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?