Week 3: God is not waiting to bust you
- John 4:4-10 NIV
- John 4:11-16 NIV
- John 4:17-18 NIV
- John 4:19 NIV
- John 4:25-26 NIV
- John 4:28-30 NIV
- John 4:39-41 NIV
The role of a
- John 10:11 NIV
- Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV
- 1 Peter 2:24-25 NIV
We have to reexamine these ideas:
– Did Jesus really come to Earth just to us?
– Did Jesus perform for no apparent reason?
– Did Jesus die on the cross and beat death just to tell us there was no ?
He is a , not a
Romans 6:5 NIV
1) When was a time you got busted?
2) How can getting busted influence someone’s perception of authority figures?
3) When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman, what was His attitude towards her: one of condemnation or concern for her wellbeing? Explain.
4) Have you ever had a shift in perspective about someone? What changed it? What caused it for the woman in the story?
5) What is the role of a shepherd? How is Jesus like a shepherd?
6) Which seems to be God’s motive for things: catching us in the act, or catching us before we fall? Explain.
7) What keeps you from allowing Jesus to take the role of shepherd in your life?
8.) How can you specifically act in response to God’s calling out your sin rather than making excuses or running?
9.) What is something you need to come clean about with God?
Week 2: God is not all about rules
John 14:8-9 NIV “Anyone who sees has seen the .”
- God is only about rules and He doesn’t want you to have any fun.
Too much of a
1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV
Jesus’ rule summary: Love and love your .
God is no
John 15:11 NIV
1) What is one of the most fun experiences of your life?
2) Did it have to be risky for it to be fun? Explain.
3) Why do you think people assume God is only about rules and against having fun?
4) What did it mean in 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV when it said, “I have the right to do anything—but not everything is beneficial?”
5) Read Deuteronomy 4:40 NIV. What do you think it means when it says, “so that it may go well with you?”
6) Just because someone has your best interests at heart, does that mean they don’t want you to have fun?
7) What are some sources of temporary joy that you need to stop pursuing? What are some that you should pursue instead?
8) What specific commands of God are you ignoring that would benefit you to follow?
9) What is something that you think would please God to see you take more joy in this week?
Week 1: God is not too busy for you
John 14:8-9 NIV
God’s attention towards us
Psalm 147:4-5 NIV
Genesis 16:13 NIV
The Main Story
Mark 5:21-28 NIV
Mark 5:29-32 NIV
Mark 5:33-34 NIV
Mark 5:35 NIV
Mark 5:36-42 NIV
1 Peter 5:7 NIV
1) When was a time someone was too busy for you? How did that feel?
2) What are times in life that people might feel like God is not there for them?
3) What does it mean to be seen by God?
4) Did it seem like Jesus was too busy to recognize people? Explain.
5) Where do we get the idea that God is too busy? Why do we think that?
6) What are the negative side effects to believing a wrong idea like this one?
7) What can you do to remind yourself God is always there for you?
8) What is something you could take to God since you know He is not too busy for you?
9) What would it look like for you to actually “cast all your anxiety” on God?
Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV, Acts 2:42-47 NIV
CHALLENGE Assess how you “CHOOSE CHURCH.” Scale of 1-5 (5 represents mastery, 1 represents improvement needed)
- I consistently choose to attend church each week.
- I often invite others to come with me.
- I use my spiritual gift(s) for the benefit of the church.
- I’m connected in relationship with people at my church.
- I tithe (give 10% financially) to my church.
Based on your answers, where is your greatest opportunity for growth?
The way a church looks – the how, when, where, and who can be quite varied but the reason the church exists will never change. The purpose of a church is to bring glory to God.
Responding to the Good News and growing in our faith magnifies Jesus. The church exists to magnify Jesus. It invites us into a relationship with Him and challenges us to take steps of faith and grow in our relationship with God.
CHALLENGE: What’s your story? Spend some time thinking about your testimony and write it down.
SPIRITUAL BUT NOT
We need to readily admit that every person in the church is still broken, messy, and fails to a significant degree to represent our amazing God. We have hurt one another, we do hurt one another, and we will hurt one another.
Even though there will be times that we hurt one another, there are also times we help one another. In times of struggle, we can remind each other of hope found in the promises of Scripture, worship together, and offer emotional support through expressions of kindness and compassion.
CHALLENGE: Hospital or Hotel? – Does our church look like a hospital for sinners or a hotel for saints? List three things you can do to help our church be more of a hospital for sinners or less of a hotel for saints.
AN INVITATION TO GOD
It doesn’t matter if you are man or woman, black, white, brown, young or old, rich or poor. God says to you, “Receive my grace and be part of the story.” In a world filled with FOMO, the Gospel of Jesus removes this fear. We don’t have to miss out.
- We were outsiders, but He made us insiders.
- We were disqualified, but He qualified us.
- We were powerless, but now we have the Holy Spirit living inside us.
- We had a self-absorbed story, but now our story is part of the greatest story ever told.
CHALLENGE: Step into God’s Story –
- If you could join God’s story anywhere, where would you join and what would you do?
- If you are going to step into God’s Story more fully (or if you’ve already stepped in) who would you choose to take with you? Explain why. (Consider reaching out to them and discuss your response to this challenge.)
- What obstacles are stopping you from stepping more deeply into God’s Story?
ONE – MANY
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains that the Holy Spirit gives us each a spiritual gift: 1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT
Paul describes the church as a body, reminding us that we each play a part: 1 Corinthians 12:12 NLT, 1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT
Do you know how God has uniquely gifted you?
CHALLENGE: Discover your Gifts
THE AND THE
The spiritual gifts we have been given are for the benefit of others. If you do nothing with what God has entrusted to you, the church can’t become the full expression of love, wisdom, and power God intends it to be.
Luke 12:48 “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
How are you using your gifts to serve others?
We want to broaden our definition of “choosing church” and what it means to worship God. Most of us have thought of worship as what we do for one hour a week, but Paul offers us a broader definition: Romans 12:1 NIV
Worship doesn’t happen only in the 1 hour. It’s a mindset of trusting God and being used by God all day every day.
CHALLENGE: What’s my 111? – List three ways you can use your unique spiritual gifts to serve the church’s mission in the other 111 waking hours of the week.
Here’s the good news that the church reports:
- God’s faithfulness in our past! Colossians 2:13-15 NIV
- God’s power in our present! Philippians 4:13 NIV
- God’s hope in our future! Revelation 21:3-4 NIV
CHALLENGE: Share the News! – Share the Good News of Jesus with someone. Consider inviting someone who doesn’t consistently choose church to sit with you at church. You could invite them to Sunday worship, Wednesday nights, or a church event. The only thing that might be keeping them from coming back is an invitation!
Exodus 20:8 NIV
The practice of Sabbath is important because it’s a time set aside to be with God.
Jesus’ solitude is mentioned nearly 40 times in the Gospels. We see him getting away from people overnight, early in the morning, and even for 40 days prior to His ministry. His habits illustrate this important truth – Solitude has to come .
We have freedom to practice solitude in any way that works for us, but it’s best to be and . God wants a deep, rich, strong relationship with you. He has the strength you need to accomplish what He’s called you to do. Will you meet with Him?
CHALLENGE: Assess how you “SEEK SOLITUDE” using the statements below. Scale of 1-5 (5 represents mastery, 1 represents improvement needed)
- I practiced solitude every day last past week.
- I understand what solitude is.
- It’s easy for me to spend time alone with just God.
- I have an easy time focusing on God and removing distractions.
- I can be quiet and alone in a room for ten minutes.
Based on your answers, where is your greatest opportunity for growth?
IS BEING GOOD?
When we look at Jesus’ times of solitude, we see that He didn’t get away so He could be isolated. He got away from all the noise so He could be with God.
James 4:8 NIV
God is approachable, not detached and distant. He loves to be with us, and He to be in our presence as we come near to Him. When we draw near to God, He speaks to us.
Solitude is the intentional practice of being alone (or at least quiet) with the purpose of hearing from God.
- Solitude uses your routine shower to create an intentional time of silence and reflection.
- Solitude uses a morning commute and transforms it into a time of prayer.
- Solitude uses your early morning or 20 minutes at night after everyone else in the house is asleep and makes it into a time of journaling.
- Solitude uses an ordinary bench during your lunch break and turns it into a time of reflection.
Psalm 84:10 NIV
God gives us the opportunity to be in a real with Him, to follow Jesus and to make a difference. Nothing can compare to this incredible privilege. Thankfully, God also gives us for the times that our minds and our hearts are off target.
CHALLENGE: Quiet Time – Sit in a room quietly, all alone, for at least 15 minutes, but try to stay longer. Remember that as you are in the room, God is with you.
As you thought about God, what things came to mind? Write down what you remember from the time alone. Did you feel God’s presence with you?
ANY ROOM FOR GOD?
Every day is a battle for our minds (people, companies, clubs, teams, groups, organizations) and we are bombarded with products and promises. What are you allowing in?
Distractions inevitably increase unless you take action to limit them. What are the distractions in your life? And more importantly, what are the distractions keeping you from?
Solitude can bring focus to a loud and noisy world. The ability to focus comes from spending time in solitude with God.
Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
CHALLENGE: Distraction Check – There are many good things that can fill our hearts, but they can crowd God out of His rightful place as our focus. What are the top three things that are, or could become, distractions for you?
WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Smart phones can definitely contribute to the noisy, loud, distracting world we live in. But there can also be significant advantages…
- We can consume content that will bring us closer to God.
- We can educate ourselves on nearly anything in a more expedient way.
- We can stay in touch with our friends.
- We can collaborate with friends or partners without having to be in the same room/place.
- We can download apps that will help hold me accountable as we develop the keystone habits of Jesus.
CHALLENGE: Power Off – Spend at least one hour putting all of your digital devices away. Go for as long as you can. How long did you go? How was it?
FOCUS IS THE NEW OF THE 2020’S
If the habit of seeking solitude was important for Jesus, how much more important is it for us who are prone to lose ?
How does focus increase productivity? Because it helps us distinguish between what’s important and what’s not. When we don’t know what’s important, our efforts are scattered, we feel unproductive, and we’re not certain what needs our attention. The key to productivity is having more of , not more of .
John 15:1-5 NIV
CHALLENGE: Slow Down and Focus – Intentionally slow down… write out the Bible verses in John 15:1-5, word-for-word. It’s a helpful practice in solitude to simply write out scripture.
- Jeremiah 31:3 NIV
- Romans 5:8 NIV
- Romans 8:38-39 NIV
- Psalm 103:12 NIV
- 1 John 1:9 NIV
- John 15:16 NIV
“I’M COMING FOR YOU”
- Romans 8:18 NIV
- John 14:1-6 NIV
CHALLENGE: What did you hear? – Which of the four whispers did you need to hear today and why? Think of someone who needs to hear a word of encouragement. How can you share God’s whispers with them?
Colossians 3:2 NIV
Philippians 4:8 NIV
In the middle of all the noise, the debates, the opposition, Jesus found time to spend with God. In His practice of solitude, Jesus was refreshed and renewed. His purpose for getting away is our purpose in solitude: to be filled up by God! Jesus often went away early in the morning or late at night to spend time with God. He wanted to be renewed and filled by the Father’s love, strength and wisdom.
If you’re exhausted, you’re too busy, and you feel like there is not enough time in the day, do something counterintuitive: down and .
Isaiah 40:31 NIV
CHALLENGE: Meditate Today – Spend time in meditation today. Pick at least one of these:
Stop everything, slow down, and spend 3 minutes thinking about Philippians 4:8 NIV Think about the following things:
- Something true
- Something noble
- Something right
- Something pure
- Something lovely
- Something admirable
- Something excellent
- Something praiseworthy
Stop everything, slow down, and spend 3 minutes reflecting on any one of these three Bible verses: Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, Jeremiah 32:17 NIV, Colossians 1:17 NIV
As you meditated, how did God fill your mind? What were your thoughts and your feelings about Him?
WHERE DO I ?
A lot of people don’t know what direction they are going. If you were to look at the movement of their lives on a map, it’s filled with zigzags, twists, and turns. When we are struggling with which way to go, the habit of prayer, which we are exploring this week, will direct us.
We want to get to the feet of Jesus, but we’re blindly following the directions of the world.
Why do we follow the directions of the world? Seriously, why do we? What are we chasing that the world offers?
Some things look appealing on the outside, but following the world’s directions will just make you another normal worldly person.
Here is the life that God invites us into: 1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT
God has chosen us to be His, and He has called us to stand out as we live a life of love instead of hate, joy instead of resentment, and purpose instead of drifting. As we grow in our relationship with God, others will see, and others will glorify God. So be different.
Unless we are intentional and determined, the world will pull us in its direction. Prayer gives us direction in a confusing world. God gives us the gift to talk to Him at any time. He will never steer you in the wrong direction.
James 1:5 NIV
CHALLENGE : Assess how you “PRIORITIZE PRAYER.” Scale of 1-5 (5 represents mastery, 1 represents improvement needed)
- I prayed every day last week.
- I believe in the power of prayer.
- Prayer is the first thing I do in the morning.
- I pray often and continually throughout the day.
- When I need direction, prayer is the first thing I do.
Based on your answers, where is your greatest opportunity for growth?
FIRST OR LAST ?
Let’s learn to pray first… in two specific ways:
- Let prayer be the very first thing you do every day when you wake up
- Let prayer be your first response when you face life’s difficulties or demands
We see both in the life of Jesus: Mark 1:35 NIV, Luke 5:16 NIV
What would it look like for you to pray first thing in the morning? To prioritize, literally means to make something “the very first thing.” When we say, “I’ll get to it when I get to it,” we’re not making it a priority.
A priority is something regarded as more important than anything or anyone, and it goes before other things. Is prayer that for you? Early in the morning? The first thing?
The second way to prioritize prayer is when life’s demands and difficulties come upon us, and our first response is to pray. God is with us, and He has the power to help us in our moments of need. We have an amazing resource to communicate in real-time with Him, and He promises to act on behalf of His children.
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
CHALLENGE: Reminder to Pray – Set up your house in such a way that you’re reminded to pray early and often. You could do things like:
- When you go to bed, put your phone across the room so it’s not the first thing you see in the morning.
- Put new wallpaper on your phone to remind you to “pray first.”
- Post encouraging notes in the first places you go in your house.
HOW YOU PRAY
In the first week we were encouraged by the disciples’ request that Jesus teach them how to pray. It shows us that prayer can be taught, it can be learned, it can be an area of growth. When the disciples asked Jesus, He taught them how to pray using what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13 NIV
Christians have memorized it and even some non-Christians can recite it word-for-word. However, I don’t believe Jesus intended for it to be recited thousands upon thousands of times, especially without thinking about what’s being said. He was giving us a model to show us how to pray. Praying the Lord’s Prayer is a good practice but Jesus is giving us more than a “from memory” prayer – it is an example, a jumping off point, for communication with God.
CHALLENGE: Write out the Lord’s Prayer, line by line, and pause after writing each line. As you pause, pray to God in a personal way using the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer as a guide.
The best way to learn how to pray is simply by praying.
When you pray, you may not see the direct change in yourself or in those you pray for. You may be discouraged because you don’t feel like your prayer life is getting any better. You may not sense God’s presence as you pray, but God assures us that He’s at work. While feelings are real, they aren’t always true. The truth is that God is always working, whether we feel Him or not. Our part in prayer is to continually come to him, trusting that He’s listening to our prayers.
Hebrews 4:16 NIV
We can get so caught up in praying the right way that we lose the joy and expectancy of connecting with a loving and powerful Father. Prayer is an invitation to inhabit God’s space. There’s not a right or wrong way to pray. Just pray.
CHALLENGE: Pray Scripture – One of the best sections of the Bible to pray through is the book of Psalms. The Psalms are a mix of Praise, Petition, and Repentance. Your challenge is to pray through the entirety of Psalm 23.
What people praise is a good indication of the contents of their hearts. To see what people are praising, just glance at social media. It usually involves a lot of photos – family, friends, vacations, meals, workouts, concerts, sporting events, favorite quotes or verses, or sunsets. When people post these pictures, they’re praising these things.
C.S. Lewis writes in, A Reflection of the Psalms, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”
Praising helps us reach the highest level of enjoyment. We shouldn’t be upset at people celebrating and praising. However, the question must be asked: “What are you praising?” While delicious food, sports teams, and cat photos may be praiseworthy to you, there is Someone who is most worthy of praise.
John Piper: “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied with Him.”
Two reasons why praising God is crucial:
- Praising God reminds us Who God is.
- Praising God adjusts our perspective.
Beginning with praise reorients us so that we can look at our struggles, our requests, and even our sins in light of Who God is and what He has done.
When you’ve spent time considering that God has created a universe that’s billions of light-years across, how He sent Jesus to be our substitute to die in our place, how He has protected His people, and how every good thing we have comes from Him, by the time we come to Him with our needs, we already have our answer: God is supremely faithful, so we can trust Him.
CHALLENGE: Name Study – The verses below contain names or characteristics of God. Look for His names in Scripture to remind you of who He is. Use them to inspire your “praise” prayers.
Psalm 18:1-2 NLT
Isaiah 9:6 NLT
Does prayer change us or does it change God? The answer is YES!
You benefit from praying. When you pray, you’re connected with God. Being more connected to Him has many upsides: You live with more purpose and direction, and you gain a peace that passes human understanding, a joy that’s unspeakable, and even a confidence in the midst of what can feel like chaos.
But, prayer also changes God. How is this possible? It is a paradox. God’s nature is unchanging… but He is unwilling to change in His will, which is to save all people. He longs to forgive those who repent and call on Him… but He isn’t stuck or powerless: our God is willing to change His response to people. In other words, He is not unchangeable when he relates to His people! God is at the same time constant in His will, but changing in ways that He interacts with His people.
Our prayers matter – they actually make a difference! When we’re in conversation with God, we have the ability to affect Him and bring His mercy to people in a lost and broken world.
James 5:16b NIV
Did you ever think that your greatest impact you could make in this world would be through your prayers?
CHALLENGE: Three Big Prayers – In Week 1 we asked the question: If God answered every prayer request of yours from the past week, what would be different in the world today? Knowing that prayer changes things, write out three BIG prayer requests that you want to see God answer below.
THE OF PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER
The Parable of the Persistent Widow – Luke 18:1-5 NIV, Luke 18:6-8 NIV
To get more personal: Will Jesus find faith in you?
In our “instant” culture, it’s hard to be persistent in prayer. We expect complete and satisfying results, and we expect them instantly. Thank God for all these advances, but with the progress, I believe we have lost the art of persistence. It’s easy for us to bail out on when we don’t see the answers we expect. Jesus point through this parable: don’t stop praying!
Do we have the faith to keep praying even when we don’t see God moving? When Jesus returns will He find faith in us?
Dallas Willard: “We don’t believe in something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
If you really believe in the power of prayer, you’ll pray… and you’ll keep praying. And as you do, you’ll see how God acts on your behalf. That’s His promise.
CHALLENGE: Three Persistent Prayers – What’s a prayer that you have stopped praying? Pray for it again today. Perhaps using the three BIG prayers as a start, commit to praying for three BIG things over and over again for an extended period of time. It will probably help to post reminders in strategic places.
I commit to praying for these three things over and over until God answers these prayers for His glory.
Finding identity in Scripture
God made you. Since He made you, He gets to who you are. John 1:3 NIV
And not only did God make you, but God you. Look at the lengths he went to show you: John 3:16 NIV
God did all of this so that you would become His . 1 John 3:1 NIV
As God’s , you’re given the incredible privilege to Him. 1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV
As God’s own possession, His “”, you have countless opportunities to demonstrate His character and tell others about Him. 1 Corinthians 3:9 NIV
In everything you do you can live a life of – living with love and integrity and sharing Jesus with people. Your identity with God is secure because it is eternal and unconditional. Romans 8:37-39 NIV
And as you go out with God, and conquer with Him, you can live a life filled with these characteristics: Galatians 5:22-23
Why would anyone choose to live any other way? Is all of this too good to be true? No, the end is even better than the beginning! 1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV
CHALLENGE: Assess how well you are doing with the following habits. Scale of 1-5 (5 represents mastery, 1-4 represents improvement needed)
1. I read the Bible every day last week.
2. I find my identity in the truth of Scripture.
3. I have read the entire Bible cover-to-cover.
4. I always look forward to reading the Bible.
5. I follow a Bible reading plan.
Based on your answers, where is your greatest opportunity for growth?
The four Rs of studying Scripture
From Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life”
- IT: set aside time, make a plan to read
- IT: the key difference between reading and researching is asking questions while you read; we see patterns and make connections, understand and appreciate main themes and see truths in context, we make it more personal; who, what, why, where, when & how
- IT: Your memory is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes; you can probably recite the lyrics of the songs you love – you can memorize Scripture Jesus modeled this for us – 10% of all that Jesus said was quoted from the Old Testament
- ON IT: Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97 NIV
Knowing who you are the way you live.
We find who God is and who we are when we study Scripture. Romans 10:17
CHALLENGE: Follow a Bible Reading Plan
- Bible Plans – Red Letter Challenge
- Daily Audio Bible Mobile App
- YouVersion app
Not a faith
As we explore the Bible and first century historical accounts, one of the things we see over and over is the evidence that Jesus really did live, He really did die, and He really did rise from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus ensures us that we don’t have a blind faith.
The first session, we talked about how Jesus opened the Scriptures and explained them to the disciples. But this time, look at what it says: “Then Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24:45 NIV Their minds were opened.
The understanding, the why, the foundational, earth-shifting piece that changes everything is Jesus’ resurrection. 1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV
CHALLENGE: “Resurrection” Research (use a concordance, commentary, study Bible, or Bible Study)
Acts 1:21-22 NIV, Acts 2:32 NIV, Acts 17, 32-33 NIV
If the resurrection of Jesus is real, how does it matter to you and your choices?
If you still struggle to believe the resurrection of Jesus, what’s holding you back? What are some of the questions you’d like to have answered?
1 John 4:1 NIV
Do you know God’s Word well enough to distinguish between truth and lies? Zach Zehnder says “when I preach, I tell my church to listen to what I say, but they should always test what I say. I’m sure I unintentionally said some things that were wrong. Similarly, you should test what you are reading in this study.”
How do we test anyone’s teaching?
- We look to the context of the passage to see if what the teacher is saying is consistent with the wider text.
- We look at a trustworthy study Bible to see what Godly scholars say about the passage
- Talk to someone who has a different point of view to see the passage from another angle.
- Determine whether the teaching is consistent with the truth you’ve been taught before.
The truth is always centered in Jesus. Do you know the voice of Jesus? In speaking of himself, Jesus declared that He is the Good Shepherd: John 10:3-5 NIV
Followers of Jesus are able to recognize His voice and run from the voice of the enemy.
CHALLENGE: Bible Memory – Memorize a new verse this week. Write it on a notecard or create a new wallpaper for your phone with the verse on it. View or design “verse of the day” images in YouVersion app
Suggested verses: Psalm 136:1, Romans 5:8, Proverbs 3:5-6, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16-17
REFLECT ON IT
You are what you
It’s not just about God’s Word. It’s about being by God’s Word.
Rick Warren says, “God’s Word generates life, creates faith, produces change, frightens the devil, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future… You should consider it as essential to your life as food.”
Jesus explained: Matthew 4:4 NIV
As we consume the Scriptures, it us. And when we’re transformed by God, we help the world.
Challenge: Reflection Time – Spend some time reflecting on a verse or section of Scripture. As you read it, write down what it means to you. What is God saying to you through His Word today?
God is through the Scriptures
Imagine receiving a text that reads:
“I was thinking about you. We haven’t spent much time together lately. Let’s catch up on Friday night!”
How would you respond if it was from Mom or Dad?
How would you respond if it was from someone you were hoping would become your best friend (or maybe even boyfriend or girlfriend)?
Being able to identify the writer makes all the difference in the world! The words have a very different meaning depending on who wrote it.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
How did God interact with men and work through them to provide us with His words? Here’s what we know from Scripture:
- To Jeremiah, God said: “Write all the words that I have spoken to you in a book” Jeremiah 36:2 NIV
- David wrote: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me and His word was on my tongue” 2 Samuel 23:2 NIV
- Peter tells us the holy men of God spoke “they were moved by the Holy Spirit” 2 Peter 1:21 NLT
- Paul informs us the things which he taught were expressed “in words taught by the Spirit” 1 Corinthians 2:13 NIV
These are God’s words, breathed into the lives of some great men of the faith through the Holy Spirit and recorded in their own styles for our benefit so we can hear God’s voice as often as we need.
If it were great men who wrote the Bible, it might be a great piece of literature but it wouldn’t change anybody’s eternity. But if it’s God’s words, then it changes everything!
Think about it…
- If it were Peter who said “Cast all your anxiety on me because I care for you” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV – But God gives you confidence and strength because you know He is in charge and He cares for you.
- If it were only a human writer who said “I will never leave you or forsake you” Hebrews 13:5 NIV – But God saying this same statement gives you hope and comfort especially in tough times.
- If it were Jeremiah who said “I will love you with an everlasting love” Jeremiah 31:3 NIV – But God says it making us feel special and important.
Almost 90% of American households contain a Bible, the average household has 3… but even among Americans who worship in church, less than half read the Bible daily, and less than a quarter have a systematic approach for reading the Bible.
A frequently asked question: How do I hear the voice of God? Simple answer: If the Bible contains the very words of God, then every day, at any moment, you can open the pages of your Bible and hear Him speaking to you! We hear God’s voice most clearly when we read the Bible. The author of Hebrews declares to us that these words are alive and active. (Hebrews 4:12)
CHALLENGE: Share Scripture – choose a Scripture to encourage someone by text, email, or handwritten note
Commit to Community
Wired for relationships
The Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit exist together as a community of love. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), so from the beginning we’ve been created for community.
Last week we looked at the different groups in Jesus’ life. How can we pattern our relationships after His? Jesus had 3, 12, 72, 500. Who are your 3, 12, 72, 500? (Don’t get hung up on the numbers – we’re looking at the principles underneath these numbers.)
Who are your 3? These are the people you allow the greatest access to your life through time and influence – perhaps some family members or your best friends.
Who are your 12? These people spend a lot of time with you and are very influential – perhaps family members, close friends, maybe even people in Crossfire.
Who are your 72? As the circle widens, you may think of groups of people, not just individuals – neighbors, groups at church, extended family you see once or twice a year.
Who are your 500? These are people in larger groups – classmates, co-workers, “friends” on social networks – may even include someone whose name you don’t know or can’t remember but that you see from time to time
The power of Christian community
One of the most beautiful trees in North America is the aspen. It’s an amazing tree – actually, each tree isn’t a single organism. A group of aspen trees, known as a “clone,” is considered a single organism. Underground, the root systems of acres and acres of aspen trees are connected. A forest of aspen trees is a single organism, each part supports the others by sharing nutrients. The taller trees catch the sun and send nutrients down to the smaller trees that aren’t in the sunlight, and the smaller trees pull the nutrients up from the soil and send them to the taller trees. It’s a beautiful picture – each tree needs the help from the entire community to stand out in its beauty and strength.
The aspen forest is a wonderful picture of Christian community. God has given each of us gifts and talents and has called us to share what He has given so all of us can represent Him more effectively.
Does your community inspire you to greater things?
Who can help? Identify people in your life who you see excelling in the 5 keystone habits. What could you learn from them about goals, habits, challenges and benefits?
Community influences you
There is probably no more important predictor of your future than to look at your present community. The modern definition of community is less about being from somewhere and more about being like someone. The closer you are to someone, you’re more likely to have the same habits.
Harvard Professor David McClelland tracked people and their communities over a 30-year period and discovered 95% of our success or failure in life is determined by the people we habitually associate with. It’s hard to form habits if we’re not in a supportive community.
If we become like the people in our closest community, and if we want to be more like Jesus, we need to consider whether our community is leading us to be more Christlike… or less.
Community done right: Mark 2:1-7, 8-12
Without friends, the paralyzed man could never have gotten to Jesus.
The Future You: Imagine your life ten years from now. List 5 things you would like to be true about “the future you.”
How do your groups of “3” and “12” affect you in the keystone habits?Who in your groups of “3” and “12” push you to be the “future you” that you want to become?
Community helps you find purpose
Alarming new studies show in the U.S. 70% of people are unhappy in their careers and aren’t motivated by what they do, and 98% of people die without fulfilling their dreams. For most people, their biggest regret isn’t something they’ve done, it’s something they didn’t do.
Many people are waiting on God to speak from heaven and tell them what they should do with their lives, but in reality, God has already spoken. We have the Bible – read it and you’ll find God has already given us many ways to live out our purpose.
- Psalm 82:3 – Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
- Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, o mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
- Mark 16:15 – And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’
- James 1:27 – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
If you are struggling with purpose or community, consider this: God isn’t random. He has placed certain gifts and desires in you for a reason, and He has also placed certain people in your life for a reason. The community that you’re already in could be – and probably is – the place where your purpose is realized.
What really pulls on your heartstrings? If you had to live for a cause, what cause would you live for?
Identify 3 people in your world who are living for a noble cause.
What are specific ways you can join them?
Community in a digital world
Anxiety, depression, and mental-health issues have increased with the majority of people possessing smart phones. It’s becoming obvious among our younger generations that connecting in person is becoming socially awkward. Friendships online don’t require as much vulnerability, so most people settle for that. You can keep others at a distance, connect on your own time, at the level you choose, and bail out whenever you want. Adults have traded real in-person relationships for cyber-relationships too. We can do better… and we need to. Technology isn’t the real problem – we can use all the advances to build better relationships instead of replacing those relationships.
We are living in a different time and different setting, but the problem isn’t new. The author of Hebrews pleaded with Christians to have real, meaningful connections… Hebrews 10:24-25 We have to be in real relationships with other believers to encourage, support, love, forgive and accept one another.
It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of life and be pulled in many directions… if we don’t take time to get insights from other believers and give and receive love, we won’t be able to live the way God wants us to live. Time with one another isn’t optional.
Screen Time Check: Phone apps give you the ability to assess your screen time. How much time did you spend on your screen each day over the last week? What’s your average daily usage?
What are the top five apps you used, and how much time do you spend using each of them?
After your screen time check, what’s one change you could make that would move you toward more authentic relationships?
The sneaky enemy of individualism
The digital world can make us more isolated when it is our primary source of relationships… but there is another factor that builds walls between people… individualism. We’re not on guard against it, we usually celebrate it.
Individualism is the habit of being independent and self-reliant. Many are fiercely proud of their individualism, and as a result rely on their own strength, intellect and talent rather than working with others. We can believe we are more productive and deserve more credit if we accomplish something on our own.
Self-reliance is woven into the American Dream – anyone can attain success through hard work and sacrifice. The ultimate goal – status, fame, power, money, possessions… the promise says we’ll be happy and fulfilled, but will we? If we pursue them as the ultimate aim in life, we’ll end up empty, discouraged, and angry that life hasn’t worked out the way we expected.
In order to achieve happiness, many people sacrifice the things that bring meaning. When Jesus says “Follow Me” He’s asking us to trust His wisdom, His strength, and His direction instead of being self-reliant. The Good News of Jesus starts by examining ourselves and realizing we are flawed – even our best efforts fall short and the grace of God flows into our lives to cover our weaknesses. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
What plans could you make to gather with others (for fun, for spiritual growth, for projects/service)? What are your favorite ways to spend time with others?
Commit to One
Thomas Frank, an entrepreneur from Boulder, CO wanted to be more productive, so he set up a strict schedule. He decided he needed to wake up earlier so he set his alarm for 5:55am. As an added incentive, he programmed his Twitter account to automatically send a tweet:
“It’s 6:10, I am not up because I am lazy! Reply to this for $5 via PayPal (limit 5), assuming my alarm didn’t malfunction.”
That’s extreme accountability!
We need someone to speak into our lives to help us become greater followers of Jesus. If that’s our goal, we need someone to help us see things we can’t always see ourselves. Consistency and having someone to talk with can make an incredible difference in our lives.
Christian community, when it’s at its best, gives me the opportunity:
- to talk to someone consistently
- to share my heart and my struggles
- to hear God’s word of forgiveness when I have fallen short (James 5:16)
Every person struggles with something, and all of us need to be able to consistently talk with someone who will hear us, challenge us, assure us of forgiveness, and pray for us.
Consider who you could ask to be an accountability partner – someone who you trust and who you could speak with regularly.
- What is the habit you want to work on?
- How often would you check in?
- What would you like this person to do if you’re struggling?
- How will you celebrate successes?
Introduction: Keystone Habits
SPIRITUAL KEYSTONE HABITS: Matthew 11:29 MSG – “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
- COMMIT TO
We need to develop the necessary habits that will automatically put us in a position to make good decisions.
Why are habits important? Habits form because the brain is looking for ways to save effort, be efficient… make certain actions routine to be able to ramp down more often or be able to put energy and focus into other areas.
(Author Charles Duhigg introduces the concept of) KEYSTONE HABITS: A habit that people introduce into their lives that unintentionally carries over into other aspects of their lives…. It provides multiplied benefits. (exercising regularly, flossing your teeth)
1 Timothy 4:7 – Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
Commit to Community
All four Gospels show that one of Jesus’ first actions when He started His ministry was choosing His disciples. From the very beginning, He was committed to a community of like-minded people. If anyone could have been self-sufficient, it’s Jesus… but Jesus was committed to His community.
The more you look into Jesus life, you find he didn’t just have a group of 12 friends.
- 1 Corinthians 15:6 – Jesus gathered with a group of more than people
- Luke 10:1 – This is still a large group (), but it was people who got more intentional time with Jesus than the
- Jesus committed to disciples early in His ministry (the got more time with Him than the )
- Mark 5:37 – Jesus had an especially close relationship with , and (3) – they had even more access than the
Jesus had , , , and also 1 – God was at the center. While it’s true you also have God to be with you and for you perhaps when no one else is, you were created for relationships – with God certainly, but also with others.
Your community will be unique in size, and it won’t always be fun or easy. You’ll have conflict with people you are closest to, sometimes over serious things, sometimes over trivial things. The main question to ask is: Are you on the same mission… Is your community following Jesus? The people that you surround yourself with will influence you whether you like it or not. So who is in your community?
Jesus had a regular habit of studying Scripture. He was constantly surrounded by Scripture at the temple or synagogues. In the only recorded story of Jesus as a child, He was at the temple learning from the rabbis (Luke 2:52). If we want to grow in wisdom, there is no better way than through the Scriptures.
Tim Keller remarked there are 1800 Bible verses where Jesus is speaking… 180 of them are quoting Scripture. That’s 10%!
Jesus appears to the Disciples (while they are debating whether Jesus actually was alive again, He just appears to them & teaches one last thing) Luke 24:36-40, 41-45, 46-49:
- v. 44 – Jesus points to the importance of each part of the Old Testament – The Law of , the , and the . They had to be fulfilled, He was the one to fulfill them.
- v. 45 – One of the very last things Jesus does on earth is to open the Scriptures and explain God’s truth to the disciples. That’s why we open the Bible in church and in our group studies, there is something powerful about opening the Bible and talking about it – the Word is alive and active today and we are changed by it.
Jesus taught the disciples (and us) that Scripture:
- v. 46-47 – explains Who Jesus is
- v. 48-49 – that we are witnesses of Who Jesus is
Studying Scripture helps you discover who God is and who you are.
The purpose of this challenge is to grow in our relationship with God. The success of any relationship starts with communication.
Even though we live in a time where the devices in our pockets have up to 7 million times the memory and 100,000 times faster processing than the computer that landed a man on the moon just 50 years ago, the best way to communicate with God remains the same.
In the four Gospels, Jesus practiced prayer or taught on prayer nearly 50 times. Jesus is shown praying alone, praying in public, praying early in the morning, praying in the evening, praying before meals, praying before important decisions, and praying before and after healings.
We may know how to pray but we can seek to grow & learn just as the disciples did. The disciples noticed there was something about the way Jesus communicated with God that was different.
- Luke 11:1 – Lord, us to pray…
Prayer was a priority in Jesus’ life at all times and in all circumstances.
- Mark 1:35 – very in the morning
- Luke 6:12 – In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Is prayer a priority in your life? Many of us say we believe in the power of prayer, but our prayers show otherwise. Look back at the last week of your life: If God answered every one of you prayer requests, what would be different in the world today?
We can get so busy, so preoccupied, that we don’t take time to be quiet and connect with God. The habit of seeking solitude gives us opportunity to simply be in relationship with God.
If anyone was busy, it was Jesus… In one day, written in the first chapter of Mark, Jesus:
- Mark 1:15 – preaches the Gospel
- Mark 1:16-20 – calls His
- Mark 1:21-22 – in the synagogue
- Mark 1:23-24 – got yelled at by a man with an spirit
- Mark 1:25-28 – him and delivered the man from the unclean spirit
- Mark 1:29-31 – went to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law and her
- Mark 1:32-34 – healed many and demon-possessed
Following that full day, Jesus does not decide to sleep in…
- Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he .
He sought to be alone with God. He knew He needed to be in touch with God to do His work.
To truly discover and fulfill God’s purpose for us, we must spend regular time with God.
There is a common practice of “shocking” pools to kill contaminants so it is safe to swim… Believe it or not, this is a beautiful image of living on mission and doing what Jesus calls us to do. When we interact with this world, we are exposed to “germs” of brokenness and darkness. We are bombarded by bad news and the world’s contaminants. Quite often, our bodies, our brains, our souls need a shock. We need a place where we can go to consistently hear good news… to shock our system back. The church, the gathering of God’s people, is the place we go to do that.
Worshiping with God’s people is something Jesus practiced and modeled:
- Luke 4:16 – And as was His , he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
The church is the consistent place where we get the opportunity to open the Word of God to declare the reason Jesus came:
- Luke 4:18-19 – to proclaim to the poor, to the captives and opressed, to the blind, and to the year of the Lord’s favor.
It is important for the church to be God’s representatives in the world, to truly be His hand and feet. To be passionate and knowledgeable about God, we need to worship together regularly.
- Hebrews 10:25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to together, as is the habit of some, but one another…
Jesus instituted the church. At the end of time, when Jesus comes back the Bible says that He’ll return for “His bride,” which is the church. The church wasn’t optional to Jesus. It has been, is, and always will be central to His plan. Can you truly love Jesus without choosing church?
We should rearrange our in light of the of God’s great mission.
Can you think of a time when keeping the big picture in mind was important?
This is our last session in this study. What idea, realization, or anecdote is sticking with you to give you a new understanding of the gospel?
In this session J.D. will guide us through Jonah 4:5-11, the end of Jonah’s story. Notice Jonah’s reaction to God’s work in Nineveh and consider what it reveals about him . . . and about you.
What out of this session, or this whole study, has stuck with you most?
What did you find most transformational?
Spend a few minutes reflecting on these questions: What in your life do you care most about? What do you shed tears about?
How is Christ’s great love for us, as seen in studying Jonah and these other places of Scripture, changing your response to Him?
The Book of Jonah leaves us with a question: What do we most about? Why do we have so much for things that really don’t and so little passion for the things that actually do? The repetition of “great” is there to demonstrate the greatness of God’s mission to save humanity. As J.D. pointed out, you can either be part of the , self-sacrificial of Jesus, or you can walk in disobedience like Jonah.
Unpack the biblical text to discover what the Scripture says or means about a particular topic.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul penned some of the richest, most theologically deep thoughts ever recorded. In Romans 9:1-5, we get a clear reminder that the things of God were not just mentally stimulating for Paul; he carried the gospel as his most important possession. He didn’t just write about God, he treasured God. His words in Romans give stark contrast to the final words of Jonah in Jonah 4. Jonah lost sight of the grace shown to him. This brought about bitterness and selfishness instead of loving selflessness in his reactions to what God was doing. Much like we have done in earlier sessions in this study, setting Jonah up against another key biblical figure (in this case Paul) provides a way to examine Jonah’s heart and our own. One question to bear in mind during this session is: What should my life look like if it were marked by the same conviction in the gospel and compassion for my neighbors as Paul had?
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ Jonah 4:5-11 and ROMANS 9:1-5.
Paul begins this section by saying “I am not lying” which he only does two other times in the New Testament.
What does this tell us about what he is about to say?
Read Romans 9:2-5 (see also Romans 10:1). What do we know about Paul’s “brothers” from his words here?
Contrast Paul and Jonah. What were their reactions to the state of those around them, and how were those reactions influenced by their knowledge of God?
Jonah wanted Nineveh to suffer while Paul wanted Israel to be redeemed.
Why was Paul in such anguish? To put it another way, what did Paul get that Jonah missed?
Why do you think we so often find ourselves reacting to God like Jonah in Jonah 4:5-11 instead of Paul in Romans 9:1-5 when it comes to the gospel? How do we grow beyond this?
How should the story of Jonah, and the fact that Paul is talking about Israelites, serve as a warning to those in the church today?
Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives.
Have you received the gift of grace for yourself personally?
Has that experience of grace so transformed your heart that you have become a person of compassion and generosity?
Have you rearranged your life priorities in light of the urgency of that great mission?
What do you sense God calling you to in light of hearing and studying the gospel message through the Book of Jonah?
Thank God for the power of the gospel. Pray for the people in your group to embrace God’s grace in a way that radically changes their lives and priorities. Pray for boldness to live out the truths you all have learned over these weeks.
Visit LifeWay.com to purchase the study guide for more in-depth personal and group study.
9:1-3. Paul is so struck at the end of chapter 8 with the powerful and protecting love of God—and the fact that most of Israel has not experienced that love making it seem as if God had not kept His promises to Israel—that his love for his nation bursts out in a display of brokenness that would shame most who claim to have a “burden for the lost.” Fearing it may appear that he has no concern for the lost condition of most Jews in light of God’s sovereign oversight of salvation, he confesses his sorrow and unceasing anguish over Israel’s spiritual condition. His concern is not sentimental, traditional, or fleshly—rather, it is a concern validated by the Holy Spirit. Paul demonstrates the valid role that the conscience can play in the spiritual life when it has been shaped and disciplined in spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:14).
Paul is acknowledging the great chasm that existed between God’s original plan for Israel—“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6)—and the recent and present reality—“The chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death” (Matt. 27:1). What had happened? How did the nation that was to act like a conglomerate of priests end up being led by priests who put their own Messiah to death?
The truth of this reality broke the apostle Paul’s heart all the more because he had been one of the most ardent persecutors of Jesus and His Way. Paul had experienced a radical transformation, but he knew that the vast majority of Israel had not. Nowhere is this seen in sharper contrast than Acts 9. From that point on, Paul—the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13)—made the Jewish synagogues of Asia Minor and southern Europe his first stop in preaching the gospel (Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1-2, 10, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8). Why? Because the Jews were his brothers, his kinsmen (Acts 13:26, 38; 22:1; 23:1,5-6; 28:17), and his heart ached for their salvation.
One wonders if Paul ever outlived the grief he must have felt about stirring up so much hatred against Christ among the leaders in Israel. Forgiveness cleanses the conscience, but it does not remove the regret. In that spirit, Paul declares his willingness to be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his brother Israelites. The strongest imprecation in the Greek language—anathema (eternally condemned; see Gal. 1:8–9)—is what he declares himself willing to be if only Israel could be saved.
Once before, when Israel rebelled against God at Sinai, its leader had offered his own life in return for God sparing theirs (Ex. 32:32). Both then, and in Paul’s case, the human side of salvation is seen: the responsibility to intervene in every manner possible to save the lost, and the responsibility of the lost to believe. Because God has ordained human involvement in the salvation equation, Paul goes about it as if it all depended on him. Why else would he risk his life on numerous occasions, and enter into arguments and debates and dialogues in synagogues and marketplaces to try to persuade unbelievers to believe the gospel?
9:4-5. But there is another side of the gospel, and that is the side of God’s sovereign election; His unconditional choosing. Israel was begun through a man whom God chose out of the human pool in the Chaldees, Abram by name. When his descendants reached nationhood size, He plucked them out of the backwaters of obscurity in Egypt and made them His nation at Sinai. God did not choose Israel because of anything in Israel (Deut. 7:7), but because of something in Himself—purposeful love and mercy.
The evidence of his choosing is plentiful: “adoption as sons … divine glory … covenants … the law … temple worship … promises … patriarchs … the human ancestry of Christ.” God sovereignly bestowed on Israel all of this and more. Along the way, however, many (from the human perspective) had not acted responsibly in responding faithfully to God’s gifts. They had wandered outside of the covenant provisions and so were not experiencing the covenant blessings. This raises the question Paul is seeking to answer in this chapter: Has God failed to keep His word to Israel? How does one mesh human responsibility to believe and remain faithful with God’s sovereign choice which, according to Romans 8:30, leads to glorification at God’s initiative? The key to understanding how God works in human salvation is to understand how He has worked, and is working, in the salvation of Israel.