Self Discipline

Fasting- An Act of Submission

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When we think of “worship,” fasting rarely comes to mind, but in truth, they’re closely related. Fasting and worship share the same root – submission to God.

1. Read

James 4:6-7 [ESV] “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.”

Fasting, just like worship, is an act of willful submission. It rarely comes easily, but that’s part of what makes it so powerful. If God is really “Lord,” we owe Him worship, whether we feel like it in the moment or not. Q . What has been the most challenging part of your fast so far? Have you been tempted to cheat, or to quit? How does sticking with it – against your natural desires – help you deepen your devotion to God?

2. Challenge

Psalm 8:1-4 [NLT] “LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens…What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”

Whatever the expression is, worship begins with an understanding that God is, well – God, and you’re not. Before you call on God to meet your larger-than-life need or give you divine wisdom, you have to get off of the throne of your life and bow before Him. Fasting is a season of practicing that dynamic, as you say “no” to your desires, and “yes” to God’s plan. Q . What’s an area of your life that needs divine intervention? Is He Lord in that area of your life right now, or are you? Q . God wants us to be humble, but not to feel broken-down or worthless. How would you describe the right balance between self-worth in God, and humble knee-bowing before His throne?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a minute to search your heart. What are the areas where your will often puts up a fight against God’s way? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you, as you continue a season of fasting, to focus on submitting better in those areas.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Life is a Highway: STOP

1. Power Verse

Galatians 5:25 “…let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

What’s up: “S-T-O-P Say No To Sin!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Life Is A Highway”. In this series, we’re learning that life is a lot like a highway. The Bible says that there are two roads that we can choose to travel on. One leads to life in Heaven forever and one leads to sin and death. We have to make sure we are on the road that leads to Heaven.

2. Activity

Ask your kids to make a list of “BIG” sins and “little” sins. When they finish, take turns reading each list.  Sin is dangerous. ALL sin is dangerous. Sadly, many Christians have decided there are “BIG” sins and “little” sins – they divide them up just like we did. There are some sinful habits that we tend to ignore and allow to remain in our lives.

3. Discussion

What are some of the sinful habits we tend to ignore and allow to remain in our lives? Why? ALL sin breaks God’s heart and can cause eternal damage to our souls. It’s important to S.T.O.P. sin in its tracks and defeat those nagging sinful habits that tend to continue to hang around. S – Stop What You Are Doing T – Think About What The Bible Says O – Obey It P – Pray That God Will Give You Strength To Resist It

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for your children if they have been struggling with the same sinful habits over and over. Pray God will help them break those habits and follow the S.T.O.P. method.

Why Fast?

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Fasting is supposed to be a season of focusing on God, but it can easily become a season of focusing on “doing it the right way.” In the end, God’s not impressed with the “how” of fasting; He’s impressed with the “why.”

1. Read

Matthew 6:16 [NLT] “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.”
Fasting can become a way to show how “spiritual” you are by how you do it. It’s human nature to want a pat on the back for doing something hard, but we should seek that from God, not people. Q . You shouldn’t fast to impress others, but you should encourage others, especially your family / children, to want to fast themselves. What’s the difference between this and what Jesus was describing? Where is the line between inspiring others and showing off?

2. Challenge

Matthew 15:1-3 [NLT] “Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, ‘Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.’ Jesus replied, ‘And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?’”
When you’re working hard to serve the Lord through a fast, it’s easy to become sidetracked judging others on the “how” of their service. Instead, focus on the heart behind why you’re fasting. Q . As Christians, we’re called to look out for each other, and confront those who have strayed into sin. How is that dynamic different from the Pharisees’ interaction with Jesus? Q . Imagine a scenario where your focus on the details and traditions of a fast could overshadow the heart behind it in someone else. What would that conversation sound like? How can you avoid playing it out in real life?

3. Prayer Focus

Talk to God in a different way this time. Try to communicate without using the phrases and terminology that normally come to mind. What do you need? What are you thankful for? Keep it real, and just say it in plain English.

Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Life is a Highway: Yield

1. Power Verse

Galatians 5:25 “…let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” 
What’s Up: “Slow Down, Wait A Minute, Listen To The Holy Spirit!” This week, we continue our series called, “Life Is A Highway”.  In this series, we’re learning that life is a lot like a highway.  The Bible says that there are two roads that we can choose to travel on.  One leads to life in Heaven forever and one leads to sin and death.  We have to make sure we are on the road that leads to Heaven.

2. Activity

Show your children a GPS or map app on your phone. Q. How does a GPS/map app know where to tell you to turn? (It’s in constant communication with satellites that give it information about your position.) Q.  What happens if you’re using a GPS/map app and you make a wrong turn? (The GPS tells you how to get back on the right road.) Q. If a GPS/map app has access to ALL the information about your location, would it ever be smart to ignore the directions it gives you? Why not?

3. Discussion

The Holy Spirit is like this GPS/map app.  He speaks to us as we travel down the highway of life.  He tells us where to go and what to do.  We need to listen to His still small voice in our hearts and always obey what He tell us. Q. How is the Holy Spirit able to help you in your everyday life? Q. How has the Holy Spirit helped you in the past?  Did you listen?

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for your children to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking into their lives.  Practice slowing down by sitting still for a few moments.  Ask your children to listen to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to their hearts.  Then, pray that God will help them obey the Holy Spirit this week.

A Life of Thanksgiving

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Last Thursday, people all across the country prayed over their family meal, in recognition of “Thanksgiving.” The form is fine, but God is looking for more than a tradition or routine – He wants us to live in a daily attitude of thankfulness.

Psalm 92:1 [ESV] “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High…”

Do you ever stop to think about why you pray over your food? Or why we sing songs together on Sunday mornings? One of the main reasons for a lot of our Christian traditions and practices is to give thanks to God for His goodness to us. Q . What are a few different ways you can express your thankfulness to God? Q . Which church / Christian practices or traditions seem most closely tied to thankfulness for you? Which seem most disconnected? Why do youthink that is?

2. Challenge

Psalm 50:23 [ESV] “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

As much as God likes music, He doesn’t have a need to be entertained. As much as He enjoys your prayers, He doesn’t have a low self-image that He needs help boosting. What He’s ultimately after is a thankful heart,which can be expressed in a variety of ways. Without that heart, worship / prayer / whatever else becomes an empty shell. Q . Do you ever feel like you’re going through the motions at church or at home when you express thanks to God? What could you do to reconnect meaning behind those things? Q . What’s something you could do, start doing, or stop doing this week that would express a thankful heart to God? Make that a part of your worship!

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family – thank God (really!) for His goodness to you. Ask Him to help you keep gratitude in your mind, and to connect your heart with the things you do to express thanks & praise.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Jesus Is…Counselor

1. Power Verse

Psalm 32:8 “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway foryour life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

What’s Up: “When I Don’t Know What To Do, I Know God Will See Me Through!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Jesus Is…” In this week’s lesson, we learned another word that Isaiah used to describe Jesus when prophesying about His birth. We learned that Jesus is our Counselor.

2. Read

Matthew 2:1-18 “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose. Now we have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Then Herod secretly called for the Wise Men. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go andsearch carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report it to me.” The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. But God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they returned to their country on a different road. When the Wise Men had left, Joseph had a dream. In the dream an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you to come back. Herod is going to search for the child. He wants to kill him.”

3. Discussion

Q. Who was the king?  Q. Who came to visit the king? Q. Who were the wise men looking for?  Q. What was King Herod’s plan?  How did God help?   This world is tough! There are lots of situations we face every day that bring about lots of questions. “What should I do? How should I respond?  Can anybody help me?” Well, Jesus is our Counselor. When we face tough situations and have questions, we can ask Jesus. He will give us wisdom! Even the three wise men who visited Jesus after he was born needed wise counsel. Q. Do you remember a time when you received wise counsel?  What happened? Q. What are some areas in your life that you might need Jesus to helpcounsel or guide you? Q. What are some ways we can receive God’s wisdom? 4. Prayer Focus

Pray that when your children have questions and they don’t know what to do, that the God who knows all things will give them wisdom and direction to do the right thing. Pray that when they seek their Counselor, they will find peace and wisdom!

You’re New

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When we come to God, He doesn’t refurbish or repair us spiritually – He makes us something all-new, something beyond what we could ever be otherwise. Every day with Him is a refreshing of that newness, as we walk in His grace and empowerment.

2 Corinthians 5:17 [NLT]
“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Being new in God is more than just feeling different. With His help, we’re now able to act differently – to live the way He created us to.

Q . What are some things you can do differently, now that God has made you a new person?

2. Challenge

Romans 6:4 [NLT]
“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

God’s work in us isn’t just a onetime change. Every day, we have the choice to embrace the comfort of our old, indulgent life, or to say, do, and think the things that the Holy Spirit wants. Being new every day means that no matter our past failures, God gives us the strength to win today!

Q . Which is easier for you – saying “yes” to the new life and behaviors, or saying “no” to the old ones?

Q . What’s something from the “old” you that’s long gone? What’s something you’re still working on saying “no” to?

Q . What are some ways the Holy Spirit helps you to say, do, and think things differently?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for an all-new life every day. Ask Him to help you to keep choosing the new way of living He’s calling you to.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Jesus Is…Wonderful

1. Power Verse

Psalm 86:10 “For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God.”

What’s Up: “Jesus Is Wonderful – Yes He Is!”

This week, we start a brand new series called, “Jesus Is…” In this week’s lesson, we learned about the prophecy that Isaiah made about Jesus. We learned that Jesus truly is the most WONDERFUL person who ever lived on Earth.

2. Read

Philippians 4:19 “My God will meet all your needs. He will meet them in keeping with his wonderful riches. These riches come to you because you belong to Christ Jesus.”

Q. What are some things that you consider wonderful? (Have your children write these things down – give them a minute or two to make a long list of wonderful things.)

We overuse the word “wonderful” A LOT! We use it to talk about food, saying, “That meal was wonderful!” We use it to talk about entertainment saying, “What a wonderful concert that was last night!” Wonderful has lost its “WONDER.However, Jesus truly IS wonderful! When we think about His grace, His love, His power, and His character – we are filled with wonder. Our minds can barely comprehend just how WONDERFUL He really is.

3. Discussion

Q. What are some things about Jesus that are wonderful? 

(Have your children write these things down – give them a minute or two to make along list of wonderful things about Jesus.)

Q. What is your favorite wonderful thing about Jesus that you just wrote down? 

Q. Why is it so special to you?

Jesus is SO wonderful! And if we open our hearts and minds, Jesus will fill us with wonder this Christmas Season!

4. Prayer Focus

Pray with your children a prayer of worship and thanksgiving to Jesus for His wonderful miracles, wonderful love, and for being such a wonderful Savior.

Empowered by the Spirit- Part 6

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The Holy Spirit grants a lot of different abilities to believers to accomplish His mission – from knowledge, to healing, to discernment – but it all starts with infilling, when the Holy Spirit comes upon a believer in power.

Acts 1:8 [ESV] “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

God can give any ability to anyone He chooses at any time, but the example we see in scripture is that the abilities of His Spirit flow freely once a believer has been filled with, or baptized in, the Holy Spirit. If you want the abilities, you need to be filled!

Q . Speaking in unknown languages is the first noticeable sign that a person has been filled. If you’ve been Spirit-filled, what was your experience like speaking in unknown languages for the first time? How would you describe it to someone who had never been around it?

Q . If you haven’t experienced Holy Spirit infilling yet, describe your thoughts or ideas about speaking in unknown languages. Does that idea confuse or intimidate you? What would prevent you from asking God to fill you, right here, right now?

2. Challenge

Acts 2:16-17 [NLT] “No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.’”

Spirit-empowerment is such a big deal, God wants every believer to experience it. That means you, too!

Q . If empowerment is so vital, why doesn’t every believer speak in unknown languages and operate in the special abilities of the Spirit? Is the breakdown on God’s end, or ours?

Q . In what ways has your experience with or understanding of the Holy Spirit changed during this series? What are some ways you’ve grown in that area? How can you share those experiences and new understanding with others?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for the empowerment that comes with the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to fill and energize you to be effective accomplishing the mission He’s given you.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Give Thanks

1. Power Verse

1 Chronicles 16:8 “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness…”

What’s Up: “I Will Be Thankful Every Single Day!”

Jesus asked many questions, and from those questions and His teachings we can learn about how to live our lives. This week’s lesson is important to help us live a life of gratitude!

2. Read

Luke 17: 11-19 “Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men met him. They had a skin disease. They were standing close by. And they called out in a loud voice, “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!” Jesus saw them and said, “Go. Show yourselves to the priests.” While they were on the way, they were healed. When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back. He praised God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Weren’t all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Didn’t anyone else return and give praise to God except this outsider?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Q. What was wrong with the men who stopped to meet Jesus? What did they want from Jesus?

Q. How many came back to thank Jesus?

Q. What was Jesus’ response?

3. Discussion

Ten men came to Jesus that day. Ten men had leprosy. Even though all ten men were healed, only one of them came back to thank Him. Can you believe that? How could only one person come to thank Jesus for what He had done? 

Q. Have you ever had something amazing happen in your life that you forgot to thank Jesus for?

Q. Why do you think it is so easy for us to forget to take the time to thank Him? (we get busy, we forget Jesus is the source of everything, etc)

Q. What can we do to help remember to thank Jesus for everything we receive?

4. Prayer Focus

Spend time as a family listing, making a chart, or coming up with a fun way to demonstrate all the things you are grateful for that God has given you. When you are finished, pray together and thank Him for all He has done for you!

Empowered by the Spirit- Part 5

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God wants us to be effective witnesses – representatives of who Jesus is to the spiritually lost in our world. In order to accomplish that goal, the Holy Spirit empowers believers with special abilities, including the gifts of discernment and speaking / interpreting unknown languages.

1 John 4:1 [NLT] “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”

The spiritual gift of discernment enables you to identify the spirit behind a person or group, to tell whether a prophecy is legitimate or not, or to have insight into the spiritual realities of a situation.

Q . Have you ever fallen for an email scam or a similar hoax? If so, what were the repercussions? (if not, what do you imagine they would be?)

Q . What are some sources in our world of incorrect teaching about God?

Q . How might the gift of discernment make you more effective as a witness?

2. Challenge

1 Corinthians 14:5 [ESV] “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

The spiritual gift of “tongues,” or, speaking in an unknown language, is one that seems to be mostly for personal prayer time, but it can also be beneficial to others -when it’s interpreted.

Q . When did you first encounter people speaking in unknown languages? What was your impression at the time? Is that different from your impression now?

Q . What are some ways that speaking in unknown languages could help you be a better witness, or point the spiritually lost toward God?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for the spiritual abilities to discern spirits and speak in unknown languages. If you’ve received the ability to, take a little time to pray in the Spirit using unknown languages.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

God’s Response To Failure

1. Power Verse

1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

What’s Up: “When I Fail, I Can See God Always Comes Looking For Me!”

This week, we continue the series called, “The Garden”. In this series, we will look at the four characters involved in the first sin in the Garden of Eden: Satan, Adam, Eve, and God. 

In this lesson, we learn just how much our Heavenly Father loves us.

2. Read

Q. Who are people you love? (i.e. family, friends, etc.) Have you ever gotten mad at someone you love?

Q. Ever wonder how God feels when we sin? Does He get angry? Does He plot revenge? Does He say,“I told you so?” 

So many people have the idea in their mind that God is sitting in Heaven with one hand on the “zapper” and one foot raised in the air just waiting to STOMP on us when we sin.

Genesis 3:8-11 Then the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking in the garden. It was during the coolest time of the day. They hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called out to the man. “Where are you?” he asked. “I heard you in the garden,” the man answered. “I was afraid, because I was naked. So I hid.” The Lord God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten fruit from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?”

3. Discussion

Through the story of Adam and Eve, we see God’s heart and how He really responds when we fail Him. When we run from Him, He comes looking for us and gives us a chance to make it right.

John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.”

Q. Have you ever been afraid of what God thought when you messed up?

Q. What do you do when you mess up? What should you do when you mess up? 

4. Prayer Focus

Give your child a chance to “make it right” with God. Let them know that when they mess up, God comes to them and gives them a chance to be forgiven – all they have to do is ask.

Empowered by the Spirit- Part 4

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The Holy Spirit has special abilities He gives to us, which help us to be better witnesses in our world. Two of those abilities, miracles and prophecy, are often misunderstood. The truth is, they’re vital, real-world practical functions of God’s work in our lives today.

1 Corinthians 12:10a [NLT] “He gives one person the power to perform miracles…”

When people think of “performing miracles,” they often imagine parting the Red Sea or calling down fire from heaven. The truth is, a “miracle” is any time God’s power intervenes to change how a situation plays out. Through the Holy Spirit’s enablement, God wants to use us to pray situation-changing prayers that address real needs in the world around us.

Q . What is the most memorable or spectacular miracle you remember from the Bible?

Q . What’s a need that you’ve encountered where you’ve asked God to get involved and change something?

Q . What are the differences between those 2 examples? What are the similarities?

2. Challenge

1 Corinthians 12:10 [NLT] “He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy.”

We often think of “prophecy” as telling the future, but this spiritual ability is much broader than that. A “prophet” is anyone who speaks God’s words under His inspiration.

Q . Has anyone ever come to you with a message they felt like God asked them to share? Was it relevant to your life at the time?

Q . What are some types of things God may want to say to people around you? How often is there a need in your world for the Spiritual ability to prophesy?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for answering prayers with His power, and for speaking to you through various sources. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to notice and obey when He prompts you to function in a special ability.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

No Fear

1. Power Verse

Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you…”

What’s Up: “I Don’t Have To Be Afraid, I’ll Put My Trust In God!”

With God on our side, we should never be afraid! Kids have a lot of things that they may fear. It’s important at an early age, we help them learn that with God, there is nothing that is too big for us to face. With Him by our side, we can face anything!

2. Read

Ask your children to list some of the things they are scared or afraid of together.

Q.  What do you think Jesus says about fear? Jesus has a lot to say about fear, and we are actually talking about that today! We are going to learn from a familiar story in the Bible of how Jesus reacts to our fears.

Matthew 8:23-27 “Jesus got into a boat. His disciples followed him. Suddenly a terrible storm came up on the lake. The waves crashed over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up. They said, “Lord! Save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “Your faith is so small! Why are you so afraid?” Then Jesus got up and ordered the winds and the waves to stop. It became completely calm. The disciples were amazed. They asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

3. Discussion

Q. What was Jesus’ response to the storm?

Q. Why do you think the storm didn’t scare Jesus?

Just like the storm didn’t scare or intimidate Jesus, our fears and problems don’t scare Him either. Jesus is never afraid. He can help us not be scared, too! We just have to trust Him!

Take time working with each of your children coming up with a plan of how they can face their fear they mentioned earlier in our devotion. 

Q. What scriptures could they quote that would help them? What could they pray to help calm them? 

4. Prayer Focus

Pray together after you have finished writing or drawing out your plan.