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?
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
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.
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.
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.
Adult & Teen Discussion Guide
1. Primary Statement
God uses people to accomplish His mission – not perfect, flawless people, but real humans with real issues. It doesn’t take perfection to be useful to God, but it does take the right effort and attitude.
2. Bible Verse
God called Noah, and entrusted him with the survival of the entire human race.
Genesis 6:13-14 [NLT] “So God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth! Build a large boat from cypress wood…’”
But Noah had his own issues.
Genesis 9:20-21 [NLT] “After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.”
Q. Why do you think the story from Genesis 9 was included in the Bible? What can we learn from it?
Q. How do you think Noah felt after the whole incident?
Even after his drunken experience, Noah had a huge role in God’s mission. He lived for another 349 years, teaching the new generations about God (he even lived alongside Abram for 58 years!). God doesn’t expect perfection, but He does expect humility, submission, and resiliency. If Noah had given up on serving God after his embarrassing moral failure, the entire human race would have been missing a huge wealth of knowledge about God and the times before the flood. The key is to repent, put it in the past and keep following God’s direction. When you fall, don’t give up – get up!
Q. Have you ever felt like you were disqualified to serve God because of mistakes / sins?
Q. If God called Noah (a drunk), David (an adulterer and murderer), and Peter (who denied he even knew Jesus), do you think He would disqualify you for your issues?
4. Prayer Focus
Take a few minutes as a family and thank God for calling you to serve Him. Ask Him to keep you from sin, and to help you get back up and keep going when you fall.
Family with Small Children Discussion Guide
1. Power Verse
1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Keep on praying.”
Watts Up: “P-R-A-Y, Lift Your Eyes Up To The Sky & Pray!
This week, we start a brand new series called, “Bugs.” In this series, we will learn some big lessons from different bugs. In this lesson, we are encouraged to talk to God daily. He is our best friend. God wants the best for all of us. We can share with Him all the things on our minds and hearts.
2. Bible Reading
Luke 18:9-14 Jesus told a story to some people who were sure they were right with God. They looked down on everyone else. 10 He said to them, “Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee. The other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people,’ he said. ‘I am not like robbers or those who do other evil things. I am not like those who commit adultery. I am not even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. And I give a tenth of all I get.’13 “But the tax collector stood farther away than the Pharisee. He would not even look up to heaven. He brought his hand to his heart and prayed. He said, ‘God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner.’14 “I tell you, the tax collector went home accepted by God. But not the Pharisee. All those who lift themselves up will be made humble. And those who make themselves humble will be lifted up.”
Q. What kind of prayer did the Pharisee pray? What about the tax collector?
Q. Which prayer do you think was most pleasing to God?
Life is full of choices. It’s so easy to rely on our own minds and power to make those hard decisions. God has provided a way for each of us to plug into His power and wisdom through prayer.
Too often, we choose the advice of friends, family, internet, books, television, etc., before we ever go to the source of all wisdom – God.
Prayer changes things. We must remember that prayer should be our first option, not our last.
Q. Where do you usually go to for advice when facing a tough situation?
Q. How do you think we can make prayer a priority?
4. Prayer Focus
Lead your child in the “PRAY” method of prayer. Walk them through Praise, Repentance, Asking For Others, and then Yourself. Remind them that prayer is an essential part of our lives. It is how we stay close to God. Remind them, “When you see a praying mantis, let it remind you of the importance of prayer.”
Adult & Teen Discussion Guide
1. Primary Statement
It’s easy to be wowed by stories of God’s power at work in the Bible, or in different places in our modern world, and think – “it must take someone amazing to do that!” The truth is, God doesn’t just work through a small group of people anymore. His plan is for all believers to live in His anointing and have an impact on the world.
2. Bible Verse
1 Kings 19:19 [NRSV] “So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing… Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him.”
The “mantle,” or cloak, that Elijah put on Elisha’s back represented God’s anointing and power. With this action, he was telling Elisha, “God has called you and will empower you like He has called and empowered me.”
Q. Who is someone you consider to have a strong anointing or to be greatly used by God?
Q. Imagine if that person came to your house and recruited you to be his/her protégé or apprentice. How would you feel?
2 Kings 2:14 [ESV] “Then he (Elisha) took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.”
The plan was always for Elisha to take up the role of the prophet after Elijah was gone, but he had to accept it and take action. The parting of the river was a sign that God’s anointing and power was with Elisha just like it had been with his mentor.
Q. Elisha didn’t just believe that God’s anointing was for him- he took action. What would you do differently if you really believed God’s anointing and power was for you?
Q. What steps could you take this week to get yourself ready for God’s power to work through you?
4. Prayer Focus
Take a few minutes as a family and thank God for calling you to serve Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to work through your life as mightily as He does through the people you look up to.
Family with Small Children Discussion Guide
1. Power Verse
1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers…”
“I’m Never Too Young To Change The World!”
This week we started a new series in Overflow Kids called, “Never Too Young.”
Q. What are some things that you are “too young” to do?
Q. How does it make you feel when someone says you are “too young”?
Q. Do you think God says things like you are “too young” to do things for Him?
The world, video games, school, or even our friends may sometimes tell us we are too young to do things, but God never says we are “too young!” The next few weeks we are going to be talking about some things that God thinks you are “not too young” to do. In fact, you are just the right age!
Q. Does anyone remember who the young man was who studied under the Apostle Paul? (Answer: Timothy)
Q. What did we learn from Timothy that we are never too young to do? (Be an example and change the world!)
This week, Timothy helped us learn that we can do BIG things for God. We can change the world! We are never too young to get involved in what God is doing!
As a family (or help children individually) make a list or chart of the things they can get involved in and start doing for God. (Some Examples: talk to their friends about Jesus, get involved in a certain ministry, raise money for missions, etc.)
4. Prayer Focus
Pray with your children that they will never forget that they are “Not Too Young” to do great BIG things for God!
Those of you who were at the Alton campus of Abundant Life Sunday, heard me preach from 2 Corinthians 3:14-18. Let me take a few minutes and firm up a few of the thoughts from this passage of scripture. (Here it is, if you missed it.)
Paul is writing concerning the nation of Israel and how their confusion concerning God’s intent for the law has left them in a state wherein they are blinded. Paul compares their lack of clear understanding to a person who has a veil over their eyes and consequently their vision is restricted. Clarity and focus escape such a person.
Here’s the scripture…
“But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:14–18, ESV)
I want to direct your attention to verses 16-18 and the transformation that God intends when a person comes to Jesus. Notice this progression.
- When a person turns to Jesus the veil is removed.
- The Holy Spirit brings freedom. In this particular context this is freedom from confusion of the truth.
- We begin to be transformed into the image of Christ by beholding the glory of God.
- Every time we behold his glory we are transformed from one degree to the next.
I love this biblical description of the process of sanctification in the life of a believer. My question for today is this… “How do we behold God’s glory?”
Simply answered, by seeing Him in His Word and by experiencing Him through the work of the Holy Spirit that occurs when we truly worship.
The importance of God’s Word in the life of the believer cannot be overstated. Through the study and meditation upon the Scriptures we learn who God is. Pictures of His interaction with His people begin to form in our minds and we begin to trust His care and understand His will. Without the Scriptures hidden in our hearts and minds, we are prey to every contradictory opinion and idea about who God is and even His existence.
Once the Word is within us, we have the fuel that the Holy Spirit ignites.
The Holy Spirit, in times of worship and meditation, takes the Word and makes it alive. Suddenly God’s direction and counsel expresses itself in our minds, and according to 2 Corinthians 3:18 one degree at a time we are transformed into the image of Christ.
It’s a process. Step-by-step, moment-by-moment, year-by-year we are moved closer and closer. Slowly our image disappears and the image of Jesus appears. What’s my advice for you today? Don’t cut class. Don’t avoid the Word or times in God’s presence. Both are crucial ingredients in the maturation process of the believer and our world desperately needs you and me to reveal the image of Jesus.
Find a methodology that works for you to put the word of God in your mind. I read and listen to the Scriptures while I read. By using both my eyes and my ears I find that I retain much more of what I read. Find something that works for you. Then I schedule time to be alone with God and to meditate upon Him. These times begin with me focusing my mind on God. I do this through expressions of worship. Sometimes I speak out loud, other times I sing. My goal being to shut out the world and give God a portion of my time. It always amazes me how suddenly pieces of Scripture, things I’ve seen or heard, and other materials in my mind are used by the Holy Spirit to form a thought about God’s love, goodness, and faithfulness. In a flash God is with me, and conviction, encouragement, instruction, and direction happen. Over and over again I return to these times and little by little I am being changed into His image.
It only took a moment to be saved but to form the image of Christ in me takes a lifetime. I’m in for the whole thing! How about you?
I was thinking about a few conversations that I’ve had over the past few days. In the background of my mind during these conversations was the fact that we have been praying for the past 48 days for revival and desire for God to renew and restore not only the relationships of people to himself but to draw thousands to himself. It’s the mixture of these conversations and our revival that brings me to raise a question.
Why do we always, after enough time, move away from God?
In the process of thinking this through, I went to the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32. If you’re not familiar with this section of scripture let me give you a short summary. God has led the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery under Moses’ leadership. God performs unprecedented, visual miracles to not only deliver them from Egypt but also to provide for them during their journey away from Egypt and toward the land that He was giving them. God leads the people to a mountain named Sinai and with Moses on the top of the mountain and the people in the plain below, over a forty-day period the Lord gives Moses the law including the Ten Commandments.
The astonishing part is that even after the amazing, undeniable miracles leading them out of Egypt as well as the things taking place around Mount Sinai during the forty days that Moses is on the mountain, the people still move away from the worship of God and move back into practices that bring God’s anger and judgment.
In only forty days their hearts have moved away from God!
This is a cycle that we see over and over throughout the scriptures and throughout human history.
Flash forward to my conversations over the past few days. We’re still doing it. Yesterday and today I have been involved in a number of conversations, in person and electronically, that have a common thread. In each one someone was looking for justification to do something other than move towards God. Some of the topics were certainly not sin and in fact are perhaps permissible scripturally and yet not beneficial (1 Cor. 6:12). Others were absolutely sin and as such should be avoided by a believer and yet in both situations believers were defending their opinions and positions. Ultimately, it seems, we still fall for the same unending pull of our fallen, sinful natures.
Some might say, ‘Yes, that’s why we needed and why Jesus provided grace!” and they would be absolutely right, and yet grace has more than one aspect. Grace not only removes the penalty for our sin, but it’s also intended to draw us from our sins. God’s kindness in the extension of the precious grace provided by Jesus also draws us away from our sins.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (ESV)
Repentance is a turning away from the sinful lifestyle. We as God’s people are not ultimately looking for loopholes or permissions, we are looking for pathways into deeper fellowship and communion. Our pursuits are not ones that reveal more of our fallen human nature, but more of the nature of Christ. Christ-followers are just that. Also, these pursuits and life habits are not motivated from legalism nor any empty tradition, they find their fuel in the love, grace, kindness, adventure, and warmth of the Father’s embrace and a living relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Having basked in that love, light, and communion our desire becomes singular, bring others into this same consuming experience. Things that have even the smallest chance of hindering that pursuit slowly, as we linger in this relationship longer, begin to be discarded. The things that we are reaching and searching for begin to change over time. Gone is the search for license and loopholes and in their place there is self-motivated discipline. Discipline not grounded in fear but in love.
It’s the lack of this that causes us to need revival! We need to once again regain our focus on the pursuit of God rather than the pursuit of justification and vindication for our move away from Him.
This morning I was reading from Deuteronomy chapter 4. This is the story of the Children of Israel under Moses’ leadership just before:
- the giving of the ten commandments,
- the death of Moses,
- the leadership of Joshua,
- the crossing of the Jordan River
- and their taking possession of the promised land.
In Israel’s history they have repeatedly forsaken God. In their sin one of their patterns is to form some sort of image to represent what they think God looks like and then they worship that image. Usually by that time they have adopted one of the false religious systems around them and have forsaken the teachings of their godly ancestors. Ultimately, what happens is that God’s hand of blessing will be withdrawn, tribulation in the form of either poverty or oppression will arise, and the people, out of desperation and tribulation, will begin to call on the Lord once again and He delivers them.
It is this cycle of idolatry and God’s judgment that Moses is warning the people against.
Verses 29-31 are perhaps a few verses that speak not only of the unique situation that Israel found themselves in time after time, but also give us a picture today of God’s desire and willingness to reach out and pull people back to himself after periods of forsaking him. In these verses we read…
29 “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” Deuteronomy 4:29–31 (ESV)
I believe that like many passages of prophetic scripture, these verses have an application not only to an ancient time but also to a future time. Perhaps OUR time!
Can you feel the tension in the air? There is a small undercurrent beneath the daily lives of people. Slowly people are becoming aware of the emptiness and the hopelessness of a life without God in it. For many of them they have not yet recognized God as the answer to this growing uneasiness in their hearts but He’s preparing them for that realization. Just as in the days of the Children of Israel, Moses and Joshua, God is preparing through difficulty, the hearts of people to return to him. Through the fear and anxiety that always accompanies a life void of the Holy Spirit, God is breaking up the hardened ground of people’s hearts and while many of them don’t yet know it, revival is coming to their lives!
I love the last half of verse 30, “…you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice.” What an awesome picture of what revival is, people returning to God and obeying his voice!
In these next few days leading up to our time of revival, you and I have some very important work to be involved in. We’ve been praying and asking God to revive us and I absolutely know that He is going to do just that. However, for those around us to benefit from this same move of God, we must reach out to them. Would you take some time today and make some calls, extend some invitations, send out a few emails, or simply share this this blog via Facebook?
For me the good news of hard times is that they always have a purpose within God’s plan. God’s not a belligerent father who takes pleasure in hurting people. He’s a kind, loving dad who will not allow the ultimate destruction of his children that will come if they remain separated from him through sin. Therefore, he allows difficulty to press his children back towards him. They begin to call upon him and he revives their relationship with him and the blessing of that life returns.
Are you ready for revival?
This weekend! Click for more information about the
Revival Services Coming at Abundant Life!
This morning I was studying Isaiah chapter 49. Notice with me verses 8-9.
This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.”
This chapter is speaking about the restoration of the nation of Israel. While there is a direct prophetic word for Israel here I believe that there is also a word for you and I and all Christians in these verses as well.
Israel was called by God to bring forth his plan of salvation to the world.
Through their lineage, Jesus was born and became God’s perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. Through several different periods of history Israel fell away and later came back to God. Why was God so patient with this very obstinate people? Because it was through his covenant with them that he intended to redeem the entire world. His love for all people through all time is reflected in his great patience and perseverance with Israel.
This is wonderful but what I really want you to see is the result of all of this. It’s seen in these verses from Isaiah. Notice the things that God’s people will do after God has kept them.
“You will be a covenant for the people…”– it is through God’s people that he will relate to this world. That’s you and me.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says… “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
It’s through you and me that God is working out his plan of salvation in the world:
- To restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances. Sons and daughters of God have been kidnapped by sin and their lives are being ravaged by its affects upon them. They were created to be in fellowship with God and receive an inheritance as one of God’s children. Through you and me, they regain their “desolate inheritance!” We are taking back what Satan has stolen!
- To say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ What an awesome privilege you and I have. We are in the business of bringing people into freedom and out of the darkness.
Today let’s pray diligently for those whose lives we will intersect today. We have too big an assignment to fail!