Paul’s First Journey

Dear Parents,

This week in The Gospel Project® for Kids, our journey takes us along with Paul on his first missionary journey. Paul’s first missionary journey began in Antioch of Syria—the third-largest city in the Roman empire, after Rome and Alexandria. The Holy Spirit was working in the Antioch church. The Spirit led the believers there to send out Paul and Barnabas on a journey to preach. The church obeyed, and Paul and Barnabas went out.

Remember that at one time Paul had devotedly persecuted Christians, but now Paul was a missionary. A missionary is someone who obeys God’s call to go and tell others the good news about Jesus. Paul and Barnabas traveled to several cities and all over the island of Cyprus, telling everyone about Jesus.

In each city, they went first into the synagogues. They told the Jews about Jesus. Some of the Jews believed, but some of them were angry at Paul and Barnabas. They rejected the truth about Jesus. In some places, the Jews made plans to kill Paul! So Paul and Barnabas went to the Gentiles, the non-Jews. This was the purpose to which God had called Paul. (See Acts 9:15.) When the Gentiles heard the gospel, many of them believed. The gospel is not for a select group of people; it is for everyone! If Paul had not taken the gospel to the Gentiles, many of us would probably not be believers today.

Paul obeyed the Holy Spirit’s call to tell the world about Jesus. Many of the Jews rejected Christ, so Paul shared the gospel with the non-Jews. Many of them believed in Jesus. God uses people to tell others about Jesus so that people all over the world can be saved from their sin by trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

If you have a road map of your state or an electronic map app, mark your city. Mark the farthest city north, south, east, or west of your town. Talk about how long the car ride would be to one of those cities. Briefly review Paul’s first missionary journey. Invite your kids to think about ways to tell people in your city about Jesus.

Peter’s Escape From Prison

Dear Parents,

King Herod has begun to persecute Christ’s church by picking off its leaders one by one.  James, the brother of John, has already been executed.  Now, it’s Peter’s turn.  Herod has him thrown into prison, placing a guard of sixteen soldiers around him to prevent any escape or rescue.  A small body of believers huddles together in fear.  They are helpless.  Deeply anxious about Peter, they can only pray.

But praying is a lot.  The prayers of the righteous have power that the Herods of this world know nothing about.  They can touch the heart of our all-powerful God.

During the night God sends an angel to do what no earthly power can do.  The angel enters the cell, wakes Peter up, drops the chains from his wrists, and tells him to get dressed.  Then the angel walks the groggy apostle right past the guards, out of the prison, and through the city gate falling open before them.

Suddenly left alone, it finally dawns on Peter that is rescue is no dream.  When he finds Mary’s house and knocks, the servant girl recognizes his voice.  But she’s so excited that she just leaves him standing out in the dark street as she darts off to tell the others.  The gathered believers are incredulous: “You’re out of your mind” they told her.  When Peter keeps knocking, they’re astonished to see him.

Now why would that be?  Why are they so surprised that God can and does do exactly what they’re asking for?  Do they have faith?

In all fairness, their surprise didn’t mean they lacked faith in God.  It’s just that, as we all experience, God sometimes tells us yes, sometimes no, and sometimes wait.  They knew that whether Peter was rescued or not was a matter of God’s providence and grace.  Prayer allows us to converse with God about what we’d really like.  But in faith we rest with God’s decision, trusting that he knows better than we do what should happen next.  The power of prayer is not impersonal and automatic, like some kind of mindless incantation.  The power of prayer is that we can catch the ear of an all-knowing, all-powerful God who will answer us according to what best.  No doubt these same believers prayer for James just as fervently.  Yet no angel was sent for him.

Like Peter’s friends, we too have learned to rest in God’s will when God says no.  But we should also keep on asking because God still does amazing things.  Whenever we pray for stuff that’s good for us, not even the Herods of this world can stay God’s gracious hand.

Give children several slips of paper that are about 8 ½ x 2 inches. Tell them to write on them things they are thankful for and to tape them together in circles to form one large chain that contains everyone’s thanks. As you pray you might also want to specifically mention some of the things for which you were thankful.

Paul’s Conversion

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Over the next six weeks, kids will learn about Paul’s life-changing encounter with Jesus. Saul was a devout Jew who was born in Tarsus (Phil. 3:5) and inherited his Roman citizenship from his father. (His Roman name was Paul; his Hebrew name was Saul.) So when people began talking about this man named Jesus and claiming that He was the promised Messiah, Saul took notice.

Saul believed strongly in the Jewish faith of his ancestors. He violently persecuted God’s church and tried to destroy it. (Gal. 1:13-14) He dragged believers from their houses and put them in prison. He approved of the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Saul thought he was doing the right thing by defending Judaism, but God’s purposes could not be stopped.

As Saul was on his way to arrest believers in Damascus, the Lord stopped him in his tracks. Jesus revealed Himself to Saul, and Saul was never the same. Saul was convinced that Jesus is Lord. Saul later described the experience as being like dying and receiving a new life. (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:17) God had a purpose and a plan for Saul. He had set Saul apart before Saul was even born. (Gal. 1:15) God said, “This man is My chosen instrument to take My name to the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15).

Salvation, sometimes called conversion, happens when a person recognizes his sin, repents, believes in Jesus, and confesses Jesus as Savior and Lord. Jesus changes a person’s heart, and as a result, his or her life is changed too. Jesus appeared to Saul and changed him inside and out. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15) Jesus called Saul, who was once an enemy of Christians, to spend the rest of his life telling people the gospel and leading them to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.

 Pop some popcorn and talk about how the heat source causes the popcorn kernels to change. Eat the popcorn together as you open your Bible to Acts 9 and briefly review Paul’s conversion. Talk about how Paul’s life was very different. Talk about how God changes Christians from the inside out to be more like His Son, Jesus.

Philip and the Ethiopian

Dear Parents,

At his ascension Jesus laid out the program for his church: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8) In today’s story the Holy Spirit enables Philip to vault over the last two of those barriers in a single bound.

Philip was one of the seven chosen by the disciples to take care of God’s people (Acts 6:5). When persecution forced him to flee Jerusalem, he successfully preached Christ to the Samaritans (8:4-6).  But that was just the beginning!  Through his God-ordained meeting with the Ethiopian official Philip sent to the gospel rolling right into the heart of Africa.

This official had come to Jerusalem to worship.  There he obtained an Isaiah scroll.  It would have been a tough read, bumping along in a chariot—a foreign text with no spaces between the words and no written vowels.

With some effort, he could overcome those obstacles.  What he couldn’t overcome was his lack of understanding.  Philip asked him the crucial question: “Do you understand what you are reading?”  The meaning of Scripture isn’t always clear.  So, the Holy Spirit provides us with interpreters who help us understand what it means.  That’s what missionaries, parents, ministers, and Sunday school teachers do for us.  They help us to understand so that we can believe the gospel, live it, and take our turn in sharing it with others.

The Ethiopian asked Philip who the lamb was that Isaiah wrote about.  “Then Philip began with that every passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35) This is something every believer can learn to do.

Hearing Philip’s explanation, the man asked to be baptized.  The evangelist realized that Jesus fully and freely welcomes into the church anyone who believes and receives the cleansing that the Lamb of God provides. No wonder the Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing,” a sure sign that God’s Sprit was not living in him.  Through this statesman the good news came home to Africa.

 Encourage the kids to read the Bible this week like the Ethiopian man. Give them a story to read, maybe next week’s lesson on Saul in Acts 9:1-20. Show them how to find things in the Bible.

 Philip was ready to tell others about Jesus. If someone asked you what you believe, would you know? Help the kids learn how to share what they believe with others.

Stephen’s Address

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story is about the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Stephen was one of the seven men chosen to serve as leaders in the early church at Jerusalem. (See Acts 6:1-7.) God blessed Stephen, and God gave him power to do wonders and miracles like some of the apostles.

Some of the Jews accused Stephen of blasphemy and dragged him to the Sanhedrin, a group of Jewish leaders that acted as a legal council. Stephen addressed the group. He drew from the Old Testament, which the leaders in the Sanhedrin would have known well. He reminded them of Abraham’s faith in God and of Joseph’s plight in Egypt. He talked about Moses and the Israelites who rejected God’s plan. But God did not give up on them.

Stephen also showed how the Old Testament pointed to a coming Savior and how that Savior was Jesus. Stephen pointed out that the Jews’ ancestors had rejected God’s prophets. And they were just like their fathers; they rejected the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Not only did they reject Jesus, they killed Him!

The Jewish leaders rushed at Stephen. The Holy Spirit filled Stephen, and he looked into heaven. He saw God’s glory, and Jesus was standing at God’s right hand. The Jews forced Stephen out of the city, and they stoned him. As he died, Stephen called out, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!”

Stephen was killed because he was a Christian. Jesus told His followers that they would be persecuted—hated, hurt, or even killed—for loving Him. (Mark 13:9-13; John 16:2) Jesus also said that those who suffer for Him would be blessed. (Matthew 5:11) Stephen was not afraid to die because he saw Jesus waiting for him in heaven. We can face suffering in this life because we know great joy is waiting for us in heaven.

 Open your Bible to Acts 7 and review some of the Bible stories your kids have learned that Stephen mentioned in his address. Stephen reminded the Jews of all that God had done for them, including sending His Son, Jesus, to save people from their sins. Make a list of things God has done for your family. Then pray, thanking God for the items on your list.

The Church Met Needs

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Over the next three weeks, kids will be learning about the early church. After the Holy Spirit came and the disciples began preaching the gospel, more and more people believed in Jesus. They met together and shared what they had like one big family. God blessed them, and the church grew. (See Acts 2.)

Peter and John were among Jesus’ first disciples. They were fishermen, and when Jesus called them, Peter and John immediately left their work and followed Him. (Matt. 4:18-22) Peter and John still followed Christ after His ascension. Though Jesus was no longer with them physically, the Holy Spirit empowered them to do God’s work.

One day, Peter and John encountered a man at the temple gate. The man was lame from birth, and he depended on the generosity of passersby. When the man looked at Peter and John, he likely hoped for or expected money. Gold or silver would have provided food or clothing, but Peter gave him something even more valuable. “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6) Peter reached out and helped the man to his feet. He was healed! Not by Peter’s power, but by the power of Jesus working through him.

After Jesus returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit gave the disciples power to keep working. Peter healed a man who was lame with the power of Jesus’ name. God was working in the early church. They lived very differently from the people around them. God gives the Holy Spirit to believers today so the church can tell others about Jesus and show them His love.

Read Acts 2:40-47 with your kids. Talk about how the members of the early church lived a lot like one big family. Plan a special meal with another family in your church. During the meal, devote yourself to the apostles’ teaching (reading the Bible), breaking the bread (eating), fellowship (enjoying time together), and prayer.

The Holy Spirit Came

Dear Parents,

Today’s Bible story is found in Acts 2:1-42. We studied about the time when the Holy Spirit came to God’s people.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. Through the Holy Spirit, God reveals His will (John 16:13), helps believers tell others about Jesus, and helps them live holy lives. The Holy Spirit lives within those who trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. (John 14:17) Jesus told His disciples that God would send the Holy Spirit to teach them. (John 14:25-26)

Fifty days after Passover was another major Jewish festival called Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks. (See Ex. 34:22; Num. 28:26-31; Lev. 23:15-21.) All males had to appear at the temple for Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of the Tabernacle. Once again, Jerusalem would be packed with Jews from all over the Roman Empire.

The disciples were gathered together in one place. Suddenly, they heard a sound like a violent, rushing wind that came from heaven and filled the entire room. The Holy Spirit filled them and they were able to speak in foreign languages. They went out into the city and began to preach.

A crowd of Jews from all over the world was astonished. Weren’t the disciples Jews from Galilee? How were they able to speak in specific dialects? (See Acts 2:6-12.) Some people thought the disciples were drunk. The prophet Joel had prophesied that God would pour out His Spirit on all people, Peter said, “Then everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:14-21).

The Holy Spirit helped Peter teach about the Messiah: Jesus is the Messiah because Jesus was killed, but He is alive! (Acts 2:22-36) The Holy Spirit convicted the crowd and they asked, “Brothers, what must we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. (Acts 2:37-38). That day, 3,000 people received salvation!

God kept His promise to send the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit’s help, Jesus’ disciples could share the gospel with the entire world. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit gives us power to do God’s work, and He changes us to be more like Jesus.

Discuss a time when you broke a promise or someone broke a promise to you. Read Acts 2:1-42. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with us. We can trust that Jesus will always do what He promises! He has never broken a promise before and He never will! The Holy Spirit lives within all who love and trust Jesus and helps us tell others about God and live a life that pleases Him. The Holy Spirit gives us power to do God’s work.

Jesus Ascended to Heaven

Dear Parents,

We’re glad your child joined us this week in The Gospel Project® for Kids. This week’s Bible story comes from Acts 1:3-11 and centers on Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus showed His followers that He is alive. (Matt. 28:9-10; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:16-17,19-20,26-27; 21:14) Jesus taught them about Himself and about God’s kingdom. (Luke 24:25-27,44-48) Jesus told them that He would soon return to the Father. (John 20:17)

Jesus directed the Eleven to go a mountain. When they arrived, Jesus appeared. Some of them worshiped Jesus, but some of them doubted. (Matt. 28:17) Some of them wondered if Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman government and set up His kingdom on earth. “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” they asked. (Acts 1:6)

Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). Jesus also told them to remain in Jerusalem until they received the Father’s promise—the Holy Spirit. Those who repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus’ death and resurrection would be baptized by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5) The Holy Spirit would give them power to live holy lives and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

After Jesus told the disciples these things, Jesus was taken up into the sky—right in front of their eyes! (Acts 1:9) Suddenly two men stood on the mountain next to the disciples. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven?” they asked. They said Jesus would return the same way. (Acts 1:11) Until Jesus returns, His followers need to work faithfully.

Jesus is alive in heaven, waiting to return for His people. Jesus told the disciples He was going to prepare a place for them, and when we die, we will be with the Lord in heaven. (John 14:1-3) In the meantime, Jesus has not left us alone. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and help us do God’s work. One day Jesus will return to make all things new and to rule as Lord over all.

Ask your family members to tell about a time when they felt lonely. Read Acts 1:3-11. Jesus’ disciples were probably sad that Jesus would not be with them any longer, but Jesus told them that He’d send Someone who would be with them forever. Jesus didn’t leave us alone. When we love and trust Him, the Holy Spirit comes to be with us and help us do God’s work. We don’t have to be lonely when we remember that God’s Spirit is always with us!

Jesus Gave the Great Comission

Dear Parents, Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. This week, we learned about Jesus giving the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:15-16. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to His disciples over a 40 day period. At one point, He appeared to over 500 disciples. Then […]

Jesus Served Breakfast by the Sea

Dear Parents, Thanks for bringing your kids this week to study the lesson from The Gospel Project® for Kids. This week’s Bible story is found in John 21:1-19. After Jesus’ resurrection and His appearance to the disciples, seven of the disciples returned to Galilee, near the Sea of Galilee. It was the same sea where […]