Over the years I have made a distinction between a devotion and a Bible study, using length of time as my reference. They both may utilize a story, and will always have at least one bible verse, but for me time is the distiction. A devotion lasts not more than 15-20 minutes, while a Bible study lasts 30-45 minutes.
I used devotions every Sunday morning with my students. Much of our 45 minutes together was in fellowship and catching up after a week of separation.
The devotions generally had one point with me telling a story and discussion questions interspersed with a bible verse referenced. We closed our devotion time with prayer including any prayer requests.
(The devotions posted here may be utilized by students (Middle/High school), on their own, their youth leaders, or they work well as a Family bible study)
How parents and students can utilize the bible studies, devotions and children’s messages on this website at home
We are going through some difficult times in our country. Churches, ministers, and staff are all striving to make available worship and bible study to you in your homes through live-stream, recording, and DVDs.
Let me begin with a few suggestions: First, take time each day to pray with your family, that includes before meals and throughout the day.
Second: Be structured with your time each day. Don’t watch television (especially the news) all day, or play on the internet. Parents need to come up with ways to keep the family occupied as a family.
Third: Set-up a time of day for your family to sit down together to discuss news and current events. Next, do something fun! Pull out some board-games and play together.
Fourth: Set-up a time of day to have a home bible study. There are plenty of online bible studies; many churches are making them available online.
On my web pages, there are devotions & bible studies parents can lead them, or; students can simply read them.
There are also children’s messages parents can read or work through with their children. Some of the information, such as handouts to the children, are more for church use. So occasionaly, I am will add craft ideas that your children can do after the message to reinforce it. (I will be adding a new children’s message, every 4-6 days)
Finally, I am available if you need some help or ideas on how to engage your children and youth. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blessings to each one of you today and in the days ahead. Please stay safe and remember, “God is with you always.” Joe G
Student & Family Devotions
“God Comes First”
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
I want what I want when I want it!
You probably have heard that saying in one form or another at some time.
In this fast-paced, ever-changing, instant gratification world we live in, we have the tendency to get our priorities mixed-up, don’t we?
Things in our world are disposable, so we always want a new one of something or other. The latest I phone just came out, I want one, Let’s go to Disney today, and skip church. I’d rather go to the beach then have dinner with the family. I really like the new Mustangs lets buy a new one this weekend, ours is three years old already.
I and me. I want what I want. Yep! Our priorities can be very self-centered and selfish.
In Philippians 2:3, the Apostle Paul tells us to make others a priority over our own wants and needs.
Here’s my priority list that I may have shared with you before. I shared this list with my students many times over the years:
1. God comes first (This is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior). God, our creator, Jesus, our Savior, should always be our number one priority.
2. Family comes second
3. Work comes third
4. Friends come fourth
Everything else comes after those four
Truthfully, my friends, it’s a list I have long struggled with, and need to come back to and get back in the proper order often.
Yet, it works.
(By the way, this list is not original. I first heard this list discussed on an audiotape 😊, by former CEO of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca.)
God first, yes! Prayer time, devotion time, conversation time, oh yeah, and that first check you write each week to the church before the bills get paid. (You’ll be amazed to see what happens if you do this consistently.)
Family second, of course, especially your spouse and kids. Their needs, and yes wants, need to come before your own.
Work third? This is where it gets sticky. How many of you make, have made, or often designate work first in your lives? Yes, we all need to make a living. But work before God and family is not what God had in mind at all.
Church workers don’t get priority, one confused with priority number three. Number one is about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Number three is about your duties at and for the church.
Friends fourth. Ok, sometimes we’ll bump them up to one of the top three spots. None of us are perfect. Just work on it.
When we follow these priorities, we are serving God and our families as our main priorities, and we are listening to God’s calling of serving Him and others. Yes, serving God, Yes, serving our family, but also serving the world and community through contact with people in our work realm and within our circle of friends.
So, what about serving others outside of these four areas. Yes! We are always asked by God to minister to others as His Son Jesus did us and the entire world.
Don’t let your unselfish priorities of God, family, work, and friends get confused with outreach to the world. That is our calling in one form or another laid before us by God.
I want what God wants when He wants it!
Dear Lord: Help us to keep our priorities straight. We need and want to always make you number one in our lives. You are our creator, and You sent your son as our Savior. Help us to never forget that in everything we say, do, and think.
Student & Family Bible Studies
What’s here for you and your students?
During the last eight years of my ministry (before I retired), all of my Bible studies were in a PowerPoint format. As the Bible studies grew and changed, they became a weekly worship experience for my students.
A bible study generally lasts 30 – 45 minutes. During my regularly scheduled youth nights, which were on Sunday evenings from 5-8 p.m. Each week, we would begin with 15- 30 minutes of fellowship, games, etc. The students would then come together for a bible study which I called Red Letter Worship (Check out chapter 3 of my book, Adventures in Youth Ministry for more about Red Letter Worship, “Teaching them to Worship.”).
These bible studies were very interactive, with bible verses read aloud, music videos, discussion, a communal prayer time, a benediction, (Holy Communion was included every six weeks). I am including many of the prayers, benedictions, and calls to worship in these Bible studies.
“Getting your hand caught in the cookie jar.”
(The Woman caught in adultery)
John 7:53 – 8:11
(Open your Bible study time with a call to worship)
Before you or your group reads the Bible verses, take time to ponder the times in your life, you’ve been caught with your’ hands in the cookie jar.”
What did you get caught doing? Were you cheating on a test? Perhaps you lied to a friend or family member, and they found out you were lying. (Or maybe you were a kid and literally got caught with your hands in the cookie jar!) Take a few minutes to think about the times you’ve been caught doing something you shouldn’t have been doing or shouldn’t have done. What were the consequences of your actions?
(As an individual, this is a time of reflection. As a group, have each group member share at least one experience (or they can pass), that isn’t too embarrassing.)
(Read the Bible passage aloud)
“They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning, he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this Woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the Woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Let’s start off with a question.
Why do you think the “teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery,” to Jesus?
(They were trying to set a trap for him. The Pharisees and teachers even adjusted Moses’ words. The law says that both the man and woman must die, and death by stoning is only mentioned in the case of a virgin engaged to be married.)
(Read the two bible passages below)
(Deuteronomy 22:13-24; Leviticus 20:10)
Laws Concerning Sexual Immorality
13 “If any man takes a wife and goes into her and then hates her 14and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15then the father of the young Woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16And the father of the young Woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet, this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, 19and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young Woman because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young Woman, 21then they shall bring out the young Woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So, you shall purge the evil from your midst.
22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the Woman, and the Woman. So, you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young Woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So, you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
From our reading of the Deuteronomy and Leviticus passages, we can see that the teachers and Pharisees were clearly lying.
So, Jesus was “supposedly” in a bind. If He said, “Let the woman go,” Jesus was violating Mosaic (The Laws of Moses) law. And, If Jesus said go ahead and stone her, He was saying it was okay to break Roman law, which clearly stated that capital punishment was reserved for Romans to execute only
So, what does Jesus do? Does He choose one of those two options I just mentioned? What was the next thing He did?
Jesus stooped down and started writing in the dirt! Not that it matters, considering the circumstances, but here’s a 2000-year-old question to think about.
What do you think Jesus was writing in the dirt?
We may never know. Some theologians believe that the answer to the question lies in the book of Jeremiah 17:13.
13 O Lord, the hope of Israel,
all who forsake you shall be put to shame;
those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,
for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.
(“I would like to offer that this passage seems to indicate that Jesus first wrote their names in the dust and perhaps then wrote a sin that they had committed next to their name. Busted by Jesus, they walked away in shame and frustration. You see, being Yahweh, He knew what was in their hearts.” Dr. David Kyle Foster, “What did Jesus write on the ground?”)
I imagine in today’s world, there would be a lot of stoning going on if we held firmly to Mosaic Law. What do you think?
So, Jesus keeps on writing while He’s being questioned, when suddenly, He stands up and says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Think about that statement for a moment. What did Jesus accomplish by making the above statement?
Jesus turned the tables on those who were accusing the Woman. “Mosaic Law called for the witnesses to throw the first stones in carrying out the death penalty (Deuteronomy 17:7).
So, Jesus answered in part, “If she is guilty and deserving death, get ready to do your job.” But Jesus added a twist that thought. In this way, He was addressing the hateful hypocrisy of the Pharisee’s. Do your job if you are without sin.” (People’s Bible Commentary, John; Gary P. Baumler.)
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Can you think of another time Jesus said something like this?
Let’s look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, specifically Matthew 7:3,
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?“
Re-read both passages. What is Jesus saying?
We’re all sinners, we all screw up, even the Pharisee’s. (Well, not Jesus 😊)
And now, one by one, the Pharisees left.
Why do you think the older ones went first?
Because they were older, and perhaps a little wiser, they understood the point Jesus was making before the younger ones did.
Now we return to the Woman, who got caught with “her hand in the cookie jar.”
Jesus looks up, and all the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are gone. The only ones remaining are Jesus and the Woman.
Jesus looked at the Woman and asked her where her accusers were, and if there was anyone left to condemn her.
What does Jesus do next?
He forgives her.
Jesus tells the Woman, that if she has no accusers or anyone condemning her, then He’s not going to either. (Remember Jesus wasn’t even a witness to the ‘crime.’)
Finally, Jesus tells the woman to go and leave her life of sin.
Jesus doesn’t put her on a guilt trip, nor does He acquit her of wrongdoing, as if to say she didn’t do anything wrong. What Jesus does is to forgive the Woman, and then challenges her to repent. “go, and from now on sin no more.”
It’s a lesson for all of us to learn, male and female alike. We all get caught, “with our hands in the cookie jar.” We all sin, we all make mistakes.
When we do, we should turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. That’s the simple part. The hard part is to learn from our mistakes and sin no more. We’re not perfect, we will continue to make mistakes and sin. Still, each time we ask for forgiveness, our goal should be to do better when faced with similar circumstances. We should think of our prior sin and do our best not to repeat it.
(Close your Bible study time with a prayer and this interactive blessing using hand motions)