Your Personal Grow-Pray-Study (GPS) Guide

Bring The Blessing Home – And Beyond!

Juan-pablo-rodriguez-334216Photo by juan pablo rodriguez on Unsplash

Day 1: Read Mark 9:2. Jesus could have gone alone to the Mount of Transfiguration, but he seeks to widen the circle. He seeks to bless His friends as He, Himself is about to be blessed. Why do you think He invites these three along instead of going alone? When has someone invited you to a special event where you ended up being blessed? Who can you take with you to a place or an event to bless them?

Day 2: Read Galatians 6:10. Paul starts with the family of believers, but notice he doesn’t end there. He says to do good to all people. Who do you find it easy to bless? Where is God calling you to widen the circle of who you bless? Think of someone today you can bless that will stretch your circle and send them a text or note.

Day 3: Read Mark 9:7. According to Dallas Willard,

Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. It isn't just words. It's the actual putting forth of your will for the good of another person. It always involves God, because when you will the good of another person, you realize only God is capable of bringing that. So, we naturally say, ‘God bless you.’

What God the Father spoke at Jesus baptism, He affirms again years later at Jesus’ transfiguration. He speaks such words not only for Jesus to hear but also for Peter, James, John, and us to hear. Where do you need God’s help to give the type of blessing Dallas Willard describes? How does including others in hearing and seeing that blessing increase the level of blessing for that person?

Day 4: Read Galatians 6:1. The NIV 1984 translation uses the word Spiritual – other translations say living by the Spirit.  You bless best when you let the Holy Spirit lead what you say and do. That’s why we look to God for help. How? Become fluent in the language of God’s word – to encourage, to speak blessings as Paul does in his letters, to seek God’s promptings in your prayers, and in living out life each day. Where would you like to grow in your ability to bless others? How can God help? How will you pursue that help from God?

Day 5: Read Galatians 6:9. In a world that wears us done and leaves us wanting to give up, God’s blessing gets us through. Never underestimate the power you have in blessing others – they may be wounded, worried or wearied, and your gift of blessing provides an encouraging path to get them through. When is a time you were down, and someone lifted you up? When is a time someone else was down and God used you to lift them up?

Day 6: Read Numbers 6:22-27. When we begin our worship service, we begin with the blessing of God’s name – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We remind ourselves and rejoice that God desires to be with us to bless. When we end our worship service, we end with a blessing, so that we go forth to project God’s goodness into their lives. As we wrap up The Blessing Challenge, what lessons have you learned? How will you continue to bless and be a blessing?

You can Go Deeper this week by reading the book The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance (Revised & Updated) by John Trent and Gary Smalley. You can also learn more about John Trent and The Blessing at strongfamilies.com/the-blessing.

Don't forget you can listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


When You've Missed The Blessing

Marc-scaturro-264165Photo by Marc Scaturro on Unsplash

Day 1: Read Genesis 27:38. A missed blessing hurts everyone. Do you know someone who has experienced missing a blessing? Are you someone who has experienced missing a blessing? What has helped you move forward? Where do you need to pray for God to give His blessing, forgiveness, and relationship bridge building power?

Day 2: Read Genesis 27:41 and Hebrews 12:16-17.  How do you know you are on the revenge path? Typically, the path of revenge starts with a seed called "resentment", that grows a root called "bitterness", and the fruit is "revenge". Where do you need to watch out for resentment growing in your relationships? Where do you need to refuse the path of revenge?

Day 3: Read Luke 11:4. When we sin against God, the proper response is to repent.  Why? You can't un-sin. You can't change the past. And since you can't un-sin or change the past, you can only repent and seek a new start with God.  When someone wrongs you, sins against you, they to can't un-sin.  They can't change the past.  They may attempt to take back the words or regret their painful action, but they can't un-sin. So, what do you do? Since they can't un-sin, you forgive. Whom do you need to forgive and forge ahead with forgiveness? From whom do you need to seek forgiveness?

Day 4: Read Colossians 3:13. Forgiveness is the only way to break the cycle of blame and pain in a relationship. Instead of matching blow-for-blow, or cheap-shot for cheap-shot, forgiveness stops the cycle of blame and pain, and seeks to build and affirm. How did forgiving someone yesterday set you free to live life together today?  How does Paul's advice help you forge ahead with forgiveness?

Day 5: Read Philippians 4:12-13. Matthew West says, "The goes out of its way to make you believe you are not good enough ... The discovery of our true identities does not begin by looking within ourselves, but by looking to the One who made us.  It is time to tear off the false name tags that cover up your true identity. Understanding who you are begins with knowing whose you are so you can embrace your destiny as a child of the one true King." What are some false identity name tags you need to remove in your life?

Day 6: Read Revelation 2:17. We have our Christian name, our family name. Be we also have another name, and it's called our "white stone name." Our purpose is to find out what that name is, and to live a life that blesses others. You may have others who missed blessing you, but God didn't.  He speaks blessings into your life every day. What do you think your "white stone name" might be? Whom do you know that misses the blessing and God is calling you to bless?

You can Go Deeper this week by reading the book The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance (Revised & Updated) by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

If you are looking for a book on forgiveness then check out Forgive & Forget: Healing The Hurts We Don't Deserve by Lewis B. Smeedes. 

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


Picturing A Future & A Hope

Joshua-sortino-224915

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Day 1: Read Jeremiah 29:11. “Some people believe they are on a path in life that leads to a hopeless end, that life's road is headed towards doom and despair. What we need to remind ourselves is that the road our God has ahead for us is an endless hope.” When do you need to remind yourself God has “a great big, beautiful tomorrow” planned for you? Who needs your encouragement with a picture of such hope in their life?

Day 2: Read Romans 8:28. Please note that Paul does not say everything that happens to us is “good”. What Paul says is God works “good” in everything that evens out the rotten stuff in life. As you look back at your life, where have you seen God taken something horrible and made it a holy moment of His goodness at work? How can having such a perspective of hope help you in picturing a special future in someone else’s life?

Day 3: Read Isaiah 55:11. God’s Word has great power, and God gives our words of blessing to picture a special future great power in people’s lives. Who is God leading you to make it a habit to forecast for others their best possible future?

Day 4: Read Proverbs 18:4. The image of blessing in the Bible is the picture of providing life giving fresh water to one travelling in the desert. The power of such a blessing is it not only quenches our thirst for today, it’s life water for our tomorrows as well. When has someone spoken words of blessing about your future? How have those words inspired you with living water for life today? Where might you be able to picture a special future God has for someone else’s life?

Day 5: Read James 2:18b.  We, as Lutherans, believe we are saved by grace, but we also recognize part of the fruit of faith that God gives is the life we live. Our actions reflect that the promises we make to invest in others, are promises we keep in lifting them up today for their future tomorrow. Who has God used to pour into your life to make you the person He desires to be? Who is God using you to pour into someone else's life today to shape their future tomorrow?

Day 6: Read Psalm 128:1. Walk not just talk. When you picture a special future, it’s not just the words you say, it’s the active encouragement you provide. It’s your time investment, at times your financial investment, the pouring of your life into another. How have someone’s actions been a “green light” for you to move forward?  

You can Go Deeper this week by reading the book The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance (Revised & Updated) by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


The Most Valuable Words You'll Ever Say

Yougotthis

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

Day 1: Read Philippians 1:3-4. Like Paul, how can you use your prayers to give thanks and bless someone? Whom will you pray for God to bless today?

Day 2: Read Luke 6:27-28. Most of us don't identify specific enemies, more like people we would rather not spend time with. Who didn't make your list yesterday for God's blessing, that you can pray for today? How might praying for those we seek to avoid, transform our relationship with them, turn an enemy into a friend?

Day 3: Read Hebrews 3:13. Blessing is intended to become a daily response. Ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you to bless others you meet today. How did He do that yesterday? Whom might He prompt you to bless today?

Day 4: Read Matthew 3:17. A Southern saying states, "No man is a man until his father tells him he is." God, the Heavenly Father, affirms Jesus as His Son. These are the same words He speaks to us in our baptism. How have you been affirmed and validated as a person by someone else? Whom can you affirm today for the gift God has given you in them?

Day 5: Read Proverbs 25:11. A childhood saying goes, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Broken bones mend over time ... this is not always true for harsh and hurting words. What verbal hurts do you need to seek God's healing for? How have "apt words"** impacted your life? When has God given you just the right word to bless someone? What "apt words"** is God placing on your heart to share with someone else?

Day 6: Read Ephesians 4:29. Describe in your own words what God (through Paul) tells us to do. How are these words especially true in blessing someone in the presence of others? Where might God be calling you to bless someone with words for building others up?

**Some Example Apt Words: "Thank you." "I love you." "You can do this!" "Let me pray for you." "Way to go!"

You can Go Deeper this week by reading the book The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance (Revised & Updated) by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


The Power Of Touch

Caroline-hernandez-177784Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

Day 1: Read Genesis 2:7. In other aspects of creation, God says the word and it is. Why did he touch the ground and breath life? What does this say about God’s value on touch? About our value on touch?

Day 2: Read Matthew 19:14-15. How have you seen children demonstrate the need or desire for touch? How do you experience touch best? Express touch best?

Day 3: Read Leviticus 11:39. When you think of inappropriate touch what comes to mind? How has the levels of inappropriate touch impacted how you touch others? What does seeing touch as an important part of blessing others impact how you give and receive touch?

Day 4: Read Mark 1:40-41. Jesus just could have said the word to heal this leper, but he also adds an element of touch to heal the man’s heart. Who are untouchables God might be calling you to touch? When have you experienced life as an untouchable been blessed with the touch of someone else?

Day 5: Read Isaiah 6:7. In the sacraments, God not only speaks a word of forgiveness, He also provides a touch of forgiveness. When you remember your baptism and partake of the Lord’s Supper, what does it mean for you that God seeks to touch you in this way?

Day 6: Read 1 John 1:1. Our faith is based not on fantasy, but what early followers experienced and touched in knowing Jesus. As you have lived out this past week, how has the touch of Jesus been at work in your life? Through your life to bless others with touch? As you look into the week ahead, how might God be calling you to bring meaningful, appropriate touch to the life of another?

You can Go Deeper this week by reading the book The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance (Revised & Updated) by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


It’s Your Choice To Bless

Blessing

Focus on this week's Message from Deuteronomy 30:19-20 to teach us the Five Elements of a Blessing:

  1. Give appropriate meaningful touch.
  2. Speak words of blessing.
  3. Express high value
  4. Picture a special future.
  5. Make an active commitment.

Day 1: Read Deuteronomy 30:19-20. In the Old Testament, life has the idea to move toward someone, and death conveys the idea to step away--to back into isolation. When it comes to blessing others, every day you meet someone who needs the blessing. Who did you meet yesterday that you blessed? That blessed you? Pray today that with everyone you meet, God provides a way for you to bless.

Day 2: Read Genesis 1:27-28. God is the ultimate source of blessing. In this verse, what kind of blessing does He give to the people He created? As you look back on 2017, what are at least five ways God blessed you in 2017? What are 5 ways God used others to bless you?

Day 3: Read Ephesians 1:3. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, Paul writes one long run-on sentence from Ephesians 1:3-14. The theme of the sentence is to praise God for all the blessings He gives us in Christ. What blessing has your faith in Jesus been to you in the past week? As you look forward to 2018, how do you hope (and pursue) God’s blessing to grow in your faith life?

Day 4: Read Numbers 23:8. When God blesses, nothing can intervene. As Israel moves toward the Promised Land, Balak brings Balaam to curse Israel. Instead, Balaam keeps blessing Israel, that leads to today’s verse. Knowing that God’s blessing on your life is that strong, how does that put any new year worries into the right perspective? Consider also how God can use you as His blessing in the lives of others. As you pray today, pray for God to bless specific people you love. Be specific in how you pray for them. For example, God bless … is a good start. God bless … “to sense your presence as they learn in school today” is even better.

Day 5: Read 2 Kings 22:2. After a series of evil kings in Judah, God brings Josiah to the throne. He lived under the curse of forefathers, and became a great blessing to his people. Josiah leapfrogs his forebears to David, “a man after God’s own heart”. As you consider the family legacy you have, what “blessings” do you work to continue? And what “blessings” do you hope to bring?

Day 6: Read Mark 1:10-11. At His baptism, Jesus receives the blessing of His Heavenly Father who quotes the Bible to bless His Son. (Good example to follow). As you think of God’s Word and blessing others, what verses lead you to pray for others?  (See Colossians 1:9-14 as an example – replace the word you with the name of the person you are praying for today.)

You can Go Deeper this week by reading the book The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance (Revised & Updated) by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


Jesus Makes All Things New Again

Happy-new-year

Monday – Read Ecclesiastes 3:14. How does your belief in God’s eternity affect your daily attitude and faith walk?

Tuesday – Read Matthew 25:34. Are you on his right because of what you do, or do you do what you do because you are on his right?

Wednesday Read Ecclesiastes 3:1. Are you fearful about the future? Impatient? Angry about how things are going right now? How does God help us to cope and better understand his timing?

Thursday – Read 2 Peter 3:8. Ponder this verse and see if it can help you let go of any anxiety you have about time – running out of time, waiting, being in a hurry – let God have control of your time resource, and see how he can make enough time for you to praise Him, and do those other things.

Friday – Read  Psalm 40: 1-2. The Psalms are rich with passages about waiting on the Lord – how can waiting strengthen our faith? What can we do while waiting on the Lord to glorify Him?

Saturday – Read Romans 5:6-8. How has God’s timing affected your life? Think about the people and circumstances that lead you to Jesus, and how He does not wait for us to come to Him or to change – he saves us when we are most unable to do anything to save ourselves – but what comes afterwards.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


Christ Gives The Gift

Christmas
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. -- 
Luke 2:11

Day 1: Read Luke 2:11. Where have you gotten caught up in the hype of Christmas this year? Where do you need to hold on to the hope of Christmas in the year ahead?

Day 2: Read Luke 2:17. What Christ gives, the Shepherds give – they share the good news, they are generous with the story they share. How did the Christmas story about Jesus’ birth become real in your life? With whom are you sharing the Jesus Christmas story this year? For whom will you pray for today to come to know Jesus in the days ahead?

Day 3: Read Titus 3:4-5. When Jesus Christ gives us new life. He saves us from our Christmas of past mistakes. He gives power for facing life in our Christmas present. He guides us to a Christmas future with Him in heaven. Such is the generous heart of our God, our Heavenly Father who sends us all that God desires to give. As you look at the power of Jesus at Christmas in your life in your past, present and towards the future, how would you describe His saving work in your life? How can you share such a great gift with others?

Day 4: Read Titus 3:6-7. A simple 4-word phrase in Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol is often missed in its description of the change in Ebenezer Scrooge that Christmas Day. That 4-word phrase? “He went to church.” How does gathering for worship each weekend help you keep Christmas all year long? As you look at the year ahead, how will living out Paul’s words to Titus of “being heirs having the hope of eternal life”, influence your worship habits in the year ahead? How have you seen the overflowing generosity of Jesus at work in your life? How do you hope to see it work in the year ahead?

Day 5: Read Titus 3:8. When Paul says that we are to devote ourselves to doing what is good, he's saying that we need to -- like the shepherds on Christmas night -- share with others what we have seen. He's saying that we need to -- in the words of Dickens -- keep Christmas all year. What physical reminder can help you keep Christmas year-round? What value might such a Christmas approach to life bring to each day?

Day 6: Read Matthew 10:8. What you get from God, you give to others. That's because one of the greatest gifts that we have received through Jesus Christ is the gift of passing it on, growing generosity, the gift of giving back, and watching God transform lives with generous hearts including our own. As you look back over the past year, what have you freely received? How has that inspired you to freely give this past year and in the year ahead?

You can GO DEEPER this week by reading the Bible's Christmas Story (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-17), and Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ by Tim Keller.

Next Week: New Year’s Eve Services on December 31 at 8 and 10:30 a.m.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS. 


Unwrap The Gift Of Christmas: The Gift of Purpose Filled Living (Part 3)

Do-what-is-right
Day 1: Read Luke 19:10. Jesus shares His purpose in coming to earth in this verse. As you get ready for Christmas, how can you remind yourself of Jesus reason for coming? How can you share that news with others? Whom can you pray for today for Jesus to seek and to save? Make time to pray for that person daily, now until Christmas.

Day 2: Read Isaiah 61:1. God places all of us here for His purposes to be fulfilled. As you think about your purpose, and what on earth you are here for, what do you sense your God-given purpose to be? What difference is that making today in your life?

Day 3: Read Acts 1:1. What Jesus “began to do” He continues through us. God will use you, wherever you are, whoever you are. God can use you in a great way. How did you see Him using you in the last 24 hours? What do you hope the day ahead holds for God using you as part of His mission to accomplish?

Day 4: Read Luke 1:49-50. You have a message to proclaim. Like Mary in her song about Jesus coming, what are some of the great things God has done for you this week? Where have you seen His mercy at work in your life? Whom are you sharing these great things and mercy moments with in your life?

Day 5: Read Isaiah 61:3-4. Notice Isaiah’s three R words in verse 4 – rebuild … restore … renew. If we set our hearts on people who are hurting, and if we look for ways to inject hope into their lives, the result is we fulfill God’s purpose for us. Where has God been working in your life to rebuild, restore, and renew? Where is He using you to rebuild, restore, and renew in someone else’s life?

Day 6: Read 2 Corinthians 9:7-9. Why do you give gifts at Christmas? Is that more something you have to do, or have you discovered the joy this is something you get to do? As you think about our Christmas Offering: Christ Gives, what excites you? What brings you joy? What is God saying to you as you pray to Him about what to give this Christmas?

You can GO DEEPER this week by reading the book: Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS.


Unwrap The Gift Of Christmas: The Gift Of Spirit Filled Living (Part 2)

Earth-wind-fire

This week each day before you do the Bible reading and answer the question, use a Holy Spirit breath prayer to start your time with God.

  • When you inhale, pray: Holy Spirit, fill my soul.
  • When you exhale, pray: Holy Spirit, guide my day.

Day 1: Read Mark 1:4. You can’t un-sin. You can only re-pent. You can’t change the past, but you can remember your baptism, repent, and receive the forgiveness God desires to give. Where do you need to repent and be washed clean of your sins?

Day 2: Read Acts 2:38. The image of water for the Holy Spirit reminds us the Holy Spirit washes away our past. How can you embrace the truth today that God preempted your past faithlessness in your life with His past faithfulness on the cross?

Day 3: Read Luke 4:1-2 & Luke 4:14. These verses bracket three temptations of Jesus by Satan. Notice how the Spirit led Jesus into the temptation zone of the wilderness and then back to Galilee. Think of two places in the past 24 hours where the Holy Spirit has led you? What’s the same? What’s different? What’s the lesson you’re learning about the wind of the Spirit guiding you each day?

Day 4: Read John 14:26. The image of the wind reminds us the Holy Spirit leads us where we need to go, much like the wind leads a tumbleweed. So, if you were a tumbleweed, what direction is the Holy Spirit leading you in the past day and the day ahead?

Day 5: Read Matthew 3:11 and Mark 1:8. Matthew has a longer version of what Jesus says than Mark does in Mark 1:8. How does the image of fire help you understand the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit?

Day 6: Read Acts 1:8. Jesus reminds His disciples of all ages how much we need the fire power of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, a good deed is most often not much more than a good try. Take time today to yield this day to the fire power of the Holy Spirit. How have you sensed the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you have used a breath prayer for the Holy Spirit this week?

You can GO DEEPER this week by reading the book: Embraced by the Spirit: The Untold Blessings of Intimacy with God by Chuck Swindoll.

You can also listen to this week's message or read the full PDF of the message & GPS.