Key Thought: God’s loving compassion surrounds believers no matter where they are in life.
Bible Verse:“You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:5-10)
Devotional Thought: Lost! Separated from parents. A little child screams out of helplessness and panic. The large crowd at the shopping mall, or the fair, or the football game, or the parade has caused a desperate situation. “Where are they?” parents ask. “Where is my dad?” “Where is my mom?” children cry. There is little that is more terrifying for parents and children than to be separated. The loving touch and warm heart of a parent and the “kiss my owie and make it better” concern of a parent is no where to be found. Only strangers are all around. And then Mom or Dad, an aisle away, a few people away, or a hotdog seller away hear the cry and come running.
Imagine the terror in the hearts of Christians who feel separated from their Creator/Savior/Preserver. We experience illness, accident, the loss of a job or income, the loss of a family member or loved one, and we look around and ask, “Where are you, God? Don’t you care about me? Don’t you know that I am here?”
David reminds us that God knows our fears. He is never separated from us, though we may think he is. In fact, he hems us in, behind us and ahead of us. He surrounds us with his love and forgiveness and watchful eye. We aren’t away from his watchful eye at the shopping mall or fair or parade. And we can’t get away from
his loving hand in the middle of a burning house, collapsing towers, high seas, or smashed cars. At the lowest point of my life or at the highest point of my life he is still there. When I forget him, he still surrounds me with his love and care and compassion. His hand holds my very steps. He knows my helplessness in handling my temporary needs and my eternal future. In fact, even if I try to get away – I can’t. He keeps his hand on me – just so I’m sure.
God doesn’t have better things to do than look out for us. We are his “better things.” We are the crown of his creation. Though we turned our backs on him in sin, he knows that he needs to not only watch us more closely but guide our very steps. That, my fellow Christians, is everlasting love. That, my fellow Christians, is true compassion.
When has somebody in our family been separated from the rest of the family? What thoughts did that person have at that time?
How can we be assured that God does not forget us or separate himself from us each day?
Discuss ways that God has ‘hemmed in’ the family.
Prayer: Dear Lord God, surround us with your love and compassion each day that with live on earth. Calm our hearts with the knowledge that as you have forgiven our sins, you also are present in our lives no matter where we are. Amen.
Week One, Day Two Compassion in the Long Range!
Key Thought: Jesus not only has compassion for the earthly welfare of his people but also for their eternal welfare.
Bible Verses:"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:21-26) “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
Devotional Thought: “THINK IN THE LONG TERM,” supposedly learned people encourage others. Education, retirement, saving to buy a house. Think in the long term. Wise, isn’t it? No one wants to get to retirement without some way to pay
the bills. No one wants to get a job without knowing about the work and the possibility of job advancement. Skills, experience, preparation. Yup, think in the long term. And we remember; Jesus shows compassion in the long term, too. As his friend’s cold body lay in the tomb, Jesus looked at his close friends, Mary and Martha, and his heart hurt for their hurt – the loss of a loved one. And he wept. But it wasn’t a short term – well, I hope we can get through this day, and then this week, and into next month, and ‘theeeennn,’ things will be better type of hurt. How, better? No more sorrow? No more tears? Moss growing along the edges of a sealed tomb, and hardness of acceptance growing on the edges of their hearts? Swallow the “time heals all wounds” pill and go on with your lives? Get on with it? Is that really all Jesus has to offer his people?
No, Jesus looked at his two friends and in the loving tones that only the Savior could have. He wept, but reminded them to look into the long term. “Yes, you believe Lazarus will rise. You are right, because I am the resurrection and the life. In fact, you will never die, and Lazarus didn’t die either.” As his heart hurt for them, his heart had already sacrificed for them. As Lazarus walked out of the tomb that day to stand by Jesus’ side, Jesus’ love and long term compassion could already see Lazarus by his side at the throne in heaven. Jesus showed us all what true compassion really is. It’s a compassion that reaches beyond healing wounds and hurts and pain. It reaches beyond the grave. It’s a compassion that yearns for sinful souls, cleansed by his blood, reclining at his side in heaven. It’s the same compassion Jesus wants us
to have for the homeless, the cancer patient, the Muslim, and the atheist. Does your compassion see them healthy, happy, and warmly dressed? Jesus wants your compassion picture them in heaven, joy-filled and robed in righteousness. It’s a compassion that sees into the long term.
1. How has God used hurts within this family to draw us closer to him?
2. Discuss how our family is preparing for the “long term.” Why might we call it “spiritual life insurance”?
3. Discuss how something could be put up in the house to remind each other and our family, every day, that God’s blessings are meant for the “long term.”
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your loving care and compassion for us when we stumble and fall and experience trial and pain on earth. Thank you for the greater
gift of an eternity with you in heaven. Amen.
Week One, Day Three
Compassion With An Attitude!
Key Thought: Even as Jesus found people to whom he could show compassion, Jesus wants us to use every opportunity to show loving spiritual compassion to people.
Bible Verse: “If any of you have encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:1-5)
Devotional Thought: Jesus could have stayed away. He could have stayed around his friends who really appreciated him. I mean, they called him, “My Lord and my God.” He liked that. In fact, he likes it when we all call him by name. And he could have stayed by them. I mean, I would have. I don’t need to be around people who call me names – demon-possessed, only the Son of Mary and Joseph, from Nazareth, a nobody.
But Jesus didn’t stay away. He waded into the middle of the city, every city, and he looked for people to whom he could show compassion. Did he meet the woman by well…accidentally? Did he meet the invalid by the whirling pools…accidentally? Did he meet the ten lepers…accidentally? The dead youth of Nain, the centurion’s daughter…and on and on….all accidents?
He’s not that kind of God. You see, he came to show compassion. He came to show compassion to every man, woman, and child on earth, including those who tried to make him feel really uncomfortable, and even those who finally nailed him to the uncomfortable cross…sinners every one. And he came to show compassion to us. He could have stayed away, but he didn’t. And he doesn’t want us to stay away either. He put us here not to hide behind some big iron gate around our house or some selfish “please myself” wall around our hearts, but to get out there with people and find those to whom we can show compassion. Oh, not just sympathy for broken legs or broken hearts or broken marriages or broken health or broken down financial situations, either. He put us here to show his compassion, the compassion of a loving God on broken lives, shattered by sin and headed for hell. We need to have his attitude… a loving attitude for the souls of all those with whom we come into contact during our lives. We need to break out of the shells we have built around our lives and go out there and find people to whom we can show compassion. That is compassion with an attitude…the same attitude that Jesus had.
1. Discuss some family acquaintances who would be good “targets” of Jesus’ compassion through us.
2. Discuss ways that family members could present the compassion of Jesus to people who have broken down lives and problems that need our compassion and loving concern.
3. Discuss and plan a family activity where all family members can reach out to needy people with help and the Word.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, provide us with opportunities to show your compassion to people in our lives. Help us to look for people each day to whom we can show the same kind of compassion that you show to us. Amen.
Week One, Day Four
Compassion That Doesn’t Keep Score
Key Thought: Jesus wants us to look at all people as sinners like us who need Jesus’ compassion and saving Word.
Bible Verse: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing…But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts always set apart Christ as Lord.” (1 Peter 3:8-9, 14, 15)
Devotional Thoughts: We live in an equality world. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. I’ll give you ten dollars work for ten dollars pay – not a penny or a second more. You treat me kindly; I’ll treat you kindly. You treat me not so kindly…and…well, we know the picture.
God’s world, the world of Jesus’ compassion for lost sinners, doesn’t hold a tally book. Jesus only knew insults returned for compassion, spitting and slapping and ridiculing returned for love, and rejection returned for sacrifice.
When we show others the compassion of Jesus, we don’t keep tally in our own book or record it on our own ledger. In fact, as with Jesus, it wouldn’t be compassion if we weren’t way ahead in showing compassion to others. Jesus’ compassion is the kind that keeps mounting. He was too busy showing compassion to others than to worry about others showing compassion to him. He had a world full of people to whom he needed to show compassion. He didn’t have time to wait for them to return it.
And that’s what he tells you and me. You get insulted? Show love to others. Someone ridicules you? Love them. Someone tries to cheat you? Show them compassion and forgive. Someone calls you a worthless so and so? Call them blessed in return.
It’s a cruel world out there. Repay evil with good? “Not in my book,” we think. “I don’t get mad; I get even,” people say. It feels so good to us to see people finally get theirs. That’s why Jesus’ world is just plain odd to people. It’s like giving someone a twenty dollar bill and getting a quarter back…. and liking it. Jesus’ compassion expected no rewards, and he didn’t get any. Instead, he got the cross and nails and the scourge and the crown of thorns…and death. Why? So we who gave him those things could be blessed. That, too, is Jesus’ compassion – compassion that doesn’t keep score.
1. Relate a time when you were hurt by someone’s words or actions. What was your reaction to being hurt in this way? How would Jesus have you react to that situation?
2. Discuss how we can develop this kind of compassion of Jesus that increasingly returns good for evil?
3. Discuss how we can always “set apart Christ as Lord.”
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, help us to return good for evil as you did with all sinners. Help us to keep no record of wrongs as you did for us. Help us to show compassion to others, even those who don’t treat us kindly, as you did for us. Amen.
Week One, Day Five
Key Thought: God’s compassion, and ours, includes telling others of their sin so that they repent and receive forgiveness.
Bible Verse: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:15-18)
Devotional Thoughts: Tough love. That’s what it’s called when parents don’t back down with their children’s misbehavior. That’s what it’s called when police force children to listen while prison inmates relate their bad habits and mistakes that caused them to be incarcerated so that children are “scared straight.” By their very nature the words “tough” and “compassion” wouldn’t seem to go together. Yet, because of our very nature, when Jesus deals with us compassionately, he also deals with our sin. And there is no excusing sin, no “wishing” it away, no calling bad – good. When human beings insist on their sin, God deals with them with “tough” compassion.
So when Jesus talked about human beings who insist on continuing in their sin, Jesus doesn’t pat them on the head with the gospel; he doesn’t help them rationalize away their evil; and he doesn’t turn his back on their sin. He faces sin head on. He tells us to face these sins with “tough” compassion. “Go and tell him his fault…” Jesus said. Don’t talk about the weather or the score of the last football game. Go and talk to him about his sin. Point it out! Highlight it! Make it the centerpiece of the conversation – not to humiliate, not to frustrate, and not to aggravate, but to love, to encourage confession and repentance, to bring back to the fold. You see, pointing out sin is compassionate, too. Tough compassion on sinners produces a soft heart ready for the Spirit-filled gospel.
Jesus doesn’t want us to look at living in unrepentant sin as funny, or just a bad habit, or a cycle in life, or sowing wild oats. He wants us to attack it. He wants us to attack it with the vengeance of his law. And then, driven to confession of sin by the law, the Holy Spirit may win that person into the fold.
So go ahead. Get tough! And when people get tough with your sin, understand – that’s God’s tough compassion.
Discuss how people normally react when their sin is pointed out and what we should do then.
2. Discuss what can happen when a person confesses sin and asks for forgiveness.
3. As a family go through the confession of sins and absolution as printed in the front part of the hymnal. Discuss family sins that are in danger of breaking the family bond and the bond of fellowship in Christ.
Prayer: Dear Lord God, give us the courage to never overlook sin. With the strength that you give us in your Word, point out sin so that people may come to repentance and receive forgiveness through the work of your Son, our Savior. Amen
Week Two - Teaching
Week Two - Teaching
Week Two, Day One
Key Thought: We read and study God’s Word so that we can faithfully live it and teach it in our lives.
Bible Verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Devotional Thoughts: “Our textbook for the course will be…” says the professor and all the students cringe in fear. 640 pages! $55!?! I have to read that whole thing? And small print, too. Probably most students would find it hard to justify reading a textbook of such magnitude and price, except to fulfill course expectations and earn credit toward their degree.
So, what textbook did Jesus use? Well, since Jesus was Creator of the course, the students, the earth, and everything else, don’t you think he had the right to decide on the textbook? And he did. And the textbook he chose was himself.
In a world where new books are constantly hitting the shelves as “I hope I get rich quick” authors throw every conceivable topic at us, Jesus’ textbook – himself – is the ultimate “best-seller.” In Jesus’ textbook Jesus sells himself. And the price we pay? Not a cent. The Bible is “his-story,” his “biography” and autobiography rolled into one, and all the knowledge, in a world with increasing useless knowledge, that we really need to know. And he paid the full price for us.
What an awesome thought to think that Jesus Christ is the Word, the textbook! And then he went about using some growly, ordinary men to write the words of his very life down on paper so we could read… him.
When we say, “Why, you can read him like a book,” we are talking about the Lord Jesus. Because when we read the book, we read him.
What a disservice we do to the Creator/Savior/Preserver, the ‘main character’ of the Bible, when we let it gather dust on our coffee table or bookshelf. What a disservice people do when they read him and then say, “It can’t be. He was nothing special. He was only from Nazareth. He had a common carpenter and an ordinary woman as his parents. And on top of that he smelled like fish.”
Some textbooks are made to be resold. Jesus’ is meant to be reread. Some books are meant to be forgotten. Jesus’ words are meant to be memorized. Jesus’ course isn’t worth just 3 credits. It’s worth an eternity in heaven. Now that’s coursework to really immerse our families in.
1. Discuss how our family can spend more time in the coming week on special parts of God’s Word with each member of the family choosing a special part.
2. Have the family memorize John 1:1-14 during the week, reading it each night and discussing it during family devotion time.
3. Have each member write devotions based on this special text to be used during the next weeks.
Prayer: Dear Lord God, thank you for giving us your Word to make us wise unto salvation. Instill in us a desire to learn and study it so that we can faithfully teach it to others while we live here on earth. Amen.
Week Two, Day Two
Key Thought: God wants us to use his Word and grow in it so that we become more effective in sharing it.
Bible Verse: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
Devotional Thoughts: Imagine a course where there would be no graduation – no end date – no final exam. The assignment from the instructor would be to just keeping reading the course textbook over and over. Quizzes would come outside of class. Tests wouldn’t happen in the classroom. They would happen on the way to the grocery store, on the way to the drug store, on the highway, in the hospital ward, at the funeral home, at the mall, with people we had never met and in places we could never dream of. Would you take the course?
Wait, the question shouldn’t be, “Would you take the course?” Rather, it should be, “How do you like the course?”
The instructor is Jesus and his one instruction for the course is, “Keep studying, keep growing as you use my textbook.” No grade – just Pass or Fail. No grades, but Jesus says that our eternal life depends on it.
Why is it that we are more convinced that we need to know more about our jobs so that we get that next promotion than about the saving Word of God on which our eternal promotion to heaven depends? We’ll carry our credit card at our side so that we can charge the next thing, a comb for our hair to keep our appearance just so, our keys to unlock our valuables, but we won’t stay close to the Word.
“Just grow in the Word,” Jesus says. Why? So that Jesus’ name is glorified over and over in our life. But then Jesus adds one more thing. Now you take over the teaching.
I once heard a teacher say that he was one day ahead of his students. That meant that he was studying the text and teaching it at the same time. That’s us. As we study and grow, we teach and train. What a privilege! The Creator/Savior/Preserver of the world fills us with faith so that we can teach others of him. He’s got the doctorate and we are his teaching assistants, conferred with a degree at our Baptism, and confirmed to teach by the Holy Spirit.
No graduation – no grades – not in God’s class. But what a present in His Word! And what a future in his home!
1. Discuss how the family has grown in the Word in the past. Discuss how our family can increase our spiritual together time.
2. Discuss a number of “little ways” our family can bring glory to the Lord Jesus (such as adding a praise message on the family answering machine).
3. Discuss some tests that family members have gone through recently.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your Word, which is your truth to us. Strengthen our faith constantly through its use and give us opportunities to share it in our daily lives. Amen.
Week Two, Day Three
Key Thought: Formal teaching of the Word of God in families begins in the home with the parents.
Bible Verse:” Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates… (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)
Devotional Thoughts: Imagine this “to do” list at home: Fix leak in kitchen. Fix doorbell. Change oil in car. Fix front window. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…
I’m sure we’d all agree we can’t have a leaky faucet or window, a short in the door bell or old oil in the car. But what about leaky hearts running around the house? What about a short circuit to Jesus’ love and teachings? What about hearts and minds low on Jesus’ forgiveness?
Parents, where is “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds,” on your family “to do” list? Without the words of Jesus in our homes the warming love of Jesus leaks out of our hearts and the cold of bitterness and selfishness rushes in.
Parents, it’s time we got it fixed. It’s time we plugged the leaks and filled the gaps in our families with God’s precious Word.
Fixing God’s Word in our hearts means to glue it in place tightly and bonding it strongly to our hearts and minds. And that means studying it so that we can carry out the next part of the family “to do” list. And that is teaching it to our children.
This isn’t meant to be a task we pass off to someone else. It’s a task that isn’t meant to leave our home. First, parents, you learn it and grow in it and become accustomed and comfortable maneuvering around in it. Then you spread it around on your family like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On the way to school and at the mall. In the bleachers and on the driveway basketball court. In the garden…and…in church.
Imagine that— parents still learning so that they can actually teach, and children learning about the marks on Jesus’ hands and feet at the foot of their parents. That’s when our homes really become institutions of higher learning!
1. Parents and children: Discuss when formal teaching of Jesus has been done during our family time.
2. Discuss ways that teaching of God’s Word can be done in the yard, at the mall, in the car, at an athletic event, or other places we usually don’t associate with teaching and learning.
3. Discuss what part of God’s Word would be fun to learn more about as a family, and then decide on a way to implement learning it at home.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us to each other as family. Yet, without you, our family really has nothing. Help us to use your Word daily, to grow in it constantly, and to treasure its eternal benefits. Amen.
Week Two, Day Four
Key Thought: Christians must continue to teach God’s Word in its truth and purity and not add to or subtract from God’s holy Word.
Bible Verse: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Devotional Thoughts: As I get older, my hearing isn’t quite as good as it was when I was younger. That’s good, and that’s bad. I have a ready-made excuse for not hearing what I don’t care to hear. My wife calls it “picky hearing.” Picky hearing isn’t all-bad, but Paul reminded us that in our present age, it’s not at all good. If I let the lazy side of my nature decide what I want to hear, I can spend all afternoon on the couch and not answer my wife’s pleas to get at jobs that need finishing around the house. On the other hand, if she offers to take me to look at new fishing lures, my hearing becomes remarkably acute.
It’s our human nature that Paul addresses in speaking with Timothy. Like me, people are all too often letting their human nature decide what they want to hear. Our generation is listening only for what they want to hear. In having that kind of picky hearing; many are headed down the wide road to destruction. Satan’s tempting words through false preachers and speakers tell people what they want to hear – marriage isn’t important any more, adultery is perfectly fine if both parties agree to it, over-drinking, over-eating are perfectly fine, too, if that’s what makes us happy. And Jesus isn’t God if he demands stuff of us that just isn’t fair in our eyes. Oh, and by the way, we don’t really need that fella’ Jesus. We can get to heaven on our own good works.
That kind of picky hearing leads us right into hell. That’s why Jesus said a number of times, “He who has ears to hear; let him hear.” Jesus would have us hear what he wants us to hear – his perfect and precious promises. All sorts of people are out there teaching, but Jesus’ words are still the only truth.
God’s Word is powerful but fragile. It wasn’t meant to be bent, or broken, or twisted, or added to, or subtracted from.
Our answer as picky hearers should be the same answer that Peter gave to Jesus when Jesus watched many of his “disciples” walk away disheartened. Jesus said to the Twelve, “So, do you want to leave, too?” Let Peter’s words be our words. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Picky hearers of the truth become picky teachers of the truth. It’s not bad at all to be picky, picky, picky.
1. Discuss what false teachings are attracting the representative age groups of the family members.
2. How do two people keep the institution of marriage as sacred as God meant it to be in a world where marriage isn’t held as sacred any more?
3. What happens to churches that allow false teachings into their doctrinal stance?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, fill our hearts with a faithfulness that clings to you unerring Word. Let us never be swayed by our own selfishness and greed to change or alter your Word. And help us to teach its truth in a world where truth doesn’t seem to be important anymore. Amen.
Week Two, Day Five
Tattooed On Our Hearts!!
Key Thought: Christians represent Christ by words, actions, and thoughts during their whole lives.
Bible Verse: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of the human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)
Devotional Thoughts: Parents at one time or another probably have to face the news that son or daughter has come home with some part of them pierced or tattooed. Of the two, tattoos seem to be the more permanent. Pierced holes grow shut. Tattoos don’t even fade too much. Once somebody has one, they have one. You don’t erase them with a pencil eraser, and you don’t wash them off with a washcloth.
I’m not so sure that Jesus wouldn’t have encouraged us to have a tattoo. Read the text above again. Looks like he wanted a big, wide, faith-filled tattoo of himself forever imprinted right on our hearts. And since our hearts are the wellsprings of our lives, our lives echo our hearts.
There is a truth about teachers. Teachers teach others to be teachers. And Jesus teaches and molds us to be his teachers.
And then he tells us to carry him with us everywhere on our hearts, a letter clear as day shouting out the truth of his Word by our actions and words and….compassion and teaching. When he is stamped permanently on our hearts, we become his next generation of teachers to a world of tattooed, ear-pierced, un-tattooed and un-ear pierced sinful beings and every other sinner whom we meet on our path through life.
When Christ plants himself in our hearts at our baptism, we become his mouthpiece, his pen, his loudspeaker, and his billboard. People see Jesus Christ in us. If they don’t, we’d better check to see if the print on our heart is fading. With Christ printed on our hearts, our hands move to his glory, our mouths speak his name, and our lives serve his will. And that life is seen by others in us – Jesus’ living teachers. Once Christ is imprinted on our hearts, we really are all teachers.
1. Discuss what non-verbal actions Christians do that help to bring glory to Christ.
2. Brainstorm little things that could be done in the home to display the glory of the Lord Jesus to visitors (such as pictures, or framed scripture passages).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, cleanse our hearts of all evil and imprint your promises and blessings on our hearts so that we faithfully carry your message of salvation by our thoughts, words, and actions. Amen.
Week Three - Equipping
Week Three - Equipping
Week Three, Day One
Armed With Love!!
Key Thought: Jesus would have us be equipped with the kind of love for all people that he had for us.
Bible Verse: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 6:22, 23)
Devotional Thoughts: Peaches and cream. Cars and gasoline. Wife and husband. Children and parents. Some things just seem to go together.
When it comes to being equipped and ready for out-and-out spiritual battling, being armed and love just don’t seem to go together. Armed with a handgun – maybe. Armed with ammunition – maybe. Armed with hand grenades – probably. But armed with love – not likely. And that’s probably our problem. What isn’t likely to us is very certain to God.
It doesn’t seem likely that we should be out there on the ministry battlefield of the world with tulips and roses and poppies. But ever since the Creation of the world God wanted us to be “people-people.” Usually, to spend time with people you have to like them. But remember that other people are as sinful as we are and have no chance of heaven by themselves. We need to love them as Christ loves us – no exceptions. Even when he threatened with his judgment, Jesus loved. Even as Judas planted a smack on his cheek giving him away to his enemies, Jesus loved. Even as the nails tore away at this hands and feet as his body wore down, Jesus loved. Even as he talked to his “friend” on the beach after his resurrection, the friend who had denied him three times, Jesus loved. And even as he commissioned his disciples and us to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all nations,” Jesus loved.
How can we not love? When we consider the words, “not with gold or silver but with his holy precious blood with his innocent suffering and death,” how can we look at anyone else except in the way that Jesus looked at us?
Finding it hard to love certain people? Check in to God’s armory and check out some more love. You’ll find the Bible filled with it. A God who created us. A God who loved us even after we rejected him. A God who loved us so much he gave all our sins a drop kick that sent them flying “as far as the east is from the west.” Check out some joy in being his child, some patience of the kind that endured all the while he was on earth, some kindness, some goodness, some faithfulness, some gentleness, and some self-control. Get out on the ministry field, but don’t go unarmed. Arm yourself with Christ’s love for fallen man – and weapons he shares with us to deal with the lost souls of this world.
1. Name some specific times Jesus showed love when we as human beings would have had a hard time loving anyone or anything.
2. Discuss how we can bury grudges that we may have against certain people we are not very friendly with.
3. Share ways that each of these gifts of the Spirit can aid us in our work of bringing fallen souls to Christ.
Lord Jesus, we love because you first loved us. Left to our own sinful nature, we love those who treat us nicely and don’t love those who don’t treat us nicely. Give us strength through your words and example to love even those who don’t love us, knowing that you want all souls to be saved. Amen.
Week Three, Day Two
Armed For A Battle!
Key Thought: Christians need to be armed with God’s spiritual armor to fight the temptations and attacks of Satan, the world, and our flesh.
Bible Verse: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”(Ephesians 6:10-17)
Devotional Thoughts: More than ready. Over-prepared. Is there such a thing? The football team that prepares all week for a game against last year’s champion and wins 55-0 might be called “more than ready.” The student who gets an A+ on an exam and finishes the exam in half an hour, when it takes everyone else over an hour, might be called “over-prepared.” Then there is the football team that prepared all week for the opponent’s running game but gave up 5 touchdowns passing, or the student who prepared all 12 chapters for the exam but highlighted chapters 7-12 and the bulk of the exam was on chapters 1-6. Can we truly be over-prepared?
Do we really need to wear a helmet, a breastplate, and a stout belt, carry a shield and a sword, and have swift light boots for battle against Satan? Can we Christians be “over-prepared” in our spiritual war with Satan? Paul didn’t think so. If he was speaking God’s Words as writer of his letter to the Ephesians, then God knew so.
Satan is a lying deceiver. Redundant? Multiply lying by 100 and we can’t begin to come close to the evil tactics of the Evil One. He doesn’t have to bellow horrible threats at us or scare us with his ugly evilness. He simply knows our weak points. Do we tend toward lying? He will be right there when our selfishness rears its head and stretches the truth. Do we tend toward gossip? He will be right there when the conversation brings down someone else and we are in the middle of it. Do we tend toward wandering eyes in marriage or wandering hands in the store? Satan will give us ample opportunities. He will be right there when we are in the wrong place to encourage us to do the wrong thing.
Can we ever be over-prepared? Paul didn’t think so. He encouraged us to cover ourselves in the Word, and immerse ourselves in its truth so that we are ready to run from sin with hearts filled with Jesus’ love. Then we can strike sin down with the Word of God as Jesus did when Satan tried to tempt him. Over-equipped? No way! Equipping ourselves with God’s perfect armor doesn’t end until we stand by his side in heaven.
1. Have each person privately contemplate his or her special weaknesses that Satan wants to use to his advantage.
2. Share ways that we can flee from evil situations that come into our lives.
3. Discuss as a family what things the world thinks are right that are not right to God.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, help us to never be content to think that we are prepared to fight against Satan’s evil tactics. Move us to cover our lives with your Word as our protection and weapon against the deceit and lying of Satan, the world, and our own flesh. Amen.
Week Three, Day Three
Our Chore List!
Key Thought: Christians are put on earth and equipped with God’s truth to work faithfully to the glory of the Lord Jesus.
Bible Verse: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…” (Ephesians 4:11-13a)
Devotional Thoughts: The dreaded “chore list.” Saturday morning the kids make their way down the stairs, still a bit groggy from their week in school or work, and there it lies on the counter – Saturday after Saturday, every Saturday; the dreaded chore list. “Just one Saturday,” they moan, “couldn’t we just lie around the house?” Ah… NO. You live here; you help with the work. Some say, “It takes a community to raise a child.” But we say, “It takes a family of children to keep the house clean.”
And do you know what? God says that too. Oh, he didn’t say it in quite the same way, but he said it. Christian people don’t just become Christians to lie around the big spiritual motel of life. They become Christians to pitch in and get on with the same work that pastors, teachers, evangelists, and called workers are called for – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
We aren’t prepared and equipped for a spiritual campout. We are prepared and equipped for a spiritual battle. All the equipping, training, and teaching that was invested in us was not so that we could lock it away in some spiritual “lock-box,” but so that we could get into the fray and get involved.
There are three key truths about works of service:
1. It’s work. God wants us to work up a sweat and get calluses on our hands and blisters on our feet in service to his people. It’s not work meant to earn us something. It’s work God already did for us that motivates us to try it on our own – to his glory. How can we not be thankful for the eternal gifts he has won for us?
2. It’s service. Can we ever come close to the type of service that Jesus Christ did for us? He himself washed the disciples’ feet with his hands and he washed our hearts with his blood. His was the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate service. His service was unconditional, all-inclusive, and totally selfless. Oh, that our works of service could even remotely approach that kind of service!
3. It’s ready. Our chore list is already written. God knows where our talents fit in and in what room of his kingdom we should be working. Even as the equipping is going on in our daily lives, he is adding chores to our chore list. And where we think we should be working might not be where he wants us to work. Are you unsure of where you fit in? Don’t worry. God knows. He has specific positions and chores for each of us who look to him for spiritual strength.
What things are on your chore list? Put down the pencil and pick up prayer. Then God will fill in his chores for you.
1. Discuss what places God may have in mind for each member of the family in serving him in the future.
2. Brainstorm an area of service that seems a least likely fit for each member of the family and discuss why God might still want us in that position.
3. List as many different areas of service in God’s church that our family can think of.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all that you have done for me. As Mary said, “Use me as you see fit and to your glory.” Amen.
Week Three, Day Four
Equipped To Work As One!
Key Thought: Equipped with God’s Word, we Christians work as a team to bring that saving Word to others.
Bible Verse: “…to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13)
Devotional Thoughts: Imagine a construction team, equipped with all the right equipment, knowledge and blueprints, all doing their own thing at the wrong time. Imagine skilled construction men building the walls of a house before the foundation is in place. Or the dry-wallers doing their work before the roof is on. Or the nailers nailing before carpenters saw. Or the family moving their stuff into the house before the doors and windows are in place. It wouldn’t produce a good final product. Shaky walls, uneven floors, doors that don’t fit, broken windows, and water in the basement. The new house would be a condemned house.
Unity. Teamwork. That’s what it takes with a construction crew, and that’s what it takes in the building of God’s Kingdom. Christians working to the glory of God and following his “Great Commission,” work together as a team, not as ‘rogue’ disciples.
Christians become workers who lay the foundation of God’s Kingdom in baptism. They nourish and tend those young souls in instruction and training, drawing out each tender nugget of the truth, nugget upon precious nugget until the walls of a spiritual fortress start to appear. As the Word takes its place in a person’s life, the insulation of truth and the gifts of the Spirit are taught and practiced. The spiritual house becomes stout and strong against the winds of evil and Satan’s temptations. Construction doesn’t end with training and teaching, just as building a house doesn’t end when the last nail is pounded into it. The house is used. And the Christian, nurtured and trained in the Word, strong and stout to withstand evil, becomes a witness prepared and equipped for works of service that God, the Master Builder, has in mind for him.
United in the truth and armed with knowledge of Law and Gospel we are able to witness to a world of its sin and offer it the sweet message of the eternal Gospel.
Imagine! Jesus’ little group of 12 men dwindled down to 11 and then grew through Word and Sacrament, after he returned to heaven. Now it’s an army of Christians worldwide who share Jesus’ love. We don’t sell potions. We present the powerful Word. We don’t trick. We teach. Equipped with One Truth, we equip as One Body of believers.
1. Discuss the different skills of called workers in the congregation and how their skills work together.
2. Discuss the skills of each member of the family and how those skills can serve to help in the building of God’s church.
Prayer: Lord God, we thank you for your precious Word and for bringing us into membership in your family of believers. Now we ask that you find a place for us in the army of believers to work together to bring the saving knowledge of your Word to others. Amen.
Week Three, Day Five
Equipped With The Keys!
Key Thought: Jesus has entrusted us with the power and right to forgive or retain sins.
Bible Verse: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
Devotional Thoughts: In our house we hear it often, “Where are my keys?” Can’t drive the car without the keys. Can’t get into the house without the keys. Can’t open the school door and the office without the keys. Who’s got the keys? The person who has the keys has a certain amount of authority.
That’s why it is tremendously special that God equipped Christians with his keys. Keys for his own house. Keys for our eternal home. Keys for the kingdom of heaven. God the Father gave his children the keys to the mansion. He expects us to use them, not let them hang uselessly at our sides.
To those who know the truth of God’s Word and believe in that truth through the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit, the door is open, The keys unlock the mansions of heaven. But for those who look at God’s eternal truth as some “Aesop’s Fable,” or some story on a par with Greek mythology, the keys lock the door to heaven and deadbolt it, too.
While God is a good, gracious, loving, and merciful God, he is also a jealous God. He won’t accept our second best. He won’t accept humans making him just one of a bunch of “superhero” gods. He won’t accept being placed on the second shelf of our lives. He demands top billing, top shelf, and top devotion.
“I’ll read about him sometime later.” LOCK. “Any God is a good god as long as you believe hard enough.” LOCK-LOCK. “Allah, Buddha, yoga, scientology, Jesus: it’s all the same.” LOCK-LOCK-LOCK. “Live the way you want.” “Change with the times.” “Adultery, homosexuality, disrespect, lying, stealing aren’t really sins anymore.” LOCK-LOCK-LOCK-LOCK.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Confess your sins before God and receive forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ.” UNLOCK. These aren’t just any keys on our key-ring of faith. They are keys to God’s eternal home.
Some might say that Christians are too strict, inflexible, and unchanging. We would say that these aren’t Allah’s keys or Buddha’s keys or anyone else’s keys. They belong to the Son of David, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel. We use the keys with pride. We use them to God’s glory. Not for our own satisfaction, but to the glory of the One Eternal God.
1. Discuss why God wants us to faithfully use the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
2. Discuss what may happen when we use the keys to the kingdom of heaven faithfully.
3. Discuss why Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven to the disciples and to his followers after him.
Prayer: Lord God, we thank you that you have forgiven our sins through the work of your Son, Jesus Christ. You haven’t overlooked our sins, but you have demanded payment. Jesus made the ultimate payment. Now help us forgiven sinners to use the keys to God’s kingdom faithfully, wisely, and to God’s glory. Amen.
Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession! ~ A.D. 1530