Sow (part 2): Shared

TO START

Tell your group a story about a time as a kid when you were forced to share something you didn’t want to share. Or when you thought you were going to hate sharing and actually liked it.

 

TO DISCUSS

What does it mean to “share”? Think of examples of things you might share. How does that terminology shape our understanding of what’s happening when we give our money?

This Sunday we said, “Generosity isn’t just giving something away but sharing it.” Have you ever had the privilege of sharing in the fruit of your giving? Share stories.

Consider the things you get to share in because of your RRCOC giving. Make as long a list as you can come up with. Then pray thanksgiving over the list.

Do you sometimes struggle to give without strings attached or do you only give when the money will be used in a specific way you want it used? How much “say” should we expect when it comes to our giving? Are we only supposed to give when we get to share in the enjoyment of our sacrifice?

 

TO READ

Read Acts 4:32-35.

  • What precipitated the Christians’ eager giving?
  • What was the result of their giving?
  • What can we learn about giving from this example?

Read I Timothy 6:17-19.

  • Not only do we get to share in our giving here and now, what other long term benefits are there to our generosity?
  • What is “the life that is truly life”?
  • How might putting our hope in wealth hogtie our generosity? How does putting our hope in God change the way we handle money?

 

TO PRAY

Tonight, pray what David prayed after the people gave generously. Read I Chron. 29:10-14 aloud together:

“Praise be to you, Lord,

   the God of our father Israel,

   from everlasting to everlasting.

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power

   and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,

   for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;

   you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you;

   you are the ruler of all things.

In your hands are strength and power

   to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks,

   and praise your glorious name.

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

 

Sow (part 1): Resolved

TO START

Did your parents or grandparents talk to you about their church giving growing up? What did you know about how much other people gave to church? Did you grow up assuming one day you would give a significant portion of your income to God?

If you didn’t grow up going to church, how did you react when you first realized you were “supposed to” give?

 

TO READ

Read back over the text from the sermon this Sunday, 2 Corinthians 9:1-11.

  • What new things do you notice?
  • What’s challenging?
  • What gives you hope?

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, “We’re ambitious about a lot of things. God teaches us to be ambitious about something unexpected: our generosity.”

Was that new or challenging to you?

What does it mean to be ambitious when it comes to giving?

Do you have goals you’re working toward achieving in your giving?

Have you ever met anyone who seemed ambitious in their giving? How’d you know?

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

What does that mean? Is it a promise?

Drawing from 2 Corinthians chapter 9, Justin said giving should be personal (“Give what you have decided…” AND planned (”...what you have decided in your heart to give”).

    What do you need to do in light of these two truths in order to grow in your giving?

Have you ever struggled to trust God with your money? What’s the hangup? Do you think you might have a problem believing God IS as powerful as He says He is?

  •     How might practicing thanksgiving now enable trust in the future?
  •     What’s another way we can grow in trust?

Here’s how we said giving works according to God: You give, God takes care of you, God enables more generosity.

Have you experienced this cycle personally? Share with the group.

In verse nine of 2 Corinthians chapter 9 we read, “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Justin asked us Sunday, “What else of yours endures forever?”

How does that strike you--the realization that generosity has eternal consequences, that it builds enduring monuments?

Do you ever think of giving as throwing money away? Or that when you give your money disappears? What lies like those do you hear in your head?

We said in the sermon, “The best way to waste a seed is not to plant it.”

Does that image of money as seed help you at all?

What does it suggest?

End group by challenging members to make ambitious giving goals this week. Don’t ask anyone to share the particulars but do encourage everyone to let the group know when they’ve made a goal. Accountability helps. :)

 

TO PRAY
This week ask God to lead you into ambitious giving. You might discuss some of the hurdles you’re facing as you try to give better/more consistently/more generously. Ask God to help you overcome them.

 

EXTRA

Hop on the website ilikegiving.com to watch videos and read stories of people who’re passionately pursuing generosity. Pick one to watch with your group.

Bad Plan (part 4): Reason To Fear

TO START

What are you afraid of? Big or little.

(If you want, you can play a game. Read a list of things people might be afraid of and have group members stand if they’re afraid of that thing.)

Which of your fears are ridiculous/unreasonable?

Which fears are more valid?

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we looked at one of the most well-known of all the stories in the Bible. Did you notice anything you hadn’t noticed before as we considered not the story of David and Goliath but rather the story of Saul and Goliath?

  • Do you feel like you understand Saul? Do you relate to him? If so, how?
  • What do you imagine he was feeling as Goliath mocked him, his army, and his God?

We said Sunday, “Saul ends up living in fear because he’s exempted himself from God’s power.” How did that happen? What did Saul do to separate himself from God?

Have you ever exempted yourself from God’s power by distancing yourself from God’s presence?  What did that look like?

What role does pride play in fear? Has your pride ever stirred up fear in you? Share an example.

We concluded in the sermon, “Fear reigns where God doesn’t.”

  • Think of some things we could let reign instead of God. Make a list.
  • Why might putting that thing/person/pursuit in charge lead to fear?

According to our discussion of this passage, God’s presence enables courage. If that’s true, when does fear make sense? When does fear not make sense?

Share a time when you were afraid for no good reason. How did you come to realize you didn’t need to fear anymore?

Consider this quote from Samuel Johnson about courage: “Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other. “

What do you think? Is it true? Why or why not?

We said Sunday, Obedience makes you brave.

What does that mean? Why is that true? What’s so inspiring about obedience?

Share a time when knowing you were acting in obedience to God gave you courage.

Right now, what do you wish you were brave enough to do? What’s holding you back?

 

TO READ

Read Matthew 14:22-33

What does Jesus tell the apostles when they cry out in fear?

What’s the relationship between fear, courage, God’s presence and obedience in this story?

What inspires courage?

 

TO PRAY

How does this prayer (the one we said together on Sunday) make you feel?

  • Is this a prayer you need to pray? Why or why not?
  • Is it one you’ve prayed before (in one way or another)? If so, share how you saw it answered.

Father in heaven,

I’m sick of living in fear.

I crave the courage that comes from your presence.

I pledge to do your will. To seek your face.

And as I do, make me brave because I’m not alone.

 

Bad Plan (part 3): No Turning Back…?

TO START

Here are a few ways to check in with your group and see how everyone’s doing. Most groups already use one of these methods (but just in case…):

  • Pits and Peaks--Have each member share one good and one bad thing that happened this week.
  • God sightings--Have members share one way they saw God working this week, either in their lives or in the life of someone close
  • Do-Over--If you could undo one thing you did this week, what would it be?
  • Shout Outs--Have members share times when they experienced God’s love through another person

 

TO DISCUSS

How many of your group members were familiar with the story about Saul we shared on Sunday? Retell it together as a group. You might decide to take a second look at the text together. You’ll find it in I Samuel 14:36-45.

As you read (or remember) this story, does anything stick out as weird, confusing, interesting or challenging?

We said on Sunday that sometimes “you’re working a bad plan, you have an opportunity to change strategies, and you don’t. Or won’t. Or think you can’t. “

Have you ever had a moment like that? When you knew you were in the middle of a bad plan but kept going anyway?

Consider the following light-hearted bad plan categories:

-Home repair

-Fashion/hairstyles

- Big purchases

What about something more consequential?

Have you ever had a time when you realized you were going the wrong way and succeeded in changing direction? What was hard about it? Were you glad you did? Why/why not?

Justin said in the sermon, “The only thing worse than a bad plan is an inability or an unwillingness to admit that it’s a bad plan and change direction.”

Would you say you’re a person who’s willing to change? Would your spouse/best friend/kids say that about you?

What characteristics does a person who’s willing to change have?

In the Bible, when a person’s working a bad plan, realizes he has a bad plan and decides to stop and follow a better plan, that’s called repentance. Consider the following repentance messages from Jesus:

  • Matthew 4:17
  • Mark 1:15
  • Luke 3:8
  • Luke 5:32
  • Luke 24:46-47

What was Jesus asking people to do when He asked them to repent?

What might get in the way of us being willing to repent?

If these three roadblocks don’t come up, be sure to add them to your list:

  • Pride
  • Fear of consequences
  • Laziness

How might pride, fear or laziness hold you back from necessary redirection? Think of a specific example.

It’s a gift whenever someone tells us we’re in the middle of a bad plan. Share a time when you received re-directing counsel.

We said again and again of Sunday, It’s never too late to go the right way.

Do you feel like that’s true? Not, do you know/believe it’s true. Do you feel it? Why or why not? Have you ever felt like in this one instance, it actually was too late? Share with the group.

 

TO READ

This week, take some time to read about “plans” in the book of Proverbs:

Prov. 20:18

Plans are established by seeking advice;

   so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

Prov. 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course,

   but the Lord establishes their steps.

Prov. 15:22

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Prov. 14:22

Do not those who plot evil go astray?

   But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

Prov. 21:30

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.

What do we learn about our plans (making them, following them, expecting them to work…) from these passages?

 

TO PRAY

Prayers of repentance are always good prayers. Tonight, ask God to redirect you, to show you where you need to make a change. If you know you need to make a change, share it with your group. Ask for help and accountability.

 

Bad Plan (part 2): I've Got This, God

TO START

Play a game of Simon Says. It will be so much more fun if you have a good prize for the winner. :)

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we looked at a story from the life of Saul told in I Samuel 13:6-14. Retell it together as a group or re-read it. 

What jumps out to you about this story?

What does Saul get wrong here?

 

We said in the sermon, God’s plan is better than your plan—true, but hard to get our heads around sometimes.

 

Do you usually think your plan is a good plan? Why? What qualifies you for making plans? (This isn’t a rhetorical questions. In lots of ways you’re more qualified to make plans for your life than almost anyone else. Count the ways.)

 

What qualifies God to be the plan maker? Make a list of reasons He’s good at making plans for our lives. 

 

Have you ever thought your plan was better than God’s plan? Maybe you didn’t necessarily say that out loud, maybe you just lived like your plan was a better plan than God’s plan. Share a time when you overruled God’s command in favor of your own wisdom. 

How did that play out? Would you do it again? 

 

Think of a time when you bristled at God’s plan or thought is seemed a little ridiculous but decided to follow it anyway. How did it go? 

 

What has your experience following God’s plans taught you about God? About yourself?

 

Have you ever made an excuse when you chose not to obey God’s plan? Share some of your favorite excuses. What kinds of reasons do we give God for disobedience?

 

Maybe you’re asking, How do I distinguish my plan from God’s plan? God doesn’t talk to me like He talked to Saul. 

Is that true—that Saul’s message from God is somehow clearer or more comprehensive than your message from God? How does God talk to you today? 

What can you do to become a better listener?

 

We said on Sunday that there are two big motivations to follow God’s plan:

A desire to experience the goodness of God’s plan 

A holy fear of the punishment that comes when we reject it

 

Which one is more powerful motivation for you? Why? 

Do you bristle at either of those motivations? Is either one hard to understand/come to terms with/visualize? 

 

TO READ

Psalm 119:30-40

How does the Psalmist feel about God’s commands?

Why does he love them so much?

What does he mean by this statement: “I run in the path of your commands”? Why use the word “run” as opposed to “walk”?

 

TO PRAY

Are you struggling in any way right now as you try to live out God’s plan for you? Share with your group. Ask for prayers for faith, courage, and strength.

Are you wondering what God’s plan for you might be in a certain area of life? Ask the group to pray for your clarity and wisdom. Be open to God using your group members to speak truth. 

Bad Plan (part 1): No Thanks, God

 

TO START

How about a round of “Never would I ever”? Have each group member write on an index card one job they would never ever want to do. Collect the cards, mix them up and read them aloud all the way through once. Then, have all group members try to guess which job goes with which person.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we considered God’s anointing of Saul to become the first king of Israel. Though God was certain Saul was the man for the job, Saul wasn’t exactly. Retell the story together. How did Saul react to being chosen by God for this role?

Can you think of any other men or women in the Bible who bristle at or run away from God’s calling or command? Share.

Read together Exodus 4:10-14.

“Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…”

Why does the Lord’s anger burn toward Moses? Why do you think it bothers God so much that Moses doesn’t want to do what God’s asking him to do?

Has God ever asked you to do something you didn’t feel capable of doing? Have you ever tried to get out of following Him as He’s commanded? Share. Consider that sometimes we do this with 1. opportunities to serve God and sometimes we do this with 2. the righteousness God commands.

What might God be calling you to do right now? If you have something, share with the group.

If you’re uncertain, how could you go about figuring it out? How do we discover/identify the areas into which God is calling us?

Ask the group if anyone has a “calling story”--a story about a time when God pushed them to do something outside their comfort zone.

  • How did they know they were being called?
  • How did they know what God wanted?
  • How did they respond?

The subtitle for this new sermon series is this: When life hands you lemons, sometimes it’s because you planted a lemon tree.

How does that make you feel? How would you react to a friend who addressed those words to you? Have you ever seen that play out in someone else’s life? Why might we be reluctant to embrace it as a reality in our own lives?

How do we know if we’re working a bad plan? What’s our job when the people around us are working a bad plan? How do we best help?

 

TO PRAY

As a group consider the prayer we shared on Sunday:

Heavenly Father,

If you have something for me to do, show me. If it’s important to you, make it important to me. Help me live bigger. Bigger than now, bigger than me.

Give me courage to embrace your calling.

I refuse to refuse.

  • Is this prayer hard for you to pray or no?
  • Have you prayed a prayer like it before?
  • Have you ever had a prayer like this answered in an uncomfortable/challenging way?

 

 

FOR FUN

We started off this week’s sermon with the whale video. Here’s a link in case some of your group members missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVVW8BferzQ

That’s it. No discussion questions related to it. We just didn’t want anyone to miss it. :)

 

Defying Gravity (part 4): Your Turn

TO START

Christmas is on its way! Take a minute to discuss Christmas plans with your group. Will you meet over the holidays? Do you want to share a holiday meal together? Do you want to band together and serve someone in need this Christmas season? Make some plans!

As we’re in a sermon series about how to beat sin, you might take some time tonight to share your holiday temptations--behaviors you’re especially drawn to this time of year. What sins are you most likely to dip into come holiday season? How could your small group help you shore up against temptation?

 

TO DISCUSS

This Sunday we talked about repentance (with a dash of confession).

  • What does it mean to repent?
  • What does repentance do?
  • Have you ever witnessed someone’s obvious and significant repentance? What did it look like? How were they different?

Repentance requires us to ask the question, “What do I need to do because of what I’ve decided?”

  • Which are you better at--deciding or doing? Is it harder for you to decide to make better choices OR harder to actually do it after you’ve decided?
  • What’s something you’ve decided lately that you need to get busy doing?

Repentance requires us to admit we’ve been wrong. How good are you at admitting you’re wrong? Is it easier or harder when the “person” you’re talking to is God? What helps you to see yourself clearly?

Turning away from sin is always scary.

  • Why do you think that is?
  • Do you have a story of a time when you felt like repentance was risky?

We said on Sunday, “We have a clear picture of the consequences of repentance, but a very foggy picture of the consequences of sin.” Repentance may very well cost you something. You may have to reveal a sin that’s been covered. You may open yourself up to shame or judgment. You may have to give up something you really enjoy doing. You may have to end a relationship.

  • Share examples of the consequences of repentance you’ve faced in the past. Was repentance worth it?
  • What about the times you didn’t repent? What were the consequences of choosing against repentance and sticking with sin?

Do you regularly practice confession to God?

  • If so, what do you find valuable or productive about confession?

  • If not, what might be keeping you from confessing your sins to God? How do you overcome those hurdles?

Likely there a few folks in your group who could really use some accountability as they pursue repentance. Give group members a chance to confess past failures and say how they want to DO better.

 

TO READ

Read Jonah chapters 3:1-10 and 4:1-2.

  • What does repentance look like for the city of Nineveh? Identify the steps they take.
  • What can we learn about repentance from the way they repent?
  • How does God react to their repentance?

 

TO PRAY

Consider David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51:1-17. Read it together as a prayer.

Defying Gravity (Part 3): Reliant

TO START

To start group, share your Thanksgiving pits and peaks (bad and good moments). Did anything great happen? Anything terrible/awkward/sad? Share it with your people. Perhaps a prayer will make sense after you’ve shared.

TO DISCUSS

Have you ever tried to combat temptation on your own?

  • Share some of the ways that played out.
  • How did it leave you feeling?
  • Were you effective in beating sin?

On Sunday we said that one powerful way of dealing with the temptation to sin is to remember that our sins (and our temptations) are NOT our identity. We are not our sin.

● Have you ever felt defined by one of your sins? How did it feel? What did it lead to? Were you more or less likely to embrace that sin? Share with the group.

Psychology professor Peter Herman has coined the term “false hope syndrome.” He says, when someone makes a resolution that is completely out of alignment with what they really believe is possible or how they view themselves, this not only leads to failure but a great despondency.

  • Have you ever tried to do something you honestly thought was impossible? Did your experience line up with Herman’s findings?
  • What does that mean when it comes to our ability to beat sin and overcome temptation? What do we have to believe about sin in order to overcome it?

In the sermon Justin said, we tend to see struggles with sin as a matter of self control, but they’re a matter of the Spirit’s empowerment. So, how do we empower the work of the Spirit in us?

  • Is this something you struggle to understand? If so, ask some questions of your group. What do you want to know?
  • Group members with some wisdom, share ways you actively rely on God to overcome sin.

  • Make a solid list with at least five practical ways to seek and depend upon God’s power in our battle with sin.

TO READ

Read I Corinthians 10:12-14.

  • Is it helpful to you to know that your temptations aren’t unique? Do you feel like your temptations are unique? Why do you think God tells us they aren’t?
  • What is God’s promise to us in temptation?

Read Galatians 5:16-25.

  • When you walk by the Spirit what grows in you?
  • What does a person walking by the Spirit not do?
  • What does it mean to “walk by the Spirit”?

TO PRAY

Here’s a prayer for moments of temptation (rooted in scripture) you might share with your group. You could even pray it aloud together:

Dear Lord,
You know the temptations I am facing today. I need your help in this battle. My flesh is weak, so I need your help and the power of your Holy Spirit to fill me with strength.
Your Word promises that I will not be tempted beyond what I can bear. I ask for your strength to stand up against temptation each and every time I encounter it.
Help me stay awake so that temptation won't catch me by surprise. I want to keep on praying so that I won't be dragged away by evil desires. Help me keep my spirit well fed with your Holy Word so that I always remember that greater are you, Almighty God, who is living in me than any power of darkness and sin that is in the world.
Your Word also tells me you will provide a way of escape from temptation. Please, Lord, give me the wisdom to walk away when I am tempted, and the clarity to see the way out that you will provide. Thank you, God, that you are a faithful deliverer and that I can count on your help in my time of need.
In the name of Jesus, I pray,
Amen.

TO DO

If last week you shared some of the sins you’re struggling to overcome, consider taking time this week to create reliance plans. What would it look like to rely on God when you’re tempted to engage in your favorite/choice/besetting sin? Think of specific examples together as a group. 

Defying Gravity (part 2): Washed

As it's Thanksgiving week there's a good chance your group won't be meeting. If you do, here are a few ways to spend your time together in a meaningful way:

1. This week we talked about baptism as the moment in which God washes us of our sin. Have group members each share their baptism story.

  • What lead you to make that decision?
  • Where were you?
  • How old were you?
  • Who helped lead you to that moment?
  • What do you remember remarkably clearly?
  • What can't you remember?
  • How has life been different since that moment?

If you have group members who haven't been baptized, be careful not to ostracize, but remember that telling these stories is a powerful tool for helping them understand the blessing of a relationship with God. 

2. Throw a Thanksgiving feast! Do a big potluck meal. Go around the table and ask, "What new thing are you thankful for this year?" Or maybe "What hard thing have you found reasons to be thankful for this year?"

3. Spend your week in prayer for one another.

  • Try and remember some of the things you've asked God for as a group over the past months or years. What prayers has your group seen answered? Thank God for those answers, reminders of His work and presence.
  • Pray a few of the thanksgiving Psalms. Read them aloud together and address them to God. Consider this list: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/psalms-of-thanksgiving

 

Defying Gravity (part 1): Insidious

TO START

This week we’ll be talking about sin, our arch enemy. 

Make a list of superhero/villain or good guy/bad guy pairings. For each one, list both the villain’s most powerful weapon and the method the good guy (girl) uses to defeat it. Look for pointers in your battle against sin.

 

TO DISCUSS

Sin is your worst enemy. Justin said in this week’s sermon, “We need to see sin the way God sees it--as a hated oppositional force, an arch enemy.” Perhaps you haven’t always thought of it like that. 

  • Who or what might you have considered an enemy in the past? 
  • Have you ever thought of sin as a friend? What kind of friend did sin turn out to be? 
  • What could we do to help ourselves remember that sin is our enemy and not our friend? Think of some practical suggestions for re-aligning yourself.

Do you take sin seriously? Or are there sins you don’t see as dangerous and choose to keep close/undeterred? 

Do you struggle to buy into this idea of “sin”? Share with the group why you think that might be. What might be preventing you from seeing sin as serious?

Sin is bigger than you making an isolated bad choice. Sin is a force that’s courting you and seeking control over you. Does that affect the way we should react to it or prevent it? If so, how?

Does seeing sin as immensely powerful change the way you understand personal guilt, temptation, or even salvation? Discuss.

On Sunday we said sin bullies, consumes, kills and condemns. 

  • Give an example of sin bullying you. What does that look like in real life?
  • Have you ever seen sin consume a life? How did that play out? 
  • In the end, the wages of sin are death. Think through this physically AND spiritually. How might sin lead to death?
  • Finally, we said sin condemns us to Christ’s judgment. Next week we’ll consider how Christ has made escape from that judgment possible. But for now, have you ever had to bear the weight of that condemnation? What does it feel like?

 

TO READ

If your group is up for it, take a look at these passages, all summaries of the reigns of Israel’s kings after Jeroboam, son of Nebat. What’s going on here? 

  • Is sin something we inherit? 
  • In what way is sin bigger than decisions in a moment? 
  • How might your sin affect the people who come after you? 
  • How might you be affected by the sin of the people who came before you?

I Kings 15:1-3

“In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom. He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been."

1 Kings 16:26 

“He followed completely the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.”

1 Kings 16:31 

“He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.”

1 Kings 22:52 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin.”

2 Kings 3:3 

“Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them.”

2 Kings 10:29 

“However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.”

2 Kings 13:2 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them.”

2 Kings 13:11 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them.”

2 Kings 14:24 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:9 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his predecessors had done. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:18 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:24 

“Pekahiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:28 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

 

TO PRAY

In some Baptist churches, those who’ve been separated from God by sin pray a prayer they call “The Sinner’s Prayer.” While we don’t see this moment in prayer as the place at which sins are washed away, we do believe in acknowledging our sins and asking God to lift them. Consider praying this portion of the sinner’s prayer (lines that are always applicable to our lives here on earth) together as a group: 

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer.”

 

TO DO

Homework: Look for the sin in your life. Where do you think the forces of sin and death might have taken territory in your heart? Make a list of your own, identifying places you’re most likely to give in to temptation, AND consider asking a friend or two to cast light on the sins you might be coddling or overlooking. You may decide to share one or two of these sins with your small group next week and have them pray for your freedom.

Adopted

TO START

This Sunday we talked about being the adopted children of God. Before we talk about what it means to be God’s children, what does it mean to you to be your parents’ child?

What are the perks/blessings of being the son or daughter of your physical father?

What kind of inheritance do you have (this could be material or in personality/character)?

 

TO READ

Read John 14:15-31.

Here, Jesus says he won’t leave the apostles as orphans. What does He mean by that?

What can we learn about our relationship with Jesus, the Father and the Spirit from this passage?

 

TO DISCUSS

Justin started his sermon this Sunday with a string of questions. Have you ever asked yourself any of these:

  • Do I belong?
  • Do I matter?
  • Am I truly loved?
  • Am I safe?
  • Is there hope for me?
  • Is my past always going to follow me?
  • Does what I’ve done make me unlovable?
  • Is everything really going to work out in the end?

Share which question you’re most likely to ask. Why do you think this question sticks in your teeth?

As you consider the idea of adoption, try as a group to list the benefits of having a family (vs not having one). List at least ten reasons it’s good to have a family.

Now consider reasons it’s good to be adopted by God. What benefits do you find in joining God’s family? Share your personal experience. You might revisit our list of questions above. How does adoption answer those questions?

Have you ever looked for belonging outside of God? Where have you gone looking? What makes belonging hard?

What does God do to help/enable belonging in His family?

We said on Sunday, “God can’t welcome you into his family unless you let Him.”

How do we let Him? What practical steps do we need to take?

End your discussion this week with a consideration of the call to be like our Father and adopt those in need of love, belonging and security.

Is there anyone in your group who might/should/could consider adopting a child? Do you know someone you should encourage to adopt?

What are the reasons why a person might adopt?

Are there legitimate reasons not to adopt? Which of our reasons are legitimate and which reasons represent excuses?

What is your group doing (in a personal or collective way) to take care of orphans?

 

TO PRAY

This week, pray for the four orphans our church has committed to pray for: Natalie, Jake, Nelly and Abe. Pray that they would find a home and a family.

Too, pray that God would soften hearts in our church family and lead a couple (or a couple couples) into a decision to adopt.

 

Skeptics Welcome (part 4): Self-ish

TO START

Give each group member a piece of paper and some crayons or markers. Have members draw a picture of themselves. Around the picture have them answer the question: Who am I?

Share your pictures.

How do we as humans determine our personal identity? What were some different ways your group chose to define themselves? How might you have defined yourself differently in middle or high school than you do now?

 

TO DISCUSS

We began our discussion of identity (from both a secular and spiritual perspective) by identifying two ways humans have historically defined themselves: in the context of community and through personal expression. Consider the following questions you answer every day.

  • What do I wear?
  • What do I eat?
  • What words do I say and not say?
  • What stories do I tell?
  • What do I drive?
  • What do I watch?

Do you make these decisions out of community identity or out of individual expression? What makes you come to that answer? Do you feel like one answer is more honorable or respectable than another?

If culture right now is saying, “What I want is who I am,” what might be problematic about that approach to identity?

  • Have you ever wanted something but decided it wasn’t who you were? Share.
  • Have you ever gotten confused and followed the path of identity in personal pursuit of wants and desires? Share with the group.

Identity is all about self-assertion. As Keller articulates it, “You are your individual dreams and desires, and your self-worth depends on the dignity you bestow on yourself.” Is that true? Does it work?

Consider Matthew 11: 28-30.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What is a yoke? (Answer: a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull).

If Jesus is asking us to accept a yoke to what is He comparing us?

How are we like oxen?

If we take Jesus’ yoke, how does that affect our ability to exercise personal expression? How much choice do oxen have in where and how they’ll plow?

What is the result of taking Jesus’ yoke? Have you had that experience? Share a time when you were under Jesus’ yoke (doing something you didn’t necessarily want to do personally) and yet discovered an "easy and light" manner of life.

 

TO READ

Read I Chronicles 17:16-27.

  • Who is Solomon according to this passage? How does he define himself?
  • What would it look like for Solomon to pursue his own self-actualization based on His understanding of what determines identity?
  • What can you learn about your own identity from this passage?

 

TO PRAY

Make a list together of unhealthy places you’ve sought identity. Then, pray this prayer of confession and realignment, inserting your list into the blank:

Lord, I pray that I would stop trying to find my identity in anything other than being Your child, a child of the King and a citizen in the Kingdom of God. Thank You for this amazing grace in my life! Lord, help me see the minute I start placing my identity in something else, like ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Help me in those moments to remember that nothing brings me peace and fulfillment  me the way You do. Help me rebuke my desires and remember to Whom I belong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

 

Skeptics Welcome (part 3): Hold the Magic

TO START

If God came down today and told you that one story in the Bible wasn’t actually true (honestly He couldn’t believe you’d ever actually bought it), which story would it be? Which is the “craziest” story in the Bible?

 

TO DISCUSS

In the sermon Sunday Justin mentioned that some of us have a very sensitive “magic meter”--meaning, some of us are quickly skeptical of things that don’t align with the rules of the natural world or our own personal experience.

  • Outside of the Bible, have you ever been in a situation when your magic meter went off, when a circumstance or conversation or TV show or entertainer or friend’s story lost you because it was too “magical”? Share with the group.
  • If you don’t have a particularly sensitive magic meter, why do you think that is? Is it ever a problem to be so open?

Have you ever personally been derailed (or tripped up) in your pursuit of Christ by the weirder, more miraculous/supernatural parts of the Bible? Share a Bible story or detail that got to you. Why was that so hard to believe?

As humans, we often feel like if we can’t explain it, it doesn’t exist. Does that make sense? Why or why not?

  • Make a list of things you personally can’t explain the inner workings of (but enjoy using or relying upon). Examples: wifi, gravity, Diet Coke

We said in the lesson, there is no Christianity without the supernatural. There is no God without the metaphysical. Is that true? Can’t we just take some Jesus and not the weird stuff? If not, why not?

What would it look like to live your life in a way that presumed (even required) the existence of the supernatural? How would you act differently than someone who didn’t believe in the supernatural?

How does it make you feel to know SO much is going on in realms outside our ability to perceive? Why do you think science might be more attractive than religious faith?

 

TO READ

Read Col. 2:8-15

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

  • What did Jesus triumph over on the cross? Is the cross a “magical” or “enchanted” or “supernatural” event? Is it possible to embrace the cross without embracing the supernatural?
  • What might “the elemental spiritual forces of this world” be? “Human tradition”? “Deceptive philosophy”?
  • Is Christ head over the natural world according to this passage? What does that mean, practically and specifically?

 

TO PRAY

So often we’re tempted to embrace the world as culture tells us it exists: reality is what we can see with our eyes. Tonight, with your group, commit to embracing a world bigger than the one we can see by praying 2 Corinthians 4:18. Just say these words together:

God, our Father, fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

You might decide to repeat them until you’ve got them memorized or have everyone write them on an index card. Encourage the group to pray this prayer every day this week.

 

Skeptics Welcome (part 2): Just One Rule?

TO START

Share a time when you were in High School and you and your parents/guardians disagreed over whether or not you deserved a certain freedom. What did you want to do? Why didn’t your parents want you to do it?

Do you feel differently about freedom now that you’re an adult?

Do you feel differently about freedom for you than you do about freedom for others?

 

TO DISCUSS

During this series Justin has encouraged us not to think in terms of “proving God” but rather “doubting our doubts.”

Which are you more likely to doubt--faith or culture? Do you find yourself applying the same standards for truth to both arenas?

Consider the following quotes from our lesson this week:

  • “Most of us in America believe a few simple propositions that seem so clear and self-evident they scarcely need to be said. Choice is a good thing in life, and the more of it we have, the happier we are. Authority is inherently suspect; nobody should have the right to tell others what to think or how to behave.” -Alan Ehrenhalt

  • “Let me be me, or let me be.”

  • “Let each person do their own thing, and ...one shouldn’t criticize the other’s values, because they have a right to live their own life as you do. The [only] sin which is not tolerated is intolerance.” -Charles Taylor

  • “Today as a culture we believe freedom is the highest good, that becoming free is the only heroic story we have left, and that giving individuals freedom is the main role of any institution and of society itself. It is, we could say, the baseline cultural narrative of our Western culture. It has always been important, but now it is ultimately important. It is the one truth that relativizes all other doctrines and beliefs.” -Tim Keller

Are these ideas familiar to you? Do you feel like any of those quotes represents the truth? In your gut, do you want them to be true--as in, do you ultimately want the freedom to dictate your own life?

Look back over your life, if you’d had ultimate freedom to do what made you happy, would you have made any big mistakes? Like what? Share a specific example.

Have you ever bumped up against someone else’s freedom (causing them to resent or attack you) OR had the consequences of someone else’s freedom bump up against you (inconveniencing or hurting you)? Share with the group.

Perhaps you’ve exercised freedom in a way that ultimately hurt others or separated you from meaningful community. Share that, too.

Why does doing what we deem to be right (and using that as the ultimate filter for behavior and decisions) push us away from others? Think through the consequences of a society based on that principle.

We ended Sunday by saying, “True freedom, and the joy that comes with it, awaits when you submit your will to God.”

  • Has that been your experience?

  • How can obedience bring freedom? Think of a specific example.  

 

TO READ

Read Psalm 119:33-48.

What, according to the Psalmist, are the benefits of adhering to God’s precepts and commands? Make a list.

 

TO PRAY

This Sunday we looked at Jeremiah’s prayer in Jeremiah 10:23-24,

“Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;

   it is not for them to direct their steps.

Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—

   not in your anger,

   or you will reduce me to nothing.”

  • Where do you want God to discipline you? Is there an area of your life where you’re exercising unhealthy freedom and self-direction? Confess it to your group and pray together for discipline.

Skeptics Welcome (part 1): Who Needs God?

TO START

A skeptic is “a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual or a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans,statements, or the character of others.”

Have members share whether they’re skeptical of the following polarizing statements by a show of hands. Raise your hand if you’re skeptical:

  • Aliens exist.
  • University of Texas football is poised to make a big turn around.
  • Forgiveness is always the right choice.
  • Miracles happen today.
  • Most politicians are genuine, honest, and have dignity.
  • You could win a car if you’d take the flyer you got in the mail saying you’d won a car to the local dealership. 
  • Essential Oils actually cure ailments.
  • Fracking pollutes water supplies. 
  • Modern societies will never engage in nuclear warfare.
  • Doing flashcards with your baby will make her smarter. 
  • Ice cream is bad for you.

In general, why are we skeptical of some things and not so skeptical about others? 

Would you say you’re naturally skeptical, gullible, or somewhere in the middle?

 

TO DISCUSS

On Sunday we said culture teaches us, “Christians are people living by blind faith, while secular individuals or those who don’t believe in God are grounding their position in evidence and reason.” 

  • Have you heard that before? Share an encounter.
  • Has that been your experience? Would you say you have blind faith? Have you had blind faith at any point?
  • What would you say your faith is built on?

Are you personally experiencing a season of skepticism when it comes to your faith? What are you questioning? Where do you find doubts creeping in? (As a group, try not to dismiss anyone’s doubts. Seek to first understand and empathize.)

In this first installment of the Skeptics Welcome series we considered the oft repeated statement: “You don’t need God to have a full life of meaning, hope, and satisfaction.” 

  • Is that true? Why or why not?
  • What would you say to someone who believed it? 
  • How does this perspective differ from the way a Christian understands meaning and satisfaction?

On Sunday we contrasted “Discovered Meaning” and “Created Meaning.”

  • What’s the difference?
  • Why is one better than the other?  

Have you ever created meaning? Tell the group about it. 

Have you ever discovered meaning? What was that like? 

What does a life of meaning, hope and satisfaction look like for the Christian? 

  • How does a Christian pursue it? 
  • What does he do, say, invest in, seek? 
  • How does she spend her time and money? 

 

TO PRAY & READ

Tonight, pray Psalm 27. As you read, change the text from talking about God to talking to God. 

 

TO WATCH

Consider this 10 minute interview between renowned atheist Richard Dawkins and comedian Ricky Gervais on the meaning of life.

  • What do you think about this perspective? 
  • What do you find compelling?
  • Where do you see inconsistencies?
  • Where do you have questions or opposition? 

How Much Is Jesus Actually Worth?

TO START

Have you ever spent money or time or some other resource in a way that seemed wasteful to others but was meaningful and worthwhile to you? Share with the group.

 

TO READ

This Sunday, our guest preacher, Zach Carstens, led us in a reading of John 12:1-11, pushing us to ask ourselves, “How much is Jesus actually worth?”

Re-read the text together. Identify the main players in the story.

  • What do we learn about Jesus here?
  • What do we learn about Judas here?
  • What do we learn about Mary here?

Is there anything in this story you don’t understand? Anything you find interesting or challenging?

Why do you think this story is in the Bible? What’s important about it? What do we need to see/know/do?

 

TO DISCUSS

Zach said on Sunday that church in America is on a reservation. He said, “We're tolerated but we need to stay in our place and not get in the way.” Has that been your experience? What does it mean to be a Christian in America right now? Is it hard? Is it inconvenient?

We said that in this story Mary's love matches Jesus' worth, and Judas' love (for money) contradicts Jesus' worth.

  • Is there anything you love that contradicts Jesus’ worth? Anything competing for your attention, loyalty, or devotion?

Consider the following questions from Zach:

  • What is Jesus actually worth to you?
  • Does your love for him match his value?
  • Does pouring out a year's wages as a gesture of your love seem insane to you?
  • Does letting Jesus have his way, even if it leads to war with Rome, seem insane to you?
  • Does trusting him blindly, taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the bank statements, seem insane to you?
  • Does going to war with our wicked culture seem too risky, too costly, to you?

Do any of those questions make you feel uncomfortable? Which one(s)? Why?

Have you ever had a Mary moment--a time when you got to show your love for Jesus in a dramatic and luxurious way? Do tell.

What about a Judas moment? Have you ever let some excuse get in the way of a powerful, heartfelt sacrifice?

 

TO PRAY

Make a list of things you love that are contradicting Jesus’ worth, loyalties getting in the way of you giving God your whole heart. Pray together as a group that God would overthrow those strongholds in your heart.

Be sure to tell Jesus you love Him in the prayer tonight.

 

TO WATCH

If you have some extra time, here’s a monologue delivered from the perspective of Mary about that moment when she washed Jesus’ feet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzoUPeac2hA

 

Better Together (part4): Growing Well

TO START

Share a time when a favorite restaurant, product, TV show, etc. changed in a way that made you stop going, buying or watching.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we talked on Sunday about how to grow well, how to stay with a church when it’s growing and changing.

As our church has grown over the years, what has been your experience? Have you struggled to stay on board? Do you enjoy the energy of growth? Is change taxing? Let’s not use this time to complain, but at the same time, this is a safe place to share some growing pains.

What binds us together as a church? What would be a good reason to leave your church?

Have you ever intentionally put up with something you didn’t like at church because of the promise you’d made to that church? Share.

Consider the following statements from Sunday’s lesson. Pick one that sticks out as challenging, as new information, or as something you’ve observed in action:

  • A growing church has to understand that in many cases, What worked then isn’t going to work now.
  • A church that refuses to grow is a church that rejects the mission of God.
  • Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have---and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.

How does this question strike you: Are we committed to being the church we’ve been? Or are we committed to being the church God is making us?

  • What’s the difference?
  • How can we partner with God in our church’s transformation?

 

TO READ

Read 2 Corinthians 3:18.

  • What does transformation look like?

  • What might ever-increasing glory look like in our church?

 

TO PRAY

Change isn’t just hard on a church, it’s hard on that church’s leadership--the people required to lead our church into change and weather the church’s sometimes fussy relationship to that change. Tonight in your groups pray for our elders and deacons and staff. Pray they’d have the wisdom and courage to lead us where God wants us to go.

You could also pray the prayer we prayed together on Sunday:

God, show us what’s next. Show us who’s next. Remind us that the mission is worth the change. You have a vision for this city. And I know it involves more than 15% of the people here knowing you. Burden us with your vision. And use us in bringing it to fruition. We’re up for whatever that means. We’re so glad you brought us here. And we don’t want it to end with us. And as you work in our midst, help us not just to grow, but to grow well.

 

Better Together (part 3): Look Out

TO START

Have you ever visited someone’s house and felt entirely out of place or uncomfortable? What was so different about being there? Tell the story to your group.

On the other hand, have you ever visited someone’s house for the first time and felt very welcome and comfortable? What did the homeowner do to make you feel that way?

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we’re talking about being focused on our mission to reach the people in our community who don’t yet know God.

On Sunday we said, “If we’re going to be the church, we’ve got to be focused on engaging people who aren’t yet a part of the church.” In the words of Acts 15:19, “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

  • How does a church focused on engaging the people who aren’t members differ from a church focused solely on its members? What do they do differently? How do they speak differently? What are their priorities? What aren’t their priorities?

Consider this quote from minister and author, Carey Niewholf:

“If you don’t have a friend on your arm and you fail to fight this with all you’ve got, you’ll end up evaluating your church through selfish eyes. People who don’t invite friends almost always evaluate their church through selfish eyes. You begin to run everything through a simple filter: do I like it? You judge songs and worship leaders based on your personal preference and make emotional decisions on whether you like a particular preacher or a series or a topic. You’ll look at everything from architecture, to dress, to style, to kids ministry to things as intangible as vibe as the basis for your decisions.”

  • Have you noticed this is to be true?
  • Do you find it convicting?

Are you regularly looking for people to invite to church?

What holds you back from inviting people to church?

What could make it easier? Knowing there are people who aren’t yet in a relationship with Jesus in our church building every Sunday, how do you feel like you could contribute to making them feel welcomed? Make a list of things we can personally do to reach them.

 

TO READ

Read I Corinthians 14:23-25.

  • Were there outsiders attending the worship of the first century church?

  • Why is prophecy the preferred gift for communicating to outsiders (as opposed to tongues)?

  • Can this kind of reaction happen in our church today when the word of God is spoken? Consider the letter from Denise Werner Justin shared on Sunday. What did she experience at our church?

 

TO PRAY

To do tonight: As a group, put together a list of people you could invite to church (If you can't think of anyone, let your group help you think of someone). Then pray over the names, asking God to open hearts and provide opportunities.

Prayer homework:

You might consider coming to church early one Sunday to pray over the seats. Walk up and down the aisles, maybe touching the seats, asking God to reach each person who sits in one. Pray that God would be present and working that Sunday, reaching those who need Him.  

 

Better Together (part 2): Gifted and Talented

TO START

Name one of your favorite gifts you've ever received.

Did you ever receive a gift only to find out you'd be expected to share it--with a sibling? with your classmates? with your spouse? How'd you feel? Do tell.

 

TO PRAY

Tonight you'll be exploring your spiritual gifts as a group. Before you jump into discussion, ask God to help you see clearly as you strive to identify your gifts and find ways to use them in the context of the body to His glory. 

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, when God gives you a gift, it's not just for you. Share a time when you saw someone using a gift God had given them for the good of the church and the glory of God. 

Do you sometimes find it hard to identify what gifts God has given you? If so, why do you think that is? What prevents us from being more confident in our gifting?

How might we go about growing our gifts and getting more confident in our ability to use them? What should we do if we think we might have a gift but know we need help developing it?

On Sunday we shared a list of possible spiritual gifts. Consider the list (attached to the bottom of today's discussion guide) together as a group (read through it together). Have each member share one gift they're sure they have, one they might have and one they definitely don't.

Next, encourage one another by identifying gifts your fellow members might have. When have you seen them using that gift? What potential do you see in them? Lift each other up and affirm the work God's doing. 

Now, consider your gifts, and brainstorm ways you could use them to bless others and glorify God. What should you be doing daily to put your gift into practice? What should you be doing at RRCOC? 

Consider the gifts you definitely do not have. What would it be like to be in a body with zero of that particular gift? 

 

TO READ

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

  • How does this text contribute to our understanding of spiritual gifts and their use in the church? 
  • Are there any insignificant gifts?
  • Do you ever wish the body had fewer of the weird parts? Do you ever feel like a weird part? 
  • Share an example of a time when you saw the truth (that we're better together) in action.

--

Consider this (not-at-all exhaustive) list of spiritual gifts, trying to identify which gifts you might have and which you definitely do not. Beside each gift, scribble one of these symbols:

  • !    This is 100% me. I’m great at this.
  • ?    This might be me. Either I haven’t had enough experience to know for sure, or I’m not very confident in my ability. Let me ask my friends…
  • :/     This probably isn’t me.
  • X     Nope.

Leadership

I am good at seeing what’s possible and inspiring other people to go there. The gift of leadership is the ability to influence people at their level while directing and focusing them on the big picture, vision, or idea.

Mercy

I feel compassion and empathy for people who are suffering. The gift of mercy is the ability to care for those who are hurting in any way.

Hospitality

I enjoy opening up my home and my life to other people. The gift of hospitality is the ability to create warm, welcoming environments for others. People with the gift of hospitality are flexible and able to embrace other people even when it’s inconvenient.

Friendliness

I want to make friends with new people. The gift of friendliness is the ability to connect with strangers quickly and meaningfully.

Administration

I am organized and enjoy figuring out logistics. The gift of administration is the ability to organize multiple tasks and groups of people to accomplish these tasks.

Creativity

I can’t help thinking of new ways to do things. The gift of creativity is the ability to imagine a multitude of possibilities and see beyond what’s been done before.

Service

I love to help. The gift of serving is the ability to do small or great tasks in working for the overall good of the body of Christ, often aiding in the achievement of another person’s vision.

Teaching

I regularly study the Bible and enjoy sharing what I learn with others. The gift of teaching is the ability to study and learn from the Scriptures, capably sharing insight that brings understanding and depth to other Christians.

Courage

I don’t shy away from doing or saying hard things. The gift of courage is the ability to do what needs to be done despite potentially harmful consequences to oneself.

Wisdom

People often come to me for advice. The gift of wisdom is the ability to understand and to bring clarity to situations and circumstances through applying the truths of Scripture in a practical way.

Wealth

I have more money than I need. The gift of wealth is the abundance of financial resources. Paired with a desire to be generous, this gift results in enabling the work of the church and the well being of its less fortunate members.

Peacemaking

I’m good at resolving conflict. The gift of peacemaking is the ability to bring people who disagree into agreement or harmony.

Craftsmanship

I like to work with my hands. The gift of craftsmanship is the ability to plan, build, and work with your hands in construction environments (or crafting).

Evangelism

One of my favorite things is to tell people the good news about Jesus. The gift of evangelism is the ability to help non-Christians take the necessary steps to follow Christ.

Prayer

I have a steady and healthy practice of meeting God in prayer. The gift of prayer is an ability to petition God on the behalf others. People who are gifted at prayer feel comfortable talking to God no matter the circumstance.

Encouragement

I affirm others and cheer them on. The gift of encouragement is the ability to strengthen, comfort or urge others to action through the written or spoken word and Biblical truth.

An additional filter for understanding how you might best bless this church:

I love to be around and work with (underline one or two of the following categories of people)...

Children        The elderly        The grieving        Those who’re in prison    

The poor        Teens            Young adults        Widows & widowers

Single mothers        Men            Women            Those don’t yet know Jesus

 

Better Together (part 1): One Another

FAMILY BUSINESS

Before you jump into discussion this week you might take some time out to do three things (these three things could potentially take up all your time together):

  1. If you haven’t been meeting over the summer, this week is a great chance to check back in and see where everyone is. Is everyone okay? Healthy? Stable? Consider doing “pits and peaks.” What were the highest and lowest moments of your summer?

  2. Make small group goals. What do you want to accomplish together this year? Do you want to meet more regularly? Do you want to pray for each other more? Do you want to serve together outside of group? Do you want to be more vulnerable with each other? Make a list of goals and consider steps for achieving them.

  3. Discuss our church’s need for small group leaders.Take a minute to say we’re looking for leaders and offer yourself as a resource to anyone even a little bit interested (as a small group leader you’re encouraged to mentor potential leaders. Our Connections Minister can provide you with resources). Leaders, if you would, share one reason you enjoy leading your group.

 

TO START

This Sunday we started a new series called “Better Together.” Justin said, “There are things we do together that we can’t do alone, and there are things we become together that we can’t become alone.”

To begin your discussion, separate into two teams: men and women. Set a timer for two minutes and write down as many answers to this question as you possibly can. Longest list wins. Share your answers.

What’s something you can’t do alone?

 

TO DISCUSS

Some social scientists argue that modern America is the most individualistic society ever to live. Have you seen evidence to support that? We said on Sunday, “We’ve found so many reasons and ways to put distance between ourselves.” Share some examples.

What do you think we’re missing in our efforts to distance ourselves from one another? Do you personally feel like you’re in need of more, deeper community? Do you notice people around you/coworkers/family struggling in isolation?

The New Testament is chock full of instructions on how and why to be together. Choose a few of these passages about how we treat “one another” to read aloud.

  • What’s significant about the high number of passages on this topic?

  • Why do you think God requires us to be together? What doesn’t following God alone work?            

  1. “...Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

  2. “...Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)    

  3. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)                    

  4. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)                            

  5. “...Love one another...” (John 13:35)    

  6. “...Love one another...” (John 15:12)    

  7. “...Love one another” (John 15:17)    

  8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...” (Romans 12:10)    

  9. “...Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)                

  10. “Live in harmony with one another...” (Romans 12:16)    

  11. “...Love one another...” (Romans 13:8)                            

  12. “...Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)    

  13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you...” (Romans 15:7)        

  14. “...Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)                             

  15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss...” (Romans 16:16)

  16. “...When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)            

  17. “...Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

  18. “...Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

  19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

  20. “...Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)                

  21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other...you will be destroyed by each other.”    (Galatians 5:15)

  22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

  23. “Carry each other’s burdens...” (Galatians 6:2)                         

  24. “...Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)            

  25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another...” (Ephesians 4:32)

  26. “...Forgiving each other...” (Ephesians 4:32)

  27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

  28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)            

  29. “...In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

  30. “Do not lie to each other...” (Colossians 3:9)

  31. “Bear with each other...” (Colossians 3:13)    

  32. “...Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

  33. “Teach...[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

  34. “...Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

  35. “...Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

  36. “...Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)    

  37. “...Encourage each other...”(I Thessalonians 4:18)    

  38. “...Encourage each other...” I Thessalonians 5:11)    

  39. “...Build each other up...” (I Thessalonians 5:11)    

  40. “Encourage one another daily...” Hebrews 3:13)    

  41. “...Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)    

  42. “...Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)    

  43. “...Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

  44. “Don’t grumble against each other...” (James 5:9)

  45. “Confess your sins to each other...” (James 5:16)

  46. “...Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

  47. “...Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

  48. “...Live in harmony with one another...” (I Peter 3:8)

  49. “...Love each other deeply...” (I Peter 4:8)

  50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

  51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others...” (I Peter 4:10)

  52. “...Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another...”(I Peter 5:5)    

  53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

  54. “...Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

  55. “...Love one another.” (I John 3:23)    

  56. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

  57. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:11)    

  58. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

  59. “...Love one another.” (II John 5)

Share a time when you personally benefitted from the togetherness of belonging to a church family. Be specific. Tell a story.

This week we read from Hebrews chapter 10. Verses 24-25 read, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

  • What are we supposed to not give up doing?

  • When does our church “meet together”? Is it your habit to join in that meeting and encourage others? Do you make church attendance a priority? Why might that be hard/inconvenient/not a priority for you?

  • What kinds of sacrifices have you made in order to “meet together” with your church? What kinds of sacrifices might God be calling you to make?                                     

 

TO PRAY

Consider the list of “one another” passages above. Pray them together. Add the words, “Help us to.”

For example:

God, help us to bear with each other.

Help us to encourage one another.

Help us to love one another.

Help us to live in harmony with one another.

Etc.

 

TO DO

Brainstorm as a group something good you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Make plans to do it.