Viewing entries in
Group Study

At the Movies: Wonder

At the Movies: Wonder

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON TITLE

Wonder

SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Psalm 139:13-14.

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

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

Have a volunteer read 2 Timothy 1:7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read 1 Samuel 16:7.

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 5:17.

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

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

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

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


APPLICATION

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

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

PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

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

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

At the Movies: Rudy

At the Movies: Rudy

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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


SERMON TITLE

Rudy

SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read James 1:2-3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What did these experiences teach you?

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 40:31.

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 40:31.

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

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

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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


FIGHT

FIGHT

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


MESSAGE TITLE

The Power Play

SERMON GUIDE

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

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

Have a volunteer read Revelation 12:7-9.

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

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 6:10-12.

Paul describes the following pieces of armor available to us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 6:18.

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Daniel 10:12-14.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Matthew 3:13-14.

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

  • Courage to fight for a better story.

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

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 2: Christmas in Kenya

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 2: Christmas in Kenya

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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

  • What is your favorite part of the Christmas season?


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have different people look up and read the following verses:

Deuteronomy 15:10

Psalm 82:3-4

James 1:27

Proverbs 31:8-9

I John 3:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

  3. Pray about sponsoring a child.


PRAYER

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

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

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

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

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 1: Christmas in Mexico

Christmas Beyond Borders Week 1: Christmas in Mexico

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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

  • What is your favorite part of the Christmas season?

FOLLOW UP

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 11:14.

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read John 1:4-5.

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 15:58.

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

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

Have a volunteer read Philippians 2:12-18.

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

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

Have a volunteer read Genesis 1:1-3.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

  3. Pray about sponsoring a child.


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

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

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

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

- Storyteller - Week 4: Miracle Grow

- Storyteller - Week 4: Miracle Grow

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

Have a volunteer read John 15:8

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Matthew 13:3-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Matthew 13:18-23.

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

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

Have a volunteer read Colossians 2:7.

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

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

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 3:17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

NEXT STEPS

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

 


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

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

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

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

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

- Storyteller - Week 3: Like A Good Neighbor

- Storyteller - Week 3: Like A Good Neighbor

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Luke 10: 25-37.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


PRAYER

Pair off and spend time praying for:

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

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

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

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

- Storyteller - Week 2: Lost and Found

- Storyteller - Week 2: Lost and Found

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Luke 15:1-7.

Have a volunteer read Luke 15:8-10.

Have a volunteer read Luke 15:11-32.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


PRAYER

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

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

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

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

  • Courage to share that good news.

- Storyteller - Week 1: Vineyard

- Storyteller - Week 1: Vineyard

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:1-7.

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:8-12.

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

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

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

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

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

  • How are justice and fairness different?

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

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

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:13-15.

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

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

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

 


PAIR OFF

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

- Let It Go Too - Week 4: Control

- Let It Go Too - Week 4: Control

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Lamentations 3:22-26.

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

Have a volunteer read Daniel 6:15-33.

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

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

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 3:5-6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PAIR OFF

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

- Let It Go Too - Week 3: Cynicism

- Let It Go Too - Week 3: Cynicism

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a volunteer read Psalm 23.

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


PAIR OFF

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

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

- Let It Go Too - Week 2: The Past

- Let It Go Too - Week 2: The Past

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

Have a volunteer read Acts 16:16-34.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PAIR OFF

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

 - Let It Go Too - Week 1: Procrastination

- Let It Go Too - Week 1: Procrastination

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • When is a time procrastination cost you something?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read Proverbs 22:13.

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

Have someone read Colossians 3:23.

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

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

Have someone read 2 Timothy 1:7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • What are my priorities?

  • What are my core values?

  • What are my gifts?

  • What’s in the way?

  • How do I define success?

  • What do I want my legacy to be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PRAYER

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

Week 4 - Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

Week 4 - Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

SERIES INTRODUCTION

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

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


SERMON GUIDE

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

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

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

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

The controversy is not:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  3. He really is the Lord.

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

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

Have someone read Luke 23:13-17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have someone read I Corinthians 15:3-11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PRAYER

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

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.