Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tell a Friend (John 1:50-51)

Did you know that more people come to know a personal relationship with God because of a friend or relative who told them about how much God loves them? It's true. Why would your friend trust a stranger?

When is the best time to talk about God with your friend? I found that when I see my friend lonely or in despair, or suffering I can say, "I've felt like that before." But if I haven't felt like that, if I haven't had their sickness, I can say I know Someone who cares because He showed me how much He cares for me.

Jesus called Andrew one day and Andrew felt so wonderful that he went and brought his brother, Simon (also called Peter) to Jesus. The next day Jesus called Philip and He couldn't wait to tell his friend, Nathanael, about the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of Joseph from Nazareth.

"Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?" asked Nathanael.

"Come and see," said Philip and convinced Nathanael to come.

Jesus said, "Here is a true Israelite; no deceit is in him."

"How do you know me?" asked Nathanael.

"I saw you under the fig tree," said Jesus.

Then Nathanael recognized Jesus as the Son of God.

Jesus said, "You believe because I said I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than this."

Think About It
This is how our lives with God begin. First we accept what others say about Him and then we accept Him into our lives. We learn how to have a relationship by reading His word and talking with Him in prayer. He becomes our Friend, a Partner in all we do. Is there someone you would like to tell about Jesus? Pray for an opportunity and then watch what God will do.

Pray About It
Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me how much You love and care for me. I pray for an opportunity to tell my friend, _________, how You made me feel when I was [lonely or sick or intimidated]. I pray for courage to speak boldly and lovingly. Amen.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Back to School and Your Peers

Have you had a lot of time with your friends this summer? Maybe not. Maybe you spent a lot of time with your brothers and sisters while your parents worked or participated in sports or other organizations.

After a long summer, I was always glad to get back to school. It was great to spend time with my friends again. Peer pressure was big, even when I was young. But I'm thankful parent pressure was stronger. I remember thinking to myself, "My mom would kill me if she knew I had a beer or if I went all the way with a boy." So I didn't do those things.

Peer pressure is stronger today. Do you want to be accepted? Does that mean taking a drink, or smoking a cigarette? Does it mean using bad language? Has anyone dared you to steal candy out of the bulk bins in the grocery store? or something out of another's backpack?

When you know your peers are planning or doing things that are wrong, you can stand up to them. Be confident when you say things like, "I don't do that," or "I have to get my homework done," or just plain old "No." Did you know that is not only being true to yourself; it could help a friend who is thinking about doing wrong. You could help a peer make a right decision by choosing wisely for yourself.

Learn how to manage your peer pressure or it will manage you in ways you may not be prepared for. It is not fun to be laughed at or made fun of, but when you rise above insecure feelings to do what is right, you'd be surprised how people will respect you.

Think About It
Peer pressure dates back to the beginning of time. Jesus had peer pressure. He helped His friends make wise choices, but there were plenty of others who laughed at Jesus. They didn't like His message or miracles and in the end, they killed Him. Most likely you will not die for doing what is right. Just know that Jesus has traveled this road a long time before you, and He can be your best Friend. He knows the things that concern you. He wants to offer counsel and comfort. Just say His name and know He is near.

Pray About It
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your faithfulness. Thank You for never leaving me but being with me through good and difficult times. Amen.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jesus Heals a Servant's Ear

After The Last Supper Jesus shared with His friends, He led them to the Mount of Olives where He knelt and prayed. He asked the Father if he could be spared the cross, but then He said, "Not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). Drops of sweat as thick as blood fell to the ground. He found the disciples asleep a few feet away in the Garden of Gethsemene. His heart was breaking. He heard the chief priests and Roman soldiers coming to arrest Him.

Peter drew his sword and cut of a servant's ear. Jesus said, "No more of this!" (Luke 22:51) and He healed the man's ear.

Think About It
Jesus was sad knowing this was the last time He would be with His friends. He knew they didn't understand what was happening. He taught in the temple day in and day out. Yet, no one harmed him. This night, however, the priests and soldiers came with swords to arrest Him. Even when Jesus' heart was aching, He reached out and healed the servant's ear.

Pray About It
Lord Jesus, help us when we are sad to know that it's not about us, but about you. Help us to reach out as you did, and show compassion. Amen.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Are You the Real Deal?

Did you know our world is dying for love? Do you have friends who do not know the love of God? Jesus met a Samaritan woman from Sychar at a well. He was tired from traveling, and the disciples went into town to get food.

He began to talk with the woman by asking her for water. She asked him important life questions and He offered her living water, which means the love of God, which flows from  His throne and through His followers by the power of His Holy Spirit. The things Jesus said seemed strange to the woman, but Jesus let her know He knew all about her and still He showed love to her.

She ran to the city and told others about Jesus and the love she felt. They came to see Him for themselves and they too experienced His love. This story, found in John 4, demonstrates four qualities of God's love:
Experience - God's love knows.
Example     - God's love shows.
Expands     - God's love grows.
Expresses   - God's love flows.
Think About It
Jesus showed us how to be the real deal by loving an unlovely woman. She didn't come to the well in the morning as other women did. She was an outcast and came in the heat of the day. People didn't care for her, but Jesus did. There are unlovely people in our world. Discuss with your parents or teachers how you might show love this week, how you can be real, like Jesus.

Pray About It
O Lord, help me to love like Jesus so people will come to realize how much you love them. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Eat Your Vegetables

In the summer time it's easy to eat fast food on the go. Sometimes we forget how important vegetables are. Some of us don't even like vegetables. Aiden is one of those kids. He found himself in a prison cell made of carrots. Can you imagine? Find out what he does in the book, The Prisoner of Carrot CastleToday is the release of The Prisoner of Carrot Castle, pun intended.

In addition to this fascinating book is the iPad app of The Prisoner of Carrot Castle. Maybe you can help Aiden escape the angry King!

My friend, Chris Pedersen, wrote this book and several others because she is passionate about eating good things. A few years ago the doctor told her that her colon cancer would take her life. God had another plan. He showed Miss Chris the foods that help fight cancer and she lives today to tell you and others how tasty vegetables can be.

If you will leave a comment, I will put your name in a drawing for a free copy of The Prisoner of Carrot Castle signed by Miss Chris on July 4, 2013. I hope you win! You will love this book.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer's Here!

School is out! Summer's finally here. Do you have big plans?
Camping with your family?
Church, music or scout camp?
Swimming or the city zoo?

Whatever you do, it's easy to fall down in your faith and become an easy target for temptation. How will you avoid getting off track this summer? Here are seven tips:
  1. Read the Bible and talk to God every day. This helps you remember to do what is right.
  2. Think of ways you can help people. Don't always think about yourself.
  3. Read good books.
  4. Watch wholesome movies or TV.
  5. Be safe by being cautious. Slow down. Put on sunscreen.
  6. Get plenty of rest.
  7. Eat healthy food. Fast food is delicious, but you don't need it every day.
Think About It
No one wants to be around a grumpo. When we don't get enough rest or eat right, we get irritable. That's not fun for anyone. How will you practice thinking of other people this summer?

Pray About It
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for a break from school. Sometimes without the normal structure, life gets confusing and I forget to live for you. Help me not to fall away but to live for you. Amen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Talking With Jesus

As a Sunday school teacher I found that in these troubling times it has become more important every day to teach young people how to have a relationship with a living/loving God. I am working on a family devotional that does that and have started a blog titled "Talking With Jesus." 

Each devotional has

  • A retold Bible story with the words of Jesus in red 
  • A "Think About It" section, which applies Bible truth
  • A "Pray About It" section with prayers kids can learn
Whether you are a parent, someone in children's ministries or a young person, join me today to learn how much Jesus loves and cares for you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Here Am I - Send Me! (Isaiah 6)

In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah said, "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple." What glory! The temple was huge! Can you imagine enough fabric to cover the whole temple?

Angels flew above the him, and they called to each other:

"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." 
The sound of their voices made the doorposts and thresholds shake, and smoke filled the temple.

"Woe to me!" cried Isaiah. "I am ruined! For I have unclean lips and I live among people with unclean lips. My eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."
Then an angel came to Isaiah with a burning coal from the altar and touched his lips. "See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for."

The Lord said to Isaiah, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

And Isaiah said, "Here am I. Send me!"

God called Isaiah to prophesy to the people of Israel, but they did not listen and God destroyed the cities.

Think About It
Following God was not popular in Isaiah's day and it's not popular today. Yet His ways are good and right and true. His ways bring peace and joy and love. Will you be one that follows God even when your peers do not? Even when your friends laugh at you?

Pray About It
Thank you, Father God, for the story of Isaiah. Teach us to be strong and brave, to make good choices that will bring peace and joy and love. Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Here I Am (Samuel 3)

Hannah dedicated her son, Samuel, to the Lord because God saved her from the disgrace of not having children. So Samuel grew up in the temple, with Eli the priest.

Eli had two sons,  Hophni and Phinehas. No one gives their sons such names anymore because these boys did bad things. Eli did not correct them as a godly father would, which disappointed God the Father.

One night while Eli slept, God called Samuel. He thought it was Eli and went to him. "Here I am," he said. "You called me."

But Eli said, "I did not call you. Go and lie down," so Samuel went and lay down.

He heard the call again and went to Eli. "Here I am. You called me."Eli said he did not call him and told him to go and lie down so he did.

Samuel heard the call a third time and went to Eli. "Here I am. You called me."

This time Eli sat up in his bed. He realized that the Lord was calling Samuel and he said to him, "Go and lie down and if He calls you again, say, 'Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.'"

The Lord called again, "Samuel! Samuel!"

This time Samuel stood and replied, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

God said He would make the ears of everyone in Israel tingle when they heard what He was about to do. He said He would judge Eli and his family for their sins.

The next morning Eli called Samuel.

"Here I am," he said.

Then Eli asked what the Lord said to him. "Tell me everything. Don't be afraid."

Then Samuel told him what God said.

"He is the Lord," Eli said.

God was with Samuel as he grew up in the Lord. He became Israel's prophet. He even anointed King Saul and King David.

Think About It
We may not hear God's voice as clearly as Samuel, but we can grow up to know His will for our lives. It is written in His word. By reading the Bible and living as God teaches, we will grow up to love and serve Him as Samuel did.

Pray About It
Thank you, Father God, for the story of Samuel and how he grew from a young boy to love and serve you all the days of his life. Help us to be like him. Amen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

God to the Rescue (Daniel 3:8-30)

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king, but he hungered for more power. He set up a golden statue of himself and demanded that at the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum and every kind of music, his people should fall down and worship the image.

Some Chaldeans accused three young Jews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They told the king, "These men do not worship your gods or your golden statue."

This made Nebuchadnezzar very, very angry, and he had the three brought to him. "Is it true you do not serve our gods or worship the golden statue?" Then he ordered the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum and every kind of music to sound off, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not worship the image. They said their God would rescue them in the fire, and even if He didn't, they would not worship the golden statue.

Nebuchadnezzar ordered the temperature in furnace to be raised seven times hotter than normal. It was so hot it killed the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the blazing fire.

Then something amazing happened. The king looked into the window of the furnace and saw, not three but four men walking around in the fire. He said, "One looks like a son of the gods!" The men's robes did not catch on fire and their hair did not burn. Nebuchadnezzar had them brought out of the furnace. The Jews didn't even smell like fire or smoke.

Do you know what the king did? He praised the God of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, because He rescued the men who trusted Him.

Think About It
Has anyone tried to get you to do something you knew was wrong? Did they persuade you? Next time remember how God protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. You can trust Him to protect you too.

Pray About It
Father God, it's hard to stay true to you when our friends want us to go along with things that are not right. Be our strength and help us to trust you, even when it's not the popular thing to do.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Revenge or Reconciliation?

Joseph's brothers hated him for his high and lofty dreams about them becoming his servants. They hated him because their dad loved him the most. They wanted him dead, but they sold him into slavery and lied to their dad with his  robe of many colors bloodied with the slaughter of a goat. They wanted to harm Joseph, but God had another plan. Joseph became the servant of Potifer, then the governor of the land, second in command to the king.

During a great famine Joseph's brothers came for grain to feed their families. They bowed before Joseph (fulfillment of a dream). When Joseph recognized his brothers, he had the opportunity to carry out revenge, but he chose to forgive.

God sent the law through Moses to teach people how to live with love for each other. They learned how to keep records of their good deeds and became prideful. God loved the world so much He send His Son Jesus to show us how to live, even to the point of taking our place on the cross for our sin, so we would experience forgiveness.

Forgiveness is vital in relationships with people and with God. Since God forgave us, we ought also to forgive one another for wrongs done against us.

Think About It
Have you hurt someone with lies or taken something that wasn't yours? Has someone lied about you? Has anyone robbed you of something special? Like Joseph, you have a choice to get even or to forgive. What will you do?

Pray About It
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for Joseph's story. Teach me how to live more like You. Show me your ways even when I want to choose my ways. Amen.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Don't Hurt the Ones You Love

Why do people lie? We asked that question in Sunday school and received several answers. Here are the top three:

To get away with something we know is not right.

To cover up something we did wrong.

To get someone's approval.

Although deception and lies are the devil's tools, many stories in the Bible are about people who are not honest. Jacob deceived his father by taking Esau's birthright, and his sons fell into the same sin. They lied to him about Joseph. When Jacob showed more love to him by making a colorful coat for him, their jealousy got the best of them.

Joseph's brothers thought if they got rid of him, their father's love would fall on them. Wrong! They sold him into slavery. Then they had to kill a goat and dip the beautiful coat in the goat's blood. When the sons showed the coat to Jacob, they expected to receive his affection. But their plan backfired on them. The thought of Joseph's loss broke Jacob's heart, and in his grief, he withdrew from his family. He could not be consoled. Read the story in Genesis 37:12-36.

Think About It
Sometimes we might want something so much we lie to get it, but our dishonesty hurts the ones we love. It hurts God, and it hurts us. The next time you want something so much you have to lie, think about who it will hurt. It always hurts someone, most likely those you love.

Pray About It
Father God, please forgive me for my dishonesty. I want to tell the truth because I love you and others. Help me do what's right by being honest. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

No Games James

James, the brother of Jesus, spoke words of wisdom. He wrote one book (five chapters) in the New Testament. While Jesus was alive, James and his other brothers and sisters didn't understand Jesus' mission on earth.

After the cross and resurrection, however, James got it. He became a leader in the Jerusalem church. Here are some of the great things he said that we can use every day of our lives:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. James 2:1 
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26
You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2 
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:7-8
Think About It
James was dead serious. He was a "no games" kind of man. He spoke the truth. The things he said are life changing.

Pray About It
Thank you Father God for sending Jesus, your Son. Thank you for James, His brother, who led the Jerusalem church. Lord may we read these scriptures this week and apply them to our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Abigail, The Peacemaker (1 Samuel 25)

When King David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal, a very rich man, was in Carmel shearing his 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. All the time Nabal traveled to the shearers King David and his men protected Nabal, his people and flocks.

King David sent 10 men from his army to request provision from Nabal, but Nabal would not even give them water and bread. This made King David angry. He said to 400 of his men, "All of you, put on your swords!" They were ready to kill Nabal and his people for returning evil for good.

One of Nabal's men went to Abigail, Nabal's wife, and told her the terrible way he treated King David. He said, "When we were in the wilderness we were not harassed. King David and his men were a wall of protection around us."

Abigail knew how bad her husband was and she prepared to meet King David. She and Nabal's men loaded donkeys with 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs. When she saw King David she got off her donkey and fell at his feet. She took on the guilt of her husband, Nabal, and asked the King to forgive him. Because of her gracious act, she kept King David from killing all Nabal's people.

King David said to her, "Praise to the Lord God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! Blessed is your discernment and blessed are you. You kept me from participating in bloodshed today."

Think About It
Nabal did evil in God's sight and died for it. Abigail brought peace between two nations and lived to marry King David. Maybe you and I will not marry a king for doing what is right, but God honors what we do. Nothing we do for His glory goes unnoticed. Think of ways this week to be brave and act in ways that honor God.

Pray About It
Holy God, thank you for stories in your word that show us how to live. May we think of them when we face bad people, and trust you to carry us as you did Abigail. Amen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

From the Tombs (Mark 5:1-20)

Demons controlled the man who lived in the tombs. Because of them, he cut himself on rocks, and their combined strength in him caused him to break the chains men put on him. How he must have suffered!

Mark 5:21-43
One day Jesus arrived on a boat, and the man ran to Him and fell at His feet. The demons spoke, and Jesus commanded them to go into a herd of pigs. The people who owned the pigs saw the man dressed and in his right mind. They saw their pigs going over a cliff into the river below. Alarmed, they asked Jesus to leave their vicinity, but the man Jesus delivered begged to follow Him.

Jesus told him to go home and tell all God had done for him. I remember when Jesus rescued me from my despair. Like the man from the tombs, I never wanted to be outside of Jesus' love and presence, but He called me to go and tell all He has done for me.

The good news is, He is always with me. By going and telling, I have not left His presence. Instead, it seems to be manifested when I do what Jesus wants me to do.

Think About It
Have you or someone in your family been sick, sad or lonely? Jesus' love is the answer. I felt the warmth of His love as soon as I said His name from my depression. You can experience new hope and faith too by speaking Jesus' name.

Pray About It
Thank you, Father God, for loving me and sending Jesus into my life. Every day I want more of Him and less of me. Help it be so. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

King Solomon Had it All

When Solomon became King of Israel, he had one prayer--that God would give him wisdom and discernment to govern His people. God said since he didn't ask for wealth, long life or victory over his enemies, he would have all those as well as wisdom. He was the wisest of all the leaders before or since his reign.

King Solomon succeeded his first twenty years, but he failed his last twenty. Do you know why? Because he disobeyed God. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God commanded him not to multiply horses or to lead his people back to Egypt to get more, but he did. The possession of many horses was a measure of a king's political power.

God also commanded King Solomon not to have many wives, but he did. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. That's a lot of wives and a lot of kids! Image if they all had Macy's credit cards. King Solomon loved all his wives and he married many foreign wives for political protection from their countries. He grew to worship their gods and practice their customs, two things God hated.

God commanded King Solomon not to accumulate a lot of silver and gold, but he did. His annual income was 1.6 billion dollars, three thousand years ago. That is a lot of wealth!

So King Solomon had it all--power, women and wealth. He didn't have purity or a dependence on God. Instead of trusting God, he trusted in his power, possessions and wives. Do you know what King Solomon concluded in his old age? That everything in life was meaningless without God. He had all the worldly treasures a man could dream of but they counted for nothing.

Think About It
The cure for a meaningless life is clinging to God, loving Him more than anything. When we do, we will love others and our lives will have meaning, hope and purpose.

Pray About It
Teach me your ways O God. Show me your paths and help me live according to your will and plan. Amen.