Monday, December 11, 2017

The Waiting - Our Joy is In Jesus

Conversation Starter:
On a scale of 1-10, what is your joy level today?

Read Matthew 3:1-12
What do you notice about John?
What is John’s attitude about Jesus?
What does he say that Jesus will do?

Read John 3:26-29
What is the situation? What’s going on?
What is John’s attitude? What does John say about joy?

Read Also: Matthew 10:39; 16:25, Mark 8:35 & Luke 9:24
How does John experience this promise of Jesus?

Applying God’s Word:
Where does our culture tell us joy comes from?
When you are looking for joy, where do you most often turn?

What do you imagine it would look like for you to have a Christ-first Christmas this year?
What changes are you asking God to help you make?

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Waiting - Get Your Hopes Up

With hope, we watch and pray.

Biblical Resources:
Q: When is Jesus returning? A: No one knows.
Matthew 24:36-44; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 17:26-37; Acts 1:7

Q: How will Jesus return? A: In a highly visible, globally known event.
Acts 1:9-11; Matthew 24:27; Revelation 1:7

Q: Why is it taking so long? A: God wants all people to have a chance to know Him.
2 Peter 3:8-9; Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10

Q: Why is Jesus returning? A: To fully establish the promised kingdom of God (Heaven), where the earth is restored to its original sinless state. Justice will be fully established and evil punished and banished.
Isaiah 11:1-10, Revelation 21 & 22

Areas of Honest Biblical Uncertainty/ Disagreement:
1) If the rapture of the faithful will happen before, during or after a time of significant tribulation.
Key Passages: Matthew 24:15-51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Revelation 7:14; Daniel 9:24-27

2) If the promised 1000 year reign of Jesus is 1) happening now 2) will happen before he returns or 3) will happen after he returns.
Key Passages: Revelation 20:1-10

Applying God's Word
When you think of Jesus' promised return, what emotions does it evoke in you? Apathy? Confusion? Fear? Longing? Trust?
What holds you back from greater longing and trust?

Your Advent Prayer:
What is something you are longing for Jesus to set right in the world?
What is something you are longing for Jesus to set right in you?

Lord Jesus come quickly.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Happily Ever After - Stop Honkin'

We all need relationships. But it seems harder than ever to build a relationship that lasts. Whether married, single, divorced or widowed, God’s Word has powerful, timely advice for building the lasting relationships we long for. But some of God’s relationship advice is so counter-cultural that following requires a radical act of trust. Will you trust God to help you build your closest relationships?

Have you ever thought you were right about something and then came to the realization you simply didn’t see the whole picture? How did this affect your relationship(s)?

What is one relationship in your life you would like to improve: ______________?
(marriage, boyfriend/girlfriend, family member, friend, co-worker, etc.)

The key to a loving, lasting relationship is emotional connection.
Empathy & trust are keys to emotional connection.
What are two ways you could connect today to your significant other emotionally?

Fill in the following for the important people in your life to become more aware of their emotional lives:
**Ask your loved ones these questions. Get to know them from their worldview. Come from a loving stance. Lean into them and connect. We often miss each other in our efforts to connect- getting to know how our spouse or others in our life ‘feel’ or receive love helps us emotionally connect with them better.

*What is your top love language? (Acts of service, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch or Quality Time) Discover them further here. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
*Are you an Introvert (replenishes by being alone) or Extrovert (replenishes by being with people)?
*Are you an Internal processor (processes life inside their head and speaks slowly) or External Processor (seems to let all the words out onto the table and processes out loud)?
*What are your Strengths?
*What things that bother you in general (loud noises, dishes on the counter, etc.)?
*What things hurt you that I do, that I may not know I do and need to avoid?
*Ask Men: What are ways you feel respected?
*Ask Women: What are ways you feel loved?

Was there anything new you learned?
What ways can you improve your communication as a habit?

Ways to keep in the habit of building a loving, lasting marriage- stay emotionally connected:
*Love God and stay connected to Him.
*Pray, read the Bible, be accountable to a Connection Group and godly friends.
*Love your neighbor (spouse) as yourself.
*Trust in them and believe the best. Selflessly love them.
*Be willing to change first. One willing person open to God using them can change the course of a relationship.
*See them and the things that matter through their perspective, not just yours. Empathy produces emotional connection.
*Ask God to open your eyes to see the full picture through HIS eyes.
*Connect with them- move toward them daily. Serve them, pray for ways to use the information you gather to help them feel loved by you.
*Grace your spouse with the forgiveness, grace, mercy and love you too would like.
*Practice living a loving, lasting relationship every day!
*Prayer exercise: Spend 5-10 minutes in prayer. Write a Letter to Yourself FROM your Spouse. Have each spouse read the others letter and discuss.

Fun Date Night Conversations
Take an evening and eat a meal together discussing the questions like this together:
*What are your favorite hobbies right now? How about when you were in high school?
*What are your top two stresses right now?
*Who is your favorite relative? Why?
*Name a dream you had a one time.
*What is one of your greatest fears?
*What makes you feel most competent?
*Are there any personal improvements you would like to make in your life?
*What is your favorite childhood memory?
*Who was your childhood best friend?
*What would you consider your ideal job?
*What is your favorite holiday and why?
*What makes you the most sad?
*Do you worry about any medical problems?
*Do you have any secret ambitions?
*Who do you most admire?
*What was your worst childhood experience?
*What is your absolute favorite dessert?
*Name two hopes, wishes, aspirations.
*What is your favorite current restaurant?

Recommended Resources:
‘Love and Respect’ by Dr. Emerson Eggerich
‘Boundaries in Marriage’ by Dr. Henry Cloud
‘The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work’ by John Gottman
‘Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married’ by Gary Chapman
‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman
‘The Meaning of Marriage’ by Tim Keller

Monday, November 20, 2017

Happily Ever After - Building Guardrails

We all need relationships. But it seems harder than ever to build a relationship that lasts. Whether married, single, divorced or widowed, God’s Word has powerful, timely advice for building the lasting relationships we long for. But some of God’s relationship advice is so counter-cultural that following requires a radical act of trust. Will you trust God to help you build your closest relationships?

Conversation Starter:
When has a barrier, safety device or other form of guardrail prevented you from experiencing something much worse?

SEX - Read Matthew 5:27-28
What are some of the most common "triggers" for sexual temptation?
Does this emphasis on purity of thought life seem excessive to you? Why or why not?
What, if any, guardrails against sexual sin are in your life now?

MONEY - Read Proverbs 6:6-8 & Malachi 3:10
How would you summarize these teachings on savings and giving?
What financial plans and patterns guide your life now?
What financial advice do you wish you could have given yourself 10 years ago?

TIME - Read Exodus 20:8-10
How would you summarize this teaching in your own words?
What life factors most rob you of rest?
What life factors most rob you of focus?

Applying God's Word:
Which of these three areas do you have the strongest guardrails in place?
Which is your weakest area?
What is your next guardrail placement step?

Recommended Resources:
Sexual Temptation: Establishing Guardrails and Winning the Battle by Randy Alcorn
Every Young Woman's Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World by Shannon Ethridge
Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn
MichealHyatt.com - Christian-based Time Management Principles

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Happily Ever After - Choose to Trust

We all need relationships. But it seems harder than ever to build a relationship that lasts. Whether married, single, divorced or widowed, God’s Word has powerful, timely advice for building the lasting relationships we long for. But some of God’s relationship advice is so counter-cultural that following requires a radical act of trust. Will you trust God to help you build your closest relationships?

Conversation Starter:
How many common phrases can you think of that use the word “love"?
Based on these phrases, what does “love” mean?

Read 1 Corinthians 13.
What do you notice about this definition of love? 
How is this definition different from how our culture seems to define love today?

Read again 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. (Ideally in several translations.)
How would you put this definition in your own words?

Read 1 Corinthians 13:7.
Can you think of a time someone believed in or trusted you? 
Did that make a difference in your life? 
When is a time someone did not trust your actions and assumed that your intentions were bad?
 How did that experience affect you and your relationship?

Pastor Andrew talked about “believing the best” vs. “assuming the worst” in others. Which response are you more prone to in your relationships? 
If you tend to assume the worst in others, are you aware of it and how it affects your relationships?

Applying God’s Word:
How might you build a habit of trusting others? Are there steps to forgiveness and/or healing that you need God’s help with in order to grow in this area?
If you believe the best in others and have healthy relationships in your life, are there ways you can reach out to others and help them find ways to build trusting relationships?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happily Ever After - Fish in the Right Pond (And Use the Right Bait)

We all need relationships. But it seems harder than ever to build a relationship that lasts. Whether married, single, divorced or widowed, God’s Word has powerful, timely advice for building the lasting relationships we long for. But some of God’s relationship advice is so counter-cultural that following requires a radical act of trust. Will you trust God to help you build your closest relationships?

Conversation Starter:
What's one of the strangest ways you've ever heard of people meeting?

Read Proverbs 13:20
What's something "brave" you've done because of the positive or negative influence of friends?

Read Psalm 1:1‭-‬2
How have friendships either helped you or hindered you in your walk with the Lord?

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
How would you put this teaching in your own words?
Where might this warning against "yoking" or partnership apply beyond marriage?
What is the difference between the church being "in the world" and "the world" being in the church? Which one do you think Paul is addressing in this passage?

Questions for Personal Reflection:
Who are the people in the "Keep" of your life?
Who are people in the "Courtyard?"
Is there anyone currently in your "Keep" who shouldn't be? If so, will you ask God to show you what emotional boundaries to put in place - and possibly what difficult conversations to have?

If your Keep is empty, will you ask God to help you discern what emotional and spiritual health looks like and grow in your ability to trust?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Facing the Lions - Facing Your Fears (Daniel 6)

God calls us to face our fears - and promises to meet us there. (Pastor Meghan Rush speaking)

What are some characteristics you have recognized in the book of Daniel over the past six weeks? Which ones do you most value?

Read Daniel 6:1-5. What characters are represented in the situation? What are their roles? What word would you use to describe how the administrators and satraps found Daniel in looking to bring charges against him? Have you ever felt persecuted or singled out because of your faith?

Read Daniel 6:10-16. Did Daniel do anything different than normal for his prayer life? Was the King aware he had been set up by the administrators and satraps? Why couldn’t he change the decree? Did the King seem to care about the situation Daniel was being put in?

Read Daniel 6:17-24. Why was Daniel rescued by God from the den?

Read Daniel 6:25-28. Would King Darius have believed in Daniel’s God without witnessing this event? By Daniel taking a stand to radically obey God, Darius and his kingdom gave reverence to God.

Applying the Word
Have you experienced having to live through a difficult situation?
Did it move you closer to God or move you further away from him?
If you have experienced a ‘Lions Den’ situation, can you see the ways you have been strengthened through it? What about the people around you who watched you go through it?
Are there Lions or Fears that you are facing right now? Can you surrender your fears to God?
Pick your biggest fear and ask God daily for His help. Then, trust Him to be bigger than your fears.

This week begin or continue to live by Daniel’s example:
Pray daily, Obey radically and Stand on God’s Truth