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Storyteller

- 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 He used objects, humor, current events, historical reference, and poetry.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