Message Based Studies

If I Could Be Anyone in the Bible:

The Father Who Brings His Child to Jesus

Mark 9:14-29

(August 25-31, 2019)

You, who are on the road,

Must have a code

That you can live by

And so become yourself

Because the past is just a goodbye.

Teach your children well.

--Teach Your Children (written by Graham Nash, performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

The song Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reminds us as parents of our responsibility to teach our children well. And because "the past is just a goodbye," we can start anew now, where we are today. What is your code to live by? What is important to teach your children?

King David showed us the answer these questions in teaching his son Solomon. "When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son." (1 Kings 2:1) David wisely instructed his son to "observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands ... so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go." (1 Kings 2:2-3) The most important thing to David was to teach his son to know God.


Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. When it comes to your children's activities, what criteria do you use to prioritize these activities?

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

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “The Father Who Brings His Child to Jesus”

If I could be anyone in the Bible I would want to be this dad. I am so impressed with him. First I am impressed with his faith. It is real. It is sincere. "If you can help. I believe, but help me with my unbelief."

Anyone relate? I certainly can. At times my faith seems strong. Other times, it seems to be barely there. It is far from perfect. This whole passage is filled with doubt. Why isn’t this working? Why can’t we do this? "If" you can?

At times I feel far from God. There are times that I seem to handle things well with God. Other times, I am struggling, over worrying, a short fuse over dumb stuff, frustrated by the lack of urgency at the DMV or McDonalds. Is the God of the universe who saved my soul now just a little bit less than what I need him to be? "If" you can Jesus, help me – doubt if you will. Jesus responds with such strength. He always does.

Read Mark 9:14-25 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Put yourself in this father's shoes and explain the circumstances and his emotional state. How did the circumstances of this event, before Jesus arrived on the scene, serve to create more doubt in this father concerning Jesus and his ability to heal the boy?

3. Based on the conversation between this dad and Jesus in verses 21-24, explain why the dad asked Jesus to "help me overcome my unbelief!" What was this dad's priority?

4. How did Jesus respond to the dad's sincere prayer to strengthen his faith? Do you think Jesus can strengthen your faith, despite your circumstances? Explain.


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

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, "The Father Who Brings His Child to Jesus”.

Another thing that impresses me about this dad, he loved his kid so much that he made sure he could get him in front of Jesus. My guess, that as a dad or a mom, you have hopes and dreams for your kids. You want their life to be awesome, to have great friends, to excel at what they love to do, all kinds of things. As a follower of Jesus, at the top of the list would be I want my kids in heaven with me. I want them to know and love Jesus.

So on your list, if they are important to you, you rearrange your life and your priorities according to what you want. I want my kids to be in front of Jesus, because they will need him. To me this is not optional. My guess is this dad didn’t ask his kid if he wanted to go. "We are going."

I am always a little surprised at how many of us don’t make getting in front of Jesus a big deal. Kids were certainly a priority of Jesus.

Read Mark 9:26-29 and answer/discuss the following questions

5. Explain how the following circumstances existed before Jesus arrived and after Jesus arrived. What would have happened if this dad had not brought his son to Jesus?

  • the tension in the crowd

  • the dad's faith

  • the condition of the child


6. What things in our world, and in your family, compete with Jesus today? Make a list. What changes do you need to make in your family schedule and activities to prioritize the relationship between Jesus and your child (or children)? What sacrifices might you have to make?


7. Jesus' miracles reflect not only his divinity, but also his character. Explain what the healing of the boy in Mark 9 shows us about Jesus' love for hurting people, his ability to overcome doubt, and his authority over evil.


Reflection and Wrap-up

8. Have you ever experienced times, similar to the father in Mark 9, when your faith felt weak? Do challenging circumstances in your life sometimes contribute to struggles in your faith? Explain how being honest with God and turning to him with an open and ready heart can help strengthen your faith.



9. Your leadership as a parent in matters of faith can begin anew today. The StoneBridge Christian Church KidMin and Student Ministries are ready to partner with and support you as a parent. Review StoneBridge's website, or have a conversation with a KidMin or Student Ministries pastor this week, and write down some Sunday or Wednesday activities or youth events that you will make a priority in your family.


Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Luke 18:15-17

  • Mark 10:13-16

  • Deuteronomy 11:18-21

  • 1 Kings 2:1-3

  • Joshua 24:14-18

Just Thinking

  • Jesus strengthens my faith even if he doesn’t change my circumstances.

  • My faith is a crucial example for my children.

  • The relationship between Jesus and my children is more important than other activities, sports, screens or friends.

  • "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)

  • I do believe, but help me with my unbelief.

  • Let the children come to me. – Jesus

  • Darkness thrives in unbelief. – Charles Spurgeon

  • Unbelief robs God of his glory.


If I Could Be Anyone in the Bible – Naaman’s Wife’s Servant Girl

2 Kings 5:1-16

(August 18-23, 2019)

God wants you to be an agent of mercy in the world. Everyone needs mercy because everyone has messed up. We’ve all hurt other people and made mistakes. We’ve all sinned and we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups as a result of the mistakes we’ve made. Mercy changes the lives of people who have made mistakes, and we who have received mercy freely can change the world around us by showing mercy to others.”
                                                                  ― Rick Warren, 4 Reasons to Show Mercy

In this lesson we look at a young slave girl who shows mercy to her owner, Naaman, by sharing about a guy who could heal him from the terrible disease of leprosy. The girl is from a different country, culture and religion and being held as a slave by her owner. It would seem very unlikely that she would offer mercy to Naaman and yet she shares the good news of a healer that may be able to help.


Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Consider the quote from Rick Warren, do you believe everyone needs mercy?  Why? Do you believe everyone is called to give mercy? Why or why not? Share a time you have received mercy from another person.  Did you deserve it? What did receiving mercy do for you?


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Naaman’s Wife’s Servant Girl”.

Now this message series is called, “If I could be anyone in the Bible who would I be?” I want to be the little servant girl. She is most impressive to me. Here she has been taken from her home, from her family. She is held against her will – she probably always will. Her family has no idea where she is, if she is alive, so she is being held in enemy territory and the guy who is responsible for her pain and suffering is now suffering. What compelled her to say to her enemy, “I know a guy…”



Read 2 King 5:1-16 and answer/discuss the following questions

2. From these verses, we know a little about the girl mentioned in verses 2 and 3.  How would you describe her background and current living situation? Under these circumstances, what might her reaction have been to Naaman’s problem?  What might have caused her to speak about an opportunity for her master’s healing?





3. After reading these verses, what do you know about Naaman? What did it take for him to seek out the healer? What barriers might have stood in his way?




4. How would you describe Naaman’s reaction to how Elisha shows mercy to him? What do you think made Naaman act that way? How do we react in the same way when God shows us mercy?

 

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, "Naaman’s Wife’s Servant Girl”.

Maybe somewhere, somehow this girl understood that everyone matters. No matter what they have done, no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from. Everyone matters to God. She was showing Naaman mercy.





Read Micah 6:8, John 3:16 & 17 and Matthew 5:44-48 and answer/discuss the following questions.

According to Rick Warren’s quote (above), we are called to be agents of mercy. The servant girl showed mercy to her master, by telling him where to receive healing.





5. Read Micah 6:8. According to this verse, what do we learn about God and about ourselves? How does this impact our follow through with showing mercy?





6. Read John 3:16 & 17. How would you define mercy? What do you learn about mercy from these two verses? Did we deserve or earn it? Why or why not?





7. Read Matthew 5:44-48. What do you learn about showing mercy from these verses? What is the standard for showing mercy? How can we do this?





Reflection and Wrap-up

9. Is there someone in your life, family, work or community that it is difficult to show mercy towards? If so who and why? What can you take away from this lesson to help show this person mercy?





10. Each of us knows a guy, who offers mercy, salvation, and healing. Who in your life do you need to tell about knowing a guy named Jesus?





Pray Together as a Group




Additional Study

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

  • Joel 2:13

  • Psalm 57:1

  • Matthew 5:7

  • James 2:13

Just Thinking

  • I must remember to be an agent of mercy.

  • So many breakthroughs happen on the next visit, the next session, the next meeting.

  • Everyone matters to God.

  • He has shown you what is required: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

  • In my daily devotions and prayer time, I will ask for God to show me who needs mercy in the form of financial assistance and friendship.

  • I will seek the Lord to see who needs to hear the mercy message of salvation.

  • It is right to praise God for his wonderful mercy granted to us through Jesus Christ.


Be Anyone in the Bible – Ananias

Acts 2:34, 4:32-34, 8:3, 9:10-22;

Galatians 3:28, 1Timothy 1:15

(August 11-16, 2019)



“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

In this lesson we look at two lives in the Bible that intersected when neither of them expected it – Ananias and Paul. One would be considered by the world to be rather ordinary, and the other would be considered to be a heavyweight.  Paul wrote a large part of the New Testament and was responsible for carrying the Gospel to the world.



Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Considering C.S. Lewis’s quote above: Do you consider your life to be ordinary? Why? When you meet or interact with another person, do you ever think about the fact that they (their souls, or spirits) are immortal? How might that affect the way you interact with them?





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

Ananias is needed by God. He was not asking for this. He was just doing his thing. Actually, he was trying to stay alive. He doesn’t want to go to jail. Hunkered down God calls on him, “I need you to go talk with Saul – Saul of Tarsus.”

“Not Saul of Tarsus – he is enemy #1. He is coming here to throw us all in jail. You obviously have the wrong guy…”

“Saul is expecting you. He is going to do great things for me. He is going to take the message to all the world.”

So, Ananias goes.





Read Acts 9:10-22 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Acts 9:10 says “The Lord called to him in a vision. Ananias!” What do you think Ananias might have been doing when the Lord called to him? Was he busy, hiding, planning, praying or meditating? Do you think he was surprised?





3. Ananias responded, “Yes, Lord.” How do you think he knew it was the Lord? How would you have responded?





4. Were the instructions that the Lord gave Ananias clear?
Do you think he was anxious to do what the Lord told him to do?
Did he seek clarification? Did he obey?





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

One of the most attractive things that Jesus offers is the beauty of the church. Obviously, we have a long way to go with this, but hate goes away when love leads. This will not be solved by our government. We will not be able to legislate hate away, but it can melt away when God gets a hold of you. This is truly a check-your-heart moment.

The power of the Gospel takes a person who has messed up. In fact later on Saul, who got a new name (we know him as Paul), would write, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).




Read Acts 9:10-22 & Galatians 3:28 and answer/discuss the following questions.

As the passage in Acts begins, Saul is extremely passionate for his religion, and especially to protect it against what he considered to be the heresy of Christianity. Saul’s life is changed dramatically when he encounters the risen Lord.

5. Why do you think Jesus chose to encounter Saul in the way that he did, and why did he pick Saul? Have you ever been passionate about something but later found out it wasn’t what you thought it was? What did it take to change your mind?




6. What did Jesus tell Saul to do? What was Saul’s immediate response?
What do you suppose Saul thought about for the three days that he was blind? 




7. Ananias said to Paul, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” What do you think Saul thought as he heard those words? Why do you think Ananias addressed Saul as brother? Would it have been easy for you to speak to Saul this way?




8. What was Saul’s immediate response to Ananias’s words and the scales falling off his eyes? (v 18) How did he spend the next few days? (v 20-22) How did the Jews in Damascus respond?




Reflection and Wrap-up

9. Saul’s encounter with Jesus was sudden (he was righteous for his religion) and it was not gentle. Do you think another approach that was more gentle or subtle would have worked with Paul? Why?




10. Do you think Jesus uses approaches like this to reach people today in the way that he confronted Saul? Why? Do you think that Jesus confronts people today in the way that he confronted Ananias? Why? Do think that it is possible that Jesus might confront you in one of these ways? Why?




Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Acts 10:9-22

  • Acts 4:32-34

  • Acts 2:42-47

  • Philippians 3:4(b)-11

Just Thinking

  • I must be careful to not become passionate about the wrong things. I will seek the Lord’s understanding about the passions in my life.

  • I want to be ready to receive the Lord’s calling. I will be patient.

  • I will remember the first two laws of Jesus when interacting with people. Love must be my nature. Galatians 3:28 should be my guide.

  • Ananias played a key role (nothing ordinary at all even if it was brief) in bringing Christianity to the world because he was ready to hear and obey the Lord.

  • The power of the gospel makes a scared man brave.

  • The gospel has the power to break down walls.

  • When the Lord calls, I’ll go.

  • If the biggest sinner you know is not you, then you don’t know yourself very well.


If I Could Be Anyone in The Bible

“The Servants at The Wedding in Cana” 

John 2:1-11

(August 4-10, 2019)

If you could be anyone in the Bible who would you be? Now you can’t choose Jesus – you can’t choose Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob; or Peter, Paul, or Mary.

For the next 5 weeks we will look at some heroes in the Bible that don’t get much press. They are amazing men and women making huge faith decisions and taking big steps for God. 

My guess is that most of us would like to have the faith of Abraham – the boldness of Paul – the strength of Mary – the strength of Stephen – but for many of us we think – great thought – but probably not going to happen. There is only one of those guys.

Sure there was Billy Graham and Mother Teresa but who am I? I can’t relate.




Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Name the first Bible person that comes to your mind that you would like to be. 

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

Everyone is happy. The happy couple is ecstatic! The family is relieved. Mary is thrilled!

Isn’t it amazing? One of the first people to know and witness a miracle is a servant. Think about how poor these guys are. Jesus and his family were dirt poor. And so are these guys who are serving them. So they have nothing. They are property. This will be the best day of their lives.

If I could be anyone in the Bible I would have wanted to be one of those guys. The first to taste the best wine they have ever tasted. The first to serve Jesus.

All we do is carry the water for Jesus.




Read John 2:1-11 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Jesus is not known at this moment as a miracle worker. Why does his mother, Mary, approach him about the problem (verse 3)?





3. Considering the social customs, how would you feel as the host of the wedding feast? How would you feel as one of the servants?


4. Where is your “joy level” in your life right now? Full? Half Full? Empty?

In what area of your life do you need Jesus to turn plain old ‘water’ into ‘wine’?


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

What Israel was doing – playing church. They had grown content with reaching out to God through their songs and offerings while refusing to reach out to their neighbors.

I grew up in a preacher’s home, so growing up we played church. I know – a little weird – but if your mom or dad was a teacher you played school, if your parents were farmers you played farm, you get it. My sisters would lead the singing. I would preach the sermon and my brother would get saved. It was cute.

It is not so cute for adults to play church. Sing a few songs. Listen to a message and go home thinking that we have served Jesus.

Fill in the blank – I serve Jesus by ___________________________. 

Doing what he tells me to do.





Read Amos 5:21-24 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. Why does God hate or despise their religious practices?






6. If Amos were speaking in your church, what would he speak on and why?






7. Looking at the above message segment, go ahead and fill in the blank.

What one thing do you do to express your faith that your friends or family would say you are really serious about?






Reflection and Wrap-up

8. What is the number one task of a follower of Christ? Why?






9. Recorded in John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV) Describe in a list or a few sentences, what that full life looks like.






Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Colossians 3:1-4

  • Philippians 3:10-14

  • 2 Peter 1:3-11

  • 1 Timothy 4:9-16






Just Thinking

  • Kids play church and it’s cute; not so cute when adults play church.

  • A deeper faith is realized in service.

  • Well done, my good and faithful servant. – Jesus

  • The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. – Jesus

  • All we do is carry the water for Jesus.


The Greatest Hits: 1990's

“Losing My Religion”

Luke 19:28-44; Zechariah 9:9-10

(July 28-August 3, 2019)



Oh life, it's bigger

It's bigger than you

And you are not me

The lengths that I will go to

The distance in your eyes

Oh no, I've said too much

I set it up

That's me in the corner

That's me in the spotlight

Losing my religion

Trying to keep up with you

And I don't know if I can do it

Oh no, I've said too much

I haven't said enough

....

I thought that I heard you laughing

I thought that I heard you sing

I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream

That was just a dream

--Losing My Religion (song by the rock band R.E.M.)


The popular song Losing My Religion, an excerpt of which is above, became one of R.E.M.'s most popular songs. Although the song's title may imply that the singer is rejecting religion, it is really a song about unrequited love. The phrase "losing my religion," which originated in the South, describes a person becoming frustrated and coming to the end of their rope. The singer longs for a relationship with his love and will go to great lengths to establish it. He wrestles with how to move the relationship forward and wonders if he is saying too much or too little. He realizes, however, his love is not returned and the relationship is just a dream. Does Jesus feel that way about us? About you? Will you respond to him?




Answer and discuss the following question with your group



1. Have you ever tried to give advice to someone important to you so they could avoid the negative consequences you saw coming? Explain the circumstances and the result.




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


We also see Jesus crying for Jerusalem as he enters this great city for the last time. He had some wonderful moments in Jerusalem, attending his first Passover as a young boy and getting separated from his mom and dad. Discovering who he was. It was a big city, and seeing the temple had to be an amazing site. He celebrated many a festival in Jerusalem. It was there that he said, "I am the light of the world." He healed people there.





But Jerusalem was not a kind place to Jesus. It was the place where the power brokers were located and they did not like Jesus. In fact, they hated him. This would be the place where schemes were made. Plans to kill him were discussed.




As he approaches, it hits him. In spite of how much I love the people in this city, in spite of all that I have done to show my love, to show my father’s love, not only do they not love me, they hate me. As he turns towards Jerusalem, he cries – for what could have been, for what will happen. Not to him but to that city. The city would be destroyed, the temple reduced to rubble in less than 40 years. Thousands of people will lose their lives. It didn’t have to be that way.


Read Luke 19:28-44 and Zechariah 9:9-10 and answer/discuss the following questions


2. Explain how Luke19:35 and Zechariah 9:9-10 together reveal Jesus' identity and purpose.




3. Compare and contrast Jesus' purpose in bringing salvation and peace to lost people, as reflected in Zechariah 9:9-10, with the consequences Jerusalem will experience, as reflected in Luke 19:43-44. Based on Luke 19:44, why will Jerusalem be conquered by its enemies?




4. Despite the celebratory atmosphere as Jesus entered Jerusalem, Jesus wept for the city.  Why did Jesus weep for Jerusalem and its people? Based on Luke 19:44, explain how Jesus' love of Jerusalem and its people was not returned.




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

We struggle with knowing what love is. I want to know what love is and I want you to show me.


God came looking for you. He found you. We were lost and he found us. He is trying his best to get us to love him. God is love.



He is not just loving. He is love. So I don’t have to do anything to get him to love me. He has and always will pursue me. He has and always will love me. I don’t have to give money or sing a song to get him to love me. "Hey God look at what I did for you today, I gave some money to the church, do you love me now? Did you notice me? Will you love me?" If you gave money today because you feel guilty, or if you serve in some ministry because you feel guilty, you should stop. We give and serve out of a response to love. How can I not serve him and give? How can I not?


You will never have to wonder if God loves you. And this is love, that he sent Jesus to be a sacrifice for us.


Read the verses noted below and answer/discuss the following questions



5. Read the following verses and explain how each reflects God not only taking the first step to establish a relationship with us, but also actively pursuing this relationship.

  • Genesis 3:6-9

  • Matthew 1:20-23

  • 1 John 4:7-19



6. Based on the verses below, how do we accept the relationship God wants with us?

  • Acts 2:37-38

  • Acts 3:19

Reflection and Wrap-up

7. What parallels can you draw between the consequences Jerusalem experienced by rejecting Jesus and the consequences people today will experience by rejecting him? How does God feel about lost souls today? What steps can you take to communicate Jesus' love and desire to save people?


8. If you have not responded to Jesus' love for you, what is holding you back? Explain how losing your religion (i.e., outward religious actions and activities) can help you establish a true and personal relationship with Jesus.

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • John 11:33-35

  • Jeremiah 31:3

  • Ephesians 2:4-5

  • Romans 3:22-22

  • Hebrews 4:2

Just Thinking

  • God is love

  • God pursues me with an everlasting love

  • I am amazed that the creator of the universe wants a relationship with me personally

  • I need to lose my religion and establish a relationship with Jesus


 The Greatest Hits: The 1980’s

“Here I Go Again on my Own”

Luke 15:11-32

(July 21-27, 2019)

 

“No, I don’t know where I’m goin’

But I sure know where I’ve been

Hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday

And I’ve made up my mind

I ain’t wasting no more time

Though I keep searchin’ for an answer

I never seem to find what I’m lookin’ for

Oh Lord, I pray you give me strength to carry on

‘Cause I know what it means

To walk along the lonely street of dreams

And here I go again on my own

Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known

Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone

And I’ve made up my mind

I ain’t wasting no more time”

 

Answer and discuss the following question with your group 

1. Share a time when you felt you were “going it alone”.  What words or phrases in the song relate to that time in your life?

 

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

“My guess – most of us have lived out this song. Many of us are looking for something in life – not sure what – but we graduate from high school – probably should go to college – go to college realize – probably should not have gone to college – we get a job – go back to college – dropout – join the marines – put in 4 years and still not sure.  Even when we have had a successful career – and it seems on the outside that I do know where I am going – but the truth is – it seems like I have wasted so much time. We think – maybe a new car will help – or a new husband – or a new degree – something”

  

Read Proverbs 14:12 and Luke 15:11-32 and answer/discuss the following questions

 

2.  Proverbs 14:12 tells us there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death.  In your own life, what are some things you thought or did that seemed right at the time, but later did not work out?

3.  Read Luke 15:11-19.  How would you describe the prodigal son’s thought process in verses 11-16 and then in verses 17-19? 

4.  Acting as he had, the prodigal son had shamed his family, lost his inheritance and returned home empty handed. Read Luke: 15 20-24. How would you describe his father’s attitude at the son’s return? 

 

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

“But this story is not about a boy – it is about a dad. A good father. We might even call him reckless – a prodigal himself. In fact, his oldest son said – we are you spending all this money on a party for this good for nothing son of yours. You have never done that for me. Why are you being so extravagant with this loser?

The hero of this story is not the kid that came home – but the dad who celebrates.

The dad in this story represents God.

He is amazingly generous. He gives an extravagant gift – he gives his kid the freedom he wants. It hurt his heart. But didn’t make him stay home. God will not ever make you love him. It is your choice. He loves you with an everlasting love – regardless of how you treat him – he will never give up on you.

 

 Read John 3:16-18, 2 Peter 3: 9-15, Romans 2:4 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5.  Sometimes in our life, we like the prodigal son head out on our own without God.  Read John 3:16-18. As God’s children, he only wants one thing from us.  What is that?  If God desires to save us from our sins and give us good things, why do you think he lets us go our own way?

 

6.  You will recall the prodigal son had a moment where he came to his senses and knew that he should return home.  According to 2 Peter 3:9-15, as we wait to return to our home in heaven, what sort of people should we be?  What does this mean in our everyday life?

 

7.  Read Romans 2:4.  What do you learn about God and the purpose of his patience?

 

 

Reflection and Wrap-up

 8.    God knows we often times like to head out on our own and he patiently waits for us to return to him.  From this lesson, what will help you to think before you head out on your own or will help you to know that you can always return to the Father that is patiently waiting for you?

 

 

9. Who do you know in your family, friends, and co-wokers who need to hear the message that God is patiently waiting for them to turn to him so they don’t walk this world alone?

 

Pray Together as a Group

 

Additional Study

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

·      Proverbs 3:5

·      Proverbs 3:7

·      Psalms 62:1-2

·      1 Peter 4:1-2

 

Just Thinking 

·      I want to start asking God about every action I take.

·      I want to remember no matter how much I feel God would never forgive me, he is always waiting to welcome me back. 

·      #mostpatientgodever

·      I want to live my life in a way that is holy and pleasing to God.


The Greatest Hits

The 70’s - Maybe I’m Amazed

Hosea 1:2-11, Hosea 3:1-5, Romans 8:31-39

(July 14-20, 2019)

Baby, I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time

Maybe I'm afraid of the way I love you

Baby, I'm amazed at the the way you pulled me out of time

You hung me on a line

Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need you



Maybe I'm a man

Maybe I'm a lonely man

Who's in the middle of something

That he doesn't really understand

And maybe I'm a man

And maybe you're the only woman

Who could ever help me

Won't you help me to understand?

 - Maybe I’m Amazed, Paul James McCartney




Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Describe a time when you were truly amazed? Why were you amazed? Do you continue to be amazed from time to time?



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

“Can you imagine being Hosea!?” Hosea was a prophet. A mouthpiece of God. Can you imagine? You want to do whatever God has called you to do. You say, “God, lead me and I’ll follow.” Usually, we want to do great things FOR God, rather than do things for a Great God. God says marry Gomer. His career is stamped with an uncommitted partner. It was to represent the people of the time, unfaithful. Unfaithful to God. They worshipped many gods, their hearts were not committed to the one true God. Can you imagine being Hosea? I want to serve God, God says marry Gomer, has kids and names them terrible things.

Read 2 Kings 14:23-29, Hosea 3:2-11 and Hosea 3:1-5 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Why do you think God was angry with the northern kingdom of Israel? Do you see any parallels between the state of Israel and any nations of today?




3. In what way was Gomer like the nation of Israel? How do you think Hosea felt when Gomer was unfaithful? How do you think unfaithfulness and rejection feel to the Lord? 



4. Do you think Hosea attempted to restore Gomer’s respect and virtue through love and kindness? Do you think Gomer tried to be faithful to Hosea? Why do you think she fell back into her old ways – boredom, neglect, a sense of need, something else? Are these justifiable reasons? Do we try to justify our actions similarly?  



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



Did you see that? Did you see what the one thing was that separates you from the love of God? Did you see it? Nothing. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing you do can make Him love you more or less. His love for you is undeniable. He sent Jesus for you. He is for you. He loves you. He sees you. Jesus advocates for you at the right hand of God. Jesus is fighting for you even now.

Read Romans 8:31-39 and answer/discuss the following questions

5. Do you ever feel as if salvation is for everyone but you? What do you think verses 31-34 say about that? Describe in your own words. 




6. What kinds of things might cause us to think God has abandoned us? What do you think Paul says about such thoughts?




7. What do you think those choosing to live their lives separated from God would think about these verses? 




8. What does it mean to you when Paul says, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us?”




Reflection and Wrap-up

9. Do you think a victim when you are under attack by Satan? How can you think more like a victor? Why should we think more like a victor?





Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Colossians 3:1-2

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

  • Romans 12:1-2

  • Philippians 4:4-9 

Just Thinking

  • I want to start thinking victorious thoughts more often – like “Thank you, God, that in every battle there is an opportunity to take territory for you.”

  • I want to remember how great God’s love is for me and everyone else, not just once in a while, but constantly. I want that knowledge to affect the way I live.

  • I want to return God’s love.

  • Focus on things that are true, honest, just, pure, and loving. - Phil. 4:8

  • How amazing is the love of God!

  • Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38

  • God made you on purpose for a purpose.





The Greatest Hits

The 60’s - I’m a Believer

John 20:19-31

(July 7-July 13, 2019)


I thought love was only true in fairy tales

Meant for someone else but not for me

Love was out to get me

That's the way it seemed

Disappointment haunted all my dreams

Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer

Not a trace of doubt in my mind

I'm in love, I'm a believer!

I couldn't leave her if I tried

--I’m A Believer (composed by Neil Diamond; first recorded by the Monkeys; 1966)



Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. In the hit song, “I’m a Believer” the songwriter speaks of moving from unbelief to belief in the experience of discovering romantic love. List a few other experiences that people find it difficult to believe can happen for them.



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

Huddled quietly in a room Jesus shows up. “Peace be with you.” What an amazing moment. Jesus is with them. He is alive. He is alive. Everything changes. Fear is gone. Hope is alive. This is happening. The kingdom of heaven is real. Not everyone is there.

Thomas, one of the 11 disciples left was not there that night. Maybe he was too scared to show up. Maybe he was the designated survivor. “We can’t all be in the room at the same time, you stay back. We will fill you in later.”

He is not there, but he missed Jesus. And he did not believe. He did not believe his friends. Even though these guys were his best friends. Even though he had spent the last three years with them. Even though Jesus said that he would come back from the dead. Even though others claimed to see him he was not going to get his hopes up.

It’s too good to be true.




Read John 20:19-25 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Why are the disciples fearful, hiding in a locked room at this time?



3. Including verse 26, this passage records that Jesus said 3 times “peace be with you.” How does this speak to the disciples’ fears?




4. “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” What was Thomas expressing with these words?




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

Thomas had never lacked courage. When Jesus says let’s go to Bethany after Lazarus had become ill, tensions were extremely volatile. It was no secret that people wanted Jesus dead. Going to Bethany was going to the lion’s den. It was dangerous.

Thomas said let’s go that we may die with you.

He didn’t lack courage but he did lack faith. But one thing I do love about this guy when he was convinced, he was all in. “My Lord and my God.” I’m all in!

Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me’” (verse 29).

Someday, someday soon, people will have to believe with the eyes of faith. People like you will have to believe without seeing him face to face.

It would be nice - right – if Jesus was here in the flesh? If you could look at him and hear his voice. Would you buy into it then? What would it take for you to believe?





Read John 20:26-31 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. From this lesson so far, what contrasts do you see between the faith of Thomas and the faith of the other disciples?





6. How does Jesus deal with Thomas’ doubt?





7. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me”?


Reflection and Wrap-up

8. Where could you use Jesus’ peace right now?


9. What doubts or questions about God or Jesus are you struggling with?





10. What is your next step to address your doubts or grow in your faith?





Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Hebrews 11:1-6

  • 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

  • Romans 4

Just Thinking

  • Blessed are those who did not see and yet believed. – Jesus (John 20:29)

  • Believing in Jesus gives me something no one else can – purpose.

  • That thing missing in your life – can only be filled by God.


The Greatest Hits: The 1950’s

“Ring of Fire” 

Proverbs 12:26; 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33

Matthew 6:21; Hebrews 13:5; Proverbs 11:25; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

(June 30-July 6, 2019)

Love is a burning thing

And it makes a fiery ring

Bound by wild desire

I fell into a ring of fire




I fell into a burning ring of fire

I went down, down, down

And the flames went higher

And it burns, burns, burns

The ring of fire, the ring of fire

--Ring of Fire (credited to June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore)


The popular song Ring of Fire, an excerpt of which is above, became one of the greatest hits not only of Johnny Cash’s career but also of the 1950’s and even through today. The song explores in poetic fashion the experience of falling in love – like being caught helplessly inside a burning ring of fire. Do you view the song as celebrating the warmth of love, or as saying love can be very difficult, or both?




Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. What is the best advice you ever received about relationships? What is the best advice you could give?




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

Cash’s daughter, Rosanne, stated, “the song is about the transformative power of love and that’s what it has always meant to me and that’s what it will always mean to the Cash children.”

There is no doubt that love can certainly start out that way. Our world today teaches us that sexual attraction and romantic feelings are what we should build our relationships on. And if you can fall into a burning ring of fire, you can probably fall out of a burning ring of fire. So how do you choose the right person?



Read Proverbs 12:26; 13:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:33 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Based on popular television shows, magazines, music and social media, write down some of the factors or reasons presented, both good and bad, that people use today to choose spouses or get married.


3. Deciding who to choose as friends certainly includes who to choose as potential spouses. Based on the verses above, compare and contrast the consequences of choosing good, wise friends and the consequences of choosing bad, foolish friends. Is there a middle ground presented in these verses?


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

So if you are supposed to choose your friends carefully, I think it goes without saying that you most definitely should choose your spouse even more carefully.

So how do you choose?

You need to have some sort of checklist.

What is on your checklist?


Read the verses noted below and answer/discuss the following questions.

There may not be a perfect or exhaustive list of criteria on which to choose a spouse, but there are major indicators to determine whether a potential spouse may be a good, wise choice or a bad, foolish choice.



4. Money: Conflicts over financial matters is the number 1 cause of divorce. Using the verses below, explain the difference between having money and loving money. What objective indicators may reveal a love of money? How can outward generosity with finances, as opposed to selfishness, be an indicator of a person's inner character?

  • Matthew 6:21

  • Hebrews 13:5

  • Proverbs 11:25



5. Religion: Based on 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, is it possible to have a strong, unified marriage without having the same faith? Explain.



6. Children: What kinds of conflicts can arise in your marriage, and for your children, if you and your spouse are not in agreement before you get married on whether to have children, how many, and the methods to use for discipline? Explain how a unified faith, as opposed to disagreements in matters of faith, can lead to harmony in raising children.



7. In-laws: Each family has its own history, ways of doing things, expectations during holidays and special occasions, and general "baggage." Explain how being in agreement with your spouse on extended family matters before your marriage, and remaining unified with each other and willing to compromise, can avoid conflicts after your marriage?



Reflection and Wrap-up

8. Do you think a person's genuine love for his or her spouse can be affected by the failure of the other spouse to live out the four categories discussed above? Do you think that failure can make one spouse feel like they are in a burning ring of fire, unable to escape?
Explain how unity on these matters can place your marriage within the protection of a ring of fire, in which outside influences cannot cause conflict, as opposed to having a relationship struggle or be consumed.


9. If you are married but are not in agreement on the matters in this lesson, can maintaining your love and commitment for your spouse and your marriage help promote unity? Explain.
Do you think marriage counseling is a sign of strength or a sign of weakness?


Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Proverbs 19:20

  • Ecclesiastes 5:10

  • Ecclesiastes 4:2

  • Amos 3:2-3

Just Thinking

  • Walk with the wise and become wise. – Proverbs 13:20

  • Those who love money never have enough! – Ecclesiastes 5:10

  • Shared faith brings stronger love.

  • In choosing a spouse, I need to make a good, wise choice, as opposed to a bad, foolish choice.

  • Agreeing with my future spouse on matters of money, faith, children and extended family matters before the wedding can promote unity in marriage.

  • Thanks a lot, now I have that song running through my head!


Fake News

God Won’t Give You More than You Can Handle

Matthew 14:22-33

(June 23-29, 2019)

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” That tired, old phrase often sounds more like a taunt than a comfort. When we are down and out and feeling discouraged, hearing those words can cause us to feel like we are not measuring up. It causes us to ask, “If I am supposed to handle this, then why can’t I handle it?” The truth is, God never said He wouldn’t give you more than you can handle. There will be times in life when you will feel like you are drowning and there is no one to help you. The words that are meant for encouragement can often serve to only create discouragement. Worse yet, this phrase can tempt us to ignore our suffering and pretend it’s not there. It can lead us to believe the lie that we can do it ourselves; that we can handle it.  
(Michael Hildolgo, Relevant, 9/10/2013)

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Share a time when you were dealing with more than you could handle. Was the situation the result of giving in to temptation or suffering? What did you try to do about the situation?  


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “God Won’t Give You More than You Can Handle”.

This passage has to do with temptation and that God will not allow us to be put in a situation in which the temptation is too great. That we have no chance – that we could not help ourselves – we had to do it. There is and always will be a way of escape out of any temptation that we face. We might give in to that temptation but we don’t have to. We will have more than enough strength and courage with the help of the Holy Spirit to resist any temptation that we face. So it is kind of like saying that God will not give you more than you can handle, so as long as we are talking about temptation stuff. Okay?

Read 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 and 2 Corinthians 1:8 and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. Sometimes our troubles come from giving in to temptation.
    What does 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 tell us about temptation?  
    What does this mean to you personally?

  2. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8. As mentioned in the introduction, sometimes as Christians we believe that we should ignore our suffering and pretend it’s not there by putting on a happy face. What do you learn about Paul and the other disciples from this verse? How does knowing this help you with your own sufferings or supporting others in that situation?


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “God Won’t Give You More than You Can Handle”.

In a day and age when at least in Christian worlds we think everything is a bright smile. Everywhere you look you see people who have it all together, and because God does not give us more than we can handle – so when we feel like darkness is our only friend we don’t know what to do. Christians certainly can’t or shouldn’t feel this way. There are times in our lives when we do not know what to do. We are in over our heads. Loneliness, anxiety, grief, and anger find their way in. We don’t know where to turn or how to cope.


Read Matthew 14:22-33 and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. How would you describe the disciples’ reaction to the situation? What does Jesus say to them? What emotional response is Jesus addressing with this statement?


  1. How does the presence of Jesus give you courage or remove fear?


  1. Peter takes action and comes to Jesus. When Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, he begins to sink. When reaching out to Jesus, what sort of things cause us to take our eyes (our focus) off of him?  


  1. Notice how Peter responds when he starts to sink. What does he do? What does Jesus do in return?


Reflection and Wrap-up

  1. What (if any) is your new understanding of the statement, “God won’t give you more than you can handle?”


  1. From this lesson, how would you like to respond the next time you feel like you have more than you can handle?


Pray Together as a Group



Additional Study

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

  • John 16:33

  • 2 Timothy 1:12

  • Psalm 4:1-8

  • Psalm 9:1-20 (especially verse 10)

  • Psalm 119:73-80

Just Thinking

  • Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid. – Jesus

  • It is the presence of Jesus that makes the difference.

  • A step of faith moves us from fear to courage.

  • Cry out to Jesus!

  • When life gives more than you can handle – reach out to Jesus.






Fake News

God Must Have Wanted That to Happen

Romans 8:28-29

(June 16-22, 2019)

Many devout Christians can make no sense of being guided by God...I saw them driven to turn all guidance into blind force – rigidly controlling guidance – and to treat God’s will as nothing but fate. And I was distressed at how often people identified some brutal event as God’s will – even when it clearly came from a decision made by human beings. They then moved on to the faith destroying, even blasphemous idea that everything that happens in this world is caused by God.

Hearing God, Dallas Willard

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. How do you explain the occurrence of brutal events? What role do you think God has in these events? How have events that you’ve experienced in your life affected your relationship with God?






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


An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “God Must Have Wanted That to Happen”.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian. She helped Jews escape Nazi Germany until she herself was caught and sent to a concentration camp. It was horrible there. It was humiliating, filled with suffering and filth. She and most of the women at the camp had fleas. Corrie’s sister tried to encourage her to thank God even for the fleas.

“There is no way I can thank God for the fleas,” she told her.

But a few days later while they were meeting for a secret worship time it dawned on Corrie that the German guards will not enter our barracks because they don’t want to get fleas. If they had entered they would have beat us and perhaps worse.

She said, “Even in the fleas God was at work.”

Read Romans 8:28-29 and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. Describe in your own words what Paul’s words in Romans mean to you. Do you believe these words apply to everyone in all circumstances?

  2. Do the verses from Romans offer any understanding relative the story Mark shared about Corrie ten Boom? Explain.

  3. In Corrie ten Boom’s case, things that appeared to be hardships tuned out to work for her good. Have you known times when hardships were just hardships? Have you known times when hardships turned out to be blessings?

  1. Is it accurate to expect that a person called by God will not face risk in life? Is it desirable to live without risk? What is the ultimate safety that we have in God?

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


An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “God Must Have Wanted That to Happen””.

You will get clobbered in life. So will the people you love. So will people in your church and small group.

In the darkness, we comfort each other. We grieve with each other. We show up.

Often people want to know what to say to a friend who is going through the valley. You just show up and sit there. That is enough. It is more than enough.

That is pretty easy to figure out there. When you know of someone who is dealing with some things in life you bear their burden. You show up.

Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Romans 12:15 and Galatians 6:2 and answer/discuss the following questions.

6. Paul says that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. When does he say Jesus will provide comfort? What do you think our response could be when we receive comfort?







7. Do you think our troubles can ever exceed God’s ability to comfort us? Can our responses to trouble hinder our ability to receive God’s comfort? Does it help when we have someone who is willing to mourn with us in times of trouble?







8. How can our carrying the burdens of those who mourn help them? What are some common ways we could share the burden of those in mourning?







Reflection and Wrap-up

9. Do you know someone who is mourning or having difficulties now who could use your help? What burden could you carry for them? Or can you think of another way to be of comfort to them?







10. How can the belief that everything is caused by God destroy faith?


Pray Together as a Group







Additional Study

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

  • Psalm 23:4

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • Matthew 28:20

  • Joshua 1:9






Just Thinking

  • Jesus calls us to be with those who are mourning.

  • Jesus calls us to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

  • God provides a comfort that the world cannot offer.

  • When troubles come in my life, I turn to God.

  • Share each other’s troubles and so obey the law of Christ.

  • The Lord your God is with you wherever – whatever.

  • With his love, God calms all our fears.

  • In the dark moments, we comfort each other.


Fake News

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

Matthew 25:1-13, 31-46

(June 9-15, 2019)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

The Apostle Paul – Romans 5:6-11 NLT

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Did your parents ever say, “God helps those who help themselves?”
In what circumstances was that challenge given to you?




2. Considering the passage above from Romans 5 compare the difference between helplessness and personal responsibility/self-reliance.




Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”.

When did we see? See what?

A person who can’t help themselves.

A person who was hungry and needed food.

A person who was thirsty and needed some water.

A person who was a stranger – and needed community.

A person who was in prison – and needed a visit from a friend.

A person who didn’t have clothing – and needed some help with that.

All of these folks really it could be argued could not help themselves. And Jesus lets us know – at the core of who we are…

We help those who cannot help themselves.

Read Matthew 25:31-46 and answer/discuss the following questions

3. What kinds of acts are described as helping the helpless?
How do these acts also benefit the doer of the acts?




4. What does this passage teach about helplessness and responsibility?


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”.

Jesus sees him lying there and he knew that he had been there for a long time. “Do you want to be healed?”

Fascinating question – that is why he is there isn’t it? Why else show up?

Do you want to be healed? Sometimes we don’t. We will keep living in the life that we are now used to. It is who we now are. Though we were hoping for a different life this is what we have. It is who we are. We don’t know any different.

The man has been sick for 38 years. Of course, he wants to be healed – or does he? Sounds like he has given up on that – “No one can help me.”

After so many years of suffering and loneliness, he can’t help himself and he can’t get anyone to help. “Rise up and walk.” What? Get up. Get up and walk.





Read John 5:1-9 and answer/discuss the following questions

5. What do you think Jesus meant by the question, “Would you like to get well?”

6. What did the invalid hope Jesus might do?

7. In what ways do people today try to be healed spiritually apart from Christ?





Reflection and Wrap-up

8. Now that you have considered the stories and teaching of Jesus in this lesson, how would you describe the interplay of helplessness and self-reliance?

9. What is your next step to take when action in needed and to receive help when it is offered to you?





Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • 1 John 3:16-24

  • James 2:14-20

  • Acts 4:32-35

Just Thinking

  • Helplessness opens our hearts to receiving God’s gift.

  • Jesus calls us to help those who cannot help themselves.

  • Whatever God asks you to lift, He gives you the Grace to carry. – Roy Lessin

  • Giving people a hand up, not a handout, is the way forward. – Hugh Jackman

  • Not everyone is happy when someone gets well.


Fake News

Jesus Just Wants His Followers to be Happy

Mark 8:34-38

(June 2-8, 2019)

When the Duke of Vienna in Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure was on the eve of leaving his palace for a while, he needed to appoint someone to be in charge of Vienna in the Duke's absence. He tells the character Angelo:

There is a kind of character in thy life,

That to the observer doth thy history

Fully unfold. Thyself and thy belongings

Are not thine own so proper as to waste

Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee.

Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,

Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues

Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike

As if we had them not.

In the Duke's view, Angelo was not pursuing his own selfish interests, but lived a life that showed "thyself and thy belongings are not thine own." "Heaven," the Duke explains, can use such a person for larger purposes. In sum, in the Duke's view, Angelo has a character that radiates from him. Angelo gets it.

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Did your parents ever make you do something (or not do something) when it was clear it would not make you happy? Why? Do you think your parents had a bigger purpose or a learning experience in mind?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Jesus Just Wants His Followers to be Happy”.

What kind of person would be a disciple of Jesus? Let him say "no" to himself and "yes" to Jesus. He must say "no" to his natural love of ease and comfort.

This life is not about self-seeking and self-will. It is a life that says "no" to the things that prompt us to taste, touch and handle the forbidden things.

Take up a cross? Doesn’t sound all that fun.

Now just a moment. I think that Jesus had fun. I think he had a lot of fun. People don’t follow a person who isn’t fun. My guess, lots of laughter and happiness dominated the life of Jesus.

Read Mark 8:34 and answer/discuss the following questions

2. In this verse, Jesus instructs his disciples to "deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Explain how Jesus' statement should affect our priorities and what we think is important.


3. Based on Mark 8:34, does faith in Jesus have more to do with an intellectual belief or a willingness to live a sacrificial lifestyle? Explain.

4. Popular descriptions on how to live today include such things as, "If it feels good, do it," "Well, as long as it makes you happy," "God wants you to be happy," and "Look out for number one." How does the kind of lifestyle commanded in Mark 8:34 differ from these popular ways of living?



Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Jesus Just Wants His Followers to be Happy”.

We sacrifice the important for the unimportant.

We sacrifice the eternal for the temporary.

We sacrifice what is real for what is fake.

All the time dying just a little bit at a time.

We take from a soul just a little bit at a time.

I would hate for you to get to the end of your life and realize that you never really lived.



Read Mark 8:34-38 and answer/discuss the following questions

5. While Jesus' statement in verse 34 may seem challenging at first, what is in store for those who follow Jesus' command? Would you describe Jesus' statement in verse 34 as disheartening or as life-saving? Why?


6. Based on verses 35-38, explain what is lost by pursuing a selfish lifestyle and what is gained by following Jesus. Given Jesus' life-saving instruction in this passage, why do we often want to sacrifice the important for the unimportant, the eternal for the temporary, and what is real for what is fake?



Reflection and Wrap-up

7. Are there areas of your life where you follow yourself and your desires instead of Jesus and his desires? What are those desires?
What practical things can you do to change your priorities in these areas?

8. Do you think Mark 8:34-38 means Christ followers lead lives without fun, fulfillment, and joy? Explain how following Jesus' priorities, and serving and sacrificing for others, can actually make you a more grateful, fulfilled and happy person.



Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Isaiah 49:4

  • Job 7:6

  • Job 8:21

  • Ecclesiastes 8:15

Just Thinking

  • Thinking that selfishness and temporary things lead to happiness is Fake News!

  • God cares more about our holiness than our happiness.

  • Give your life away and you will come alive!

  • Temporary things will not bring contentment nor lead to eternal life.

  • Sacrifice and service – the path to greater faith and greater joy.

  • Ok, I admit it, the sacrifices my parents encouraged did help build my character.


Escape Room
The Key to the Escape Room
Matthew 4:8-11
(May 26-June 1, 2019)

Knowing the good is one thing. Deciding to do the good is another. Actually doing the good that is willed is still another. Some sin may result from our being closed off from the truth of God. Most sin, however, comes to those who know what is right and do not properly exercise the will to do it. Paul, as he dramatizes a common human situation in Romans 7, finds that he knows what he ought to do and, in his mind, he wills to do it, but he just does not seem to be able to carry it off. He finds himself, it seems, incapable of doing the right. It almost seems as if sin has taken over and taken him captive, despite his good desires and intentions.

“At The Testing Tree”, Ward Patterson

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1. Which parts of gaining victory over temptation are most difficult for you - knowing, deciding or actually doing the right action?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “The Key to the Escape Room”.

Make a choice right now with your life to live for God and honor him. Honoring God was a decision ahead of time, so when it came to the moment, he didn’t have to try and make a decision on whether or not he was going to honor God or honor himself.

He knew his priorities. Live for God and honor him. When you choose to honor God, you choose to trust that his plan for your life is greater than your own. Including reading scripture and living it out.

Make decisions ahead of time. Know yourself, know your limits, understand where it is that you fall or fail the most in your life.


Read Genesis 39:1-18 and 1 Corinthians 10:12-14, and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Joseph resisted temptation because of some core values he held in his life. What values were foundational to his ability to overcome the temptation that he faced?


3. Joseph faced temptation in the area of sexual integrity. What are some of the most challenging temptations for Christians in our culture today? What are some temptations that are especially challenging for you?


4. What tactics were used by the wife of Potiphar to tempt Joseph to break his commitment to integrity?


Read the following excerpt out loud.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “The Key to the Escape Room”.

No fear of failure - I’m stealing this from Scott Frost - but it’s biblical.

We all fail, we all fall. But that doesn’t mean we call it quits and walk away. Jesus thought we were worth dying for, let’s do our best to honor that death. That means every time we fall, get back up again.

Satan wants every fall to be your last, to be the one where you stop repenting and repeating. Don’t let him win. Get back up again.


Read Hebrews 4:15-16 and Romans 8:28 and answer/discuss the following questions.


5. When you consider your relationship to Jesus, what gives you hope when facing and overcoming your areas of temptation?


6. Read 1 John 3:8 and 4:4. How do you find courage for your battle with temptations, and in particular Satan’s role in the temptations you face?


7. Read Hebrews 12:1-4. How do we find the strength to endure the challenges of temptation? How do we keep moving forward in our faith when we fail?


Reflection and Wrap-up

  1. What step is next for you as you resist temptations and grow in your faith?

  2. What would you say to encourage a fellow Christ-follower to face and overcome temptations?

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Genesis 39:1-18

  • Ephesians 6:10-16

  • 1 John 3:4-10

  • 1 John 4:4-5:5

Just Thinking

  • It’s harder to sin when you’re around the right people.

  • Satan loves to tempt us when we’re alone.

  • Plan your escape before temptation knocks.

  • Make your choice before the temptation arrives.

  • Flee from my will to be ready to do his will.


Escape Room
Worship God Alone
Matthew 4:8-11
(May 19-25, 2019)

To deliver the soul from the sin which is its ruin and bestow on it the holiness which is its health and peace, is the end of all God’s dealings with His children; and precisely because He cannot merely impose, but must enable us to attain it ourselves, if we are really to have the liberty of His children, the way He must take is long and arduous.

Grace and Personality”, John Wood Oman

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1. Have you ever wondered why God lets us be tempted? Do you think there is a redeeming purpose for temptation? God clearly could eliminate all temptations, but he doesn’t.  Why do you think that is?


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Worship God Alone”.

The devil takes him to a mountain – a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. “This can be yours if the price is right. I will give this all to you. All of it is yours if you just bow down and worship me.”

Jesus can have it all – in his possession for just one little knee bend.

Perhaps Jesus knows something – that whatever Satan is promising he is not going to deliver. Every time Satan gets us to think – hey – if you have this or try this or do this – this will make you happier – and we believe it – we compromise just a little bit – not a lot – but it is just a little bowing of the knee believing this will bring me what I want.

Only to be disappointed again. Why did I make that trade? I got ripped off. It just wasn’t worth it.


Read Matthew 4:8-11, Deuteronomy 6:13, Romans 11:33-36 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. In what ways do many of the things that lead us astray look better than they actually are? (Is it any wonder they call Satan the great deceiver?)

3. Jesus responded to Satan’s offer with a quote from scripture. How do you respond to temptations – with God’s thoughts or your own? If possible, identify one or two examples of responding with God’s thoughts?

4. In Romans 11:33-36 Paul asks several rhetorical questions. How would you summarize the meaning of these questions? How do our thoughts compare to God’s?


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Worship God Alone”.

Here Paul says that we are to be a living sacrifice. Now the folks that day would have known what he was talking about – making a sacrifice at a temple was commonplace. Whether it was a to a Roman or Greek god, and certainly the Jews would have known this as well…

That is the problem with a living sacrifice. When things get a little hot we want off. When things are being demanded we say, “This isn’t for me.” And we jump off. Things get a little demanding – we jump off. Our lives are to be the sacrifice.

Read Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. What do you think Paul means when he says “we are to be a living sacrifice?” What would be sacrificed?

6. In Romans 12:2 it says “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  How is it possible that we can test and approve, or even know, what God’s will is? What does the first half of verse 2 mean to you? How do you think it applies to the second half of the verse?

7. What does the first half of verse 2 mean to you? How do you think it applies to the second half of the verse? What patterns of the world do you think Paul is talking about?

Reflection and Wrap-up

  1. Near the end of this StoneBridge message, we hear, “Worship – it is not just singing. We call it worship. We call this worship, but the worship of our king is not a Sunday thing. It is not even one big sacrifice, but is made in the small decisions that we face every single day.” Give some examples of how we can live out this kind of worship in our daily lives?

9. What would it mean to you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind? How do you think that would change your will? Christian author, Dallas Willard says that “God’s gracious incursions into our souls can make his thoughts our thoughts.” How do you think that would change our lives? Your life?

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Galatians 5:19-22

  • 2 Corinthians 3:4-18

  • Ephesians 4:17-23


Just Thinking

  • My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All.

  • Think less about what I want and more about what God wants.

  • Nothing compares to God’s glory.

  • I don’t need a long list of rules”; I need a heart to live out God’s will, so that I can do his will without even wondering what it is.



Escape Room

Mother’s Day

James 1:19-22, Proverbs 3:5-7, Proverbs 2:7-9

(May 12-18, 2019)

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. How do you typically respond to situations that feel like they are spinning out of control?

Read the following excerpt out loud
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Mother’s Day”.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with an escape room, contrary to their anxiety causing name, they are actually really fun!  The premise of the activity is that you are “locked” in a room or rooms, and there is a puzzle that you and your team must ultimately solve. Almost everything in the room is a clue and you and your team must keep solving clues/riddles in the room which unlock the next clue until you solve them all and in doing so, set yourselves free from the escape room. If you and your team are unable to find/solve all of the clues in one hour, you lose.

Read and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. What are some of the “fun” aspects of raising children or grandchildren?

3.  How is raising children like unlocking clues for the escape room?


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Mother’s Day”.

In my life, in the chaos, I find that this kind of peace is only found when I’m living a life in line with biblical principles. (Don’t misunderstand, living this way does not always ensure ease of life.) Bad things still happen, but it does provide inexplicable peace (come what may) and I can be confident that if my choices are biblically sound, then this too pours over into my parenting. They are directly connected to each other - Godly living and Good parenting.

At the core, Godly parenting really requires three basic Core Principles: Patience, Faith, and Integrity.




Read James 1:19-22, Proverbs 3:5-7 & Proverbs 2:7-9

Answer/discuss the following questions.



4. Raising children requires we “get right with the Lord”. One way to do this is to display patience. What clues do James 1:19-22 and 2nd Corinthians 6:4-6 give us on how to do this? Which of these aspects do you find the most difficult? Have you used these principles in raising children?



5. The real challenge comes through not only relying on our own wisdom but having faith in God where true wisdom comes from. What do we learn from Proverbs 3:5-7 and Philippians 4:4-7 that helps us to seek God’s wisdom?



6.  Why is it sometimes hard to have faith in God to provide the wisdom you need?  What do you find comforting about having faith in God to provide the wisdom?



7.  We have all heard the saying, “Do what I say and not what I do.”  Read James 1:22 and Proverbs 2:7-9.  Integrity plays a big part in parenting. It’s not just knowing what God wants us to do, we have to live it out. What do you think living a life of integrity looks like?



Reflection and Wrap-up

8.  While the lesson has been on parenting, everything goes better with a life of patience, faith, integrity. If you are currently raising children or grandchildren or just on the faith journey in which of these areas do you struggle? How can the group or church help?



9.  There are many opportunities to raise children. There is your own family, Stonebridge’s children’s ministry and youth groups, mission opportunities such building houses in Mexico or supporting our children in Ecuador through Compassion and in India through the work of Mid India Christian Mission. Spend some time in prayer for those raising children in your home and throughout the world.



Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Colossians 1:11

  • Hebrews 11:1

  • 1 Corinthians 16:13

  • Proverbs 10:9

Just Thinking

  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry. – James 1:19

  • Parenting is not a competition.

  • Kids need truth spoken lovingly.

  • Motherhood – don’t do it alone.



Escape Room

Doubt

Matthew 4:5-7; Deuteronomy 6:16

Exodus 17:2-7; Mark 4:35-38

(May 5-11, 2019)


In Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure, the characters Angelo and Escalus debate the nature of the law. Angelo maintains that the law is clear and should be enforced. Escalus, on the other hand, urges Angelo to take a more flexible view of the law. Escalus accuses Angelo of committing errors from time to time and, given those errors, argues that Angelo should not enforce the law so strictly. Angelo admits to being tempted, but responds, "'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, another thing to fall."

We are all tempted from time to time, so what is the answer to temptation? When tempted, how can we avoid falling?


Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. When you were a child, did you ever play the game "Truth or Dare" with your friends? The game required players to choose either Truth (and tell the truth about something) or Dare (and do whatever your friend dared you to do). While Dare seemed exciting at first, it was usually followed by negative consequences. Which option did you usually choose? Explain a memorable time you played.


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Doubt”.

If the dark side were that unappealing, it would be easy to say "No." But that is not what darkness looks like. Instead it is shiny and juicy and tempting. The dark side looks anything but dark.

We face temptations all the time. Some are fairly small, "Should I watch The Voice or mow the lawn? Should I hit the bar or hit the gym?" Others are little bit more damaging. The dark side is getting more and more enticing. Temptation has always been that way. If it wasn’t enticing, why would we do it?



Read Matthew 4:5-7, Deuteronomy 6:16, and Exodus 17:2-7 and answer/discuss the following questions.

Matthew 4:1-11 recounts three temptations Jesus faced after being baptized. Last week's lesson focused on Jesus' first temptation, to turn stones into bread after fasting. Satan again misuses scripture in verses 5-7 to tempt Jesus a second time, in this instance to prove God's love.



2. Explain the second temptation of Jesus and the circumstances Satan used to bring God's love for Jesus into question. Why would jumping off the Temple have been a test of God's love? In contrast, explain how standing steadfast in the face of temptation revealed faith.



3. Based on verse 7, did Jesus rely solely on his own strength to escape temptation? Explain.




4. After reading Deuteronomy 6:16 and Exodus 17:2-7, how did the Israelites' complaints at Massah show they doubted God's love and direction? Explain the point of Deuteronomy 6:16 and why Jesus referred to this verse in deciding to trust rather than doubt God's love.



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

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, "Doubt”

Jesus rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Peace, be still.” And there was a great calm. “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” Jesus was teaching those men, and us, today.

You can trust me. I will give you peace in the midst of storms. When sorrow comes – and it will – you can trust me. When a problem finds its way to you – and it will – you can trust me. When the storm of anxiety shows up – and it will – you can trust me.

In the storms of life, when God seems to not care, when he seems distant and asleep, he is there. Faith brings us through. Faith in a God who provides, at just the right time. Faith in a God who rescues, at just the right time. Faith in a God who calms things down, at just the right time.

But how do I know that you are real? How do I know that you care? Trust instead of test.




Read Mark 4:35-38 and answer/discuss the following questions

5. Explain how Jesus used a storm to teach his disciples to have faith instead of doubt.





6. Jesus' temptation after his fast, Israel's doubts while in the desert without water, and the disciples' fear during the storm, each occurred during challenging circumstances or while defenses were down. How can trusting God during life's storms build faith rather than sow doubt?





Reflection and Wrap-up

7. When tempted, we have all heard a friend say, or we have said ourselves, "Go ahead, God loves you and wants you to be happy," or "I'm sure it will be ok, God will forgive me." Why do you think we rely on such sayings? What alternative paths are there?





8. When it comes to temptation, we can choose Truth even when it is difficult ("I am ... the truth") (John 14:6) or Dare because it seems exciting even if it has negative consequences ("the wages of sin is death") (Romans 6:23). When you are tempted, will you choose Truth or Dare?




Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

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

  • Psalm 91:11-12

  • Deuteronomy 6:6

  • Deuteronomy 9:22

  • Deuteronomy 33:8




Just Thinking

  • If temptation wasn’t enticing, why would we do it?

  • Temptations may look attractive and enticing at first, but giving in always has negative consequences spiritually.

  • Satan tempts us to doubt who God says we are.

  • Trust God’s Word and overcome temptation.

  • Knowing and relying on scripture helps us resist temptation.

  • We should not abuse God's grace and patience by giving in to temptation.

  • Truth or Dare was a really dumb game.


Escape Room
Go to The Word
Matthew 4:1-4
(April 28-May 4, 2019)

Have you ever promised yourself that you would stop? You mean well, but you don’t, and you can’t seem to do anything about it. “I just can’t help myself.” This is a real problem for everyone. We want to change, but can’t. We wish we could be stronger, but we are not.

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Think of a bad attitude or habit you have/had that controls/controlled you. This lesson is about finding the power to overcome temptation. What are effective and ineffective ways people try to overcome negative attitudes or habits?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Go to The Word”.

Temptation comes our way often when we are doing really well spiritually. When we have had a great moment with God. Maybe after our own baptism, we feel close to God and then attacks come. We get discouraged, “Why is this happening now? After all, I am now a child of God. He should protect me from this stuff.” Maybe after we go on a church retreat. We could not be more connected to God and then temptations come. They will come. Be prepared. Satan wants to trip you up. You are more of a target than ever. You are dangerous and if he can get you to fall he wins.

Another time he comes is when we are vulnerable. Jesus had been in the wilderness> The Old Testament called this region that Jesus would be in the Devastation. It was a fitting name. It was a vast furnace like area. Jesus would be more alone than anywhere in Palestine. He was all alone. He had gone there to hear from God. Things had to be clear for him.

Being alone with God – it does focus us. I am not suggesting a 40-day stint, but it should probably be more than 40 minutes. In fact, what if you were to take a whole day, take your Bible and listen for a while. Take a day off from work. Take a weekend and listen.

Read Mark 1:1-5 and Matthew 4:1-4 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Identify all the people in these passages that tell parts of the story of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism followed by his journey into the wilderness.

3. What actions or attitudes did each person or group take to overcome temptation and turn away from sin?

4. What did Jesus do to counter the temptations from Satan?

Read the following excerpt out loud.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Go to The Word”.

Temptation rarely gives us a warning. “Hey tomorrow you are going to have to deal with something – you might want to study up. I would suggest reading Ephesians 5:3.” Is this going to be on the test? Yes. So study up tonight because in the morning you are going to have to deal with this. Oh – OK.

And we would – maybe – study for the test. Most of us are winging our way through life. We don’t know how to navigate the choices we are facing so we are just going to go with our gut. If it feels good, I am going to do it. If it makes me happy, then I am all in. If my friends are doing it then it must be OK. I don’t know how you are doing things that might be a way – but there is a different way. Letting the word of God guide our lives.

Answer/discuss the following questions.

5. Read Psalm 119 verses 9, 11, and 105. Describe any promises you find here for help in overcoming temptations.

6. What are some strategies that you can use to be able to overcome temptations?

7. Read James 1:2-4. A few different ways to view our temptations are revealed here. What do those descriptive words tell you to help you through a time of temptation?

Reflection and Wrap-up

8. How will you begin this week to strengthen your ability to rely on Bible truths to help you overcome temptations in your life?

9. Think of a fellow Christ follower who could be an encouragement to you as you face the trials/temptations of your life. Commit to reach out to them and ask them if you can rely on him or her to be there for you when you need encouragement to overcome temptation.

Pray Together as a Group


Additional Study

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

  • Psalm 119:9

  • Psalm 119:11

  • Psalm 119:105

  • Deuteronomy 8:3 & Matthew 4:1-4

  • 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

  • Ephesians 5:1-9


Just Thinking

  • Your Word lights my path.

  • God always provides an escape hatch from temptation.

  • The Word of God sets me free.

  • True character is discovered when we are alone.


John Emery