Holy Spirit

Connect to God

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Jesus didn’t come to the earth, live as a human for 33 years, and die a brutal death so we could experience a “pretty good” life – He came so we could experience it abundantly! God wants the best for us, and that starts when we connect to our Creator.

1. Discussion 

John 1:4 [ESV] “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

From the very beginning, the very source of life has been a connection between God and humankind. That divine connection was lost when sin entered the world, but a loving God has made a way for us to regain purpose and vitality in every part of life – even though our physical bodies are still decaying under the curse of sin.

Q . When are the times you feel the most “connected” to God? When are the times you feel least “connected?”

Q . Do you think God’s plan is for you to experience his light in some parts of life, or in all?

Q . If God’s light is relegated to a few areas in your life, who do you think put up the boundaries – you or Him?

2. Challenge

John 14:16–17 [ESV] “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

More than just being near God, He sent His Holy Spirit so He could be in us, bringing His perspective and growing His character from the inside out.

Q . What are some ways that the Holy Spirit influences your life?

Q . What’s one area of your life that would improve if the Holy Spirit became more involved in it?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for reaching out to reconnect with you. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring His perspective and character into more areas of your lives.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Breaking Free!

1. Power Verse

John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

What’s Up: “I Know God Can Set Me FREE!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Prison Break.” In this week’s lesson, we learn that God is able to set us free from any prison that we are in. Even when it seems like God has forgotten us, He will always come through – right on time!

2. Discussion

Acts 12 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.  When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.” 

Q. Did the religious leaders like that Peter was preaching and teaching about Jesus? What did they do to Peter?

Q. What happened while Peter was sleeping? What did the angel help Peter do?

Q. Where did Peter go when he got out of prison?

3. Challenge

Prisons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are prisons of circumstances that are forced on us. Other times, they are prisons of our own making. No matter what kind of prison we find ourselves in, we can rest assured that God is able to set us free! All we must do is call on God, and He will provide a way of escape. He may not come in the exact way or time that we want, but God will always come through.

Q. Has there ever been a time you felt like you were in a “prison”? Did you rely on God to set you free?

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for your children if they are going through a “prison” in their life. Pray that they will have God’s peace. Pray that they will trust God’s timing. Pray that God will set them FREE from their prison, today. Pray that they will trust in God in future “prisons” they go through.

 

Holy Spirit Empowered

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Sharing your faith with friends and family can be intimidating. “What if they don’t believe me? What if they think I’m crazy? What if I totally mess up the message?” On our own, it would be impossible to fulfill God’s vision to reach people who need Him. The good news is, we’re not on our own – the Holy Spirit is with us!

1. The Holy Spirit will give us boldness to share the message.

Acts 1:8 [ESV]  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Being filled with the Spirit is not just about speaking in unknown languages – He works in us to give us courage to speak up, and the right words to say. Even if you’re naturally timid and soft-spoken, He will help you to share with the people in your life who need to hear it.

Q. What’s something in life you’d love to do, but are too scared/nervous to try?

Q. Trusting the Holy Spirit to give you courage in the moment you need it, what possibly-intimidating interactions with friends and family could you initiate this week?

2. The Holy Spirit will give weight to our words.

John 6:44 [NLT] “For no one can come to me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent me draws them to me…”

The Holy Spirit not only gives you the confidence to share, but when you do, it’s His influence that causes your words to ring true in the hearts of the people who hear. 

Q. Can you remember a time when you heard something at church or from another believer, and you felt like it was speaking “directly to you?” How did that change the way you responded to what was said?

Q. Trusting the Holy Spirit to cause the words to resonate with those who hear, what would you say to your friends & family who don’t know God?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for sending the Holy Spirit to help you accomplish His mission. Ask Him for boldness to share your faith this week with the people in your life who need Him.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

1. Power Verse

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”  

Watts Up: “God Is The Judge, And I AM NOT!”

This week, we continue the series called, “Ouch!” This week, we learn not to be a “rock thrower” judging others, but to be a “grace giver” instead.

2. Bible Reading

John 8:1-11 “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives… All the people gathered around him there. He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman… They said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who was not her husband. In the Law, Moses commanded us to kill such women by throwing stones at them. Now what do you say?’ They were trying to trap Jesus with that question…. So he stood up and said to them, ‘Has any one of you not sinned? Then you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ He bent down again and wrote on the ground. Those who heard what he had said began to go away. They left one at a time, the older ones first. Soon only Jesus was left. The woman was still standing there. Jesus stood up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Hasn’t anyone found you guilty?’  ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then I don’t find you guilty either,’ Jesus said. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”

3. Discussion

Q. Who brought the woman to Jesus & why?

Q.  What was Jesus’ response? Were the Pharisees innocent?

Have you ever known someone that was SO BAD that you thought, “They could NEVER become a Christian!” OR have you ever known someone who had done so many sinful things that you thought, “That person sure does deserve some punishment!”  Well, that’s exactly what the Pharisees thought when they brought the woman to Jesus in today’s Bible Story. This woman had been caught sinning. She had a bad reputation and everyone seemed to know that she was guilty of sin. The Pharisees brought her before Jesus, and they planned to “stone” her.

Q. Have you ever been a “rock thrower” instead of a “grace giver”?

Q. What do you think you could do instead of judging others?

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for your children if they have been guilty of judging others and “throwing rocks” at others. Pray that they will remember that they are sinners too. Pray they will receive forgiveness for their sins (including for judging others) and choose to be a “Grace Giver” like Jesus.

Mission: Christmas, You

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Family Devotional Adult 12-24-17Family Devotional Kids 12-24-17

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

1. Primary Statement

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Of all the reasons to celebrate Christmas, this may be the most profound. After thousands of years of being at odds with the Creator because of sin, Jesus’ birth announced wonderful news – goodwill toward humankind!

2. Bible Verse

Without Jesus, we would all be destined for God’s wrath.

John 3:36 [VOICE] “Those who believe in the Son (Jesus) will bask in eternal life, but those who disobey the Son will never experience life. They will know only God’s lingering wrath.”

Revelation 20:12-15 [ESV] “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done… 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Q. Take a minute to consider what your fate would be like if Jesus had never come to earth. What feelings does that thought stir up? – Fear, Gratitude, Wonder? 

Q. Consider how very real and intense God’s wrath is toward sin.  How does that change your outlook on the unsaved people in your life? 

3. Discussion

Jesus’ sacrifice paid the price for our sin, and made a way for us to reconnect with a loving God the way He intended from the beginning.

1 John 2:2 [NLT] “He himself (Jesus) is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”

Hebrews 10:22 [NLT]  “Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean…”

Q. Think about the price Jesus paid so you could have access to God’s presence.  Do you sometimes take that access for granted? What are some examples?

Q. What are some ways you could treat that access as more of a privilege and less of an entitlement?

4. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family and thank God for paying the price so you could be saved. Ask the Holy Spirit to develop gratitude and devotion in your heart, and to help you cherish the access you’ve been given to God the Father.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

1. Power Verse

James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” 

 Watts Up:  “God’s Gifts are the Best Gifts!”

2. Activity

Q. If you had all the money in the world, what would be the gift that you would give your best friend?  (A new car, an ipad, video game.)

Q. Now, if you had all the money in the world, what would be the best gift you would give someone that absolutely hates you? (Maybe some rotten meat?  A bucket full of slimy worms?)

Well, that might be what someone would give their enemy, but GOD gave the PERFECT gift to all of us—even before we loved Him. 

We were enemies of God before we accepted Him in our hearts. Yet, God gave His one and only Son, Jesus. The Bible says that while we were still sinners, (while we still not living for God,) Christ came for us to save us and to take away our sin! 

Now, THAT’S one perfect, undeserved gift! 

Q. What are some of the best gifts you have ever received?  Are you still as excited about them today?

God’s gifts make our whole life better, and help us to be a blessing to others!

3. Review

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Let’s review the AWESOME gifts from God we have been studying the past 4 weeks:  

GRACE: God gives us His grace, His mercy and His forgiveness through giving us His Son, Jesus. 

JOY: Be quick to smile, laugh a lot and no matter what happens, remember that GOD GIVES JOY TO EVERYONE! 

PEACE: Ask God for His peace! He’ll give you all the peace you need to help you through whatever comes your way!

WISDOM:  Wisdom comes from God.  We can use it to make good decisions, and find God’s perfect plan for our lives!

Think about God’s gifts.  Are you excited to have them everyday?

4. Prayer Focus

Pray together and thank God for His many gifts.  Not only did God send His Son, Jesus but He sent the Holy Spirit that brings us Grace, Joy, Peace, Wisdom, and so much more.

Love Your Neighbor

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Family Devotional Adult 5-28-17

Family Devotional Kids 5-28-17

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

1. Primary Statement

Loving people who love us is easy. Loving those who are different, who dislike us, or who intentionally hurt us, that’s a different story. To love these, though, is to prove that God’s love and grace are at work inside of us.

2. Bible Verse 

Matthew 5:43-45a [NLT] “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

Q. Looking back over your life, who would be some “enemies” on a personal level? Without God’s help, how difficult would it be to love them?

Q. What are a few groups, nationalities, or cultures which seem like enemies to you? (i.e. urban gangs, terrorist organizations, foreign dictators)

Q. What pressures are there from your own group, nationality, and culture to treat these people with hostility?

3. Application

Matthew 5:45b-48 [NLT] “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Jesus called us to share the good news with everyone, even our enemies. When we remember our own need for God’s grace and forgiveness (things we don’t deserve), we can more easily extend grace and forgiveness to those who are hard to love.

Q. Who is more loved by God: you or the people from the list you made earlier? Who is more in need of God’s grace? Who is more deserving of it?

4. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family and thank God for extending grace to you. Ask Him to help you love those like the people on your list, and to share the good news with them.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

1. Activity

For this devotion, you will need a flashlight or lamp, and a TV or radio. Have your entire family go into the darkest room of your house and then ask them what they see.  Depending on how dark it is, they may or may not be able to see anything.  Hand the flashlight to one of your children (or have someone turn on a lamp or overhead light) and ask them again what they can see.

2. Bible Verse

“The Holy Spirit Will Give Me Power!”

Acts 1:8 “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”

Then talk about the following questions:

Q. Why couldn’t we see much at first?

Q. Why did turning on the flashlight or lamp help us see better?

Q. What caused the flashlight or lamp to be able to light up? (electricity)

Q. Could you see the electricity? (No, but you could see what the electricity did.)

3. Application & Talking Point

Have your family move into the room where the TV or radio is.  Tell one of your children to turn on the TV or radio.  Listen for a few moments, and then have someone turn it off.

Ask the following questions:

Q. How does the TV or radio work? (Most children and adults won’t be able to answer this question very well, and that’s the point: we don’t really know how they work, we just know that they do.)

Q. What does the TV or radio need in order to work? (electricity)

Explain to your children that the Holy Spirit is kind of like electricity. When we become Christians, it’s like having a power plant in our hearts!  Although we may not fully understand how He does it, the Holy Spirit guides, convicts, comforts, and teaches us.  He also gives us the power we need to do what God asks us to.

4. Prayer Focus

Pray together, thanking God for giving each member of your family the Holy Spirit as a power source in your lives.

Receive Power

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The promise of the Holy Spirit’s power wasn’t just for Jesus’ disciples. It’s not just for pastors or evangelists. The Holy Spirit’s world-changing power is meant for all believers.

Building up our character is great, but it’s not a prerequisite for the Holy Spirit to empower us. Too many believers put the power on hold, waiting for the Holy Spirit to make them mature enough to be used. Read the passages below, and notice how quickly God’s power was available.

1 Samuel 10:5-6 (ESV) (Samuel to Saul, after anointing him the chosen king of Israel) 5 …you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

Acts 19:1-6 (ESV)  1And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” … 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

Acts 2:1-4 (ESV) 1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting…4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Discussion Questions:

  • Are you waiting to become “good enough” to operate in God’s power?
  • Did the people in the examples do that?
  • How would you pray / affect your world if you felt like you were ready to be used by God like He used Paul and Peter?

Prayer Focus:

Take a few minutes as a family and pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to work through you, even while He’s still working on you.


Kids & Family Outline

Have you ever smelled something mom or dad was cooking and asked for a taste, but it wasn’t ready yet? (ask for an example or give one) Sometimes, we feel the same way about God using us. “Maybe when I’m older,” we think, “or maybe when I get rid of all the bad stuff in my life.” The truth is, God wants to use you right now!

Read these stories below, and notice how fast God starts using people when the Holy Spirit comes.

1 Samuel 10:5-11 (NLT) (This is what Samuel said to Saul when he anointed him as the chosen new king of Israel) …you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the place of worship. They will be playing a harp, a tambourine, a flute, and a lyre, and they will be prophesying. 6At that time the Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy (speak God’s words) with them. You will be changed into a different person …9As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day. 10When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, they saw a group of prophets coming toward them. Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy. 11When those who knew Saul heard about it, they exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet? How did the son of Kish become a prophet?”

Acts 2:1-4 (NLT) 1On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Prayer Focus:

  • Did the people in the examples have to wait to get older or better for God to use them? What does that mean for you – is God ready to use you right now?
  • Take a few minutes as a family and pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to work through you, even while He’s still working on you.

If you are having trouble reading it, here is the family-devotional-3-5-17 pdf download.


We want to invite you to join this home discipleship program designed to facilitate Bible reading, discussion, and prayer.

There are two pages in the Family Discipleship Guide.  One page is for teen & adult discussion and the other is for kids.

  1. Choose the discipleship outline that works for you and/or your family.
  2. Sit down and read through the scriptures and questions each week and then take some time to discuss your thoughts.
  3. Later in the week we ask that you take time to pray for each other and for specific needs.
  4. Text DISCIPLE to 24587 after each prayer and discussion time or comment below so that we can celebrate with you, who are deepening your knowledge.

As always, please feel free to ask questions.

Prescription for Life & Peace

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life and peace

This past Sunday I preached the second part of a four-week series on the Holy Spirit. We looked at how one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to be in opposition to our flesh. For those of you who haven’t been around church jargon when the Bible speaks about “flesh” it’s talking about that fallen, weak part of our humanity that leads us away from God and into sin. Here’s one of the main scriptures from my sermon:

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:4–6, ESV)

I highlighted the words “death” and “life and peace” because those seem to me to be the real things at stake when you talk about this role of the Holy Spirit. You see, God intends that our lives have a sense of purpose and that within that purpose we find things like joy, laughter, rest, hope, warmth of relationship, and many others. These are things that when thought of collectively we might refer to them as “life and peace” or all of the things that make life good and fulfilling over it’s entirety.

On the other end of that spectrum are the things that the scriptures refer to as “death.” For many people when they hear the Bible refer to death they instantly think about hell and separation from God and that’s certainly in the intended meaning in reference to what the flesh produces, but there are a lot of things before you get to that ultimate loss. Having the mind filled with the pursuit of the things that make the fallen part of you satisfied begins this slow death. Things like purpose, hope, joy, satisfaction in your relationships, and in general a sense of peace begin to disappear from your life and life becomes an endless search for things to fill up the growing void in your mind and heart.

How do you prevent that?

Pursue the things of the spirit. Said differently, fill your life and mind with things that are good and godly. It really is like a prescription from the doctor.

  • Watch things that are wholesome.
  • Hear things that have virtue in them.
  • Go places and do things that establish goodness.
  • Build people up rather than tearing them down.
  • Serve those around you.

You might notice that I’ve tried to stay away from some of the phrases that you hear in church circles. Phrases like, “study the scriptures”, “worship the Lord”, or “spend time in His presence.” I did that not because these are bad things, but because I wanted you to think and sometimes hearing the same language over and over can keep us from thinking. These are exactly the things that we should do to fight the flesh!

Our world desperately needs to encounter people in whom the Holy Spirit is revealing the Spirit-filled life. A life filled to overflowing with the life and peace that only the Holy Spirit brings. People are hungry, but they’re hungry for something different and a life filled with “life and peace” is certainly different in today’s world. Let’s show it to them!

 

Blessings

 

What Draws You Closer to God?

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What draws you closer to God? I was working on a few chores around my place this past weekend and as I was working, my mind was dwelling on a difficult situation from the past. I had heard a comment earlier that day that reminded me of a very difficult leadership situation that I had dealt with some years ago. It was a great season of learning and faith development and as usual for me, the catalyst for that growth had been fear. As my mind reflected back on this time it dawned on me how often it takes fear to move me closer to the Lord. Frankly, I want something better. How about you?

In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read

…“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (ESV)

Said more simply, the spirit that God gives us doesn’t make us afraid. Rather, this spirit convinces us of the power that we have in and through him, confirms and demonstrates his love for us, and enables us to control ourselves.   His Spirit does not reduce us in any way but rather builds us up.

God’s desire IS that we would be in close relationship with him, and I believe that he WILL allow fear to drive us into him, but that isn’t his best plan, just the one that we leave him with after we’ve been too busy for his kindness, gentleness, and the still small voice that invites us into his presence. It’s as we disassociate with the Holy Spirit’s voice and the Word that our merciful Father, who knows we are ill equipped to face this world without his presence, allows circumstances or thoughts to cause us fear and thereby moves us close to him once again.

Think about how full the churches were immediately following September 11, 2001. People were afraid and turned to God for solace and hope. Wouldn’t it be much better if through devotion and discipline we kept ourselves closely attuned with the Holy Spirit’s voice and in regular times of reverence and worship our faith grew and grew. That love and revelation would be the context of our growth rather than fear.

Today, I’m committed to the pursuit of His presence motivated not by fear, but by a genuine desire to know him more fully and to walk from sunrise to sunset with a profound sense of his presence.

Blessings!