Excerpt for IWU student study in Spiritual Formation/LCE class

—from the book Unveiled Faces by Keith Drury

© 2005 The Wesleyan Church





Chapter 1 Questions: Fasting:

When we finish a fast, we cool into tempered Christians strong with self-control. The dross and cinders of our lustful cravings are skimmed off. Fasting produces a work of art - the tempered, selfless Christian - that can be created through no other process of refinement.  –Lee Bueno

·        Fasting gives you confidence to know that your spirit can master appetite . . . and helps to protect against later uncontrolled cravings and gnawing habits –Russell M. Nelson


1.      The process of “tempering” steel heats the metal then cools it until it becomes stronger than that same steel that has not faced the heat.  How might fasting “temper” a Christian?

2.      Do you think there may be a connection between the sensory desires for food and other cravings—that is, how could fasting help us overcome other appetites?



·        The tempter came and said to him (Jesus), ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,  (Matthew 4:3-4).

1. Why would it have been wrong for Jesus to turn stone into breAd?

2.  Fasting and prayer are often companions in the Bible.  How would you relate Scripture and fasting?



·        Christ is richer than chocolate, and tastes sweeter than any food. –Nicole Bennett



·        Nothing should be taken for granted. We should say thank you every day to God and to each other for all that is provided for us. This is one reason why fasting is such an important spiritual discipline. Not just fasting from food, but also fasting from cars, shopping centers, the news - whatever we have an inordinate attachment to. Fasting can help re-kindle our gratitude for all that we have been given. –Glen Argan

1.      How would you connect “doing without” food as we fast with gratefulness to God?

2.      Considering our culture at large,  to what other things do we have an ‘inordinate attachment” that might benefit from fasting?




·        Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. –Andrew Murray

1.  To whom does fasting show the deepness of our commitment? To God? Ourselves?  Why is this important?

2. Fasting is a mortal blow at the temporal material world.  Looking at the Table of Contents of this book ask, “What other disciplines refocus our lives from the temporal to the spiritual?


·        Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7).

1. While Israel was fasting what more important duties were they overlooking?  List them.

2. Is it OK to start fasting even though a person is generally uninvolved in caring for these “weightier matters?”   



In each case below label the kind of fast it was, the purpose:

·        Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant..(Exodus 34:28)


·        They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. (2 Samuel 1:12) 


·        David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. (2 Samuel 12:16) 


·        On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their

·        heads. (Nehemiah 9:1) 


·        After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  (Matthew 4:2) 


·        and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. (Luke 2:37) 


·        Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:23) 



·        When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting. St. Jerome


Chapter 2 questions: Silence


·        Silence is the way to make solitude a reality. – Henry Nouwen

1. How do silence and solitude relate?  Which is more dependant on the other?

2. Look in the table of contents of this book then relate other disciplines of spiritual formation to silence.  Which disciplines best form an “alloy” with silence and why?


·        Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.Dallas Willard  (The Spirit of the Disciplines)

1. Of what does silence “strip us?”  

2. What are some of the other reasons people could fear silence? 

·        Only in silence is heard the beating of the heart of God.Father Bernardo Olivera

·        A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (Proverbs 17:27-28)

·        For everything there is a season… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-7)

·        In the school of the Spirit man learns wisdom through humility, knowledge by forgetting, how to speak by silence, how to live by dying. –Johannes Tauler

·        It is a good discipline to wonder in each new situation if people wouldn't be better served by our silence than by our words. Henri J. M. Nouwen, (The Way of the Heart)

1. List some examples of times when nothing may be the best thing to say.

2. Silence alone may not always be enough—though we need say nothing.  What are the signals we can learn to show we are actively listeners? Really care? Have compassion? 

3. If we were to constantly speak for the sake of others and not ourselves what things would likely change in our conversations?

·        Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.    –Thomas Merton

1. What do people say that can make us like them?

2. Merton suggest that silence enables us to love others more, but not for their words. How should times of silence spent alone affect our time of companionship with others?

·        Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)

·        He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak.Ausonius

1. Why is it hard for us to “be still” in our world?  What values resist stillness?

2.  In what ways should being silent alone change how we speak when we return to our companions?

·        There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub. –Elisabeth Kubler Ross


·        In silence man can most readily preserve his integrity. Meister Eckhart

·        Silence is the mother of Truth. Benjamin Disraeli


·        But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. (Habakkuk 2:20)

1.  The Quakers popularized the notion of a period of silence during worship in order to listen to God.  Modern worship has filled the service up with words and music so that few worshippers have time for contemplation or listening for God.  How could worship be changed to provide some times for listening for God’s “still small voice?”

2. What resistance or problems would you anticipate if your ideas above were actually implemented in worship at your local church?

3. What is the danger of too much emphasis on listening personally to God?
Chapter 3 questions: Solitude


·        After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.  -- Matthew 14:23

·        Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. -- Mark 1:35

·        At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.  -- Luke 4:42


1.      What times are mentioned in these verses when Jesus sought solitude?

2.      Prayer seem to be often connected with solitude—how can “being alone” enhance prayer?

3.      Do you think Luke is suggesting Jesus was “fleeing the crowd?” If so, why?  Why do we need to flee the crowd at times?  What happens when we don’t?

4.      We don’t know how often Jesus sought solitude, but what do you guess about Jesus practice of this discipline?


·        Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone, and the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.  --Paul Tillich


1.      What would you list to describe the differences between loneliness and being alone

2.      In what way can solitude actually help banish one’s loneliness?



·        Shut thy door upon thee and call to thee Jesus thy love; dwell with him in thy cell for thou shalt not find elsewhere so great peace.  --Thomas a Kempis

1.       In what ways is “peace” related to solitude?

2.      The hermits and monks had “cells” where they found solitude—what are good modern equivalents?


·        The function of diversion is simply to anesthetize the individual as individual, and to plunge him in the warm, apathetic stupor of a collectivity which, like himself, wishes to remain amused. The bread and circuses which fulfill this function may be blatant and absurd, or they may assume a hypocritical air of intense seriousness.  Our own society prefers the absurd. But our absurdity is blended with a certain hard-headed, fully determined seriousness with which we devote ourselves to the acquisition of money, to the satisfaction of our appetite for status, and the justification of ourselves as contrasted with the totalitarian iniquity of our opposite number. --Thomas Merton 

1.      What are today’s chief “diversions” that tend to draw us away from time with God?

2.      What are the dangers of “collectivity” as opposed to the solitary life? 

3.      What could be the dangers of a too-solitary life?

4.      How much time is a good balance for a modern person to spend alone with God?

5.      Are some people called to a solitary life of prayer and study while others have minimal obligation to solitude?


Chapter 4 questions: Simplicity




Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.  Edwin Way Teale

  1. What examples can you give where “eliminating needless wants” reduces work or worry?
  1. Reverse it now—tell about how taking on a new possessions increased your work or worry.


To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter ... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring-these are some of the rewards of the simple life –John Burroughs

  1. What are some complex or elaborate hobbies or activities that promised happiness that turned out to be a disappointment to you?
  2. What simple things bring you the most joy? Describe them.


The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

--Hans Hofmann

  1. In what ways does the “clutter of possessions” block us from tuning into important things?
  2. What are “the necessary” things that we should be tuned into that we somehow miss when we are drowing in a materialistic life?



Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life.--Richard Foster

  1. Could there be an inverse relationship between the two ways we impress people—that is the more we impress them by how we dress or we have, the less they see who we really are?  Can you think of a story illustrating where this happened?
  2. What are the best possible “impressions” a person can get from our clothes?  From our life?  Make two lists and compare.


Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough. –Charles Dudley Warner 

  1. List the “just baggage enough” for people in your local church at the various ages—newly married, child-rearing, middle age, empty nest and retired.
  2. Why is it humans collect more possessions—how do you explain this universal tendency?



Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature. –Thomas a Kempis

The Christian Discipline of Simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.

--Richard Foster
1. Many of the personal disciplines can be done in secret without others seeing them on an outward way.  Indeed when we fast we are instructed to make sure we don’t show it to our friends.  What are the dangers of the obvious outward lifestyle others can see when we practice this discipline?


We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without. –Henry David Thoreau

To be simple is to fix one's eye solely on the simple truth of God at a time when all concepts are being confused, distorted, and turned upside down. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. –Henry David Thoreau


Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

  1. Is this a command of the Bible like “do not steal” or is it more relative—that is, should we interpret it this way, “As we store up treasure on earth make sure your also storing up treasure in Heaven.”  Is this a fair interpretation?  If you say yes the how far can we interpret other “do not” statements of Jesus in a similar way?  If you say not then how would you say the “do not store up” command applies to today?
  2. If you had to pick one, which comes first? Does our heart follow our treasure or does our treasure follow our heart? That is, if I have my their heart set on my possessions how do I go about changing—change my heart first then my treasure will follow my heart?  Or simply start putting my treasure in heaven and my heart will follow it? (avoid the easy answer of “it’s both” as long as you can in answering this)



No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6: 24, 33)  Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Matthew  19:21)


  1. Is Jesus saying here we can’t care about our money at all, or is He saying that we should make sure that 51% or more of our “service” is to God and not our money?  What percentage meets this command of Christ in your mind?  What would a person have to do to disobey this teaching of Christ?
  2. Can we serve two masters by letting one be preferred over the other without hating the other master (either God or money)?


John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4)

  1. While not everyone can take up the ascetic life like John, what sort of people might actually live a life of radical simplicity?  Do you know anyone like this?
  2. How could one take on themselves this sort of radical simplicity for a time—for instance for a week or month? What would you do?



Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.  Plato 

There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth –Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy 




Chapter 5 questions: Rest



-Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths –Etty Hilsum

1. What are some practices that give us “momentary rest” in the midst of a hectic day? List them.


The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters; he restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

  1. What are examples of “green pastures” in your life so far?
  2. Can you tell about somebody (or yourself) where God made you lie down—forced you to rest?


-It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.  –John Steinbeck
1. What healthy role can dreaming accomplish?  Have you ever solved a problem by “sleeping on it?” What role might the Holy Spirit play in working with our unconscious minds while we sleep?


-Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11: 28-29)

  1. When we go to Christ for rest what sort of rest does he supply?  How?

Jesus said he was “gentle of heart” and “humble.” Can you see any possible connection with these qualities (or their opposites) and rest(or its opposite frantic activity)?



Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. –Thomas Dekker

1. The re is ample evidence of physical maladies brought on or worsened by going without sleep. How should a Christian treat rest as a “stewardship” issue?



By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. –Genesis 2:2-3

  1. Discuss how “Sunday” was treated in your home when you were growing up.
  2. Can we have a “Sabbath” that is not on the original day(Saturday) or even Sunday?
  3. What sorts of things do you do now to set aside a “day of rest” each week—tell how you do it now.


Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping –Matthew 8:24

  1. What sorts of things cause you to be “totally exhausted” like Jesus apparently was in this story?
  2. Tell about a time when you fell asleep when others were wide awake.
  3. Make a list of all the clever places and times you can think of to “take a nap” in a busy day


-A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures  -- Harry Emerson Fosdick 


-He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.  –Benjamin Franklin

  1. What makes it so hard to rest?  What are the arguments we make against sleeping and resting?
  2. Is there an inverse relationship between “greatness” and rest? That is the greater a person supposes they are the harder it is to “cease?”  Or is it the opposite—the lower the self esteem the more a person feels obligated to “stay up and catch up?”


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)

  1. How can we “hide” in God’s shadow? 
  2. Connect rest and solitude.
  3. Connect rest with the other Christian disciplines—which are most compatible?  Which may actually detract form rest?


-No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap. –Carrie Snow

-There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled.  –Edward Lucas


Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.
--William Shakespeare, Macbeth


-People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one.  –Leo J. Burke





Chapter 6 questions: Secrecy



-Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18)

-Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God… --Dallas Willard

  1. Do these verses mean that we don’t have to wait after all for eternity to get credit—that we will get credit here and now for our good, just in God’s good timing?
  2. Some folk have used these verses to support their idea of not advertising their church and letting “God draw the people to us He has selected.”  What do you think of this idea?
  3. How would God bring an open reward for our secret service?  Give some examples of how this actually might work.



-But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting… (Matthew 6:17-18)

-In the discipline of secrecy—we abstain from causing our good deeds and qualities to be known. We may even take steps to prevent them from being known, if it doesn’t involve deceit. Dallas Willard

  1. How far should a person go to obscure their piety-how far is too far, bordering on deception?


-Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.(Matthew 5:14 KJV)

  1. One chapter before Jesus warned his followers to avoid doing good deeds to be seen of men  he taught them to let their good deeds be seen of others so that they would bring glory to the Father.  How do we bring these two seemingly conflicting teachings together?
  2.  How can we make sure God gets the glory, and not us when others see our good deeds or gifts? What are the tips you’d give somebody who seriously wanted to follow this teaching?


-Never desire to be singularly commended or beloved, for that pertaineth only unto God, who hath none like unto Himself.  –Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


-As treasure when it is discovered speedily becomes less, so virtue made known unto man vanishes. As wax melts at the fire, so the virtue of the soul is thawed and runs away when it is praised.   Unnamed Desert father

  1. What sorts of reasonable actions should we take to prevent others from praising our fasting?  Giving? Devotions? Other disciplines or good deeds?
  2. What sort of effect does praise have on a human being?  Why is praise both good for us and harmful at the same time?



-But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4)

  1. All of our giving is probably not going to be secret form everybody.  Some may be, but for rest someone will know.  What are some things a church might do to avoid catering to a person’s desire for praise in giving and serving.
  2. What are the limits here—affirmation is a good thing and praising service ought to be done, and saying thank you is a good thing.  So how far is too far, how much too much—where is the line?



-Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.  (John 7:3-4)

  1. In what way were the brothers of Jesus acting as his Public Relations agent?  How does their advice make sense really?
  2. How did the brothers misunderstand Christ’s mission?  How do thier assumptions figure in our own hopes for success and recognition?



-Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

  1. Describe a good act that could be done out of “selfish ambition.” 
  2. What is “vain conceit?”  How does it figure into the notion of letting good deeds be seen by others?


-Love [should] be concealed and little esteemed; be content to lack praise, never be troubled when you are overlooked or undervalued. –Jeremy Taylor


Chapter 7 questions: Journaling

-Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. (Exodus 17:14)

-And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up.(Deuteronomy 27:8)

-Write what should not be forgotten –Isabel Allende

-Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded –Virginia Woolf

  1. Writing is to facilitate remembering.  What goodness from God this year can you easily remember now that could be forgotten in ten years if not written down? 
  2. The stones set up the Israelites upon crossing the Jordan were to remind them of their deliverance—and to be a testimony to their children of God’s faithfulness.  How could we preserve for our children and grandchildren journaling that testified to God’s faithfulness yet protect them from the private areas we should share with God alone?



-I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning –Peter De Vries

-The desire to write grows with writing. –Erasmus

  1. Getting started is the hardest part of this discipline (perhaps all disciplines).  So what are the steps to take one’s first actual journaling session—the tiny things we’d need to do before hand?
  2. What wisdom do the quotes above offer to the discipline of journaling?


This is what the LORD , the God of Israel, says: 'Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.’ (Jeremiah 30:2)

  1. How did Jeremiah determine if the words he sensed God saying to him were really God’s words or his own ideas?  Think about the nature of “inspiration” for the Bible writers.
  2. What are the tests we should make on our impressions today to know if what we are writing is truly an impression from God?  How are these similar or different from Jeremiah’s tests?


I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Then you are to put them in the chest. (Numbers 5:23)

  1. Dream up what could have happened if the Ten Commandments had not been written down and kept.  What scenarios can you come up with?  Imagine what Christianity would be like today if we had no written record of the Bible. 
  2. What do you wish you knew about the spiritual lives of your grandparents or great grandparents?  What would help you  today to read?


Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. (Revelation 1:19)

  1. Was the meaning of John’s vision he saw recorded in Revelation perfectly clear to him though hard to understand by us thousands of years later or was it confusing to him but is now clear to us?  Or was it clear or confusing to both?  Think about how God reveals things to people in a way that is sometimes not obvious.
  2. Does God today ever give us premonitions or prophecies concerning the future?  If so what would be the advantages of writing them down?  Disadvantages?


-The pen is the tongue of the mind. –Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra


-The true purpose of all spiritual disciplines is to clear away whatever may block our awareness of that which is God in us. The aim is to get rid of whatever may so distract the mind and encumber the life that we function without this awareness. –Howard Thurman



-Journaling is not a substitute for prayer, but a supplement to prayer, it's a huge blessing to your prayer life because it helps you focus on what you want to communicate to God and really spend time thinking about it, not just rushing through a whispered prayer about it.   –Lee Ann, student at Christian Fellowship Church

Chapter 8 questions: Hospitality


Hospitality is not so much a task as a way of living our lives and of sharing ourselves.  –Christine Pohl

  1. Describe how we might entertain people at our home yet never share our lives and ourselves.
  2. How would one share their life and self—going beyond having people over?


When hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul. –Max Beerbohm

  1. How can we turn simply hospitality into an “art?” What does Beerohm mean here?
  2. While most classic writers on hospitality disparage fancy busyness that appears designed to impress the guests, what if someone loves “making a fuss” like this—what would you say to them?


Hospitality in the prairie country is not limited. Even if your enemy passes your way, you must feed him before you shoot him. --O. Henry

  1. Have you ever heard of someone who tried “third step hospitality”—inviting their “enemy” to dinner?  Tell the story.
  2. The quote accurately represents the hospitality value of the ancient world—who actually did entertain their enemies for the value of hospitality was so rooted in the culture it even “trumped” killing your enemy, or at least preceded it.  Jesus did teach us to do good to our enemies however, so who would be the closest thing to en “enemy” in your life if you did decide to do something in this area? 
  3. If your church collectively were to invite to dinner whomever were the closest to being its “enemies” who would that be?

When friends are at your hearthside met,

Sweet courtesy has done its most

If you have made each guest forget

That he himself is not the host.
  --Thomas Bailey Aldrich

  1. What are the signs that a guest feels at home—what helps us know they feel comfortable?
  2. What are ways to make a guest feel they are “at home” and no longer a guest in your home?


Hail Guest! We ask not what thou art;
If Friend, we greet thee; hand and heart;
If Stranger, such no longer be;
If Foe, our love shall conquer thee.

--Arthur Guiterman



As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10: 38-42)

  1. Which kind of person are you more inclined to act like—a Mary or a Martha? 
  2. What are the strengths and dangers of each style?
  3. We like to pronounce differences in personality or approach “good” thus we like to defend Martha—for she is like us.   We like to believe that all approaches and styles are of equal value and mere matters of “personality.”  However, in this instance Jesus “took sides” and pronounced Mary’s way “better.”  What was wrong with Martha’s approach to hosting in Jesus’ view?

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'  The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:34-40)

  1. How seriously should we take this parable of Jesus?  Did He mean that we actually would be judged by how we treat these needy people or did He mean something less than that?  Is there some way we can get off the hook on taking this directly?
  2. How can we align this sort of teaching with “justification by faith alone” and the notion that we can’t get to heaven by “good works?”


For each of the following Scriptural references to hospitality ask two questions: a) What words are used to recommend hospitality? b) To what kind of person, or other word/concept is hospitality related in this verse?

  1. Romans 12:13
  2. Hebrews 13:2
  3. 1 Peter 4:8-10
  4. 1 Timothy 5:9-10
  5. 1 Timothy 3:2
  6. Titus 1:7-8
  7. 3 John 7-8



Chapter 9 questions: Confession


Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

1.                  Connect confession and healing—how are they related in this passage?

2.                  Now add prayer—connect all three: Confession, healing and prayer and apply it to life.



They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. (Nehemiah 9:3)

1.                  Think about collective confession for a moment—whole churches and nations. In what way might collective confession relate to individual confession?  Have you ever seen collective confession? Describe it. 

2.                  What are the dangers and advantages of collective confessions in church?


When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. (Acts 19:17-19)

1.                  Have you ever seen a public service of confession like the above? Describe it.

2.                  What are the cautions you’d offer about such public confessionals?


-'But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers-their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies-then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. (Leviticus 26:40-42)

1.                  Why would God ask people to confess the sins of “their fathers”—that is past generations of their nation? 

2.                  How might such confession-for-others apply to today? To us?


Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.   --Fulton J. Sheen

1.                  What can a “good person” confess?  Should they confess “popcorn faults” or do some people have nothing to confess and this chapter is unnecessary for them?



The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works. –Augustine


An implicit confession is almost as bad as an implicit faith; wicked men commonly confess their sins by wholesale, We are all sinners; but the true penitent confesses his sins by retail. –Thomas Brooks


Confessed faults are half-mended. –Scottish Proverb


To confess a fault freely is the next thing to being innocent of it. –Publilius Syrus


Chapter 10 questions: Scripture



-Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

-…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

  1. God “sanctifies” us as He transforms us from who we were into an image of His son—he “spiritually forms” us.  Jesus prayed here for God to sanctify his followers through His word, which is truth.  How exactly does the word “sanctify us.  Describe how this actually works in your own words.
  2. Take the four uses of scripture cited here and describe how each would work in personal devotions—give an example of how the Bible would teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness.



I meditate on your precepts

and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;

I will not neglect your word.

(Psalm 119:15-16)

  1. Differentiate between the terms “meditate” “consider” and “delight” as it related to using the Bible.
  2. List some reasons why we easily “neglect” the word of God.



-Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

-I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)

-Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.( Matthew 22:29)

-For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

-For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

  1. For each of the above scriptures extract the value of scripture that verse points out.
  2. What other value of scripture would you add to this list?



Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

  1. The brother of Jesus insisted that input without output is useless—for him “doing the word” is where it all must lead. Think about then discuss the following quote by some who would take the opposite side form this chapter’s point of view: “ We have a church full of people who know far more than they do. Our problem is not that we do not know what to do—it is that we do not do what we know. We don’t need more Bible study we need more Bible action.”  Think about the balance between knowing and doing.  What is the ideal balance? Why?
  2. Tell an incident form your own life where your doing caught up late to your knowing.  Tell the story for others to “borrow” learning form your own experience and wisdom.





The Bible is the truest utterance that ever came by alphabetic letters from the soul of man, through which, as through a window divinely opened, all men can look into the stillness of eternity, and discern in glimpses their far-distant, long-forgotten home.  --Thomas Carlyle


Whatever merit there is in anything that I have written is simply due to the fact that when I was a child my mother daily read me a part of the Bible and daily made me learn a part of it by heart.  --John Ruskin


Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)
 Chapter 11 questions: Charity


However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you (Deuteronomy 15:4)

  1. How would you explain this verse’s relationship with Christ’s statement “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." (John 12:8)
  2. If God prefers there be no “poor” among us, what do you think would be God’s plan to make this happen?  That is, God’s will is easier to discern than his plan.  Knowing what you know of God, how would you suspect He would banish poverty?



-And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV)

-What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:14-16)

-If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

  1. Evangelicals almost always put faith first, not charity.  Yet Paul placed charity as greater than faith—what does this mean to us?
  2. How does James dee faith and charity interacting?
  3. Using John’s writing, connect these four (perhaps in a diagram) : Love for God, love of God in me,  love for others, charity to others



- Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

-As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

  1. James defines the poor specifically including widows and orphans.  Who would James list today that we should “look after?”
  2. Tell a story from this local church helped someone from the “household of faith” –someone already attending this church.  
  3. Tell a similar story where this church helped someone not from the congregation—beyond ourselves almsgiving


-If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. (Proverbs 25:21)

-For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' …(Matthew 25:35)

  1. How serious ought we take this parable?  Did Christ really mean we would be judged by the way we treat the needy?  What happened to grace and faith?
  2. If we took these categories as the sorts of responses we ought to have to the needy what kinds of things would be get involved with in our community and the world? List each category then think of several organizations of ministries for it.



The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”(Acts 10:5)

  1. Imagine in what way Cornelius’ almsgiving came up in heaven.  Is this a picture of what really happens in heaven when we help the poor?


'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

  1. We often recall other sins of Sodom, list the three sins Ezekiel highlighted here and describe what that would look like today.



Charity sees the need, not the cause --German Proverb

  1. To what extent does “deserving” help rightfully figure into our charity?
  2. In what ways should can the Christians address the cause of poverty.  What do you think are the causes and how could Christians address these?


Charity gives itself rich; covetousness hoards itself poor –German Proverb


-A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog. –Jack London

  1. Discuss Jack London’s notion that unless it costs us something it isn’t true charity.



-I never add up. I only subtract from the total dying... . . . It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.    Mother Teresa of Calcutta

  1. Mother Teresa’s focus was not on how many she served as how many she missed. Apply this approach to other efforts in the church like evangelism or counting attendance. Is it a “too negative” approach?


-Real charity doesn't care if it's tax-deductible or not. – Dan Bennett

  1. If tax deductions for giving were discontinued tomorrow what sort of giving would disappear?  What sort of givers? How would it affect your personal giving?



Chapter 12 questions: Prayer


The Spirit, when He prays through us, or helps us to meet the mighty "ougthness" of right praying, trims our praying down to the will of God.R.A.Torrey


Prayer lays hold of God's plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth.  Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit's prayer. –Elisabeth Elliot


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 that words cannot express (Romans 8:26)

  1. If the Holy Spirit can pray “through us” how can we open ourselves up to be channels for this kind of prayer?
  2. How do we know that prayer is not just talking to ourselves?  What makes a thought a prayer?


-bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:28)

-And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25)

  1. How would you draw a diagram representing the relationship of forgiveness between these three: God, another person and myself
  2. How exactly might we pray for our enemies?  Who are our enemies and what would be an example of a prayer would should oray for them?


-But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16)

- One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12)

-Work, work, from morning until late at night.  In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.

--Martin Luther

  1. How important is place to prayer?  What are the criteria for selecting a good place for prayer?
  2. Does more time in prayer make prayer more effective? Which is more important: frequency of prayer or length of time praying? (avoid simple both/and answers by arguing for both positions first).
  3. Some believe “prayer chains” are a pagan manifestation of prayer-as-magic while many others believe they are useful and powerful.  Whatever you think about prayer chain, what would make a practice “pagan prayer?” That is, what would turn true prayer into more magic than prayer? 


-Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

-Any concern too small to be made into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden. Corrie Ten Boom

  1. Are there things “too little to bother God about?” If so what are they?  If not then what are the dangers of praying about “little things.”
  2. Connect prayer and worry—how do they relate?


Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.  (Luke 11:5-8)

  1. How important is persistence in prayer?  When does persistence become presumption? 
  2. Can we talk God into doing something bad for us?


-If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22)

-"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[6] a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11: 9-12)


  1. Doesn’t Matthew 21:22 promise that we can have whatever we want if we only believe?  Explain how you read this verse then show how your style of interpreting Scripture also applies to other verses in scripture.  What are the advantages of your style of interpretation?  Disadvantages or dangers?
  2. Using the verses from Luke 11 draw out principles of  answered prayer.”



And Satan trembles when he sees

The weakest saint upon his knees.  –William Cowper


It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.Hudson Taylor


To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees. –Billy Graham


Prayer is the exercise of drawing on the grace of God. –Oswald Chambers


God shapes the world by prayer.  The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.



Chapter 13 questions: Penance


…the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (Hebrews 12:6-8)

  1. How would you relate self-imposed penance and God-imposed chastening? How are they different?  Alike?
  2. What self-imposed rules do you already have—to discipline yourself, brak habits or make new ones?


We can never direct our penance to God for we could never say to Him, “I’ll make it up to you.” –Beau Hummel

1.      Since Jesus “paid it all” for us on the cross, what serious doctrinal crime do we commit is we imagine our penance somehow balances our sins before God?

2.      Can you think of any person who might be forgiven by God but others have not yet released them for their sins?


So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out… (Genesis 3:23-24)

  1. Using the story of Adam and Eve describe the difference between forgiveness and earthly punishment.
  2. In what Bible stories did God lift the earthly punishment along with forging a person or people?


-We detest taking on the discipline of penance because we hate to be reminded of our sins—which is precisely why we should take it up –Garnet May Anderson 

-It most handy to organize sins in only two categories: major sins or minor sins, the former of which are done by others, the latter by myself. –John Leonard

  1. How much being “reminded of our sins” is a good thing and when does it become excessive?
  2. Using the idea of a log and a speck, make up one situation where a person thought their sin was rather small comparatively, but it was actually a log-sin.


After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. (2 Samuel 12: 15-17)

  1. In this story sort between God-imposed punishment and David’s self-imposed penance.  Which was which?
  2. If David has been the pastor of your church how would your church have handled him?

“God has forgiven him—why can’t we forgive him?” –Parishioner arguing for retaining the pastor after adultery

“I’ll never listen to her music again—never in my whole life.”—Former fan of Christian musician who fall morally

  1. If the church were more “godly” would they more quickly “forgive and forget” the sins of their leaders and let them continue as ministers or leaders even when they’ve sinned?
  2. What Bible passage would you turn to to support the removal of a person who was openly sinning?  What passage would you cite to support continuing a leader in office even when they committed serious and known sin?

When a leader falls publicly there seems to be an invisible “time penance” the church imposes on them even if they do not take it up on their own.  List several offenses and give your opinion on “how long they should be out of the loop” before that person can be restored to leadership.  What would be your “sentencing guidelines?”  When finished ask what assumptions were behind your opinions and list them.

Chapter 14 questions: Response


There's no disaster that can't become a blessing, and no blessing that can't become a disaster. –Richard Bach

1.      Give several examples from your own experience or that of your friends of how blessing and disaster exchanged places.

2.      What are the three primary blessings in your life and how might they be used for evil if responded to wrongly? 

3.      What is the greatest difficulty in your life and how might that be used for good if responded to rightly?

4.      Talent develops in tranquility, character in the full current of human life. –Goethe


Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4)

      1. How does a Christian move from understanding how trials improve us to feeling it—greeting it with joy?
      2. How does scripture treat the relationship of  character and circumstances differently than worldly approaches?


Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

  1. We do not know what Paul’s “thorn” may have been—guess by listing at least three possibilities.
  2. Examine the notion of “strength in weakness” by remembering Bible stories illustrating the point.
  3. Paul delighted in weakness because it made him rely on Christ—to what extent does our strength detract form reliance on Christ personally?  How about as a church?  How can a church “be strong” and too easily fail to rely on Christ?

You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. –Barbara De Angelis


Character is a victory, not a gift    Anonymous


Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.Isak Dinesen.








In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1: 6-7)

1.      Gold is refined by fire but eventually even gold will perish—yet our faith remains.  Discuss why we value the tangible on earth compared to valuing character and faith that lasts for eternity.  How can Christians come to value character, faith and heaven more? What must change?


 Chapter 15 questions: The trouble with this book

1.      Of all the spiritual disciplines in this book which one has emerged for you as one you might practice more in the future? 

2.      What spiritual disciplines not covered in this book are you most interested in exploring in the future—obedience, submission, Chastity, Celebration, Exercise, Evangelism, etc.?


3.      This chapter points out that one of the dangers of the spiritual disciplines is spiritual self-centeredness.   Most Christians would agree that we should be concerned with our own personal lives but also for others.  Make an “ideal budget” of how a Christian would spend their time split between various personal and corporate spiritual activities.  How much time would a Christian ideally spend in their personal devotions compared to the time they would spend in the corporate and mission activities like worship, fellowship, service, evangelism?  After settling the ideal proportion of time ask, “Which needs greater attention for me—the personal disciplines or the corporate ones?


4.      How can we avoid becoming spiritually self-sufficient once we come to practice these disciplines regularly—how can we ensure we won’t rely on them instead of Christ? What are some practical hints beyond just remembering this is true?


5.      Do you recall a time when you felt put down by people who practiced a spiritual elitism?  Tell the story. Give some examples of how we can send out signals of pride once we become proficient at the spiritual disciplines.


6.      This chapter points out that this entire book has not told “the rest of the story—the vital part of our spiritual lives that is corporate—related to the church and the world, not just between us and God. Pick some scripture passages written to groups of people and read them again in light of how it would be heard if clearly addressing a group, nit individuals.  Discuss how hard this is for modern people to even attempt to do.


7.      Discuss Bridal Mysticism and the tendency of some today toward romanticizing devotional life.  Discuss how this tendency is a barrier to devotional life for many males. How can we be more balanced in relating to the entire Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit?


8.      Look again at the Table of Contents for this book and list those disciplines that can be “corporate spiritual disciplines”—disciplines the church as a group can practice.  For each one on the list describe how when practiced as a church they are different.


9.      List several other corporate spiritual disciplines that should be practiced as a church that cannot or should not be practiced when we are alone.


10.  What are some of the reasons we tend to favor individualistic religion and resist corporate religion?  What in our culture encourages us to devalue the corporate and elevate the individual?  Is the Bible’s emphasis on corporate religion due to the culture of that day and now we need to adapt to an individualistic culture?  What do we lose when we discard the emphasis on corporate religion of the Old and New Testaments?  What have we gained by adopting greater emphasis on the individual?