Lenten Devotion Day 38

Son of God!

The Centurion and the Death of Jesus

Have you ever had your kids tell you they finished their homework, only to check it and find they rushed through it, doing the least they had to do in order to finish fast? Did you ever do that as a kid? Sure! We all did it at one time or another.

Have you ever rushed through a project, at home or work, so you could move on to something more enjoyable? Perhaps a long week-end was coming up and you just didn’t feel like putting much effort into your work. I’m not judging. I think we’ve all done this at one time or another. We get tired. We have better things to do. We want to go home. We always have a good reason for our actions. We also have a little feeling deep inside that we shouldn’t cut corners, no matter what.

The story today’s verse comes from has always fascinated me. A Roman guard has been order to crucify Jesus. The centurion, the man in charge of the soldiers overseeing the crucifixions, watches Jesus throughout His ordeal. The centurion watches the dignity, the compassion, the pain and more in those final hours that Friday. And, as Jesus died, the centurion saw the power and presence of God in Him, a God the Roman soldier didn’t even worship! With His death, Jesus brought another lost sheep back into the fold. As He hung on the cross, Jesus helped the Prodigal Son, in the form of the one thief also being crucified, come home.

Jesus knew He was on His way home. His time on this Earth was almost over. Yet, He didn’t leave until all His work was done and done well. Jesus put everything He had into His work. And when He was done, then He went home!

Discussion Questions

1. How do you remain motivated to do a job well all the way to the end?

2. How can you encourage your children to do all their work to the best of their ability?

3. What is the reward of doing a job well? Of seeing a job through to its finish?

4. How can you work together as a family to encourage one another to always do everything to the best of your ability?

Lenten Devotion Day 37

It’s OK to be Scared!

Jesus Prays Before His Arrest

Everyone gets scared. Some fears we outgrow. Some fears remain with us. I understand kids need to learn how to overcome their fears. However, I believe it is important to reassure kids that fear is a part of life. All of us are afraid sometimes. I‘ve always found if I’m able to gather information about the problem, it helps me face my fear. Still there are those times when fear is tough to overcome.

When I was doing my pastoral internship, I was asked to visit a women in the hospital. That was when I met Ginger. Ginger was being treated during her second battle with breast cancer. Now, I want to tell you right off, Ginger didn’t win the battle the second time around but that is a story for another day.

It was a few days before Halloween and Ginger hoped to go home in time to enjoy Halloween with her family. While I was visiting, the doctor came in to tell Ginger something had shown up in her liver and they needed to run more tests. I knew that wasn’t good. The doctor left the room, leaving me with Ginger. She was quiet for a while. Then she looked at me and said, “I’m scared!” Well, of course she was scared! And that’s just what I told her. Who wouldn’t be scared?

Now, Ginger hadn’t been a Christian for very long. She thought her fear showed a lack of faith. If her faith was strong enough, she thought, she would trust God to take care of everything. She wouldn’t be afraid to die. I thought for a moment.

I prayed really hard. I wanted to know what I should say to her. Boy, did God answer my prayer.

I told Ginger that even Jesus had been scared when He faced death. She was surprised.

“Really?” I opened my Bible and read this story to her. I showed her that Jesus ask His Father to take the cup from Him. In other words, He asked God to find a way to save all of us that would allow Him to live. Jesus’ fear was natural. He was facing the unknown. He was facing a terrible death. If Jesus was afraid to die, I asked Ginger, why wouldn’t you be afraid? When I left, Ginger was still afraid but she did feel better.

When you talk to your kids about being afraid, talk to them about Jesus. He was afraid. He prayed. He did what he had to do in spite of His fear. Let your kids know that courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Most important, make sure they know they are never alone when they’re afraid. You are there for them AND Jesus is there for them.

Be strong and of good courage.

Discussion Questions

1. Talk to your kids about fear. Talk about what scares each of you. Then discuss ways you can each be stronger than your fear.

2. Talk about the power of prayer. Let your kids know how you pray when you are afraid.

3. How do your kids respond when other kids are afraid? Sometimes to hide their own fear, kids will tease another child who is afraid.

4. How do you respond when someone else is afraid? What can you do for them?

Lenten Devotion Day 36

Feed My Spirit

The Last Supper

Bread is such a basic part of our lives. Most of us eat bread every day. Same thing in Jesus’ time. Bread was eaten daily. Bread was used in religious observances. Jesus understood the importance of bread in our lives. He knew bread was something we use regularly.

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave new meaning to wine and bread. He wanted His disciples, and us, to remember the sacrifice He made for us. He shed His blood and gave His body for us. Each time we take Communion, He wants us to remember this.

There is more to it than that. This is not just about those times we take communion. It is not just about remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us. According to the dictionary, Communion is “the sharing of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” When we take communion, we are able to share our thoughts and feelings with Jesus. Jesus is able to share His thoughts and feelings with us. This is another very important part of communion but I believe it goes farther than that.

Communion is sometimes referred to as a “meal.” Meals are important. This is a time when we are able to come together with others, people that are important to us, and share our thoughts and feelings, the events of the day.

Unfortunately, sharing meals has become a lost activity in some families. Everyone is “too busy” to sit down all at one time to eat together. Ok. I’m not going to argue with anyone about that. You understand your family schedule better than I do. However, there must be times during the week when family meals can be scheduled.

In my church, communion is not a daily or weekly event. It is only observed every few months and on specific occasions, making this sacred meal so very special for all of us. It’s a time we come closer together as a faith family. It’s a time we come closer to God.

This sharing, coming to the table, is important whether in the church or the home. Busy or not, it’s very important for your family to find time to come to the table.

Discussion Questions

1. Communion helps us feel closer to God. Discuss communion with your family. Talk about the way you feel when you take communion.

2. Talk to your kids about other ways to communicate with God.

3. We work hard to feel people physically. How can we feed them spiritually?

4. Does your family sit down to dinner regularly? If not, how can you make this happen?

5. At dinner, do family members talk to one another? What do you discuss?

6. How can you make your dinners a time for sharing thoughts and feelings?

7. How can you help your family understand the importance of eating together?

Lenten Devotion Day 35

I Said Get Out!

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

In ninth grade, I was chosen to be on the school paper. I still remember being taught the basics of journalism: Dog bites man is not news; Man bites dog is news.

This expression seems very outdated now but the idea still holds true. Man bites dog is news not simply because it is extraordinary but also because it is shocking. News often shocks us. We are appalled to hear the actions of others, actions that go against the norm. Unfortunately, there are times when those actions are not done in one big shocking event but little by little over time. When this happens, society becomes accustom to the abnormal and accepts it as normal. Man biting dog is no longer news.

Just because man biting dog becomes acceptable doesn’t make it right. This is the situation that day Jesus walked into the Temple and had a fit. Everyone else walked in that day and saw business as usual. Jesus walked in and saw an abomination so extreme He displayed true righteous anger.

Remember, there was only one Temple. It was a special place where Jews came to pray and celebrate special sacred observances. Jesus had been circumcised at the Temple. He had His Bar Mitzvah at the Temple. The Temple meant a lot to the Jews and even more to Jesus for many reason. So, what made Him so angry?

People traveled from other regions to come to the Temple. Many of them only had foreign currency with them.  However, the Temple leaders required the Temple tax be paid in Hebrew currency. People had to exchange their foreign money for Hebrew.

Stop and consider it for a moment: The courtyard of the Temple looked like the swap meet! Animals everywhere, people conducting business, moneychangers gouging people. How would you feel if you went to church and there were vendors set up in the Narthex selling their merchandise? Well, Jesus felt the same way! Even though everyone else at the Temple that day thought things were normal.

Only Jesus thought things were wrong. Didn’t matter what everyone else thought. Jesus needed to take a stand and show how wrong all this was. Standing up for what He thought was right cost Jesus His life. When the Temple leaders saw what Jesus did that day, they began plotting to have Jesus put to death. Jesus knew standing up for what was right would cost Him, cost Him big  and He still did it.

This story gives your family the opportunity to discuss doing the right thing. Bullying is a serious problem in our nation today. Not just among kids but also among adults. There are many reasons for this problem but one of the reasons is people are unwilling to speak up. Bullying is wrong, whether in school, playing field, work place, home or anywhere else. We can’t let it become the norm because people refuse to say anything to stop it.

This doesn’t mean you or a family member should step in to stop it. Don’t want anyone getting hurt. Talk to your kids about what to do when they witness bullying. Role play if necessary. Discuss what they should do should they be bullied.

Help your family recognize Man Bites Dog situations and discuss ways to handle them. Let’s never let wrong behavior become the norm.

Discussion Questions

1. Share the story of Jesus and the Temple. Ask your kids what THEY think the story is about.

2. Talk about the Temple leaders and the way they treated Jesus and the people.

3. Talk about bullying. Let your kids talk. Listen to what they are saying. Draw them out.

4. Share stories from your life that involve bullying.

5. This is not a one and done topic. You need to address this topic again and again.

6. If a child seem reluctant to talk, get them alone in a relaxed and safe place to talk. It may take trying a few times but if you let them know they are safe and you are all working together, they should eventually open up.

Lenten Devotion Day 34

Hosanna

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

The Old Testament told people the Messiah would ride into town on the back of a small donkey. When Jesus did this, when Jesus appeared to fulfill the prophecy, the people were very excited. They waved palm branches, laid the palm fronds on the street in front of Jesus and cheered. They were so happy the Messiah had finally come to save them!

These are the same people that called for Jesus to be crucified less than a week later. How did these same people go from happy joy-filled people to an angry vengeful mob in such a short period of time?

There are too many different reasons to list here but one of the main reasons has to do with perception. People had be waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years. They expected Him to be a leader and warrior, like David. They thought the Messiah would save them from their enemies and protect their land. When Jesus talked about the Kingdom, they thought He meant Israel and Judea. Then some things happened between Sunday and Friday that caused the people to think they had made a mistake. NOT that they were mistaken in the way they visualized the Messiah but mistaken in thinking Jesus was the one!

Have you ever thought God should live up to certain expectations you have? Thought that Jesus should save you from a situation in a manner chosen by YOU? SIGH!  God had a plan when it came to Jesus. God had a plan for His people. Jesus knew what He meant when He spoke about the Kingdom. He planned to fight to save His Father’s people but not in an earthly way. This was (and still is) a spiritual battle. Jesus is fighting to protect us from enemies that lead us to do the wrong thing, even if it is simply eating food that’s bad for us or not doing homework.

Just because we make a mistake thinking Jesus should be handling the situation differently than He chooses is no reason to get mad at Him. He knows what’s best. In the same way parents work to make the right decisions for their children, that doesn’t mean these decisions will always be the most popular ones.

Be patient with God. He really does know what He is doing. He really is working to do what is best for you. He really does love you. Just like you love your kids!

Discussion Questions

1. Have you ever gotten angry with God because He didn’t do what you wanted?

2. How do you handle situations like that?

3. Have your kids ever gotten angry with you over a decision you made?

4. How do you handle that situation?

5. How can you help your kids understand you are working to do what’s best for them?

6. How can you help yourself understand that god is doing what is best for you?

Lenten Devotion Day 33

I Am a Rock!

Simon Calls Jesus the Messiah

Ask your kids about the last time the teacher called on them and they didn’t know the answer. Ask your kids about a time they thought they knew the answer but were too afraid to raise their hands because they might look stupid or someone might make fun of them. We all know the feeling whether it’s kids at school or adults at work. We’ve all hesitated to answer for fear of looking foolish or feeling stupid.

One evening, Jesus was talking to the disciples when He asked them who the people say He is. They gave various answers based on the comments they‘ve heard from others. Then Jesus asked a very scary question, “Who do YOU say I am?” WOW! I always picture all the disciples staring at the ground, sky, anywhere but at Jesus, terrified He might call on them. Except Simon.

Poor old Simon who tended to say the wrong thing all the time. Simon who never seemed to understand the lessons Jesus taught the group. Simon, who didn’t know enough to keep quiet. Simon, who spoke right up, blurting out, “The Messiah!”

Can’t you just see the other disciples standing there, rolling their eyes and waiting for Jesus to tell Simon what a foolish answer that was? Surprise, surprise! Simon got it right! And for his bold answer, Jesus rewarded Simon, changing his name to Peter, telling Peter he was the rock upon which Jesus’ church would be built. Saying that Peter would hold the keys to Heaven. I’m sure this concerned the disciples! Would any of them trust Simon with the keys to their house, let alone the keys to heaven? Yet, in his childlike way, Peter spoke up and gave the right answer.

We shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when we think we have something productive, something positive to say. We shouldn’t make fun of others when they speak up and give the wrong or, what we consider to be, a silly answer or comment. Even if Simon had been wrong, his comment might have opened a discussion that led to the disciples determining just who Jesus was and is.

Ideas, even crazy ones, have led to some of the greatest advances in our country. The light bulb. The desktop computer. Fed-ex. All these seemed like crazy ideas at the time. Consider the telephone. Who was Bell going to call? What was the point? People must have thought he was crazy! Everyone that came up with a great invention seemed crazy when they thought of it. Lucky for us, they pushed on, ignoring what other people thought. Just like Simon!

Discussion Questions

1. Have you ever stopped yourself from saying something because you thought others might make fun of you or think it was stupid?

2. Have you ever tossed out a great idea because it seemed silly at the time?

3. How can you stop yourself from doing this?

4. What causes you to hold back?

5. How can you encourage your kids to share ideas, answers, even if they might seem silly at the time?

6. How do you strength yourself for the next time?

Lenten Devotion Day 32

Me Worry?

Jesus Says Not to Worry

Boy, do I get tired of people telling me not to worry! Don’t you? I know I should just let things go, turn them over to Jesus but it just gets hard to do sometimes. We all worry. We worry about big things. We worry about little things. We worry during the day. We worry at night, letting our worries keep us awake into the early morning hours. Sometimes, worry wakes us up in the middle of the night as if it just couldn’t stand letting us rest peacefully.

The worst thing about worry is the fact it doesn’t help any! In fact, it just makes things worse. Try coming up with a solution to a problem, even a simple problem, when your mind, your heart, your spirit is filled with worry. Ain’t going to happen! Worry fills every fiber of our being and stops any solutions or help in their tracks. Worry causes us to freeze just like when we played freeze tag as a kid.

Worry also prevents us from getting anything else done. Worry throws us into such a tizzy that we completely forget about everything else. Or, even worse, we keep on with other responsibilities but we are only able to give them a bit of our attention. How well do you think that works? Worry makes us testy, edgy, short tempered. We ignore those around us. Snap at people who only have our greater good in mind. Lose our temper at those who love us the most.

WOW! Worry really stinks! How can we possibly be kind to anyone when we worry all the time? Of course, when you think about it, worry is part of the human condition. Worry is caused in part by us not having a close relationship with Jesus. Adam and Eve didn’t worry. God took care of everything for them. Then, they went and blew it! After that, nothing but worries.

Jesus told us not to worry. He pointed out the way our Father takes care of little birds, providing them food and a place to sleep. Jesus reminded us that we are just as important, no, even MORE important to His Father than the birds. If the Father does so much for birds, why would He do any less for us?

Worry may be part of the human condition but so is prayer. Next time worry tries to take over your life, just remember: Jesus is ready and waiting to take that burden from you!  Let Him!

Discussion Questions

1. What worries do you have right now?

2. How do you handle your worries?

3. How do your worries affect your family?

4. How do your children handle their worries?

5. What can all of you do to reduce your worries?

6. How can you strengthen your prayer life?

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