Self Discipline

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.

Empowered by the Spirit- Part 3

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The Holy Spirit has special abilities He gives to us, which help us to be better witnesses in our world. For some, those abilities are gifts of faith and of healing.

Hebrews 11:6 [ESV] “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Many times we think of having faith in God’s power – what he can do, but the gift of faith can also empower us to believe in God’s character – what He wants to do in our lives and in our world.

Q . Think of someone in your life who has great faith. When you’re around this person, what happens to your own faith? 

Q. Is it strengthened? Are you challenged to grow?

Q . What’s a way God could use great faith in your life to inspire faith in others? 

2. Challenge

Isaiah 53:5 [NLT] “But he (Jesus) was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.”

God doesn’t heal people just to show off. Healing is an extension of God’s mercy – a God who cares about our suffering. The gift of healing empowers Christians to not only change the outcome of ailments, but to express God’s mercy and compassion.

Q . Has God’s ability to heal changed since the records in the Bible? Has His character or willingness to heal changed? If not, why do you think many have a hard time believing God still heals people?

Q . Have you ever been sick or suffering, and felt like God didn’t care, or that people didn’t care? How would praying for someone to receive healing change that feeling in others?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for equipping His church (including you!) with the abilities needed to change the world. Ask the Holy Spirit to develop the abilities in you that He wants to express in your world.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

How To Handle Temptation

1. Power Verse

James 4:7 “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

What’s Up:  I May Be Tempted, But I Won’t Give In!

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 how to handle the temptation in our lives.

2. Read

Genesis 3:1-6 The serpent was more clever than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. The serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But God did say, ‘You must not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. Do not even touch it. If you do, you will die.’ ”

“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “God knows that when you eat fruit from that tree, you will know things you have never known before. Like God, you will be able to tell the difference between good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree’s fruit was good to eat and pleasing to look at. She also saw that it would make a person wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. And he ate it.

3. Discussion

Q. What did you notice about Eve in the story?

Eve made a huge mistake, but it wasn’t just an isolated incident. There were several mistakes she made that added up to the ultimate mistake of the original sin. Like Eve, we are all tempted, but we don’t have to give into that temptation. The only way we can handle the pressure is to recognize that rarely is sin an act of the moment. We must learn from Eve that there are other mistakes made that lead to our sin. First, we can’t listen to Satan’s lies. Instead we must trust God’s plan. Second, we can’t hang around when temptation comes. We must run away from the temptation in our lives. Lastly, we must not follow the crowd. We must do what’s right.

Q. Have you ever made a mistake that eventually lead to sin? (i.e. listening to Satan’s lies, hanging around temptation, following the crowd) 

4. Prayer Focus

Allow your child time to confess their sins to God. Then pray with them that God will help them follow the three steps in the plan to defeat temptation.

Empowered by the Spirit- Part 2

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When the Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses, He also gives us special abilities that are beyond our natural skills and talents. At first blush, this might seem outlandish or kooky, but in reality, these abilities are functional, highly useful tools for the mission we’ve been entrusted with.

1 Corinthians 12:7-8 [NLT] “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice…”

This Holy Spirit ability is beyond normal human wisdom – it’s God-empowered insight into a situation, which shows someone the answer to a problem, or the best course of action to take.

Q . Has anyone ever given you wise advice or a problem-solving insight? Think of a specific example. How did that advice make your life better? Did it make you more or less likely to trust that person’s words and intentions?

Q . Have you ever had an “aha!” moment, when the right course of action, or words, or answer suddenly came to you? Have you ever received that type of breakthrough for someone else’s problem?

2. Challenge

1 Corinthians 12:8 [NLT] “…to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.”

The second gift Paul mentions is special knowledge – when the Holy Spirit reveals information to someone that they could not have known otherwise.

Q . God will sometimes reveal information to someone as a warning, or encouragement to be given, or a specific thing to pray about. How is that different from a psychic or mind-reader?

Q . Has anyone ever spoken one of these “words of knowledge” to you? How did it make you feel? How did it affect your life in that situation?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for the special abilities He gives through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. Ask Him to help you grow in the ability that He’s entrusted to you.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

The World’s Most Expensive Fruit

1. Power Verse

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What’s Up:  “Sin Costs A High Price!”

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 about the HIGH price of giving in to temptation. It’s a price that is NEVER worth it.

2. Read

Genesis 3:6-23“The woman saw that the tree’s fruit was good to eat and pleasing to look at. She also saw that it would make a person wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. And he ate it. The Lord God said to Adam, “You listened to your wife’s suggestion. You ate fruit from the tree I warned you about. I said, ‘You must not eat its fruit.’ “So I am putting a curse on the ground because of what you did. All the days of your life you will have to work hard. It will be painful for you to get food from the ground. You will eat plants from the field, even though the ground produces thorns and prickly weeds. You will have to work hard and sweat a lot to produce the food you eat. You were made out of the ground. You will return to it when you die. You are dust, and you will return to dust.” So the Lord God drove the man out of the Garden of Eden. He sent the man to farm the ground he had been made from.”

3. Discussion

Q. What was the price Adam and Eve paid for their sin in the Garden?

Adam gave in to temptation, just as Eve did. They knew better, but they did it anyway. As a result, they paid the price for it. They were separated from God, thrown out of the garden, and forced to work a life of blood, sweat, and tears.

So often, we think that we can just “go ahead and sin” and it won’t matter. After all, it’s just one sin. Can that really be that big of a deal?

The truth is, all it takes is ONE sin for us to have to pay the ultimate price of separation from God forever. It was true for Adam and Eve, and it is true for us.

4. Prayer Focus

Pray with your child if they feel that they have been paying the high price of giving into temptation. Pray that God will help them realize the price of sin and work to never give into temptation.