Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Games People Play

Sermon for New Years – It All Starts by Stopping - Hosea 6

1.      What is your all time favorite game?  Why do you think you like it so much?

2.       A song popular in the 70’s was called ‘The Games People Play.’  One of the lines went:  “Oh the games people play now, every night and every day now, never meaning what they say, now, never saying what they mean.”  What do you think the lyric writer meant?  Contrast this meaning of “games” with the kind of “games” mentioned in question number 1.  

3.       Read Hosea 6.  Starting in verse 4, God was addressing the nation of Israel and their tendency to “play games” with Him.  What are some common “games” people play with God?

4.       At the heart of the issue was a sense of loyalty.  God stayed completely loyal to His people and continually tried to draw them to Himself.  Sometimes He did this by giving times of blessing.  Other times when they strayed He would discipline them in order to bring them to their senses and cause them to return to Him.  Compare God’s relationship to the people of Israel with His relationship to you.  When do you purposely seek God more – in seasons of blessing or times of trouble?

5.       How has God used trouble in your life to draw you to Himself for restoration and spiritual healing?

6.       What does it mean to ‘just get by’ in your relationship to the Lord?  Describe what bare minimum Christianity looks like in your own words.

7.       Read Psalm 62:7-8.  Human beings tend to have mixed motives in one’s relationship to God.  The purity of wanting to please the Lord out of a sense of gratefulness for His sacrifice tends to get tainted by our own human desires.  Stop and think back to a time when your heart was in the best place that you can remember.  What was it that preceded that time of love and commitment to the Lord?  What did you read in these verses that helps you in your relationship with the Lord right now?

8.        Read I Samuel 7:3-6.  The prophet Samuel was addressing the nation of Israel and instructing them what to do if they were really serious about returning to the Lord.  He talked about giving up things that had become more important to God than God Himself, obeying the Lord, praying, fasting and confessing their sins.  For group discussion, consider how engaging in some of these “spiritual disciplines” is quite different than a simple “New Year’s Resolution.”   In the quietness of your heart determine in what area God is speaking to you and what your response will be at this time.

9.       How would you describe someone whom you respect (without naming names) that is totally devoted and loyal to God?  What commitment would it take on your part to become more like that person?   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6b
Feeling Thankful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warts and All

Joseph and Judah
Sermon:  Surprised by Grace

1. What is the first word you can think of when you hear the phrase “soap opera?”

2. No soap opera in the world can compare with the real life drama of the Bible. The Bible shows human beings in the full gamut – “the good, the bad, the ugly” – “warts and all”. Yet, God loves us. Although you may have heard the verse John 3:16 a million times, turn to it now and read each world slowly and consider the ramifications of this truth. When did you first realize that God loved you, “warts and all.”

3. Meet the family. Read Genesis 35:22b-26. How would you describe this family and from this description alone, point out what kinds of problems you could foresee?

4. Read Genesis 29:9-30. Jacob, the father of both Joseph and Judah was very partial to both his wife Rachel (over his wife Leah) and to his son born of Rachel, Joseph (over his ten older brothers). Obviously the family dynamics of having more than one wife has serious and bad consequences. But putting that aside, how did Jacob’s obvious partiality impact his family?

5. Read James 2:1-9. How does God view favoritism?

6. If you had the opportunity to sit down with Jacob when you saw him acting with obvious partiality, what would you tell him?

7. Read Genesis 37:3-8. Do you think Joseph knew how his brothers felt about him? If you were an uncle or aunt of family friend listening in on this scene, what would you say to Joseph?

8. The story of Judah and Tamar is in Genesis 38, and you heard it Sunday in the sermon. By the end of the chapter we don’t like Judah much. Yet, by the time Judah acknowledges his grievous sinful lifestyle (in Genesis 44:16) and begs Joseph to let Benjamin free and volunteers himself to be a slave in Benjamin’s place, we start to see his humanness. What is it about a broken and repentant person that softens our hearts towards that person?

9. Read Genesis 50:15-21 about the account of Joseph’s forgiveness toward his brothers. How is Joseph’s forgiveness a picture of God’s grace toward us?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Messes

Sermon: Genealogy of Grace

1. Do you have siblings or are you an only child? If you have siblings, how many – and where are you in the “line up?” Do you like your placement in “the birth order” in your family? Would you trade if you had the opportunity?

2. As a child, what is the biggest “mess” you ever made and had to clean up?

3. Read Genesis 12:1-3. We are introduced to Abram and we read that God calls him and then gives Abram some specific instructions. After that God makes Abram some fantastic promises! What does God tell Abram to do?

4. What does God promise Abram?

5. Read Genesis 21:1-7. What did the Lord do?

6. As we heard in Sunday’s sermon, Abraham was very human. He made some big mistakes and more than that he did some things that were downright sinful. What does Romans 3:10-12 say about all human beings?

7. Yet, God was faithful to His promise to Abraham. Read Genesis 15:5-6. What was Abram’s response to God’s promise to him?

8. Faith is more than intellectual belief. It is defined as more of a complete trust. In believing in the One in whom we have faith, we act upon that trust. Our lives are different because of that faith. How important is our faith to God?

9. Read Ephesians 2:8-9. By what are we saved? And what is our response to be?

10. Read I John 1:9. Whom does our forgiveness depend upon? According to this verse, what is our part of the equation?

11. Read Acts 3:25-26. We continue to be blessed today by God’s goodness because of the promises He made to Abraham. These promises were not because of anything Abraham did, or any other human being’s goodness, but soley because of God’s grace. Grace is undeserved favor. Can you share some ways in which God’s grace (undeserved blessings and undeserved pardon) has been given to you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ohhs and Ahhs

Read Psalm 107

When I was a young married adult, I brought my husband to my parent’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. The home in which I grew up was stable and we had traditions we could count on, such as a big roasted turkey brought out at the table, uncarved, so we could all ohh and aww at the good-looking bird. Then my dad would do the honor of carving the turkey right at the table. With six children in the family – four which were boys – mom always purchased a large turkey, until this year. On this year, mom decided to try one of the “flaked and formed” turkeys which were popular, and they came inside an unattractive netting which looked even worse after cooking. Instead of the golden roasted brown plump roasted turkey, the flaked and formed turkey came apart in pieces, which looked kind of gray, as I recall. My mother neglected to inform my father of the change, and you should have seen his face when that turkey was presented at the family Thanksgiving table. We still laugh about the look on his face.

1. What is your funniest Thanksgiving memory?

There was a secular article in the newspaper that elaborated on the benefits of being thankful. The real gain, the article concluded, was not so much to the people who were thanked, but to the person who expressed the thankfulness. Yes, having a thankful attitude makes all the difference in the world in a person’s outlook and state of being. Psalm 107 will teach us not only to be thankful, but lets us know concretely that the object of our appreciation – the One to whom we are thankful has an impact on our lives beyond description.

2. Psalm 107:1 tells us to give thanks to whom, and what does this verse say about the character of God?

3. Of what does verse 2 remind us to be thankful? Have you been redeemed? Do you know that your sins have been forgiven, and do you have a personal relationship with God because of Jesus?

4. Verse two is significant because we often tend to list our material blessings first. We have relational blessings as well – our family, our church, our friends. But what kind of spiritual blessings have you received this year? Take time to list five spiritual blessings for which to thank the Lord. For example, “during the Easter program, I was reminded of how much Jesus went through for me.” Or, “this year I am less of an angry person because of the work God has done in my life.” What are your five? You may want to take a ten-minute break and think this through.

5. Re-read verses 4-9. Can you share a time when you were lost or homeless or hungry or thirsty? Did you call out to the Lord for help, and how did He answer that prayer?
6. Re-read verses 10-16. What has imprisoned you? Have you been in an actual jail or prison or has there been a habit, mindset, attitude or addiction that has imprisoned you for a
time? How did God deliver you? For what can you give Him praise?

7. Re-read verses 17-22. When have you been the most sick or what health issues do you currently battle? Or perhaps one of your loved ones has been ill. How did/does the Lord minister to you in a health crisis?

8. Re-read verses 23-38. Do you have a story of difficult travels or of surviving through a natural disaster such as a flood, and earthquake or a hurricane? What is your story and in what way did you see the hand of the Lord over that situation?

9. Re-read verses 39-43. Have you had financial or family troubles? How did going through these times shape and/or change you? What did you learn? Can you now give God praise for something you learned through these difficult times?

10. Now, think again of your many blessings. Let’s encourage each other to be a people who are thankful for our material, relational and spiritual blessings. What has this sermon, or this study brought to light, and how can you be more thankful for having learned these things?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Happiest Day of Your Life

Read Psalm 100

What was the happiest day of your life?

While in the country of Israel, our Jewish guide, Sholomo (Hebrew for Solomon),  explained to us that in the Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom steps on a wine glass and smashes it with his right foot.  The reason this is done at this time is to remember, that on the happiest day of your life – to remember the mourning the Jewish person has in their heart for the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  The point is that there is a tradition carried out for the purpose of remembering.  A study of the Bible reveals that we, as human beings, tend to forget – even the most important things.
1.        Read Deuteronomy  8:1-5.  What were the children of Israel to remember and for what purpose? 

2.       Read Deuteronomy 8:6-18.  What cautions are we given and what does this passage reveal about human nature?  What does this passage reveal about the character of God?

3.       Re-read Psalm 100.  Why do we need to remember to do these things? 

4.       What does it feel like when you are “taken for granted”?   How do you think God feels when we take Him for granted?

5.       What causes you to sing with Joy to the Lord? 

6.       What is the correlation between a thankful heart and joy?

7.        In what tangible ways do you acknowledge that the Lord is God in your life?  How does acting in obedience to God’s Word acknowledge that the Lord is God?  What does disobedience (knowing the right thing to do, yet  consistently ignore the Holy Spirit’s nudges) acknowledge?

8.       What does it mean to you to read in this Psalm that “He made us, and we are His?” 

9.       We are exhorted here, not only to be thankful but to enter His courts with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.  Commentator Matthew Henry tells us, “In all acts of religious worship, whether in secret or in our families, we come into God’s presence, and serve Him;  but it is in public worship especially, that we enter into His gates and into His courts”.   What is the difference, in your opinion, in private worship, and worship together with other believers in church?

10.   What does Psalm 100:5 proclaim about God?  What are some ways that you can help remind yourself or remind each other in this group about God’s goodness and faithfulness?

11.   What are some ways to communicate God’s goodness and faithfulness to the next generation?         

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Read Psalm 34:15-22.

1. What kind of shopper are you?

a. I try to not step foot in stores and if shopping is to be done I try to delegate that task to another in the family or perhaps shop online.

b. I only shop for tools or sporting goods.

c. I “conquer” when shopping. I find what I need quickly and get out of the store.

d. I do some shopping but it is really not ‘my thing.’

e. I enjoy shopping and trying to find the best buys.

f. Coupons, it’s definitely about coupons.

g. I like to shop until I drop. I believe in ‘retail therapy.’

2. When shopping, we make many choices. How do you make decisions when shopping? What kinds of things do you think about?

3. Read Psalm 1. Note how many choices the writer has explained in this Psalm. What are those choices?

4. What are the results of the choices made in Psalm 1 – for the “righteous”, and for the “wicked”?

5. According to Romans 3:10, who is righteous?

6. Read Romans 5:19 and Ephesians 2:8,9. Knowing that we all, at times, do this that are wrong and hurt the heart of God, how can we, as believers in Christ, be considered “righteous?”

7. Read Romans 1:17. By what does the righteous live?

8. What does Psalm 34:15 and 17 tell us about God’s character? What is promised, and to whom is the promise made?

9. Carefully read Psalm 34:18. What is this promise? In this context what does it mean that the “Lord is near?

10. The New Living Translation tells us that the Lord “rescues” those who are crushed in spirit. Have you experienced what it means to be “crushed in spirit” and have had the Lord “rescue” you? Can you share about this time and how your faith was impacted as a result?

11. What do these promises regarding the Lord helping the righteous pertain to your life? How does an increased understanding of God’s help and deliverance make a difference in your life?

12. If someone who is going through a difficult time this week shared their troubles with you, what would you draw from this study that would help them and give them hope? If this person was not a Christian, would you be able to share how to have a saving relationship with Christ? What words would you use? What Bible verses would you offer?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Got Compassion?

To Accompany Message:  Compassion For the Poor

Read Mark 14:7

1. In a couple of weeks we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Would you share your favorite memory or tradition connected with this holiday?

2. In a scene from a classic movie set in the thirties, some children from a poor family are given a gift by a charitable organization. The little girl opens the gift to find a doll. At first she is delighted until she lifts it from the box and finds that it’s face is broken, and she begins to cry. Can you share a memory from your most meager Christmas?

3. If there was a time when there was financial hardship in your life, how was your compassion for the poor increased by that experience?

4. We’re going to have you skipping all over the Bible. Please read Matthew 6:2-4. Why do you think the Lord instructed us to give in this way? From God’s perspective, as long as the poor are taken care of do you think the motivation of the giver matters? Why or why not?

5. Read Matthew 19:16-21. Jesus said to this young man, “if you want to be complete…” and then instructed him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. What quality in this young man’s heart was Jesus trying to correct? What was at the heart of His instruction to this young man? Read verse 22. What was this young man lacking?

6. In Mark 10:21 the Bible tells us that Jesus felt a love for the young man who was trying to please God by following the ten commandments, yet held back when it came to his possessions. What was the “one thing the young man lacked?”

7. Please read Luke 16:19-31. What, in a general sense, is the correlation between our money and our faith. In what financial state is it, humanly speaking, easier to trust in God? What affect does money tend to have our faith and why? What serious implication about belief is communicated in verse 31? To whom is this verse alluding?

8. Read Luke 21:1-4. Explain in your own words the kind of faith this widow possessed. What did Jesus want us to learn from this example?

Friday, October 28, 2011


Read Psalm 34 in its entirety. Then, if possible, read this Psalm in a different version.

1. Verse 8 tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Playing off of this idea on taste, describe your absolute most favorite dinner (we don’t have to consider calories on this one)?

2. Now, before you go get a snack, after you have considered the thought of good food, consider what Jesus meant by spiritual food. Read Matthew 4:1-4. Explain what Jesus is talking about when He says, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (NLT).

3. There is much spiritual food in Psalm 34. Our lives would be filled to overflowing if we could take it all in. Examine verses 1-4. In what practical ways would our lives be transformed if we could determine to “praise the Lord at all times” and “constantly speak His praises.” How does an attitude of praise impact the rest of our lives?

4. Take a few moments to speak several “normal everyday type of things” for which you are truly grateful. Can you share why these particular things came to mind?

5. Consider verses 4-5. When is a time when you have been freed from all of your fears after praying to God? What was that like? How did this experience build your faith?

6. Read verses 6-7. Why do you think we pay much more attention to God when we are feeling desperate? This week take a few moments to jot down some times when you came to God in moments of desperation and how He met your need. Let’s keep this list in our Bibles to review at times when we know we should be feeling thankful, but our mind is taken up with our problems.

7. Write down the names of three people and make verse seven a prayer this week. Pray that these three will grow to, or grow in their “fear” (reverence) of God and that the angel of the Lord will guard, surround, and defend them. Who is on your heart this week?

8. Verses 9-10 encapsulates a magnificent promise. Discuss what we in affluent American consider “needs” and contrast those “needs” with what those in third world countries would consider “wants” or even “luxuries.” How does considering those who are less fortunate put our own lives into perspective? Have you thought of some new things for which to pause and thank God?

9. Discuss verses 12-14. What correlation do the Scriptures offer between living a long and prosperous life and controlling one’s tongue and working to maintain peace?

10. Commentator Matthew Henry tells us, “David’s prayers helped to silence his fears; many besides him have looked unto the Lord by faith and prayer and it has wonderfully revived and comforted them. When we look to the world, we are perplexed , and at a loss.”

And so this is the battlefield of the mind when it comes to thanksgiving. If we can but keep our minds turned toward God in faith and prayer and keep looking toward the Lord our spirits can be triumphant even during our troubles in life. What are some practical ways that you can share that have helped you to turn your mind towards the Lord, and to remember to pray when troubles come?

11. Re-read verses 18-19. Why do you think that God is especially close to the brokenhearted? What does this say about God? How does this give you hope?

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Read Ephesians 6:10-20

We’re dealing with a topic of putting on the armor of God to fight our spiritual battles. This study coincides with the end of October which is increasingly a “hot topic” in Christian circles. In addition, there is a rising popularity and expanding commercialism with what some call “Halloween” and others would call a “Harvest Celebration.”

1. What is your custom on Halloween? Do you join in giving out candy or wear some silly costume? Do you shun our culture’s celebration and substitute a “Harvest Celebration” instead? Do you ignore it all together? This question is not to dictate a right or wrong way to deal with this awkward custom, but to voice that Christians have different ideas on how to approach this part of our culture while still trying to honor the Lord. Some do this by trying to be “light in the darkness” and being a good example in the middle of ‘trick or treating,’ while others, in good conscience, choose to not participate at all. Without being disagreeable, can you share what your family has chosen to do in this season, and perhaps some of the reasons that led you to this decision?

2. What is the funniest or silliest costume you have ever worn?

3. Were you alive in the 1940’s? Do you have any memories or memories that your parents or grandparents have passed down about World War II? What is your most vivid memory or story you have heard concerning the beginning of that war?

4. The United States was catapulted into the war with Japan at the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The Japanese caught the United States by surprise as a significant amount of our fleet sat in that harbor on December 7, 1941. Yet, historians say that although we were caught by surprise, there were indications that we would be attacked, yet we failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

In this section of Ephesians we are going to discuss spiritual warfare. In exploring what the Bible teaches about being prepared spiritually for battles against the enemy of our souls we are going to make some analogies to war to help us understand the seriousness of our spiritual situation.

What comes to mind when you think of “spiritual warfare?”

5. What does Ephesians 6:12 say we are fighting against? Please put this verse into your own words.

6. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. The words “Be strong” in the Greek is translated “endunamoo, which means “to make strong, to endure with strength.” In addition the verb that is in the passive voice is expressed as, “be continually strengthened.” As we are not only told to be strong, but be strong in the Lord, means that this kind of strength can only be achieved in union with the Lord. This is not an admonition to self-effort but to depend on the Lord for the supply of this strength.

Read Philippians 4:13. Explain what this means in your life and an example of how the Lord has given you strength.

7. Read Hebrews 11:30-34. In the New American Standard translation the phrase “from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. What (verse 30) made these heroes of the faith spiritually strong? On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 signifying “barely existing” and 10 signifying “mighty),” how would you describe your faith in this season of life. Has your faith ever been stronger than it is right now?

8. Commentator Matthew Henry tells us, “Spiritual strength and courage are needed for our spiritual warfare and suffering…The combat is not against human enemies, not against our own corrupt nature only; we have to do with an enemy who has a thousand ways of beguiling unstable souls…we must resolve by God’s grace, not to yield to Satan. Resist him, and he will flee.”

What are some ways you have learned to “resist him.” What strategies of holding on to the Word of God and of prayer have given you some victory? If you believe that you are presently struggling spiritually, ask the group to stop now and pray for you for the strength to resist something that is troubling to you. It is o.k. to have an “unspoken” prayer, but ask for prayer just the same. God knows all the details.

9. Matthew Henry asserts, “we must pray with all kinds of prayer; public, private, and secret; social and solitary; solemn and sudden: with all the parts of prayer; confession of sin, petition for mercy, and thanksgiving for favours received. And we must do it by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, in dependence on, and according to his teaching. We must preserve in particular requests, notwithstanding discouragements. We must pray, not for ourselves only, but for all saints. Our enemies are mighty, and we are without strength, but our Redeemer is almighty, and in the power of His might we may overcome.”

Have an extended prayer time at this group gathering and personally this week. Remember all the parts of prayer. Share a special specific request this week and be sure to pray for one another.

Praying for Ourselves, Praying For Others

Sermon: The Inward Stroke: Requests

Praying for ourselves; praying for others

1. Read Matthew 6:1-15. We live in a very time-oriented culture which has an effect on the way we communicate. To fit more tasks into our already bulging schedules we tend to interact with one another in a business-like and abbreviated way. We have, in an effort to communicate more, embraced technologies which in turn would have us get our message across in ways that are more impersonal and succinct thus adding to our breakdown in communication. For all of the new ways we are in contact with one another, relationships, as a general statement, are not any better. We turn on the T.V. and talk less. We bypass the family dinner so that we can attend all the kids sports games. We forget to say, “good morning” to the co-worker and just launch into the business of the day. We text our friends and family with brief statements and symbols without the aid of facial expressions to convey the spirit of what is said. We may spend hours on facebook but not have two extra minutes to greet someone face to face. That is our culture. Americans have the reputation overseas of being rude because we tend not to greet a person’s presence or we fail to try to express something in their own language before we hurriedly ask for directions or help. And interestingly, we tend to come before the throne of God in prayer with some of these same habits.

Dear God. Would you please do this and would you do that and I need, I need, I need. Amen.

Can anyone relate?

If you consider Matthew 6:9-15 an outline of how to pray, how would you say that God wants us to communicate with Him?

2. How does the perspective of Matthew 6:9-15 contrast with our usual way of praying? In other words, as you look over this section of Scripture what do you think God wants us to be thinking about as we approach Him in prayer?

3. What does ‘the Lord’s Prayer,’ as we call this section of Scripture, tell us about God’s heart?

4. Clearly, personal prayer is the duty and practice of all who would consider themselves followers of Christ. God desires our interaction with Him and He “sees what is done in secret.” Commentator Matthew Henry tells us, “there is not a secret sudden breathing after God, but He observes it.” Do you have a favorite place where you go to God all alone to pray? Where is that place for you and why is that place helpful for you as you seek to focus on the Lord there?

5. Matthew Henry, who lived in the 1700’s, explains “Open your case, and pour out your hearts before Him, and then leave it with Him. The God we pray to is our Father. Children do not make long speeches to their parents when they want anything. They need not say many words, that are taught by the Spirit of adoption to say that one aright, Abba Father.” In other words, a child is secure in his or her relationship with their father and says without reservation, “Daddy, Daddy” when they are in need of something. Henry concludes, “He is a Father that knows our case and knows our wants better than we do ourselves. He knows what things we have need of”. In the “Lord’s Prayer” we are instructed to ask for our “daily bread” (our daily needs). In a affluent culture, such as ours, we often time, think of many other things when we think of our “needs.” What are some of the needs for which you most often pray? How would you contrast those needs to people in third world countries? Does this give you an added perspective on what we consider “needs?”

6. Read Mark 11:12-14; 20-26. The Lord talks much of the issue of forgiveness and how our forgiving of others transgressions against us has a correlation to the way in which God forgives our daily sins. In this section of Mark, Jesus ties the promises of power in our praying to our faith and the condition of forgiveness for others in our hearts.

Why do you think that God’s relationship to us is tied to the way we interact with others?

7. Author and Pastor Ronald Dunn gives us these words of admonition if we have seemingly unanswered prayer: “If I don’t forgive, I can’t pray; if I can’t pray, I can’t express my faith; if I can’t exercise my faith, the mountain will not move. Got any mountains you can’t move? You’ve prayed, you’ve believed, you’ve fasted, you’ve rebuked the devil – you’ve done everything, yet nothing changes. Perhaps you, too, need to look under the rock of your heart and see if there is a worm of unforgiveness hiding there. Ah, there’s the culprit.”
Why, as human beings do we struggle so to forgive? What have you learned about the way that God has forgiven you to help you to remember how you must forgive others?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Getting Drenched - Colossians 4:12

Sermon: The Inward Stroke: Requests - October 9, 2011

1. Have you participated in gymnastics in any form? Did you do summersaults or cartwheels as a child? Did you play on the rings in the playground or perhaps did you participate in gymnastics in a more organized fashion? Perhaps you have simply watched Olympic gymnastics and were particularly impressed with a particular gymnast or type of competition. What is your most vivid memory when you think of gymnastics?

2. The kind of prayer spoken about in this verse will be likened to work, to labor and to put forth the kind of effort that one would in a wrestling match or a gymnastics competition. When you think of these “high sweat activities” how would you gauge your “prayer sweat-o-meter” these days?

A. Cool as a cucumber.
B. Barely perspiring.
C. In a crisis I’m drenched, otherwise I stay pretty cool.
D. I have a mild prayer workout and get mildly warm every morning.
E. Whew! I’m working hard and I’m drenched.

3. Pastor Mike told us that “intercession is my response to the love of God for all people, especially those in His family.” Intercessory prayer is that intimate conversation with God that centers around the needs of others. One of the keys to unlocking the door to a deeper prayer life is getting beyond the surface needs with prayers that go something like, “please bless Matilda and bless Henry and please make my aunt’s second cousin’s toe to feel better, and oh yes, please bless my kitty and turtle and my dog because I think he has a cold. Amen.” Have you ever been at a church service or prayer meeting and the prayer of one of those well- meaning individuals made you want to laugh? Did you?

4. Those well meaning prayers are heard by God to be sure, for He looks on the heart. And the simple prayer of a child can hold more spiritual weight than a pontificating adult! A more powerful prayer life is not about being articulate, or sounding eloquent but it is about getting deeper. How do we REALLY pray for those we care about? What can we learn from this verse in Ephesians and someone named Epaphras and the way he prayed?

Read Colossians 4:12. What impresses you about Epaphras? How do you feel about someone who sincerely wrestles for you in prayer everyday? Are you “an Epaphras” for someone else? What have you learned about praying fervently for someone else? How did that prayer change you?
5. Commentator Kenneth Wuest tells us that the term “laboring fervently” (in regards to prayer) is in the Greek, agonizomai, which means “to contend in the gymnastic games, to content with adversaries…figuratively, to contend, struggle with difficulties and dangers antagonistic to the gospel.” Have you ever thought of prayer as work? If so, why is it work?

6. It’s accurate to say that Epaphras had a deep concern for this church that he had helped to establish. If you are a parent, or have known someone for a very long time, or you have helped to get something of spiritual value started, how much greater is your level of concern?

7. Open your Bible to Colossians 1:9-12. Study this section this week and use it as a prayer guide to wrestle in prayer for someone or some ministry for which you care deeply. Where is says “you” insert that person’s name or ministries name. For whom or for what are you going to pray this week?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"You were made by God and for God - and until you understand that, life will never make sense." R. Warren