WEEK OF JANUARY 21ST, 2018

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
 

Everybody remembers the story of Jonah and the fish that swallowed him. But some of the other details may be hazy. So let’s remind ourselves of these other details.
— God called Jonah to go to Nineveh to announce to them God’s coming destruction
— Jonah heads in the opposite direction in order to avoid preaching a negative message to the people of Nineveh. 
— God pursues Jonah on the boat which he is trying to use to escape from God, and God conveniently provides a fish to swallow Jonah and take him back to square one.
— God forgives and relents from destroying the boat, and all the sailors believe in God.
— Jonah repents of his rebellion and goes to Nineveh to announce God’s forthcoming judgment. The people of Nineveh repent, and God in His compassion relents of what He intended to do. 
— God is a compassionate God, who is more than ready to forgive our sins when we repent.

Read Jonah 3:1-5, 10
 

Head
Who is another person in the Bible you can think of that doubted God and what He was calling him/her to do? 

Heart
Is there a time in your life you felt like you were called by God to do something  that was hard? Something that may not have been the most popular choice? If so share with
the group.
Share a time, (it can be the same as used in the previous question,) that God proved his faithfulness to you? 
(Parents: This is a good time to be  able to share with your kids part of your journey of faith.)

Hands
What is something you feel God is calling you to do this year? What is one step you can take to begin to answer God’s calling? 
Pray about how you can help hold each other accountable to this.
 


Mark 1:14-20


Jesus began calling his disciples, starting from the area where John the Baptist had been preaching to Galilee. St. Mark, in today’s reading, fills in some of the details, which begin with John the Baptist being arrested by King Herod Antipas, one of Herod the Great’s sons. The arrest was meant to silence John the Baptist, who had been accusing King Herod of adultery for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.
So Jesus headed to Galilee, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was now here, so repent and believe the good news. As He went, Jesus saw Peter and his brother, Andrew, fishing, so he called them to follow Him, which they did immediately. Then they came upon James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, mending their fishing nets with their father. When Jesus called them to follow Him, they also immediately answered the call.
 

Read Mark 1:14-20
 

Head
We know, Peter, Andrew, James and John as disciples of Jesus. However, they all had careers before they followed Jesus. Read more about what each of the disciples did before they were called by Jesus.

What does this tell us about who Jesus uses to accomplish his work?
 

Heart
Look up the word vocation. Talk about what vocation means in your own words.
What are some of your vocations? Take time to talk this through with your family.
 

Hands
How does Jesus call you to use your vocation to serve him?

 

WEEK OF JANUARY 14TH

1 Corinthians 6:12-20


**Today’s reading delves into sexual sins. This is a great opportunity to teach and talk with kids of all ages about this relevant and important topic. It is good to teach and remind that sex is a gift from God, and that Satan seeks to twist and ruin this good gift. Today Paul shines the light of scripture on this topic. 
As the parent you know your children best; use this discussion however you see fit. Some questions can provide you a chance to share what older people deal with as you talk with younger children.**


In today’s lesson, St. Paul addresses the issue of sexual immorality, apparently evident within the Corinthian church! St. Paul proceeds by reminding his readers of some basic facts about the Christian’s body:

—The Christian’s body is a member of Christ Himself.
—Since sexual activities makes the man and woman become one flesh, visiting a prostitute makes a member of Christ’s body a member of a prostitute.
—When someone is sexually immoral, that person sins against his/her own body.
—Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit!
—We have received our body from God, which was purchased at a great price by Jesus’ death.
Bottom Line: Instead of satisfying our sexual desires with various affairs, we are called to glorify God with the righteous use of our bodies.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
 

Head
What part of this reading catches your attention?
Please read the 6th commandment and the explanations in your catechism. What sticks out to you as most important?
 

Heart
How would your friends or people you know react to this reading?
How does our world react to this reading?
What are some of the biggest struggles among people you know with sexual temptations?
 

Hands
Take time to pray for those you know and sexual temptations. 


John 1:43-51

As our reading begins today, we find Jesus continuing to call His disciples. Having just called Peter and his brother Andrew, Jesus now heads to Galilee, where he calls Philip. Philip, who apparently believed Jesus’ teaching, quickly finds his brother Nathanael and brings him to Jesus also. During this process, it becomes quite evident that Jesus knows hearts and minds. The reading concludes with Jesus testifying about His deity by telling His disciples that they eventually will see heaven open with angels ascending and descending on Him. 
(See Genesis 28:10-19 for connection-then in John 2:16-19, just 20 verses past today’s reading, Jesus talks about rebuilding the ‘temple’ (house of God in 3 days, referring to himself.) 
 

Read John 1:43-51

Head

Epiphany means revealing or manifestation.  It begins in the Christian calendar after Christmas, on January 6th, and lasts until the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It  represents the revealing of Christ to all people, those who were Israelites, but also to those from other regions and faith systems.. The main theme of epiphany is— Jesus as the light of the world,  revealed to all nations, all people.  During the season of Epiphany the readings focus on Jesus revealing himself as God in Flesh to more and more people.

What are the different ways Jesus reveals himself in this reading? 
How is knowing that God knows our thoughts and hearts both comforting and convicting?

Heart
As soon as Jesus called someone to be his disciple, that new disciple shared their belief in Jesus by sharing with someone else. Who helped guide you in your faith journey?
Who are you helping to grow in their faith journey?
How does Learning Truth, Loving Well fit into helping disciple people?

Hands
Who is someone you can check in with this week and care for?

WEEK OF JANUARY 7, 2018

Ephesians 3:1-12
 
In Ephesians chapter 2 St. Paul mentions the mystery that God had revealed to us through Jesus Christ. In today’s lesson, St. Paul expands on the nature of that mystery. The common-held belief of the Jews of that time was that they were God’s chosen people, what they had forgotten was that they were to be a beacon and messenger to the whole world. Today, St. Paul states that God had given him a revelation in order for him to appreciate the mystery of Jesus: that God intended right from the beginning to save all peoples; Gentiles were fellow heirs and members of the same body and partakers of the same promises in Jesus. Even though God had made clear in his promise to Abraham that he would be the (faith) father of all nations, this reality had not hit home with God’s people. In fact, when Jesus showed up and associated with ‘outsiders’ he was rejected and mocked for this. Paul reminds us what a true mystery really is: something that was clouded or unclear that is now made clear or revealed.  
Jesus is for ALL people. The body of believers are called to make this melting pot approach known to the entire universe.

Read Ephesians 3: 1-12

Head
The gospel was pretty radical for Paul’s day. Is the gospel still radical today? How?

Does the church do this well? What could we do better?

Heart
Who are the hard people in our world to love?

How does the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus influence the church to act towards them?

Hands
Who is a person you could show love to? How will you do that?


Matthew 2:1-12

St. Matthew records for our benefit the revealing of the Messiah beyond the borders of Israel with Wisemen coming from the East. The reading starts with a reminder that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. This was a king who was so paranoid that someone would replace him that he murdered anyone he was suspicions of, including his own wife, some of his sons, and a number of other relatives. So when “wise men”—which would have been foreign seekers of knowledge, much like professors or researchers today, came claiming they saw the king of the Jews’ star rise, King Herod’s paranoia went into overdrive. Amazingly, the Jewish leaders know exactly where he would be (prophecy from Micah 5:2). Herod tries to trick the wisemen to return and tell him where this ‘king’ is so he can also go and worship him. The star then leads the wise men south to Bethlehem and to the exact home where Jesus was. (This story takes place within two years of Jesus birth, before Herod killed all babies two years and younger to get rid of this ‘king’). The Wise men bowed down to worship him, offering costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, something that is done only to royalty. Even Gentiles help to announce and celebrate the King of Kings!

Read Matthew 2:1-12

Head
What is the most amazing part of this story to you?

What does this teach or remind you about God?

Read on in the text (13-23). Take time to share how this makes you feel about living in our world and God’s care and provision.

Heart 
Take time to talk about the three different responses to Jesus in v.1-12. Wisemen, Herod, and Jewish leaders. How do we see the same responses today?

Who do you know in any of these categories? Take time to pray for them?

Hands
Make plans this week to bake an Epiphany (King) cake. Read this article and talk about how traditions help us remember important dates and events.

**Note: Bake a box cake and an item in it to represent Christ. The important part is to celebrate together that Jesus is ‘revealed’ to the world. Have each person look through their piece to see if Jesus is in there. (you can bake a smaller cake or cupcakes too). When you find it, take time to thank God for His revealing of Himself in such a sweet way. Items you can use: bean, small cross, ring, marble, lego figurine.

WEEK OF DECEMBER 31, 2017

Day 1 - Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Isaiah was the one of the prophets that God chose to speak to the peoples of the Southern Kingdom, or Judah, over the time period preceding and during the collapse and disappearance of the Northern Kingdom, from around 740 to 695 B.C. His ministry was to call the people of the Southern Kingdom to repentance and to assure them of God’s faithfulness in keeping His promise to give to them—and all mankind—a savior. But in today’s reading, Isaiah is not just speaking God’s words, he is speaking the Messiah’s words some 700 years before he appears on earth in human form. 

As we read these words, we find Jesus describing himself and his mission:
—He will rejoice in his God, the Father, because he has clothed Jesus with
salvation and righteousness.
—He will be dressed as a bridegroom for his bride (the Church).
—God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before him in the
same way that seeds will sprout up in a well-fertilized garden.
—The Messiah will cause righteousness and salvation to appear to all
nations because of the presence of his redeemed.
—God will give Jerusalem a new name (see Revelation 21:1-3), and it will
be a crown of glory for the Lord.


Read Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Head
Try this exercise together. Put what is being said into your own words. Think about who is talking, the object He is talking about, and what is going to happen.

This can all sound so ‘beyond reality’. How hard is it to imagine that God is actually accomplishing this plan, ultimately resulting in Jesus’ followers being raised to new, eternal life?  Why?


Heart
When you stop and think about any of these images-which are most powerful and striking for you? Crowns, robes, sprouts, mountains,... Why? 

What are some modern images that we could use to convey the same ideas? Which ones still work from the text?


Hands
How can you be a person of hope and joy this week with those around you?


Day 2 - Galatians 4: 4-7

One of the main themes of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is that God did everything to accomplish our salvation. We only need to believe God (trust is another good word for that). There is no righteous deed that will enable or enhance our own salvation. Here, in today’s lesson, St. Paul explains how this salvation was realized. At just the right time in history, God’s son became a human being by being born of a woman, to redeem us who were unable to keep God’s laws ourselves. When we understand that to redeem means to “buy back,” we can appreciate why St. Paul uses the term “adoption.” When we were born, we were not God’s children initially, because of sin, but by buying us back by the shedding of Christ’s blood, God has adopted us as his children, making us brothers and sisters of Jesus, and enabling us to not only call God our father, but also to share in the inheritance with Jesus of all of God’s goodness.

Read Galatians 4: 4-7

Head
Reflect on Paul’s words “when the fullness of time had come”. What does that tell us about God and time? How does that make you feel?

Jesus was born of a woman, and under the law...He was like us. Read questions 120-122 in your small catechism. What sticks out to you as important about Jesus being human?

Heart
Jesus became like us, AND this passage reminds us that we become like Jesus, as children of God. Read this article.

What sticks out to you from reading this article?

Go around the group and answer this question: Thinking about God as my adopted father means ________ for my faith.

Hands
Take time to pray for adoptive families and kids, also pray about foster care families and situations. List names of people involved with these ‘family’ ministries. Also pray for people who need to be adopted into God’s family.

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 24, 2017

Day 2 - Romans 16:25-27

St. Paul is finishing his letter to the Christians in Rome with a sentence that could be regarded as a doxology—a song of praise in which mankind expresses its love for God. The praise is for,
—God strengthening the believers in faith by the gospel and the words of Jesus
—the revealing of the secret that God had planned a redeemer to save all mankind from its sin
For all of this, and more, St. Paul offers eternal praise and glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ.

Read Romans 16:25-27

Head
What is a doxology defined as? Where do we see these songs of praise show up in the Bible? What about Romans 11: 33-36?

Heart
Look Up Romans 12, how are we to live a life of “doxology”?

Look at verses 9-18. Out of all of these actions listed, which one do you find comes most naturally to you? Which one is the hardest?

Hands
What is one way you can/do show praise to God on a daily basis?


Day 3 - Luke 1: 26-38

Today’s reading talks about Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah, Mary of course is wondering how this is to happen; what is she supposed to do? The angel explains that she will conceive a child and she is to name him Jesus. Then he tells her that her relative Elizabeth, considered barren, was now in her 6th month of pregnancy, noting that with God, nothing is impossible. What is Mary’s response? So be it!

You may think that this is no big deal. In that culture, Mary is fully aware that if she shows up pregnant and Joseph is not the father, then it would be considered that she had committed adultery which was punishable by being stoned to death. So by agreeing to God’s announcement, she could be getting a death sentence. 

Read Luke 1: 26-38

Head
What does Messiah mean? To learn more click this link.

Look in your small catechism at question 125, how is Jesus our “prophet, priest and king?” Which of these roles of Jesus is most significant to you? 

Heart
Mary’s response to the angel “Let it be to me according to your word.” She doesn't have a “but wait…” moment she just accepts what the angel told her as truth. Share a time where you had to say “let it be” to God and trust that He has a plan that will work out.

Hands
Take time as a family thanking God for his gift of a savior. Think of another person you can pray for that might not know Jesus or the true meaning of Christmas. 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 17, 2017

Day 1 - Isaiah 6: 1 - 11

Isaiah was a messenger to Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel. During the reign of King Uzziah, (chart) Judah had begun to turn away from God because of the great influence of idolatry King Uzziah had introduced into the kingdom. Isaiah speaks messages calling the Israelites to repentence, warning them of God’s justice as a result of their sin and speaking of the promises of God’s grace in repentance. 

Today’s reading focuses on God’s grace as He promises good news for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners, the mourners, those dealt injustice, and those brought to ruin. Jesus Himself confirms God’s speaking through his prophet Isaiah around 700 years later when Jesus speaks in the synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus declares “today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4: 16-21)”


Read Isaiah 6: 1-4, 8-11

Head
Look at this picture of a seraphim. How do you think Isaiah would have felt once he caught sight of such a creature? 

Why did the angel place the burning coal on Isaiah’s mouth? How does this relate to when we confess our sins to God? 

Heart
When you picture heaven, or the throne room of God, that is described in Isaiah what images come to mind?

Isaiah was called to confront his community (v. 9-11) with their sins, how might Isaiah have done this in a loving yet effective way? How about us? How hard is this to do? 

Hands
Draw a picture of your favorite part of the image Isaiah describes. Talk about why you chose this image.

OR

Listen/ Sing along to  “Revelation Song,” how is heaven pictured in this song? How does it compare to the images we read in Isaiah? How does this give us hope when called to confront those around us? 


Day 2 - 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24

In today’s lesson, we read St. Paul’s words to his Christian converts in Thessalonica in which he makes a listing of actions for the children of God, including: 

—always rejoicing and giving thanks, no matter the circumstances
—praying continually
—not trying to control the manifestations of the Spirit
—not despising prophecies but rather testing them
—focusing on what is good
—abstaining from every kind of evil

Paul closes with the promise that God would be their keeper and giver of peace. He promises also to purify us in the coming of Jesus. 

Read 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24

Head
What does Paul mean when he asks us to “test everything?” (v.21) Read Acts 17:11, how is this a way we can “test everything?” 

What is the promise God makes in the last verse? How can we take comfort in this? (v.24)

Heart
Talk about the list of actions…. do you understand what each of them means? 

Out of all of these actions listed, which one do you find comes most naturally to you? Which one is the hardest?

Hands
What is a way you can help remind yourself to give thanks? 

Discuss as a group something you are all thankful for and why. How cool is it that God provides these things in our lives that we can be thankful for?!

WEEK OF DECEMBER 10, 2017

DAY 1 - Isaiah 40: 1-11

In today’s reading, it appears that Isaiah has been given a vision into the future where the people of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) have reached the end of the warring. They are currently in a long season of war and attacks from enemies all around them. Isaiah realizes that these consequences for their actions were meant to draw people close to God in repentance. Isaiah offers God’s words of comfort to the people, encouraging them that their sins are forgiven and the consequence for their actions is finished. Then, God encourages his people to prepare a pathway for the glory of the Lord to again be seen. This time by all people. God still wants these tired, scared, nervous people to be his messengers, even after all that has happened! He wants them to prepare the way for him. This is not a human king whose promise grows up like grass but then fades and blows away, but a promise of God that stands forever. Therefore God’s people are to broadcast this good news so everyone can hear, because God is coming to all people! He will tend them like a shepherd, gently leading them.

Read Isaiah 40: 1-11

Head
What about this reading strikes you? Why?

How does this reading sound familiar with this week’s gospel reading (Mark 1:1-8)? What do you notice about John and his message? 

Heart
Who gets hired to be a spokesperson or messenger for different companies today on tv and radio? Contrast that with the people God chooses to use as His messengers. 

God loves to use the most unlikely kinds of people. Take time to list out who else is an uncommon messenger for God. Think Christmas story, Old Testament, New Testament.

What can this text teach us about sharing the good news today?

Hands
This December we are talking about words or themes that are encouraging to us. Talk together about a word or theme you might focus on this Christmas. How could you celebrate and remember that word or theme together?


DAY 2 - Mark 1:1-8

As St. Mark begins writing the good news of Jesus he quotes the passage from Isaiah that we read in our Old Testament Lesson. He clarifies it so that we understand that Isaiah was writing about John the Baptist. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, repent, and prepare the way of the Lord.” Mark then describes John and his ministry: proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This message struck a chord with all those who came out to him. Interestingly, Mark describes John as being clothed in camel’s hair and wearing a leather belt around his waist, and eating locusts and honey. Sort of reminiscent of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). What is more interesting is John’s description of the coming Messiah: he will be mightier than John (certainly in message and deed), he is so revered and esteemed that John is not worthy to untie his sandals and wash his feet. This guy is a REAL MVP!!

Read Mark 1:1-8

Head
Why do you think Mark begins the story of Jesus’ gospel here instead of with Jesus’ birth? Think about Jesus life and ministry in relation to the Isaiah reading (40:1-11).

Mark records John making the path straight by preaching repentance, how does showing people their sins level the ground and make paths straight? 

Heart
How does convicting (stirring up) of sin, and knocking down pride play a part in your cycle of repentance?

How does Jesus being WITH and FOR us encourage you when you think about your sin?

How does Jesus being WITH and FOR us encourage you when it comes to living a new life as Jesus’ follower?

Hands
Talk about words or themes that are encouraging to you. How can you live that out at school/work/home this week? 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 3, 2017

Day 1 - Isaiah 64: 1-9

Isaiah was called to be God’s spokesman to the Southern Kingdom, starting around 740 B.C., just 20 years before the fall of the Northern Kingdom. 

Chart of History Timeline with Prophet Activity

Things are also getting worse in the Southern kingdom. King Ahaz is leading the people into more idolatry. In today’s reading, we find Isaiah going off on a “remember the good ol’ days” rant. He recalls when the mountains quaked when God appeared on Mt. Sinai, when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush, when the people of Jericho trembled at the presence of Israel because they had heard of all the mighty acts of Israel’s God. He remembers when God joyfully blessed those who trusted in Him. Now God’s people have turned away from God, and the deeds that the people consider righteous, God considers as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The people of Judah no longer call upon God for their salvation, but instead have turned to gods of wood and stone. Isaiah calls upon God to no longer remember their sins, but look with favor and restore their hearts and lives.

Read Isaiah 64: 1-9

Head
Isaiah wants to see God intervene in powerful ways again. How does this point us forward 700 years, to Jesus as Immanuel?

Compare and contrast Jesus miracles in the Gospels with stories of God’s power in the Old Testament.

Take time to look at this chart. The bible compliments modern history books very well. How powerful it is to see these dates and know that this reflects actual history, covering a very specific group of people (God’s people). Biblical dates and events can be found and supported in other text books! 

Why is that important as we talk about God and our faith?

Heart
If you could talk to Isaiah today about how things turn out what would you tell him about how God’s power showed up in mighty ways? 

What things do people need God’s power over in our world today? Talk about people you know or issues from our day and age.

Hands    
Considering how Isaiah interceded on behalf of Judah’s people. Who do you defend, stand up for, or guard? Friends, Family, who else? 


Day 2 - Mark 11: 1-10

Jesus, who knows all things, sends his disciples into a village nearby to find a specific colt. Not only that, but he tells the disciples what to say when someone questions what they are doing. Sure enough, it all happens just as Jesus said it would. But the disciples are probably unprepared for what follows: Jesus riding into Jerusalem somewhat in the fashion of a general returning from battle in triumph, riding on his horse. Did they understand His true show of power and ultimate victory in this meek and lowly act of riding into town on a donkey? The people were excited, they threw out cloaks and branches, screaming “Hosanna,” and hailed Jesus as King David. But they were hoping for a victory over Rome and earthly powers. 

This reading comes as we focus on Advent and Jesus coming into this world. He comes in a manger, the only King of Kings, and Lord of Lords...but His real victory will come with His death. The irony of this reading is powerful for us as we look back and reflect.

Read Mark 11: 1-10

Head
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus knew exactly what would happen when they went into town. Take time to pray to God for His knowledge and grasp of all things still today.

We know how the story unfolds from here. One week later Jesus will be crucified and another crowd will cry out “Crucify Him!”. What sticks out to you as important, sad or interesting about our text today, in light of the larger story unfolding?

Heart
How much does it hurt when someone betrays or turns on you? How would you have felt being Jesus, knowing what is going to happen?

How does any of this reading challenge or comfort you as a follower of Jesus?

Hands
This December we are talking about words of encouragement from Scripture. Take time to share words or themes that are comforting to you. Listen to each other and ask questions.

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 26TH, 2017

Day 1 – Ezekiel 34: 11-16 & 20-24

**Two weeks ago we read in Amos about the Northern Kingdom of Israel turning away from God and going into captivity. Today we are reading about the Southern Kingdom of Israel, Judah, falling into much the same pattern. [View the Map]

Ezekiel, was one of God’s prophets to the citizens of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. His message came during the reign of the last king of Judah, King Zedekiah, through the early part of the Babylonian Captivity (593-580’s).

At this point in the reading Judah has fallen into Babylonian Captivity. Ezekiel, one of the exiles, is speaking to the other exiled Israelites in captivity. His general message was of God’s promise of restoration and hope. God reassures that He will seek out His sheep wherever they may be and will personally take care of them (referred to here as the mountain heights of Israel). Then God addresses those who have served themselves, identifying especially those who used their wealth and position to exploit and abuse others for their own advantage. He will separate sheep from sheep and judge them. God ends asserting His power, making it clear that He is able to carry out what He decrees.

 Read Ezekiel 34: 11-16 & 20-24

Head
Have you ever had to search for something? Share stories of lost animals, toys,...How great is it that God says HE will come and search for us? How does that add to our understanding of Jesus coming into the world?

Ezekiel is speaking to people who have been forcefully removed from their homes. Consider refugees, what does it mean to be a refugee? Read Philippians 3: 20-21. If we are citizens of heaven, how are we, too, like refugees (exiles) in this world?   View this video to learn more about what it means to be a refugee.

Heart
Since Ezekiel is speaking to people who have been exiled from their homes, how encouraging are some of these words and ideas? Which would be most comforting to you if you were in a strange place.

Talk about a time you felt alone or lost. Have you ever felt that way spiritually? 

Hands
Who can you name that seems like they might feel lost or alone? What can you do to
comfort them?

Close with a time of prayer, praying for family, refugees,  those who are lost spiritually around you, even praying for those who exploit and abuse others-that they would see the error of their ways and trust in God.


Day 2 – Matthew 25: 31-46

As we look at this reading we find Jesus describing the proceedings that will take place on the last day. God has opened His court, and the deeds of all people who lived are earth are reviewed. The defendants divided into two categories: the sheep (those who lived out their faith in Jesus by deeds of compassion for others), and the goats (those who rejected God and man by serving only themselves). Jesus recognizes the the sheep’s good works of response, and they enter into the eternal joy of companionship with God Himself, while the goats enter into eternal punishment that was originally reserved for Satan and the angels who followed him. Our deeds of compassion reflect the hope and joy that we have in Christ and this story reminds us that our faith is like a tree that WILL produce fruits of faith.

Read Matthew 25: 31-46

Head
Using the analogy of fruit and tree. How are good works better understood as fruit? When it comes to what Jesus has done for us, how is that better understood as ‘root’ of the tree?

Luther also used the analogy of a fire. When you start a fire you always get heat and light. How are good works like heat and light compared to our fire of salvation?

Heart
When has someone served you that was powerful or encouraging? What acts of service have you done that really helped someone? 

Hands
What is one way you can serve someone this week? How can you use this act of service to tell this person they are loved by Jesus? 

 

 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 19TH, 2017

Day 1 – 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11

In the letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul issues a warning that Jesus will come when the time is right and we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. Consequently it encourages us to be prepared for His arrival, not participating in the deeds of darkness that are so common in our day and age. But rather we should practice the acts of faith and love that demonstrate our relationship and trust in Jesus Christ.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Head
Paul talks about deeds of darkness. Talk together about what those kinds of deeds are. How do you see this happening in what people around you, at school or work, are doing? 

What is it that makes it a deed of darkness? Read Mark 12: 28-31, how do these works of darkness break the two greatest commandments? 

Heart
Paul mentions having put on a breast plate of righteousness and a helmet of salvation. What does he mean by these terms? Talk why those pieces of armor were so important.

Share stories of your own journey to faith, you could share baptism stories and how you want to have a home that talks about and makes faith a priority by putting on this “armor” daily. 

Hands
Paul not only talks about walking in the light, but also tells them to encourage and build one another up. How will you work on building one another up in your home?
Consider encouraging one another in: gratitude, prayer, saying thank you, making time for devotions etc.

Take time to split up and pray with one other person. List out some of the deeds of darkness you previously talked about and pray against temptation for that other person.


Day 2 – Matthew 25: 14-30

As we continue the theme of Jesus second coming, we find Jesus continuing his warning to be prepared. Following up on his story of the ten bridesmaids, Jesus now relates the story of three servants who are entrusted by their master with various amounts of wealth and property to manage. When the master calls his servants later to give an account of their stewardship, we find two that made use of their master’s property that resulted in adding to his wealth. The third servant, however, made no attempt to add to the wealth that had been entrusted to him, and was punished. 

God has entrusted each of us with capabilities that we are called to use to further his kingdom, contrary to the world, that invites us to use these gifts for our own pleasure and comfort. God invites us to see these gifts differently, rather than “how have we expanded our own wealth and pleasures?” it is “how have we expanded God’s kingdom?” 

Read Matthew 25: 14-30

Head
November is the end of the Church Year. It is during this time of year we have readings that look to the end times. Why is being reminded of the conclusion of time important for living in the now? Does the idea of Heaven comfort or scare you? Why? 

Heart
How does serving others relate to Heaven and managing God’s wealth?

Talk about this saying: God does not NEED your good works, but your neighbor DOES!

Now talk about this: We are saved by grace alone, but grace is never alone! It acts and cares for others

Hands
What are some of your abilities or gifts, and how could you use them to bless others and expand God’s kingdom?

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 12TH, 2017

DAY 1 – Amos 5: 18-24

**The lessons for this week deal with God coming in judgment. In the case of the Old Testament lesson, God comes to the wandering nation of Israel, now divided into 2 kingdoms: the Northern and the Southern kingdoms.  [View the Map] The North has strayed off, seeking protection and security in other countries and kings. In the case of the Gospel lesson, God comes as a groom and finds his guests unprepared and distracted.**

In our Old Testament reading today, God had invited His people, Israel, to trust Him, and He had shown countless times when He protected and served them in the past. But instead God found them chasing after idols and ignoring His promises. God compares His dilemma to someone who enters his own house only to be bitten by a venomous snake. Israel had turned their back on God and sought safety and support in other kingdoms. Now God sees through all their ceremonies and worship, because the people were going through the motions. They were not genuine in looking to God above all things. 
In enters Amos, a herdsman (shepherd), who was called to prophetically speak on behalf of God. The Assyrian nation to the north is about to descend on the Northern Kingdom, capture their citizens, and deport them throughout the Assyrian empire. All this God sees coming, and allows to happen as a consequence of their seeking hope and peace in other things. 

Read Amos 5: 18-24

Head
How can this passage apply to people inside the church today?
Amos mentions being righteous. How are we righteous? (read 2 Corinthians 5:21 for additional insight). What does this mean for our worship and sacrifices?
With Amos being a herdsman (shepherd), who else in the bible was a Shepherd? How does shepherd make God’s story come together?

Heart
Read this information about shepherds in Biblical Times: 


The idea of shepherding, and in specific the idea of God acting as the Shepherd of His people, is a theme found throughout the Bible, from beginning to end. In Genesis 48:24, as Jacob, on his deathbed summarized his life, he declared that God had been his “shepherd all of his life to this day.” In Revelation 7:17, when the saints who come out of the tribulation are brought before God, John brings together two of the most striking images of the scripture by stating, "for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eye.” Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph were all shepherds, as was Moses and David. It is also used figuratively to represent rulers of kingdoms and of God to his people (Psalms 23:1; 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; 44:28; Jeremiah 25:34,35; Nahum 3:18; John 10:11,14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4).
The duties of a shepherd in a country like Palestine were very demanding. In early morning he would take the flock from the pen, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, would seek till he found and brought it back. Sheep require to be supplied with water, and the shepherd has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the pen, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Often his labors would not end at sunset. Often he had to guard the pen through the night from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief (1 Samuel 17:34).

Looking at the theme of shepherd, who else is in your life to help shepherd you?

What makes some better shepherds than others?

Hands
Take time to pray about specific people in your life, thanking God that they shepherd you.

 


DAY 2 – Matthew 25: 1-13

In our gospel today Jesus has withdrawn to get some rest. The disciples take this opportunity to ask Jesus when the Last Day will come. Jesus responds with a parable about a wedding that provides a warning for all listening and us today: be prepared spiritually! In the story the guests are waiting for the groom to arrive. The wait extends longer than expected, and as night sets in, the guests have to light their lamps. Unfortunately, the wait continues even longer, and some lamps begin to run low on oil. Some guests had planned ahead and brought spare oil, but others had not. Those running low must quickly go to a store to get more oil, but when they arrive back at the banquet, the groom has already arrived and taken the other guests in to the banquet. In the end they miss out because they did not have enough oil to wait as long as needed.

Read Matthew 25: 1-13

Head
What sticks out to you about this reading? How does this reading apply to today?

Since we are eagerly waiting for Jesus’ return, would you prefer Jesus to come sooner or later and why?

What does it look like to have the “oil needed” to be prepared for Christ’s return?

Heart
Is there anyway to share your oil with others?

Hands
As a family write a letter to a persecuted Christian, encourage these Christians to stand firm in their faith as they continue to wait for the groom. Voice of the Martyrs Letters will be available at worship, and can be returned there.

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 5TH, 2017

DAY 1 – 1 John 3: 1-3

St. John, in his letter to Christians of Asia minor (and to us), expands on the great love that God the Father has shown us: that we are already His children! And the world does not recognize us as God’s children simply because they refuse to acknowledge God—or even acknowledge that there is a god. And as God’s children, we will be “like” God when we are in His presence in Heaven. Because we are loved by God the father and part of His family that changes how we live and show others the love of Jesus.

Read 1 John 3: 1-3

Head
Read the introduction and then 1 John 3:1-3.  Share what your favorite part of being a child is/was. Share what is hard about being a child.

Talk about what it means to hope in Jesus right now for you.

Heart
In 1 John we see that people struggled to recognize the church because they did not know who Jesus was.  How does our culture view the church today? How does this affect their struggle to recognize who Jesus is?

How can thinking about yourself as a child of God help us share Jesus with others? 

Hands
Who are you loving and building a relationship with because you are a loved child of God?

OR

In worship this week we talked about people who have been hurt by the church. Talk to 1-2 people this week and ask what their struggle with church and Christianity is. Talk with your family about what you heard or learned from these conversations. 


DAY 2 – Matthew 5: 1-12

Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount with a listing of godly characteristics which we call the Beatitudes. These characteristics are:

Poor in spirit, meaning those who recognize that they need God’s spiritual intervention.

Those who mourn, meaning those who lament their own sins, needing God’s forgiveness.

Those who are meek, meaning those who do not aggressively demand their satisfaction but instead depend on God’s favor.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, meaning those who recognize that they need God’s rather than man’s righteousness.

Those who are merciful, meaning those who are compassionate toward others.

Those who are pure in heart, meaning those whose words and actions reflect God’s righteousness in their hearts.

Those who are peacemakers, meaning those who promote true world peace through the proclamation of God’s salvation through their words and actions.

Those who are persecuted, meaning those who have been used and abused simply because they love and serve Jesus.

Read Matthew 5: 1-12

Head
Jesus begins the sermon on the mount with the familiar ‘beatitudes’. Here he makes eight statements about people who are blessed. These seem to run counter in many ways to what our culture would think of for blessed people. Take time together to read Matthew 5:1-12. Now read the explanation provided and talk through each of the eight. Share the one that is easiest and the one that’s hardest for you? 

Which of these beatitudes do you think would be most radical in your context/ friends/ workplace/...? 

Heart
Pick one or two that you can focus on this week for yourself. Why did you pick those?
Who can you pray for this week?

Hands
Who are you loving and building a relationship with because you are a loved child of God?

OR

In worship this week we talked about people who have been hurt by the church. Talk to 1-2 people this week and ask what their struggle with church and Christianity is. Talk with your family about what you heard or learned from these conversations.