Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Declaration of Dependence

II Chronicles 6

I have virtually no sense of direction. I’m not sure what causes that or if that can ever be changed. I compensate for this weakness by making sure I have detailed maps, have purchased a GPS that works intermittently, and I often have the benefit of the shotgun to point me in the right direction. When I leave a store in the mall I often have to REALLY consider which way I was going before I entered the store, so as to not backtrack. I have hopped in the wrong parked cars thinking they were mine and I have been terribly lost in so many geographic locations. The rushing freeways in major metropolitan cities are the worst. Make a wrong turn, and let me tell you from experience, you may be lost a LONG TIME.

1. How is your sense of direction? Do you have a funny story about getting lost or about someone close to you that has this same malfunction that my brain exhibits?

The term ‘repentance’ means to turn – and specifically in the New Testament it means to turn from sin. When life is easy and rosy, the thought of turning from sin might seem hard to comprehend. We may even argue about what constitutes sin and what does that have to do with me, etc. etc. But when tragedy strikes, we know exactly what sin is because we tend to run straight to God and start asking forgiveness for all the things we know down deep in our hearts are wrong. Then we begin to plead with God to help us with our problems. Funny, how clearly we understand what sin is, when we are in trouble.

2. Consider points in our National history when we, as a nation, knew we were in trouble. How did the country respond? Consider the beginning of World War II and 911 for discussion starters.

3. Read II Chronicles 6. At this point in history, Solomon was a wise leader. He did the ultimate wise act as a person in authority and that is to humbly acknowledge God as the supreme ruler of the universe. What words did Solomon use to describe God’s authority?

4. In II Chronicles 6:22-31 what reasons does Solomon give for the bad things that happened to the nation of Israel? Solomon pleads with God to do something. For what does he plead?

5. Say II Chronicles 6:36-39 briefly, in your own words. What is the essence of what Solomon is saying?

6. Read II Chronicles 7:14-15. Who are God’s people?

7. What is humble about the act of praying?

8. Can you think of an example in the Bible of someone praying who was not being humble? What did Jesus think?

9. What does God promise for those who humble themselves, pray and repent from their wrongdoing?

10. How can this group pray for you today?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Credibility Factor

1. This time of year is all about diets and exercise. The extra pounds accumulated over the holidays causes many of us to get to the point of surrender when it comes to becoming disciplined about taking care of our bodies. Many crazy diet fads have gained popularity over the years. Do you occasionally “diet”? And, what is the most ‘wakadoodle’ diet that you have ever decided to embark upon? Did it work?

2. Read Nehemiah 1:1-4. When Nehemiah heard about his people, the Jews, and Jerusalem, Nehemiah not only “dieted,” he fasted. What else did Nehemiah do? What was the news he heard and what was his reaction?

3. Read Nehemiah 1:5-11 carefully. Describe Nehemiah’s prayer. What does this prayer tell of God’s character? How did Nehemiah represent his own people? What does this prayer tell us about Nehemiah’s character?

4. As Nehemiah led the efforts to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem, the workers were met with great opposition by their enemies. Read Nehemiah 4:1-3:7-8:10-12. What kinds of fears did the enemies of the Jews incite?

5. What wise leadership strategies did Nehemiah bring about in Nehemiah 4:14-23? After reading Nehemiah 5:6-19, why do you think the people listened to Nehemiah?

6. In Nehemiah 5:15 what reason did Nehemiah give for not acting like the former governors?

7. Think of someone for whom you have a high degree of respect. What qualities does that person have that causes you to hold them in high regard?

8. Think of a field in which you are knowledgeable. Perhaps it is the kind of work you do, perhaps it is your role in your family, or perhaps it is an area of study or a hobby. What gives you credibility in this given subject? What kinds of actions on your part could hurt your credibility in this area?

9. Now, contrast your answers in question number 8 with the idea of moral authority. What kinds of actions could hurt the moral authority you have in an area, and what could be the consequences?

10. The governors that preceded Nehemiah acted in an expected way. Nehemiah chose to act differently and because he did, he gained the credibility - the moral authority needed to become a great leader and help the Jewish people out of a terrible dilemma. What did you learn from Nehemiah that can help you to raise the bar in the area of credibility?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spiritual Star Wars

Were you ever a Star Wars fan? Do you have a favorite character and why?

1. The whole Star Wars popularity was built on science fiction fantasy. However, there is a real war going on in the heavenlies over our souls. There is a battle of good versus evil that rages.

Read Romans 7:17-18. How would you describe our “sinful nature or what some translations call ‘the flesh’”?

2. Read Jeremiah 17:9-10. Is it shocking to hear point blank how the Bible describes the deceitfulness of the human heart? The NLT version says in verse 10 “But I know! I the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. This alludes to the idea that as human we often have hidden agendas, and sometimes they are even hidden to ourselves! What, do you think, would help a person bring to the surface all the motives hidden in one’s heart? Put another way, what could help us from being self-deceived?

3. One of the ways in which we humans deceive ourselves is in the area of pride. In the workbook, Seeking Him, the authors give some contrasts to proud people and humble people. This list is for personal reflection in quiet time between you and the Lord. Here are a few statements for self-evaluation:

Proud People:
Focus on the failures of others

Have a critical fault-finding spirit; look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own faults with a telescope

Have an independent self-sufficient spirit

Are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation

Desire to make a name for themselves

Keep others at arms’ length

Are quick to blame others

Want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up

Have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you forgive me?”

Are concerned about the consequences of their sin

However, Humble People:

Are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need

Are compassionate; can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven

Have a dependent spirit; recognize their need for others

Are self-denying

Are motivated to be faithful and make others a success

Are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately

Accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation

Once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose
Are quick to admit failure and seek forgiveness when necessary.

Are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin

Did the Lord speak to your heart as you carefully went over these statements? Can you share with the group something that you learned as a result of going through these statements?

8. Read I John 1:9 together as a group. Discuss why this gives the Christian great hope.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Speck

Matthew 7:1-5
Sermon: Recovery Road part 1

1. Have your ever seen the T.V. show “Judge Judy?” What do you think of her quick decisive judgments?

2. Read Matthew 7:1-5. In this Scripture passage and in the sermon series, Recovery Road, we are going to be learning about attitude – which is our own personal responsibility. Specifically, we are going to talk about our propensity to judge others before we judge ourselves. Why do you think, as human beings, we are prone to do this?

3. How does Matthew 23:12 and I Corinthians 11:31 give us direction in this area?

4. Our culture would tell us that self-exaltation and self-gratification are o.k. and we should build ourselves up. There is a lot of emphasis on “self-esteem.” But the Bible speaks very differently on these subjects. Read Luke 6:41-42. What is Jesus directing us to do?

5. Commentator Matthew Henry shares the insight that while we are not to judge, some in the body of Christ are to “reprove,” which is somewhat different. A good contemporary word would be to “admonish”. defines “admonish” as to reprove gently but earnestly or to counsel (another) against something to be avoided; caution. What, in your opinion is the difference between “judging” and “admonishing?”

6. According to Jeremiah 17:9-10 and Mark 7:20-23, what is the true condition of the human heart?

7. What does Luke 9:23-24 say in regards to the way Christians are to deal with ourselves?

8. Human nature is such that there is a constant temptation to self-centeredness. The outgrowth of a self-centered mindset will result in thoughts, words and actions that re hurtful to one’s own walk with the Lord, and then to others around us including one’s church family, friends, church family and other believers.

According to Proverbs 28:13, what are we to do to guard against self-centeredness and the inclination to judge others unfairly?

9. This is a personal question for reflection and self-examination this week. Think through a recent situation in which you were upset. In the quietness of your heart read II Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 1:10; Colossians 3:2 and 3:17 and then determine whether you were seeking to please God or please yourself in this situation?

10. Another question for your own quiet devotion time: Human beings tend to judge the sins of others on a scale. There are sins as big as “logs” and sins that seem as insignificant and minor as “specks.” Yet, when a speck is in our own eye, it is incredibly painful! All of our sins – no matter what size we think they are stand between us and a Holy God. That is why we need a Savior – to forgive us of our sins. As a personal exercise, list the things for which God has forgiven you recently. Include thoughts, words and actions. Look up I John 1:9 and write the words of this verse over your list.

How does looking through the filter of forgiveness change the way we view the shortcomings, faults and outright sins of others?