True Happiness Can Only Be Found In God

“Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the LORD.” – Psalm 144:15.

Human history is the story of mankind’s search for true and lasting happiness. Some find it, some don’t. Even billionaires who appear to have it all and want for nothing can’t seem to find true contentment and joy.

We are probably not one of the approximately 3,311 billionaires looking for happiness. While we are in a different place financially, we still look for happiness: often in the wrong places. We focus on what is not important rather than what is. We all experience happiness at different times in our lives. But if our happiness is found outside of God, then it is temporary.  True happiness cannot be found in relationships, wealth, status, or accomplishments because all of these things can be undone or disappear rather quickly. When that happens, we are giving away our joy, nobody is stealing it.

Happiness is a choice.  Randy Alcorn says, “Those who sit around waiting to be happy shouldn’t hold their breath—it will likely be a long wait.” True happiness comes from having a relationship with God, our Creator, and Jesus His Son. That’s where true and lasting happiness comes from—not in stuff we build up here on earth. When we know, love, and serve God, His peace invades our hearts and we can see life in a different way.

God is eternal, His purpose is perfect, and we are forever His. He gives us all things and works all things for our good. What makes God’s gifts so special is not the thing given but the One who gives it. If we are going to be happy, truly happy, then we have to look behind the gifts we enjoy when days are easy to the God who gives them. And when days are dark we have to look beyond our painful circumstances to the God who loves us and strengthens us.

Being “joyful always” doesn’t mean we have to walk around with a fake smile on our face all the time, ignore reality or suppress every negative emotion. This verse simply implores us to intentionally let our faith, not our feelings, dictate our joy. The secret to real happiness isn’t really a secret at all.

To find true happiness you must look to the Lord Jesus, find beauty in His character, fall in love with His work, and stand in awe at what He has done for you and the future you have in Him. In Him, we have real joy. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe joy is a feeling or a choice?
  2. Remind yourself of the importance of rejoicing by searching the Bible—both Old and New Testaments—for God’s instructions in this area. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reminds us it’s God’s will that we “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Matching Your Dreams with God’s Dreams

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19

We hear a great deal about “the American dream” or “finding your dream girl or boy” or “beyond your wildest dreams” to speak of experiences that surprise us or go beyond our expectations. There are many terms and expressions in which the term “dream” is used. God starts with a dream of a beautiful, interconnected world, constantly unfolding, teeming with His creation that is loving. The question is how do we match your dreams with God’s dreams for your life. 

Joseph was a dreamer. He had dreams of his brothers bowing down to him. His brothers hated him because he was already their father’s favorite; he wore a special multi-colored robe that was a daily reminder of their father’s favoritism. Now, these dreams just made them hate him even more. They wanted to kill him, but one of the brothers talked the others into selling him into slavery instead. They looked at Joseph and saw a pampered and spoiled pet, and an egotistical dreamer.

But God looked at Joseph and saw a man He could trust. God knew that tough times were coming, and if the family was going to survive, God needed a man He could trust in a position of authority. God gave Joseph those dreams, and other dreams, because God had a dream for Joseph. God didn’t see a spoiled boy; God saw the next administrator of Egypt and the savior of Jacob’s family.

 God’s dream for you is more significant than anything you may have in mind. You are called to participate in greatness, not smallness. God’s dream is for you to have a spectacular life—the best. But often, God’s dream for His creation veered off course putting each other down instead of bringing out the best in others, or ourselves.

Jesus is the answer to getting back on the path toward re-alignment and cutting the gap between the world as it is and the world God intended. In Luke 4:18-19, at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus tells us what He is all about and how to get back on track.  Jesus was about healing, liberating, forgiving debts, and extending God’s favor to all.   

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Every person is a dream of God. God dreamed you up…for a reason. God has a plan and purpose for you, and you will be the happiest and most effective when you are living God’s dream for you. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2. How does God’s dream for us impact our daily lives? 

Trust In Action

“Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” – Galatians 3: 6-9

Aside from Moses, no Old Testament character is mentioned more in the New Testament than Abraham. Abraham is mentioned in 230 verses in the Old and New Testament.

There is much we can learn by observing Abraham’s life through the scriptures. The apostle Paul in Romans chapter 4 refers to Abraham six times as the father of faith. Though he lived in a world at enmity with God, Abraham models a life lived to those who chose to walk by faith in God.

When told to go, he went. When promised, he believed. When commanded, he obeyed—even when it seemed to make no sense at all. Abraham’s faith wasn’t because of his intellect, his accomplishments, or pedigree, or even his wealth. Exercising that was not easy. Abraham “hoped against hope” at times, in other words he believed God, in spite of their being little or no hope. Abraham was “a friend of God “ (James 2:23) because of his faith. The object of Abraham’s faith was God himself. Abraham believed in and trusted God completely.

Fast forward 2,000 years. Trust can still seem like hoping against hope. Trust is rarely a suggestion. When someone says “trust me”, it is usually implied that you throw one’s self into a situation and believe wholeheartedly that the situation will come to pass as they promise. For in the times of trouble; in the out-of-my-control circumstances and in the I-don’t-get-it days, we will look to something or someone to trust.

Proverbs 3: 5 gives us a direction for trust: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Trust is action, an active throwing of yourself into the hands of God as Abraham did, and saying I believe in Your grace and accept Your plan.

Why should we trust God completely? Because He is trustworthy. He is worthy of trust because trust requires a track record. You wouldn’t trust someone at their word if they had lied to you consistently in the past. But God’s track record is perfect. This does not mean it is perfectly understood, but it means His love, power, grace and compassion is promised clearly in scripture and can be experienced plainly in our lives.

God used Abraham to play a pivotal role in the outworking of the story of redemption, culminating in the birth of Jesus. Abraham is a living example of faith and hope in the promises of God (Hebrews 11:10). Our lives should be so lived that when we reach the end of our days, our faith and our trust in God, like Abraham’s, will remain as an enduring legacy to others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is trust and delight related.
  2. What prevents us from taking delight in God’s promises and plans? What areas of your life do you not fully trust God?
  3. If there are areas of your life where God is not “coming through” the way you would like, how can you learn to trust God in those situations?
  4. What can you do this week to realign your actions to reflect trust in God?
  5. Think of someone in your life that you see as an example for trusting God – what do they do really well that you can learn from?

We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

Not many people are happy with themselves. We all want to be thinner or stronger, taller or shorter, happier, healthier, smarter, you name it. There’s a myriad of things we’d like to change about ourselves. And in most cases there are any number of things we would like to change about our relationships as well. The question I would ask about change in the area of relationships is this: how often are we asking others to change and how often do we change ourselves?

Relationships can be challenging in the best of times. Whenever there are two people there is the possibility of differences in perspective and view point. Even for believers, in spite of the fact that we are new creatures, there is the possibility of our old self rearing its ugly head. And when we are facing trials in our life, and some generally hard times, then problems are magnified. They seem bigger. It is times like this when we say things to others that we would never normally say. We are angry and disheartened and the spouse, brother, aunt, co-worker, business partner, or neighbor is on the receiving end of those pent-up emotions. “Yes, I really let them have it with both barrels. And yes, I hit below the belt. Still, I feel justified.  I can’t recover those words anyway, so what do I do now?” That is an easier position to be in than most people realize.

The instinctive reaction to that question for Christians is to pray. But when we are in the midst of a bump in the road or an event that has left us devastated, we often pray to blame God for not preventing the problem, or spend large amounts of time explaining to Him the problem in detail. It seems a bit funny to explain to God what our problem is, but I am confident most of us, me included, has done it. The bottom line is that this prayer is about God “fixing” the problem; and fixing the problem involves showing the other party in the relationship where they went wrong. Because God knows they could use some straightening out.

“Wow, Marty, I felt that one. Fifteen yards for unnecessary roughness.”  Maybe. But I want you to consider that it may be that you are the one who is wrong. At least, more than likely, there is enough “wrong” to go around. When I reflect on the relationships over my lifetime, I have been either wrong or partly wrong a good number of times. Especially when I look at relationships from a Biblical standard.

The Bible is full of instructions on getting along with people. The way that God changes people is by His word. I believe that if you took the time to let His word speak to your heart, there would be some transformation taking place that let you see that other person from God’s perspective and allow you to love them with His kind of love. That doesn’t mean you have to approve of his or her actions or words, or go along with whatever that person does. I’m not asking you to condone their actions, but rather just to see them through the lens of Jesus. The Bible doesn’t tell us that people have to think before they speak or harness their words before we love them, forgive them, or live at peace with them. Nor do we need to seek revenge or retribution. Romans 12:17-19 says: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” 

Fortunately, God doesn’t accept our good part and reject our bad part. He doesn’t write us off because we fail occasionally to meet His standards in our relationships.  He sees us as a whole person. God does not expect you to have “arrived” in any area, including how we use our words. Or in relationships. In fact, He makes it very clear that you will never be all you can be in this life (Romans 8:18-25). That being the case, to have a goal of being a “finished product” in the area of relationships is to set yourself up for failure.  We will make mistakes.  We will say things we wish we had not said.  And yes, we will have relationships that we wish to improve. Remember small changes can make a big difference.

So, are you working on you rather than the other person? Are you taking small steps to being more Christlike? Are you taking small steps to becoming all God wants you to be? Remember our study of Philippians. Paul had no problem asking the Philippians to follow his example because he was modeling a process, not a finished product.

Discussion questions:

1. What percentage would you give of the times you were wrong or partly wrong in your relationships?
2. Are we obligated to forgive someone who harmed us with their words? What if I am still hurting?
3. Words can hurt people. Should we treat repeat offenses different than the first offense?
3. Psalms 86:5 says, “ You, Lord, are forgiving and good abounding in love to all who call to you.” What does this mean to you?
5. How would you rate the quality of your relationships? Friendships? What is the one thing you would change to improve them? Pray and ask God to help you in that area.


Looking For Joy?

The song Joy to the World reminds me of our mission to help the whole world find and follow Jesus. One of the things we have attempted to do over our years here at Northstar is connect God’s unchanging Word to our ever-changing world. That’s our job. We have worked hard at inviting the unchurched, de-churched and over-churched to become developing followers of Jesus and as a result find the joy of living a life dedicated to God.

Along the way I have learned some undeniable truths; God’s dreams are way, way bigger than our dreams. I believe that God’s dreams for us are way, way better than our dreams. God has chosen to bless Northstar in so many ways. Many people have found Jesus and joined our church over the last few years. So how do we help each one of these people grow in the Lord and find joy in their relationship with Him. I have one possible answer to those challenges, but it is probably not what you are expecting.

Have things gotten a little less exciting than they were when you first started coming to Northstar? This is somewhat common among some believers, especially if you weren’t raised in the church and don’t have a church family. Psalms 92:13 tells us, “They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.”

It’s great to want to be part of a church that’s healthy and has longevity, accountability, a pastoral leadership team and Biblical doctrine. We need to see those things as important, but also that we need to serve. Joy does not come from “going to church,” but when we become “the church” and to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

As pastor, you begin to see how valuable each person is. Every person and volunteer matters. Your presence matters. Your help and the time you give is so valuable. You may think your church is fine with people who are on staff, but you would be surprised to find out just how much help we need. And that doesn’t include our future outreach programs.

What I’m trying to explain is that joy comes from a mentality of serving others, not from being served. It is a joy to serve and to set up chairs or coffee, or be backstage setting up for the worship. Whether greeting people, or singing on the stage, every person in the body of Christ who is serving matters. I encourage you to reread 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, the passage on one body and many members.

Without the volunteers at our church right now, we wouldn’t have a service. We all have different gifts, so volunteering may not be of interest to you, but I pray God will show you where you too can serve in your local church. Just ask the Lord to show you what your part is.

I believe if you step out of your comfort zone and serve—rather than just go to receive—it will be a wonderful, joyful experience for you.
Discussion Questions:
1. How would you answer the following question: What is the Christian Life?
2. Luke 12:48 says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” What does this mean to you? Can “much” include spiritual gifts?
3. Do you find joy in serving? Why or why not?
4. Pray that God will show you where you can best serve others in the local church?

Realistic, Constant, Overflowing Joy

One of the most popular Christmas anthems is “Joy to the World.” But how in the world is joy possible? Literally, how in this world that is filled with such sorrow and pain do you experience true joy? That’s the question that needs to be answered. Because the perceptions of Christianity is that you must eliminate all joy and fun before you will be accepted into Christianity. But those myths and perceptions are so wrong.

Joy is very realistic. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he told his disciples, “you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20) Jesus doesn’t ask you to pretend that suffering doesn’t exist; he asks you to look at the suffering in a different way. Jesus gives the example of a woman going through labor pains. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:21) The pain is real, but there’s something that happens that changes everything – the outcome of the pain. When that little baby is presented to the mother, the pain is not exchanged for joy. The pain is literally transformed into joy because the mother holding the baby in her arms sees what all the pain was for. It’s the same thing with the death of Jesus. It caused him and his disciple’s great pain and sorrow, but now the cross is celebrated across the world. Why? Because you see its purpose. The sufferings of Christ have brought about complete forgiveness and eternal life for all those who will believe in Him. The cause of the sorrow has been turned into the cause of joy. So Christian joy is not the absence of sadness or sorrow, it’s the absence of despair.

Joy is constant. The joy of Christianity is a constant joy as compared to the unstable joy that the world offers. The only type of joy that the world can offer is a joy that is contingent upon good circumstances. It’s a joy that’s based on having your health, money, beauty, or success. Therefore, it’s unstable because all of those things can change in an instant. But Jesus offers a joy that nothing and no one can take away. Your circumstances may change, but God’s perfect love, faithfulness, mercy, justice, promises and grace never will. Christian joy is a deep satisfaction in the unchanging goodness and sovereignty of God.

Joy is overflowing. “May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace so you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) What a magnificent verse. It is such a beautiful expression.  All the great words of the Christian faith appear here: hope, twice (once it is called “overflowing hope”) and joy, great joy, peace, calmness, confidence, trust, and belief in a living God. And finally, the power of the Holy Spirit, the invisible force that can open doors and no man shuts them, and can shut and no man opens — the power of God released among us.

Jesus brought joy to the world, the type of realistic, constant and abundant joy that only He could bring.

Discussion Questions:

1. I Thessalonians 5: 16 (NLT) says, “Always be joyful.” Is that realistic? How do we turn sorrow into joy?
2. Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Is expecting joy to be constant in our lives realistic? If joy in hope is what enables this patient endurance, how do we apply that in our lives? What is the value of constant prayer?
3. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” What is the difference between hope and joy? Have you experienced overflowing joy in your life?
4. Pray that God would make joy a realistic, constant and overflowing part of your life.

Where In The World Is Joy

Walking around this Christmas season has convinced me of something. Joy seems to be missing. People are wandering from place to place with the look of “there’s got to be more to life than this,” on their faces. Even when Joy to the World is playing in the background. The truth is that whenever there is trouble in our lives or in our relationships, the first thing that seems to go out of the window is joy. It’s like we go to the hospital and get a joy bypass done so that we are appropriately distressed until the trial or problem is over.

This was certainly true of David. Many times in Psalms we find him crying out to God in his trouble, asking for a recovery of the joy he once knew. We see this in Psalm 51, which is a song of repentance. David had sinned. His sin had created a distance between him and the God he once worshiped so freely. And now with a broken heart, he turns in repentance, crying out for God to restore the joy.

But what is joy and will I recognize it when it appears? We often confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is a matter of pleasant circumstances or events, like payday, or a nice back rub. While it brings happiness, all too soon it is over, or the money is gone. In short, happiness at best is arbitrary, subject to individual whims, is shallow and often fleeting.

Joy, on the other hand, is deep and lasting, and it’s not dependent upon pleasant circumstances. The source of joy is not what happens to us, but Who is present with us. The only source of joy is God. David writes about God as the source of joy in Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

I draw your attention to two words, path and presence. The path refers to the ways of God. Certainly there is much happiness to be found in following God’s Word and living in obedience. But the word “presence” refers to a personal relationship with God that will result in real joy. This is the joy for myself, my family and all those who attend Northstar.

Joy is a result of the relationship we have with God, even when our situation and circumstance are bad. Why? Because Joy springs from God’s love and activity in our world. Joy springs from knowing God. Joy springs from worshiping God. In fact, Joy is not the absence of difficulty in our world, but the presence of God with us in our difficulty. After speaking of remaining in Christ’s love, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11). Joy exists from being in a loving relationship with God and sometimes that relationship walks us through persecutions and hardships, trials and testings, all of which seeks to perfect us in the faith.

So my definition of joy is this: Joy is the satisfying confidence that comes from knowing, trusting and serving God. I hope you find happiness, but I really hope you discover joy this Christmas.

So where in the world is joy? It’s found in Jesus.

Discussion Questions:
1. How can we have the joy the Bible talks about when we feel unhappy?
2. Suppose a stranger asks you why Christians make such a big deal about joy. In 90 seconds, how would you describe real joy?
4. Read Luke 1:50–55. What is the greatest area of stress in your life right now? What would it look like to respond with joy? What is the desired outcome of a tested faith?
5. Pray and ask God for patience and the wisdom to let the Holy Spirit work in our lives.

Joy in the Midst of Stress

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

In Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the bitter old accountant Scrooge provides a memorable illustration. Tight-fisted and greedy, he lives in a universe so calculating and cold that no one escapes his suspicion. He is haunted by dreams of death, and dreads its approach. The dreams open his eyes and he sees a way out: “The time before him was his own, to make amends in!” No longer consumed with his own needs, he is free to love, and vows to dispel “the shadows of the things that would have been.” And as he runs from one old acquaintance to the next, he rediscovers the world around him with the contagious joy of a child.

The older we get, the more jaded we are by life, the joy of Christmas is often something that we reach for, but it’s not the same. I want to remind all of us that the magic, the joy of Christmas is not in the lights, decorated trees, or gifts under those trees. The joy of Christmas is found in Jesus. Instead of the stress and busyness that we tend to focus on, let’s remember that the season is about joy. Jesus didn’t come to live on earth so we could be stressed about celebrating his birth. Jesus came so that we could experience joy.

In Luke 2:8 we read, “In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.” Verse 10 says, “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Finding joy in life can be hard, no matter where we are. We could be financially secure for life, yet have no joy. We could be surrounded by family and friends and still have no joy. We could be involved in the things we love to do, yet still feel a lack of joy. What do we do?

Jesus was addressing His disciples in Luke 6:22: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven…” Jesus also said in John 15: 9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

How important is finding joy in our lives? It’s everything. Fortunately for us, joy was born in Bethlehem. This is why the heavens rang out with “good news of great joy.” He has come for us. We did not deserve it, we could not earn it, but God loved us so much that He sent His Son for us. The truth is we can’t manufacture the joy of Christmas within ourselves. We can’t stir it up like a batch of Christmas sugar cookies. We can only accept it as a gift: the gift Jesus offers us if we would only stop long enough to hear His voice and accept His invitation. And when we accept Him as Lord and Savior, we will find joy in something every single day – through people, through experiences, through adventure, but always through Christ.

I’ll close with Peter’s words in his letter to the early church; my prayer for everybody who attends Northstar or reads this devotional is that we hold these words close this Christmas; “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:8)

Discussion Questions:
1. What is the difference between joy and happiness? How can we increase God’s joy in our lives? Why is joy an essential quality for believers?
2. In your own words, define what joy is in your life?
3. Why did the angel describe the news about the Savior as “great joy?”
4. Do you typically find joy at Christmas?

Too Blessed To Be Stressed – A Summary of Philippians

We just finished our teaching series on Philippians we entitled The Pursuit of Joy. Every book of the Bible is important because each one is inspired by God. Certain books draw us close to God time and again because of their strong encouragement, powerful teaching and practical wisdom. Philippians is one of those books. I hope you enjoyed the series and if you missed any of the sessions, I encourage you to go to and listen to the message you missed.

In this devotional I want to give you a summary of the series and of Philippians.

The Apostle Paul had this attitude: “I can’t lose for winning!” I can just hear him, “Heads I win, Tails I win!” Philippians is a book about joy, even though it is estimated that Paul spent at least twenty-five percent of his life in jail.  All that jail time coupled with other well-documented bumps in the road and yet his joy was contagious. I wonder if Paul’s ministry was today, if he would be sporting a “Too Blessed To Be Stressed” t-shirt under his prison overalls. Maybe we should sell those at Northstar.

When you peak behind the curtain of Paul’s life the thing that is easily detected is his laser like focus: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14.

As Paul urges the Philippians to move onward and upward, he does not do so without including himself or giving his personal testimony as inspiration and motivation. Paul gives us some insight as to what we must do to reach our goal. He uses the personal pronoun “I” implying that we must make our relationship with God personal, and the keys or steps for moving onward and upward are in Philippians 3:13, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” I hope that you will gleam from our study of Philippians that each of us who are followers of Jesus have to keep realizing, keep forgetting, and keep reaching.

Keep realizing that we have not yet arrived. Paul lets the Philippians know that no matter what knowledge, skills, or accomplishments or status that he has already accomplished in this life, he considers them all garbage that he may gain Christ. Our accomplishments should not hinder us nor cause us to “get a big head” thinking that we arrived or reached our plateau in life. Nothing should keep us from growing – moving on in Christ.

Keep forgetting those things behind because it is a continual process of not allowing past failures nor achievements to keep us from moving onward and upward. Yes, we remember the past. The process of forgetting means that we are not resting on past laurels neither are we pulled back by the guilt of past failures. Let the past be in the past.

Keep reaching forward to the things which are ahead. We must continue to strive and make every effort to reach for the things that are ahead of us. Keep pursuing a relationship with God. The goal is be more like Him as we read in verse 14 above.

My prayer is that members and regular attenders of Northstar Church will be straining and stretching forward for the upward call of Christ Jesus. And to know the joy that results.

In 2015, Northstar will be working as a church to press toward the same goal. Let us move forward together and be a group of believers that is too blessed to be stressed.

Discussion Questions
1. What is the basic theme of Philippians?
2. How can we receive and experience the peace of God?
3. What has God promised to supply?
4. How is singleness of mind expressed?
5. What are some of the ways that Jesus displayed humility? How many of those do we display?
6. Paul is in prison, potentially facing the death penalty, yet he remains positive and hopeful. Think about a time when you had bad news or a bad experience actually turn out for the good. What happened to change “bad” into “good?”

A Living Prayer Life

We completed The Pursuit of Joy teaching series this week. In this series we have been studying the book of Philippians.  As we pointed out several times in this series, Paul wrote Philippians from prison. It’s a letter written to the church at Philippi and as you read it’s words you can’t help but notice the joy that was evident in Paul’s life and the joy he desires to see in the lives of those he is writing to. In examining some of the keys to Paul’s joy, we noted that one obvious truth was that he was concerned about others and was in the practice of praying on their behalf.

That’s what we see in Philippians 1:3-4:”I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” Then there is Philippians 1:9-11 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

I want to zero in on one thing in that passage of scripture that is needed in all of our lives as followers of Christ and gives us a great example of the types of requests we can and should make on behalf of each other through prayer.

I want to call your attention back to verse 9. Paul begins by praying that their love would abound still more and more. Paul is not praying for them to start their love. The Philippi church showed their love for Paul by their support of him and his ministry. This was a church that was already doing pretty well. What he was praying for was for their love to grow and overflow, and spill over into the lives of others.

And it wasn’t just their love for others. Paul also wanted them to increase in their love of God. As Christ followers, our goal should be to love God and love people more tomorrow than we do today. To do that it needs to be a daily prayer request. And as long as God has us here on earth there will always be room for us to grow in our love. We will always need more love in our homes and in our churches. I’m thankful for the love that is displayed at Northstar. But, let’s make it our aim to increase our love for God and each other. And, let’s be in prayer for one another that our love will increase more and more and for our church that God will continue to have His hand on our ministries.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is a beautiful example to us of how we should be praying for one another. Do you want to energize your prayer life? Do you want to experience true joy? Follow Paul’s example and pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ that God would be glorified in their lives and in the lives of those far from the heart of God.

Discussion Questions:
1. What are the references to prayer in verse Philippians 4:6. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.? How is prayer different from supplication? How does thanksgiving fit into making our prayers?
2. How often should we pray? Why is it that God hears our requests?
3. Read Paul’s Prayer for the church (Philippians 1:9-11). Summarize what he prays for. What part of the prayer do you want someone to pray for you? Why?
4. What part of the prayer for contentment is the hardest?