Monday, November 26, 2012

"Here I Raise My Ebenezer" Youth Retreat Idea, or Extended Bible Study

“Here I Raise My Ebenezer”

Optional Spiritual Autobiography Retreat

Brief: Use this section as a retreat or as a mini-series during your weekly meetings to help students understand and share how God has helped them so far in life.

Sample Schedule
Friday night – bonfire, campfire games, session 1, board games

Saturday – breakfast, session 2, activity/board games, lunch, camp activity, session, 3, dinner, session 4, flashlight hide and seek, movie, board games

Sunday – breakfast, session 5

Session 1 
Praise songs and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Intro Question
Tell us one thing we don’t know about you.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 7:2-12
The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the LordSo Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that He may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

What was an Ebenezer? (An Ebenezer is a monument set up to show how far God has helped you.)

God helped the Israelites fight and beat the Philistines up to a certain point, so Samuel raised the Ebenezer there.

This weekend, we’re going to be raising our Ebenezers. God is working in our lives all the time, but we don’t always notice it when it’s happening. Writing our spiritual autobiographies will help us look back and see what God has done for us and in us. We’ll see how far God has helped us.

What did the people have to do for God to help them against the Philistines?

1. They had to turn to God (verses 2-4). Part of writing our spiritual autobiographies will be remembering when we turned to God or when we turned back to God.

2. They had to confess their sins (verse 6). Part of writing our spiritual autobiographies will be remembering and talking about times when we have sinned and made mistakes.

3. They recognized the challenge (verse 7). We’ll also be talking about challenges and scary times that have come up in our lives.

4. They asked God for help (verses 8-9). We’ll talk about times God has helped us and times He hasn’t.

5. They took action. They knew what they had to do, and they did it. We’ll talk about the things God is asking us to do as well.

(Hand out Writing a Spiritual Autobiography instructions and journals and give time to work on them. Conclude the session by singing another praise song and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” again.)

“Here I Raise My Ebenezer”

Optional Spiritual Autobiography Retreat

Session 2 
Praise songs and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Intro Question
Tell a favorite story about your family.

What did God have to do with your story?

Who is the most religious person in your family? The least?

Scripture: Genesis 12:1-5; Hebrews 12:1-2

Genesis 12:1-5: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

What did it cost Abraham to go on this journey? (Leaving everything familiar, his family, etc.)

Did Abraham know where he was going? (No.)

What was Abraham’s goal? (To go where God led him.)

Abraham’s goal was to keep going wherever God led him. He didn’t want to stall or get lost or get stuck in one place. He started on his journey right away, and he wanted to get where God was leading him.

We’re on a journey too. We’re on a spiritual journey with God. We might not know everything that’s going to happen to us in life on our journey, but our goal is to follow God and not get stalled or lost or stuck on the way but to keep going forward.

How could we get stalled, lost, or trapped on our spiritual journey?

Hebrews 12:1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The big thing that hinders us in our journey, that stalls us, makes us get lost, or trapped, is sin. When we sin, when we don’t follow God and what He wants for us in life, we lose our way on the journey.

So, Abraham starts out on this journey. What did God promise him in return? (That God would bless him and that he would be a blessing to others.)

God will bless us too if we follow Him in our spiritual journey.

What does it mean to bless others?

How can you be a blessing to others?

(Give time to work on spiritual autobiography journals. To conclude the session, the leader should share their spiritual autobiography. Pass out the Listening to a Spiritual Autobiography instructions and go over it as you begin.)

“Here I Raise My Ebenezer”

Optional Spiritual Autobiography Retreat

Session 3 
Praise songs and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Intro Question
When have you experienced God? (Pass out idea sheet)

Scripture: 1 Kings 18:16-40; 19:1-13

1 Kings 18:16-40: So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—He is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down.31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that You, Lord, are God, and that You are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

Elijah experience God in an amazing way. He won this great victory. And sometimes we experience God in some pretty amazing ways. But watch what happens next?

1 Kings 19:1-10: Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put Your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Elijah has just had this great time with God, doing this miracle, but now Elijah is feeling low. He’s depressed. Maybe he’s even doubting why God ever did this miracle in the first place. When have you doubted God?

1 Kings 19:11-13: The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Just like Elijah, we experience God in some big ways sometimes, and these are special times, but we know that God is also with us on a daily basis in a more subtle kind of way. How can you feel God’s presence every day?

(Give students time to work on their spiritual autobiography journals. Then, give a couple of students time to share their spiritual autobiographies.)

“Here I Raise My Ebenezer”

Optional Spiritual Autobiography Retreat

Session 4 
Praise songs and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Intro Question
When you were little, who was the most important person in your life?

Who is the most important person in your life now?

Have you ever had a “spiritual friendship,” a friendship that was centered on helping each other with your faith? What would that kind of friendship be like?

(Give students time to work on their spiritual autobiographies. Then, give students time to share their spiritual autobiographies.)

“Here I Raise My Ebenezer”

Optional Spiritual Autobiography Retreat

Session 5 
Praise songs and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Intro Question
What is the scariest to you? (Pass out idea sheet.)

What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?

Scripture: Genesis 22:1-18
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time16 and said, “I swear by Myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me.”

How has God provided for you in scary or hard times?

What can we learn about God during scary or hard times?

(Finish sharing spiritual autobiographies. Then, have students pass their journals around. Each student writes something they admire about that person in their journal.)

(To conclude the retreat, have each student find a rock from the retreat center, decorate it with their names and other designs in permanent marker and then, bring them to the youth room to make an Ebenezer pile of stones in remembrance of the weekend.)

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