Better Together-Part II

Series: Better Together

Title: Part 2 - The Epidemic of Isolation

Date: September 16/17, 2017

Speaker: Phil Vaughan

 

Big Idea:

We live in a culture that is supposedly more connected than ever because of technology, and yet more people report feeling lonely than ever before. It turns out that isolation is a real epidemic with real consequences. This week Phil challenged us to take the threat of isolation seriously by investing in deep friendships.

Passages: Genesis 1:26; John 17:20-21
 

Discuss It:

  1. Tell about your best friend from your childhood. What was your relationship like? Have you kept in touch with them over the years? If so, how have you managed to stay connected? If not, what caused you to drift apart?
  2. In his message this past weekend, Phil quoted Dr. Vivek Murthy, former US Surgeon General, who said, “Isolation is killing us… [we suffer from] diseases of despair driven by deficits of hope.” Do you agree that loneliness is really that harmful? Why or why not? How does this connect with your personal experience?
  3. Read Gen 1:26. God speaks in this passage as an “us.” Reflect for a moment on the fact that God himself - the very center of existence - is a community. In a biblical worldview, reality is fundamentally relational. What do you think might be some implications of this truth for our American culture of rugged individualism?
  4. Phil mentioned several excuses most of us use to avoid community (I just don’t like people, I’m an introvert, I’ve been betrayed, it takes too much time/effort, etc.). What’s your go-to excuse for not building deeper friendships?
  5. Read John 17:20-21. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed that the relationships between his followers would be a sign to the world about the nature of God. Imagine that someone’s understanding of God was based entirely upon what they observed from your current relationships with others. What picture of God would they see?
  6. Read Proverbs 13:20 and Proverbs 27:17. These passages explain just a couple of practical benefits of meaningful relationships. Phil challenged us to make a short list of potential friends whose relationships could similarly be mutually beneficial. Who are one or two people with whom you think you could have an iron-sharpening-iron friendship?
  7. Phil also challenged us to ask ourselves, “What can I do this week to invest in relationships?” How would you answer this question?

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Better Together - Part I

Series: Better Together
Title: Part 1 - Irresistible Community
Date: September 9/10, 2017
Speaker: Geoff Surratt

BIG IDEA:

The early church flourished and grew in the face of hostile circumstances because Jesus-followers devoted themselves to a few simple things, and the result was irresistible community. What might happen in our church today if we sincerely devoted ourselves to these same things?

Passage: Acts 2:42-47

DISCUSS IT:

  1. Describe a setting where you feel “at home.” It could be a place, a group of people, or something else. What about it makes you feel that way?
     
  2. Read Acts 2:43-47. The early church was characterized by a sense of awe, generosity, connection, hospitality, and joy. In your experience, are these words that you naturally associate with church? Does one stand out more than the others?
     
  3. In his message this past weekend, Geoff mentioned that churches grow through a partnership between God and people. God’s part is to supply the energizing power of the Holy Spirit. Our part is to invest our time, energy and resources to build irresistible community. What would you say about the relationship between your own investment in church life and your enjoyment of church life?
     
  4. Read Acts 2:42. The people of the early church devoted themselves to four specific things: teaching, fellowship, sharing meals, and prayer. Share an example of a teaching you’ve heard in the past that you applied to your life.
     
  5. Geoff mentioned that the word “fellowship” in the Bible refers to deep relational connection. Is that an appealing idea to you? Or do you question whether you have the capacity to invest in friendships beyond the ones you already have?
     
  6. There’s something special about sharing meals with others… something that builds community. Do you slow down to eat with others during the week or do you mostly eat on-the-go? Is there anyone you think you should invite to share a meal with soon in order to deepen your friendship with them?
     
  7. Prayer was the natural reflex of the early church in the face of challenges. Would your group be willing to commit to pray every day this week for the church? How will you remind each other during the week?
     

APPLY IT:

  • What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?
  • What will help you remember it?
  • Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

No Place Like Home - Part IV

Series: No Place Like Home
Title: Part 4 - Commitment
Date: September 2/3, 2017
Speaker: Geoff and Sherry Surratt

BIG IDEA:

This week as we wrapped up our No Place Like Home Series, Geoff and Sherry Surratt taught about the six things children need consistently to grow into healthy adults. The great news is that it’s never too late to begin investing in these six things with your kids, even if they’re grown. And even if you don’t have children of your own, all of us have the opportunity to invest in the lives of children in our communities.

Passage: Luke 2:10-19

DISCUSS IT:

  1. Fall is a season where life seems to get back to normal after the activities of summer. What are you looking forward to about this fall? Anything you’re not looking forward to about the fall?
     
  2. In her teaching this past weekend Sherry mentioned several things that children need from their parents and loved ones. The first, #1 Love over time. Specifically, children need us to communicate our love for them through active attention and presence. What sorts of things tend to compete with the time and attention you could be investing in your kids?
     
  3. #2 Work over time. Through work, kids come to understand that God has gifted them with abilities and talents. What do you recall about your own parents’/guardians’ attitudes toward work? What perspective on work do you think your kids glean from watching you?
     
  4. #3 Stories over time. Kids need to hear the authentic life stories and experiences of the adults in their lives. What stories or life lessons have shaped you that you could share with a child?
     
  5. #4 Tribes over time. Every parent eventually comes to see the limits of their influence in their children’s lives. When children see themselves as part of a larger tribe (ie., a small group, a church), they have other adult voices speaking into their lives to complement what their parents teach. What children other than your own do you know who might see you as part of their tribe? What might they need to hear from you?
     
  6. #5 Fun over time. As adults we can find it easy to invite kids into activities we personally enjoy, but Sherry taught that real connection is built when we step into the things that they enjoy. What do the kids in your life enjoy doing that might be challenging for you to enjoy?
     
  7. Read Deuteronomy 6:1-8. The final thing Sherry mentioned, #6 Words over time. Sherry mentioned four strategic times that parents can use to have important conversations with children: morning time, meal time, drive time, and bedtime. How do you (or how might you) use the rhythms of the day to speak intentionally with your children?
     
  8. Lots of parents feel that in spite of doing these things consistently, things haven’t turned out the way that they hoped for their children. So Geoff reminded us that another thing we need is hope over time. Often we can only see God’s providence in our lives in retrospect. How can we communicate hope to the people in our lives who need it?

APPLY IT:

  • What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?
  • What will help you remember it?
  • Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

No Place Like Home-Part III

Series: No Place Like Home

Title: Part 3 - Conflict

Date: August 26/27, 2017

Speaker: Steve Garcia

 

Big Idea:  

When we find ourselves in conflict with another person, we must be honest and humble with how we have contributed to the conflict. We will only have peace in the conflict when we see our piece of the conflict.

Passage: Matthew 7:3-5; Romans 12:18
 

Discuss It:

  1. What is the silliest, most petty argument you remember getting into?
  2. Steve described two responses to conflict in his sermon. The attacker is the person who responds to conflict by placing responsibility on someone else. The avoider is the person who tries to ignore it. Which of these tendencies do you display in conflict?
  3. Resolving conflict is usually difficult and uncomfortable. What benefit is there to resolving conflict? How has your life been impacted by conflict resolution?
  4. What relationships in your life tend to create the most conflict? How are these conflicts generally resolved, if they are?
  5. In what ways does your pride try to prevent you from resolving conflicts in your life? 
  6. Read Matthew 7:3-5. How have you contributed to the current conflicts you are experiencing in life?
  7. Did this message convict you of any unresolved conflict in your life? What steps can you take this week to admit your part, apologize, forgive, or pray toward resolution?

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

No Place Like Home-Part II

Series: No Place Like Home

Title: Part 2 - Calendar

Date: August 19/20, 2017

Speaker: Ben Patterson

 

Big Idea:

We all want to make a difference in the world, and we have only limited time to do it. For parents that window of time is the approximately 936 weeks between the day a child is born and the day they leave the home. For others, the window may be shorter or longer. Regardless, if we want to make a long-term difference, we need to be intentional about the near-term. 

Passages: Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23
 

Discuss It:

  1. Talk about someone who had a positive influence in your life. What do you think your life would be like without that person?
  2. Read Matthew 13:3-9 and 18-23. How do you relate to this passage personally? Are there thorns that tend to choke out your faith? What circumstances tend to scorch your faith? When are you most receptive to God like the good soil?
  3. In his message this past weekend, Ben said that it’s important to be consistent in how we invest in others. If you’re invested in someone (ie., a child, coworker, family member, etc.), do you tend to look for major high-impact moments of influence, or do you focus more on the ongoing daily/weekly/monthly moments of interaction? How could you become more consistent?
  4. Ben also pointed out the importance of being clear in our communication, ensuring that our message actually gets across. For example, he recommended that parents ask their children open-ended questions and listen to gauge their understanding. How do you typically judge whether someone else has understood you?
  5. It’s also important to be creative in how we communicate. Again, if you’re invested in someone, what are some different ways you might communicate with them to help them hear your message in a fresh light?
  6. Finally, Ben recommended that we take a look at the next week’s events on our calendars, and for each event ask whether to “sow it or throw it.” In other words, do the ways we spend our time help us to invest in others, or do they get in the way? What might you need to remove from your schedule in order to be more effective in your investment in someone else? Or what might you need to add

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

No Place Like Home-Part I

Series: No Place Like Home

Title: Part 1 - Comparison

Date: August 12/13, 2017

Speaker: Steve Garcia

 

Big Idea:

Comparison is being caught in the trap of constantly asking, “Does she have more than me? Are they better off? Is he smarter, funnier, richer?” When we preoccupy ourselves with these questions, comparison turns our contentment to resentment. God has a better plan.

Passages: Luke 6:27-28; Romans 12:15; Psalm 118:24
 

Discuss It:

  1. When you played games or sports as a child, were you a gracious loser? How did you handle winning?
  2. Are you exhausted or broke from trying to keep up with friends or neighbors? If so, explain.
  3. Read Luke 6:27-28. In his message this past weekend, Steve showed how Jesus’ teaching about praying for our enemies is also relevant for the people to whom we tend to compare ourselves. Rather than nursing jealousy toward that person, we should pray for them. What do you think are the benefits of praying this way?
  4. Read Romans 12:15. When we envy someone, it’s difficult to celebrate their successes and easy to enjoy their failures. Is there anyone you secretly enjoy seeing fail? What can you do to extend that person grace?
  5. Do you think that it’s disingenuous to verbally celebrate someone’s success when you secretly envy them? Why or why not?
  6. Read Psalm 118:24. Another problem with envy is that it causes us to lose sight of today’s blessings. What good things in your life do you need to be more thankful for and celebrate more intentionally?

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Won't you be my neighbor-Part III

Series: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Title: Part 3 - Invisible Neighbors

Date: August 5/6, 2017

Speaker: Peter Barber

 

Big Idea:

Jesus brought good news for the poor, the powerless, and the disenfranchised - the people who often feel invisible to the world around them. How can we be good neighbors to our “invisible neighbors?”

Passage: Luke 4:16-21
 

Discuss It:

  1. Imagine that you could suddenly have a power. It could be a superhero-like power, or simply the power to influence an outcome that you care about. What would it be?
  2. Read Luke 4:16-21. How is Jesus defining his mission? Why do you think he stresses that the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed will be the focus of his ministry?
  3. Many Christians seem to think that the primary purpose of the church has to do with “saving souls,” and that attending to social needs is a separate or secondary issue. How do you view the relationship between “spiritual” and “social” matters in light of Luke 4:16-21?
  4. In his message, Peter mentioned three categories of “captives” that live as our neighbors in the Denver area: refugees, the suburban poor, and victims of human trafficking. Were you aware of these groups? What experiences have you had interacting with them?
  5. Read Genesis 1:26-29. Scripture reveals that humans are created “in the image of God” - which, among other things, means that we are invested with power to care for creation just as God would. Think about your own power - your sphere of influence at home, work, community, etc. What falls within your power to promote flourishing among the people and environments you interact with? Where do you have the potential to do harm, and how can you prevent it?
  6. Read Matthew 25:34-40. How would your behavior change if you treated each person in your life as if he or she were Jesus?
  7. Is there a particular issue or need in the world that compels you to take action? How are you involved? Or, how would you like to become more involved?

Recommended reading from the message:

●      Playing God, by Andy Crouch

●      The Power of Proximity, by Michelle Warren

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Won't you be my neighbor?-Part II

Series: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Title: Part 2 - The Neighborhood of Sinners and Saints

Date: July 29/30, 2017

Speaker: Geoff Surratt

 

Big Idea:

Jesus had a reputation for socializing with all the “wrong people.” When the religious elites pressed him about it, he responded by telling three powerful stories illustrating how God doesn’t categorize people the way that humans do. As it turns out, we’re all the wrong-made-right people; and Jesus wants to be neighbors with people just like us. 

Passage: Luke 15
 

Discuss It:

1.     Tell about a time when you lost something valuable or important to you. How did you feel? Did you find it?

2.     Read Luke 15:1-2. What comes to mind when you hear the word “sinner?”

3.     In his message this past weekend, Geoff talked about our tendency to categorize people as either saints or sinners (if you prefer, you could substitute other words… good/bad, insider/outsider, us/them). What attitudes/beliefs/behaviors in others do you notice that cause you to place people in these categories?

4.     Read Luke 15:11-24. Which of the father’s actions toward the son stand out most to you?

5.     Read Luke 15:25-32. Do you identify more with the prodigal son or the older brother? Why?

6.     What causes us to harbor resentment when mercy is shown to someone else?

7.     Geoff posed the questions: “What if we refused to place people in sinner/saint categories? What if Southeast became a church that had the reputation as the church that welcomes sinners and eats with them?” How can you help Southeast to become that kind of church? What might it mean for some of your friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. to experience the hospitable love of Jesus?

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Won't you be my neighbor?-Part I

Series: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Title: Part 1 - Neighboring Like Jesus

Date: July 22/23, 2017

Speaker: Ben Patterson

 

Big Idea:

For the next few weeks we’ll be talking about how we can be good neighbors; investing in the lives of those who live near us. This weekend Ben Patterson taught about how Jesus turned an awkward encounter into a teachable moment. The lesson: our gratitude for our own forgiveness ought to motivate us to love those around us.

Passage: Luke 7:36-50
 

Discuss It:

1.     Talk about the best neighbor you’ve ever had. Or (without naming names), share the most awkward encounter you’ve had with one of your neighbors. 

2.     In his message, Ben pointed out that the church isn’t a place we go, it’s who we are. How might that distinction influence the way we act as neighbors?

3.     Read Luke 7:36-50. The woman’s actions in this story strikes modern readers as odd, but to the original audience her actions would have been shockingly offensive. What do we learn about Jesus from his gracious response?

4.     What does Jesus see about the motives of the woman and of the Pharisee?

5.     The surprising point of this story is that the person who seemingly had it all together was actually worse off than the one who didn’t. How should this passage inform the way we evaluate our own goodness or righteousness?

6.     Ben challenged us to turn our gratitude toward God into action toward our neighbors. How well do you know your current neighbors (specifically, the eight homes closest to yours)? How might you get to know them better, and maybe help them with a practical need?

7.     Take a moment as a group to look at the “Love Where We Live” campaign (lovewherewelive.org). Is there a serving opportunity you could do as a group? Close by praying for Southeast’s impact in the community this week.

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Let's Rebuild-Part III

Series: Let’s Rebuild

Title: Part 3 - Preventing Future Disasters

Date: July 15/16, 2017

Speaker: Steve Garcia

 

Big Idea:

Rebuilding something in our lives is great, but how do we make it last? The story of Israel as recorded in Nehemiah shows us that challenges and temptations will always seek to unravel the hard work we have done.

Passage: Nehemiah 13
 

Discuss It:

1.     Are you diligent about preventive maintenance on your car or home, or do you tend to wait until something breaks altogether before you fix it? 

2.     Read Nehemiah 13:4-12. In what specific ways had the temple been neglected? Why was the association with Tobiah problematic? What behaviors and attitudes today might be analogous to the temple neglect of ancient Israel?

3.     In response to the neglect of the temple, Nehemiah set things right by re-prioritizing worship in Israel. In what way(s) might you need to better prioritize worship in your own life (ie., church attendance, generosity, spiritual disciplines, service, etc.)?

4.     Read Nehemiah 13:15-21. Nehemiah found the people conducting business on the Sabbath day (in the Old Testament times, the people of Israel were supposed to refrain from work on the Sabbath in order to rest and worship), so he locked the city gates in order to prevent commerce. What measures might you need to take in your own life to keep temptation “shut out of the gates?” Who could help you?

5.     Read Nehemiah 13:23-30. Nehemiah also found that the people were marrying spouses from outside Israel (which was also forbidden at the time because of the inevitable influence of pagan gods that such marriages would bring), and he responded quite forcefully. While we should never engage in violence, it’s possible that rebuilding in our own lives will require some dramatic changes in the people we associate with. Have you ever removed yourself from a destructive relationship? How can you prioritize godly relationships in your life?

6.     Read Psalm 40:1-3. In his message this past weekend, Steve pointed out that Jesus doesn’t just want to rescue us from the consequences of sin; he wants to replace the brokenness in our lives with something beautiful… a “new song.” If you are in a rebuilding process of some kind, what beautiful story do you hope to one day be able to tell? If God has already led you through a rebuilding process, what newfound blessings have you experienced as a result?

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Let's Rebuild-Part II

Series: Let’s Rebuild

Title: Part 2 - Facing Opposition

Date: July 8/9, 2017

Speaker: Steve Garcia

 

Big Idea:

If you make the courageous decision to rebuild something in your life or in the world around you, it won’t be long before you face opposition. To push through the challenges you’ll need a very clear “why”... that is, a compelling answer to the question of why this rebuilding project must be done.

Passages: Nehemiah 4
 

Discuss It:

1.     Have you ever had a project that you felt like giving up on, but paid dividends when you stuck it through?

2.     How do you most naturally respond to opposition? Do you get distracted, challenged to work harder, give up, get frustrated, complain, seek new solutions, trust God more, other?

3.     Read Nehemiah 4:10. In his message this past weekend, Steve pointed out four types of opposition that Nehemiah faced which we also face today when trying to accomplish something. The first two were fatigue, and the people’s inability to see the finish line. Why do you think the midpoint of the project was the hardest phase (vs. the beginning or the completion)? Why might this be important for us to remember when approaching projects of our own?

4.     Read Nehemiah 4:11. The people also faced the opposition of fear… the builders were working under the threat of real violence. Talk about a time when you were paralyzed by fear. What happened?

5.     Read Nehemiah 4:12. The people also faced opposition from their friends and family. What do you think are some of the reasons that the people closest to us might try to dissuade us from taking on a major challenge? How should we respond?

6.     How can we determine the difference between healthy realism that acknowledges problems and unhealthy negativity?

7.     Read Nehemiah 2:17-18 and 4:14. In your own words, how would you phrase Nehemiah’s answer to the question of why the wall should be rebuilt?

8.     If you are seeking to rebuild or repair something in your life, what is the why that drives you?

 

 

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Let's Rebuild - Part I

Series: Let’s Rebuild
Title: Part 1 - Rebuilding Principles
Date: July 1/2, 2017
Speaker: Geoff Surratt

BIG IDEA:

We all face circumstances in life that are best described as “broken,” whether at work, in our families, in our relationships, with our health, etc. Nehemiah prayed that God would help him to rebuild the broken walls of his city, Jerusalem; and his story shows us several principles about how God works to rebuild broken things.

PASSAGES: Nehemiah 1:1-4; 2:1-5, 16-18; Galatians 6:1-3

DISCUSS IT:

  1. How good of a “handyman” are you? Do you love taking on DIY projects or do you recoil at the thought of using a power tool? Share either your biggest DIY accomplishment or failure.

  2. Read Nehemiah 1:1-4. The first rebuilding principle Geoff shared in his message this past weekend is that rebuilding always begins with a decision… in most cases it’s a decision to do something about an issue that breaks your heart. When have you been driven to action by circumstances around you that you could no longer tolerate?

  3. Are there any issues on your heart right now that you feel a strong burden to address? (Could be a justice issue, or an issue in your family, your finances, your workplace, your personal life, etc.). Is it possible that the burden you feel is God leading you to rebuild something?

  4. Read Nehemiah 2:1-5. The second rebuilding principle Geoff mentioned is that rebuilding begins with prayer. Notice how Nehemiah’s prayer in verse 4 fits into the flow of his conversation with the king. It’s likely that no one even realized Nehemiah was praying, but Nehemiah nevertheless invites God into the moment. How natural is it for you to pray “in the moment” like this? What could help you to remember to do so?

  5. The third rebuilding principle is that rebuilding starts where you are. At this point in the story Nehemiah has neither the freedom nor the resources to rebuild the wall. He only has a vision. Do you tend to focus more on obstacles or opportunities? What obstacles do you see standing in the way of addressing the burden you mentioned in response to question 3 above? (Could be a lack of resources, a relational breakdown, a past failure, etc.).

  6. The fourth principle is that rebuilding almost always involves a leap of faith. In Nehemiah’s case the leap of faith was being transparent with the king (showing any emotion other than sheer delight in the king’s presence could have easily cost him his life). What relationship or situation in your life needs you to be bolder?

  7. Read Galatians 6:1-3. The final principle is that rebuilding takes a team. When has someone helped you accomplish something you couldn’t have done on your own? As a group, how can you help each other shoulder the burdens that are too heavy for any one individual?
     

APPLY IT:

  • What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?
  • What will help you remember it?
  • Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Touch the Sky - Part IV

Series: Touch the Sky
Title: Part 4 - Unanswered Prayer
Date: June 24/25, 2017
Speaker: Geoff Surratt

BIG IDEA:

The Bible is full of commands and promises about how to pray and the results we can expect. lt's tempting to take this as a formula for life. However, scripture is also full of examples of prayers going unanswered, demonstrating that just as life is complex, so is prayer. Geoff encouraged us to see prayer as less transactional and more relational; leaning into God’s unconditional love as we walk with him through times when our prayers aren’t answered in the ways we might wish.  

Passages: Psalm 55:22; Ephesians 1:4-8; Matthew 7:7-11
 

DISCUSS IT:

  1. Was there a Christmas present you repeatedly asked for as a kid, but never got? Was there one you finally did get?

  2. What is an unanswered prayer in your life (could be present or past)? How did/does that affect your relationship with God right now?

  3. In his message Geoff mentioned a few reasons that God might answer our prayers with a “no.” Perhaps a prayer is frivolous, perhaps a sin our lives is blocking the way, perhaps our prayer conflicts with someone else’s prayer, or perhaps we are asking God to do something that goes against his nature. What other explanations have you heard as to why some prayers go unanswered? Which are the most satisfying? Which are the least satisfying?

  4. Read 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. Sometimes God delivers you from something and other times he delivers you through it. Share a time in your life when God gave you the strength to get through something or endure a season of life. What do you think Paul meant when he said, “your power works best in weakness?” How does the power of Christ work through us when we are going through hard times?

  5. Read 1 Peter 3:7. How does our relationship with others impact our relationship with God? Why is there such a strong link between how I treat someone and my prayers being answered? If you are married, how could prayer help your marriage?

  6. Read 2 Chronicles 7:14. How does the solution of humble prayer to restore our country, our family, our health, our finances, etc., compare to other solutions? Why is it so hard to let God change us before He changes things around us?

  7. Ephesians 1:4-8. The Bible teaches that God has lovingly made us part of his family. How can this relationship sustain us in times when God doesn’t seem to hear our prayers? In his message, Geoff posed the question, “Could you reach a place where you could say to God that you love him regardless of whether he does anything that you ask?” How would you respond to that question?

  8. Geoff mentioned that we usually don’t learn lessons in the middle of seasons of unanswered prayer, but we tend to learn a lot from these seasons in retrospect. Looking back, are there things you once asked God for that you are now glad he said “no?”

APPLY IT:

  • What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

  • What will help you remember it?

  • Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Touch the Sky-Part III

Series: Touch the Sky

Title: Part 3 - The Myths of Prayer

Date: June 17/18, 2017

Speaker: Peter Barber

 

Big Idea:

Misconceptions of God’s nature can lead us to approach prayer in ways that fall short of what God has in mind for our relationship with him. When we understand that God relates to us a truly good father, we are freed from the notion that we have to manipulate God into blessing our lives.

Passage: Matthew 6:2-8; 26-33
 

Discuss It:

1.     What popular image of God stands out most prominently in your mind? Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty? Octavia Spencer in The Shack? God peering down from the clouds in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? God as depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Another?

2.     Read Matthew 6:2-4. One myth about prayer views God as a Santa Claus figure who rewards nice behavior. This perspective can lead people to draw attention as much as possible to their good works. Why does Jesus discourage this? Where are you tempted to advertise your own acts of righteousness?

3.     Read Matthew 6:5-6. Another myth about prayer understands God as an angry cosmic policeman, looking to punish people for the slightest infraction. This led some people in Jesus’ day to make a big show of their holiness and righteous behavior. Why do you think people tend to see God primarily as a rule-enforcer?

4.     If Jesus tells us to pray in secret, what do you think is the value of public prayer?

5.     Read Matthew 6:7-8. A third myth about prayer sees God as a genie who will grant our wishes if we can figure out the right prayer formula or incantation to draw him out of his lamp. What formulas or methods have you tried hoping they would elicit a certain response from God? (ie., bargaining, lengthy prayers, extra good behavior, etc.).

6.     Why do we often use special or unusual language when talking to God?

7.     Read Matthew 6:26-30. A fourth myth about prayer views God as a grumpy old man; a distant, uncaring, stay-off-my-lawn kind of God. Naturally, this perspective can lead to fear and anxiety. What does Jesus point out about God’s care for the world? How do you think worry might be affecting you emotionally, physically, and spiritually?

8.     Read Matthew 6:31-33. The final myth Peter mentioned about prayer views God as a slot machine who will eventually pay out if we pull the lever enough times. This view can lead us to become consumed with materialism. What would it mean for you to shift your attention from materialism to the Kingdom of God?

9.     The common thread running through all these myths is the assumption that prayer is a means of manipulating God into giving us what we want. So Peter concluded his message by showing how our true relationship with God is like a relationship with a good father. How might this kind of a relationship change the way we approach prayer?

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

TOUCH THE SKY - PART II

Series: Touch the Sky
Title: Part 2 - The Lord’s Prayer
Date: June 10/11, 2017
Speaker: Steve Garcia

Big Idea:
Jesus modeled for his disciples how to pray, and his prayer centered around the idea of praying for God’s will to be done. This could seem odd at first glance… why pray that God would do what he was going to do anyway? Steve showed that power of praying this way is that it brings our plans into alignment with God’s purposes.

Passage: Matthew 6:9-13
 

Discuss It:

  1. What is one of your biggest answers to prayer and/or what is one of your most recent answers to prayer?
     
  2. Read Matthew 6:9-13. What does it mean for you that God is “Our Father”? Is the image of father a positive one for you?
     
  3. Verse 10 reads, “... your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” How would you describe the kingdom of God? What comes into your mind when you hear the phrase?
     
  4. In his message this past weekend Steve said, “Prayer aligns our plans with God’s purposes.” He went on to say that God doesn’t have one particular plan for your life, but rather desires that you align your plans and efforts with his purposes. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Why does it matter?
     
  5. Have you ever come to a realization that your life had drifted from God’s purposes? How did you know? What did you do about it?
     
  6. Why does Jesus pray “Give us today our daily bread?” How can you consider this an invitation to a different or deeper life with God?
     
  7. How would you put the final three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Forgive us our debts; Lead us not into temptation; Deliver us from evil) into your own prayer? Why is it important to pray these three things regularly?
     
  8. How might praying the Lord’s Prayer mature us more fully into his children?


Apply It:

What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

What will help you remember it?

Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Touch the Sky-Part I

Series: Touch the Sky

Title: Part 1 - The Power of Prayer

Date: June 3/4, 2017

Speaker: Steve Garcia

 

Big Idea:

There’s a lot that is mysterious about prayer, but God invites us to bring our requests to him. This weekend Steve Garcia taught that we can begin to experience the power of prayer when we pray with open eyes (what does God want me to step into?) and open hands (what does God want me to let go of?).

Passage: Nehemiah 1:1-2:8
 

Discuss It:

1.     Over the next few weeks we’ll be discussing the practice of prayer. What are some questions you have about prayer?... Perhaps things you’ve always wondered about why we pray or how it works? Make a note of these questions and see how your thinking develops over these next few weeks.
 

2.     Read Nehemiah 1:1-11. What was Nehemiah’s initial response to the burden God gave him? What do you tend to do first when God puts a burden on your heart?
 

3.     Nehemiah was able to see that he was “in the right place at the right time” to take action in response to Israel’s circumstances. For what problems/challenges do you think that God has placed you “in the right place at the right time” to address?
 

4.     Why do you think Nehemiah reminds God of the promise that God made to Moses? Are you familiar with God’s promises in scripture such that you could repeat them back to God?
 

5.     Read Nehemiah 2:1-8. Nehemiah had a specific plan in mind to present to the king. Why is it important to think things through as you are awaiting an open door from God? What types of things are you doing right now to prepare for open doors?
 

6.     In his message this past weekend, Steve said, “Sometimes I am the answer to my own request.” In other words, sometimes your role isn’t just to inform God about the problem… sometimes it’s your role to do something about the problem. How might you know when God is leading you to be the answer to your own request?
 

7.     As a group, identify one or two things you would like to see changed in the world. For this change to happen, what are the things that only God could do? What are the things that you could do?
 

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Finding Hope-Part VI

Series: Finding Hope

Title: Part 6 - Life-Savers

Date: May 27/28, 2017

Speaker: Geoff Surratt

 

Big Idea:

The life of the apostle Paul - the man who went from killing Christians to planting churches - reminds us that there is hope for everyone. Followers of Jesus get to partner with God in this life-saving mission that’s available to everyone, and in his message this weekend Geoff pointed out five important rules of life saving: 1) No one is beyond saving, 2) Get comfortable being uncomfortable, 3) Accept people where they are, 4) Never give up, and 5) You may not see the end of the story.

Passage: Acts 9:1-31
 

Discuss It:

Read Acts 9:1-6- Rule #1: No One Is Beyond Saving

1.    How would you describe the most intimidating person you know?

2.    What was your conversion experience like?
 

Read Acts 9:10-19 - Rule #2: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable, and Rule #3: Accept People Where They Are

3.    Ananias had every reason to despise Saul. What do you notice about the way he speaks to Saul?

4.    How would you respond to the idea of God’s grace being extended to someone who has personally harmed you or your loved ones?

5.    In his message, Geoff said, “You’re never going to debate someone into followinNog Christ. We can only love people into the kingdom.” Why are experiences of love and acceptance more compelling than even the most well-reasoned arguments?
 

Read Acts 9:19-25 - Rule #4: Never Give Up, and Rule #5: You May Not See the End of the Story

6.    Saul’s transformation occurred almost instantaneously, yet he would go on to spend his life teaching about Jesus in the face of intense rejection. What do you think gave him the ability to stay the course? What can we learn from this?

7.    Geoff shared the story of the women who shared the Gospel with his grandparents, resulting in generations of belief in Jesus and church leadership that those women never lived to see. How has your life been impacted by the legacy of someone in a previous generation?

8.    Who is the person in your life who you would most like to see become a follower of Jesus? Pray as a group for these people.

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Finding Hope-Part V

Series: Finding Hope

Title: Part 5 - Hope in the Midst of Fear

Date: May 20/21, 2017

Speaker: Geoff Surratt

 

Big Idea:

Fear holds us back in many ways. It leads us to regret missed opportunities. It prevents us from achieving our potential. Biblical hope has the power to disarm fear. The source of that power: resurrection.

Passage: Acts 6-7
 

Discuss It:

1.    What experiences/opportunities have you missed out on in your life because of fear? If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?

2.    Read Acts 6:8-15, and the end of Stephen’s speech in 7:51-60. Faced with the violent mob, Stephen seemed fearless. How was he able to face this danger?

3.    What would make it possible for you to be calm and sure in the middle of extreme danger?

4.    In his message, Geoff said that when fear is overcome by the power of the resurrection it leads to hope. How does the reality of Jesus’ resurrection lead to hope? (See 1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

5.    Christians often talk about salvation and resurrection in terms of what happens after we die. How does it change our perspective when we understand that these are present realities as well as future?

6.    Have you experienced God bring something dead back to life in your own life?

7.    Where in your life would you most like to see resurrection power at work? In what ways might fear and regret be holding you back?

 

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

 

Finding Hope-Part IV

Series: Finding Hope

Title: Part 4 - Prayer

Date: May 13/14, 2017

Speaker: Peter Barber

 

Big Idea:

Sometimes our circumstances leave us feeling hopeless about the future. While it might seem most natural to pray for deliverance, what if we prayed instead for greater dependence on God to carry us through these circumstances?

Passage: Acts 4
 

Discuss It:

1.    When you are misunderstood, what do you usually do to clear things up?

2.    Read Acts 4:1-12. In our society, when should Christian leaders stand up to political and/or religious groups?

3.    Read Acts 4:24-28. What stands out to you about the disciples’ prayer?

4.    In times of trouble, do you respond more like the Sanhedrin (trying to figure out for yourself what to do), or like the disciples (coming to God in sincere prayer)?

5.    When we pray, why is it helpful to recall the way God has acted in the past?

6.    When was the last time you were amazed by the power of prayer?

7.    In his message Peter pointed out that the disciples - in the face of imminent persecution - prayed for greater dependence on God rather than relief from their circumstances. What blessing did the church experience as a result of this prayer? (Acts 4:32-35)

8.    Peter said that in prayer “whenever our mouths speak, our hearts are eavesdropping.” How might your heart change with respect to the challenges you are facing if you were to pray for greater dependence on God?

 

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?

Finding Hope-Part III

Series: Finding Hope

Title: Part 3 - Better

Date: May 6/7, 2017

Speaker: Steve Garcia

 

Big Idea:

Though it may be difficult for us to see from our limited human perspective, God is always up to something better in the world than we could arrange for ourselves. We can gain better perspective when we trust that...

1.      God’s answer is always better

2.      God’s timing is always better

3.      God’s impact is always better

Passage: Acts 3
 

Discuss It:

1.    Read Acts 3:1-10. If a stranger were to ask you for a handout, what would you most likely do? Why?

2.    What do you remember about a time when you were very sick or hurt?

3.    Steve pointed out that the crippled man in the story did not get what he asked for (money), he got something much better (healing). Have you ever experienced an outcome that was far greater than what you expected or imagined?

4.    In difficult times, how easy is it for you to trust that God truly has your best interests in mind?

5.    Looking back on past seasons of life, is there anything you prayed for that you are now glad you did not receive?

6.    Read Acts 3:16. What do you think is the significance of the mention of Jesus’ name with regard to the man’s healing?

7.    Read Acts 3:17-26. The occasion of the crippled man’s healing becomes an opportunity for the apostles to preach the gospel to a large audience. What has God done in your life (or maybe currently doing in your life) that you could use to point people to Jesus?

 

Apply It:

●      What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?

●      What will help you remember it?

●      Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?