Do you need something in your life to point you back towards God? Do you need a reminder that God is all around you? Read Psalms 8, in the book of Psalms this is called an orient Psalms because it points us back to God. It is a reminder to that God is great, God is all around you, and God is with you. When you look at all creation and all the people around you do you see God? Sometimes it is hard to recognize God.. if we have forgot what God is like. God is love, patient, kind, gentle, self controlled, and joyful. God is creative and careful with every detail from the finest ant to the largest whale. What does it mean to you that God made all these things and carefully made you. God cares about you and knows every hair on your head. Today, no matter what you are doing or where you are going. I hope you see God and feel God's presence with you. Take time to look and notice.
Please share any thoughts, experience, or ideas about where you see God Today. Miss you and praying for you!
Learn about Jesus calming the waters through a discipline of prayer.
Click on this Youtube link to see more!
Do you ever imagine God celebrating who you are? Why or Why not?
Read Zephaniah 3:14-17
Background taken from (Youth Cartel, LLC; Viva 69, "Presence").
A little background on the Scripture for this week: Like many of the prophets, Zephaniah is filled with doom and gloom concerning “the day of the Lord” and a time when God will judge and punish the nations that have abandoned God. For Zephaniah, this included the people of Judah (aka the southern Kingdom of Isra- el). Though they were the chosen people of God, they were not immune to God’s punishment, and Zephani- ah talks about this tragic day with similar graphic horrors that are common to the prophets.
Despite all that, there is another common theme to many of the Jewish prophets, and that is the fact that almost all of them end their writings with a sense of hope, restoration, and celebration. Judgment wasn’t the end of the story, and even amidst everything that was going wrong, God was with the people of Judah and already celebrating the restoration that would come.
Verse 14 starts with an invitation to “sing” and to “shout” which carried a connotation of going into battle. In Jewish culture, a ram’s horn was typically blown before a confrontation, and it was accompanied by the songs and shouts of the people celebrating a victory before it even happened.
Verse 15 provides the reason for celebration: “The Lord has taken away your punishment,” and because of that forgiveness, “the Lord, the King of Israel, is with you.” Because of the presence of God, the people will never have to fear again what could happen to them. (See 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”)
Verse 16 describes a full-body impact of the restoration that is to come. Think about what someone who let’s their “hands hang limp” looks like. Slumped shoulders, sunken head, and eyes, limp arms that signify a lack of strength, etc. Yet, because the Lord is with them, celebrating in their midst, arms will now be lifted in celebration. (Think “Touchdown!!” or any other sports analogy of making the winning shot or the walk-off home run.)
Verse 17 again repeats the refrain that “the Lord your God is with you.” And instead of a sense of judgment and anger, Zephaniah paints a much different picture of God’s heart towards the people: one of a lover. At this moment, God takes “great delight” (emphasis added) in the people of Judah and that God will join in with the shouting and singing (ala verse 14) because of the immense amount of love that God has for the people.
Time for Reflection
Remember how you feel on your Birthday, when everyone is singing Happy Birthday over you. We sing Happy Birthday together because we all agree we want to celebrate that you are you, and you were a gift given to the world on this day. Have you ever imagined God singing Happy Birthday to celebrate you? Take a moment to imagine God as the proudest parent you could ever ask for! God is your greatest cheerleader, singing and rejoicing over you every single day! God tells everyone how amazing you are and how delighted God is that you are living. How does it feel to know that God loves to celebrate you everyday?
You all know I love to celebrate Birthdays and we can never have too many balloons or cupcakes. I mean who doesn't love a great party? It seems to easy to celebrate and be excited for someone else. What would it look like for you to purposefully celebrate other people in your life this week?
(Lesson based off of (The Youth Cartel, LLC, Viva 69, "Presence"))
How do you normally face a challange?
Do you find challenges invigorating, overwhelming, or something in-between? Why?
Do you feel like God is with you in the midst of a challenge or leap of faith? Why or why not?
Read Joshua 1:1-9
A little background on this Scripture: The people of Israel had been slaves in Egypt, endured a crazy battle be- tween the gods of Egypt and their God (the plagues of Egypt), miraculously crossed over the Red Sea into the wilderness and then had wandered there for 40 years. Now the leader who had led through all of that, Moses, was dead, and Joshua was set to take the mantle of leader. These were not small shoes that Joshua was stepping into, nor was it a comfortable situation.
Three different times, God repeats his encouragement to Joshua, which gives us some insights into how Joshua had been feeling about the challenge that was in front of him. “Be strong and courageous...be strong and very courageous...be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (emphasis added). Simply put, there are times in our lives where we will have to face challenges: starting a new school or job, confronting a friend or family member about something, standing up for the justice of others, admitting you need help, and starting counseling, or any number of things. Whenever we face those situations, we don’t have to do it alone but can heed the same message that God spoke to Joshua. (The Youth Cartel, LLC, Viva 69, "Presence")
How do you think Joshua would have been feeling about the challenge that was in front of him? Why do you think God tells Joshua three times to “be strong and courageous?”
What do you think would have gone through Joshua’s mind when God told him, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you?”
Many of you know the well known vets Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ whoo strengthens me!"
This verse is often used for a sports game, homework, getting a part in a school play, etc.. The biggest problem that we run into with using this verse in this way is the mere fact that at some point, it won’t “work.” What happens when Christ doesn’t give you the strength to do what you want to accomplish? If we don’t understand a verse like this correctly, it ends up hurting our relationship with God in the long run. Rather than having a healthy view of our abilities and what God does in and through us, we end up being mad at God for something God never said.
As has been the pattern, the first challenge to this incorrect view of the verse is understanding the context. Paul is specifically talking about learning how to be content in every kind of situation: rich or poor, stuffed full or hun- gry, ignored and humbled or in the place of prominence; for Paul, it didn’t matter because he could do all things through Christ who gave him strength.
The second challenge is looking at the original Greek. When you look at an interlinear Bible – a translation that includes the original language and lays out the literal direct translations – you can learn a lot about a passage and get a more in-depth understanding of what the author may have been trying to get at. With this passage, it reads as: “All things I am strong for in the [One] strengthening me.” Right away, this can help us understand that this verse isn’t a magic formula to getting whatever we want, but instead an inner attitude for us to learn regardless of what we may be facing.
Do you think contentment like Paul had, or strength and courage like Joshua had, is possible in your life? Why or why not?
How do you know if a specific challenge is something you should take on or not? How can God help in that deci- sion making?
What would it look like to find contentment, strength, and courage through the presence of God amid challeng- ing circumstances in your life?
Read Psalm 23, is a scripture that has many reminders that God is with us. It is a very popular scripture - I think it is the most popular scripture for people to get in a tattoo (which I am not suggesting you do)! But I am suggestion that you read it and try to memorize it. It will be a scripture that will help you through some of your darkest days and stressful weeks.
Psalm 23 starts with the image of God being our shepherd. I know you probably haven't seen any sheep or shepherds around lately... but a Shepherds job is to live with the sheep and protect them, they lead them to green grass to eat and water to drink, and they care for them. The shepherd never leaves the sheep. The shepherd directs the sheep where to go with his rod and staff.
Read Psalm 23 a couple times.. and think about what word or phrase sticks out to you?
What comes to mind when you think about God being with you through "The darkest valley"?
What has been the darkest valley in your life? (Example: Losing a loved one, being stressed, feeling lost in the world, feeling alone, being rejected, being sick, etc)
How have you felt the presence of God through your darkest valley? Did someone give you comfort? Perhaps, a stranger talked with you and understood what you were going through? Did you ever figure out how to get out of your valley (Could that be because God was showing you the way)?
I have a good friend named Sheila. Sheila is one of the kindest and most sympathetic people I know. Sheila is a friend that never let's someone cry alone. If she sees you crying she is going to cry with you. If you tell her how you are struggling.. Sheila is going to feel your pain. Sometimes even when you can't cry (or are trying not to cry), Sheila will cry for you. I never realized until today that Sheila has taught me something about Jesus. She is often the presence of Jesus to me because she cries. Sheila has the biggest heart and love for others. It teaches us in scripture that Jesus weeps when his friends are in pain. When his friends Mary and Martha were grieving the loss of their brother.. even though Jesus knows he is going to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead in like 5 minutes.... he cries with Mary and Martha. Jesus cries because he feels the pain and sadness of his friends. It says in the Psalms that Jesus knows ever tear we cry and collects it in a jar. In this Psalm 23, it says the Shepherd knows what you are going through, knows when you are walking through a dark valley, because the shepherd is with you.
The past couple months has been a bit of a dark valley in our world and lives. Yes, there have been some good moments (like all the times I have won at Skipbo during quarantine). But lately, it seems obvious that the people in this world are in a lot of pain (on all sides of every issues in the news today). Psalm 23 reminds us that God is with us in our pain. God is with us in our valley. God is there with a rod and a staff to comfort us and gently keep us from falling off the edge of the cliff.
Does knowing God cries with you change anything?
Do you believe that God cares about your pain? Why or Why not?
Are you honest with God about your pain? Or do you try to avoid it?
What would it look for you to weep with those who are weeping?
What would it mean or look like for you to allow God to weep with you when you are in pain?
God is with us even now.
God is with us always.
Do you truly believe that God is present with us today? Why or Why not?
What does the presence of God look and feel like to you?
This Sunday is the day we celebrate Pentecost in our church calendar. The day of Pentecost is the day in which the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and is a gift to God's people. It is the day we celebrate the birth of the Church.
Read Acts 2 (The Message Version here)
This is a pretty amazing and creative account of what happened that day. Just imagine if your were eating a meal and all of a sudden tongues were floating around the room and then to make it more weird.. light them on fire! Then everyone started to speak in different languages and they understood one another. One this day, God used the gift of language to connect people. It was when everyone decided to come together and start living in a new way. They started sharing everything they had, following the apostles teachings, eating together, and praying together. They decided to be Baptized by the power of the Holy Spirit. It says that on that day that over three thousand people were added into God's followers.
Why do you think that three thousand people would change their lives and their beliefs in just one day?
Do you believe that they felt the presence of God?
Do you believe that they found the truth of what life is about?
Could it be that the words that they heard that day matched what they had always noticed about Creation. There this is a powerful divine God who is creative, amazing, awe-inspiring, powerful and Mighty. Who is present among us. The Holy Spirit has always been working in the world, but on this day of Pentecost the Spirit came down to be present among us, and gave the disciples the words to tell everyone what was happening.
Have you ever asked for God to help you feel God's presence in your life?
Have you ever taken time to look around the world and see God's creative works in nature and in the power of love and kindness in others?
Read Romans 1:20 again... (The picture up above)
What would it look like for you to be open to signs of God’s presence in your life this week? What would it mean for you to actively ask God for a sign of God’s presence?
What would it look like for you to live your life as a sign of God’s presence for others?
Scripture for today is Jeremiah 29:11.
So here are the quick facts about this Scripture:
* The Book of Jeremiah is found in the Old Testament
* He is a prophet, or one who is regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God. (Holy Cow! What a job to speak on behalf of God.. and know for a fact that God told you to say it!)
*While Jeremiah is preaching/teaching he is talking to the people of Israel living in Exile. Living in exile means that they were banished or separated from some thing or some place, either voluntarily or by force. For the people of Israel this means they were kicked out of their Promised Land (aka the land God had promised them with Moses and the whole 40 years surviving the dessert).
*Jeremiah is giving some good lessons to the people of Israel about how to live in exile. More importantly how to live with faith during a tough time.
So hopefully, some of the facts on this scripture have already gotten you thinking about your own life, and how these words of scripture might help you or encourage you. Can you imagine how hard it was for the people of Israel to survive all that they had survived moving in to your cozy new promise land, and then getting kicked out!!! And then these big bullies who kicked them out Babylonians didn't just leave them alone.. they kept on bullying them.
Jeremiah said they did a whole lot of crying.. and crying is good! Crying is what you are suppose to do when times are tough and you have lost some big things. Jesus cried. So, we all have to take some time to let it all out and have a good cry.
After you are done mourning, crying, getting out all your frustration. Then Jeremiah tells us to TRUST in God again. He says we have to go back to living our lives. I think going back to living our lives is a way of taking baby steps towards having faith again. If you plant a little seed, water it, care for it, and come back to see if it grows.. that is how Faith works too. If you have lost some of your trust in God because of being disappointed and losing that what was promised to you.. then you have to start rebuilding your trust with some baby steps and you have to pay attention. So pray, and plant a little seed. Keep believing in that seed by water it and checking on it. Take the time to carefully watch and see how God is letting that see grow and how God is working in your life. You have to slowly let hope back into your life and trust that God has good things planned for your life. That doesn't meant there won't be more hard times for sure.. Because God has a jar ready to catch our every tear and heartbreak.. but God will be there. God is worthy of our trust. God is the only thing that will carry us through every step of our journey.
So.. I know right now we can't even imagine what God can do in our lives! But it is going to be exciting and never what we expected.
(This Sunday School lesson is based upon a lesson created ("Deal With It, Orange"; The reThink Group, Inc))
Okay, let’s start with a question. What’s taking up the most space in your brain right now? In other words, what do you find yourself thinking about the most? If you tried to sit quietly and let your mind wander, what would be the thing that pops up over and over again?
For some of us, it’s a great thing:
When something awesome is on our minds, we want it to stay there.
But for a lot of us, the thing that’s taking up most of our brain space right now isn’t fun at all. And we wish it was out of our minds. Like…
When we’re occupied with things that aren’t that great, we want to shut those thoughts down, fast. Dealing with it is the last thing we want to do.
See, the problem with bad or difficult circumstances is not simply that they’re difficult to get through. The problem is that the resulting distractions have a tendency to lead to
Sometimes, we look for a distraction—something we enjoy that take our mind off of our problems. But many times, we go the more damaging route.
We don’t just look for a distraction. We look for an escape.
The problem with bad or difficult circumstances is not simply that they’re difficult to get through. The problem is that the resulting distractions have a tendency to lead to bad choices.
What I want you to know today is this: Choosing to do these things doesn’t actually fix anything.
Here’s what happens when we do these things: First, we actually risk more hurt; Second, the original pain isn’t dealt with; And third, the original pain actually gets worse.
So, in the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah is one of those books where, no matter what you’re going through, you can probably relate to the author.
But He doesn’t say that He’ll make their problems go away and disappear.
After we make our bad escape choices, the problem is still there. So in reality, we haven’t actually escaped anything.
What we need to know is something that can help us through the pain of our problems.
Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. With whom will you compare me or count me equal? (Isaiah 46:4-5a NIV).
In all of it, He is a God who sustains us, rescues us, and carries us—even to our old age. Sure, He promises to sustain them, which means He will literally bear the burden they’re holding—He’ll carry it.
But He doesn’t say that He’ll make their problems go away and disappear.
But I think most of us would admit that “escaping” our problems hasn’t worked out well for us in the past. After we make our bad escape choices, the problem is still there. So in reality, we haven’t actually escaped anything.
This leads us to look at these words from Isaiah a little differently. When our life feels upside down and we feel out of control, abandoned, or alone, we’re not. We have a God who is with us—from now to the end of our lives. He will carry and sustain us. He may not take us out of our circumstance, but He will get us through it. Because the truth is this:
God carries us through problems, not around them.
The season we are in will eventually end. It will pass. Things will get better, but we can prolong the process and complicate the situation when we decide to escape by making bad choices
Here are three things to consider when you’re trying to decide if you will face it or try to escape it.
Number one, name the problem.
The second thing we can do? Change our perspective.
And finally, make some good choices.
Ask yourself, “Am I trying to get around this, or am I trusting God to get me through?”
Remember, God carries us through problems, not around them. And you can trust Him to do
(This Sunday School lesson is based upon a lesson created ("Deal With It, Orange"; The reThink Group, Inc))
What is your usual go-to activity to avoid things... Bing watching TV? Playing on your phone? Video games? I’ll bet everyone has got some kind of a time vortex. They help us delay or avoid dealing with real life.
We use these vortex to avoid things.. for example:
Any time you and I bump into a challenge that we perceive as difficult or time-consuming, it’s natural for us to turn to something easier and more fun.
And while there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, you’ve probably seen how distracting yourself from dealing with normal life can turn challenges into even bigger problems.
When our distractions keep us from moving toward the life that God wants for us, they become
Now, if you’ve been around church long at all, you’ve probably heard of the Apostle Paul. Paul says that suffering, challenges, pain, and tough circumstances aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, the more of them we face, the more endurance we develop.
We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:2b-5 ESV).
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23 NIV).
The Apostle Paul gives us a different plan of attack when it comes to confronting opposition and stressors in life. And his plan won’t just change what we do in the face of a challenge; it will change who we become.
Essentially, Paul is saying that what you do affects who you become. What you do changes who you are. You need experience facing challenges with God to know that He can be trusted to get
Because when you remember how you worked through a challenge last time, you’ll have the courage to face the challenge this time.And that’s why Paul says we can rejoice in our sufferings—not because suffering is fun, but because they produce something in us.
I want to challenge you to do something else. Instead of avoiding, attack! When you attack, you are developing your future character. You are brave and courageous.. Believe in yourself and start facing the thing you are avoiding. Now is the time!
I want you to ask yourself this question: What have I been avoiding that I need to start attacking?
Biologically speaking, death and rebirth surround us everywhere in our everyday life. Animals and plants give up their lives in order for us to eat and sustain our lives. New plants grow out of the death of previous plants which leave the seeds behind. Dead things decay, which enriches the soil around it and eventually leads to healthier life springing forth. Even our own cells die (we are completely “reborn” on a cellular level every seven years) and new cells are born. (Youth Cartel, Viva-67) Resurrection and New Life are happening all around us!
Start today by going outside and look and see how many examples of death and rebirth you can find. Try to be as specific as possible. You may start by looking for signs of new life and working your way backwards. For example: Find a flower.. It used to just be a plant, that was a seed, that had to be buried in the ground. Find a butterfly.. that used to be in a cocoon, that was a caterpillar, that had to be reborn into a butterfly.
All your examples of new life are really examples of Resurrection. Jesus being resurrected for the dead seemed like a crazy new idea.. But does it surprise you that Resurrection is all around us?
Why do you think that God made the world with so much death and rebirth happening all around us every day?
Do you feel that seeing practical examples of resurrection everyday can help your faith? Why or why not?
You know when the first church of Christ was beginning and growing, there were many questions about the Resurrection and about the new life that God promises us. Today, I want us to read a letter written by Paul to one of the first churches. This church was having a big debate about what it means to be Resurrected with Christ. The church was debating if that meant that our actual bodies would be risen from the dead? Or if it was some kind of metaphor of our spiritual bodies being risen from the dead.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-44 to hear how Paul responds to their debate. I have included The Message version so you can better see the argument.
“35-38 Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.
39-41 You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!
42-44 This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!” (Biblegateway.com)
What is your first idea, response, questions from reading this passage?
One thing that stood out to me…Is that God is our Creator and God is so creative! I know that may sound obvious, but think about it. When you first look at the world there are so many differences and not one thing is perfectly alike.. we are all different. Every animal, every plant, and every person. And yet, we all work on the same cycle of life and death. God somehow takes everything that dies and turns it into new life.. every seed, every dead plant (feeds a person or animal), every dead animal, even the dying leaves of the fall turn into dirt that fuels the seeds of spring. God is so much smarter than us! God shows us every day the promise of Resurrection. It is like our daily reminder that God can and will resurrect us! God will create new life in and through us. God is helping us build our faith through daily reminders in nature and through life. You could even say that every time you need to eat something you are experiencing God’s resurrection and new life. The things that you are eating had to die so that you could live.
That is a lot to think about..
How do these two ideas give you hope for new life today and after death?
How does it make you think outside the box of what new life could look like after death?
I hope our faith grows as we take time to look at all the resurrection happening all around us today. I hope our imagination grows in the possibilities of what God can do. I hope that our trust in God grows as we see how beautiful new life can be.