Fasting Devotional Guide - Sunday

The Old Testament shows us lots of situations where the people of Israel turned away from God to follow their own ways, and it always got them in trouble. Time after time, God sent prophets or judges to his people to remind them of his truth. Even when Jesus was on earth, the Jewish people were very religious, yet their hearts were far from God: “He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’” (Mark 7:6)

 

One time, God sent word through Isaiah that even though the people were religious by fasting regularly, they were doing it selfishly and without honoring God or other people (Isaiah 58:1-5). Then he goes on to tell them what kind of fasting that he wants them to engage in:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

 

There is a big contrast between the types of fast depicted in Isaiah 58. The first is done selfishly, with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. The second is others-focused, taking action to meet practical needs of those around us.

 

Where are you engaging the needs in our community? Pray and ask God to reveal where he wants you to serve, and begin this month. There are many opportunities to serve at Venture, in the Bay Area, or on Short-term Mission trip. You can check them out at: http://venture.cc/serve.  

 

Prayer Requests:

1. Pray for God’s favor in the conversations we have with people who are not yet Christians.

2. Pray and thank God for His provision in 2017. Thank Him for the challenges, the successes, and the failures. Thank Him for being with you in all of them. Ask for a heart that is quick to hear His voice in 2018.

3. Pray for our Film Team as they create various tools to teach, share, and connect with the hearts of people.

4. Pray for our Communications & Marketing Team as they serve to help provide clear pathways into ministry and discipleship.

5.  Pray for the guests and non-Christians who attended Christmas at Venture. May the seeds of the Gospel that were planted take root and produce a harvest.

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Fasting Devotional Guide - Saturday

We live in a time when a predominant belief is that each person gets to determine what is right and wrong. To some, the belief that God has a standard of truth and morality is archaic. But what do you do when someone’s standard causes harm to you or others? Things like sex trafficking or abuse of children outrages us, and most people would admit that those things are definitely wrong. There has to be a line drawn somewhere as to what is right behavior, but the problem is defining where that line is drawn.

 

Recently, I heard love defined as “protecting and providing for another.” Since God is loving (Psalm 86:15, 1 John 4:8), any command that comes from him will be rooted in love and is designed to protect and provide for us. God is also the all-powerful creator of all, and understands what is best for his creations. There’s an incredible continuity throughout the whole Bible, with God revealing his love and purposes to mankind from start to finish. The apostle Paul wrote,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

 

Are there parts of the bible, maybe God’s commands or promises, that are difficult for you to accept and submit too?

 

Spend time right now praying and asking God to help you understand and accept these challenging areas.

 

Prayer requests:

1. Pray for those in our congregation who are facing medical challenges and sickness. Pray for healing and perseverance in trials.

2. Pray that we are able to utilize our database efficiently to create a strong follow up system for first-time guests, those looking for groups, and serving opportunities requests.

3. Pray for our Guest Experience Team as they serve to make people welcomed and cared-for as well to have a great experience at Venture. May this lead people to get connected at Venture. This is one of the first steps of discipleship.

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Fasting Devotional Guide - Friday

Fast & Pray for our Little Ones!

Ezra called together a band of exiles remaining in Babylon to make the journey back to Jerusalem. There were almost 2000 men, plus their families, who gathered with Ezra on the banks of the river Ahiva. The 700-mile journey would be long and arduous, and the tons of silver and gold they carried made them far more at risk of attack along the way. Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for an armed escort, because he had told the king that God showed favor on those who seek him.

 

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” (Ezra 8:21, ESV)

 

I see a spiritual parallel to our lives in this story. We are on a journey and there is an enemy who is seeking to pillage and plunder our lives, families, and spiritual possessions. Many Christians fall prey to the ambushes that Satan sets and become casualties. Children and teenagers are especially vulnerable to being deceived into trading in the journey for the temporary pursuits of the flesh and the world.

 

Ezra 8:31 records that Ezra and the travelers made it to Jerusalem safely, “The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way.” Perhaps ambushes were set for them, and enemies tried to attack, yet because the hand of God was upon them, they were delivered safely through their valley of the shadow of death.

 

Let’s pray not only for our own children (if we are blessed to have them), but also ask God for safety from the evil one for our “little ones” here at Venture in their spiritual journey. We can’t be the armed guard for our children and teenagers like God and his heavenly hosts can be!

 

Prayer Requests:

 

1.Pray that God would raise up people to work and serve in our Children’s ministry. We have a big need in that area.

2.Pray that we as a church would continue to strive forward with courage and confidence in the Lord as we walk into this year.

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Fasting Devotional Guide - Thursday

Read Acts 13:1-5

 

  • What situation are Paul (Saul) and Barnabas in and why are they fasting?

 

 

 

 

  • Where in your life do you desire to receive direction and leading from God? Pray and ask him now for direction and guidance.

 

 

 

Read Acts 14:21-28

 

  • What situation are Paul and Barnabas in and why are they fasting?

 

 

 

 

  • What does this teach you about the purpose and effectiveness of fasting?

 

 

 

 

Prayer Requests:

1. Pray for Venture’s worship team. Thank God for the amazing job they do in leading us in worship every week!

2. Pray for all of the groups and classes that are starting in January. Pray for them to be amazing times of connection, learning, and community for all who are involved.

3. Pray for the Social Media and Digital Team, and for the Venture Online Team as they build relationships with people across the Bay Area. May we see God bring people together in relationship and form MicroSites across the Valley.

   

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Fasting Devotional Guide - Wednesday

Here's how King David describes the result of repentance:

 

Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! (Psalm 32:1-2, NLT)

 

Repenting is agreeing with God about our sin, turning away from it and turning to God; it's doing an internal U-turn. When the conviction of God breaks through to us and we realize that apart from his grace we are miserable, broken and hopeless, we choose to turn away from our self-directed life, and turn to him for mercy and forgiveness.

 

In Psalm 32, David goes on to describe how he felt when he was on the self-directed path away from God:

 

When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long... my strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. (v3, 4b)

 

In verse 5, he describes how he repented:

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, "I will confess my rebellion to the Lord." And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

 

No wonder David describes it as joy! Who wouldn't want to have all their guilt wiped out? That's exactly what happens when we humble ourselves before God, admit that we blew it, and ask him to forgive.

 

Spend time in prayer for repentance. Ask God to show you areas of sin, shame, and guilt. Ask for his healing and forgiveness.

 

Prayer Requests:

1. Prayer for our open positions in the creative department - Graphic Designer & Film Producer. Pray that we find these positions quickly, and that the candidates are skilled in the craft, passionate about the church, and a good fit for the team’s culture.

2.  Pray for God's comfort for the families of those who have gone to be with the Lord in the past few weeks.

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Fasting Devotional Guide - Tuesday

Read Ephesians 2:1-5

 

  • Reflect on how you were dead in sin before God’s mercy made you alive in Christ. Reflect on how God’s mercy has affected and changed your life

 

Spend some time praying. Thank God and praise Him for His mercy.

 

 

Read Ephesians 2:6-10

 

  • Reflect on how God is eager to show us the riches of his grace.  

  • Reflect on how we are God’s workmanship... created in Christ Jesus to do good works… which God prepared in advance for us to do.  

 

Spend some time praying. Thank God for setting good works in front of us to do. Ask for his wisdom and guidance.

 

Prayer Requests

1. Wisdom for the On Mission department as they lead Venture’s local and global missions focus.

2.Pray for the new studies and groups starting in the Women’s Ministry. Specifically, the new “Hagar” bible study and the new ministry for working women (launching Feb. 10th).

3.Pray for God to bring more worship leaders and musicians into our church, as well people with the gifts of sound, video, digital marketing, graphics, etc. …an ever-Increasing number of artists and technical people to join our volunteer teams.

4.Pray for Chip and the upcoming new weekend series - I Choose Peace

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Fasting Devotional Guide - Monday

As we begin our week of fasting, let’s look at and learn from two stories in the bible where God’s people fasted. For more info about our week of fasting, look to the "info sheet" at the bottom of the page.

 

Read Exodus 34:10-35

 

  • What situation is Moses in and why is he fasting?

 

 

  • What insight does this give about the purpose and effect of fasting?

 

 

Read Esther 4:6-5:8

(feel free to read the rest of the book of Esther to see how the story ends)

 

  • What situation are the Jews in and why are they fasting?

 

 

  • Do you have a situation in your life in which you need God to intervene on your behalf? Spend time praying and asking for his intervention and guidance.

 

 

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray for Pastor Chip to have wisdom and favor from God as he shares God’s truth with the congregation on a weekly basis.

  2. Praise God for all of the leaders who are stepping out and starting a group or a class in January. Pray for their effectiveness and to cultivate great community!

 

 

 

 

Venture Christian Church - 7 Day Fast Info Sheet

 

What are we doing?

As we begin 2018, we are taking a week to intentionally do without food or media for the purpose of seeking after God and His favor here at Venture.

 

Why are we fasting?

Fasting is a time of intentionally separating yourself from perceived life support systems (food, media, habits) and relying on the Lord, our true life support. Fasting usually results in renewed closeness with God and a greater sensitivity to spiritual things. Scripture outlines many situations in which the people of God fasted and prayed... A desire for wisdom (Acts 14:23), confession of sin (Jonah 3:5, 2 Samuel 12:16) denial of the flesh (Matt. 4:2), and asking for spiritual direction (Acts 13:1-3) name a few.

Our specific objective is to spend a week as a church body fasting and preparing for what God is going to do in our church this year. We want to seek His face, His wisdom, and His favor for 2018.

 

How will this fast work?

We will be fasting from January 8th – 14th.

 

There will be a daily blog post (venture.cc/curriculum) for all staff and leaders with a bible study and prayer requests each day. You will also receive an email soon with all 7 days of devotional study material.

There are varying ways to get involved and we are encouraging people to engage in this fast in at least one of three ways over this week:**

  • Liquids only (smoothies, water, and juice)

  • Fruits and vegetables only

  • Media fast (fasting from an avenue of media entertainment that is a regular part of your life).

For more info: https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/fasting.html

**Remember these options are recommendations and you should check with your healthcare professional if you are unsure of your physical ability to engage in a fast from food**

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I Choose Hope - Part 2 - Experiencing Hope

INTRODUCTION

Hope is the mental and emotional attitude that life is good, the future is promising, and progress is certain... even in the midst of difficult circumstances and challenging relationships. The question that Pastor Chip tackled this last weekend was: "How do we experience this True HOPE in everyday life?" The answer from the book of Philippians involves Christ's power in our weakness, His presence in our pain, and His life in our death. Let's dive in together. 

Note for the Leaders- This is the final study guide that will be released for December.  Starting in January with our "I Choose Peace" series on Philippians 4, you will be able to access the sermon-based study guides at Venture.cc/curriculum.

GETTING STARTED

What gift are you most looking to that you think you will get this Christmas? Or, think of and share that feeling of excitement when you have received the "perfect" gift in the past!

STUDY/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Read Philippians 3:8 together. What does it say about the importance of Christ?

 

  • Read Philippians 3:9 together. Do you want to be "completely united to Christ" like this verse talks about? Why?
    • What would it look like in your day-to-day life to be "completely united to Christ"?

 

  • Take a silent moment to reflect on the following question.
    • Who is your hope in? Under pressure, what person do you tend to put your hope in? 
      • It could be your sense of well-being, your sense that life is good, your confidence...who does this tend to be attached too?
        • Why that person?
        • Do you see this as a good or bad thing? Why?

 

 

LIVE IT OUT

What “one thing” do you sense God wants you to know, feel, or do to experience Jesus’ love and power in your life today? How can we (your group) help you in this?

 

PRAYER TIME

Allow ample time for prayer this week. Spend time hearing and praying for each person’s request  in your group. Make sure to respect the rest of the group by keeping your sharing time brief to allow time for all to share.

 

DIG DEEPER

 - Written by Michelle Smith

Day 1 –

Read Habakkuk 2:4.

  • How does this scripture align with Philippians 3:9?

 

  • What does it mean to live by faith?

 

Day 2 –

  • What are some ways you live by faith?

 

  • what are some ways over the last few weeks you have demonstrated not living by faith?

 

Day 3 –

  • Read Philippians 3:10-11. What are some ways you would like to know Christ?

 

  • Pray today asking God for these things.

 

Day 4 –

  • Do any of the ways you want to know Christ (from day 3) include wanting to know him in his “suffering?”

 

  • Why is it especially difficult for some Christians, even with the assurance of eternal life after death, to seek to know Christ in “his sufferings,” or “becoming like him in his death?”

 

Day 5 –

Re-read Philippians 3.

 

  • What does this chapter say about God?

 

  • What does this chapter say about man?

 

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I Choose Hope - Part 1

INTRODUCTION

Note from Pastor Chip - Hope is what holds us up inside. It's who or what we believe makes life worth living. It's our earnest expectation and future desire that " if fulfilled " will bring the happiness and satisfaction we are seeking to experience. Paul teaches us to beware of false hope.. in religion, in your performance, In what you can accomplish. In comparing yourself w others. It is guaranteed to disappoint , to not satisfy, to leave you empty and longing even if you're supremely successful. Real hope that will never disappoint is not a future that you control or achieve-- it's a gift.. it's a person to be known and loved by. Jesus will never leave you and never let you down.

GETTING STARTED

Spend a minute bragging about yourself (or about your spouse/significant other if present). Some suggested questions to ask are:

  • What is an accomplishment you really proud of?
  • What is something really cool about you?
  • What is your best quality?

STUDY/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Philippians 3:1-7 reminds us that only God, not human effort or accomplishment, can save us. How does this make you feel?

 

 

  • Why do some people gravitate to human effort, rather than God’s grace, for maintaining closeness with Him?

 

 

  • Review Paul’s boasts in Phil. 3:4-6. His boasts here are very culturally specific. Think of some boasts that fit our culture that carry the same weight as what Paul expressed in these verses.

 

 

  • Read Philippians 3:7-8. What does Paul mean when he says that he counts everything a loss, trash, for the sake of Christ?
    • Do you view your achievements, degrees, and accomplishments as trash (for the sake of Christ) in comparison to Christ? why/why not?

 

 

  • If you have been a Christian for some time, are there ways you have taken your Christian walk for granted? If you are a newer Christian, are there things you have a hard time considering “garbage” from your old way of life?

 

 

LIVE IT OUT

How can you use your credentials and achievements to show others the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as our master? Share one or two examples that come to mind.

Try an experiment this week... Plan a specific way this week that you can declare how high of a privilege it is for you to know Jesus Christ as your master. Share this with your group so they can ask you about how it went next week. 

 

PRAYER TIME

Pray today asking God to reveal areas where you are boasting in impressive credentials rather than bringing attention to Christ. At our core our identity is one of “Christian”. We must be vigilant to ensure other credentials don’t come first.

 

DIG DEEPER

 - Written by Michelle Smith

Spend time each day this week in personal study digging deeper into Philippians 3 and how Jesus provides real hope. 

 

Day 1 -

  • In Philippians 3, Paul is addressing “Judaizers.” “Judaizers” were those in Paul’s day who taught that salvation required a combination of God’s grace and human effort or ceremony, specifically, circumcision. What are some examples of this in modern-day church?

 

  • In what ways have you believed that your human effort was necessary for your salvation?

 

Day 2 -

  • Read Psalm 35:9-10. The command, “Rejoice in the Lord” appears here, just like in Philippians 3:1. How are the two commands similar?

 

 

  • Per Psalm 35:9, what are we to delight ourselves in?

 

Day 3 -

  • Read Isaiah 31:1-3. How are these verses similar to Philippians 3:1-7?

 

 

  • Both pieces of scripture address “evildoers.” Evildoers are those who put their faith in something other than God—either the strength of their government (Isaiah 31:1-3), or ceremonial rituals (Philippians 3:1-7). What are some things that you see people putting their faith in, besides God?

 

 

  • What are some ways to insure you remain faithful to God, rather than other things?

 

Day 4 –

Read Philippians 3:4-6.

  • In what ways does legalism seem to contradict God’s mercy and grace?

 

 

Day 5 –

Read Philippians 3:5-6.

  • To understand Paul’s reference more thoroughly, it’s important to know that Benjamin was Jacob’s youngest son and before he died, Jacob gave Benjamin his blessing; However, the blessing had a dark side, since in the blessing Benjamin was compared to a “ravenous wolf.” From what we know of Paul, how was Paul (Saul) once a “ravenous wolf” prior to coming to Christ in “persecuting the church?”

 

 

  • How have traits from your family of origin both positively and negatively contributed to your faith?

  

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Thanksgiving- Giving Thanks

INTRODUCTION

This weekend Pastor John Dickerson shared his farewell message with us. He will be starting his new role as Senior Pastor at Connection Pointe Church just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. He shared his heart with us about the depth and wonder of what God gives us on a daily basis. He taught us about how to regain our calm and perspective when we are overwhelmed or sense we are losing perspective. The answer to restoring perspective comes by recounting God's precise provisions.

GETTING STARTED

  • What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving and why? 
  • What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? 

STUDY/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read Psalm 103 together. Have each person read a few verses as you pore over this passage.

  • Spend a minute recounting some of God's specific provisions in your life. Share some of these together. 

 

 

Read Psalm 103: 2, 3a, 10, and 12. These verses remind us that God forgives our mistakes and does not treat us as our sins deserve. 

  • Take a moment and individually think of mistakes in your life where you didn't receive what you deserved (either from God or from others in your life). Write down a few of these and recount these specific provisions of forgiveness. 

 

Read Psalm 103:3b, Psalm 30:2, Psalm 6:2, and Psalm 41:4.

  • God heals us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Share about a time when you have experienced His healing in your life. 

 

Pick one or two of the following ways that God provides for us and discuss them as a group:

 

LIVE IT OUT

  • Spend a moment in personal reflection. Which of these precise provisions are you most thankful for today? Why? share this with your group if you feel comfortable doing so. 

 

  • What would it look like for you to live in a spirit of thankfulness this week? 

 

PRAYER TIME

  • Make sure to thank God for his precise provisions in your life.
  • Share other requests and encourage each other.  
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Be On Mission - Week 3

INTRODUCTION

This weekend Eddie Byun joined us from South Korea. Eddie is the Lead Pastor at Crossway Mission Church in Seoul, South Korea. Eddie shared with us the perspective of two different "windows" (the 10/40 window and the 4/14 window). He reminded us of the importance of these two windows and challenged us to be thinking about how missions can be a higher priority in our own lives. 

GETTING STARTED

Share about a time when God answered a prayer in a totally unexpected and surprising way. What impact did that have on your view of God?

 

STUDY/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read Matthew 28:18-20

  • How would you define "missions"?

 

  • What does this passage say about the priority of missions?

 

  • What divine opportunities for missions has God placed in your life?
    • These could be international or across the street. Share about these opportunities with your group.

 


  • Why are the two different "windows" that Eddie mentioned in his sermon so important?

 

  • How does this influence your perspective on missions?

 

 

LIVE IT OUT

  • What do you think of the idea expressed in the sermon about planning your vacations around missions? 

 

PRAYER TIME

  • What do you think the connection between missions and prayer is? Why?

 

Read Matthew 9:37 and Isaiah 56:7

 

  • Think of a few specific mission opportunities or missionaries and spend praying for them right now.
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Be On Mission - Week 2

INTRODUCTION

Back2Back Ministries is an international Christian non-profit dedicated to being a voice for orphans. They exist to love and care for orphaned and vulnerable children by meeting their spiritual, physical, educational, emotional and social needs so that they may overcome their life circumstance and break free from the cycle of generational poverty. Beth and Todd Guckenberger founded the organization in 1997 and have since been joined by thousands who are making a difference in the lives of children around the world. Beth shared with us this last weekend about how God is looking for our faithfulness and availability and how the story isn't over yet. 

GETTING STARTED

Share about a missions project (either local or global) that you have been involved with. What is your fondest memory of that project? 

STUDY/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read Psalms 10:1-18.

  • Do you agree with the frustration the Psalmist expresses in vs. 2-11? Have you experienced this in your own life?

  • What does God do for the afflicted, the fatherless, the oppressed?

  • Have you experienced a time in life when it felt like God was “standing far away” or “hiding himself”?

Read Exodus 15:19-21.

Read this to the group - Miriam packed her tambourine. She was ready and anticipating an opportunity to worship God (an "amen"). The Israelites worshiped God in a powerful way after he saved them from the Egyptians.

  • Think of a situation where it was difficult to believe that God was going to come through for you. How did God come through in that situation?

  • What is one situation you want to pack your tambourine for, anticipating that God is going to move?
  • How would praying "starting with amen" impact your prayer life?

 

LIVE IT OUT

  • Where in your life do you feel God prompting you to act on behalf of someone else?

 

PRAYER TIME

  • Pray for the situation where you anticipate that God is going to move.

  • Share other requests and pray for each other.

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Be On Mission - Week 1

INTRODUCTION

In Genesis God initiates a special covenant with Abram (later Abraham), telling him that God would bless him, and through him, all of the families (nations) of the earth would be blessed.  This theme is a golden thread that runs from one end of Scripture to the other (see Genesis 18:18, 2 Chronicles 6:32-33, Psalm 67).  God blesses people so that they can be a blessing to others.

 

STUDY/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

 

 

 

 

  • All of us have a spiritual lineage.  Who is a part of your spiritual lineage?  In other words, who told you about Christ and who told them?
    • Think of a way to express your thankfulness to them this week. Share it during prayer time and pray together encouraging each other to express your thankfulness to them.

 

PRAYER TIME

  • As you pray together, pray for five people who are not currently part of Abraham’s spiritual lineage whom you would love to see in that heavenly multitude. In other words, pray for five people who you would love to see become Jesus followers. 
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Understanding Part 4 - Understanding The Media

Text: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

This last weekend Pastor John shared about the impact of the media on our individual lives and our culture as a whole. The one main question he sought to help us answer was: How do I intake enough news to understand what's happening in the world, but without becoming depressed or shaped by the news?

GROUP CONNECTION

Target time: 5-10 minutes

What is your favorite news source and why? What is the overall tone of that media source (positive, negative, alarmist, etc...)? 

STUDY/DISCUSSION

Target time: 45-50 minutes

Small Group Leaders - This is the last small group study guide that will be written until September. These sermon-based study guides will start again with the Fall launch in September. Most small groups take a break from their regular meeting times over the summer and opt to get together occasionally for dinners or fun community-building times. Have a wonderful summer!

Read 2 Cor. 10:3-5

  • What is the process by which thoughts become actions in your life?
  • What does it look like for you to "take a thought captive" rather than acting on it? 
    • Ask people to speak to (if they haven't already) how the Holy Spirit plays a significant role in taking thoughts captive. 
  • Take a quick inventory of your intake of ideas and information during the last 24 hours. Who or what are the primary voices? 

  • Share about a time when another person shaped your thoughts in a way that had a profound impact on the direction of your life.
    • This could be a positive or negative impact.

Read 1 Peter 5:8-11

  • Personally, how have you experienced the impact of satanic forces competing to shape your thoughts and actions?
  • What does it look like to "resist him, firm in the faith" as 1 Peter 5:9 directs us?
  • What do you find encouraging about 1 Peter 5:10? 
    • Why?

Live It Out:

  • If you had to compare the intake of Scriptural truth (music, audio books, conversations, reading, Biblical messages) vs. your intake of other ideas and opinions, how would the two compare?

  • John challenged us to count the minutes of news intake and make scripture intake/thoughts the higher intake for the next 5 days. Will you take this challenge for the next 5 days? 

Prayer Time:

Pray for each other to be able to see clearly the negative influences that the news, others, and satanic forces seek to have on our thoughts and hearts. Pray for each other as we seek to increase the amount of intake from scripture in our lives this week. 

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Understanding Part 3 - Understanding Culture

Text: 1 Corinthians 5:6-6:11

This last Sunday Pastor Chip shared about the dramatic changes that our culture has undergone in regards to morality, family, sexuality, and more. Most of the changes come back to two questions. 1. Is truth relative or absolute? 2. Is scripture culturally interpreted or is it the authority for our lives? Pastor Chip walked us through what has brought our culture to it's present condition and gave us action steps for how we can engage with it. 

GROUP CONNECTION

Target time: 5-10 minutes

What is a significant cultural change that you have experienced in your lifetime? (technology, communication, sexuality, marriage, etc...)

STUDY/DISCUSSION

Target time: 45-50 minutes

Small Group Leaders - The last study guide before the summer break starts will be published next week on May 30th. These sermon-based study guides will start again with the Fall launch in September. Have a wonderful summer!

 

  • Why do you think so much has changed in the last 50-70 years when it comes to morals, values, and sexuality?

Look at the graphic below. It shows the present symptoms, the past philosophical ideals, and the foundational question that will shape the future of our society. 

  • Which of the symptoms do you think is most damaging to our society? Why?
  • What philosophical or spiritual root problem is connected to that symptom?
  • What do you think is the one critical problem, both inside and outside the church, for our society?
    • Our view of Scripture

Read 1 Cor. 5:12-13

  • How would you define "judge"? What kind of "judging" is acceptable? How do you "judge" someone within the church?

Read James 5:19-20 and Matt. 18:15-17. 

  • How do these verses support or challenge your view of judging?
    • Leaders- ask the question below if you have extra time.
      • How can you explain judging to someone who quotes Matt. 7:1 as an explanation for why you "shouldn't" judge them?
        • Matt. 7:1- "Do not judge, or you too will be judged"

Read Matthew 5:6-16

    • This passage calls us to be Righteous, endure Persecution, and Do Good Deeds. 
    • What good deeds can you do this week that will guide people towards glorifying God?

    Live It Out:

    Pastor Chip gave us three action steps that we can take as we engage with our culture in a constructive way. Pick one of these three ideas below. share some specifics with the group about how you can live this out this week. 

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    Prayer Time:

    Pray for our culture to come to know the saving power of Jesus' resurrection. Pray for God to show you places and even individual people whom you can impact for God. 

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    Planting Hope

    Text: Hebrews 11

    This last Sunday Pastor John shared a Mother's Day message focused on the importance of hope. Studying Hebrews 11 we looked at what we hope "for" and what we put our hope "in". Pastor John shared his own story of wrestling with hopelessness and also focused in on the life of Sarah from Hebrews 11. 

    GROUP CONNECTION

    Target time: 5-10 minutes

    What are a few things in life that you are hoping for (ex. a promotion, someone to come to faith, a good marriage, etc...)?

    STUDY/DISCUSSION

    Target time: 45-50 minutes

    Small Group Leaders, please always make an intentional effort to have each person engage in the discussion. Remember, all small group discussions are meant to “…[build] others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29b).

    Also, as with every week, don't feel pressured to go in-depth on every question, or complete the entire outline. The purpose of this outline is to enhance your group time, and to encourage people to seek a deeper personal relationship with God. Do not let the pressure of thorough completion of the questions distract from what God might be doing in your group, at a deeper level.

    • Think of a vivid example of a hopeless situation (it doesn't need to be from your own life). Share it with the group.  

    Read Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-6, 16:1-5, and 17:1-4, 19

    • There is a significant amount of time that passes in between each of these passages. Think about Sari(Sarah) in this situation. God had promised to Sarah and Abraham that they would be the parents of a great nation. They had no kids during the first years of their marriage. Moreover, by the time they are both very old they still had no children. They have a promised from God that they will have many descendants, but they are well past child-bearing age. Discuss how difficult it must have been to wait for decades and see no progress forward in God fulfilling His promises to Sarah and Abraham. What did Sarah/Abraham try in order to hurry God's promise along? What impact did that have?
    • Have you had a situation in your life that required great patience and maybe tried your hope and trust in God?
      • How did that whole situation play out? What impact did this situation have on your hope and trust in God?
    • What can you do when what you've been hoping for seems hopeless? 

    Read Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12

    • Sarah hoped for children, and she placed her hope in God to fulfill His promises to her (occasionally taking the situation into her own hands) . At the beginning of the group time you mentioned some things you were hoping for. Who or what are you placing your hope in to bring those things to fruition? Explain what this looks like in your daily life. 
    • How do you place your hope in God?
      • By choosing to believe that: My God will prevail, even if it looks impossible and even if it isn't immediate.

    Live It Out:

    Read Lamentations 3:20-26.

    • What can you do on a daily basis to reaffirm/strengthen your hope in God regardless of the situation?

    Prayer Time:

    Thinking back to those hopeless situations you discussed, how can you pray for change in those hopeless situations? Pray also for God to reveal to you ways that you can be part of the solution (if appropriate). 

     

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    Understanding Part 2 - Understanding Islam

     

    Last week Fares Abraham examined ways to reach people for Christ. We looked at 2 Kings 6:1-7, as an example of how Elisha reached those in his circle for the greater glory of God.  

    GROUP CONNECTION

    Target time: 5-10 minutes

    Share how you were brought to church and came to accept Christ? If you haven’t yet accepted Christ, then how were you brought to this small group?

    STUDY/DISCUSSION

    Target time: 45-50 minutes

    Small Group Leaders, please always make an intentional effort to have each person engage in the discussion. Remember, all Small group discussions are meant to “…[build] others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29b).

    Also, as with every week, Small Group Leaders should never feel the pressure of having to go in-depth on every question, or completing the entire outline. The purpose of these questions is to enhance your group time, and to encourage people to seek a deeper personal relationship with God. Do not let the pressure of thorough completion of the questions distract from what God might be doing in your group, at a deeper level.

    Read the following out loud:

    6 One day the group of prophets came to Elisha and told him, “As you can see, this place where we meet with you is too small. 2 Let’s go down to the Jordan River, where there are plenty of logs. There we can build a new place for us to meet."

    “All right,” he told them, “go ahead.”

    3 “Please come with us,” someone suggested.

    “I will,” he said. 4 So he went with them.

    When they arrived at the Jordan, they began cutting down trees. 5 But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. “Oh, sir!” he cried. “It was a borrowed ax!”

    6 “Where did it fall?” the man of God asked. When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water at that spot. Then the ax head floated to the surface. 7 “Grab it,” Elisha said. And the man reached out and grabbed it.

    2 Kings 6:1-7 (NLT)

    Question 1 – Consider 2 Kings 6:1-2. Why was the group of prophets going to the Jordan River?

    Question 2 – Elisha tells the prophets to go ahead, but someone in the group says, “Please come with us,” 2 Kings 6:3. Why do you think it’s significant that someone invited Elisha?  

    Question 3 – In life, how does God treat us similarly, waiting for our invitation to “come with us?”

    Question 4 – Do you think the prophets were equipped to handle the tasks at hand? While they may have been capable, it was probably not their common practice, since someone in the group had to borrow an ax. What do you think Elisha brought to the group beside skill?

    Question 5 – In 2 Kings 6:6, Elisha is called “man of God,” and yet, they were all prophets; Still, somehow Elisha stood out from the others. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, it says we are “Christ’s ambassadors.” As an ambassador for Christ, what can you bring to others and situations that the world cannot?

    Question 6 – When the ax was lost in the river, the man who borrowed the ax knew he could not replace it or recover it. Why?

    Question 7 – As with many portions of scripture in The Old Testament, the foreshadowing of Christ is revealed. How are we like the man who lost the ax in the Jordan River? It is important to also know that the Jordan River is symbolic for a place between spiritual and physical life and may help you in finding your answer.

    Question 8 – 2 Kings 6:1-7 is a lovely example of how a simple activity turned into an opportunity for God to be revealed. Have you ever seen God show up or redeem similar, unassuming, situations? 

    Live It Out:

    Do you have any current invitations to participate in seemingly mundane activities? Can you see from today’s scripture how they might be opportunities for God to do something miraculous through you, even if it’s just being an ambassador for Christ?

    Prayer Time:

    As Fares Abraham mentioned in his sermon, it’s important to ask God to grow beyond your limits. Ask God for supernatural power to be the man or woman of God in whatever circumstance He puts you in. And, finally, ask for God to show up when you go, on his behalf, as His Christ ambassador.

     

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    Understanding Part 1 - Understanding Racism

    Text: Luke 10:25-37

    Last week Bishop Claude Alexander, Senior Pastor of The Park Church in Charlotte, NC, examined the difficult topic of racism. As he explored Luke 10:25-37, we saw how Jesus dealt with racism in his day. If you need to, re-read these verses to re-familiarize yourself with this section of scripture.

    GROUP CONNECTION

    Target time: 5-10 minutes

    What does it mean to be racist? 

    STUDY/DISCUSSION

    Target time: 45-50 minutes

    Small Group Leaders, please always make an intentional effort to have each person engage in the discussion. Remember, all small group discussions are meant to “…[build] others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29b).

    Also, as with every week, don't feel pressured to go in-depth on every question, or complete the entire outline. The purpose of this outline is to enhance your group time, and to encourage people to seek a deeper personal relationship with God. Do not let the pressure of thorough completion of the questions distract from what God might be doing in your group, at a deeper level.

    Small Group Leaders- For Your Consideration: There were some things Bishop Alexander explained about Jesus’ day that we may have not known: For example, in Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the “remotest part of the earth.”

    • Question 1 – When Jesus told the disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, what did he mean by it?
    • Question 2 – For Question 1, Jesus simply meant for the disciples to start where they were. They were already in Jerusalem, so he wanted them to begin witnessing immediately with those around them. As for referencing Judea, what was its significance?  
    • Question 3 – In referencing Judea, Jesus was sending the disciples to a people that regarded themselves as being spiritually superior to the disciples. What would have been the purpose of this assignment?
    • Question 4 – Samaria is the last specific location Jesus mentions when he tells his disciples to be his witnesses in Acts 1:8. What is the significance of mentioning Samaria?
    • Question 5 – The significance of Jesus directly mentioning Samaria is that he acknowledges the racial conflicts occurring in this area and the need to witness there. Read John 4:7-9. According to racial prejudices of the day, the Samaritan woman and Jesus knew that Jesus would be ceremonially unclean if he drank from her cup. When is the last time you overstepped a societal prejudice to reach out to someone who others might consider “unclean” or different?
    • In Luke 10:31-32, why did the priest and Levite avoid the “half dead” man? As Bishop Alexander mentioned in his sermon, if they thought he was dead, or about to die, they may have feared becoming ceremonially unclean. What might be some other reasons?
    • Question 7 – Bishop Alexander also said that, as Americans, we are sometimes okay being witnesses for Christ “to the remotest [parts] of the earth (Acts 1:8), but are less comfortable being witnesses with those near to us. Why do you think this is so?
    • Question 8 – When the Samaritan man got close to the “half dead” man, he realized that he was still alive. He also realized, intimately, what the man’s needs were. With this in mind, why was it important for him to get close to the man?

    Live It Out:

    Considering all this, are there any “half dead” people you tend to avoid? How can you intentionally get close to them, in order to be witnesses for Christ?

    Prayer Time:

    Don’t overlook the obvious, until we accept the invitation of eternal life with Jesus Christ and receive him into our hearts, we are all “half dead”—alive on earth, but on our way to eternal damnation. Only with Christ do we receive the promise of eternal life, and only with Christ do we have someone who loves us enough to get close to those who are unclean with sin.

    Considering this, pray for opportunities to get close to those who are “half dead.” Also, pray to be like Christ, who saw no divisive racial lines between he and the woman at the well.

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    "Do You Love Me More Than These?" - Part 6

    Text: John 21

    Pastor Chip finished our series "Jesus Unfiltered: Testify" this week by focusing on Jesus restoring Peter and removing his shame. We hope that as your small group talks through these questions you are able to unearth areas of your life where you have felt shame. Our prayer is that Jesus would bring you freedom and healing. Not only that, but that you would be able to be an instrument of freedom and healing for others.

    GROUP CONNECTION

    Target time: 5-10 minutes

    Who is the bravest person you know? Why? What one story encapsulates their bravery?

    STUDY/DISCUSSION

    Target time: 45-50 minutes

    Small Group Leaders, please always make an intentional effort to have each person engage in the discussion. Remember, all small group discussions are meant to “…[build] others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29b).

    Also, as with every week, don't feel pressured to go in-depth on every question, or complete the entire outline. The purpose of this outline is to enhance your group time, and to encourage people to seek a deeper personal relationship with God. Do not let the pressure of thorough completion of the questions distract from what God might be doing in your group, at a deeper level.

    Read Matthew 28:10, 1 Cor. 15:4-5, and John 21:1-6. Answer the question below.

    Peter got antsy while waiting for Jesus. According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus had appeared personally and individually to Peter. Whatever happened in that conversation, Peter still felt shame over his denial of Christ. He got tired of waiting for Jesus and decided to go fishing. 

    • Pastor Chip in his sermon this weekend taught about how shame can be expressed in a lot of different ways. In what ways do people tend to hide when "shame" is not identified and dealt with?
      • Jesus often works to meet us in our place of hiding and shame to bring us into healing and restoration. 
      • For Peter, this outlet becomes a frustration all unto itself! Peter went fishing, and caught NOTHING! He's a professional fisherman, and no fish! How do you think Peter was feeling in this moment? 

    Read John 21:7-23 and answer the questions below.

    • Why is it significant that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times?
    • What is Jesus' response to Peter's answer? 
      • Why is this important? 
    • What about Jesus' approach to restoring Peter was most encouraging to you?

    • Jesus meets us where we are at. Jesus met Peter while he was fishing . Share about a time when Jesus met you in a place full of difficulty or shame and brought you healing (Leader- give your group a few minutes to process this question if needed).
    • Leaders- encourage your group to think quietly for a few minutes for personal reflection. Encourage people to share if they feel safe and feel ready. Make sure not to force anyone into sharing.
      • Ask this question- What are the areas of shame in your life that haunt you, that you can't seem to escape?

    Live It Out:

    Choose one person you can confide in and share the shame you feel.  If it's not someone in this group,  have your group hold you accountable to share with that person this week.

    Who could be encouraged by the process of healing and freedom that God has led you on? How can you share that with them this week?

    Prayer Time:

    Pray for the person on your right. Pray specifically that they would know and experience God's love and healing this week.

    If you have time, pray that Jesus would reveal to you areas in your life that you don't realize are causing you to respond with shame and hiding.

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    Stop Doubting and Believe - Part 5

    Text: John 20

    Happy Easter! This weekend Chip examined in John 20 the incredible reality about Jesus rising from the dead. We examined the first witness, the response of skeptics (his own disciples), and we were encouraged by their faith in response to the living Christ

    GROUP CONNECTION

    Target time: 5-10 minutes

    Share your favorite part of the resurrection story.

    STUDY/DISCUSSION

    Target time: 45-50 minutes

    Small Group Leaders, please always make an intentional effort to have each person engage in the discussion. Remember, all small group discussions are meant to “…[build] others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29b).

    Also, as with every week, don't feel pressured to go in-depth on every question, or complete the entire outline. The purpose of this outline is to enhance your group time, and to encourage people to seek a deeper personal relationship with God. Do not let the pressure of thorough completion of the questions distract from what God might be doing in your group, at a deeper level.

    Read John 20:10-18 and answer the question below.

    • Why was Mary Magdalene's testimony so significant given the culture that the Book of John was written in?

    Read Luke 7:18-28 and John 20:24-29 answer the questions below

    • You will have doubts about Jesus. If you haven't yet, they will come. What is important is how you respond when doubt happens.  What can you learn from these two passages about how to deal with doubt when it happens? 
    • How does Jesus' response to Thomas encourage you? How interested do you think God is in revealing Himself to you?

    • What does it mean to be an honest skeptic?
    • Look at the "Four Timeless Truths for Honest Skeptics" below. Which "hits home" the most with you? Why?
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    Live It Out:

    What action step can you take this week in helping lead someone closer to Christ?

    Prayer Time:

    Thank Jesus for taking the penalty of our sin and dying on the cross for us. 

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