SERVE 2017 "Wilderness Journals"

Week 13 - Thanksgiving
Printable Version

Considering the topics and the holiday on Thursday, I switched up the order this week.

Location – Embassy:
Scripture: Matthew 6:10, 28:19-20, 2 Corinthians 5:20 

Even when kingdoms occupy well-defined geographical borders, they exchange ambassadors and other diplomats. These officials cannot be prosecuted for crimes, and their families enjoy most of the same protections. Their property and diplomatic bags are exempt from searches by the host government.

In many ways, they are regarded as part of a different kingdom, so that they can represent their own country in a foreign one. And they know that their country will be viewed well or poorly based in part on how they conduct themselves.

We are here to represent God to the world.

Song: Shine by Newsboys

Guide – Thankful to Whom?:

On Monday we saw that we are to represent the Kingdom of God… so how can we represent God? Here’s one easy way to do that this week:

Scripture: Ephesians 5:20

The first thing this verse says is that we shouldn’t just be thankful on the fourth Thursday of November, but we should always give thanks.

But who do we give thanks to? Often, people seem to think that we have thanks, and we release it, and it vanishes into thin air. No, we should give thanks to God our Father.

And by directing our “thanks” appropriately – by directing our public thanks to God – we can guide people to God.

Song: Give Thanks by Don Moen

Water – Treasuring Him:

Song: Treasuring Him by John Piper

“How does Paul make Christ look great? …by experiencing Christ as such a treasure that everything else in his life is as nothing by comparison.”

“Money is given to you… Food is given to you… friends, family… computers, toys, houses, cars… are given to you so that you might use them in such a way that it will be plain to the world these are not your treasure; Christ is.”

Scripture: Matthew 6:24, Ephesians 1:18-21

Do you treasure Jesus more than these things? 
If so, what is one thing you can do to show the world that?
If not, pray that he would show you how much more valuable he is.

Food – Review (Bible Study Methods, Part 10):
Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34

Observation: What did you observe? Question words? Parallels? Comparison? Contrast? Metaphors? Cause & effect? What’s the context?

Interpretation: What does this mean? What might modern suburban analogs of these examples be?
Is there anything you still don’t understand? What resources might be helpful?

Application: What does this mean for you? How do you respond? Is there something you need to do? Are there implications for your group?

Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song: Sparrows by Jason Gray

Fire – Thanks for Fellowship:
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 1:2

Are there people in your community who you are glad to have in your life?

How will you let them know that you’re thanking God for them?

Song: Thank You by Jonathan Helser

(The hardest part of this week, if not this entire devotional series to date, was finding a song about this. I gave up. Instead, this is a song I like that fits in with this week’s thankfulness theme, and I’ll be letting the friend who shared it with me know that I’m grateful.)

Tent – Thanks for Protection:
Scripture: Psalm 91

How has God been your shelter?

Give him thanks for that.

Song: Strong Tower by Kutless

Week 12
Printable Version

Location – Kingdom:
Scripture: Matthew 6:10, Mark 1:15, Luke 17:21, John 18:36

We tend to think of a kingdom as a strictly geographical thing, a country with well-defined borders. But that’s not really what a kingdom is. A kingdom is wherever a king is obeyed. That’s why, when early Christians declared “Jesus is Lord,” Caesar considered it treason – they were giving someone else their highest allegiance, leaving Caesar’s kingdom.

We draw the borders to represent where kings are obeyed, if we can. Sometimes an area is contested between two (or more) countries, and maybe some of the people in that region obey one king and some obey another, or maybe they generally don’t obey either. They live in the same place, but have different kingdoms. (And the mapmakers typically draw a dotted line around the region.) Some might even obey one king, when they would actually prefer the other.

Want God’s kingdom to come? Then do his will here.

As much as you do God’s will, His Kingdom is at hand.

Song: Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective

Water – Sufficient:
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 6:9, John 14:8-11, Ephesians 1:3, Philippians 4:19, Colossians 2:10

Take a few minutes to think about how valuable God is.

Song: Christ is Enough by Hillsong
Your Great Name by Kari Job

Food – Resources (Bible Study Methods, Part 9):

In the ESV, the second half of Matthew 6:23 reads “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness?”

Um… what? Aren’t “light” and “darkness” opposites?

Sometimes you need to go looking for additional resources. One of those resources is another translation. You might have another version handy… perhaps the NIV - “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness?”

Well, that didn’t help. We’ve gone from “the darkness” to “that darkness.” If you don’t have another translation handy or want to see a lot of translations, you can look online - is a good resource to see how other translations render this verse… and they’re almost all equally incomprehensible. In fact, unless you look at the NLT (which is my second favorite translation, and great for reading, but I don’t recommend doing your bible studies from it because it’s already fairly heavily paraphrased) this probably didn’t help.

So what’s another resource? You could look in a commentary. I have an InterVarsity Press New Bible Commentary on my bookshelf, which tells me that the word “good” also means generous, contrasted with stinginess. That explains the context (this is in the middle of a passage about treasure), but doesn’t answer my question. If you lack a commentary, or your commentary doesn’t help… back to the internet! lets you search for various resources about a passage. Search for Matthew 6:23, and the first commentary is Barnes’ New Testament Notes. If you click that*, then next enough times, you will eventually arrive at which says that “the light that is in you” is referring to the soul as the light-source; if your soul is dark, that darkness is terrible!

Next time something just doesn’t make sense, you’ll have some places to look to try to figure it out.

*There’s no particular reason to try Barnes’ Notes instead of another commentary (or multiple), but it does have what I was looking for.

Scripture: Matthew 6:16-24

Observation: What did you observe? Question words? Parallels? Comparison? Contrast? Metaphors? Cause & effect?
Interpretation: What does this mean? 
Application: What does this passage mean for you? How do you respond? Is there something you need to do? Are there implications for your group?
Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song: Treasures in Heaven by Burlap To Cashmere

Fire – Us:
Scripture: Luke 11:2-4

Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to pray like this:
“Give me this day my daily bread, and forgive me my debts as I have forgiven my debtors, and lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil.”

The prayer he gave them is a bigger prayer than just “me”. It’s a prayer about our whole community of believers, and the entire church… and even about those who don’t know Jesus having their needs met and being led by God out of their temptations and sins to start doing His will.

Pray for us.

Song: Our Father by Hillsong Worship

Guide – All the Days:
Scripture: Joshua 24:14-18,31

God leads. His people often refuse to follow.

You’ve probably heard verse 15 many times. Many Christians have memorized part of it, if only because they’ve heard it so often. 

But we’re not as familiar with verse 31:
“Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua.”

Imagine if it was said of the youth group:

‘They served the Lord all the days of Tim, and all the days of the students who outlived Tim.’
I would want to be a part of that.

Song: So Will I (100 Billion X) by Hillsong United


What have you tried to take shelter in that has failed you?
What are you taking shelter in now?

Scripture: Matthew 7:24-27

What do you need to do to find reliable shelter in God?

Song: Do It Again by Elevation Worship

Week 11 
Printable Version

The Lord’s Prayer
The Food devotional, working its way through the Sermon on the Mount, has arrived at what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer (which was actually a prayer for the disciples, so that’s arguably a misnomer). Some churches regularly recite this prayer verbatim: I’ve participated myself, but there’s just so much depth, everyone’s saying “Amen” before I’ve come close to wrapping my head around the meaning of the first verse. 

That’s why we’re spending all week on this 5-verse prayer.

I’ve included translations (with some help from that are a bit more expressive than what you’re probably used to. I’m not a professional bible translator*, so take my contributions with a grain of salt (or several), but sometimes seeing a different way something could have been translated gives some more insight into the original meaning.

*#NotEvenClose #CareerGoals #MidlifeCrisisPlan #JustAFewMoreDecades

Location – Our Father in Heaven:
Scripture: “Our Father in Heaven…”

This prayer begins with Who we are addressing: there’s familiarity and relationship in the fact that God is our father, but there’s also respect for a parent. And the fact that He is God in Heaven should emphasize not only that He deserves our respect, but also that we have the most amazing parent ever.

Song: Isaiah 6 by Todd Agnew
Good Good Father by Housefires

Water – Hallow Your Name:
Scripture: “…make Your Name be treasured above all else; Your reign come, Your will happen, on Earth as in Heaven;…”

Song: Hallow His Name by John Piper

This isn’t declaring the fact that God’s name is worthy of praise; it’s asking God to do something – to cause people to recognize that His Name is more valuable than everything else and to live accordingly.

And the word “Name” here is far more expansive than even what John Piper expresses. Yes, it’s a representation of who God is, but it’s also more than that. This is God’s person, His identity, His attributes, His actions and decrees (past, present, and future), and even the reputation He has throughout world.

Food – Give Us Our Daily Bread:
Scripture: “…Give us now our bread, sufficient for the coming day,…”, John 4:34, 6:51, Hebrews 5:12-14

I found it interesting that there’s a sense of immediacy to this request, but it makes sense. Eating now won’t mean that we were any less hungry five minutes ago, and planning to eat tomorrow won’t satisfy our hunger today… and that applies to our spiritual food as much as it does to physical food. 

Songs: Thy Will by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family

Bread of the World in Mercy Broken by Zac Hicks & Cherry Creek Worship

Speak, O Lord by Keith & Kristin Getty

Fire – Forgive Us as We Forgive:
Scripture: “…and forgive our debts, in the same manner we forgive our debtors;…”, Matthew 6:14-15

This line freaks me out.

I know people who really struggle with forgiving others. Compared to them, I have a relatively easy time forgiving others, and my major struggles are with other things. Even so, do I really forgive so well that I want God to use that as the model for how he forgives me?

Do you?

Songs: Hymn to God the Father by Jolly Napier
Forgiveness by Matthew West

Guide – Deliver Us From Evil:
Scripture:  “…and lead, lest we be carried into temptation, rather draw us to yourself away from evil…”

The most common translations of this section all seem to say “don’t tempt us.”

That’s weird, because scripture elsewhere (eg James 1:13) says that God doesn’t tempt us. If God doesn’t do it, asking him not to seems redundant.

Some other translations and commentaries say ‘don’t let us be led into temptation’ or ‘don’t let us succumb to the temptations we face,’ while still others think that it should be “lead us not into trials.”

But they didn’t have punctuation in the original Greek (that came later), so I wonder if maybe we’re misplacing the comma; if maybe it should be “lead us, so we don’t become tempted”. 
Who knows.

Getting back to things we do know, “deliver us” isn’t just protection or rescue from a danger; the rescuer has safety, and is pulling the other person into it. We’re not delivered and then left to fend for ourselves. We’re delivered into the presence and protection of the King.

Song: Draw Me Close to You by Hillsong

Tent – Because You are Worthy:

Scripture: “…For yours is the sovereign rule, and the miraculous ability, and the awe-inspiring splendor, for all eternity. Amen.”

We can have confidence that God will do these things – make his name treasured and his will obeyed, provide for us, forgive us, and protect us from evil – because he has the authority and power, and a perfect renown that we can trust, which will never change.

Songs: How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin

When the Stars Burn Down by

Week 10
Printable Version

Location – Mount Carmel:
Scripture: 1 Kings 18:22-39

Israel was following Baal instead of God, so Elijah challenged Baal’s prophets at Mount Carmel.

Elijah gave the prophets of Baal a head start. Then he mocked them when Baal didn’t respond. And then he poured water on his own sacrifice.

That seems like the wrong thing to do. Wet things don’t burn, and you shouldn’t waste water in a drought.

And yet God showed up and burnt the sacrifice, so that the people would know He is God.

Song: Like A Lion by David Crowder Band

Water – Breaking a Drought:
Scripture: 1 Kings 18:41-46

Israel was experiencing a long, severe drought. But Elijah told the king that it would rain.

He then prayed for rain. Nothing.

Prayed again. Still nothing.

Again. Nothing.

And again. Still nothing.

Once more. Nothing.

A sixth time. Nothing.

And a seventh. Oh, hey, a tiny little cloud.

And then he told his servant to get off the mountain before the torrential downpour hit.

Sometimes, everything appears dry and dead. But God can still send the rain.

This is one of my current favorite songs, and it fits well with this devotional… but it’s in Spanish. If you’re like me and don’t speak fluent Spanish, look at the lyrics for an English translation.

Song: Abre Los Cielos by Redimi2
Lyrics: Miel-San- Marcos-2/Abre- los-Cielos- feat-Miel-San-Marcos/translation/english

Food – Modernizing (Bible Study Methods, Part 8):
Sometimes, the bible references things that we’re just not all that familiar with. Blowing a trumpet? This isn’t a concert. Standing on the street corner? We’re not waiting for a bus.

When that happens, sometimes it helps to think about what a modern-day analog would be.

Scripture: Matthew 6:1-8
Observation: What did you observe? Question words? Parallels? Comparison? Contrast? Metaphors? Cause & effect?
Interpretation: What does this mean?

What might the modern day equivalent of a street corner be? A trumpet?

Summarize/rephrase this passage using things that people do today:

Here’s one of the ways I think Jesus might make his point today:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to share ‘my thoughts and prayers’ on social media, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Jesus isn’t saying never to pray publicly: after all, he prayed publicly while hanging on the cross. But he says not to make a show of it to impress others.

I used to think praying to impress others was rare, but our culture has rediscovered and embraced it.

Now we don’t pray a prayer where people can see it: we just advertise the existence of a prayer (or maybe a thought), and we make sure everyone knows it’s ours.

Then (if we do follow through on that announcement) we self-censor all the contents so people can’t see the God we’re praying to, or what we’re asking Him to do!

Even though we may not have been trying to make ourselves look good, we’ve probably all done something with similar effects… but we can do better in the future.

Application: What does this passage mean for you? How do you respond? Is there something you need to do? Are there implications for your group?

Is there anything you’ve done publicly that you should to do privately or one-on- one? Or do you need to do something differently to redirect the honor to God?

Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song: Give Me Words to Speak by Aaron Shust

Fire – Two:
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

How is your community doing?

Who has helped you recently?

Who have you helped?

Song: Brother by NEEDTOBREATHE ft. Gavin DeGraw

Guide – Experienced:
Scripture: Hebrews 4:14-16

We’ve all messed up, over and over again, so we clearly need a guide.

Sometimes it’s enough for a guide to look at a map, but often the map is wrong or incomplete. You may have experienced driving on a road that the GPS was certain didn’t exist, or come across an unexpected road closure. I once encountered a fork in a trail that the map didn’t show, and our group hiked a mile and a half before we were able to determine that we had picked the wrong way to go. (Fortunately, we were able to bushwhack a few hundred yards to get to our campsite, rather than having to retrace our

The best guide is one who’s been there before.

Song: Trust by Jeremy Rosado

Tent – Building the Temple:
Scripture: 1 Kings 6

I really find verse 7 fascinating: even while they were building the temple, they were so concerned with not disturbing the peace of the place where God would dwell, even while  they were building it, that they cut all the blocks before they brought them.

Song: Sing Out by Ron Kenoly

Week 9
Printable Version

Location – Check-in:

Take a moment to look at where you are on the “relationship map”.
What’s the terrain like?
Are you going the right direction?
How does this compare to a month ago?
What has helped you? What has distracted you?
What will you commit to either continue or do differently in the next month?

Song: Blessed Be Your Name by Tree63
Scripture: Job 1:1-10,21

Water – Check-in:
Scripture: Psalm 23:1-3

What struggles are you facing right now? What thirsts do these struggles reveal?

What do you feel like you’re thirsting for the most right now? God? Or something else?

It can sometimes be challenging to compare where you are now to past times when you frequently worshiped with others. Thinking back to SERVE, how can those memories inspire you to thirst for God?

Song: Come to the Water by Matt Maher

Food – Allergies (Bible Study Methods, Part 7):

Sometimes people eat things that their bodies don’t handle very well. At times, that’s because what they’re eating isn’t good for anyone to eat. 

Other times, they’re eating something like dairy; some people’s bodies can digest it, and some people’s bodies can’t. Or it could be something perfectly healthy, like fruit, which their immune system thinks is dangerous for no good reason… but the problem isn’t really the food, it’s their immune system. Depending on the severity of these problems, lactase pills and allergy medicine can help.

This is one of those passages that can often be hard to digest, or trigger a reaction. But that’s not the passage’s fault. It’s ours, and we need to figure out how to deal with it.

Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48

Observation: What did you observe? Question words? Parallels? Comparison? Contrast? Metaphors? Cause & effect?

Interpretation: What does this mean?

Application: What does this mean for you? How do you respond? Is there something you need to do? Are there implications for your group?

Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song: Love Your Neighbor by Todd Agnew

Fire – One:
Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-7

Paul challenges us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling we have received.
Walking in a manner worthy of Jesus’ death is quite the challenge.

He expands on what that would look like in verses 2-3, then goes on to list things that we as Christians share.

Is there anything that you are letting divide you from others who share these things?

Song: They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love by Jars of Clay

Guide – Seeking Guidance:

What issue do you most need guidance for? Was there anything discussed in the past few weeks of this devotional, or in a sermon? Do you need guidance in something else?

Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Proverbs 11:14, Luke 5:16, Jeremiah 29:12-13

How will you apply one or more of these passages to seek guidance in this?

Song: Thy Word by Maranatha Singers

Tent – House vs Tent:
Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1-7, 1 Chronicles 22:6-10

A tent is a temporary dwelling, which can be moved from location to location. But a house is permanent, and as a result, a house can be much nicer.

David realized that his house had, in some ways, become nicer than God’s tent, and proposed to build a Temple for God.

God told David not to build a temple; that it would be built by his son, because God wanted it to be built by a peaceful king.

Song: Psalm 127 by Sons of Korah

Week 8
Printable Version

Location – Doorkeeper:
Scripture: Psalm 84:10-12, 1 Chronicles 9:19-21, Numbers 16:26,31-32, 26:11

Psalm 84 was written by the sons of Korah, and it’s not hypothetical. The sons of Korah were the doorkeepers and custodians of the tabernacle, where God’s glory dwelt… they knew what it meant to spend a day in the court of the tabernacle, or be a doorkeeper in God’s house.

They also knew that Korah, the patriarch they were named after, had been swallowed by the earth because he tried to take Moses’ place. Their family knew that wickedness ultimately didn’t work out.

One day serving God is better than a thousand not serving him.

Song: Better is One Day by Matt Redman

Water – Receiving:
Scripture: John 4:6-7, 13-18, 28-30

This Samaritan woman comes out to the well in the middle of the day. None of the other people from the town were there, because in a hot, dry climate, mid-day is not the best time to run errands.

So why does this Samaritan woman go to the well at the worst time of day? When Jesus mentions her husbands, she’s quick to change the topic. When he offers living water, she sounds almost as eager to avoid the well as she is to avoid thirst. It appears she’s trying to avoid the judgment from her neighbors.

But soon after she asks for living water, she goes and tells the people about Jesus. The living water is overflowing to the people around her, just as Jesus had said.

Do you have living water that inspires you to share?

Song: All who are Thirsty by Kutless

Food – Context Review (Bible Study Methods, Part 6):

Last week, we saw the difference that context can make. Remember that Jesus is telling people under the law that they it’s impossible to be good enough, and they need a better source of righteousness.

Scripture: Matthew 5:27-37

Observation: What did you observe? Question words? Parallels? Comparison? Contrast? Metaphors? Cause & effect?

Interpretation: What does this mean?

Application: What does this mean for you? How do you respond? Is there something you need to do? Are there implications for your group?

This passage shows that sin is a big deal, but would plucking out your eye, or losing your hand really stop you from sinning? If being sinless was as ‘easy’ as becoming a blind amputee, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come. So what really causes you to sin? What can you do about that?

Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song:  Brokenness Aside by All Sons & Daughters

Fire – Burnt Offering:

Normally, following the theme introduced on SERVE, the Fire entry has been something about community. But since we’re in the midst of some devotionals about the tabernacle and the seriousness of sin*, we’re taking a diversion this week to look at burnt offerings. I’ll come back to community stuff next week. 

If you want to keep this short, you can skip the passages in parentheses.

Scripture: Leviticus 1:1-9 (1:10-17, 6:1-13)

One of the reasons for burnt offerings was that the smoke was believed to be a pleasant smell rising to heaven. But in tabernacle (and later temple) they were specifically given in the tabernacle to make atonement for sins.

Unlike many other offerings, the priest didn’t keep part of the offering to eat; all the meat was burned for these sin offerings.

Song: Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship

*Really mostly because I completely forget what my initial plan for Fire this week was.

Guide – Ten Commandments:

One of the ways God gave guidance was in the form of the Ten Commandments. 

Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17

Although we are no longer under the law, these instructions still help show us how act in a way more pleasing to God.

Which of these commandments seems easiest for you?

Which seems hardest?

What can you do that will help you follow God’s instructions?

Who can you ask for advice?

Song: The Perfect Ten

Tent – Visiting God:
Scripture: Psalm 84

The Tabernacle wasn’t just so that God could be among his people. It was also a place for people to come to God.

Israelites would come to worship and bring offerings. The priests would offer sacrifices and intercede for the people. The Sons of Korah were there helping to keep things in order.

Later, when the temple was built, even birds had a place in the presence of God.

What places do you have that you can go to experience the nearness of God?

Song: Psalm 84 by Sons of Korah

Week 7:
Printable Version

Location – Mount Sinai:
Scripture: Exodus 19:1-9,16- 20
Three months after leaving Egypt, Moses spoke with God at Mount Sinai. God showed his power to Israel. He gave them the law to guide them, show how much they needed Him, and teach them how they should live in community. He instructed them to build the tabernacle, and instituted the sacrificial system.

What are some locations that have been particularly significant to your faith?

Song: Revelation Song by Kari Jobe

Water – Desert:
Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7, John 4:11-15

We intellectually know how important water is. Some of us have experienced dehydration. But generally, we have easy access to water. It’s a rare hardship for us when a water main breaks and the tap water needs to be boiled before we drink it.

The Israelites understood desert. They had a carefully perpetuated cultural memory of their ancestors spending 40 years in the desert as a result of disobeying God. Even in Israel, “a land flowing with milk and honey,” more than half of the country is desert.

When the Samaritan woman needed water, she couldn’t just turn on a faucet. She had to draw it from a deep well and carry it back to her house. And it would have been even harder for her if Jacob had not taken the time to dig deep into the ground until he reached water.

Take a moment to think about how much more attractive this offer of living water would be to someone in a situation like that.

Song: I Am Thirsty by Rhema Worship & Praise

Food – Context (Bible Study Methods, Part 5):

Last week I mentioned that one advantage of an interpretation step is that it helps you keep things in context. Context is really important. Someone once told me “a text without its context is a pretext for a proof text” – if you ignore context, you can often interpret things completely wrong.

For example, Psalm 14:1 begins “The fool says ‘There is no God’”… Hopefully you can see why it’s important not to ignore the first three words of that.

Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26
Observation: What did you observe? Question words? Parallels? Comparison? Contrast? Metaphors? Cause & effect?

Interpretation: Harsh, right? Is Jesus really saying that you’ll go to hell if you call someone a fool? Or is there some context missing from that passage?

Last week, we saw that Jesus was talking to a group of Jews, prior to him dying and fulfilling the law...and he told them that righteousness like the Pharisees sought to attain by their own efforts was insufficient.

So how about we read this again, adding just one more verse of context - Scripture: Matthew 5:20-26.
How does Matthew 5:20 affect the meaning?

Here’s what I see…

Although we DO need to take sin seriously, this passage isn’t Jesus saying that we as believers will be condemned to hell for insulting our brothers. (He went on to pay for that himself, praise God!)

Instead, he’s expanding on his statement in Matthew 5:20 that ‘the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees isn’t enough’, by giving examples of human righteousness and showing how it’s inadequate.

Is there any additional meaning you see in this passage?

Application: What does this mean for you? How do you respond? Is there something you need to do?
Are there implications for your group?

Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song: Forever Reign by Hillsong

Fire – Celebration:
Scripture: Exodus 18:8-12, Leviticus 23:34, 1 Corinthians 12:26, Deuteronomy 34:10-12, Genesis 1:1

The Festival of Tents is followed by an additional two holidays. Shimni Atzeret is an additional day celebrating of the Exodus (this year on October 12th ), and Simchat Torah is the day (in various Jewish traditions, celebrated either on the same day as Shimni Atzeret or the day after) when the Jews finish reading Deuteronomy and start over again in Genesis.

What has happened among your friends that you can take a moment to celebrate and praise God for?

Song: Lord You’re Worthy by New Direction

Guide –Pillar:
Scripture: Exodus 13:18-22

A pillar of cloud and fire is pretty obvious.

We tend to think that if we just had obvious directions it would be easy.

Israel followed this pillar through the desert. They still thought they were lost. Still complained about how hard it was.

Are we all that different?

How do you usually respond to guidance? How would you respond if you were asked to do something hard?

Pray that you would get better at this.

Song: Pillar of Fire by Andrew Peterson

Tent – The Tabernacle:
Scripture: Exodus 25:1-9

While Israel was in the desert, God told them to build the tabernacle.

“Tabernacle” is a fancy word for a tent… and it was quite a fancy tent. People sometimes say something is “fit for a king,” but that would be an understatement with the tabernacle. It was made to be as fit for the God of Heaven and Earth as anything that human hands could make… because that’s who it was for.

And why did God want a tent?

Because His people were living in tents in the wilderness.

And He


To live with them.

Song: He Is With Us by Love & The Outcome

Week 6:
Printable Version

Depending which topics you’re doing the devotionals on, you may notice that I’ve been writing a lot about the Exodus recently. That’s partly because it kind of all fits together, and partly because I don’t get to decide when holidays happen. If you’re hoping for other books, we will get there.

Location – Abraham’s Tent:
Scripture: Genesis 18:1-15, John 8:52-58

Abraham had been waiting years to have a child with Sarah. God had already named Abraham ‘father of a multitude’, and he and Sarah had grown old since then. Now God visited Abraham, who provides dinner, to tell him that it would happen in the next year.
Years later, Jesus tells the Israelites that he is God and Abraham was glad to see him. They try to stone Jesus, believing that a man can’t possibly also be God… but then who did Abraham host for dinner?

Sometimes, we have to wait. But God cares, he keeps his promises, and he comes to be with his people.

Song: Theophanies by Hazakim
(Hazakim is a Messianic Jewish rap duo, so this music is probably a bit different than you’re used to.)

Water – Dry Bones:
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14, John 4:14, Ephesians 2:1-5

What could contrast more sharply with living water than an entire valley filled with dry bones?

This living water not only makes salty water fresh, it raises the dead to life.
What an amazing miracle.

Song: Skeleton Bones by John Mark McMillan

Food – SOIAP Review (Bible Study Methods, Part 4):

Last week, we saw that the OIA method has an interpretation step, but the SOAP method doesn’t. The separate interpretation step has some advantages:

You’ve already made all your observations, so you’re less likely to interpret one small piece of the passage out of context. 

You can learn more about the passage by thinking about the author was saying to everyone (which might be useful to you tomorrow), rather than just jumping straight to focus on the part that seems really relevant to you today.

Realistically, you’re probably not going to keep interpretation completely separate from observation and application. I always try to include an interpretation step when I’m studying the bible, but figure out what works best for you.

Similarly OIA doesn’t have a separate “Scripture” step. I like this step for studying short passages on my own, but it’s harder to do for longer passages or studying with a group. Especially if you’re skipping this step, you probably want to read the passage through several times: if you’ve got your own copy, you can highlight, underline, circle, or otherwise mark the paper as you go, and might find a few colored pencils helpful. Once again, you have to try it and figure out what works for you.

This is a short section, but relatively challenging. Try to go through the process. If you’re having trouble figuring part of a passage out, asking someone else is always valid… so I’ve included some additional questions and suggestions after this week’s Tent entry.

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20

Observation: What did you observe? Question words? Parallels? Comparison? Contrast? Metaphors? Cause & effect?

Interpretation: What does this mean?

Application: What does this mean for you? How do you respond? Is there something you need to do? Are there implications for your group?

Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song: My Hope Is Built by Norton Hall Band

Fire – Burning Bush:
Scripture: Exodus 3:1-14

This is a really interesting fire. The bush is burning… but also not. And the fire is God. But what’s the reason God showed up?

God cared about the suffering of his people.

Do you have any friend or acquaintances who are suffering? What can you do to help?

Song: If We Are the Body by Casting Crowns

Guide – Elijah:
Scripture: 2 Kings 2:9-15, Matthew 16:13-16, 17:1-13

In the old testament, Elijah had an important role leading God’s people, until he was taken up into heaven. The Jews expected Elijah to come back, but they did not understand that John the Baptist had filled Elijah’s role, as other prophets had, starting with Elijah’s immediate successor, Elisha. In this passage, Elijah even literally returned from heaven to talk to Jesus.

Song: Days of Elijah by Donnie McClurkin

Tent – Feast of Tents:
Scripture:  Leviticus 23:33-44, Mark 9:2-8

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot occurs from October 4th-11th this year. Sukkot is usually translated “Feast of Booths” of “Feast of Tabernacles.” but a better translation might be “Feast of Tents.” One of the main reasons for this holiday is to give God thanks for bringing Israel out of Egypt, and they build temporary dwellings to be reminded of the tents that Israel used in the desert. Participants use the seven days of this holiday host and visit each other in their temporary homes.

It is also a holiday to celebrate the harvest. Sukkot begins with a day of rest, and is immediately followed by another day of rest in the closely related holiday of “Shemini Atzeret”.

As we heard on SERVE, some scholars suggest that the transfiguration may have occurred either during this Jewish holiday or shortly before. Peter had no clue what was going on, but he knew what the holiday called for: set up tents and show guests hospitality.

Song: Transfiguration by Hillsong Worship

The Jews celebrate their rescue from Egypt: what has God protected you from?
How can you plan to show hospitality to others this year? Can you invite people to your home? Make visitors feel welcome at church services or in the youth group? Do something nice for one of your classes?

Hints for the Food bible study practice:
Who is Jesus talking to?
When is he talking to them?
What did Jesus come to do?
Had he already done that, or not yet?
What is the Law?
What does it mean for all to be accomplished?
How can someone’s righteousness be greater than the scribes and Pharisees?

The lyrics of the song give a hint about righteousness.

Week 5:
Printable version

Sometimes, you just need to review some important ideas so you don’t forget. Sometimes, you need to stop and take stock of the changing circumstances in your life. And sometimes, you’re in the middle of something that you don’t want to interrupt.

Where I thought it made sense, content and exercises from SERVE and from Week 1 started to come back this week. Some are copied verbatim or only slightly modified.

If you feel like nothing’s changed for you since last time, this week might be an easier devotional week for you; recognize that others may need this, make the best of the break, take an extra minute to pray, and look forward to new material next week.

Holiday: Saturday is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. I included a bonus entry about it.

Location - Waypoint: 
Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-4, Matthew 7:13-14

Chris Blackey told a story on SERVE about some people who didn’t pay attention to the ski trail and ended up miles away.

Leaving the trail can look attractive, but if we’re not careful it’s easy to drift away and end up in the wrong place entirely.

Take a moment to look at where you are on the “relationship map”.

What’s the terrain like?

Are you going the right direction?

How does this compare to a month ago?

What has helped you? What has distracted you?

What will you commit to either continue or do differently in the next month?

Song: No Turning Back by Brandon Heath

Water – Deep Cries Out:
Song: Deep Cries Out
Scripture: Psalm 42:5-7, John 4:14, Ezekiel 47:8

Despite the upbeat tempo of this song, “deep cries out to deep” is not a happy thought in the psalm; it’s a description of a crushing, drowning ocean.

But against that deadly, turbulent salt water of things that sometimes seem enticing but ultimately wear us down, we have joyful knowledge that God gives us abundant living water.

Food – (Bible Study Methods, Part 3):
Last week, we tried the three-step OIA method (Observation, Interpretation, Application) of bible study.

This week, we’ll try a different method, using the acronym SOAP; Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.

The first step of the SOAP method is Scripture… not just to read the passage, but to write it out – by hand, on paper. This forces you to slow down, gives you some time to think about the scripture, and some scientific studies suggest that the act of writing helps some people remember. 

There’s no Interpretation step in SOAP. It will happen as you make Observations and think about how to Apply the passage to your life. Next week will discuss this some more.

The last step is to Pray about the application you came up with.

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16
Scripture: Write out the passage.

Observation: What did you notice while you were writing?

What else do you observe? (You may want to go through the list of question words)

Application: How can you apply this to your life? Do you need to do something? Confess something? Pray for something?

Prayer: Pray about your application.

Song: This Little Light of Mine by Addison Road


Graduates – Joining:
Scripture: Acts 9:26-28

The last time these believers had seen Saul, he was persecuting them. He had held the coats for the men stoning Stephen, and then started dragging believers off to jail.
When he came back as Paul, he had trouble joining the community of believers.

If you’ve joined a congregation and/or campus ministry:

How did you find them? What were your first experiences with them like?

Is there anything that would have made this easier? Make a note so you can try to do that for next year’s freshmen.

Do you know anyone else who just needs an introduction? 

If you haven’t joined a congregation/campus ministry:

Are you looking? Have you found any options? What criteria are you using? What challenges have you encountered?

Who could help you find a group? Who could help you choose between groups? Do you know someone where you are? Can you talk to a leader from home?

How can you be encouraged while you search?

Song: We Believe by Newsboys

Students – Here for what?:
Why do you attend your youth group? What would you want the youth group to be known for?
Scripture: Ephesians 2:14-19
Song: Here, 2016 by Sho Baraka

Guide – Seeking Guidance:
What issue do you most need guidance for? Was there anything discussed in the past few weeks of this devotional, or in a sermon? Do you need guidance in something else?

Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Proverbs 11:14, Luke 5:16, Jeremiah 29:12-13

How will you apply one or more of these passages to seek guidance in this?

Song: God, I Look to You by Bethel Church ft. Jenn Johnson

Tent – Practicing Rest:
Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7

We’ve studied the idea that God wants us to be able to rest; now let’s actually practice that. Take the time to listen to this song about resting in God. If there’s something you’re anxious about, pray about that while you listen.

Song: Where I Find My Rest by New Wine Worship

Holiday – Yom Kippur, Sept 30th 2017:
Scripture: Leviticus 16:29-30

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement – basically the day that Jews believe is their last chance to atone for that year’s sins. It’s a day of rest, prayer, fasting, and repenting sins committed against God. Sins against others are traditionally supposed to be dealt with prior to Yom Kippur.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus has already atoned for our sins, but it never hurts take some extra time to pray and repent, or to seek reconciliation with people you may have harmed. Celebrate, or not, as you see fit.


Week 4
Printable Version

Holiday: Thursday evening into Friday, September 21st and 22nd, is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. If you’re interested, you can learn more at

Location – Treetop:
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10

Jericho does not appear to have been God’s favorite city. He destroyed it after Joshua led the Israelites to march around it, and then Joshua declared that whoever rebuilt it would be cursed. But Jesus chose to walk through Jericho, and he encountered Zacchaeus.

The Jews didn’t like Zacchaeus because he was a tax collector – and not just any tax collector, but the chief tax collector for the entire city. But Jesus not only agreed to go to Zacchaeus’ house, but invited himself over.

In our culture, inviting someone to your house honors them. But in that culture, you honored someone by going to their house.

Jesus knew where Zacchaeus was, and he went to get him. But it was also clear that Zacchaeus wanted salvation, and was taking action to try to be closer to him.

What are you doing to be closer to God?

Song: See More Him by Flame

Water – Dead Sea:
Scripture: Numbers 34:10-12, Joel 2:20

Living waters can be contrasted with the Dead Sea.

Water flows in to the Dead Sea, bringing salt and other contaminants from upstream, and rather than flowing out, it evaporates away. With nowhere for the salt to go, it builds up to about 10 times as salty as the ocean. No animals live in the Dead Sea, and anything that makes the mistake of trying to drink from it is likely to die, resulting in a rotting stench.

To have healthy living, moving water, you not only need a source, but also a place for it to drain to.

Who are you sharing this living water with? Is there someone you need to start sharing it with?

Song: Let Them See You by JJ Weeks Band

Food – OIA (Bible Study Methods, Part 2):

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship teaches a bible study method using Observation, Interpretation, and Application steps.

Starting with the observation step, we get to reuse many of our question words from last week, but also look for some other things including repletion, similarity/contrast, and cause & effect.

In the interpretation step, we ask what the passage means: what is the significance of each observation, and what is the main point of the passage?

Finally, in the in application step, we think about what this means for us: how should our life be different as a result of this study?

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

Observation: What do you observe?
Who is speaking writing? To whom? Is anyone else mentioned?
What are they saying?
Is there anything about when or where?
Is there repetition?
Do you see any similarities or contrasts?
Cause and effect?
Anything else that you just find interesting?

Interpretation: What does this mean?
What do each of your observations mean?
What is the main idea of this passage?
If there are multiple groups of people described, which would you want to be in?

Application: How can you apply this to your life?
Is there a character trait you need to work on?
Something you need to keep in mind?
A specific action you need to take?
Something you need to pray for?

Songs: (Here are several that you might find relevant)

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness: Holiness by Micah Stampley

Pure of Heart: Create In Me a Clean Heart by Keith Green

Peacemaker: Prayer of St. Francis by Sarah McLachlan

All Beatitudes: The Beatitudes Song by The Church at Brook Hills

Fire – Daily Reminder:
Scripture: Hebrews 3:13-18, Deuteronomy 6:6-9

God told Israel to enter the Promised Land, but they forgot what God had done. They focused on the challenge and the danger that they would have to face to enter, instead of the God who could defeat those challenges.

So this letter says to remind each other of our faith every day. Remind each other what God has done, what God has promised to do, and share what you see God doing right now. That could be praying together, a bible study, singing worship songs, or a text.

Who will you remind today?

What would work for you to share daily reminders with others in the future? Are you already doing so? Is there something you can join? Do you need to start something?

Song: My Deliverer by Rich Mullins

Guide – Pay Attention*:
Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-4

“God, in His great love for us, has warned us not to neglect our salvation, for if we do, the consequences are grave. ‘Pay careful attention to what you've heard,’ the passage warns, ‘so that you don't drift away.’ Drifting is deadly. Once we start drifting, we head straight towards apathy.”

“I hate apathy. All too many times have I caught myself walking down that despised path...“
“But the preacher didn't leave us wading in the guilt of past experiences. ‘Preach the gospel to YOURSELF, and do it DAILY,’ he exclaimed! …I know from experience that when I preach the gospel to myself often, my appreciation for the gospel grows deeper, and I come to grasp just a little bit more of the great cost of salvation -- the cost of our redemption.”

In Hebrews 3, we saw instruction to remind each other of the Gospel every day… because we need to be reminded every day. When we preach to each other, we remind ourselves. And even when we don’t share the Gospel with other believers, we still need to remind ourselves. Otherwise, we drift away.

But it’s not enough to just hear the gospel, or to recite a brief description. Pay attention.
Closer attention.
Much closer. 

We were dead in our sins, but God loved us so much that Jesus came, lived among us, took our sins, and died for us, then rose again, giving us new life and right standing with God.
We were dead in our sins, but God loved us so much that Jesus came, lived among us, took our sins, and died for us, then rose again, giving us new life and right standing with God.

Obsess over this. Be in awe. And remind yourself every day that this is true, and it. Is. Awesome.

Song: Before the Throne of God Above by Kristyn Getty

Tent – Don’t Miss Out*:
Scripture: Hebrews 4:9-11

“What is the consequence of neglecting my salvation? If it were it could be spelled out, what exactly would it be?”

“Because of the Israelites' unbelief and rebellion, they missed out on what God was doing. The Israelites of that generation could not watch God provide the promised land for them, but had to wander and die in the wilderness because they had decided to act in unbelief and disobedience.“

“I felt the voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to me. ‘Don't miss out! Don't miss out Kathleen!’”

“Oh yes, the one of the consequences of neglecting our salvation is certainly great! When I drift away, my heart slowly turns toward unbelief and disobedience. When my heart is focused on rebelling rather than the truth of the gospel, I miss out on being a part of what God is doing because I'm too busy rebelling against Him and His purposes.“

“How amazing that God so graciously loves so intensely that He warns us to not neglect our salvation! What an awesome privilege that God uses us to do what He purposes! What an honor to be able to love and serve our Great God! “

“No, I certainly do not want to miss out. I want to be a part of what God is doing. I do not want to neglect my salvation, but to hold fast to Christ. I want grow to love and appreciate the gospel more each day and give our Great God all the praise and glory for all that He has done and is yet to do. What an awesome God we serve! Amen.”

Song: All I Have is Christ by Sovereign Grace Music


Quotes from “Don’t Miss Out” by Y@H Alumnus Kathleen Padgett, used with permission.

Week Three
Printable Version

Location – Under the Tree:
Scripture: John 1:47-50

God knows and cares where we are.

It wasn’t unusual for someone to be sitting under a tree in Israel. It’s likely to be hot, they provide shade, and many scholars believe they were common places for teaching and praying. “under the fig tree” is a bit more specific, but still doesn’t seem like something to declare a person King over.

But this exchange starts with Jesus calling Nathaniel someone “in whom there is no deceit,” and Nathaniel asks “how do you know me?” By showing that he knew where Nathaniel was physically, Jesus confirmed that he also knew where Nathaniel was spiritually.

What if, when Jesus declared Nathaniel was without deceit, he was responding to what Nathaniel had been praying about under the Fig tree when Philip arrived? If both of Jesus’ statements were about that same moment when Nathaniel was praying, then it would be easy to see why Nathaniel declared Jesus the Son of God.

That last bit is just speculation; we don’t know those details of Nathaniel’s life, or why Jesus announced he was “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit”. But Jesus…

Jesus knows where we are, physically and spiritually.

Song: He Knows My Name by Israel & New Breed

Water – Leaks:
Scripture: Jeremiah 2:13, John 4:14

Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God describes himself as “the fountain of living waters”, and contrasts that with man-made cisterns. 

A spring is a source of water: if you find a spring, it will already have water, and if you take water from it, more water will just flow out to replace what you took. But a cistern is a storage tank: if you want to take water out of it, you have to put water into it first. And when a cistern leaks, you can’t get as much out as you originally put in.

Israel turned away from what God supplied, and tried to find value in things that they made themselves.

What are some ways you’ve sought validation or meaning in your life? Have they ever run dry?

Song: Come Thou Fount Come Thou King

Food – Question Words (Bible Study Methods, Part 1):

It’s harder to feed yourself if you don’t know how to cook. You should still be able to find food to put in your mouth, but it might be bland, you might not have a balanced diet, and things like undercooked meat can make you sick.

So here’s a spiritual cooking class.
Scripture: John 1:43-46

In elementary school, you probably learned six question words: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.

In middle school, most of us forget that this list is useful, but it still is. Use those words to examine how God was discussed in this passage. (Sometimes these questions don’t all have answers, or some of the answers may seem insignificant. That’s OK.)

Who: Who talked about God? To whom did they talk about God?
What: What was said about God? 
How: How was this message delivered? How was it received?
When: When did this conversation happen? 
Where: Where did this take place? What other locations were mentioned?
Why: What reasons do you see for the answers to the previous questions? (Which of these reasons are definite, and which are speculation?)

Song: I Have Decided by Elevation Worship

Fire – Mitarbeiter:
Scripture: Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1-2

Early in Jesus’ ministry, he sent out the 12 disciples. Later on, he did the same thing with 72 disciples, and told them to pray for more workers.

One of my college ministry staff workers took a sabbatical working in Germany. When the group their discussed the size of a ministry, they didn’t ask how many people attended, were on the mailing list, or had signed their name as members.

They asked how many “Mitarbeiter” there were. For people who chose to study something other than German, that means “co-workers”. They wanted to know “how many people are doing the work with you? Are the workers plentiful? Or are the workers few?”

Do you contribute? Have you been a reliable co-worker? Or do you just attend?
Pray for more workers.

Song: Prayin’ For You by Lecrae

Guide – Sources:
Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-4

The gospel was delivered to us and verified from many sources, only some of which are listed here.

Declared by Angels. Declared by the Lord. Attested by those who heard him. God himself bore witness. The Holy Spirit distributed gifts.

Who (or what) else do you look to for guidance? Is that guidance trustworthy?

Song: Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship

Tent – God’s Rest
Scripture: Psalm 23, Exodus 3:7-8, Revelation 22:1-2

God instructs his people to take time to rest now, and he also promises to give them rest and provide for their needs.

Take a few minutes to just think about and look forward to the rest God promises.

Song: Psalm 23 by Sons of Korah

Week TWO

Printable version

Location - Monument:  
Scripture: Joshua 4:5-7
Song: Mountaintop by The City Harmonic

Israel had seen the glory of God displayed from the top of Mount Sinai, so impressive that even his chosen people were afraid to go up. Now they were down in a valley, seeing God once again part the waters. But God told them to build a monument, because he knew how easily they would forget.

What will you use to remember how God met you on SERVE?
Is there something you want to write down? A picture to draw or a photo to print out? Some object you brought back with you?

Put it somewhere that will help you not to forget.

Water – Flow:
Scripture: John 4:14, John 7:37-38

One of the things that it means for water to be “living” is that it is flowing. That’s not just because living things tend to move more than dead ones. 
Without special care, stagnant water starts to become filled with algae and insects and disease. But where water is flowing, it will eventually wash these things away, and the closer you can get to the source, to the spring where the stream bubbles up, the less opportunity there is for contaminants to get in.
How is well your faith moving?
What slows it down or contaminates it?
What can you do about these things?

Song: Let the River Flow by Darrell Evans

Food – Gather Manna:
Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:3, Exodus 16:13-15,19-20
God gave the Israelites manna as a symbol of our spiritual need to feed ourselves from God’s word.
How hard was it for the Israelites to find the manna? How hard is it for us to find a source of spiritual nourishment?
How long did the manna last? How well are you nourished spiritually on days when you don’t do anything?
Song: Taste and See (God is So Good) by Kurt Felsman

Graduates – Entering Town:
Scripture: Luke 10:1, 5-7

Wherever you’re going to be for the next few years, going with another believer probably isn’t a viable option for you right now, but this passage clearly shows the importance of fellowship and community in a new place. These disciples traveled with each-other, and when they arrived at their destination, their first task was to find people to be in community with… whether those people knew Jesus or not.

Have you arranged to keep in touch with a friend for encouragement and accountability yet?
What will you do to meet other people? Pray that some of the people you get to know will be interested in hearing about Jesus.
How will you find other Christians who you can do ministry with?

Song: Benediction (As You Go) by People & Songs 
(I recommend using headphones and keeping the volume controls handy… the verses are very quiet, the bridge is not so quiet, and there’s a lot of reverb throughout)

Students – Travel Together:
Scripture: Luke 10:1, 5-7

These disciples traveled with each-other, and when they arrived at their destination, their first task was to find people to be in community with… whether those people knew Jesus or not.
Do you have another Christian you’re sharing your life with?
Do you know of anyone in the group that needs someone to come alongside them? What can you do to help that happen?
Which of your friends might be open to learning about God?  Pray for them.

Song: If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli

Guide - Story:
Scripture: Mark 5:15-20, 6:53-56
The man whom Jesus had rescued from demons wanted to come with Jesus, but Jesus told him to stay there, and he basically became one of the first missionaries. He didn’t even really know the gospel, but because he told the story of his encounter with God, people flocked to Jesus.
Your experience on SERVE might not be as dramatic as an exorcism, but it’s still an encounter with God. How can you share this when people ask about your summer?

Song: My Story by Big Daddy Weave

Tent – Rest:
Scripture: Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 16:29-30

It’s often possible to spend all day outside, without using any shelter. But eventually, we need rest, and a shelter becomes a lot more important. Having time to rest is so important that God instructed Israel to take a day out of every week to rest and worship.
Taking a day to rest often seems impossible to us. I certainly thought so until I was challenged in a bible study, and started trying to not to do any schoolwork on Sunday. It was hard, and the first few weekends, I didn’t get everything done on time, but I soon learned to just get things done, take the day off, and go into the next week refreshed. Unlike the Jewish Sabbath, I let myself enjoy some exercise or cooking on my rest day, and I’ve become more flexible with which day of the week I take off, but I still make sure I schedule time to rest.
Challenge yourself to rest each week this year. How much time will you give yourself off? When? What types of work will you rest from? 
Song: Rest in You by All Sons & Daughters

Week ONE

Thinking about what Tim said (repeatedly) about SERVE providing tools to help live with Jesus through August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May, and June, I felt that there was an opportunity to make a devotional to help facilitate that.

Since we’re no longer getting survival guidance in the controlled environment of SERVE, but putting it to use “in the wild” of the “real world”, I’m calling it the SERVE 2017 Wilderness Journal. (It doesn’t come as a nice professionally bound softcover booklet. Sorry.)

Each day is titled with one of the topics from the SERVE 2017 talks. If you want to work on one of the topics but you don’t know how (or just want some additional ideas), you can do the devotional material for that topic: if you think you’ve already got a solid plan for a topic or other topics are more important right now, feel free to skip that topic. Or don’t go by topics and just engage with whatever prompts seem useful to you. You can discuss with a group, or keep a private journal of your answers; again, whatever works for you.

The first week of this devotional will focus on revisiting all the talks (and some of the music) from SERVE, now that you’re back at home. Subsequent weeks will build on (and possibly eventually branch out from) these themes, but also periodically circle back for you to consider how you’re doing with the core ideas.

It would be cool to keep this experiment going at least until SERVE 2018, but I’m far from having that much material planned. If anyone has ideas for relevant content, I’d love some help.


Click here for Printable Version

Location - Week 1:
Scripture: Matthew 14:28-31

The disciples had just left a great gathering where thousands were fed, and at first Peter had the faith to be located on top of the water. But then the normal realities of life set in, his faith faded; and he sank back into the water, needing Jesus to come get him out.

How has your location on the “relationship map” changed since you got back from SERVE?

How does this compare to your location pre-SERVE?

What has changed? What’s the same?

What can you commit to either continue or do differently going forward?

Song: Oceans

Water – Week 1:
Scripture: Psalm 42:1-4

What struggles are you facing right now? What thirsts do these struggles reveal?

What do you feel like you’re thirsting for the most right now? God? Or something else?

It can sometimes be challenging to compare where you are now to past times when you frequently worshiped with others. Thinking back to SERVE, how can those memories inspire you to thirst for God?

Song: Closer

Food – Week 1:
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying, and when he was done, the very first temptation he faced involved physical food. But his answer to that temptation was ‘God’s word is more important’. 

It’s so easy to come back from SERVE – from a week of time given to God, with devotional time built in – and find that without that established structure, when we’re back from this journey out of our normal environment to spend time with God, we once again forget to read His word.

How have you done at reading your bible since SERVE?

Were there any challenges you didn’t expect?

If you’ve managed to keep reading it, what have you learned? If not, when will you resume?

Song: The Air I Breathe

Fire – Week 1:
Some of you are have months or years left with this youth group community… but others are moving on to new places, new campuses, and new communities. These two populations have very different needs and opportunities, so the FIRE devotional is broken into two separate tracks.

Scripture: Ephesians 6:17-22
Paul had previously spent 3 years with the community of Christians in Ephesus, and he sent Tychicus back to let them know what he was doing. How will you keep in touch with the community you’re leaving?
How will you keep in touch with your classmates who are leaving with you?
Even Paul needed prayer for his faithfulness and effectiveness. How will you be accountable to this community to remain faithful to Christ? Who will you ask to pray for you as you make this transition?

Song: Lose My Soul

Returning Students:
Scripture: Ephesians 4:15-16,25- 32
Paul gives many instructions for interacting with others. Which are you best at? How can you use those to build your youth group community?
In which ways are you most likely to damage the community? How will you strive to improve?

Song: Build Your Kingdom Here

Guide - Week 1:
What issue do you most need guidance for? Was there something discussed during SERVE, in the past few days of this devotional, or in a sermon? Or do you need guidance in something else?

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Proverbs 11:14, Luke 5:16, Jeremiah 29:12-13, Proverbs 3:6

How will you apply one or more of these passages to seek guidance in this?

Song: You Are My Vision

Tent - Week 1:
What have you tried to take shelter in that has failed you?
What are you taking shelter in now?

Scripture: Matthew 7:24-27

What do you need to do to find reliable shelter in God?

Song: American Dream

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