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

Unashamed (Week 4) - Shame Off Me

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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 am worthy enough to belong and be loved.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

We continue to look at the power of shame. Toxic shame creates a deep sense that I am unloved and unaccepted because of something I’ve done, something done to me, or something associated with me. Most of us have experienced toxic shame. It makes us believe that we have no value or worth. The story traditionally known as the parable of “The Prodigal Son,” viewed through the lens of toxic shame, helps us to understand the power of shame.  Both the younger brother, who squandered his inheritance, and the older brother, who tried to trust in his own righteousness to be accepted by his father, felt unworthy to be accepted by the father. When we feel unaccepted and unloved because of toxic shame, we can confidently put our hope in Jesus’ love for us. Toxic shame comes off when we see who we are in Jesus. We can turn to Jesus and receive His love because we are worthy of His love!

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

What is valuable to you? Think about how you spend your time and resources and try to be honest with your answer. What are ways that you can demonstrate what you really want to be of value to you?

Who is in your life that you really want to value you, but they don’t? What is it they do or don’t do that makes you feel that way? What have you done to try to prove your worth or value?

Based on reading Luke 15:20-32, what is valuable to God? What is the basis for God placing value? Could either of the sons in the story earn the love of their father?

Explain how toxic shame in your life may be keeping you from putting your hope in Jesus’ love for you. Can you turn toward Jesus and receive His love because of how God values you?

Based on how God values us and accepts us, how can we value and accept others? Our spouse? Our children? Our parents? Our supervisors? Our subordinates? Our co-workers? How about those we just don’t like?

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Romans 5:8
  • Psalm 139:13-16
  • Jeremiah 29:11
  • Ephesians 2:8

Unashamed (Week 3) - My Shame Name

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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 am enough to belong.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

When people put shame on us they push us away from them; to be shamed is to be rejected. Toxic shame creates a deep sense that I am unloved and unaccepted because of something I’ve done, something done to me, or something associated with me. We are all broken, yet we are pursued by King Jesus; at Jesus’ table, our sin is covered and our shame is gone.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

What does it mean that I belong because I believe, not because I behave? Talk about a time when it took courage to believe that you are accepted and loved by Jesus apart from your performance.

Respond to the statement: Justified means it’s just as if I have never sinned.

Why is it hard for people to accept that Jesus accepts us as we are? That He wants to restore what sin and shame have destroyed?

Read Romans 10:11 How would you explain to someone that because you believe in Jesus, you will never be put to shame?

End your time in prayer; asking God to help you understand the freedom that is yours.

Other Scriptures to Read:

  • Joel 2:25
  • Romans 2:4
  • Romans 10:12-13
  • Revelation 3:20

Unashamed (Week 2) - Shame On Me

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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 am enough.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Healthy shame is the result of realizing we are not God and we are limited. It understands that we have boundaries regarding who we are and what we do. Toxic shame is one of Satan’s major destructive forces to distort and destroy our identity in Jesus. Toxic shame causes my inner voice to challenge me in areas that I don’t like and feel that I don’t measure up in. Toxic shame makes us hide these areas from others and from God. Toxic shame creates a deep sense that I am unloved and unaccepted because of something I’ve done, something done to me, or something associated with me. It makes me feel and even believe that I am worthless and alone. It leads us to think that there are prerequisites to be worthy and loved. In other words, the particular area that Satan uses against me can lead me to think that I will never measure up in that particular area. God challenges toxic shame. Trusting in God’s truth that “I am enough” is the beginning of being set free from my toxic shame.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Where have you gone to hide from something or someone? Why were you hiding? Did hiding work?

What were the circumstances of the last time you felt unloved or unaccepted? What about the last time you felt worthless or alone?

Read Genesis 3:1-13. How was toxic shame involved in this story of Adam and Eve? What was the part that Satan played? What about Eve? What about Adam? What about God?

If we have toxic shame because of something we’ve done, something done to us, or something associated with us, we very well may try to hide it from others. What value is there in getting to the point of sharing what we are dealing with? Can you share what you may be dealing with now?

Read Ephesians 1:4-7. What is the prerequisite for God choosing us? How can that lead to our knowing that “I am enough”?

Other Scriptures to Read:

·      Ephesians 1:4-7

·      Luke 8:43-48

·      James 4:7

·      2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Unashamed (Week 1) - The Power of Shame

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

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

TEACHING SUMMARY:

We all carry shame. Shame can be healthy, as well as unhealthy or toxic. Healthy shame comes as a result of realizing that we are not God and therefore we are limited. It reminds us that we are not perfect and that we can’t know it all or do it all. Healthy shame also reminds us that we need relationships. It happens when we feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Toxic shame is not only a main consequence of our fall as shared in the story of Adam and Eve, it is also one of Satan’s major destructive forces used against human lives. Toxic shame causes us to deny our own limitations. It pushes us to hide our weakness from others. The more we hide our toxic shame, the more it controls us. Toxic shame drives us to shame others and it penetrates and corrodes our identity in Jesus, driving us to hide from God. To deal with toxic shame requires us to trust in Jesus who removes our shame, giving us the courage to be honest with God, ourselves, and each other. Those who trust in Jesus will never be put to shame. Jesus wants us to be free from the shame associated with my hurts, hang-ups, and destructive habits.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Share a story from your life of “healthy” shame. Explain some of the results of healthy shame. Where does healthy shame lead us? Is God the Holy Spirit always involved in healthy shame? Why or why not?

Share a story from your life where “toxic” shame was manifest. Does Satan always use the same shame on humans? Why or why not?

How can toxic shame control us as we try and hide it from others?

How does toxic shame penetrate and corrode our identity in Jesus? How does it drive us to hide from God?

Psalm 25:2 states “I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame.” Explain the relationship between trusting God and avoiding toxic shame.

So many people have hurts, hang-ups, and destructive habits. How can Jesus free you from any that you have?

Other Scriptures to Read:

·      2 Corinthians 11:3

·      John 10:10

·      1 Peter 5:8-9

·      Ephesians 6:11-16

Small Steps. Big Difference (Week 4) - Help Out

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Consistent, small steps often make the big difference.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

If I want to be like Jesus, I need to think like Jesus.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Our character is the result of our attitudes. Our thoughts—our pattern of thinking, our mindset—create our attitudes. I am what I repeatedly do and think. Thoughts lead to actions. Actions lead to habits. Repeatedly doing things leads to the development of our character. When Jesus entered the world, even though He was the Son of God, He came to serve and to sacrifice His life as punishment for our sins. Jesus didn’t leverage His position to serve His preference as the Son of God. Instead, Jesus leveraged His position to serve people. We also have the same choice as Jesus. We also can choose to be served or we can choose to serve others. In order to serve like Jesus, I have to think about others first. When I am more like Jesus, when I become like Jesus, I am blessed, and I will be a blessing.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Share some of the habits that you have – either positive or negative. How did they develop in your life? Can you change habits? If you have established a new positive habit in place of a negative one, how did you do it?

Why would you want to have the character of Jesus? How can that even happen? Why is it appropriate for us to seek to become like Jesus?

Jesus modeled serving others in many ways, one of which was washing His disciple’s feet. What are ways we can serve others? Whom should we serve? Who is the most difficult person in your life to serve?

How can we affect our thought life? Do thoughts really create our attitudes? Thinking about a difficult person in your life, what is your current attitude? What are ways you can change your attitude?

How can helping others affect our attitude toward others? How are attitudes and actions related?

Read Philippians 2:5-6. How can you have the same mindset of Jesus?

Other Scriptures to Read:

1 Peter 4:1-2

1 John 2:6

Romans 12:1-2

1 Corinthians 11:1

Small Steps. Big Difference (Week 3) - Group Up

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Consistent, small steps often make the big difference.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

The fulfilling life God intends for me is found in community with other Jesus followers.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Scripture is consistent is sharing the importance of being in community, which is a group of Jesus followers who intentionally meet in the name of Jesus. By being in community we can live the full life the way that God desires. Jesus actually modeled living life in community by choosing to live life with the twelve disciples. As Jesus followers meet together the most important member of the group is Jesus. We are like the first believers and can and should experience teaching, building relationships, eating, praying, celebrating the stories of God working in them, helping others, and sharing Jesus. Community happens in both the small group and the larger gathering. The first believers embraced the same mission as Westside of loving Jesus, becoming like Jesus, and sharing Jesus. We therefore carry on a 2,000-year-old mission. Being in consistent community is a small step that is critical for the life God wants for all of us.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Share a story about your nuclear family when you were growing up. Why or why not would you consider your growing up family to be functional or dysfunctional?

How can a group address everything that occurred with the first believers living in community (teaching, building relationships, eating, praying, celebrating the stories of God working in them, helping others, and sharing Jesus)? How would you include everything in a monthly rhythm of life together?

What are the most challenging things that can / should be done in a group? Why?

Explain why celebrating stories of God working and you taking next steps are important.

What was the biggest obstacle for you to join a group? What are the most effective ways for people to successfully join a group?

How can God grow the number of groups?

Other Scriptures to Read:

John 13:34-35

Acts 5:42

Galatians 6:1-2

1 John 4:11-13

Small Steps. Big Difference (Week 2) - Faith

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Consistent, small steps often make the big difference.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus becomes alive in me when I read and apply scripture.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

When it comes to having a relationship with God, faith is required. In fact, according to Hebrews 11:6, it is impossible to have a relationship with God without faith. Faith develops when people hear the message of Jesus. The message of Jesus is found in scripture. The words of Scripture are the actual words of God and are powerful, having a direct effect through the Holy Spirit. In fact, Scripture can judge our thoughts and attitudes. When followers of Jesus read and apply scripture, Jesus becomes alive within us. The teaching concludes in a practical way by sharing the SOAP method of reading and applying scripture. We first read Scripture, then we have Observation of what was being said, we then seek Application in our lives, and then we conclude with Prayer.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Define faith in your own words. Share a story from your life where you felt that you or someone else had faith.

Read Hebrews 11:6. Explain the verse in your own words. What does it mean to earnestly seek God? What type of rewards come to those who “earnestly seek” God?

Based on Romans 10:17 faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. If you are a follower of Jesus, share how you received the message. Do you know people in your life that have never heard, or understood, the message? How can they hear?

Do you have a favorite scripture verse? If so, what is it? Why is it important to you? How has God used that verse to impact your life?

Explain the importance of applying scripture in our lives. How can applying scripture build our faith?

What is your plan for taking small steps to increase the impact of scripture in your life?

Other Scriptures to Read:

Psalm 119:105

Psalm 119:11

2 Timothy 3:16-17

James 1:22

Small Steps. Big Difference (Week 1) - Devoted

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Series BIG IDEA:

Consistent, small steps often make the big difference.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

By first giving my money to Jesus, I direct my devotion to Him.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

We are all devoted to something. What we are devoted to determines our direction. If we change the devotion of our lives, we can change the direction of our lives. Our devotion makes a difference in the lives of others and is not something that can be divided. In order to change our devotion, we have to leave what we have been clinging to. We can tell what we are devoted to by looking at where we give. Giving directs our devotion. Giving first to Jesus is a discipline of His disciples, changes the attitude and character of His disciples, and is a difference maker in changing lives for the kingdom of God.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

When you hear the words, “spiritual fitness” what comes to mind? How can someone know if they are spiritually fit?

Is devotion an emotion or something else? How can you tell what you are devoted to?

For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 (NIV)

Respond to the statement: My giving directs my devotion. How could changing your devotion change your direction?

How can giving change attitudes and character?

Consider closing your time together by asking God to strengthen your devotion to Him.

Other Scriptures to Read:

Matthew 6:21-24

2 Corinthians 11:3

1 Timothy 6:10

Revelation 2:4-5

New Year's Eve - Vision Sunday

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TEACHING BIG IDEA:

God will do immeasurably more with a life fully surrendered to Him.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This teaching challenges all who are associated with Westside Family Church to embrace a vision of where God can lead this body of believers. God’s story is always bigger than our own. Since there is a desire in all of us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, our next step of faith is to better understand what God’s bigger story is for us. In Ephesians 3 we learn that God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Our part is to allow God’s power to work within us by asking God for that power and by fully surrendering our lives to God. As generations of the church continue to follow Jesus in this way, God is glorified. God can do immeasurable things in His church and through His church when His church allows God to empower His body. For our part, Westside Family Church embraces a vision of influencing 10,000 people with the mission of Loving Jesus, Becoming Like Jesus, and Sharing Jesus in the next 10 years. As a focus for 2018 Westside Family Church sees 500 people sharing their story of taking a next step in a group or growth track. We are not responsible for the size or the measure of our cups; however, our responsibility is to allow God to fill our cups and then empty our cups to influence others.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Share a story from your past of being part of a group. How did being part of something bigger make you feel? What are your thoughts about “all of us desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves”?

What do you think God’s vision for the world is? Where is history going? Does God have a part for you in His vision for the world? Do you desire to be a part of God’s plan? Why or why not?

What are ways that we limit God and what He can do through us? How is God glorified when we are fully surrendered to Him?

What does it mean to not be responsible for the measure of our cups? What are we responsible for?

What are examples of stories that might be shared in 2018 as part of the Westside Family Church vision of seeing 500 people sharing their story of taking a next step in a group or growth track? Are you open to being one of the 500?

Other Scriptures to Read:

Matthew 28:18-20

Acts 1:8

Acts 16:9

John 3:16-17

Christmas Eve - Lovable

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TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus showed up in the world to let us know that God loves us.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This teaching begins by addressing what true love is. True love shows up in pain when we cannot give anything in return. True love also shows up to serve those who are in need and doesn’t have expectations. Those who receive true love will understand that they are lovable.  So many times we try to determine love based on a performance of those we want to love us. We can go through an almost adolescent “they love me, they love me not” process. We can even do that with God, basing our thoughts on what we think God should be doing for us. Christmas shows us something about true love from God. Jesus showed up. He shows up in our pain. He shows up to serve us. He therefore demonstrates true love and shows us that we are lovable. This type of love is like a gift to be received. When we receive the love of Jesus, we receive life and life to the fullest, even in the midst of pain and need.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Share a story from your past where you had a young adolescent teenage type love – a “they love me, they love me not” type of love.

What are ways that you have based your understanding on God’s love for you with how the events of your day have gone? How about with how your relationships are going? What about with how your job or money issues are going?

Why doesn’t God immediately fix our pain? Why doesn’t God satisfy all our needs? What about our wants?

Explain how the birth of Jesus demonstrates God’s love.

Why is it important to receive love? Explain how love can be seen as a gift. How can understanding love as a gift allow us to see that we are lovable? How can we receive God’s love and really know it?

How can receiving God’s love and understanding that He loves us, allow us to love others? What are ways that we can demonstrate God’s love to our family? Our friends? Our co-workers? Our acquaintances?

Other Scriptures to Read:

Romans 5:8

John 3:16

Galatians 2:20

1 John 4:9-11

Not a Storybook Christmas (Week 3) - Sadness

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Jesus comes into the pain of my story to bring me hope, peace, and joy, because He loves me.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus came to be my source of joy.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

This week’s message focuses on joy as God wants us to understand it.  Hope is the confidence of our salvation; peace is the comfort in our salvation; joy is the anticipation of the fulfillment of our salvation.  Joy is the evidence of Jesus in us. It is not the absence of sadness, but the power of hope alive in our trials. Joy isn’t an emotion to be felt, but a gift to be received, as we trust in Jesus.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Where do people look, besides Jesus, to find their joy?  How do you distinguish joy from happiness?

Respond to the statement by C. S. Lewis—Joy is the opposite of hopelessness.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. 1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)

How would you explain to someone that though you have not seen Jesus, you love Him?

Can you recall a time when you experienced the calm assurance of God’s presence during your sorrow?

Read Romans 15:13. What is your part in this verse?  Who does the rest?  What is the result?  Why would it be important for people who love Jesus to know this?

End your time in prayer asking God to help to know the joy of His salvation.

Other Scriptures to Read:

Nehemiah 8:10

Psalm 145:7

John 15:11

Galatians 5:22-23

Not a Storybook Christmas (Week 2) - Distress

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SERIES BIG IDEA:

Jesus comes into the pain of my story to bring me hope, peace, and joy, because He loves me.

TEACHING BIG IDEA:

Jesus came so I can have peace with God and experience the peace of God in whatever I go through.

TEACHING SUMMARY:

Our Christmas experiences sometimes don’t match the storybook Christmases that are promoted through movies. The reality of the story of the Bible is that God created all things good. Everything existed in harmony and wholeness with God and each other. Initially there was peace because God was present with His creation, but the sin of Adam and Eve disrupted humanity’s peace with God and disconnected mankind from God. Jesus came to restore our peace with God and restore mankind back into a relationship with God. Individuals can have peace WITH God by trusting Jesus as Savior, thus restoring people to the place just-as-if they had never sinned. Furthermore, individuals can have the peace OF God by trusting Jesus as Lord and giving people confidence to embrace their pain and experience God’s peace in whatever they go through.

TALK IT OVER (Discuss One or More):

Explain any situations in your life that challenge you. What are struggles with your job? … with your family? … with your health? … with your finances?

Share a location that is peaceful to you. Why does it bring thoughts of peace to you?

Why do you think that the experience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was peaceful? Explain why the sin of Adam and Eve separated mankind from God. Explain how sin continues to disrupt our relationship with God.

How can trusting Jesus as your Savior lead to peace WITH God? How can this restore you to a right relationship with God, just-as-if you had never sinned? What is it that Jesus did on the cross?

How can trusting Jesus as your Lord lead to the peace OF God? How can this lead to confidence to go through the circumstances of life, even the pain and struggles? How did Jesus demonstrate His Lordship?

How is your salvation best understood as Jesus being your Savior AND Lord?

Other Scriptures to Read:

Colossians 3:15

Galatians 5:22-23

1 Peter 5:7

Romans 12:18