A PASSING GRADE. Getting through your parents’ divorce. Getting tapped out for the Little Chief test. Winning a state championship. We all have priorities—things that are important or that we want to accomplish. A priority is generally considered to be the most important issue or your primary consideration. When you look at your life, what are your priorities? Why are these things so important?
Read Mark 14:32-38. Then, read verse 38 again.
What was about to happen to Jesus in these verses?
Why is it important that Jesus asked His disciples to pray for Him?
What were Peter, James, and John doing when Jesus came back to them?
When have you gotten distracted, tired, or become unfocused when trying to pray?
How do these verses help you to understand that prayer is important to God?
Prayer was important to Jesus, a priority even. Would you describe it as a priority in your life? Why or why not?
What steps will you take to make prayer a priority in your life?
Jesus was about to be arrested, tried, and crucified. He knew what was going to happen, and His response was to take His closest friends and go to a quiet place to pray. He obviously thought prayer was important. That it accomplished something. That it was vital to His relationship with the Father. And His closest friends couldn’t even stay awake to pray for Him, even after He had told them His soul was “swallowed up in sorrow.”
Strong relationships require communication. Prayer is our way of communicating with God. A strong relationship with Jesus doesn’t just happen; it takes effort. You have to take action and focus on the things that He says are important, like prayer. Prayer is powerful. Talk to Him today!
YOU CAN’T BELIEVE your friend talked to you like that. It would be easy to call him or her unreasonable, demanding, and selfish. Maybe it was over a game of 4 square, or even a disagreement during cabin clean-up. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you don’t want your friend to get the last word. You could also do the opposite and apologize. But if you do that, are you backing down, giving in, and letting him or her win? Why should you do that? How would you handle this situation?
Read James 3:13-18. Study verse 17.
What are the characteristics of wisdom from above?
What are the good fruits of wisdom?
How do we develop godly wisdom?
Are there times when we shouldn’t comply or show mercy?
Is it possible to avoid favoritism in all situations?
How do you define wisdom? Some would say that if you make a lot of money you must be wise. Others would say that if you are in a powerful position in government, you are probably very wise. Few people look at how others achieve success. They only see the end result.
In James we learn about another kind of wisdom—godly wisdom. People with this kind of wisdom are known for being peaceful, merciful, and treating everyone with respect. They always put others first. They’re known for their gentleness, and their lives are orderly and full of good, godly things, not favoritism or hypocrisy.
What kind of wisdom do you want to have? Earthly wisdom is temporary, but with God’s wisdom, you can make an eternal difference in your life and in the lives of others.
YOU’RE LOOKING AT YOUR WATCH. The speaker in the school assembly is going on and on. Somehow, you feel like the speaker just loves to hear himself talk. It reminds you of the last concert you attended. The outfit the singer wore was so weird! It’s obvious when someone wants to be the center of attention. Does this ever happen at church? Or what about Camp?
Read Mark 12:38-40. Pay attention to verse 40.
Why did Jesus warn against scribes in the marketplace?
Is it wrong for religious leaders to seek recognition? Explain.
What did Jesus mean when He said that scribes “devour widows’ houses”?
What do these verses teach you about God’s attitude toward our motives?
When have you found yourself doing something good, even something godly, but your actions were fueled by a desire for recognition?
Why is that kind of worship, love, or service not what God wants?
If you have grown up in church, you may remember being in awe when you listened to long prayers or heard solos ending in high notes. When does public recognition overshadow a heart for worship? Jesus warned us about those who are only involved in religious practices to garner the praise of others. There will be judgment for that kind of motive.
What about you? Do you attend worship because you love God or because you want to meet the expectations of others? If your friends didn’t attend Bible study, would you still be involved? We will grow in our faith when we desire a deeper relationship with God. Take time to examine your motivation, and spend time in prayer. God will meet you there.
Rules, rules, rules. Sometimes, it seems like our entire day at school or time at camp is spent following rules (or listening to someone enforce them). What is the purpose of all these rules, anyway? Some would say they are for the health and safety of the students and staff. What about God’s rules? What is the purpose of the guidelines found in the Bible?
Read Galatians 5:13-15, focusing on verse 14.
What does it mean that we have freedom as believers?
Who is your neighbor?
Is it possible to love someone if you don’t even like them? Explain.
How does loving people fulfill all of God’s laws?
According to these verses, what are the consequences of not loving others?
It’s a simple concept. If you love God and love others, you are meeting all of God’s requirements. Understand this: God is love, and His principles for living are based on love. As Christians, others should see love when they look at our lives. Jesus spent His life on earth showing love to people and ultimately loving us enough to die for our sins. We can continue to communicate His love by giving of ourselves in service to others.
I LOVE THAT SONG, DON’T YOU? “I love this ice cream.” “I love to play basketball at this gym.” “I love playing Sock War.” “I love my counselor.” Love. We throw the word around all the time. It can have a casual meaning or a heavy-duty one. “Because I love my country, I will serve wherever I am needed.” “I loved my grandmother; I really miss her.” “I will never love another girl/guy like that.”
So with all this talk of love, what does it mean when we say we love God?
Read Mark 12:28-31. Memorize verses 30 and 31a, if you haven’t already.
What does it mean to love the Lord with all your heart?
How is it possible to love the Lord with all your mind? Will this affect your thinking?
If you love God with all your strength, what kind of commitment are you making?
According to God’s point of view, whom are we required to love?
Do you ever have trouble loving yourself?
Mark 12:30 states that we must love God. We understand that, but HOW we love God is the key. We must love God with our hearts—all our feelings and emotions. It’s clear from these verses that Jesus is asking us to let God be in charge of everything in our lives. Do we love God enough to let Him be in charge of our mind, attitudes, choices, and whom we allow to influence our thinking? When we give God our strength, we allow Him to direct how we spend our time and energy.
Jesus also challenges us to love others, making their needs as important as our personal desires. A loving relationship with God must be our first priority. We can have a meaningful life when we love God and love others.
YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME! Have you ever heard a younger sibling , camper, or little kid say these words to you? That just goes to show that it’s human nature to resist authority. We all want our own way!
How do you handle authority in your life? Do you always do what your parents ask you to do without complaining? Do you treat your teachers, counselors, and authority with respect? Are you careful to obey traffic laws? The Bible gives us specific instructions about relating to authorities in our lives.
Read Romans 13:1-7. Take a closer look at verse 1.
Who is required to submit to the governing authorities?
According to these verses, what is the relationship between God and those in authority?
What happens if we refuse to obey governing powers?
Do “governing authorities” include parents and school authorities? Explain.
What should we do if those in authority rule against Christian principles?
Paul wrote this letter to the Romans in a time of religious persecution and dishonest government. The message is as clear today as it was then: God directs us to submit to the ruling authorities even if they are not perfect examples of good leadership. By doing this, Christians can be good citizens and will not bring punishment on themselves.
These guidelines apply as much today as they did in the past. By listening to parents, respecting school officials, and obeying laws, we are submitting to the authority that God has allowed in our lives. Maybe people will see something different in our lives and wonder why we treat those in authority with such respect. This may introduce them to the most important authority in our lives, Jesus Christ.
For a friend of mine it was boots. We were on a mission trip in a foreign country. Our team had taken extra boots and clothing to give away while we were there. My friend wasn’t planning on giving away his brand new boots, but on our last day in the village, he felt compelled to give them away.
Read Ephesians 5:1-5. Concentrate on verse 2.
What did Paul tell the Ephesians to do?
What does it mean to be an imitator of God?
How can we be a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God?
Verse 2 points out that Jesus is our example. How should this affect our daily lives?
Why should we keep sexual immorality out of our lives?
Why are the things listed in verses 4 and 5 bad?
What does this passage have to do with pursuing a life that reflects well on Christ?
Giving something up is never easy, yet in these verses, we’re called to give ourselves up as offerings to God. Paul wanted believers to understand what it really meant to follow Christ as their example, laying down every moment of their lives in obedience to the Father. To do that, some things simply cannot be a part of our lives. People can’t see God in our lives when our lives are filled with junk. When we live to please God, our lives will be more joyful because we won’t be bogged down by all the weight of sin.
POTENTIAL IS definitely a word we like to throw around. When I hear it, I’m always reminded of a pepper plant I once planted in my garden. The plant was in one of those biodegradable pots, so you could plant the whole thing. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to cut the bottom out so that the roots could continue to grow. That plant never grew to its potential because it was confined. Think about that. The thing is, we’re the same way. If we allow limitations to be put on us, we don’t grow in Christ.
Read Mark 11:22-25. Read verse 25 a few times, slowly.
What was Jesus talking about in these verses? (putting limits on what He can do and unforgiveness)
According to these verses, what happens when we pray believing God can and will answer?
What does it mean to forgive?
How does forgiving someone help you grow in faith?
How have you seen these things keep you from growing in your faith?
What steps do you need to take to actively pursue God’s will in these areas?
Growing in your faith in Christ will give you victory. Once I figured out the problem with that pepper plant, it had already died. It died because it couldn’t get the nourishment it needed to be a successful plant. You and I are in the same situation. When we don’t believe God can or will answer our prayers or refuse to forgive, our faith stagnates and our growth is minimal. But Jesus wants us to flourish. Christ wants us to have a dynamic, growing relationship with Him. What do you need to start pursuing to have that kind of relationship?
I DON’T LIKE PEOPLE WHO act like something or someone they aren’t. Most people call them fakers; the Bible calls them hypocrites. You see it all the time. You know people who try to be something they aren’t. They’re always trying to impress everyone or somehow be better than everyone else. You don’t really like to be around that kind of person. It feels tiring and pointless.
And when you’re absolutely honest with yourself, you’ve been that person at least once in your life.
Read Isaiah 29:13-16 and focus on verse 13.
What did God not like about the way the people were worshiping Him?
Think over the phrases God used, like “man-made rules” and “lip service.” What do those mean? How have you seen them play out in your life?
What are the results when people offer lip service to God?
What do these verses teach you about God’s attitude toward worship?
What are you allowing to distract you from truly worshiping God?
When God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to the Israelites, He didn’t have a lot of good things to say. He told them that they’d made worshiping Him into something meaningless. They did all the right things, but their hearts weren’t in the right place. Outwardly, they looked like perfect followers of God, but it was all fake. They’d watered down faith into a long list of rules. They said all the right things but didn’t mean them.
God doesn’t want us to be fakers—not in our lives or in our worship to Him. But many times, we’re guilty of just that. We can’t see God work if our worship is focused on us and not on Him. He wants us to come to Him with absolute honesty, without hidden motives. He wants to have a relationship with us through Jesus—not watch us follow a long list of rules. Be real with God. Come to Him with honesty when things are going well and when they’re not. Worship Him with every moment of your life, when it’s easy and when it’s not. It’s what He wants.
WHEN WAS the last time you felt angry because someone’s actions disappointed you? For me it was when my wife and I drove up to our house to discover my car had been stolen. It’s a strange feeling to be angry and hurt at the same time.
Read Mark 11:15-19. Contemplate verse 17.
What was going on that made Jesus angry?
Why would that have made Jesus angry?
How did the priests and scribes respond to Jesus’ actions?
Why were they afraid of Jesus?
Jesus didn’t like the things He saw at the temple that kept people from truly worshiping. What kind of things would He not like in your life?
That day in the temple, it seems clear that Jesus was angry and hurt at the same time. He had walked into the temple—the place where people were supposed to serve the one true God—and found thieves. The money-changers and religious leaders were profiting from the religious traditions of the day. The temple was the one place where worship should have been on full display; and instead, greed was the primary focus.
It must have saddened Jesus to see the people He loved so far from the truth. Yet, we still do the same thing today when we allow barriers to get in the way of true worship. We do it in our daily lives when we let things distract us from focusing on God and in worship services when we text, daydream, or write notes. Are you making God’s house a place of worship or a den of thieves?