Message Based Studies

“Sea of Red”

“Connected to Jesus”

John 15:1-17

 (June 17-23, 2018)

Left on their own, tomatoes will grow into shrubby, multi-stemmed plants that topple under the weight of their fruit. Fruit and foliage are more prone to attack by pests and disease when they're sprawled on the ground. Pruning and using plant supports can help create healthier, more productive tomato plants. Pruning maximizes fruitfulness and minimizes disease problems. (Source: Gardeners.com)

In the Midwest we probably understand pruning tomatoes more than pruning grapevines. The principle is the same – enhancing a fruitful plant.

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1.    Describe some traits of healthy and productive people. What is one characteristic of a productive person?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Connected to Jesus”.

Jesus mentions that there are a couple of things necessary for a healthy and productive harvest. The goal [is] producing fruit. The vine grower [is] God, who cares deeply about the health and productivity of the vine. There will be some cutting and pruning. It is necessary for any vine if that vine is to produce fruit.

There are two things necessary – staying connected to the vine and letting the gardener do his work. Let’s talk about staying connected to God. Abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing. If you do remain in me, you will do amazing things. Apart from me – it is lights out.

Just think about this for a moment. In what area of my life would it be a good idea to ignore or forget or abandon God. That I say to him, “I want you to just to ignore this area in my life for a little while. Not a long time. But just for a little while. I don’t want you to pay much attention to it. No pruning. No cutting. Just let it be for a little bit.” What would happen?

Read and refer to John 15:1-8 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2.    We are the ‘vine branches’. What pain would be associated with being “pruned” by God? What might we do to avoid this?

3.    What tools/methods might the Father God use to prune/remove things from your life or spirit?

4.    What does this passage tell you about being connected to Christ as the vine?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Connected to Jesus”.

What does it mean to bear fruit? Perhaps Jesus was referring to what the Apostle Paul would later describe as the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Perhaps; there is no doubt that if I am connected to Jesus, that will be the result in my life. If I am not connected to Jesus, I will struggle with all or most of those areas in my life. If I am connected to him, there is no doubt the more I will become like him. That just makes sense.

Perhaps he means that I will bear fruit in a different way, that I will be producing more and more disciples. That I will be part of the redemption of the world by bringing people to him. The more I am connected to Jesus the more I want other people to know him.

Read and refer to John 15:8-17 and Galatians 5:22-25 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5.    Two possible ways to bear fruit are presented in the message excerpt above. Which do you identify with the most?

6.    Jesus ties love and bearing fruit together. How are these connected in the life of the believer? Does one cause the other? How?

7.    Read John 13:34-35. How do Jesus’ words in John 15:12-13 take the words of Jesus in John 13:34-35 even further?

Reflection and Wrap-up

8.    John 15:13 (NIV) is a well-known saying of Jesus, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” How does laying down one’s life lead to bearing fruit in the Lord?

9.    Describe how you are bearing fruit for the Lord Jesus? What could you do to be more fruitful

Pray Together as a Group  

Additional Study

If you have time during your Small Group or you want to study more about message topic, read and consider the following passages:

·      Colossians 1:6-10

·      Hebrews 12:11

·      James 3:17-18

·      John 13:31-38

 


“Sea of Red” 

“Troubling Times”

John 14:1-7 & 27

 (June 10th-16th, 2018)

Charles Dickens in the book A Tale of Two Cities opens with the following quote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1.    Dickens was describing life during the French Revolution. Using the following words from the quote, describe how our world is much like Dicken’s description.

a.    Worst or best of times

b.    Age of wisdom or foolishness

c.     Season of light or darkness

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Troubling Times”.

These were troubling times for Jesus and his followers. Tensions were high. Voices were getting louder in opposition. Fear was gripping their hearts. And it was only going to get worse. It has never been this bad. Just a few days ago the voices were calling for Jesus to be King. Now it seems that everyone wants him dead.

Refer to John 14:1-7 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2.    Read John 14:1-7. In verse 1, Jesus tells the disciples not to be troubled. He states that they believe in God and they should believe in him also. What was troubling the disciples (put yourself in the disciples’ shoes) and how would believing in God and Jesus keep their hearts from being troubled?

3.    What comfort does Jesus provide in verses 2 & 3 and why would this be comforting?

4.    Reread verses 5-7. What does Jesus say about himself in these verses and why would this be comforting? 

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Troubling Times”.

The peace that Jesus leaves us – is super unique. It is not like anything else on the planet. For me this is the secret ingredient, it is the secret sauce. It is the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box. It is the cherry on the top.

Refer to John 14:27 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5.    What are some ways you sooth your troubled heart?

6.    Read John 14:27. How would you describe the peace that Jesus gives and how is it different from what the world provides?

7.    What sort of things tend to trouble you?

Reflection and Wrap-up

8.    Share with the group a trouble you need to turn over to Jesus and how the group could pray for you in this matter.

9.    Since Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and since he is the way to God and heaven, how could you use these truths to help others who have trouble hearts or lead them to Christ?

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

If you have time during your Small Group or you want to study more about message topic, read and consider the following passages:

·      James 5:13

·      Philippians 4:7

·      1 Thessalonians 5:23


"I'm Possible"

A Message by Jeremy Cowart

Philippians 4:13

(June 3-9, 2018)

            This week's message, I'm Possible, is brought to us by Jeremy Cowart, an artist, photographer, humanitarian and speaker. Jeremy founded a global photography movement called Help-Portrait™, which invites photographers to donate beautiful portraits of people who may be experiencing adversity. The portraits provide the subjects with a sense of their self-worth and strength, despite their adversity, and become a source of encouragement. Jeremy also founded The Purpose Hotel™, which is a "crowd funded" hotel chain in the process of development that "aims to fight against injustices of war, hunger, poverty, global warming, racial tension, unclean water, addictions and natural disasters. Every aspect of the global chain will directly contribute to those in need through strategic sourcing and procurement." (https://www.jeremycowart.com) The theme and cost of rooms in each hotel will be used to sponsor children in need.

            You can discover more about Jeremy's ministries, and listen to his entire message I'm Possible, on his web site at https://www.jeremycowart.com/im-possible. If you were not present to hear Jeremy's message at StoneBridge, or if you want to learn more about using your talents and successes for a greater purpose, we encourage you to view Jeremy's website and watch his message before completing this lesson.

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1. Have you ever faced a challenge you thought was impossible to deal with or had a goal you thought was impossible to achieve, but received valuable encouragement from a friend, family member or someone else? Did the encouragement help you realize that what you thought was impossible was really possible?

Read Philippians 4:13 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. During the time the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi, he was in prison for preaching the gospel. What do you think motivated Paul to write a letter encouraging others, and specifically to write verse 4:13, instead of succumbing to his circumstances? Explain how Paul's response to his challenging circumstances reflects his faith in Jesus rather than a fear of failure.

3. After reading Philippians 4:13, what does the phrase "all things" mean to you? Where does our power to accomplish big things come from?

4. Based on this verse, should our successes be used for ourselves or to accomplish through Christ larger things that will last beyond ourselves? Explain.

5. Explain how fear of failure can hold us back from accomplishing great things. Can past failures actually motivate us to step out in faith, move beyond such failures and accomplish big things? Explain.

6. Among the many stories relayed by Jeremy during his message I'm Possible (on his web site at https://www.jeremycowart.com/im-possible) are two stories briefly summarized below. Explain how each account reflects Paul's teaching in Philippians 4:13.

·      After a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, Jeremy provided Haitians with a forum, through his photography, to communicate a message to the world. A Haitian couple were getting married, even while aftershocks were hitting Haiti. They displayed a sign on a paper plate that read: "Love conquers all."

·      Jeremy visited Rwanda after a period of horrific violence. He located a man whose brother was murdered and he was able to photograph him standing next to the man who committed the murder, at the place where the incident occurred. The two men locked arms with the following message written across both their arms: "Love is the weapon that kills all evil."

Reflection and Wrap-up

7. What have you been too afraid to try? How can you turn "Impossible" into "I'm Possible"?

8. Take a moment and examine the struggles you have endured and the successes you have experienced. How can you use these struggles and successes to communicate the message of Philippians 4:13 to others?

9. Do the events of your life communicate the important message of Philippians 4:13 that your children, family members and others close to you can learn from and carry on? What must you change to make your legacy last beyond you?

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

If you have time during your Small Group or you want to study more about how God can use you, read and consider the following passages:

·      Matthew 19:26

·      Jeremiah 29:11

·      2 Corinthians 12:9

·      Ephesians 2:10

·      Ephesians 3:20

·      Proverbs 3:5-6


 

How to Live the Rest of Your Life

(May 27 – June 2, 2018)

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”                                                         

-       Sydney Harris, American Journalist

“There is nothing so fatal to character as half-finished tasks.”

-       David Lloyd George

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1.    Do you have a bucket list? What is on it? Have you completed any items on your list? Why do we tend to procrastinate doing the things on our bucket list?

Read the following excerpt aloud or watch message segment #1.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “How to Live the Rest of Your Life”.

Watch Online

We have to ask ourselves questions like, “Are we jealous people?” “Are we taking things that don’t belong to us?” “Are we patient and kind when we interact with others?” “Do we mind our temper?” “Do we look for ways serve others without being asked?” “Do we forgive and seek reconciliation?” According to 1 Corinthians, this is the definition of how to “love” your neighbor.

See, we can make this pretty simple. No need to complicate things. No need to
try and remember a bunch of do’s and don’ts. Let’s cut to the chase! We are
called – commanded – to take care of the people around us with a love that is
kind, patient, without envy, etc.

Refer to the following scriptures and answer/discuss the following questions.
Romans 13:8-10, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Matthew 22:34-40

2.    Why do you think Paul calls love for others a debt?

3.    What does “Love your neighbor as yourself,” mean to you?

4.    Focusing on love turns the law into a positive command (do) versus a list of negative commands (do nots). Do you feel this is more compelling? In what way?

5.    What relationship exists between keeping a record of wrongs and focusing on the negative aspects of the law?

 Read the following excerpt aloud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “How to Live the Rest of Your Life”.

Watch Online

We read a goodnight book in our house that is titled “Someday is not a day of
the week.” It is a little passive-aggressive for my taste, about a little boy who wants to play catch and go fishing and read books but his parents and grandparents keep telling him, “Someday”. I hate it, but I love it. It is a good reminder that “Someday” is a big enemy of right living. “Someday” …. I am going to get serious about God. “Someday” …. I am going to be baptized. “Someday” …. I’ll quit being jealous, I’ll get my temper under control, I’ll forgive. “Someday”. “Someday” I’ll love my neighbor.

Friends, someday is not a day of the week.

Refer to the following scriptures and answer/discuss the following questions.  Romans 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 7:29-35

6.    What do you think Paul meant when he said, “The hour has come?” (v 11).

7.    How do we clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ?  (v 14).

8.    How does clothing ourselves in Christ help us resist the desires of our sin-prone human nature?

Reflection and Wrap-up

9.    How will thinking about love, and the positive spin it has on the law, affect your daily walk? How will it invoke more action and less judgement?

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study:

·      John 13:33-34

·      Galatians 5:13-14

·      Colossians 3:12-14

·      Matthew 19:16-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Emery