IDENTITY CRISIS: YOU ARE CHOSEN

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Last week Aaron DeLoach defined identity as “the truest thing about you”. This week, Aaron Tredway shared that identity is also whatever you think is the truest thing about you. Whatever you think is the truest thing about you (whether it is or isn’t true) has the power to define your identity. The Apostle Paul states in Ephesians 1 that if you are a Christ-follower, the truest thing about you is that you are “in Christ”. Since Christ has made you new, is this what most defines you?

SCRIPTURE

11In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:11-12

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group what you wrote on your name tag last week in church, and why you wrote it. (If you weren’t there, share what you would write if you were at a party and had to fill out a “HELLO, I AM…” name tag with something to identify you other than your name.)

Read Ephesians 1:11-12. The Greek word for “chosen” is klēroō and means “to obtain an inheritance”. What do you learn about your inheritance from the following verses?

  • Romans 8:17
  • Romans 8:22-23
  • Ephesians 1:13-14
  • Hebrews 9:15
  • 1 Peter 1:3-4
  • Revelation 21:1-5

The Greek word for predestined is proorizō and means “to determine before”. What do you think it means to be “predestined”? How comfortable are you with this doctrine that states that “that those who freely come to God are those whom God has freely chosen” (The Gospel Coalition)? Discuss why this doctrine is controversial to some believers.

What does it mean that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:11)?

Why were you chosen by God (Ephesians 1:12)? How can you live this out in your daily life?

APPLICATION

Aaron stated that “We live like our identity is achieved; not received”. Has this idea that you are what you have accomplished influenced what you think is most true about you? If so, prayerfully brainstorm with your group ways you can correct this thinking.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Read through the passages below and write what now identifies you in Christ:

  • John 15:15-16
  • Romans 6:18
  • Romans 8:1-2
  • Romans 8:37
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19
  • 2 Corinthians 2:15
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20
  • Galatians 4:7
  • Ephesians 1:5
  • Ephesians 1:11
  • Ephesians 2:10
  • Philippians 3:20
  • Colossians 1:22
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10

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IDENTITY CRISIS: YOU ARE ADOPTED

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Henri Nouwen said there are three ways people identify themselves: 1) I am what I do (business man, secretary, mother); 2) I am what I have (money, power, friends); and 3) I am what others say about me (beautiful, ambitious, bossy). We all have the tendency to find our identity in these things. As we spend the next four weeks looking at our identity in Christ, we’ll be asking this question: “If Christ has made you new, what should most define you?”

SCRIPTURE

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—6to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:1-10

GROUP QUESTIONS

If you could pick a new name, what would it be?

Read Ephesians 1:1-10. What does the word “blessed” mean?

In the Greek, verses 3-10 are one paragraph with the theme of what it means to be “in Christ”. How many times in these verses does Paul use the phrase “in Christ” (or “in Him”)? What does it mean to be “in Christ”?

List the spiritual blessings that define your identity “in Christ” because of your adoption (verses 4-7):

  1. ______________________________________ 4.      ______________________________________
  2. ______________________________________ 5.      ______________________________________
  3. ______________________________________ 6.      ______________________________________

Paul writes that even before the foundation of the world God had already chosen those who would be adopted through Christ. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, how does it make you feel that you have always been a part of God’s plan?

Aaron explained that at the time Paul wrote Ephesians, Roman adoption meant that the adoptee had the rights of a fully legitimate child in the new family, an inheritance from the new family, and a complete break/erasure from the old family. How does this compare with what God offers you as His adopted child?

Read Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. According to Dictionary.com, “Abba” is “an Aramaic word for father, used by Jesus and Paul to address God in a relation of personal intimacy”. Do you feel this way about God? Have you experienced Him as a loving Father?

APPLICATION

Spend time this week meditating on your spiritual blessings in Christ. If you are having difficulty believing or accepting any of them, prayerfully ask God to open the eyes of your heart to feel His love for you. Look for ways to share your blessings with others as a way to glorify your Abba, Father.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

The doctrine of “predestination” can be difficult and controversial. Read through the following Scriptures and questions to help you gain a better understanding of this concept.

What does it mean to be “predestined”?

Read John 6:44, Romans 1:6, Romans 8:29-30, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, and 1 Peter 1:1-2. What do these passages say about being chosen or predestined?

Read Ephesians 1:5 and 9. On what basis does God predestine people?

What do the following passages say about God’s heart toward all people? Isaiah 55:7, Ezekiel 33:11, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:13, I Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9

Read Isaiah 55:8-9 and Romans 11:33, and write your thoughts on predestination below,

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FAMILY MATTERS: FUTURE FAMILY

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Allen Stone, a soul and R&B singer and musician, began his career at the age of three singing at the church where his father was pastor, eventually leading worship when he was a teenager. According to an interview in SF Gate, after a year at Moody Bible Institute (Spokane), Allen said that “I learned the history of the church and the conception of the Bible and learned about the religion and really just, like, didn’t believe it… I got to the point where it was like, ‘I don’t believe this is the truth’.” The Barna Group reports that 9 out of 10 kids who grow up in a Christian family will leave their faith by their sophomore year of college. God designed and intended families to thrive, but no one ever drifts to success. Edmund Hillary, who was the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest, said that “There’s no casual route up any great mountain; if you really want to make it to the top, you must have a resolute mind firmly set on the purpose.” So, how can your family thrive in the midst of a broken world?

SCRIPTURE

1These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:1-9

GROUP QUESTIONS

What was the greatest lesson your parents tried to instill in you?

List from memory the Ten Commandments. (See Exodus 20:1-17 if you cannot remember them all.)

  1. ______________________________________ 6.      ______________________________________
  2. ______________________________________ 7.      ______________________________________
  3. ______________________________________ 8.      ______________________________________
  4. ______________________________________ 9.      ______________________________________
  5. ______________________________________ 10.      _____________________________________

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9. Why did God command Moses to pass these laws along to the people?

What does it mean to “fear the Lord”?

Deuteronomy 6:4 is known as the Shema (sh’ma), an affirmation of God’s sovereignty; it is a centerpiece of prayer for Jewish people even today. However, if you glance through the Book of Judges, you will see that the Israelites did a poor job worshiping only one God (Judges 2:11-13, 3:7, 6:10, 10:6). Why do you think it was so difficult for them to follow this command (see Judges 2:10, Hebrews 2:1)?

Deuteronomy 6:7 says to “impress” (“teach diligently” in other versions) God’s Word on your children. The Hebrew phrase for this implies something different than lecture-based education. What does “impress” look like in your family? Are there ways to make it more natural to be diligent about teaching your children God’s Word?

What two things did Aaron say made up the “secret sauce” for a family to thrive?* How would you rate yourself on doing these two things? How can you improve so that your family thrives spiritually?

*1) Have God’s commands in your heart; and 2) teach them to your children.

APPLICATION

In his book “Think Orange”, Reggie Joiner shares four times families can build faith into their children. Make a plan to use these times with your family on an ongoing basis.

  • Meal Time (“when you sit at home”: focused discussions as a teacher to establish core values)
  • Drive Time (“when you walk along the road”: informal discussions as a friend to help your child interpret life)
  • Bed Time (“when you lie down”: intimate conversations as a counselor to listen to the heart of your child)
  • Morning Time (“when you get up”: encouraging words as a coach who gives a sense of value and instills purpose)

FOR FURTHER STUDY

In the New Testament, we get a snapshot into the life of Timothy, a protégé of the Apostle Paul. Timothy’s father was Greek and his mother was Jewish. Read 2 Timothy 1:5 and 3:14-17. What does Paul note in these passages about Timothy’s upbringing?

What part do you think “the sacred writings” played in Timothy’s home?

What are the four things the Bible can produce?

Read the following verses and note the importance of God’s Word found in each passage. How will you incorporate a love for God’s Word into your family? Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, Psalm 119:9-11, Psalm 119:105, Isaiah 55:10-11, Matthew 4:4, Hebrews 4:12

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FAMILY MATTERS: THE SPIRITUAL FAMILY

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In week one we looked at what God intended family to look like from the very beginning, and week two we saw how sin introduced brokenness into families. God chose the spiritual family, what we call the family of God, to come around the nuclear family to support, encourage, and restore the family back to what He originally intended. How involved are you with your spiritual family?

SCRIPTURE

41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:41-47

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with the group why you began attending Fellowship.

Read Acts 2:41-47. Can you imagine the addition of 3,000 new believers to Fellowship in one day? How would that make you feel?

What were the four main activities of the first church listed in verse 42?

How “devoted” are you to these activities? Do you believe you make them a high enough priority in your life and in the life of your family? Why or why not?

Read the following passages: Acts 2:44, 5:12, 12:12, 14:27, 15:30, 20:7. What is the common thread throughout these verses?

How do you define “fellowship”?

Why do you think these believers exhibited the extraordinary sense of generosity seen in verse 45?

What do you think holds most Christians back from living in community like the believers of the first century?

Read Deuteronomy 31:8 and Joshua 1:9. God made a promise to the Israelites in the Old Testament that we can claim today (Matthew 28:20). What is that promise? On Sunday, Pastor Joe shared that God continues to fulfill that promise through two entities. What are they? (See John 14:15-17 and Romans 12:4-5.)

APPLICATION

For the next five days, read through the verses listed, and reflect on the question for that day. Ask the Spirit to show you any area in which you need to grow.

  • Day 1 | Acts 2:42 | If someone were to look at how you live, what would they say you were devoted to?
  • Day 2 | Acts 2:43 | When was the last time you were filled with awe?
  • Day 3  | Acts 2:44-45 | Do you share with others out of a generous heart? How has God grown your faith as you’ve given generously?
  • Day 4 | Acts 2:46 | Do you make it a priority to be at church on Sundays? How often do you eat a meal with someone who is not part of your family?
  • Day 5 | Acts 2:47 | What can you do today to show gratitude to God for all He has done for you?

FOR FURTHER STUDY

The Bible has much to say about how believers in community are to treat one another. Look up the passages below and list what you learn about biblical community.

  • John 13:34
  • Romans 12:10-16
  • Romans 14:13
  • Romans 15:7
  • 1 Corinthians 1:10
  • Galatians 5:26
  • Galatians 6:2
  • Ephesians 4:25-32
  • Philippians 2:3-5
  • Colossians 3:13-16
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • James 4:11
  • James 5:9
  • James 5:16
  • 1 Peter 3:8
  • 1 Peter 4:9

How will you begin or continue to incorporate these attributes in your life?

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FAMILY MATTERS: THE BROKEN FAMILY

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In the beginning, God saw that “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), and so He created Eve as Adam’s wife. But starting with this first family, sin entered the world, and brokenness became a part of every family. But there is hope for broken families – a God who extends great grace!

GROUP QUESTIONS

What is one characteristic you received from you parents that you want to keep, and one you wish you could change?

When you hear the phrase “broken family”, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

There are numerous examples of broken families in the Bible. Read the passages below, and list the sins that came out of the broken families involved.

  • Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16)
  • Abraham (Genesis 16:1-6)
  • Lot (Genesis 19:1-8, 30-38)
  • Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 37:1-4, 23-28)
  • David (2 Samuel 11:1-17)
  • Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-8)
  • Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)

On Sunday, Joe encouraged us to remember Psalm 46:10a – “Cease striving and know that I am God” (NASB). What sin do you struggle with that has become a burden on your family? How can you cease striving in this sin?

Some sins have been passed down through families from generation to generation (Exodus 34:7b). You may not even be aware of this sin because you see it as just a part of who you are. There is hope to break the cycle! Read 1 Corinthians 15:10. What does Paul say about God’s grace?

What were the three truths about God’s grace that Joe shared on Sunday?*

Read James 4:6 and 1 John 4:4b. Are you ready to move beyond your brokenness into all that God has for you? How do these verses encourage you to do so?

*Grace is offered, active, and sufficient.

APPLICATION

This week, pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any sins that are contributing to the brokenness within your family. Confess anything He brings to mind, and seek support if necessary (friends, pastors, support/accountability group, counseling – call the church office {440.543.5643} if you need help getting started).

If you are engaged or married, plan to attend the Family Matters Date Night on April 29, 6:30PM-8:30PM at Fellowship. Topics include:

  • How to keep your relationship healthy
  • How to fix your communication
  • How to handle conflict resolution better

Text DATE to 797979 to RSVP.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

The story of David is a beautiful example of the extension of God’s great grace. You’ve already read the story of David and Bathsheba. Read the following references regarding David and his family. What affect did David’s brokenness have on him and on his family?

  • 2 Samuel 13:1-39
  • 2 Samuel 15:7-17
  • 2 Samuel 18:9-15
  • 1 Kings 1:5-14

Read Acts 13:22. Why do you think God calls David “a man after My heart”?

Read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. What traits to do you see in David that endear him to God?

David’s family was broken. And yet He was considered a man after God’s heart because of his authentic repentance when he was made aware of his sin. How can you emulate David to bring about healing to your broken family?

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FAMILY MATTERS: THE FAMILY GOD INTENDED

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

God created family, and He created family to be good – to be a source of blessing, love, and instruction. But family doesn’t always feel like that, does it? Sometimes it feels like a struggle just to make it through the day. Family doesn’t always function the way God intended, mainly because individuals don’t always function how God intended. No matter what kind of a family you’re in, God intends for your family to be better than it is today. What will it take for your family to thrive in today’s broken world?

SCRIPTURE

5:21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30for we are members of His body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 6:1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—3“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 5:21-6:4

GROUP QUESTIONS

Which TV show family is your favorite, and why?

Read Ephesians 5:21-6:4. What do you think of when you hear the word “submit”? What was the definition that Aaron gave in the sermon?* Does this definition affect how you view the word?

The default thinking on submission in most church circles is that a wife should submit to her husband. However, how does this passage begin? What do you think it means to “submit to one another”?

Read Philippians 2:6-8. What are some of the ways Jesus submitted?

Now read Philippians 2:5. How are you supposed to emulate Jesus?

Each person has a role to play in a family. List the role(s) that pertain to you from Ephesians 5:21-6:4. How can you live out your role in submission to others?

What are the two ways to improve your family that Aaron shared in the sermon? (See 1 Peter 2:17 and Mark 10:45.)

What are some ways that you can honor and serve your family?

Submit = hupotassoi (to voluntarily arrange yourself under someone for a good and proper purpose).

APPLICATION

Take time this week to think about your family, and whether it is functioning the way God intended it to function. Aaron shared on Sunday that one of the best ways to adjust the spiritual temperature of your home is by increasing your level of service. How can you serve your family differently? Are there chores you could do without being asked? Could you go out of your way to do something your normally rely on your spouse to do? Pick one thing a day that you will put into practice with your family, and watch God begin to change the temperature in your home.

If you have elementary-aged children, text FAM to 797979; starting April 9, you will receive a text devotion for 31 days to do with your family.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

When your family is properly arranged in a united front reflecting Christ’s love, Satan will not be happy. Paul follows this passage on submission with an admonition to “put on the full armor of God”. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and list below the types of armor and what their use is:

ARMOR USE
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

What pieces of armor are strengths for you? What pieces do you need to work on?

What does it look like practically to put on the armor of God each day? How can it be applied to your family?

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MADE FOR MONDAY: WORK AS WORSHIP

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In our Made For Monday series, we have discussed how God made work BEFORE the Fall and called it good; He worked, and created us to work. There is no division between the secular and sacred…everything you do, whether it is reading your Bible, praying, or changing a diaper, is sacred. This week, you learned that your work IS worship. If you view your work through the lens of Scripture, will that change the way you approach your work?

SCRIPTURE

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

GROUP QUESTIONS

What was your first paying job?

Read Romans 12:1-8. What is the “therefore” there for?

What do you think it means to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…”? Why is this a natural response to what Paul wrote about in the previous chapter?

Read Romans 6:13. How many times does Paul encourage you to “offer” yourself to God? Do you see any significance in the face that he repeated this three times (four, if you count Romans 12:1)?

What is worship?

Do you view the entirety of your daily life as “true and proper worship”? Why or why not?

What parts of your work can you easily see as worship? What parts of your work are difficult to be seen as worship?

What are some ways that you could worship God through your work this week?

APPLICATION

Pick at least three things that you answered in question 8 to begin to apply to your life at work this week.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

The last three weeks we have looked at work, starting in Genesis with how God worked as He created the universe. While work is good, it is important to note that God also rested, and created us to do the same. One of the ways Satan has distorted work in our culture is by making it part of our identity, so much so that we work too much, and don’t experience the rest that God has commanded. Read the following verses; what do you learn about rest from these passages?

  • Genesis 2:2-3
  • Exodus 20:8-11
  • Psalm 127:2
  • Isaiah 58:13-14
  • Mark 2:23-28

Re-read Exodus 20:8-11. How do you feel about the fact that God commanded you to rest?

Read Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 13:10-17. If God commanded rest on the Sabbath, were the Pharisees right to question Jesus? Why or why not?

What is rest? Is it just not working, or does it encompass more than that?

List some practical ways you will begin to rest this week:

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MADE FOR MONDAY: SACRED WORK

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

The Greeks believed in a concept called dualism – the idea that the world contains both good and evil, reflected in the soul and body of man. Anything related to the soul was good, but anything related to the body was evil. For the Greek, only work associated with the soul mattered. We learned last week that this belief is wrong; God created us, before the Fall, to work. We are made in the image of God and are called to represent Him in this world. Missionary, parent, garbage collector, engineer, pastor, landscaper, secretary, teacher…all of these occupations are “full-time ministry” for those who follow Jesus.

SCRIPTURE

23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

GROUP QUESTIONS

How would you answer the question, “What do you do?” without naming your occupation or job title?

Read Colossians 3:23-24. Do you think Christians should be the hardest-working people around because of this passage?

Do you view all work as “spiritual”? Why or why not?

What is the “inheritance from the Lord” received as a reward for working with all your heart?

Read 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17. Paul essentially repeats himself in these passages, saying that whatever you do, do it for God. What is your “whatever you do”? When is it more difficult for you during your “whatever you do” to remember that you are doing it for God?

What are the hardest aspects of your work? Imagine doing that least favorite part of your job for Jesus. How might it look different to “do everything for the glory of God”?

Because of the Fall, work can be toil…you can dread going to it each day. Or, you can work with joy knowing that what you do is worship to God. And sometimes, your work IS joy. Eric Liddell, whose story was told in the movie Chariots of Fire, explained to his sister why he chose to participate in the Olympics rather than immediately setting off for China as a missionary: “I believe God made me for a purpose – for China. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” What do you do that you feel God has made you to do…something that when you do it, you “feel His pleasure”?

Aaron spoke about integrating your faith and your work. In some cases, not only is it difficult to do so, but some are prohibited to talk about faith. What are some ways you can integrate your faith and work in these instances?

APPLICATION

Read through the following questions. Is this how you view your work? List specific ideas of ways you will view your work differently.

  • Do I intentionally practice the fruit of the spirit at my job so my co-workers see Christ in my life?
  • Do I do my work with diligence and an attitude of joy so that my co-workers and clients see that I pursue excellence?
  • Do I eat lunch with my co-workers or invite them to my home for dinner?
  • Am I a part of a work-place Bible study or prayer group?
  • Do I see myself as a missionary in the workplace?
  • Am I Christ-like in my relationships with co-workers and clients?

FOR FURTHER STUDY

From the following passages, list some of the ways you can show your faith to those with whom you work:

  • Proverbs 3:27-28
  • Ephesians 4:29
  • Philippians 2:14-16
  • Colossians 3:13
  • Colossians 4:5-6
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Paul had much to say about work. Read the following passages; according to Paul, why is work valuable to God?

  • Ephesians 4:28
  • Thessalonians 4:9-12
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
  • 1 Timothy 5:8
  • Titus 2:9-10

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MADE FOR MONDAY: DESIGNED FOR WORK

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

The average Christian will spend roughly 2% of life in prayer, 1% of life reading the Bible, and less than 1% of life at church. But 40% of a Christian’s life is spent at work, whether that be in the marketplace, in school, or at home. Aaron stated on Sunday that if you don’t know the story, it’s nearly impossible to know the right response. For that reason, we are going to spend the next three weeks looking at work through the lens of Scripture, seeking to answer one question… “As a follower of Jesus, how should you approach work?” To begin to answer this question, we need to understand the story that work fits into, so we’re beginning in the beginning – Genesis – to find out how God, our creator, views work.

SCRIPTURE

1:1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. 31God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. 2:1The heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. 3And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. 15The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Genesis 1:1-5, 31; 2:1-3, 15

 GROUP QUESTIONS

If you never HAD to work again, what would you do with your time?

When you hear the word “work”, what comes to mind? How do you define “work”?

Read Genesis 1:1-2:2. Though we don’t often think of God and creation in this way, the Bible references God’s role in creation as “work” (Genesis 2:2). Discuss God’s attitude about His work.

Read Genesis 2:5-8. What do you notice about God’s intended purpose for man from these verses?

In the beginning, God worked. He rolled up His sleeves, put His hands in the dirt, and worked. Re-read Genesis 1:26-27. Since you were made in God’s image, what does that imply about work?

Read Genesis 2:15. At the very beginning, in a beautiful paradise-like garden, God gave Adam work. Why do you think God created us to work, rather than just live a life of ease?

God put Adam in Eden to “cultivate” and “keep” the garden (NASB). Aaron reminded us that the word “cultivate” means “to serve”, and the word “keep” means “to protect, to take care of, to manage, or to steward.” You were created by God to work to accomplish His Do you view your work this way? If not, what can you do to cultivate God’s creation as part of your job?

God declared His creation, which included work, “good”. What changed after creation that warped our view of work, making it seem like “toil”?

Read Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve sinned, part of the curse affected work (Genesis 3:17-19). Do you think that work is more difficult because of our own sin nature, or do you think that God made work itself more difficult?

Read 1 Corinthians 7:17. How difficult is it for you to see what you do as part of the calling that God has given to you?

APPLICATION

What would happen if you saw your work like God sees it? If you understood that God made you for work, would that change your attitude about work? Would it change your objectives or approach to your work? If you were to view your work (no matter what type of work you do) through the lens of Scripture, as a gift from God, given to you by God to accomplish the purposes of God, what would happen?

This week, list the attitudes and actions you would like to change regarding your work. Ask the Spirit to help you make these changes.

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SIFTED: HOPE IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Last week, after all of Job’s questions, we looked at God’s response – “I am God, and you are not!” Job’s only response was to confess and repent. The greater you understand who God is, the more aware you become of your own humanity and limitations. The better you understand the holiness of God, the better you understand your need for mercy and grace. As Aaron mentioned last week, “We might not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future!” Let’s look at this last chapter of Job and discover the hope in the midst of suffering.

SCRIPTURE

1Then Job replied to the Lord: 2“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” 7After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about Me, as My servant Job has. 8So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to My servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. 10After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. 12The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17And so Job died, an old man and full of years.  Job 42

GROUP QUESTIONS

Who has been a spiritual hero in your life (you can’t say “Jesus”!)?

Read Job 42:1-6. In your own words, describe Job’s mental and emotional state of mind?

Not everyone who suffers will regain what was lost, but this passage implies that there is hope. What is that hope?

Read Job 42:7-9. Why was God angry with Job’s friends? What did he ask them to do to about it? What picture do you see in Job being the intercessor for his friends? (Hint – see Romans 8:34.)

Read Job 42:10-13. Why do you think Job’s brothers and sisters, along with “everyone who had known him before” showed up to offer their support after he had been restored?

God increased all that Job had twofold and his latter days were blessed more than his beginning days. What significance is there, if any, in the fact that God multiplied Job’s possessions but not the number of his children?

Thinking about your personal walk with the Lord, would you say that your latter days have been blessed more than your beginning days?

As a group, reflect on this study of Job. What have you learned about worshipping, integrity, comforting, understanding, and hope in the midst of suffering?

APPLICATION

How can you now see a hope-filled life for yourself if you are in a season of suffering? Or during the next time you endure suffering? List some practical steps that you can take that you have learned during this study of Job.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

On Sunday Joe stated that suffering creates humility, opportunity, and hope. Look up the following Scriptures about humility. Put a check beside the ones that you find most difficult to follow. Ask God to help you find humility in areas where you are lacking it. List an opportunity that you missed because you struggle with humility OR a situation where humility could present an opportunity for you to show the love of Christ.

  • Matthew 5:44
  • Luke 6:35-36
  • Philippians 2:3
  • Philippians 2:4
  • Hebrews 13:2

When you suffer, there are people left in the wake of your pain. Think through the times you have suffered and the people who have been there for you, and the people who have not. Are there any relationships that need to be restored? Take the opportunity now to seek reconciliation.

Joe shared that even in the midst of suffering, there are opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ. If you are currently in the midst of suffering, how can you minister to someone else?

Read Titus 2:12-13. What ultimately is our “Blessed Hope”?

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SIFTED: UNDERSTANDING IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Job 29-31 contains a monologue from Job. He longs for the “good old days”, defends his innocence, and asks why so many awful things have happened to him, since he did not deserve them. In Job 32-37, Elihu, a new voice, delivers his view of what was happening. And then, finally, God speaks. But He does not answer Job’s questions…He has a few questions of His own.

SCRIPTURE

1Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: 2“Who is this that obscures My plans with words without knowledge? 3Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. 4Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—7while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 8Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 10when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? 12Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place….? Job 38:1-12

GROUP QUESTIONS

If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self? Is there something you would tell yourself to avoid, or something you’d challenge yourself to do?

In order to understand God’s answer to Job, you need to read through some of Job’s statements. Read the following passages and list the things that Job says to or about God. Do you think Job is asking or accusing?

  • Job 13:1-3
  • Job 13:20-23
  • Job 23:3-6
  • Job 31:35

Read Job 38:1-12. What is described in verses 4-7? What did He ask Job?

List all the aspects of nature described in verses 8-12. What did He ask Job? What is the point God is making in theses verses?

These 12 verses in chapter 38 are just a taste of what God says to Job. In chapters 38-41, God goes on and on, reminding Job of how little he understands. Think through how you handle your day-to-day life. Do your attitudes and actions reveal that you think you know as much as or more than God? In what ways? Do these questions from God to Job remind you Who is in control in your life?

Does God give Job an explanation for why he is suffering? Do you think that a theological explanation for suffering would bring peace, comfort, or even some kind of closure to those suffering? Why or why not?

God did not rebuke Job for being honest about his anger, confusion, or bitterness towards Him. He did, however, correct Job’s error in thinking He was being unjust. Have you ever felt that God was unjust toward you? How did you respond?

APPLICATION

On Sunday, Aaron said that if you want to respond rightly to suffering when it comes your way, you have to understand that God is God and that He has you in process. Understanding God in all His fullness is impossible (Job 36:26). But God has given us glimpses of Who He is in His Word. This week, study the names and attributes of God. For online help, go to https://bible.org/article/names-god and https://bible.org/series/let-me-see-thy-glory-study-attributes-god.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Job 38-41. How many questions did God ask Job? Read through each one, and answer it as if God was asking you these questions.

Read Psalm 8. How does the language in this Psalm reinforce Job 38?

How would you answer David’s question, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

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SIFTED: COMFORT IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

No one wants to suffer. No one chooses to suffer. But Jesus says suffering is inevitable: “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33). While suffering is never our first choice, it is part of the broken world in which we live. At this point in Job’s story Satan has asked God for permission to “sift” Job, and God gives Satan permission to proceed. Satan takes most of Job’s servants, kills most of his animals and his family, strips Job of his fortune, and since God told Satan he wasn’t allowed to kill Job, he inflicts him with horrible sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. And now, Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, enter the narrative. We’ve been asking this question in our sermon series: “How do we respond rightly to suffering?” Now we are asking, “How do you respond rightly to those who suffer around you?”

SCRIPTURE

11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13

GROUP QUESTIONS

What is your favorite comfort food?

Read Job 2:11-13. What do you notice first in these verses?

What was the intent of Job’s friends? What words are used to indicate their depth of feeling when they saw him?

Read the following passages. What are Job’s friends accusing Job of or implying about him? Do you think they felt these words would be helpful or comforting to their friend?

  • Job 4:7-8
  • Job 8:4
  • Job 11:13-14 | Job 15:1-6
  • Job 18:21
  • Job 22:4-11

How would you have comforted Job?

Have you ever tried to comfort someone who was suffering, and your attempt failed because of your words or attitude? What did you learn from that experience about how to comfort someone dealing with suffering?

Aaron shared that the word “sympathize” means “to share in or commiserate; to walk in harmony”, and “comfort” means “to give strength and hope; to ease grief or trouble”. What might these words look like practically as you sympathize with and comfort others?

On Sunday, Joe gave an example of what to do and what not to do when comforting others. Did anything he say surprise you? What was the most helpful thing he said that you plan to put into practice?

APPLICATION

Is there some kind of suffering in your life that you need to share with another Christian in order to be comforted? Ask God to give you the courage and wisdom to share with a trusted fellow believer.

Is there someone you know who is suffering? Ask God to show you how you can comfort them this week.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What are the three different ways God is described in verse 3? How do these titles affect your view of God and suffering?

In this passage, what does Paul say is the purpose of suffering?

In verses 5-7, what four principles does Paul give concerning suffering and comfort?

  • __________________________________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________________________________

Our capacity to comfort is determined by the degree to which we’ve suffered” (Andy Stanley). Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

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SIFTED: INTEGRITY IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Job lost almost everything – his children, his livelihood – and yet Job 1 ends with this statement: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 2 begins with a familiar scene. Satan again comes before God, and God again brings Job to Satan’s attention, saying, “And he still holds fast his integrity.” Satan’s next target is Job’s physical person, seeking to attack that integrity. How can you maintain integrity in the midst of suffering?

SCRIPTURE

1Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 3The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.” 4Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” 6So the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” 7Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. 9Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:1-10

GROUP QUESTIONS

When you hear the word integrity, what comes to mind?

Read Job 2:1-10. Discuss the similarities and differences between this scene and the one in Job 1:6-12.

How does Satan’s assertion about Job in 2:5 compare to his statement in 1:11? What do you learn about Satan from this?

How does it make you feel knowing that God gave Satan permission to harm Job?

According to Thomas Constable (Notes on Job), “Job’s ailment … resulted in an unclean condition that made him a social outcast (cf. Exod.9:9-11). He had to take up residence near the city dump where beggars and other social rejects stayed. He had formerly sat at the city gate and enjoyed social prestige as a town judge (29:7). The change in his location, from the best to the worst place, reflects the change in his circumstances, from the best to the worst conditions.” Not only did Job endure the loss of his property, children, and health, he also lost his social standing. Job’s wife also lost her children and way of life, saw her husband in immense pain, and would have been affected by his fall in social status. What was her advice to Job? Why do you think she said this?

Aaron mentioned on Sunday that the first attack on Job was outward – an attack on his property and his children. The second attack was inward – a direct attack on Job’s health. Which attack do you think would have been more difficult to endure? Why?

Do you see any significance in the fact that Job “did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10)?

Do you agree with Job’s conclusions in 1:21 and 2:10?

APPLICATION

On Sunday, Aaron shared three steps to building a life of integrity:

  • It starts with an intentional decision. No one drifts towards integrity. Make an intentional decision to not cheat, cut corners, lie, gossip, etc.
  • It starts today, not tomorrow. Make an intentional decision to start today. If you don’t have integrity outside of suffering you won’t have integrity inside of suffering.
  • It starts with the small things. Make an intentional decision to begin small. When you do all the right things with all the small things, your integrity will grow and you will be able to thrive in the midst of suffering.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Merriam-Webster defines integrity as “1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility; 2) an unimpaired condition : soundness; and 3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness.” Biblestudytools.com defines integrity as “simplicity, soundness, completeness, upright….it is equivalent to being honest, sincere, genuine.” What do the following passages say about integrity?

  • Leviticus 19:35-36, Deuteronomy 25:15
  • Psalm 25:21, Proverbs 2:7-8, 10:9, 11:3, 13:6
  • 1 Chronicles 29:17, Psalm 7:8
  • Zechariah 8:16-17
  • Proverbs 29:10
  • 1 Kings 9:4-5, Nehemiah 7:2, Psalm 41:11-12
  • Titus 2:7-8

Read Genesis 39. Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel), was sold by his brothers as a slave. Imagine yourself in his position. Your brothers have betrayed you. You belong to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, and his wife is making advances to you. But Joseph, who was a man of integrity, resists temptation. Where does his integrity get him? If you were Joseph, what would you ask God at this point?

Read Genesis 50:15-21. Joseph suffered for many years because of the actions of his brothers, but ultimately reunites with his family. What was his perspective on the things that had happened to him? Do you have this perspective when suffering enters your life?

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SIFTED: WORSHIP IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

One thing that is consistent with the human experience is the fact that each of us will have times when we suffer. We feel pain. Sometimes our suffering and pain is from our own choices; other times, the pain comes through no fault of our own. The key question in our series is, “How do we respond rightly to the suffering that we experience?”

SCRIPTURE

13Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 20Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. Job 1:13-22

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group a time that you received bad news and you either reacted badly or were able to see the situation through God’s eyes and reacted with worship.

Read Job 1:13-22. List all of the things that Satan took from Job in the order they occurred. Do you think there is any significance in the order that Satan chose to attack Job?

Read Job 1:6-12. In this passage, we are privy to the fact that God gave Satan permission to cause Job’s suffering. Yet in Job 1:20-21, Job’s response to his losses is to say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Discuss with your group whether you believe Job rightly places the cause of his suffering on God.

Job 1:20-21 tells us how Job responded to his losses. Look up the following verses and list who is being afflicted and what their response was:

WHO?                                   RESPONSE

  • Psalm 57
  • Jonah 2:1-10
  • Matthew 26:38-39
  • 2 Corinthians 12:6-10

Knowing that Satan only has powers which God allows him to have, will you look at your suffering as a way that God is sifting you for His purposes?

APPLICATION

Since God does all things for the good of those who trust in Him (Romans 8:28), this week, if/when you find yourself in a difficult situation or receive bad news, try praising God and worshiping Him instead of reacting in a negative way. Be prepared to share with your group how God showed up and worked in your life as a result.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Joe mentioned on Sunday that God’s presence is there even in your pain. Read the following passages and note what you learn about God’s presence.

  • Psalm 139:7-12
  • Psalm 11:4
  • Psalm 34:15
  • Proverbs 15:3
  • 1 Kings 8:27
  • Jeremiah 23:24

The topic of suffering can often lead to the question, “Why would a sovereign God allow suffering? Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines sovereignty as God’s “absolute right to do all things according to His own good pleasure”. How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty with the reality of suffering?

Read Isaiah 45:1-7. How does God describe Himself in these verses? What is your response to His statement that He creates “calamity”?

Read Mark 15:27-34. Christ, in His suffering, asked His Father “Why?” Does knowing this give you comfort or cause you anxiety?

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SIFTED: THE BATTLE OF SUFFERING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

“We are given a unique behind-the-scenes look at the battle that goes on for our loyalty and souls. The book of Job dramatically sets forth a colossal war between God and Satan, and we are the territory. Satan accuses. God defends. And in the outworking of this cosmic drama is the testing of man. We write our own ending. What shall it be? Shall we relinquish our faith as we suffer or shall our faith grow stronger with each test?” (Johnny Felker)  As we suffer, we struggle with the question of “Why has this happened?” “Why is life like this?” “Why would God allow this?” and “Why would God allow this to happen to ME?” God rarely answers the “Why” questions for us specifically; but in the book of Job He does give us a glimpse into this age-old question.

SCRIPTURE

1In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2He had seven sons and three daughters, 3and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. 4His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. 6One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” 8Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 9“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Job 1:1-12

GROUP QUESTIONS

Do you believe that good or bad behavior should have an impact on what someone gets out of life?

Read Job 1:1-12. What do you learn about Job’s life and character in verses 1-5?

The word for “blameless” (tam) means complete, perfect, or morally whole. “Upright” (yashar) means straight, in the sense of not deviating from God’s standards. Aaron stated on Sunday that in terms of Job’s faith, he wasn’t a sinless man, but he was “blameless and upright” in the sense that if/when he sinned, he always dealt with his sin immediately and appropriately before God whom he feared. By this definition, would you consider yourself “blameless and upright”? Why or why not?

Job 1:6-12 is a fascinating look into the goings-on in Heaven. Does anything surprise you in this passage?

Read the following verses and list Satan’s activities/character. What do you learn from this about Satan?

  • 1 Chronicles 21:1
  • Job 1:7
  • Zechariah 3:1
  • Luke 22:31
  • John 8:44
  • John 10:10
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4
  • 1 Peter 5:8

 Who brings up the character of Job? How would you feel if you knew that God ‘bragged’ about you?

Satan accuses God of placing a hedge of protection around Job and suggests that Job worshipped God for only one reason – because of the benefits he received. Do you think that was true of Job? Is there any evidence that it is true in your life?

Though you don’t know all of the reasons behind suffering, at the very least (or most!) God intends one thing to come as a result. Read Romans 8:17-18, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 1 Peter 1:6-7, and 1 Peter 4:12-13. Discuss as a group what that one thing is.

APPLICATION

A pastor once said that when suffering comes, we want to be like watermelon seeds, squirting out under pressure. But faith isn’t like that. Ephesians 6:14 and 1 Peter 5:9 tell us to stand firm! Make a plan to study God’s Word this week (start with Ephesians 6:10-18) so that you will be prepared to stand against the devil’s attacks. Surround yourself with Christian brothers and sisters who can be a source of strength and encouragement when Satan seeks to devour you.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Luke 22:24-34. What was the argument the disciples were having? What does Jesus tell Peter? Do you find any significance that it is after this argument that Jesus stated that Satan wants to sift Peter (and all the disciples) like wheat?

The word “sift” has two meanings: 1) to shake in a sieve, and 2) by inward agitation to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow (Strong’s Concordance). Satan was seeking to agitate, to see whether anything of faith would remain. For Peter, what was the specific instance of sifting Jesus was referencing (Luke 22:34, 54-62)?

Though Peter denied Christ, he was ultimately restored (John 21). And he certainly got the message concerning Satan. Read 1 Peter 5:8-10. What does Peter tell believers to do when facing Satan? How can you do this (James 4:7-10)?

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PRAYER: WHAT TO PRAY (PART 2)

INTRODUCTION

It is clear when you look at Jesus that He was marked by a lifestyle of prayer. Prayer was clearly one of His favorite habits (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 3:21). Where does prayer fit in your life? Does 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“Pray without ceasing”) come easily to you? Or do you find that you neglect to pray, or feel your prayers have no power? But if Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray?! So, what would happen if you prayed 100% more?

SCRIPTURE

9Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group one of your good habits and one of your bad habits.

Read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Jabez’s prayer to “keep me from harm” foreshadows “deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13). Long before Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Jabez had the wisdom and humility to pray for deliverance from evil. What further insight does this give you into Jabez’s “honorable” character?

Aaron shared that it was clear that Jabez was marked and labeled by pain. Read Romans 8:1-2. No matter what labels you feel you have, if you are in Christ, your only label in God’s eyes is “redeemed”. Jabez escaped his assigned destiny in life. He overcame his past. Why is this message so needed message in our culture?

One of the definitions of “habit” is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it had become almost involuntary”. Considering that definition, what, if any, downside could there be by making prayer a habit? What are the upsides to making prayer a habit?

Read Matthew 6:7. What are some things you can do so that your prayers don’t become rote or stale (“babbling”)?

Aaron mentioned in his sermon that even one word from God is better than 10,000 words from any human. How often do you take time in your prayer life to actually listen to the Lord versus talking to Him?

Read the following passages and note the main thought in each. What impact do you think spending time listening would have your Christian walk?

  • 1 Kings 19:11-13
  • Habakkuk 2:20
  • Isaiah 26:3
  • Psalm 46:10

APPLICATION

Read and pray through the following prayer prompts (if you were at Fellowship’s Worship & Prayer Night on Friday, they’ll be familiar to you):

Engaging with God in Prayer

  • What keeps you from engaging in conversation with God?
  • What feelings come to mind when you think about approaching God in prayer? Excitement? Hesitation? Cynicism?
  • If you’re honest, do you think that God enjoys your company? Enjoys hearing from you? Enjoys being with you?

PRAYER PROMPT: Did any of your answers to these questions surprise you? If so, take a few minutes to pray about those things.

Expectation When Engaging with God

  • Is prayer a regular part of your life or something that you only do on special occasions?
  • Do you believe God hears you when you pray?
  • Can you think of a time when you prayed and saw a situation change, or experienced a change in your own heart?

PRAYER PROMPT: Is there anything you’ve been carrying around that you know you need to give to God, but you’re afraid to give up control? Afraid prayer won’t be enough? Afraid God doesn’t hear you or doesn’t care? Dare to take God at His word for the next few moments and cast your cares upon Him. Trust that He hears and He responds. (1 Peter 5:7)

Emotional Authenticity When Engaging with God

  • Think about how you approach God when life is good, and how you approach God when life is hard. Is there a difference?
  • Do you find it difficult to be totally honest with God?
  • Do you ever feel like you need to clean up your act emotionally before coming to Him?
  • What do you do when God feels distant?

PRAYER PROMPT: What activities or spiritual disciplines could you begin to incorporate into daily practice to help you approach God from a place of emotional authenticity? Spend a few minutes thinking on that now. If you struggle to come up with any ideas, offer that to God and ask for His help. Take a moment to be completely honest with Him.

Where Cultural Engagement & God Intersect

  • When tragedy strikes in our culture (i.e. natural disaster, school shooting, etc.) how do you see people respond?
  • How do you personally respond to those situations? Prayer? Volunteering/donations? Anger? Doubting God’s goodness?
  • How does the hope you have in Christ determine how you respond to the issues our culture faces?

PRAYER PROMPT: As a member of a society that can feel chaotic and turbulent at times, what are some things you can do to steady yourself in Christ? What can you do to point others to Christ? Spend a few moments praying about these things and for those in our world struggling with crisis and tragedy.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the following passages that describe Jesus’ prayer life. What times of day did He pray? What situations came before or after He took time to pray? Make notes of ways you want to emulate Him in prayer:

SCRIPTURE TIME OF DAY SITUATION HOW I WANT TO EMULATE JESUS
 

Mark 1:35-39

 

     
 

Luke 6:12-16

 

     
 

Matthew 14:1-23

 

     
 

Luke 22:36-48

 

     

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PRAYER: WHAT TO PRAY

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

When it comes to prayer, many of us want a formula, an equation, like: X + Y = Z, or 1 + 2 = 3. We want to package prayer into a nice, neat box so we can easily understand it. But we don’t always get to know exactly how prayer works. And because of that, we sometimes struggle with what to pray. Jabez asked for God’s blessing. What would it look like in your life if you asked for God’s blessing and He granted your request?

SCRIPTURE

9Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

GROUP QUESTIONS

What do you usually pray (praise/adoration, thanksgiving, requests, confession)?

Read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Aaron shared in his sermon that the biblical definition of “bless” has a number of different meanings, but none of them correlate with our worldly idea of prosperity. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

If blessing does not mean worldly prosperity, what do you think it means?

Read Ephesians 1:3-14 and list “every spiritual blessing” we have in Christ:

Another definition of “bless” is favor. The Bible notes that Noah (Genesis 6:8-9), Joseph (Genesis 39:21), Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26), David (Acts 7:45-46), Mary (Luke 1:28), and Jesus (Luke 2:52) experienced the favor of God. gotquestions.org states that “the best definition of the word favor is ‘demonstrated delight’.” How have you experienced God’s favor in your life?

Jabez prayed “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory.” Jabez wanted more influence; responsibility, significance, and even more opportunity to make the power and presence of his God known. His request was simple: he wanted to know God better so that he could better make God known. Is your greatest desire to know the favor of God – his supernatural power and presence manifest in your life? Are you willing to pray Jabez’s bold prayer to know God more?

APPLICATION

Continue to participate in the 21 Days of Prayer. Visit www.fellowshipcleveland.com/prayer to view the daily prayer calendar and see other resources. Text 21PRAY to 797979 to receive a text reminder each day.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Daniel 10:1-15. This is a difficult prophetic passage to understand. We will not get into the heart of the prophecy, but will look at the prayer surrounding it. On Sunday, Aaron touched on the fact that we are doing 21 Days of Prayer based on this passage. What most stands out to you in these verses?

As the vision came to Daniel, what was he in the midst of doing (verse 2)?

Who do you think was the “man dressed in linen”? (A similar description is found in Revelation 1:13-18.)

Note that the answer to Daniel’s prayer was sent immediately, but it was delayed in reaching Daniel. Why?

Who do you think was the “prince of Persia”?

What does this passage teach you about spiritual warfare and your role in it?

Read Ephesians 6:10-18. This is perhaps one of the best-known passages on spiritual warfare. Write out what each piece of armor represents, and spend time every day this week praying through and “putting on” each piece as you begin the day.

  • Belt of truth
  • Breastplate of righteousness
  • Shoes/gospel of peace
  • Shield of faith
  • Helmet of salvation
  • Sword of the Spirit

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PRAYER: WHY PRAY?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

What would happen if 100% of us prayed 100% more this year? If you were to double the amount you pray this year, do you really think it would have any impact on your life? Do you believe prayer can actually make a difference—in your family, in your relationships, in your place of work or business? Could prayer change your neighborhood, could it change this community, our country, what about the world? As we go through 21 Days of Prayer, we will be looking at the prayer of a man named Jabez, a man who’s noteworthy, not for what he accomplished, but rather, for what he prayed.

SCRIPTURE

9Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group what your name means. If you don’t know the meaning, Google it.

Read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. In his sermon on Sunday, Aaron focused not on the prayer itself, but on the words that surrounded the prayer: “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel…and God granted his request.” Why do you think God granted Jabez’s request?

Read the following verses, and list the reasons Scripture gives for praying:

  • 1 Chronicles 16:11, Colossians 4:2
  • Psalm 145:18, James 4:8
  • Philippians 4:6-7, James 1:5
  • Romans 15:30, James 4:15
  • Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12
  • Proverbs 15:8

What are the four parts of Jabez’s request? Which of these four parts impact you the most?

Jabez, whose name means pain, asks God for freedom from pain. Is there something that you feel labeled by that you would like to be free from?

If you could ask God to do something significant in your life, and you knew that He would grant your request, what would you ask Him for? What is preventing you from praying this prayer now?

APPLICATION

Commit to 21 Days of Prayer. Visit www.fellowshipcleveland.com/prayer to view the daily prayer calendar and see other resources. Text 21PRAY to 797979 to receive a text reminder each day.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Genesis 18:16-33. Abraham intercedes directly with God on behalf of Sodom. What is the basis for his bold pleading for the city (verse 25)?

Why do you think Abraham kept lowering the number from 50 all the way down to 10?

Does Abraham’s persistent requests of God on behalf of a corrupt city affect your attitude toward those who are far from God?

Do you think prayer can change God’s mind? Why or why not?

What do you learn about who God is based upon this story? Does anything you learn surprise you? Does anything impact how you will pray?

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GLORY: GLORY MADE KNOWN

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Just over 2,000 years ago a few simple shepherds became the first to encounter Jesus as a man. They were as far away from God as you can be, but when they encountered Jesus that first Christmas day, they responded with child-like faith, and immediately began to make the glory of God known to everyone else. It’s ironic that the shepherds, who were not allowed to testify in a Jewish court of law, were the first humans to testify of Jesus’ birth. You know the Christmas story – you’ve heard it, read it, sang about it, listened to sermons about it, watched TV specials about it. But the question this Christmas is, “Have you embraced Jesus as truth?” If you have, what is stopping you from going out and unreservedly make His glory known?

SCRIPTURE

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:15-18

GROUP QUESTIONS

How would you have planned the announcement of Jesus’ birth?

Read Luke 2:15-18. Shepherds were poor, lower-class people in their society, despised by religious Jews, and, as Aaron said on Sunday, smelly J. Why do you think God chose them to be the first ones to hear the good news of Emmanuel, God with us?

What do you think the shepherds found most incredible about their experience?

What did the shepherds do after meeting Jesus?

In response to the shepherd’s testimony, Luke 2:18 states that “all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”. What do you think people found so amazing – the various aspects of the story itself, or the fact that it was the shepherds sharing it with them?

Read Matthew 2:1-12. Compare the experience of the shepherds with that of the magi. How did the signs and responses differ? What significance, if any, do you find in the differences of the encounters?

Jesus is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:16). All things in earth are held together by Him (Colossians 3:16-17). Yet for our sake, He, “in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). Read Hebrews 4:15-16 and discuss how having a Savior who is “just like we are” (but without sin), willing to come to earth as a baby, will impact your celebration of Christmas this year.

How can you renew your enthusiasm for the message of Jesus’ birth so that it makes a difference throughout the year?

What does your passion (or lack of passion) to tell others about Jesus and what He’s done in your life say about your relationship with Him?

APPLICATION

Aaron shared on Sunday that if you are near to God, remember how far off you once were; how you were dead in your transgressions, you were an enemy of God, a child of wrath. Each day this week, spend time thanking God for the wonderful gift of Jesus and for the joyous fact that He led you to make room for Him in your heart. Pray that others may come to know the same peace and joy that you have experienced. Ask God for the passion to make Jesus known with no hesitation, just as the shepherds did.

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GLORY: GLORY REVEALED

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

 God wants to be found. He did not come to earth to play a game of hide and seek…His birth was announced, and His glory revealed, in a spectacular way by angels to shepherds. Their first reaction, fear, is removed by the revelation of God’s glory, and is exchanged for joy. Jesus – Savior, Messiah, and Lord – is among us!

SCRIPTURE

 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”  Luke 2:10-14

GROUP QUESTIONS

What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?

Read Luke 2:10-14. What does the angel’s announcement tell you about Christ and what His coming meant to the world?

There is a common reaction of fear in the Christmas story (Luke 1:12, 29-30, 1:65 [KJV], 2:9-10). Is any of this fear constructive or appropriate? Could or should fear be a healthy part of your spiritual life?

The good news that will cause great joy for all the people is still the same today. In the midst of a busy Christmas season, how can you more fully appreciate the joy God brings this time of year? How can you reflect the joy God brings to those around you?

Read the following passages and note how God’s glory is revealed. What do you imagine it would be like to see the full glory of God?

  • Exodus 40:33-35
  • Psalm 19:1
  • Isaiah 6:3
  • Matthew 24:29-31
  • John 17:1-5
  • Hebrews 1:3

What do you believe most people think about when they hear, “and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests”?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” on Christmas Day in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. The second verse of the poem laments, “And in despair I bowed my head ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” The angels announced peace at Jesus’ birth, but we are obviously not experiencing ‘world peace’. What kind of peace did Jesus bring?

APPLICATION

Do you have peace with God?

  • If your answer is “no”, consider how God has offered to reconcile you to Himself. Are you willing to accept His gift of peace this Christmas season? If so, “…Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10
  • If your answer is “yes”, what are you doing to spread the good news? Ask God for the opportunity and the boldness to share about the gift of His Son with at least one person this Christmas.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the entire Christmas story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1:1-2:40 (including the genealogy in Luke 3:23-38). Note the differences in the story between Matthew and Luke. What do you think the differences in the accounts say about the writer and the audience?

Read the following passages and list the prophecy fulfilled. What do these fulfillments of prophecy lead you to conclude about God’s sovereignty over nature, people, and world events?

OT Passage Prophecy NT Passage Fulfilment of Prophecy
 

Genesis 12:3

 

  Matthew 1:1  
 

Isaiah 7:14

 

  Matthew 1:18-23  
 

Micah 5:2

 

  Luke 2:1-7  
 

Hosea 11:1

 

  Matthew 2:13-15  
 

Genesis 49:10

 

  Luke 3:33  
 

Jeremiah 23:5

 

  Matthew 1:6  
 

Jeremiah 31:15

 

  Matthew 2:16  

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GLORY: THE GLORY OF GOD

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

A Charlie Brown Christmas contains one of the greatest speeches a cartoon ever gives. J When Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”, Linus responds, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He then quotes the King James Version of Luke 2:8-14: “And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.” Luke 2 is the well-known and still powerful story of the glory of God becoming Emmanuel, God with us.

SCRIPTURE

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:8-9

GROUP QUESTIONS

Who is the most famous person you’ve met? What was your reaction when you met them?

Read Luke 2:8-9. What stands out to you in these two verses?

Why do you think that God announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds instead of more ‘significant’ people (see Micah 5:2, 1 Corinthians 1:27-28)?

Discuss as a group what you think the word “glory” means. Look it up in a dictionary; do you think this definition fits with your definition of glory? Why or why not?

Why did “the glory of the Lord” shining around them terrify the shepherds?

On Sunday, David spoke about the differences between the Old Testament concept of glory and the New Testament concept of glory. Write down what you remember about those differences. Read some or all of the verses listed to help with your answers.

  • OLD TESTAMENTExodus 16:10, 24:17, 29:43-46, 33:18-23, 1 Samuel 4:21-22, 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, Ezekiel 10:4-5,18-19 
  • NEW TESTAMENTJohn 1:14, 17:20-23, 2 Corinthians 3:9-18, Colossians 1:27, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 Hebrews 1:1-4

Read Hebrews 12:28-29. Does knowing more about the God’s glory encourage you to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe?” What do you think this means practically for you?

APPLICATION

Take some time this week to mediate on passages about the glory of God. Use some of the ones above, or look ones up yourself. Spend time in awe of the One who loved you so much that He came to earth as a baby to live and die for you.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

There is some debate about whether Luke 2:9 says “the” angel of the Lord or “an” angel of the Lord. Read the following scripture passages: Genesis 16:13-16, 22:12-15, 31:11, 32:30, 48:16, Exodus 3:2-6, Judges 6:22, Judges 13:21-22. Do you think it makes a different what the article is before the word “angel”?

Read the following passages and note the response in each encounter with the angel of the Lord. What do you think your response would be?

  • Exodus 3:6
  • Judges 6:22-23
  • Judges 13:21-22
  • Luke 1:11-12

Read Isaiah 60:1-3. What are some ways that you can “arise, shine” so that your light reflects God’s glory?

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LOVE THE LAND: LOVING THE LEAST

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1 when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). God loves the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). As Aaron said on Sunday, the heart of God beats for the poor, the disadvantaged, the weak, the oppressed, the broken, the hurting, the hungry, the estranged. If God’s heart beats for the least of these – does yours?

SCRIPTURE

1Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. 2For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here am I’. Isaiah 58:1-9

GROUP QUESTIONS

When you see someone begging at an intersection or freeway off-ramp, what thoughts go through your mind? How do you feel toward that person? How do you typically respond?

Read Isaiah 58:1-9. What is the tone of this passage? What would cause God to use this tone?

List the things the Israelites are doing (verses 2-3a). Since the things they are doing are all good things, why does He say that the Israelites are in rebellion (verse 1)?

What injustices are denounced (verses 3b-4)? How are these injustices seen in our community, nation, and world today?

Read the following passages. What does each passage say about “loving the least”? What does this mean for you in today’s culture? Who are “the least”?

  • Psalm 82:3
  • Proverbs 31:8-9
  • Isaiah 1:17
  • Jeremiah 22:3
  • Zechariah 7:9-10
  • Micah 6:8

When discussing Isaiah 58, John Piper said, “Piety that does not produce a passion for God-exalting social justice and practical mercy is useless.” God’s heart beats for the least of these. Does yours?

APPLICATION

GROUP: Brainstorm – Consider the various needs the hurting and broken people have in your community. Make a list of tangible things you can do to “love the least”.

PERSONAL: Throughout the week, examine your motives for doing spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, fasting, praying…). Ask yourself the following questions; if you answer ‘yes’ to any of them, ask God to forgive you and to help you seek Him with your whole heart with the sole motivation to know Him more.

  • Do I secretly hope that others will look up to me because I am so spiritual?
  • Do I think that God will notice the sacrifices I make and will give me special attention?
  • Do I feel superior to those who do not seem as spiritually disciplined as I am?

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Matthew 25:34-46. What coming event does this passage describe?

List the actions Jesus will use as basis for His judgment. Since salvation is not a result of good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), why does Jesus use good works as the dividing line in this passage?

Would you change your attitude or actions towards the “least of these” if you viewed them as Jesus (Matthew 25:35-36)? Why or why not?

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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. Even in our culture, hospitals are named “Good Samaritan”, news stories feature people who act as “Good Samaritans”, and most of our states have “Good Samaritan Laws” which provide basic legal protection for those who assist a person who is injured or in danger. It’s a great story! But it’s more than that…Jesus told it to answer an important question many of us have: “Who is my neighbor?”

SCRIPTURE

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26“What is written in the Law?” He replied. “How do you read it?” 27He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37

GROUP QUESTIONS

What was the kindest thing a stranger did for you? How did this make you feel?

Read Luke 10:25-37. What was the lawyer’s (expert in the law) question, and where did Jesus send him for the answer? What do his answers indicated about his knowledge of God’s commands?

Are you surprised with the answer to “what must I do to inherit eternal life”? If you were to be asked that question, would this be your response?

What does the follow-up question reveal about the lawyer’s heart?

On Sunday, Aaron stated that the lawyer was looking to do the bare minimum expected from him. How do you think God views those who do the “bare minimum”? Do you ever feel like you’re doing the “bare minimum”? If you do, why?

In Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, why do you think the priest and the Levite did not feel morally obligated to help? Is there ever a good reason to not help someone in need?

Jews and Samaritans did not get along. Though there are many complex reasons why, for the Jews it boiled down to prejudice: not only did the Samaritans have mixed ethnicity, they also had a mixed religion. Jesus’ use of a Samaritan as the one who helped (while two religious Jewish men passed by) would have been outrageous and offensive to the lawyer and any other Jewish people who were listening. Why would Jesus choose this character as the hero of the story?

APPLICATION

Who is your neighbor? Aaron challenged you to find this out by starting in your own neighborhood. What are the names of those who live around you? Where do they work? Do they have children? Start with just one family – have a conversation that ends with you inviting them to a meal in the next few weeks. Open your home and heart and listen to their story. BE a great neighbor.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

The Mosaic Law had love for God and neighbor at its center (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18). The Ten Commandments divide into two categories – how to love God, and how to love your neighbor. Read Exodus 20:1-17, and then fill out the chart below. List whether the commandment shows how to love God, or how to love your neighbor, and then write out as many ways to do this that come to mind. Consider Matthew 5:21-28 as you write your answers. (The first has been started as an example; please add your own answers.)

COMMAND GOD OR NEIGHBOR HOW I CAN DO THIS
 1. You shall have no other gods before Me GOD Submit to God

Trust in Him, not $

 

 

2. You shall not make idols.

 

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

 

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

 

5. Honor your father and your mother.

 

6. You shall not murder.

 

7. You shall not commit adultery.

 

8. You shall not steal.

 

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

 

10. You shall not covet.

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LOVE THE LAND: WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?

LOVE THE LAND: PLAN A

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

From the beginning God chose His people to be the conduit of His grace to a broken world. God created all of us in His image; therefore, as image-bearers, we all have value. Satan attacked this image, distorting it, and sin entered the world, bringing with it pain, despair, hopelessness, and brokenness. But piece by piece, God pursues the broken. And when Christ-followers reflect the image of a loving, gracious God to those who are broken, we become a conduit of His grace into their lives. You are God’s PLAN A for showing grace to broken people.

SCRIPTURE 

1The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3

GROUP QUESTIONS

What was the most valuable thing you have ever broken? Were you able to mend it?

Read Genesis 12:1-3. What promises does God make to Abraham?

Read Galatians 3:7-9. Ultimately, how were “all peoples on earth” blessed through Abraham?

There is a Sunday school song with these lyrics: “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham, I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord….” Galatians 3 says that as a Christ-follower, you are a son or daughter of Abraham, and a recipient of the blessing in Genesis 12. And not just a recipient…as Abraham’s child, the world will be blessed through you. What impact does this have for how you view our broken world?

Satan continues to create brokenness by distorting the image of God in the same way he did in the Garden of Eden: “Did God really say….?” (Genesis 3:1). Discuss with your group some of the ways he seeks to do this now.

Read Matthew 25:34-40. God’s PLAN A is to work through His people. As Joe mentioned in his sermon, there is no PLAN B. What can you do to be a part of God’s PLAN A to minister “to the least of these”?

APPLICATION

“Grace is the glue that binds the broken.”

Consider ways that you can be a conduit of God’s grace to a broken world. Make a list of all the things that come to mind – random acts of kindness, supporting an orphan, caring for a widow, going on a mission trip, sharing your story with someone who doesn’t know Christ, etc. Allow the Spirit to lead you to pick at least one of these things to do this week.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

There are numerous covenants (agreements) mentioned in Scripture. Read through the passages below, and note what was promised through these covenants:

COVENANT SCRIPTURE PROMISES
Adamic Genesis 3:15-19  

 

 

Noahic Genesis 9:8-11  

 

 

Abrahamic Genesis 12:1-3  

 

 

Mosaic Deuteronomy 11  

 

 

Davidic 2 Samuel 7:8-16  

 

 

New Jeremiah 31:31-34  

 

 

Read Hebrews 8:7-13, which quotes from Jeremiah 31. List the demands of the old covenant and the benefits of the new covenant.

The author states that God “has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” Why will the old covenant disappear?

What impact does this new covenant have on you?

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Leverage: Testimony

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Jehoram (also called Joram) was the king of Israel’s northern kingdom. He was the son of Ahab and Jezebel. For seven years there was a severe famine in the land. The Syrians (Arameans) were bent on conquering the northern kingdom, and laid siege to the city of Samaria (the capital of the northern kingdom). The famine and siege were so severe that people were eating their children (2 Kings 6:26-30). The situation was desperate. Yet salvation was there…but the city didn’t know it until four lepers decided to share their story. Salvation is here in our city…in these anxious times, how can you leverage your testimony for the glory of God?

SCRIPTURE

3Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? 4If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” 5At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, 6for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” 7So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives. 8The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also. 9Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.” 2 Kings 7:3-9

GROUP QUESTIONS

What would your autobiography be titled?

Read 2 Kings 7:3-9. Why were the lepers outside the city (see Leviticus 13:46 and Numbers 5:1-3)?

What did the lepers decide to do? Have you ever been so desperate (spiritually or physically) that you knew you had to do something? What did you do?

When the lepers went to the camp, no one was there. God did a miraculous thing by causing the army to flee in the middle of the night. What was the response of the lepers? Are you surprised by this response? Why or why not?

Read Ephesians 2:1-9. What parallels do you see between Israel’s situation in 2 Kings 7 and your situation before knowing Christ? Between God’s salvation for Israel and your redemption?

How would you answer Aaron’s question from the sermon: “Do you ever find yourself hoarding certain things or certain gifts that God has given to you?”

The lepers eventually realized that they needed to share their story (2 Kings 7:9). In light of all that we have been given by God, why do we fail to tell our story?

APPLICATION

KNOW your story and SHARE your story.

1 Peter 3:15 says to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”

If you haven’t done so already, write out your testimony of how you came to know Christ. Divide your story into three parts: your life before Christ, how you met Him, and your life after receiving Christ. If you need help, visit https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/223026_14b0abd838f145d8948c20725e5c1c27.pdf for info on how to write your story.

Pray for an opportunity to share your story, and be bold to share your story when God answers your prayer.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read John 4:1-42. It was rare for a Rabbi to talk with a woman, let alone a Samaritan woman. What does this tell you about Jesus?

What do you think Jesus meant by “living water” (see also Isaiah 44:3-4; John 7:37-39)?

What do you learn about the woman’s life?

Once the woman started to understand who Jesus was, what did she do? What was the result? (See John 4:28-30, 39-42).

The first thing the woman did after meeting Jesus was to tell everyone about Him. Make a list of the people in your circle who don’t know Christ, and ask God to give you the opportunity to share your story with them.

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Leverage: Treasure

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

1 Chronicles 18-20 describes many victories that God gave to Israel’s army, led by David. Instead of building his faith in God, these victories seem to have given David a confidence in himself, his armies, and his possessions. In 1 Chronicles 21:1-6, he calls for a census to be made of Israel. Aaron shared on Sunday that David was putting his trust in his treasure, his possessions, not in God.

SCRIPTURE

1Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” 3But Joab replied, “May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” 4The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. 5Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah. 6But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. 1 Chronicles 21:1-6

GROUP QUESTIONS

If your house was burning down, what three things (not people or pets) would you save, and why?

What do you think when you first read the words, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David…”? Could David say, “The devil made me do it”?

There are a number of censuses listed in the Old Testament (Numbers 1:1-3, Numbers 3:14-15, Numbers 4:21-22, 46-48, 2 Chronicles 2:17-18, Ezra 2). Some are ordered by God, and none get the reaction that happens when David takes the census in 1 Chronicles 21:1-6. Read the passage; why do you think it was wrong of David to take a census?

What do the following passages say about those who trust in possessions?

  • Proverbs 11:28
  • Luke 12:16-21
  • 1 Timothy 6:17-19

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says you cannot serve two masters – God and mammon (money) (Matthew 6:19-24). God looks at your finances – what you spend money on and how you give – as a barometer of the condition of your heart. What are some ways you try to serve both God and money? What does this say about the condition of your heart?

Read Psalm 50:9-12 and Deuteronomy 8:18. Does knowing that God is the owner of everything you have, and that He is the one who has given you everything you have, affect what you do with your money? Why or why not?

APPLICATION

Plan to attend An Evening with Dave Ramsey on Thursday, November 9, 6:30PM-8:30PM in Fellowship’s Youth Room. Hear Dave Ramsey speak in a pre-recorded teaching about how to achieve financial peace, and learn how to leverage your treasure for the glory of God.

Consider participating in the nine-week Financial Peace University class will begin on Thursday, January 18.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read 1 Chronicles 21:7-17. What was the result of David’s decision to take a census? How many men died because of David’s sin (1 Chronicles 21:14)?

What was David’s response (1 Chronicles 21:17)? What does this show about his heart?

Read 1 Chronicles 21:18-30. Why do you think David would not allow Ornan to give him the threshing floor? What application does that have for your worship?

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Leverage: Talents/Gifts

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In 2015, Christian artist Jeremy Camp released the song, Same Power, which states, “The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake lives in us, lives in us. The same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that can calm a raging sea lives in us, lives in us…” The song is based on Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” As a Christ-follower, the power of the Holy Spirit lives in you. You have also been given a gift (or gifts) from the Spirit to use in the Kingdom of God. What do you do with every good gift God has given to you?

SCRIPTURE

1Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. 6And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you.” Exodus 31:1-6

GROUP QUESTIONS

What would be the ultimate (material) gift you could receive?

Discuss with your group how you would define “spiritual gifts”.

The concept of a gift from the Spirit begins in the Old Testament. Read Exodus 31:1-6. This is the first time that someone is described as being filled with the Spirit. What gifts does God give to Bezalel? Do you find any to be surprising? If so, which ones?

What was God’s purpose in gifting Bezalel (and Oholiab)? (See also Exodus 36:1.)

The spiritual gifts are described in Romans 12:1-8, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4:1-16 (you will read these passages later). The word used for “gifts” is from the Greek word charis, usually translated as “grace” (and IS translated “grace” in Ephesians 4). What does this add to your understanding of spiritual gifts?

Read 1 Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:12, and 1 Peter 4:10. Why did God give the church spiritual gifts?

God distributes a great variety of gifts as He sees fit. He gifted Moses to lead a nation, and Bezalel and Oholiab with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and skill in craftsmanship to build the Tabernacle. Their responsibility was to use those gifts to do what God asked them to do. How can you use your gift(s) to build the Kingdom of God?

APPLICATION

Aaron stated on Sunday that you have all you need to do what God has planned for you to do. You have been employed with a job and enabled with power to do it…so what’s next?

Between now and Tuesday (October 24), visit http://www.fellowshipcleveland.com to take two assessments – StrengthsFinder and a Spiritual Gifts test – to discover who it is that God made you to be. Click on the “assessments” button in the top left-hand corner on Fellowship’s home page.

NOTE: There is a $15 fee for the StrengthsFinder assessment. If you take the strengths assessment, please plan to attend a seminar on Thursday, October 26, 7pm in the Youth Room (Room 126). StrengthsFinder Coach/Fellowship member Joan Nosal will lead the seminar.

If you already know your gifts, how are you using them? Are there some gifts that you have been given but have neglected to use? How can you begin to use them?

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the following verses, and note the specific gifts found in each passage:

  • Romans 12:1-8
  • 1 Corinthians 12
  • Ephesians 4:1-16

What gifts do the passages have in common? What gifts are unique to the passage? There is much debate over whether these lists are complete or whether there are more gifts. Which position do you think is most defensible biblical, and why?

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 lists some challenges faced by believers in regards to the spiritual gifts. What are they? Have you see this happen? How can you guard against this?

Read 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most well-known chapters in the Bible, used in both Christian and non-Christian weddings. Though the principles in ‘The Love Chapter’ certainly apply to marriage, Paul wrote it to follow his teaching on spiritual gifts. Re-read 1 Corinthians 13 in light of this, and ask the Spirit to give you insight into how to use your spiritual gift(s) in love.

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Leverage: Time

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In The Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkein), Frodo and Gandalf discuss the burden of bearing the ‘one ring’: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Every day contains 24 hours=1,440 minutes=86,400 seconds…what do you do with the good gift of time that God has given to you? Will you invest it in the eternal?

SCRIPTURE

1So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. 1 Samuel 7:1-2

GROUP QUESTIONS

What are the top three things in your life that are time-wasters?

Read 1 Samuel 7:1-2. Eleazar was consecrated (set apart, dedicated, sanctified) to guard (keep, protect) the ark. He did this for 20+ years. How would you feel doing the same thing for 20+ years?

Read Psalm 90:12 and Ephesians 5:15-16. What do these passages encourage? What do you think this means?

In Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander Maclaren states that, “Redeeming the time does not merely mean making the most of moments, but means laying hold of, and understanding the special significance of, life as a whole, and of each succeeding instant of it as the season for some specific duty.” How does this statement change/enhance your answer to the previous question?

Read Matthew 6:33 and 2 Corinthians 8:5. What comes first?

First means in our hearts and priorities, but the Bible also has many references to seeking God first in the morning. Read these passages aloud: Psalm 5:3, Psalm 59:16, Psalm 88:13, Mark 1:35. Do you believe it is necessary to start your day with God? Why or why not?

In Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles Hummel wrote that “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” How do you live a life governed by God’s priorities (seeking HIM first) rather than life’s demands?

APPLICATION

Seek God FIRST. Set a standing appointment with Him and stick with it. Read Scripture, pray, and worship.

Consider joining a Fellowship Team and impacting someone for eternity. Visit our SERVE page at www.fellowshipcleveland.com/serve.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Luke 10:38-42. Which sister do you empathize with most: action-oriented Martha or contemplative Mary? Why?

Martha was doing nothing wrong–she was serving others. So why did Jesus rebuke her?

What does Jesus say about Mary’s choice in Luke 10:42?

The word “part” (meris) in Luke 10:42 can also be translated “portion”. Read Numbers 18:8-29 and Lamentation 3:23-24. What insight do these verses give you into WHO the “good part” is, and how we should view our time with Him?

It is interesting that the Luke and Numbers passages both reference food – Martha was preparing a meal for her guests, and God was giving the Levites instructions on what offerings were allowed to be eaten and which were holy. Read Psalm 34:8. How do you taste and see that the Lord is good? (See Psalm 34:1-7, Psalm 119:103, Hebrews 6:5, and 1 Peter 2:3.)

Jesus said that Mary had chosen the “one thing”. David also spoke of “one thing” in Psalm 27:4. What is your “one thing”?

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Leverage: Influence

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

At Fellowship we believe that church is a participation sport. As part of the family of God, you have the choice to sit on the sidelines and watch other people use the gifts God has given to them, or you can get off the bench and use what you’ve got to actively participate in the game. What do you do with every good gift God has given to you (James 1:17)?

SCRIPTURE

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Genesis 2:15 (NASB)

7That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.” 8Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. 9Now, Lord God, let Your promise to my father David be confirmed, for You have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of Yours?” 11God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern My people over whom I have made you king, 12therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” 2 Chronicles 1:7-12

GROUP QUESTIONS

If God told you to ask Him for anything, and He would give it to you, what would be your request? How do you think you are supposed to answer this question? How do you really want to answer this question?

Read the following verses, and discuss the main point of these passages:

  • Psalm 24:1
  • Psalm 50:9-12
  • Haggai 2:8
  • Colossians 1:16
  • Job 1:21
  • 1 Timothy 6:7

Aaron read Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God…. God created everything, and everything belongs to Him. You came into the world with nothing and will bring nothing with you when you leave. So why is it so easy to forget that everything, including the shirt you wear, belongs to God?

Read Genesis 2:15. As Aaron mentioned on Sunday, the meaning of the word cultivate (NASB) or work (NIV) is to work (in any sense); by implication, to serve (Strong’s Concordance). Does the added definition of serve change how you view your purpose (in your home, community, workplace, church)?

Read 2 Chronicles 1:7-12. Has there been a specific instance in your life when you have asked God for influence as you entered a situation – meeting, job interview, family crisis, hospital visit? How did God answer?

APPLICATION

This week, consider why God has placed you where He has placed you, and begin to map out your sphere of influence (similar to what Aaron did on Sunday for Ginny). In the upcoming Sundays, we will get very specific about how you can use your influence for the glory of God.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Solomon asked God for wisdom and knowledge to govern God’s people. He requested this because he recognized that the people and the position he held were both given to him by God. Read the following Scripture verses and fill out the chart below:

 

PASSAGE

 

 CHARACTER

 

POSITION/INFLUENCE

 

OUTCOME

 

1 Chronicles 28:1-7

1 Kings 6:1, 38

 

 

Nehemiah 1:1-2:9

Nehemiah 6:15

 

 

John 19:10-16

 

 

Acts 10:1-11:18

 

What do you learn about how these Bible characters used their position/influence?

God has strategically positioned you exactly where you are, in your specific family, in your specific job, in your specific relationships, with your specific friends and colleagues and neighbors, to serve as an influence for the glory of God. Will you choose to leverage your influence for the glory of God? If so, list below some specific action steps you will take:

 

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ALL IN #3 – All In Together

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Though Ephesians 1:1-22 was divided into three parts for our ALL IN series, when Paul wrote this passage it was one long run-on sentence. The “therefore” in verse 11 refers back to all 10 verses that came before it: You were dead, but God, who is rich in mercy, made you alive with Christ and raised you up with Christ to show the incomparable riches of His grace. You are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works! Therefore…

SCRIPTURE
11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. Ephesians 2:11-22

GROUP QUESTIONS

Discuss an experience you had when you tried to be a part of a new community (neighborhood, school, church, work).

Read Ephesians 2:11-22. Why do you think Paul wants his audience (and you) to remember their former identity?

Paul describes two groups – the uncircumcised (Gentiles) and the circumcised (Jews). Judging by the tone of this passage, what do you think the relationship between these two groups was like?

Read Ephesians 2:13-16, Romans 2:28-29, and Colossians 2:11-13. How did Christ remove the barriers between Gentiles and Jews?

Do you see any barriers that exist at Fellowship? Are there those who are excluded because they are different? Have you withheld unity from a fellow believer? If so, what needs to take place to restore unity in Christ?

What are some of the word pictures used to describe the new unification of Gentiles and Jews in Ephesians 2:19-22? How do these images emphasize the unity believers have?

APPLICATION

Read Ephesians 2:14 and Romans 12:18. What barriers in your heart need to be broken down in order to “live at peace with all men”? List action steps you can take, with the help of the Spirit, to bring peace to a broken relationship.

Text ALLIN2GETHER to 797979 to receive a text a day for the next six days with a verse to encourage you as part of the Church.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Genesis 17:1-14. Why was circumcision important to the Jew? What did it represent?

Read the following passages: Deuteronomy 10:12-16, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Jeremiah 9:25-26, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Romans 2:25-29, Galatians 5:2-6. If physical circumcision was a sign of Israel’s covenant with God, what is “circumcision of the heart”?

List the five things you are to remember in Ephesians 2:12. Which of these realities seem most harsh to you?

Read Ephesians 6:19-22. List below the things you now have in Christ that you did not have when you were “far away”:

Read the following passages: Ephesians 4:32, Philippians 2:3-5, James 5:9, and 1 John 3:23. Since other believers are “joined together” (Ephesians 2:21) with you, how should you treat them?

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ALL IN #2 – All In For Him

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Last Sunday we were in Ephesians 2:1-5, as we considered that “It’s only in understanding the depths of our depravity that we can respond appropriately to the depths of God’s grace.” This week we concentrate more fully on God’s grace, and what that means as we follow Him.

SCRIPTURE

6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:6-10

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group a time when you went ALL IN for something.

Read Ephesians 2:6-10. What stands out to you most in this passage? Why?

Read Romans 6:1-11, Galatians 2:20, and Colossians 2:10-15, and discuss what you think Paul means by raised us up with Christ.

The verb tense used in seated us with Him is called the aorist tense, meaning that it is a past action completed. Do you view yourself as seated…with Him?

Define grace in your own words. Does the fact that He showed you the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus influence your daily life? Why do you think it is sometimes easy to forget or not appreciate His grace?

How does it feel to know you are God’s handiwork (or, as Aaron, said,trophies)? How does this affect your view of yourself?

According to Ephesians 2:10, what is your new purpose in life? Read Matthew 5:16, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Colossians 1:10, and Hebrews 13:16, and discuss how these passages affirm Ephesians 2:10.

How can you make this new purpose an integral part of your life?

APPLICATION

Think about how you can live a life that is irresistible, attractive, and serves as proof that God is still alive and still in the business of making all things new. Pray about and then choose seven good works (one a day) that you will do this week that you do not usually do as worship to the One who created you in Christ Jesus to do good works.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Ephesians 2:1-10 is a beautiful passage detailing what God has done for us. In the previous chapter, (Ephesians 1:3-14), Paul lists some of the blessings received when you accept this gift of God. List some of those blessings below (there are LOTS of them!).

Would your life look different if you were to be ALL IN with the truths of Ephesians 1? Do you think you would experience more joy, peace, blessing…?

Ephesians 2:8-9 emphasizes that salvation is a gift from God – you cannot earn it. Why is this important?

Wendy Pope, who works for First5.org, said that, “Nothing we do or fail to do will make us more right or less right with God.” Do you ever find yourself behaving as if salvation is something you earn? If so, what can you do to stop this way of thinking?

Knowing that God first went ALL IN for you, even when you were a sinner and turned your back on Him, what changes do you need to make in your life to go ALL IN for Him?

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ALL IN #1: Jesus – All In For Us

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Ephesians 2:1-5 is a beacon of hope in the midst of a hopeless situation. Paul begins by describing our hearts as dead, but then two words change everything… “but God”.

SCRIPTURE

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved….Ephesians 2:1-5

GROUP QUESTIONS

Do you think of yourself as basically good with areas of sin and evil, or as basically evil with areas of good?

Read Ephesians 2:1-5. Ephesians 1 ends with Paul’s beautiful prayer for the Ephesians, in which he begs God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they would know Him better (1:17). He begins Ephesians 2 by reminding the Ephesians of their condition before Christ. How does knowing you lived in spiritual deadness help you know God better?

According to theologian William Barclay, “the central idea of sin is failure, failure to hit the target, failure to hold to the road, failure to make life what is was capable of becoming.” If your idea of sin is “doing something bad”, how does Barclay’s definition challenge you?

Read the following passages, and list what life without Christ is characterized by:

  • Romans 8:7
  • Galatians 5:19-21
  • Ephesians 2:2-3
  • Ephesians 2:12
  • Colossians 1:13

According to verse 4, what motivated God to make us alive in Christ? What does it mean to be alive in Christ?

APPLICATION

Read Psalm 8 each day this week and meditate on God’s greatness. Praise Him for Who He is.

And/Or

Text ALLIN to 797979 to receive a text from Fellowship each morning regarding God’s greatness. Praise Him for Who He is.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Why is it so important to understand that God is the only one that can change our dead in sin condition, and make you fully alive?

One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is Ephesians 2:4. “But God” contains the gospel in two little words. Read the following passages and describe what happened when God entered the story.

  • Genesis 7:24-8:1
  • Genesis 50:20
  • 1 Samuel 23:14
  • Matthew 19:26
  • Acts 3:15

Do you have a story that has a “but God” in it?

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unchristian: reframing our faith through wisdom

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

To summarize our series on the Sermon on the Mount, if you follow Christ you will exhibit spiritual bankruptcy, mourn over sin, put yourself second, hunger and thirst to have right standing with God, overflow with mercy, have an unmixed heart, be a peacemaker, suffer persecution for the sake of the Savior, be salt and light, choose to make heavenly things a priority over earthly things, trust in God, humility instead of judgment, persistent prayer; and, you will choose the narrow (difficult) road. It’s a no-brainer that Jesus wants us to hear and do what He says. So why is it so difficult to live a life that is marked by the characteristics found in the Sermon on the Mount?

SCRIPTURE

24Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. 28When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matthew 7:24-29

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group a time when you made an unwise choice and discuss the consequences.

Read Matthew 7:24-29. Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a contrast between two people – those who hear His words and those who don’t. What does He mean by “hear”? Is it listening, or does it involve more?

Read the following passages. How do these passages add to your understanding of Matthew 7:24-29?

  • Luke 11:28
  • John 13:17
  • Romans 2:13
  • James 1:22-25
  • James 4:17
  • 1 John 2:5

Why is it so difficult to follow Christ’s commands? Why is it so hard to love your enemies, to not judge, to show mercy, to not seek accolades, to not worry…?

Read Proverbs 3:5-6. Do you rely more on your own wisdom than on God’s wisdom? If so, how can you change that?

APPLICATION

On Sunday, Aaron asked what it would look like to be a church that DOES the Word instead of just HEARING the Word. Read through the list below. Pray and think through these four challenges. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make these a reality in your life.

  • I need to know His Words and instructions.
  • I need to build habits where I lack discipline.
  • I need to live an interruptable life.
  • I need to think more of others and less of myself.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Look up the following passages and fill in the blanks. Was the person in the passage a hearer, or a hearer and a doer? Would your response have differed? If so, in what way?

SCRIPTURE

PERSON WHAT DID GOD SAY? WHAT DID THIS PERSON DO?

WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME?

Genesis 6-7 NOAH
Genesis 12:1-5; Hebrews 11:8-12 ABRAHAM
Jonah 1-2 JONAH
Genesis 19:12-29 LOT/LOT’S WIFE
Acts 10 PETER

Why is it so difficult to follow Christ’s commands? Why is it so hard to love your enemies, to not judge, to show mercy, to not seek accolades, to not worry…?

What do you think is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Look up Scripture references to support your answer.

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unchristian: reframing our faith through choosing tribulation (part 2)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Life is made up of a myriad of choices…what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, which way to drive to work, who to marry. But as Aaron shared last week your most important decision is what road to choose – the narrow or broad one. The narrow road, which leads to life, is a difficult road with many dangers. How can you “check the road that you are on”? What is the best way to guard against false prophets? How can you know what your fruit is?

SCRIPTURE

13Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:13-23

GROUP QUESTIONS

Have you ever been “taken in” by someone who wasn’t who you thought they were? If you’re comfortable sharing, briefly tell your story to your group.

Read Matthew 7:13-23. Why does Jesus give a warning about false prophets immediately after talking about narrow and broad roads?

There is great difficulty in recognizing false prophets because they disguise themselves like sheep. Read the following passages and list the ways you may be able to identify a false prophet:

  • Matthew 7:16
  • Romans 16:17-18
  • 2 Timothy 4:3-4
  • I John 4:3
  • Jude 1:4,8,10,16,19

What is the fruit of false prophet (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 10, Deuteronomy 13:1-5)?

What is the fruit of obedience (Galatians 5:22-23)?

One of the most sobering statements Jesus makes is in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” According to the verse, what is the difference between those who will and those who will not enter heaven?

When Jesus says, “the will of my Father”, what do you think He is referring to?

APPLICATION

Do you know the fundamentals of the faith…those beliefs that are non-negotiable for Christ-followers? These are essential if you are to watch out for false prophets. If you don’t know what you believe, read through the Apostles’ Creed below. Study any of the doctrines contained in it that you don’t understand.

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

If you are firm in your beliefs, check the road that you are on. Ask the Spirit for wisdom in discerning true doctrine from false doctrine. Use a spiritual compass -who is at your North, South, East, and West? Your North is someone who is speaking God’s truth into your life. Your East and West are those you do with, who hold you accountable to live a life obedient to Christ. Your South is someone who is either a new believer or not yet a believer to whom you can speak truth.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the Book of Jude (one chapter), an urgent letter written to expose false teachers (prophets) and encourage believers to fight for truth. In verses 4 and 8, what were the false teachers doing?

Jude describes the false teachers in a number of ways. Beside the phrases below, use your own words to describe these people.

  • blemishes at your love feasts
  • shepherds who feed only themselves
  • clouds without rain, blown along by the wind
  • autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted
  • wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame
  • wandering stars
  • grumblers and faultfinders

What is the end result for these false teachers (verses 14-15; see also 2 Peter 2:1-9)?

In light of the fact that there are false teachers in the Church, what does Jude tell believers to do in verses 20-23? What does it mean to “keep yourselves in God’s love”? List some specific ways you can do this.

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unchristian: reframing our faith through choosing tribulation (part 1)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Jesus began to summarize the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12 – we must choose between giving in to our selfish desires or choose to follow Him and think of others first. In Matthew 7:13-14, He reveals another choice: choose the narrow gate/road or the wide gate/road. Choosing the narrow road means choosing to be poor in spirit, to mourn over sin, to put yourself second, to hunger and thirst to have right standing with God, to overflow with mercy, to have an unmixed heart, to be a peacemaker, to suffer persecution for the sake of the Savior, and to be salt and light. It also means choosing to make heavenly things a priority over earthly things, being willing to trust God with everything, choosing humility instead of judgment, and praying with perseverance. Which road will you choose?

SCRIPTURE

13Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:13-23

GROUP QUESTIONS

When you travel, how do you navigate? By GPS, phone, or physical maps? How do you decide on the route you will take?

Read Matthew 7:13-23. This week Aaron focused on the narrow and broad roads in verses 13-14. The word for enter carries a sense of immediacy – enter NOW! Why is it important to choose your road now?

The Greek word for narrow in the original language can be translated afflict, narrow, throng, suffer tribulation, trouble. Though the narrow road is difficult, it does lead to life. Why is it so challenging for some to choose the narrow road?

Our culture asserts that there are many ways to Heaven. It is considered intolerant to believe that there is only one way. Read John 10:9, John 14:6, and Acts 4:12. What do these verses claim? Why do people resist the idea of only one way to Heaven?

Despite the fact that the narrow road is difficult and can bring tribulation, Christ-followers do experience many good things in this life. Read the following verses, and list how God blesses us:

  • Isaiah 40:29-31
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Matthew 6:31-32
  • John 10:10
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • Philippians 4:19
  • James 1:5

APPLICATION

If you haven’t already, make a decision to follow Jesus on the narrow road this week. Read through the Romans passages below to help.

If you’re already on the narrow road, share the Good News of Jesus this week with someone on the broad road.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

According to these verses, what are the steps on the narrow road to salvation? (These passages are often called The Romans Road To Salvation.)

  • Romans 3:23
  • Romans 3:10-18
  • Romans 6:23
  • Romans 5:8
  • Romans 10:9
  • Romans 10:13
  • Romans 5:1
  • Romans 8:1
  • Romans 8:38-39

Christ-followers receive good gifts in this life, and even more in eternity. Read Ephesians 1:3-14, and list some of the many blessings received:

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unchristian: reframing our faith through God’s goodness

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

As you read the passage below, you may be tempted to think that Jesus is giving you carte blanche – everything you ask for you will receive! Most who have been Christ-followers for a long time know that this is not the case. God is not a genie who grants our wishes (prayer requests). Sometimes you continue to have financial troubles…the person you are praying for isn’t healed…your child continues to ignore all things related to God…you lose your job with nothing looming on the horizon. Regardless of our circumstances, God is still our good, good Father. Do you trust your Him to give you “good and perfect” gifts (James 1:17)?

SCRIPTURE

7Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:7-12

GROUP QUESTIONS

If your prayers were recorded for others to read (like a Psalm), what would people learn about your view of God?

Read Matthew 7:7-12. Keeping in mind that the Sermon on the Mount continued to build on each statement Jesus made, discuss what you believe Jesus meant in verses 7-8.

Ask…seek…and knock” implies a process that intensifies. According to the Disciple’s Study Bible, “Asking suggests dependence; seeking suggests yearning; knocking suggests persistence.” Does this characterize your prayer life?

Aaron spoke on Sunday about how our prayers should be done humbly, expectantly, and persistently. Look up the following verses and write down other attitudes God is looking for in your prayers:

  • John 14:13-14
  • John 15:7-8
  • 1 John 5:14-15
  • James 4:2-3

A. Carson writes that, “What is fundamentally at stake is man’s picture of God. God must not be thought of as a reluctant stranger who can be cajoled or bullied into bestowing his gifts (Matthew 6:7-8), as a malicious tyrant who takes vicious glee in the tricks he plays (Matthew 7:9-10), or even as an indulgent grandfather who provides everything requested of him. He is the heavenly Father, the God of the kingdom, Who graciously and willingly bestows the good gifts of the kingdom in answer to prayer.” (Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7: 1982, Baker Pub Group) Of these four views of God, which one most matches your view of Him? Does your view need to change?

APPLICATION

In his devotional on prayer (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/plan-for-prayer), John Piper said the following:

If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it. Therefore, my simple exhortation is this: Let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Try some new venture with God. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you.

This week, put Piper’s encouragements into action. Plan time for prayer, and see what your good, good Father has in store for you.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 Because God’s character is good, He desires to give us good things. What are the some of the things He promises when we call on Him?

  • Psalm 50:14-15
  • Matthew 7:11
  • John 16:23-24
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • 1 Peter 5:7
  • Hebrews 4:16

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said that the Law and the Prophets were summed up by what we call the “Golden Rule”. How does the “Golden Rule” relate to the Law and the Prophets? (See Matthew 22:36-40.)

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unchristian: reframing our faith through humility

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Ray Pritchard, president of Keep Believing Ministries, stated that “Fault finding is the ‘venom of the soul’. It destroys our joy, drains our happiness, and prevents us from having close friendships.” Richard Strauss, author of “Getting Along With Each Other”, believes that “negative criticism is a poison that kills the enthusiasm of Christian leaders and hinders the progress of God’s work. It is a contagious disease that spreads among God’s people, and can turn a loving community of believers into a battleground.” It is no wonder that Jesus tackled hearts that judge in the Sermon on the Mount! How can you live with an attitude of humility rather than a judgmental spirit?

SCRIPTURE

1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:1-6

GROUP QUESTIONS

Discuss a time when your first impression of someone was completely wrong.

Read Matthew 7:1-6. What does Jesus say will happen to you if you judge others? What does this mean?

Many interpret “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” to mean that we should never judge others. Read the following passages, and discuss whether this is an accurate interpretation.

  • Matthew 7:5
  • Matthew 7:15-20
  • Matthew 18:15-20
  • John 7:24
  • 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

Read 1 Corinthians 4:5. Who, ultimately, judges all mankind? What makes Him the best judge (see 1 Samuel 16:7, 2 Timothy 4:8)?

Joe titled his sermon, “unchristian: reframing our faith through humility”. What does humility have to do with judging others?

APPLICATION

How do you judge others? Read through the list below, marking the ways that you tend to judge (write in any that you do that aren’t listed):

  • Unnecessary criticism
  • Jumping to negative conclusions
  • Not seeing the whole picture
  • Setting up your own standards for others
  • Condemning others
  • _____________________________________________________________
  • _____________________________________________________________
  • _____________________________________________________________

Ask Jesus to forgive you for judging others, and to replace your judging spirit with a humble spirit.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 Read Matthew 7:2. This is the third time in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus uses this structure. Read Matthew 5:7 and 6:14-15. What principle is being taught here (hint – see Matthew 7:12)?

The Sermon on the Mount, just like the Beatitudes, are not just a collection of ideas. They are interconnected, with each section building on the last. Jesus spoke about pure motives for giving, praying, and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18), then about making Heaven our priority in where we store our treasure (Matthew 6:19-24), then about trusting God by not being anxious (Matthew 6:25-34), and now about humility – not placing ourselves in God’s place by judging others. What connects each of these passages?

Matthew 7:6 is a difficult verse to understand. Many commentators believe that it speaks to the idea of not wasting words (particularly the gospel) on those who will not hear them. Read the following verses and discuss how this action was carried out by the disciples and the Apostle Paul:

  • Matthew 10:5-15
  • Acts 13:44-51
  • Acts 18:5-6

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