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You Asked For It

You Asked for It - Week 5

You Asked for It - Week 5

Last Easter we began circulating a survey asking if you could ask God anything, what would you ask? If we were to teach some topics out of the Bible, what would you want to hear about?

After thousands of responses, Eastside has compiled a list of the top ten questions asked by those in our community that we will cover throughout this series.This is often how Jesus taught.  People would approach him with a question, and He would answer.


Sermon Title

Sex and Salvation

Sex

In his sermon, Mike said that God is pro-sex, that, in fact, sex is a good gift from God.

  • What do you think about the idea that God is pro-sex?  Do you agree? Disagree? How does this compare with what you’ve been taught about God in the past?

Myth #1: Sex makes dating relationships better.

Our idea of the natural progression of a relationship is often: attraction > chemistry > sexual intimacy.

But the problem is that there is nothing grounding that relationship, no deep friendship, no real commitment, just hormones and emotions and feelings, and when the chemistry begins to suffer or the sex isn’t what it used to be, things begin to fall apart.

Truth #1: Sex is a great gift from God for married people.

God’s idea of the natural progression of a relationship is: attraction > chemistry > friendship > commitment > marriage > sexual intimacy.

We see throughout the Bible—from the very in Genesis to the words of Jesus in Matthew to the writings of Paul in Thessalonians—that God designed sex for the context of marriage.

Have volunteer read Matthew 19:4-6 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.

  • What do you think the natural progression of a romantic relationship should be?

  • Do you agree or disagree that sex is something God designed exclusively for the context of marriage?

Myth #2: Sex is strictly physical.

In our sex-ed classes in school, we learn the physics of sex, but we don’t learn what really happens during sex, that sex is about two people forming a spiritual union. That’s why, try as we might, we can’t just hook up with someone without doing damage to ourselves.

Truth #2: Sex is a mingling of souls.

Have volunteers read 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 and Genesis 2:23-25.

When two people have sex, they become attached to one another at a deep level emotionally and spiritually.  That is why it is so important to engage in sex in the context of marriage and so important not to do it outside of marriage.   It is something that unites people in a way that nothing else does.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 19:3-9.

Here Jesus isn’t making a threat: “Don’t get divorced, or else God will punish you!” but rather giving a warning, “Don’t get divorced because it will be like ripping off a skin graft.   You’ve spiritually become one person, and trying to reverse that is going to damage everyone involved.”

  • What do you think about this idea that sex is not merely a physical but spiritual union as well?

 

Sexual Struggles

This is all a nice theory, but…                                       

What about those of us who are gay?

What about those of us who are transgender?

What about those of us who have been divorced?

What about those of us who have hurt someone sexually?

What about those of us who have been hurt by someone sexually?

What about those of us who have had more sexual partners than we can count?

What about those of us who are confused?

At Eastside we welcome people of all sexual activities, histories, proclivities, and orientations, as we believe everyone matters to God. No matter what we’ve done or thought, no matter where we’ve been or who we’ve been with, God knows, God understands, and God loves us.  We’re all broken, we’re all messy, we’re all hurt, we’ve all been hurt… and we’re all priceless people who God deeply loves.  And it’s that love that defines us.

God’s love for us is why He calls us to follow His plan for sex, even when it is difficult to do so.   It’s not because God hates us or doesn’t want us to have any fun, it’s because God loves us, because he designed us and knows what’s best for us, and because if we will follow his plan, we will ultimately be healthier and happier.  And so with grace-filled spirits we strive to live out the ethic described in the Bible, which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage.

  • How would your life be different if you rooted your identity in the love that God has for you rather than your success or your relationships or your sexuality or whatever other thing you’re tempted to find your value in?

  • How can we as the Church begin to show the love of Jesus to the LGBTQ community that we for so long ostracized and demeaned?

Salvation

There are a lot of things that are marketed as life changing, everything from the newest diet fad to the Sleep Number bed and Ultra HD televisions.

And we all know those things won’t really change our lives, although we probably have our own list of things that will change everything: getting married, buying a house, winning the lottery, having kids, and anything else that might be on your list of life goals.

And while those things will certainly impact our lives in meaningful ways, none of them, even the most significant of them, will provide ultimate meaning.  If you are looking for any of those to fill a void you feel inside, none of them will do it.

  • Have you ever thought something would get rid of an empty feeling inside only to find out afterwards that it didn’t?

The other thing that won’t change everything, that won’t fill that empty void inside, is behavior modification.  In fact, it might even make that void worse.

For people who grew up going to church, behavior modification might be the biggest temptation of all.  We think if we can just do a little better, serve a little more, sin a little less, then God will be pleased with us, and we’ll get to Heaven.

We claim that we believe we are saved by grace, but in reality we believe that our salvation is dependent on us doing enough good things and avoiding enough bad things.

And because we think that we have to be perfect and the people around us often think that we have to be perfect, we put on a mask. Instead of being real about who we are, we pretend that everything is okay.  We act as if we have no problems, no struggles, no pain.

And that empty feeling grows.

  • Are you tempted to evaluate yourself and your own worth on your efforts to “be good enough” or “do enough good”?

The only thing that will truly change everything is grace.

Have volunteers read Romans 5:6, Titus 3:4-5, Romans 10:9, 2 Corinthians 2:22, and Hebrews 11:6.

The only thing that we can do is place our faith in God’s grace, to believe that He loves us.  Relying on God’s grace, trusting that He loves us and wants the best for us, trusting that Jesus died so that we could be forgiven and restored to relationship with God is the only thing that will fill that emptiness.

God is the source of all life.  When we are tapped into that source, we feel and are fully alive, and when we are not, something is conspicuously absent.

  • How can you begin to rely more on God’s grace and less on yourself?


Application

This was a deeply personal sermon, and each of us will need to grow in these areas in a slightly different way.  You might need to begin to move towards God’s vision for sexuality.  You may need to surrender some piece of your life to God so that he can fill the empty void there.

But no matter what specific act you need to take, you aren’t meant to take it alone.  Part of trusting God is relying on His people to support us.  God has given us this incredible resource: one another.

However specifically this message hit you, one of the best things you can do next is talk to someone else about it.  Open up.  Be honest about where you are and where you’re struggling.  God didn’t intend for us to face things alone.

Right now, pull out your phone and text a friend.  Tell them that you have something you want to talk to them about and ask if they have time to get together this week.  You might even text someone else from the group.

Don’t wait until you get home to do this.  Don’t give yourself the opportunity to chicken out or sweep this under the rug.  Reach out to someone right now.

You Asked for It - Week 4

You Asked for It - Week 4

Last Easter we began circulating a survey asking if you could ask God anything, what would you ask? If we were to teach some topics out of the Bible, what would you want to hear about?
After thousands of responses, Eastside has compiled a list of the top ten questions asked by those in our community that we will cover throughout this series.

This is often how Jesus taught.  People would approach him with a question, and He would answer.


Sermon Title

Why do we struggle with racism, and why are Christians so judgmental?


Introduction

Deep-seated divides and judgmental-ism exist because of one thing: sin.  It is our sinful nature, our self-centered, corrupted, prideful hearts that look at someone else and judge them because they are different than us or because the sin that they struggle with is different than the sin that we struggle with.

  • One key to combatting division is to appreciate difference.  What is one thing you’ve seen in a culture or subculture not your own that you appreciate?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Galatians 3:28.

Here the Apostle Paul, the man who founded many of the earliest churches, explains that in God’s kingdom, the traditional societal divisions of race, gender, and class do not exist, that no one is better or worse than anyone else in the eyes of God.

In spite of this, the Reverend Martin Luther King stated that 11 AM on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America.  This is, unfortunately, hardly less true today than it was fifty years ago.  Churches rarely reflect the diversity of their communities.

  • Why do you think that churches are still so racially segregated?

  • What can we as followers of Jesus do to break down the divides that exist in the Church?

Have a volunteer read Matthew 8:1-4.
Have a volunteer read Matthew 9:9-13.

These were shocking stories to their original readers.  We read them and hear, “Ok, cool, Jesus healed a guy and had dinner with an IRS employee.”

But Jesus did far more: he crossed deep-seated social divides.

Lepers were outcasts.  Having leprosy was like having AIDS in the 1980s.  You never touched a leper.  The man Jesus touched never got a hug from his family.  He never shook hands with a friend.  But Jesus didn’t care about the risk of disease or the social stigma.  He reached out to heal not only a man’s physical illness but to touch his soul by giving him the human contact he so desperately needed.

Tax collectors were the scum of Jewish society.  The Roman Empire occupied Israel, and the only thing worse than a Roman occupier was a Jew who supported the Romans.  The Jewish tax collectors did that and more. Not only were they agents of Rome, they typically used their position to collect even more money than Rome required.  Tax collectors were like the mob running a protection scheme, the IRS, and Benedict Arnold rolled into one.

So when Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, not only had dinner with Matthew but called Matthew to be one of His followers, one of His disciples, it would have offended every Jewish sensibility there was.

  • Where have you intentionally or unintentionally isolated yourself from those who are different?  Are all of your friends of the same race? Socio-economic status? Faith? Age? Political persuasion? Sexual orientation?

  • How can we build bridges with people that our culture and our community say we’re not supposed to associate with?

Have a volunteer read Galatians 6:2.

The duty to “bear one another’s burdens” takes on added meaning in an interracial fellowship.  When a white brother comes to the community, he’s bringing all his superiority and all his guilt that society has put on him.  I must be able and willing to absorb that if we are to be reconciled.
And my white brother in the community must also recognize that I bring my history of being treated inferior, of being told that I am a nobody….  He must understand that I am trying to claim my worth as a person created in God’s image.  So he must bear the burden of all my bitterness and anger that grows out of my past.
To be reconciled to each other, then, we must bear the burdens created by each other’s pasts.  And to be reconcilers in the world, to bring others together, we must bear the burdens of both the parties we seek to reconcile.
–Dr. John Perkins

Every single one of us has blind spots.  We don’t know what we don’t know.

I’m a thirty-something white guy from a family that struggled both financially and relationally.

I have no idea what it’s like to be harassed by the police for the color of my skin.

I have no idea what it feels like to strap on a bullet-proof vest every night and go patrol a neighborhood where people distrust me because I wear blue.

I have no idea what it would have meant for my current economic situation if my parents had been unable to get a home loan because of their skin color.

I have no idea what it’s like to grow up in a family that doesn’t worry about money.

I have no idea how my life would be different if my parents had a healthy marriage.

  • What are some of the things in your upbringing that have caused you to become the person that you are?

  • What practical steps can we take to get past our blind spots and see things from the perspective of others who have had a different life experience?


Application

Bridge-building begins simply by building relationships, by pushing past the category that someone is in: black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, immigrant, and getting to know the individual.  There’s something powerful that happens when you move from having a perspective on “Those ______ people” to having a friend named Chuck who is one of those people.

This week, intentionally seek out someone who is different than you, and get to know that person a little bit better.  Your goal here isn’t to get answers to questions.  You’re not trying to find out why they think a certain way.  You’re just building a relationship.

If you’re a police officer or a privileged white person, sit down with an African-American friend or acquaintance.  If you’re a part of Black Lives Matter, find a police officer you can have coffee with.  If you’re straight, go to lunch with someone who is gay.  If you were born in America, have an immigrant over for dinner. If you’re an immigrant, invite an American into your home.  If you’re a Trump supporter, get to know someone who loves Hillary.

When you do this, please be sensitive.  People aren’t projects. They’re not our objects of study.  They’re people.  Just be a friend.

And remember that simply because someone belongs to a particular group, it doesn’t mean he or she speaks for that whole group. Not every African American feels the same way about police officers.  Not every white person feels the same way about immigrants.  

Honestly, until you know someone a bit better, it’s probably best not to bring up sensitive topics, but if they do come up, do more listening than talking.  And don’t ask loaded or leading questions.  Don’t try to change the person’s mind.  Just listen.

 

You Asked for It - Week 3

You Asked for It - Week 3

Last Easter we began circulating a survey asking if you could ask God anything, what would you ask? If we were to teach some topics out of the Bible, what would you want to hear about?

After thousands of responses, Eastside has compiled a list of the top ten questions asked by those in our community that we will cover over the next five weeks.

This is often how Jesus taught.  People would approach him with a question, and He would answer.


Are we living in the last days of earth?

Today around the globe, people everywhere are witnessing tragic events.  In light of what’s happening, many folks look at the Bible and wonder if we are living in the end times?

Although the events that are suppose to occur before Jesus returns seem to have already happened, previous generations believed the same thing.  We’ll get to what some of those events are in just a minute, but before we do so:

  • Do you think we are currently living in the end times, the last days before Jesus returns to Earth?

Here are a few of the events that are supposed to take place before Jesus comes back that have taken place within the relatively recent past.

The Jews are Regathered in Israel

Have volunteer read Jeremiah 16:14-15 and Isaiah 11:10-12.

These passages indicate that God will restore and regather the Jewish people to the land he had given their ancestors.  In 1900, only about 40,000 Jews lived in Israel.  Today there are over 6.3 million Jews who have come from places as widespread as Russia, Ethiopia, and America.


The Land of Israel is Reclaimed

Have a volunteer read Ezekiel 36:35

In 1900, the land of Israel had only 17,000 trees.  The Turks who had controlled the country taxed people based on the number of trees that they had… so people cut down their trees.  Today, there are over 450 million trees there.

100 years ago, the valley of Armageddon was a malaria infested marshland.  Today, it produces more food per square foot than nearly anywhere else in the world.

The Nation of Israel is Reborn

Have a volunteer read Matthew 24:32-34

After 70 A.D. the nation of Israel was considered dead when the Romans leveled Jerusalem and the Jewish people were scattered all over the world for the next 18 centuries.  On May 14, 1948, a handful of Jewish people suddenly declared in the land of Palestine that they were once again, a nation.

There are people who believe that the fig tree refers to the actual nation of Israel, and that Jesus is indicating that those who witness Israel’s return will witness His second coming.

  • What do you think about these three Biblical prophecies.  Do you think they have been fulfilled by the events that have transpired in Israel within the past 100 years?

  • Does this change your perspective on whether or not we are living in the end times?

Are we in the end times?

Have a volunteer read Matthew 24:36, 42-44

On the one hand, it seems that there are Biblical prophecies that have recently been fulfilled.  On the other hand, as we mentioned earlier, people have been thinking they’re living in the end times for generations.

Perhaps what is more important than whether we are living in the last days, we are living in our own last days.

Jesus teaches that some people will not be ready when He returns.  And some people are not ready when their time comes

We allow ourselves to become distracted by temporary pleasures: money, fame, sex, achievement, etc., and we lose focus on what is most important, the relationships that we and others have with God.

  • Have there been recent distractions or worries that have taken your attention away from God?

  • What do you need to do to be ready for the last days, whether they’re the world’s last days or just your own?


What is Heaven like?

The picture of Heaven that has developed in our culture is that it is a place where we sit around on clouds playing harps for eternity.  One pastor described the popular conception of Heaven as a never-ending church service, adding that an unending church service sounds more to him like Hell than Heaven.

  • What do you imagine heaven will be like?

Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The Apostle Paul says here that no one has ever conceived of Heaven on their own, but that God has revealed it to us through the Holy Spirit.  Here is what we know about Heaven.

Heaven is a Place for Love and Relationships   

Have a volunteer read Matthew 17:1-8.

Have a volunteer read Revelation 7:9-12.

Heaven will be a place for closeness, community, and connection, and sometimes people wonder if they will recognize their loved ones in heaven.

In the first passage we read that Jesus’ disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though the two of them had died hundreds of years before the disciples were even born.  There’s no reason to think we won’t recognize those we love in heaven.

In the second passage we read that there will be countless people in heaven from every place on earth, which means that if relationships have always been a struggle for you—maybe the people closest to you have always brought you pain or you’ve been lonely for much of your life—you’ll have the opportunity to form new relationships, ones that are meaningful and safe.

  • Who are you looking to seeing and spending time with in heaven?

Heaven is a Place for Intellectual Growth and Discovery

Have a volunteer read Ephesians 2:5-7.

When Paul writes that God will “show the incomparable riches of His grace,” he is telling us that God will continue to reveal more and more to us while we are in Heaven.  This isn’t a one time, “Take a look… okay, nothing more to see here.” For all eternity, new things will be revealed to God’s people.  We will be shown of His power and love throughout the end of time with something new around every corner.

Everyone’s minds will be keen and intellects sharp.  God created us from the beginning to learn for eternity

  • What are one or two questions that you would ask God that have puzzled you so far on earth?

  • Is there anything that you would like to learn how to do in heaven that you have never learned before?  This could be anything from how to play an instrument to understanding the nuclear reaction that takes place in a star

Heaven is a Place for Exploration

Have a volunteer read John 14:2-4

Here Jesus tells us that Heaven is a big place.  There are lots of rooms or lots of mansions.  There’s a lot to explore and see.

This universe is a big place and it would be the height of arrogance to believe the that only place in the universe God is ever going to deal with is the one little planet near one little star that we call earth.  Science tells us that the universe is continuously expanding.  It would be a waste if none of it was meant to be explored or loved.

  • Is there anywhere that you would like to explore that you have never been?

Heaven is a Place for Accomplishment

In several places the Bible indicates that we will work in Heaven (Revelation 7, Revelation 22, 1 Corinthians 6:3).  Contrary to our cloud-sitting, margarita-sipping mental images, we will do important work in Heaven.  God actually created us to work.  Before the Fall, before Adam and Eve sinned, when the world was as God intended it to be, God told Adam to work.

Work isn’t punishment.  Work is part of what we were created for, but work in Heaven won’t be like it is here, difficult and trying.  The work we get to do in Heaven will be the work that leverages our God-given gifts and talents.  It will be work that energizes us and makes us feel alive.

  • If every job paid the same, and you could have any job you wanted, what would you do?  Perhaps that is what you will get to do in Heaven.

Heaven is a Place for Joy and Laughter

Have a volunteer read Matthew 25:23.

The Master wants us to share in his happiness.  In heaven, celebration, joy, and laughter are abundant.  Why would the God who created rainbows and giraffes and platypuses suddenly decide to be boring?  God created a good earth.  We messed it up.  In Heaven, everything will be as God intended, full of joy and life.

  • What are you most looking forward to about heaven?

Heaven Isn’t…

Have a volunteer read Revelation 21:3-4

Heaven is just as much about what isn’t there as about what is there. There will be no death, tears, mourning, or pain.  There will be no more cancer or terrorism, no more sickness, no more need for diet plans or knee braces or pain killers.  There will be no more racism, sexism, divorce, or murder.

All of the things that we struggle with and suffer from will be gone.

  • What can you see God freeing you from in heaven?


Application

This amazing place called Heaven is open to anyone and everyone who follows Jesus, but we all know people who for one reason or another aren’t following Jesus right now.

Make a list of three of those people and commit to praying that God would show himself to them every day for the next week.  Ask God also for opportunities to have conversations about faith with them.

Share with the group who your three people are, and spend a few minutes next week sharing what doors God may have opened for conversations.

You Asked for It - Week 2

You Asked for It - Week 2

Series Introduction

Last Easter Eastside circulated a survey asking what questions people want to ask God.  If you could ask God anything, what would you say?

We received thousands for responses and compiled a list of the top ten questions asked by those in our community that we will cover during this series.

This is often how Jesus taught.  People would approach Him with a question and He would answer.


Message Title

Why does God allow evil, pain, and suffering in the world?


Message Introduction

In a recent national survey, this was the top question people wanted God to answer.

It would be so much easier if this were merely a philosophical, theoretical, or even academic question.  But people are asking this question at a gut level; from somewhere deep inside, because pain and suffering take on a different dimension when it’s your pain, your spouse, your child, your marriage, your health.

  • How would you personally answer the question, “Why does God allow evil, pain, and suffering in the world?”


Understanding

It’s okay to ask “Why?”

Have a volunteer read Matthew 27:46.

Sometimes people who follow Jesus think it’s wrong to ask why.  So they cover it up and go to church and smile.  But even Jesus, hanging on the cross, cries out and asks “Why?”  And often underneath this question are some some troubling questions about God: Is God powerless? Or indifferent? Or uninvolved? Or maybe even to blame?

  • Have you experienced a season of doubt, when you’ve asked questions like these?

  • Did you feel guilty for wanting to ask God why?

 

Where does suffering come from?

Sometimes our suffering comes from our own sin. We do something wrong and pay the price for it.

Some of our suffering is a result of other people’s sin.  If someone cheats on his or her spouse, that wronged spouse suffers as a result.

There are times when satan is at the root of the suffering going on.  Although satan has limited power in this world, this is still his domain.  The Bible tells us that the devil is here to kill, steal, and destroy.  In the book of Job we read the story of a man who lost his family, his health, and his financial stability as a result of satan’s attacks.

But most of the time our suffering is the result of a fallen world, a world where people’s poor choices have broken the perfect world God created.

Some might ask why God doesn’t just override free will, but God gave us free will because God is love, and love can’t happen without free will.  Love isn’t love if someone forces you to do it.  The love you receive from friends or from a spouse is so powerful and so meaningful because those people choose you, because no one forces them to love you.

Part of God’s perfect world is the presence of free will.  And if free will is present, then people can make poor choices that hurt others.

  • What do you think about the idea that evil exists because we have free will?  Does this help you reconcile a belief that God is good even in spite of all of the bad things that happen?

 

Suffering the What

The reality is that even if you understand why something bad is happening, you still have to deal with what is happening.

Have a volunteer read John 14:15-27.

You do not have to be alone.  Jesus has promised those of us who follow Him that His Holy Spirit will be with us to comfort us and bring us peace in the midst of any situation.

People often quote what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me,” as a statement about their ability to hit a home run or succeed in a business deal, but that isn’t at all what Paul meant.

The lines just prior read, “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul was saying, no matter what I suffer, no matter what trial I go through, I can make it because God strengthens me through His Holy Spirit.

  • Have you ever experienced an inexplicable peace, comfort, or strength in the midst of a difficult situation?

Have a volunteer read John 3:16.

No matter what you’re going through, God knows how you feel.

Many people find strength when they speak with others who have been through what they’re currently experiencing.  On that silent night, on that holy night in Bethlehem, when Jesus was born, God let go of His only son, Jesus, knowing full well what would await this little baby in a manger.

God knew that Herod would seek to take the life of this baby.  God knew the betrayal Jesus would experience by one of the men closest to Him.  God knew that His Son would suffer the most cruel, drawn-out, painful, excruciating death possible for a human being.  Yet God still let His son go.

The ultimate answer to the question of tragedy and suffering is not an explanation but the incarnation: Jesus Christ, God the Son, coming into our world to experience life and suffering.

  • How does it make you feel to know that God Himself has suffered so much as a result of sin?  Does the fact that God did not even save Himself from that suffering impact how you think about the question of how a good God can allow evil in the world?

Have a volunteer read Psalm 56:8

Some may say, “Nobody knows the hell I’m going through at home right now.” But they’re wrong.  God does.  Some may say, “Nobody knows how I’m struggling to break this habit, this hurt, this addiction.”  But God does. “No one knows the depression and fear and hopelessness I feel right now.”  God knows how they feel.

  • How do you thing God feels about the suffering you’ve experienced recently?

Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.

Pain can serve a purpose. Sometimes God allows pain because He knows it’s will result in a greater good.

Maybe God allows the cancer to teach us to value what is eternal.  Maybe God allows the difficult boss to teach us self-control.  Maybe God allows the unemployment to teach us faith.  Maybe God allows the baby that sleeps all day and cries all night to teach us patience.

God doesn’t cause everything that happens, but He does work them together for good.  God never wastes a hurt.

There are many at Eastside right now who would say it was through a season of loss that they were drawn back to God into a relationship with Jesus.  Even when someone goes through the worst thing to happen to them, God pulls them back to the most important thing.

  • When has God used a difficult season in your life to achieve a greater good?

Have a volunteer read Habakkuk 3:17-19

When the vines are empty and the fields are barren and flocks are gone, hang onto God and don’t let go.

We can endure a lot of pain if we know that there is a happy ending, a light at the end of the tunnel, a reward for being faithful during those times of testing. There is a reason to hold on. There is glory that awaits everyone in the end.

Have a volunteer read Revelation 21:3-5

John wants his readers to take the long view.  This isn’t to deny or minimize the pain people experience in life, but it focuses us on the eternal reward we will receive if we pursue God in the midst of pain.  John tells us what will not be present in Heaven: death, mourning, crying, pain, suffering, tragedy, and injustice.  Instead there will be joy and renewal.

  • Does this long view change how you think about pain and suffering?  If so, how?


Application

Take a few minutes right now to consider which of these might apply to you:

  • Do you know someone who is going through a difficult season similar to one you’ve already been through?  Offer to grab coffee and listen.

  • Do you need to be comforted yourself? Ask a close friend or group member to sit and pray with you.

  • Is there a struggle that makes you cry out “Why?”  Start a prayer journal, and write down both your “why questions for God as well as your prayers for strength, peace and comfort.  When you look back on it later, you may be amazed at how God has worked.

  • Do you fear that God doesn’t care or won’t be there for you?  Meet with someone from the group to discuss your questions and concerns and to pray for support.

Before you leave, share what step you plan to take this week, and report back next week on how it went.

 

You Asked For It - Week 1

You Asked For It - Week 1

Series Introduction

Last Easter we began circulating a survey asking if you could ask God anything, what would you ask? If we were to teach some topics out of the Bible, what would you want to hear about?

After thousands of responses, Eastside has compiled a list of the top ten questions asked by those in our community that we will cover over the next five weeks.

This is often how Jesus taught.  People would approach him with a question, and He would answer.


How would Jesus vote?

This may be the most contentious presidential election in our lifetime.

And sincere Christians attempting to follow God’s can have sincere disagreements over how their faith convictions best get expressed at the ballot box and in public policy.

  • Are you someone who hates political chatter or are you someone who likes to stir the pot?

Have a volunteer read Matthew 22:15-22

Two political parties tried to back Jesus into a corner.  If He sided with the Jews, He would be arrested for treason against the Roman Empire.  On the other hand, if Jesus took the side of the Romans, the Jews would question His loyalties.

Instead, Jesus cleverly responded that we are citizens of two kingdoms, and He called his followers to fulfill their responsibilities to both.

  • What do you think are your key civic duties as an American citizen or resident?

  • What do you think are your key spiritual responsibilities as a citizen of heaven?

Faith Over Politics

Often people get so caught up in politics that they elevate it above their faith.  Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, liberal, or conservative; whether “you’re with her” or you want to “make America great again,” we all need to remember that our allegiance to God supersedes our allegiance to a particular party or person.
And the simple reason for that is that our faith has eternal implications.  When people die, they don’t end up in Washington DC. Their political stance and persuasion becomes extremely irrelevant.  We must follow Jesus first and a political party, agenda, or perspective second.

  • What do you think about the idea that followers of Jesus with different political or policy perspectives than your own may be equally motivated by their faith to hold those perspectives?  Is that something that makes sense to you or something that you find difficult to believe?

  • What are some practical ways you can trust God over government?

People Over Politics

Jesus stated that the greatest commandment of all is to love God and secondly to love others.  If we all did this, politics would become almost irrelevant.

But instead in this election cycle, believers in Jesus Christ who share sincere different points of view are attacking each other and becoming so adversarial and militant in the support of a particular candidate that they are willing to endanger a relationship with someone who disagrees with them.

Have someone read Ephesians 4:2-3

In less than 60 days the election is going to be over.  Let’s avoid saying or posting things now in the heat of the moment that will damage relationships going forward.

  • How can you prioritize relationships over politics this election season?


Where are dinosaurs in the Bible?

Children and adults are fascinated by these mysterious creatures we call dinosaurs.  These “terrible lizards” (as the word dinosaur translates) have become a staple for the entertainment industry and aspiring paleontologists around the world.

When people often ask about dinosaurs in the Bible, they’re really asking much broader questions about the age of the earth, the creation of the earth, the cataclysmic flood we read about in Genesis 6, carbon dating, and a variety of other things.

The question of creation really does matter.  It’s addressed in the first verse of the Bible.  It has been said that if someone can believe the first ten words of the Bible, they can believe everything that comes after.  If God can create the universe, why not part the Red Sea or raise Jesus from the dead?

  • Without debating how God may have done it, what are your thoughts on God’s role as creator of the universe?

Two differing points of view tend to arise when addressing dinosaurs in the Bible, and it stems from the age of the earth.  For many years, young earth and old earth creationists have debated on the age of the planet.

The young earth camp believes that God created the earth in six literal 24-hour days.  Then, when you count the number of years that have passed using the genealogies in the book of Genesis, you come to the conclusion that it has likely been anywhere between 6 and 10 thousand years since God created the world.

Young earthers believe that God created the dinosaurs like He created all other living beings on the planet and that they co-existed with humans.  Many would hold that it was the flood that we read about in Genesis 6 that kills them off.

Some people who hold the young earth view also think that the leviathan and the behemoth mentioned in the Bible in the book of Job really refer to a type of dinosaur.

The old earth camp believes that the earth was created around 4.5 billion years ago.

The creation account in Genesis says that God created the world in six days, but the Hebrew word for day (yom), has multiple definitions, one of which is “a long but finite period of time.”

Those followers of Jesus who hold this old earth view believe the days of creation referred to in Genesis 1 aren’t 24 hour periods, but finite periods of millions of years.  To this camp, dinosaurs lived hundreds of millions of years ago and became extinct 65 million years ago, before the dawn of man.

  • Which creation view would you lean more towards and why?

  • If you’re an old earth proponent, what do you do with the seemingly clear and simple statements in the Bible about how God made the world?  Likewise, if you support young earth creationism, what do you do with the scientific evidence that indicates the world is much older?


How is it God the Father + God the Son + God the Holy Spirit = 1 God?

The doctrine of the Trinity is the belief that God is one God but three persons.  God is a single being with three persons: the Father, Jesus (the Son), and the Holy Spirit.  Each of the three members of the trinity is distinct and has distinct roles and responsibilities, but they are one being, one essence, one God.

There is not one specific passage in the Bible that spells out exactly what the Trinity is.  However, we clear indications of the Trinity throughout the Bible, starting in the very first chapter, and we often see

Have volunteers read:

  • Genesis 1:26, 3:22 – Notice here that the reference to God changes from singular (“God,” a singular noun)  to plural (“Let us… our likeness.”)

  • John 1:1-18 – Here, Jesus is called “the Word,” and John writes that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

  • John 14:15-18 – Jesus says here that the Holy Spirit, our helper and advocate will come to be with us.

  • Luke 3:21-22 – When Jesus is baptized, we hear God the Father speaking and see God the Holy Spirit descending from heaven.

The truth is that we are finite, and God is infinite.  We cannot fully grasp the concept of the Trinity.  If our limited, finite minds could fully understand God, then He wouldn’t really be an unlimited, infinite being.

That doesn’t mean we don’t try or we don’t wrestle or we don’t question. We most certainly should!  But it does mean that much as a child has to trust a parent without fully understanding a decision that was made, we must trust God without fully understanding Him.

  • What do you think about this concept that God is one God but three persons?

The Trinity is not a purely academic belief.  It has real implications for our faith and for the world.

As three persons, God has always existed as a God in relationship.  When God said, “Let us make mankind in our image,” part of that image is a relational image.  Understanding God as Trinity teaches that being in relationships is how we were designed to live.

Have a volunteer read 1 John 4:8.

Here we learn that God is love.  Love must always have an object, and as three persons, God’s original object of his love was himself.  As three persons he was both the giver and receiver of love.

This may sound a bit strange, but again, it teaches us something.  It teaches us of the importance of love.  It shows us why the two greatest commandments are to “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”  It’s because love is at the very core of who God is.


Application

Find one tangible way to love a neighbor this week.

This could be the neighbor who lives next door.  It could be the neighbor in the cubicle or checkout counter next to yours.  It could be the neighbor the next locker over at the gym.

This might be a big thing, but it doesn’t have to be.  You could bring them some homemade cookies or a bottle of wine.  Maybe you share the credit for a project at work.

Discuss what you did with your group next week.