Commitment, Week 1
Sand and Rock
Practice hearing and doing what God says.
Everywhere Jesus went, great crowds of people came too. One day, Jesus climbed up on a mountainside and sat down. His followers gathered around, eager to listen. Jesus taught them many things about God’s kingdom and how to live.
“You are the light of the world,” He told them. Another time He said, “Love your enemies.” And He also said, “Do not worry.”
But Jesus knew that simply hearing wasn’t enough. “Everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man,” He explained. And then He told a story about a wise man and a foolish man. If He told the same story to us today, it might sound something like this.
George was a geologist. He loved rocks of every kind, from igneous to sedimentary. Every chance he got, George went for long mountain hikes, collecting new specimens with his trusty rock hammer.
His friend Stu, on the other hand, preferred the sandy beach. Stu considered himself a master sand artist. He would spend the whole day sculpting sand on the beach.
“Um . . . what’s that’s supposed to be?” George wondered, staring at Stu’s latest loopy sand creation.
“That is pure love and peace, captured in sand,” announced Stu. “It’s modern art. You have to squint real hard and lie on your side to see it right.”
Both George and Stu decided it was time to build homes for themselves. They called in an expert.
“I’m looking at some land just up the mountainside from the beach,” George explained. “Solid granite beneath the topsoil.”
“Sounds good,” confirmed the builder. “We’ll drill into that bedrock, and your house will last forever.”
Stu had different ideas. “I’m thinking let’s build right down here on the beach,” he enthused. “The ocean at my doorstep, a 30-second commute to work.”
The builder scratched his head. “I wouldn’t do that, sir. Sand shifts. Your house’ll move with it.”
Stu laughed. “I’m a flexible kind of guy. Just make my house flexible, too. Oh, and I want you to use my latest sand sculpture here for inspiration!” he added.
The builder stared at Stu’s odd sand art. “What’s that supposed to be?” he asked.
“Love and peace, dude,” Stu pointed out. “I want a house like that.”
The builder got to work immediately. He drilled down into the granite for George and constructed a beautiful home.
For Stu, well, he did the best he could. “I don’t think building your house on sand is a good idea,” he warned as he tried to shovel the wet, sloppy mess.
“Hey, who’s paying for this pad, anyway?” grumbled Stu. “I wanna feel like I’m livin’ right in the ocean!”
Soon the homes were finished. George moved into his house high on the mountainside overlooking the beach, while Stu moved into his house right at the water’s edge.
“Well, look at that!” Stu exclaimed. “Fishies swimming right up to my doorstep. I can sit on the porch and dip my toes in the ocean and stare up at the blue, blue sky . . . “
But within a short time, clouds moved in.
“Hey!” Stu frowned. “Where’s my sun?”
A sharp breeze cropped up, whipping in dark thunderheads. George, on the balcony of his new home up the mountainside, took his glass of iced tea inside.
“Good thing this house is bolted into the rock,” he noted.
Drops of rain began to splat against the beach.
“Hey! That’s gonna mess up my love and peace sand art,” Stu protested.
But the rain didn’t stop.
The wind raced along the beach, chasing the waves higher and higher.
A torrent of water lashed down.
Below, the ocean rose to meet it, climbing up the beach.
“Hold it,” Stu wailed, clinging to the railing. “Wait! This is my porch!”
But the storm raged on, and the wet sand beneath Stu’s house began to shift. He scrambled off his porch and staggered through the roaring waves until he reached solid ground a short distance up the mountain.
As the storm peaked, Stu’s house creaked.
And in one final gust of wind, the whole thing collapsed!
Stu gaped at the wreckage of his house. Then he glanced up the mountain, where George’s home on the rock still stood tall and strong.
“So not fair,” he muttered.
He spotted George scrambling down the mountain as the winds began to die off.
“Are you okay?!” gasped George.
“Yeah, I guess,” Stu sighed. “Next time I’ll wait ’til after a storm to build my house on the beach.”
“Or build on a different foundation,” George suggested. “C’mon, let’s get you some dry clothes.”
Jesus’ followers listened in fascination as He summarized the story for them.
“So then, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man. He builds his house on the rock.” Jesus explained. “But everyone who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man. He builds his house on sand. The rain comes down. The water rises. The winds blow and beat against that house. And it falls with a loud crash.”
The crowds who had listened all day left with new resolve. With God’s help, they could begin to take all Jesus had taught them . . . and put it into action.
When Jesus told stories, they meant something more than just what the story was about on the surface.
Share with each other what you think it means to build your life on a foundation of rock rather than a foundation of sand. “Building on the rock,” really takes two steps. First, you’ve gotta hear what God says, whether it’s reading His Word or listening to wise people who follow God. But hearing isn’t enough; once you know, you’ve got to act and put God’s words into practice. Together, pick one thing you know God has said. Maybe it’s as simple as “be kind,” or “have courage,” or “tell the truth.” Then, together, choose some ways you can put that into practice this week. Together, ask God to help remind you of His words and show you creative ways to put them into practice throughout the week.
Commitment, Week 2
Practice praying to God.
Isaiah woke up to the smell of bacon. Though the air was chilly, he shoved aside the heavy quilts and hurried out to the kitchen of his grandparents’ mountain cabin. Granddad was frying pancakes.
“Morning, sleepy head!” said Granddad.
“Hey, Gramps,” said Isaiah, yawning.
Rough wooden beams crossed the open ceiling over their heads, and the stove and fridge were a color Granddad called “harvest gold.” Isaiah was pretty sure nothing had changed here in forty years.
He grinned and joined his father and older brother, Zeke, at the kitchen table.
“Any bacon left?” he asked, helping himself to a stack of pancakes.
“Better hurry,” said Zeke, poking him in the ribs. “We’re gonna bust out the skis.”
“Oh,” said Isaiah. “Um . . . good.”
When they’d come up here a few years ago, Isaiah hadn’t been big enough to use any of the old skiing gear stashed at the cabin. He wasn’t sure how he felt about using it now.
Dad clapped him on the shoulder. “Fuel up good. You’re in for a wild ride.”
A short time later, Granddad helped Isaiah choose a pair of skis and suit up while Dad and Zeke got ready.
“These are cross-country skis,” explained Granddad. “But they’ll do you for the quick run down the backside of the mountain.”
Isaiah struggled into his bulky snowsuit. “I feel like Baymax!” he grumbled.
Awkward, Isaiah trailed after his father and brother up the short slope that led to the top of the mountain. In a few minutes, they reached the crest. Snowy peaks and valleys spread out before them.
“Wow!” exclaimed Isaiah. But then, he looked down, and his heart dropped into his stomach.
“It’s . . . steep,” he murmured.
“This run?” scoffed Zeke. “It’s just a little glide. No biggie.”
“Looks like more of a drop than it really is,” his dad assured Isaiah. “You’ll do fine.”
Isaiah’s head was spinning. He could feel his stomach swoop. “I, um . . . I think some of that bacon I had wasn’t good. I think I need to lie down.”
“What?” taunted Zeke. “Are you chicken?”
Isaiah tightened his grip on the rickety ski pole. “No,” he shouted.
“Really?” Zeke prodded. “Then man up and go over the edge!”
“Zeke,” his dad warned. But Isaiah glared at his brother: “Don’t be such a meanie!”
“Don’t be such a ’fraidy cat!” Zeke laughed.
“I’m not!” blurted Isaiah. Without thinking, Isaiah whipped his ski pole at Zeke. It slapped across Zeke’s leg.
“Hey!” Zeke yelled.
“Boys!” their dad shouted, stepping between them.
“Have fun on your dumb mountain,” groused Isaiah. He tried to storm away, but he mostly just floundered through the snow. His dad followed, but Isaiah brushed him aside and staggered back to the cabin on his own.
Granddad had been watching from the window. “Let me help you with that suit,” he offered.
A few minutes later, Isaiah was warming himself by the fire. He glanced sideways at Grandad.
“It’s really steep, okay?” he pointed out.
“Yeah,” Granddad agreed. “Took me awhile to work up the nerve first time I went down that slope. And I was 26.”
“How long did it take you?” wondered Isaiah.
“Half a day,” grinned Granddad. “I had a little chat with God about it first.”
Isaiah shook his head. “You talked to God about skiing?”
“Sure. I talk with Him about everything,” Granddad said.
“But God’s so, I don’t know. Big,” fumbled Isaiah. “Far away and stuff.”
“I know it seems that way,” said Granddad. “But it’s not true. You really can talk with Him just like you and me are sitting here talking.”
Isaiah tugged off his gloves and rubbed his hands together. He’d never really talked to God except in church.
“I wouldn’t know how to start,” he said.
“Some of Jesus’ closest friends felt the same way,” said Granddad. “So He gave them a super simple guide to follow.”
Granddad pulled out his phone and adjusted his bifocals as he studied the screen and pulled up an app. “Here, you find it,” he asked, handing the phone to Isaiah. “My thumbs are too big.”
Isaiah waited for instruction. “Look up, uh . . . Luke, chapter 11,” Granddad said, and watched as Isaiah pulled it up. Then he pointed. “Start right here.”
Isaiah read carefully, “Jesus said to them, ‘When you pray, this is what you should say. “Father, may your name be honored. May your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us. Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.”’”
Isaiah tried to process the words. At last he pointed out, “That’s got nothing to do with skiing.”
Granddad tossed another log on the fire and sparks flew. “Now that is the great thing about this prayer,” he explained. “You can fit it to whatever you’ve got going on.”
“Even skiing?” Isaiah asked, still skeptical.
“Use your own words,” Granddad offered. “You might start out something like, ‘God, I think You’re amazing and I want everyone to see it. I want things to work out Your way.’”
“Okay. That’s cool and all. But what about the bread thing?” wondered Isaiah.
“Give us our pancakes or something?”
Granddad grinned. “Daily bread just means whatever you need to get through the day. Like maybe a little extra grace for your brother. Or . . .”
He left the sentence hanging and Isaiah finished it with a reluctant smile.
“. . . Or guts to go over that edge?”
“Yessir! That’s the ticket!” Granddad exclaimed.
Isaiah checked the screen again. “‘Forgive us our sins.’” After a moment, he noted, “I slapped Zeke with my ski pole. I didn’t really mean to, but . . .”
“God can forgive that if you ask,” Granddad told him. “I bet Zeke can, too.”
“Yeah, well he was being super mean!” protested Isaiah.
“I’d say that falls under, ‘forgive everyone who sins against us,’” Granddad said, pointing to the screen again.
“What about, ‘Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted’?” asked Isaiah. Granddad raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you’re not tempted to stay mad and let this morning ruin the whole weekend.”
Isaiah couldn’t hold back a sheepish smile. “You got me there,” he admitted.
“You know . . . you’re a pretty good granddad.”
“Well, God cares about you and all of this even more than I do,” said Granddad.
Isaiah nodded. He was finally getting warmed up again. “I think . . . maybe I’ll go talk to Him right now.”
Granddad held up Isaiah’s snowsuit and hat. “You want me to put these away?”
“Uh . . . no,” Isaiah told him. “I might want to go back outside.”
Isaiah turned away from the fire and headed up toward his room. It still seemed a little strange to talk to God about skiing. But at least he had a good place to start.
Share with each other how and when you like to talk with God.
If you don’t talk with Him often now, that’s okay! Here’s the thing: While it may seem strange to talk with someone you can’t see with your eyes, talking with God is just like talking with any good friend . . . except that He’s always there and always ready to listen. And not only does He listen, but He takes action to help and comfort. You don’t need to use fancy words—and you can talk with Him about anything. It just takes a little practice. Together, read through the following prayer.
may your name be honored.
May your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.”
Now, go through the prayer together again—but this time, adapt the words and phrases to fit your family and the things that you’re going through right now.
Commitment, Week 3
Who Do You Say that I Am?
Practice talking about God.
Jesus and His closest friends followed the hard-packed road to the city of Caesarea Philippi, far in the north of Israel.
Perhaps Simon Peter, always quick to action, forged ahead. Thomas may have joined him. “Easy there, Race Horse,” Thomas may have exclaimed. “Slow down and enjoy the view.”
Simon wasn’t one to stop and sniff the flowers. “No time to waste. Everyone needs to hear what Jesus has to say!”
“Yeah, but He’s in no rush,” noted Thomas. He nodded back to where Jesus walked with James and John. The three of them had paused to fill their water skins at the rushing river flowing from the roots of Mount Hermon.
Reluctantly, Simon slowed down. “More trees up here. Everything’s green,” he admitted.
Thomas examined the mountain rising ahead of them. “What’s that? Up there on the plateau.”
High above, several stone temples with graceful arches perched against the mountainside near a dark opening.
“Some Greek thing,” said Simon. “A cave where they believe their god Pan lives.”
“How many gods do they think there are, anyway?” wondered Thomas, prodding the string bag Simon carried over his shoulder. “You remember the bread this time?”
“Ha! Not likely to forget again,” laughed Simon. He pulled out a loaf, broke off a piece, and handed it to Thomas. A short time before, the disciples had neglected to bring any bread when they crossed the lake. Jesus had used it as a reason to warn them against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees—the religious leaders.
“I don’t know why He had to talk about bread and ‘yeast,’” mused Simon. “He should have just said what He meant: Don’t listen to the religious leaders, ’cause what they’re teaching is way off base.”
“They’re threatened by Jesus,” agreed Thomas.
“And anyone who follows Him,” added Simon.
Thomas couldn’t imagine they were important enough to bother the religious leaders. “Eh. I doubt it,” he said, shrugging.
The two men looked back at Jesus once again. He was sitting on a large rock now, taking a long drink of water.
“What Jesus says sounds different than the way things have always been done,” pointed out Simon.
Thomas held out his water skin. “We should fill up while we’ve got a chance.”
As the two men headed back to join the group, Jesus waved all the disciples over.
“Guess we’re taking an early lunch break,” noted Simon. “You think He wants rye bread or barley?”
But as they joined the group, Jesus stood. Everyone stopped talking.
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Jesus asked.
The disciples knew Jesus meant Himself. They exchanged glances, considering.
“Some say John the Baptist,” said James.
“Or Elijah,” noted John.
Thomas nodded, remembering all the conversations he’d overheard. “Others say Jeremiah, or one of the prophets,” he said.
Jesus surveyed each one in turn, His eyes deep and piercing. “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Jesus’ friends knew who Jesus claimed to be. But to believe it and say it out loud themselves . . . that was a different matter.
It didn’t stop Simon, though. He met Jesus’ gaze and blurted out, “You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God.”
Simon had dared to speak the truth—a truth that would eventually make him enemies among powerful people.
Jesus smiled. “Blessed are you, Simon . . . No mere human showed this to you. My Father in heaven showed it to you.”
Jesus’ eyes strayed to the craggy mountain rising high into the sky. “You are Peter. On this rock I will build my church. The gates of hell will not be strong enough to destroy it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. What you lock on earth will be locked in heaven. What you unlock on earth will be unlocked in heaven.”
Simon Peter gulped. Not only had he just been handed a huge mission, but Jesus had given him a new name: Peter, which means “rock.”
“Yes. Okay. On it!” he said, mind already racing ahead. “We’ll tell everyone in Caesarea Philippi—”
“Wait,” said Jesus.
“What?” asked Simon Peter, sure he hadn’t heard right.
“I don’t want you, any of you, to tell people yet that I’m the Messiah,” explained Jesus.
The Jewish people were expecting a Messiah who would come as a military commander to fight the Romans. Jesus didn’t want to stir the people up into thinking that He was leading a rebellion. It wasn’t the time for people to know who He was.
As Jesus and the disciples continued their trip to Caesarea, Thomas fell into step beside Simon Peter one more time. “I can’t believe . . . I mean, you came out and said it!” he exclaimed.
Peter grinned. “Guess it just takes a little practice.”
Simon Peter didn’t have a perfect record. He later said foolish things in fear, even denying he knew Jesus. But still, he showed courage and commitment as the first person in history to confess Jesus as God’s Son, the Savior of the whole world.
Take a minute or two and share with each other something you think about God.
Maybe it’s a prayer He’s answered or something you’re thankful for, or even something you’re disappointed you haven’t seen Him do yet. You know what? You just practiced talking about God with someone else. It’s a super important part of getting to know God better and helping others to know Him—but it doesn’t have to be weird or complicated. It’s simply sharing with your friends and the people you meet what God has been up to in your life. It doesn’t matter whether they know God or not; what you tell them, big or small, will help them get a clearer picture of who God really is. It lets them know He’s your Friend and wants to be their friend, too. Together, ask God to give you opportunities this week to talk with others about Him.
Commitment, Week 4
Practice living for God.
Rinn and her friends wrapped their coats tightly against the bitter wind as they made their way out of the arena and into the parking lot.
Tish whipped out her keys and clicked the fob. “NeedToExhale is, like, the most awesome band ever!” she gushed, spinning to locate her car and nearly slipping on the ice.
“Careful!” warned Rinn. She grabbed Tish’s arm to steady her while Emma and Aleyah took the other side.
“I can’t believe you actually got us tickets for the album release!” Emma said, still star struck.
Aleyah hummed a few bars of the band’s opening number. “‘Rivers’ is totally going to the top of the charts,” she predicted.
The four girls piled into Tish’s late-model Jeep. Rinn admired the soft leather, grateful for the heated seats. She’d kept her mouth shut on the way there, but she finally had to ask, “Your parents actually bought you a brand-new car?”
Tish shrugged as she backed out of their spot. “Well, sure. I got my license, so of course I needed a car.”
Rinn could only dream of having a car. Her dad drove a 20-year-old truck, and she rode a battered bicycle to get to school and her job at the library.
In the passenger seat, Emma rolled her eyes. “Not everyone gets handed a Jeep, Tish. My folks made me pay half for my car, ’cause they think I’ll take better care of it that way.”
She turned back to Rinn. “You’ve got a job. Your dad could help you get a car, right?”
“Yeah, I guess,” said Rinn.
What Rinn didn’t tell her friends was that even though she had a scholarship to the private school all four girls attended, the money from her library job went to extra school fees—or even groceries if her dad couldn’t pick up enough shifts at the warehouse. She quickly changed the subject as they finally got on the road to Emma’s house.
“Hey, are we sleeping in your room, Emma?” she asked.
“How about the media room?” suggested Emma. “We can watch a movie first.”
An hour later, the girls unrolled their sleeping bags in front of the huge screen in Emma’s basement.
“Anyone got some gum?” asked Rinn.
“Check my coat pocket,” said Aleyah.
Rinn dug into the pocket of Aleyah’s coat, searching for gum. Instead, she found a flyer with the picture of a large-eyed little boy on the front.
“‘Sponsor a child?’” she read.
“Oh, yeah,” said Aleyha. “That group, um . . . Compassion . . . had a booth in the lobby.”
The other girls crowded around the flyer. “I know all about this,” said Tish. “For just a few bucks a month, you can make sure a kid in Africa or Peru or somewhere gets food and can go to school and stuff.”
“Hey, we should check it out online!” Aleyah decided.
Emma grabbed a remote and pulled up the Compassion International site on the big screen. A dozen photos of children waiting to be sponsored filled the lower half of the page.
“Oh, look at that little girl!” exclaimed Tish, pointing to the first one.
Emma clicked on the image. “Nadine.”
“Says she lives in Indonesia . . .” added Aleyah.
Nadine’s dark eyes seemed to smile down at Rinn. “I wish I could pick her up and give her a big hug,” she murmured.
“Hey!” exclaimed Emma. “For $38 a month we could sponsor her. I’ll put in $10.”
“Me too!” agreed Aleyah.
“I can totally do $15 a month,” Tish added.
Rinn swallowed. As the girls looked at her, she stood quickly. “I, um . . . I left something upstairs,” she said and fled for the steps.
In the kitchen, Rinn grabbed a glass of water and stared out into the backyard; a flurry of snow was dusting the ground. Much as she wanted to help Nadine, she didn’t have extra money to give every month . . .
“Everything okay, Rinn?”
Rinn turned to see Emma’s mother standing in the doorway, wrapped in a fuzzy bathrobe.
“Yeah,” she said. “I just needed a minute.”
Emma’s mom smiled, “I’m really glad you could go with the girls tonight.”
Rinn nodded. “Me too. But I . . . things are different at my house . . . ” She was grateful for all she did have. But she didn’t know how to explain her mixed up feelings.
Glancing down, Rinn saw she was still clutching the Compassion flyer. She burst out, “Emma and the others want to do this sponsor-a-child thing. And I do too! But . . . I don’t have lots of extra money.”
Emma’s mom didn’t respond immediately. She turned on the burner under the teakettle and said, “I’m going to make hot cocoa. You want some too?”
Rinn watched as Emma’s mom pulled out mugs and cocoa mix. “There’s this amazing moment in the book of Mark,” Emma’s mom began. “Jesus and His friends are at the temple, and they see where people are putting in their offerings. You know this one?”
“Maybe,” said Rinn, searching her brain. “I don’t really remember.”
“Anyhow, there are these well-dressed people dropping in lots of money,” she continued. “Handfuls of gold coins. But then this widow shows up. She’s wearing a patched cloak. And she drops in two copper coins. Pennies, basically. But Jesus calls over His disciples and points her out. He says that she gave more than anyone else.”
“But it was just a few cents!” protested Rinn.
Emma’s mom shook her head. “The others gave lots because they had plenty of money. It didn’t really cost them. But the widow hardly had anything, and so what she put in mattered. A lot.”
Rinn thought it through. “Even though it didn’t seem like much . . . ”
Emma’s mom handed Rinn a steaming mug of hot cocoa. “You want some marshmallows for that?” she asked.
“No, thank you,” said Rinn. “I’ll just take it downstairs.”
In the media room, the other girls were curled up, ready to play the movie.
“Hey, Rinn! You ready to start the movie?” asked Emma.
Rinn smiled as she set the flyer down on the sofa. “Sure! And I want to help Nadine, too,” she added. “I can . . . I can give three dollars each month.”
“Cool,” said Tish.
“Ten dollars, plus ten, plus fifteen, plus three . . . ” began Aleyah.
“That’s exactly $38 a month!” exclaimed Emma. “Just what we need to sponsor Nadine!”
Rinn slid into her sleeping bag and turned her attention to the screen. It wouldn’t be easy giving those extra dollars each month. But it would be worth it knowing Nadine could go to school and have enough food to grow healthy and strong.
What does “living for God” mean to you?
Take a few minutes to share with each other. Living for God definitely doesn’t mean you have to go to church every day or give away every penny you earn or spend every minute of your free time singing praise songs. But it does mean that every moment of your life can be given to God. With God’s help, you can live out what it means to love God and love others, whether you’re hanging out with your friends, helping your dad clean up dinner, or deciding what to do with the ten dollars you just earned shoveling snow. Together, talk about two or three things that you’ll be doing individually or as a family this week. Brainstorm what it might look like to live for God in those situations. Together, ask God to show you what it means to live for Him, whatever you’re doing.