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You Asked For It - 2018
The spring semester ends on April 28th, and the summer semester will run June 3-July 28th. Consequently, there will be no further sermon discussion guides produced until the summer semester begins. However, if your group has been using them and is meeting during the break, here are a couple of short studies you can use in the interim.
Also, we have opened up group registration for the summer semester, so if you know what your group will be doing or have plans to start a new group, you can go ahead and register it now.
Most of us have at least one. It's that one question that comes to mind whenever people talk about God, faith, or church—that question that makes us unsure of God and if believing in Him makes any sense.
Who has been a strong female figure in your life and what was her impact on you?
Question #1: Is the church anti-woman?
If you grew up in church, what was the role of women in the church you attended?
Depending on what your church experience has been, you may or may not know that in some churches there are many restrictions on a woman's contribution to the church. The fact is, many women have gotten the message that they are small, insignificant, and second-class human beings.
To understand God's word on any subject, good Biblical interpretation weights the preponderance of the evidence throughout the entire Bible and doesn't look at isolated passages.
For us to understand the Scripture on this subject you have to go all the way back to God's original intention in the early scenes of Genesis. To look at God's intentions before sin entered the world and before male and female relationships got corrupted.
Have someone read Genesis 2:18 and Genesis 1:27-28.
Gene shared the various views and disagreements over this issue. He shared his understanding is that God's original intent was for men and women to be co-regents with God, to share authority together. The truth is nobody is over the other. It's about both being equally made in the image of God.
The idea of one gender ruling over another was not God's plan laid out at the beginning of creation. It's part of what happened as the result of sin and the curse in Genesis 3, just like pain and childbirth and alienation from labor.
Have someone read 2 Kings 22:14-20.
Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, you find women playing incredibly significant roles. God chose women like Miriam and Huldah as prophets, to speak authoritatively on His behalf. Huldah, we read in the passage above, instructed both a male priest and a male king.
Deborah was a prophet and judge of Israel. At that time in Israel, judges weren’t judges as we think of them. Before Israel had kings, judges were the highest authoritative leaders at that time. Judges exercised political, national, and spiritual leadership.
What can we learn about God’s perspective on women in leadership roles from Deborah?
When you move to the New Testament and the first century and look carefully at how Jesus treated women, it was revolutionary and breathtaking for that day. Jesus was polar-opposite to the rabbis of his day, who generally understood women to be inferior to me.
Have someone read John 4:27.
The disciples come to Jesus as he is speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. This was shocking to them because a devout Rabbi would not even speak to a woman. While this sermon was primarily about women in the church, many women have been made to feel less than men or have been shut out of a social or work situation.
Share a time you felt excluded, devalued or treated like the second-class citizen.
In the thirty three and a half years of Jesus' life on this planet, He brought to women things they had never experienced before--dignity, respect, value, and worth. In a time where rabbis taught that it was better to burn the Torah (the Old Testament law) than to teach it to a woman, Jesus spoke words of value and hope to them.
It's no accident that some of the most significant leaders of the early church, according to the Bible, were women:
Priscilla was a seminary level instructor that we find teaching men.
Lydia had her own international export business and was a key player in the launching of the first church in Philippi. She housed the church in her home.
We read about the 4 daughters of Philip who preached and prophesied. They weren't silent in the church.
Paul writes about 9 different women in Romans 16 who were significant to him in his ministry.
The women in the early church served not based on their gender but based on their gifts.
Gene shared that his understanding is that the church of Jesus Christ is not anti-woman, and from the beginning, God intended for men and women to rule together, serve together, do life and community together. Sin messed that up but Jesus came to restore that which was destroyed.
At Eastside, there are no limitations for serving based on gender. We have women who serve as elders, as staff members, as executive team members, who lead departments and who manage our finances and teach the Bible.
Depending on our gender, age or faith background we may have looked at this issue differently. Share one thing that challenged you, surprised you or made you view this issue differently.
Question #2: Where does the church stand on the #MeToo movement?
We are living in a time where #MeToo unleashed a cultural tsunami. It has flooded our news feeds, nightly news and social media.
The Bible never flinches in recording and denouncing the sexual sins and mistakes of its characters. It is always wrong when any of God's children experience sexual misconduct, rape, abuse or harassment.
Have someone read I Timothy 5:2.
We get a solid guideline for how we should treat others. Treat the people you work with, the people who report to you, the people you attend church with and the people in your neighborhood like family, with absolute purity.
Have someone read Proverbs 31:8.
We are challenged to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and to ensure justice for those being crushed.
When sexual misconduct happens, it is something that should never be covered up, spun or hidden in the name of the church's reputation. When we read the Bible we see how people like Noah, David or Amnon, tried to hide their sins but God did not let that happen.
As the church of Jesus Christ, we stand with the oppressed, the assaulted, the harassed, the demeaned, the disrespected, no matter who the perpetrator may be.
Chances are that for someone in this group this is a painful topic. We often try to forget or hide this part of our life. There may be feelings of guilt, shame, and pain, accompanied by a struggle with the emotional, physical, and spiritual aftermath.
God's Word declares you are loved; you are valuable; you matter, and in Jesus, there is no male or female. He wants you to be a powerful and change-making force for good in this world with your life.
You don't need to apologize for who God made you to be. Just be who God made you to be inside and outside of the church.
Gene challenged us to move from #MeToo to #WeToo and find healing, to be the church to those around us that are hurting, to help others take that courageous step towards help and trusting the Lord with their painful past.
There is freedom to be found, but we have to trust God. We have to receive it and experience it. That can be the hardest thing, to accept that God made a way through Jesus so that we might be free. The blood Jesus poured out on the cross doesn't just heal you from the grip of sins that you've committed, but the grip of sins committed against you. The cross does both. Jesus loves us and we can trust Him, even with the most painful parts of our spiritual journey.
How can we be a part of changing the dialogue and culture we live and work in? Brainstorm ways we can help those we love to go from #MeToo to #WeToo.
Pray as a group the prayer Gene closed with Sunday:
Father, thank you for your grace. Father, there are people here today and they're not sure whether or not it's possible to experience freedom from their pain, so I pray that you'd give them just a little bit of faith, just enough to help them to take the step and to trust You. Bring healing, and may we no longer be slaves to fear, shame, and the captivity of sin because of what Jesus did on a cross so that we can be free of our sins and the sins anyone has done to us.
For Men: And Father, on behalf of all the men of Eastside, I thank you for all our sisters in Jesus here that you made, you love, you gifted and you called to be dangerous tools for good in this world and for your purposes. May we do our part to honor, protect, defend. And may they feel empowered by your Spirit to be all that you made them to be….
And thank you that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from your love, neither death nor life; neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation that will be able to separate us from the love you have for us in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Most of us have at least one. It's that one question that comes to mind whenever people talk about God, faith, or church—that question that makes us unsure of God and if believing in Him makes any sense.
What one word best describes last week for you?
Question #1: Are there really angels and demons?
The Bible references angels over 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament.
Have someone read Ephesians 6:12 and Revelation 12:7-9.
We’re told in the Old Testament that God, in eternity past, created a wise, brilliant, and beautiful angel who was known as Lucifer. We’re told in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 that this angel became proud because of his stellar good looks and sought to ascend to the throne of God himself. He wanted to be like God, to reign as the sovereign king. He wanted to be God.
As a result of his rebellion against God, Lucifer and his band of rebellious, free-willed followers, were cast out of heaven forever. Revelation 12:7-8 tells us that when Lucifer fell he took a host of angels with him, and ever since that point they have been God’s relentless and contentious opponents.
Even though he aspired to be, Satan is not God. He is not self-existent, not sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent—but he is the ultimate liar and schemer. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan masquerades as an angel of light.
If we accept the authority of the Bible and the words of Jesus, then we must believe in the existence of Satan and his demons.
Do you believe in angels and demons? Why or why not?
Have someone read I Peter 5:8.
Recognizing that Satan is on the prowl and looking to devour helps us to be aware of things that happen. Satan whispers lies to us about God, hoping that we’ll believe them and withdraw from God. Because we know that he does this, when we find ourselves in those circumstances, we can stop and ask ourselves “What do I know is true?”
Satan tries to deceive us about sin and its consequences. He whispers to us and encourages us to go down destructive paths. Maybe it is having an affair, losing control, saying that one little lie. He convinces us to go after things we shouldn’t, whispering that we deserve it.
Have you ever felt under spiritual attack? Have you been tempted to believe Satan’s lies about God, yourself, circumstances, or giving in to sin?
As followers of Jesus, we can be ready to stand against Satan by knowing God’s Word and spending time with Him daily.
Have someone read Ephesians 6:10-20.
In Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study The Armor of God, she says, "When Paul talks about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, prayer is the seventh piece of armor. It activates all of the rest of the spiritual armor. . . . "When we refuse to pray, it's like having a refrigerator without plugging it in. Prayer is the divinely authorized mechanism God has given us to tap into His power. Without prayer, we'll be ineffective in spiritual warfare. But with it, we will be victorious."
Mike used the illustration of a coach watching films of the opposing team in order to prep for a game. What are practical and strategic ways we can prepare so we will stand firm in the spiritual battles of life?
The last thing Satan wants to happen is for us to get connected to Jesus and find abundant and eternal life, because the father of lies knows that it’s the truth that sets a person free!
Question #2: Is suicide the unpardonable sin?
Suicide leaves you with lots of “whys.” Many of us have been affected directly or indirectly by suicide.
Have you been personally affected by the suicide of a loved one? And of course, no one should feel obligated or pressured to share if you are uncomfortable doing so.
Proverbs 13:12 tells us “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
Studies indicate that 90% of those who have attempted or committed suicide had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time. Most of the time suicide has its roots in depression. People feel like they have no hope.
Have someone read Psalm 46:1.
That is where our hope lies. God is a refuge and strength not only in the past, and not only in the future, but right now, in the present, in the eye of the storm when things look their worst.
Jesus told us that in this life we will have trials and troubles, but we can live with joy and peace because of our hope in Him.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
But so often, a person who takes their life just can’t see that. They are at a point where they can’t believe that there is hope for them and that God is with them. Hope got deferred and their heart got sick. Depression interferes and makes it very hard for them to process the truth.
We ask today’s question because at times people have claimed that suicide is the unpardonable sin. Mike explained why suicide is a sin and that it breaks God’s heart because it hurts God’s children when a believer who has received God’s great grace gets confused, sick, depressed, or hopeless and takes their own life. But that doesn’t make it the unpardonable or the unforgiveable sin. We’re not saved by our goodness; we’re not saved by our lack of sin. We’re saved because of His mercy, because Jesus took every one of our sins, past, present, and future to a blood-stained cross.
If a suicide victim had sincerely made the decision in their lifetime to accept Christ as their forgiver and Lord before their death, they will find their way to the arms of God by the same amazing grace we all need to get there. Though they may have temporarily lost sight of it on this side of heaven, they will discover that hope will not disappoint.
Some of us are struggling now, fighting feelings of hopelessness, or perhaps someone we love has attempted or committed suicide. The Bible tells us that God wants us to share each other’s burdens. We are to honor each other above ourselves, to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We are committed to be a church that practices this kind of love for people.
What are some ways we can love those we know who are struggling with depression or hopelessness?
Break up into groups of three or four and pray Ephesians 6:10-18 for each other. If you are facing a specific area of spiritual battle, share the struggle and have them pray over you.
Here are a few more verses you can pray over and for your group
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
Titus 3:4-5 (NIV)
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Romans 3:22 (NLT)
Most of us have at least one. It's that one question that comes to mind whenever people talk about God, faith, or church - that question that makes us unsure of God, and if believing in Him makes any sense.
What is your one question about God, faith or church?
This week we talked about two different questions as part of the You Asked For It Series. The first addressed whether drinking or doing legal drugs is a sin.
Have someone read John 2:1-11.
Jesus first recorded miracle is turning water into wine. There are references throughout the Old and New Testament about wine and it is recorded that Jesus drank wine several times.
Have someone read Ephesians 5:18 & 1 Corinthians 6:12
The Bible gives us loving limits for our lives around this subject matter: First, it says when you drink there’s to be no intoxication. The second is to not become addicted to anything or any substance that would control or master your mind, your body, and your behavior.
Depending on the family you grew up in there were different outlooks about drinking.
Share what your family’s views towards alcohol were and how they impact you.
Even though drinking is not a sin, there are times we need to limit our freedom and be sensitive to others who may struggle or be in recovery.
While some really struggle with alcohol or drugs, there are many other struggles we face daily. We turn to overeating, become workaholics, over shop, are addicted to social media, struggle with pornography and many other things, in order to numb the pain. Jesus wants us to be filled with something better than alcohol. He wants so much better for our lives. The Bible says to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we let God control our life, we don’t need to turn to these other things to fill that void.
What in your life stands between you and spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental health?
“Can a saved person lose their salvation?” was the second question.
This is a question that many of us have thought about at some point in our life. We fear we have wandered too far away from God, or perhaps someone we care about doesn’t show any signs of following Jesus anymore.
Briefly share a time when you wrestled with the question of losing your salvation.
Have someone read each of the truths and verses below.
There are three truths that can help you live with the assurance of your salvation if you’re a follower of Jesus.
Our salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13)
Our salvation is secured by the Son and Father (John 10:27-29)
Our salvation is based on grace, not works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
The more important question is have you really ever been saved? Gene shared how we can evaluate that question. Ask yourself “If my salvation has never really changed me, has it ever really saved me?” Has your life been marked by what Jesus did for you?
Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV) says “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession….”
Grace is messy and hard to accept. We can be so hard on ourselves refusing to believe that grace could overcome our sin. When we doubt our salvation, what we’re really doing is doubting our ability to be a good person. Thankfully good works are not the basis of our salvation. It is grace that God offers us.
If we doubt our salvation we don’t understand the extent of what Jesus did on a cross for us. There is not one sin God cannot forgive. We, as flawed people, have made lists of the deeds we believe are unforgiveable. That is not what the Bible says. The Bible says where sin increases, grace increases all the more. Faith activates God’s grace. We just have to believe, and we are forgiven.
The end of this passage says, “for we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Stop and consider the immense value God has for us. Often our insecurities keep us from viewing see ourselves as God’s handiwork. We allow those insecurities and the lies that go with them to cause us to doubt.
If you have been saved you can live with that assurance and that confidence and security.
Are there hurts, habits, or hang-ups that create doubt and keep you from living in assurance of your salvation? What are some practical things you can do when doubt creeps in?
Every one of us experiences a moment of doubt, and it can be helpful to have tools like prayer, journaling and verse memorization to fall back on and remind you of God’s truth. Something as simple as keeping the verses from this week’s message on index cards in our desk or toolbox or or glove box can become a powerful word of truth to strengthen us.
Gene encouraged everyone to memorize 1 John 5:13. Commit to memorizing it this week. Spend time praying for each other to overcome the things that keep you from resting in the assurance of your salvation.