Saturday, July 29, 2017

Praying for Knox Missionaries

Knox Small Groups are invited to dedicate one (or more) of their meeting times each year to cover our Knox missionaries in prayer. While we all know that our missionaries need prayer, it doesn’t always happen in our lives. Meeting in your small group to pray for Knox missionaries has several benefits: 
  1. Going to a missions’ prayer meeting may be an unknown for many people, so we don't try it. But praying in your small group, where you are already comfortable, is accessible.
  2. This is not another night out for you or the people in your small group and fits into your regular schedule.
  3. This gives your group, as a part of Knox, an opportunity to find out who our missionaries are and what they are doing.
  4. This provides broader prayer coverage for our missionaries and helps the congregation rise up to this responsibility.
  5. This provides congregational support to the Knox Missions Ministry and Missions Committee.
  6. If your small group also chooses to write cards of appreciation, this provides further encouragement to our missionaries. 
Everything you need to lead your small group in praying for Knox Missionaries is provided below. This may be a different way for your small group to pray together than you are used to. We do not have to be experts at prayer, but as Christians we need to practice prayer and to always be learners in prayer. The Lord will bless your group as you meet with Him on behalf of our Knox Missionaries. 

  1. This text
  2. Tri fold brochure: Praying For Knox Missionaries (These are available on the Knox prayer board under the stairs at Knox Church or print it from the attachment.  It is helpful to have one per member in your small group).
  3. Bibles
  4. Optional: Cards to write and send to Knox Missionaries
Prayer Meeting Format:

  1. Read the Introduction (below) aloud together. Ask for questions or comments before proceeding.
  2. Follow the prayer format for the first three sections:  Adoration, Confession and Thanksgiving.
  3. Take a break from praying and read aloud the inside of the brochure covering what to pray for missionaries: relationship with God, physical and emotional needs, family relationships, ability to communicate, effective ministry, team relationships, and country of service.
  4. Review the list of Knox Missionaries and ask people to share any update information or stories they know about them.
  5. Form groups of 2 or 3 people and divide the list of missionaries between them.  Have each group follow the Supplication section to spend time praying for the missionaries they are assigned.
  6. Extra activity:  write cards of encouragement to each or some of the missionaries telling them your small group prayed for them.  Contact Pastor Bob for mailing addresses.


We might arguably say that the best missionary ever was the Apostle Paul.   Paul refers to himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”, emphasizing that he is sent by God not man.  In his letters to the churches he repeatedly asks them to pray for him. 

  1. To the Romans Paul says, “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”  – Romans 15:30
  2. To the Colossians he says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too that God may open a door for our message…” - Colossians 4:2-3
  3. To the Thessalonians he says, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.” – Thessalonians 3:1-2
  4. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 Paul recounts the hardships of their missionary travels. He says that they were delivered and will be delivered in the future "as you help us by your prayers”. 
Paul recognized the need for helping prayers in his mission work.  When we pray for our Knox missionaries, by Paul’s words, we “join them in their struggles” and are being “helpers in prayer”.  Paul asks for prayer that “opens a door for the message”, that the message “may spread rapidly and be honored”, and that they “may be delivered from wicked and evil men”.  Consider praying these very scriptures for our missionaries. 

Remember when we pray, we are not on neutral ground.  We are praying to bring God’s kingdom into places that Satan is laying claim. People are not our enemies.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12. We pray with the confidence that God is greater than our enemy.

The prayer format you will be using today is based on the ACTS model of prayer.

  • Adoration (praising God for who He is).
  • Confession (repenting for ways we have sinned against God and others).
  • Thanksgiving (thanking God for the good gifts we have received from his hand).
  • Supplication (submitting our needs to God for His will to be done).
You are encouraged to spend half of your prayer time in Adoration, Confession and Thanksgiving before moving onto Supplication.  This time spent in adoration, confession and thanksgiving will change how you ask your petitions.  First, praising God reminds us that our loving, sovereign Lord is the right place to go.  Then, through repentance we receive forgiveness and cleansing to approach God with a pure heart. Third, by remembering our blessings and thanking God for them we enter into God’s presence in the right way.  We fulfill the instruction of Psalm 100:4-5 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” While the cares of life can overtake our thinking; these three elements of prayer lift us up to fix our eyes on Jesus.  If we only pray petitions to God, it weakens us.  Adoration, confession and thanksgiving give us strength, protection and joy.

Next, you confidently approach God with petitions.  In Matthew 7 Jesus says “ask and you will receive”.  God wants us to bring our needs to him and in so doing we admit our dependence on Him.  When we pray, we are inviting the Kingdom of God into our earthly situations.  Think of all that Jesus brought during his ministry on earth: he brought healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, salvation, power, blessing, goodness, mercy, grace, peace, etc. These are works of Jesus we continue to ask him to do among us. Prayer is not “wishing”, rather in prayer we are asking God to keep his promises, based on His covenant relationship with us through Jesus Christ. So, when we pray we are asking our covenant-keeping God to fulfill His promises. In Revelation 5:21 God says “I am making everything new!”
Sometimes it is uncomfortable praying in a group. That is okay.  The power of prayer is not in any eloquent words, but in the power of God. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans words cannot express.” Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer time. Praying in a group is not the same as your personal prayer time. Listen carefully as the leader guides you through the prayer format and keep your prayers focused on the topic at hand. Keep your prayers short, allowing time for others to pray, though no one is required to pray out loud.  Don’t be afraid of silence as in these times God may be speaking to someone.

Extra activity:  After your prayer time your group may want to write cards of encouragement to each or some of the missionaries telling them your small group prayed for them. 
Enjoy your time with the Lord and with one another!

Thank you for praying for our Knox Missionaries.


Prayer Format  
Scripture:  Psalm 67. Read through Psalm 67 aloud, with each person reading one verse at a time.
Ask the group to praise God based on the themes of the scripture. If they are not used to praying scripture, set the example by praying from verse 1.  Move slowly through the psalm allowing for times of silence. When there is an extended time of silence move into confession.
Scripture: Psalm 66:18
Read the scripture and lead into confession saying something like: Lord, bring to mind the ways we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed that we might confess to you now. Hear our confessions whether silent or aloud. Scripture calls us to confess our sins one to another (James 5:16).  Once a few people make short confessions out loud there may be a break through to others confessing as well.  Silent confession is okay.  Allow time for this.
Close the time of confession ensuring forgiveness and cleansing through Christ: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Scripture: Romans 10:9-13
Have someone read the scripture.  Lead out with thanksgiving based on these verses. After a while instruct the group to thank God for answered prayers and blessings since the last time you met.
Close this section of prayer to talk about how to pray supplication for our missionaries.
Supplication – break into groups of 2-3 to pray specifically for assigned missionaries
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
Pray for one missionary at a time. Use the seven ways to pray for our missionaries listed inside the brochure, Praying for Knox Missionaries.  Have this shape how you pray for each missionary.
It is a good idea to seal the prayer in the name and blood of Jesus Christ.
Scripture: "No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, says the Lord."– Isaiah 54:17 (NIV)

Download tri-fold brochure: Praying for Knox Missionaries

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Shepherding children and teens in small group

Our small group has been together for 2 decades.  During that time, we have gone through many iterations of childcare.  So I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of those experiences with you.

When they were babies, they came along in the baby carrier.  When they were toddlers, each couple hired a babysitter.  (If you need a list of Knox youth that are willing to provide paid childcare, please send a note to Phil Wong.)  That wasn't cost effective so we tried hiring a babysitter or two to join us at the home where small group met.  As the number of toddlers increased, so did the stress on the babysitters.  

We tried a rotation system where we would all gather at the hosts' home and each couple took turns watching the kids in another room.  I remember being a new parent and not really having a good understanding of loving discipline.  Here's what I wished I knew then....

Johnny grabs a toy causing Jane to cry. Uncle Phil tries to comfort Jane and tells her that everything is going to be all right.  

Uncle Phil: “Johnny, could you come over her please?  I'd like to talk with you.”

Uncle Phil:  “Johnny, could you please tell me what happened?”

Johnny: “Jane took my toy and I wanted it.”

Uncle Phil: “And when you took it, how do you think Jane felt?”

Johnny:  “Sad.”

Uncle Phil: “Did taking the toy make things better?”

Johnny:  “No.”

Uncle Phil: “Do you think you should tell Jesus that you are sorry for hurting Jane's feelings?”

Johnny: “Sorry, Jesus.”

Uncle Phil:  “And do you think you could tell Jane that you are sorry for taking that toy?”

Johnny:  “Sorry, Jane.”

Uncle Phil:  “Jane, do you think you could be friends again with Johnny and forgive him?  How about give him a big hug?”

Jane: “OK.”

Uncle Phil:  “That's great!  Now how could we play together so that everyone has a good time?  Maybe we could take turns?  Or maybe we could play a game together?  What kinds of games to do you like to play?”

Here the overarching goal is to help the children see that their behavior is hurting others and that repentance towards God and towards each other is needed and leads to restored relationships.

When some of our kids got older, we would ask them to be in charge of the younger ones.  This takes some instruction and coaching as we found out when one of the kids got lost as the larger group moved from the playground to indoors!

At other times, we included the kids during our worship times so that they could learn the songs with us.  On some occasions we had a fun day where the parent and the kids all played together.  It was humbling indeed to be beat by our children in a game of capture the flag.  We also have played whiffle ball together.

As the kids got older, they often played together without any supervision.  But keeping a watchful eye is still helpful.  Sometimes they would encounter a situation where no group activity was of interest to everyone.  Here we had to brainstorm with them.  Could you defer to one another and do something that you are not especially excited about?  Could you use some diplomacy and say something like, “Last time we went along with your idea to do XYZ so maybe this time you could try going along with our idea?”

As the kids get older, the church will encourage them to join a small group lead by an adult volunteer.  But what if that took place in the context of a small group where parents took turns leading the kids in bible study?  You could have the benefit of other adults speaking into your children's lives.  The other added benefit is that you don't have your family running around in 5 different directions.  Plus the kids are getting trained in bible study.  Perhaps you could delegate the leadership of one of the bible studies to them?  Then come along side them for the debrief and coaching?

The Adequacy of God and the Adequacy of God's Word

In our last post, we considered the burdens of leadership by recalling the story of Joshua as he was appointed Israel's leader after the death of Moses.  In this post, we look to the presence of God and the word of God as we carry the burdens of leadership for the long haul.

It's interesting to note that Joshua is not the first to feel weak and inadequate.  When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, God told him to go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Let my people go!”  But Moses says, “I am slow of speech and tongue...Please send somebody else...!”  And the LORD's answer to both Moses and to Joshua is, “I will be with you.”  And to Joshua in particular, 

5As I was with Moses, so I will be with you;  I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  

The presence of God, the God whose name is I AM, will be adequate.  And so it is with us.  The adequacy of God will be enough to cover all our shortcomings and failings.  

And not only does the LORD promise his presence to Joshua, but the LORD has given his word to Joshua and to all the people.  

8Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth.  Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  

And the presence of the Lord and the word of the LORD to Joshua is not without effect but result in obedience.  

10So Joshua ordered the officers of the people:  “Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.” 

As you go about your work as a small group leader, do you enjoy the presence of God in the midst of your work?  Do you let His word speak to your hearts and minds?  Having enjoyed His presence and having been convinced of His promise that your efforts will succeed, do you live the life of obedience?

The Burdens of a Small Group Leader

Being a small group leader takes effort.  And at times, it can feel like a burden.  In this post, we acknowledge the burdens that come along with leadership.  In future posts, we'll look to the adequacy of our God and His Word to help small group leaders.  Plus, we will look at graciously asking members to commit to small group.  

The Burden of Leadership

The first chapter of Joshua opens with this.

1After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aid: ''Moses my servant is dead.”

We need to pause there and let the impact of those words sink in, just as Joshua had to let the impact of those words sink into his soul.  This is the Moses who 
confronted Pharaoh and said on behalf of the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may worship me.”  
  • presided over the 10 plagues in Egypt culminating in the feast of the Passover and the death of every first born in Egypt.  
  • held out his staff at the LORD's command and the Red Sea parted so that Israel crossed over on dry land while Pharaoh's horses and chariots were thrown into the sea.  
  • ascended Mount Sinai when it was billowing with smoke because the Fiery Presence of the Lord had descended on the mountain to give Moses the Law.  
  • at the LORD's command brought water from the rock to quench the people's thirst.  
  • at the LORD's command prophesied about the manna and quail to feed God's people during their wanderings in the desert.  

After a total of 5 decades of leadership, Moses, the servant of the LORD is dead.  And Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aid, is now to take Moses' place.  And Joshua feels the burden of stepping into a role that was occupied for so long by a giant like Moses.  

Not only is Joshua assigned leadership in the shadow of Moses but Joshua has a difficult mission assigned to him.  A recent census counted 600,000 fighting men.  Assuming an equal number of women brings the total to 1.2 million.  Add the children and Joshua is responsible for leading about 2 million people – plus their livestock.  And his mission is to lead these people and make war on the people of Canaan and to take possession of the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I can say Joshua is feeling the burden of leadership by what the LORD says to Joshua.  Three times the LORD says to Joshua, 

6Be strong and courageous...7Be strong and very courageous...9Have I not commanded you?   Be strong and courageous.”  

The LORD speaks to address Joshua's need at the moment.  Joshua has a need to be strong and courageous because at the moment he is feeling weak and inadequate.  

How do we as leaders carry the burdens of leadership for the long haul?  In my next post, I'd like to think with you about the adequacy of the presence of God and the Word of God.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Gracious Call to Commitment, Joshua 1

In our last couple of posts, we considered the burden of leadership and how we carry that burden over the long haul by looking to the adequacy of God and the adequacy of His word.  In this post, I'd like to think with you about how our obedience to the Lord translates into graciously calling others to make a commitment to small group life.  As I have talked with may of you, there seems to be a lack of commitment to small group.  People have busy lives and small group just isn't always a priority?  Finding ourselves in a culture where personal autonomy is a deeply held value, we defer to other people's lack of commitment to small group.  But are we really serving them by doing so?  Consider with me a different path, that is, a gracious call to commitment.  I pick up the account in Joshua, Chapter 1.  

12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

Jacob had 12 sons.  His one son, Joseph, was sold as a slave and carried off to Egypt.  But God was with Joseph and Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.  And when Jacob was reunited with Joseph and met his sons, Jacob reckoned Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons.  So when Moses is allocating the land to the tribes, Joseph doesn't get an inheritance but Ephraim and Manasseh do.  And this tribe of Manasseh is split in two.  Half of Manasseh will receive and inheritance west of the Jordan and the other half tribe of Manasseh, along with Reuben and Gad will receive an inheritance east of the Jordan.  

Joshua and the people are camping east of the Jordan.  And in that sense, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of  Manasseh have already reached the promised land.  But Joshua reminds them that Moses commanded them to go with their brothers to conquer the land west of the Jordan.  And so he asks them not only to consider their own tribes but their commitment to the larger community, that is the nation of Israel.  

One observation about this call to commitment to community is that it is a call to a high level of commitment.  Leave your wives, children and livestock behind.  Trust that the LORD will care for them in your absence.  Put your life on the line and go over to the west side of the Jordan, fully armed, ready for battle and fight for your brothers. It took 7 years to complete the conquest of Canaan.  

Secondly, this call to commitment is not just a human activity, that is, it's not just one person making a claim on another.  Notice that Moses carries this title, servant of the LORD.  It seems to be part of his name.  It's not just Moses, but Moses the servant of the LORD.  And so when Moses commands Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh to cross over the Jordan, he does so as God's representative.  

Finally, this is a gracious call to commitment.  By that, I don't mean that Joshua's manner of speech is gracious.  Joshua is a soldier and a pretty straightforward guy on a mission.  He does not use the interrogative voice, “Could you please cross over the Jordan?” but the imperative voice, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you...all your fighting men, fully armed, MUST cross over ahead of your brothers.”

How then is this a gracious call to commitment to the community?  Joshua is actually being kind to them in calling them to commitment.  In the absence of the call, the default is selfishness.  By calling them to commitment, Joshua gives them the opportunity to look not only to their own interests, but also to the interest of others (Philippians 2:4).  Or in other words, Joshua is giving them the opportunity to be like Jesus, to lay down their lives and to love their people.

And then, wonderfully, Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answer the call.  

16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 

Notice the parallelism and the repetition for emphasis indicating a glad and wholehearted commitment.  Not only will we do whatever you command but we'll go wherever you send us.    

17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. 

They acknowledge the succession from Moses to Joshua.  

17bOnly may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 

Do you hear the echo there?  The LORD says, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you;”  The people say, “Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses!”  

Here is another echo.  Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh say to Joshua, 

18bOnly be strong and courageous!”  

Isn't that heartening when your brothers tell you the same thing that the LORD has just told you?

How then are we going to apply what we have learned about the gracious call to commitment to our own situation here at Knox?  How do God's people express their commitment to on another in community? We all belong to the family of God.  And we express that belonging through our membership vows.

Do you promise to serve Christ in His Church by supporting and participating with 
this congregation in its service of God and its ministry to others to the best of your 

Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Evangelical 
Presbyterian Church and to the spiritual oversight of this Church Session, and do 
you promise to promote the unity, purity and peace of the Church? 

These vows are only the beginning, right?  The vows give us the framework that we need to order our common lives.  

Some aspects of commitment are the frequency of contact with others and the content of the relationship.  So, if you come to worship and then quickly duck out after the benediction, it's certainly better than not coming at all.  But I would challenge this person by saying it's difficult to love 600 people in any meaningful way for an hour and a half on Sunday morning.  By committing to a small group, people are interacting with smaller numbers of saints in a meaningful way.    

The voice of God that spoke to Joshua all those centuries ago is the same voice that speaks to us.  In his day, Joshua's call was to conquer the land of Canaan.  And just as there was a battle in Joshua's day, so there is a battle in our own day.  But it's not a battle for land, but a battle for the hearts and minds of the men and women around us.  And we need to ask ourselves the question, “What are we inviting them to?”  The answer is, “A committed loving relationship with the living God and a committed loving relationship with His people.”  May it be so.

Discussion Questions
  • What is your typical week like?  M-F? Sat? Sun?
  • What people do you interact with during the week?
  • If there is one thing you would like to change, what would it be?