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- Let It Go Too - Week 3: Cynicism

- Let It Go Too - Week 3: Cynicism

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Psalm 23.

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


PAIR OFF

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

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

- Let It Go Too - Week 2: The Past

- Let It Go Too - Week 2: The Past

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

Have a volunteer read Acts 16:16-34.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PAIR OFF

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

 - Let It Go Too - Week 1: Procrastination

- Let It Go Too - Week 1: Procrastination

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • When is a time procrastination cost you something?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Proverbs 22:13.

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

Have someone read Colossians 3:23.

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

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

Have someone read 2 Timothy 1:7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • What are my priorities?

  • What are my core values?

  • What are my gifts?

  • What’s in the way?

  • How do I define success?

  • What do I want my legacy to be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PRAYER

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

Week 4 - Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

Week 4 - Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

The controversy is not:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  3. He really is the Lord.

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

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

Have someone read Luke 23:13-17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read I Corinthians 15:3-11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PRAYER

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

Week 3 - Explore God: How Great Is God?

Week 3 - Explore God: How Great Is God?

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

  •    Fall is officially here! What is your favorite fall food?


SERMON GUIDE

In our current series we are exploring God and this week we are looking at How Great Is God? People talk about God all the time.

  •   If someone asked you to describe God, what would you say?

Have someone read Genesis 1:26.

Gene shared three things he doesn’t fully understand about God:

  1. The Eternal Nature of God – Last weekend we unpacked the concept that science can try to explain the origins and existence of the world with a big bang. Gene shared that his question is, “Where did the gases, and matter, and energy come from for the bang? What’s the explanation for the ‘original cause?’” Ultimately, the only explanation that satisfies the problem of original cause is that there is an eternal being who has always existed.

  2. The Mystery of the Trinity – He is one God, but He is 3 persons. The Bible teaches very clearly that the Heavenly Father is God, Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, yet there is only one God.

  3. Why This Amazing God Is So Interested in Me – Many of us are in circumstances that are so big, so overwhelming we wonder if the God of the universe is greater than our circumstances, fears, hurts; or your past; you wonder if He could make a way in your universe.

Do you wonder if God is aware of the current circumstances of your life? Do you think He really knows and understands?

As a group read Psalm 147:5 out loud.

Gene shared three things he has learned about how great God really is.

He knows my circumstances. His understanding is beyond comprehension.

The first is sometimes referred to as the omniscience of God. He has perfect knowledge of all things.

Have someone read Isaiah 55:9.

How much higher are God’s thoughts than yours?  What is the distance between His wisdom and yours? It’s why His understanding is beyond comprehension. The omniscient God of the universe knows your physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, relational needs, and financial needs. He knows your self-destructive habits, your hang ups, your hurts before you even tell Him, before you even choke out the words.

We don’t realize that Someone is listening, Someone is watching, and the omniscient God knows what we’re going through.

Psalm 56:8 (NLT) says “You (God) keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.” The image there is that God is so moved by our brokenness and our circumstances that He numbers and collects our tears in a bottle.

You say, “O.K., God knows my circumstances, but where is He when I’m in a tough spot?” 

God is present in my circumstances.

Have someone read Psalm 139:7.

God is omnipresent. He is everywhere in heaven and on earth all at the same time. The reality is that God’s complete essence if fully present in all places at all times.

We can rest in familiar phrase in Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the shadow of death I will fear no evil because you are with me.”

Sometimes, as adults we play hide and seek with God. We pretend he can’t see us or shut down and stop turning to Him, embarrassed by our choices and decisions. We turn to other things to find a way out of a situation, to numb the pain or find relief.

  • What are some things you’ve turned to in order to cope with difficult situations, and what was the result?

God is our constant companion. You can go to bed tonight with peace, knowing God is there and He will never leave or and will never forsake you.

God is more powerful than my circumstances

God is omnipotent. He is greater and more powerful than my circumstances. Nothing is too hard for the all-powerful, omnipotent God of the universe. What’s hard is coming to the point in our lives where we admit we’re not God and finally say, “God, I’m powerless and I need You in my life.”

We would all prefer that God would empower us in advance of our circumstances. We’d like to have His power before the crisis. But God’s way is to give us power along the way.

  • Share a time you took a leap of faith, trusting God, and saw Him meet you and your need.

We can implement the power along the way principle by saying to ourselves “I found out I have a God who is greater than my circumstances. A God who not only knew my situation; and was present in my situation; but a God who is more powerful than my situation.”

We can walk toward that thing, take a step toward that situation we fear or are uncertain about and experience God’s power along the way.

For some us, we need to walk in the direction of a friend, be honest and say, “Here what’s really going on in the secret places of my life and I just have to start talking about it.”  You need to trust for power along the way.

We can hold onto what the apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:13, “For God is at work within you giving you the will and the power to achieve His purpose.”

  • Which of the three truths Gene shared about God – Omniscience, Omnipresent and Omnipotence is the hardest for you to wrap your head around? What is the easiest for you to believe?


PRAYER

Take a few minutes to quietly consider places in your life that you sense God is calling you to take your next step.

OR

If your group is comfortable enough with one another, break up into groups of 3 share and spend time in prayer for each other.

Week 4 - Wingtips

Week 4 - Wingtips

Note to Leaders:

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


SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

Have someone read John 3:1-10.

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

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

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

Have someone read Ezekiel 36:25-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PRAYER

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

Week 3 - Workboots

Week 3 - Workboots

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

Have someone read Ephesians 5:21.

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Luke 7:1-10

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read 1 Samuel 16:7.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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

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

Week 2 - Stilettos

Week 2 - Stilettos

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

Have someone read John 4:1-9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read John 4:10-15.

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

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

Have someone read Jeremiah 2:13.

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

  • Have you experienced some broken cisterns in your life?

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

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

Have someone read John 4:16-26.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 1 - Flip Flops

Week 1 - Flip Flops

Series Introduction                    

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

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

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

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

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


Sermon Guide

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:28.

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

  • How do you define greatness?

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

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

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

Have volunteers read Psalm 139:13-16.

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Mark 1:1-5.

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Luke 3:7-14.

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Hebrews 4:12.

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read John 3:22-28.

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:25-28.

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:19-23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Mark 6:23-29.

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

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

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

 

Week 4 - Trust

Week 4 - Trust

Series Introduction

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

  • Share one of your favorite summer memories growing up.


Sermon Discussion

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

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

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

Have someone read John 6:6.

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

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

Have someone read John 6:10-14.

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

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

Have someone read I Kings 17:8-16.

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

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

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

Have someone read Philippians 4:19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Malachi 3:9-12.

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

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

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

  • Increased income or lowered expenses.

  • Cars or appliances lasting longer than they should.

  • Good health.

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

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

1.     He provides for our emotional and relational needs.

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

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

2.     He provides the deepest needs of our soul.

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

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

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


Prayer

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

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

 

Father's Day - The Story of a Remarkable Father

Father's Day - The Story of a Remarkable Father

Series Introduction           

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


Sermon Introduction

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

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

Have someone read Luke 15:11-19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Luke 15:20-29.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read I John 3:1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Luke 15: 31-32.

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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

Week 2 - Peace for Financial Storms

Week 2 - Peace for Financial Storms

Series Introduction

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

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


Sermon Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

  • What has been creating financial stress for you recently?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Genesis 41:47-49.

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

Have someone read Proverbs 21:20.

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

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

Have someone read Genesis 41:53.

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Proverbs 13:11.

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

  • Share meals at restaurants

  • Bring lunch to work, eat out less

  • Order water when eating out

  • Make your own coffee

  • Cut cable TV

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

  • Buy on sale, never pay full price

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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

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

Week 1 - All in

Week 1 - All in

Series Introduction

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

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


Sermon Introduction

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

Have someone read Matthew 6:21.

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

Have someone read Matthew 22:37.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Deuteronomy 14:23.

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

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

Have someone read Luke 12:13-21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Malachi 3:6-12.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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

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

Week 4

Week 4

 

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

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

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

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

Series Introduction

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

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


Question #1:  Is the church anti-woman?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read 2 Kings 22:14-20.

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

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

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

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

Have someone read John 4:27.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Have someone read I Timothy 5:2.

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

Have someone read Proverbs 31:8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer:

Pray as a group the prayer Gene closed with Sunday:

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

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

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

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

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

Series Introduction

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

  • What one word best describes last week for you?


Question #1:  Are there really angels and demons?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read I Peter 5:8.

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Ephesians 6:10-20.

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

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

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


Question #2:  Is suicide the unpardonable sin?

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Psalm 46:1.

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

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

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

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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

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

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

Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)

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

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

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

Titus 3:4-5 (NIV)

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

Romans 3:22 (NLT)

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

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

Series Introduction

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

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


Sermon Introduction

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

Have someone read John 2:1-11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read each of the truths and verses below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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

Week 4 - Restoring Broken Dreams

Week 4 - Restoring Broken Dreams

Series Introduction

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

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


Sermon

Have someone read John 11:25.

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

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

Have someone read John 11:1-4.

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

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

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

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

Have someone read John 11:5-21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discouragement breeds thoughts like:

I might as well give up.

I’m always going to feel alone.

I’m always going to be depressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read John 11:23-27.

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

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

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

Have someone read John 11: 28-44.

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

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

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


Prayer

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

 

Week 3 - Restore Broken Lives

Week 3 - Restore Broken Lives

Series Introduction

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


Sermon Introduction

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

Have someone read Joel 2:25.

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

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

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

Have someone read John 1:29.

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

Have someone read Mark 14:12-13.

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

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

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

Have someone read Luke 22:14-30.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Matthew 26:31-35.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Application

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


Prayer

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

 

 

 

 

Week 2 - Restoring Broken Confidence

Week 2 - Restoring Broken Confidence

Series Introduction

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

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

  • Share one word that describes your week.


Sermon Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

1.    Do not be afraid to stand alone.

Have someone read Genesis 6:5–9.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Do not be afraid to make a difference.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Hebrews 11:7.

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

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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