In order for your heart to be captured, it must first be available.
Matthew 21:23-27, Matthew 16:1-4, Matthew 15:1-9, Psalm 51:3-12
- We aren’t available to surrender because we serve other masters.
- We want God’s ways, but on our terms.
- We are masters at looking for exactly what we want to see. We use our mind to either find truth or hide truth.
- When we find truth but don’t like it’s implications, we disregard and dismiss it.
- When God captures your heart, His commands become irrelevant. Obedience becomes an expression.
- God doesn’t want “grin and bear it” heartless obedience.
- We pretend that we are unsure and claim there isn’t enough evidence to submit. But, the truth is we don’t want to submit.
- If you can convince yourself God is not real, you will always have a reason why you can disobey Him.
“Our self-centered hearts distort our reason to the point where we cannot use it to draw true inferences from what is really there. If our disapproval [of God] is strong enough, our sensory faculties and our rational faculties will not be able to infer that He is there.” -John Piper
- Read the quote from John Piper. How can our hearts influence not only what we see, but our response to the evidence presented to us? How are we masters at looking for exactly what we want to see?
- Reflect on a time when your motives altered your perspective of a situation. How did your motives determine your response?
- Why is confronting and exposing our motives such a critical piece in understanding our response to authority
- When making a decision or determining your response to a situation, do you tend to test your motives before acting? Why or why not? If you do, how do you dig down deep enough to reveal issues of the heart?
- Read Matthew 15:1-9. How had the religious leaders made tradition and the rules more important than their obedience? What is the danger in heartless obedience or selective obedience? How did Jesus describe the current state of their heart?
- Read Matthew 16:1-4. What motivated the religious leaders to ask Jesus for a sign confirming His authority? Why did Jesus refuse to give the religious leaders what they wanted? How does this interaction confirm the diagnosis Jesus gave of the condition of the leader’s hearts a chapter earlier?
- Read Matthew 21:23-27. In this passage, how did Jesus respond to the religious leaders questioning His authority? How did His response cut to the heart of the real issue at hand? What standard had the religious leaders set to determine their truth?
- Read Psalm 51:3-17. What does the Lord desire of us? What are the sacrifices that truly honor God? What happens when we pursue truth in our innermost being?
- Are there places in your walk with God where you would say you are just going through the motions and your heart isn’t in it?
- We want God, but on our terms. In what places are you ignoring the implications of God’s truth in order to protect your own? How are your motives influencing your response to what you see in this situation?
- What is motivating this response? Why are you resisting to submit in this area? What would it look like to surrender this area over to God?
- In order for your heart to be captured, it must be available. What really has your heart? Would you say you have made your whole heart available to God? Why or why not? How can you make your heart available to God this week?
Commands serve as placeholders to help us do what we want to do until we want to do it.
Romans 6:16-18, John 14:15-31, 2 John 1:4-6, James 1:22-25
- There is a big difference between what catches your eye and what captures your heart.
- Authority requires restrictions.
- What we see affects the condition of our heart. Our heart is forged by what we encounter.
- Freedom comes from discipline and endurance.
- We become free by becoming a slave.
- You’re only free to the point you are willing to submit to God’s authority.
“In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfillment. Instead of insisting on freedom to create spiritual reality, shouldn’t we be seeking to discover it and disciplining ourselves to live according to it?” -Timothy Keller
- Why does authority require restrictions?
- Read the quote from Timothy Keller. Do you believe restrictions can truly be liberating? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- What moves you to obey God’s commands (fear, obligation, trust, hope, etc.)? Why does this tend to be the driver of your obedience?
- Read Romans 6:16-18. How do God’s commands serve as a placeholder that allow our heart to catch up to our obedience? What does obedience driven from the heart look like?
- Read John 14:15-31. What role does the Holy Spirit play in our obedience? Why did Jesus give us the Holy Spirit?
- Read 2 John 1:4-6. How does obedience show how much you value a relationship? When we come under restrictions and obey His commands, what are we communicating to God?
- Read James 1:22-25. How is our obedience tied to what we see? In what ways is our obedience an identity issue?
- What are the commands you struggle with the most? Why does this tension exist? Where does distrust play a role in your response to this command?
- What we see affects the condition of our heart. Our hearts are forged by what we encounter. If this principle is true, where are your eyes currently set and how is it influencing the current state of your heart?
- Where do you need to create a placeholder for your heart to catch up to your obedience?
Ultimate freedom will only be found under God’s authority.
Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 2:8-9,15-17, Romans 13:1-5
We wrongly assume freedom is the absence of restrictions or expectations.
The absence of authority doesn’t lead one to freedom, but rather chaos and futility.
We must think about what we think about. How did we arrive at our view of authority?
Authority is designed to empower for purpose. It exists to provide a foundation and boundaries for our freedom.
Love requires freedom and a choice.
If you can justify your reason not to trust, you can justify your reason to not obey.
Authority is primarily relational. Authority given has a responsibility to the authority giver.
Human wisdom says only obey what you understand. In God’s economy, you will only understand once you obey.
We live in a culture where trust has been eroded. This erosion has taken its toll on our view and respect of authority.
If God created life, He alone gets to define it.
God established a system of authority built on trust – not a power structure built on strength.
We trusted another and wound up trapped. Because of sin, authority was exchanged for power and community for competition.
From your perspective, what does it mean to be free? How does our culture typically define freedom?
Complete the following sentence: Authority is ________________. What makes you answer in the way that you do? How have you come to this view of authority?
Have you ever experienced someone abusing, neglecting or taking advantage of the authority they’ve bene given? How has this experience influenced your interaction, obedience to, and trust of God’s authority?
The foundation for this series is that ultimate freedom is only found living under God’s authority. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
Read Romans 13:1-5. Where does all authority originate from?
Read Genesis 2:8-9,15-17. What insight does this passage provide on authority being relational? Why does love require freedom and a choice? Why is trust a critical piece in our response to authority?
Read Genesis 1:27-28. What is the blessing God gave us? Why would God give us authority in this world? How did God empower us in this passage? If we are to reflect God’s heart in everything we do, how should we handle the authority we’ve been given?
If God created life, He alone gets to define it. Over the years how have you wrestled with this statement? Are there any issues where you push back at God’s definition?Download Leader Guide Download Participant Guide Watch Message
Where do you struggle with authority? Where has subtle defiance creeped into your life? What is the cause of this resistance? If authority requires trust, why are you struggling to trust God with this area of your life?
Where have you taken authority without regard to why it was given? Why are your grabbing for power and influence in this situation?
Where are you mishandling the authority you’ve been given? What would it look like to ask for forgiveness in this area and begin to steward this authority well?
The perspective of the Gospel brings the promise of redemption.
Psalm 11:1-3, Romans 8:18-28, Jeremiah 29:11 and 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
- Disappointment is a state, not an emotion.
- Asking “What in the world is going on?” is trying to see things clearly from the back seat.
- No matter how hard today is, it isn’t worth comparing to the glory that is to come.
- Whatever shakes the world God can take and turn it into good.
- We need to learn to navigate any circumstance with faithfulness and full of hope.
- Faith saves us. Hope sustains us. Hope rests 0n the foundation of faith.
- Everything in this world is designed to awaken hope.
- The depth of what we are dealing with needs to be matched with the depth of the hope that is in Christ.
- We meet uncertainty with control. God tells us to meet it with faith instead.
- Hope provides us the patience and perspective to see God’s work in the world.
- He died so we wouldn’t be stuck in the futility of this world.
- Our response to disappointment sets the course for the way our lives will go.
- Redemption isn’t making lemonade out of lemons but rather making a life out of death.
- Redemption requires the stubborn belief that God uses everything.
- The depth of the struggle reveals the depth of our hope.
- Without hope, there is no faith – only futility.
- Frustration should not reduce our desire but awaken it.
- What is the danger in expecting our life to always go well? If we know holding this belief is a losing battle, why do many of us continue to live our lives as if this was true?
- Can you think of a time when your world was turned upside down? How did this experience influence your relationship or understanding of God?
- Our response to disappointment sets the course for the way our life will go. How have you witnessed this truth lived out in your own life and in the lives of those around you?
- Read Psalm 11:1-3. How would you answer the question the author poses at the end of this passage? When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?
- Read Romans 8:18-28. According to this passage, why do we experience futility and frustration in this world? How should coming face-to-face with futility awaken within us hope? What does God do for us in the midst of our weakness?
- Read Jeremiah 29:11. Why does hope require uncertainty and must be set towards the future?
- Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. What is the relationship between faith, hope and love? How are they connected and build upon one another? Why is love the greatest of all of them?
- Where do you find yourself wondering, “What in the world is going on?” Where has frustration and confusion set in?
- How are you attempting to control this situation? How can you face these circumstances with faithfulness and full of hope instead?
- Redemption requires the stubborn belief that God uses everything. What would redemption of your situation look like?
God’s Word reveals God’s ways.
Psalm 119:130, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Psalm 19:7, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 43:3 and Proverbs 6:20-23
- The discipline of simple prayer creates a vision for continual prayer.
- We will begin to understand God’s ways when we align our heart and mind with His peace.
- God’s presence is more important than His direction.
- We will not surrender if we don’t trust and we don’t trust what we don’t know.
- The purpose of prayer gets lost when our conversations become all about direction.
- Trust is found in knowing who God is and how God is.
- As we develop our prayer life, we will begin to truly see.
- His Word serves as a light unto our path, not a spotlight into the future.
- God’s voice is made up of God’s Word.
- His presence and His peace are one in the same.
- The goal of prayer isn’t answers, but alignment.
- Surrender requires us to give up our way while alignment involves taking up His.
- Relationships are a place where we come to know and be known.
- If you are looking for God’s work in your life, you are more likely to see it.
- The discipline of prayer teaches us the patience to remain.
- Awareness is wasted if we fail to align.
“The role of the Scriptures and Scriptural understanding is to provide us with a general understanding of God and to inspire and cultivate a corresponding faith.” -Dallas Willard
- How would the world look if God answered every prayer you sent His way? What does that picture say about the focus of your prayers?
- God’s presence is more important than His direction. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? What do we lose out on when the focus of our prayers are centered solely on direction?
- Read the quote from Dallas Willard. How is our ability to trust God in prayer tied to our understanding of His Word?
- Read Psalm 119:130, Psalm 43:3 and Psalm 119:105. Why does God provide us only with a lamp to illuminate our path rather than a spotlight? How does the unfolding of His Word force us to remain steadfast in prayer?
- Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17. According to this passage, what are the four things that Scripture is useful for? How should these attributes of God’s Word shape our prayer life?
- Read Psalm 19:7 and Proverbs 6:20-23. What role does the Bible play regarding hearing God’s voice? How does interaction with Scripture fuel our ability to trust?
“The principle task of study is a perception into the reality of a given situation… Through careful attention to reality, the mind is able to move in a certain direction.” -Richard Foster
- How has God challenged you in the midst of this prayer series? What was the greatest insight you received and how are you going to put into practice what you’ve learned?
- Read the quote from Richard Foster. Where does awareness and alignment need to take place in your life? How will you align yourself with His will in this area?
- What does God’s Word say about the situation/thing you are wrestling with in prayer? Do you trust what God’s Word says about it?
We must let go of our demand to understand.
1 Peter 5:6-7, Philippians 4:6-7, Proverbs 3:5-7, Romans 8:26, 1 Kings 19:1-18
- His peace serves to protect our heart and mind.
- Requests are things we’d like. Burdens are things we are desperate for.
- We must be careful not to allow our requests to become demands.
- “God, speak to me.” is a prayer of submission that pushes us to listen.
- “God, provide for me.” is a prayer of patience that leads us to trust.
- We don’t pray so we can better understand our world, we pray so we can connect with our Creator.
- Simple prayers open up the conversation.
- Humbling yourself is a posture of recognizing who is truly in control.
- We’ve got to do the work to lay our burdens down at God’s feet and not pick them back up again.
- You don’t have to understand your situation for God to be in control of it.
- Sometimes the thing we need to surrender is our need to know.
- Our willingness to trust shouldn’t be tied to our ability to understand what God is doing.
- It’s impossible to be anxious about nothing when you are attempting to understand everything.
- What is the difference between a request and a burden? Have you ever felt a burden that influenced your prayer life? If so, describe this experience.
- What are warning signs when our requests have switched over to demands we place on God? What are some things you’ve demanded of God?
- How can God tell us to “not be anxious about anything” while also encouraging us to “cast our anxieties to Him”? How do we live in the midst of this tension?
- Read Proverbs 3:5-7. What is the danger of being wise in our own eyes? What does it look like to lean on our own understanding? Why doesn’t this posture provide the support and security we are looking for?
- Read 1 Peter 5:6-7. What are we recognizing or acknowledging when we humble ourselves in prayer? Why is humility a requirement for genuine prayer to take place?
- Read Philippians 4:6-7. How does God’s peace guard our hearts and minds? Do you believe you can experience true peace even in situations where you struggle to understand what God is doing? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- Read Romans 8:26. According to this passage, how does the Holy Spirit intercede for us when our burden is so heavy we can’t put words to it? What comfort should this verse provide us?
- Read 1 Kings 19:1-18. In this story, God asks Elijah, “Why are you here?” This difficult question exposed Elijah’s heart and who he trusted. If God were to ask you the same question, how would you respond? How have you arrived in your current circumstances?
- “God, speak to me.” or “God, provide for me.” Of these two simple prayers, which one are you drawn to in the midst of what you are facing? Why is this a prayer you need to say?
- Where are you demanding understanding before you are willing to trust God with your circumstances? What would it look like to let go of these demands?
We must define what we want in order to understand what we need to surrender.
Mark 14:32-36, Matthew 6:5-8 and Ephesians 2:18-22
- Prayer is more about access than it is about answers.
- The process of submission: (1) Recognition (2) Sorting (3) Surrender
- The discipline of prayer is the essential part of a life of prayer.
- In order to see differently, we need to want differently.
- Prayer allows you to get to the places that are hard to reach.
- We enter His presence to gain His perspective.
- The power of intentional conversations keeps us from being reactionary by paying attention to what really matters.
- When we come to Him we are often desperate for answers, but in His presence we find that access is enough.
- Wrestling our thoughts out in prayer helps us with the grueling process of submission.
- We will encounter situations in life where we must believe in the power of prayer.
- Surrender is not just giving things up; it’s learning to trust God in different ways.
- Prayer is about growing our faith, not giving us answers.
- Praying for daily bread provides us the freedom to simply trust Him for what we need right now.
- We will encounter situations in life where we must believe in the power of prayer. How have you experienced this truth play out in your own life?
- Prayer is more about the access than the answer. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
- How would you define submission? What makes you answer in the way that you do? How does your answer influence your willingness to engage in the process of submission?
- Read Matthew 6:5-8. What did Jesus want us to understand about our motivation to pray? How did a person’s motivation for prayer determine their reward? What is our promised reward if we approach God with a right heart?
- Read Ephesians 2:18-22. According to this passage, what access have we been given in prayer? What made this access possible? What are you doing with the access you’ve been given to God in prayer?
- Read Mark 14:32-36. How does Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane highlight the grueling process of submission? Where do the elements of recognition, sorting and surrender appear in the words Jesus prays?
- The first step of submission is recognition. How do you recognize God’s sovereignty in the situations where you are engaged in the grueling process of submission? Where are you trying to be wise in your own eyes? How can you acknowledge HIs ways are greater than your own?
- We must define what we want in order to understand what we need to surrender. Think of the places where you are struggling to let go and submit to God’s will. In all transparency, what do you really want to happen in this situation? What would you do if you were God? Why are you reluctant to submit to God in this area?
- Where do you need to be praying for your “daily bread” and provision? What would it look like for you to trust Him for what you need right now in this situation?
A simple prayer precedes continual prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:17, Matthew 6:5-13, Ephesians 1:18, 1 Chronicles 16:11 and James 5:13
- The way in which you pray reveals what you believe about God.
- Prayer is His presence with us as well as our constant communion with Him.
- Pick a time. Pick a place. Pray with a pen.
- When things go wrong, we distinctively lookup.
- Small talk is the most important unimportant conversation.
- Small talk prayers are starting points where we connect and explore.
- Many mistake thinking about God for actually praying to God.
- God is worthy of our recognition and submission.
- Do your quiet time as though your life depends on it.
- You are only ten minutes away from finding the life God has for you.
- Praying with a pen helps you think about what you are saying.
- If we want to pray all the time, we must first learn to pray some time, somewhere.
- We believe prayer is a good thing, but many of us are unsure if it is a necessary thing.
- Our prayers are more about our relationship than our requests.
- Consistent prayer isn’t twisting God’s arm, but rather gaining God’s perspective.
- How have you experienced the awkwardness of small talk in your prayer life? How did you respond to this tension?
- How would one’s approach to prayer change if “small talk” prayers weren’t viewed in a negative light, but instead seen as a starting point towards intimacy and growth?
- How would you define a good or bad prayer life? What makes a prayer “good” and what are some indicators that one is doing prayer wrong?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17. How does developing a discipline of prayer mesh with this passage’s call to “pray without ceasing”? What does it mean that prayer is being in constant communion with God?
- Read Matthew 6:5-13. What did Jesus want His listeners to understand about prayer? What are some key elements of prayer found in this passage (topics, mindset, focus, etc.)? If we are to let the Lord’s Prayer serve as our guide, what should our prayers center on?
- Read Ephesians 1:18, 1 Chronicles 16:11 and James 5:13. How do these verses speak to the purpose of prayer being about growing a relationship rather than blurting out a list of requests? Do you view prayer as a place of refuge? Why or why not?
- As it relates to your prayer life, how would you describe your current connection level? 1 (disconnected, non-existent, silence, etc.) to 7 (vitally connected, intimate, clarity, etc.). What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- The way in which you pray reveals what you believe about God. How do you think God feels about the way you approach Him in prayer?
- What circumstances or issues have been occupying your prayers recently? Where are you searching for God’s perspective? What is God asking you to do in the situation you are facing?
If you want to live life to the fullest, you’re going to have to deal with the dark side.
Galatians 6:7-9, John 1:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 3:16-21, Romans 7:15-20 and 1 John 2:9-11
- Today matters. Right now matters. Your next decision matters.
- We mock God by doing one thing and expecting different results.
- You can’t live life to the fullest when you are making dark side decisions.
- We deceive ourselves when we look in the spiritual mirror and say, “I don’t need to make any changes.”
- No one is immune to the dark side.
- What you plant is what you harvest. What you sow today, you reap tomorrow.
- We are people who plant dark seeds and expect to get light.
- It’s not enough to simply be available.
- Seeds that are sowed in private eventually bloom in public.
- Love demands freedom. If you want life, you should consider what you’re planting.
- We have a responsibility for what we plant.
- You didn’t get into your mess overnight, you aren’t going to get out of it overnight.
- Start by being a “tomato stake” type of friend.
- What thoughts and emotions did this week’s message create within you? How did you react to the call to confront the dark side and expose it to light? Where were you convicted?
- Have you ever seen evidence of the struggle between light and dark out in the world? Give some examples.
- Have you ever seen evidence of it inside you or someone you know? Give some examples.
- Your next decision matters. Do you agree with this statement? Talk about how much you think they matter and why.
- Read Galatians 6:7-9. Paul talks about sowing and reaping and relates it to your life. Do you think life is really like planting plants? How? Do you really reap what you sow? How do we mock God in the decisions we make?
- Read Romans 7:15-20. How does this passage speak to the internal struggle that occurs within each one of us?
- Read John 1:1-13 and John 3:16-21. What was Jesus’ response to the darkness? What comfort should Jesus extinguishing the darkness bring us in the midst of our struggle?
- Read Ephesians 5:8-14 and 1 John 2:9-11. You have no idea what hangs in the balance in your decision to sow the light. How does what we sow influence whether or not we’ll experience the prime life? How do our decisions influence the intimacy and connection level we experience in our relationships?
- Where are you planting the wrong seeds? What different seed do you need to start planting?
- How can you be a “tomato stake” friend and help others plant the right seed?
- You didn’t get in your mess overnight, you aren’t going to get out of it overnight. Where do you need to “not grow weary in doing good” and continue to plant good seeds?
Bouncing back is a godly mindset.
Philippians 3:12-14, Psalm 103:8-12, Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah 31:31-34
- Success is a pile of failure: you’re just standing on top of it and not underneath it.
- We have the spiritual “yips.”
- Our entire lives can be controlled and destroyed by small little windows of time where we made a bad decision.
- We are a people who are so hung up on the mistakes we’ve made.
- When a mistake gets in our mind, instead of moving past it and forward, we stall.
- Difficulty and struggles should be used as a pushing point to make much of God.
- You should continually and completely forget your past.
- God has forgotten. Why are you hanging on to it?
- We like to erect trophies that should’ve been gravestones.
- If you keep wallowing in all of your mistakes, you’ve created theology that believes God doesn’t forgive you.
- Who in our culture wants to follow a God like that?
- You won’t find the full life that Jesus promises you by looking behind you.
- How determined are you to live life to the fullest?
- Our direction in life is to make much of the One who gave His life for us.
- You are slowly losing your memory. After an examination, the doctor says that an operation on your brain might reverse your condition and restore your memory. However, the surgery would be so delicate that a nerve might be severed, causing total blindness. What would you rather have: your sight or your memory? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- Golfers spend most of the 300 minutes of a normal round of golf by themselves, between shots, when most of the time things aren’t going according to plan. How does this correlate to your life and your regrets? Explain your answer.
- How difficult is it for you to bounce back from a mistake, failure, or a foolish choice? How does your ability or inability to bounce back quickly coincide with the degree of failure?
- Read Philippians 3:12-14. The word “forgetting” in this passage means not just forgetting, but “completely” forgetting and “continually” forgetting. Also, it is important to notice that the forgetting is initiated by the runner. How do you work this out in your heart and mind?
- Almost all of us can identify a future situation that we know we will be in at some point. What would you want to say to yourself and how would you want to say it? How does your “inner coach” match up to what Paul implies in Philippians 3:13-14?
- Read Psalm 103:8-12, Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah 31:31-34. If God remembers our sins no more, why do we often wallow in our past?
- Stuart quoted Dave Ramsey when he said that “Success is a pile of failure: you’re just standing on top of it and not underneath it.” How does this idea connect with living from Two Pockets? Discuss your perspective.
- Let’s pretend that you have a friend that is going through the same situation that you are struggling with. What advice would you give them? Give that advice out loud to your group.
- Those who have grit possess determination and direction. Where are your eyes set: forward or behind you? How determined are you to live life to the fullest?