GPS (Week 2) - Problems

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Discovering our GPS positions us to pursue God’s direction.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

I become more like Jesus when I have a godly passion for people facing ungodly problems.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This is our second week in the GPS series.  While we share a universal calling to become like Jesus, each of us has a unique personal calling that is our GPSGifts, Passions, and Story.  This week’s message focuses on our passions. We discover our calling when our passion is awakened to a problem God is passionate about. We must allow God to break our hearts for what breaks His. To discover our passion we should ask the question, “For what people is God breaking my heart?” It is important to understand that our hearts don’t break for problems, but they break for people. When we discover the people who break our hearts, we need to bring them to God by praying. After prayer, we should take action. Although we can’t do everything, we can do for someone what we wish we could do for all. By embracing our passion we are compelled to take action.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

What are people in your city struggling with? What about your region? What about your country? What about your world?

What are causes that are worth being passionate about? What are causes that are not worth being passionate about?

What is God passionate about? How can we allow God to break our hearts for what breaks His?

Are all causes that are worth being passionate about related to people? What happens if we focus on problems instead of people?

What happens when we pray to God about the people we have concerns about? Will prayer always lead to action? Should it?

How can you make a difference with the people you have a passion about? Do you know others who share your passion? Are you able to prayerfully share your passion with others and see what God does? Are you willing to take action even if no one else joins you?

How do your gifts align with your passions to make a difference with the people God cares for?

Other Scriptures to Read:

--1 John 3:11-18                         --Matthew 25:31-46

--Philippians 2:1-11                   --James 2:14-26

--Hebrews 13:1-16                    --John 15:9-17

GPS (Week 1) - Toolset

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Discovering our GPS positions us to pursue God’s direction.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

I become more like Jesus when I leverage my gifts for others.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This is our first week in the GPS series.  While we share a universal calling to become like Jesus, each of us has a unique personal calling that is our GPSGifts, Passions, and Story.  This week’s message focuses on our gifts.  We have natural gifts and supernatural gifts—all of which are sacred.  It is God who decides which supernatural gift each person should have and  the Holy Spirit distributes these spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11).  We must obey the Holy Spirit’s leading in the use of spiritual gifts not just rely on our feelings about what we would like to do.   Our spiritual gifts are given to us so we can help each other (1 Corinthians 12:7). We may be tempted into “gift envy” by comparing our gifts with others. The gifts enable us to be a force under people, not over them; connecting us with others without elevating us above them.   We become more like Jesus when we leverage our gifts for others.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “a calling”?   When did you first learn that God has a calling on the lives of those who follow Jesus (Romans 8:29)?  How did you respond to that truth?  Is there a particular area of your life that you recognize has been conformed more to the image of Jesus?

When you hear the term “gifted” what do you think of?  How do you decide if someone is gifted in any area of life?  What is the difference between natural and supernatural gifts? How do you tell the difference?

What is your initial reaction to the topic of “spiritual gifts”?  How has your understanding of spiritual gifts been influenced? 

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. Why do you think it might be tempting to compare our gifts with others?  What are some likely outcomes when comparison enters the picture? What is the purpose of these gifts?

How would you explain to someone what it means to “pursue the Giver, not the gift”?

Have you visited westsideleavenworth.com/gps or taken another kind of gifts assessment? 

Assessments should always lead to next steps…name some practical next steps.

Other Scriptures to Read:

--1 Corinthians 12:1-31                 --1 Peter 4:7-11

--Matthew 7:7-12                        --Ephesians 4:1-16

--Romans 12:3-10                       --2 Timothy 1:6-14

Like a Child (Week 4) - Think, Say, Do

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Receiving the life that Jesus offers means accepting His way of life like a child.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus, help me choose what is wise, right, and what honors You in everything I think, say, and do.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This is our final week to look at the value of simple, child-like faith in God’s kingdom. During the first weeks we discovered the truths that “God made me” “God loves me”, “Jesus wants to be my friend forever”, and “I can trust God no matter what.” This week we introduced the last two truths of “I need to make the wise choice” and “I should treat others the way I want to be treated.” Applying Proverbs 3:5-7 allows us to embrace our own limitations while choosing to trust God no mater what. Applying wisdom gives us direction and protection. Treating others the way we want to be treated is the right thing to do. We also want to honor Jesus with our thoughts, words, and actions. The new command of Jesus found in John 13:34 sums everything up: We should love others the way that Jesus has loved us.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

How do you think children feel when they are told to do something simply because their parent told them to do something? How hard is it for you to do something when you don’t understand why? Can you share an example from your family or from your work?

Read Proverbs 3:5-7. What is the most challenging part of these verses for you? Do you trust the Lord with ALL your heart or just part of your heart? What part of your heart has the most difficulty trusting God? Relationships? Health? Money? Something else? What does it mean to “shun evil”?

Is God trustworthy? In what ways does God direct us and protect us when we apply wisdom?

The “Golden Rule” establishes the gold standard of how to treat others. What are natural reactions to treating others when someone has mistreated us? How can we live out the Golden Rule in our real life?

What are things that Jesus has done for us? What should our response to Jesus be in light of everything that He has done? In light of this, Jesus challenged his disciples with a new command to love each other as He has loved us. What are the challenges of putting this new command into practice?

How are our thoughts, words, and actions related?  How can we honor Jesus with our thoughts, words, and actions?

Other Scriptures to Read:

--James 1:1-9                                --Matthew 6:25-34

--Proverbs 2:1-22                         --1 Peter 2:11-17

--Luke: 10:38-42                          --Hebrews 13:15-21

Like a Child (Week 3) - No Matter What

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Receiving the life that Jesus offers means accepting His way of life like a child.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

If I can trust Jesus with my salvation, then I can trust Him with (fill in this blank with YOUR issue).

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This is our third week to look at the value of simple, child-like faith in God’s kingdom. The first week we started with the basic foundation God made us and loves us.  Last week we talked about Jesus wants to be our forever friend, through the good times and the not so good times.  This week we look at the fourth truth, I can trust God no matter what.  As we go through life it is harder and harder to trust God with the situations we get into. In Mark 10, Jesus tells a story of a rich man asking what he needed to do to get into heaven.  Jesus tells him to obey all the commandments, which the young man had done since he was a child.  Jesus goes on to tell him to sell everything and give it to the poor, and to follow Jesus.  The young man couldn’t give up everything and trust Jesus.  It is impossible to be good enough to earn eternal life on our own but with God all things are possible.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Have you trusted someone and they let you down?  How did you feel?  Did it take time to trust them again?  Or do you still not trust them?

Have you ever prayed to God asking for something, trusting him to answer your prayers the way you wanted him to?  On those occasions when he didn’t answer your prayers, did you lose your trust in God?

When you asked God “Why?” were you blaming God? OR Did you ask for understanding from God?

In Mark 10, Jesus tells the rich man to sell everything he owns, give the money to the poor and follow him.  Could you sell everything you own, give the money to the poor and trust Jesus to take care of you?  Is there some area of your life in which you don’t trust Jesus to take of?

The more we share our stories of what Jesus has done for us, the more we will trust in God. Share a story about you trusting in God.

What would the Next Step be for you so you can trust Jesus with all aspects of your life?  Is there an area where you don’t want to give up control? Ask Jesus to help you to trust like a child again.

Other Scriptures to Read:

--John 14:1-27                              --Psalm 13:1-6

--Isaiah 26:1-9                            --Proverbs 3:1-12

--Joshua 1:1-9                             --Psalm 34:1-7

Like a Child (Week 2) - Friend Forever

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Receiving the life that Jesus offers means accepting His way of life like a child.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus is a friend who shows up and never leaves me in the good or bad.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This week we continue to look at the value of simple, child-like faith in God’s kingdom. We started the series with the foundation that God made us and God loves us. A third truth is that Jesus wants to be our friend forever. When it comes to friendship, it has to be offered and received. In John 15, Jesus shares with his disciples that he calls them his friends. By coming to earth as a human being, Jesus shows us that God can be trusted as a friend. But Jesus goes further. He offers his friendship to us by dying for us and taking our sin on Him so that we can have a restored relationship with God. We receive His friendship by trusting and following Him. Jesus never leaves us in the good or bad because he gives us His Spirit so He can always be with us. As a result we have joy. The Spirit gives us counsel, helps us, comforts us, brings us peace, leads us into truth, and gives us courage. Jesus is a friend who leads us to life when we trust and follow Him.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Who was your best friend growing up? What made them your friend?

As an adult, do you find that it is more difficult or less difficult to have friends? Why or why not? What are the most important things that make a person in your life a true friend? Can a family member be a friend?

In John 15, Jesus shares that he called His disciples friends. What are ways that Jesus is our friend?

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, replacing the word “love” with “Jesus.” How can understanding the depth of the friendship of Jesus challenge us in how we are friends to Jesus and to others?

Jesus is with us now through His Holy Spirit. What challenges do you have in embracing the Holy Spirit in you as the very presence of Jesus? Share how the Holy Spirit has provided comfort to you in a time of need.

What could be a Next Step for you as you follow Jesus as a Friend who loves you and is always with you? What is keeping you from doing that right now? Pray a prayer of commitment to Jesus as you submit to the Holy Spirit leading you in every area of your life.

Other Scriptures to Read:

--1 John 3:1-10                             --Romans 8:16-30

--Matthew 11:25-30                    --Matthew 28:18-20

--Ecclesiastes 4:9-12                  --Galatians 5:13-26

Like a Child (Week 1) - Made & Loved

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Receiving the life that Jesus offers means accepting His way of life like a child.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

I can trust that God made me because God loves me.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This week we look at the value of simple, child-like faith in God’s kingdom. With adulthood comes complexity. Jesus makes clear that God values differently than our culture does. Jesus came to bring God’s kingdom of life to those under the authority of the kingdom of death. Because God made us and loves us, we can trust that our lives have meaning and purpose; that we are valuable to Him. Accepting that God made us because He loves us leads us to life.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

What does it mean to have faith like a child?  If you have faith like a child, is it OK to question your faith and what you believe?

Have you ever doubted God made you?  What changed your mind?

What is the meaning of your life?  What is the purpose of your life?  Are they the same?

Read Mark 10:13-14. What value was Jesus giving to children by His response? How would you describe child-like trust? Why would you not want to trust like this?

Read Romans 8:35. How do these words help explain the value God places on His people

Read Psalm 139:13-16. What do you think of when you reflect on God “knitting you together” in your mother’s womb? How might this matter to someone who has been told they were an “accident”? What does it mean to you that God knows you so completely?

Respond to the statement: “Because God made and loves me; I can trust that my life has meaning and purpose.”

Other Scriptures to Read:

--Genesis 1:26-27                       --Jeremiah 29:11-13

--John 15:9-17                            --Matthew 6:25-34

--Colossians 1:15-18                    --Ephesians 2:1-10

What If The Church? (Week 3) - Loves KC By Sharing

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

What if the Church loves the city by praying, caring, and sharing?

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Loving others includes sharing my Jesus story with them.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Here at Westside we embrace the BLESS strategy to love our city. During the first two weeks of this series we talked about Beginning with Prayer and then Caring by Listening to, Eating with, and Serving Others. This week culminates the series by challenging Jesus followers to share their Jesus Story with others. Various obstacles can keep many of us from sharing our Jesus story. We can feel incompetent, but we should realize that we are simply tools being used by God. We can feel distracted and be in a survival mode, but we should realize that we should be content in any and every situation. We can feel afraid, but we must remove fear as an excuse knowing that our powerful God is with us even when we are afraid. Our story should share about our lives before Jesus, about our meeting Jesus, and about our life with Jesus. Paul’s story in Acts 26 gives a great example of how stories can be shared. We are responsible for sharing our stories, while recognizing that we cannot be responsible for how others respond.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Are you a confident person? Why or why not. How does this impact your life?

Have you experienced being stuck in a “survival” mode (dealing with money, loss or grief, challenges at work or school, or some other stressor)? Are you stuck right now? How can you get out?

What are you afraid of? Why?

Of the three obstacles that get in the way of Jesus followers sharing their Jesus story (feeling incompetent, being in a survival mode, or being afraid), is there one that you have experienced? Is there any other obstacle that gets in your way of sharing your Jesus story with others? Explain.

Briefly share your Jesus story. Be sure to include “before Jesus,” “meeting Jesus,” and “with Jesus.” Do you think that sharing your story with those who love and accept you can help you to share with those who are far from God? Why or why not?

Explain the importance of realizing that we cannot be responsible for how others respond to our Jesus story. If we are not responsible for their response, who is?

Other Scriptures to Read:

--1 Peter 3:13-16                            --Luke 24:46-48

--Acts 1:8                                      --Acts 26:9-22

--Acts 22:15                                  --Psalm 107

What If The Church? (Week 2) - Loves KC By Caring

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

What if the Church loves the city by praying, caring, and sharing?

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

What if I cared enough to listen to, eat with, or serve someone?

TEACHING SUMMARY:

What if the church asks the question of what would happen if the church did certain things together to grow God’s kingdom in the Kansas City metropolitan area. This week’s message asks what if the church cares for the city? Caring implements the three middle letters of our “BLESS” strategy (Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, and share your Story). Listening sometimes requires asking questions and often prepares us to serve them best. Eating with someone can be the first experience someone has with Jesus’ love and the good news that they are accepted. Finally, caring for someone leads us to serve them by giving up something for them. When we are faithful to Jesus in using what we have to care for others, Jesus will allow us to be faithful with more.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

The “B” in the BLESS strategy is “Begin with Prayer,” which is what the message was about last week. How does Beginning with Prayer set us up for Caring for others by Listening to, Eating with, and Serving Others?

Being a good listener can be extremely challenging. Describe a situation when you felt that you were not listened to. How did that make you feel? What are some important guidelines to being a good listener? 

What is your favorite food? What is your favorite restaurant? Share a situation where you shared your favorite food or restaurant with someone else. What are some situations where Jesus ate with others? What are reasons that eating with others deepens a relationship? What does eating with someone communicate to them?

What are challenges that people have that keep them from serving others? Read Mark 10:45. How does Jesus model serving others? If serving others requires us to give something up for others, what are we giving up?

What is your biggest challenge in caring for others by listening to, eating with, and serving others? Why?

Read Luke 19:16-19. What is your capacity for caring for others? How can that capacity grow?

Other Scriptures to Read:

--James 1:19-27                        --Luke 15:11-32

--Philippians 2:1-11                   --Matthew 25:31-46

--Acts 2:42-47                         --Ephesians 2:1-10

What If The Church? (Week 1) - Loves KC By Praying

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

What if the Church loves the city by praying, caring, and sharing?

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

What if I made a daily habit of aligning myself with what God is doing by praying?

TEACHING SUMMARY:

What if the church asks the question of what would happen if the church did certain things together to grow God’s kingdom in the Kansas City metropolitan area. This week’s message specifically asks what if the church prays for the city? The foundation of understanding prayer is to understand that Jesus came to bring His Kingdom to earth by saving all who trust in Him and surrender to His authority. Prayer is therefore aligning ourselves with what God is doing to grow His kingdom. Prayer is certainly talking to God, but is also listening. In fact, Jesus spent more time listening to His Father than He did talking. Not praying can prevent God working through us. Prayer prepares us for people’s problems. Prayer positions us to depend on God and be used by Him. To best implement prayer into your life, create a place, find the time, listen as much, or more, than you talk, and be sure to include scripture in your prayer time.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

What are reasons that people (perhaps you?) have for NOT praying?

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Discuss what implementing that prayer into our lives would actually mean? What would it look like on a daily basis?

How much time do you spend in organized prayer each day now? Are you satisfied with that? What may be your “Next Step” in going deeper in your prayer time? Do you have a place? Do you have a time?

What are different ways to organize your prayers? (i.e. ACTS-Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication; Look up the Echo App for your smart phone)

The message focused on listening to God as much or more than talking. Scripture is certainly a part of listening to God. What are other ways?

Read Acts 1:8. What is our “Jerusalem”? What is our “Judea and Samaria”? What is our “ends of the earth”? Conclude with a prayer for the Kansas City metropolitan area that people across the city who are far from God can take their Next Step in finding and following Jesus.

Other Scriptures to Read:

--Matthew 7:7-12                        --Acts 9:3-43

--Mark 11:12-25                           --Philippians 4:4-9

--John 14:5-14                            --James 5:13-18

Stranger Things (Week 6) - Stranger Struggle

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The life we experience in Jesus because of grace is a powerful and stranger thing.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

When life fights against me, I can stand in what Jesus has already done for me.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

The message this week faces the reality that we have a spiritual enemy who wants to destroy unity among Jesus’ followers. What are we to do? God has all authority and He has given us the same power that raised Christ from the dead. We are to prepare ourselves for spiritual attack with our Spirit-empowered armor. Our struggle is not with people but with spiritual powers. We take our stand in the truth that we trust God’s love has saved us by His grace and we can pray powerfully from His word.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Describe the biggest battle that you have been a part of. Were you alone? Who or what was the enemy? Was it a physical battle or an internal battle?

Read Ephesians 6:10-11. How do you feel when you read these words? Which words capture your attention? What instruction do you see and what assurances can you take?

Read John 8:44. What is Jesus saying about the devil in this passage? How might this influence our relationships? ...with God? …at home? …at church?

Read Ephesians 6:14-17. What part of the armor would you say is your ‘weak link’ and why? What does it mean that, “We don’t fight for victory, we fight from victory”?

Practically speaking, how can we stand by praying what God has already said in Scripture? What are some ‘go to’ verses that help to defend your mind with truth? (If you’ve never done it before try typing into your web browser, “Scripture that helps to defend our mind with truth” and view the results!)

Stranger Prayer: Lord, teach us to recognize the schemes of our real enemy and how to defend our minds with your truth.

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Romans 12:2
  • James 4:7
  • 2 Timothy 2:25-26
  • Philippians 4:8

Stranger Things (Week 5) - Stranger Relationships

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The life we experience in Jesus because of grace is a powerful and stranger thing.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

We are like Jesus when we use power to serve rather than to control.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Continuing from the book of Ephesians, this teaching addresses the question of what Jesus did and how we respond, especially in the area of our relationships. The posture that governs our relationships, especially with our closest family and friends, is a posture of self-giving. This is strange and “upside-down” compared to how most of us think. We are called to think like Jesus – to be other oriented, to be self-sacrificing, and to embrace our enemies. Therefore, we are like Jesus when we use power to serve rather than to control. To embrace Jesus, we submit any power, such as what we know, our intelligence, or our sense of being right, to do the following in our relationships: We love and serve our spouse; we honor and respect our parents; we humbly teach and guide our children; and we diligently work in honor to God.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Describe a relationship in your life that has been a challenge to you. What makes it a challenge? Is there any way that it can be improved?

Being right, being smarter, being stronger – are temptations to use OVER people. How can we put these things UNDER (in other words to serve) the people we have relationships with? How does Jesus provide an example to us of how to serve others, especially in light of Him being the Son of God? (Philippians 2:5-10)

What is the difference between love and respect? Why do you think husbands are challenged to love and wives are challenged to respect? If you are married, what is the challenge of these verses for you?

Read Ephesians 6:4. What things did your parents do to exasperate you? What is the key to avoiding doing that with your own children?

Read Ephesians 6:5-8. How can we apply being “slaves” and “masters” in these verses to being “employees” and employers”? Describe the challenges of putting these verses into practice.

Read Ephesians 5:21. Describe how this verse applies to all relationships.

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Psalm 19:14
  • Matthew 7:3
  • Proverbs 17:14
  • Matthew 7:12

Stranger Things (Week 4) - Stranger Standards

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The life we experience in Jesus because of grace is a powerful and stranger thing.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

My response to Jesus’ love is to live according to a stranger standard by thinking, speaking, and becoming like Jesus.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

The message this week contrasts the stranger standards that distinguish Jesus’ followers from the culture we live in.  When we respond to Jesus’ love, He begins to change us from the inside out.  We can begin to think new thoughts and form new attitudes.  God accepts us as we are because of His grace, but He won’t let us remain the same.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Read Ephesians 4:22-24. Practically speaking, what does it look like for a person to respond to Jesus’ love by putting off the old self and being made new in our attitudes?  Look at and discuss the contrasts that are below. Are some areas more challenging than others?

~Speaking truth and not lying

~Working for peace and not letting anger get out of control

~Being generous and not stealing

~Encouraging with words not deconstructing with gossip

~Forgiving, not resenting

~Having self-control, not sexual immorality

~Being under the influence of the Holy Spirit, not being controlled by alcohol

Respond to the statement:  Our sexuality is not separate from our spirituality.

Stranger Prayer:  From your discussion of the specific areas to take off/put on new ways of thinking, commit to talk to God this week about the one that most needs to change

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Luke 10:27
  • Romans 12:2
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Stranger Things (Week 3) - Stranger Purpose

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The life we experience in Jesus because of grace is a powerful and stranger thing.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

My purpose is to let the Holy Spirit create Jesus’ image in me, so I can do good works to bring life to those around me.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

There are many stranger things that we are discovering through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Many people ask about living a fulfilling life, trying to discover God’s purpose and will for their lives. We find truth in Ephesians 2, learning that we don’t work for our salvation; we work out our salvation. When we let God create us in Jesus, we discover our purpose in becoming more like Jesus. It is God who does the creating, not us. We can’t earn our salvation and we can’t stay saved through our own efforts. We allow God to work in us to create us as His masterpiece. God’s work restores the image of Jesus in all who will trust in Him. Jesus’ work was to give life. He wants for us to embrace our purpose of allowing the Holy Spirit to create Jesus’ image in us, so we can do good works to bring life to those around us. God does so much more through the church who lives according to His purpose and will.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

What are different ways that people try to find purpose outside of God? How does having a purpose outside of God affect how people make daily decisions? Try to give an example.

What is your purpose? How does your purpose in life relate to the daily decisions that you make?

The Creator determines the purpose, not the creation. If people don’t accept God as Creator, how does that affect how we approach our purpose? If people do accept God as Creator, explain why discovering His purpose for us becomes so significant.

Think about what Jesus did while on earth. Share what your favorite Jesus story is. Why does it resonate with you? Jesus promises that God wants to do more through us than He did. How is that possible?

Read Ephesians 2:8-10. Share what you feel is significant to you in these verses.

How can you join Jesus in His work to give life to others?

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Philippians 2:12-13
  • 2 Timothy 1:9
  • Ephesians 1:11
  • 1 Peter 1:2

Stranger Things (Week 2) - Stranger People in Stranger Places

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The life we experience in Jesus because of grace is a powerful and stranger thing.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

I am a new person who is a part of a new people with access to a new place because God lives in me.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Stranger things happen when we place our trust in Jesus! God adopts us into His family by placing His Spirit in us and He gives us new life. God makes us a part of a new people in whom God now lives. God gives us access to Himself now and, in a future place, access to all that He has. As a result, I am a new person who is a part of a new people with access to a new place because God lives in me. We are challenged to live aware of God’s Spirit in us, to become the new person, to embrace the new people, and to live for a new place. Becoming a new person helps me to accept the new people and prepares me for the new place.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Where have you lived? What challenges did you face when you lived in a new place? Explain any challenges you had in learning to get to know new people at the new place?

Have you ever known anyone who has experienced a significant personality change? Share what you can regarding the situation.

Have you or someone you know adopted a child? What are the differences between having a child biologically and having a child through adoption?

How does God make us a “new person”? What is our part in “becoming like Jesus”?

When we choose to follow Jesus and God places His Holy Spirit in us, we become a “new creation.” All followers of Jesus have this in common. How can followers of Jesus become unified? Have you ever had a problem with another Christian? How can those problems be resolved?

Describe what “the new place” is all about. Is the “new place” something you are looking forward to? Why or why not? If we are looking forward to the “new place” how does that affect how we live now?

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 2 Corinthians 4:18
  • Revelation 21:4-7

Stranger Things (Week 1) - Strangely Alive

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The life we experience in Jesus because of grace is a powerful and stranger thing.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

I was dead in my sin, but God made me alive, by grace, through my trust in Jesus.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This week’s message focuses on the truth of what God’s grace has done through Jesus.  The gospel of Jesus is good news, not just good counsel.  Without Jesus, we are dead in our sin.  God is rich in mercy because His love is unending and rich in grace because His love is kind.  God’s love fuels His generosity toward us.  As we trust the good news of Jesus, we experience God’s love.  God loved; God gave.  I believe; I receive.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Respond to the statement:  “Mercy is not getting what we deserve—Grace is getting what we don’t deserve”?

Apply what you know about mercy and grace to John 3:18:  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:18 (NIV)

Read:  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that on one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

How do you feel when someone gives you a gift?  How is it different from when you receive your paycheck?  What if even your ability to believe the good news of Jesus is a gift from God?

Read  John 3:3-8. What does it mean to be ‘born again’?  Why is this important?  What is your role in being born again?

Stranger Prayer: “May we know God more by discovering our hope in Jesus; experiencing His power in us; knowing His purpose; and surrendering to His authority over our lives.”

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Romans 2:4
  • Romans 6:28
  • 1 John 4:18
  • 1 John 5:13

EASTER - Despising Shame

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TEACHING BIG IDEA:

There is no shame for those who trust in Jesus, because Jesus restores life to those who trust in Him.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

In the beginning of creation, God and mankind were in a relationship with no shame. Adam and Eve broke humankind’s relationship with God, resulting in the judgment of sin and with the consequence of shame upon everyone. The mission of Jesus was to defeat the power of sin and eliminate its shame. Crucifixion was one of the most shameful ways to die; yet Jesus endured the cross to show God’s love for us. On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross. The resurrection proves that Jesus is God, that God loves us, that Jesus defeated the power of sin, and that Jesus removes the shame off those who trust in Him. In spite of the horrors of how Jesus died, He had joy that He would restore all who trust in Him to a life without shame. While there are earthly consequences to sin, Jesus takes the eternal punishment of our sin and the consequences of shame. Therefore, when we trust in Jesus, we are resurrected with Jesus, being made new without shame and not under the power of sin.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Can you imagine the life of Adam and Eve before the first sin? What do you think it was like? What evidence is there that Adam and Eve had shame after they sinned against God?

If God knew that humankind would sin, why did He create humankind anyway? In other words, why did God create humans with the ability to disobey?

Sin leads to shame and Jesus had a mission to defeat sin and shame. The Old Testament provided a system of sacrifices to deal with sin and shame. Explain why Jesus, as the unique Son of God, had to come with that mission even though there was a system already established.

What evidence is there that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened? Explain the importance of the resurrection. What if the resurrection didn’t happen? Could we be OK with God?

Sin has consequences, both here and now, and eternally. Explain the consequences that can occur here and now. Explain how Jesus deals with the eternal consequences. What happens with the shame of sin?

By trusting Jesus you become wanted and loved by God. Is there any reason that you cannot trust in Jesus now?

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
  • Revelation 21:4
  • Psalm 103:8-12
  • Acts 2:21

Unashamed (Week 7) - Restore

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The truth of who we are in Jesus removes our toxic shame and gives us courage to be honest with God, ourselves, and each other.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus uses His Church to help restore people’s identity through love and by revealing they have a place to belong.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Toxic shame creates a deep sense that we are unloved and unaccepted because of something we’ve done, something done to us, or something associated with us. Toxic shame can come from our own sin, from our failure and weakness, from the sins of other people, and from other people’s failures and weaknesses. Since toxic shame can destroy our true identity that can only be found in Jesus, Jesus uses His Church to restore people’s identity through love and by revealing that they have a place to belong. The Church is made of many parts, all of them being important. Comparing ourselves to others who have a different role and function can lead to toxic shame and feeling like we don’t belong. The church helps deal with toxic shame by being a community in which we can belong. Each follower of Jesus is needed in a unique way, thus showing everyone’s significance through equal concern. We can all be proud of our part in the Church, regardless of our performance. We are loved because of who we are, not because of what we do.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

In thinking about toxic shame, where does it come from? Can you share an example from your life or from the life of someone you know?

What are examples in our society where we compare ourselves to others? Explain how comparing can lead to toxic shame. How can this lead to a feeling that we don’t belong?

Read 1 Corinthians 12:21-25. If you had to choose a part of the human body that you most identify with, what would it be? Why? Explain the importance of that particular part of the body. If that part of the body were injured how would it affect the rest of the body?

How can the church restore our identity? How is Jesus involved?

What are ways we can show others that they are loved for who they are, and not for what they do?

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Joel 2:25-26
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Colossians 3:14-16
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12

Unashamed (Week 6) - Stay Free

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The truth of who we are in Jesus removes our toxic shame and gives us courage to be honest with God, ourselves, and each other.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus set me free to stay free.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Addictions are toxic. When we are addicts we have allowed something other than God to be in control of our lives. There are two types of addiction. Substance addiction includes alcohol, drugs, and nicotine. The substances can be illegal, but more commonly are legal. Process addiction includes gambling, sex, gaming, and food, but can actually be any behavior that can lead to mental or physical health issues, disruptions in relationships, and an inability to stop engaging in the behavior despite negative consequences. Addictions lead to broken relationships with others and with God. Addictions take away our true purpose. Despite the challenges of overcoming addictions, the freedom that Jesus gives us through new birth provides hope to stay free from all addictions. Addictions can seem like a bottomless pit, but Jesus can provide something infinite to satisfy. Overcoming addictions require holding to Jesus’ teaching and truth, and allowing shame and guilt to be positive motivations. Staying free can happen with true accountability found in others by getting an accountability posse and living in community.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

What is your experience with addictions?

How can being an addict, either substance or process, keep a follower of Jesus from their purpose? What is your purpose as a follower of Jesus?

Describe the most important relationships in your life. How could being an addict destroy those relationships?

Jesus desires that all of His followers be free and stay free. What are factors that could contribute to the effectiveness of an accountability posse to help an individual stay free? What about living in community?

Identify those in your life that are struggling with addictions. Commit to praying for them. Pray for them now. Pray for wisdom from God in how to love them and your involvement with them.

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Hebrews 4:15-16
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • James 4:7
  • 1 Corinthians 6:12

Student Sunday - Identity

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TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus is the source of our identity as Christians. 

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Who are you?  It can be a hard question to answer. This teaching looks specifically at how Christians answer the question: what does it mean to identify with Jesus?  Before Jesus, people who wanted to be right with God took their identity from following rules.  Now, our identity is in following Jesus.  We can be tempted to take our identity from our own strength, what people say about us, our past experiences…even from how we perceive ourselves.  Focusing our identity in Jesus reveals who God is, provides relief from burdens and allows us to rest. 

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

When you are in a new group of people and you go around the room and respond to the request, “Tell us about yourself.” What do you share?

What are the most important things that you put on a résumé? As you ponder, “who you are” what are your strengths? What are you most confident about in your life?

Respond to the quote: “A lie believed as truth will affect you as if it were true.” –Craig Groeshel

What temptations might come with defining ourselves by who we perceive ourselves to be? Where do you go to test whether your perceptions are accurate?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9. How often do you hear people openly acknowledge their ‘weakness’? When is it most difficult for you to admit weakness? What makes it challenging? Discuss practical ways to put God’s promise into action in the coming week?

Read Matthew 11:28-29. From this verse, how does Jesus perceive us? What are we in need of? Are there promises made here than can affect your life? Talk about a time when you received gentle instruction so that you could learn.

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Psalm 139:14
  • Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
  • Galatians 3:23-28
  • Ephesians 2:10

Unashamed (Week 5) - Light Heals

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

The truth of who we are in Jesus removes our toxic shame and gives us courage to be honest with God, ourselves, and each other.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

I can be honest with God about my hang-ups, my hurts, and my destructive habits because I trust that He loves me.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Combating toxic shame begins with being secure in our relationship with God. We must know that God loves us, accepting us as we are regardless of our past. With that security firmly in place, we are free to be honest with God. Honesty is a reflection of our trust in God. We can’t be perfect before God. We can be honest with Him, knowing that He knows us more intimately than anyone. In light of 1 John 1:5-2:2, we bring things into the light by first confessing our hang-ups, our hurts, and our destructive habits to God. We are able to confess our pain and our doubts. Every sin that separates us from God can and should be confessed. When we turn toward Jesus, the true light, we can find life. Jesus promises to not only forgive but to purify us from “all unrighteousness.” Embracing total honesty before God can hurt, due to exposing what is true, but it also heals us, through the love and forgiveness of God through Jesus.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Have you ever been in a completely dark space? Share your experience. How did it make you feel? How did you feel when light was reintroduced?

Give examples of hang-ups, hurts, and destructive habits. Does everyone have one or more of these?

Define sin. How can sin be a dark space for us?

If God knows everything, why does He want us to confess our sins? What keeps people from confessing their sins to God? What keeps people from confessing their sins to others?

John (see 1 John 1:9) shares that when we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins. How can a just God do that? Doesn’t punishment have to happen for God to be just? Why?

Explain your own experience with the healing of God through confession of sin. How is Jesus the light?

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Isaiah 43:25
  • Acts 3:19
  • Isaiah 1:18
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17