Week 4 - Wingtips

Week 4 - Wingtips

Note to Leaders:

The summer semester ends Saturday, July 28, so this is the last sermon discussion guide that will be available until the new semester begins on September 23.  If you need something to study in the interim, email wjohnston@eastside.com for an invite to smallgroup.com, where you can choose from a ton of free curriculum.


SERIES INTRODUCTION

As much as we like our shoes, we need to occasionally step into others, or at least try them on. When we walk in each other's shoes and try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands. We become more patient, more kind, gentler, less judgmental, and less cynical. In this series, we're going to be putting ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.

  • Who is the most interesting person you have ever met and what makes them so interesting?


SERMON GUIDE

We’ve all had one of those nights when sleep eludes us and our mind races, full of questions. Nicodemus seemed to be having one of those nights and went to see Jesus. He might have gone at night because he was afraid to be seen with him in broad daylight. Nicodemus was a member of the Pharisees, a devout religious group, and was also part of their inner circle known as the Sanhedrin.  They were 70 of the sharpest Jewish intellectuals who were chosen to rule spiritually, and even to a degree politically, over the entire Jewish nation.  They were among the most powerful and influential leaders of their day.

Have someone read John 3:1-10.

Nicodemus came to Jesus with big questions, but Jesus answers a question Nicodemus didn't ask. Jesus read his heart and got to the very core of his problem. We have that same assurance when we approach Jesus, that he knows our heart, even when we struggle to find the words.

The phrase “born again” that Jesus uses literally translates, “born from above.” It references a heavenly birth or spiritual birth. This concept of re-birth, God's plan to give men and women a new heart, a new life, eternal life, was clearly revealed all throughout the Old Testament.

For instance, when he talks about the water and the Spirit here, Jesus is alluding to a passage in Ezekiel 36 that would have been very familiar to Nicodemus where God promised to wash his people with water, purify them of their cancerous, life-threatening sin condition, and replace their heart of stone with his very own heart.

Have someone read Ezekiel 36:25-27

It’s as if Jesus is lovingly saying to Nicodemus, “You know in your head and heart that there's something more. That's why you're here tonight: because you are sensing life doesn't work the way you’ve been taught.  You know there is this personal, transformational, 'born from above' relationship with God that changes everything. You can sense that in me, but you don't know how to get it.”

All Nicodemus knew to this point was religion filled with rituals, tradition, and rules on top of rules. Life consisted of trying to do enough good stuff to get noticed by God and other people.  Religion is like that today; it can have you running, striving, motivated by guilt, and feeling like you are never going to be good enough.

Jesus didn't only come to pay for the things we’ve done wrong but also to show us what God is really like. Jesus' exchange with Nicodemus shows He is always open to honest dialogue. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey you need to know God wants to hear your questions. He invites us to dig, research and probe.

  • Nicodemus has a limited perception of who Jesus is and what he stands for.  What perceptions might you have that limit your view of God?

Jesus always tried to find connecting points with whomever he was talking with because he recognizes our uniqueness and loves every one of us the same. He is s genuinely trying to reach Nicodemus in a way that he can understand.

  • Share a time Jesus met you right where you were on your faith journey.

Have someone read John 3:11-15 and Numbers 21:4-9.

  • Why do you think Jesus references this story in Numbers? How does it help us understand what Jesus is saying to Nicodemus?

Jesus was lifted up in shame before the world. But while the people of Moses' time only had glimpses of God's future plans to send Jesus to die on the cross, we today are blessed to be able to look back at that extraordinary act of love. Think back to what life was like before Jesus came into your life or during a season when you turned away from Him. We must never lose sight of just how far He has brought us.

Nicodemus was the one who heard Jesus say probably the most famous words in the Bible, John 3:16-17. Sometimes we get numb to these words. We see them on signs and billboards, but that night when Nicodemus sought out Jesus, these are the words he heard.

As a group read this verse aloud – “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Let those words sink in. There are four different books all about Jesus' life in the New Testament called the Gospels, and the word gospel simply means “good news.”  Of those four, only John's gospel mentions Nicodemus, and John mentions him three different times.

Have someone read John 7:48-53 and John 19:37-40.

Out of all the other stories about Jesus that John could have included, the story of Nicodemus’ journey of faith was recorded for us. Through these passages, we see him move from questioning to believing.

In John 19 we see two men meet up who had been hiding their faith in Jesus: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Nicodemus brings 75 pounds of super expensive spices with him to overpower the decaying stench of death. He washed Jesus’ body in spices and wrapped him in linen as an expression of gratitude, love and deep respect.  What a journey he took: Nicodemus, this intellectual who had arranged a secret meeting with Jesus at night, had moved from doubt to defense to devotion.

  • How does Nicodemus's story help us understand the type of real-life change God wants for our lives?

Jesus is always there for us today, just like he was for Nicodemus. In his perfect timing, he will answer our most difficult questions. It doesn’t matter who we are or what our status is, nothing is more important than coming face to face with the real Jesus. Through Nicodemus’ story, we learn that no matter how great our sacrifice, it can never compare to Christ's sacrifice for us.

  • What impact does God's mercy, love, and grace have on your relationship with Him? What impact can it have on your relationship with others?


PRAYER

Share someone in your life that needs to know Jesus. Pray that you would have an impact on their life and help them on their spiritual journey.

Week 3 - Workboots

Week 3 - Workboots

SERIES INTRODUCTION

As much as we like our shoes, we need to occasionally step into the shoes of others, or at least try them on. When we walk in each other's shoes and try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands. We become more patient, more kind, gentler, less judgmental, and less cynical. In this series, we're going to be putting ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.

  • Think of someone you respect and share one reason you value that person.


SERMON GUIDE

Today we're going to walk in the boots of a hard-working, blue-collar kind of guy. He's a tough, military guy who understood real authority. The Bible is clear on the appropriate response we are to have to those in authority over us. Unless it is contrary to how God has told us to live, we are to submit to those in authority.

Have someone read Ephesians 5:21.

The original word for 'submit' came from the military world, and it means to voluntarily place yourself under someone or something.

  • Have you ever been in a situation, either at work or in your personal relationships, where you had to submit, and it was a struggle? How did you overcome it?

Typically, we view authority as something that allows a leader to demand accountability.  The leader then gives affirmation if a job is done well, and ultimately the leader accepts the person based on their performance.

Jesus’ leadership style flips that on its head.  He accepted people because they were children of God, created in His image.  He affirmed them, and then called them to be accountable as a result of their being accepted and affirmed.

Jesus' kingdom is an inside out, upside down, counter-cultural kind of life. He modeled the humility and surrender that go hand in hand with true authority.  Real authority is not so much about your position, as it is your disposition and the way you treat people.

Have someone read Luke 7:1-10

A centurion was a Roman military officer who was responsible for the command of 100 soldiers, someone akin to a captain in the US Army. He would have worked his way up through the ranks of the highly structured Roman world.

Jewish elders came to Jesus asking on behalf of the centurion for Jesus to come and heal the centurion’s servant. This was a bit astonishing because the people of Palestine hated Roman occupation and Roman soldiers were notorious for powering up on people and flaunting their authority.

But this centurion was a good man.  He treated the Jews well—even building a synagogue for them, and he cared for his servant in a culture that viewed servants as slaves a property. He valued his servant as a person when others did not, and he doesn’t let his position go to his head, even telling Jesus that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his house.

 

Even though the centurion says he is not worthy, he still presents his request to Jesus and trusts that Jesus can and will act. We can do the same thing if we are willing to be humble and believe.

  • What is something in your life you need to pray with faith for God to intervene?

It says in verses 9 and 10 that Jesus was amazed. He was amazed at this soldier’s abundance of faith.

Philip Yancey writes in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, “Jesus never met a disease he couldn’t cure, a birth defect he could not reverse, a demon he could not exorcise. But he did meet skeptics he could not convince and sinners he could not convert.”

  • In what areas do you struggle to believe that God can and will act? Why is this area such a struggle for you?

Have someone read 1 Samuel 16:7.

We convince ourselves that we have to do good things to be amazing, but it is our heart that really matters. Jesus is not as impressed with titles, degrees, and achievements as we are. He is impressed with those who humbly trust him.

  • Share a time in your life when have you felt the need to do something to deserve Jesus's attention, instead of relying solely on faith.

Humility and surrender are common threads in each of the stories we have studied in this series. John the Baptist and the Samaritan woman both recognized Jesus real authority. Many people witnessed Jesus performing miracles and still walked away. They wanted to call their own shots and were not willing to humble themselves and surrender to someone else's leadership.

When we focus on ourselves it is impossible to be humble. That focus will only lead to self-destruction and being selfish. The key to a faith filled life and a better story is humility, surrendering to God's authority. Surrender opens our hearts to the work of God in us. It allows Him the freedom to direct and correct our lives.

The greatness of a person is in direct proportion to their measure of surrender.

  • When you consider the realities of your day to day life, rate how surrendered you are to Jesus on a scale from one (not at all surrendered) to five (fully surrendered). What would it take for you to move one step closer to fully surrendered?


Prayer

This week commit to praying the prayer Mike shared each day this week:

Lord, I'm here again, I'll follow you each moment today as You give me grace. I'm not making any big time, dramatic commitments today. I'm just going to surrender my day and trust You with my life every step of the way, today. I will be sensitive to your Holy Spirit as He leads me to do the right thing. I will hide your Word in my heart so that it can speak to me right in the middle of tough decisions. I will listen well. I will rely on your strength, your peace, and your grace and once again, Jesus, I place myself under your loving authority today.

Week 2 - Stilettos

Week 2 - Stilettos

SERIES INTRODUCTION

As much as we like our shoes, we need to occasionally step into others, or at least try them on. When we walk in each other's shoes and try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands. We become more patient, more kind, more gentle, less judgmental, and less cynical. In this series, we're going to be putting ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.


SERMON GUIDE

This week we step into a pair of stilettos. Why stilettos? They represent the sultry past of the woman who we are learning about today. She had a reputation that caused people to gather and whisper about her.

  • Can you recall an experience when you felt or knew others were talking about you negatively? How did you feel?

Have someone read John 4:1-9.

Our story begins with corrupt religious leaders trying to stir up an unhealthy, petty competition between Jesus and the guy we talked about last week, his flip-flop wearing, locust-eating cousin, John the Baptist. When Jesus heard about the controversy, he decided to leave town, because he wasn't going to fuel any of that crazy talk.

We read in verse 4 that Jesus had to go through Samaria. This was very unusual, because Jews would never go to Samaria. These people despised each other. Jews believed that to merely be in the presence of a Samaritan made them unclean. They would automatically go to the Temple to have a priest ceremonially wash them. Jews believed that no Samaritan would ever be allowed into the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this had something to do with why Jesus HAD to go there.

Jesus reached the Samaritan village of Sychar, and being tired from the journey, sat down by the well. It was around noon, which meant the well would have likely been deserted. In that culture, the village women would all go to the well to draw water at dawn or sundown when it was cooler. As our stiletto-representing Samaritan woman approached the well, she probably wasn’t too happy to see Jesus sitting beside it. She had come to the well at noon to avoid encountering anyone else there—the small-town gossip, the whispers, the glares.

  • Have there been moments in your life when you went out of your way to avoid seeing people, to avoid feeling hurt by them?

When the Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"

It seems like a simple question to us, but it was considered outrageous for a Jewish man to ask to drink from a Samaritan vessel, touched by a Samaritan woman.

John 4:9:  "The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?" (NLT)

One of the great things about Jesus is that He is inclusive. He loves to break through barriers. He sees past our flaws, our pasts and all the mistakes we have made. Thankfully, He meets us right where we are now. Jesus went to Samaria because He seeks out all the lost sheep. There are no exclusions; His love is for anyone willing to believe. The woman needed someone who would talk to her and not about her; someone who would see beyond her bad choices.

  • Jesus met this woman right in the midst of her trying to hide from those around her. He approached her anyway. Can you think of a time when God met you right where you were at and helped you in your situation not because you deserved it, but because you needed Him?

Have someone read John 4:10-15.

Jesus engaged with the Samaritan women and spoke of offering her living water. She questioned him, seeing that he didn't have a rope or bucket. They bantered back and forth. She also might have been wondering who is this and what is going on. She was jaded and cynical. She had seen a lot of life and experienced a great deal of pain.

When Jesus was talking about never being thirsty, it was about so much more than water. He knew what she was really thirsty for in life and how she was trying to quench that thirst. Our surface attempts to fill our deepest needs only last a little while, and soon we become thirsty again. For instance, we try to numb our pain with substance abuse. We look at pornography to fill a need for intimacy. We strive and over-perform to fill our need for acceptance. We spend more than we should or have to quench the desire for significance.

Have someone read Jeremiah 2:13.

The cisterns described here were large reservoirs carved out of the solid rock in the ground and used to hold water from rain fall. They could be up to 20 feet deep with a narrower, two- to three-foot opening at the top. They were coated with plaster to keep the water from seeping out, but cracks sometimes developed anyway, causing the water to leak into the surrounding earth, leaving those who relied on the cistern’s supply disappointed and sometimes desperate. Here in Jeremiah, God is being likened to a natural spring or fountain that has a continual (“living”) supply of pure, sparkling, refreshing water. He laments the folly of His people for forsaking this wonderful fountain and instead carving out their own, man-made cisterns that were cracked and ultimately useless. The people referred to in Jeremiah had stopped loving and relying on God, and the choices they were making were ruining them.

  • Have you experienced some broken cisterns in your life?

Jesus knows our deepest desires. He promises that if we come to Him to meet our needs, we will never be thirsty again. He's the spring, the source of living water.

While this woman was wondering how Jesus could get to the deep places of Jacob's well without a rope and bucket, he was reaching deep into the well of her life and saw her desperate thirst to be loved. The love she had experienced had run dry many times. She was longing for more, a richer, purer love only Jesus could offer.

Have someone read John 4:16-26.

As she turned to leave, Jesus told her to go and get her husband. Those words stopped her dead in her tracks, and she replied, "I have no husband." Jesus response went right to the deepest places in her life—the shame, pain, and humiliation she felt.

Imagine how she must have felt to have her past, her most profound shame spoken of out loud. She did what many of us would do—diverting the subject, bringing up issues between the Jews and Samaritans. We do the same thing. It can get too personal and painful to focus on our choices and our life, so we change the subject.

Jesus brought it back around saying God wants worshippers who will worship in spirit and truth. When she responded, saying the Messiah will come and will explain everything to us, Jesus tells her,"I am the Messiah." This is the only time before his trial that Jesus made that admission. And this hurt, stiletto-reputation-wearing, outcast woman is the person he chose to hear it.

Have someone read John 4:28-30, 39-42.

When the woman realized just who it was that had been speaking with her, she left her bucket—kicked off her stilettos, her past—and ran back into town to tell the amazing news to the very people she had been trying to avoid. She was saying, "You gotta to see this, I'm telling you HOPE is sitting by the well!"

Jesus never refuses you. Not only does He know your deepest thirst, but Jesus can redeem any life. The definition of to redeem is to make something acceptable, to restore one’s reputation, atone for human sin, or buy something back. Jesus does all those things. He went to a cross to atone for human sin, to purchase our freedom, to buy back our wasted years. Through his blood, our reputations are restored, and we've been made into something acceptable!

Psalm 130:7:  “…Put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption." (NLT)
Psalm 107:9:  “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (NLT)

When the Samaritan woman ran back to her village, she left behind her water jar. When we have an encounter with Jesus we may leave some things behind. Sometimes we need help and support to move forward and make peace with our past, but it no longer defines us.

She couldn't wait to share about her encounter with Jesus and bring back others to meet him.

  • What changed in your life after you became a follower of Jesus? What did you leave behind that isn’t you anymore?

Jesus is in the business of redeeming us. He recycles mistakes and pain and failure and even uses them for His good purposes.

This woman's story can be your story, too. He will meet you right where you are, as you are and whatever emptiness you're bringing with you. Whatever it is in you that is shattered, He wants to buy it back, atone for it, restore your reputation, and make you live every day in the awareness that you are accepted and dearly loved by a holy God.

Week 1 - Flip Flops

Week 1 - Flip Flops

Series Introduction                    

Jesus came to accept the punishment for the things we’ve done wrong so that we can be forgiven and freed and reconciled to God, but He also came to show us what God is like.  When we begin to study Jesus, we realize that God is not the big guy in the sky waiting for us to slip up so that He can drop the hammer on us, but rather He is a God who loves us, delights in us, includes us.

And we know this because over and over Jesus hung out with all kinds of “undesirables,” showing us that there is no such thing as an undesirable in the eyes of God.  In fact, the people that were least like Jesus, liked Jesus, and Jesus liked them.  And this gives us hope that He likes us too, even when maybe we don’t like ourselves.

There’s a saying that you can’t truly understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  Jesus had an uncanny ability to empathize with people.  So every time we try to walk in each other’s shoes, try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands, and we become a little more like Jesus: more patient, more tactful, more gentle, kinder, less judgmental, less cynical.

For the next several weeks we’ll put ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.  We’ll see real people like us: people from different backgrounds, heritages, and family dynamics; people with real issues, real struggles, real questions, real hopes, and real dreams.  And we hope you will be as captivated as we are by the way Jesus meets them right where they are, the way he loves them, encourages them, challenges them; the way He sees deep inside and speaks right into the dark crevices of their soul, and hopefully, each week we will walk away changed, as they were.

  • What is one thing that you find intriguing about the way Jesus lived?


Sermon Guide

Flip-flops represent the type of person who is a simple, creative, outdoor-loving, non-conformist free-spirit.  That would certainly describe a guy known as John the Baptist.  Like Jesus, he died when he was around 30, cruelly executed by a corrupt politician. There’s not much written about him, but prior to the arrival of Jesus, this flip-flop wearing desert-dude may have been the greatest man who ever lived.

His resume may not be as impressive as others.  He never really led anything, never conquered lands or enemy armies, never wrote a best seller, never won an Oscar or Nobel Prize, and he certainly didn’t have the look that typically reflects greatness.

Some folks who’ve read through the Bible might disagree and say, “No way, what about Abraham? Moses? David? Daniel? Elijah?”

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:28.

So, what was there about John that elicited that kind of praise from Jesus? What’s it take to live a stellar life? Who or what measures true success? What defines legacy? How do you become “great” in Jesus’ eyes? Well, let’s slip our toes into John’s flip flops and maybe we’ll learn.

  • How do you define greatness?

John just tried to be who God made him to be. He saw himself as one of a kind, but not in a prideful or rebellious way.  He embraced his originality. He was comfortable in his own skin. John was a very unique character in a lot of ways, starting with his birth.

Have volunteers read Luke 1:5-25, 57-66.

So John had a pretty unique birth, but then again, aren’t they all? Whether you were born in a hospital, at home, in a bathtub, on a boat, or in the back seat of a taxi, your birth was unlike anyone else’s, because YOU are unlike anyone else.

Have volunteers read Psalm 139:13-16.

Here’s the deal, we’re all one-of-a-kind, limited-edition models.  God created you uniquely, and he takes great delight in watching you be you. He loves your noes, your lips, your eyes, your hair (or lack thereof. He loves your acne, your wrinkles, your bulging biceps, your love handles, your voice, your walk, your laugh…. He loves you, the one and only you, His marvelous workmanship, and there’s no one quite like you.

John Ortberg says, “When you allow the Holy Spirit to work inside of you, you don’t just become holier, you become you-ier.”  You become God’s best version of yourself.

  • What are some of the positive things that make you unique?  What are some of the good things people notice in you or notice you for?

Have volunteers read Luke 7:24-26 and Mark 1:6.

John was certainly a unique individual, a non-conformist, and certainly a big contrast to the religious leaders of the day. They were dressed in the finest apparel, and John was dressed in simple thrift store clothes. He was a strong, weathered, outdoor guy who ate a low carb, high protein diet.  He probably had crazy long hair and maybe even a few tattoos. He was counter-cultural and unique in just about every way, and he had a unique calling on his life.

Have a volunteer read Mark 1:1-5.

John was the messenger that had been prophesied. He pointed people back to God and paved the way for Jesus.  We all have different gifts, abilities, personalities, opportunities, and roles to fill.  During this season of your life you might need to be a great mom, dad, son, brother, mentor, neighbor, sister, daughter, husband, wife boss, employee, coworker, entrepreneur, taxi-driver, store clerk, welder, machinist, pilot, teacher, student or CEO.

Wherever you find yourself, God is calling you to use the unique gifts, talents, ability, and personality He has given you to make an impact on the lives of others.

  • What are some ways you can use the unique way God has wired you to serve and love others in the roles, situations, and places you find yourself every day?

Lots of people were curious about this radical dude from the desert. He was saying fresh, eye-opening, challenging, hopeful things that no other religious type was saying.  He was authentic, and people were drawn to that.  When word gets out about him, all these corrupt, power-hungry, hypocritical religious leaders start showing up in the crowds, and when they showed up, John didn’t hold back.

Have a volunteer read Luke 3:7-14.

Sometimes to be truly great you have to courageously say or do things that are not popular. This doesn’t mean doing what some Christians have done and attacking people who don’t know Jesus. (You’ll notice John’s harsh statements were to the religious folk.) You have to speak courageously with wisdom and love, but sometimes you do have to speak up and say things that are unpopular, things that might invoke some pretty harsh criticism, unfounded accusations, and slander, even dangerous opposition.

John not only exposed the religious leaders as phonies, he also spoke God’s truth to a very high ranking political figure, and it ended up costing him his life.

Sometimes truth isn’t easy. It might get you in trouble.  But to run from a difficult conversation that could help somebody, to stay silent when injustice abuses the innocent, is not the way of love, and it’s not the way of greatness.

Have a volunteer read Hebrews 4:12.

Every time we open our mouth, it ought to be filled with grace, knowing that all of us stand in need of it, but every time God’s truth is spoken it does something beyond our control. It lands in different ways on different hearts, and hopefully when we speak God’s truth, it pierces our own hearts as well.

  • When is a time you had to speak a difficult truth to someone else?

  • When is a time you’ve had to be on the receiving end of a difficult truth? What did the other person do to help you receive that difficult message?

John didn’t have an easy life.  He had to deliver a unique message, in his unique way because he was a unique, one-of-a-kind limited-edition, created by God for his good purposes.  And so are you!  When you are the best version of yourself, God smiles as He sees you on the path to greatness.

Have a volunteer read John 3:22-28.

There was something else that made John great in Jesus’ eyes. He didn’t see himself as the greatest in his own eyes.  It’s easy to turn, “You be uniquely you” into a self-centered attitude that says, “Hey, I gotta be me. That’s just the way I am, so deal with it!” There’s no humility—no greatness—in that.

Truly great people are lousy self-promoters.  John’s words are powerful and a model for us, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Right before Jesus would be arrested and crucified, he was hanging out with his closest friends, and they start arguing about who was going to be the greatest when Jesus set up His kingdom.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:25-28.

Not so with you. Jesus says, don’t be self-serving, glory-seeking self-promoters like everyone else.  Then He was crucified to show us what it means for the strong to serve the weak, the big to serve the small, the great to serve the lesser.

  • How can you point people to Jesus rather than keeping the spotlight on yourself?

The third thing that made John great, another characteristic of truly great people, is that he lived in such authentic community with God that he could be honest with God.  When John is imprisoned, he just gets real honest with Jesus.

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:19-23.

When you have an ongoing authentic relationship with God, you can ask Him or tell Him anything. You can bring your doubts, your fears, your anxiety, your pain, your frustration, your confusion and just be honest with Him.  In fact, he wants us to do just that.

Doubt and distrust are two different things.  Distrust says, “God, I don’t think you can do it.” Doubt says, “God, I trust you, but I could use a little reassurance right now. I’m scared. The cancer sucks. The job loss frightens me.”   When life gets tough—as it does and will for all of us—you can be honest with God like John was, because truly great people can stand strong knowing eternity is theirs.

  • What can you do to develop a more honest relationship with God?

John was willing to live a life so full of purpose and passion that if he had to die for the kingdom of God, he was okay with that. He reasoned, if Jesus, the Lamb of God, was going die for him, make a way to heaven for him, then there was no way he could hold back the intensity of his love and gratitude. If we could interview John in heaven right now, he would assure us that following Jesus with wholehearted devotion is absolutely worth it and that he’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

The final chapter of John’s life plays out like a lurid soap opera or an episode of Dateline, complete with tangled relationships, lustful passions, political intrigue, drunken decisions, violent murder, and unresolved guilt.

Herod was a Jewish politician who oversaw this particular geographic region in the Roman Empire.  Herod had dumped his own wife and stolen his brother’s wife. John speaks into the moral corruption, calls Herod—the so-called leader of God’s people—out. So to shut him up for a while, Herod throws him in prison.

While Herod didn’t appreciate the hard truth, he was intrigued by John’s deep character and courage.  There was something about this flip-flop wearing desert-dude that Herod kinda admired.  Herodias on the other hand, couldn’t stand him. Her attitude was, “Who does this long-haired, locust eating, camel-skin, hippie freak think he is, telling royalty how to live?”

She wants to kill him, but can’t pull it off without Herod’s approval. Her chance comes on Herod’s birthday. They throw a big party.  The wine was flowing, and his daughter comes in a does some kind of sexy dance that gets Herod and his buddies excited. So when he is turned on and tanked up this creepy man says…

Have a volunteer read Mark 6:23-29.

You say, “What a tragic end.” To be sure, it appears to be, but when John’s disciples came and got his body, John had already slipped out of his flip flops and into eternal life.

When you unconditionally trust God, when you know that the death and resurrection of Jesus have made a way for you to live forever, then you can live like you’ll die tomorrow and die knowing you’ll live forever. When you no longer fear death, you no longer fear life. You’re free to take faith-filled risks, to step out courageously and live with passion and boldness.

  • In what area of your life do you need to take a risk for God?

 

Week 4 - Trust

Week 4 - Trust

Series Introduction

Trusting God fully in an area we tend to hold onto tightly.

  • Share one of your favorite summer memories growing up.


Sermon Discussion

Over the last few weeks we have been learning and applying a very simple biblically based plan for managing our finances called the 100 Plan. The plan calls for us to honor God with the first 10% of our income, save the second 10%, and trust God enough to live on the other 80%.

  • Would you describe yourself as a trusting person? When you think of your spiritual journey, how would you rate your trust of God on a scale of 1-5? Why?

The word for "test" is a significant word in the Bible. It's often used to describe God testing His people.

Have someone read John 6:6.

Just before Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 people, He asked one of His disciples, Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" Jesus was testing Philip's level of trust. He was seeing if Philip believed he could supply the food for thousands of people. We see by Philip's question that he didn't trust that Jesus could feed them all.

Many of us know the story of how Jesus miraculously supplied food for this crowd of 5,000 men, probably 20,000 people in total, with just five small loaves and two fish. Imagine the conversation at the end of the day between Jesus and Philip. Did Jesus turn to him and say “You didn’t think I could do it, did you?  Come on Philip, when are you going to learn that God can be trusted?”

Have someone read John 6:10-14.

This miracle was a sign to the disciples that Jesus could be trusted. Numerous stories throughout the Bible show us people that were tested by God.

  • When you think about the 100 Plan, what is the one area you most need to trust God with?

Have someone read I Kings 17:8-16.

The widow of Zarephath was a single mom. She was alone and frightened. She was running out of food and found herself preparing to cook their last meal. She was pretty sure they would die, with no food left in their home. Culturally she didn't have the option of working a respectable job.

The prophet Elijah was sent by God to find her. He approached her and asked her for a cup of water and bread. When she responds that she has all but a bit of flour left, Elijah tells her not to be afraid. He asks her to bake a little loaf of bread before cooking her last meal. Elijah tells her that the Lord has made a promise to her that if she does this, she will never be hungry again. She took that step of faith, trusted Elijah and gave all of her food to him. In return, there was food every day for Elijah, the woman, and her family.

God promises that if we trust Him first with our resources, He will supply our needs.

Have someone read Philippians 4:19.

Paul writes that we can trust God with all of our needs. Gene shared the story of a single mom he met at a church in Illinois. She was unemployed, going to school and was challenged by someone to tithe the first 10 percent, even her unemployment. She was scared to take that first step but ultimately decided to trust God to bless her faithfulness. Three years later God had provided at every turn. Mechanics helped fix her car when she didn't know how she could afford to fix it, and unexpected checks arrived in the mail just at the right time. Maybe you have experienced this or have friends who have shared similar stories. People who trust God have these kinds of stories of sowing generously and reaping generously.

Even though she had very little to give and was going through hard times, God put her to the test. She offered to God first before she did anything else with what she had and learned God could be trusted.

Gene shared his story of learning to trust God, both in good and hard times. Throughout his life, he has seen God's provision and how God used challenging times to prepare him for his future. We never know how God will use the trials in our life and turn them into meaningful moments. We have the choice to trust Him in times of financial or emotional need.

When Cheri, who runs the small group ministry for the Anaheim campus, was struggling to find peace with her past, she cried out to the Lord asking him to show her that He was there. At midnight that very night she received a Facebook message from an old friend.  He felt God prompting him to share a verse with Cheri that directly related to her struggle.

  • Share a time you have trusted God and seen amazing provision.

God has said over and over again in His Word, "If you'll trust me and put me to the test, I will pour out a blessing on your life so great that you won't be able to take it in."

Have someone read Malachi 3:9-12.

Malachi was urging the people to open their hearts and let go of fear. They were afraid of losing what they had worked so hard for in life. They misjudged God for he has a way of taking our little bits and multiplying them.

Now some of you are wondering, "What is it God has promised to re-supply?  What's the scope of this promise?"

When you honor God first in your life, when you trust Him, He will meet all your needs, including your financial and material needs. Some of the different ways he does this are:

  • Increased income or lowered expenses.

  • Cars or appliances lasting longer than they should.

  • Good health.

  • Sparing us from financial problems we never realize could have happened.

One way or another, God will re-supply to those who put Him to the test, honoring Him first with their resources.

1.     He provides for our emotional and relational needs.

God knows when we need a friend, an extra touch of encouragement or knows that we are just worn out. He knows when we are fearful, grieving or worried, waiting on test results. When we are trusting God with everything, it is crazy how he will meet us, bringing us a person, a text or a promise from His word. Hopefully, everyone has experienced a moment where we know God heard and met us. In those moments we see Jesus and our experiences encourage others that they can trust the Lord

  • Share a time you were at the end of your rope, and God brought someone in your life to encourage you.

2.     He provides the deepest needs of our soul.

We have experienced those dark times when it feels like we can't take one more moment, where we feel so alone and forgotten. In those moments we can talk to Him, cling to God’s promises in Scripture, or even sing the simple yet powerful words of Jesus Loves Me as Gene did. He meets us in those moments, bringing us peace.

God promises to meet all of our needs. He invites us to trust him with our material, spiritual, emotional and relational needs. He challenges us to test Him. Until we take that step, we will never know whether we can truly trust Him.

  • How has the 100 Series impacted your thoughts on personal finances? Would anyone like to share any changes or challenges that you have faced?


Prayer

Break into groups of two to three people and share one area of your life where you need to trust God. Then pray for each other, asking God to give you the faith you need to trust him completely.

If you have never taken Financial Peace University, now is the time to jump in. This course by Dave Ramsey will take you further and faster in this area. We are beginning another round starting July 12 in Southern California, and at-home study kits are available in Park Rapids. More information is available at eastside.com/events.

 

Father's Day - The Story of a Remarkable Father

Father's Day - The Story of a Remarkable Father

Series Introduction           

What is one fond memory you have of either your father or a father figure in your life?


Sermon Introduction

Gene shared the story of the remarkable father and the prodigal son, along with three characteristics of remarkable fathers.

The first characteristic is that remarkable fathers often possess unconventional wisdom.

Have someone read Luke 15:11-19.

In this passage, Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son to a diverse group of people. He speaks of a son who has grown tired of life at home. He wants to go far away and live how he pleases, so he boldly asks his father for his part of his inheritance now, essentially saying to his father, “You’re worth more to me dead than alive.”

Even though it would have been controversial, and the father had to know it wouldn't end well, he did what the son requested. Sometimes parents have to make decisions that are hard. He had determined that his son had finally reached a point in his life that he wasn't going to learn in any other way.

The Bible says in Hebrews that God disciplines those He loves. Sometimes our Heavenly Father lets us go through tough stuff as a way of helping us grow when we've demonstrated we can't grow in any other way. God says, "You want to be the god of your universe for a while, well I'll step back and see how it goes.  You pack your bags and go off to a distant land for a while."

Sometimes God allows us to bottom-out physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or relationally.  It's tough love, and we’ve all been on both the giving and the receiving end of tough love.

  • Share a time you’ve had to give tough love.

The son goes through all of his money, his entire inheritance, wasting it all away on parties and prostitutes. He has let go of the values of his family and is making choices that are harmful to him. Soon his whole life is spinning out of control. The son ends up broken, penniless, and bankrupt.  He ends up doing something no Jewish man would do: he gets a job feeding pigs and is so hungry he wishes he could eat the food he is giving to the pigs.

These feelings lead him to think, “What I wouldn't give for a second chance. What I wouldn't give for a fresh start and new beginning.” Gratefully, our Heavenly Father does some of His greatest miracles in the pigpens of our lives.

  • When is a time in life you’ve been in transition, looking for a second chance, a fresh start, or a new beginning?

Have someone read Luke 15:20-29.

The boy decides to go home and beg for forgiveness.  He is willing to be a servant rather than a son, if only his father will take him back into his household.

Then the craziest thing happens, while the boy is still a long way off his father sees him and is filled with compassion for him. The father runs to his son, throws his arms around him and hugs him and kisses him.

The second characteristic of a remarkable father is that he possesses an expressive love.                        

The most important characteristic of a remarkable father, a father who portrays what God his like to his children, is the ability to instill in a child the sense that he or she is truly, deeply loved.

Three practical tools to express love are a look, a word, and a touch.

A simple look can convey a range of emotions.  The father saw the son; he made eye contact with him as he ran to embrace him.

Words are powerful, and all children need re-enforcing words that let them know they are treasured and loved, and you believe in them. If we are honest, we are all like children in this way. We want to know that we are loved, that the people we care about believe in us.

Not everyone had a remarkable dad, a dad who demonstrated love with loving looks, embraces, and words, but regardless of our upbringing, today we have a remarkable Father who loves us.

In the story, this remarkable dad says for all to hear, "This son of mine was lost, but now he is found."  He is speaking words of affirmation.

  • Who in your life who needs your forgiveness or needs to hear how much they mean to you?

Have someone read I John 3:1.

Scripture teaches us how much our Heavenly Father loves us, and God has given us the Churchin, in which we can  experience community with other believers who will encourage us and believe in us.

Through this story we see this remarkable father not only possessed unconventional wisdom, and expressive love but was also full of extravagant forgiveness. In Middle Eastern culture, if a son wasted his inheritance, he would not have been received with open arms. Instead, the people in the village would go with the father and smash vases before the son as a symbol of shunning and ex-communication.

But this father did the opposite, embracing his son, forgiving him and celebrating his return. Many of us know what it is like to feel the consequences of our bad choices. We might not know what it is like to be shunned by a community, but we have had someone turn their back on us, someone we cared about who chose to exclude us from their life. Maybe we have done this to someone else.

Jesus tells us this story in Luke to give us a picture of how much God loves us, how much he longs for us to run to Him and experience his total and complete forgiveness. We don't have to be perfect and wait until we have our act together. We can come to Him messy and broken.

Forgiveness is costly. It requires giving up the right to feel slighted, loving people who have hurt us or let us down. It is messy and difficult, but who of us has never been in a place where we have needed that kind of forgiveness? When we choose to forgive, we give people a picture of what it is like to have a Heavenly Father who is anxious to forgive.

  • What can you do to create an atmosphere in your home that signals to your kids, family or close friends know that if they return they will receive extravagant forgiveness?

Have someone read Luke 15: 31-32.

Jesus said there is rejoicing among the angels in heaven when one sinner turns God's direction.

If you're a follower of Jesus, but you've been stuck in guilt, shame fear and feelings of unworthiness and disappointing God, remember that God ran to you and He has never let you go.  He's right there with you. It's time to stop running away and run into His arms.

Gene shared the quote "It's never too late to be who you might have been."  It's never too late to become God's best version of you, the you that He had in mind when He made you.

  • In what area of your life do you want to become God’s best version of yourself? What is the next step you can take to make that a reality?


Prayer

Break into groups of two to three people and share something that spoke to you in this study, something that you feel you should address in your life. Pray for each other to have wisdom and courage to love expressively and forgive extravagantly.

Week 2 - Peace for Financial Storms

Week 2 - Peace for Financial Storms

Series Introduction

Trusting God fully in an area we tend to hold onto tightly.

  • What’s one fun thing you’d like to do this summer that doesn’t cost any money?


Sermon Introduction

Each of us has experienced, will experience, or is in the midst of a financial storm. Sometimes short-term financial emergencies look like separate, unconnected incidents, but the truth is, repeated events like these are a sign of a larger problem.

  • Where do you turn when you’re experiencing a financial crisis?

It is almost inevitable that at some point in our lives we will experience a more cataclysmic financial event: a significant illness, the loss of a job, a recession, etc. These events can cripple us if we are not prepared.

The Bible has 2350 verses dealing with money, possessions, and management of our stuff.

Jesus taught more about this subject than any other. He didn't do this because He wants something from us; He wants something for us. He wants us to live with less financial anxiety and more peace.

  • What has been creating financial stress for you recently?

Last weekend Gene explained a very simple financial plan, based on the wisdom of God's Word, that works for people at any income level. We’re calling it the 100 plan. It’s something Gene and Barbara have adhered to for the entire 25 years of their marriage. It’s often called the 10+10+80 plan or the give, save & spend plan.

The first “10” represents taking the first 10% of your income and honoring God by tithing: giving to the local church that you're a part of.

The second “10” is what we're talking about today. This is where we take the next 10% and save it to prepare for the financial storms that will come in the future.

As a group, take turns reading Genesis 41:1-39.

Genesis 41 tells the story of an economic storm that hit Egypt during the time of Joseph. Through an incredible series of events, Joseph ultimately became the person second-in-command to Pharaoh.

After being sold into slavery by his brothers and later thrown into prison by Potiphar for something he didn’t do, it may have appeared that Joseph's life was doomed. But God gave Joseph the ability to interpret a troubling dream of Pharaoh's, revealing that Egypt would experience seven years of great agricultural prosperity followed by a devastating economic storm: seven years of famine (likely caused by drought). Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of preparing the nation for this coming economic storm.

Have someone read Genesis 41:47-49.

Joseph was wise enough in that time of prosperity to prepare for the financial storms of the future. Today we live in a time of economic prosperity. We tend to assume that as we progress in our jobs and careers, our incomes will gradually increase. This isn’t true for everyone, but for most of us, our income does go up over time. Unfortunately, instead of using this era of prosperity to increase reserves and save for a rainy day, many Americans are buying more, charging more, financing more, spending more, and saving very little.

Have someone read Proverbs 21:20.

Statistics say that, regardless of income, 8 out of 10 Americans live exactly like this. That means 80% of us today are applying the increases in our prosperity to spending, not to saving, leaving ourselves with woefully insufficient savings. Let's be honest, if you live this way, sooner or later there is no financial peace.

Joseph was wise enough in times of prosperity to prepare for the financial storms of the future. He was wise enough to create margin.

Have someone read Genesis 41:53.

It might surprise you to learn you don't have to make a lot of money to accumulate a lot of money. Over time, small amounts of money grow and grow to incredible levels through an amazing thing called compound interest.

Many of us think our circumstances are too tough and too tight to save anything. We keep waiting until we have a larger amount to get going. We don’t need to wait.

If you're 25 years old right now and you save $2.75 a day (which is half of many people’s daily cappuccino budget) and continue until you're 65, your savings would be a little over $40,000. However, through the miracle of compound interest, that $40,000 would grow to over $1.1 million. At $2.75 a day for 40 years, over $40,000 would make you a millionaire with just your coffee money!

That is significant and life changing! We can start small and build on that over the course of our lives.

  • If you’re currently saving enough for the future, what changes did you have to make to get started?  If you’re not, what are one or two changes you can make to increase your savings.

Have someone read Proverbs 13:11.

The question to ask yourself and to spend time in prayer about is how could you start creating margin in your financial picture. Consider where you could find the money to start or increase saving. Gene gave several examples of easy ways to save money.

  • Share meals at restaurants

  • Bring lunch to work, eat out less

  • Order water when eating out

  • Make your own coffee

  • Cut cable TV

  • Review your bills yearly to see if there are better options

  • Buy on sale, never pay full price

Dave Ramsey estimates the average family could save $200 a month. And $200 a month invested over 20 years with compound interest could grow to $150,000 for your future, just because you eat out less.

  • When you look at that list and add up the potential savings, how much do you think you could save a month?

Gene also shared ideas that we might consider more radical, like buying used cars for cash or moving into a smaller home.

80% of Americans today are under financial stress. It may be that unless you do something radically different, you will be, too. If you want to experience peace through the financial storms of life, you must create margin.

  • How would your life change if you weren’t under financial stress?

One of Gene's recommendations this weekend was to consider automating things like tithes and contributions to a 401K. If we don't see it, we don't miss it. When we automate these things, we are never tempted to spend it elsewhere. We make God a priority when we give Him our first fruits.

  • Do you automate tithing and savings? Why or why not?

If you want financial peace, take the first steps today to doing things differently. Identify something you could take out of your life so you could create margin and have peace to weather the inevitable financial storms. Take time this week to think about what choices you could make that would end up making a big difference.


Prayer

Break into groups of two to three people and share one thing you could give up or change to save for your future. Then pray for each other, asking God to give you the discipline to say no to spending and yes to choosing financial peace.

If you have never taken Financial Peace University, now is the time to jump in. This course by Dave Ramsey will take you further and faster in this area. We are beginning another round starting July 12 in Southern California, and at-home study kits are available in Park Rapids. More information is available at eastside.com/events.

Week 1 - All in

Week 1 - All in

Series Introduction

Trusting God fully in an area we tend to hold onto tightly.

  • What is your one area in your life you hold onto tightly and struggle to trust God in?


Sermon Introduction

We might not be aware of this, but finance is an area that most of us take a test in every few weeks. It is an area that God uses to test our hearts, our commitments and to test our trust in Him. Every time you get paid, every time you get some income, it is a test of where your heart is.

Have someone read Matthew 6:21.

God doesn’t want part of you, He wants all 100% of you. Jesus was asked what is the greatest command in life and we read that he said all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. It is pretty clear, how we manage our treasure is a heart test that reveals what we’re committed to.

Have someone read Matthew 22:37.

When it comes to the subject of money we have all kinds of different money management styles. Money is one of the biggest sources of conflict in many marriages and relationships. Gene shares that it’s not been a source of conflict for he and Barbara because they have chosen to live by the 100 plan (more on that later).

Gene says that this plan is one of the most life-changing things God has done for him, and God can radically and miraculously transform this area in your life as well.

  • In your home growing up or in your home today, is money a source of stress and conflict? If yes, how did your family/or you address it? If not, how did you get to a place where you feel confident and peaceful about your finances.

Often, our parents become our role model for how we handle our finances, for good and bad. If we are not actively aware of it, we may inherit their poor financial choices, but the great news is there is hope. We have the opportunity, no matter where we are financially, to start making wise choices.  

Over the course of this series we will go through God’s 3-part financial plan. We call it the 100 plan, and it’s so simple all of us can follow it.

Here is the plan:  10 + 10 + 80 = 100.

The first 10, represents taking the first 10% of your income and honoring God by tithing: giving to the local church that you’re a part of and connected to. That is what we are talking about this week. We honor God first and best and then He promises to bless the rest.

The second 10, is to take the next 10%, save it and get compound interest working for you.

The 80 means you take the final 80% and spend it on everything else, trusting God.

Often, we approach things in the opposite order, spending first and then saving and giving only if there is anything left. Both Scripture and our own experience teach us that this sequence doesn’t work.

Choosing to follow this sequence, we create a ME, ME, GOD plan, and put God in last place. We give Him our leftovers, instead of bringing him our first and best, and God cannot bless any area of your life, where you are not putting him first.

Have someone read Deuteronomy 14:23.

Honoring God first with your giving represents a heart test for a follower of Jesus.

It tests your trust in God, are you putting God first or not? If we’re honest, the reason many of us struggle is what the apostle Paul called, “the love of money.” Jesus called it greed.

Have someone read Luke 12:13-21.

Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people and someone interrupts him with an invitation to get involved in a family squabble over money and inheritance.  Jesus cautions the crowd to guard against all kinds of greed because life does not consist of an abundance of possessions.

  • Imagine someone following you this past week. What would that person say your life “consisted in”? In other words, what would they say was important to you?  How have you invested your time and your money over the past week?

Jesus then shares a story about a man who was a visionary, an innovator and successful entrepreneur. He planned for everything, except the things that really mattered. Jesus called him a fool.

According to Jesus, a fool is someone who lives with no thought of God, with no thought to God’s activity in their life and world.  It wasn’t wrong to plan for the future, it’s that his plans didn’t include God.

Gene challenged us to wrestle with two questions as we apply this message this week in our own lives.

The first question to ask is, “Am I trusting God with all?”

Psalm 24:1 says, the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. In other words, it’s not just the first 10% that belongs to God. 100% belongs to God. We just manage it, and God asks us to return the first 10% to Him.

It’s as if God is saying, “You’ll go further on 90% of your income with my blessing than 100% of it on your own.” When you give to God your first and best, He promises to bless the rest. In Luke 6:38, Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.”  Until we prioritize giving as our first priority, God will never be able to bless our finances.

The second question to ask yourself is, “Am I robbing God?”

Have someone read Malachi 3:6-12.

  • Have you ever tested God in your tithing? If you have, what were the challenges you faced and blessings you experienced? If not, what are some of the barriers that keep you from tithing?

The tithe, the first 10%, belongs to God. You don’t actually give a tithe to God, you return it to Him. The Bible never speaks of giving your tithe but uses words like bringing or returning the tithe.

Gene shared a portion of a letter he received a few years ago after preaching a sermon on tithing, it reads:

Dear Gene,
I want to thank you for adding that last bit to your sermon last weekend about tithing among the wealthy.  “To whom much has been given, much is required. For their responsibility is greater.”
That verse really hit home with me and I felt you were speaking directly to me.  Although we’ve always given to our church, we’ve never tithed and we’ve wrestled with that concept for some time.  God has truly blessed us with a successful business and the ability to make money. I don’t think our reluctance to tithe has been due to a lavish lifestyle, quite the contrary.... I do believe that fear has prevented our tithing, fear that we wouldn’t have enough later when we really needed it.  But, during that portion of your sermon, I truly felt the size of God’s gift to us and I wasn’t afraid to trust Him any more.
Since we moved here and began attending the church, our business has flourished and I don’t believe that is just pure coincidence.  I think that has been God’s reminder to us that all gifts come through Him and that He will continue to provide. So I think it’s time to give Him his just due.  Thanks for having the courage to say what is really in your heart.... Although we have a long way to go, our faith has deepened significantly during our time here….
  • What does truly feeling “the size of God’s gift” mean to you, and what are the implications of that understanding?

You have the choice to make a decision today to put yourself in a position where God could bless your life with financial freedom. Gene encouraged everyone to try tithing for 100 days and if God doesn’t bless you, Eastside will refund your giving. It’s a money back guarantee. Yet, it also requires expectant faith, saying to God, “I will trust you 100%.”

  • How will you respond to Gene’s 100 day challenge of putting God to the test? What action steps will you take to make this a reality?


Prayer

Break into groups of 2-3 and share where you need prayer in your financial life. Then pray for each other, asking God to set you free in this area and to give you the courage to take the steps you need to take.

If you or someone in your group is looking for some help and don’t know where to begin, we are beginning another round of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University starting July 12 in Southern California, and at home study kits are available in Park Rapids.

Week 4

Week 4

 

The spring semester ends on April 28th, and the summer semester will run June 3-July 28th.   Consequently, there will be no further sermon discussion guides produced until the summer semester begins. However, if your group has been using them and is meeting during the break, here are a couple of short studies you can use in the interim.

Also, we have opened up group registration for the summer semester, so if you know what your group will be doing or have plans to start a new group, you can go ahead and register it now.

Week 3 - Is the church anti-woman?; Where does the church stand on the #MeToo movement?

Week 3 - Is the church anti-woman?; Where does the church stand on the #MeToo movement?

Series Introduction

Most of us have at least one. It's that one question that comes to mind whenever people talk about God, faith, or church—that question that makes us unsure of God and if believing in Him makes any sense.

  • Who has been a strong female figure in your life and what was her impact on you?


Question #1:  Is the church anti-woman?

  • If you grew up in church, what was the role of women in the church you attended?

Depending on what your church experience has been, you may or may not know that in some churches there are many restrictions on a woman's contribution to the church. The fact is, many women have gotten the message that they are small, insignificant, and second-class human beings.

To understand God's word on any subject, good Biblical interpretation weights the preponderance of the evidence throughout the entire Bible and doesn't look at isolated passages.

For us to understand the Scripture on this subject you have to go all the way back to God's original intention in the early scenes of Genesis. To look at God's intentions before sin entered the world and before male and female relationships got corrupted.

Have someone read Genesis 2:18 and Genesis 1:27-28.

Gene shared the various views and disagreements over this issue. He shared his understanding is that God's original intent was for men and women to be co-regents with God, to share authority together. The truth is nobody is over the other. It's about both being equally made in the image of God.

The idea of one gender ruling over another was not God's plan laid out at the beginning of creation. It's part of what happened as the result of sin and the curse in Genesis 3, just like pain and childbirth and alienation from labor.

Have someone read 2 Kings 22:14-20.

Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, you find women playing incredibly significant roles. God chose women like Miriam and Huldah as prophets, to speak authoritatively on His behalf. Huldah, we read in the passage above, instructed both a male priest and a male king.

Deborah was a prophet and judge of Israel.  At that time in Israel, judges weren’t judges as we think of them. Before Israel had kings, judges were the highest authoritative leaders at that time. Judges exercised political, national, and spiritual leadership.

  • What can we learn about God’s perspective on women in leadership roles from Deborah?

When you move to the New Testament and the first century and look carefully at how Jesus treated women, it was revolutionary and breathtaking for that day. Jesus was polar-opposite to the rabbis of his day, who generally understood women to be inferior to me.

Have someone read John 4:27.

The disciples come to Jesus as he is speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. This was shocking to them because a devout Rabbi would not even speak to a woman. While this sermon was primarily about women in the church, many women have been made to feel less than men or have been shut out of a social or work situation.

  • Share a time you felt excluded, devalued or treated like the second-class citizen.

In the thirty three and a half years of Jesus' life on this planet, He brought to women things they had never experienced before--dignity, respect, value, and worth. In a time where rabbis taught that it was better to burn the Torah (the Old Testament law) than to teach it to a woman, Jesus spoke words of value and hope to them.

It's no accident that some of the most significant leaders of the early church, according to the Bible, were women:

  • Priscilla was a seminary level instructor that we find teaching men.

  • Lydia had her own international export business and was a key player in the launching of the first church in Philippi. She housed the church in her home.

  • We read about the 4 daughters of Philip who preached and prophesied. They weren't silent in the church.

  • Paul writes about 9 different women in Romans 16 who were significant to him in his ministry.

The women in the early church served not based on their gender but based on their gifts.

Gene shared that his understanding is that the church of Jesus Christ is not anti-woman, and from the beginning, God intended for men and women to rule together, serve together, do life and community together. Sin messed that up but Jesus came to restore that which was destroyed.

At Eastside, there are no limitations for serving based on gender. We have women who serve as elders, as staff members, as executive team members, who lead departments and who manage our finances and teach the Bible.

  • Depending on our gender, age or faith background we may have looked at this issue differently. Share one thing that challenged you, surprised you or made you view this issue differently.


Question #2:  Where does the church stand on the #MeToo movement?

We are living in a time where #MeToo unleashed a cultural tsunami. It has flooded our news feeds, nightly news and social media.

The Bible never flinches in recording and denouncing the sexual sins and mistakes of its characters. It is always wrong when any of God's children experience sexual misconduct, rape, abuse or harassment.

Have someone read I Timothy 5:2.

We get a solid guideline for how we should treat others. Treat the people you work with, the people who report to you, the people you attend church with and the people in your neighborhood like family, with absolute purity.

Have someone read Proverbs 31:8.

We are challenged to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and to ensure justice for those being crushed.

When sexual misconduct happens, it is something that should never be covered up, spun or hidden in the name of the church's reputation. When we read the Bible we see how people like Noah, David or Amnon, tried to hide their sins but God did not let that happen.

As the church of Jesus Christ, we stand with the oppressed, the assaulted, the harassed, the demeaned, the disrespected, no matter who the perpetrator may be.

Chances are that for someone in this group this is a painful topic. We often try to forget or hide this part of our life. There may be feelings of guilt, shame, and pain, accompanied by a struggle with the emotional, physical, and spiritual aftermath.

God's Word declares you are loved; you are valuable; you matter, and in Jesus, there is no male or female. He wants you to be a powerful and change-making force for good in this world with your life.

You don't need to apologize for who God made you to be. Just be who God made you to be inside and outside of the church.

Gene challenged us to move from #MeToo to #WeToo and find healing, to be the church to those around us that are hurting, to help others take that courageous step towards help and trusting the Lord with their painful past.

There is freedom to be found, but we have to trust God. We have to receive it and experience it. That can be the hardest thing, to accept that God made a way through Jesus so that we might be free. The blood Jesus poured out on the cross doesn't just heal you from the grip of sins that you've committed, but the grip of sins committed against you. The cross does both. Jesus loves us and we can trust Him, even with the most painful parts of our spiritual journey.

  • How can we be a part of changing the dialogue and culture we live and work in? Brainstorm ways we can help those we love to go from #MeToo to #WeToo.


Prayer:

Pray as a group the prayer Gene closed with Sunday:

Father, thank you for your grace. Father, there are people here today and they're not sure whether or not it's possible to experience freedom from their pain, so I pray that you'd give them just a little bit of faith, just enough to help them to take the step and to trust You. Bring healing, and may we no longer be slaves to fear, shame, and the captivity of sin because of what Jesus did on a cross so that we can be free of our sins and the sins anyone has done to us.

For Men: And Father, on behalf of all the men of Eastside, I thank you for all our sisters in Jesus here that you made, you love, you gifted and you called to be dangerous tools for good in this world and for your purposes. May we do our part to honor, protect, defend. And may they feel empowered by your Spirit to be all that you made them to be….

And thank you that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from your love, neither death nor life; neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation that will be able to separate us from the love you have for us in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Week 2 - Are there really angels and demons?, Is suicide the unpardonable sin?

Week 2 - Are there really angels and demons?, Is suicide the unpardonable sin?

Series Introduction

Most of us have at least one. It's that one question that comes to mind whenever people talk about God, faith, or church—that question that makes us unsure of God and if believing in Him makes any sense.

  • What one word best describes last week for you?


Question #1:  Are there really angels and demons?

The Bible references angels over 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament.

Have someone read Ephesians 6:12 and Revelation 12:7-9.

We’re told in the Old Testament that God, in eternity past, created a wise, brilliant, and beautiful angel who was known as Lucifer. We’re told in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 that this angel became proud because of his stellar good looks and sought to ascend to the throne of God himself. He wanted to be like God, to reign as the sovereign king. He wanted to be God.

As a result of his rebellion against God, Lucifer and his band of rebellious, free-willed followers, were cast out of heaven forever. Revelation 12:7-8 tells us that when Lucifer fell he took a host of angels with him, and ever since that point they have been God’s relentless and contentious opponents.

Even though he aspired to be, Satan is not God. He is not self-existent, not sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent—but he is the ultimate liar and schemer. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan masquerades as an angel of light.

If we accept the authority of the Bible and the words of Jesus, then we must believe in the existence of Satan and his demons.

  • Do you believe in angels and demons? Why or why not?

Have someone read I Peter 5:8.

Recognizing that Satan is on the prowl and looking to devour helps us to be aware of things that happen. Satan whispers lies to us about God, hoping that we’ll believe them and withdraw from God. Because we know that he does this, when we find ourselves in those circumstances, we can stop and ask ourselves “What do I know is true?”

Satan tries to deceive us about sin and its consequences. He whispers to us and encourages us to go down destructive paths. Maybe it is having an affair, losing control, saying that one little lie. He convinces us to go after things we shouldn’t, whispering that we deserve it.

  • Have you ever felt under spiritual attack? Have you been tempted to believe Satan’s lies about God, yourself, circumstances, or giving in to sin?

As followers of Jesus, we can be ready to stand against Satan by knowing God’s Word and spending time with Him daily.

Have someone read Ephesians 6:10-20.

In Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study The Armor of God, she says, "When Paul talks about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, prayer is the seventh piece of armor. It activates all of the rest of the spiritual armor. . . . "When we refuse to pray, it's like having a refrigerator without plugging it in. Prayer is the divinely authorized mechanism God has given us to tap into His power. Without prayer, we'll be ineffective in spiritual warfare. But with it, we will be victorious."

  • Mike used the illustration of a coach watching films of the opposing team in order to prep for a game. What are practical and strategic ways we can prepare so we will stand firm in the spiritual battles of life?

The last thing Satan wants to happen is for us to get connected to Jesus and find abundant and eternal life, because the father of lies knows that it’s the truth that sets a person free!


Question #2:  Is suicide the unpardonable sin?

Suicide leaves you with lots of “whys.” Many of us have been affected directly or indirectly by suicide.

  • Have you been personally affected by the suicide of a loved one? And of course, no one should feel obligated or pressured to share if you are uncomfortable doing so.

Proverbs 13:12 tells us “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

Studies indicate that 90% of those who have attempted or committed suicide had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time. Most of the time suicide has its roots in depression. People feel like they have no hope.

Have someone read Psalm 46:1.

That is where our hope lies. God is a refuge and strength not only in the past, and not only in the future, but right now, in the present, in the eye of the storm when things look their worst.

Jesus told us that in this life we will have trials and troubles, but we can live with joy and peace because of our hope in Him.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

But so often, a person who takes their life just can’t see that. They are at a point where they can’t believe that there is hope for them and that God is with them. Hope got deferred and their heart got sick. Depression interferes and makes it very hard for them to process the truth.

We ask today’s question because at times people have claimed that suicide is the unpardonable sin. Mike explained why suicide is a sin and that it breaks God’s heart because it hurts God’s children when a believer who has received God’s great grace gets confused, sick, depressed, or hopeless and takes their own life. But that doesn’t make it the unpardonable or the unforgiveable sin. We’re not saved by our goodness; we’re not saved by our lack of sin. We’re saved  because of His mercy, because Jesus took every one of our sins, past, present, and future to a blood-stained cross.

If a suicide victim had sincerely made the decision in their lifetime to accept Christ as their forgiver and Lord before their death, they will find their way to the arms of God by the same amazing grace we all need to get there. Though they may have temporarily lost sight of it on this side of heaven, they will discover that hope will not disappoint.

Some of us are struggling now, fighting feelings of hopelessness, or perhaps someone we love has attempted or committed suicide. The Bible tells us that God wants us to share each other’s burdens. We are to honor each other above ourselves, to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We are committed to be a church that practices this kind of love for people.

  • What are some ways we can love those we know who are struggling with depression or hopelessness?


Prayer

Break up into groups of three or four and pray Ephesians 6:10-18 for each other. If you are facing a specific area of spiritual battle, share the struggle and have them pray over you.

Here are a few more verses you can pray over and for your group

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Titus 3:4-5 (NIV)

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Romans 3:22 (NLT)

Week 1 - Is drinking or doing legal drugs a sin?, Can a saved person lose their salvation?

Week 1 - Is drinking or doing legal drugs a sin?, Can a saved person lose their salvation?

Series Introduction

Most of us have at least one. It's that one question that comes to mind whenever people talk about God, faith, or church - that question that makes us unsure of God, and if believing in Him makes any sense.

  • What is your one question about God, faith or church?


Sermon Introduction

This week we talked about two different questions as part of the You Asked For It Series. The first addressed whether drinking or doing legal drugs is a sin.

Have someone read John 2:1-11.

Jesus first recorded miracle is turning water into wine. There are references throughout the Old and New Testament about wine and it is recorded that Jesus drank wine several times.

Have someone read Ephesians 5:18 & 1 Corinthians 6:12

The Bible gives us loving limits for our lives around this subject matter: First, it says when you drink there’s to be no intoxication. The second is to not become addicted to anything or any substance that would control or master your mind, your body, and your behavior.

Depending on the family you grew up in there were different outlooks about drinking.

  • Share what your family’s views towards alcohol were and how they impact you.

Even though drinking is not a sin, there are times we need to limit our freedom and be sensitive to others who may struggle or be in recovery.

While some really struggle with alcohol or drugs, there are many other struggles we face daily. We turn to overeating, become workaholics, over shop, are addicted to social media, struggle with pornography and many other things, in order to numb the pain. Jesus wants us to be filled with something better than alcohol. He wants so much better for our lives. The Bible says to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we let God control our life, we don’t need to turn to these other things to fill that void.

  • What in your life stands between you and spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental health?

“Can a saved person lose their salvation?” was the second question.

This is a question that many of us have thought about at some point in our life. We fear we have wandered too far away from God, or perhaps someone we care about doesn’t show any signs of following Jesus anymore.

  • Briefly share a time when you wrestled with the question of losing your salvation.

Have someone read each of the truths and verses below.

There are three truths that can help you live with the assurance of your salvation if you’re a follower of Jesus.

  1. Our salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13)

  2. Our salvation is secured by the Son and Father (John 10:27-29)

  3. Our salvation is based on grace, not works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The more important question is have you really ever been saved? Gene shared how we can evaluate that question. Ask yourself “If my salvation has never really changed me, has it ever really saved me?” Has your life been marked by what Jesus did for you?

Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV) says “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession….”

Grace is messy and hard to accept. We can be so hard on ourselves refusing to believe that grace could overcome our sin. When we doubt our salvation, what we’re really doing is doubting our ability to be a good person. Thankfully good works are not the basis of our salvation.  It is grace that God offers us.

If we doubt our salvation we don’t understand the extent of what Jesus did on a cross for us. There is not one sin God cannot forgive. We, as flawed people, have made lists of the deeds we believe are unforgiveable. That is not what the Bible says. The Bible says where sin increases, grace increases all the more. Faith activates God’s grace. We just have to believe, and we are forgiven.

The end of this passage says, “for we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Stop and consider the immense value God has for us. Often our insecurities keep us from viewing see ourselves as God’s handiwork. We allow those insecurities and the lies that go with them to cause us to doubt.

If you have been saved you can live with that assurance and that confidence and security.

  • Are there hurts, habits, or hang-ups that create doubt and keep you from living in assurance of your salvation? What are some practical things you can do when doubt creeps in?

Every one of us experiences a moment of doubt, and it can be helpful to have tools like prayer, journaling and verse memorization to fall back on and remind you of God’s truth. Something as simple as keeping the verses from this week’s message on index cards in our desk or toolbox or or glove box can become a powerful word of truth to strengthen us.


Prayer

Gene encouraged everyone to memorize 1 John 5:13. Commit to memorizing it this week. Spend time praying for each other to overcome the things that keep you from resting in the assurance of your salvation.

Week 4 - Restoring Broken Dreams

Week 4 - Restoring Broken Dreams

Series Introduction

We all have areas of our lives that need restoration. We've got to allow God to strip down all the years of grime and cheap paint piled on top of each other. He needs to get down to the bare original, so He can begin to fill the cracks, sand the rough edges, and make our hearts beautiful again. He’s already looked beneath the layers and has determined that we're all worth doing over.

  • Is there a landmark location for your family, a place where you have shared many special memories? What made it special for you?


Sermon

Have someone read John 11:25.

Death is a word we don’t like to talk about, but we experience many deaths throughout life. Not just physical deaths but sometimes the death of a relationship, death of a marriage, death of a family, death of a dream.

Gene told us about his upbringing and about his family’s lakeside cabin in Minnesota. That cabin and lake held precious moments for the Appel family. When Gene was 14, his father suffered a heart attack, and it was at that cabin where Gene got the news his father had died.

Have someone read John 11:1-4.

Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, lived in a little town called Bethany, which is essentially a suburb of Jerusalem. They had developed a close friendship with Jesus who would often stay with them when He traveled their way. And then this terrible thing happened to Lazarus, changing their family’s future forever.

Currently, some of us are celebrating great things in life, but some of us are facing tough situations. Sooner or later, we all get some bad news. Maybe it’s the news that someone you love has cancer. Maybe your bad news is that your job is going away; the boyfriend or girlfriend you love is breaking it off; or your dream marriage turned into a nightmare. Sometimes in those moments of pain and anxiety, it can feel like there is no hope in sight.

  • When is a time that you received that type of life-changing news?

Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus’s sickness would not end in death. He added that all this had happened for God’s glory, and that God’s Son would receive glory from it. In other words, this was going to be an opportunity for people to witness something that would cause them to praise God and further grasp the fact that Jesus had been sent by God.

Have someone read John 11:5-21.

Three of the people in this story were dealing with broken dreams in differing ways.

Thomas, who earned the reputation “Doubting Thomas,” repeatedly struggled with doubt. Though he had been following Jesus for quite a while, he expressed his doubts by his sarcastic “Let us go so we may die with him” comment. Was he doubting the wisdom of Jesus’s decision to return to a place where their lives would likely be in great danger? Maybe he was wondering if he really wanted to keep going along with all of this, wondering if Jesus knew what he was doing, if he was for real.

  • When is a time that you’ve struggled with doubt?

MercyMe, the band featured in the movie I Can Only Imagine, has a song called “Even If.” Written by lead singer Bart Millard, the song originated around the struggle with diabetes that his teenage son has endured since he was two years old. The song ends with the chorus:

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Some of us may find our dreams broken by discouragement. Mary was experiencing this, big time. She was so discouraged that when Jesus finally arrived, instead of going with her sister to meet him, Mary just stayed home.

Discouragement breeds thoughts like:

I might as well give up.

I’m always going to feel alone.

I’m always going to be depressed.

I’m always going to be stuck in this dead-end job.

I’m never going to have the marriage or family I dreamed I would have.

I’m never going to get out of this bad situation.

  • When is a time that you feel like God didn’t intervene in spite of your cries for help? When is a time that He did?

Martha’s dreams were shattered by Jesus’s delay in coming to them. It was an “if only” event; if only Jesus had arrived before Lazarus had died, her brother would still be alive. She did not know that Jesus’s delay was deliberate in order for the intended miracle to take place.

  • Is there an “if only” in your life now, a place where you’re waiting on God to show up?

Have someone read John 11:23-27.

None of these three people knew that things were about to get better, much better than they could imagine. Even though Martha was disappointed that Jesus had not arrived sooner, she said to him (verse 22), “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” She believed that nothing is too big for God.

Some of us need an “even now” moment today. Even now, in the midst of our broken dreams, God can bring us peace that passes understanding; heal our hearts, bring harmony, forgiveness, and restoration to our families. He can soften our callous hearts, ease our fears, give us courage, and draw us closer to Him. He can bring us strength and endurance, give us wisdom, hope, and new dreams to enjoy. No matter what we face, no matter the outcome, God is with us and we can trust in Him.

Jesus uttered some of the most significant words that have ever been spoken in the history of the world: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25, 26 (NLT)

Have someone read John 11: 28-44.

Picture the scene of Lazarus emerging from the tomb. If you have ever been given a second chance or a reprieve, you have a tiny glimpse of what Lazarus must have felt like walking out of that tomb. Imagine how Martha and Mary felt! Can you picture the celebration?

The same voice that called Lazarus out of the grave is calling out to mankind today. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Him will live, even after dying.

  • Who do you know who needs the second chance that Jesus offers?  What can you do to help them understand that Jesus loves then and wants to give them hope and healing?


Prayer

Break into small groups and pray for people who are waiting to see God work or where they need healing. Pray that even now God’s power can come into these lives and situations and broken dreams, that He will bring restoration to situations that look hopeless . . . just as He did for Mary and Martha and Lazarus and has done for countless others. And just as He did when Jesus rose victoriously from the grave.

 

Week 3 - Restore Broken Lives

Week 3 - Restore Broken Lives

Series Introduction

We all have areas of our lives that need restoration. We've got to allow God to strip down all the years of grime and cheap paint piled on top of each other. He needs to get down to the bare original so He can begin to fill the cracks, sand the rough edges, and make our hearts beautiful again. He’s already looked beneath the layers and has determined that we're all worth doing over.


Sermon Introduction

We have all been stuck before and often don’t see just how stuck we were. People in our lives notice. Sometimes they even encourage us to get unstuck; but we might resist because we settle in and get very comfortable.

Have someone read Joel 2:25.

This verse is the key verse for the series and is a great promise for every person who has ever been stuck in the past.

  • Share a time you were stuck and oblivious, but friends and family tried to help and encouraged you to take action.

We have a God who can take the wasted years, the damaged years, the hurtful years, the unfaithful years, the abusive years, the addicted years, the broken years, and even the biggest failures of our lives that have us stuck and who restores and redeems to us the years that the locusts have eaten!

Have someone read John 1:29.

Palm Sunday fell on the Sunday before the Passover, and that was considered Lamb Selection Sunday. Lamb Selection Sunday was the day Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem, and it foreshadowed what would happen five days later on Good Friday when the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world would die on the cross to pay for our wrongdoing and reconcile a broken world to God.

Have someone read Mark 14:12-13.

When the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?” We might have been aggravated if we were Jesus because he had just told them the day before that he was about to be handed over to be crucified. Couldn’t they just figure out a plan themselves? Do they really need Jesus’ input on how to host a meal they had all participated in since they were children? Instead, He gives them instructions about what to do, and off they went.

Just like these disciples, some of us become preoccupied, busy, and self-centered. We are moving so fast that we are oblivious to our brokenness. We fail to see the people around us and fail to recognize the God moment in our lives. We arrive at church after a whirlwind morning and heave a big sigh. Our bodies may be at church, but our minds and souls are often so many miles away.

  • What in your life keeps you from investing in the most important things: your relationship with God, your family, your close friends, and those who need to be shown God’s love?

Have someone read Luke 22:14-30.

On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples meet up at the upper room.  Jesus’ guests were  people who greatly underestimated the extent of their own brokenness.

All 13 people at the meal that night arrived in the upper room with dirty feet—from the dust-filled, manure-littered roads of the day. It was the custom of the day for the first one to arrive to get a bowl of water, a towel, a basin, and then wash the dirty feet of the others.

Not a single one of them had been willing to play the role of the servant, getting down to wash the dirty, dusty feet and clean the sandals of the others.

Then, an argument broke out among them over which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus, their friend and mentor, was about to die, and they’re concerned about their own importance.

Later that night, every single one of these disciples would abandon Jesus when He needed them the most

  • How would you have felt during this meal if you were Jesus? How would you have responded?

Have someone read Matthew 26:31-35.

That’s exactly what happened late that night when Jesus was brought into the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest. Three times Peter denied Jesus, declaring, “I don’t even know the guy.” And then, just as Jesus predicted, a rooster crowed, and Peter realized what he'd done. And from then on he was stuck with a broken past—something he could bitterly condemn himself for forever. The Message paraphrase of the Bible says, “He cried and he cried and he cried.”

Can you identify with Peter? Have you denied the obvious, knowing it breaks God’s heart, and then realized your failure? There is that deep sadness of pain and regret.

There is another guest who was not oblivious, but who was hiding his brokenness.

When Jesus told the disciples that night that one of them was about to betray Him, Judas was so quietly deceptive, so sneaky, so good at hiding his brokenness that none of the others even suspected it was him. Again, haven’t we all hidden something, sat there quietly, knowing the bad choice we had made?

  • What do you think was running through Judas’ mind during dinner?

We are all broken and stuck by our past, each of us for different reasons. At one time or another all of us are oblivious to our brokenness. We underestimate, deny, or just hide our brokenness. The message Jesus was communicating around the communion table that night was that we all come to the table broken, but we can leave the table restored.

There’s something about people eating together that can re-infuse hope even in the darkest of times.

Have you ever noticed at a funeral how often everyone is fighting back the tears, grieving, sobbing, having a difficult time, but then after the funeral there’s a meal and people are sitting around remembering fun times, reminiscing and laughing? It’s extremely healthy and healing. Just the ritual of eating together restores them.

This particular dinner in the upper room was a funeral meal before the funeral, but still it represented hope for those stuck and broken by their past. We all come to the communion table broken, but we can leave this table restored, renewed, and forgiven.

  • Share a time when you’ve experienced hope and healing in the midst of a difficult situation.

This weekend Gene asked two important questions for us to consider:

Have you received the payment that the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world made for you on Good Friday?

If you have received the payment, have you forgiven yourself?

No matter the mistakes you've made in your past, it’s time to let them go if you are forgiven by the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. When Jesus died on the cross, and said those last words, “It is finished!” he was saying, “As the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, it’s now paid in full.”

Gene shared the story of a young woman who had been rescued from sex trafficking and lived with Mike Breaux and his family for a time. The Breauxs would have 20-30 people for dinner every Sunday night. Her words:

I have sat around so many dining room tables here, and I have to say that is really where the gospel has come to life. All I ever wanted was a place to belong, people who would treat me as though I were their own—not an inconvenience, sacrifice, or a project. The gospel came to life for me watching dads teach their children to swim…. Men who refuse to dishonor their wives, instead serving them. Parents investing in loving discipline. Generations of family who don't just see each other at church, but take time to acknowledge their love for each other by their presence, phone calls, food, stories of God's amazing wonder…. Because of families who lived out the love of God, I was able to see and experience the gospel and not just read about it.


Application

Each of us knows someone who needs to see and experience the gospel. Take a few moments to share about someone in your life who you needs the hope and healing Jesus offered and brainstorm as a group some ways to live out your faith like Mike and his family did. Consider inviting them to join you at one of our Easter services.


Prayer

Is there any area you struggle to forgive yourself for? Set aside some time at the end of group for individuals to have a private conversation with God about this.

 

 

 

 

Week 2 - Restoring Broken Confidence

Week 2 - Restoring Broken Confidence

Series Introduction

Restoration is a major trend in our society. People take old, beat-up motorcycles and restore them to their original glory; turn rusty classic cars into collectors’ pieces; and replace green Formica countertops with quartz and wallpaper with smooth beige walls. At Eastside, we just restored a campus in Bellflower so it can serve its community like it used to.

Over time, almost everything needs to be restored: cars, houses, kitchens, churches, and… us, because nobody can get through life without going through some brokenness. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to consider how God can restore our broken dreams, broken confidence, and broken lives.

  • Share one word that describes your week.


Sermon Introduction

The dictionary defines confidence as “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something.”

  • What types of things might cause us to lose confidence in ourselves or others?

Have someone read Genesis 15:1 and Exodus 14:13.

When God wants to do something powerful in our lives, one of the biggest hurdles we face is the hurdle of fear. Fear keeps us from experiencing all God has for our life. Many times in the Bible, we see that right before God was about to do something big, He would use these four words: “Do not be afraid.”

  • Share a time you were facing something big in your life and you sensed God was saying “Do not be afraid” to you.

1.    Do not be afraid to stand alone.

Have someone read Genesis 6:5–9.

Noah was the only blameless person on earth. Everyone else on the earth was filled with bitterness, evil, and envy. Do we see a bit of that in our world today?. We will all find ourselves at a crossroad more than once in our life. We will have the option of moving forward in the good life God has for us or moving backward, hindering what God has for us. God’s restoration in our lives depends on our willingness to stand alone and stand up for God.

Herbert shared how he grew up in a small town in Oklahoma in a home filled with abuse, violence, and dysfunction. At the age of 13, he was sexually abused over several months. He felt confusion, shame, anger, and bitter. He didn’t want to tell anyone. When he was 16, his parents split up. On Christmas morning shortly after they split and he was alone with his dad, he questioned, “Is life worth living?”

At age 17, Herbert was invited to a  Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. He heard about the hope found through Christ, and he surrendered his life to Jesus. His life was radically changed. He was bold—and possibly irritating—but he was living full-on for Jesus.

Herbert described how he would drive around and talk to Jesus saying, “I will stand up for you.”

  • Where have you made a decision to be salt and light in a situation instead of being negative along with everyone else?

2. Do not be afraid to make a difference.  

Have someone read 2 Peter 2:5 and I Peter 3:20. 

You can make a bigger difference than you think you can.

Noah must have felt like he was failing. For 120 years he preached to people, and no one listened, no one got on the boat. We would have been more than a little defeated. Oftentimes when we are making a difference, it looks like we are making a mess.

  • Share a time you were being faithful but felt like nothing was happening.

Life can be messy, and we can get hit with multiple things. Noah made a difference for his family when he stepped out in faith. Ultimately, God saved his family. The animals were saved. We wouldn’t be here if not for Noah’s willingness to be mocked and to do something far outside his comfort zone.

Being faithful might look different for each of us, but we can all be obedient. We can be faithful by spending time daily reading the Bible, tithing, and taking the next step we feel God is calling us to do. In our Small Groups we can encourage each other and pray for each other to overcome the fears that might hold us back.

  • Is there a place God is calling you to make a difference, to be faithful?

3. Do not be afraid to step out in faith.

Have someone read Hebrews 11:7.

To experience restoration, we must not be afraid to step out in faith. 

  • What area in your life is God calling you to step out in faith?

For God to restore our brokenness and build our confidence in Him, we have to overcome fear of failure, fear of man, and fear of the past. Remember that Herbert talked about driving around in his car, talking to Jesus out loud, telling him, “I will stand up for you”?  Sometimes speaking the words out loud gives us boldness and builds our confidence. 

  • Think of a one-word prayer statement you can write out and say out loud when you feel fearful.

Never regret stepping out in faith and obeying God. Herbert stepped out in faith and followed God which led to him experiencing so many God moments in parenting, relationships and faith. When we do this and experience those moments, it helps restore us and builds our confidence. When we follow the path Jesus is calling us to, we will never regret it.


Prayer

Break up into groups of two to three, and pray for the confidence to step out in faith and experience restoration.

 Week 1 - Restoring Broken Hearts

Week 1 - Restoring Broken Hearts

Series Introduction

Restoration is a major trend in our society.  People take old beat up motorcycles and restore them to their original glory; turn rusty classic cars into collector’s pieces; and replace green Formica countertops and wallpaper with quartz and smooth greige walls. At Eastside we just restored a campus in Bellflower so that it can serve its community like it used to.

Over time, almost everything needs to be restored: cars, houses, kitchens, churches, and… us, because nobody can get through life without going through some brokenness. Over the next few weeks we’re going to consider how God can restore our broken dreams, broken confidence, and broken lives.

  • Have you ever undertaken a restoration project? Share it with the group.


Sermon Introduction

A broken heart is unreturned love. You loved, and you were hurt. You risked in a relationship, and you were burned. You trusted, and you were betrayed.

Max Lucado writes about walking through an old cemetery and coming across the tombstone that marked the body of Grace Llewellen Smith.  No date of birth was listed, no date of death, just the names of her two husbands and this sad epitaph:

Sleeps, but rests not.  Loved, but was loved not.  Tried to please, but pleased not.  Died as she lived—alone.

Think of those words, “Loved, but was loved not” and picture the long nights, the empty bed, the silence.   No response to messages left.  No return to letters written.  No love exchanged for love given.

  • When is a time in your life that you felt like this?

Have a volunteer read Joel 1:4.

Joel is an Old Testament prophet who wrote to people who were farmers and whose perfect dream was a field full of lush crops, whose ideal world was to sit on the front porch and look out over their land and see it filled with healthy green plants, ripening juicy fruit on the trees in the orchard, fields bursting with grain and bins overflowing with produce. That was their picture of the good life, the field of dreams.

But the prophet Joel comes along and describes everyone’s absolute worst nightmare – a horrific invasion of locusts that come in and devour absolutely everything.   Locusts can eat their own body weight in a 24-hour period.  These guys were ravenous, and there were a lot of them.

Just one female locust that lays her eggs in June, can have 18 million living descendants in October.  A swarm can contain up to 10 billion insects that create a deafening noise like a jet engine with their buzzing wings and crunching jaws. They get into houses through cracks and chimneys.  You can’t go outside.  They eat crops and devour the land.  When they die they give off a revolting stench, and their bodies breed typhus and other diseases in animals and humans. It’s like a living hell.

Even today areas around the world that have the potential for a locust outbreak are monitored by international agencies using satellite technology to spot the swarms.  They then send out airplanes with insecticides to ward the locusts off.

Joel describes an onslaught of a ginormous swarm of these locusts—literally a plague of Biblical proportion—which is the most devastating and overwhelming thing imaginable to these farmers who dream of having lush crops and fruit trees.

  • What “swarm of locusts” have you experienced? A round of layoffs at work? The business you started going belly up?

Have a volunteer read Joel 2:25.

Joel chapter 2 paints a picture where there’s nothing left but the dead carcasses of locusts everywhere, stinking to high heaven. It’s looks hopeless, but Joel says this devastated field you are looking at is God’s specialty.

God sends the rains to wash away the dead locusts and heal the earth, nutrients rise up in the soil, and things begin to green up again.  And then God makes this bold and wonderful promise, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust…”

We have a God who can take the wasted years, the damaged years, the hurtful years, the unfaithful years, the abusive years, the addicted years, and even the biggest failures of our lives and restore and redeem to us the years that the locusts have eaten!

In his sermon, Gene shared the story of his divorce:

As you would guess one of the toughest and most fearful seasons of my life was back in the 80’s when I was going through my heartbreak and divorce. It was a very dark time.  A very alone time.

And on top of it, I was a pastor, going through a divorce. And I thought what church would want a pastor who had been through a divorce?  I thought I had not only lost my marriage, my wife…but in a very real and practical sense my job, my income, my house, my car.

I felt my life was ruined.  God could never use me again and most of all would never even want me.  It was hard to see any way out, any light at the end of the tunnel.

But I way underestimated God and his ability to restore what the locust had eaten. You see what I didn’t know in those moments is that 4 years later I would marry the most beautiful girl in the world named Barbara who had been through a similar kind of hurt.

What I didn’t know is that my church family would stand with me and love and forgive me.

What I didn’t know is that I would grow through that time in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise.

What I didn’t know is how faithful God would be to me.

Barbara and I returned last Monday from a trip to Hawaii which was a belated celebration of our 25th anniversary.  And here’s what we both can tell you: we didn’t know it at the time, but God has restored the years that the locust had eaten!

  • When is a time in your life that you have experienced God’s restoration?

  • In what area of your life now are you longing for God’s restoration?

Have a volunteer read Psalm 6:3.

The question on the mind of anyone who is in the midst of a season of brokenness is  usually, “How long will this last?”

It’s a question King David, the author of the sixth Psalm, asked thousands of years ago in a season of brokenness.

No one knows the answer to the “How long?” question, but it’s usually not solved overnight but over time. Perhaps the better question to ask is, “What now?”  What can I learn, how can I grow, what should I do in response to this season of brokenness?

  • What is a lesson you’ve learned as the result of a difficult season of life?

Lesson #1: Don’t Pull Out of Life

None of us wants to be hurt, so when we are, our first impulse is to pull back into a shell so we can be protected and never ever hurt again.  Love by its very nature is a risk, but by withdrawing from love we risk even more.

That doesn’t mean you bounce back into another relationship after a divorce or the loss of a loved one.   Dating and remarriage will not cure your grief, so be patient while you grieve.

Experts say that after a divorce or a death it takes two years before your emotions settle down to become stable again.

One of the common mistakes people often make after someone has broken their heart is to jump right into another relationship or marriage, and almost without exception, it ends in disaster.

But it is important to invest in friendships in other healthy environments like a small group or a changemaker team, to get in a support and care group like a Divorce Care or Grief Share or Celebrate Recovery in your community.  We can’t weather life’s storms, we can’t get through the swarm of locusts on our own.

  • Who are the people in your life who can help you weather the storm?

Lesson #2: Disinfect the Wound

When you’ve been physically cut or wounded or gashed, what’s the first thing they do at the emergency room or doctor’s office?  They disinfect the wound, because the infection can be worse than the wound.

When we’ve been hurt or wounded by someone our natural tendency is to hurt them back and to hold onto our hurts, and when you hold on to hurts they develop into the self-destructive diseases of bitterness, resentment, and hate.

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 4:31-32.

Do people always deserve to be forgiven? No, but we didn’t deserve to be forgiven by God either, and when we forgive we free ourselves.  If you hold on to hurt, it will turn into hate, and it’s incredibly destructive to you and all your relationships.

  • Who do you need to forgive?

Lesson #3: Allow God to Work in You During this Season

Brokenness tends to be one of the greatest schools of higher education that you ever attend, and God uses it to reshape us through the experience.

Gene shared that in the brokenness of his divorce he learned that when you lose everything that’s important to, but you still have Jesus Christ, you have enough.  He learned the importance of truth telling in relationships, even at the expense of pain and facing our own faults.  He learned the importance of balance in life, and he learned to have a sensitivity for people crushed by their own broken experiences.

The experience was still painful, but by allowing God to work in him, Gene was able to bring meaning to the pain he encountered.

  • What do you think God might want you to learn in your current season of life?

Prayer

Break up into groups of 2-3 and pray for the needs expressed throughout this week’s discussion.  Commit to following up with each other midweek to see how things are going and continue to pray for each other.

 

At The Movies - The Impossible

At The Movies - The Impossible

Series Introduction

Grab a snack, find a seat...you're At the Movies! Each week we'll see how God uses characters and situations in our lives to move us along on our journey, so we may discover what He means for us to be and do.

  • What is the worst natural disaster you’ve experienced? Snowstorm? Hurricane? Tornado? Earthquake? Fire? Landslide?


Sermon Introduction

The Impossible reminds us why Jesus came. He came on a rescue mission to seek and save those who are lost, who’ve wandered far from God. We can be encouraged that no matter what we’re going through, God came to rescue us. He is the God of hope. He’s the rock we hold onto when everything around us is falling apart and life looks impossible.

Have someone read John 16:33 and John 8:12.

  • What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “I have overcome the world”?  What are the practical implications of that?

This movie is based on the true story of a husband and wife, Henry and Maria, and their three sons, Lucas, Thomas and Simon. What should have been a dream vacation in a tropical resort in Thailand turned into a nightmare when the world’s most deadly natural disaster in recorded history struck. On December 26, 2004, an enormous earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis hurling massive waves almost 100 feet high, eventually taking the lives of over 230,000 people in 14 different countries.

At some point in life we are all going to be struck by an unexpected storm. Hopefully it won’t be a tsunami, but it could be devastating: the loss of a job, the unexpected death of a loved one, a rebellious son or daughter, a health issue, a struggling relationship, or other kinds of challenging and painful events. The truth is, storms are inevitable and much of our lives are spent entering a storm, engaging a storm, or emerging from a storm?

  • What storm do you currently find yourself entering, engaging or emerging from?

It is tempting to turn inward and become incredibly self-focused when we are facing a tough situation. One of the most important spiritual truths we can learn is that God wants to use us to help others, even when we are going through a difficult time. That is what we envision for our small groups, a gathering of real people, going through real life, holding each other up during difficult times. God wants to shine light into our darkness and then use us to be the light of the world to one another, to comfort and encourage others who need help.

  • Share briefly about a time you experienced Jesus’s light and provision during a personal storm. What did you learn?

In the movie, after the tsunami has hit, Maria and her son, Lucas, have a decision to make: to focus on their own needs or turn their focus outward and help others. Maria models compassion to Lucas explaining they need to help others, “even if it is the last thing we do.”

That is the passion and vision of Eastside. It’s why we’re committed to starting new campuses, creating more services and environments, unleashing compassion locally and globally, to do whatever it takes—even if it’s the last thing we do—to be the light of the world to those who are hurting and to those who have never heard about Jesus.

Have someone read Isaiah 58:9-12.

Everywhere you look there are people who need your help. Maria tells her son to go do something, anything to help others.

  • How is Lucas transformed as he starts helping others? How can the storms in our lives serve a purpose and have meaning?

There’s nothing else in the world quite like it when your Heavenly Father uses you to help someone find their way to Him. There’s nothing like leading someone into a relationship with Jesus.

Have someone read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

We need to remember that God wants to bring us through our storms, so we can help and comfort others through their storms.

  • Think of someone in your life who is going through a storm. What are some practical ways you can be a light to that person?

Have someone read Luke 15:8-10.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Last week we talked about the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15 and how the shepherd rejoiced when he found the one lost sheep. In the story of the lost coin, we learn that there is rejoicing in heaven every time one lost person finds his or her way home to the Lord.

God has called each of us to make a difference in this world, to be the lights of the world, to each let our light shine and to share the love of Jesus with people who desperately need to be found. The most important thing in life is not what we do but whose life we help change. You are the light of the world.

We all know someone who needs Jesus. At Eastside we know our Heavenly Father will never stop searching for us, and so we will never stop searching for others. He never stops looking, and He longs for everyone to come home to Him, no matter what we have done or where we have been.

Have someone read Galatians 6:9.

Whatever you do, whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re believing God for, don’t ever give up. We might not see the outcome we desire but we can be assured that God is with us and will guide us through, no matter what.

  • Share a situation when helping someone required perseverance, when you were tired and wanted to quit but experienced God’s help and strength.

In the movie we see Henry talking to his family back home, believing Maria and Lucas are gone. He hangs up, broken and without hope. The group of survivors reach out and encourage him to call back, to reconnect and not to give up hope. It gives Henry what he needs to keep going. That is true for us. Jesus brings people into our lives at the right moment to be a light. We get to do that when we bravely allow God to use us.


Application

Some of us are in the middle of a storm. Remember you are not alone. Share with the group your fears about the situation. Take time to pray for these situations. Think of ways to pray for and encourage each other throughout the week.

Some of us need to be the ones to bring help to those in a storm. We have been comforted so we can comfort others. We can be the light of the world to others through our actions. Commit to taking the steps you mentioned earlier to be a light to the person in your life who is going through a storm.

 

At The Movies - Hacksaw Ridge

At The Movies - Hacksaw Ridge

Series Introduction

Grab a snack, find a seat... you're At the Movies! Each week we'll see how God uses characters and situations in our lives to move us along on our journey, so we can discover what He has for us.

  • What sacrifices do you make for others in your life?


Sermon Introduction

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss and his part in a World War 2 Battle in Okinawa. While the movie is graphic, it contains a tremendous life lesson. Desmond and his brother Hal weren’t always on the same page.  But just like conflict in our own lives, those moments helped develop their deepest convictions.

We can allow our darkest, most challenging moments in life to haunt us forever, or we can use them as a pivot point.  Some people are forever stuck, discouraged and beaten up by a tragic moment in their lives.   Others take the detours of life and use them as an opportunity to discover something new about themselves. That’s what Desmond Doss did.  He discovered a new God opportunity that came out of his darkest hour.

  • Do challenges cause you to get stuck and discouraged, or do you see them as an opportunity to grow and move forward?

  • How do you form your own convictions? Is your process informed by your understanding of the Bible? If so, how do you resolve the tensions of professional responsibilities and your beliefs?

Queen Esther was faced with her pivotal moment when she found out her people, the Jews, were to be killed under the King’s orders. Challenged by her uncle Mordecai that she might have been made queen for a time like this when her people were in peril, she is faced with a decision. Esther must decide if she will intervene for her people. She could have stayed in the palace, led her privileged life and let them be killed, but she didn’t. She chose to have courage and says ultimately, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

If we’re going to accomplish great things in our life and to live the life God has called us to, there are undoubtedly going to be moments when everyone else says do the easy thing and take the easy route, moments when we are forced to decide whether we will do what God would have us do.

  • Share a moment in your life where everyone told you take the easy route, but you felt God was calling you to make a different choice.

  • Pressures from others always test our convictions at work, in school, and even in a family, but following God’s call on your life sometimes means holding on to a conviction regardless of what others are saying.

Have someone read Proverbs 29:35. 

Some of us struggle more with standing firm than other people. If we have people pleasing tendencies or hate to rock the boat if can be easy to let what others think of us matter more than God. We might not even realize that is what we are doing.

  • To what degree do you struggle with allowing the opinions of others to have more influence on your decisions than what you know to be right?  What are some ways we can combat this tendency towards people-pleasing?

God’s ways are not the world’s ways.  Just because they may not make sense in the moment or aren’t always easy doesn’t mean they’re not worth doing. Convictions are things we live by regardless of the situation.  A conviction is something you just hold onto even when the world is saying, “Hey, just let it go.” Desmond’s decision to join the military was going to test his convictions.  Desmond faced intense ridicule, abuse, and was even being threatened with prison for his convictions.  But it was time to see what he really stood for.

Like Desmond our convictions will be tested.  Often, we think because God led us to do something, everything is going to go easy and smooth and all the difficulties will be removed.  Rarely is that the case.

Have someone read Ephesians 6:13-14.

Maybe you’re on the verge of giving up on a dream, or maybe a conviction that you’ve been holding onto has come at a higher cost than you ever dreamed.  Don’t give up!  Keep standing.  There are practical ways we can prepare for the battles we have or are to come. We can pray and seek God daily in prayer and through the Bible. Desmond’s faith and convictions weren’t formed in the war; those were built in his times alone with God.

For some of you, that might be a word from God for you today.  Maybe you’re facing a pivotal moment, thinking of to giving up and everything is pressing against you.  Let this be an encouragement to you to keep standing.  Desmond decided to keep trusting God and standing firm. His road to get there was not easy.  And once he arrived it was not going to be any easier, but he decided to live with conviction, to live for a greater purpose.

Don’t we all want to be unstoppable, for God to use us to make a difference?  It was Desmond’s conviction that fueled him to accomplish his purpose.  All of the difficulties, the problems that lead him to this moment, none of those challenges in his life were pleasant at the time. Without those life shaping challenges, he would never have reached this moment.

You don’t truly know the depth of your convictions until they’re tested. In those moments of testing you will have a choice to run or to stand firm. Life is filled with curveballs that will humble you and break you down. The reason most people never achieve their dreams is because they simply just give up.  Remember, the times when it’s most difficult to persevere are the times that will ultimately lead us to fulfill God’s purpose. 

  • When is a time recently when your convictions were tested? What happened, and what did you do?

Have someone read 1 Samuel 17:48.

Perhaps Desmond was inspired by David in the Bible? When everyone else was heading for safe ground to get away from Goliath, David ran toward the danger. Desmond, like David ran toward the battle. There are moments when we must run towards the battle.  You’re never going to accomplish your purpose if you choose to run away.  Fight for your marriage. Fight for your kids. Fight for your health. Stand for your purpose, and don’t ever give up.  You’re not alone. God will provide strength when we need it the most. 

Have someone read Galatians 5:22-24. 

Desmond was ridiculed, attacked and laughed at, yet he held firm to his beliefs and didn’t attack back. That is so hard, especially in a social media world where there are no holds barred. In Galatians Paul talks about living out the fruit of the spirit. It stands in opposition to what the world tells us. There is that tension we wrestle with between knowing what to fight for and what to let go of, trusting God is in control. As we mature, grow in our faith, and seek God’s word the Spirit of God will guide us.

  • What battles are you facing currently? Which ones do you need to fight, and which ones can you let go of?

Desmond Doss arguably had the greatest impact on the Battle of Okinawa and he never carried a rifle or fired a single shot.  He was able to accomplish that not by asking, “Lord, why me?” but instead to say, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  Instead of making it about him, he chose to focus on serving God and helping others.

When we live our lives fueled by purpose and committed to our convictions, not only will it benefit us, but those around us will be impacted as well.

Have someone read 2 Corinthians 4:16-17.

What would happen to your life if instead of running from your problems, you chose to stand with faith and committed to trusting God to handle the results and the outcome?  Perhaps God would take your present difficulties and the troubles that are around you right now and he would produce something.  Perhaps He would produce in you a glory that would outweigh them all.


Application

Break into small groups and spend time in prayer asking God to meet you in areas where your convictions need to be strengthened. Ask Him to help you stand firm and fight in areas you are battling.

 

At the Movies - Lion

At the Movies - Lion

Series Introduction

Grab a snack, find a seat... you're At the Movies! Each week we'll see how God uses characters and situations in our lives to move us along on our journey, so we can discover what He has for us.

  • Have you ever been on a quest for something?


Sermon Introduction

This movie is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, a young boy born in an impoverished village in India. Saroo and his older brother Guddu often searched for food and coins on trains to help their struggling mother and siblings survive. Even though they didn’t have much in the way of wealth and possession, they had so much of what mattered most. These 2 brothers had each other until one day everything changed.

Searching for his missing brother Guddu, Saroo falls asleep on a train while waiting for his brother to hopefully return. When he wakes up hours later he is hundreds and hundreds of miles away from home. For three weeks he was completely by himself. This 5-year old boy was fighting to survive on the streets of Calcutta. He was hungry, lost and afraid. People are literally trying to abduct him, kidnap him, and sell him into a life of unimaginable trafficking. Little Saroo starts a search for home that would last for over 2 decades to come.

Chances are you’ve never had to survive all alone in a city of millions of people, but many of you are surviving in another way. Maybe a job you just can’t stand. Some of you are struggling to stay in a marriage that’s hanging on by a thread. Others are battling a diagnosis that has you scared out of your mind, or maybe you’re facing a financial mountain that just seem too big to climb. You are searching for anything, for an answer, for a solution, for a way out.

  • Share a current struggle in your life. What can you do to keep encouraged and not give up?

Have someone read Psalm 69:3

In the Message translation it reads King David said, “I’m hoarse from calling for help, bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.”  In other words, I’m getting tired of the search. I’ve been searching for healing for my marriage, but we’re still at odds. I searched to get ahead in life, but I feel like I’m falling more behind. And no matter how hard I search, I still can’t find what I want.

Some of you are on a spiritual search. You’ve called out to God, and even God seems hard to find. I think there are scores of people who are realizing that there must be more to life. I think there may be some of you today who have said “Surely there must be a God, but how do I know what to believe?  If there is a God, how do I even find Him?”

  • Share a time in your life it seemed like God was silent or far away. 

Have someone read Proverbs 8:17.

The good news is when you seek God, you will find God.

Saroo kept on searching and didn’t give up. While on a desperate search for his family, thankfully Saroo was adopted by an amazing couple in Australia.

One thing that every adoptive person knows is that someone chose them. The very act of adoption requires that someone chose you.

One of the greatest things about God is that He chose you. He wants to adopt you. Sometimes difficult or strained relationships with our earthly parents affect how we see God. We end up viewing God through the lens of our parents.

  • Is the concept that God chose you easy to embrace or hard to accept?

Have someone read Ephesians 1:5.

If you don’t remember anything else, remember this, God chose you. No matter what happened to you in your past, no matter what bad choices you might have made in your life you do not need to be weight down with guilt, shame and embarrassment. If you’ve come to God through Jesus Christ, you’ve been adopted and chosen in His family. You are a child of God. And I want this to remind you today that God loves you. Maybe your earthly father let you down but God the Father chooses you every day.

The movie has a strong theme of home and the longing for it woven throughout the film. Going home is a key theme of our faith. Ultimately home is not a building or a body but found in God Himself.

Saroo is loved, but he also has a deep desire to find home, where he came from. Through the use of Google Earth he begins to try and find where he was born and where he comes from. He has vague memories – a water tower, a rock quarry, the train station. Every evening from about 5 p.m. till 2 in the morning he would search on the internet. He estimates that he spent close to 10,000 hours searching for the family that he had lost.

Each of us has something we are searching for. We want peace, healing, a new job, a relationship, restoration and there is a longing in our hearts. The key is to not give up. Do not let anything discourage you to quit.

  • How did Saroo’s friends encourage and support him on his search to find where he came from? Is there someone in your life searching for Jesus? How can you encourage and support them?

Have someone read Galatians 6:9 & Ezekiel 24:16.

One of the sweetest parts of the movie is that Saroo’s mother never gave up hope. The God you are searching for is actually searching for you. God is searching for you today.

Every year, Saroo celebrates his birthday on May 22nd, but that wasn’t the day he was born. That was the day he was found. Perhaps today is the day for you to be found by the God who has been searching for you.

  • The characters in the movie exhibited compassion, gratitude and perseverance. How have you seen those characteristics benefit you in your journey towards/with Jesus?


Application

Share either:

a.     A current search or struggle you need to see God

b.     Someone you are praying for to believe in Jesus

Spend time in small groups praying for each other.


Note to Leaders:

If you know someone who is searching and has questions Alpha is a great place to refer them. It launched this week but for the next two weeks people can still join. It meets Tuesday nights at 7:00 pm in Student Center or Wednesday at 11:30 in The Block.

 

 

At the Movies - Beauty and The Beast

At the Movies - Beauty and The Beast

Series Introduction

Grab a snack, find a seat... you're At the Movies! Each week we'll see how God uses characters and situations in our lives to move us along on our journey, so we can discover what He has for us.

·      Share your favorite movie of last year and why it stood out to you.


Sermon Introduction

On the surface Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is an unlikely love story. It begins with this handsome young prince, transformed into a beast because of his inability to look below the surface and see inner beauty, something many of us struggle with.

His only escape from this curse would be if he could learn to love another and earn their love in return by the time the last petal fell off the rose. Only then would the spell be broken. If not, he would be doomed to be a Beast for all time.

Have someone read 1 Samuel 16:7.

Relationships are complicated because God made us so different from each other. The very first chapter of the Bible says God made us in his image. Male and female He created us. Men and women tend to be so different from each other.

Throughout life we are attracted by people who are opposites: extroverts and introverts, thinkers and feelers, structured and unstructured, savers and spenders. And of course, when these opposites meet, they fall in love and get married.

  • Are you attracted to opposites in relationships and friendships? Why do you think this happens?

Beauty and the Beast was definitely not a case of love at first sight. Belle’s father got lost and stumbled into the Beast’s castle. He’s creeped out by talking tea-cups and candlesticks unaware they’re all trapped under a curse. He rushes out of the castle. He pauses to pluck a rose for his daughter Belle, and when he does, the beast captures him and throws him in the dungeon. Belle comes to his rescue and finally this unlikely pair meets for the first time.

Belle switching places with her father gives us a powerful picture of sacrificial love.

Have someone read John 15:13

Belle took her father’s place. When Jesus went to the cross he took our place. He pushed us out of our prison cell and took upon himself our punishment, so we could go free. That’s what real love looks like. People think love is a feeling, based on emotions. Feelings fluctuate up and down, but love doesn’t stop when feelings stop.

  • Would you call yourself a loving person? What is your definition of love?

Have someone read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The word for love in this passage is the Greek word agape that speaks of an unconditional, self-sacrificing love. It is the love we should have for one another.

Love is willing to take the place of another, and when that kind of sacrificial love is present in a friendship, in a family, in a marriage – it changes things. It lifts others up. We move from selfish to selfless. When we experience life-changing love we want to share it, pass it on to others.

Have someone read Proverbs 18:31.

“You have to help me. You have to stand.”  Those are powerful words that gave the Beast the courage to stand, to not give up, but to realize his life still had a noble purpose.

You know, there’s something about the power of words from someone who believes in you, who speaks life into you. With the words that roll off our tongue we have the remarkable power of life and death in a marriage, in a family, in a friendship, even in a church. Words can wound, they can hurt, they can be vile, or they can build up, encourage, speak life and hope and blessing into someone else. Everything that comes out of our mouth either builds somebody up or tears them down. There are no neutral words.

Have someone read Ephesians 4:20.

  • Share a time someone spoke words of life into you or invested in and mentored you. What impact did it have on your life?

In the movie we see the Beast start to soften and transform. His focus shifts from himself to others. He starts thinking of others and starts reaching out in kindness. Belle shows him what love is, and his life is changed.

When we feel loved and valued, it frees us to be all that God calls us to be. Tell your loved ones what they mean to you. Share with them the potential you see in them. Let’s be people who speak life into each other. It’s amazing when you start speaking words of blessing into the lives of other people instead of cursing them, how you start to see things in them that you never saw before.

  • What are practical ways we can show others God loves them? Is there a situation or relationship in your life that could benefit from words of intentional encouragement and kindness?

Belle is learning you can’t judge a book by its cover, that you can’t judge someone by their outward appearance. This an important word for a teenagers and young adults growing up in a world of social media and selfies being taught that how you look on Instagram is more important than what’s in your heart.

Thank God that somehow, He looks past the beast in each of us to see the beauty that He put there. He sees all our ugliness and secret sins; He sees the shameful hurt, the selfish deeds, and regret lurking within. He knows everything about us and loves us anyways. He doesn’t see a beast. He sees beauty and says, “I choose you.”

You know it’s amazing how even opposites who are so different find a shared love. For Belle and the Beast it was literature, books, reading. And it just started to bring them together.

Those of you who aren’t married, but hope to be one day, if you have a faith in Jesus Christ, put that at the top of your non-negotiable list of traits to look for in a spouse.  Marriage is good, but it can be hard, and when you start from a different spiritual foundation than the person you’re married to, it makes everything far more difficult.

Some of you right now are in relationships where you’ve let a person’s flaws blind you to some amazing positive qualities. A change of perspective allows us to take a fresh look.

Something powerful happens in a relationship when you start to focus on the good things in another person, as opposed to their beastly qualities. You say, “Well I can’t see anything good in this person right now.” The Bible says that Satan is a liar and the father of all lies. This is one of his most effective tools in destroying our relationships, our focusing on the negative traits in someone’s personality rather than the positive ones.

Of course, there are some relationships that might be abusive or unhealthy. There are times when we have to remove ourselves from situations and draw healthy, protective boundaries. Sometimes loving someone is desiring good things for them but having to remove them from the opportunity to abuse others. We know they can still find or return to God, and we can pray for their wellbeing from afar.

Have someone read Philippians 4:8.

In a world that is quick to respond, when emotions are high, it is easy to blow a problem out of proportion. Before you start throwing stones take a breath and try to focus on the good in the person you’re dealing with. What is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? When you focus on those things you’ll stop believing the lies Satan is trying to tell you.

Before the last rose petal falls the Beast learns to love and is loved in return. They lived happily ever after. At least that’s what we’d like to believe or have been conditioned to believe. If you notice, we never see the day after happily ever after.

The truth about relationships is they are challenging because they are made up of deeply flawed, self-centered, sinful people who hope to produce one bliss-filled, problem-free relationship.

We all need to be transformed by Jesus to remake us into something new. We’re all beasts, until Jesus redeems us and makes us into something new, and even then, there’s a long process of growing to become more like Jesus, a process called sanctification, where our sins and flaws are gradually removed and transformed so that we more closely resemble Jesus, the only truly good person to ever live.

Belle says to the Beast, “Come back, I love you.”  That is the beauty and the message of the gospel, God saying to us, “Come back, I love you.”

  • Share a time in your life that you were in need of a lifeline and sensed God calling you back.


Application

Share with your group a relationship that needs tending to in your life. Identify action steps that could potentially turn the situation around. Spend time in prayer, inviting God to reveal lies you’re believing that are keeping your relationship from growing. Ask Him for wisdom and a willing heart.