Modgnik Week 3: D-escending Into Greatness / G-enerosity Flows

Modgnik Week 3: D-escending Into Greatness / G-enerosity Flows

SERIES INTRODUCTION

MODGNIK... what do we know about it? It's one of the great mysteries of historic Christianity. It's a completely upside-down way to understand God. It's confusing, yet beautifully simple. But don't worry, all will be revealed about this new series at Eastside!

  • Share a memory, you would consider one of your happiest times.

 


MESSAGE TITLE

D-escending Into Greatness/G-enerosity Flows

SERMON GUIDE

In the backward Kingdom of God, life is radically different. Instead of trying to build our little empire on earth, Jesus tell us the more that people are looking for is found in less. In His kingdom, the way to become full is to empty ourselves. 

Jesus was explaining the pathway to living a great life. A life where we descend into greatness by giving ourselves away and where generosity flows through us.

There are all kinds of unique, colorful, and different people in the world with an unbelievable variety of interests. But there is one kind of interest that unites the entire human family, one thing we all share in common. It is self-interest.

How many of us have fallen for the myth that tells us the more I have, the happier I am?

But what happens is, the more a person has, the more a person wants.

  • Share about one area that you think if you had more, you would be happier. This could be money, tangible things, time, people in your life. What would you consider to be enough?

Have someone read Mark 8:31-35.

Jesus knew that self-interest runs so deep that a few casual reminders will never make a dent. There is a series of three passages that continue to address this issue. In the first passage Peter rebuked Jesus for what he had to say. It is hard for us to imagine rebuking God; however, we have probably done this to someone in our life. We didn’t agree with what they had to say and took them aside to object, but the real reason for our objection was that their idea didn’t serve our self-interest.

Jesus was saying, “Peter, your whole world revolves around you. You’re only worried about you. You’ve missed my entire mission to redeem and save the world.”

And when Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” I think He wanted Peter to understand that self-interest is not just merely a psychological maladjustment.

Now you would think that the disciples would just jump on this and change their selfish ways, wouldn’t you? But me-first mindsets don’t change easily or overnight. So, Jesus needed to keep going after them with the same message.

Have someone read Mark 9:31-37.

When Jesus found out that on their travels to the next city, His disciples had been fighting over who would be first, He called them over. Sitting down, Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first (and you guys seem very worried about being first a lot) must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Have someone read Mark 10:35-37.

The disciples couldn’t really comprehend what Jesus was saying. They still were thinking that Jesus was about to overthrow Rome and set up a political kingdom and assert Himself as King of the Jews. They thought they were headed to Jerusalem for the inaugural ball. They were encouraging Jesus to go and make Israel great again. Then they were bickering who was going be sitting at Jesus’ right or left? We chuckle at them now, but we also struggle to comprehend what heaven will be like. We wrestle with the same things.

  • Why is it a struggle for us to be generous? What is the area of biggest struggle — hospitality, food, time or money?

Studies show that in our country, as people make more money, they tend to give less away, proportionally speaking. The more they have, the tighter they hold on to it. In Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, we learn that generosity is His will for us, that giving is the mindset and lifestyle of choice.

Have someone read Luke 6:38.

Jesus was explaining that God is generous, encourages us to do likewise, and that generous people will benefit. “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.”

God has done so much. How much more could He do if we all really believe that the more we give, the more we’ll have to give? What if we really believed we are happier giving than receiving?

  • Share mind sets that hold you back from genuinely believing this principle of give and more will be given to you.

  • Share a time when giving to someone else brought you joy.

The Bible says when you honor God with the first percentage of your income, you invite Him into your financial life and your financial affairs. Gene shared how he and Barbara learned an important principle: generosity doesn’t happen until we make it a priority.

  • Each year we offer the 90-day challenge of giving and seeing if God doesn’t meet you, showing up in often unexpected ways. If you have taken this challenge and have a story of how God blessed you, share with your group.

  • If you have not taken this type of challenge, share about where in your financial life you need God to show up.

Now when Jesus explained that people are more blessed to give than to receive, He wasn’t just talking about financial resources, he was also talking about our time, talents, and service.

Noted psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman wrote a book entitled Authentic Happiness, and in his book, he comes down to this conclusion. He says that most all of us think that we would be happy if we could have more of something. Seligman found that when people are involved in acts of service for others, they become less self-absorbed, less depressed. They become more tuned in to others, more capable of empathy. They have a greater sense of community and a decreased sense of loneliness.

  • Share how the Holy Spirit wants to apply this in your life. Share if you feel He is leading you in a certain area or action.


APPLICATION

The space between not enough and too much can never be bridged. Seligman challenged his students. He said, “I want you all to go out and do one act that you know will make you happy. Then I want you to go out and do one act of compassion, one purely altruistic piece of behavior. Then write down your reflections to both of these things.”

  • Consider trying this experiment in your own group or with your family. Write down reflections and bring to share next week.

  • Honor someone this week with a text, a post on their Facebook wall, a handwritten letter, an email or a phone call. Next week share what you did with your group.

PRAYER

Pair off and:

  • Pray for the courage to believe that the more generous we are, we will have more.

  • Share a personal request you could pray for each other this week. Spend time praying for each other before closing.

 

Modgnik Week 2: Others First

Modgnik Week 2: Others First

SERIES INTRODUCTION

MODGNIK... what do we know about it? It's one of the great mysteries of historic Christianity. It's a completely upside-down way to understand God. It's confusing, yet beautifully simple. But don't worry, all will be revealed about this new series at Eastside!

  • Share the coolest thing someone ever did for you.

 


MESSAGE TITLE

Others First

SERMON GUIDE

Jesus’ Kingdom is not like an earthly kingdom; it’s a backwards, upside down MODGNIK KINGDOM that looks completely different than we would expect.

Our idea of kingdom is shaped by what we see on TV and read in history books, and some of us are disappointed with Jesus because we are confused about what it means to follow Jesus and be part of the Kingdom of God.

Some of us have confused it with the American dream.  We think the end result of following Jesus is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house, two cars, 2.4 kids, and a dog, all behind a white picket fence in a good school district.

Others of us have confused it with going to church, saying a prayer at Thanksgiving, growing up in a Christian home, being a spiritual person, doing good things, or being a “good person.”

Still others may be confused about all the brands of Christianity: Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, non-denominational, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and just plain unorthodox.

And a lot of people would say, “I don’t want to be a Christian at all because they’re a bunch of backwards, stuck-in-the mud moralists who seem to exist only to judge others and suck the fun out of life.”

But none of those things is really what Jesus invited us to.  Jesus invited us to follow Him and become a part of His upside down, inside out, backwards kingdom where we pray, “Oh God may up there, come down here.” The kingdom of Jesus not only makes life better, it makes us better at life.

  • When you think about following Jesus, what does it mean for your practical day in and day out life?  This isn’t a question about whether you read your Bible regularly (although that’s important), it’s a question about the impact that following Jesus has on your normal, “non-spiritual” activities.

Have someone read Matthew 7:9-12.

Our world and culture are divided culturally, politically, racially, socially, religiously. But there is a single universal ethic espoused by Jesus that all of us can agree on: Do to others what you would have them do to you. The problem, of course, is that we’re not doing a very good job living this out.

In the New Testament of the Bible, there’s a 2-word phrase that keeps coming up over and over again, “One another.” It’s used 59 times.  When we see the same phrase repeated throughout the Bible that is a clue to us that this is important to Jesus.

  • Honestly evaluate your day. How well have you kept the golden rule today?

Have someone read Acts 4:32-37.

“Encourage others” is one of the three “one another’s” we looked at this weekend. To encourage others is to put courage in them. You give them hope, confidence, and spirit by your words and actions. After Jesus died and rose again, believers left behind their jobs and lives to come together. This was exciting, but there was a need for resources.

One of these believers, Joseph, was nicknamed Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles. This incredible gift helped them do more in less time.

Barnabas was also the one to meet with Saul—persecuter of Christians who later spread the good news of Jesus all around the known world—when others were fearful of him. Barnabas helped give hope and life to the man who ended up having a huge impact for the kingdom of God.

Have someone read Hebrews 3:13 and Hebrews 10:23-25.

  • Who is someone you need to be intentional about encouraging this week?

Have someone read John 13:3-17.

Jesus is in the Upper Room the night before he would be arrested and washed the feet of his disciples. He was saying “serve others,” the second “one another” we looked at this weekend. When we walk through life like this, looking for a way to serve others, it changes our perspective.

Serving others is part of God’s upside-down kingdom and will bring joy like you never knew before.  Perspectives are changed when we sincerely give back and put others first. When we think, “How can I serve others?” we stop walking into situations thinking “What can you do for me?” This shift is life-changing and allows us to be part of the bigger story of what God is doing in the world.

  • Have you ever prayed, “Lord, how can I serve you today?” and had a situation present itself? If so, share with the group what happened and how it impacted you.

Have someone read Romans 12:10.

Honor is not something we talk about much anymore. It means giving others high regard and praise. Honor is showing respect to them.

Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 1997 Daytime Emmy Awards. During his acceptance speech, Fred gave the audience 10 seconds of silence and encouraged them to use the time to think about someone who had impacted their life.  Then he honored the people who had impacted his life.

  • Take 10 seconds now and think about someone who helped you become the person you are today. Go around the circle and have each group member honor that person by sharing about him or her with the group.


APPLICATION

  • Honor someone this week with a text, a post on their Facebook wall, a handwritten letter, an email or a phone call. Next week share what you did with your group.

PRAYER

Pair off and:

  • Pray that God would bring people to mind that you can serve, honor or encourage.

  • Thank God for the people He has put in your life that have encouraged you and helped you to become the person you are today.

 

Modgnik Week 1: More Is Less

Modgnik Week 1: More Is Less

SERIES INTRODUCTION

MODGNIK... what do we know about it? It's one of the great mysteries of historic Christianity. It's a completely upside-down way to understand God. It's confusing, yet beautifully simple. But don't worry, all will be revealed about this new series at Eastside!

  • What was your favorite mystery book to read growing up?

 


MESSAGE TITLE

More Is Less

SERMON GUIDE

Have someone read Matthew 6:9-13.

The kingdom of God was central to the teaching and mission of Jesus. He told all kinds of stories using metaphors and parables to describe and expand our understanding of God’s kingdom.

When we pray the words “your kingdom comes” we’re simply praying, “Oh God, may up there come down here!” We pray for Your kingdom to be expanded from heaven to earth, that your will be done here, just as it’s done there is heaven.

What is a kingdom? Someone said that a “kingdom” is your sphere of control where you rule. It’s this empire that you control, that’s set to your tastes, likes, purposes, values, and character. It’s an environment arranged according to how you like it.

  • What is your kingdom? Where do you rule? How does it reflect who you are?

God's kingdom is the place that perfectly reflects his character and his values.  It is His domain where things operate the way He likes them to. Therefore, God’s kingdom is a place of joy, truth, grace, healing, compassion, forgiveness, and peace.

God's kingdom is a wonderful place, because He is wonderful. But God’s Kingdom is so different than any other kingdom on this earth. It’s upside down and backwards from what we would think.

This week we took the word Kingdom and looked at it backwards – MODGNIK.

Have someone read Matthew 16:24-26.

M is More is less.

You want the adventure of a lifetime? Then loosen your grip, give up control, surrender to God’s leadership and wisdom. When you do that your life will be a thrilling ride of purpose, passion, joy, peace and deep satisfaction.

It’s counter cultural, but in this upside-down backwards kingdom of God, more is less and less is more.

  • What part of your life is the one you grip on to most? What would it look like to give up control and surrender to God?

Have someone read Philippians 2:3-7.

Jesus redefined greatness, saying that in His kingdom greatness is not something you ascend to. Rather, it is something you D-escend into. This goes against our culture in every way.

The first step toward greatness in your life is making the decision to lay your ego on the altar. Start each day asking the Holy Spirit to remind you throughout the day, that you are not the center of the universe. You say, “Today, in regard to my own self-importance, my own ego, I choose to have the same mindset as Jesus, who laid down his ego even though he actually is the center of the universe.”

In verse 6 the word in ‘very nature’ God is the Greek word ‘morpha’ which means ‘the essence.’ Jesus was the very essence of God, yet He made a choice. He said, “Even though I could, I’m not going to cling to my divine rights. I’m going to open my hands, let it go, lay my go on the altar, and surrender fully to the will of the Father.”

Jesus laid down His self. He crucified his ego and nailed his self-interest to the cross, saving us all from ourselves. And in His Kingdom, all He is asking you and me to do is put O-thers first.

  • Share a place in your life you recognize the need to put others first.

This is not only a kingdom of selflessness, but a place where G-enerosity flows.

Have someone read Luke 6:38.

There are all kinds of studies that show that the happiest people in life are those who give themselves away. Research shows that people who are generous with their home, their hospitality, their food, time, and money tend to flourish in life. People who volunteer, coach, mentor, serve others tend to thrive. Putting others first is real core value of this Kingdom.

As deeply fulfilling as that kind of life is, it’s still not about us. It is all about God working through us. We are just gratefully representing Jesus, bringing His up there kingdom down here.

  • This weekend was our Annual Serve Day, where over 1500 people gave their time and talents away. If you participated, share your experience and observations.

  • Some people make vision boards each year with pictures of what they want their life to look like. What would your life look like if you were to let generosity flow and put others first?

Matthew 5:16 (NLT) says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

In God’s ingenious design of the church, He gave us all different gifts, gifts that we can use to glorify God, letting others see what a life transformed by Jesus truly looks like.

Jesus tells some really great stories how the kingdom of God really works. He tells stories about lost sheep, lost coins, and lost kids. He says the kingdom of God is this radically I-nclusive place where everyone is welcome.  

Have someone read Colossians 2:13-14.

God swings the door open wide and through Jesus Christ looks beyond our faults, flaws, and failures. Instead of giving us justice, which is what we deserve, He gives us grace and unfailing love

  • Who is someone in your life that needs to experience God’s grace?  How can you reach out to them this week?

Have someone read John 12:32-33.

The people of Jesus’ day were looking for the kingdom of God to come. They were expectantly looking for a powerful king to show up. They had a picture in their minds of a ruler who would be an economic savior. They were longing for a political messiah, a strong military conqueror who would come and obliterate Rome.

In John 12, Jesus was talking about a cross and laying down His life. He would be taking the punishment for the sins of the world. It went against everything they knew or expected. Because our King is unlike any other king.  He’s a King who voluntarily gave Himself on a cross for us.


APPLICATION

  1. This week start each day asking God to remind you that are you are not the center of the universe. Each morning pray, submitting yourself and your day to Jesus.

  2. If your group was unable to participate in Serve Day last weekend, consider finding another way you could serve others as a group.  There are opportunities available at eastside.com/servelocally

PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • Help to live a life surrendered to God, one that has an outward, generous orientation.

  • The people you identified as needing to see God’s grace. Ask God for the opportunity and courage to reach out to them

At the Movies: The Sandlot

At the Movies: The Sandlot

SERIES INTRODUCTION

At the Movies is a series we do every year where we explore the Biblical truths, we find in Hollywood movies.  So, break out the popcorn.  It’s going to be an adventure!

  • What are you most thankful for in this season?

 


MESSAGE TITLE

The Sandlot

SERMON GUIDE

Note to Leaders: Watching this video is optional, but it may help give context to people who have not seen the movie or were not able to be at church.

This week we looked at the movie The Sandlot.  It's a story from the early '60s about the new kid in town.  His last name immediately became his nickname in the movie - Smalls! 

  • Did you have a nickname placed on you growing up? How did that make you feel?

Have someone read Matthew 13:53-58.

All of us have faced a time we desperately wanted to be one of the insiders but realized we were still an outsider. We have all felt what it is like to be the new person at some point in our lives.

Belonging and having strong relationships are the things that matter most in life. You can accumulate cool things but if you don’t have someone to share them with, it really doesn’t matter.  God created us for relationships. It was his intention that we spend time with people and build relationships. His desire is for us to get along and show the love of Jesus to others. But many times, we sit around waiting on someone else to go first. We want someone else to be nice to us or to reach out to us first.

Have someone read Luke 6:31.

Jesus says don’t sit around waiting on someone to do something good for you. Instead, do good for someone else. “Do for others what you would like them to do for you.”  Smalls’ life changes because one kid named Benny takes time for him.

We’re all “Benny” to someone. I don’t care who are you, if you look around, there’s someone in your life who looks up to you. You have this great gift to give to others, to be a Benny and be nice to someone who is need of a friend. You just might change that person’s life for the better.

  • Who is someone in your life that you can be a “Benny” to, and how can you reach to that person this week?

Have someone read Matthew 25:40.

Out of all those hundreds of people in the crowd, Jesus reached out to this small guy with no friends. That simple invitation changed Zacchaeus’ life forever.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector for the despised Roman government that occupied Israel, and as such, Zacchaeus was an outcast.  Jesus’ decision to visit Zacchaeus’ house was a turning point in Zacchaeus’ life.  After spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus commits to restore anything he’s wrongly taken as a tax collector and to give away a huge portion of his wealth.

It’s amazing what happens when we take the initiative and just reach out to someone and love them like Jesus loved people. It might be a lifeline of hope for them.

In tough times we see who our real friends are. You can have lots of people who say they are your friends, but when tough times come you get to see who shows up for you. Proverbs 18:24 says, “Someone with many companions may find themselves alone in difficult times. But then there is that true friend who is actually closer than a family member.”

  • Share a time you were in the midst of tough circumstances and someone showed up for you.

  • What holds you back from showing up when a friend is in need?

Have someone read Galatians 6:7.

What is the secret of great friendships?  It grows out of a simple principle that’s taught over and over again in the Bible. If you give just about a thimble full of friendship to others, you won’t get a lot back.  But if you give a barrel full of friendship, that’s what you usually get back in return.  You will always harvest what you plant.

Maybe you’ve felt at certain seasons in your life that you don’t even have one good friend, but that’s not true. You already have a good lifetime friend. Jesus loved you before you knew Him, and that’s why He gave His life for you.

  • Rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how strong your friendships are right now. Share one or two actions you can do this week to strengthen those relationships.

  • What seeds do you need to plant in life?

Have someone read John 15:13.

That is exactly what Jesus did for each of us. He is willing and ready to be your best friend for life! He’s willing to walk through this life with you every step of the way, through all the good times and even the bad times.  He will never, ever leave you, even when you’re having the worst day ever. No matter where you go, He will be with you, ready to help you in any circumstance!

People will let us down over the course of our lifetime and we will each experience times of loneliness. We can take heart and find true comfort in Jesus. He is always there.


APPLICATION

  1. This week be the first to reach out in friendship. Text or call someone and make plans to meet up.

  2. Take time to reflect on your friendships and pray for God to show you areas you need to invest in and fears you might need to overcome to be a better friend.

PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • Courage to be seed planters who reach out and care for people as Jesus did.

  • Areas in your life where you really need a friend. Pray for God to bring you a Benny, to walk alongside you.

At the Movies: The Finest Hours

At the Movies: The Finest Hours

SERIES INTRODUCTION

At the Movies is a series we do every year where we explore the Biblical truths we find in Hollywood movies. So, break out the popcorn. It’s going to be an adventure!

  • Share with the group who is the wisest person you know and why?

 


MESSAGE TITLE

The Finest Hours

SERMON GUIDE

Note to Leaders: Watching this video is optional, but it may help give context to people who have not seen the movie or were not able to be at church.

On February 18, 1952, a massive storm splits the SS Pendleton in two, trapping more than 30 sailors inside the tanker’s sinking stern. Engineer Ray Sybert bravely takes charge to organize a strategy for his fellow survivors. With only a few hours before the tanker would sink, the Coast Guard Station tasks Petty Officer First Class Bernie Webber with saving the crew of the SS Pendleton, even though he has little hope that it could actually be done.

Although most of us will never face a situation like this at sea, we all have areas where the storms of life reveal the weakest part of our life, and things begin to break up.

Bernie and his men know that the outcome of their attempted rescue is anything but certain. In fact, at one-point Bernie reminds them of what’s known as the Coast Guard’s unofficial search and rescue motto: “You have to go out, you don’t have to come back.” 

That is the heart of God the Father for everyone whose life is sinking right now. God is mobilizing His people to go out and save them. He sees the pain and the desperation and is attempting to throw a sure lifeline.

Have someone read Psalm 18:16-19.

  • Share a time when you felt overwhelmed by circumstances that were beyond your control. How did you respond?

  • Have you ever offered aid to someone who was being overwhelmed by life? Share what actions you took to offer a rescuing hand.

We read in Psalm 18 that He rescues us because He delights in us. When anyone is willing to risk their lives to rescue someone else, it’s because they see the value in that person. Yet so many people don’t see themselves that way. Many of us fight feelings of being unwanted, feelings of rejection, the belief we are a lost cause. God sees us, loves us so much He sent His only Son to rescue and redeem us.

Have someone read Isaiah 63:9 and Galatians 1:4.

Have someone read Acts 13:36.

In the movie Bernie says, “not on my watch.” Bernie has this inherent sense of duty to the people in that sinking boat, the people in his life.

King David felt the sense of duty and calling to impact his own generation. It was his purpose. I believe that’s the call of God on all of our lives, and I think deep down inside we know it. That once we’re rescued, we now do whatever it takes to rescue others.

For many of us, God has already rescued us, and we all remember that incredible day when He saved us. But now God is challenging us to leave the safety of the shore to be a part of a rescue mission, to take risks relationally, spiritually, financially—to prayerfully to go after people who need a lifeline of hope offered to them.

  • What has been your greatest challenge along these lines? Have you felt inhibited, inadequate, or afraid to step up courageously, taking risks to help others in need?

  • How could you prepare yourself for future challenges when rescue missions inevitably come your way?

The truth is all of us have people in our lives who need rescuing. We have family members, co-workers, friends at school, neighbors, close friends who need to be rescued by the love, hope, and grace of Jesus. 

As followers of Jesus we should never stop searching for lost and hurting people because God never stopped searching for us. We love Him by loving those around us. That’s why our passion at Eastside is to pay the price, risk it all and do everything we can to rescue one more person. Sometimes that means choosing to lay down our personal agendas for God’s agenda.

Have someone read John 15:12-13.

  • Who in your life needs you to pursue them and offer them hope?

  • How can you orient yourself to serving others? How can you strengthen yourself to be more selfless?


APPLICATION

  1. Identify one or two people in your life that need the hope of Jesus.

  2. Pray this week for those people and for God to show you ways of offering them hope. Pray for courage and wisdom, and make time to connect with them via text, phone, or meet for coffee.

PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • Storms and challenges you are facing and the wisdom you need to navigate and overcome them.

  • People in our lives who need someone to be a light, to offer them a lifeline.

At the Movies: The Greatest Showman

At the Movies: The Greatest Showman

SERIES INTRODUCTION

At the Movies is a series we do every year where we explore the Biblical truths, we find in Hollywood movies.  So, break out the popcorn.  It’s going to be an adventure!

  • If you’ve ever been to the circus, share your favorite memory with the group.  If you haven’t, share about your favorite experience at another kind of show or performance.

 


MESSAGE TITLE

The Greatest Showman

SERMON GUIDE

Note to Leaders: Watching this video is optional, but it may help give context to people who have not seen the movie or were not able to be at church.

The Greatest Showman is based on the story of legendary circus creator, PT Barnum.  Even as a young boy PT Barnum had visions and dreams about his future.  But like many of us, he didn’t always get encouragement from his family and others. They couldn’t see the kind of dreams and gifts that were developing inside of him even as a young boy.

  • What gift or dream do you have that others have failed to see or perhaps even discouraged?

Have someone read Matthew 13:53-58.

Barnum told Charity—his childhood and lifelong sweetheart—that even though she couldn’t see her own future, he could see it.  One of the takeaways from this movie is that no matter what others see or think about us, we need to accept who God made us to be. You are a child of the living God.  Let God’s vision determine your reality, not the world or what others say about you.

When God has given you a vision for who you are, and what you were created to be, live it!  Don’t let anyone shame you out of it or try to discourage you from pursuing it.

  • Share a vision or calling you feel God has give you.

  • How can you leverage the challenges you have faced to help you move forward with your dreams?

People even labeled Jesus when he was on earth.  They said “He’s just a carpenter.  He’s just a boy from Nazareth!”  They refused to believe in Him.  They were rejecting His purpose and who God made Him to be. 

Remember that when you are the one who is rejected and broken, there’s a lot of other rejected and broken people around you. As you discover your purpose and chase your dreams, you have the opportunity to help others find their purpose too.

When Barnum meets Charles Stratton, who would become General Tom Thumb in his show, he says, “They’re laughing anyway, kid.  Might as well get paid.”  Barnum missed the point and made a critical error.  People don’t really want money and fame, but deep down what we all long for is acceptance, to belong to something meaningful.  Money, fame, and power hasn’t ever come close to filling the void in anybody’s life and it won’t in yours.  Self-confidence, faith, family, a sense of belonging are the things that will.

  • Each of us has longings, things missing from our lives. If you feel comfortable, share what one thing you long for: acceptance? Faith? A sense of community.? Something else?

Have someone read Psalm 139:16.

Rick Warren, in his book Purpose Drive Life, says “God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes.  He has a reason for everything he creates.”

PT Barnum decided to use the pain of his rejection as fuel to give others an opportunity to have their uniqueness become their purpose.  We resonate with PT Barnum because he is a dreamer and his journey taps into the  desire for meaning and destiny that resides in each of us.

Have someone read Ephesians 2:10.

PT Barnum and his new group of misfits were about to discover that they could be used in a big way, but the opportunity would not come without opposition.  We all have defining moments in our lives, moments when the pain of rejection will either destroy us or propel us to redefine the labels and accept who we were created to be. 

Barnum valued the people on the fringes of society and brought them into a family.  He saw the gifts in them overlooked by others.  He gave them a platform for purposeful service that brought meaning not just to their own lives but to the lives of others as well.  He challenged the norm that said you can’t value or have meaningful relationships with people who are different from you.

Sometimes we think God couldn’t possibly use us, but He places people in our lives to speak truth and encourage us to pursue our God given dreams.

  • Who is someone in your life who saw something in you that had been overlooked by others  and cheered you on? What did that do for you?

When we read the Gospels, we see that is exactly what Jesus did, he called out the good in people.

P.T. Barnum’s troupe was made up of ‘freaks’ and ‘misfits’ who society rejected. The anthemic “This Is Me" is their declaration of defiance, their refusal to accept rejection and instead celebrate who they are. This song resonates with many of us, tapping into deep-seated feelings.

Have someone read Ephesians 4:11-16.

God created each of us uniquely and gave each of us gifts and passions that we can use to serve others.  Just like each part of our physical bodies has a different role to play so that we can be healthy and function well, each of us in the Church has a role to play so that the Church, the body of Christ, can function well. If God gave you a unique or unusual gift, you have the opportunity to use it to serve him and others.

What PT Barnum failed to realize is that there is something so much more valuable than money.  He needed something deeper that he would never get from accolades, accomplishment, or applause.  Ultimately, we’re all looking for a sense of belonging, for connection, community, and a family.

That’s our dream for everyone at Eastside.  Our unofficial motto is, “This Is for Everyone.”   Regardless of who we are or where we’ve been.  Regardless of age, background, ethnicity, lifestyle, politics, things we’ve done, or things done to us, we are a family.

It is an amazing thing to discover your purpose. We find freedom and direction when we confidently embrace the gifts God has given to us. The best of living in community is the opportunity to help others find their purpose too. It is so fulfilling to encourage someone to take those steps of faith and to trust God. 

  • Who could you encourage this week?  Who could you open up a door of opportunity for? 


APPLICATION

  1. This week encourage someone in your life, tell them what you see in them and how they could make an impact on the world.

  2. Spend time praying and journaling about the labels and challenges you are struggling with. Pray that God would help you to see yourself the way He sees you.

PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • The dreams and longings each of us carry and the courage to pursue the purpose God has given each of us.

  • People in our lives who feel marginalized and labeled. Pray they would have willing hearts to what God has for them and that they would trust Him with their lives.

At the Movies: Wonder

At the Movies: Wonder

SERIES INTRODUCTION

At the Movies is a series we do every year where we explore the Biblical truths, we find in Hollywood movies.  So, break out the popcorn.  It’s going to be an adventure!

  •  Share your favorite movie of 2018 and what impact the movie had on you.


SERMON TITLE

Wonder

SERMON GUIDE

Note to Leaders: Watching this video is optional, but it may help give context to people who have not seen the movie or were not able to be at church.

Wonder is the inspirational story of Auggie Pullman that shows us what it looks like to overcome fear and grow through challenges. Auggie was born with mandibulofacial dysostosis, leaving Auggie with severe facial deformities and the need to endure dozens of surgeries throughout the years to help him to breathe, to eat, to hear and to try to help him look a little more ordinary as well.

When faced with attending school for the first time, after years of homeschooling, he admits he is “totally and completely petrified.” For Auggie, the fear of people seeing him with his unusual facial features and scars causes him to reach for his mask.  That helmet has become his escape, his safe place, a security blanket.   He’s grown comfortable wearing a mask.

Maybe you have too. You grab your mask out of the fear that you will be rejected, so you don’t allow anyone to get close to you. You question your own appearance and so you belittle others somehow thinking it will make you feel better about yourself.  You come to church and want everyone to think you’ve got it all together. You end up concentrating on the exterior more than the interior. On the surface you look great, but you’d never want others to know of some of the struggles you experience and so, like Auggie you reach for the mask.  Hiding behind it helps you to escape, hide your pain, and carry on the illusion.

  • What fears or struggles in your life have you hiding behind a mask?

Have a volunteer read Psalm 139:13-14.

There is One who believes in you.  In fact, you were created in His image. 

He knows that the journey will be difficult, but like any loving parent, He knows what’s best for you. He may even ask you to take off your mask and depend solely on Him.

Have a volunteer read 2 Timothy 1:7.

When you are living a life empowered by God the Holy Spirit you discover that victory in your life isn’t something that’s behind you but in front of you.  The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what lies ahead of me I press on.” 

Fear should never be a stop sign for the plans God has for your life. Don’t let your fears determine your destiny.  That’s God’s job.

Take a risk.  Face your giant.  The greatest victory in your life is often on the other side of your greatest fear. But you have to take a step of faith through the fear.

  • Share a time you have faced your giant or taken a risk, trusting God would meet you with each step. How is your life different because you took action?

  • What is something you have been letting fear keep you from doing? What next step of faith can you take this week?

Have a volunteer read Hebrews 11:1-12:3. | Note: This is a longer than usual passage to read. You might want to break it up amongst different readers or make sure the person reading is comfortable with an extended selection.

When you feel alone in a new job or situation, when your phone doesn’t ring or your inbox consists only of spam and bills, remember what Auggie’s Dad told him, “You’re gonna feel alone, but you’re not.”

Auggie’s mom, played by Julia Roberts, says, “We all have marks on our face. This (heart) is the map that shows us where we are going. And this (face) is the map that shows us where we’ve been. And it’s never, ever ugly.” What she’s saying is your story is yours alone.  God gave it to you for a purpose. But there comes a point when you have to decide: will you just try and hide your scars, or will you allow them to tell a greater story?

  • Auggie had several people in his life, both family and new friends, cheering him on. Who is one of the people in your life, who inspire you and cheer you on? This week, text them or email them, telling them how meaningful they are to you.

Have a volunteer read 1 Samuel 16:7.

Thankfully, God has a way of changing the way we see ourselves, and the way we see others.

On the first day of school Auggie’s sister whispered in his ear, “If they stare…let them stare.  It’s tough to blend in when you were made to stand out.”

  • Where are you tempted to blend in instead of standing out? What keeps you from living to your fullest potential?

When this story began Auggie consistently hid behind a mask, but without the mask, he discovers that he is something special.  How about you?  Imagine the life you could live if you stopped trying to be someone else, if you embraced who God uniquely created you to be. We all have marks. We all have a past. But God can heal our past and can even use the most difficult things in our lives for God.  He is the one who can make all things new.

Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 5:17.

God doesn’t want to just forgive you. He wants to make you brand new. 

Towards the end of the movie Auggie says “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.  And if you really want to see what people are, all you have to do is look.”

We all have insecurities and struggles, problems and weaknesses. We each have our own dark, pain-filled corners of our lives. And when we’re backed into one of those corners is when the simple kindness of another can pull us into the light. And God can use you to do the same in someone else’s life.

  • Who in your life, needs you to be that encourager? Text them a word of encouragement right now!


APPLICATION

  1. Affirm someone in your life, share a verse that might encourage them.

  2. Spend time praying and journaling about the struggles and battles you are facing. Pray about where you want to see a better story in life and ask God for help in fighting for it.

PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • Courage to stand out and be an encouragement to people in our lives who need to know Jesus or need to be reminded of how much He loves them.

  • The areas in your own life where you have been hiding behind a mask and want to risk being vulnerable and letting people you care about see the real you.

At the Movies: Rudy

At the Movies: Rudy

SERIES INTRODUCTION

At the Movies is a series we do every year where we explore the Biblical truths we find in Hollywood movies.  So break out the popcorn.  It’s going to be an adventure!


SERMON TITLE

Rudy

SERMON GUIDE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDKOlH0I0nQ)

Rudy is an uplifting story of determination and courage, based on the true story of Rudy Reutigger.  Rudy’s story is for anyone who has ever dared to dream; dared to move beyond the status quo; dared to believe God for more and greater things in your life but found the path painful and difficult.

●     What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?

Rudy grew up in a blue-collar family in Joliet, Illinois. He dreamed of wearing the Notre Dame uniform, despite his lack of athletic and academic aptitude.  His family and friends all worked in the local steel mill, and without the grades to get into college, he takes a job there after high school.

His brother, his teachers, and even his parents told him to let go of his dream.  Only his best friend Pete continued to believe in him when no one else did.  And then when Pete died, Rudy was faced with the decision that we have all faced at some point in our lives: would he become bitter or better; would he give up or press on; would he quit or keep dreaming?

  • What is one significant challenge you have had to overcome in your own life, and how has overcoming that challenge shaped the person you are today?

  • Who is someone in your life who needs you to believe in them?

Have a volunteer read James 1:2-3.

The word that probably best describes Rudy is “perseverance.”  James writes that it is the difficult times in our lives that grow our character, that we should take joy in those things because they cause us to grow.

This is the great irony of life.  We try to avoid pain wherever we can.  It’s why our medicine cabinets are full of Advil for headache pain, Bengay for joint pain, and cough syrup for throat pain.  Yet pain is always the pathway to growth.

We all want gain with out pain.  We all wish we could be fit without exercise, wise without learning, CEO without ever taking an entry-level job, but the truth is that there’s no gain physically, relationally, professionally, educationally, or (especially) spiritually without pain.  Even for Jesus, there was no resurrection Sunday without the blood stained cross of Good Friday.

Rudy took advantage of his acceptance to Holy Cross, a community college across the street from Notre Dame. He worked hard, studied hard, and became a groundskeeper at the Notre Dame football field just to be near it.Even though his application to Notre Dame was rejected again and again, he didn’t give up.

  • When is one time that perseverance has paid off for you?

  • Has there ever been a time that you persevered and didn’t achieve the result you hoped for?

  • What did these experiences teach you?

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 40:31.

There’s an old African proverb that says, “The problem with finding ivory, there’s always an elephant attached to it.”

Rudy gets accepted to Notre Dame, and through effort, drive and determination he manages to land on the practice team… where he becomes a tackling dummy for the rest of the time. And day after day he gets kicked, thrown, pushed, and bruised in practice.  But he keeps on as he waits and hopes for the opportunity to suit up and play in a game just once before he graduates.

All of us hate to wait, but many of us are in a season of waiting right now. We might dream of a loving relationship, well-adjusted kids, a better career, or finding meaning in life.  We’re tempted to leave our difficult marriage, explode at our kids, cut corners at work to get ahead, or seek meaning in all of the wrong places.

Rudy endeared himself to his team, showed up for practice after practice, took hit after hit, but he finally reached a breaking point.  He decided to quit the team when he didn’t make the cut to dress for the last game of his senior year.

  • Where in your life are you waiting for something to change? What has kept you from giving up?

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 40:31.

Rudy’s teammates go to bat for him with the coach.  They stick by him and help make his dream a reality.  There’s something powerful about others believing in your dream, speaking life into your dream, helping you achieve your dream.

  • Who in your life has been instrumental in helping you to achieve your dreams?

  • Who do you have in your life currently who you can rely on to support and encourage you?

  • How can this group help to support and encourage your dreams?

APPLICATION

Rarely do we look back at our lives relieved that we had given up on something. More often we look back with regret at giving up too soon.

What is the thing in your life that if you give up on it now you’ll look back with regret?  Your marriage? Your family? Your job? A friend? Your sobriety? Your faith?

Right now (yes, right here in the middle of small group) pull out your phone and text someone you trust. Make sure it’s someone who is wise and who loves Jesus.  Tell him or her that you need to talk about something important and ask if he or she has time to get together within the next few days. Don’t wait until you get home and can talk yourself out of doing this. Send the text right now so that you can’t get out of it.

We were never meant to face life’s challenges alone.  Share how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking with this person and ask for help to persevere.


FIGHT

FIGHT

SERIES INTRODUCTION

A better story is worth fighting for. A better family is worth fighting for. A better you is worth fighting for. This new year could bring incredible freedom and growth in ways you've never imagined, but you’ll have to fight for it. The good news is, the God of the universe is on your side fighting for you. In this series, we'll unpack a strategy to win, the equipment that is available to all of us, and the power source that makes it all happen.

  • Share a story of a time you fought for something you cared deeply about and saw freedom and growth in your life because of it.


MESSAGE TITLE

The Power Play

SERMON GUIDE

Throughout this series we’ve been reminded that we are in a very real supernatural struggle with the forces of darkness. We have a very real enemy and He’s called by various names in the Bible. He’s called Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, the serpent, the Evil One, the Father of lies, the Destroyer, the Accuser and many other names.

Scripture teaches us that Satan wasn’t always the bad one.  In fact, years and years ago, Satan was actually an angel, one of God’s best and most beautiful angels, known as Lucifer, or often called the morning star. But Satan, in his beauty, became jealous of God and wanted to be like God.

Have a volunteer read Revelation 12:7-9.

In Ephesians, the apostle Paul reminds us that we have the weapons to fight back when we are in a spiritual battle and win.

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 6:10-12.

Paul describes the following pieces of armor available to us:

  • Helmet of Salvation – Reminds us we are saved by the grace of God through his death on the cross and resurrection.

  • Breastplate of Righteousness – God looks at us and see the breastplate of righteousness, not because we are good, he sees past our sins.

  • Shield of Faith – Protects us from the darts the enemy will hurl at us and defeats them because God lives with us and is greater than the one who lives in this world.

  • Shoes of Peace – we go into battle with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

  • Sword of the Spirit – We have the offensive weapon of the Word of God.

Just like going into battle without physical armor on is dangerous, so is going into spiritual battles without the protection we have available to us.

Think over the battles and struggles you are facing right now. What pieces of armor would help and protect you as you walk through this situation?

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 6:18.

The final tool Paul gives us in this passage is prayer.

  • What do you think Paul means by the phrase “pray at all times in the Spirit”? Look back at Ephesians 5:18-21 and talk about how might this help us understand and apply Ephesians 6:18 to our lives?

Each of us needs to be in community, like this small group to have people praying for us, who have our backs. People to encourage us as we face struggles, big and small.

  • Have you experienced the power of walking through a difficult situation with a group of people that were praying for you and walking alongside you? If so, share about it with the group. 

Many of us have faced times when we pray and feel like nothing is happening. In those times remember your prayers are more powerful than you know.

Have a volunteer read Daniel 10:12-14.

Daniel prayed, and as soon as he prayed, God heard his prayer, released His angels, and for 21 days they did battle against an evil spirit.  When Michael, the archangel, appeared, he was able to hold off the evil spirits so the other angel could go to Daniel and say, “God has answered your prayer.” 

Twenty-one days, there’s a battle going on in the heavenlies, because you need to understand, what you see in the physical world is not all that there is, and your prayers are more powerful than you know.

Gene shared the story of Erwin McManus and his son Aaron, who as a child, returned home from camp afraid to go to sleep. He had heard these demon stories and now was afraid. He asked his Dad to say a prayer that he would be safe.

Erwin leaned down and said, ‘Honey, I won’t do that.’ In his mind he thought when it comes to Christianity “I don’t want him to live a life of safety.” So, Erwin said, ‘Aaron, I’m not going to pray that God will make you safe.’ His eyes got really big and he said, ‘Daddy!’…. He said, ‘I am going to pray that God will make you dangerous for Christ. So dangerous that all the demons will flee when you enter the room.’ Aaron looked up at him and said, ‘All right daddy, then you pray that God makes me really dangerous!”

  • Share where in your life are you playing it safe and need to ask God to make you dangerous?

Most of us want to live a life that matters. We want our lives to make a difference. Let’s be people whose prayers are to stand firm, stand strong, be a person of prayer, a person of the Word, filled with God’s Spirit.  This is how we fight our battles.

As we wrap up this series hopefully you are encouraged to fight for a better life. Fight your spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. Fight for your family, marriage, financial freedom or physical freedom from addictions that keep you from living out the life God has for you. Fight for your kids, going to God in prayer knowing that our prayers more powerful then we know.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 3:13-14.

Before the battle, Jesus got battle ready through baptism. Gene shared four things we should consider about baptism. It marks a turning point in your life; publicly expresses your commitment to God; demonstrates your humility; and was a picture of His ultimate mission, changing your life.

APPLICATION

  1. Use one of the tools we have received during this series and share next week how it impacted your spiritual life.

  2. Spend time praying and journaling about the struggles and battles you are facing. Pray about where you want to see a better story in life and ask God for help in fighting for it.

  3. Many of you have taken that step of being baptized, but if you’re a follower of Jesus and haven’t yet, sign up to get baptized today at eastside.com/baptism.


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • Courage to fight for a better story.

  • Discernment to recognize the spiritual battles and apply the spiritual armor God has given you.

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 2: Christmas in Kenya

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 2: Christmas in Kenya

SERIES INTRODUCTION

If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?

This Christmas season we are boldly going further than ever bringing a light to what God is doing around the world.

  • What is your favorite part of the Christmas season?


SERMON GUIDE

This week as part of Christmas Beyond Borders, Gene took us to Kenya and gave us a snapshot of the need in the Mathare Valley. Eastside partners with Missions of Hope, which was started in 2000 by Mary and Wallace. 

For years they drove by the slums, not giving them a second thought. One day they could no longer ignore it and decided to do something. They have grown from 2 rooms and 50 kids to 18 years later launching 23 different schools and 14 churches. They offer education, medical, dental and share the hope giving message of Jesus.

We saw a glimpse of how they celebrate. They don’t have money for gifts or fancy celebrations, they celebrate the season by being together and celebrating the joy of Christmas.

  • Mary and Wallace had an aha moment that has changed the course of thousands of lives.  Where in your life might God be trying to get you to take notice and make a difference?

Have a volunteer read Matthew 9:36 & Colossians 3:12.

We see Jesus’ heart of compassion and how we, as the church, are called to be compassionate. While we are focusing on our Compassion partners this month, there are needs in each of our communities. There are people who don’t know Jesus and are in desperate need of hope.

  • Who is someone in your life who desperately needs hope, freedom and the message of Jesus? How can you could be a light to them this season?

Have different people look up and read the following verses:

Deuteronomy 15:10

Psalm 82:3-4

James 1:27

Proverbs 31:8-9

I John 3:17

These are just a few of the over 2000 verses in the Bible addressing poverty. The poor are close to God’s heart.

Approximately 100,000 children live in the slums of the Mathare Valley in Kenya. Sponsorship gives a child a future through education, uniforms, nutrition, medical care and a solid spiritual foundation. They provide health workshops and counseling for the entire family.

  • Who is one person who made a difference in your life when you were young?  Tell the group about them.

  • Have you ever sponsored a child? If so, what impact has it had on you?

Gene and Barbara have sponsored a boy named Ian since 2010. Gene first met him when Ian was in second grade.

Eastside has been given this amazing opportunity to partner with Missions of Hope. This next year there are six trips to Africa, where you will have the opportunity to meet your sponsored child. Getting to go and see first-hand the work being done and the opportunity to meets the kids is life changing.

  • Have you ever been on a short term mission trip? If so, what impact did it have on you? If not, do you think now might be the time to consider going on one?

APPLICATION

  1. Actually, take a step towards sharing the love of Christ to those in need in your neighborhood and community.

  2. Search out more information about going on a Compassion Trip in the coming year. (Even if you’re not sure you can/want to go, just have a conversation.)

  3. Pray about sponsoring a child.


PRAYER

Pair off (with someone other than your spouse) and spend time praying for:

  • Courage to be a light to the people in your life.

  • Eyes to see the opportunities God puts before you, to bless and encourage others this Christmas season.

  • Whether you should sign up for a Compassion Trip and/or sponsor a child this month.

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 1: Christmas in Mexico

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 1: Christmas in Mexico

SERIES INTRODUCTION

If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?

This Christmas season we are boldly going further than ever bringing a light to what God is doing around the world.

  • What is your favorite part of the Christmas season?

FOLLOW UP

  • Last week we were encouraged to read the Bible and use Mike’s “Relax, Reflect, Respond” approach. How did it go? Did you end up doing it? If so, what insights did you gain?


SERMON GUIDE

This week Mike shared from Rosarito and the Tijuana Christian Mission (TCM) as part of our Christmas Beyond Borders series.

He said he loves Christmas lights because they remind him of how Jesus came to be the light of the world. Lights are bright. They guide us, warm us up, and shine everywhere. We know people like that, people who light up a room or have a contagious, sincere optimism.

Who do you know like this and what qualities do they have?

Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 11:14.

Mike shared the story of Sam Lord, a pirate from Barbados, who would lure sailors using lights to make the reefs look like the harbor.  When the ships came in they would wreck on the reefs, and he would take everything.  The Bible says even demons can disguise themselves as light. We need to be aware, praying for discernment as we shine our light for the Lord.

  • Share a time something you encountered seemed good but in reality was harmful. How would you approach that situation differently today?

  • Is there any thing in your life now that seems like a good thing but that you’re concerned may actually be harmful?

Have a volunteer read John 1:4-5.

Jesus, the light of the world, chases out the darkness. As believers, we are called to be the light and have the opportunity to expose the darkness and bring light to hard situations.

Mike shared the story of Sergio and Martha Gomez, who went to Tijuana to plant churches in 1965. When a cardboard box holding a baby was left outside their trailer, it became apparent they were there to help children too. They started an orphanage, and Eastside has had the opportunity to partner with them, helping them purchase 7 ½ acres of land and bring down over 400 people each year on Compassion Trips.

  • Have you ever been on a mission trip? If so, share about it with the group.  If not, how might you benefit from going on one?

Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 15:58.

The Gomez’s have left a legacy of changed lives, and their daughter Sarah is now actively involved as well. They have been a safe place and home to numerous children. She talked the impact of child sponsorship: the children feel special, loved, and that someone cares for them.

  • Have you ever sponsored a child? If so, what impact has it had on you?

Have a volunteer read Philippians 2:12-18.

Paul shares how God works through us and that our job is to shine brightly to others in our life.

  • What is one area of life where you need to shine brightly?  What hesitations do you have about being a light in that situation, and how can you take a step towards bringing light to that dark place?

Have a volunteer read Genesis 1:1-3.

The darker situation, the brighter our lives shine for Jesus. When kids are being abused, hearts are being broken, addicts are struggling to overcome, finances are tight, and health challenges abound, that’s when the light of Jesus shining through us is needed most.

We can be the light and offer hope every day. When we do, we help people see there is a way and that Jesus can’t be constrained. Our calling, our destiny, is to offer others hope as we go about our day.

APPLICATION

  1. Actually take the step towards being a light in a dark situation that you identified above.

  2. Talk with a Compassion representative this coming Sunday to get more information about going on a Compassion Trip in the coming year.  (Even if you’re not sure you can/want to go, just have a conversation.)

  3. Pray about sponsoring a child.


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • Courage to be a light to the people in your life.

  • Eyes to see the opportunities God puts before you, to bless and encourage others this Christmas season.

  • Whether you should sign up for a Compassion Trip and/or sponsor a child this month.

- Storyteller - Week 4: Miracle Grow

- Storyteller - Week 4: Miracle Grow

SERIES INTRODUCTION

Our life is a story enfolded in the epic story of God. Stories are all around us. They move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us.

Jesus was a master communicator. He used objects, humor, current events, historical reference, and poetry. But most of all, he told stories. He knew that people remember stories. He realized that they were a way to reach people where they were living, help them see themselves in that story, and gain a greater understanding about life: life with God, life with each other.

  • What is one experience that you’ve had in the last year or two that has caused you to grow as a person?


SERMON GUIDE

Have a volunteer read John 15:8

When we flourish and grow towards our God-given potential, it makes God smile and throws a huge floodlight on His greatness.

God wants to shape us into His best version of us. He desires us to be fully alive with joy, passion and gratitude.  He wants to grow us into people that produce fruit with our lives and make a difference in this world.  

One of the ways we grow is through His Word, the Bible. He uses the teaching of His word to change, sharpen, encourage, and convict us.

  • Has something you’ve read in the Bible ever impacted you in a significant way? If so, how did it impact you and how is your life different as a result?

In Matthew 13, Jesus is teaching a large crowd. The crowd grows so big He has to get into a boat off the shore and use the bank as an amphitheater. He tells a story all about sowing seeds, cultivation, different types of soil, and how that impacts our growth.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 13:3-17

Jesus describes four types of soil that the seed fell on in this passage:

  1. The Path – This is where there is no soil and the seed had nowhere to land.

  2. Rocky Soil – Here the seed plants but without roots it quickly dies.

  3. Thorns and Weeds – The seed is planted but thorns choke the plants out.

  4. Good Soil – The seed plants, puts down deep roots and thrives.

  • What kind of thorny or rocky experiences keep God’s teachings from taking root in our lives?

Many times, Jesus would use parables and not give the explanation but, in this story, we get to see what He’s talking about.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 13:18-23.

We read that the seed here represents the Word of God and the farmer is the person teaching it. What would happen if every time each of us were in an environment where we had the opportunity to learn God’s Word, we would begin by saying this simple prayer, “God, as You teach, let me be teachable.”

  • How can you be more like the one who received the seed on good soil? Share what would good soil look like in your life.

Have a volunteer read Colossians 2:7.

Roots are so fascinating because the majority of the time, they are unseen. They lie beneath the surface, but the role roots play is essential. The roots are what hold the nutrients in, allowing life to grow and flourish above ground.

If we are going to flourish, we have to allow the word of God to break through the surface of our lives and go deep within us. This happens when we engage with God’s Word every day and draw nourishment from Him.

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 3:17.

No matter what happens in life, you will grow and flourish because your roots run deep.

  •  What is your approach to engaging with the Bible?  Is it a regular part of your day?  Is there anything you think you might need to change about how you engage with God’s Word?

Have volunteers read Colossians 3:16 and James 1:22-25.

Mike shared an approach to reading God’s Word using the words Relax, Reflect and Respond to guide us.

  • Relax in His character. When we know God’s character and heart towards us, we can relax in His unfailing love and hang on to His every word as life-giving truth.

  • Reflect by asking God “What are you trying to teach me?  What’s in this that I need to hear?“

  • Respond by asking God “What do I need to do with this?” Other questions include “What are you asking me to do?” or “How should I respond to this? “

Then apply it to your life and do what it says.

Through Jesus’ telling of this story we see how life changing God’s Word is. We can choose to improve our soil when we cultivate it through humility and fertilize it by practicing gratitude every day.  Plant yourself by the river everyday and let your roots go down deep into His love. Set aside some time every day this week to relax, reflect, and respond. See just how God will throw some Miracle Gro on your life and you will begin to flourish from the inside out in ways you never thought you could.

APPLICATION

This week, as you’re reading the Bible, use Mike’s “Relax, Reflect, Respond” approach.  Write down anything you think God might be saying to you or asking you to do.

If you’re not currently reading the Bible regularly, download the YouVersion app and pick a Bible reading plan.  Try to read the Bible at least four times over the next week, even if it’s only for 5 minutes each time.

NEXT STEPS

In January, we are launching an initiative to help Eastsiders develop solid faith foundations.  We are developing four small group curriculum, the first of which is called Engage with God.  It is all about helping us know God like Mike talked about and like Jesus did. Consider using it as a group to experience the joy, passion, and gratitude that God wants to help each of us develop in our lives.

 


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • God to reveal the condition of your heart and soil.

  • Discipline to set aside time each day this week to relax, reflect and respond.

  • To cultivate deep roots that will see you through the ups and downs of life.

  • The strength to seek out healing you might personally need emotionally, physically and/or spiritually.

- Storyteller - Week 3: Like A Good Neighbor

- Storyteller - Week 3: Like A Good Neighbor

SERIES INTRODUCTION

Our life is a story enfolded in the epic story of God. Stories are all around us. They move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us.

Jesus was a master communicator. He used objects, humor, current events, historical reference, and poetry. But most of all, he told stories. He knew that people remember stories. He realized that they were a way to reach people where they were living, help them see themselves in that story, and gain a greater understanding about life: life with God, life with each other.

  • Who is the most remarkable communicator you have heard speak? What about them captivated you?


SERMON GUIDE

Everybody loves to listen to a good storyteller. 2,000 years ago, Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, told a series of simple stories that mesmerized all kinds of people.

Even many people who don’t believe in Jesus agree that he was one of the greatest communicators who ever lived. Jesus painted these compelling pictures with stories that we could understand: stories of a wedding reception, weeds in the garden, losing some money in your house, a rebellious son and a heartbroken dad.

One day, Jesus was teaching about loving your neighbor as yourself when a religious expert asked him “Who is my neighbor?”

Have a volunteer read Luke 10: 25-37.

Samaritans and Jews hated each other.  So by having a Samaritan show love to a Jewish stranger, Jesus was saying that even the people you like the least are the neighbors you’re supposed to love.

  • Is there a time when you were hurting or in need and someone stepped in like the Good Samaritan? Share how that impacted your life.

  • Which “neighbors” are the hardest for you to love and why? What is one practical step you can take to be more loving towards them?

We get so busy in our own lives that many times when confronted with hurting people in need, we turn our head and keep going. Today we are surrounded by people who are physically hurting; emotionally hurting; and like never in our lifetimes people who are spiritually hurting. The thieves in this parable represent Satan, the enemy of God. We know he seeks to steal and destroy from us.

Gene shared a story about a woman in the airport who had a bag of cookies she had just purchased. A man kept reaching over and taking cookies from her bag. She was getting upset and angry until she realized she had taken his bag of cookies, in addition to hers, by accident. This attitude or fear of getting ripped off or focusing too much on our own needs stands in the way of helping hurting people in our community.

  • Share a time you saw a need of someone or a group and wished you had offered to help.  What kept you from reaching out and getting involved?

One of the dreams we have for Eastside is to establish local “trauma centers” in every neighborhood, on every block, in all our communities, that our homes, dorm rooms, apartments, condos, and workplaces would be places where we reach out to and care for the broken and hurting around us.

In America we view our homes as our castles, and we see it as our job to protect everything good that’s inside of those four walls from everything bad that’s outside of them.

But in Isaiah 58, God told the Israelites that he wanted them to share their food with the hungry, invite the homeless into their house, and clothe the naked.

You’ll notice that God didn’t say, “Serve at a soup kitchen, build a homeless shelter, and support the Salvation Army.” Certainly, those are good things, and they’re worth doing.  But God took it one step further and told them that when they saw people broken and hurting and in need, they should do something about it themselves.  He said, “You share your food. You share your house. You cover them yourself.”  And that’s the same message Jesus teaches in the story of the Good Samaritan.

As followers of Jesus, our homes are not castles but rather trauma centers for the Kingdom of God.  And the people we love who are in them—our families, our friends, our roommates, our small groups—are either fellow servants of Jesus on mission from God with us or else patients in that trauma center who are in need of spiritual care because they don’t know Jesus.

  • What is one practical step you can take to turn your home into a trauma center for people who are in spiritual, physical, and/or emotional need.

Gene shared three main ideas we can learn from Luke 10:

  1. We’re surrounded by hurting people and we need to be willing to open our hearts and care for people we have never met. People that are different from us.

  2. There must be a trauma center available for them. We are here today, because some people opened up their hearts to us.

  3. Trauma centers are built with open hearts and open hands. Trauma centers are built by people like the Good Samaritan with open Hands that sacrifice for people who can’t pay you back.

 


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • God to give you eyes to see those hurting and in need around you.

  • A willing heart to step outside our comfort zone and be a trauma center to those in need in our community.

  • Those that are hurting in your community to find healing and the hope of Jesus Christ.

  • The strength to seek out healing you might personally need emotionally, physically and/or spiritually.

- Storyteller - Week 2: Lost and Found

- Storyteller - Week 2: Lost and Found

SERIES INTRODUCTION

Our life is a story enfolded in the epic story of God. Stories are all around us. They move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us.

Jesus was a master communicator. He used objects, humor, current events, historical reference, and poetry. But most of all, he told stories. He knew that people remember stories. He realized that they were a way to reach people where they were living, help them see themselves in that story, and gain a greater understanding about life: life with God, life with each other.

  • What is your favorite family story?  It could be something from your childhood, a story that has been handed down for generations, or something you experienced as an adult.


SERMON GUIDE

In his sermon Gene shared how In recent years God has blessed Eastside and been at work in our church.  Thousands of people have been baptized.  There’s an Eastside campus in a small town in Minnesota that is our fastest growing campus.  We’re praying for a permanent space for La Habra, our second largest campus.  Our newest campus, Bellflower, has baptized 37 people and had 120 step up to serve as Change Makers.

  • How have you seen God at work at Eastside in the recent past, whether in your own life or the life of someone else?

Gene shared a story about how we’ll start our next campus.  Someone asked him about that, and he replied, “Well it’s not really up to me. That’s up to God. We just try to strategically position Eastside for opportunities God brings, but if I could choose our next location I’d really like Eastside to be in California’s Inland Empire.”

A month or two later Gene was on a ministry planning retreat with the Eastside executive team, and at the end of the first day he felt led to say to the team, “I don’t know when God is going to bring our next campus opportunity, but I just have a sense that God is going to bring us an opportunity when we least expect it.  So we better start preparing for our next campus and thinking about our team.”

That night about 11 PM he read an email from a pastor serving the city of Redlands, in the Inland Empire, inquiring if Eastside would be interested in starting a campus in their church building if they were to give it to us.

For the past few weeks we have been meeting with the Redlands Church of Christ.  And this weekend their entire congregation is voting on giving us this beautiful campus.

  • Have you ever had an experience like this? Something that seems to be just a coincidence or a series of coincidences but that, when you really stop and look at it, was clearly God?  Share about it with the group.

Gene shared about the impact that the Dream Team has had.  This little group of 100 people has given $2.5 million to fund compassion causes, support our next gen ministries, and prepare us for the launch of our next campus.

Some of us have the gift of giving like those on the Dream Team, and if that is you, you should join.  Some of us have other gifts and other talents that God may be calling you to use to serve Him at your church or in your community.

Maybe you are gifted to invest in little ones through Kidside or invest in adults by leading a small group of your own.  Perhaps you can put your musical talents to use on the worship team or your technical skills on the production team.  Maybe you’re a writer or a good speaker or really friendly.  Perhaps God is even calling you to come a foster parent and take in a child who has no where to go.  God wants to use whatever gifts he has given you to help further his Kingdom.

And if you need help finding a place to serve, check out Step 3 of Next Steps, where you’ll go on a behind the scenes tour of your campus to figure out where you can plug in.

  • What gifts or talents has God given you, and how might you be able to use them to serve his purposes?

Have a volunteer read Luke 15:1-7.

Have a volunteer read Luke 15:8-10.

Have a volunteer read Luke 15:11-32.

  • What do these parables teach us about God?  What do they teach us about ourselves? 

  • In light of these things, what is one thing that you will do differently this week?

Gene shared three truths that we can learn from these stories:

  1. Something valuable is lost. The broken and hurting people in this world matter to God and should matter to us.

  2. We must aggressively search. Nothing should stop us from pursuing them with Jesus’ love… not with fire and brimstone or with obnoxious badgering but with true, persistent, Christ-like love.

  3. When the lost is found, there is much rejoicing.  There’s nothing in the world worth celebrating more than when someone begins a relationship with Jesus.

 


PRAYER

Who do you know who needs a life-giving relationship with Jesus?  Pair off with the same person you shared your spiritual next step with a few weeks ago and spend some time in prayer. Pray for:

  • God to begin working in the heart of the person who doesn’t know him.

  • The opportunity to show Jesus love to that person in a tangible way.

  • The opportunity to share the good news about Jesus with that person.

  • Courage to share that good news.

- Storyteller - Week 1: Vineyard

- Storyteller - Week 1: Vineyard

SERIES INTRODUCTION

Our life is a story enfolded in the epic story of God. Stories are all around us. They move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us.

Jesus was a master communicator. He used objects, humor, current events, historical reference, and poetry. But most of all, he told stories. He knew that people remember stories. He realized that they were a way to reach people where they were living, help them see themselves in that story, and gain a greater understanding about life: life with God, life with each other.

  • What’s your favorite story to tell?  Share it with the group. Why is that the one that comes to mind when we’re talking about the power of storytelling?


SERMON GUIDE

Jesus often used parables, simple stories that convey a deeper truth. We have record of over 40 of Jesus’ parables in the Gospels.  Here is one that he shared with his followers shortly before he was crucified.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:1-7.

Mike talked about how the people hired last were surprised by joy.  They had stood around all day wanting to work, but no one had hired them.  For some, this may have meant their families would go hungry.  Now, at the eleventh hour, an unexpected blessing came their way.

  • Do you relate to these people who were “surprised by joy”? Why or why not?

We often think about our relationship with Jesus as something that helps us when we die, and we forget about the beauty of the life that he offers us now, a life full of joy and peace no matter our difficult circumstances.  The great author and thinker C.S. Lewis who came to faith later in life asked, “Why did I wait so long?”

The good news that we learn in this parable is that God wants us, no matter whether we entered into a relationship with him at the very beginning of our lives, the very end, or somewhere in between.

  • Did you come to faith early in life or later in life?  How has that shaped you?

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:8-12.

The men that worked for only the last hour of the day received a full day’s wage, the same amount as the ones that had worked for the entire day. As much as we would like to imagine ourselves being gracious in a situation like this, it is likely that we would also focus on how unfair it is, like the full day workers did.

This group was offended by grace, envious of the blessing given to others. Although they have been offered a fair wage and the opportunity to work for the day, they are annoyed that their one-hour coworkers make the same amount of money after only doing a fraction of the work.

Some of us naturally identify with this second group. We’re eager to jump in and do the work of our master, from beginning to end. We come to faith, excited about the new potential we have to carry out the task given to us, but when we see others stepping into the same role—without half of the work or experience—it feels wildly unfair.

  • Has there been a time where you protested God in this way? Share a time you felt like God was more gracious to others than to you?

We should be thankful that fairness is not God’s priority, because if it were, grace wouldn’t be an option and we would be given the punishment we deserve for our sin.

  • How are justice and fairness different?

Looking at the “those people” mentality that these day workers have, we can clearly see that there is a sense of arrogance, pride, and superiority. They pointed fingers and questioned if the others working with them—those people—were even worthy of what they were paid.

  •  Who are those people for you?  Who are the people you struggle to love, forgive, or accept?

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:13-15.

The point of this story is the goodness and graciousness of the landowner, not the worthiness of the worker.

The workers question the landowner, and he responds in a powerful way. They focus on what they weren’t given.  The landowner focuses on the abundance of wages he was able to give. When his generosity is questioned, the landowner reminds them that he is the one that decides how to distribute his money, and even if they don’t agree with it, they were not cheated out of proper pay, even though the late-day workers received the same wages.

It can be easy to point fingers and compare the way God gives to those around us and lose sight of all he has given us. In all of this, God’s sovereignty prevails, and although we might want him to call us in a different way, or give us more for the work we do, we can never out-give him, and he knows best in every situation.

 


PAIR OFF

Break into smaller groups and spend time praying for each other to lead lives where you are surprised by joy, rather than offended by grace. If there are people in your life that trigger an “offended by grace” response in your heart, pray specifically for grace with them and the opportunity to show them the graciousness of God

- Let It Go Too - Week 4: Control

- Let It Go Too - Week 4: Control

SERIES INTRODUCTION

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up – physically, emotionally and more importantly spiritually. Last year we challenged people to just LET IT GO. Now, as we continue this series, ask yourself what else are you holding on to?

  • Who is the person in your life you can turn to in good and bad times?


SERMON GUIDE

There are things in our life we need to let go of because they have a hold on us. We try to control things, but it doesn’t help. Thankfully, we don’t have to do this on our own; we have the choice to look to God and His promises.

  • Has there ever been a time when due to illness or circumstance, you were unable to control your day to day life? How did that feel?

Control makes us think “I know better” and often we find that doesn’t work out so well. Each of us is a work in progress and there is a better way. The best way is to look to God and choose trust and surrender over control.

Our attempts to control what we are holding on to it, leads to fear. The more we try to control, the more our fear of losing control rises. It is a vicious cycle, we can’t win.

Control leads us to fear and makes us afraid of other people. We become afraid to step out in faith because of the unknown and all the “what if’ scenarios we easily conjure up in our mind. The truth is control is just an illusion. We can tightly control our finances, but we have no control over the economy. Eating healthy and exercise might not keep something unexpected from showing up on a scan. We drive ourselves crazy when we believe that we are in control.

Control has its roots in pride.  We stubbornly decide to keep doing things our way.  When we control things our ego edges God out. Pride keeps us from apologizing, makes us defensive and drives us to do things to keep up our image. We just want to keep it all under control.

  • Is there something in your life that you would like to let go of, something you feel has a hold on you?

When we read the Bible, we see woven through the text that God detests pride. He detests it because it keeps us from living the life He has for us.

Humility is the key to overcoming control. When we quit playing God we begin getting well. Choosing to trust God simply begins with a willingness to believe there is a God who is bigger than ourselves. It is stepping out in belief that God is stronger, more capable and knows better than we do.

Often, we have trouble trusting God because we are afraid He will not do as good a job as we would have.  It sounds crazy to say it, but that is what we are saying when we let control rule us. Trust is a willingness to believe that God is better than we are at running our lives.

We miss out and actually lose by grasping on to control. We exchange abandon for protection, intimacy for security, and peace for worry. We trade generosity for storing up, so we’ll be ready to face the what if’s in our life. When we decide to loosen our grip and trust God, we begin to see He does more than we could imagine.

Control says we are not sure He will come through and that we doubt that nothing is impossible.  We don’t have to doubt that God will come through. He is the strong one who will catch us and be there even when life is hard. 

God is good and faithful. We can lean into Him no matter what our circumstances or feelings.

Have a volunteer read Lamentations 3:22-26.

To let go of control and move towards trusting God, we need an accurate picture of God. If you look search the Bible, looking for the characteristics of God you will find He is powerful and can be trusted. We can rest in the knowledge of how much He loves us.

Have a volunteer read Daniel 6:15-33.

Daniel, knowing he was going against the king’s decree, prayed anyway. He trusted God and saw Him provide and protect in the lion’s den. He had seen God work years before in the fiery furnace and knew without a doubt that God can be trusted.

Jodi shared the quote, “God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. So, when you don’t understand, when you can’t see His plan, when you can’t trace His hand…trust His heart.”

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 3:5-6.

  • What does it look like for you to lean in where normally you would hold tight and instead, decide to put your trust in the Lord?

Trust leads us to surrender which is defined as relinquishing control to someone else.  We have a choice to give up control to God. We give the leadership of our life, saying “you can have it all Lord,” and believe He is more capable than ourselves.

When we are holding tight to control we might resist when we feel the Holy Spirit stirring in us, convicting us to not do something.  Maybe there is a relationship that needs to end, or we need to reconcile. Perhaps it is our finances, an addiction or a direction we feel He is nudging us towards. Our resistance causes us to miss out on God’s best for our lives.

In Matthew 5:2-5, Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

The word “meek” doesn’t just mean quiet and gentle but also includes to yield. It was used in reference to bridling wild horses. When we read the words “Blessed are those who give over the reins to God,” through that lens we have more clarity.

  • Where are you bucking God in your life? Share if there Is an area of your life where you are coming up against this and what would it look like to hand over the reins to Him?

God is relentless in His pursuit of us. It is a good day when we relinquish control and hand over the reins to Him. He wants you to be free and loves you so much. We were not created to live without him. Surrender is a daily thing, giving over our lives to God. It is about living a surrendered life.

  • Share something in your life that has happened that can only be attributed to God having worked?

End your time by having a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 1:9-11.


PAIR OFF

Continue to pair off as you have been doing, the last two weeks. Check in and share where you need to say yes to God and let go of control. Spend time praying together.

- Let It Go Too - Week 3: Cynicism

- Let It Go Too - Week 3: Cynicism

SERIES INTRODUCTION

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up – physically, emotionally and more importantly spiritually. Last year we challenged people to just LET IT GO. Now, as we continue this series, ask yourself what else are you holding on to?

  • Who from your younger years influenced the big decisions you’ve made in your life? Why did that person have such a strong influence on you?


SERMON GUIDE

Many of us started out young and optimistic. Then something happened that shocked us. We were hurt by others, and we started thinking people will let us down, that we can’t trust anyone. We begin assuming everything is going to go wrong all the time. Some call it a defense mechanism or being a realist, but the truth is that some of us have become cynics.

An optimist will read the verse "my cup overflows" and they'll say, "The Lord is blessing me." A pessimist will say, "My cup overflows. Lord, there's going to be a mess in the house today."

We all know people who see even an abundance of blessings as a negative.  Some of us might even be those people.

  • On a scale of 1-10—with a 1 being an Eeyore and 10 being Tigger—how cynical are you?

There are a lot of things going wrong in the world. We as Jesus followers can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend like nothing is wrong. At the same time, we should recognize that God is doing a lot of amazing things all over the world.

C.S. Lewis once said “what you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”  Each day we have a choice. What will we look for, good or bad?  For better or worse, we often find what we are looking for.

  • When you consider the statement “we often find what we are looking for?” where in your life do you need to look for more good?

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 11:27 and Psalm 13.

As Christians, we should be the least cynical because we have the gospel and we know Jesus rose and left an empty tomb. Our hope isn’t just wishful thinking. In Psalm 13 we see a practical example of someone moving away from cynicism and towards hopeful trust.

King David had quite a life. He started out as shepherd, was anointed by Samuel, and found himself being hunted by King Saul. He becomes king, and his own children try to overthrow him. He wrote many Psalms that give us a peek into his emotional and spiritual journey.

In Psalm 13 he starts with blame and the feeling of “Why me?” He is wrestling with thoughts and feelings of deep sorrow. We often do this. We ask why bad things always happen to us or we try to blame something or someone else for our troubles.

  • Is there a situation where you need to stop blaming someone else and seek to forgive? Maybe it is anger or bitterness towards God, a friend, a family member, or a co-worker you need to repent and let go of.

We see a pivot in verses 5-6; David stops asking, “Why me?” and turns towards the Lord. He pushes aside the cynicism and despair. He says, “I will trust in you.”

Trusting God will turn us from cynical curmudgeons who think there’s no hope to curious children who trust that our loving Father is looking out for our good.

Like David we can say,” I don’t understand what you are doing or why these things are happening, but I know you can be trusted.”

Cynicism creates a barrier between us and God and makes it hard to pray. It allows bitterness to take root in our souls. But we can choose a better way, seeking God in prayer, asking Him to move, to meet us and intervene in difficult situations or relationships. Choosing to reject cynicism and seek God changes our heart in the midst of tough moments in life.

Have a volunteer read Psalm 23.

  • What are some of the ways you’ve seen God be your shepherd during difficult seasons of life?


PAIR OFF

Last week we asked you to pair up with another person of the same gender.  Check in to see how things are going with their spiritual next step and encourage each other to continue moving forward.

Share areas you want to overcome cynicism and find hope. Spend time praying together.

- Let It Go Too - Week 2: The Past

- Let It Go Too - Week 2: The Past

SERIES INTRODUCTION

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up – physically, emotionally and more importantly spiritually. Last year we challenged people to just LET IT GO. Now, as we continue this series, ask yourself what else are you holding on to?

  • Share a story about a time when someone else’s kindness impacted you.


SERMON GUIDE

Many of us are trapped by our past.  Maybe we did something wrong.  Maybe something wrong was done to us.  Or maybe we just faced some unlucky circumstances.  But regardless of the cause, it’s all too common for something in our past to keep us from moving forward.

  • What is something in your past that has kept you trapped? If you’ve been able to work through it, how did you do it?  If you’re still trapped by it, what do you think is keeping you from being able to work through it?

Have a volunteer read Acts 16:16-34.

  • What sorts of lessons do you think the jailer learned—and we can learn—from Paul and Silas?

The jailer in this story was desperate.  In the ancient world a jailer who let his prisoners escape would likely be executed.  When an earthquake caused the prison doors to swing open, the jailer couldn’t see past what had just happened.  The problem seemed too huge, too insurmountable, and he almost certainly couldn’t see a way out.

  • How might you be able to give the things you’re facing over to God so that He can help you find a way out?

Fortunately, Paul and Silas catch the jailer before he kills himself.  They intervene, keeping him from making a mistake he literally can’t come back from.

We all need people in our lives who are looking out for us, people who we can trust with the things we’re afraid to tell anyone, and people who will step in and intervene when we need them, people who will encourage us… or challenge us… when we need it.

  • Who are one or two people in your life who are looking out for you? How did you develop such a close relationship with them?  If you don’t feel like you have anyone like that right now, what is one step you could take to begin developing deeper relationships with others?

It’s tough to say what’s crazier, an earthquake opening all of the jail cells or the fact that none of the prisoners ran away.  Taken together, these things captivate the jailer’s attention and lead him to the life-changing question, “What must I do to be saved?”

  • What is an event in your life that has been catalytic for your own spiritual journey?

Of course, their answer is to believe in Jesus.  And the kind of belief they meant wasn’t just an intellectual belief.  They meant not only to believe intellectually but to actually trust Jesus, to trust his teachings and his plan.

When we truly trust someone, it shapes the way we act.  If your parents advise you not to take a particular job and you trust them, you don’t take it.  If you trust your own judgment more than theirs, you take the job anyway.

It’s the same with Jesus.  If we trust him, we’ll make decisions according to his plan.  We’ll move from cutting corners to operating with integrity, from gossiping to speaking well of people, from lying to truth-telling, from greed to generosity, from self-centeredness to love.

We see the jailer do this.  He washes Paul and Silas’ wounds, gets baptized along with his family, and then prepares a meal for Paul and Silas.  He didn’t just intellectually assent to the idea that there’s this Jesus guy and then continue on as before.  His belief, his trust, changed what he did.

Note to Leaders: One of the key responsibilities of a small group leader is to identify a spiritual next step for each member of your group and to help them take those steps.  This next question is designed to help facilitate that process. You may want to write down the steps that people mention and think through how the group can rally around each person to help them take that step.

  • In what area of your life do you think you need to make a change to better live according to God’s way of doing things?  How can the group help you make that change?


PAIR OFF

Have each group member pair off with another person of the same gender.  Each pair is responsible for following up with each other for the remainder of the semester to see how things are going with their spiritual next step and encourage each other to continue moving forward.

 - Let It Go Too - Week 1: Procrastination

- Let It Go Too - Week 1: Procrastination

SERIES INTRODUCTION

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up – physically, emotionally and more importantly spiritually. Last year we challenged people to just LET IT GO. Now, as we continue this series, ask yourself what else are you holding on to?

  • Share your favorite fall memory growing up. It could be a family tradition, time with friends or place you would visit.


SERMON GUIDE

There is so much that stops us from experiencing the kind of freedom, vibrancy, joy and fullness that God wants for us. We hang onto things like anger, bitterness, control, fear, and the past that keep us from becoming God’s best version of us.

This weekend we talked about procrastination. Take a moment to go through the quiz Mike shared this weekend:

  • Do you feel resentful when someone reminds you of tasks left undone?

  • Do you feel you have too much to do each day?

  • Do you sometimes delay a task so long that you’re embarrassed to do it?

  • Do you find yourself frequently making excuses for unfinished work?

  • Do you spend time on non-essentials while letting important work go?

  • Do you have a hard time determining what to do first?

  • Do you often agree to do a task and then regret it?

  • Have you ever put off signing your kids up for something, and they missed out as a result?

  • Do you sometimes think that by waiting long enough the tasks will not have to be done?

  • Do you rush to the Post Office at midnight on April 15 to mail your tax returns?

  • If you’re still intending to have a talk with your kid about the facts of life…and your kid is now 40 years old…?

If you found yourself answering yes to a bunch of these, then procrastination is probably something you struggle with. It seems subtle, but procrastination is a deadly enemy.  It steals your days.

  • When is a time procrastination cost you something?

Have someone read Psalms 118:24 and Exodus 8:8-10.

Like Pharaoh we choose to put off until tomorrow things we need to deal with today. Maybe it is a challenging conversation, an expensive home repair, or dealing with our finances, we let emotions push it off instead of dealing with it today.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Many procrastinators are closet perfectionists.  Their striving for perfection gets in the way of making any progress at all.

Laziness drives many people to procrastinate.  Let’s be honest, the word for our culture is “easy”…5 easy ways to this…3 simple steps to that. If it’s easy, I like it.  If it’s hard, count me out.  If I can simply attach electrodes to my abs and look like a Men’s Health cover model, then why not sit in my recliner and eat Cheetos. If I could just guess the Powerball and strike it rich, then why would I go to work?  The Bible actually has a bunch to say about the problems of being lazy (Proverbs 26:15, Proverbs 13:4, Proverbs 15:19, 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Fear is another paralytic that keeps us from moving forward. In his book Great by Choice, Jim Collins writes about “productive paranoia.” He shares how several highly successful people were always worried about something going wrong. They channeled that fear into remaining hypervigilant–always preparing, making contingency plans, and taking action. They took their fear and turned it into action.

Our desire for control can cause us to procrastinate.  We refuse to act because we don’t want to allow ourselves to be told what to do or when to do it by someone else.

  • What causes you to procrastinate? What could you do to overcome this kind of procrastination?

Let’s look at a few things God teaches us in the Bible that will help us overcome procrastination in our lives.

Have someone read Proverbs 22:13.

We need to stop making excuses. We have a partnership with God. That partnership ought to bring a level of excellence, hard work, honesty, humility, and integrity to our workplaces. Procrastination is a refusal to play our part in the partnership God wants to have with us at work.

Have someone read Colossians 3:23.

God designed us to work. From the very beginning God was a productive being, and He created us in His image as productive beings.  Work is one way that we honor him and reflect his character into the world.

Fear is a huge culprit in procrastination, so if you are going to let it go, you need to face your fears.

Have someone read 2 Timothy 1:7.

Procrastinators wrestle with two kinds of fear: the fear of failure and the fear of success. To move forward and live our lives to the fullest we have to face those fears. Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s moving ahead in spite of the fear!

We need to partner with God and cooperate with the Holy Spirit all throughout the day. When the Spirit of God is in you, you can rely on Him for power, love and self-discipline so you can face your fears and live today.

  • What practices or habits could you implement to connect and partner with God each day?

Organization and planning are key to making progress and overcoming procrastination.  Even the simple act of writing out a list of tasks can help organize our thinking and our day and make us more productive.

  • What apps do you use to help keep you organized and on track?

Sometimes we procrastinate because the tasks we’re facing are ones that we’re not particularly well suited for.  If you find yourself facing this challenge on a regular basis, especially at work, it’s worth taking some time to evaluate where you’re life is currently and the direction that you want to head.

To make this happen block out several hours or even a day to spend time with God and a notebook. Pray and ask questions like:

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • What are my priorities?

  • What are my core values?

  • What are my gifts?

  • What’s in the way?

  • How do I define success?

  • What do I want my legacy to be?

  • What are some immediate things I could do that would make a big difference?

Write down your answers to these questions.  Write down any thoughts or impressions or messages you think might be coming from God.  Formulate a plan for how to move forward.  There may be some areas of your life where you need to stay the course, others where you need to make a change.

Share your plan with a trusted friend or mentor for feedback.  Ask them to encourage you and hold you accountable to the new path you want to take.

Start doing some little intentional things so that you can begin to trade relief for victory. You might need to put some disciplines into your life that goes against your personality tendencies, so you can survive and thrive.

  • What is one area of your life where you think you might need to make a change sooner rather than later?  What is keeping you from acting?

Hebrews 3:15 (NLT) says “Today you must listen to his voice. Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled.”

When God calls ‘today’, and we don’t respond today, we get a little more set in our ways, a little more stubborn, a little harder on the inside. Don’t let the thief of Someday, steal another one of your days that you could be walking free and forgiven with God.


PRAYER

Break into small groups and share one place you feel God is calling you to act and take the next step. Pray for the discipline to follow God’s calling. Pray to be aware of what keeps you stuck and the courage to overcome it.

Week 4 - Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

Week 4 - Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

SERIES INTRODUCTION

In a world where so many people have such different views, how could it be possible that one view is greater than any other? What happened "in the beginning"? How great is God really? Was Jesus truly God or just a good man? Join us as we answer these questions and Explore God together in this new series

  •  We are embarking on the final 90 days of 2018. Share one thing you hope to do or accomplish by the end of the year.


SERMON GUIDE

Today I want to wrap up our Explore God series with the single most important question you may ever have to answer in your life: Who is Jesus?

Maybe you are in the seeking phase and want to know if there is any evidence to prove who Jesus is. Maybe you believe but have difficulty explaining to others why you believe in Him. Perhaps you’re going through a season of doubt, or you know someone who is, or you’re in circumstances that have you wondering or a college class that has you confused, and you wonder if what you say you believe about Jesus is really true.

  •  Take a moment to think over the above and share if any of the three situations describe where you are at today and why.

Jesus is probably the single most controversial figure who has ever walked this planet. Why is that?

The controversy is not:

  • Over the question of whether or not Jesus existed in history. That issue is settled. Just take a look at the calendar and you will see the year 2018. Whenever you see the year, remember that whatever else you may believe about Jesus, He is so important that He split all of history into two parts: everything that happened on this planet before Jesus Christ, and everything after Jesus Christ

  • The controversy about Jesus is not over His existence, and it’s not even over His teaching and basic ideology. Each of our religious experts—Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, and Christian—believed that Jesus was a good moral teacher.

The controversy that swirls around Jesus is all about the seemingly fantastic claims to be God in human form, to be God in the flesh.

Take turns reading the following verses: John 10:36, John 14:9, John 4:25-26 and Mark 14:61-62.

  • Who did Jesus say He was? Discuss what holds you or people in your life back from fully believing it?

Jesus made statements like, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father but by me.” Gene shared his conclusion, that Jesus was not making a statement of great arrogance, but rather of tremendous compassion and love. You see, if those words are true, then that is the single most important piece of information you will ever get in life.

The question we face is that if Jesus wasn’t God, then we have to ask, who was this historical person? Either Jesus is something much greater than a good moral teacher or He is something much less than a good moral teacher.

Years ago, the late C.S. Lewis, an Oxford professor who was an atheist and later became a follower of Jesus, referred to this as "the great trilemma." You really only have three options when it comes to the claims Jesus made about His own identity.

  1. He is a liar. The problem with this theory is this: Would a man known for his great moral teaching knowingly spread premeditated lies about his identity? How could you say Jesus was a great moral teacher if He was lying when He said, "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the father."?

  2. He is a lunatic. The problem with the lunatic theory is that experts in psychology who have studied the historical records of His life have determined that Jesus was a picture of emotional, relational, and psychological health.

  3. He really is the Lord.

If Jesus was who He claimed to be, the son of God, God in the flesh, there must be some substantiating evidence to back up this claim. Let's explore some of the evidence.

First, His sinless life. Jesus didn’t just make wild claims to be God, but He proved it by living a perfect life. Even Pilate said, “I find no fault in Him.”

Have someone read Luke 23:13-17.

A second piece of evidence to consider is what could be called the fingerprint evidence. Hundreds of years before Jesus walked on the planet, there were over 300 prophecies made in the Old Testament making it abundantly clear what the fingerprint of the life of the Savior of the world would look like. One of the most persuasive pieces of proof about the true identity of Jesus is that He alone fully fits the fingerprint evidence of prophecy in the Bible. If Jesus didn’t fulfill every single one of those prophecies to the letter, He couldn’t be God’s Son, the Savior of the world because the fingerprint evidence wouldn’t match.

Have someone read Isaiah 53:5 Micah 5:2, and Isaiah 7:14.

There is no religion in the world that has one viable, verifiable, believable prophecy except Christianity.

How can anyone genuinely account for these prophecies being fulfilled apart from the God who authored them?

I propose to you that the fingerprint evidence of prophecy is no less than the imprint of God and a powerful piece of evidence that points to Jesus being the son of God and Savior of the world.

There is one more realm of compelling evidence for us to look at proving that Jesus is not a Liar or Lunatic, but truly the Lord, and that is the resurrection evidence. First is the empty tomb itself.

Have someone read I Corinthians 15:3-11.

 The second piece of compelling evidence for the resurrection is the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. The reliable historians of the New Testament claim that over 500 witnesses saw, heard, and even touched His resurrected body.

The last piece of evidence is the Transformed Lives of His followers. The disciples were so convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead, that they gave their lives and died proclaiming His resurrection.

  • Our own story of transformation is a powerful entry into sharing about Jesus with others. What is evidence in your life of knowing Jesus that has transformed you?

History reveals that Peter, Andrew, Philip, Simon the Zealot, James the son of Alphaus, and Bartholomew were all crucified for their faith. Matthew and James the brother of John were put to death by the sword. Thaddeus was shot through with arrows. It’s believed that Paul was beheaded. Why? Because they had seen the risen Jesus and were willing to die for what they had seen and knew to be true. You see, friends, people don’t give their lives for a lie.

There were four major wounds Jesus endured before His death: He was nearly whipped to death, He was crowned with a crown of thorns, His hands and feet were nailed, and a spear pierced his heart. You can think of them as the four wounds of the cross.

Because of this we can say, Lord, thank you for being pierced with nails in your hands and feet and making the payment you did for all the things my hands and feet have done.

We can say, God thank you for being crushed and taking pain in your heart so all the stuff in my heart—the evil, the pride, the lust, the greed, the hate that’s not supposed to be there—could get out of me.

We can say Lord, thank you for the crown of thorns pressed into your head where you took all the fear, the worry, stress and anxiety. Thank you for the stripes on your back that bring healing to my life, relationships, marriage, kids, hurts.

  • Most of us struggle to initiate conversations or answer our friends’ questions. Knowing what we have learned today, share how you would answer the question "Who is Jesus?"


PRAYER

Break into smaller groups and spend time praying for each other to have courage to initiate conversations with people in your lives. Pray for those people and for opportunities to love them and share Christ with them.