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April 2020

2020

All I Ever Did

April 30, 2020 • April 30, 2020 • Andrew Stevens

There was something about His eyes, the way He looked at her. It was unsettling. She thought she knew all about men, understood how they thought. But this was different. “Go call your husband,” He said. She hesitated, eyes lowered. “I have no husband.” He nodded. “True. You’ve had five—and the man you live with isn’t one of them.” Her body tensed defiantly. “Since you know so much, prophet, tell me this. Is God’s chosen place of worship here, among my people, or in Jerusalem, where the Jews worship?” Her eyes flashed up to meet His, ready for the judgment and rejection surely waiting. What she saw took her breath away. An intense passion in His eyes matched by words washing over her in love. He said, “The Father is seeking worshipers in spirit and truth.” She heard, “The Father is seeking you.” Her battered heart leapt for joy. It didn’t matter—it never had! What she’d done, where she’d been—her fruitless search for God’s hiding place. He’d been there all along, pursuing her, waiting for her to see Him. Her water pot forgotten, she ran into the city. The words burst out, a testimony that wouldn’t be held back. “Come and see a Man who told me all I ever did!” He knew her past, and He still wanted to give her a future. Jesus gave Himself to save us. There is no greater love, no greater offering to be made. He went to the cross so we could have life with Him. This love, freely given, cannot be earned. But it must be accepted. Jesus knows all you’ve ever done... everything...and He loves you and wants you anyway. He loves you just as you are. • Remi Oyedele • Do you believe Jesus loves you just as you are? How did Jesus show His love for us (Romans 5:8)? • Is there anything preventing you from accepting His love? • To learn more about Jesus’ love for you, check out our "Know Jesus" page. Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah? John 4:29 (CSB)

Dealing with Anxiety

April 29, 2020 • April 29, 2020 • Emily Tenter

It seemed like every time Lauren got over one worry, another one quickly came to rest on her shoulders. She felt weighed down with fear. Some nights, she could hardly sleep because of it. And, some mornings, she didn’t want to get up to face them. It was a constant struggle, but Lauren knew what it was: anxiety. She was a Christian and she knew she could trust God, but as much a she told herself that, it wasn’t always an instant fix. “You just need to give your worries to God,” her friends would tell her. “You shouldn’t be so down. You’re a Christian.” “God tells us not to be anxious about anything.” Lauren knew all of this, but it was a daily struggle. So, she and her parents made an appointment for her with a Christian counselor. On the day of her first appointment, a friend tried to brush Lauren’s anxiety off as not relying on God. Lauren talked about it with her counselor. “I trust God. I love God. But every day I still feel anxiety. Every day I look to God for strength to get through it. Every day I have to learn to trust Him all over again. Does that mean I’m not a Christian?” “It doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian,” her counselor said. “You trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and He has you. Anxiety doesn’t change that.” Her counselor continued. “We live in a broken world, and one way that shows up is through clinical anxiety, which is different from willfully worrying. Some people deal with clinical anxiety their whole lives. It’s a mental health issue. In the meantime, remember Jesus is always with you. When you’re feeling anxious, you can always come to Him, and you can always reach out for help from the people He has placed in your life.” Lauren nodded. She really appreciated the support she received from her counselor, as well as her parents and her pastor. “One last thing,” her counselor said. “Your anxiety isn’t the end of the story. As Christians, we look forward to the day when Jesus makes all things new. Clinical anxiety won’t be a part of that picture. Until then, know Jesus is with you every second of the day. Rest in who He is and what He has done and is doing in you. He loves you and empowers you by His Holy Spirit.” Lauren nodded. She would continue to rely on God—and the people He had placed in her life—for strength and peace, knowing she was never alone. • Bethany Acker • Do you struggle with anxiety? What helps you rest in God’s strength? • Anxiety is a complicated and often lifelong issue that sometimes requires counseling, medication, or other treatment. If you’re struggling with anxiety, who are people in your life you can reach out to? • Read Matthew 28:20, Romans 15:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, and Revelation 21:1-5. As Christians, what promises from these verses can we rest in? • If you need someone to talk to, you can set up an appointment for a one-time complimentary phone consultation with a Christian counselor through the Focus on the Family Counseling Service. In the United States, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) to set up an appointment. In Canada, book your appointment by calling 1-800-661-9800 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) and ask to speak with the care associate. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Psalm 73:26 (CSB)

Nature Time

April 28, 2020 • March 28, 2020 • Andrew Stevens

When I am really stressed out or confused by something happening in my life, I like to be by the water. I will often go somewhere by myself with my Bible and sit on the shore. I like to hear the splish-splash of the waves—the sound relaxes me. I also enjoy watching driftwood ride on the waves toward the shore. By the water is a good place for me to pray and sort out my problems. It helps me to redirect my focus onto Jesus. I feel closer to Him when I admire His creation. It also reminds me that He is in control. Others enjoy talking with God in the middle of the woods. The woods are filled with the sounds of nature—whether it be the sound of rustling trees in the wind, birds singing, or other animals scurrying about. I always count it a blessing when I get to see an animal I rarely see in nature. One time, I was blessed to cross paths with a fox, another time a bald eagle. When I see these special glimpses of God’s creation, it reminds me that God loves me and that He is present and in control. In Christ, I am never alone. He is with me through whatever problem I am facing (Matthew 28:20). • Melissa Yeagle • Read Matthew 6:25-34. God was powerful enough to create the world, and He cares about even the small details of our lives. As Christians, how can remembering these truths help us when we face tough times? How can knowing that Jesus is with us give us comfort? • Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and 1 John 4:9-10. How has Jesus made it possible for us to come to Him with any problems we are facing? Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” 1 Chronicles 16:31 (NKJV)

How Do I Know if I'm Saved?

April 27, 2020 • April 27, 2020 • Emily Tenter

"How can I be sure that I’m saved?” It’s a very common question for Christians of all ages. We pray for God to save us, and we try to do what’s right, but somehow we’re still afraid. What if I died tonight? How do I know I’d go to heaven? What if I went to hell? It’s a scary question but also a really important one—we don’t want to make any mistakes in answering it! God knows we ask it, though, and so He gave us answers: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved ” (Acts 16:31). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). What does it mean to believe in Jesus and call on the name of the Lord? It’s simple to understand. Do you believe Jesus died and rose again? Have you asked Him to take your sin and save you from it? Have you acknowledged that He is Lord of all—including you? If your faith is in Christ alone, you can know you are saved from sin and death (Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 John 5:12). Not quite reassured? Here’s one more thing to realize. Jesus died a horrible death so that you could be saved (John 3:16). If someone trusts Him to save them but isn’t saved, then Christ died in vain. He’s not looking for a reason to reject you. God “does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus has promised to save His people, and we can be assured in that promise (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). God doesn’t want us to live in doubt of our salvation, still afraid of His judgment (Romans 8:1). No, He came to free us from that fear, so that we could live life to the full: seeking Him, following Him, and growing ever closer to Him, knowing that ultimately we’ll live forever with Him and His people (1 John 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). • Christiana Cudworth • Do you think there’s a difference between believing facts about Jesus and believing in Jesus? How do you know which describes you? • What does it mean to know Jesus? (To learn more, check out our "Know Jesus" page.) If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NLT)

Why God Wants You to Ask for Help

April 26, 2020 • April 26, 2020 • Andrew Stevens

Sometimes, it’s hard to share the thoughts and feelings weighing most heavily on our hearts. Maybe we’re struggling with depression, bullying, a parent’s divorce, the death or illness of a loved one, or the sins we are most often tempted by. We might feel embarrassed or ashamed that we feel the way we do. We might worry how others might react. We might even feel like we’re a burden to them when we tell them how we’re feeling. However, God doesn’t want us to suffer alone! He gave us friends, family, teachers, and our church families to help us—in good times and in bad. Aaron supported his brother Moses’ arm when he was too tired to hold his staff up (Exodus 17:10-13). Jonathan protected his friend David from King Saul, who wanted to kill David (1 Samuel 18:1-5; 20:1-42). As Christians, we are meant to support, challenge, and encourage each other no matter what we face— imitating the Savior we serve (Matthew 28:20; 1 John 4:19). Maybe at church, you feel like you don’t belong. “Nobody knows or understands what I’m going through. I’d better just stay quiet.” But Christians aren’t a bunch of perfect people; they’re a bunch of people who are all in different places in their journeys to be more like Christ. Some might be at a high point in their lives, others at a low point, but everyone will face their own unique struggles sooner or later. You don’t have to be ashamed. In fact, being open about them may encourage someone else to share their burdens too! We bless others when we let them help us. Purpose and special blessing are found in demonstrating the love of Christ as we “share each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Please don’t deny that privilege to those who care about you and want to help you! When we are refreshed and encouraged by the body of Christ, we find new strength to give the same gift of encouragement to others. • Jessica Kleeberger • Do you have any burdens on your heart? If so, list someone you could share them with (a parent or other family member, youth pastor, camp counselor, etc.). • How can you help friends who are going through hard times but are reluctant to ask for help? Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)

The Truth Shall Set You Free

April 25, 2020 • April 25, 2020 • Emily Tenter

Have you ever been deceived? Confused, lied to, twisted around, and pulled into a pit of despair? We all have. Deception is one of the enemy’s favorite tactics. The devil is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). He tells us we aren’t good enough—that God couldn’t possibly love us. He uses the world’s voices to shout lies: “Make straight As at school, join every club that will have you, and dress like a model—then you’ll be worth something.” We start to believe these lies and pursue popularity, good grades, and trophies above all else. We forget that true value comes from Jesus, our Creator and the One who has already done everything needed for us to be in relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:8-9). The good news? God’s truth protects us from the devil’s lies. In Ephesians, the apostle Paul uses armor to describe the way that truth protects us: it reminds us of all we have in Jesus. As Christians, we are called to wear “truth like a belt” (Ephesians 6:14). Just like no Roman soldier would go to battle half-dressed, we can’t fight the devil’s lies if we aren’t clothed in God’s truth. The truth of the good news of Jesus is our protection, our shield, and our sword in the midst of any struggle. When we know Jesus, no lie can separate us from God’s immense love for us (Romans 8:38-39). If you know Jesus, talk with Him about lies you’re dealing with. Ask Him to replace the lies with His truth. Trust His Holy Spirit to show you what lies you are believing and to lead you to the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is the One who can drown out the enemy’s lies. • Sharon Rene • What lies do you believe about yourself? Write them down and give them to God. • Can you think of truths from the Bible that refute these lies? • If you can’t find a Bible passage to refute a lie you’re believing, who is a trusted Christian in your life—such as a camp counselor or pastor—who can help you find some verses? You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 (CSB)

Where Are You Going?

April 24, 2020 • April 24, 2020 • Andrew Stevens

I don’t know much about my great-grandfather. His last name was Kirchner, and he died long before I was born. I only know what my parents told me— that he was born in Germany, was a member of a Lutheran church, and came to America sometime in the 1870s. There were no Lutheran churches in the area, so he joined a nearby Baptist church. Years later, I ended up spending a semester in Germany as an exchange student. “Wouldn’t it be neat if our families were somehow related?” I asked my host family. It was possible but not probable. I knew so little about my great-grandfather. I didn’t even know what part of Germany he had come from. I researched the Lutheran denomination in Germany and, based on that, found out he was probably from the eastern part of Germany. I was a little disappointed he wasn’t from the same area as my host family, but it was even more crushing to learn what I found next. For several years, the government of the eastern portion of Germany was communist, and it discouraged religion. After years of putting God in the background, that same region of Germany is now mostly atheist. I felt sad that the region my great-grandfather came from now has so many people who don’t know God. His heritage is my heritage. Then it occurred to me: I am not my past. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been; it matters where we’re going. If we’re following God, it makes no difference if we’re sitting in the middle of nowhere or in our own living rooms. Our heritage is with Him. As a child of God through Christ, I know He loves me and He loved my great-grandfather. It doesn’t matter where my grandfather came from; the most important thing is that he loved Jesus and shared the good news with his family, allowing that truth to be passed down to me. Where are you going? Are you walking with God? Do you know Him as your Savior? If so, your past doesn’t matter. You are an heir to a rich heritage in Christ! • Rebecca Linam • What about your family’s heritage are you proud of? What would you rather change and why? • Reread today’s Scripture passages. What does it mean to have a heritage in Christ? • To learn more about having a heritage in Christ, check out our "Know Jesus" page. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29 (NIV)

A Sudden Insecurity

April 23, 2020 • April 23, 2020 • Emily Tenter

A large crowd, an oral presentation, a piano recital, kicking a much-needed field goal—these are just some of the things that can fill us with intense dread and sudden insecurity. When we read God’s Word, we see God call His people to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9). In frightening situations, we should not question who we are. Instead, we are called to stand firm in who we are in Christ—in knowing He is with us through it all. Maybe you are surrounded daily by peers who are constantly challenging you. Or maybe you’re faced with a tough health problem, a family full of dysfunction, or a difficult set of classes. Whatever it is, it fills you with dread and causes you to feel alone and worried about everything. I remember a time when I was filled with dread at giving an oral report. I even asked the teacher to just give me a D for my grade—anything to not have to give an oral report! Now, later in life, I handle things differently. If I am dreading something, I go to God’s Word, the Bible. We know what Joshua 1:9 says, but how about Joshua 1:8? As Christians, we find true peace when we “meditate...day and night” on the truths of God’s Word. It points us to the good news of Jesus. It tells us who we are in Him, and it reminds us of what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do on our behalf. The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to focus our thoughts on what God says, instead of the fear that pulls us down—empowering us and giving us God’s peace (Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:4-8)! No matter what your dread-filled situation is, root yourself in knowing Jesus. You are resting in the Source of true peace (John 16:33; Galatians 5:22). • Carrie Cwynar • What situations are you dreading right now? • Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and 1 Peter 5:7. When you are struggling, who can you go to? • Who are people God has placed in your life to help you when you’re facing fear-filled situations? Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Only Jesus Can Save the Planet

April 22, 2020 • April 22, 2020 • Andrew Stevens

Many people have made it their mission to save the planet on which we all live. It is a noble calling. This planet is beautiful. It’s the place God created humans, who are made in His image (Genesis 1:27). It’s the place He finely tuned for human life. It’s the place He came to live among the people He made in order that He might die for their sins—and rise from the grave, beating death (John 1:14; 3:16-18). It’s the place He promises to return to in order to make every wrong right and to dwell with His people forever (Revelation 21:1-5). And, yet, even though it is such a beautiful planet, we as humans sometimes ignore God’s instructions for us to take care of the creation He made (Genesis 1:26; 2:15; Leviticus 25:1-7; Psalm 24:1-2). We can be wasteful and unwise in the way we steward what God has given us—harming other humans, as well as other parts of God’s creation. However, we can’t save the planet. Only Jesus can do that. What is more, we have His assurance that He will save it. He created it, He took on human flesh to live on it, and He is coming back to reign over it forever. The Bible does say destruction is coming for this planet. Second Peter 3 compares this destruction to the flood of Noah. We aren’t exactly sure what this destruction will look like, but we know the planet will be cleansed of wicked people and any trace of them—all sin, brokenness, and death will be gone. Jesus’ people will dwell forever with Him on the new earth. Does this mean we shouldn’t take part in environmental efforts? Not at all. But we shouldn’t participate because we’re afraid the planet will die if we don’t. Instead, we steward creation as a way to declare the good news of Jesus: because we are eagerly and joyfully anticipating the return of Christ and His kingdom. We are looking forward to creation without brokenness—including garbage and pollution—full of life and beauty, to the glory of the Creator, Sustainer, and Restorer (Romans 8:19-25). • Kevin Zeller • Does it seem surprising that Jesus cares about the planet? Why or why not? • Christians do disagree about what good environmental stewardship looks like. And that is okay! What questions do you have about taking care of creation? Who are trusted Christians in your life you can talk with about these questions? But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13 (WEB)

Not Finished Yet

April 21, 2020 • April 21, 2020 • Emily Tenter

Lying on my dorm room floor, I wiped tears from my eyes. Why did I keep doing things I knew grieved the heart of God? Perhaps it was growing up in a strict home? The countless rules just fueled my desire to live a little outside the lines. For me, that looked like a struggle to honor God in my romantic relationships. While I didn’t go “all the way” with guys, stepping over the line with them offered the thrill I craved. Afterward, though, I felt worse. The Holy Spirit was gently prompting me to flee sin and run into the arms of Jesus instead. Time after time, this happened, and I wrestled and prayed. I felt like I was finally grasping what Paul said in Romans 7:15-24. I was doing what I didn’t want to do, and I kept on doing it. I really felt like I was a prisoner to these desires—they were battling within me against the Holy Spirit’s leading. "God," I prayed, "Just let me get caught or in trouble or something! I want this to stop, but I feel so powerless!" The love and grace of Jesus Christ eventually drew me back. I was attempting to fill my cravings for ultimate meaning with something other than Him...and that never satisfies. When I trusted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, He gave me freedom from sin’s power. Even though I will wrestle with my old sinful nature until I see Jesus face-to-face, I have His power living inside me. With His help, I can reject sin and be led by the Spirit as I set my mind on His desires (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:16-18). Now, when Satan throws my failures back in my face, I block his attacks with truth from God’s Word. When Satan whispers, “What kind of a follower of God are you? How can you expect to reach others with God’s love when you’re trapped in your own sin? You call this victory?” Now, I shout back: “God’s not finished with me yet! He began a good work in me, and He will continue it until the day He comes again!” (Philippians 1:6). • Savannah Coleman • What sin struggles do you feel powerless over? You are not alone in this battle! If you are a child of God, you are empowered by the Holy Spirit to choose victory instead of sin. • Read Romans 7:25. Our sins and struggles may be great, but God is greater. Who gives us the deliverance we need? • Read 1 John 1:9–2:1. When you do fail, who should you run to? Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Truth and Tolerance

April 20, 2020 • April 20, 2020 • Emily Tenter

How do we speak the truth of the gospel when the world doesn’t always value truth? When I consider the changes my country has made in the name of tolerance toward various beliefs and ideas, fear casts a shadow over my heart. Can you be both truthful and tolerant at the same time? How do you show love, yet at the same time, stand for what you know to be truth? Is there a different time and place to speak up and to remain silent? These questions keep percolating in my brain, and you might have had similar thoughts. Here’s what we can always return to: What does the Word of God say? Our final authority on everything, as children of God, should be the Bible because it is God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If something doesn’t line up with the Word, it isn’t truth. Second Corinthians 4 talks about not twisting the words of the Bible but instead presenting “the truth plainly” (verse 2). But what does sharing this good news look like? You have probably heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When talking to someone who may not share the same beliefs as you, remember to listen to them. Jesus was an excellent example of being a good listener. He asked questions, even though He already knew the answers. Read the Gospels—the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible—to see how Jesus spoke to and treated the lost. Colossians 4:5-6 advises us: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” If we need wisdom, we can ask God, who is eager to give it (James 1:5). “Speaking the truth in love” means loving the person, no matter what their beliefs (Ephesians 4:15). As you love others through your words and actions, perhaps they will desire to know Jesus, the Source of true freedom and the One who loves you both (John 8:32; 1 John 3:18; Romans 5:8). • Savannah Coleman • Do you struggle more with being truthful or tolerant? For some people, truth can be easier than tolerance, and vice versa. • In your life, who needs to hear the good news of Jesus? Ask God for wisdom in striking the delicate balance between truth and tolerance in your interactions with people who don’t know Jesus. • In some instances—such as salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone—the truth is simple and not gray at all. But there are other situations that are not so black and white. When faced with a controversial issue, check the Word of God first. Pray about the circumstance and lean on the Holy Spirit to guide you. Finally, who are wise Christians in your life you can ask about tough issues? This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV)

The Grateful Outcast

April 19, 2020 • April 19, 2020 • Emily Tenter

"Jesus is coming,” Nathanial whispers. “He’s coming.” “Jesus,” I say, scratching another sore on my arm until it weeps. “Oh, you Samaritans! Don’t you know anything?” Nathanial sighs. “He’s the Healer, like the prophets predicted. He can save us—even you.” Ten of us are still alive in this leper colony. Staying at home would put our families at risk. Tears prick my eyes as I think of the day I left behind my wife and son—of the sadness on their faces. I miss them. “Unclean!” people scream at us, hurrying by. “Ugh! Look at them!” “Dear God,” I pray, “Whatever Jesus wants, I promise I will do it.” “Jesus is coming,” Nathanial cries. “A huge crowd is following Him.” “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” we cry over and over again until our throats dry up. My heart thumps as Jesus stops. He does not run away. His eyes reflect compassion and love. He reaches out to us. The crowd immediately disperses, shuddering. “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus says. I want to shout out that they won’t let us near them. But then I remember my prayer and promise to God. All of us obey. As we walk, my skin tingles. The heat is no longer intense. Before I even look down, I know I am well. Overcome with emotion, I jump up into the air. I begin to praise God loudly and run back to Jesus, falling on the stony ground at His feet, unable to stop thanking Him. Jesus speaks, His eyes rich with love. “Weren’t the ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there none found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner? Get up, and go your way. Your faith has healed you.” I run back to the priests and then to my home, my heart soaring. Jesus has saved my life. • Cindy Lee • Have you ever felt like an outcast? Read John 1:12 and 3:16. How does Jesus give us a place to belong? (To learn more, check out our "Know Jesus" page.) Were there none found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner? Luke 17:18 (WEB)

More than Sparrows

April 18, 2020 • April 18, 2020 • Andrew Stevens

"What will you do after you graduate?" If Ashlynn heard those words one more time... She rubbed her forehead with tired fingertips. As the computer loaded yet another search for college options, Ashlynn groaned. If only she knew which way to choose. “Ash!” The back door slammed, and a set of blond pigtails peeked around the corner. “What do you want, Gwen?” Ashlynn said as she began clicking results. “Come and swing,” Gwen said. “You’ve been on there all day.” Ashlynn paused, her fingers hovering above the keyboard. The thought of researching another college made her want to gag. She relented. “Let’s go.” Both girls darted from the house, bursting out the door and into the warm sunshine. Ashlynn followed Gwen to the big oak tree with the homemade swing. Fresh air filled her lungs and washed the heated flush from her cheeks as she gave her little sister a shove. Gwen soared into the air. Just then, a flutter at the base of the tree caught Ashlynn’s eye. She glanced down to see a featherless baby bird huddled in the grass. “Gwen, look at this,” she said, crouching to take the tiny bird into her palm. “Oh.” Gwen stopped swinging. “Is it lost?” Ashlynn spotted an empty nest in the branches above her. “Let’s get it home.” She slipped the baby bird into the pocket of her sweatshirt, then scrambled up the tree and placed the baby bird inside the nest. “Right where it belongs,” said Ashlynn as they watched the mother bird arrive to care for her baby in a flutter of wings. "If God cares for the birds," Ashlynn thought, "He cares about what happens to me too. I’m not alone in my college search. Jesus will place me right where I belong." • Anita Seavey • Do you ever worry about your future? Have you asked God for wisdom (James 1:5)? • What people in your life can give you Christ-centered wisdom about hard decisions? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Matthew 6:26 (CSB)

Temples of the Most High

April 17, 2020 • April 17, 2020 • Emily Tenter

The Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy or Divine Wisdom) is a world-renowned monument built during the Byzantine Empire. It’s had quite a history! It was built as a church, later became a mosque, and now is a museum. Since its use and purpose have been subject to the will of prevailing powers, the church built to honor God’s wisdom now serves as a tourist attraction. Fortunately, “the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). Instead, as Christians, our bodies form the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). As God’s temples through Christ, our identity is in Him. Therefore, we are free. Free from being “brought under the power of anything” other than Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:12). While we can momentarily put ourselves under sin’s control when we give in to temptation, because we are joined to God by the Holy Spirit, He gives us the power to say no to every form of sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:13-18). As we strive to honor God with our bodies, the Holy Spirit reminds us of two truths. First, that we are not our own; instead, we “were bought at a price”—the death of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Second, that our bodies will be resurrected by Jesus, our risen Savior and King (1 Corinthians 6:13-14). Let’s live in light of this good news—that we have been made free from the power of sin and death! • Remi Oyedele • What truths from today’s reading helped you the most? •How can you personally honor God with your body? What questions do you have about what that would look like? • Who is a trusted Christian in your life you can bring those questions to—such as a pastor, camp counselor, or youth leader? Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own. 1 Corinthians 6:19 (WEB)

Great Things in God's Kingdom

April 16, 2020 • April 16, 2020 • Andrew Stevens

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t accomplish anything in life? Have you ever felt afraid or unable to do what God called you to do? Well, you’re not alone. Throughout the Bible, many people thought they couldn’t do what God called them to do either. Moses thought he would never be able to lead God’s chosen people, Israel, out of slavery in Egypt. Moses even made the excuse that he wasn’t a good enough speaker and that his words wouldn’t be enough to convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites (Exodus 4:10). But God promised to be with Moses and to give him the words to say (Exodus 4:11-12). Despite Moses’ fear, God used him to help rescue His people from slavery. Gideon was told by God to rescue Israel from the Midianites, who had been oppressing the Israelites for seven years (Judges 6:1). But Gideon was so afraid of the Midianites that he asked God for sign after sign to show that this was really what God had called him to do (Judges 6–7). God reassured Gideon with several miraculous signs, and He used Gideon and a tiny army of three hundred men to defeat thousands of Midianites and rescue Israel from their oppression. Esther, who was married to King Xerxes of Persia, didn’t think she could save her people from an execution decree by Haman, an evil chief official. Esther was secretly a Jew, and she was afraid she would be killed if she approached the king without an invitation (Esther 4:10-14). But God protected Esther and gave her courage to approach the king and speak out against the evil decree. God used Esther in rescuing His people from death. If God can use people like Moses, Gideon, and Esther, He can use you in His kingdom too. Even when we are afraid, Christ enables His people to do great things—big and small—empowering us to share His good news of rescue from sin and death. • Alexis Wohler • When have you felt afraid to do something God called you to do? How did He encourage you? • It can be hard to know what God is calling us to do. Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and James 1:5. When we need wisdom, what can we do? Where can we find wisdom? Who are wise Christians in your life you can talk with if you need help (Proverbs 11:14; Galatians 6:1-2)? For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

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