Viewing entries tagged
We all have areas of our lives that need restoration. We've got to allow God to strip down all the years of grime and cheap paint piled on top of each other. He needs to get down to the bare original, so He can begin to fill the cracks, sand the rough edges, and make our hearts beautiful again. He’s already looked beneath the layers and has determined that we're all worth doing over.
Is there a landmark location for your family, a place where you have shared many special memories? What made it special for you?
Have someone read John 11:25.
Death is a word we don’t like to talk about, but we experience many deaths throughout life. Not just physical deaths but sometimes the death of a relationship, death of a marriage, death of a family, death of a dream.
Gene told us about his upbringing and about his family’s lakeside cabin in Minnesota. That cabin and lake held precious moments for the Appel family. When Gene was 14, his father suffered a heart attack, and it was at that cabin where Gene got the news his father had died.
Have someone read John 11:1-4.
Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, lived in a little town called Bethany, which is essentially a suburb of Jerusalem. They had developed a close friendship with Jesus who would often stay with them when He traveled their way. And then this terrible thing happened to Lazarus, changing their family’s future forever.
Currently, some of us are celebrating great things in life, but some of us are facing tough situations. Sooner or later, we all get some bad news. Maybe it’s the news that someone you love has cancer. Maybe your bad news is that your job is going away; the boyfriend or girlfriend you love is breaking it off; or your dream marriage turned into a nightmare. Sometimes in those moments of pain and anxiety, it can feel like there is no hope in sight.
When is a time that you received that type of life-changing news?
Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus’s sickness would not end in death. He added that all this had happened for God’s glory, and that God’s Son would receive glory from it. In other words, this was going to be an opportunity for people to witness something that would cause them to praise God and further grasp the fact that Jesus had been sent by God.
Have someone read John 11:5-21.
Three of the people in this story were dealing with broken dreams in differing ways.
Thomas, who earned the reputation “Doubting Thomas,” repeatedly struggled with doubt. Though he had been following Jesus for quite a while, he expressed his doubts by his sarcastic “Let us go so we may die with him” comment. Was he doubting the wisdom of Jesus’s decision to return to a place where their lives would likely be in great danger? Maybe he was wondering if he really wanted to keep going along with all of this, wondering if Jesus knew what he was doing, if he was for real.
When is a time that you’ve struggled with doubt?
MercyMe, the band featured in the movie I Can Only Imagine, has a song called “Even If.” Written by lead singer Bart Millard, the song originated around the struggle with diabetes that his teenage son has endured since he was two years old. The song ends with the chorus:
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Some of us may find our dreams broken by discouragement. Mary was experiencing this, big time. She was so discouraged that when Jesus finally arrived, instead of going with her sister to meet him, Mary just stayed home.
Discouragement breeds thoughts like:
I might as well give up.
I’m always going to feel alone.
I’m always going to be depressed.
I’m always going to be stuck in this dead-end job.
I’m never going to have the marriage or family I dreamed I would have.
I’m never going to get out of this bad situation.
When is a time that you feel like God didn’t intervene in spite of your cries for help? When is a time that He did?
Martha’s dreams were shattered by Jesus’s delay in coming to them. It was an “if only” event; if only Jesus had arrived before Lazarus had died, her brother would still be alive. She did not know that Jesus’s delay was deliberate in order for the intended miracle to take place.
Is there an “if only” in your life now, a place where you’re waiting on God to show up?
Have someone read John 11:23-27.
None of these three people knew that things were about to get better, much better than they could imagine. Even though Martha was disappointed that Jesus had not arrived sooner, she said to him (verse 22), “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” She believed that nothing is too big for God.
Some of us need an “even now” moment today. Even now, in the midst of our broken dreams, God can bring us peace that passes understanding; heal our hearts, bring harmony, forgiveness, and restoration to our families. He can soften our callous hearts, ease our fears, give us courage, and draw us closer to Him. He can bring us strength and endurance, give us wisdom, hope, and new dreams to enjoy. No matter what we face, no matter the outcome, God is with us and we can trust in Him.
Jesus uttered some of the most significant words that have ever been spoken in the history of the world: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25, 26 (NLT)
Have someone read John 11: 28-44.
Picture the scene of Lazarus emerging from the tomb. If you have ever been given a second chance or a reprieve, you have a tiny glimpse of what Lazarus must have felt like walking out of that tomb. Imagine how Martha and Mary felt! Can you picture the celebration?
The same voice that called Lazarus out of the grave is calling out to mankind today. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Him will live, even after dying.
Who do you know who needs the second chance that Jesus offers? What can you do to help them understand that Jesus loves then and wants to give them hope and healing?
Break into small groups and pray for people who are waiting to see God work or where they need healing. Pray that even now God’s power can come into these lives and situations and broken dreams, that He will bring restoration to situations that look hopeless . . . just as He did for Mary and Martha and Lazarus and has done for countless others. And just as He did when Jesus rose victoriously from the grave.
We all have areas of our lives that need restoration. We've got to allow God to strip down all the years of grime and cheap paint piled on top of each other. He needs to get down to the bare original so He can begin to fill the cracks, sand the rough edges, and make our hearts beautiful again. He’s already looked beneath the layers and has determined that we're all worth doing over.
We have all been stuck before and often don’t see just how stuck we were. People in our lives notice. Sometimes they even encourage us to get unstuck; but we might resist because we settle in and get very comfortable.
Have someone read Joel 2:25.
This verse is the key verse for the series and is a great promise for every person who has ever been stuck in the past.
Share a time you were stuck and oblivious, but friends and family tried to help and encouraged you to take action.
We have a God who can take the wasted years, the damaged years, the hurtful years, the unfaithful years, the abusive years, the addicted years, the broken years, and even the biggest failures of our lives that have us stuck and who restores and redeems to us the years that the locusts have eaten!
Have someone read John 1:29.
Palm Sunday fell on the Sunday before the Passover, and that was considered Lamb Selection Sunday. Lamb Selection Sunday was the day Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem, and it foreshadowed what would happen five days later on Good Friday when the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world would die on the cross to pay for our wrongdoing and reconcile a broken world to God.
Have someone read Mark 14:12-13.
When the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?” We might have been aggravated if we were Jesus because he had just told them the day before that he was about to be handed over to be crucified. Couldn’t they just figure out a plan themselves? Do they really need Jesus’ input on how to host a meal they had all participated in since they were children? Instead, He gives them instructions about what to do, and off they went.
Just like these disciples, some of us become preoccupied, busy, and self-centered. We are moving so fast that we are oblivious to our brokenness. We fail to see the people around us and fail to recognize the God moment in our lives. We arrive at church after a whirlwind morning and heave a big sigh. Our bodies may be at church, but our minds and souls are often so many miles away.
What in your life keeps you from investing in the most important things: your relationship with God, your family, your close friends, and those who need to be shown God’s love?
Have someone read Luke 22:14-30.
On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples meet up at the upper room. Jesus’ guests were people who greatly underestimated the extent of their own brokenness.
All 13 people at the meal that night arrived in the upper room with dirty feet—from the dust-filled, manure-littered roads of the day. It was the custom of the day for the first one to arrive to get a bowl of water, a towel, a basin, and then wash the dirty feet of the others.
Not a single one of them had been willing to play the role of the servant, getting down to wash the dirty, dusty feet and clean the sandals of the others.
Then, an argument broke out among them over which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus, their friend and mentor, was about to die, and they’re concerned about their own importance.
Later that night, every single one of these disciples would abandon Jesus when He needed them the most
How would you have felt during this meal if you were Jesus? How would you have responded?
Have someone read Matthew 26:31-35.
That’s exactly what happened late that night when Jesus was brought into the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest. Three times Peter denied Jesus, declaring, “I don’t even know the guy.” And then, just as Jesus predicted, a rooster crowed, and Peter realized what he'd done. And from then on he was stuck with a broken past—something he could bitterly condemn himself for forever. The Message paraphrase of the Bible says, “He cried and he cried and he cried.”
Can you identify with Peter? Have you denied the obvious, knowing it breaks God’s heart, and then realized your failure? There is that deep sadness of pain and regret.
There is another guest who was not oblivious, but who was hiding his brokenness.
When Jesus told the disciples that night that one of them was about to betray Him, Judas was so quietly deceptive, so sneaky, so good at hiding his brokenness that none of the others even suspected it was him. Again, haven’t we all hidden something, sat there quietly, knowing the bad choice we had made?
What do you think was running through Judas’ mind during dinner?
We are all broken and stuck by our past, each of us for different reasons. At one time or another all of us are oblivious to our brokenness. We underestimate, deny, or just hide our brokenness. The message Jesus was communicating around the communion table that night was that we all come to the table broken, but we can leave the table restored.
There’s something about people eating together that can re-infuse hope even in the darkest of times.
Have you ever noticed at a funeral how often everyone is fighting back the tears, grieving, sobbing, having a difficult time, but then after the funeral there’s a meal and people are sitting around remembering fun times, reminiscing and laughing? It’s extremely healthy and healing. Just the ritual of eating together restores them.
This particular dinner in the upper room was a funeral meal before the funeral, but still it represented hope for those stuck and broken by their past. We all come to the communion table broken, but we can leave this table restored, renewed, and forgiven.
Share a time when you’ve experienced hope and healing in the midst of a difficult situation.
This weekend Gene asked two important questions for us to consider:
Have you received the payment that the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world made for you on Good Friday?
If you have received the payment, have you forgiven yourself?
No matter the mistakes you've made in your past, it’s time to let them go if you are forgiven by the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. When Jesus died on the cross, and said those last words, “It is finished!” he was saying, “As the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, it’s now paid in full.”
Gene shared the story of a young woman who had been rescued from sex trafficking and lived with Mike Breaux and his family for a time. The Breauxs would have 20-30 people for dinner every Sunday night. Her words:
I have sat around so many dining room tables here, and I have to say that is really where the gospel has come to life. All I ever wanted was a place to belong, people who would treat me as though I were their own—not an inconvenience, sacrifice, or a project. The gospel came to life for me watching dads teach their children to swim…. Men who refuse to dishonor their wives, instead serving them. Parents investing in loving discipline. Generations of family who don't just see each other at church, but take time to acknowledge their love for each other by their presence, phone calls, food, stories of God's amazing wonder…. Because of families who lived out the love of God, I was able to see and experience the gospel and not just read about it.
Each of us knows someone who needs to see and experience the gospel. Take a few moments to share about someone in your life who you needs the hope and healing Jesus offered and brainstorm as a group some ways to live out your faith like Mike and his family did. Consider inviting them to join you at one of our Easter services.
Is there any area you struggle to forgive yourself for? Set aside some time at the end of group for individuals to have a private conversation with God about this.
Restoration is a major trend in our society. People take old, beat-up motorcycles and restore them to their original glory; turn rusty classic cars into collectors’ pieces; and replace green Formica countertops with quartz and wallpaper with smooth beige walls. At Eastside, we just restored a campus in Bellflower so it can serve its community like it used to.
Over time, almost everything needs to be restored: cars, houses, kitchens, churches, and… us, because nobody can get through life without going through some brokenness. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to consider how God can restore our broken dreams, broken confidence, and broken lives.
Share one word that describes your week.
The dictionary defines confidence as “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something.”
What types of things might cause us to lose confidence in ourselves or others?
Have someone read Genesis 15:1 and Exodus 14:13.
When God wants to do something powerful in our lives, one of the biggest hurdles we face is the hurdle of fear. Fear keeps us from experiencing all God has for our life. Many times in the Bible, we see that right before God was about to do something big, He would use these four words: “Do not be afraid.”
Share a time you were facing something big in your life and you sensed God was saying “Do not be afraid” to you.
1. Do not be afraid to stand alone.
Have someone read Genesis 6:5–9.
Noah was the only blameless person on earth. Everyone else on the earth was filled with bitterness, evil, and envy. Do we see a bit of that in our world today?. We will all find ourselves at a crossroad more than once in our life. We will have the option of moving forward in the good life God has for us or moving backward, hindering what God has for us. God’s restoration in our lives depends on our willingness to stand alone and stand up for God.
Herbert shared how he grew up in a small town in Oklahoma in a home filled with abuse, violence, and dysfunction. At the age of 13, he was sexually abused over several months. He felt confusion, shame, anger, and bitter. He didn’t want to tell anyone. When he was 16, his parents split up. On Christmas morning shortly after they split and he was alone with his dad, he questioned, “Is life worth living?”
At age 17, Herbert was invited to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. He heard about the hope found through Christ, and he surrendered his life to Jesus. His life was radically changed. He was bold—and possibly irritating—but he was living full-on for Jesus.
Herbert described how he would drive around and talk to Jesus saying, “I will stand up for you.”
Where have you made a decision to be salt and light in a situation instead of being negative along with everyone else?
2. Do not be afraid to make a difference.
Have someone read 2 Peter 2:5 and I Peter 3:20.
You can make a bigger difference than you think you can.
Noah must have felt like he was failing. For 120 years he preached to people, and no one listened, no one got on the boat. We would have been more than a little defeated. Oftentimes when we are making a difference, it looks like we are making a mess.
Share a time you were being faithful but felt like nothing was happening.
Life can be messy, and we can get hit with multiple things. Noah made a difference for his family when he stepped out in faith. Ultimately, God saved his family. The animals were saved. We wouldn’t be here if not for Noah’s willingness to be mocked and to do something far outside his comfort zone.
Being faithful might look different for each of us, but we can all be obedient. We can be faithful by spending time daily reading the Bible, tithing, and taking the next step we feel God is calling us to do. In our Small Groups we can encourage each other and pray for each other to overcome the fears that might hold us back.
Is there a place God is calling you to make a difference, to be faithful?
3. Do not be afraid to step out in faith.
Have someone read Hebrews 11:7.
To experience restoration, we must not be afraid to step out in faith.
What area in your life is God calling you to step out in faith?
For God to restore our brokenness and build our confidence in Him, we have to overcome fear of failure, fear of man, and fear of the past. Remember that Herbert talked about driving around in his car, talking to Jesus out loud, telling him, “I will stand up for you”? Sometimes speaking the words out loud gives us boldness and builds our confidence.
Think of a one-word prayer statement you can write out and say out loud when you feel fearful.
Never regret stepping out in faith and obeying God. Herbert stepped out in faith and followed God which led to him experiencing so many God moments in parenting, relationships and faith. When we do this and experience those moments, it helps restore us and builds our confidence. When we follow the path Jesus is calling us to, we will never regret it.
Break up into groups of two to three, and pray for the confidence to step out in faith and experience restoration.
Restoration is a major trend in our society. People take old beat up motorcycles and restore them to their original glory; turn rusty classic cars into collector’s pieces; and replace green Formica countertops and wallpaper with quartz and smooth greige walls. At Eastside we just restored a campus in Bellflower so that it can serve its community like it used to.
Over time, almost everything needs to be restored: cars, houses, kitchens, churches, and… us, because nobody can get through life without going through some brokenness. Over the next few weeks we’re going to consider how God can restore our broken dreams, broken confidence, and broken lives.
Have you ever undertaken a restoration project? Share it with the group.
A broken heart is unreturned love. You loved, and you were hurt. You risked in a relationship, and you were burned. You trusted, and you were betrayed.
Max Lucado writes about walking through an old cemetery and coming across the tombstone that marked the body of Grace Llewellen Smith. No date of birth was listed, no date of death, just the names of her two husbands and this sad epitaph:
Sleeps, but rests not. Loved, but was loved not. Tried to please, but pleased not. Died as she lived—alone.
Think of those words, “Loved, but was loved not” and picture the long nights, the empty bed, the silence. No response to messages left. No return to letters written. No love exchanged for love given.
When is a time in your life that you felt like this?
Have a volunteer read Joel 1:4.
Joel is an Old Testament prophet who wrote to people who were farmers and whose perfect dream was a field full of lush crops, whose ideal world was to sit on the front porch and look out over their land and see it filled with healthy green plants, ripening juicy fruit on the trees in the orchard, fields bursting with grain and bins overflowing with produce. That was their picture of the good life, the field of dreams.
But the prophet Joel comes along and describes everyone’s absolute worst nightmare – a horrific invasion of locusts that come in and devour absolutely everything. Locusts can eat their own body weight in a 24-hour period. These guys were ravenous, and there were a lot of them.
Just one female locust that lays her eggs in June, can have 18 million living descendants in October. A swarm can contain up to 10 billion insects that create a deafening noise like a jet engine with their buzzing wings and crunching jaws. They get into houses through cracks and chimneys. You can’t go outside. They eat crops and devour the land. When they die they give off a revolting stench, and their bodies breed typhus and other diseases in animals and humans. It’s like a living hell.
Even today areas around the world that have the potential for a locust outbreak are monitored by international agencies using satellite technology to spot the swarms. They then send out airplanes with insecticides to ward the locusts off.
Joel describes an onslaught of a ginormous swarm of these locusts—literally a plague of Biblical proportion—which is the most devastating and overwhelming thing imaginable to these farmers who dream of having lush crops and fruit trees.
What “swarm of locusts” have you experienced? A round of layoffs at work? The business you started going belly up?
Have a volunteer read Joel 2:25.
Joel chapter 2 paints a picture where there’s nothing left but the dead carcasses of locusts everywhere, stinking to high heaven. It’s looks hopeless, but Joel says this devastated field you are looking at is God’s specialty.
God sends the rains to wash away the dead locusts and heal the earth, nutrients rise up in the soil, and things begin to green up again. And then God makes this bold and wonderful promise, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust…”
We have a God who can take the wasted years, the damaged years, the hurtful years, the unfaithful years, the abusive years, the addicted years, and even the biggest failures of our lives and restore and redeem to us the years that the locusts have eaten!
In his sermon, Gene shared the story of his divorce:
As you would guess one of the toughest and most fearful seasons of my life was back in the 80’s when I was going through my heartbreak and divorce. It was a very dark time. A very alone time.
And on top of it, I was a pastor, going through a divorce. And I thought what church would want a pastor who had been through a divorce? I thought I had not only lost my marriage, my wife…but in a very real and practical sense my job, my income, my house, my car.
I felt my life was ruined. God could never use me again and most of all would never even want me. It was hard to see any way out, any light at the end of the tunnel.
But I way underestimated God and his ability to restore what the locust had eaten. You see what I didn’t know in those moments is that 4 years later I would marry the most beautiful girl in the world named Barbara who had been through a similar kind of hurt.
What I didn’t know is that my church family would stand with me and love and forgive me.
What I didn’t know is that I would grow through that time in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise.
What I didn’t know is how faithful God would be to me.
Barbara and I returned last Monday from a trip to Hawaii which was a belated celebration of our 25th anniversary. And here’s what we both can tell you: we didn’t know it at the time, but God has restored the years that the locust had eaten!
When is a time in your life that you have experienced God’s restoration?
In what area of your life now are you longing for God’s restoration?
Have a volunteer read Psalm 6:3.
The question on the mind of anyone who is in the midst of a season of brokenness is usually, “How long will this last?”
It’s a question King David, the author of the sixth Psalm, asked thousands of years ago in a season of brokenness.
No one knows the answer to the “How long?” question, but it’s usually not solved overnight but over time. Perhaps the better question to ask is, “What now?” What can I learn, how can I grow, what should I do in response to this season of brokenness?
What is a lesson you’ve learned as the result of a difficult season of life?
Lesson #1: Don’t Pull Out of Life
None of us wants to be hurt, so when we are, our first impulse is to pull back into a shell so we can be protected and never ever hurt again. Love by its very nature is a risk, but by withdrawing from love we risk even more.
That doesn’t mean you bounce back into another relationship after a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Dating and remarriage will not cure your grief, so be patient while you grieve.
Experts say that after a divorce or a death it takes two years before your emotions settle down to become stable again.
One of the common mistakes people often make after someone has broken their heart is to jump right into another relationship or marriage, and almost without exception, it ends in disaster.
But it is important to invest in friendships in other healthy environments like a small group or a changemaker team, to get in a support and care group like a Divorce Care or Grief Share or Celebrate Recovery in your community. We can’t weather life’s storms, we can’t get through the swarm of locusts on our own.
Who are the people in your life who can help you weather the storm?
Lesson #2: Disinfect the Wound
When you’ve been physically cut or wounded or gashed, what’s the first thing they do at the emergency room or doctor’s office? They disinfect the wound, because the infection can be worse than the wound.
When we’ve been hurt or wounded by someone our natural tendency is to hurt them back and to hold onto our hurts, and when you hold on to hurts they develop into the self-destructive diseases of bitterness, resentment, and hate.
Have a volunteer read Ephesians 4:31-32.
Do people always deserve to be forgiven? No, but we didn’t deserve to be forgiven by God either, and when we forgive we free ourselves. If you hold on to hurt, it will turn into hate, and it’s incredibly destructive to you and all your relationships.
Who do you need to forgive?
Lesson #3: Allow God to Work in You During this Season
Brokenness tends to be one of the greatest schools of higher education that you ever attend, and God uses it to reshape us through the experience.
Gene shared that in the brokenness of his divorce he learned that when you lose everything that’s important to, but you still have Jesus Christ, you have enough. He learned the importance of truth telling in relationships, even at the expense of pain and facing our own faults. He learned the importance of balance in life, and he learned to have a sensitivity for people crushed by their own broken experiences.
The experience was still painful, but by allowing God to work in him, Gene was able to bring meaning to the pain he encountered.
What do you think God might want you to learn in your current season of life?
Break up into groups of 2-3 and pray for the needs expressed throughout this week’s discussion. Commit to following up with each other midweek to see how things are going and continue to pray for each other.