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.

At The Movies - Hidden Figures

At The Movies - Hidden Figures

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 was the first movie you remember seeing?


Sermon Introduction

Hidden Figures is the incredible true story of three brilliant African American women working at NASA in the early 60’s.  These ladies – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson – served as the brains behind one of the greatest achievements in the last century, launching John Glenn into space and pushing our American space program into the future.

They courageously crossed gender, race, and professional lines. Their brilliance and big dreams firmly cemented them in history as true American heroes.

While there is much racism and bigotry to grieve in this movie, there are moments to feel proud. These women stepped up and used their God given talents and abilities – no matter what the people around them thought – to reach their destiny.  You find yourself cheering for them, wanting to see them succeed when everything seemed stacked against them.

This movie evokes many different emotions.  It’s hard to grasp that for many of us, in our own lifetimes, there have been places in our country where our black brothers and sisters would have to use a different bathroom, drink from a different water fountain or ride in the back of the bus just because of the color of their skin.  This is so contrary to the heart of God.  As Dorothy said to her boys in the back of the bus, “Just because it’s the way, doesn’t make it right.”

  • Consider the communities you live and work in. Where have you seen oppression or discrimination?  How have those involved been able to overcome that oppression or discrimination (or not)?  What impact did it have on you?

Have someone read James 1:2 and Galatians 3:26-28.

Racism, and classism, and sexism were crucified on the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and by His resurrection power.

We see the spirit of these three ladies, working at NASA, who weren’t going to be held back by small, petty thinking.  They decided they weren’t going to allow other people’s opinions define their destiny.  They stepped into the more that God had for them. Working as mathematicians and scientists, they were “computers” before there were computers.  Their faith in God is portrayed authentically throughout the movie, and their deep friendship with each other fueled their desire to overcome every obstacle in their path.

  • The ladies’ friendship and support gave them the grace to keep going and the courage to stand up. Share a time when your friends and family’s support encouraged you to step out in faith.

It is powerful to watch them decide to stand up and say enough! It encourages us to not sit back and allow injustice to continue.  We find ourselves cheering for Katherine as she tells her boss and the entire room what she’s been going through.  It’s wrong that she would have to use a different bathroom. It’s wrong that she would have to drink from a different coffee pot.  Racism in every shape or form is wrong.

At Eastside we strive to be a place that fully embraces, loves, and accepts everyone, no matter their ethnic background. Heaven will be a place where all nations are represented because Jesus died for people of every color, language, tribe and nation.

Have someone read Acts 10:34-35.

The apostle Peter wasn’t sure that the Gospel was for everyone, that it included anyone who wasn’t a Jew, a member of Peter’s race, but in Acts 10 God opens Peter’s eyes.  He comes away from that experience knowing God treats everyone the same, regardless of their ethnicity or the color of their skin.

  • We all struggle with bias. We don’t like certain people because of the jobs they have, the amount of money they make (too much or too little), the country they’re from, the color of their skin, the way they vote, or their gender.  What is one bias you struggle with, and what change can you make to begin viewing those people the way God does?

Mary’s challenge, “Be the first, your honor,” is a challenge to us today, to do what we know is right even when nobody else is doing it.

We all are in the position to “be first” for someone. It could be at work, at school, in your family, or in an organization. This is something that goes beyond race.  Maybe you could be the first in your family to break the cycle of divorce. Maybe you could be the first in your family to go the rest of your life sober, because alcohol has ruined your family.  Maybe you’re excited because you’re the first in your family to go to church, to find an authentic relationship with Jesus.   Maybe you were the first so you could lead some of the rest of your family to Jesus.  If not you, who?

At your work maybe you see injustice, or sexual harassment, or other inequities and you could be the first to write the memo, send the email, make the policy change, or fire the offender.

  • In Hidden Figures, when Katherine Johnson entered the Task Group, she was the only non-secretarial female as well as the only black person in the room. Some of us have experienced that level of discrimination.  Many of us have not, but we have been excluded or made to feel like an “other” on some level at some point.  When is a time when you felt excluded or discriminated against?  Has that experience shaped how you view and relate to people who have experienced significant discrimination?

Have someone read Proverbs 31:8

Be the first.  Some of you have the power and authority to leverage it for those who don’t.  You have the ability to open the door, to make someone else’s dream come true.

In the movie Katherine gets to be the first. Feeling the pressure of a looming launch date and the growing realization of all the obstacles, her boss has finally had enough and walks her into a meeting where no African American woman has ever been before.

  • Who are the hidden figures in your life who you could help show their talents, give an opportunity, or even rise to the top? 

We can all do this.  We can all look and take notice of the hidden figures in our lives and community.  We can all leverage whatever position and power we have to give opportunity to those who have a lot to offer the world but no way of getting it to them. You never know the eternal impact one simple act can make.

Have someone read Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We know this works because at some point in our lives someone handed us the chalk.  Someone gave us a chance and helped us succeed. It could have been your parents, a teacher, a coach, or even a boss.  In Gene’s case it was a church who invited him to be their senior pastor when he was just 25 years old.

  • When is a time someone in your life gave you a chance and helped you succeed?

When you pass that on and give a chance to someone who needs that advantage, it’s a beautiful thing.


Application

Gene challenged us to pray in three different ways. As a group spend time together in prayer.

First, it could be today that some of you have been the object and the target of acts of racism or sexism or some other injustice in your life.  The Bible says to love and pray for your enemy and to do good to those who hate you.  It can be so hard.  Maybe today you just need to say, “Oh God, give me your grace not to fight back.  Help me to be known as a strong person of character, of love, joy, peace, and patience.  Help me not to become bitter by the pain, but better through your son Jesus Christ.”

Second, some of us need to pray for forgiveness for our own hidden racism or hidden attitudes toward people of different races. Like the apostle Peter some of us need a heart conversion moment where we say ‘I now realize God treats everyone on the same basis, no matter what race they belong to.  And I want to treat people like God.’  Just pray, “God, forgive me.  I’m sorry for demeaning people who you have made in your very image and who Jesus died for.”

Third, continue to pray for our church. Pray that one day Eastside will truly be a church where God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven, a place of every tribe, nation, language, and race. Pray that a watching world will look with amazement at the hearts of the people who have been transformed by Jesus Christ here, and that they will say, “My how they love one another.”  Pray that we will be the ones who are the first in this world.

 

Week 1: The Missing Link - LinkedIn

Week 1: The Missing Link - LinkedIn

Series Introduction

It's a pretty universal feeling for all of us to sense "I've got so much, but something is still missing..." Let’s take a look at what's lacking in our lives and resolve ourselves to finding The Missing Link.

  • What is one thing you are most excited about in 2018?


Sermon Introduction

Gene talked about the game of hide and seek many of us played as a child. Our relationship with God is sometimes like that. When it comes to God we want to hide, we need to be sought, but we’re confused about being found.

We’ve been talking for several weeks about our horizontal relationships with each other, but the cross of Jesus Christ has 2 cross beams, one horizontal and the other vertical. The cross is where the vertical dimension meets the horizontal dimension. This series hopefully inspires you to get linked-in both horizontally with one another and vertically with God as we begin a new year.

  • Which is harder for you to do, connect with others or with Jesus? What is one thing you could do that would make a difference in that area?

Have someone read Luke 15:1-7.

When Jesus told this story, he was speaking to two groups of people. One group was full of people of questionable integrity. They are messy, irreligious, unbelieving, disreputable “sinners” and dishonest tax collectors. The other group was a group of elite religious leaders called Pharisees and teachers of the law.

  • Who are the modern day Pharisees?  Who are the modern day lost sheep?

Luke 15:1-2 sets the scene saying that both tax collectors and sinners all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The people in the second group were upset that Jesus was associating with the people in the first group. In a way they were saying, “Jesus claims to be the son of God, God in human form.  But no Son of God would freely associate with messy, irreligious, non-believing, ungodly people like this. It was scandalous to them that He actually welcomed them and laughed and dined with them.”

In response to the outrage Jesus tells a story of hiding and seeking. In Luke 15:7 Jesus says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

When you’re playing hide and seek “Olyolyoxenfree” means it’s safe for you who have been running and hiding to come home now.  You won’t be It.  There will be no penalties. You’re free to come home.

Jesus message is a cry of grace to people who are hiding from God, telling them that it’s time to come home.

  • Share a time when you were lost and felt God pursuing you.

The Shepherd is searching for the lost sheep, out of His great love and concern.  This is not really a story about sheep and shepherds, it’s a story about God and human beings.

God is the Shepherd who loves His people so much He goes on a search for them. He searches for you and me. Religion is you searching for God, but Christianity is God’s loving search for you.

Have someone read Isaiah 53:6.

Jesus referred to us in Matthew 9 as sheep without a shepherd. The Bible says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Bible says if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. One of the hardest things for us to do as human beings is to admit that we are sinners before a holy God. We are lost sheep.

It has been that way since the beginning. The Bible isn’t filled with stories of perfect people. It is just the opposite. We read story after story of broken, flawed people in need of redemption. Just read through Genesis, the first book of the Bible and you will be struck by how messed-up these people and their families are. The Bible is laying out very early in Genesis a very important theological principle about human beings, which is simply everybody’s a screw up, we’re lost sheep!

Jesus is saying this is your story and my story. You can’t get connected to the God of the universe on your own and you can’t make it to heaven on your own.

Both groups listening to Jesus tell the story were lost. The religious leaders didn’t consider themselves lost because they paid their taxes and attended church each week. Yet they couldn’t be honest with themselves and admit they were lost. They didn’t believe they needed saving and had a quality that many of us share: stubbornness.

  • When is one time you’ve wrestled with stubbornness, a time you felt in your heart God was asking you to take action or move forward in some area of your life and yet you resisted?

Shepherds were common in the first century. A shepherd would have up to 200 sheep and would lead his flock in and among the hills of Palestine searching for the best grass and water. The shepherd often risked his life to protect the sheep from the dangers of wild animals in the hills. Sometimes a sheep would fall down a crevice and the shepherd had to climb down and pull it to safety. It would have been common for a shepherd to carry a sheep on his shoulders.

We often sing the song Reckless Love by Bethel Music in our weekend services. It talks about the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. How he loves us so much he leaves the 99 who are found behind to search for us, the one lost one. He fights for us.

God is just like the shepherd in this story. He leaves the 99 sheep who are found to lovingly go search for his lost sheep and He’s searching for you right now. The beauty is that God never stops searching for you and it’s why we as a church never stop searching for people who need to be found.

  • How would your life look different if you lived as if God truly loved you that much?

Maybe you’re afraid of how God might respond to you after some of the things you’ve done. You feel ashamed of past choices or behaviors. Look at what the Shepherd in Jesus’ story does not say. He doesn’t say “You stupid sheep, what were you thinking of wandering off like that!” 

Instead, the shepherd just gathers the sheep up in his arms and puts him on his shoulders and brings him home. It is a time of laughter and rejoicing, because what was lost is now found. There’s no condemnation, there’s no lecture. There’s just a shepherd who is so in love with His sheep that when the sheep is found it melts His heart.

God is a loving shepherd searching for His lost sheep today. He lovingly said, “Instead of you dying for your sins, instead of you being punished for your sins, I’ll send my only son as a sheep and who will pay the price for you.” That is what the cross is all about. Jesus became a sheep that was slaughtered on a cross. He was beaten, His hands and feet were pierced with nails and a crown of thorns was placed on Him.  They hoisted Him up and mocked Him.  And then he died to pay for their… and our wrongs.

How do we respond to this loving God? You have to take that step of faith and the response God asks us to make is to trust the payment Jesus made for us on a cross by faith.

  • Who do you know who is far from God?  What can you do to help him or her find his or her way back to God?

 Have someone read Ephesians 2:8-9

Sometimes we feel like we have to do good works, to make amends for what we’ve done wrong. We feel we must do something to deserve God’s grace. The truth is there is nothing we can do to earn it. Our response is to believe and trust in God, to receive the gift offered to us.


Application

Many of us are here today because someone invited us or introduced us to Jesus. Take a few minutes to make a list of people in your life who are far from God. Commit to praying for those folks individually and as a group.

Consider inviting them to our At The Movies series and/or one of our Alpha groups Both of them are great ways to help people who don’t know Jesus take a step towards Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colors of Christmas: Red

Colors of Christmas: Red

Note to Leaders

The fall semester ends on December 9, and the spring semester will run January 28-April 28.  Consequently, this will be the last sermon discussion guide produced until the spring 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 spring 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.


Series Introduction

  • The lights flickering on the tree, the bright wrapping paper beneath it, the festive sweaters that come out once a year: everywhere we look, we see the colors of Christmas. But there’s so much more than lights and ribbons. The coming of Jesus colors Christmas—and life itself—in a whole new way.

Do you have a time when your reality didn’t meet your expectations for Christmas? How did you handle it?


Sermon Introduction

The Bible is an epic love story that chronicles God’s interactions with humankind.

God created us to have a relationship with Him.  We rebelled and damaged that relationship, and so God has been at work throughout history to restore it.  The climax of the Bible narrative is found in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who makes it possible for us to once again have a relationship with God.

The Bible is the story of a God who will go to any length for us, a God whose love chases us down and won’t give up on us.

  • If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for awhile, what is your favorite story from the Bible that demonstrates God’s love for us, and why does that story have such an impact on you?  If you’ve recently decided to follow Jesus or are still trying to figure out what you believe about Jesus, what do you think about this idea of the Bible as the narrative of God’s pursuit of a relationship with people?

Have someone in the group read Ephesians 1:4.

Long before God laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind.  He decided that we would be the focus of His love.

The Old Testament of the Bible is full of foreshadowing.  God comes to a really old guy named Abraham and tells him that he and his wife are going to have a child and that from this child would come offspring as that would outnumber the grains of sand of every beach in the world, and that through his descendants every nation in the world would be blessed. And so Abraham’s wife Sarah gives birth to Isaac, and Isaac and his wife Rebecca have Jacob.  And Jacob has twelve sons who become the nation of Israel.

Jacob’s son Joseph became prime minister of Egypt, so the whole family relocates there during a famine, but after Joseph died, another pharaoh came along who did not know Joseph.  This pharaoh enslaves Joseph’s descendants, the Israelites.

After 400 years of slavery God uses a guy named Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery.  And this deliverance is a shadow of the deliverance that was to come to all people through Jesus.

  • Where is an area of your life that you feel trapped and in need of God’s deliverance?

Have someone in the group read Exodus 20.

During the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness, God gives them a set of commands to live by.  We know them as the Ten Commandments.  And these commands are designed to help us to live life to the full, to live well and get the most out of life by living in the way that God our creator intended.

But they do so much more than that.  The truth is none of us has perfectly kept all of these commandments.  They exist to show us not only what to do but how much we need God’s help.  They set an impossible standard that we can’t meet on our own.

Have someone in the group read Romans 3:21-24.

The Ten Commandments show us that we need grace.

  • When is a time in your life that someone showed you profound grace?  How has that experience shaped your understanding of God’s grace for us?

Later God tells Moses, “Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:8-9).

This tabernacle was this amazingly beautiful tent that they could tear down and take with them on their road trip to the promised land. There were detailed blueprints of how it was to be built, set up, designed, and furnished, and all of it was a shadow of what was to come.

There was all kinds of symbolism contained in the tabernacle. There was a curtain around it, a courtyard, an altar of burnt offering, a lampstand, a wash basin, an altar of incense, the Holy Place, and the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, which signified the very presence of God.

And do you know where God told them to set up the tent? He doesn’t ask them to set up the tabernacle out on the outskirts in his own private estate. God says, “I want to live right smack in the middle of the camp.”  He wants to be right in the middle of their lives, again a shadow of where God wants to be in our lives, right in the middle, the hub around which everything else revolves!   And just as he dwelt in the tabernacle, he wants to dwell inside of each of us.

  • How are you doing at living each day with Jesus as the hub of your life? What are one or two practical things you can do to make sure He is at the center of your life?

Have someone read Exodus 32.

Moses is up on Mount Sinai talking to God for a long time, and the Israelites begin to panic and turn to idol worship. They forgot God, the one who had delivered them and made a way to freedom.

We might be quick to judge them but we forget too.  We are tempted to go back to our old ways of living.  We may not worship physical idols, but we put other things in place of God as the most important thing in our lives.  And it’s not always bad things we center our lives around, good things like work and family can turn into idols when we elevate them above God.

  • What things are you tempted to place at the center of your life instead of God?


Application

Break up into groups of 2-4 and pray for each other.  Ask God for his help in keeping Jesus at the center of your life, and pray specifically about those things just mentioned that distract you from doing so.

Week 3 - Back to Basics: Practice, Practice, Practice

Week 3 - Back to Basics: Practice, Practice, Practice

Series Introduction

Our finances can get so out of control so fast, especially heading into Christmas season. Back in the Black will help us avoid financial pitfalls, climb out of financial potholes, and experience financial freedom.

  • What is one thing you are looking forward to this holiday season?


Sermon Introduction

Have someone read Philippians 4:11-13

Mike started his message with the definition of envy. He said, “Envy is resenting God’s goodness in someone else’s life, while ignoring His goodness in mine.”

There is just no win in comparison. It steals our joy and peace. Comparison drives anxiety and unhealthy competiveness through the roof. It shifts our eyes off of all the ways we’ve been blessed and we start living with a sense of entitlement. “I deserve” becomes our entitled mantra.

The Hebrew people prayed what they called the 18 Benedictions every day. “Bene” in the Latin means “good”. The word “diction” means “words”, good word or what the Jewish people called blessings. All day, every day, they wanted to thank God for what he had given them, so they would stop and pray, “Blessed are you LORD for you have given us food to eat.” “Blessed are you LORD for you have given us clothes to wear.”

They prayed these Benedictions because they realized that God was a Benefactor—he was the source of all that is good. And they knew they were the beneficiaries of God’s good gifts. And they had a name for the good gifts God gave them—they called them Benefits.

  • How different would your life be if you thanked God consistently throughout the day? How can you work prayers throughout your day?

Have someone read Psalm 103:1-5.

We have much to be thankful for but we so easily forget. When we are comparing ourselves to others we can start believing we deserve things. This time of year is especially difficult. We are assaulted with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and see the things we didn’t know we needed. These same items we didn’t know we needed are now on sale calling to us. We see our friends buying these things and start believing we deserve them. We tell ourselves we would be content if only we had that one thing. Thought patterns like this steals our joy and we become less grateful.

  • We all have areas where we are more vulnerable to comparison. What gets in your way and how does it keep you from being grateful?

In her book Radical Gratitude, Ellen Vaughn writes “Radical gratitude is powerful, provocative, life-changing. It’s like a pair of glasses that get progressively sharper: the more we thank, the more we see to be thankful for. Gratitude is the lens that reveals God’s incredible grace at work. It is the key to tangible, everyday joy.”

  • Think about your life and count up your benefits. What are three things you are most grateful for this year?

Research shows that people who look through the lens of gratitude are happier and content with their life. If we express our gratitude those feelings go off the chart. Who doesn’t want to live an off the charts life, filled with deep satisfaction? Paul teaches us the secret to being content in Philippians 4.

Have someone in the group read Philippians 4:11-12.

The best way to learn something is to practice. You want an off the charts life? Learn contentment by practicing gratitude.  One of the best ways we practice gratitude is through generosity. The more we express our thanks by giving away our resources, sharing our stuff, and extending our lives for the sake of others the deeper contentment and joy takes root in our hearts.

Mike said that grateful generosity is the power ball that energizes your whole life. Research on what makes people happy comes to an overwhelming conclusion – selflessness leads to happiness. Generosity infuses our lives and counteracts selfishness.

It seems counterintuitive but the absolute best way to fill yourself up is to pour yourself out.   We’ve been made in God’s image, so we’ve been divinely pre-engineered to give ourselves away. That’s what He does so when we do it, we feel like we are fully alive.

  • When was a time in your life that you shared or gave back. How did that impact you?

Jesus talked about money more than any other topic because he knew how it could impact our lives.  this a lot, saying things like, “It’s better to give than to receive.” He wasn’t delivering a message on tithing when he said that. He’s just acknowledging a fundamental reality of life -  it really is much more fun, much more fulfilling and deeply satisfying to give of yourself rather than to get for yourself.

Have someone read Luke 12:15.

We give willingly when we give from a heart that simply wants to say thanks. Giving is not an obligation have to on our list. We are not trying pay God back but simply want to honor Him and invest in someone else’s eternal future. When we give willingly we let generosity define our lives.

Have someone read 2 Corinthians 9:7 and 2 Corinthians 8:2,4.

The apostle Paul writes about this little struggling church in Macedonia who wanted to help out some folks in need. They didn’t have much, but they gave willingly and joyfully. God loves cheerful giver. You can’t be grateful and resentful at the same time.

Have someone read Matthew 6:1-4.

Jesus talked more than once about the need to give humbly. He doesn’t desire us to give and boast about how amazing we are as givers. He talks about giving in secret. We don’t have to match or out give someone else, we are just called to give.

To give consistently is to put our faith in practice. God owns it all anyway, he just entrusts it to us to manage while we’re here.  Every single possession that we have really belongs to our heavenly Father.

Money management is one of those things that God uses to grow us from the inside out. Awesome things like wisdom, discipline, patience, compassion, delayed gratification, and contentment all get shaped in us. It is priceless and life changing. Our hope is in transforming love of Jesus Christ that changes the world one heart at a time. Mike challenged us to refuse to hoard and instead to pour out and give generously.


Application

Identify one way you can practice gratitude in your life this week. Put gratitude into practice and spend time praying and giving thanks to God as a group.

As a group consider how you can give back this Christmas season as a small group. From adopting a family to helping out with the Foster All Christmas Party, there are ways to give back and pour out to others in need. Visit our Compassion page to see a list of all the opportunities this season.

Week 2 - Back to Basics: What Test?

Week 2 - Back to Basics: What Test?

Series Introduction

Our finances can get so out of control so fast, especially heading into Christmas season. Back in the Black will help us avoid financial pitfalls, climb out of financial potholes, and experience financial freedom.

  • What is the best financial choice you have made?


Sermon Introduction

Have someone in the group read Malachi 3:6-12.

The word tithe means a “tenth part.” Throughout Scripture the number ten represents testing. There were 10 plagues in Egypt and in the wilderness God gave Moses ten commandments. This is seen throughout the Old Testament. God tests our hearts through tithing. The interesting thing is that tithing is the only area where God says we can test Him too.

We are not supposed to test God; however, when it comes to tithing, God says, “Try me now in this.” God desires His children to bring their tithes and offerings into the storehouse of the church. When we do this, God says He will pour out His blessings upon us, and He will guard us.

Tithing is a test of our hearts.  If we tithe, we are under God’s blessing. Tithing is a subject that many are uncomfortable with. We shy away from talking about it to our family or friends. When we are fearful of talking about this it keeps us from being accountable or seeking wise counsel. Last week Gene talked about 10 Financial Commandments. He talked about how we honor God when we give him our first fruits.

  • When you think of tithing, do you cringe or do you feel excited? Explain.

Have someone read Leviticus 27:30 and Deuteronomy 26 1-2, 13-15.

Pastor Robert talked about tithing being biblical. Many people will say that it isn’t in the Bible or that it was under the law so it doesn’t apply today. In reality there are numerous passages, written even 500 years before the law was given, that talks about tithing.  Jesus told many parables around money and being a good steward of what we are given. It was important to Him.

Have someone read Deuteronomy 26:1-2.

God gave the command that all His people are to tithe; however, with our obedience comes a blessing. Our tithe helps support the work of the church, and allows us to unleash compassion to those in need. The place where we receive our “spiritual food” is the place where we are to pay our tithes. Obeying God’s word through tithing breaks the curse and invites God’s blessings and provision for our lives and finances.

Pastor Robert talked about two types of people. The first are tithers and they say “I am so blessed. “The second are the people who don’t tithe. These people say “I can’t afford to tithe. “He talked about how you will never be able to afford to tithe until you start.

Have someone read aloud Matthew 6:21

Matthew 6:21 talks about where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be. When we are able to give 10% or more of our income instead of keeping that money for ourselves, it shows that we love God more than our money. 

Often you will hear stories of people who choose to tithe, even when they didn’t know how they would pay the bills or provide for their family. They take that step of faith and say, “I trust you Lord.” As time passes you will hear these same people share the amazing ways God met them and provided for all their needs. It can be scary to take that first step. In our small group, we have the opportunity to cheer each other on and to pray for one another. We can celebrate together as we share how God is meeting our needs. Our hearts grow bigger and our faith grows stronger when we trust God with our money.

Have someone read Matthew 25:14-30.

Tithing is more than the obedience. It is personal to Jesus, he desires to provide for us.

  • In his message, Pastor Robert shared that tithing is a blessing for the believer. Do you agree or disagree? Explain. If you agree, how is the tithe a blessing for the believer? Have you experienced this firsthand?

Pastor Robert began his message saying, “Every time we get paid we face a test…whom shall we thank?” As followers of Jesus, we have trusted Him for the forgiveness of our sin. It’s a big step to honor God first with the tithe and it takes faith that the God who you are trusting for your entire eternal destiny in heaven forever and ever can also be trusted in this area of your life.

  • Many believers struggle when it comes to tithing. Why do you think this is? What are some of the barriers or misunderstandings that hinder believers from tithing? If you are comfortable, share your personal experience with tithing.


Application

This weekend Gene encouraged us to take the tithe challenge. The 3-month tithe challenge is an opportunity for you to trust God in this area of your life in the next 3 months. Gene boldly offered a money back guarantee.  If you get to the end of the 3 months and feel like God hasn’t blessed you, and God hasn’t kept His promises to you, the church will return the money. Pray you have the courage to fill it out and test God and trust God.

Spend time in small groups praying for each other in the area of finances and tithing.

This week consider journaling down your responses to these questions:

Are you currently tithing? Where is God asking you to grow in this area? Maybe you are struggling to become debt free. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to continue to trust Him in this area and for wisdom in your day to day financial decisions.

If you have not taken the challenge, take time to pray about it this week. How can you overcome the things in your heart that keep you from tithing? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and make a plan to begin tithing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 1  - Back to Basics

Week 1 - Back to Basics

Series Introduction

Our finances can get so out of control so fast, especially heading into Christmas season. Back in the Black will help us avoid financial pitfalls, climb out of financial potholes, and experience financial freedom.


Sermon Introduction

Most of us have made unwise and foolish financial mistakes over the course of our lifetimes that we wish we could go back and have a do-over on. 70 to 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, just one missed paycheck away from a crisis.

We can experience enormous freedom when we get back in the black. God’s Word, the Bible, is a great source of financial advice. This week Gene shared numerous Scriptures and synthesized them into a Financial 10 Commandments. These commandments are the basics to help you get back in the black.

Commandment #1: Thou shalt work hard

Proverbs 28:19 (NLT) Hard workers have plenty of food; playing around brings poverty.

The Bible always connects acquiring money with working hard. These days it seems like there is a growing entitlement mentality that says someone else ought to support me. The Bible says if a person will not work, they shall not eat. God knows that hard work not only produces the income we need to stay alive, productivity makes our lives more satisfying and fulfilling.

  • When is a time you’ve experienced the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something you have worked hard for?

Commandment #2:  Thou shalt not keep up with the Kardashians

Exodus 20:17 (KJV) Thou shalt not covet.

Ecclesiastes 6:9 (GN) It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to always be wanting something else.

Thou shalt not covet is one of the 10 Commandments God gave to the Israelites through Moses. Coveting means you not only look at something your neighbor has and simply appreciate it, but you say to yourself, “I’ve got to have that too.” We go on Instagram and see our friend showing off the latest iPhone and think “I need that.”  We overspend trying to keep up. You can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars if you will just declare your neighbors the winner right now and say, “I will not keep up with the Kardashians!”

  • Each of us has things in our life we desire. From a love of cars to the latest gadgets, we struggle with being content. In what area of your life are you most tempted to say “I’ve got to have that too?”

Commandment #3: Thou shalt not impulse spend

Isaiah 55:2 (NIV) “Why spend money on what does not satisfy?”

Some people are emotional shoppers. When they feel sad, lonely, down, bored, or just feel they need a little pick-me-up they say, “I’m going shopping! That will make me feel better!” Others work so hard to earn money, and then they just obliterate their financial future with uncontrolled impulse spending. They come home still feeling empty and dissatisfied.

  • What situations in your life tend to trigger emotional or impulse spending? What are some healthier ways you can deal with those situations?

Commandment #4: Thou shalt create a budget

Proverbs 21:5 (NLT) Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.

You will never just drift back into the black. You need a plan. If you put together a simple budget and work your plan, you will have plenty. Without a plan, we live re-actively instead of pro-actively. We impulsively buy things we don’t need because we have no other pro-active plan to direct our spending.

A budget is simply a financial plan to help you decide in advance how you’re going to spend, invest, and give rather than just hoping it’s all going to work out somehow.

  • When have you been most successful in budgeting and what is your biggest struggle to living pro-actively and not re-actively?

Commandment #5:  Thou shalt honor God first

Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV) Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Deuteronomy 14:23 (LB) The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives.

First fruits, refers to the first part of your income and is what the Bible calls the tithe, the first 10% of any income, earnings, bonuses, or inheritances we receive. It’s not just a percentage amount, but it’s the first percentage. We have found when you honor God first in your life, you invite His supernatural touch and activity into your finances. Whatever area you are willing to put God first in, He will bless.

  • Where do you need more of God’s blessing in your life? What holds you back from putting God first?

Commandment #6:  Thou shalt pay yourself second

Proverbs 13:11 (NIV) Whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

After you’ve honored God first, instead of spending everything else you have to live on, you need to pay yourself by saving money. The reality is that 1 in 3 people in America has nothing saved for retirement and 6 in 10 Americans couldn’t cover a $1000 emergency. If you make an advance decision to save a percentage of your income, little by little it will grow.

  • What is something you could give up monthly to enhance your savings for retirement and/or emergencies?

Commandment #7:  Thou shalt minimize debt

Proverbs 22:7 (NIV) The borrower is slave to the lender.

When you live with debts that you can’t pay, making minimum payments, and unable to save, you know exactly what it feels like to be a slave to the lender. It is never too late to start finding freedom.  This February we will be offering Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Consider signing up and learn the tools to become debt free.

  • Have you attended Financial Peace University? If so, did you find it helpful in helping you get your finances under control? If not, would you consider it?  You can sign up at fpu.com/1052933.

Commandment #8:  Thou shalt not make any major financial decisions without wise counsel

Proverbs 20:18 (NLT) Plans succeed through good counsel.

Many people grew up in a house where there was a lack of wise financial counsel. Often, we repeat the mistakes of our parents.   Embarrassment and fear of being told something we don’t want to hear prevents us from seeking wise counsel.  But how many financial fiascos could we have prevented if we had sought counsel from people who told us what we needed to hear instead of what we wanted to hear?

  • Who do you turn to for wise financial counsel? If you don’t have anyone currently, is there someone you would trust to talk to as a next step?

Commandment #9:  Thou shalt leave a legacy

Luke 12:20  God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded of you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

According to Jesus, a fool is someone who lives with no thought of God. He hadn’t thought about God in life, and he certainly hadn’t thought about God in death. Each of our lives will come to an end one day, and we have the chance to determine who will get what we have. It is an opportunity to bless others and make an eternal impact.

  • What type of legacy do you desire to leave?

Commandment #10:  Thou shalt trust God

Philippians 4:19 (NIV)  And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Ultimately, how you approach your finances is an issue of how much you trust God. Our faith in Jesus can guide us and help us find our way back in the black.

  • Do your actions reflect a true trust in God’s financial wisdom? Where have you seen His provision in your life? Where do you need His provision?


Application

Review the list and identify which of the Financial 10 Commandments you need to work on. What is your next step to becoming debt free? Split into groups of 2 or 3 and pray for each other.

Gene mentioned the EveryDollar App (https://www.everydollar.com/). Download it and start budgeting today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 5 - Let It Go: Pride

Week 5 - Let It Go: Pride

Series Introduction

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up – physically, emotionally and more importantly spiritually. If we can inspire, help, equip or challenge people to just LET IT GO, we can change our overall well-being in life.

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


Sermon Introduction

Pride is something all of us deal with. It destroys relationships, makes us un-coachable, and keeps us from being vulnerable. It leads us to make unhealthy choices, spend too much to impress someone, and hold people at a distance.

Pride isn’t healthy self-esteem or being proud of your kids. Pride is that inflated sense of self-importance and being self-absorbed. It is feeding a huge ego, and a huge ego Edges God Out.

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis wrote, “the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

Pride is often looked upon by high achievers as a virtue, yet God uses strong language to talk about pride. He detests pride and opposes the proud. Pride can make a man or woman so full of themselves that there is no room for God and His love, His acceptance, His wisdom, and His leadership in our lives. That’s why we have to let it go.

To let go of pride is to admit publicly that you need God’s amazing grace in your life.

  • Where does pride have its strongest hold on you? 

Have someone read Proverbs 16:5, Psalm 101:5 and Daniel 4:27

Moses wasn’t perfect, but Numbers 12:3 says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s palace. He had striking features. He was educated, wealthy, and a natural leader. As a young man, Moses realizes he’s an Israelite. He sees an Egyptian beating a fellow Israelite and kills him. As a result, he has to flee from Egypt and ends up across the desert in Midian. Moses gets married and goes to work for his father-in-law Jethro, tending sheep. One day the angel of the Lord appears to him in the flame of fire from within a bush. God is calling him back to free the Israelites from the Egyptians.

Have someone read Exodus 3:11.

We see here that Moses is not the same man as he was 40 years earlier when he impulsively killed an Egyptian.

  • What are some ways that God has helped you to overcome pride?

Have someone read Romans 12:3.

The Apostle Paul is telling us to view ourselves accurately, to be honest in our evaluation of ourselves, but that’s difficult and sometimes painful. The world tells us to boast about our gifts. Who wants to expose their bumps and blemishes? But to live in freedom, we need to stop and look in the mirror once in a while and ask the question Moses asked: “Who am I?”

  • Why do you think it is so hard for us to be honest about our shortcomings?

Have someone read Matthew 5:3.

Jesus is saying that the people who recognize their need for Him are blessed.  He doesn’t mean that we should view ourselves as worthless.  Quite the opposite!  If we were worthless, He would not have died for us.  You have incredible value, worth, and significance to God. To be poor in spirit simply means to recognize that you need God and then to depend on Him.

People who are poor in spirit people can look themselves in the eye and say, “I don’t measure up to God’s standard of holiness.  When I look in the mirror I have blemishes. Every day I say things; feel things; think things; do things; or refuse to do things that just underscore the fact that I’m a sinner in need of amazing grace.”

Jesus says, blessed or happy are those who can look in the mirror and humbly acknowledge they need God. The kingdom of heaven belongs only to those who can admit they don’t deserve it.  Developing an accurate view of ourselves will lead to humility and is the first key to letting go of pride.

  • How can we cultivate a poor spirit, one that recognizes our spiritual poverty but on the other hand doesn’t cause us to think of ourselves as worthless?

The second key to letting go of pride is to view God accurately. When Moses asks God “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God responds in Exodus 3:12 by saying “I will be with you.” Moses starts listing all the reasons he isn’t the right pick. God doesn’t agree or disagree. Instead, He takes the focus off Moses and puts it on Himself. Moses doesn’t need more self-confidence, which always leads to pride or to disappointment in yourself. He needs God-confidence, a humble awareness of God at work in his life. Put your confidence in the all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing God of the universe.

  • What challenge are you facing where you need God-confidence not self-confidence?

Fast forward and Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt, but they’re not yet in the Promised Land. They’re in the desert in between. The people are complaining, they’re high-maintenance, and they want something to drink. God says to Moses, “Speak to this rock and water will miraculously come from this rock.”

Have someone read Numbers 20:10-12.

Moses did something different than what God told him to do, and so God tells Moses, “You’re not going to go into the Promised Land.” Gene talked about how some say this is because of disobedience, but he thinks the problem is pride.  Moses says, “Must we bring forth water from this rock?” Not God, but “God and I.” Moses wasn’t bringing the water from the rock, God was.  If you want to let go of pride you must give all the glory to God.

Pride keeps us from God. When we are prideful we say “I don’t need your help, God. I’ve got this.” Pride keeps us from acknowledging our need for a Savior.

  • What are some ways that pride has kept you from being as close to God as you could be?

Thanks to God there will be a day when pride will be vanquished. And the Bible tells us there will be a day when every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He alone is worthy.

We don’t have to wait until that day. We can humble ourselves and surrender to Jesus today. We can acknowledge our need for Jesus in our lives. One way we surrender is through baptism.


Application

This weekend we had the opportunity to hear a testimony from Aaron and Brandi. 

Aaron was hesitant to get baptized before the whole church, but he shares that “I really believe that my life started the day I gave into faith and believed that Jesus Christ is our Savior.” For some of you, that is your next step, to humble yourself and stand publicly admitting you need Jesus and want to be baptized. If that is you, share with your group and prayerfully consider signing up to be baptized at eastside.com/baptism.

Break into small groups and pray for each other to be able to overcome the pride you have in the area you shared about at the beginning of the group. Pray that God would help you to see yourself accurately, to view God accurately, and to praise Him, giving Him all the glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 4  - Let It Go: Fear

Week 4 - Let It Go: Fear

Series Introduction

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up – physically, emotionally and, more importantly, spiritually. If we can inspire, help, equip or challenge people to just LET IT GO, we can change our overall well-being in life.

  • What are three treasured things you would grab from your home if there were an emergency?


Sermon Introduction

The most repeated command God gives humans in the Bible is, “Fear not….do not fear….do not be afraid.”

There are many types of fears – relational, medical, educational, job related. Fear can grip us, and when we let fear overcome us it starts to dictate how we live our lives.

Have someone read Exodus 14:10-14.

The Israelites have just escaped Egypt and now find themselves facing a wall of water before them and enemies racing towards them. They have a very natural human response to this situation where their backs against the wall. First, they’re afraid. Then they get sarcastic with their leader and start imagining worst-case scenarios.

For those of us that fall in to that worst-case scenario mentality, we need for someone to say, “Hey, if you cave into fear, and sarcasm, and worst-cast-scenarios right now, where is that going to take you?”  We need someone to help us see there is a better plan.

Do you tend to make better or worse decisions when you’re scared? Share a time when you made a decision out of fear that you later regretted.

It’s natural when your back is against the wall to be afraid, but we have to be careful not to let fear drive us to make bad decisions, not to allow fear to make us panic when we need to relax and remain clear-headed, not to get sarcastic and biting and drive others away when we need people to help us.

The Israelites look at their situation and start predicting the outcome… and it’s not good.

  • When you’re afraid, what coping mechanism do you tend to use?

When we let worst-case scenarios take control of our mind, we lay in bed at night afraid. Late at night things weight heavy on our hearts and all the bad outcomes race through our minds. That almost never is helpful. The author of Aesop’s Fables once said: “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes…Most of which never happened.”  In the dark of night, we can choose to stand firm and decide not to let those thoughts overcome us.

Have someone read Matthew 6:27.

Jesus is telling us it’s just unproductive to worry. Worrying doesn’t solve our problems. It is never the solution. It doesn’t improve our lives. In fact, worry will take time away from us. Constant worry has physical consequences. Worry steals from us. When we decide to not allow fear to control us we can use that energy in a much more positive way.

  • Is there a time in your life where you made the decision to stand firm rather than fear? What caused you to make that decision, and how did it feel?

Moses makes a bold statement to the Israelites in Exodus 14:13, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.”

Moses is saying, “We’re going to abandon the scared, sarcastic, worst-case-scenario plan for the let it go plan.”

First, we’re going to adopt a fear-not mentality. Then we’re going to stand-firm and expect God’s help. This is the plan to implement when you find yourself with your back against the wall, and it comes straight out of the Bible: fear not, stand firm, expect God’s help.

Have someone read 2 Timothy 1:7.

The Apostle Paul is telling his young protégé Timothy—who has been given the huge responsibility of leading the church in the city of Ephesus—that he doesn’t need to be afraid.

We don’t have to freak out. We can have the self-discipline to choose a different path. We can develop the ability to be in a fear-not position when we’d normally be in a freak-out position.

  • What is one area in your life where you are feeling afraid currently? What would it look like to stand firm and trust God with this situation?

Standing firm requires faith. It requires the discipline to reset our way of thinking and to be brave. Time after time the Bible teaches us that God tends to wait for your declaration of faith before He supernaturally intervenes. Moses makes that declaration when he stands up and says, “I’m taking a different route.  You can all believe what you want to about God, but I’m expecting God to bring deliverance to us today.”  He doesn’t know how that will happen, but he is declaring his faith in God.

In Exodus 12:15 the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” His words are simple and clear.  Just move on and step toward that very thing you fear in faith. God doesn’t side step what they fear. He doesn’t take them over a bridge. God takes them through their fears. Choosing to stand firm in faith doesn’t mean we don’t have to walk through our challenges, but we can be assured that God is with us and that He will make a way.

Maybe you are in the midst of a challenge right now. Work is presenting a difficult situation to navigate. A relationship is on the line. Financially, you are desperate to see God’s provision. This is not the time to freak out but to fear not and stand firm.

  • What step can you take to overcome a fear that you are facing currently?


Application

Gene shared how he finds it helpful to write about his fears in a journal.  First, he writes out his fears, which somehow don’t seem as big and as overwhelming written down on paper Then he writes out more rational and faith-filled thoughts. This week, consider trying to journal each day stating your fears and how you can stand firm in the midst. Write your prayers and ask God to help you overcome your fears.

Gene ended our time with a prayer that you can pray together as a group now and at home in your quiet times.

PRAYER:  God we pray for the brothers and sisters in our group who have decided to stand humbly and courageously to face their fears.  We’ve all been there, and we know how futile it is to live in fear and to get sarcastic and blame others and imagine worst-case scenarios.  We’ve done it thousands of times and it just doesn’t work.  We also know how freeing it is to write new chapters where you say, “It’s fear-not time.”

So, God, help us to get on the fear not plan, and to discipline ourselves to take those thoughts and put them aside.  Give us the ability to stand firm, knowing you will never let go.  Help us to have faith… because some of us have given up believing that you can part the waters for us.  Maybe we believe you can for Israel, for someone else, but not for us.  Help us to change our thinking and to start writing with a pen of faith.

We believe You’re for us, not against us.  We believe help is on the way, and the waters are going to part.  And we look forward to the serious-water parting you will do in your time and your way, because we are standing in a declaration of faith today.