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Coming Soon

Friendship, Week 1

Two People Are Better Than One

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Choose your friends carefully.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us:

Two people are better than one.
They can help each other in everything they do.
Suppose either of them falls down.
Then the one can help the other one up.
But suppose a person falls down and doesn’t have anyone to help them up.
Then feel sorry for that person!
One person could be overpowered.
But two people can stand up for themselves.
And a rope made out of three cords isn’t easily broken.

Let’s see how this might play out today . . .

****

Jaxon slid into the small school theater and took a seat in the back row as he waited for Mr. Ray, the music and arts teacher. It looked like only one other kid had signed up to help build the set for the fifth-grade production of Charlotte’s Web—Amahl, from Ms. Weisman’s class.

“Hey,” said Jaxon. “Hi,” Amahl replied.

The boys waited in awkward silence until Mr. Ray blasted into the room. “My set team!” he exclaimed. “Fantastic! You guys know each other?”

Amahl shrugged. “. . . kinda.”

“Different classes,” added Jaxon.

“Well, you get to spend a lot of time together in the next two weeks as we build this set and get it painted,” said Mr. Ray. “You guys got any experience with power tools?” Jaxon could see Amahl shift nervously in his seat.

“No,” replied Amahl, swallowing. “I just . . . I don’t want to go on stage. Ms. Weisman said I could do this instead.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you what you need to know,” assured Mr. Ray. “Jaxon?”

“I’m pretty good with a hammer,” said Jaxon. “And I didn’t want to wear some silly animal costume.”

The two boys ignored each other as Mr. Ray showed them how to measure the lumber for him to cut. He helped them lay out the pieces in a large frame.

“This will be one of the wall flats for the backdrop,” explained Mr. Ray. “We’ll paint it as part of the barn. Amahl, you want to hammer in these nails?”

“Uh . . . I guess,” said Amahl. Gripping the hammer, he gave a nail several uneven whacks.

“Hold it more like this,” said Mr. Ray, adjusting Amahl’s grip. “Don’t worry, you’ll get it.”

“I’ll do this side,” offered Jaxon, grabbing another hammer. He managed to nail together the entire flat while Amahl was still struggling with one corner. “What a klutz,” he murmured to himself.

But it was a different story the next day when they started to paint. “This flat is part of our barn wall,” said Mr. Ray, pointing. “I want you guys to paint a couple chickens right here.”

Amahl grabbed a brush right away. “Do you want them to look like real chickens, or like cartoons?” he asked.

“Give them your own personal spin!” suggested Mr. Ray.

Amahl got right to work creating a palette of paint colors—while Jaxon was still wondering which brush to pick.

“I’ve gotta run down to the art room,” Mr. Ray told them. “Amahl, why don’t you show Jaxon how to get started?”

Amahl looked down. “I don’t . . . really . . .”

Mr. Ray smiled at them both. “He needs a hand. I think you guys will make a great team.”

Mr. Ray hurried out. Jaxon and Amahl avoided each other’s eyes.

“I’ll sketch an outline for the chickens,” Amahl offered after a moment.

“What do I do?” wondered Jaxon.

Amahl kept sketching. “Just . . . you know, fill it in.”

“I’m not really an artist,” said Jaxon. He stabbed his brush randomly into the blue paint and frowned at Amahl’s outline.

“Just have fun with it,” Amahl told him.

Jaxon swiped the blue brush, outlining a wing.

Amahl laughed. “I’ve never seen a blue chicken!”

“Oh.” Jaxon quickly set down his brush, face red.

“No, it’s great,” said Amahl. “It’ll stand out.”

“Oh! Thanks,” said Jaxon. He dipped his brush in the orange.

By the time Mr. Ray returned, Jaxon was surprised to discover he and Amahl had already painted five brilliant-hued chickens.

Mr. Ray grinned. “I’ve never seen a more flamboyant flock.”

Jaxon held out his fist to Amahl. And Amahl, surprised, gave him a fist bump. “See you boys tomorrow!” said Mr. Ray as he dismissed them.

The next day, Amahl showed up with a bruised finger on his left hand. “I can still paint with my right,” he assured them.

“What happened?” Jaxon wondered.

“Mr. Kunkel keeps putting me in as goalie during P.E.,” sighed Amahl. “And then I mess it up and everyone on the team gets mad at me.”

“Do you stay on your toes?” asked Jaxon. “Keep your eye on the ball?” Amahl grimaced. “I just panic when the ball comes at me.”

“Look,” said Jaxon, “I can show you some tips later in the parking lot. Before my mom comes.”

Amahl’s eyes widened in surprise. “Really? That would be great.”

Jaxon turned out to be a pretty good teacher—because Amahl managed two blocks during P.E. the next day.

And when Jaxon showed up to paint sets, stressed out by a math test, Amahl grabbed his textbook. “Fractions?” he asked.

“I see all these weird numbers and I freeze up!” groaned Jaxon.

“You just have to break it down, like this . . .” Amahl began, jotting down equations.

With Amahl’s help, Jaxon managed to stay calm during his test the next day. And by the middle of the next week, they’d completed the entire backdrop for Charlotte’s Web.

“Well done! I knew you two would make a great team!” he told the boys.“Amahl’s pretty okay,” said Jaxon.

“Jaxon’s not too terrible,” agreed Amahl.

“Look, I know you guys are really different from each other,” began Mr. Ray. “But it’s boring if all your friends are just like you.”

Together, they started gathering wood scraps and wiping off brushes. “Seriously, one of the wisest men to ever live pointed this out,” added Mr. Ray. “Solomon.”

“Solomon?” asked Jaxon.

“Yup. He’s this king in the Bible,” explained Mr. Ray. “He was a builder and an artist and super rich too. But for all the things he had, you know what he valued most? Friendship. He says it like this: ‘Two people are better than one. They can help each other in everything they do.’ ”

“On point,” said Jaxon.

“Yeah,” said Amahl. He held out his fist and Jaxon tapped it with his own. Maybe Solomon—and Mr. Ray—were onto something.

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Think about the friends you spend the most time with—whether it’s at school, church, or hanging out at home or in the neighborhood.

How do your friends encourage and help you? Take a few minutes to share. If you have friends who encourage and help you, great! If you don’t, brainstorm together about how you could make some new friends, whether it’s inviting someone to your house, or starting a conversation at church or school with someone you don’t know well yet—but you think would make a great friend. Pray for each other, that God would help you to find great friends—and show you how to be a good friend to the ones you already have.

Coming Soon

Friendship, Week 2

David + Jonathan

1 Samuel 20

Friends love one another.

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a prince.

Your father, King Saul, is a fierce, handsome warrior with a hot temper. Saul is the first ever king over the land of Israel. And since you’re his son, most people expect you to be the next king. You live in a fine palace, wear royal robes, and carry the best weapons.

Your name is Jonathan.

You’ve got a great life, right?

But then your dad hires a new guy—a young man your age named David, who’s only a shepherd boy. Except that somehow, by the power of God, David has just defeated the giant Goliath, saving God’s people in battle against the Philistines!

Your dad has given David a place to live at the palace—and a high rank in the army. You and David even become friends.

Now imagine that David fights in every battle—and wins. The people of Israel are even more impressed with him than they are with King Saul. To top it off, you’ve heard rumors that David has actually been chosen by God to be the next king of Israel . . . instead of you.

It would be so tempting to be jealous of David. To stop talking to him or hanging out with him.

But that’s not who Jonathan was.

That’s not what Jonathan did.

In First Samuel, we discover that instead of being jealous, Jonathan chose to share the best of what he had with his friend.

“Here, take my robe!” Jonathan offered. “Then people will see how important you are.”

“Are you sure?” David asked in amazement.

“Take my belt too. And my sword,” Jonathan insisted, handing them over. “Oh, and my bow and arrows.”

“But these are all things for a prince!” David protested. “You’re worth it,” Jonathan told him.

“Thank you, friend!” said David.

King Saul, on the other hand, did become jealous of David. So jealous that he hurled a spear at David! Later, the king even told Jonathan and all his servants to kill David. Jonathan was horrified and quickly warned his friend.

“Find a place to hide,” said Jonathan. “I’ll talk to my father and find out what’s going on.”

The next morning, Jonathan faced King Saul. “Don’t harm David,” Jonathan pleaded. “He’s helped you. He risked his life to kill Goliath. God won a great battle through David. Why would you kill him?”

“Okay, fine,” grumbled Saul. “I will show how awesome I am by not putting David to death.”

Jonathan and David were both relieved, and for a short time, all was well.

But then Saul went back on his word. He tried to kill David again, and when that failed he sent other men to try to kill David.

“I haven’t done anything to your father,” exclaimed David. “Why is he trying to kill me?”

“He won’t do it,” promised Jonathan. “He tells me everything, and he hasn’t said a word about hurting you.”

“That’s because he knows we’re friends and you’d tell me,” David pointed out. “This is terrible. I’ll do anything I can to help,” Jonathan said.

So the two friends made a really complicated plan that was like something straight out of a spy movie! Their top-secret plot had David hiding instead

of showing up for a feast and Jonathan making up this story to find out how angry his dad was. And then instead of just going and talking to David about it, Jonathan was going to shoot arrows close or far like a secret message!

In the middle of it all, their friendship stayed strong. “Whatever happens, please be kind to me,” asked Jonathan. “I know the Lord will defeat all your enemies some day, but promise to always be kind to me and to all my family.”

“I promise!” cried David.

The two young men promised to always be friends, no matter what might happen next. Then they put their plan into action.

When Saul discovered that David was missing, he was filled with rage. “I knew it!” he shouted at Jonathan. “You’re on his side. That is so not cool. As long as he’s alive, you’ll never be king!”

“Why do you want to put him to death?” demanded Jonathan. “What has he done?”

Saul was so angry he couldn’t think clearly. He actually threw a spear at his very own son!

Jonathan left immediately. The next morning, he hurried to the place where David was hiding . . . and sent their top-secret arrow code message. When David realized things with the king weren’t good, the two friends ran to meet up, one last time.

“I’m so sorry,” began Jonathan. “My father . . .” “I know. It’s not your fault,” David assured him.

David and Jonathan hugged each other and wept. “Go in peace,” said Jonathan. “In the name of the Lord, we’ve promised to be friends. He will be a witness between us and our families forever.”

There was nothing more to say. David left the city to hide from Saul, while Jonathan went home. Jonathan could have allowed his father to kill David—and maybe become king himself. But instead, Jonathan trusted God and chose to love and protect his friend.

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What are some ways that a friend has shown you love?

Maybe it was by helping you, encouraging you, making you laugh, or just being there. Take a few minutes and share with each other. If you have good friends who do these things, that’s great! If not, take a few minutes to brainstorm how you could start by showing love to your friends, first. You don’t need to save them from an angry king! Just helping with a test or inviting them over to hang out is a great place to start. Then pray for each other, that God will give you His love to pass on to your friends.

Coming Soon

Friendship, Week 3

Elijah and Elisha

1 Kings 19:14-21; 2 Kings 2:1-15

Friends encourage one another.

For many years, God’s people were ruled by kings who refused to listen to God. So God sent prophets to speak His words. One was a man named Elijah, who did amazing things through God’s power. He called for rain after three years of drought, and even brought a dead boy back to life!

But being a prophet was a difficult, lonely life. When the evil queen Jezebel threatened his life, Elijah fled to Mount Horeb. “God, I’ve followed You and You alone,” he cried out. “But the people have given up on You. And they’re killing anyone who speaks for You. I’m the only prophet left!”

God already had an answer to Elijah’s pleas: a friend.

“Go back the way you came,” God told him. “Anoint Elisha from Abel Meholah as the next prophet after you.”

So Elijah tightened his belt and set out along the road. When Elijah reached the town, he spied young men plowing with a dozen pairs of oxen. In the very last field, one young man wrestled to keep his oxen in line.

“God, is that Elisha?” Elijah might have wondered. “He’s just a small-town kid. Does he have what it takes to be a prophet?”

But God had chosen Elisha, so Elijah tramped through the muddy field to greet the young man. “Elisha!” he cried out.

Elisha blinked in surprise as Elijah marched right up and threw his very own cloak around the young man’s shoulders. It was a sign that God had picked Elisha to be Elijah’s assistant.

“Me? You’re choosing me?” gasped Elisha.

Elijah turned and began to walk away. Elisha dropped the reins and ran after. “Wait! Just let me say goodbye to my family. Then I’ll come with you.”

“Go right ahead,” said Elijah. “I’m not making you do anything.”

Right then and there, Elisha broke apart his plow, and used the pieces to start a fire. He cooked a meal and called all his friends and family to share it with him. “I’m leaving to travel with Elijah,” he told them. “Goodbye everyone!”

Then Elisha set out along the road beside Elijah. “I don’t really know how to be a prophet,” he confessed. “Or even a prophet’s assistant.”

“That’s okay,” said Elijah. “You’ll learn.”

Over the years, Elisha followed Elijah everywhere as a close companion and good friend. He watched and listened as Elijah spoke God’s words to powerful kings and did incredible things. One day, Elijah and Elisha left the town of Gilgal, traveling toward Bethel. They both knew God was about to do something breathtaking: God was going to take Elijah up to heaven!

“Stay here, [Elisha,]” said Elijah. “The Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

Elisha wasn’t about to leave his friend to go it alone. “I won’t leave you. And that’s

just as sure as the Lord and you are alive.”

At Bethel, the same thing happened. “Stay here, [Elisha,]” said Elijah. “The Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

“I won’t leave you. And that’s just as sure as the Lord and you are alive!” exclaimed Elisha.

It happened once again at Jericho. “Stay here,” Elijah said. “The Lord has sent me to the Jordan River.”

“I won’t leave you. And that’s just as sure as the Lord and you are alive!” announced Elisha.

Together, Elijah and Elisha reached the banks of the Jordan River. The waters flowed dark and deep. Elijah removed his coat and rolled it up. Then he struck the water! Immediately, the waters parted to the right and left.

Elijah and Elisha walked across the river on dry ground. They climbed up the opposite bank.

“Tell me. What can I do for you before I’m taken away from you?” Elijah asked.

Elisha didn’t want to lose his friend and mentor, Elijah. But he’d learned many things in the last few years. “Please, give two times the spirit God has given you!” he asked.

“Only the Lord can do that,” said Elijah. “But suppose you see me when I’m taken away from you. Then you will receive what you have asked for.”

Elisha nodded, and the two men walked on in silence.

Suddenly, a wild wind whipped up and a chariot and horses appeared, blazing with fire!

The flaming chariot flew right between the two men. It caught up Elijah, and carried him up to heaven, driven by a strong wind.

“Elijah!” cried out Elisha. “You are like a father to me!”

Elisha stared up into the sky until the last hint of flame and the final breath of wind were gone. Then, in great sorrow, he tore his own clothes.

“My best friend is gone!” he wailed.

Glancing down at the ground, Elisha saw Elijah’s coat. Carefully, he picked it up. Then he hurried back to the bank of the Jordan River. Once again, the water flowed hard and fast.

On the opposite bank, a group of prophets from Jericho watched. “Look, there’s Elisha. But where’s Elijah?” they wondered.

Across the river, Elisha twisted up Elijah’s coat. He called out in a loud voice.

“Where is the power of the Lord? . . . Where is the power of the God of Elijah?” he cried.

Then Elisha struck the water, just as Elijah had done! And just as before, the waters parted to the right and left.

The prophets from Jericho stared in amazement as Elisha crossed the river on dry land.

“The spirit God gave to Elijah has been given to Elisha!” they marveled.

It was true. Elisha had been faithful to follow and learn from Elijah for many years. And now, God’s spirit was with Elisha in the same way it had been with his friend.

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How have you been encouraged by someone else?

Take a few minutes and share. Now, brainstorm some ways that you could encourage a friend this week. It might be drawing a card, taking an extra treat in your lunch to share, or just giving them a big smile. Pray for each other, that God would show you creative ways you can encourage your friends this week.

Coming Soon

Friendship, Week 4

Jesus Forgives Peter

John 21:1-17

Friends forgive one another.

Peter hauled in the knotted net yet again as the first light of dawn gleamed in the eastern sky.

“Empty!” he grumbled. “Not a single fish all night.”

Thomas shook his head. “I doubt we’ll catch a thing before it’s time to take the boat in.”

John studied Peter thoughtfully. “Peter, you didn’t really want to catch fish anyway, did you?” he asked. “You just wanted to get out in the boat and do something normal.”

Peter shrugged, but he knew John was right. Over the past weeks and months, everything in his life had turned upside down.

First, Peter had shown the courage to speak the truth about his friend Jesus: “You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God.”

Many people wanted to make Jesus king, even though the religious leaders hated Him. The night before Jesus was killed, Peter had promised he would follow Jesus anywhere—and even give up his life for Jesus.

But that very evening, Jesus was arrested. Peter was so scared that he told three different people he wasn’t Jesus’ friend!

Peter felt sick about what he’d done. Especially when Jesus was nailed to the cross . . . and died.

But then Jesus returned to life! He appeared to His friends. It was amazing! Incredible! Everyone was excited beyond belief.

But Peter must have wondered . . .

Is Jesus mad at me?
Am I still His friend?
Does He still love me?

Now Peter found himself in the boat, trying to figure it all out. His fingers tightened on the wet ropes as he prepared to cast the net one more time. But as he glanced at the shoreline, he saw a figure standing there.

The Man called out, “Friends, don’t you have any fish?” “Nope. Not one!” Peter shouted back.

“Throw your net on the right side of the boat,” instructed the Man. “There you will find some fish.”

The seven disciples in the boat exchanged glances as Thomas laughed. “I seriously doubt it!”

“You guys have anything better to do?” Peter asked with a shrug. “Let’s give it a try.”

Together, the men heaved the heavy, wet net back into the sea, on the other side. “Hey. I think we’ve got something . . .” said John.

“Bring it on in . . .” Peter told them.

The men suddenly found themselves wrestling with the net. It was so full of fish they couldn’t even haul it into the boat! They began towing it to shore. John gaped at the Man still standing on the beach.

“It is the Lord!” he cried.

Excitement raced through Peter’s veins. He was about to see Jesus again! But just as quickly, guilt gnawed at his stomach. Facing Jesus meant Peter must face how he had

denied knowing Jesus.

“But it’s Jesus,” he told himself. “I’ve got to see Him, no matter what!”

Grabbing his coat, Peter jumped right out of the boat and into the water. He half ran, half waded to the beach, where he discovered that Jesus had started a small bonfire. Fish and bread were already toasting over the flames.

“He’s God’s Son. And He’s making breakfast for us!” Peter marveled. Jesus smiled at Peter. “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Peter ran back into the lapping water to help his friends haul their fish to shore. “One hundred and fifty-three!” announced John.

“You counted?” asked Peter. “Don’t doubt it!” said Thomas.

Jesus gestured for the disciples to join Him around the fire. “Come and have breakfast,” He said.

As they gathered, Jesus offered them bread to eat. John whispered to Peter, “This is what He did when we last ate together. At the Passover meal!”

When breakfast was finished, the disciples rose to take care of their fish. Peter found himself walking beside Jesus. There were so many things he wanted to say, but he couldn’t find the words.

“[Peter] do you really love me more than these others do?” asked Jesus.

Peter swallowed hard. Surely, Jesus knew what he felt. “Yes, Lord,” said Peter. “You know

that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

Peter remembered that Jesus had compared people to sheep in His stories. “[Peter] do you love me?” Jesus asked once more.

“Yes, Lord. You know that I love you,” Peter replied.

“Take care of my sheep,” said Jesus.

Sheep. People. Peter weighed it in his mind. Jesus must be telling Peter to take care of the people who had followed Him.

“[Peter] do you love me?” asked Jesus yet again.

“Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” exclaimed Peter. “Feed my sheep,” instructed Jesus.

Just as Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times, he had now confirmed three times that he loved Jesus. What’s more: Jesus wanted Peter to go out and show that love to others.

“He’s forgiven me,” Peter realized. “Even after what I did!”

“Peter, things are going to get even more difficult for you,” Jesus told him. “You are going to be led places you do not want to go.”

Slowly, Peter nodded. He was willing to do whatever Jesus asked of him. “Follow me!” invited Jesus.

Because Jesus had forgiven him, Peter was now free to share the love of God with those around him . . . instead of carrying a heavy load of guilt.

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Has a friend ever done something that hurt you or made you feel angry?

How did you respond? Take a few minutes and share. Did you choose to forgive your friend, or did you stay angry? Forgiveness is hard—especially if you were really hurt. It means you choose not to keep score and hold what they did against them. But without forgiveness, no friendship can last! Now, if a friend keeps hurting you—you may need to choose other friends. But you can still choose forgiveness. Pray for each other, that God will help you forgive—especially when it can help repair a friendship.