Message Based Studies



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.


A Series of Unfortunate Events
A Curtain Gets Ruined
Matthew 27:45-56
John 18:15-26; 21:1-17
(April 21-27, 2019)

Opening

Now is the shining fabric

of our day

Torn open, flung apart,

Rent wide by Love.

Never again the tight, enclosing sky,

The blue bowl,

Or the star-illuminated tent.

We are laid open to infinity,

For Easter Love

Has burst His tomb and ours.

Now nothing shelters us

From God’s desire

Not flesh, not sky,

Not stars, not even sin.

Now Glory waits

So He can enter in.

Now does the dance begin.

Opening”, Elizabeth Rooney

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. What do you think the author means when she writes “Easter love has burst His tomb and ours?  To where does He want to enter in? What is God’s desire, and why did Jesus come into our world?




Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “A Curtain Gets Ruined”.

He (the Priest) would atone for their sins with 2 goats. The first goat would die. He would confess the sins of the people and place the sins of the people on the goat and the goat would be slaughtered…the second goat the sins as well would be placed on the goat and the goat would be sent out into the wilderness.

SO the high priest would do this year after year. A reminder to everyone – we need forgiveness. Every year the priest would go behind the curtain and the people would wait – may God accept our sins and cover us for another year. The priest every year would bridge the gap between us and God.




Read Matthew 27:45-51, Genesis 3:21, Leviticus 16: 5-25 and Psalm 103:12 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. In Genesis 3:21 God kills an animal to makes garments of skin for Adam and Eve. Why did Adam and Eve need garments?

3. Why do you think God gave the instructions in Leviticus to the nation of Israel? How do you think the verses in Genesis and Leviticus relate to the death of Jesus on the cross? How long do you think the Israelites had been observing the ritual given in Leviticus?

4. What significance did the torn curtain have with respect to the instructions given in Leviticus? What does this mean to you?




Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “A Curtain Gets Ruined”.

The death on the cross – is an all access pass. Jesus is handing them out.

You have been clothed with Christ. He covers you. I no longer have to hide from him or fear him. He covers me with his grace and his love and my sins – and they are many – have been atoned for. They have been paid for once and for all.

And now he no longer dwells in a building. He is in me.

The Bible says that I am the temple of God’s Holy Spirit. He left the building and now lives in me. Guiding me – helping me – strengthening me – forgiving me.

Read Galatians 3:27, John 17:20-24 and John 6:51-58 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. In Galatians 3:27 Paul says all who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. What does this mean to you? What does it mean with respect to your relationship with Christ?

6. In John 17:20-24 what do you think Jesus is praying for? What do you think he means in verse 23?

7. Why do you think the Pharisees were shocked at what Jesus said in John 6:52-58? What do you think Jesus meant when he spoke of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood? How should we respond to this?




Reflection and Wrap-up

8. Near the end of the message we hear, “Easter is about access. It’s about atonement. It’s all about you.” Explain.

9. How do you respond to the truth of the Easter story?

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 9:28

  • 1 Peter 2:24

  • 1 Peter 1:6-9




Just Thinking

  • God loves me so much that he provided a way for my sin to be washed away.

  • God is always near me; in fact, he is in me and everyone else – even those who are different than me.

  • God loves me so much that he wants to walk with me and talk with me as often as I can manage.

  • I am never alone. Jesus is always ready to talk with me. He is closer than the air I breathe.

  • Jesus brings salvation to everyone eagerly waiting for him.

  • By his wounds, we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

  • You are clothed with Christ – he covers you!

  • Easter is about all access to God’s grace.


A Series of Unfortunate Events
Pilate Washes His Hands
Matthew 27:15-26
(April 14-20, 2019)

The real difference between being responsible and being irresponsible is an indication of how effectively we’re managing our lives when the opportunity to make a good or bad choice presents itself. Accepting responsibility – both personal and indirect responsibility – is one of the most important factors in defining a person’s true character. When that responsible moment comes, what you do – or don’t do – is an indication of the type of person you really are. (Shawn Jackson, Good Choices Good Life, Inc. 2014)

In today’s lesson Pontius Pilate is responsible for letting Jesus live or die.  He chooses to absolve his responsibility by washing his hands of the guilt of Jesus’ death.


Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Have you ever found yourself facing a good or a bad choice?  What did you choose to do or not do? How did you make this decision and what was its impact or outcome?


Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Pilate Washes His Hands”.

We have the perspective of understanding that Jesus’ purpose and kingdom was in fact not what his followers thought. Thus, that their leader was subjected to these events was unfortunate for them.  Of course, we understand that these events needed to happen so that God’s plan for salvation was fulfilled. We can go back and read these passages and have a perspective of God’s purpose.  But Jesus’ followers did not have that perspective… they couldn’t see that far. So if anything bad happened to Jesus, in his followers’ minds their hope was lost. They would think, “What do we do now?”

This is just the case for the event we are looking at today… Pilate washing his hands is unfortunate because it effectively seals the fate of Jesus… that he will be crucified.

Read Matthew 27:15-26 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Pontius Pilate was a Roman governor and supreme judge, Pilate had the sole authority to execute a criminal. He found himself caught between the unforgiving empire of Rome and the religious scheming of the Jewish council.   Having read this section of scripture, what were Pilate’s responsibilities in this case? How did he try to carry out these responsibilities?



3. Pilate was caught between making a good and a bad choice.  What things influenced his decision? What things influence us when it comes to taking responsibility for a good or a bad choice?  Give a personal example to illustrate this point.



4. Pilate’s final decision was based on giving in to peer pressure applied by the Jewish council. In the Christian life are you ever tempted to give in to peer pressure?  What is your responsibility as a follower of Christ? What are some of the good choices you have made in this area?



Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Pilate Washes His Hands”.

In our passage today, Jesus and Pilate stand side by side… Jesus embracing his responsibility and Pilate avoiding his.  Jesus does not attempt to avoid responsibility. He understands what he needs to do and acts accordingly. Jesus’ purpose was to teach us, show us how to love one another and give himself as a sacrifice so that we could be forgiven of our sins, even though it cost him his life.  I don’t know about you, but I call that big responsibility!



Answer/discuss the following questions.

5. We should be people of responsibility because Jesus was that kind of person.  Jesus is the prime example of embracing the call and responsibility for his life. As a group list as many Biblical examples as you can of how Jesus embraced his responsibility to mankind.

6.  Are there areas of your Christian life where you struggle to take responsibility or responsibility for your actions?  Explain.

7.  What situation might God be telling you to embrace responsibility for?  



Reflection and Wrap-up

8.  Each of us has the same opportunity this Easter season to embrace the death of Jesus and the new life it brings.  What are some ways you can embrace this reality and share your faith with others?



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:

  • Matthew 4:23

  • 1 Timothy 4:6

  • 1 Timothy 6:11-16

  • 1 Peter 2:15

  • Matthew 4:6

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21


Just Thinking

  • Pilate washed his hands to save his skin; Jesus gave his life to save our souls.

  • The innocent Christ gave his life for the guilty.

  • God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV


A Series of Unfortunate Events
Peter's Denial
Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75
John 18:15-26; 21:1-17
(April 7-13, 2019)

The character Buzz Lightyear in the popular Toy Story movies tended to exaggerate his own abilities. He declared to Woody, "Right now, poised at the edge of the galaxy, Emperor Zurg has been secretly building a weapon with the destructive capacity to annihilate an entire planet. I alone have information that reveals this weapon's only weakness. And you, my friend, are responsible for delaying my rendezvous with Star Command." Although Woody tells Buzz, "You are a toy!," Buzz is not convinced. His response to Woody is, "You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity."

Buzz later realizes, "I'm not a space ranger. I'm just a toy. A stupid little insignificant toy." However, the good news is that the story does not end there. When Woody is trapped by the mean kid next door, Buzz courageously acts to free Woody and restore his and Woody's relationship with their caring owner Andy.

In this lesson, we will see, through Peter's example, that when we fail or feel insignificant the Bible gives us hope that our story does not end there.




Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. Have you ever known someone, whether as a kid or an adult, who exaggerated their abilities or image? Why do we sometimes try to puff ourselves up?




Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Peter's Denial”.

While he’s there in the courtyard, a servant girl asks him if he was with Jesus. He denies it. Another girl by the gate accuses him also, and finally a third time some of the men come over to him while he is standing near the fire and accuse him of being with Jesus. He swears a curse, that he does not know the man. At that moment the rooster crows, and one account says Jesus looked out the window from the room he was in, directly at Peter. He went away, weeping bitterly.

In John’s gospel, he’s so specific about this event. When Peter denies Jesus the third time it says, he was standing around a “charcoal fire” warming himself. That was Peter’s "Fyre Festival." Hanging out by this fire pit, it hit him, all his talk, all his bravado, his love and dedication to serve Jesus, to be his disciple, to be the ROCK. He told him flat out, he would never deny him, even if everyone else deserts you, I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU. Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you. He had FAILED. He ran away weeping. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not the end.





Read Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75 and John 18:15-26 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Several passages in the gospels reflect the Apostle Peter as acting or speaking first and thinking later. How do the passages above show that Peter was exaggerating his dedication to Jesus or trying to puff himself up?





3. How did Jesus' prediction that Peter would deny him three times play out, despite Peter's declaration that, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you"? Explain how Peter's three denials became more definitive each time. Was there any doubt that Peter turned his back on his Lord?

4. How did the pressure faced by Peter at the time contribute to his denials of knowing Jesus? Despite Peter's denials and the pressures he faced, what evidence are we given that Peter's repentance of his sin was real?




Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Peter's Denial”.

Jesus meets Peter where he’s at. He can work with Peter. He’s not done with Peter. He still has a plan and a mission for Peter and it doesn’t matter that Peter failed him time after time before. It doesn’t matter how many times Peter stuck his foot in his mouth and said something dumb in the past. It doesn’t matter that Peter couldn’t back up his strong words all those other times.

Jesus was never impressed by his boasting or his loud words, he loved Peter for Peter, not for who he claimed to be or tried to be.

Too many of us, think we have to look and act a certain way, to be good enough for God. That we have to say the right words and do the right things for Him to loves us. I’ve known too many people in my life who told me, they wanted to get baptized and give their life to Jesus, but they needed to wait until they got their life together.

There were still things they were working on or weren’t ready to let go of, and they thought it disqualified them.





Read John 21:1-17 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. In John 21:1-17, after Jesus' resurrection, Jesus arranged to see Peter again.  This encounter was similar in certain respects to Peter's denial of Jesus, including the number of times Jesus questioned Peter (compare Matt. 26:75 with John 21:17) and the distinct smell of a "charcoal fire" in both instances (compare John 18:18 with John 21:9) (NLT). What three questions did Jesus pose to Peter? Explain how these questions, and the circumstances in John 21:1-17, fully restored Peter's relationship with Jesus.

6. When Peter encountered Jesus on the shore, did Peter puff himself up and make excuses for his sin, or did he respond to Jesus with humility and honesty? Explain.





Reflection and Wrap-up

7. A popular phrase in today's social media is "epic fail" (which is apparently worse than just a "normal" failure). Peter's denial of Jesus could be viewed as an epic fail. Does Jesus' acceptance of Peter, despite Peter's sin, encourage you that Jesus will accept you despite your sin? Explain.

8. When you experience life's challenges, struggles or trials, do you get angry at God and doubt his love for you, or do you have faith he will help you through what you are experiencing? Based on this lesson, do you think Jesus will accept you despite your doubts, anger or sin?





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:

  • Matthew 14:22-31

  • Matthew 16:13-23

  • 1 Peter 1:6-9

Just Thinking

  • I can repent and be accepted by Jesus despite my sin.

  • I do not need to "have it all together" before responding to God.

  • I need to turn to God rather than away from him when I experience fear, struggles or trials.

  • Jesus invites you to be honest in your brokenness.

  • Jesus meets us in our darkness and walks us into his light.

  • Eating barbeque cooked over a charcoal fire can be a spiritual experience.





A Series of Unfortunate Events

Judas’ Betrayal

John 12:1-11, 18:1-7

March 31-April 6, 2019




Many believers experience seasons when life is invaded by despair. People describe it as "Maybe I'm going crazy,” or perhaps “I'm just depressed.” Centuries ago these Series of Unfortunate Events were named “the dark night of the soul.” These seasons of confusion can be a scary experience. The fifteenth-century Christian writer John of the Cross was the first to describe this experience as “the dark night.” It has come to mean a difficult time when God brings the discipline of trials that can be handled only with his help - by his grace. The experience opens us to new realms of spiritual experience. Growth happens as we ask deeper questions about what God might be up to.

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. Describe a time that you experienced what you would consider “a dark night of the soul.”

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

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”

Wow – that sounds so spiritual. SO noble. So kind. Just think of how many people we could have helped. By the way, John lets us know that Judas did not care for the poor. He was a thief. He had been embezzling money from the donations that people were giving them. Jesus and his disciples relied on the generosity of their followers. Judas was in charge of the money.

My guess is they found out that he was a thief after the fact. They trusted Judas. If they had known, he was a thief he would have been replaced. So Judas wants more money coming in so that he can disperse it and keep some for himself.

Read John 12:1-8 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Have you ever been extravagant in your worship or in your giving to Jesus? Describe what moved or motivated your action?

3. Judas had one take on Mary’s extravagant gift. Jesus had a different interpretation on that act of generous love. Contrast these two viewpoints.

4. Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (verse 8). How do you think Judas took this comment?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Judas’ Betrayal”.

It is truly hard to understand. Perhaps Judas was disappointed in Jesus. He was hoping that Jesus would be a revolutionary – leading a revolt. Yes against the establishment, but also against Rome. Perhaps he thought that this would force Jesus to act.

There is no doubt that we try at times to make Jesus into something that he is not. Ever think this…Well my God would be more like… I can’t believe in a God who would…

And we are just disappointed in a God who doesn’t do what we want, or what we think he should be like.

We would rather believe that Judas was just a really bad guy who was possessed by the devil and couldn’t help himself. He was just a player in the game that ended badly for him.

I believe we all have a choice. Judas came to decide that after everything that he had seen and heard from Jesus, that after three years of following him and listening to him and seeing the miracles, that Jesus was not who he claimed to be. That he was not the Son of God. That he deserved the death on the cross. That even though Jesus was a good man his life was not going to make a difference.





Read John 18:1-7 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. What do you think the other disciples thought when they saw Judas arriving in the garden with the officials and soldiers?  At what moment do you think they realized what Judas was there to do?

6. Read Mark 14:43-45 where we find that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. What is the irony in Judas’ betrayal?

7. How would you compare Jesus’ words and actions with those of his disciples?

8. Read Hebrews 12:1-3. What does it take to avoid discouragement and fatigue when following Christ?





Reflection and Wrap-up

9.  How would you use a year’s salary or time to honor Christ?

10. What attitude do you need to hold firmly in your thoughts to be faithful to your commitment to Christ?


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:

  • Matthew 26:14-25

  • Matthew 26:47-56

  • Psalm 41:9

  • Psalm 55:12-14

  • Proverbs 20:19

  • Acts 7:51-53

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

  • Hebrews 6:4-6

  • Hebrews 12:1-3

Just Thinking

  • Be a walking example that Jesus is God’s Son.

  • Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. - Jesus

  • Keeping my eyes on Jesus, I won’t grow tired and give up.

  • Fatigue and discouragement fade away when my eyes are on Jesus.




Words to Live By

WOW

Exodus 3:1-12

(March 24-30, 2019)


My alarm goes off and I rush downstairs. I forgot to pack my lunch the night before, but there’s no time; I have to look over my notes again before my exam. In the quietness of my car as I’m driving to school, my thoughts turn toward God. I want to do His will and I long to hear His voice. I know that even in all the busyness of life God wants to speak to me; but am I hearing God’s voice? Do I even know how to hear God’s voice?

David Owens, Active Christianity



Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. Does your day usually begin in a rush like David Owens describes above?  Do you take time to actively listen for God’s voice? Why or why not?

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

One of the best things that Moses ever did in his life, he went over and looked. Out of the corner of his eye he sees something. It is unusual and unexpected. He did not go looking for God – God came looking for him.

Moses is at work. It is not a special day for him. He is just doing his business. He is not at church. He is not on a retreat; He is at work….

But we do need to know when to look. I do think that ever so often God tries to get our attention. Moses – stops – and listens.


Read Exodus 3:1-12, 1 Kings 19:10-18 and Matthew 17:1-13 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Contrast the various ways that God spoke to the people in the passages above. Which of them would have the biggest impact on you?



3. Contrast the reactions of the people involved. Which ones responded most like you think you might have responded? Contrast how you might have responded to how you wish you might respond.



4. How does God speak to us today? What does his voice sound like?


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

I have seen the affliction. I have heard their cries for help. I know of their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them. We learn right there a whole lot about God: he sees, he hears, and he comes down. God knows. He is not just up there. He gets involved. He sends someone to help.

You need to know that today that God is not just up there watching from a distance. He hears our prayers and he knows what is happening. His timing is not always what we would like, but there is no doubt that he is going to show up some day with some help. Usually, the help comes in the form of a person. God sends people.


Read Exodus 3:12, Matthew 28:20 and John 14:25-26 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. In Exodus 3:12, God tells Moses that he will be with Moses. How would it make you feel if God said he would be with you? Do you feel like God is with you today? Why or why not?

6. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells the disciples “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How do you think that made them feel, considering they had just been told to take God’s kingdom to the whole world? How is Jesus with us today?

7. In John 14:26 Jesus tells the disciples “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” How do you think this helped the disciples? Do you think the disciples could have done what they did without the Holy Spirit’s help?  

Reflection and Wrap-up

8.  As you reflect on this lesson, what ways do you hear God speak to you? What ways do you seek him, and which ways seem most effective to you?


9. The first half of the verse in Matthew 28:20 says “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  What are some of the things Jesus commanded? Do you think it is easy or hard to obey what he commanded? What do you think Jesus meant Matthew 11:30 when he said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”?

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 148

  • Romans 1:20-23

  • 1 Samuel 3:1-18

  • Romans 12:1-2

Just Thinking

  • I didn’t go looking for God – God came looking for me.

  • I will turn aside and listen.


Words to Live By

Thanks

Luke 17:11-19

(March 17-23, 2019)

Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others.
(Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 11.21.2017)

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. In your opinion what causes us not to be thankful?

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

Jesus and his disciples are traveling along the border of Galilee and Samaria. They come to a little town and outside the city gates are a group of lepers – 10 of them. Leprosy was a horrible disease and often it was a death sentence. It was very contagious. You were cast out of the community for health reasons. Quarantined. You were to announce to anyone who might come in contact with you that you were unclean.

It was also a spiritual disease. It kept you out of the temple. You could not worship with your family or your religious committee. It was seen as a punishment for sin.

Read Luke 17:11-19 and James 1:17 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. From this story, we know Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews. We know that the lepers had a disease that could lead to death and certainly kept them from being with their family, friends and the church. Each of these men was healed, but only one came back.
What would Jesus’ healing restore to these men? How are we sometimes like the ungrateful lepers? Why do we seem to fail to thank God for what he has done?


3. Read James 1:17. What do we learn about God and his gifts from this verse? What gifts has God provided to you?




4.  How should knowing that everything we have is from God impact our gratefulness?

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

When I was a kid every week at church my dad, our pastor, would start off the service with these words: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his holy name.”

Read Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 3:15-17; Colossians 4:2 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5.  In this lesson, we find that two ways we can thank God are by being in his house “the church” and by using our gifts. How do these two activities show God our thanks? Who in your church needs to be thanked for what they do?

6.  Another way to thank God is through living a Godly life. Thinking about scripture, what is involved in living a Godly life? What is the difference between living a Godly life out of thanksgiving and earning our way to salvation?

7.  Having received gifts from God and others, we should respond with thanks.  How can we give to God and others when it comes to showing our gratefulness?



Reflection and Wrap-up

8.  As you reflect on this lesson, what would you thank God for?

9.  Which area of your life would you like offer up in thanksgiving to God?

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:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:5

  • 2 Corinthians 9:11

  • Philippians 4:6

  • 1 Timothy 2:1

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17




Just Thinking

  • Thank You = I Value You

  • Thank you – the secret to everyday life.

  • Saying thanks makes me immune to negativity.

  • A thank you reverberates joy.

  • Give thanks no matter what happens. 1 Thessalonians 5:17




Words to Live By

We know our soul does not get right without dealing with stuff.

Sin – it builds a wall. A wall that we cannot break through. Saying "I’m sorry" to someone breaks down the wall. It at least gives the relationship a chance.

Without an apology, really it is going to be very difficult to win.

Read Ephesians 4:31-32 and Luke 23:39-43 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. What two opposite ways of living does Paul present in Ephesians 4:31-32? Why do you think Paul had to instruct Christ followers not to use harsh words but instead to be kind to each other? Do Christ followers struggle with these issues today? Explain.

3. Why is acknowledging your wrongs and saying you're sorry so important to maintaining, and even growing deeper in, your relationships? Why does "sorry" seem to be the hardest word?

4. What model are we given in these verses to live a life that involves forgiving the wrongs of others? Did Jesus delay or place conditions on his forgiveness?

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

Divine and human forgiveness go hand in hand. You and me, we have been forgiven a debt that we can never repay. Never. We can’t even get close to paying it off. For my debt required the penalty of death. So Jesus pays off my loan – all of it. I never have to worry about it again. It is gone forever.

Read Matthew 18:21-35 and Hebrews 7:27 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. After reading the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35, explain whether we can place limits on our forgiveness of others. Explain the connection between divine and human forgiveness.

6. Based on Hebrews 7:27, is God's forgiveness of
Christ followers conditional or total? Explain.

7. Based on the verses in this lesson, is it appropriate

to wait to hear "I'm sorry" before forgiving someone

or to place limits on your forgiveness?

Why or why not?

Reflection and Wrap-up

8. Look back at your answers in #4 respecting how Jesus forgave the thief without delay and in #5 and #6 respecting how God forgives Christ followers without conditions. Summarize how these lessons will change your heart and your actions in the future.

9. We are all living between "Start" and "Home." How would saying "I'm sorry" when you are wrong and living with a heart of forgiveness, instead of seeking sweet revenge, affect your relationships with God and others as you move from "Start" to "Home"?

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:

  • James 5:16

  • 1 John 1:7

  • Matthew 5:7

  • Luke 7:36-50

Just Thinking

What are your "takeaways" from this lesson:

  • I struggle saying "I'm sorry" and will pray for help in this area?

  • Do I need to let God's forgiveness of me influence how I forgive others?

  • I will follow Jesus' example of sacrificial love and unconditional forgiveness?

  • I'd rather play Monopoly instead of Sorry because you can get super rich without being sorry?


Previously on 24

Work

Proverbs 24:27-34

(March 3-9, 2019)

“If you are good at something, you become more intense, and so you get more creative. Consequently, you accomplish more, so you get paid more. This causes you to enjoy it more, which in turn means you will get better at it. This process is what we call an excellence cycle. If you get caught up in an excellence cycle, you will find that your financial problems will no longer be caused by low income.”
– Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace, (p. 47)

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1. Many factors come into play in order to be successful and productive in our work. What factors would you place at the top of your essential success-at-work list?

Read the following excerpt aloud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Work.”

Getting a job was not a result of sin – “Well now that you sinned you have to get a job. You could have just lived in this garden. Everything would have been perfect. You would never have had to work a day in your life. Just stay holy and you are golden.”

Actually work was given as a gift to humans before sin entered the world. Work was not a result of sin or a curse that we get. Now, work did get more difficult as a result of sin.

Genesis 3:19 (NLT) “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

Work was seen by God as a gift – as something that would bring completeness, happiness, and fulfillment. It was to bring contentment. It wasn’t going to be enough. But it was good. It was good to work.

Read Genesis 2:1-3 and 2:15, and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. What work was assigned to Adam by the Creator God?

3. This passage and the message excerpt above indicate that work, and therefore your job, is a gift from God. Is it hard or easy to view your job as a gift? Explain.

4. Read Colossians 3:23-24 in 3 or more translations. What connection might Christ-followers make about willingness and fulfillment in work?

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

Seth Godin writes, “Offer me something I’m passionate about and I’ll show up with all my energy, effort and care.” He says that is a great way to hide because nothing is good enough to earn your passion before you do it. Perhaps in concept, it’s worthy, but as soon as you closely examine the details and the pitfalls, it’s easy to decide to wait for a better offer.

What about the opposite? Offer me a chance to contribute and I’ll work hard on it with focus, and once I begin to make progress I’ll become passionate about it.

Work before passion measures our craft in terms of contribution, not in an idealized model of perfection. Passion comes from feeling needed and approaching mastery from doing work that matters.” [see www.sethgodin.com]

Read Proverbs 14:23 and Ecclesiastes 5:16-20 and answer/discuss the following questions.

6. Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work.” This leads us to wonder how we move a step closer to enjoying and loving our work. Read Colossians 3:23-24 (again). From these verses what is the first step in moving closer to enjoying our work?

7. How does knowing the Master we serve in our work is the Lord affect our mindset about our efforts on the job?

8. How can working hard and well, increase a person’s passion and fulfillment on the job?

Reflection and Wrap-up

9. Which area of your attitude about work do you need to change your mind about and why?

10. Based on this lesson, what is one step you can take this week to improve your work 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:

  • Proverbs 23:4-5

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58

  • Hebrews 6:10

  • James 4:13-17

  • 3 John 1-8

Just Thinking

  • Purposeful work is a gift from God.

  • Curiosity kills boredom.

  • I am more than my job.

  • Successes at work never make up for failures at home.

  • Peace bolts from my heart when work and identity are tied together.


Previously on 24

Proverbs 24:21-26

February 24-March 2, 2019

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 (NIV)

“Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by the ease of its workings… faith cannot be forced.  Most of what we think we see as the struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.”

Hearing God, Dallas Willard

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. Why do you think God gave Moses the eighth commandment (You shall not give false testimony.)?  How do you think a person’s faith might help them with respect to obeying the eighth commandment?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Previously on 24”

We make decisions to be honest or not every single day – the struggle – we are not sure that honesty is the best policy… In general, we lie to protect. We lie to protect ourselves. We don’t want to get in trouble – suffer some consequences. “I didn’t do it.”  

We lie to get what we want. We lie to get attention or to get stuff. We call this dating. We lie to protect our image. We want others to think well of us. We lie to cover up.

Sometimes we lie to protect others. When asked if we like a haircut or shoes or a performance we lie to protect someone’s feelings.

Refer to the following scriptures Proverbs 24:21-26, Luke 16:10, John 8:44
and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. Martin Luther says the eighth commandment means “We should fear and love God so that we do not deceitfully belie, betray, backbite, nor slander our neighbor, but apologize for him, speak well of him, and put the most charitable construction on all that he does.” What would you say the eighth commandment means to you?

  2. If, instead of harming your neighbor, you could help him by telling a lie, would that be right?  Why or why not?

  1. Who is the father of lies? Whose children are we? Can we serve God by serving the devil?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Previously on 24”

Truth telling starts in our mind. My new self – the new me is going to be a truth teller, a promise keeper.

Now I am so glad that God does not lie. He won’t. He can’t. He is and will forever be holy. Think for one moment if God lied. If God deceived us in any way. What would that be like? Well, we could not trust him. Then the promises of God would be questionable at best. There truly would be nothing to hold on to – if God lied.

Refer to 1 John 1:9, 1 John 5:11-2, 1 Corinthians 10:13, John 16:24
and answer/discuss the following questions.

Each of these verses assures us of something God has promised us.

  1. What are we assured of in 1 John 1:9? What if God only forgave us if we asked the right way or if he felt forgiving that day?

  1. What are we assured of in 1 John 5:11-12? What if we couldn’t trust that God has provided salvation through his son?

  1. What are we assured of in 1 Corinthians 10:13? How would you feel if it were inevitable that we're powerless to overcome any temptations when they came your way?

  1. What are we assured of in John 16:24? Does it comfort you to know that your prayers are answered?  What if God only answered prayers on days that he felt like it?

Reflection and Wrap-up

It is time for us to not only have reverence for God’s Word but reverence for our own. We were created in the image of God – we are to be men and women of our word.

  1. Do you often think about telling the truth, or being sure not to lie? Or does telling the truth come naturally to you – that is, from training your heart and mind to be truthful?

  1. How can we protect ourselves from being untruthful? How can we be sure that people perceive us as children of God when they consider whether we are trustworthy?

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:

  • John 8: 37-47

  • Romans 3:7-8

  • Psalm 141:3

  • Revelations 21:8

  • Ephesians 4:25

Just Thinking

  • All lies have a price tag.

  • “An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” Proverbs 24:26 NLT

  • Honesty is a decision made day after day.





“Previously on 24”

Proverbs 24:15-20

February 17-23, 2019

The Book of Proverbs supplies us with a useful handbook on how to live skillfully.

We all want to know how to live up to our best potential…  We invest time and money to obtain college degrees and take courses to earn certificates. We are forever increasing our knowledge base. Yet we are not always as committed to apply the same passion when it comes to living life. We shoot from the hip and wing it when making decisions, hoping we won’t drift too far off the beaten path.  (Scripture Solutions, June 20, 2016)

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. What skills have you worked to improve in your personal life as it relates to being a Christian?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Previously on 24”

In the introduction to Proverbs in The Message, Eugene Peterson says, “Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves… A college degree is no certification of wisdom - nor is it primarily concerned with keeping us out of moral mud puddles… Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful…

Refer to the following scriptures Proverbs 24:15-18, John 16:33;
and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. Read Proverbs 24:15-16. From verse 16 we know that the godly will be knocked down. What are some big and little things that knock you down on a daily basis?

  1. Read John 16:33. This verse tells us that God will provide us with peace and that he has overcome the world. How does knowing this impact the way you may respond to the big and little things that knock you down?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Previously on 24”

Many years prior to my mom imparting wisdom on me in the kitchen I would pray before Husker games. They usually went something like this: “Dear God, please help the Huskers win today. And don’t let anyone get hurt… but if someone does have to get hurt please let it be someone from the other team. I know that the Huskers love you God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I know! I know! It was bad, but I was a kid and I just desperately wanted my people to be winners!

And while I kind of laugh about that now, I also know that for many people this kind of thinking isn’t coming from a place of childhood innocence. It’s coming from a place of revenge. We honestly wish something bad on the people who have hurt us, taken something from us, spoken poorly about us, attempted to tear apart our families, and the list goes on and on. And yet Solomon is warning us against celebrating the failures of our enemies or finding joy when they trip up and fall.

Refer to Proverbs 24:17-19, Philippians 4:8 & 9, and James 3:13-15, 17
and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. What wisdom does Solomon share in Proverbs 24:17-19?

  1. Which of the following area(s) do you struggle more with and why?

    1. Gloating over other’s failures

    2. Being fearful of the evil done to us by others

    3. Being envious of others

  1. Read Philippians 4 8-9. How do these verses help you develop skills to respond in a God-honoring manner?

  1. Read James 3:13-15 and 17. These verses offer further advice on how to develop skills to respond in a Godly manner.  According to these verses, what do we need to do to develop these skills?

Reflection and Wrap-up

  1. Think about big and little events that knock you down or times when you gloat over other’s failures, become fearful or envious.  In which area would you like to develop the skill to “get back up” with a Godly response?

  1. What steps will you take to develop a godly response to these situations?

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:

  • Romans 8:31

  • James 4:7-8

  • Philippians 2:5-7

  • Matthew 7:12

Just Thinking

  • The righteous are resilient.

  • God can transform our desires.

  • Avoid envy. It’s the end of the road.



Previously on 24

Do You Think God Cares About How We Live?

James 2:17-20; 1 John 2:3-4; Proverbs 24:8-14

Ephesians 4:11-15; John 4:5-30, 39

(February 10-16, 2019)

Heaven

Heaven

I hope I'll see you there

I hope I'll see you there

God forgive me

And take all my sins away

Please forgive me

If I ever cause someone pain

And save a little place in Heaven for me

Brothers and sisters, please let me offer my hand

If I ever treated upon you, my brother

Or hurt you, my sister, so bad

And save a little place in Heaven for them

--Heaven by Aaron Neville

In his song Heaven, singer Aaron Neville expresses his desire not only for his own salvation but also that his brothers and sisters will find a place in heaven. He does not just pray for the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Instead, he is willing to "offer my hand" to extend grace and the gospel to them. Faith and deeds. What brothers and sisters need you to extend a hand to them? What actions can you take to share the gospel with them?

Answer and discuss the following question with your group

1. What things have you done from time to time for family members or friends to show them you care? Why are actions so important to show love, as opposed to just using words?

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

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Do You Think God Cares About How We Live?”

There is more to it than just believing.

Maybe you grew up in a family where church stuff was not all that important. It was on a couple of days a year, and you were nice people. You would go to a soup supper for a family in the community. You would donate canned foods when the Boy Scouts came around.

Therefore, you just lived according to your own rules. "It’s a dog eat dog world out there." "If it feels good, do it." "Live for the moment." "Go for all the gusto." "Trust your gut." "Look out for #1."

Read James 2:17-20; 1 John 2:3-4 and Proverbs 24:8-14 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. Is there a difference between believing in God, on the one hand, and having faith in him, on the other hand? How would you explain the difference based on the verses above?

3. How do our actions reveal our faith, values, and priorities? Based on the verses above, explain how the life and motivations of a Christ follower should differ from the world's rules to live in the message excerpt above.

4. Based on Proverbs 24:8-14, explain how living with wisdom is "sweet to your soul." Explain how living with wisdom should motivate us to care for our brothers and sisters.

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

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Do You Think God Cares About How We Live?”

We have been pretty good at speaking the truth.

Bob Goff [a writer and motivational speaker] wrote, "Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice." I don’t know about that, perhaps he is right, but I do know that they are not going to listen to advice without love and acceptance. Let’s start with love and acceptance and then advice. Not, "Let me give you some advice and if you do it then I will love and accept you."

Read Ephesians 4:11-15 and John 4:5-30, 39 and answer/discuss the following questions.

5. Summarize the message excerpt above in your own words. What is the difference between sharing the truth and being judgmental?

6. Explain how Jesus expressed both grace and truth to the Samaritan woman at the well (not just truth). What was the woman motivated to do after receiving Jesus' grace?

7. Caring about others, and their salvation is a part of living with faith. Do the grace and acceptance shown to you by Jesus, while you were still a sinner, motivate you to share his grace and truth with others? Explain.

Reflection and Wrap-up

8. A popular saying is that the life of a Christian is the only Bible many people will read. In your typical week, how do your deeds reflect your faith? Are there areas of your life where your deeds can better reflect the faith you live by?

9. Who in your life should you invite to church or your small group?

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 3:12

  • Proverbs 16:25

Just Thinking

What are your "take-aways" from this lesson:

  • Do I need Jesus?

  • Do my outward actions need to better reflect my inner faith?

  • Are there people on my heart I need to talk with about the grace I received?

  • Should I listen to more Aaron Neville


Previously on 24

Where Do We Find Wisdom?

Proverbs 24:1-7

(February 3-9, 2019)

Contemporary culture has several different ways we may try to do life, axioms to live by. Here are a few. “I’m going to go with my gut.” Another is, “I just learn everything the hard way.” And one more is, “It was good enough for me growing up, it’s good enough for my kids.”

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

1. Considering the above axioms, share situations these may work and situations when they will most likely be ineffective.




Read the following excerpt aloud or watch message segment #1.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Where Do We Find Wisdom?”

Solomon knew all about this – being a builder of great buildings. Those things just don’t happen. A ton of stuff happens before you turn dirt, before you put a nail into a board, or pour some concrete. You might have a dream on what it can look like but unless you have the wisdom to get it done it doesn’t matter. It will be a disaster.

And it doesn’t take much to make your house uninhabitable. If you are off just a quarter of an inch on one side of your foundation, no matter what you do you are going to have problems. Everything is going to be off.

Read Proverbs 24:1-7 and answer/discuss the following questions.

2. If wisdom were a house (v 3-4), what would be its foundation? Of what are its walls made? Who or what is housed in it?

3. Read Proverbs 19:8 & 11. What is wisdom? What value does living by wisdom bring to a person?

4. Read Proverbs 17:24 and 18:2-7. Foolishness is set as the opposite of wisdom. What else is contrary to a life lived by wisdom?
What motivates you to live by God’s wisdom?

5. Read Matthew 7:24-27. Where do Christ followers find wisdom?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.
An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Where Do We Find Wisdom?”

How many of us are pretty cool with Jesus saving us but “I just don’t want him telling me what to do with my life?”

Our problem is that we think that church attendance and occasional reading the Bible equals being a Christian. It does not. You can do all kinds of religious things. That still does not make you a Christian. James writes about this in his book (James chapter 2).

Faith and action are linked. You cannot have faith without doing. You can try, but it just is not possible.

Read James 2:14-22 and answer/discuss the following questions.

6. Are you a doer or a thinker? Are you more likely to act without thinking, or think without acting? Give an example.

7. How does “faith without action” differ from “faith with action”?

Reflection and Wrap-up

8. What foolish choices are you struggling to stop repeating?




9. James 1:5 (NIV) says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
What are you facing right now that you need God’s wisdom to guide 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:

  • Proverbs 1:1-7

  • Proverbs 2:1-10

  • James 1:22-27

  • James 2:14-22

  • Colossians 1:9-10

Just Thinking

  • Action completes faith.

  • God’s Word -- lighting my way.

  • God gives wisdom generously - just ask.




John Emery