Sin

How God Speaks

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Have you ever been on the receiving end of a surprise party? You didn’t realize it (or maybe you did!), but you were being set up – in a good way – through regular, day to day motions. Sometimes God’s voice speaks in generalities, but He often tailors it to your mind, using the dynamics of your life to get the point across.

1. Read

Acts 10:9-13 [NASB]  Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance…13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!”

Peter’s appetite at the 6th hour (noon) wasn’t a supernatural occurrence. It was lunchtime – he was hungry! God used a regular function of Peter’s life to communicate a vital message that would shape the future of the global church.

  • Has God ever used mundane, everyday things in your life to speak to you? What were they?
  • What kinds of dynamics in your life might be there – at least, in part – to get you to a place where God’s voice makes a powerful impression on you?

2. Challenge

Acts 10:14-15 [NASB] But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”

God didn’t just use a vision of food to a hungry man; He knew Peter had a lifetime of keeping the law, and He used that history to drive home His message of including the Gentiles in His Kingdom.

  • Did God prevent Peter from eating unclean things so he would be able to respond this way in the future, or did God choose the illustration of unclean food because it fit well with Peter’s history? 
  • This message to Peter was a perfect intersection of his past and God’s truth. There was a lot of strategy involved. How does that change how you think about God’s voice speaking into your life?

3. Prayer Focus

Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your life this week, and then listen in a different way. Listen for His voice through the everyday activities and conversations of your life. He just might use your “normal” to show you something new!


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: Fire Factor”

1. Power Verse

Psalm 23:4 “I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

What’s Up: “Even In The Fire, I’m Not Alone!”

This week, we conclude our series called, “Spy Kids”.  In this series, we’ve been learning from the story of Daniel!

2. Discussion

Light a small candle; have a glass or jar to cover the candle with later.

  • What are some of the harmful that things fire can do?
  • What are some helpful things that fire can do?

Sometimes when bad things happen to people, they say they’re going through the fire. Although going through hard situations is usually painful, going through the experience successfully usually makes us better people. For example, if your best friend suddenly ignores you and says things behind your back, you might feel hurt and angry—you’re going through the fire. But as you work through the pain and learn to forgive, you’re growing and gaining valuable skills. It may not be pleasant, but there is a payoff.

3. Activity

  • Have you ever burned yourself with fire? What was it like?
  • Do you think Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were afraid to be thrown into the fire? Why or why not?

Tell your children that it’s normal to be afraid when we face tough situations. No one wants to go through the fire. Then place a glass over the candle and watch the flame burn out. Remind your children that God is always in control of the fire.

4. Pray

Pray that God will help you be strong when you face hard situations. Thank Him for always being in control.

Hearing From God

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“Hearing God’s voice” is a mysterious concept for most people. We all want to receive His direction and wisdom, but some of us don’t know how. Truth is, God is speaking, and it just might be your lifestyle that’s making it hard to listen. The good news is, you can change that! Read on…

1. Read

Revelation 3:20 [NLT] 

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

God’s speaking – not just to “the church,” but to you personally! What He wants is a close, ongoing relationship with you, where you communicate back and forth. If you’re not hearing Him, the breakdown is on your end of the line.

  • What are some ways God uses to speak to people? How does He most often speak to you?
  • What kinds of things do you think God wants to communicate to you? 

2. Challenge

Mark 1:35 [NIV] “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

If anyone had ears attuned to the Holy Spirit’s voice, it was Jesus. And yet, He regularly got away from the noise and busyness of life so He could pray effectively. If you want to hear God’s voice, slow down! Get quiet, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to hear.

  • Life is full of tasks, worries and inputs competing for your time and attention. Which are the loudest in your life?
  • Be painfully honest – how often do you block out time to slow down, get quiet and listen to God? 
  • If you increased that by, say, 20%, how do you think your ability to hear Him would change?

3. Prayer Focus

Do prayer time differently today. Block out a period of time. Don’t talk. Don’t multi-task. Don’t check your watch every 60 seconds. Slow down. Be quiet. Just listen. (Seriously! Don’t talk!)


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: Don’t Get Burned By Peer Pressure”

1. Power Verse

Romans 12:2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world…”

What’s Up: “I Won’t Bow To Peer Pressure!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Spy Kids”. In this series,we’re learning from the story of Daniel!

2. Discussion

For this devotion, you will need some toothpicks, a small cup of peanut butter, and a small ball of Playdoh or clay.

  • What did you learn about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego this week (Daniel 3)?
  • Why did the king get mad at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
  • Why wouldn’t they obey his order?
  • Did they know God would deliver them from the fire if they were thrown in?
  • By starting small and building good spiritual habits now, you’ll have the strength you need to face any problems that may come your way.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were experiencing peer pressure. There will always be people who will pressure or push you to do wrong things. Even though it might be hard to resist the pressure, God is always there to help us.

3. Activity

Place a few toothpicks deep in the peanut butter, and ask your children to gently push the toothpicks. Then place a few more toothpicks deep in the Playdoh or clay, and ask your children to gently push on those toothpicks. Ask them which is harder to push over. Then explain that as our relationship with God grows more solid, the harder it is for people to push us to do the wrong thing. When people see we aren’t going to bow to peer pressure, they’ll want to know what’s different about us, which gives us a great chance to tell them about Jesus.

4. Pray

Ask God to deepen your relationship with Him. Pray He will give you the strength to stand up under any peer pressure you’re experiencing.

Jonah: “Enemy”

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It’s always refreshing to see the “bad guys” in life get what they deserve, but in the economy of God’s grace, your enemy isn’t who you think it is.

1. Read

Jonah 3:10-4:3 [NLT] “When God saw what (the people of Nineveh) had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. …Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if whatI predicted will not happen.”

In Jonah’s day, the Assyrians of Nineveh were the “bad guys,” and Jonah was really hoping they’d get the Sodom and Gomorrah treatment.

  • Think of a few people, groups or organizations that feel like enemies of the church, or of you as a Christian. Based on their actions, what kind of judgment (in this life and the next) do they deserve? 
  • How would that make the human side of you feel?
  • Is that God’s preferred outcome for their lives?

2. Challenge

Jonah 4:11 [NLT] “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals,” (God replied). “Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Luke 6:35-36 [NLT] “…(God) is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

Through the lens of God’s grace, no human is the enemy. Hell is. God’s greatest desire for the antagonists in your life is not to nuke them, but to guide them back to repentance (genuine life change) by showing kindness and compassion.

  • For those people / groups you listed, what are some ways you or the church as a whole could show them unexpected kindness and compassion?
  • Coupled with an unwavering standard of God’s truth, how do you think these acts of compassion would be received, vs a picket line or boycott?
  • Which approach better fits God’s long-term goal for those people?

3. Prayer Focus

Spend time praying for your “enemies.” Ask God to bless them, even though they don’t deserve it. Ask the Holy Spirit to put love in your heart for them, and to use you to extend His kindness – and truth – to them.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: How To Survive A Night With The Lions”

1. Power Verse

Psalm 55:16 “But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me.”

What’s Up: “Building Good Character Makes Me Strong!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Spy Kids”. In this series, we’re learning from the story of Daniel!

2. Discussion

Before you start, double some grocery bags and fill them with enough books or canned goods so your children can’t lift the bag easily. Then call your children in and ask them to pick up the bag. When they can’t, take one item out and ask them to lift it again. Continue doing this until the bag is easy for them to lift.

  • If you knew that sometime in the future your life would depend on you being able to pick up something this heavy, what would you do? (Some type of weight training where they would start with smaller weights and work up to heavier ones; having someone train them.)
  • You’re going to face many types of problems in life. Some will be easy to overcome, but others may not be. All of the problems will be easier to face if you prepare ahead of time by learning to rely on God.
  • If you never pray, read the Bible, or worship God, how easy do you think it would be to rely on Him when you have a problem?
  • Do you think you could pray or worship for an hour without stopping?
  • How do you learn to pray or worship for longer periods of time?

By starting small and building good spiritual habits now, you’ll have the strength you need to face any problems that may come your way.

3. Prayer Focus

Ask God to help you develop those spiritual habits so you can rely on Him when you face problems.

Jonah: Lost Cause

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Have you ever written someone off as a lost cause? Maybe you wrote yourself off! Let’s be honest – if you look from a human perspective, some people are so far from faith in God it would take a miracle to change them… and that’s exactly what God has in mind.

1. Read

Jonah 3:4-5 [NLT] “On the day Jonah entered the city (Nineveh), he shouted to the crowds: ‘Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!’ The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.”

If you asked an 8th century B.C. Jew who the most unlikely people on the planet were to receive God’s mercy, the Assyrians of Nineveh would’ve topped the list. They were right in the cross-hairs of God’s judgment – but they repented powerfully.

  • Name an individual who seems like a lost cause spiritually. Now, think of a few people groups who fit that description. Do you think God has given up on reaching them? Do you act like He has?

2. Challenge

Jonah 3:4-5 [NLT] “The people of Nineveh believed God’s message…”

Jonah didn’t have angelic vocal chords. It wasn’t his presentation that changed the hearts of a wicked city, it was God’s message. When we write people off as too far gone, we do it with our abilities and strategies in mind. When the Holy Spirit is involved, though, no one is beyond his reach, even the lost causes.

  • You can certainly tell people about God’s grace, but what are some other ways His message can be communicated through you?
  • God didn’t prophecy doom to dishearten the Ninevites; He did it to give them a chance to change (yes – even the worst of the worst!) How does God’s dealing with Nineveh affect the way you view His heart for the lost causes that you listed?

3. Prayer Focus

Talk to God and thank Him for coming to rescue you – even while you were a sinner. Ask Him to help you see those “lost causes” in your life the way He does – as people in need of His message and life-changing power. Then, ask Him to use your life to present that message.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: Where’s Daniel When You Need Him?”

1. Power Verse

Proverbs 12:26 “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

What’s Up: “I Will Choose To Have Godly Friends!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Spy Kids”. In this series, we’re learning from the story of Daniel!

2. Discussion

Explain to your children that their lives are like a NASCAR race. Ask them what the goal of a race car driver is. Then explain to them that winning the race of life means living eternally with God. However, in order to win the race, we all need some help.

Every race car driver has a pit crew that keeps his or her car in the best shape possible during the race.

  • What are some of the responsibilities of the pit crew?
  • Would the driver win the race if she had to take care of all those responsibilities by herself? Why not?
  • Can we win the race if we don’t have anyone helping us?

The crew chief is in charge of the entire crew and remains in constant contact with the driver by using microphones and headphones.

  • What kind of person should be the crew chief in our life?
  • Ask your children who owns the car the driver is racing. (Some children may think the driver owns the car, but actually a company owns it.)
  • Who owns our lives?
  • Could we win the race if we didn’t have an owner?
  • Who ultimately should get the credit when we win the race?

Talk about how important it is for us to have people in our lives (“Daniels,” as we learned this week) who will help us win our race.

3. Prayer Focus

Ask God to help you have a good pit crew in your life. Thank Him for owning your life and giving you everything you need to win.

Jonah: Failing God

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Have you ever blown it big time? Ever felt like you were a total failure to God and to yourself? No matter how badly you messed up, Jonah probably has you beaten in the “failed God” category. And yet, the moment he had a change of heart, God put him right back to work.

1. Read

Jonah 1:17 [NLT] “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah.”

Jonah didn’t want to obey God’s instruction to preach to Nineveh. He ran, trying to sail to the opposite end of the world. Instead, he found himself swallowed by a fish. Make no mistake – you can’t outrun God’s call on your life… or His discipline.

  • Have you ever felt God lead you to do something that intimidated you?
  • Ever promised to do something for Him, but then backed out when things got difficult? How did those situations turn out?
  • Have you ever felt like you were in spiritual “time-out” with God – like He was distant? 
  • Whose decisions put you there? What had to change in order for you to feel connected again?

 

2. Challenge

Jonah 1:17-2:1 [NLT]   “Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.”

It took Jonah 3 days, but he finally made the decision to change and submit to God’s plan. How did God respond? He gave him the exact same command and put him back to work.

  • Think of a pastor or church leader who’s had a moral failure. Did the talent and spiritual gifts God planted in that person change when they sinned? Did His mission for them change?
  • Is it God who has a hard time restoring people from sin, or is it people?
  • What are some things God has called you to do or be? Have you ever failed to live up to them?
  • Did God fire you, or does He want you to get back to work like Jonah?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes and talk to God (thankfully, not from inside a fish!) Thank Him for being patient with you when you’ve made sinful choices and fallen short of His plans for your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you put the past behind you and get back to work living for Him.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: What’s Your Name?”

1. Power Verse

Isaiah 62:2 “And the Lord will give you a new name.”

What’s Up: “God’s Gonna Give Me A Brand New Name!”

This week, we start a brand new series called, “Spy Kids”.  In this series, we’ll learn from the story of Daniel and his friends about remaining faithful to God no matter what!

2. Activity

Tell your children to imagine they’ve moved to Germany for the rest of their lives. Give each of them a German name such as Gerda, Franziska, Ingeborg, or Sigrid for girls or Gustav, Engelbert, Helmar, or Volkmar for boys. Call them by that name for the rest of the devotion. Then talk about the changes you’d have to make if you moved to Germany.

3. Read & Discuss

  • How hard do you think it would be to learn a new language?
  • Do you think you would like learning new customs?
  • Do you think you would miss your American name and the American way you do things?
  • Would you eventually forget what it was like to live in America?

Read: Daniel 1 

Daniel Is Trained in Babylon

It was the third year that Jehoiakim was king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. His armies surrounded the city and attacked it. The Lord handed Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, over to him. Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the objects from God’s temple. He carried them off to the temple of his god in Babylon. He put them among the treasures of his god.

The king gave Ashpenaz an order. Ashpenaz was the chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s court officials. The king told him to bring him some of the Israelites. The king wanted them to serve him in his court. He wanted nobles and men from the royal family. He was looking for young men who were healthy and handsome. They had to be able to learn anything. They had to be well educated. They had to have the ability to understand new things quickly and easily. The king wanted men who could serve in his palace. Ashpenaz was supposed to teach them the Babylonian language and writings. The king had his servants give them food and wine from his own table. They received a certain amount every day. The young men had to be trained for three years. After that, they could begin to serve the king.

Some of the men chosen were from Judah. Their names were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names. He gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar. He gave Hananiah the name Shadrach. He gave Mishael the name Meshach. And he gave Azariah the name Abednego.

Daniel decided not to make himself “unclean” by eating the king’s food and drinking his wine. So he asked the chief official for a favor. He wanted permission not to make himself “unclean” with the king’s food and wine. God had caused the official to be kind and friendly to Daniel. 10 But the official refused to do what Daniel asked for. He said, “I’m afraid of the king. He is my master. He has decided what you and your three friends must eat and drink. Other young men are the same age as you. Why should he see you looking worse than them? When he sees how you look, he might kill me.”

11 So Daniel spoke to one of the guards. The chief official had appointed him over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 12 Daniel said to him, “Please test us for ten days. Give us nothing but vegetables to eat. And give us only water to drink. 13 Then compare us with the young men who eat the king’s food. See how we look. After that, do what you want to.” 14 So the guard agreed. He tested them for ten days.

15 After the ten days Daniel and his friends looked healthy and well fed. In fact, they looked better than any of the young men who ate the king’s food. 16 So the guard didn’t require them to eat the king’s special food. He didn’t require them to drink the king’s wine either. He gave them vegetables instead.

17 God gave knowledge and understanding to these four young men. So they understood all kinds of writings and subjects. And Daniel could understand all kinds of visions and dreams.

18 The three years the king had set for their training ended. So the chief official brought them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them. He didn’t find anyone equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So they began to serve the king. 20 He asked them for advice in matters that required wisdom and understanding. The king always found their answers to be the best. Other men in his kingdom claimed to get knowledge by using magic. But the answers of Daniel and his friends were ten times better than theirs.

21 Daniel served in Babylon until the first year Cyrus ruled over the land of Babylon. Cyrus was king of Persia.

God has a plan for our lives, but Satan wants to destroy that plan. He does that by tempting us to sin and do things God doesn’t want us to do. Satan hopes that we’ll eventually forget what it’s like to follow God and instead learn to enjoy our sins. What he doesn’t tell us is that eventually we have to pay a huge price for those sins—our relationships with each other and ultimately our relationship with God will be destroyed.

4. Prayer Focus

Pray together, asking God to help you resist temptation so you can always be the person God created you to be.

Erasing Hell- Part 2

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Whether it’s the night before a test, the last 2 minutes of a game, or the startling realization that you hit snooze too many times, urgency produces results. In the same way, understanding there’s a very real hell and an immanent rapture should produce a healthy dose of urgency in our Christian lives.

1. Read

1 Thessalonians 5:2 [NASB95] “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”

Ever wonder why God’s timing is so secretive? Part of the reason He plays that close to the vest is that He wants us to keep ourselves ready for the rapture – close to Him and far from sin.

  • Jesus could come back for His church tomorrow. Is that more exciting or intimidating? What excites you? What intimidates you?
  • If you knew Jesus was returning 3 days from now, how would that affect your relationship with Him and your submission to Him in the various areas of your life?

2. Challenge

Mark 13:35-36 [NLT] “You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. ”

The primary work God needs us to do is to point the people around us to salvation – both by what we say, and how we live. Without our witness, many of those people will spend an eternity in hell. We can’t fall asleep on the job – He needs us working at it every day with a sense of urgency!

  • List a few people in your sphere of influence who are in danger of hell. What could you do this week to show them what a Christian life looks like? 
  • God has given us everything we need to point spiritually lost people toward Him. What are a few of those resources He’s provided? For each one you list, how could you better take advantage of it this week?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes to thank God for being patient enough to give people time to be saved. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in a sense of spiritual urgency to reach people around you with the good news.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

God’s Never Ending Love

1. Power Verse

John 9:4 (ESV) “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

What’s Up: “We must all work to share God’s love!”

2. Activity

Have your children draw a picture of a giant pile of their all time favorite candy.  Hide a piece of this candy somewhere in your house where they will never be able to find it.

Have them imagine if the candy pile they drew would never run out, but somehow it just kept growing and growing.

  • What would do with all of that candy if you really had it?  
  • Where would you try to store it?  Who are some people you might share it with?  
  • Would you be willing to share it with strangers, knowing that it will never run out?

Now tell them to try and find the hidden candy, give them five minutes to try and locate it. After the time is up, take them to the hidden candy and give it to them.

3. Discussion

God has given us a giant pile of His love.  It’s more than we could ever store up and use just for ourselves.  

  • What are some ways that we could share God’s love with others?  

  • Sometimes people don’t know where to find God’s love, but we know right where it is!

  • Think together about some people you know that might need help finding God’s love.  How can we work together to help them find it?

4. Prayer Focus

Spend time thanking God for his never ending love.  Then, start praying for the people who don’t know about God’s love.

Erasing Hell

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Hell is a real place. As Christians, we typically believe in a literal hell, but have the concept pushed so far into the corners of our awareness that it has little to no impact on our lives. If we want to do this God-life the right way, we need to live like there’s a hell to be avoided.

1. Read

Matthew 25:41 [NASB95] “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…”

Hell is a very real place, with very real regret and suffering. Any concept less than that will fall short as a motivation for us and for the people we love.

  • What was your concept of hell as a child? How was it talked about in your family, peers and church?
  • How is today’s cultural understanding of hell different from when you were growing up?
  • How is your personal understanding different? Are those changes positive or negative?

2. Challenge

Matthew 6:14-15 [NASB95] “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

It’s easy to say you’ve forgiven someone while still harboring anger and resentment in your heart. The kind of forgiveness God expects, though, is complete restoration of the relationship.

  • Think of a time when you forgave someone who wronged you – but you still didn’t like them. Maybe you even wished them ill. Now think of a time you’ve asked God for forgiveness. Imagine Him “forgiving” you, but still disliking you, and even looking for ways to pay you back for your wrongdoing. How “forgiven” would you feel?

  • God’s forgiveness is a model for what He expects of us. What offenses do you still carry hard feelings over? What could you do this week to move toward restoration, and forgive more like God does?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes to thank God for rescuing you from an eternal future in hell. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep the reality of hell in your mind as motivation to live right, forgive others, and share the good news of His offer of salvation.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

I Want it Now

1. Power Verse

Luke 12:15 “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

What’s Up: “I Won’t Be Greedy For More And More Stuff!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Living Large”. In this series, we are learning how to handle our money and possessions God’s way.

2. Activity

Place a plate of candy, cookies, or some other food your children really enjoy in front of them. Tell them they can have one piece right now, BUT if they’ll wait until you come back, they can have two. Then leave the room, telling them to stay there until you come back. Depending on the age of your children, you should stay away for 2-10 minutes. Come back and tell them if they didn’t eat the candy or cookie, they can have two now.

  • Did you eat the candy or cookie? Why or why not?

  • How did you feel while you were waiting for me to come back?

  • Was it hard or easy to resist the temptation to eat the candy or cookie?

  • If you ate the candy or cookie, how do you feel now?

  •  If you didn’t eat the candy or cookie, how do you feel now?

3. Discussion

This activity is kind of like saving money. Sometimes you see something you want to buy, but if you wait to buy it, you might either have more money or discover that you don’t want it after all.

  • Have you ever bought anything that you later regretted buying? What was it? 
  • Why did you regret buying it?
  • What are some ways you can prevent this from happening in the future?

God wants us to handle the money He gives us wisely, and buying things on an impulse isn’t a wise way to spend money.

4. Prayer Focus

Spend time thanking God for the money He’s given to you and your children and asking Him to help you give, save, and spend it wisely.