God Isn’t You

Posted by Melissa

Plans. Everyone has them. Weekend plans, college plans, vacation plans, career plans. You name it, and there is probably a plan for it. Do your plans always work out? What happens when they don’t? Do you make a plan B, or do you question everything around you?

Read Isaiah 55:8-11, considering verse 8 carefully.

What does this passage teach you about God’s thoughts and ways?

How are God’s thoughts higher and different than our thoughts?

What does it mean that God’s word doesn’t return to Him empty?

How is God’s word like rain and snow? Explain.

In your life, how have you seen God’s plan be bigger than your own?

Do you trust God for the perfect plan, or are you seeking your own thoughts and ways? Explain.

In this passage, God was speaking to the Israelites who were in exile in Babylon. They felt overlooked and forgotten by God. Today’s passage was God’s reminder to His people that His knowledge and power far surpassed theirs because He was God and they were not. His plans were not the same as their plans—and His were beyond their wildest imagination.

We often need that reminder, too. Much of the time, we try to make God fit into our plans instead of seeking to conform our lives and our will to His. God’s thoughts and ways are not the same as ours. He is God; we are not. He always sees the bigger picture; we only see the narrowest sliver and how it affects us. So when your plans fail and you don’t understand, trust God’s infinite wisdom and look to Him alone for guidance. He always has your best interest at heart.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. —Isaiah 55:8

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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Through the Fire and Flood

Posted by Melissa

When it rains, it pours! Your dad just lost his job. Your car needs new tires. You really want to go on that overseas school trip, but your parents said you’ll have to pay for it. And four of your friends have birthdays this month. It seems like every time you turn around, you need money. On top of that, school is crazy-busy, and you think the coach hates you. Even though you feel overwhelmed, God doesn’t.

Read Isaiah 43:1-3, stopping to read verse 2 aloud several times.

In verse 1, what can we learn about the nation of Israel?

As believers in Christ, how are we like the Israelites?

What do these verses teach you about God’s love for you?

What could compare to overwhelming fires and rivers today (v. 2)?

What fires and floods of difficulty are you going through now?

Are you looking to God for strength? If so, how is He caring for you?

What have you learned in the process?

The nation of Israel was created by God and very special to Him. God had chosen, protected, and redeemed these people. If you’re a Christian, He does the same for you because of your relationship with Christ. He loves you deeply, watches over you, and saves you. However, in His care for you, God never promised that your life would be easy. We all must walk through deep valleys and swim in treacherous waters in our lives. You don’t get a free pass from stress, sorrow, or difficulty when you accept Christ.

God does promise one thing, though. In verse 2 of this passage, God says that He will be with us, and we will neither be burned by the fires nor overwhelmed by the rivers. Hear that? Even though you will walk through difficult times, your difficult circumstances will never take you under if you trust in God. What great comfort to know God loves you and promises to be with you each step of the way!

I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. —Isaiah 43:2

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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Why God?

Posted by Melissa

Read Psalm 42:1-11.

One of life’s most difficult lessons is learning that things don’t always go the way we expect. We lose loved ones, have relationship troubles, or don’t get that thing—that place on the team, scholarship, or dream—we so desperately want. Circumstances in life often leave us feeling hurt, confused, sad, and disappointed. We often want to ask why and continually search for answers that aren’t always easy to find.

That’s how the psalmist felt when writing the passage you studied today. He was depressed. And even though he felt forgotten, the psalmist poured out his heart to God continually. He had desperately searched for God and, rather than seeking the world’s advice, looked to God for answers. These verses say he longed for God as an animal longs for water. In order to live, He needed God, just like an animal needs water. And even though the road was difficult and the answers weren’t apparent, the writer of these verses remembered God’s past faithfulness and chose to trust Him.

Just like the psalmist, we need to keep our hope and trust in God alone. We must see God as our rock and remember how He has cared for us in past situations, trusting that He will be faithful again. What about you? Are you in the middle of distress? How has God answered you in the past and shown Himself faithful? Are you searching for Him now and looking to Him alone? Even when you feel like God isn’t speaking, place your hope and trust in Him. He is faithful. Always.

I will say to God, my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?  —Psalm 42:9

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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You Don’t Have To Look Far

Posted by Melissa

Where is it?! Have you ever been looking for something that you finally realized was right there all along? Lost homework, a key, a shoe. Something was missing. You looked and looked and could not see it. Maybe you even gave up. But at some point, you found the item you’d been looking for right in front of your face. Perhaps for some, God is like that.

Read Acts 17:26-29. Check out verse 27.

What does it mean that God has determined our “appointed times” and the “boundaries” of where we live?

According to verse 27, how far is God from those who seek Him?

Though God created us all, we don’t all know Him. Why not?

Paul quoted their own poets to show them God. Which of our poets (or songwriters) could you quote to your friends to show them God?

What does verse 29 teach you about God’s divine nature?

As Paul spoke to the people of Athens, he pointed out that they had gotten something right: there is a God. Paul explained to them that there is one true God who gives us life and determines how long that life will last. More than that, Paul promised that if we seek God, we will find Him. And finding God isn’t like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack. God has made it easy for anyone to find Him. He is not far.

The truth is, we’re all looking for something. And the only something that truly fills is God. As Augustine, an early Christian theologian, once put it, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.”

All around you, people are searching for Jesus—and they may not even know it yet. You can help them find Him because He isn’t far.

He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. —Acts 17:27

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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The Answer

Posted by Melissa

Spiritual or religious? That seems to be a question a lot of people are asking today. There are many who claim to be spiritual but not religious. Apparently, people have redefined the terms, making “spiritual” things seem much more personal and private, while religion is seen as something much more public. People do not want to be associated with public church life. As a result they have created their own personalized religion without a church. Know anyone like that?

Read Acts 17:22-25, and ponder verse 22.

Where was Paul, and to whom was he talking?

How were the people religious?

Can you be religious and not be a Christian? Explain.

What did the inscription say? Why is that important?

What are the “unknown gods” of today?

Do you know anyone who says he or she is spiritual but is not into religion or Christianity? Where is he or she seeking answers?

How will you reach out to that person with the Truth this week?

The people Paul was talking to were trying to cover all their bases. They figured there might be a god they missed, so they made a statue to it as well. They were very spiritual, but they were also very confused. They were searching for answers that only Jesus could provide, but they were looking in all the wrong places.

So how do you reach out to “spiritual,” searching friends? Help them encounter the one true God. Just like Paul did all those years ago in Athens, you can introduce them to the One who knows the answers they’ve been searching for.

Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. —Acts 17:22

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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Spend Time

Posted by Melissa

Look-alikes. There’s a rumor that the longer a couple is married, the more they begin to look like each other. When you live in the South long enough, you develop a Southern accent. There are even pictures on the Internet of people who look like their dogs! (Creepy.) All those things aside, the point is this: when you spend a lot of time with someone, that person rubs off on you. You begin to become more and more alike.

Read Acts 4:8-13, looking especially closely at verse 13.

Why were the disciples being questioned?

What was their response?

What did the crowd of people recognize about Peter and John?

How did the crowd know that Peter and John had been hanging around with Jesus?

Do the people around you ever recognize that you’ve spent time with Jesus? Why or why not?

In today’s passage, Peter and John were in trouble. They had healed a man and were being questioned about it by people who weren’t exactly fans of them or their faith. The religious leaders were astounded by Peter and John. They knew that Peter and John were uneducated, normal guys, but their explanation wasn’t. The crowd recognized that these men had spent time with Jesus.

Jesus had rubbed off on them. They had been around Jesus so much that they spoke like Him, acted like Him, and loved like Him. Want to help people know God? Spend time with Jesus and let Him rub off on you.

When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. —Acts 4:13

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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Want to see God? Look to Jesus.

Posted by Melissa

Pictures. Photographs. Portraits. Digital images. Think about your favorite picture of yourself. Why do you like it? What does it say about you? What are you doing in it? Does it say anything about your family or what you believe is most important? Explain.

Read Hebrews 1:1-3, and stop to think about verse 3.

According to these verses, how did God reveal Himself in “these last days”?

How much of an expression of God is Jesus?

What does this passage have to do with knowing there is a God?

Do these verses indicate that Jesus is a good picture of God?

What does Jesus’ earthly life tell us about God?

Some people find faith difficult because it involves believing in Someone we can’t see. But as today’s passage points out, while we don’t have a photo of God, He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ. If you want to know what God is really like, read about Jesus’ life here on earth. Discover His character. See how He treated people. Understand why He came to earth and what He came to do. Seek Jesus. The clearest picture you have of God is Jesus, a Man who loved and served others and gave Himself up—even unto death—for our well-being. He is God! Today’s key verse says He is the exact expression of God’s nature.

So, what is God like? Jesus.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. —Hebrews 1:3

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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No Excuses

Posted by Melissa

So what’s your best excuse? When you don’t have your homework, what do you say? Something along the lines of: “I’m environmentally conscious, and I am saving paper this week”; “The dog ate my flash drive”; or “We had homework?”

I’m sure you could be more creative than that. You might have over a hundred excuses, but how many are “good” excuses? How many really excuse you from your responsibility? There is one thing for which no one has a good excuse.

Read Romans 1:18-20, focusing on verse 20.

According to these verses, what is revealed against godlessness?

These verses say that what can be known about God has been made evident. How?

What evidence of God have you seen around you?

Why are people without excuse?

Today’s passage indicates that there is no good excuse for not believing in God. We may come up with excuses like the lame ones we use for forgetting our homework, but there is not a valid excuse. Scripture says God has proven His existence through the things He has created. God is real. Did the sun rise today? Did you breathe air? Did your blood flow where it was supposed to and your feet and hands work today? God has made Himself known through His creation, and there is no excuse for not believing.

For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. —Romans 1:20

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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See The Proof

Posted by Melissa

Read Psalm 19:1-6.

Think about the most breathtaking natural wonder you’ve ever seen. The Grand Canyon. Niagara Falls. Mountain ranges, vast river valleys, caves. Think about the intricacies of your body’s cells and the tiny details you can’t even see with the naked eye on the wing of a butterfly. Consider that no one has the same fingerprints and every dog has a unique nose print. Ponder the seasons, the tides, the moon, and the stars.

Creation itself testifies that there is a Creator. The world around us calls us into a God-consciousness. Because of the intricacies of life, life processes, and all creation, we begin to recognize that there is a God who created all and is in control of it all. Just as a watch points to the existence of a watchmaker, creation over and over declares the glory of the Creator.

That’s what David was describing in today’s Scripture passage. Just as a watch has a watchmaker and a house has a builder, we can look at the intricacies of creation and know that God made it. You live in a world in which many proclaim there is no God, yet creation itself tells a different story. As David pointed out, creation sings a silent song of praise to the Creator, and the message has gone out to all of the world. The writer even points to the sun itself, calling attention to its daily route from horizon to horizon and describing its brightness as the joy of a bridegroom or an eager athlete. The sun itself testifies to the existence of a Creator who set our planet into motion around it. The point is this: God reveals Himself to the world, and one of the ways He does so is through His creation. Many in this world may question the existence of a Creator, but creation doesn’t. If anything, it testifies to His glory. Look out your window. Go outside. See the proof.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. —Psalm 19:1

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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Just Talk

Posted by Melissa

I’m not afraid to share my faith. I’m really not. I love sharing the life-giving truth about Jesus. However, don’t start asking me questions about my Christian T-shirt when I’m in the middle of my favorite TV show, and don’t text me with questions about a confusing Bible verse when I’m headed to the football game. Admittedly, it’s hardest for me to share my faith when it’s inconvenient. When is it toughest for you?

Zone in on verse 2 as you read 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

With what have we been charged?

Which of these instructions are easiest for you to carry out? Which one is toughest? Explain.

What is a recent situation that has required great patience from you? How did you do?

When has it been difficult for you to persist in telling others about Jesus? When has it been inconvenient?

What are some examples of verse 3 in your school, community, or even church?

What does it mean to keep a clear head?

How can young believers keep clear heads in our culture?

What are you doing to keep a clear head?

Paul spoke some pretty challenging words to Timothy. People aren’t going to like your words, he admitted. Paul’s advice? Tell them anyway and don’t quit. When are you most tempted to quit? When does it seem like a waste of time to even open your mouth?

Stop right now and ask God for courage to speak His truth, even when it’s unpopular. Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when it hurts. No matter what, speak His truth.

Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. —2 Timothy 4:2

Reprinted from ec magazine. © 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

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