Strong Tower – week 3

Session Three – Love the Lord with all of your heart (part 2) – Leader’s guide for the Strong Tower Men’s study (this has much more than we covered).

Opening question:
What does it mean to love God with “all of your heart”?
Read Ezekiel 11:17-21

Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.”
Do you have a split personality? How about your heart?
God has always wanted all of our hearts. The first commandment makes that clear:
Mark 12:30 ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with ALL YOUR HEART, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
We, unfortunately, only want to give Him SOME of our heart. If we only want to exercise some of the time, we will not receive the long-term health benefits of exercise. If we only want to eat right some of the time, we will not receive the long-term health benefits of good nutrition. If we only manage our stress some of the time, we will probably be miserable the rest of the time. In the same way, if we do not give our full heart to God, we will never develop the relationship we need to fully experience the abundant life Jesus promised us.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you…” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Ask for prayer requests and take some time to pray for the needs of the participants.

• Ask how many of the participants have friends or family members who have died of cancer. Ask for their reactions and if any of the participants would be willing to describe their experiences with the group.
• Ask for a show of hands from participants who have received sunburns in the past. How many of them knew at the time that getting sunburn was dangerous as well as uncomfortable? How many knew they should have used sunscreen but did not? What types of reasons would they give for not using sunscreen? What are some ways to counter those reasons?
• Present a mini-lecture on cancer. Discuss the development of cancer, how it spreads, the incidence of cancer, and cancer prevention strategies. You may use the following information from the American Cancer Society:
o Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.
o Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide more rapidly until the person becomes an adult. After that, cells in most parts of the body divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells and to repair injuries.
o Because cancer cells continue to grow and divide, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to form new abnormal cells.
o Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA. This substance is in every cell and directs all activities. Most of the time when DNA becomes damaged the body is able to repair it. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired. People can inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for inherited cancers. More often, though, a person’s DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, like smoking.
o Cancer usually forms as a tumor. Some cancers, like leukemia, do not form tumors. Instead, these cancer cells involve the blood and blood-forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow.
o Often, cancer cells travel to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. This process is called metastasis. Regardless of where a cancer may spread, however, it is always named for the place it began. For instance, breast cancer that spreads to the liver is still called breast cancer, not liver cancer.
o Not all tumors are cancerous. Benign (noncancerous) tumors do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and, with very rare exceptions, are not life threatening.
o Different types of cancer can behave very differently. For example, lung cancer and breast cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. That is why people with cancer need treatment that is aimed at their particular kind of cancer.
o Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Half of all men and one third of all women in the United States will develop cancer during their lifetimes. Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer. The risk of developing most types of cancer can be reduced by changes in a person’s lifestyle, for example, by quitting smoking and eating a better diet. The sooner a cancer is found and treatment begins, the better are the chances for living for many years.
Who Gets Cancer?

Over one million people get cancer each year. Approximately one out of every two American men and one out of every three American women will have some type of cancer at some point during their lifetime. Anyone can get cancer at any age; however, about 77% of all cancers are diagnosed in people age of 55 and older. Although cancer occurs in Americans of all racial and ethnic groups, the rate of cancer occurrence (called the incidence rate) varies from group to group.

Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have been cured of the disease. The sooner a cancer is found and the sooner treatment begins, the better a patient’s chances are of a cure. That’s why early detection of cancer is such an important weapon in the fight against cancer.
o Your best defense is to have regular screenings as recommended by your doctor and to watch for the seven early warning signs as identified by the American Cancer Society. To remember them easily, use the acronym CAUTION:
 Change in bowel or bladder habits could be a sign of colorectal cancer.
 Asore that does not heal on the skin or in the mouth could be a malignancy and should be checked by a doctor.
 Unusual bleeding or discharge from the rectum, bladder or vagina could mean colorectal, prostate, bladder or cervical cancer.
 Thickening of breast tissue or a new lump in the breast is a warning sign of breast cancer. A lump in the testes could mean testicular cancer.
 Indigestion or trouble swallowing could be cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus or stomach.
 Obvious changes to moles or warts could mean skin cancer.
 Nagging cough or hoarseness that persists for four to six weeks could be a sign of lung or throat cancer.
o Closely watch these signs, which are your body’s way of alerting you to potential problems. If you experience any of them, schedule an appointment with your physician immediately.

• Ask: Did God cause cancer? After some discussion, suggest that God allows cancer into some lives as part of His Sovereign plan. It is His purpose to conform us into the image of His Son, not to make us comfortable or care-free. Read Romans 8:28-29

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
How we handle difficulties in our lives can be a much greater reflection of the faith inside than outward appearances.
Cardiovascular disease discussion
• Discuss cardiovascular disease. Give each participant a straw. Have participants put the straw in their mouths and breathe through the straw only. After a few breaths, tell them to pinch the straw slightly (approximately half-way). Have them keep breathing and then tell them to pinch more of the straw until only a small amount of air goes through. Allow them to breathe this way for several breaths. After a few moments, tell them to remove the straw. Inform them that this is similar to the process of an artery which becomes blocked in the process of atherosclerosis.
• Have the participants list the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Place these on the board in whatever order they are listed by the group. Make sure the list includes: smoking, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol profile, obesity, age, and diabetes. Once the list is complete, have the group rank each risk factor from most difficult to change to easiest. Why did they list them in this way? Distinguish between risk factors which can be changed and those which cannot be changed.
• Distinguish between the signs of a heart attack and a stroke. Refer to the warning signs from the American Heart Association:
o Heart Attack Warning Signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
 Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
 Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
 Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
 Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
o As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

• Introduce the topic of hypertension. You may use the following information from the American Heart Association:
o According to recent estimates, nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but because there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of these people don’t know they have it. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. This is why high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer.” The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.
o Blood pressure measurements consist of 2 different numbers. One is called your “systolic” blood pressure. The other is your “diastolic” blood pressure. A blood pressure reading of 146/86 is read aloud as “one forty-six over eighty-six.” Blood pressure is measured in units called “millimeters of mercury,” which is abbreviated as “mm Hg.”
o If either systolic or diastolic blood pressure (BP) is in the High or Very High range, you have high blood pressure. The blood pressure categories are:
 Very High Range = Stage 2 Hypertension (Systolic blood pressure 160 mm Hg or higher OR diastolic blood pressure 100 mm Hg or higher)
 High Range = Stage 1 Hypertension (Systolic blood pressure 140 – 159 mm Hg OR diastolic blood pressure 90 – 99 mm Hg)
 Caution Range = Pre-hypertension (Systolic blood pressure 120 – 139 mm Hg OR diastolic blood pressure 80 – 89 mm Hg)
 Normal Range = Normal (Systolic blood pressure below 120 mm Hg AND diastolic blood pressure below 80 mm Hg)
Have participants find their blood pressure this week – this is assignment #1. Blood pressure units may be found in many local drug stores and some Wal-mart stores.
o Stroke Warning Signs
The American Stroke Association says these are the warning signs of stroke:
 Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
 Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
 Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
 Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
 Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
o If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you. Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke. tPA is the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of stroke within three hours of stroke symptom onset.
• Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

S *Ask the individual to SMILE.

T *Ask the person to TALK, to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE.
(Coherently) (i.e. . . It is sunny out today)

R *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

{NOTE: Another ‘sign’ of a stroke is this: Ask the person to stick out his/her tongue… if the tongue is ‘crooked,’ if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke} From:

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
• Have participants list ways to prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke. These should include: exercise, lower fat and cholesterol in diet, watching blood pressure, etc.
• Since cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in America, care should be taken to prevent any possibility of contracting this lethal killer. More importantly, taking advantage of every opportunity God provides is of critical importance since our days are numbered.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:13-17

Optional – Discussion on Colds and Flu
Here are some tips for preventing colds:
1. Wash hands regularly.
2. Cover the mouth when sneezing or coughing.
3. Avoid touching eyes and nose when around someone with a cold.
4. Dispose of used tissues promptly. Use paper towels and cups when possible.
5. Use liquid soap instead of bar soap.
6. Exercise to improve your immune response. (Do not exercise with a
7. Avoid smoking and smokeless tobacco products. (Smoke destroys the
protective cells in the airways and worsens the cough that sometimes comes
with a cold.)
8. Get plenty of rest when possible.
• Ask participants: Does God cause sickness? After a brief discussion, read the following verses from James 5:14-16

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Offer the following: It is possible that God allows sickness for six reasons.
A. Sickness causes believers to pray (vs. 14)
B. Sickness humbles believers (asking others to pray for us humbles us – vs. 14)
C. Sickness can unite believers (through prayer – vs. 15)
D. Sickness causes us to grow in faith (vs. 15)
E. Sickness causes believers to do a spiritual audit (vs. 16)
F. Sickness causes leaders to do a spiritual audit (vs. 16)

End the session with prayer and a discussion of assignments for the next week.

Strong Tower – week 2

Session two – Love the Lord with all of your heart (part 1) – this is the leader’s guide for week 2 in the Strong Tower Men’s study

Opening question:
Which events of the Olympics do you like to watch on TV?
Read Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
What are the obstacles you must overcome in running the Christian race?
The heroes of faith are pictured as a cheering section of former runners in a race urging us to not give up. Do you have encouragers in you life? Maybe they would give the same advice as the writer of Hebrews: cast off what is slowing you down! Runners in the Greek games would run with no clothes in order that they may not be slowed down. We are also encouraged to cast off those negative habits and attitudes which would slow us down and hinder our attaining a high level of wellness. Like in a race, we must fix our eyes on the goals we have established for ourselves and not grow weary in our efforts to improve our health. We must also fix our eyes on Jesus to help us achieve those goals. Consider the words of Isaiah in 40:28-31:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Ask for prayer requests and take some time to pray for the needs of the participants.

Briefly discuss the assignments from the previous week

Protecting your heart

• Briefly discuss cardiorespiratory endurance using the following questions as discussion points:

A. What are some of the most common reasons people give for not maintaining
an exercise program? (i.e. not enough time, too hard, makes me sweat, etc.)
What are some ways to counter these reasons?
B. Which of the four components of health-related fitness is the most important?
(Body composition, Muscular strength and endurance, Flexibility, cardiorespiratory fitness) Why?
C. What are the benefits of cardiorespiratory endurance training?

• Have participants complete the Exercise Readiness Questionnaire. Inform them that a form like this is used by doctors and many fitness professionals to determine readiness for exercise. They should bring this back next week.

(This is Activity #1 this week)

• Discuss the ways in which cardiorespiratory endurance can be measured. Ask participants to complete the 1.5 mile run test or the 12 minute walk/run test. Encourage participants to increase their level of performance during the weeks of this study and test again at the end of this study or at the end of an established time period.

(This is Activity #2 this week)

• Demonstrate the proper method for checking pulse. Have participants check their pulse in both the carotid artery and at the wrist. Discuss the effect of high pulse rate (tachycardia) on the heart by using the following comparison:

Compare the heart rates of two individuals. Jason has a heart rate of 60 bpm.
George’s heart rate is 75 bpm. Jason’s heart beats significantly less than
George’s. If we compare the total number of beats for both men, a striking
discovery occurs:

beats per hour beats per day beats per year
Jason 3600 86400 31,536,000
George 4500 108,000 39,420,000
Difference 900 21,600 7,884,000

George’s heart beats almost 8 million more times in a year than Jason’s. If we
were to extend that out over 70 years, George’s heart would have beaten
551,880,000 more times than Jason’s heart. A lower resting heart rate
demonstrates a stronger heart (usually) and one that will not have to work as
hard to keep the body going over those 70 + years. Encourage participants to
exercise to experience this positive change.

• Prepare a mini-lecture over the principles of exercise. These principles are part of the FITT formula (Frequency, Intensity, Time or Duration, and Type of Exercise). Spend an adequate amount of time on each component in order that the participants will be able to create their own exercise prescriptions. Subjects which should be included are: ideal number of exercise sessions, determining maximal heart rate and training heart rate, ideal intensity through exercise, rate of perceived exertion, and the best modes of developing Cardiorespiratory fitness.
• Direct participants to the variety of aerobic activities available to them. Thoroughly describe the activities with positive and negative issues for each. Emphasize the need for cross-training to reduce injuries and encourage muscle stimulation and development throughout the body.
• Have participants create their own exercise prescription. The Exercise Prescription should include all elements of the FITT formula (Frequency of exercise – how often it is done, Intensity of exercise – how hard the exercise is perceived to be or what intensity the heart is working, the Time or duration the exercise took to complete, and the Type of exercise or mode used).
(This is Activity #3 for this week)

• Address the following questions:
o How much aerobic exercise is required to decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease? (approximately 15 minutes per day)
o Do people get a “physical high” during aerobic exercise? (some receive the benefits of endorphins during prolonged exercise)
o Is exercise safe during pregnancy? (yes, most exercises are not only safe, but recommended)
o Does exercise offset the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking? (No, but exercise will encourage a smoker to stop in order to continue exercising – the lungs will see to that)
o What type of clothing should a person wear during exercise? (light, “breathable” clothing is best in warm conditions, layers are best in cold)
o How long should a person wait after a meal before exercising strenuously? (at least two hours if consuming a large meal)
o What time of the day is best for exercise? (whatever is a good time for the individual – mornings work best for getting the day off to a good start, while evenings work best for stress reduction and weight control)
o Why is exercising in hot and humid conditions unsafe? (high humidity can cause the body to retain heat and moisture and raise temperature to an unsafe level)
o What should a person do to replace fluids lost during prolonged exercise? (most individuals need water – if one is exercising in the heat for more than one hour, additional electrolyte substances may be needed)
o Can I exercise when I have a cold or the flu? (it is generally recommended to exercise with cold symptoms, but not with the flu)

• Briefly discuss exercise-related injuries. Describe the RICE method of treatment (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), muscle soreness and injuries, and bone injuries due to exercise. Discuss the need for prevention. Your material may include the following:
o The four most common causes of injuries are:
 High impact activities
 Rapid conditioning programs; doing too much too quick
 Improper shoes or training surfaces
 Anatomical predisposition (body propensity)
o If an activity causes unusual discomfort something should be changed to keep it from getting worse. Consider these recommendations:
 Decreasing the intensity of exercise
 Switching activities
 Substituting equipment
 Upgrading clothing (such as proper-fitting shoes)
o Acute sports injury during first 36-48 hours is to minimize swelling by:
 R = rest
 I = ice or cold application
 C = compression, or splinting
 E = elevation of the affected body part
o Acute soreness may be due to:
 Lack of blood (oxygen) flow
 Fatigue
o Delayed soreness
 Tiny tears in muscle or connective tissue around muscles and joints
 The cure: mild stretching, low intensity exercise, and warm water

• Encourage participants to consider the words of the writer of Hebrews (12:1-3) as an exhortation to maintain an exercise program.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
Dismiss with prayer and discuss the activities for the week.

Strong Tower – week 1

This is the first of the Strong Tower Men’s health Bible study leader’s guides. I will post these each week to help get you caught up if you miss a week. If you have questions, please let me know.

The Strong Temple
Health Bible Study
The purpose of this study is to critically examine wellness concepts within the context of a spiritual (distinctively Christian) commitment. From this perspective, participants will be encouraged to adopt attitudes and make behavioral choices that support spiritual values. Throughout the course, the theme will be to follow the greatest commandment as defined by Jesus, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30


Session One – Valuing Wellness, “Love the Lord with all…”

Session Two – Protecting Your Heart part 1, “Love the Lord with all your heart…”

Session Three – Protecting Your Heart part 2 , “Love the Lord with all your heart…”

Session Four – Strengthening and disciplining your body, “Love the Lord … with all your strength…”

Week Five – Energizing your diet, “Love the Lord … with all your strength…”

Week Six – Freshening your mind, “Love the Lord … with all your soul and all your mind…”

Session One – Valuing Wellness: Love the Lord and yourself

Opening question:
When you were a kid, how sick did you have to be to stay in bed and miss school?
Read John 5:1-9
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
What was the paralytic’s excuse for not getting well? How did Jesus deal with his complaint?
Jesus gives this man something to do in order to take responsibility for his own life and his own healing. In the man’s response in verse 7, he had essentially said it was out of his control – he had no one to help him. Jesus was bringing him healing, but he had to take some action on his own.
The same is true of us today. We must take action in order to keep ourselves healthy. We must take responsibility for keeping ourselves healthy. Jesus could have just healed this man and left. Instead, He prompted the man to take action. We must also take action to keep ourselves healthy. This study is designed to provide you with the information on how to make wise decisions which will significantly improve your health. The key to receiving that health is taking up our beds and walking.
Ask for prayer requests and take some time to pray for the needs of your group.

Why should I value wellness?

• Ask the following questions:
o How does creation affect who you are physically?
o How does the fall affect who you are physically?
o How does God’s redemptive work affect who you are physically?

• Give time for participants to consider their own decisions relating to their faith and lead a time of prayer for decisions individuals may need to make in this area.

• Ask the question, “How do you offer your life and body as a spiritual act of worship?”

• Discuss the concepts of developing a personal mission statement. Allow participants to take several minutes to develop this statement. Invite them to share their statements for the next session. You may use the author’s personal statement as an example:

Mission Statement
I will strive to serve God and grow in my relationship with Him.
I will love my wife as Christ loved the Church and gave (of) Himself for her.
I will love my children daily and strive to raise them to love and serve God.
I will work with an attitude of service and strive to find ways to share God’s love at my place of employment.
I will work to keep myself healthy and fit and commit to honor my body as God’s temple.
I will serve my church. I will pray for and support my pastor and staff.
I will seek to have fun every day and enjoy the life God has given me.

This is assignment #1 for this week.

Living the Wellness Life

• Wellness Continuum: Have the participants draw a continuum on a sheet of paper. The continuum is a horizontal line drawn from one side of the paper to the other. Have them place a “0” in the middle, under the line. Read the following 10 questions and tell each participant to mark either an “x” on the right side of the line if they can answer “yes” to the question or an “x” on the left side of the continuum if they answer “no.”

1. Do you participate in a lifetime exercise program (i.e. exercise regularly)?
2. Do you refrain from smoking and using smokeless tobacco products?
3. Do you eat right? (i.e. well-balanced meals, healthy snacks, etc.)
4. Do you maintain your recommended body weight or body composition?
5. Do you get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights?
6. Do you utilize stress management techniques to lower your stress level?
7. Do you consume alcohol in moderation if at all?
8. Do you use medication as prescribed and only when needed?
9. Do you surround yourself with healthy friendships?
10. Do you take personal safety measures (i.e. wear seatbelts, observe laws, etc.)?

When finished asking the questions, ask participants to look at their continuum and see how many times they placed an “x” on the right side of the continuum. These represent good choices they have made in improving their health. Each “x” on the left side represents an area in which change would be desirable to improve their health. This study will help encourage them to make good choices in all areas of their lives.
• Ask participants to get into groups of two or three. Each group should develop a list of 10 reasons people choose not to exercise or practice wellness behaviors. When all groups are finished, have the groups develop ways to counter the negative choices. Have groups report on several of their countermeasures.

• Ask, “Why is it easier to find excuses to NOT exercise than it is to just go ahead and exercise?” Allow for discussion.

Changing for the right reasons
• Participants should list five things they like about themselves and five things they would like to change. Ask: Which activity was easier – listing the five things they like about themselves or the five things they wanted to change? Why? Have them pick one thing they would like to change and use that for reference throughout the remainder of the day.
• Ask the following questions, writing on the board, overhead, or computer the responses of the participants:

A. What causes someone to change his/her behavior?
B. What methods could be used to reward positive behavior (working toward or
completing a goal)?

• Briefly discuss:

A. Barriers to change (procrastination, pre-attitude of failure, knowledge, instant gratification, non-planning, short-term planning)
B. Six stages of the transtheoretical model (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, termination)
C. Processes of change (state your goal, assess your current status, design a custom program, define obstacles, implement your plan, evaluate your plan, re-evaluate your plan)
(This is assignment #2 for next week)

• Changing behaviors is not easy, especially those behaviors which have been part of a person’s life for many years. The apostle Paul describes this struggle in Romans 7:15-25.

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Emphasize that it is through God’s power that individuals have the ability to change for good.

Setting goals
Tell participants to go back to their list of five things they liked about themselves and five things they would like to change. Ask: How did they get to like those things about themselves? Those things are usually worked on and developed. In the same way, changing a behavior, attitude, or habit must be worked on as well. Using at least one of those things they would like to change, allow participants to utilize the processes of change described earlier to choose one area of change.
• They may work with others with the same behavioral change. Encourage the participants to ask one of their classmates to serve as an “accountability partner” for them. Each participant should then use the Behavior Change Contract and allow his/her partner to sign the contract. The contract should be filled out and brought to the next class meeting.
(This is assignment #3 for next week)

• Conclude by sharing that an individual may not always be able to meet his/her goals. Goal setters should learn from their successes and failures. Goals should be revised often to reflect these successes and failures and provide incentives for the future.

Utilize Paul’s attitude in Philippians (3:13-14) on goals:
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Finish the time with prayer and a reminder of the activities for the week.

Purpose for the new year

Finding your purpose this year!
MBC, Small group lesson, January 5, 2014

Do you know your purpose in life? How would you define purpose?

Here is how you can find out – ask yourself:

Are you devoted to yourself or to God?

Are you a person who has direction, goals, and ambitions in life? If so, do they match up with God’s precepts? If not, why?

When have you been filled with purpose the most?

Purpose means knowing who we are in Christ and what He has done for us, then acting out our relationship and redemption by being obedient to God’s will. It is the pursuit of God so He becomes the driving force, inspiration, motivation, and reason for all we do in life. That is, we devote our life, character, virtue, Spiritual Gifts, abilities, and call so the best can be realized in all people and all situations. The meaning of life is not about career, money, or power; it is about relationships and developing character. These are the only real things you can take with you to Heaven.

Psalm 138:7-8;
Prov. 19:21;
John 15;
Romans 8;
Phil. 2:1-18

• Here are positive examples from Scripture:

Ex. 9:13-19;
2 Chron. 26: 3-5;
Eph. 6:21-22;

Apathy, Meaningless Pursuits, Idleness, and a Lack of Direction in Life are the opposites. Running from the call of our Lord will only leave us bankrupt and destitute spiritually as well as leaving us with no meaning in life. When we seek to fill our life with meaningless pursuits instead of seeking God, especially as Christians, it will cause major stress and trouble in every aspect of our relationships, career, and life in general. Judas was not willing to abide; thus when his time came, he failed. His purpose became self-focused rather than Christ-focused, causing him to betray his Lord. So, he fell away.

What happens to our relationship with God and with others when we are indecisive or idle with others, refusing to make goals or have a direction in life?

• Here are negative examples from Scripture:
2 Chron. 22:1-12;
Isa. 10:5-7;
Luke 7:29-30;
Acts 5:33-39.

In what situation did you fail to be Purposeful when you should have?

Purpose in Scripture is usually stated as seeking after God or after God’s heart. This is not about salvation, because in salvation, it is God who seeks us. Rather, Purpose is our determination to place Him first in our lives and allow Him to lead (2 Tim. 1:8-12). As you can see from the Scriptures, Paul was a man of purpose, a man on a mission from God. He knew who he was in Christ and he knew in what direction God was leading him. Without argument or fear, Paul ventured forward in the purpose God had for him. He is a prime example for us today (1 Tim. 2:1-7)! Examples of the opposite of this were the wicked kings in Israel who sought their own plans and ways. They sought idols, neglecting and even fighting against the God who saved and redeemed them. We can see a clear pattern in the books of First and Second Kings where the kings who sought God were blessed and the people prospered. When the kings sought themselves and idols, they became wicked and evil, and the people suffered. (Remember, the people also had the choice to serve God; their punishments came to them by their own will and hand.) There is never an excuse to negate our Lord!

A lot has been said about what the purpose or meaning of life is. Some say the purpose is up to each person to figure out, while others say it is what people do after they find out what their interests are. It is not enough just to live; we have to have something to live for, a hope and a direction that is imbedded in us as a prime purpose. But, Jesus gives us a clear picture of His purpose for us, which is to acknowledge Him as LORD and worship Him. He is our meaning; He is our purpose (Matt. 16:13-20; John 14-15). Having a purpose in life-a good one that is-gives us the key to make something of our lives beyond our own situation and dreams. Real Christian purpose is rooted in our faith by Christ’s work on the cross. He is our purpose and the meaning of our life, both here on earth and for the life to come. When we have received His confession and have made it our own, then we can confess His wonder to others and God will use His Spirit to empower that confession as a small part of His revelation. Our daily life at home, work, school, and as we are out and about will be more real and impacting, because we will have a life that is worthwhile and have something to do and say (Phil. 2:5-8).

How can I do this?

1. Focus on Christ as LORD. Set aside time each day to focus on the purpose for your growth and maturity (Psalm 119:130; John 4: 23-24; 15), and then make it a priority. In doing so, you will be able to “go for it” with passion and vigor. Make sure it lines up with His precepts and not your wishes! Let Christ transform you through His Word and prayer. Attitude is essential!

2. We must learn to yield to the Lordship of our God and not to the desires of our will. It means following His plans, not our own, obeying His will, not our own. When we do this, the discipleship process can begin. Our maturity and character development will commence and further develop. However, when we refuse, we will be the strife and conflict that gives Christianity a “black eye.” We will be the problem rather than the solution (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21).

3. Discipleship is a lifestyle. As we step into the lives of others, the purpose for loving them is simply because He first loved us; then, we become instruments of His grace. This can start by our realizing that Jesus “authors” our faith, and teaches us how to run the race according to God’s will, His glory, His worship, and His purpose. Thus, we gain a deeper intimacy with our Lord as our Commander and Friend, as our God and our King and the provider of Grace, as our Love, and our reason for being. In His purposes, we find real contentment, joy, and fulfillment! This is summed up in this adage: we cannot be doing the work of God unless we are the people of God. We have to be growing before we can have a direction and before we can be effective!

4. We must realize our circumstances are temporary. Our life here and now is not the ultimate purpose for our lives or God’s plan. We are in the process of learning and growing. Our situations and relationships will grow and change, while new opportunities will be brought to us; but, most importantly of all, our ultimate meaning of life will have eternal treasure and results. We will be able to take our eyes off our problems, place them on Christ, and follow His lead for more impact and meaning in life that will bring more hope and contentment (James 1).

5. Purpose will bring you a life that has a reason to it. God created you as special and unique; He gave you talents and abilities, and brings you opportunities to use them. Purpose will help you see these aspects, His call, and your prospects. Then you will be willing and able to put your faith into action for His glory. The side effects? A life that is more joyful and content! Yes, there will be ups and downs, but with the Creator on your side, any plans you may have had become insignificant; they would not bring you even close to a life that is meaningful!

Purpose has hope; it allows us to live with the perspective of eternity, so we are not bogged down in our dire circumstances. This moves us from the complacent Christian life to the purposeful Christian life, from just playing church to really being a church. It comes from understanding that God’s purpose and plan is to make us His children (1 John). He is the good Parent who guides His children and protects them. At the same time, He does not over-protect them so they lose out on life’s opportunities to please Him, to the ultimate good. Here, we are temporarily looking to the hope we have now and to come. Christ will see us through if we trust and obey to be in His way. Imagine the possibilities your life will bring to others and bring Him glory!

When we are growing, we will become contagious for the faith. We will then be able to witness because we will have something to say and something to model that people will want. When we are growing, we will become the Church that Christ designed, mobilized in Him to be welcoming and connecting to others for Him. This is the Church Triumphant! Let us, as the Church Triumphant, adhere to His call and eagerly follow. Let us apply our faith and watch the growth and successes that result, and of being contagious to others! It all comes down to the decision to either make our faith real and impacting and putting God’s fingerprints on others, relinquishing our pride so we can learn, grow, tell, and teach others, or else planting our rears in the pew, thus making our butt print in that pew our only impact, an impact of a life of apathy and meaninglessness! Let us make sure our impact comes from a life transformed and carried on to the people around us! Let us follow Him and be His fishers of men (Matt.4:18-19)!

Think through the steps you need to take to put Purpose into action in a specific instance.
How is God working to change your purpose to His? What needs to take place for this to happen?