This week we are looking at some of the ways we can grow in our friendship with God; Things like praying, reading the Bible, learning to recognise God’s voice and being baptised. Don’t forget grace though - there is nothing you can do that makes God love you more than He does already. He’s already your biggest fan!
Matthew 6:9-15 tells us this;
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Prayer. Talking to God is one of our greatest privileges as Christians. Did you know God loves to hear your voice? He loves it when you tell Him about what you are thinking and feeling. He loves it when you ask for His help. But sometimes knowing how to pray can be hard. Even Jesus’ closest friends needed help with praying. Today’s bible reading is how Jesus taught His followers to pray.
Firstly, talk to God as your Father. He is a good dad who loves you and wants to take care of you. He is not the same as a human dad – He is in heaven. Heaven is perfect – there is nothing bad there.
When we talk to God we must show Him respect. Hallowed is an old-fashioned word meaning honoured or revered.
We talked about God’s kingdom in week one – praying for God’s kingdom is to pray for the things, people, places, situations in our life to be under God’s rule and reign. He is the King of the world! God also knows what is best for us so asking for His will, His best plan for our lives, is always smart. We can’t see what tomorrow holds or next week or next year, but God can and He knows exactly what we need.
This text uses the word debts to describe our mistakes, bad choices or sin. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we are perfect but we can bring our mistakes back to God and ask for Him to forgive us. He always has more grace for us. Sometimes we might need God’s help to forgive other people when they hurt or disappoint us. Because Jesus has taken our punishment we can be free to forgive others too.
We need Jesus to help us to make good choices. Temptation is when we have an opportunity to sin but we can ask God to make us strong, to help us to choose to do what is right and not give in.
Why don’t you try to use this prayer to help you talk to God today? You don’t need to repeat it like a parrot but think about what each line means and maybe put it in your own words.
2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”
Do you have a favourite book? There are a lot of great books in the world – amazing heroic adventures, hilarious comic tales, non-fiction books crammed with facts…. but the Bible is like no other book on the planet. It isn’t a made-up story or even a how-to handbook, it is God’s Word. This verse tells us that the Bible (scripture) is breathed out by God. Although it has all sorts of different authors (doctors and kings and fishermen etc) they were all inspired, or breathed on by God when they wrote. The words of this book will literally change your life! They teach us about God and show us what right and wrong look like. They shape us to look more like Jesus.
What have you learnt so far from reading your Bible?
Hebrews 4:12-16 tells us this; “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
God’s word, the Bible, is very special. Today’s text talks about it being “alive”. It is able to speak, not just about things that happened a long time ago, but it can help us with what we are dealing with today. It can show us how to live God’s way, give us wisdom when we are lost and even show us the motives of our hearts. God sees everything we do – even the things we do in secret. God’s word brings our secrets into His light. Living God’s way can be hard sometimes but the great thing about Jesus is that He understands because He became a human just like you. There is nothing you can go through that He hasn’t seen. Now when we struggle, or when we realise our hearts are polluted by sin, we can turn to Him for help. He won’t be cross and tell us off – He wants to help us and love us. Mercy means forgiveness or compassion instead of punishment. Grace means we get God’s love and favour even though we don’t deserve it.
Are there any areas in your life that you need to bring to Jesus? Why don’t you tell Him now about it and ask Him to give you His mercy and grace?
Philippians 4:4-7 says this; “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Knowing Jesus is all about swaps, isn’t it? We swap our guilt and shame for His forgiveness and grace. We swap our selfishness for His kingdom. We swap our death for His life. This verse has another great swap for us – we get to swap our worry for His peace! Life is always giving us opportunities to be anxious but God wants us to live lives free from fear. How do we do that? We pray. When we are worried we can take our worries and give them to Jesus and ask Him for His peace to be like a guard protecting our feelings and thoughts. The Bible tells us that God cares for us and that He wants us to throw our burdens, worries, problems onto Him.
Is there anything you are worried about today? Why don’t you tell God about it and ask for His help and peace? And say thank you for all the amazing swaps He has given you.
I love John 10:27-29. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
Baaaaa! The Bible uses this picture several times – God as The Shepherd and us as the sheep. I don’t think it is saying we are smelly and stupid. Jesus used this picture because the people He was talking to would have seen shepherds looking after sheep every day. They would have understood that the sheep needed the shepherd to take care of them, to protect them from dangerous wild animals, to make sure they got plenty of green grass to eat and water to drink. The shepherd would care for the sheep when they were sick or injured and look for them when they were lost. He would lead them on safe paths and stop them from accidentally running off a cliff. The relationship between the sheep and the shepherd was special. The sheep would recognise the shepherd’s voice. They would only follow their shepherd – they would not go off with a stranger because they didn’t know His voice. God wants us to trust Him like that. He wants us to know what He sounds like and follow His voice. He will not let anyone take you away from Him – indeed He promises to give us eternal life – this means that even when our bodies die our true self, our spirit, will live forever with Jesus. Do you know what God sounds like? We can listen to Him through His word, the Bible, and by His Holy Spirit.
Take a few moments to ask Him to speak to you. What did He say?
In John 14:12-14 Jesus says this; “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
We have already talked about Jesus doing miracles everywhere He went - the blind had their eyes opened, the deaf got their hearing back, the disabled got up and walked, even the dead came back to life when Jesus was there. But did you know that bringing God’s Kingdom on earth was not just something Jesus did – it is something He says we can see happen too? This verse says that when we pray in Jesus name that God loves to say yes to us! Have you ever seen a miracle? All over the world God is still healing the sick and doing impossible things when Christians pray.
What miracle would you like to ask Jesus for?
In Matthew 3:5-6 “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan.”
Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
And Acts 22:16 says “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
These three verses talk about baptism. Baptism is the English version of the Greek word Baptizo and it means to immerse, submerge or overwhelm something. An old Greek poet called Nicander used the same word to describe pickles soaking in vinegar. There are two types of Baptism talked about in the Bible (neither of them pickle related) – Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which we will talk about more next week, and baptism in water. In the Bible we see new Christians, and indeed Jesus himself, being dunked under the water, often in a river. Why did they do this? Why does the bible say we should do this? Well Baptism is a bit like a drama acting out what has happened to us on the inside when we say yes to following Jesus. Not only does it symbolise us being washed clean from all our sin (Acts 22:16) but it also is us identifying with Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we go under the water it’s showing that we have died to our old life, and when we are brought back up out of the water it shows that we are raised up to a new life with Jesus – one that will last forever. Baptism is an important first step on our Christian journey once we have believed in Jesus. It shows our family, friends and church what Jesus has done in our lives. We are choosing to obey Him and join with Him in His death and resurrection. Nowadays we don’t usually do that in a river but in a special tank a bit like non-bubbly jacuzzi.
If you have more questions about baptism (or anything we have talked about so far) it would be good to talk to a youth leader or church Elder about it. If you can’t do that right now then how about writing them down so you don’t forget.