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Unleashing the Power of

Unleashing the Power of Compassion

Unleashing the Power of Compassion

21 Days of Prayer

On August 21 we kicked off 21 Days of Prayer, a time focused prayer for one another and for our church.  We encourage you to join in.

In Anaheim there is one more night of prayer and worship: Wednesday, September 7, 7-8 PM.

You can pick up a copy of the 21 Days of Prayer booklet at the church office, at weekend services, or during the night of prayer and worship, and you can follow along with the daily devotional and prayer focus at eastside.com/prayer.


Message Introduction

The early church was so moved by God’s heart for people with physical, financial, and medical needs that they unleashed unprecedented levels of compassion in this world.

Acts 2:45 tells us that they sold their possessions to meet the needs of others.

What sounds radical to us, was normal to them.  And they were so committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need that Acts 4:34 says, “there were no needy persons among them.” 

Imagine that.

This is why at Eastside unleashing compassion is not something we do, it’s something we are.

  • When has someone sacrificed for your benefit?

  • Have you ever sacrificed for someone else’s benefit?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58:1-5.

These people are showing up for church, not every week but every single day. They’re studying, they’re worshipping, doing all these things, but it’s not bearing any fruit in their lives.

They ask God, “Why don’t you appreciate this religious activity that we’re doing before you? Why aren’t you impressed with us?”

And God responds “I will tell you why! It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. You’re going through spiritual motions. You’re worshipping. You’re fasting. You’re praying, but it’s all about you.”

Note: For those of you who may not be familiar with it, fasting is a spiritual discipline in which you decide to go without food (or sometimes other thing: TV, Internet, coffee, alcohol, sex, etc.) in order to focus your mind and heart on God.

  • Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual rut?  Maybe you’re doing the things you think you’re supposed to do, but it seems like spiritually you’re just in a funk.  Do you know why it happened?  How did you get out of it?

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58:6-7.

God goes on to say, if you’re going to fast, if you’re going to go to all of the effort to focus your mind and heart on me, then here’s what should result.

Injustice should be conquered and justice done.  Oppressed people should find freedom.  Hungry people should be fed. Homeless people should be housed. Those who need clothes should get them.  And your relatives should not go without.

  • Spend a few minutes discussing the problems of injustice, oppression, hunger, and homelessness in our country and in the world today.

  • Now bring it a little closer to home.  Where do injustice, oppression, hunger, and homelessness exist in our communities and in the lives of the people we come in contact with every day?

    •  Is there a house in your neighborhood that has five families living in it because they can’t afford rent on their own?

    • Is there a school down the street or in the next town that you would never send your kids to?

    • Do you pass by someone begging for money at an intersection on your way to work? 

    • Can the guy who mows your lawn or landscapes your apartment complex afford to feed his family?

  • How can you as an individual and we as a group begin to make an impact on the injustice, oppression, hunger, and homelessness that are around us?

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58:8-14.

It’s not when you’re just learning about God, attending a church service; or going to a small group, or engaging in 21 Days of prayer, but rather when you’re actually unleashing compassion that God says, “When you call on me, I will answer.”

Don’t miss that!  Some of you right now feel stuck in your spiritual journey, you feel like you’re in a rut, you feel like things are in neutral.  The most likely reason is that you’re not giving yourself away.

Sometimes when we’re stuck in a spiritual rut, we think we should learn more or find a new church or a new Bible study.  But Isaiah teaches us that spiritual ruts happen when we aren’t giving of ourselves.

We can’t become spiritually mature without unleashing compassion.

  • Where are you spiritually right now?  Are you stuck, or are you firing on all cylinders?  Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle?  What has caused your current spiritual state?  What do you need to do to move towards or sustain spiritual growth?

Sometimes we don’t like to talk about times when we have been a part of unleashing compassion because it feels like bragging.  We don’t want to say, “I’m awesome. Look what I did.” But we need to humbly share stories in order to learn from and encourage one another.

  • When is a time that you have been a part of unleashing compassion?  What caused you to take action?  Were there any fears or obstacles you had to overcome?


Application

So often what holds us back from unleashing compassion is fear.  It is fear of the unknown, fear for our safety, fear of sacrifice, fear of getting sucked into a situation we don’t know how to handle.

And the best way to overcome fear is with familiarity.  Fear is all about what we don’t know.  We don’t usually fear things that we understand.  We may respect them and treat them carefully, but that’s healthy respect, not a fear that keeps us from engaging.

Take a few minutes right now to make a plan to become more familiar with someone or a group of people you would normally avoid.

  • Do you get a lump in your throat when you walk by a homeless person?  Stop and ask his name and where he’s from. Give him $5.

  • Are you nervous about engaging with the alcoholic who lives next door?  Next time you see her, ask how her day is going.

  • Do you fear the culture of the people in the next neighborhood over?  Take a walk through the neighborhood and say hello to the people you pass.  If you get the chance, stop and have a conversation with someone.

  • Do you avoid the coworker with the difficult home life?  Invite him or her to lunch.

Before the group is over, share with the group what step you plan to take this week, and report back next week.

Unleasing the Power of Community

Unleasing the Power of Community

21 Days of Prayer

On August 21 we kicked off 21 Days of Prayer, a time focused prayer for one another and for our church.  We encourage you to join in.

In Anaheim there are two more nights of prayer and worship: Wednesdays, August 31 and September 7; 7-8 PM.

You can pick up a copy of the 21 Days of Prayer booklet at the church office, at weekend services, or during the night of prayer and worship, and you can follow along with the daily devotional and prayer focus at eastside.com/prayer.


Note to Leaders

This week’s sermon is designed to help people understand the importance of community and encourage them to join a small group.  For us as leaders, and probably for most people in our groups, this is something we understand very well.

Consequently, this week’s discussion guide is less focused on convincing people of the importance of community and serves more as a check up for how we’re doing.  As such, some of these questions may be a bit uncomfortable if answered honestly.  They may expose places where our group needs to grow.

But that’s okay!  There are no perfect groups, just like there are no perfect people.  If we find that we’re not doing as well in an area as we’d like to be, it just means we need to focus on growing in that area.  It doesn’t mean we’re not a good leader or we shouldn’t be doing this.  If that were the case, I (Will) would have had to stop leading groups a long time ago.


Message Introduction

You cannot achieve your full human and spiritual potential apart from community.

It’s why people form little clubs or groups around their favorite activities: skiing, fishing, surfing, boating, car collecting, crafting.

It’s why people work out together and start businesses together.  It’s why you’ve never heard of an all expense paid trip for one.

  • Share your favorite experience in community with the group.  It could be a trip you took with friends, living with roommates in college, time spent playing on a sports team, or a hobby you enjoy sharing with others.


Understanding

God Hardwired you to Make Friends

Have a volunteer read Genesis 1:26.

Even God Himself has never done life on His own. From the very beginning He was in community with others.  In the very mysterious identity of God—the Trinity, God in three persons—we find God the Father, God the Son, and God Holy Spirit in perfect love and community.

The Father is not complete without the Son and Holy Spirit. The Son is not complete without the Father and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not complete without the Father and Son.

At the core of God’s very identity is community and love, and connection and relationship.

And the Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God.  You are hardwired by God to need and make friends.

In fact, in Genesis 2:18, after God had created Adam, the first may, God says that it is not good for him to be alone.  It’s the first time God says that something isn’t good.

But it’s not just the Bible that teaches us that we’re hardwired to make friends, is it? Our own experience bears this out.

At some point in life, we've all felt the pain of loneliness.  You might have been surrounded by people, but you felt like there was no one who really knew you.  Maybe you felt like there was no one you could turn to, no one you could trust or rely on.

And by the same token, our best experiences involve others: the day we bring our child home from the hospital or adoption agency, the championship we win with our teammates, the candidate we campaigned for winning the election, the dinners with friends, and the long conversations around a campfire.

  • What do you think about the idea that we were hardwired to make friends?  If you agree, what in your own experience has borne that truth out?   If you disagree, how do you explain the seeming universal longing for connection?

  • If you experienced something you wanted to celebrate with others (a promotion at work, the birth of a child, buying a new house) or a difficult situation during which you needed support (the loss of a loved one, a layoff at work), would the members of this group turn to each other to celebrate or for support?

 

Community is God’s Ecosystem to Fully Follow Jesus

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 27:17.

There’s no such thing as a lone ranger follower of Jesus who reaches their full potential.  It is in community where we begin to become more like Jesus.

It’s easy to be like Jesus when no one else is around.   If you spend a day out in the middle of nature, miles and miles from anyone else, you won’t lie to anyone.  You won’t cheat anyone.  You won’t yell at anyone.  You won’t demean or belittle anyone.  You won’t covet anyone else’s things.   You won’t lust after anyone.

But the reality is that your character hasn’t changed.  You haven’t become more like Jesus.  You’ve just removed yourself from an environment that tests you.

In community our true selves are exposed.  When our neighbors play their music way too loud, when a coworker takes credit for our work, when our “friend” gossips about us, that’s when we have the opportunity to be like Jesus… or not.

It is in community that we are able to live out the “one anothers” we find in the Bible: love one another, be patient with one another, forgive one another, encourage each other, offer hospitality to one another.

In community we point one another towards Jesus, encourage one another when we do well, and lovingly point out areas where growth is needed.

  • Do you have the relationships that you need to encourage your own growth in Christ-likeness?  Are there people in your life who can and do point out when you’re living and loving like Jesus… and when you’re not?  If so, how did you develop those relationships?  If not, what steps do you need to take to develop them?

  • We all need to grow as followers of Jesus, whether it’s by making a decision to be baptized, beginning to read our Bible regularly, attending marital counseling, increasing our level of generosity, or learning to control our temper.  How can we as a group encourage one another to identify and take next steps in our spiritual journeys?

 

God Made You to Make a Difference

Have a volunteer read Matthew 25:31-46.

Have a volunteer read Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35

Small groups weren't meant to be holy huddles but rather units of the Church on mission from God.

It's human nature to form cliques.  We meet a group of people, and as our relationships begin to strengthen, we start focusing inward, becoming more and more exclusive, but communities of Christ-followers aren't supposed to be cliques. They exist to make a difference in the lives not only of the people who are a part of that community but of the people outside of it.

There are two primary ways that our small groups can make a difference in the lives of others:

The first is simply to get out and serve the community.

Andi and Keith McGlothlin are part of small group that once a month prepares and serves a meal for a local organization that supports teen moms.  These are young women who are often struggling and scared, who are children themselves and yet find themselves with their own kids.  And often the meal they get on Thursday nights is the best meal they get all week.

What’s great about this story is that at 71, Andi is the youngest person in the group.  It's easy to think of a thousand reasons why we can't serve, but this group shows that anyone can serve.

  • How can our group be more intentional about serving others?

The second way that small groups make a difference is simply by engaging people who don't yet know Jesus.  When someone experiences the love that is found amongst a group of people who are followers of Jesus, it helps them to understand who Jesus is and what He is about.

In fact, in Matthew 28 Jesus promises that he will always be with those of us who follow Him.  So when we invite someone into a community of people who are following Jesus, Jesus is actually there to meet that person.

Engaging people who don’t yet know Jesus could mean inviting them to your group.  It could be throwing a party and inviting friends and neighbors.  You might rally around the friend of one of the group members who is struggling with loss or illness.

  • How can our group engage people who don’t yet know Jesus in order to eventually introduce them to Him?


Application

How can we be a more vital, more vibrant community?

That’s the application question to wrestle with this week.  As a group, discuss how well you are making friends, following Jesus, and making a difference.  Are you a group of people that meet once-a-week and then move on?  Or are you a group of people who are building real relationships, taking steps of faith, and impacting the community around you?

Once you figure out where your group needs to grow, make an action plan.

Do you need to build stronger relationships?  Divide up into groups of 2-4 and go out for coffee or a meal within the next two weeks.

Do you need to be more intentional in following Jesus?  Take next week and rather than discuss the sermon, share with one another where you need to grow spiritually and how the group can encourage you in that area.

Do you need to get out and serve?  Pick someone in the group to organize an opportunity to do so and commit to following through once plans are made.

You’ll only get as much out of your group as you put in.  If you just check the “showed up to a meeting” box, you can’t expect many results.  But if you will invest the time and energy into being a true community, the rewards are priceless.

Unleashing the Power of God’s Voice

Unleashing the Power of God’s Voice

21 Days of Prayer

This past weekend we kicked off 21 Days of Prayer, a time of intense and focused prayer for one another and for our church.  We encourage you to join in.

If you attended one of our weekend worship experiences, you should have received a prayer booklet to guide you.  If you didn’t get one, you can stop by the church office this week or grab one at church this coming weekend.

We have daily social media posts to encourage you through the 21 days, so make sure you’re following Eastside on Facebook (/eastsidecc), Instagram (@eastside_cc), or Twitter (@eastside_cc).

There are also five minute video devotionals online daily, and we’re hosting some nights of prayer and worship.

  • Park Rapids: Wednesday, August 24; 7-8 PM

  • Anaheim: Wednesdays, August 24, August 31, and September 7; 7-8 PM


Message Introduction

We all face big decisions in our lives: relational decisions, vocational decisions, educational decisions, geographical decisions, moral decisions, financial decisions, marriage decisions, spiritual decisions.

Big decisions carry big risks.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could hear God’s voice, get his direction and guidance when making big decisions?

But perhaps the more important question is, “If God were to speak to me, would I listen and obey?”

  • What is one big decision you are facing (or recently faced) in your life? What made it such a hard decision, and why did you make the choice that you did?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 3:5-6.

This proverb tells us to follow God’s ways, to listen to His voice, but if we’re honest, God’s voice is not always our first choice.

We try to figure things out ourselves.  We want to do what we want to do, and so we just make the best decision we can.

Other times we rely on our emotions.  If it feels right, we do it.  If we get goosebumps or chills, we think we must be making the right decision.

Or maybe we read too much into coincidences.  If the right song is on the radio during a date, it must be fate.

Sometimes we move forward simply because nothing is in our way.  We haven’t sought God’s will, but nothing is stopping us from going forward.

Perhaps we’re wise enough to seek out wise counsel… but when wise counsel doesn’t give us the answer we want, we keep looking for counsel that agrees with us.  And we end up with unwise counsel.

  • Which of these poor decision-making practices are you most susceptible to? Figuring it out yourself? Relying on emotions? Reading too much into coincidences? Moving forward until something stops you? Relying on unwise counsel?

  • Why do you have a tendency to make decisions in that way?

 

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58.

Here God promises that if we follow His ways He will guide us.   And we see time and time again in the Bible that God guides his people.  Noah was told to build a boat to save people and animals from a flood.  Abraham was told to leave his country and go to a land that God would show him.  Moses was told to lead the people of Israel out of captivity.

  • Is there a time in your life when you think God may have been guiding you?  What happened and what form did that guidance take?

 

God’s Voice Comes in Unexpected Ways

Have a volunteer read 1 Kings 19:11-13

When talking about God’s voice, people often hear Morgan Freeman in their heads.  We expect God’s voice to be commanding and powerful or for it to come with flashing neon lights.

And certainly God does speak this way sometimes, like when He led the Israelites through the desert in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

But sometimes, often even, God speaks more subtly, in a still, small whisper, and if we aren’t listening, we’ll miss it.

If our lives are so crowded that we’re always rushing to an activity, pumping music through our earbuds, checking our work email, and binge-watching Netflix, we’ll miss what God wants to tell us.

  • What do you need to adjust in your life so that you can hear God more clearly?

 

Sometimes, God’s Voice Doesn’t Make Sense

Have a volunteer read Genesis 6:13-14

Noah lived 500 miles from the nearest body of water.  Building a boat was a ridiculous idea.  It wasn’t like he could hook it up to his F-350 and tow it down to the Mediterranean for the weekend.

Noah listened to God’s voice, even though it didn’t make sense.  He spent decades building a huge boat hundreds of miles from water.

But God knew what Noah didn’t: a flood was coming.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 God tells us that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

The reality is that much of what God says doesn’t make sense on its face.  God tells us to love those who hate us; to forgive those who wrong us; not to marry someone who doesn’t have the same faith we do; to give sacrificially; to operate with integrity, even when it costs us dearly.

He tells us these things because He knows better than we do, but in the middle of our circumstances God’s voice often seems to be asking us to do something that seems like a bad idea.

  • When has God asked you to do something that didn’t make sense?   What was the result?

  • Is there anything God might be asking you to do now that is hard or doesn’t make sense?

 

God’s Voice is Consistent

Sometimes people say “God told me…” to explain their actions, when the reality is God never would have told them to do those things.  Throughout the Bible God shows us how we can live full lives, all of which can be summed up in the simple maxim to love God and love others.

If you think God is telling you to do something that goes against what He has already said in the Bible: to harm another for your own gain, to divorce your spouse because you can’t agree on how to parent, to rely on alcohol to deal with your pain… that’s not God.


Application

This week our application is simple: engage with the 21 Days of Prayer.  Create space to talk to and hear from God.  Visit eastside.com/prayer for more details.

 

Unleashing the Power of Prayer

Unleashing the Power of Prayer

Series Introduction

This past weekend we began a series entitled, “Unleashing the Power of….”  The upcoming season is a big one at Eastside.

Fall is always a key time when lots of people join our community and find relationship with Jesus.  This fall is especially full of opportunity as we open a new student center in Anaheim to reach new teens and their families; launch a new location in La Habra to reach a new community; invite new friends and neighbors to party with us in Park Rapids as we celebrate our one year anniversary there; and start a new small group system that will engage people far from God.

But before we do all of that, we need to prepare ourselves.  This next few weeks is a chance for us to reset and re-engage spiritually as we transition from the travel and festivity of summer to our fall routines.

Next weekend we will kick off 21 Days of Prayer, a time of intense and focused prayer for one another and for our church.

We’ll have daily social media posts to encourage you through the 21 days, so make sure you’re following Eastside on Facebook (/eastsidecc), Instagram (@eastside_cc), or Twitter (@eastside_cc).

We’ll have five minute video devotionals online daily.  We’ll have some nights of prayer and worship, and this coming weekend you’ll receive a prayer booklet to guide you.

But before we get there, let’s be sure to look back and express our gratitude to God for the experience we’ve had over the past couple of months.

  • What is the most memorable thing you’ve done this summer?

 


Message Introduction

When it comes to prayer there’s a question many of us have wondered about but are often afraid to verbalize.

Why pray?

We ask ourselves questions like: If God already knows everything, then what’s the point of prayer?  Can you really change the mind of God? Is He even listening?

If we’re honest, sometimes it feels like we pray and pray and pray, but God just isn’t listening.

  • Have you ever prayed for something and had God answer?  How did you respond?

  • Are there any prayers you’ve prayed that God hasn’t answered?  How did that make you feel?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read James 5:13.

Trouble

James tells us that we should pray if there’s something wrong.  9 out of 10 Americans say they pray regularly, and 3 out of 4 claim to pray every day.  If we’re honest, the number one reason we pray is something goes wrong.

The great thing is that God is our heavenly Father, which means He wants us to come to Him when something is wrong.  Just like any good dad, God wants us to come to him when we’re in trouble.

  • What do you think about this idea of God as a loving Father who wants to know when we’re in trouble?  Does that resonate with you?  Why or why not?

Sometimes when we pray and God doesn’t answer the way we want, we get the impression that God has made up His mind and isn’t going to change it.  But the reality is that God’s “no” may sometimes be a “not now.”

Circumstances change and we change.  If your 14 year old asked for the keys to the car, you’d probably tell them no.  But if your 24 year old asked the same thing, you’d probably tell them yes.  Just because God says no now doesn’t mean he’ll never say yes.

  • Have you ever had a prayer go unanswered initially only to have God answer it later?

  • Is there anything you’ve prayed for in the past that God didn’t do then but might do now or in the future?

Joy

James goes on to tell us that we should not only pray when something is wrong but that we should praise, that we should thank God when life is good.

Our focus determines our reality.  If we dwell on everything in our lives that could be better or is negative or is problematic, it will have a profound impact on our psyche.  We will be come discontented, dissatisfied, angry people.

At the same time, if we focus on the good things in our lives, if we look for all of the blessings God has given us, the things that we have to be grateful for, we will be content, joyful people.

The Apostle Paul led a hard life.  He traveled from place to place telling people about Jesus, and he found himself imprisoned, beaten, and shipwrecked.  Through it all, he said “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

Paul knew that the secret to contentment was keeping his focus on Jesus, to praising God in all circumstances.

  • What are three things in your life that you are grateful for, and why specifically are you grateful for them?  (In other words, don’t just say that you’re grateful for your friends, what is it in particular about your friends that you’re grateful for?  What have they done to make you grateful for them?)

 

Have a volunteer read James 5:16.

Complete Honesty

There is enormous power in finding a few other people that you have fun with, that you become friends with, that you grow in faith with, and that you can be totally honest with.

But sometimes it’s really hard to be totally honest, because the issues are too deep, too embarrassing, or we’re too ashamed.

Sometimes we need to go to God with the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves before we’re able to bring them to others.

Sometimes we don’t even know exactly what’s wrong or what we need to confess, but God does.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows what’s going on even when we can’t articulate it to others.

God is the one person we can go to and be completely open and transparent.  If we’ll do that, we will begin to find freedom.  If we try to hide things from God, we become slaves to those things.

  • Are you honest with God about who you are about your doubts, fears, struggles, and shame or do you hold back?  For those who are completely open with Him, what has allowed you to be able to do that?  For those who hold back, what keeps you from being completely open?

Power and Effectiveness

James tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  Of course, none of us are righteous on our own.  The truly righteous person recognizes their own shortcomings and understands that their righteousness comes from Jesus, that it was Jesus who made good on all of the things we’ve done wrong and so makes us righteous.

Time and time again we read about God performing miracles through people in Scripture.  Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead, called down fire from heaven to defeat false prophets, speaks with God on a mountain, prayed for drought in order to shock people into turning back to God, prayed for rain to end the drought, and was taken up into Heaven without ever dying.

Have a volunteer read James 5:17-18.

Elijah wasn’t Superman.  He was just a human being.  The miraculous power of prayer is as much within our reach as it was in the accounts we read in the Bible.

  • Where in your life do you need a miracle?


Application

What could God do in our lives, in our relationships, in our futures, in our church, in our families if we unleashed the power of prayer?

This week, commit to praying at least 10 more minutes each day than you do now.  So if you currently pray 0 minutes per day, make it 10.  If you pray 15, make it 25.

Pick a time and a place to do this.  It could be right after you wake up in the morning.  Maybe it’s during your lunch break or while your kids are down for a nap.  You could do it on a walk right after work.  Or it could be the last thing you do before your head hits the pillow at night.

Be sure to put this time with God on your calendar. We’re far more likely to follow through with something if we schedule it.