Obedience

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.

I’m All In!

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Have you ever been the recipient of unfair criticism? Ever been the one to give it? Not all criticism is constructive, and if we’re not careful, a critical spirit can make us miss out on a lot of good around us.

1. Read

2 Samuel 6:15-16 [NLT] “So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. But as the Ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she was filled with contempt for him.”

When you become a spectator, you’re a lot more prone to criticize those who serve God with gusto. David’s dancing probably would’ve looked a lot different if Michal had been in the crowd.

  • In church, who would you identify with more – the one doing or the one watching?
  • What are some expressions of worship that seem goofy or over-the-top to you? What motives do you think are behind those actions? 
  • What are some other possible motives for them?

2. Challenge

2 Samuel 6:23 [NLT] “So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.”

Michal witnessed a season of unparalleled blessing, as God’s presence came to her home town – yet, she missed out on it by standing back and criticizing. Don’t suffer the same fate! Get engaged, and give people the benefit of the doubt – there are a lot of great ways to express praise and thanks to God.

  • What’s your favorite way to express your heart to God? How might that look to someone who was completely unfamiliar with Christianity?
  • Sometimes people are in the wrong, and a challenge to change is just what they need. How is that different from Michal’s experience?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes to express your heart to God in whatever way comes to your mind. Go all in! He deserves it.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: Do The Right Thing!”

1. Power Verse

1 Peter 1:15 “…be holy in all you do.”

What’s Up: “Even If I’m All Alone In The Fight, I’m Gonna Choose To Do What’s Right!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Spy Kids”. In this series, we’re learning from the story of Daniel and his friends about remaining faithful to God no matter what!

2. Activity

Read the following scenarios and let your children answer the questions:

A kid in your class has somehow managed to get a copy of the answers to a major math test you’re having later in the week and will give a copy to anyone who wants one. Most of your friends took a copy, but you can’t decide whether to take one.

  • What are some short-term consequences of taking one? (You’ll pass the test, your friends will accept you, you won’t have to study.)
  • What are some possible long-termconsequences? (Your teacher may find outand fail you, you’ll feel guilty, you may not learn what you need to know for future tests.)

Your friends have started calling people names that you’re pretty sure your parents wouldn’t approve of.

  • What are short-term consequences if you start using the word, too?(You’ll feel like you’re part of the group, no one will tease you for not using the word, you’ll feel cool.)
  • What are some possible long-term consequences? (Your parents will find out and punish you, you’ll hurt someone’s feelings, you may start using other words you shouldn’t.)

3. Discuss

It’s normal to feel tempted to do what everyone else is doing even when you know it’s wrong. That’s why it’s important to think about the consequences of our actions before we do them.

4. Prayer Focus

Ask God to give your children strength to fight temptation and to help them see the consequences of their actions.

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.