How Old Will We Be in Heaven?

I received an interesting note on the back of one of our Connection Cards this month:

Out of a discussion in our Sunday School lesson, when a person dies and their soul goes to heaven (whether as a baby, teenagers or senior adult) how do they all worship God and relate to each other? How is a soul of a baby different from a soul of an adult? How would they relate or communicate?

I thought this question might have something to do with our ages in heaven, so I decided to check out Billie Todd’s book called, What About Heaven. I found only a reference on page 43-44 stating that “when our spirit leaves our body it seems that our identity and our basic personality will be the same.” She goes on to say that “there will be a joyful innocence and we will have a new clarity of spiritual understanding. In heaven we will be the essence of ourselves; except, with sin removed, we will be like Christ.” On page 48 she re-emphasizes that “our personalities will still be the same, without the sin nature.”

So, I did not find this too helpful in the proposed question. Maybe Billie will include this new content in revisions of her book.

I have discovered that the Bible does not specifically answer the question about age in heaven. Will babies and children who die still be babies or children in Heaven? What about elderly people who die–do they remain elderly in heaven? Some have guessed that babies are given a resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:35-49) that is “fast-forwarded” to the “ideal age,” just as those who die at an old age are “re-wound” to the ideal age. This would indicate that there won’t be any children or elderly people in heaven.

Makes sense to me because when I think about Adam and Eve in the Garden, I picture them at age 20-something, not as children, teenagers or as old people.

What is the ideal age? Some believe it to be around 30; mature yet not worn out. Some guess 33 since that is approximately the age of Jesus when He died. First John 3:2 declares, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

So, after thinking about it, THAT is exactly what Billie Todd wrote about. Our ideal selves, at an ideal age; babies become who they were meant to be and older people are transformed into themselves at their best.

One thing is for certain. Whatever age we appear to be, we will be gloriously perfect. Our entire person will be remade flawless, wholly and completely Christ-like. We will lose all trace of human fallenness, wearing the white robes of purity, holiness and absolute perfection. So whatever age we are, it will be the age of complete and total perfection.

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Instant Bible Studies

Sometimes we are way too dependent on curriculum, as if people can’t study the Bible unless they have a quarterly in had and the teacher’s book. Let me submit to you that Jesus would not expect us to do something that the early church could not do. Small communities of faith can get together, open the Word of God and discuss what the Bible says, means, and how it applies to life.

First Off, the SCRIPTURE Needs to be Read: out loud in the group. If time permits, read it a second time, with all members of the group reading along. Don’t go a commentary or teaching guide first.

After that, discuss what the passage is about, naming facts of the basic content of the passage. Who is mentioned in the passage? What is happening? Who? What? When? Where? are all good questions at this point. Try to summarize what this passage is about in your own words.

Second, Discuss What we Learn from this Passage of Scripture:

Years ago I was a part of a group called MasterLife where we studied the Bible very seriously over the course of one year.

Here is a Useful Tool for Meditating on Scripture: praying for wisdom and surrendering to the Holy Spirit so that you make the Word come alive in your heart.

  1. Perimeter the verse: read what comes before and after the verse on which you are meditating.
  2. Paraphrase the verse: summarize and put it into your own words.
  3. Pulverize the verse:
    1. Emphasize each word by exclamation.
    2. Pick two or three words that represent God’s message.
    3. Ask about the words – who? what? when? where? why? how?
  4. Personalize the verse: Put yourself and God directly into the verse on which you are meditating.
  5. Pray the verse back to God: sighting adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
  6. Parallel the verse: locate any verses that are on the same theme as the one on which you are meditating.
  7. Problems in the verse: of doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness which need to be addressed.
  8. Possibilities of helping others through the verse: through prayer, word or deed.

Other Questions Worth Asking Are:

  1. What warning, command or promise do we find?
  2. What is the example to follow or to avoid?
  3. What is the main truth of this Scripture?
  4. What is the universal lesson or truth we find in this passage?
  5. Why is this passage in the Bible? Why is it in this section of the Bible?
  6. What does this Scripture tell us about the character of God or how he relates to people?
  7. How does this passage point to the person and/or work of Christ?
  8. How can we pray this verse back to God?
  9. What is a new thought or teaching I have discovered in this passage?

Now Comes the Difficult Part: how to make this passage real in your life. Observation and interpretation are not enough here, we MUST move on to application.

  1. What is an example in your life where this passage applies (home, family, work, character)
  2. Ask yourself questions that demand action: like, “How will I life this passage in my life?” not “”Will I live this out in my life?”
  3. Write out a specific action plan to accomplish what you sense God telling you to do. We can make plans and have good intentions, but unless we write these down, they will be forgotten in less than a week.
  4. Write a prayer asking God to help you live this out and accomplish all he wants to do in your life.
  5. Then, just do it! Trust God to help you accomplish these goals. Remember that we are not looking for good stuff to do for God, he is the one who desires to work through you to accomplish his purposes.

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Sermon-Based Small Groups

I’ve been thinking about how we can get more people involved in smaller communities without loading down already busy families. I also sense there are only so many truth units that a person can absorb each week… Sunday School, the pastoral message, Wednesday night meeting, any devotional book someone may be reading, and perhaps a Christian living book from your local Lifeway store.

All that spiritual activity is likely pretty optimistic on MY part, but the reality is, a Sunday class and the Sunday sermon may be all that people are taking in each week (or twice a month, or once a month). So, what do you think about designing groups that meet during the week, NOT for additional truth units, but to focus on application and clarification of something already heard last Sunday… like the pastor’s message? I thought of a few questions on the topic:

1. How can sermon-based groups be used for God’s glory, for the good of the local church, and for the good of the community?

Anything that brings glory to God is used by God to glorify Himself, and any time He is glorified the local church is better for it. Anytime the local church is known as being focused on bringing glory to God, the community is enhanced.

I like that! These groups can help our church to be “a city on a hill,” (Matthew 5:14) and a light shining brightly for Christ on the street or cul-de-sac where believers live. They can function as a mission of our church which they represent, in the community where God has placed them for his own glory.

2. How can sermon-based groups “remember” their leaders (Hebrews 13:7) rather than forget what their leaders spoke?

One of the most positive aspects of sermon-based groups or Bible studies is that group members are reminded of the main points of the sermon. Imagine how God will be glorified in the lives of the participants! These groups would study the passage more fully and strive for clarification, questions and application. After reviewing the main points of the sermon, group members should then process what they heard in the sermon then make commitments to live out what was preached.

3. How can I lift up the name of Jesus above all names and respect my pastor?

Humankind will instinctively worship that which they can seen and touch, so there is potential for the pastor to become the focus of attention rather than Jesus. In order to overcome this, small group leaders should be trained to elevate the words found in the Bible above the teaching, clichés and phrases spoken by the pastor in the sermon. Then, consistently during the Bible study time, leaders should point people to Jesus and his word rather than focusing on the teaching pastor and his words.

4. How can people move beyond the after-service surface-level comments like  “Great sermon” to significant conversations?

A very short answer ought to do it… GREAT discussion questions that are placed in the right order. When this happens a transformational conversation will be experienced. Our need is to develop capable of creating these kinds of experiences. This is where most sermon-based groups fall very, very short.

5. What are some upsides of sermon-based small group studies?

  • The pastor is happy with the small group pastor knowing he or she is working in tandem to establish the principles and practices that were unearthed during the sermon.
  • Small group members are reminded of the main points of the sermon which helps establish the truths that were taught.
  • Sermon based Bible studies make more time to discuss application. Since the principles and practices that would normally be unveiled as group members discussed the passage are already established, (since the pastor took care of this when preaching) the group can climb immediately into discussing how these principles and practices are to be lived out.

While God’s Word is sufficient, we must caution that group discussion and attempting to determine what God is saying is vital as group members learn how to interpret Scripture without an official “teacher.” Many people may never learn to think on their own or use their Bibles or interpret Scripture apart from someone telling them what it means.

The Downside of Sermon-Based Groups:

I am a proponent of any small group experience that lifts the name of Jesus above all other names, creates a safe place for everyone involved, and produces an environment where unbelievers feel as though they are equals on a spiritual journey so they attend consistently.

I recently spent some time reading about the sermon-based small group experience, and not everything is positive. These are some concerns I discovered.

1. Elevating the pastors words while inadvertently diminishing God’s Word: When utilizing biblically based, well-done discussion guides, the conversation must be strategically turned toward what the Bible is saying. When discussing the weekend sermon, the conversation can be built around what the pastor said. The primary voice in the Bible study wouldn’t be God and his Word, but the pastor and his words. Instead of hearing phrases like, “The Bible says,” or “Jesus told us,” or “God’s Word instructs us,” small group members hear phrases like, “The pastor told us,”or “If the pastor was here he’d probably say,” or “I’ll check with the pastor and see what he meant.” The pastor’s voice may inadvertently become known as the ultimate truth source rather than the Bible being the only source of all truth.

2. Senior pastor worship: Sermon based small group experiences can easily lead to high levels of senior pastor worship. My research on this topic has indicated that the senior pastor’s name is brought up (and he is held in awe) at least six times during each group gathering. Jesus’ name and his personality are discussed much less than the pastor’s personality and the senior pastor’s name. In some pastor-driven high-power church, Jesus is subconsciously established as the senior pastor’s sidekick, the secondary personality in church life. Before long, many believers speak more of their pastor and his great sermons than their Savior and his redeeming power.

3. Those farthest from Christ won’t attend a small group – Those who are far, far from Christ are not going to attend church services which means they’ll never feel comfortable in a sermon based small group experience. The truth is, people who are far from Christ are NOT going to come to a group to discuss a sermon they haven’t heard. To expect a “not yet” follower of Christ (who didn’t hear the weekend sermon and never will because they are not going to attend a weekend worship service) to come weekly to a sermon based small group experience is like asking someone to come to a book club for a weekly meeting to discuss a book they refuse to read. They aren’t going to attend.

One way to combat this last observation is to invite unchurched friends for the fellowship and discussion on a certain topic (the sermon topic, for instance). Even though someone did not hear the message, in the conversation, the group can highlight the main points of the message as the evening progresses, and then the Bible is STILL the primary source of guidance and the one who missed church is not disadvantaged.

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Church Guests Have Questions

It’s important to encourage attenders to join our church — because they’ll NEVER grow spiritually without a commitment to live out what the Bible teaches while in a relationship with others.

As we encourage church membership, it’s important to keep in mind these five unspoken needs that prospective members are looking for our church to meet.

  • Will I be accepted at this church? – We meet this need best by establishing affinity groups within our church so that people with similar ages, interests, problems, or backgrounds can find and relate to each other. Everyone needs a niche, and small groups play a crucial role in meeting this need. We must show people that we have a place for them. Our Sunday and Wednesday opportunities are great because they can get involved, and if they have children, there is a quality and comprehensive process for discipling kids.
  • Will I find friends at this church? – People are looking for opportunities to develop relationships within our congregation. People aren’t looking for a friendly church as much as they’re looking for friends. The most common feedback we get off the Connection Cards and e-mail surveys is that we are a friendly and welcoming church. Let’s NOT just be polite but bring people in to our circles of commitment.
  • How will I make a difference at this church? – People want to make contribution with their lives. They want their lives to count. They want to feel that they matter. When we can show people that they can make a difference with their gifts and talents by joining our church, they will want to get involved. What can we dream up to get people involved, that will need all sorts of talents and abilities — not just singers, ushers and small group leaders. Take a look here on ways to get involved.
  • How will I benefit from joining this church? – We must be able to clearly and concisely explain the reasons and benefits of membership. Explain the biblical, practical, and personal reasons for membership. We have put together a simple brochure on what membership is so important.
  • What will be expected of me at this church? We must be able to explain the responsibilities of membership as clearly as we state the benefits of it. People have a right to know what is expected of them before they join. The Connections Class is a great way to get to know people who are on a similar life journey and to understand what King’s Grant membership is all about.

[print_link] [email_link] [ Adapted From Rick Warren ]

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College Ministry Questions

I’ve been reading up on ministry to college students (College Ministry from Scratch: Equipping Kids for Life after Youth Group, by Chuck Bomar) and want to share a little about what I have learned:

It is important to get to know the college-aged people in our ministry, spending time with them and getting to know them is important.

  1. What Commitments Do You Want to Shape Your Life? This question is good to ask for a number of reasons.
    1. First, it helps college-age people think through commitment. Some never commit, some over commit, while others commit without realizing the implications of that commitment. So asking this question gets the idea of commitment to the front of their minds and hopefully forces them to move from one stage to the next.
    2. Second, this question gets down to what they desire. College-age people are trying to figure out what they want. Many people are asking them what they’re going to do with their lives, but they don’t move toward that until they figure out what they want. In other words, this question will help them with a thought process they’re already in. It’s helping them figure out what they want to be committed to. Notice that I didn’t say what they are committed to. Once they figure out what they want to be committed to, we can help them differentiate those things with what they are committed to already. Most likely they’re currently doing things that undermine the very things they want in life. And it’s at this point of the conversation that discipleship really begins. Our desire is to get them to the point where they want their commitment to God to shape their lives. What we commit to today will shape our lives tomorrow. So the key is getting them to a point where they’re aligning their commitments with what they desire. It might take a dozen meetings to discuss this question fully, but it’s worth the time.
  2. How Do You Know You’re a Christian? This is a bit of a loaded question. We often ask questions like, “How did you become a Christian?” or even “When or how did you get saved?” but it’s different to ask a question worded this way.
    1. This is a great question to get people thinking theologically, and it can launch you into a very long, yet healthy and fun conversation. The goal of asking this is to help them gain a sense of confidence in their salvation.
    2. But beware: The opposite might happen first. And this is where it gets fun. Most of the time their response will have something to do with a time they remember praying. Challenge this. Ask them something like, “So, you know you’re a Christian because you prayed one time?” You’ll likely witness some intellectual gymnastics at this point. They might flounder around a bit, struggling to find an answer. But this is healthy. Although it might get a bit uncomfortable for them, we’re actually helping them toward being more confident in who they are in Christ. Eventually we can guide them toward:
      1. Seeing the fruits of the Spirit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23),
      2. Seeing the transformation that’s taken place (Romans 12:2),
      3. Seeing their obedience to Christ (John 15:10), and
      4. Seeing the love they have for other believers (1 John 5:1). But letting them discover these things for themselves by asking them questions is a great and natural way of helping them get there.
  3. What’s the Difference Between a Faith and a Conscience? So many college-age people, especially those who’ve grown up in the church, have more of a religious conscience than they do a personal faith. This question can take some explaining on your part, so I’ll help you out here.
    1. The bottom-line difference is that we’re not saved through a conscience; we’re saved through our faith (Ephesians 2:8). Helping college-age people differentiate between these two things is very important. A conscience is gained by receiving information. What we’re taught shapes our conscience. So it’s possible to do certain things—or not do them—simply because we grew up being taught that way.
    2. College-age people are at the point where they’re reevaluating all of the assumptions they grew up with. They’re trying to figure out what they personally believe, versus just assuming something to be true because their parents believe that way. So, this question is just another way of helping them think through what they’re already processing. It gets to the core of what they believe, and it’s a natural way for us to join in on that journey.
  4. Who Are You? This question gets to the core issue of college-age people: Identity. Identity is not an issue; it’s the issue that college-age people are thinking through. This might seem like a simple question, but it’s not.
    1. It’s a great question because it forces people to think about who they believe they are, who they believe they’re perceived to be, and possibly even who they want to be.
    2. Perhaps most importantly, this question gives us clues as to how much their faith factors into their sense of themselves. For the most part it doesn’t. Most will initially respond with personality traits, career pursuits, or likes and dislikes.
    3. The final stage of natural identity formation in college-age people is the Theologian stage. I’m not saying they need to be seminary-trained; I’m simply suggesting that their sense of identity is seen in who they’ve been made into through Christ. The theologian would answer this question by saying something like, “I’m a child of God.” They not only verbalize this, but they seek to embrace it. Now, embracing our identity solely in Christ is an ongoing process for all of us—one that’s never fully embraced here on earth, unfortunately. But we want to help people get to the point where they desire to embrace this truth and are pursuing it. And we can make them aware of our continuing process in this area as well. It’s a fun conversation to have with someone, for sure. But most importantly, we can learn how we might assist them in discovering their spiritual identity before anything else.
  5. What Do Others Want from You? The biggest reason I ask this question is that it allows me to see the pressures they’re feeling from other people. The college-age years are filled with pressure, but every person experiences different challenges and handles them differently as well.
    1. This question might give us insight into their relationship with their parents, a boss, or even the pressure they put on themselves.
    2. It can lead the conversation in dozens of directions, but it helps them think through what’s weighing on them and gives us insight into how we might be able to encourage them. Ultimately, of course, we can guide this conversation toward what God wants from them. And helping them focus here, possibly negating all other pressures, is the place we want them to get to.
  6. What Do Others Want for You? This question is a great follow-up to the previous one. For instance if they feel pressure from their parents, then this question might help them see past the pressure and into their parents’ motivations. Most parents just want what’s best for their child. This can be a healthy thing for a college-age person to recognize and articulate. This can even help relieve some of the pressure they feel. Plus, it can provide a great opportunity for us to encourage them and potentially walk with them as they seek to articulate their feelings to their parents. We can let them know that our desire is to see them get where they want to be and that we want to help them get there. And along the way we can help them discover what God wants for them, too.
  7. What Makes You Unique? This question really helps self-awareness. It naturally causes college-age people to differentiate themselves from everyone else, which is a crucial step in identity formulation. This can obviously give us insights into strengths they have, but it could also lead into struggles they’re facing. They might feel disconnected, like nobody cares, or just completely different to the point that they have a hard time finding a sense of belonging anywhere. Again, this can provide a great opportunity for encouragement and help us discover a place where our voices can have an impact in their lives.

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Leaders Ask Application Questions

The point of this post is to challenge leaders and teachers. To be effective in leading your class, make sure to ask application questions that lead your group to spiritual growth. This is perhaps one of the most quoted passages in the Bible Study business:

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (James 1:22-25)

To study the Bible, or to take a class on prayer, or discuss compassion for the poor but not do anything about what one has learned, is a waste of time.

The Word of God holds up a mirror in which we can see our own face: our character, values, attitudes, and habits. It offers us a perspective on our situation and relationships that we can’t get on our own. It also opens up a window into the realm of God, in which we see the face of Christ looking back at us. We get to compare our face to that of Christ, noting the similarities and differences. The Bible promises that we can change (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Extensive psychotherapy doesn’t change most people all that much. When change does happen, something on the order of a miracle is occurring. But the gospel insists that the Spirit of God (through the Word of God and with the help of the people of God) can and will perform this miracle in any person willing to cooperate.

So many study groups settle for educating people about God and the Christian life, but they don’t believe it’s possible for them to really become like Jesus. People like the idea in theory, but the actual process scares them.

  1. Do we really want to take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror, week after week? Can we bear to see and examine the face of Christ?
  2. Do we really want to give up our familiar paths and strike out on the uncharted territory of God’s ways?
  3. Do we really want the Spirit breaking up our concrete habits with a jackhammer?

Likely, your group contains decent people who sort of want to follow Christ but aren’t all that eager to see their lives disrupted. They are busy people who have jobs, families, bills, and housework that don’t leave them hours and hours to contemplate Christ and their lives. Discussion questions that invite them to apply the Word of God to their lives need to take into account both the mandate of the gospel (big changes) and the realities of the human condition (big obstacles to change).

Go Slow and Deep: People who are asked to take drastic action too often and in too many different directions eventually go numb in order to survive. Consider the person who hears a Sunday sermon, reads the Bible even once or twice a week, and attends Sunday School each week. If this person encounters three, four, or more calls in one week to change drastically, it’s overwhelming. Over time, people learn to tune out the guilt feelings triggered by such calls.

In your small group, learn to ask, “So what?” regularly and systematically, but ask, “Now what?” sparingly, yet with focus and detail.

  1. “So what?” invites group members to think about the implications of what they are studying. “Now what?” asks them to take action individually or together, to do something concrete about those implications.
  2. “So what?” is theoretical, general application. “Now what?” is practical, specific application.
  3. “So what?” helps people think an issue through. “Now what?” guides them step by step in a realistic plan to be doers of the Word.
  4. “So what?” questions work in at least two dimensions.
    1. The first dimension is when: helping the group bridge the gap between when the passage was written (then) and our current situation today (now).
    2. The second dimension is who: discerning how a passage applies to people in general, to them as individuals, or to them as a group.

Then and Now: One common error in Bible study is to assume that something God told someone to do in 605 B.C. is what God wants each of us to do today. A related error is to assume that God wants us to imitate everything the first Christians did without regard to the differences of situation. These errors overlook the fact that God deals both in timeless principles and in unique situations.

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) is a timeless principle.
  2. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household” (Genesis 12:1) is an instruction to a particular person, Abram.

When we get the particular and the timeless confused:

  1. We may conclude that God wants all men everywhere to be circumcised and all women everywhere to cover their heads.
  2. We may conclude, like many 19th-century Americans, that because Paul treated slavery as OK in A.D. 50, it was still OK in A.D. 1850.
  3. We may decide that since God told Joshua to practice genocide against the utterly degenerate Canaanites, then maybe our enemies deserve genocide, and maybe we have been called by God to imitate Joshua.

1. “So what?” questions always begin with what was then. The first “So what?” question should point to the original purpose of the writer or speaker in the passage:

  1. What do you think Jesus wanted His audience to do in response to this parable?
  2. What action does Paul tell the Galatians to take?

With a story, it may be more helpful to ask about how the various characters responded to the challenges they faced:

  1. How did Abram deal with his doubts?
  2. How did the apostles handle the conflict between the Greek- and Aramaic-speaking believers?

2. Next we look for bridges between then and now by asking how our situation is like and unlike the situation addressed in the passage:

  1. What conflicts do we face in our ministry? In what ways do they resemble the conflict described in Acts 6? In what ways are they different?
  2. Do you identify with the Galatians in any ways? In what ways are you similar or different?

As the leader, you should always ask yourself, “How is our situation different?” This question will help you guide the group away from erroneous applications. Joshua’s conquest of Canaan was in many ways a unique situation. The founding of the first Christian community in Jerusalem was also unique in many ways.

3. Finally, with the similarities and differences between then and now in mind, we can ask whether the passage offers any timeless (always) principles, like, “What can we learn about good and poor ways of handling doubt from Abram’s example?”

Principles can include a sin to avoid, a promise to trust, an example to follow, a command to obey, or a truth to believe. It is essential not to generalize a universal principle from a specific situation without careful thought about the differences between then and now.

Sometimes you’ll want to help people apply the passage to their personal lives. At other times, you’ll draw out a group application. Most of the Bible was written not to individuals, but to groups. The “you” in many passages is plural.

Another way of asking, “So what?” is to point people toward listening to the Holy Spirit:

  1. What do you sense the Holy Spirit is saying to us about how we relate to others in our lives who don’t know Christ?
  2. What is one key truth from this passage that you sense the Spirit is urging you to embrace?

Set aside 15 minutes at the end of your group meeting to contemplate questions. Pray, asking the Holy Spirit to speak. Then talk, with ears open.

Now What? “So what?” questions are general and ask for relevance. “Now what?” questions are pointed. They ask us to take action.

  1. How can you put this insight into practice this week?
  2. What can you do to cultivate this into a habit?
  3. What will it mean, in practical terms, for you to seek God’s kingdom first this week?
  4. How can we, as a group, obey Isaiah’s call to a true fast?

Many of your discussions will end with “So what?” questions. It is not a waste of time to help people think and feel more biblically. But sometimes, action is called for.

“Now what?” questions require specific, realistic, and measurable answers.

  1. Specific means that definite actions, rather than general goals, are specified.
  2. Realistic means that the person has devised a plan he can reasonably carry out within the limitations of his life, with the power of the Holy Spirit and the help of the group to back him up.
  3. Measurable means something concrete will be done, and at the end of a month or a year, the shift in the person’s attitudes or actions will be noticeable by an observant outsider. We shouldn’t become obsessed with measuring spiritual growth, since the most important changes are internal and may take time to affect our behavior dramatically, but it is possible to ask ourselves. What can I do to become a significantly more compassionate person by this time next year?

Bear in mind that questions about the future are often more intimate than those about the past or present. Most people don’t talk about their hopes and goals casually. When the group has been together for about six sessions or more, members will find it extremely bonding to begin discussing their hopes for who they want to become and how they plan to pursue their goals. One way of formulating this question is, “In what ways do you want to be different as a result of our studying Philippians?”

Counting the Cost: Jesus told a parable about two sons, in which one son agreed to do what his father asked but then didn’t follow through, while the other balked but eventually obeyed (Matthew 21:28-32 ). People frequently talk about how a passage applies to them but don’t do anything about it after the discussion. One reason for this is that they don’t consider the risks and costs of living the gospel. Jesus urged His followers to count the cost and to be sure they knew what they were getting themselves into before embracing the kingdom of God. Here are some questions you can use when studying a passage that you know asks something difficult, such as turning the other cheek:

  1. What are the risks of doing what Jesus says here?
  2. What would it cost you to do that?
  3. What obstacles hinder you from living that way consistently?

Then, having looked squarely at the downside, invite people to weigh it against the upside:

  1. What would be the benefits of living like this?
  2. What would motivate a person to take those risks?
  3. How can you overcome those obstacles? How can we help?

Not Just the Facts: Application questions provide the potential for spiritual growth. They take us beyond learning facts about a passage of Scripture. We discover how the passage applied to its original readers, how that ancient situation connects with our modern world, and how to do something with what we’ve learned. This process helps us become doers of the Word, not merely hearers, and as the Scriptures promise, such people (and such small groups) “will be blessed in their doing.”

Thanks to Karen Lee-Thorp, Discipleship Journal, July/August 1998 [print_link] [email_link]

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Five Questions to Ask Your Wife

I recently read a blog that had five questions that a husband should ask his wife that would communicate to her just how much he really cares for her. It is my goal to ask these questions this weekend…

What is the most romantic thing that I’ve ever done for you? You might be surprised! When we get married we think about “wowing” her by taking her to nice places and spending lots of money, but in reality it may be the little things that communicate to her how special she is.

What is something fun we can do together? Men, our definition of fun and hers is usually completely different. One of the things about most women is that they want to feel connected to their husbands, to feel like they matter and are important, and one of the ways they do that is by simply having fun. It’s not about taking her to something that you like doing. It’s about asking her what she wants to do, and then making that happen. It proves to her that you care.

What is one thing I can do for you this week that will relieve stress from your life? Men, we have no idea how much stress our lady carries around with her, and because she is a woman (thus everything is connected to everything) we should be willing to do all we can to relieve stress from her life. This may include giving her an afternoon to herself, without the kids. It may include you cooking dinner one night or cleaning up afterwards. Whatever it takes, do it!

How Can I Pray For You? It is amazing the number of men that will not ask their wife this question. We are called to lead our homes spiritually, which means we should provide protection and direction. When she asks you to pray for something specific, we must resist the temptation to go ahead and be the answer to her prayer by solving the problem she’s bringing to your attention. She asked you to pray–not fix it. I know we have a tendency to try to fix everything, but she doesn’t want us to fix her problem, she wants you to listen to her.

If you could change one thing about our marriage–what would it be? This one takes guts! We think we are the perfect match for her, and all is well. But she can give you some really great insight into what she considered to be important, and we should be motivated to work as hard as we can to honor her request.

Ephesians 5:25 says we are to love our wives as Christ loves the church…

  • He never stops loving the church
  • He never stops pursuing the church
  • He always comes home for the church
  • He never cheats on the church
  • He provides for the church
  • He never stops thinking about the church
  • He takes the church seriously

I am definitely not the perfect husband, but more and more I am realizing that my marriage not about what I deserve or can get out of it, it’s all about what I can give to her and how I can serve her. As men of God we should go all out to show the world how awesome Jesus is through loving our bride like He loves His.

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A Full Body Scan

I remember living in Richmond several years ago and while driving in to work every morning, there was this commercial on the radio for an imaging company that offered a special on a full body scan… although, I forget the name of the machine. A lot of men seemed to be getting these scans, especially as they approached age fifty.

As I read Psalm 139:23-24, I thought about how God can also do a full body scan! God can check the heart, the mind, the hands, the eyes, the feet, the mouth, you name it. I found the following questions helpful for every man to look deep inside where no one but you and God can see. Ask these questions and petition God to guide you on the road to everlasting life. 

  1. Have I been proud in my inmost thoughts, or “imagination”? Do I focus on myself and my selfish desires instead of the needs and desires of others?
  2. Do I blame or have I been judgmental of others?
  3. Do I get frustrated or even angry because people don’t respond exactly the way I want them to? Do I feel inadequate thinking I have nothing to offer?
  4. Do I spend much of my day dreaming or fantasizing about a life different than the one I have? Do I live in a state of real contentment, accepting and being grateful for what God has done for me?
  5. Where do I remain in denial about myself? If Jesus were sitting here with me (which He is!), what would He tell me about the true condition of my heart? What would He say about what needs to be dealt with?
  6. Where am I “digging in my heels” through pride, insisting that “I am right” about something at the cost of my relationship with my family, friends or co-workers?
  7. Is the Holy Spirit “haunting me” about something that I will not admit or agree with Him is a problem?
  8. Is the Holy Spirit convicting me while my pride pushes back insisting “I’m justified” in my resentment and anger about the issue?
  9. Am I being called to humble myself with someone, to settle a conflict or a difference, but my pride pushes back and says “No, I will not!”
  10. Have I been offended by someone that I will not forgive – really forgive – or am I holding onto resentment, anger, or bitterness towards this person? Do I replay the offense over and over again in my mind and justify the emotions I feel in the name of “Yes, but look at what they did to me!”
  11. Do I have things or people that I give more power and influence to then God Himself? This can be very subtle – is there anything in my life that bears more weight with me than what Jesus says about it?
  12. Do I care more about the approval I get from people than I do about pleasing God? Is there anything I care more about than pleasing God in secret obedience?
  13. Do I have a secret – something I am spending mental, emotional and spiritual energy to keep someone else from knowing – that I am hesitant to confess to God and to others, or even flat-out refuse God’s conviction to bring into the light?

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Ten Questions to Ask Your Wife

Do an Internet search on the “ten questions” and you can find them listed, but here I can add some commentary! I was working at the home office of the International Mission Board when Dr. Tom Elliff came to be the Special Assistant to the President for Spiritual Formation (I doubt that title will even fit on a business card). Tom Elliff  is now former president of the IMB. Tom’s original position was a rewarding one for the staff. I remember hearing quality teaching, not only out of the Bible but also flowing out of his extensive life experiences as a missionary, pastor and teacher. On one occasion, during our Spiritual Emphasis Week, Tom shared these ten questions.

Since the Men of Steel are “in it to win it,” we intend to be the best husbands and fathers we can be, not working in our own strength but in the strength found only through our connection with Christ. The base line challenge today comes out of 1 Peter 3:7 where Peter says,

“…husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Did you get that? Our relationship with God can be hindered by the way we treat our wives! You know, the Bible records that Jesus asked a lot of questions. So, it might be good for us to ask a few questions as well. These are the 10 questions we should ask our wives every year. Ask, and let her respond. The goal is to know her heart:

  1. What could I do to make you feel more loved and cherished? The emphasis is on feeling and not knowing. Think about verbal affirmation of your love. She knows you love her, but does she feel that you love her?
  2. How can I best demonstrate my appreciation for you, your ideas, and your role as my wife? We may speak to others about our wives being the “better half,” but do they feel that their ideas, concerns and input is really up to half in the relationship? Do you brag about her to others? What do her friends tell her about what they heard you say about her?
  3. What could I do to assure you that I hear and understand your heart? Maybe her answer might be, “Asking me these questions is a good start!” A lot of couples have very little understanding of the other. Often times we build walls around us to protect ourselves from pain or shame. We don’t want our wives to know the truth because deep down we believe they will respect or love us less if they only knew the truth.
  4. What could I do to make you feel absolutely secure? How do you protect your wife? Physically is one way, providing a safe place to live without fear, but how about emotionally, spiritually or even morally? Tom told us a story about a husband who was watching TV and the wife watched him watch TV. The point was, watching a television program is one thing, watching TV (flipping channels looking for stuff) is something else. Can our wives see our moral integrity and the marriage relationship going down for the count?
  5. What can I do to ensure that you have confidence and joy in our future direction? The key word in this question is “our.” Does your wife feel that you are both together looking forward to and building the future, or is she just following you? Each cannot be just “doing their own thing” and living under the same roof.
  6. What attribute or practice would you like me to develop or improve? Is there something in my life you would prefer I eliminated? Face it, life means always seeing the opportunity for improvement.
  7. What attribute would you like me to help you develop in yourself? How can I help you in the best possible way? Not all problems can be solved with words. She can now help you to get the picture! How can you be a true partner with your wife?
  8. What achievement in my life would bring you greatest joy to your heart? The Bible is filled with examples of people whose lives were not over until it was over; like Caleb and Joshua, the spies and the Promised Land. The goal kept these two going through 40 years of wandering. A husband needs clear and positive objectives for the second half of life. Nothing encourages a man more than the privilege of accomplishment.
  9. What would indicate to you that I really desire to be more like Christ? Perhaps a deeper prayer life, full commitment to learning the Word of God, sensitivity to sinful activity, elimination of bad habits, friends, practices, a life marked by the Holy Spirit (bearing fruit – Galatians 5:22-23), that Christ is running the show rather than you.
  10. What mutual goal would you like to see us accomplish? Marriage is not about me, it’s about us. How can we make the most of our time spent on this earth?

Tom and his wife set aside a weekend retreat each year. Will you commit to ask these questions of your wife?

PS: if wives are looking for ten questions to ask her husband, check out what Tom’s wife asks him every year.

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