Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
While the theme today is “The Covenant of Love” which gives special focus to the 10 commandments, every group of people has laws that make sense to them, at least at one time. But laws that get passed sometimes quit being enforced. That can happen because they become outdated or lose their meaning.
Here’s a collection of some odd laws different states in the U.S. have passed. We doubt that very many of them are still enforced, but they must have made sense in a particular context at some time in that state’s history.
Print a copy for each person and have the youth guess which state has which law. There are 20 examples, plus a separate page with the answers. And there’s a short version with only 10 examples. These come in Word format so you can cut and paste or edit as you choose. They’re also in PDF format if you just want to print it off as is.
Each family has their own sets of rules, even if they aren’t spoken or written. It’s just the way things are. Print “In My Family” from either PDF or Word format. Use this as a launchpad to discuss rules and how each family has rules even though they may differ from one family to another, and also at different times in a child’s life. It also makes a difference whether there’s one child or four children in the family; whether there’s a single parent, a blended family, or any type of family structure. It also differs based on levels of control, expectations, how family members relate to each other, and even temperaments. What are the rules in your family?
As we consider “The Covenant of Love” today, let’s watch a video clip and answer some follow-up questions.
Create a video clip that illustrates God’s covenant of love as presented from Mount Sinai. The 10 commandments are pretty comprehensive, but certainly not all that God shared during the 40 days Moses spent with him on the mountain. You may choose to focus on one or all 10 or additional laws or the concept of covenant. Ask someone in advance to create follow-up questions based on this video clip.
Check out this information-packed clip from The Bible Project. (Time: 5:27)
The iBelieveBible series of videos prepared by the Adventist Learning Community includes this segment on the Law of God as “natural law” throughout the world. (Time: 2:22)
These are more approaches to the same topic featured in the Teacher’s Guide, but just a different way of looking at it. Expect activities to illustrate the topic followed by some questions.
When?— Exodus 19:1-20:17
You’re Telling Me!—Exodus 20:3-17
Three-To-Seven Times a Year—Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:1-44
BASED ON EXODUS 19:1-20:17
“When?” is the short question. The longer version is: “When did you enter into a covenant relationship with God?”
You might be wondering, “What in the world is a ‘covenant relationship’?” Most people would be quick to identify that the word “relationship” has to do with an association or a connection. We usually think of it in terms of people, as in “My relationship with my mom got much better when I cleaned my room.”
What about the more difficult word—“covenant”? It often gets tied to the word “relationship” because the covenant is all about a relationship. It’s the rules or agreements for a relationship.
Sometimes relationships just seem to happen, like how some classmates become friends at school. It just happens. It starts friendly, there are some similarities or mutual likes, and so people get together. The same is true with romantic relationships.
The rules might be generally agreed upon, like don’t share our secrets with anyone else, or let’s be sure to cover each other’s back. Or there might be actual discussion about the expectations and the give-and-take for the relationship. If two people begin a relationship, you start to expect some exclusivity. At some point you might have a DTR moment in which you “Define the Relationship.” What do we have? Where are we going with it? What are your expectations? What are my expectations? Is this reasonable? Are you okay with it?
The word “covenant” can be contrasted with the word “contract.” Both of these include expectations of the other person, but the key difference is that a covenant is primarily about a relationship, while a contract is primarily about an action.
For example, marriage is a covenant in which two people make promises to each other to seal their relationship as unique, bonded, special, primary, and committed. Because it’s a relationship, it will need forgiveness, second chances, saying “I’m sorry,” and mercy. It also provides the venue for acceptance, belonging, intimacy, and depth. Relationships are primary in a covenant.
In contrast, a contract is about an action. If you do ____, then I’ll do ____. If you mow my lawn, I’ll pay you $20. A contract can be broken by either party—either you not mowing my lawn or me not paying you $20 when you’ve mowed it. There might be a relationship, but it’s not as important as the action. If I don’t pay you for your work, you probably won’t invite me to your house for Thanksgiving. But Uncle Buck gets to come for Thanksgiving because he’s family—the relationship might be strained, but the relationship (he’s family) is more important than the action (he’s a jerk).
Read Exodus 19:1-8. If you have at least three people, assign the following parts:
Here is the passage with color coding to match the parts:
1 On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
Read the rest of the passage and identify the components of the covenant. What is God’s part? What is the Israelites’ part? You can do this individually or in pairs or small groups. When you are finished, you can compare notes in the larger group. Provide the handout for each person, access to Exodus 19:1-20:17. Move about and help Youth Sabbath School participants find the components of the covenant in this passage.
If this had been a contract, when the Israelites broke it, their relationship with God would have been over. But because this was a covenant rather than a contract, the relationship continued. But the terms of the contract needed to be enforced. Otherwise, the relationship wouldn’t mean anything.
We still haven’t answered the question posed at the beginning: “When?” The longer version is “When did you enter into a covenant relationship with God?”
Just because your parents, guardians, or other significant people in your life entered into a covenant with God doesn’t mean that you’ve entered into that covenant. Just as the Israelites at Sinai entered into the covenant with God, their children needed to choose for themselves. Before they left the wilderness and entered Canaan, that’s the very thing they did. The book of Deuteronomy describes this in detail.
But what about you? Have you grown up with the covenant being made by someone else? Have you sort of grown into the covenant? Is your relationship with God real?
God wants to be your God—he wants a personal relationship with you. But in order for him to actually be God to you, he has to be number one in your life. What is your choice right now? (Feel free to wait for a response. You may need to give some time before people respond. You may want to wait until next week and have them think and pray over it during the week. Or you may ask if they wish to make a covenant with God at this time.)
“When?” has been the question. The Israelites entered into a covenant relationship with God at Mount Sinai. They had already experienced God’s miraculous deliverance from Egyptian slavery and the demise of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. After these experiences, God asked them to enter a covenant relationship with him. This put relationships first, but also included a set of expectations. That’s what happens in all relationships. The invitation is given to you, whether or not you’ve grown up in a family already in a covenant relationship with God. You’re old enough to make this choice for yourself. What is your answer to “When did you enter into a covenant relationship with God?” Would you like to do so now?
BASED ON EXODUS 20:3-17
Some people have memorized the 10 commandments. Have you? Perhaps you know the essence of each one. Could you could paraphrase them if you had Exodus 20:3-17 in front of you?
You’ve probably heard that the first four commandments focus on one’s relationship with God, while the last six zero in on our relationship with others. Jesus summarized these in response to the inquiry, “What is the greatest commandment?” (Matthew 22:36). His answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind” (a quick summary of the first four commandments), “and love your neighbor as yourself” (a quick summary of the last six commandments).
Ideally you need four or more people to do this activity. If your Youth Sabbath School is smaller than this, you may need to recruit a few more people to join you or adapt the activity.
Sit in a circle or half circle, with one person standing in the middle. That person points between any two people and calls out the name of a farm animal and then counts quickly from 1-10. The two people on either side of where the person in the middle points must come up with two different motions for that farm animal before the count reaches 10. If one of them doesn’t, that person must take the place of the one in the middle and start the same process by pointing between two people, calling out the name of a farm animal, and counting from 1-10. If both people mess up, the person in the middle can choose either one to take their place in the middle.
Start with just one farm animal to get people warmed up. Then add a second or third. Those who are really good at this activity need to have more animals (and a fast-counting person in the middle).
You can come up with your own motions for different farm animals. Here are a few to get you going:
Cow. One person picks imaginary grass and feeds it to the second partner who pretends to eat it.
Dog. One person holds their arms in front of themselves, elbows bent upward, and wrists limp so the hands plop downward like a puppy’s paws. The second person sticks out their tongue and makes a strong panting noise.
Elephant (okay, maybe not on your farm, but it provides some great motions!). One person clinches their two fists, with one on top of the other. These are brought to one’s nose to extend as a trunk (or you can hold one arm straight forward as an extension of your nose to have an elephant’s trunk). The second person puts their thumbs in their ears and spreads their hands and fingers for large elephant ears.
What other animals could you add? What two motions could go with a beaver, bunny, or sheep?
Forget the farm animals. Let’s try an activity that involves either someone older than you (10-20+ years older) or someone younger than you (5-10 years younger). You’ll take the 10 commandments found in Exodus 20:3-17 and come up with your own paraphrase for either someone older than you or younger than you.
You can make some simple comparisons between different translations, such as the King James Version, the New International Version, the New Living Translation, the English Standard Version, The Message (paraphrase), the New Century Version (kids’ translation), the Good News Translation, or others.
All 10 commandments might be overwhelming for some people. You may prefer to assign one per person, or maybe two to four per person. Have people practice sharing their commandment with others in your group. Have them paraphrase, illustrate, and summarize their commandment(s). Then have them explain what this has to do with a covenant relationship with God.
Here are a few websites that seek to summarize (a short version) or explain (more words and paraphrases) each of the 10 commandments. There’s also a website for a children’s version, plus another link for meditating on them (see Joshua 1:8).
Now you’re ready for the challenging part! Take your commandment and try communicating it with either someone much older or younger than you (not someone in Youth Sabbath School). You’re the one who will need to take the initiative. We expect that when you do this, the commandment will become much more personal and real to you. You have today and even next week to make that connection.
(Help the youth to select someone with whom they can share their commandment. See if they can set an appointment with someone they see at church today. They might even be able to do their sharing today while it’s fresh in their mind.)
God spoke the 10 commandments to his people from the top of Mount Sinai. We’ve had them ever since. Some people have memorized them, but many never take them to heart, even though this is part of God’s covenant relationship with his people. Today we have tried taking one of these 10 commandments to heart. By sharing our understanding with another person, our hope is that the commandment will become more personal and real to us, as well as to the person with whom we share it.
BASED ON EXODUS 23:14-17; LEVITICUS 23:1-44
Are you a party-animal? It seems that God is, and that he wants his people to celebrate often. Part of our passage for this week includes the following instructions for this newly freed nation of former slaves. Here’s Exodus 23:14-17 in the Good News Translation:
14 “Celebrate three festivals a year to honor me.
15 In the month of Abib, the month in which you left Egypt, celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread in the way that I commanded you. Do not eat any bread made with yeast during the seven days of this festival. Never come to worship me without bringing an offering.
16 “Celebrate the Harvest Festival when you begin to harvest your crops.
“Celebrate the Festival of Shelters in the autumn, when you gather the fruit from your vineyards and orchards.
17 Every year at these three festivals all your men must come to worship me, the Lord your God.
In Leviticus 23, God gave more detailed instructions about the yearly festivals. He doubled up some and added others. Eventually there were seven annual festivals in the Jewish system. He introduced these seven annual festivals by starting with the weekly festival called the Sabbath. The weekly Sabbath is a time to stop work while giving attention to feasting and worship. Here are the seven annual festivals identified and taught in Leviticus 23:1-44, in addition to the seventh-day Sabbath each week:
The Passover and the Unleavened Bread kept God’s deliverance of his people in mind each year. The angel of death passed over the Israelite houses in Egypt because they placed the blood on the doorposts as instructed. That same night, their Egyptian captors and slave-masters begged them to leave, even showering gifts upon them. This great deliverance demonstrated God’s desire to set all people free.
Feasts 3, 4, and 7 all have meaning for farmers. The first fruits demonstrated ongoing dependence on God to provide. This matched the first commandment to place God first. Feast 4 marked the end of the grain harvest, while feast 7 marked the end of the fruit and vineyard harvests. It was called the Feast of Tabernacles because the people lived in temporary shelters in anticipation of a future land of promise. The song “This World is Not My Home, I’m Just a Passin’ Through” fits the meaning of this festival.
Feasts 5 and 6 weren’t mentioned in Exodus 23. Trumpets served many purposes—worship, coronation, call to gather, warning, and war. The Day of Atonement was the Day of Judgment and it came right after the Feast of Trumpets. These weren’t celebratory feasts. Instead, they were times of fasting and reflecting; times of repentance and seeking to remove anything and everything that might hinder their relationship with God. The spiritual connotation should be obvious. Those who are guilty don’t want a Day of Judgment. Those who are oppressed or treated unfairly, and those who are forgiven, welcome a Day of Judgment.
We’ve considered the Old Testament festivals that God initiated with his people after he delivered them from Egypt. When Jesus came to earth, he transformed the Passover to the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus was the Passover Lamb and because of Christ’s death we don’t continue a Jewish festival that Jesus completed.
There are Christian festivals that have similarities and differences from Jewish holidays. The two most significant Christian festivals are probably Christmas (the birth of Christ) and Easter (the death and resurrection of Christ). The celebrations continue.
Hand out “Let’s Celebrate” to each Youth Sabbath School participant. It can be copied on one sheet, front-to-back. On the first sheet are two columns of celebrations—Jewish in the left column and Christian in the right column. The second sheet has Family Holidays in the left column, and School Holidays in the right column. Each column has blank spots for you to add your own, especially those special to people in your world, such as an annual church picnic or the family 4th of July outing and fireworks extravaganza. Your church might have an annual community service day, etc.
There are several different ways of doing this activity. The basic concept is to throw something into or onto something else as a target. For example, toss a ball into a garbage can from a distance. Other ways of doing the same thing would be shooting free throws OR tossing a Velcro ball onto a felt target OR throwing bean bags like Cornhole OR Bocce Ball, etc.
Choose your scoring method, such as how many times out of five tries were you able to get the ball into the garbage can? Set the standard for 1-5 successful accomplishments.
After the first person has their turn, they get to pick out as many festivals or parties they would like for the coming 12 months. If they only got one basket, they can choose only one. If they made five shots in, they get to pick five celebrations of their choice.
If you have a large Youth Sabbath School with more than 10 people, you may need to set up multiple stations or this could take way too long.
God started his people with a weekly celebration called the Sabbath. He instituted additional yearly celebrations, as we saw in our Scripture passage for today. Christian celebrations have some similarities and differences. Families and schools create their own. God is the original party animal, but his celebrations go deeper than just having a good time. They also pass along faith and help to shape it. Our God and faith in him give us plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Let this spark your ideas to move from talk to action by living out the lesson in practical ways in your life this week.
Ask three people this week the “When?” question: When did they begin a covenant relationship with God? Ideally this would be one person significantly older (40+), one person significantly younger (ages 5-8), and a third person that is about the same age as you. Be prepared to explain what the word “covenant” means and to answer the same question if they ask it of you. You can follow up with questions such as, “How does the covenant relationship work for you?” or “When have you renewed it?”
Follow through on sharing your understanding of your commandment of choice with another person either older or younger than those in Youth Sabbath School. If you’re able to do that on Sabbath, seek someone from the other age group during the week and try this again. You can do this with someone in your family as well.
Ask someone who is in charge of planning celebrations if you can help with the next one—whether that’s at home, school, or church. You’ll need to follow through on your commitment. It might be a good idea for you to recruit at least one additional person to join you in planning and follow through. For example, ask a church elder if you could accompany him/her to take communion to a church member who isn’t able to attend church due to health reasons. At school, offer to set up or clean up for an event.
This bonus is just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your leadership. You may already know this, or you may learn it through trial and error, or maybe you just need a reminder of something you already know. Here’s a way to get it with a quick infusion.
Young people usually don’t know about the structure which determines how decisions are made in their church. Some think that taking a youth to a church board meeting will change things, but it usually bores the youth and they aren’t even sure what to say or when. Put a church balance sheet in front of them and observe their confusion. Instead, adults who are youth leaders need to be present in board meetings and other organizational meetings (such as those involving elders, deacons and deaconesses, Sabbath School, personal ministries, etc.) and speak on behalf of the young people. The next step is to take a youth with you and mentor them in the process to the point they begin to understand and give their input. Then have them report to the youth group to improve awareness, integration, and participation.
Here’s a collection of trends related to the world of young people, as well as the sources of that information. This is to help the youth leader understand the general world of young people today. Your specific youth may differ, but this is the general trend.
Rise in e-cigarette use among teenagers. E-cigarette consumption is rapidly spreading among middle and high school students. This steady increase has been fueled by the largely unregulated sale of e-cigarettes and by the false belief that vaping is innocuous. To counteract what is progressively becoming an epidemic, in November 2018 the Food and Drug Administration announced new sales restrictions and more stringent regulations on e-cigarettes. These new restrictions particularly target youth consumption.1
The size of the e-cigarette phenomenon among teens. According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2018, 1.5 million more students used e-cigarettes than in 2017. This figure marks a whopping 78% increase in high schoolers’ consumption (20.8% of the total student population) and a 48% increase among middle schoolers (5% of the total student population).2 Since their entrance in the U.S. market in 2007, e-cigarettes have become the most used tobacco product among U.S. youth. According to data published on the U.S. Surgeon General website,3 in 2018 more than 3.6 million U.S. teenagers, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, currently use e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes: What are they? How do they work? What do they contain? The current spike in e-cigarette consumption is likely to be linked to a recently introduced top-selling e-cigarette brand, Juul. This product is part of a new class of devices call pod-mods. They use a pre-filled pod of flavored liquid that contains more nicotine than other e-cigarettes. Juul and its equivalents sell an ever-increasing range of flavorings that are particularly attractive to youth. Juul devices look like USB drives; they are small, very discreet, and do not produce much vapor. A recent survey of 437 Californian high schoolers showed that teens who use Juul are more likely to become addicted to “juuling.” Juul pods contain up to 5% of nicotine (3% versions are also available on the market). A person who inhales all the nicotine contained in a Juul pod takes in about the same amount a smoker would get from 26 to 40 cigarettes.3 One Juul pod lasts a day with heavy use. Beyond nicotine, e-cigarette pods may contain other dangerous chemicals such as: ultrafine particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs; flavorants like diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.4
Consequences of e-cigarette use among teens. The most significant danger coming from e-cigarette use among teenagers is connected to nicotine. Most cigarettes contain this highly addictive substance. Multiple studies confirm that nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm youth’s developing brain. Nicotine can also impact learning, memory, and attention. The use of nicotine at such a young age may also increase the risk of future addiction to other drugs. The aerosol e-cigarette users inhale includes other harmful substances that can cause serious lung problems.3 While among adults e-cigarettes may partly reduce health risks if they completely transition from regular smoke to e-cigarettes, there is some evidence that e-cigarette use among teens may increase the frequency and intensity of future cigarette smoking. However, it is important to emphasize that any e-cigarette use among teenagers is harmful, even if they do not progress to cigarette smoking.
What can parents and mentors do? Parents and mentors have a very important role in helping young people stay away from or give up e-cigarette consumption. Below a list of simple steps you can take:
• E-cigarettes come in many shapes and forms. It is important to educate yourself about the products currently on the market, and the risks they involve. The Internet contains much useful information to help parents and mentors in this task. A starting point to get more information can be found here: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov.
• Being tobacco free and inviting others to do the same is an important step in setting a good example. Adventism has a long tradition of health education, and its emphasis on healthy living is very relevant at this point in time. Do not be shy and speak openly about the dangers of e-cigarette use.
• Create and enforce strict tobacco-free zones—be that in your home, in your car, in the church building, or during church-sponsored activities. Explain to your teens the reason why you are creating these rules. As Adventists, we often take for granted that everybody in our circles understands and practices the same principles we do. This may be a time when we start speaking again about the reasons behind our lifestyle standards.
• Let your teens know why you have decided to stay away from all tobacco products, and why they are not safe. Seek input and help from healthcare providers and school administrators.
 Aimee Cunningham, ScienceNews, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/e-cigs-use-teens-vaping-2018-yir (accessed May 15, 2019).
2 U.S. Food & Drug Administration, National Youth Tobacco Survey: https://www.fda.gov/media/120063/download (accessed May 15, 2019)
3 Office of the Surgeon General, ‘Advisory on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth’: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/surgeon-generals-advisory-on-e-cigarette-use-among-youth-2018.pdf (accessed May 15, 2019)
4 Office of the Surgeon General, ‘Know the Risks: E-cigarettes and Young People’: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov (accessed May 15, 2019)