Middle School Devotions

Our middle school bible teachers are sending daily devotions to the families of our middle school students. Please feel free to use these devotions with your family. We are praying for you as you press on in the weeks ahead.

Responsibility

March 30 – April 3, 2020

James 2:26
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Reflection

  • Why should we trust God at all cost?
  • As an American, shouldn’t I put my faith/confidence in myself?

What is the background?
James, the brother of Jesus, was one of the leaders of the Jerusalem council. James questions his brother’s mission recorded in the book of John. (John 7: 2-5) James was a prominent member of the church and later died a martyr. Writing to the scattered, who fled after Stephen’s death, he writes that faith must be alive, active with works even in the midst of persecution and trials.

What does it mean?
Faith is never to remain dormant in the believer’s life according to James and other writers in scripture. Christ has made alive the believer through his death and resurrection. Faith, a gift given by God, is never meant to be without works. Works, though, can never bring salvation to the wayward. It is through Christ that these believers in their faith produced good works while living in times of persecution.

How do I apply this?
We must remain steadfast in our faith in God during turbulent times. Christ is our anchor as we walk by faith and not by sight. We may never see the fruit from our trials of faith; however, we can be assured that Christ stands with us in these tests. The Christian’s faith is meant to be hammered and tried as we press on in Christ. There’s a great cloud of witnesses recorded for us in Hebrews who left their doubts and walked on in faith. Doubt never became a crutch in their pursuit of God. So it can be with us; we can leave our doubts and uncertainties and continue on in faith trusting in the faithfulness of our God. May we never forget the words written by James for us to embrace for this moment in time.

“…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

1 Corinthians 3: 8
He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

Reflection

  • If we divide our lives between spiritual and our regular life, what do we think our role in the kingdom is and what do we think our role in our regular life is?
  • Why is it so easy to compare ourselves with what other people do?

What is the background?
The city of Corinth had the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love), the temple of Asclepius (the god of healing), and in the middle of the city the temple of Apollo. The Jews were able to establish a synagogue in the midst of all this temple worship. Widely known in Corinth was the Greek verb “to Corinthianize.” This phrase relates to the immorality of the day. Immoral practices had seeped into the church as well. Divisions and jealousy brought fractions within this body of believers. Out of this spiritual immaturity, Paul uses the analogy of gardening to preach that each follower has his or her part in the growth of the church. With this work, Paul states eternal rewards will be given for those laborers.

What does it mean?
Spiritual immaturity can be the worst enemy of the Christian life. This immaturity birthed the division within the church that Paul was so desperately trying to reach. Immaturity can invite some of the dirtiest sins into the life of a believer. One of these sins called jealousy started to tear apart the very unity of the Corinth church. Paul wanted to put a stop to this mess. He reminded them that the work of God must come from each believer exercising his or her gift for the purposes of God.

How do I apply this?
As believers, we need to recognize that jealousy is the demonic influence upon our lives. The devil basks in glory when a believer divides the very group that Christ prayed for as one. We must stop any of the devil’s work when he interferes with the unity of the church. To keep unity within the glorious work of God we must do the following together:

  • Know that God will sustain us in His faithfulness;
  • live a life that demonstrates God’s power;
  • preach the gospel by our humble lifestyles;
  • allow God’s spirit search the depths of our hearts;
  • enrich our minds with the thoughts of God; and finally
  • impart words from the Holy Spirit to those around us.

In the end, we will be rewarded for this diligent work in Christ Jesus.

Ezra 10:4
Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.

Reflection

  • Is school work a spiritual responsibility?
  • How does an irresponsible person affect the family?

What is the background?
An edict from Cyrus allowed those exiles who wanted to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. A revival began as the people constructed the altar, participated in the Feast of Tabernacles, and began building the foundation of the temple. Opposition arose, and the temple reconstruction came to a halt. The temple construction continued and was completed under the rule of Darius and Artaxerxes. The people celebrated by dedicating the temple and implementing again the Passover. With the temple established, Ezra began to bring reform through the teaching of God’s Word. Out of Ezra’s own weeping and confession that the priests confessed their own sins of intermarrying nations of abominations. With this verse the priests cried out to Ezra there’s continual work of reform that needs to be done.

What does it mean?
God wanted to restore the wayward and He would use Ezra as an instrument of His rebuke and mercy to do so. The people were in exile because they had forgotten their God. Basking in their prosperity, they forgot God and pursued their ungodly desires. Their lives and culture were broken, but God in his mercy didn’t forget them. He brought reform through His mighty word. His Word showed how far the people had strayed from his commands. Under the hand of God, Ezra’s humility, character and God’s word brought the people back to a holy lifestyle.

How do I apply this?
When we allow ourselves to get exiled from God’s Word then we are endangering ourselves with a tsunami of sinful desires and pleasures. Like God’s people in Ezra’s time, we can take advantage of the blessings of God. Before you know we can entangle ourselves with earthly, ungodly passions. There is work to do for God’s kingdom so it is time that we purify ourselves and commit ourselves to our holy God. As Christians we need to rise up out of our brokenness and finish the work God has given us. To God Be the Glory!

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Reflection

  • Why is giving from what we have so difficult?
  • Why are Christians commanded to give?

What is the background?
This letter was addressed to the church in Corinth and to Christians throughout the Roman provinces. False teachers took to the task of attacking Paul’s integrity and authority. Paul visited Corinth to address the situation but returned back to Ephesus without accomplishing his purpose in Corinth. This letter mentions topics like the fragility of human life as “jars of clay,” the ministry of reconciliation to Christ as ambassadors and outcomes to generous giving. In these, God would receive tremendous glory and pleasure in the generous giving and representation of Christ. Paul is addressing giving when he says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you.”

What does it mean?
The church has always had the “gates of hell” attack its mission and purpose. False teachers always oppose the work of Christ in Corinth. They knew that their teachings would bring disunity, selfishness, and a distorted view of the Christian life. Paul, in his compassion wrote to restore the Christian worldview that was wavering in such a prideful culture. He reminded the Corinthians to rely on God’s grace and sufficiency when they radically gave to others cheerfully.

How do I apply this?
Giving graciously or grudgingly are two options for the Christian. A cheerful giver of God gives out of the grace and sufficiency that he has found in Christ. Sometimes our lives are bankrupt spiritually and physically because we have taken ownership of all that God has given us.

Prayer for Today
May all that we do for others be crowned with grace and the favor of Christ as we press on in the ministry of giving. May we become cheerful givers, or as the Greek meaning “a Hilarious giver,” in our outreach towards others.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,…

Reflection

  • Why is it difficult to consider our work as something we do for God?
  • What does it say about my understanding of work when I complain about it?

What is the background?
This letter was written during Paul’s first imprisonment. Most evidence point towards Rome as the place where Paul penned these words. Heretical attack was rampant so Epaphras visited Paul in Rome, which resulted in Paul’s writings of Colossians. Some of the heresies of the day were ceremonialism, ascetism, angel worship and the depreciation of Christ. Paul combats these heresies boasting of the supremacy of Christ.

What does it mean?
Paul experienced the supremacy of Christ from his own conversion. Paul’s message of Christ’s supremacy couldn’t be bound in prison. His words on Christ crushed the advancement of the heresy of the day. Paul wanted the Colossians to have a true religious life that wasn’t separate from their responsibilities of the day. Paul states that a Colossian works as unto the Lord but not for the glory of men.

How do I apply this?
“Whatever” doesn’t refer just to the religious activities of the Christian life, but without exception it refers to everything of life. There is no separation between the sacred and the secular in our lives. Heartily without complaint everything is to be done for the Lord and not for men. Complaint is the enemy of our lives when working for the Lord. We must bury any of our complaints in the duty and the desire for the Lord’s glory. This is a high Christian morality, to practice recognition of Christ in everything said or done. The difference between Christian beliefs and non-Christian beliefs is that Christian beliefs matter only if we practice them.


Obedience

March 23 – 27, 2020

In looking at the many obedient servants of God, Amy Carmichael comes to mind. Amy was saturated with the love for God and with the love for serving the poor. Born in 1867, Amy Carmichael was influenced by her mother’s commitment to Christ. It was through her mother’s hymns that she felt a call to obedience.

“I had felt the love of the Lord Jesus and nestled in his love just as I had nestled in her arms. But I had not understood that there was something more to do, something that may be called coming to him, or opening the door to him, or giving oneself to him.”

Amy Carmichael did give herself totally to God. She led Bible studies for young girls and at times she sacrificed the comfort of life to reach the hurting. Once she moved into rat-infested apartments to live among the poor in the slums. Even in these conditions with her health failing obedience to God wasn’t an option. She stated that the most important thing was God’s will.

“Nothing is too precious for Jesus.”

Amy Carmichael continued passionately following God’s call for her life. Through the blessing of her mother and the influence of Hudson Taylor, Amy set out for the missionary life. From Japan to India she immersed herself in language, dress and culture to reach the lost for Jesus. In India, she founded Dohnavur Fellowship which was a sanctuary for the abused and hurting who served in the Hindu temples. To reach these children she would dye and stain her light skin brown with coffee or tea bags, wear the light blue sari to associate with the lowest caste system. She spent next the decades rescuing and raising these broken children.

Later in her life, Amy Carmichael had a severe accident which broke her leg and injured her hip. Along with her neuroglia and the injuries from the accident, Amy was bedridden for the next twenty years of her life. During these years Amy Carmichael still directed the affairs at Dohnavur Fellowship. She wrote thirty-seven books, mainly poems, as well as sixteen additional books of the missionary work in India during that time. Amy Carmichael died peacefully at Dohnavur Fellowship at the age of eighty-three on January 18, 1951. She had served faithfully for over fifty-five years in India and she was able to see temple abuses outlawed in India.

For us: Stories like Amy Carmichael’s usually tell the high points of a person’s life. These selections of writings do not always tell the difficulties in their everyday lives. Reading about a person’s life can become romantic, there is nothing romantic about the Christian life. It is filled with the everyday decisions about being obedient, struggles with the old self, and the will to do what is right. Very few Christians are written about, but all Christians should work towards obedience.

Philippians 2:8
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Reflection

  • What does it mean to be humble?
  • Is obedience a task or a duty? Does love have anything to do with obedience?

What is the background?
Paul writes in this epistle to thank the Philippians for their provisions. He challenged these believers to identify with Christ in the face of persecution. Paul’s words like “same mind, same love, and full of accord” promotes unity needed for the church. In this book, Paul knows that through the humility and obedience of the Philippians, others’ needs would be met. The obedience and humility of Christ should be the lifestyle for these believers.

What does it mean?
Paul wanted believers to put Christ on display through their humility and services towards others. Paul knew that this could only take place through self-mortification, the dying to self. He states not to let self-ambition and conceit dominate their lives. Have this mind of Christ when ministering towards those in need around you. Paul states Christ’s example of obedience and humility should be the evidence to show that they were servants of Christ.

How do I apply this?
There’s no better way to exalt Christ than through our obedience. Christ in human form obeyed his Father in every decision and work. Through his humility, Christ displayed the obedience he had for his Father. Don’t we want that for our lives? Humble obedience towards Christ will bring Him glory. We must continually, in every circumstance, deny ourselves and rise up towards the heavenly duties of the day. Denying myself is an opportunity to exalt Christ, who is so deserving of the glory!

1 Corinthians 15:58
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Reflection

  • What does it mean to be steadfast?
  • Why would you rather have someone who is steadfast than someone who is not as a friend, spouse, or a teacher?

What is the background?
Paul was writing to a church that contained all sorts of immorality. The culture of Corinth had infected the followers of their pursuit of God. Paul had an enormous job to do, but under the direction of the Holy Spirit he rebuked these followers in love. These believers were gifted but immature in their Christian lifestyle. They brought division, envy, abuses to the Lord’s Supper, and false teaching into the church. Paul addresses the false teaching on the resurrection prior with the evidence and power of a risen Savior and ends the chapter with these powerful words to remain steadfast in their obedience to Christ.

What does it mean?
The Corinthians were faced with all sorts of distractions from the truth. Temptations were daily present as they tried to live a life pleasing to God. They weren’t the perfect church, but God didn’t forsake them as Paul shepherded them. Paul’s words although inspired could be that of a coach “Don’t quit, keep fighting, obey and you will be rewarded!” Obedience is necessary especially when we don’t know what’s ahead of us. For example, parents often ask their children to obey because they know the future ahead through their own experiences.

How do I apply this?
The times might be tough, but know that you are loved and are being cared for and carried by God. He is the Rock, the Fortress, the Lord that reigned before the beginning and continues to reign even after the end. The Christian must resolve in his heart to never under any circumstances compromise his work for the Lord. “The Lord knows” means that we have His attention when we are wanting to throw in the towel and quit. Onward, we must go obeying Him in order to obtain the prize before us. Know then that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

John 15:10
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Reflection

  • What do you think it means to abide in Christ?
  • How is obedience and abiding in Christ the same and how is it different?

What is the background?
This is a continual discourse of our Savior as he begins to conclude his ministry here on earth. His audience would have known about vines and branches since vineyards were common in ancient Palestine. His focus is on disciples and their future. Christ adherers obedience of His commands with abiding in His love.

What does it mean?
More fruit is the desire of Christ for his followers in his last days. Fruit could only come from their relationship with Him and nothing more. Their time with Him would produce an abundance of fruit. Fruit that displays the evidence of a relationship with Christ. Abiding in Him produces an obedience and love. Obedience and abiding are inseparable in this love relationship with Christ. Christ modeled this kind of abiding with His Father as He began looking towards Golgotha.

How do I apply this?
This abiding with Christ isn’t natural. It is a decision that needs to be made every day. I will abide and follow Christ should be our cry as believers. Obedience to his commands is evidence that we are abiding in His love. We get to enjoy His inseparable love as we enjoy our time with Him. Just like a branch abides in the vine, we can abide in Christ getting everything we need for life and godliness. What peace and assurance to know that Christ will supply our needs today and, in the days, ahead. The picture for us today as branches requires us to hold onto the vine.

Ephesians 6:6
“Not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart..”

Reflection

  • Why do we try to win others’ approval?
  • What does it mean to please God and not to please people?

What is the background?
Ephesians was written to explain some of the great themes and doctrines of Christianity.

Some of the themes of Ephesians make it highly praised and prized by commentators, pastors and Christians. Spurgeon on Ephesians stated, “Whosoever would see Christianity in one treatise, let him ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ the Epistle to the Ephesians.” The book displays the work of God in the community of believers. From the imprisoned Paul come some of the most inspired words of God.

What does it mean?
This chapter is drenched with the command to obey and please God. Paul writes that obedience isn’t only linked to us, but to the will of God also. He addresses those followers who looked for approval from others. Paul states that obedience really comes from the heart not from the approval of men. The follower with a heart for God always pleases his Creator. Paul writes there are two ways. One way is “people pleasing” and the other way is to serve a holy God. Paul says that doing the will of God is often clouded by how others see me. The servant looks to God and surrenders his will as an offering. A servant with a heart soaked with love for God will always run towards God’s wonderful will.

How do I apply this?
Obedience has to come from our enflamed love towards God. If that love for God is vacant, we will be carried away with our own will and our own way. We have no rights as servants of God except to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. God desires that we follow him by trusting and obeying his commands. His commands are not burdensome. They are there so that can we can love Him and do his will. The Christian’s only response to God’s will should be “whatever, whenever, however, Lord.”


Fear, Faith, God and Circumstances

March 18 – 20, 2020

Fear, Faith and God

Psalm 91:1-2
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Reflection

  • Why is it important to have time with God?
  • Why does it seem like spending time in God’s Word makes me fear less?

What is the background?
The Psalmist’s poetic metaphor describes one who walks through the gates of a fortress of stone meant for protection from enemies both unseen and seen, unknown and known. The psalmist uses words like shelter, shadow, refuge, and fortress to remind the reader that difficult events arise in life. The response from the psalmist is to trust and dwell in the provided protection from God. For us, the metaphor for shelter would be like living in a bomb shelter.

What does it mean?
The psalmist is using a military metaphor to describe God as the ultimate shelter which can’t be overtaken by the threats of life. For the people living in the Middle East, the idea of rocky outcroppings provided shelter from the hot sun. The picture is one of the Almighty protecting the psalmist from any type of enemy. Even in the midst of possible harm, the psalmist remains under the care of the Almighty. For example, Moses and David faced extreme dangers by just dwelling in God’s providential protection.

How do I apply this?
Before we state a word to God, the psalmist reminds us to dwell in the “Most High.” God, who dwells high in His throne room, exists above all our fears and trials while dwelling with us. Dwell, abide, remain, inhabit the presence of God during these days. When we experience interruptions to our lives, God wants to use this to rest and lodge in Him. He will take up and defend our coming and going for evermore.

Fear, Faith, Circumstances

Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Reflection

  • How do you respond in difficult circumstances?
  • What does our faith in God give us when times are tough?

What is the background?
Where Deuteronomy comes to an end, the book of Joshua begins: the tribes of Israel are camped on the east side of the Jordan River ready to begin the plan of God to conquer the land. The book opens with God’s command to go forth and pass through the river on dry land. Then it relates the series of victories in central, southern and northern Canaan. Later, tribal allotments were distributed and the book ends with Joshua’s final addresses to the people. The theme of the book is the establishment of God’s people Israel in the Lord’s promised land. The conquered land would be of the Lord’s doing.

What does it mean?
After the Moses’ death, God had prepared Joshua for such a time as this. Joshua had followed on the heels of one of the greatest, godliest, and most humble leaders of all time. Joshua took the weight of this responsibility in dire circumstances to listen to God. The words he heard from God burned within his heart. “Be strong and courageous” wasn’t an option for Joshua. He knew deeply the faithful God behind those words. He knew that God would keep His promises of conquering the land. He saw the miracles and the manifestations of God during Moses’ leadership. God was with Joshua every step and he followed God in courage.

How do I apply this?
Even though this was written hundreds of years ago, the same message applies: “Be strong and courageous.” If we attempt to ride out these difficult days in our own strength and courage, then our faith in God will waver. Fear will be the outcome of using our own strength. However, if we take the mantle of God’s strength, then God will be with us wherever we go. Joshua didn’t know what the future held, but he knew who held the future. All we have to do is follow God in these trying days knowing that God will go with us every step of the way.

Fear and Faith

Isaiah 41:10
“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Reflection

  • What causes you the most fear?
  • What does it mean to have faith?

What is the background?
Isaiah wrote during the expansion of the Assyrian empire and the decline of Israel. Israel tried to pressure Judah into joining a coalition against Assyria. Ahaz chose instead to ask Tiglath-Pileser for help, a decision condemned by Isaiah (see note on 7:1). Assyria did assist Judah and they conquered the northern kingdom. Nevertheless, Isaiah warned Judah that her sin would bring captivity at the hands of Babylon.

What does it mean?
God didn’t offer His deliverance to His people at this time, but He did offer His precious presence. He let them know that “I am” is present. Here I am! He understood their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. “I am your God.” This statement brought confidence in God’s power and presence to restore. God didn’t want their eyes to turn away from Him by looking around. God wanted their eyes fixed on Him. He was their “Helper.” It was His hand that would uphold them like so many other times in their lives. The words of “I am with you” brought the needed comfort/confidence for this trial of their lives.

How do I apply this?
Rest in God’s presence like never before without wavering. Lean into Him and hear Him say, “I am here.” “I will strengthen you.” Like the Israelites, trust in God’s way, knowing that His hand will uphold you. God will maintain you, support you and He will hold fast to you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He wants to shepherd you as you walk through the trials of this life. Stay close to Him! All you have to do is follow as He leads.