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Confidence, Week 1

Jesus Is the Cornerstone

Ephesians 2:20-21a

Jesus matters most.

Shailene hopped down the steps, and had already zipped all the way to her front door before the school bus pulled away. She flung open the front door and shot down the hall to the kitchen, where she tossed her heavy backpack onto a chair.

“Where’s the fire, kiddo?” asked a humorous voice.

Shailene glanced up to spot her mother’s younger brother lounging at the kitchen table, snapping green beans from the garden.

“Uncle Alan!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t know you were coming!”

“I’ve got an extra week before I’m deployed,” he explained. “So I thought I’d come bug my favorite niece.”

Uncle Alan tossed the beans in a bowl and stood to give Shailene a bear hug. “I’m your only niece,” Shailene pointed out.

“All the more reason to show up and celebrate your last day of school.” Uncle Alan grinned as he grabbed a plate of chocolate chip cookies off the counter. “Your mom had to run to the store, but she said you can dig into these.”

Shailene grabbed a cookie and crammed it in her mouth. Her uncle pulled out a seat at the table. “Slow down there, Cookie Monster!” he cautioned. “Take a seat.”

Shaking her head, Shailene mumbled, “Can’t.”

“C’mon, it’s summer vacation,” said Uncle Alan. “You’ve got two whole months of sleeping in and reading in the hammock and hanging out at the pool.”

“What? No,” Shailene said firmly.

“Your mom said this was the last day of school.”

Shailene tapped her fingers on the counter as she swallowed the final bite of cookie. “Well, yeah. But soccer camp starts in two days. Gotta pack.”

She tugged open the pantry door, revealing a huge posterboard calendar with brightly color-coded squares taped to the inside.

Uncle Alan’s eyebrows shot up as he took a look. “Is that your summer? Hold on, you can’t be at both soccer camp and . . . dance intensive . . . at the same time.”

“It’s just a one day overlap,” Shailene told him. “I’ll come home, do laundry, and repack in the afternoon, and get up there by dinner.”

Uncle Alan frowned. “I thought you weren’t really into dance anymore.”

“Ms. Copenhagen thinks I’ve got real potential,” Shailene said. “They even gave me a scholarship, and she said I’ll always regret it if I don’t go!”

“Ah, yes,” Uncle Alan agreed, nodding sagely. “Ms. Cop-some-hagen-daas. Can’t disappoint her.” He traced the calendar weeks with his finger and asked, “‘Y’ camp?”

“That’s just during the day. I’m gonna be a junior counselor ’cause it helps you get into college. And I’ve got all these books and math flashcards I’ve gotta do in the evenings to get ready for geometry in the fall. Oh, and my SATs.”

“All of that is three or four years away,” Uncle Alan protested.

“I know! I’m running out of time!” Shailene stuffed another cookie in her mouth and took a bite so big she nearly choked.

Uncle Alan peered out the window into the backyard. The grass was a bit patchy, but there was plenty of open space between the trees. “I see at least three soccer balls out there. C’mon.”

A few minutes later, Shailene found herself shooting on goal between two trees as her uncle played keeper. “Now why do you need two weeks of soccer camp when you can kick a ball just fine back here?” he wondered, lunging to field Shailene’s strong kick.

“Everybody else is going,” Shailene said. “If I don’t, I probably won’t make the traveling team in the fall.”

Uncle Alan tossed the ball back. “What would happen then?”

Shailene lined up all three soccer balls. She kicked the first, wildly. Her uncle blocked.

“I’d never catch up,” Shailene declared. “I wouldn’t learn all the stuff I need to!” She kicked again—and her uncle dove to catch it.

“I’d probably never play soccer again!” Shailene shouted, kicking one last time. Uncle Alan blocked that one, too.

Shailene sighed. “I can’t even shoot a goal, anyway.”

“Nah,” said her uncle. “You’re really good. Almost pulled a shoulder blocking that last one.”

Shailene flopped down on the grass, panting. Uncle Alan took a seat beside her. “I’m glad you’re good at lots of things, kiddo,” he said. “I’m proud of you. But I’d be just as proud of you if you spent the summer wandering through the woods back there and hanging out with friends at the pool.”

“I don’t know,” she mused. “It just feels like if I take a break . . . everything will fall apart.”

Uncle Alan stretched out and looked up at the deep blue sky. “I kind of felt like that at boot camp last year.” he recalled. “It was really tough. Everything felt out of control. Like I didn’t even know who I was anymore.”

“What’d you do?” Shailene wondered.

“One of my buddies had this verse from Ephesians,” Uncle Alan explained. “He pasted it up under the bunk. Something like, um . . . ‘You are a building . . . [and] Christ Jesus himself is the most important stone in the building. The whole building is held together by him.’”

Shailene nodded, but she wasn’t really sure she got it.

“Point is, I don’t have to hold everything together,” Uncle Alan told her. “If I’m following God, I can trust Jesus to take care of all the details. I can rest. You don’t have to do everything to impress a lot of random people. Jesus is the One who matters most. Not your soccer coach or Ms. Coffee-Heaven.”

Shailene laughed. “Copenhagen,” she corrected. Then she admitted, “I don’t really want to do the dance intensive.”

“Then . . . don’t,” Uncle Alan said.

“But I really do want to do soccer camp,” Shailene added.

“That’s totally fine, too,” said Uncle Alan. “But none of it . . . not soccer or college prep or any of it . . . is something to build your whole life on.”

“Yeah. I guess,” Shailene agreed, hopping up to grab a soccer ball. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t get a ball past you!”

Uncle Alan scrambled to his feet and took up position between the two oak trees. Shailene prepared to shoot again. She wasn’t sure just what her summer would look like. But she was discovering that, just maybe, she could relax in knowing that Jesus would guide her where she needed to go.

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If someone followed you around for the day, what would they say matters to you?

Take a few minutes and share. You may have listed things like food, books, video games, soccer or friends. And those are all good things! But there is one thing that matters more than anything else: Jesus. The Bible says of Jesus: Before anything was created, he was already there. He holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). And when you believe that, you can build your whole life around it. You can have the security of knowing that God loves you and that has a plan for your life. You can face anything with confidence, knowing He’s in control. Together, ask Jesus to help you walk through your days this week with true confidence, knowing that you can build your life on Him.

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Confidence, Week 2

Gideon

Judges 6-8

God can use you no matter what.

Even though God had given His people a new home in the Promised Land, the Israelites still turned away from Him. So God allowed their enemies to attack and defeat them. Each year, the Midianites and

Amalekites destroyed the Israelites’ crops and livestock.

At last, the Israelites cried out to God. He saw how helpless His people were, so He sent the angel of the Lord to a new leader. You’d expect someone powerful, but instead, God picked the least important person from the least important family: a man named Gideon.

Gideon was the sort of guy other people looked right past. In fact, when the angel appeared, Gideon was hiding out to thresh his wheat. He was so worried enemies would steal his grain that he worked where no one could see him.

“Mighty warrior,” announced the angel, “The Lord is with you!”

Gideon cowered, nearly blinded by the light. “If God is with us, why have all

these awful things happened?” he asked.

“You are strong,” the angel of the Lord said. “Go save Israel . . . I am sending you.”

“Who, me?” croaked Gideon. “You know: me. Gideon. Least important guy in the family at the bottom of the pecking order.”

“I will be with you,” God said.

Gideon still couldn’t believe that God would actually choose him, so he asked for a sign. When God sent fire from heaven to burn up an offering, Gideon could no longer deny it was God Himself.

Soon, enemy armies marched across the Jordan River to attack Israel. God’s Spirit came on Gideon, giving him courage, and Gideon called for men of Israel to join him. Even though Gideon considered himself unimportant, 32,000 men rallied around him at Mount Gilead!

“Yikes!” Gideon exclaimed as he surveyed the huge army. “They think I’m gonna lead them in battle. Are You sure about this, God?”

God was patient with Gideon and gave two more signs to show that He would use Gideon as He had promised.

“I want to hand Midian over to you,” God told Gideon.

“Okay, great,” Gideon said, and took a deep breath. “Let’s do this!”

But God wasn’t ready to send him yet. “But you have too many men for me to do that,” God told Gideon.

“Too many men?!” cried Gideon. “Have you seen the enemy camp? They’re like a swarm of locusts!”

“Then Israel might brag, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” God said. “So tell the army, ‘Those who tremble with fear can turn back.’”

With a deep sense of dread, Gideon gave God’s message to the men of Israel. Many of them did leave.

“We’ve only got 10,000 soldiers to fight the enemy now!” said Gideon, anxiety driving him to pace back and forth.

“There are still too many men,” said God. “So take them down to the water and I will tell you who should leave.”

Feeling sick, Gideon led all the men down to the water to drink. Here, God instructed Gideon to separate the men who lapped the water like dogs from those who scooped the water and drank from their hands. Those who got down to drink were to be sent home.

When Gideon had finished separating the men, he could hardly bring himself to count the small group of soldiers who remained. “God,” he choked, “there are only three hundred men left!”

“With [their] help . . . I will save you,” God told him.

That night, Gideon and his small band of warriors camped at the spring of Harod. In the valley below, the vast enemy armies spread out, torches and campfires flickering in the dusk for what seemed like miles. They looked to be as many as the sand on the seashore.

Gideon tossed and turned on his mat, unable to sleep. Once again, the voice of God startled him: “Get up. . . Go down to the camp with your servant . . . Listen to what they are saying. After that, then you will not be afraid to attack the camp.”

So Gideon and his servant snuck down the hillside. At the edge of the enemy camp, they hung back in the shadows when they saw men huddled around the last glowing embers of a campfire. One of the men awoke with a start. “I just had this awful dream,” he wailed. “I saw a giant loaf of bread race down the mountain. It flattened a tent!”

His friend shivered. “That can only be . . . Gideon. . . . [God] has given him the whole camp!” the man cried.

In the shadows, Gideon could barely keep from shouting. “God has given us the whole camp!” he whispered to his servant.

Both men rushed back up the hill to the sleeping Israelite band. “Get up. Get up!” Gideon called. “God has given you the Midianites. Each of you, take a trumpet. And a torch in a jar. Watch me and do exactly what I do!”

Gideon divided the men into three groups of one hundred. Fanning out, they crept down the mountain to the outskirts of the enemy camp.

“Now!” shouted Gideon. Immediately, the Israelites blasted their trumpets and smashed their jars so the torches inside blazed into the night. “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” they yelled.

The Israelites held their ground at the edge of the camp, but their enemies panicked. Some ran away in fear. Others began to fight each other. It was pure chaos, as the enemy camp fell apart.

“Send messengers through the hill country,” Gideon instructed his men. “Tell our friends we’re following the enemy!”

Gideon’s band was joined by other Israelites as they chased the Midianites back across the Jordan River. The enemy was completely destroyed that day, and Gideon led Israel through forty years of peace—all because he had allowed God to use him in spite of his doubts.

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We all tell ourselves stories inside our head— things we believe about ourselves, even though they aren’t true.

“I’m not big enough.” “I’m not important enough.” “I can’t do hard things.” What are some of the things you tell yourself? (Parents, you can help if your child needs suggestions.) Gideon definitely didn’t think he was strong enough or important enough to lead the whole army, but God picked him anyway! It didn’t matter what Gideon could or couldn’t do, because God was working through him. And God can use you, too, no matter what you think of yourself and your abilities. You simply have to be willing to listen and to allow Him to work. Pray for each other, that you would be open to any way God might want to work through you this week.

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Confidence, Week 3

Samson

Judges 13-16

God is stronger than anyone.

Aman named Manoah lived in the land of Israel during difficult times. The Philistines had been harassing God’s people for decades. And Manoah and his wife had been unable to have children. But one day an angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife.

“You will have a son,” the angel announced. “The hair on his head must never becut….HewillbesetaparttoGod[and]...taketheleadinsavingIsrael from the power of the Philistines.”

Sure enough, months later, Manoah and his wife had a baby. God blessed the boy, Samson, as he grew. God’s Spirit began to work in his life, making him strong and powerful.

One day, as Samson hiked along a road toward Philistine territory, a lion came plunging toward him, ready to attack. The Spirit of the Lord came on Samson. He rushed at the lion and wrestled it down, tearing it apart with his bare hands!

Another time, Samson punished the Philistines by capturing 300 foxes, tying flaming torches to their tails, and setting them loose in the Philistine fields and vineyards.

The Philistines became so angry with Samson they set up camp to attack the Israelites.

“We haven’t done anything to you!” protested the Israelites.

“Well, Samson has!” barked a Philistine. “We’ve come to take him prisoner.” Samson’s own people were so scared that they tied him up and took him to the Philistine camp. But when the Philistines tried to grab Samson, the Spirit of the Lord came on him, and he burst free from the ropes. Then he grabbed the jawbone of a donkey and attacked, striking down one thousand Philistines.
“By using a donkey’s jawbone, I’ve made them look like donkeys!” he announced in triumph.

For twenty years, Samson led the Israelites and kept the Philistine armies at bay. He never once cut his hair. But though Samson was strong, he wasn’t always wise—especially when he fell in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah.

“Your hair is soft and shiny like the wing of a raven!” he flattered her.

Delilah surveyed Samson’s wild, shaggy mane of hair, which had never been cut. “Well, your hair is totally. . . um, like a really, really, really long. . . hairy. . . hair rope,” she said at last.

The Philistine rulers saw Samson’s crush as the perfect opportunity to trap him. They cornered Delilah.

“Make him tell you why he’s so strong!” they ordered. “Then we can get him. Oh, and we’ll give you a lot of silver,” they added.

Delilah waited for the perfect opportunity and batted her long eyelashes at Samson. “Tell me what makes you so strong,” she begged. “How could someone tie you up so you couldn’t get away?”

“Tie me up with seven new bowstrings,” Samson said. “Then I’ll become as

weak as any other man.”

Delilah told the Philistine rulers, and they brought her seven new bowstrings. Later, while Samson was napping, Delilah tied the heavy strings tightly around him while men hid in the room.

When Samson was completely entangled, Delilah pretended to panic. “Samson! The Philistines are attacking you!” she screamed.

“What? Where?!” cried Samson. Leaping up, he flexed. The thick strings snapped instantly.

Later, Delilah tried again. “You’ve made me look foolish,” she pouted. “You told me a lie. Come on. Tell me how you can be tied up.”

“Okay,” Samson agreed. “Tie me with new ropes.”

Delilah and the Philistines tried again. But Samson busted free from the ropes, just as easily as the bowstrings. So Delilah tried yet another time.

“Weave my hair into the cloth on a loom,” Samson told her.

Delilah tried that, too, but Samson freed himself again. Nothing could trap him.

“How can you say you love me when you won’t tell me your secret?” whined Delilah. And when Samson still wouldn’t tell her the truth, she kept at him, day after day.

“Please?”
“C’mon, just say it.”
“Pretty please?”
“You’re so mean.”
“You don’t looooove meeeeeee!”

“Fine!” snapped Samson at last. “Just stop nagging!”

Delilah stopped crying immediately and batted her long eyelashes again.

“My hair has never been cut. That’s because I’ve been . . . set apart to God,” Samson explained. “If you shave my head, I won’t be strong anymore.”

Delilah could barely contain her glee. As soon as Samson was sleeping, she called someone to come shave off all his hair. Then she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines are attacking you!”

“What? Where?!” he cried, jumping up.

Philistines poured into the room and grabbed Samson. But this time, he couldn’t escape. He had become so careless he believed he could get out of any trouble on his own. But now his strength was gone.

The Philistines poked out Samson’s eyes to keep him from causing any more trouble for them. They took them to their country and tied him with bronze chains.

Some time later, thousands of rulers of the Philistines gathered at the temple of their false god to celebrate their triumph. They even brought Samson in to mock him.

“Put on a show for us!” they mocked.

What they didn’t realize was that Samson’s hair had begun to grow back. “Let me . . . lean against . . . the pillars,” he begged.

Samson’s jailers led him to stand near the heavy pillars that held up the entire temple. And at last, Samson remembered the true source of his strength.

“God,” he prayed, “show me that You still have concern for me. Please make me strong just one more time.”

Samson reached out his left hand and found one pillar. He searched with his right and found another.

“Let me die together with the Philistines!” he shouted. Then he shoved hard with all his might.

The pillars toppled. The temple caved in all around. Samson and the Philistines were crushed beneath the rubble. Though Samson died that day, at the end, he had turned back to God for strength to save God’s people.

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Who’s the strongest person you know?

Share with each other. Strength can mean physical strength like Samson’s, but it can also mean the will and power to face difficult situations. Samson was strong for sure . . . but that didn’t mean he was wise. He grew so confident in his own strength that he forgot God was the true source of his strength. You will probably never have your hair woven into a loom, but you’ll definitely face difficult circumstances. And because God is stronger than anyone, He can give you His strength to stand tall and live with confidence, no matter what comes your way. Each of you share something difficult you’re facing right now. Then pray for each other, that God will help you live with confidence in His strength this week.

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Confidence, Week 4

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

1 Kings 18

God can do the impossible.

Many kings ruled over Israel. Some were good. Some were not so good. Not one of them, though, was as terrible as King Ahab.

“Hey, that Baal looks like a pretty great god,” Ahab decided. “Let’s worship him!”

Ahab didn’t just ignore the One True God. He led all of Israel to worship the false god Baal. And he looked the other way when his wife, Jezebel, had prophets of the true God killed. Ahab was such a horrible king that God sent the prophet Elijah to warn him.

“Are you here to deliver my new 650z model chariot with the racing stripes?” asked Ahab.

“No. I’m here to deliver a word from the Lord,” announced Elijah. “Well, that’s a buzzkill,” Ahab grumbled.

“As the Lord God of Israel lives, there won’t be any rain until I say,” Elijah told the king.

“You can’t do that!” protested Ahab, but Elijah left quickly to go into hiding.

Just as Elijah had promised, there was no rain in the land of Israel for nearly three years. As crops failed, Ahab sent messengers everywhere to find and capture Elijah. But God kept Elijah safe and provided him with food and water.

In the third year, God spoke to Elijah. “Go. Speak to Ahab. Then I will send rain on the land.”

Elijah traveled to find the king, and met him on the road. “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?!” growled Ahab.

“Don’t put this on me!” warned Elijah. “You’re the one who’s troubled Israel, because you’ve forgotten the One True God and followed false gods.”

“We need rain!” ordered Ahab.

“Gather all the Israelites at Mount Carmel,” Elijah instructed him. “And all the prophets of Baal, too.”

Ahab narrowed his eyes. “This better be good,” he threatened.

The whole nation gathered on the rugged slopes of Mount Carmel. Four hundred and fifty prophets of the fake god Baal buzzed around like angry wasps as they faced off against one prophet of God: Elijah.

He called out to the Israelites. “How long will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is the one and only God, worship him. If Baal is the one and only god, worship him. Let’s settle this now. There’s one of me and 450 prophets of Baal. I’ll put an offering on an altar to God and they can put an offering on an altar to Baal. The god who answers with fire is the One True God.”

The Israelites applauded. “Well said!” they cried out, glad not to have to decide for themselves.

The prophets of Baal prepared an offering and laid it on their altar. All morning, they danced wildly and cried out. “Baal! Answer us! Baal! Send fire!” they shouted.

Nothing happened.

“Maybe Baal is on a trip,” Elijah taunted them. “Or taking a nap. You should probably shout a little louder.”

The prophets of Baal tried once again, shrieking at the top of their lungs: “BAAAAAAAAL! HEEEEEEEEEEEEAR UUUUUS!”

But still, nothing happened. By the end of the afternoon, the prophets of Baal were limping and hoarse.

Shaking his head, Elijah called out to the Israelites again. “Come closer,” he said. “Watch this.”

Elijah used large stones to repair an altar to God that had been destroyed. Then he placed wood on the stones, and the offering, a bull, on top of the wood. Everything seemed to be ready.

“Let’s go!” cried one of the Israelites.

“Not yet,” said Elijah. “First, fill four jars with water and pour the water over the offering.”

“Make it wet?” exclaimed the Israelite. “But wet stuff doesn’t burn!” “Just give it a go,” said Elijah.

The Israelites poured four jars of water over the offering on the altar. Then Elijah told them to do it a second time. And then again a third time!

Water soaked the offering and the wood. It ran down the altar, filling a trench at the base.

At last, Elijah cried out. “O Lord, let it be known this day that You are the One True God. Answer me so that these people may know you are God, and that You have turned their hearts back.”

Instantly, fire fell from heaven.

It consumed the offering and ate up the wood. It even licked up the water in the trench!

The Israelites fell down, faces to the ground. “The Lord is the one and only God!” they called out.

King Ahab couldn’t deny what his own eyes had just seen. But still, he complained, “What about the rain?”

“Go eat a meal,” Elijah told him. “I hear the sound of rushing rain.” “Yeah, well, there’s not a single cloud in the sky,” Ahab pointed out.

Elijah climbed to the very top of the mountain. He bowed down and called on God. Then he turned to a servant.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he said.

The servant hurried off for the best view of the horizon, but quickly returned,

shaking his head. “There is nothing. Not a cloud.” “Go again.” Elijah ordered.

The servant went back to check the sky again. And again. And again. Finally, on the seventh time . . .

“Hey! There’s a tiny little cloud the size of someone’s hand,” the servant told Elijah.

“Quick!” said Elijah, leaping up. “Go tell Ahab to harness his chariot and leave before the rain stops him.”

In minutes, the wind whipped up.

Clouds grew and raced across the sky.

Rain began to fall for the first time in three years.

God’s power was strong with Elijah. Gathering the folds of his robe, he ran through the storm so quickly that he beat Ahab’s chariot . . . all the way back to the city.

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Is there something in your life that seems impossible right now?

Maybe it’s trying to learn a math skill, or get along with your sister, or deal with a medical condition. Take a minute and share with each other. Facing something big like that can make you feel helpless and insecure. But here’s the awesome thing to remember: God can do anything! He can do something as impossible as making rain stop and start or sending down fire from Heaven. He did the impossible of keeping Elijah safe for three whole years while the king was trying to find him. Whatever you’re facing, God is bigger. You can live with confidence knowing that God can take away that obstacle in front of you . . . or maybe carry you right through it. Pray for each other, that God will help you see how big He is so that you can live with confidence in Him.