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.


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