples were unable to cast out this demon, Jesus had given them the power to do so, and they had experienced success before this encounter.

• List the two reasons Jesus gave for the disciples’ inability to drive out the demon.

RESPOND

• Have you ever fasted? What was it like? How did the experience draw you closer to God? Journal about your experience.

• Think of two people who have strong faith. List the two names in your journal and record characteristics that demonstrate each person’s faith.

• For further study on faith and prayer, read Mark 11:24; John 15:7; Romans 10:9; and Ephesians 2:8.

BEHIND THE STORY

The ESV Study Bible noted that “failure is an occasion for encouragement to more prayer … implying that more time and effort in prayer (and therefore in closer fellowship with God) leads to growth in faith.”¹ The disciples had been casting out demons already, but this particular spirit was beyond them. Spiritual growth continues throughout life, no matter your level of maturity in
the faith. Faith should be nurtured with prayer, because God desires to continue to reveal more of Himself to you.

THE POINT

Prayer and faith are essential to God’s will, and through them He can show us His power.

 

¹The English Standard Version Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), p. 1912.


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Bold Faith

Posted on September 25, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

Listen to “Breathing” by Lifehouse (No Name Face, 2000). Meditate on the meaning and your heart toward God as you read through this devotion.

What does it mean to have bold faith? Journal your thoughts.

“Then He told her, ‘Because of this reply, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.’ When she went back to her home, she found her child lying on the bed, and the demon was gone”. —Mark 7:29-30

Read Mark 7:24-30 in your Bible. Ask yourself:

• What is your first impression of this story? Explain.

At first glance, it may seem that Jesus’ response to this woman is curt and uncaring. However, Jesus acknowledged that the priority of His mission was to bring salvation to the Jews. He did not completely exclude the Gentiles, but said that the Word of God must go to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles.

• Underline the word “kept” in verse 26. What kind of faith did she show? Explain.

• Why did the woman’s reply cause Jesus to grant her request for His healing? Explain.

RESPOND

During Jesus’ time, men and women did not interact like this in public. This encounter crossed cultural and religious boundaries. The woman took a risk in faith, and Jesus responded to her belief and courage.

• What are some ways that you can be courageous in your faith? Jot down a few in your journal.

• What’s one thing you can do tomorrow to demonstrate your compassion for someone who is different from you?

• Think of a time when you persistently asked God for something and your faith was rewarded. Journal about that experience.

BEHIND THE STORY

The Israelites were God’s chosen people. Jesus’ first obligation was to the Jews so the whole world would be blessed through them, as God had promised Abraham (Gen. 22:18). However, that didn’t mean God wouldn’t pursue the Gentiles. After Jesus ascended to heaven, God gave Peter a vision, telling him to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16). Paul’s ministry was also famous for being focused on the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16-17).

THE POINT

God rewards bold faith, and believers should always be encouraged to come to Him with their requests.


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Jesus is Sovereign

Posted on September 12, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

A few minutes before you begin today’s study, find a relaxing place to sit. Take a deep breath and ask God to help you focus on being with Him.

“They were astonished at His teaching because His message had authority. … Amazement came over them all, and they kept saying to one another, ‘What is this message? For He commands the unclean spirits with authority and power, and they come out!’” —Luke 4:32,36

Read Luke 4:31-37 in your Bible.

• Highlight the word “authority” throughout the passage. What does it mean that Jesus’ message had authority? Explain.

Circle the name “Holy One of God.” In the Old Testament, God was often called the Holy One. In this passage, the demons’ referring to Jesus as the Holy One of God shows their recognition of Him as the Son of God. The demons asked Jesus if He had come to destroy them; even they recognized His authority over evil and were terrified. Biblical scholars suggest that the demons weren’t just afraid of Jesus’ preaching and purpose, but that they feared His presence.

• Why do you think the demons feared Jesus’ presence? Why is this important?

RESPOND

• What does Jesus’ power over evil mean for you? Jot down a list of prayer requests about your future, your community, and the world that appeal to Jesus’ sovereignty. Pray for those requests each day this week.

• Examine your heart. Do you recognize Jesus’ sovereignty? Have you fully surrendered your life to Him? Journal your thoughts.

• If you have not trusted Jesus as Savior, talk to your parents or one of your camp counselors about what it means to be a Christian

BEHIND THE STORY

The demon in today’s passage testified about belief in God. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe— and they shudder.” James also said that faith without works is useless (v. 20). Although demons believe in God, their total disobedience and rebellion against Him has separated them from Him forever. Redemption is about reconciliation—it’s not just about knowing that God exists, but about accepting His salvation through faith and living a life surrendered in obedience to Him.

THE POINT

As the Son of God, Jesus is sovereign over everything.


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The Power to Speak

Posted on September 4, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

Think of one of the names of God (Shepherd, King, Rock of Our Salvation) and dwell on what that means to you.

Now, read Isaiah 35:5-6. The prophet Isaiah told of Jesus’ healings in the Old Testament. Throughout the Book of Isaiah, physical illness was often a metaphor for a spiritual issue. The complete healing indicated in theses passages parallels new life in Christ.

“Just as they were going out, a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak was brought to Him. When the demon had been driven out, the man spoke. And the crowds were amazed, saying, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!’ But the Pharisees said, ‘He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!’”—Matthew 9:32-34

Read Matthew 9:32-24 and complete the following.

• Circle each variation of the word “speak” or “say.” Underline the word “demon” each time it appears.

• Look back at the Scripture in Isaiah. Why is it important that the man spoke? Explain.

• The Pharisees thought Jesus’ authority came from the ruler of demons (v. 34). Read Luke 11:17-19. What was wrong with their theory? Explain.

RESPOND

The Pharisees sought every excuse to believe that Jesus was not from God. He had turned their world upside down by interpreting the Scriptures with authority and performing great signs. Instead of seeking God, they sought to prove they were right.

• When God turns your world upside down, do you struggle to trust Him? Do you have faith that no matter the circumstances He has your best interests in mind? Why or why not? Journal your thoughts.

• List two ways you can trust God’s ultimate authority in your life.

• For further study about God’s purpose and plans for you, read Romans 8.

BEHIND THE STORY

In John 1:1, Jesus was called the Word. He created the universe by speaking, and in many gospel accounts, He drove out demons with a rebuke. In today’s passage, Jesus restored a man’s ability to speak by casting out the oppressive evil spirit that kept him in silent. Jesus’ authority over all creation allows Him to banish evil and fully restore human beings to the image of God.

THE POINT

Because He is God, Jesus has sole authority over evil.


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Authority Affirmed

Posted on August 28, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

Gather your Bible, journal, and pen. Find a quiet place and relax, preparing your heart and mind to spend time in God’s Word.

The first time the disciples obeyed Jesus and caught an abundance of fish was at the beginning of His earthly ministry. Today’s story is similar, but occurred after Jesus’ resurrection.

“’Cast the net on the right side of the boat,’ He told them, ‘and you’ll find some.’ So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. —John 21:6

Read John 21:1-14 in your Bible. Consider these questions:

• How does this story connect to the miracle in Luke 5:1-11? Jot down a few ideas in your journal.

Luke 5:1-11                                                        John 21:1-14

Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples for a third time through this miracle, which was similar to the one He performed when He called Peter and John to be His disciples.

• Notice John and Peter’s reactions in verse seven. Why is this important? Explain.

• When they arrived on shore and sat down to eat breakfast with Jesus, the disciples didn’t have any doubts about who He was. Would you respond the same way? Why or why not?

RESPOND

Each of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances proved the truth of His resurrection, showed that He defeated death, and taught the disciples their mission and emboldened them to do as He commanded. It is also important to note the significance of these events for us today—He is still alive and we have the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him.

• Think about the first time you heard that Jesus died for your sins. Do you still look at His sacrifice the same way? Why or why not? Record your response in your journal.

• Take a minute and meditate on Jesus’ patience with us and His desire to use us as a part of His plan. How do you see His patience? How do you know He wants you to be a part of His plan? Journal your thoughts.

• For further study on Jesus’ authority, read Ephesians 1:18-23.

BEHIND THE STORY

Today’s Scripture explains the disciples’ third encounter with their risen Lord. Jesus called to His disciples using the word paidia, which the HCSB translates as “men” (v. 5), but is most commonly used as a term of endearment, which indicates the same type of intimacy as between a parent and child.¹

THE POINT

Jesus proved that even death did not diminish His authority.

 

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


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Step Out of the Boat

Posted on August 14, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

When Jesus calls you to come, do you immediately think of your fears and doubts? Pray that you would have the courage and faith to respond in obedience when He calls.

“’Lord, if it’s You,’ Peter answered Him, ‘command me to come to You on the water.’ ‘Come!’ He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus.” —Matthew 14:28-29

Read Matthew 14:22-33 in your Bible and consider these questions.

• List the two commands Jesus gave in verses 27 and 29.

• Why do you think it’s important that Jesus told the disciples to have courage? Explain.

• What did Peter do that caused him to sink? Explain.

Peter is often criticized for taking his eyes off Jesus, but notice that Peter did step out of the boat. Jesus’ power and Peter’s faith allowed him to do something that seemed impossible.

• Examine Jesus’ statement in verse 31. How does He indicate the outcome could have been different if Peter would have kept faith?

RESPOND

• Is Jesus calling you to step out in faith? Draw a simple boat in your journal and label it with the area of comfort or safety that applies to you (popularity, laziness, self-centeredness, unbelief). What is holding you back from meeting Jesus where He called you?

• For further study on confident faith in Jesus, read Joel Ortberg’s book If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (Zondervan, 2014).

BEHIND THE STORY

The phrase “around three in the morning” (v. 25), is translated to “during the fourth watch of the night.”¹ The Romans divided the night into four watches and the fourth hour fell between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. Matthew’s use of the word ghost emphasizes the fact that the disciples didn’t know exactly what they were seeing—it was late, probably dark, and they were far enough away from
the shore that they couldn’t tell who was standing there.

THE POINT

The life of a Christ follower should be characterized by confident faith in Jesus.

 

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


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Ordinary and Extraordinary

Posted on May 22, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

What needs do you have right now? Acknowledge those needs before God and trust that He will provide for you.

“But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for Me and you.”
—Matthew 17:27

Read Matthew 17:24-27 in your Bible. Think through the following:

Jesus indicated that He didn’t have to pay the tax because He was God’s Son, and that His followers didn’t have to pay the tax because the king doesn’t tax his sons. This emphasizes the voluntary nature of giving to God, consistently highlighted in the New Testament. This particular tax was collected by the temple; however, we must remember that Jesus also instructed us to obey the laws of the land.

• What is so extraordinary about the way Jesus provided the coin? Explain.

• Would Jesus and Peter experience difficulty paying the tax? Why or why not?

• Peter had to trust Jesus to provide for them, and trust that the first fish he caught would have the coin for the temple tax. If you were in Peter’s position, what would you do? Explain.

RESPOND

• In what ways have you seen God provide for your needs, or the needs of your friends and family? Has He ever provided for you in a way that seemed extraordinary? Using the headings below, list a few ways God has provided for you.

Ordinary                                                                                Extraordinary

 

• Invite God to meet your needs in whatever ways He sees fit, and pray that He gives you the faith to see His care for you no matter what method He uses.

• For further study on God’s provision, read Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 6:26; and Philippians 4:19.

BEHIND THE STORY

The coin found in the mouth of the fish would have been a stater, which equaled the value of four drachmas—enough to cover the two-drachma tax for both Jesus and Peter. The Jews paid a required tax of one-half-shekel for the upkeep of the temple (Ex. 30:13-14). This was equal to approximately two days’ wages.¹

THE POINT

Sometimes Jesus provides for our everyday needs in extraordinary ways.

 

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


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A Few Loaves and a Willing Heart

Posted on May 15, 2018 by Karah

PAUSE

Chris Tomlin’s song “Enough” (Not to Us, 2002) speaks to the all-sufficient nature of Jesus. Thank God that we can be eternally satisfied in him.

“Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks He distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.” —John 6:11

Read John 6:1-13 in your Bible. Consider the following:

Although Jesus asked the disciples to come up with a solution for feeding a multitude of people (v.5), verse six indicates Jesus already had a solution in mind.
• Read Philip’s reply in verse seven and Andrew’s reply in verses 8-9. Restate each response in your own words.

Philip                                                                                             Andrew

 

Notice both disciples were focused on how impossible the task seemed—they doubted they could find enough food for such a large group of people.
• How would you respond if Jesus asked you for a solution? Explain.

Verse 11 tells us that Jesus gave the people as much bread and fish as they wanted, and verse 13 says the disciples collected 12 baskets of leftovers. They had more than enough to feed the people. The disciples tried to solve the problem with logic, but Jesus has the power to do more than we can imagine.

RESPOND

The young boy offered five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of about five thousand, but the disciples didn’t see how such a small gift would help their predicament. We all have something to offer to the kingdom of God: time, talents, money, or even a social media platform. Maybe those gifts seem small, but no matter how insignificant you believe they are, God can use them for His kingdom.

• List two gifts you can use for the kingdom of God.
• Look at the list you created. Pray for the faith to give your gifts completely to the Lord and expect Him to multiply them for His glory.
• For further study on God supplying plenty out of a little, read 2 Kings 4:42-44.

BEHIND THE STORY

This particular sign was considered as a link between God’s provision of manna to Israel in the wilderness and Jesus’ provision in the New Testament. In Numbers 11:13, Moses asked God where he could get enough meat to feed the people of Israel. In today’s passage, Jesus asked His disciples where they could buy bread for so many people. In both instances, God provided an overabundance of food for the crowd (John 6:7-9,11-13; Num. 11:22,31-32).

THE POINT

Jesus has the power to do great things through us with what we have to offer, but we must have willing hearts.


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