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?

Lenten Devotion Day 31

What About Me?!

The Prodigal Son

Sibling rivalry is nothing new. The very first set of siblings, Cain and Abel had a problem with sibling rivalry. Well, at least one of them did. And the basis of their problem was jealousy. Kids tend to be competitive when it comes to getting the attention of their parents, whether its Heavenly or earthly.

With Cain and Abel, one brother thought God was showing favoritism to the other. The same is true in the story of the Prodigal Son. The father in the story of the prodigal son had 2 sons and a lot of property.

A few years earlier, the younger son decides he wants to set out on his own, to make his way in the world. He asks his father for his inheritance in advance and, once he receives it, sets out to make something of himself. Things don’t go well. When the young son sinks as low as he can, he finally decides to go home.

Back home, his father never lost hope. Every day, he watched down the road, praying for his younger son to return safely home. Then one day, his prayer was answered. The father was so grateful, he called his servants to prepare the fatted calf to celebrate his homecoming. Now, a parent can understand the excitement and happiness of the father. However, kids (and even adults) feel bad for the older son. He worked all those years as the good and faithful son and what does he get for it? Not the fatted calf! Hard to teach this to kids but let’s try.

First, the story was told by Jesus to tell all those who had wandered away from their Father that He is watching at the gate for them, hoping one day He sees his lost child coming down the road. And when He finally sees His lost child coming, oh the excitement! God the Father wants ALL His wandering children to come home to Him.

What about the good son, the child that is always with the Father? Rather than a big celebration, that child had all the memories with his father. All the time the good son spent with his father was something the prodigal could never, ever enjoy. The younger son missed so much all that time he was gone. While the father was excited his young son returned, he had a deep affection and respect for his older son.

Children have an opportunity to develop a deep, loving relationship with their Father no matter how young they might be. If older children, or even you, have wandered away from your Father, it’s never too late to go home. Even if you have been away from your Father for many years, He’s still standing at that gate, watching for you to come back to Him!

Discussion Questions

1. Are you the older child or the younger child in God’s life?

2. If you have strayed from God, are you only a little ways away or are you far, far away?

3. If you have strayed, whether a bit or a lot, what can you do to return home?

4. How can you help your children remain close to God?

5. How can you use this story to help your children in their lives?

Lenten Devotion Day 30

Creative Solutions

Paralytic Healed

I used to live about 5.5 blocks away from my church. I wanted a church that was very close to my house when I was seeking a new home for worship. The fact the church is a member of the denomination in which I grew up was an added bonus. I wanted a church that allowed me to walk a short distance when I wanted to take part in any events. I didn’t want distance or transportation to be an excuse for not taking part in church activities.

Meetings, Bible studies, classes, funerals, flowers and more, all I had to do was put on my shoes (and a few other clothing items) and walk or ride my bike straight down the street. Oh, yes, my church was not just 5.5 blocks away, it was 5.5 blocks straight down the street. Nice, huh?

Things aren’t always so easy for other people wanting to worship. In some countries, worshippers must come together in secret. In some places, they must travel for miles to worship. No matter the obstacle, people overcome whatever is necessary to gather with other Christians to do what many of us take for granted.

The men in today’s story did whatever they needed to do to get their friend, their paralyzed friend, to Jesus. They believed with all their hearts that Jesus could (and would) heal their friend if only they could find a way to get the friend into the building and into the presence of Jesus.

They tried all the conventional means of entry and found their way blocked. This didn’t stop them. They became creative. Climbing up on the roof and bringing their friend, on his bed, up with them, the men made a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down to Jesus.

Now, imagine for a moment you’re in this worship service, attending this event. Suddenly, a hole opens in the roof and a man on a bed is lowered down and placed in front of Jesus who is in the middle of speaking to the crowd. Better still, imagine something similar taking place during Sunday worship in your church. Right in the middle of the message, a group comes in, begging the pastor to pray for their sick friend.

I remember the time a woman in one of my Bible studies groused at me for commenting when a cell phone rang while I was speaking. I only made a quick joke to relieve the tension but this woman felt I was unprofessional in my conduct. Tell me, where does it say a pastor must be oblivious to life when it happens right in front of them while they are speaking?

How would your pastor handle a similar situation? Would they immediately begin praying for the sick friend, encouraging others to come forward to pray also? Or would they tell the group they needed to wait until AFTER the worship service? I know what we would like to BELIEVE they would do but be honest, what would they really do if their well-prepared message was interrupted in such an abrupt manner?

Jesus, well, He stop what He was saying, what He was doing and turned His attention to life! As He did many times during His ministry, He quickly pointed out that the faith of the men, including the paralyzed man, had healed him. Jesus forgave their sins and told the man to get up and walk. The man rose, picked up his bed and walked out.

Of course, the religious leaders were appalled. Who did Jesus think He was, forgiving sins? They had just witnessed a paralyzed man healed and all they can focus on are the words Jesus used to accomplish the task. WOW!

Sometimes we get so caught up in rules and the way things are supposed to be done that we lose sight of life taking place right in front of us. Are you missing opportunities to minister to others because you are concerned about rules, about the appropriate time, about what other people might think?

Perhaps it’s time to concern yourself more with what God thinks. You might be very surprised what you are able to accomplish!

Discussion Questions

1. When in the past have you hesitated to do the will of God because you were more concerned about what others would think?

2. Have you ever hesitated to do God’s will because you thought it wasn’t the right time or place?

3. Do you get caught up in rules and legalism?

4. What would you think if your Sunday service was interrupted like Jesus was interrupted?

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