PSALM 103

Leader Thoughts

This week our focus is on Psalm 103. This is a beautiful Psalm that David writes. David would cry out to his own soul that it would bless the Lord. He would go on to walk through many of the reasons why one would have to give such blessing to an amazing God. This week in our home group time. Let’s walk together through all of the Psalm together and highlight a few of the reasons given.

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The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

Psalm 103:13-14

Psalm 103 underscores our weakness, our limitations, our “dustiness,” but with good news. This psalm celebrates God’s multifaceted goodness to us. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases (103:3). He redeems us from death (103:4). He fills our lives with good things (103:5). He gives justice to the oppressed (103:6). He is “compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (103:8). God does not deal harshly with us, though we are sinners (103:10). His love for us is great and his forgiveness broad (103:11-12).

Then Psalm 103 adds, “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (103:13-14). Knowing our weakness and dustiness, God is tender and compassionate. God’s love for us means that he does not abandon us in our limitations and sins. Rather, he looks upon us like a father with his own children. And, indeed, the Father loves us so much that he sent his only Son to bear our sin and open us up to the way of wholeness.

So, even as we acknowledge our limitations, our frailty, and our sin, we celebrate the fact that God understands who we are, and that he has come in Christ to do what we could never do on our own.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How have you experienced God’s tenderness and compassion? When you think of God as your Heavenly Father, what thoughts or images come to mind?

PRAYER: How I thank you, dear Lord, for being like a father to me. Indeed, you are my Heavenly Father, the one I call “Father” through your Son.Thank you for being tender and compassionate to me, for understanding my weakness. Your goodness to me far outstrips anything I could ever imagine or deserve.Thank you for remembering that I am dust, and thus looking upon me with gentle love.As I reflect upon my need for you, help me to experience yet again how wonderful you are.Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name. Amen.

Home Group Guide

OPENING

If someone were to ask you why you worship God, what reason would you give?

SCRIPTURE

Say something like: Today we are going to look at Psalm 103 and see the reason David would give to himself why he would worship God.

Read Psalms 103

In verse 4 we read that God would crown us with love and compassion. What do you believe this means?

What can we learn about God’s forgives and love from verses 8-12?
Do you ever struggle with feeling like your sins are not forgiven? Why is that? What should we take away from verse 13-18?

APPLICATION

We see in this Psalm that David is telling his soul to bless the Lord. If we are honest there maybe some morning that we don’t “Feel” like worshiping. What should we tell ourselves when this emotion comes?

How can we grow as believers in worship? Is this something that can be learned? Where do we start?

PRAYER

Lord give us hearts that desire to praise you the way you desire. God free us from our own desires and preferences. Remind us of your goodness and love for us. Lead our hearts to yours.

CELEBRATION

Leader Thoughts

This week in the book of Esther we see the celebration of remembering that takes places because of God’s rescue of His people. We are called in many places in scripture to be people that remember what God has done. This is not only encouraging for our own souls but it can be encouraging for our families and those around us. In our groups this week we want to take a moment and remember what God has done in our lives. There will be less questions this week for more time to share and open up as a group. Here is a great blog post by John Piper that talks about remembering.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————— One of the great enemies of hope is forgetting God’s promises. Reminding is a great ministry. Peter

and Paul wrote for this reason (2 Peter 1:13; Romans 15:15).
The main reminder is the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). But don’t be passive. You are responsible only for

your own ministry of reminding. And the first one in need of reminding by you is you.

The mind has this great power: It can talk to itself by way of reminder. The mind can “call to mind.” For example, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases” (Lamentations 3:21–22).

If we don’t “call to mind” what God has said about himself and about us, we languish. O how I know this from painful experience! Don’t wallow in the mire of godless messages. I mean the messages in your own head. “I can’t . . .” “She won’t . . .” “They never . . .” “It has never worked . . .”

The point is not that these are true or false. Your mind will always find a way to make them true, unless you “call to mind” something greater. God is the God of the impossible. Reasoning your way out of an impossible situation is not as effective as reminding your way out of it.

Without reminding ourselves of the greatness and grace and power and wisdom of God, we sink into brutish pessimism. “I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (Psalms 73:22).

The great turn from despair to hope in Psalm 77 comes with these words: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (Psalms 77:11–12).

This is the great battle of my life. I assume yours too. The battle to remind! Myself. Then others.

Home Group Guide

OPENING

What is one of your happiest memories as a child? What makes it so great for you?

SCRIPTURE

Say something like: This week we heard about the rescue of God’s people in the book of Esther. We see the celebration of Purim even celebrated today in remembering of what God has done. Today we want to take time to share stories of what God has done in our own life.

Read Deuteronomy 6: 10-15

Why do you think it’s so important that the Jewish people not forget what God has done?

Do we sometimes forget what God has done in our life? What does this look like?

APPLICATION

Would you be willing to share a story of something great that God has done in your life? Or even your own testimony of salvation?

How do we praise God for what he has done in our life? Do we do this?

PRAYER

In your prayer time together ask each person to take God for something he has done in the other peoples lives in your group. I encourage you to even be systematic and ask certain people to pray words of praise for others stories they just heard.

Children Conversation

What are three Biblical truths that you want your children to know before they leave your home? How are you teaching them these? Showing them these?

SNOW DAY

Leader Thoughts

Because our church service was canceled this last Sunday this will be a stand alone home group lesson. There is not a sermon that connects with this home group lesson so we will need to do a little more set up than normal for our group. In this home group we will explore one passage together and talk through the application for the passage in our lives. We are going to explore the parable of the sower that Jesus Teaches.

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“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places . . . Other seed fell among thorns . . . Still other seed fell on good soil.” — Matthew 13:3–8.

Although this is often known as the parable of the sower and the seed, it can also be said this is a parable about the soil. All four types of soil are essentially the same dirt but are in different conditions and respond in different ways to cultivation.

What made one soil more responsive and the other less?

When the New Testament was written, communities were agriculturally based. A family would be appointed a section of land to farm. Every farmer’s plot was adjacent to their neighbor’s. In order to get to the fields, the farmers would walk along the boundaries bordering each field to avoid stepping on the growing plants. The “path” was held in common by all the farmers. Over time, the soil on the path would compact. It was never plowed and never fertilized. In the parable, the seed that is sown on the path is not able to penetrate the ground because of the constant use. The condition of the first soil is hard and impermeable.

The second type of soil mentioned in the parable is the “rocky” places” or the shallow soil where the plow didn’t cut deeply enough to break up the shale or hard ground just below the surface. This soil produced only plants with weak, shallow roots.

The third type of soil mentioned is the thorny soil, most likely found in the corners of the field where the plow couldn’t reach; here, weeds overtook what was planted.

All the types of soils mentioned here are actually in the same plot of ground with one major difference: Only one area was fully yielded to cultivation, to being changed and prepared for planting. That area was called the good soil.

The greatest amount of fruit produced was not determined by how rich the soil was, but how yielded to the plow it was. The soil in each condition received seed, but not all produced quality fruit.

Everyone receives seed, the Word of God. Everyone has potential for the harvest, living a fruitful life, but the ones who will produce the most fruit will be the ones most yielded to cultivation.

Application

How I apply this passage is by asking questions: Can I be “cultivated” in my life? How correctable am I? How quickly do I repent? Can I self-correct? The greater my yielding to God’s cultivation the greater the capacity of my fruitfulness in life.

Home Group Guide

OPENING

What are some of your favorite teachings or stories in scripture? Why do these stand out to you?

What are some of the more difficult teachings in scripture for you to follow? Why are these difficult for you?

SCRIPTURE

Say something like: Today we want to explore the teaching of the parable of the sower. We want to make note of the four different types of soil. Ultimately we want to examine our own heart and it’s condition to hold and grow truth.

Read: Mark 4: 1-8

  1. What are the four different types of soil?

  2. What can we see to be true about the soil on the path? What is it teaching us?

  3. What can we see to be true about the soil that is rocky? What is it teaching us?

  4. What can we see to be true about the thorny soil? What is it teaching us?

  5. What can we see to be true about the good soil? What is it teaching us?

    APPLICATION

Say something like: All of these soils are in the same area. The only difference is how well they took to cultivation.

1. Do I allow God’s word to cultivate my life?

2. Which soil does your life most currently look like? Why would you say so? How can this change if it’s not the good soil?

PRAYER

Ask God to examine our heart. Cultivate the hardness, remove the rocks and thorns. Make in us a good soil.

Esther

Leader Thoughts

For Such a Time as This

“Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief
and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” –

Esther 4:13-14

Many people quote Mordecai’s rebuke to Esther as a life-verse which is to represent prestige, power and favor. You’ll see shirts, hats, mugs and social media posts that proudly ring out, “for such a time as this.”

But few people truly connect the context of the verse with how they are using it. Esther was being scolded for her self-indulgent, self-preserving mindset. Esther was being reproofed for living large and embracing royalty over service. Through those telling words, Mordecai was reminding Esther that she had been chosen to set her own interests aside, let go of her own ambitions and face an enemy full-on. She was to risk her life and her legacy with no guarantees of a positive outcome. That’s the “for such a time as this” Esther was challenged to accept. And that’s the “for such a time as this” God also sets before you.

It is God who has given you your job, position, resources, education and more. It is God who has opened the opportunities for you to optimize for His kingdom purposes. He didn’t place you where you are so you could eat figs all day long or post pictures of yourself on social media. He’s placed you where you are because you are in the midst of a battle; a war. You are in the midst of a seismic conflict involving Good versus Evil.

To miss your kingdom assignment because you have become too caught up in your personal kingdom itself is the greatest tragedy you could ever face. An entire nation was grateful for how Esther responded to Mordecai’s rebuke. Their lives were spared. How many can be spared in the culture where we live today when we choose to step up to service, even if it involves sacrifice?

- Dr. Tony Evens

Home Group Guide

OPENING

If you had to put into a few sentences what you believe your purpose on Earth is what would you say? Has this purpose changed as you have gotten older?

SCRIPTURE

Say something like: This week we want to look at the life of Esther. Specifically, the thesis verse of maybe in whole book of Esther. “For such a time as this” is a phrase that many of you have heard if you have grown up in the church. We see the purpose that Esther was made queen by God is to help save the people. We want to examine our own life and realize that God maybe doing something in our life that may seem difficult now but has a great purpose. We can understand this purpose when we stop looking at the here and now and start to focus on above.

Read Esther Chapter 4

  1. What can we learn about Mordecai’s faith from vs. 14? Do we show this type of faith when it comes to difficult situations we face?

  2. Esther had been put into a place of influence for such a time as this. Has there been a time in your life that God had placed you in a situation that may not have made since in the moment but you can see the purpose now? Will you share this with us?

Read Colossians 3: 1-4

  1. What does it mean for us to seek things above?

  2. When we seek things above how might that change the way we see difficult situations we find ourselves in now?

APPLICATION

1. Are their situations happening in your life now that require you to put your trust in the Lord? What does that look like?

PRAYER

Spend sometime asking God to redirect our focus on heavenly things rather than Earthly things.

Children Conversation

How can we teach our children to put their faith and trust in Jesus when times are difficult? How can we model this trust in front of our children in a healthy way that may not scare them?

Wise Counsel

WISE COUNSEL

Leader Thoughts

The Importance of Seeking Wise Counsel

Sometimes people make decisions they later regret because the counsel they heeded was ungodly. It is critical that we know how to discern what is wise, biblical advice. Here are suggestions to help you detect whether or not guidance is scriptural.

1. Look for counsel that makes frequent reference to God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ.

If you need guidance but receive advice that neglects or contradicts the principles of Scripture, the best thing to do is seek input elsewhere.
2. Think twice if there is much talk but no prayer. Even with a great exchange of ideas and human wisdom, it’s essential that someone propose, “Let’s ask the Lord to give us direction.” A prudent advisor knows that prayer is a vital element in attaining the whole counsel of God.

3. Avoid any counselor who compromises Scripture by bending the standards God has set for His children. People will sometimes say things like, “Nobody’s perfect, so a tiny bit of gossip [or gambling, or a little ‘fun’] here and there won’t hurt.” Such rationalizing can quickly lead to bondage.

4. Beware of counsel that is quick to criticize the church or its spiritual leaders. An advisor who readily discredits the church because of its visible weaknesses may be someone hiding a hurtful bias. Such people may have an agenda that is quite different from the Lord’s plan and perspective.

Remember that living within each believer is the Counselor Himself (Isa. 9:6; John 14:26), and He wants to help with all our decisions. Trust Him in everything.

HOME GROUP GUIDE

OPENING

Who are the people how have made the biggest impact in your life, good and bad? What influence would you contribute to them?

SCRIPTURE

Say something like: This week on Sunday we look at how Esther took wise counsel from her cousin Mordecai. Because she took this advice she was in the right place at the right time to save herself and her people. We also see how Haman took poor counsel and it led to his destruction. In our small group we will examine what God’s word has to say about having wise counsel.

Read Psalms 1:1-6

1. In verse one we see three different postures. What can we learn from these and what to avoid?

2. What does it mean for us to delight in the Law of the Lord? Does this still hold up today? 3. What can we learn from the analogy of the tree in verse three?

Say Something like: Ultimately we understand that all wise counsel comes from God and he has given us His Holy Spirit.

Read James 3: 17-18

4. How do we know the difference between God’s voice and our own when it comes to difficult situations in life?

APPLICATION

Do you have wise counsel in your life? Do you listen to them?

Do you continue to make some of the same mistakes in your life over and over? What does this tell us about where we are seeking wisdom?

What do we do if we have people speaking into our lives that are not wise counsel?

PRAYER

Scripture tells us in James 1:5 if we ask for wisdom that God gives generously. Let’s take time to ask for wisdom in each one situation.

Children Conversation

How do we talk with our children about having friends that are good influences in their lives? How do you encourage your children to be good influences in others life?

MARRIAGE

MARRIAGE

Leader Thoughts

During this week in our home groups we are going to look at marriage. We can see some very strange marriage situations in the book of Esther. This is a great time for us to examine our own marriages and make sure we are both honoring our spouse and the Lord with these relationships. For many of you, you are not professional councilors nor do you need to be. Our focus is to love other another, point them to Jesus and help them seek wise council if that is needed in their relationship. If you find a situation arise in your home group that seems very serious please let myself or Todd know as we would love to serve as needed. Blow is a practical blog article on five phrases we should remove from our marriage.

We want to be compassionate towards our people who are not married. Please be wise in your conversations that they are inclusive.

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It seems like marriage is just another word for “endlessly learning to communicate”. Yes, there is so much more to marriage than communication, but how many marital issues would be erased or solved if we just learned to communicate in a more healthy manner? Our 10+ years have taught us that it’s not a matter of if we disagree, but when we do, how will we handle it?

In a sentence, here’s the key to healthy communication through virtually anything: both should never quit and always communicate until you reach the other side. This, of course, takes grit and dedication... and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this post.

It’s impossible to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. However, there are some phrases that are usually unhelpful for marriage:

5 hurtful phrases to remove from your marriage vocabulary

1: “I’m busy...”

A very new friend of mine, Tyler Ward, wrote an incredibly insightful article called, “Busy isn’t respectable anymore.” One read through and you’ll want to remove “I’m busy...” from your vocabulary for good.

But why does that matter for your marriage? As Tyler illustrates, saying “I’m busy” is often just a force of habit and usually an indication of some deeper disfunction (no, not always, but often). There’s a saying: “If you’re too busy for your spouse, you’re too busy”. That being the case, we should always make time for our spouses without relegating ourselves to simply being “busy”.

If you are actually busy, that’s fine, just articulate exactly what’s going on so your spouse may understand and support you with your tasks!

2: “You always...”

Absolute statements like “you always...” or “you never...” are something Selena and I have worked very hard to remove from our marriage. We’ve yet to fully succeed! The problem with absolute statements is that they’re never true when speaking of behavior, and they are always hurtful (there are two absolute statements you can be sure of!). Absolute statements say more about who’s saying them then they do about whom they’re directed at.

If I may be blunt, absolute statements are just plain lazy.

Example: Instead of “You never want want sex...”, consider a statement like “lately, I’ve felt like we’re not connecting intimately enough. Can we talk about what’s going on?”

By being specific and purposeful with your language, you can actually move forward together instead of accusing one another. Removing absolute statements from your marriage diction will do wonders.

3: “Whatever.”

How many times have we ended an argument with a single dismissive “whatever”?

“Whatever” is the arch enemy of biblical reconciliation. By dismissing disagreements with “whatever”, you’re essentially stating that you don’t care enough about the person or disagreement to discuss further. Love never quits. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13).

It’s not that whatever is a bad word, it’s just usually used in times when love isn’t at it’s best. Removing whatever from your marriage vocabulary will force to to either 1) explain why you’re OK with dismissing the conversation, or 2) explain why you’re truly ok with whatever.

4: The word Divorce

It’s tragic when we hear couples use the word “divorce”, either jokingly or seriously, in reference to their own marriage. Marriage only works if divorce is not an option If there’s no back door, you’ll both be committed to working through anything.

The greatest enemy we’ve seen at play in marriage is simply giving up; someone decides to step out the back door. They mentally, emotionally, and spiritually check-out of the marriage. How can you work something out if one person leaves or refuses to engage? Divorce is just that: giving up on the marriage.

Using the word “divorce” potentially cracks the door on a terrible possibility into your marriage. Would it be funny or appropriate ever if you said “I sincerely hope you die a horrible painful death”? Nope. It’s hurtful no matter how you slice it.

I implore you, remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise.

5: “I wish you were more like...” and “you’re just like your [parent]”

Ok, yes this is two phrases. I wanted to combine them here because I believe they come from the same place: comparison.

Comparison is truly heartbreaking. Nobody likes being compared to someone else, whether it’s a friend, a stranger, a family member, or a celebrity. People aren’t things, like cars with features to be compared. “This one has GPS”, “that one gets 40 MPG”, etc.

Nothing makes me feel smaller than when I’m unscrupulously compared to someone greater than me. Feeling that kind of small is ok, I guess, but only if it’s relation to Jesus. May Jesus be the only person we compare ourselves and our spouses to.

Here are some tough comparisons married folks tend to make; some explicitly and some internally:

  1. I wish [my wife] looked more like [other woman] (this is NEVER productive)

  2. You’re just like your father/mother.

  3. Usually used to illustrate an undesirable behavior, thus pigeonholing the person compared.

  4. Why can’t we be more like [some other couple]? (this type of comparison is especially frustrating)

I hope I’ve made a compelling case for why you should remove some phrases from your marriage.

Be selective with your words. There are two things in this life you can never get back once used, words and time. Use your words to give life.

- Ryan Frederick

HOME GROUP GUIDE

OPENING

Ask if a few of your couples will share the story of how they meet and their dating to marriage story.

SCRIPTURE

Read Ephesians 5: 21- 33

1. What does it mean that we all should submit to one another out of the reverence of Christ? How does this glorify God?

2. Does the word submission seem offensive or wrong? Why is this? Should it be?

3. Practically speaking how can we love our wife as Christ loves the Church?

4. We all understand that marriage is difficult and we may fail to show love or respect to our spouse in some situations. What are ways to restore that relationship when it’s hurt in that way?

APPLICATION

1. What are ways as a small group we can help each other have healthier and stronger marriages?

2. What are areas of growth that you would love to see in your own marriage over the next year? (Give your couples a little time to discuss them together before speaking to the group)

PRAYER

Have your couples pair up if you are able and spend time praying for each others marriage.

Children Conversation

When do you believe is an appropriate time to begin to talk with your children about sexual purity and dating?

How can we talk about relationships with our children in a way that is meaningful without being awkward or hard for them and us?

haman/anger

HAMAN/ANGER

Leader Thoughts

“Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Is this even possible?
Not if perfect, sinless anger is the requirement, since sin infects everything we think, say, and do. But I don’t think Paul had perfect, sinless anger in mind when he quoted King David from Psalm 4:4 to the Ephesians. Paul’s point seems to be that not all anger Christians experience is rooted in the prideful, selfish soil of our sin nature.
There is a kind of anger that comes from our regenerate, Spirit-directed nature, even if it is unavoidably tainted by our indwelling sin as it passes through the defective filters of our minds and mouths. And because the Holy Spirit through David and Paul instructs us to “be angry,” it means some things must make us righteously angry.
So what does righteous anger look like in a Christian?

What Is Righteous Anger?

First, let’s ask: What is righteous anger?
Righteous anger is being angry at what makes God angry. And “righteous anger” is the right word order. Because God is not fundamentally angry. He is fundamentally righteous. God’s anger is a byproduct of his righteousness.
God’s righteousness is his being perfectly right in all his ways, all of his manifold perfections operating together in perfect proportion, consistency, and harmony. God is the very definition and standard of goodness (Mark 10:18). What God says (Hebrews 6:5) and what God does (Micah 6:8) are good because they are “righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9) — they perfectly represent his comprehensive perfection.
So, what makes God angry is the perversion of his goodness; the turning wrong of what he made right. God calls this perversion evil. Evil twists and disfigures God’s glory, vandalizing what is most valuable, and profaning what is most holy. Evil poisons and distorts reality, resulting in the destruction of joy for every creature that chooses the perversion over God’s good.

God’s righteousness demands his anger over such destructive perversion and that he mete out commensurate justice against those who commit such evil.
So our anger is righteous when we are angered over evil that profanes God’s holiness and perverts his goodness.

What Is Sinful Anger?

But humans, being evil (Luke 11:13), are not characterized by righteous anger but sinful anger, we Christians too often included. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” because the anger of man is more concerned with man than with God (James 1:20).I scarcely need to make this point. You know exactly what I mean. We tend to get angrier over our slighted pride than over the marring of God’s glory. We tend to get angrier over a minor inconvenience than a grievous injustice. We are often self-righteously angry like the older brother over his prodigal sibling (Luke 15:28), or selfishly angry like Jonah over the death of a plant while not caring about the welfare of 120,000 people (Jonah 4:9–11). Anger rooted in our sin nature produces “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20). It produces “enmity, strife . . . fits of anger [i.e. tantrums], rivalries, dissensions, [and] divisions” (Galatians 5:20). Sinful anger is so common in us that we must be regularly reminded to put away “anger, wrath, [and] malice” (Colossians 3:8) and that “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).

The Loving Slowness of Righteous Anger

Righteous anger doesn’t look or feel like sinful anger because godly righteous anger is governed and directed by love. God is righteous, but he is also love (1 John 4:8). And love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4).
That’s why God repeatedly describes himself in Scripture as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3).
God is slow to anger, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God will bring his righteous judgment to bear on the unrepentant guilty (Exodus 34:7), but he “does not afflict from his heart” (Lamentations 3:33). And he moves with a measured, merciful, loving slowness.
If you want to see love-governed anger in operation, look at Jesus.
Jesus knew a day of judgment was coming when he would come to earth as the King of kings and “tread [his enemies in] the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God” (Revelation 19:15–16). But long before bringing judgment, he came to bring salvation to his enemies (John 12:47; Romans 5:8). And when he came to save, he rarely expressed anger.
And those who walk closest with Jesus are also marked by this remarkable patience with sinners. They too are “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). They do get angry, but like Jesus, their anger is laced with grief (Mark 3:5). Occasionally they flip tables in the temple (John 2:15–17), but they also weep over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34).

How Should We “Be Angry”?

Being angry and not sinning requires the discernment of constant practice (Hebrews 5:14) because so much of our anger is rooted in our prideful, selfish sin nature. And if we’ve suffered under the tyranny of a sinfully angry person, emotionally it can be very difficult to distinguish between sinful and righteous anger. But because it is something God calls us to, we must press into it.

So what does righteous anger look like in a Christian?

  1. Righteous anger is roused by evil that profanes God’s holiness and perverts his

    goodness. Increasingly we become “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked,” and find “their lawless deeds” tormenting (2 Peter 2:7–8). Increasingly we care more about God’s reputation than our own. Wherever we lack in these is where we must focus our repentance, prayers, fasting, and biblical meditation.

  2. Righteous anger first sees the logs in our own eyes (Matthew 7:5). We are humbled, grieved, and angered by our own perverting of God’s goodness and we repent before addressing anyone else’s.

  3. Righteous anger is grieved, not merely infuriated, by evil. Jesus did flip tables in the temple, but he was deeply grieved over the sin that made it necessary (Matthew 23:37). Anger with no tears over evil is often evidence of a lack of love in us.

  4. Righteous anger is governed by God’s love and therefore slow to be expressed, allowing redemptive acts of love to be pursued first if at all possible. We truly want mercy to triumph over judgment for others (James 2:13), remembering Jesus’s mercy toward us and that he first came carrying a cross before coming bearing a sword.

  5. Righteous anger acts swiftly when necessary. Some forms of evil require us to be quick to speak and quick to act. The slaughter of unborn children, ethnic and economic injustice, abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), sex trafficking, human slavery, adultery, refugee plight, persecution, and other such evils call for urgent, immediate rescue (Proverbs 24:11).

We will never be perfectly angry in this age. But we can grow in the grace of righteous anger. God means us to. It is part of being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And one of his Scriptural commands is, “Be angry, and do not sin.”

- By John Bloom

OPENING

This week, as we study the book of Esther we will focus on the character of Haman. We will get an up-close view of what unchecked anger can do to someone.

Read Esther 5:9

Why do you believe Haman got so angry?
What are situations or things that often make us angry? Should they?

SCRIPTURE

Read Esther 5:10-14

We see that this type of anger robs the joy from Haman. How can anger rob our joy?

Do you have a personal example of a time that anger robbed your joy? Read Ephesians 4:26

How can we be angry but not sin? How is this type of anger different than what we see in Haman?

Righteous anger is being angry at what makes God angry. And “righteous anger” is the right word order. Because God is not fundamentally angry. He is fundamentally righteous. God’s anger is a byproduct of his righteousness.

APPLICATION

What are things in our life that should lead us to a righteous anger and how do we handle that in a God honoring way?

So what does righteous anger look like in a Christian?

  1. Righteous anger is roused by evil that profanes God’s holiness and perverts his

    goodness. Increasingly we become “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked,” and find “their lawless deeds” tormenting (2 Peter 2:7–8). Increasingly we care more about God’s reputation than our own. Wherever we lack in these is where we must focus our repentance, prayers, fasting, and biblical meditation.

  2. Righteous anger first sees the logs in our own eyes (Matthew 7:5). We are humbled, grieved, and angered by our own perverting of God’s goodness and we repent before addressing anyone else’s.

  3. Righteous anger is grieved, not merely infuriated, by evil. Jesus did flip tables in the temple, but he was deeply grieved over the sin that made it necessary (Matthew 23:37). Anger with no tears over evil is often evidence of a lack of love in us.

  1. Righteous anger is governed by God’s love and therefore slow to be expressed, allowing redemptive acts of love to be pursued first if at all possible. We truly want mercy to triumph over judgment for others (James 2:13), remembering Jesus’s mercy toward us and that he first came carrying a cross before coming bearing a sword.

  2. Righteous anger acts swiftly when necessary. Some forms of evil require us to be quick to speak and quick to act. The slaughter of unborn children, ethnic and economic injustice, abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), sex trafficking, human slavery, adultery, refugee plight, persecution, and other such evils call for urgent, immediate rescue (Proverbs 24:11).

    PRAYER

Take time to confess our sinful anger and ask for repentance.

Children Conversation

How do we help teach our children that anger will rob their joy?
How should we respond to our children when they see our unrighteous anger?

MORDECAI/ HUMILITY

MORDECAI/HUMILITY

Leader Thoughts

This week as we study the book of Esther we are focusing on the person of Mordecai. Mordecai plays a large role in this book. Many would even believe that he is the author of this book. As Todd walks through a few different characteristics that we see in Mordecai we are going to focus on his characteristic of being humble. We see in the story of Esther how Mordecai is exalted because of his humility. Let us take a look at what scripture has to tell about about humility.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ten practical ways to reflect God’s humility

1. Humbly acknowledge God in everything

For the sake of our own souls, we need to regularly bow our hearts to our magnificent, awe-inspiring and humble God. There are no human words that can describe who He is and how He has blessed us.

Job 26:11,14 ESV The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke. Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”

Psalm 8:3-4 ESV When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Let’s make it a point to always humbly ask God for His will for all our plans and decisions. When we presume we know what’s right, we fall into idolatry because it sets us above God’s will.

1 Samuel 15:23 ESV ... and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry...
Proverbs 3:7 ESV Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

PLEASE TAKE SOME TIME AND SHARE WITH CHAD ABOUT THINGS GOD IS DOING INSIDE OF YOUR HOME GROUP. OTHER LEADERS NEED THE ENCOURAGEMENT.

2. Confess and repent of pride

Pride won’t allow God to sit on the throne in our hearts to rule over and redeem our past, present and future. This will eventually destroy us. Let us humbly repent for our pride and all the times we have tried to control our own lives in the false belief that we have the power to.

Romans 12:3 NLT ... Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Proverbs 11:2 ESV When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

3. Thank God every day

It is God’s will that we thank Him in any circumstance, because He knows this helps us keep our hearts in check. As we humble ourselves, we will be surprised by how long our lists can be if we truly are thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Let us not hesitate to deflect any praise we receive and make it a point to thank our Father in heaven instead. He is the true Source of all our talents and gifts.

4. Stop grumbling

Many forms of grumbling, whining or protesting stems from a spirit of self-entitlement and self- righteousness. When we humble our hearts and submit to God instead, we will be positive shining lights in our world.

Philippians 2:14-15 ESV Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

5. Stop passing judgment

We all have the tendency to conclude certain things about other people, not realizing that we are in reality, passing judgement on them. It is even worse if we conclude that “they will never change” or “they are beyond hope”. Not only do we judge them, we also curse them. Such judgmental pride assumes we are all-knowing and entitled to condemn others. It also implies that God cannot work a miracle in their lives. This slanders and offends our all-powerful and merciful Father in heaven. This is something we need to actively avoid.

Matthew 7:1 ESV “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

6. Stop boasting

Pride tells us we deserve recognition for our achievements, sacrifices and giving. In some sense, we wish to be worshipped; neglecting that God alone deserves all worship. God promises to reward those who humbly wait on His personal praises, and not crave the recognition and praises of other people. Let us serve, love and sacrifice joyfully, without seeking the approval of people.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 ESV “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

7. Stop seeking attention

Some people enjoy drawing attention to themselves by being pushy, boastful, crude or antagonistic. All this behaviour is driven by the innate belief that other people should listen to or follow them. Humility, on the other hand, will gently consider others first.

Philippians 2:4 ESV Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Ephesians 4:2 ESV with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

8. Admit mistakes and weaknesses readily

The fear of admitting our faults and vulnerabilities is driven by a desire to protect our personal image. We idolize our reputations at the expense of God’s. Like the apostle Paul, we should not be afraid of exposing our personal weaknesses, so that people will see Jesus’ Holy Spirit working in us. This takes true strength as well as true humility.

2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

9. Consider others as more important

The thought of considering others first is most unnatural to human beings. Even as children, we loathe to share our candy and toys. True humility is demonstrated when we do just the opposite. It shows our hearts to be free of fears and selfish intentions. We are able to love those whom God loves, regardless of how they behave towards us. Jesus set the perfect example by humbly dying on the cross for all of us.

Philippians 2:3 ESV Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

10. Forgive and bless others

The choice to forgive and bless those who offend us is a true test of our humility and submission to God. The Bible tells us to pray for and bless others, especially those whom we see as our enemies. It doesn’t tell us to try to bless our abusers, it simply tells us to just do it.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Luke 6:27-28 ESV “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Unforgiveness is a form of pride that implies we are better than other people and deserve only worship and adoration. This pride keeps us from being good representatives of a humble God who sent His Son to die for us. In contrast, we are to actively bless those we are inclined to hate, resent or find intolerable, so that they get to experience the wonderful grace of the humble perfect God we serve.

- By Jennifer Sum

Home Group Guide

OPENING

1. As we have read through Esther or heard Todd’s sermon from Sunday, what are some characteristics of Mordecai that stood out to you?

The primary characteristic that we are going to focus on for our study is humility. We can see in Esther 3:2 that Mordecai would not bow down to Hamman because he honored God more. Ultimately God would exalt Mordecai.

2. Do you believe that humility is a characteristic that all Christians should have? Why or why not?

SCRIPTURE

Read Luke 14:7-11

1. What do you believe Jesus is trying to teach to his disciples by His statements here?

2. What does true humility look like in our culture? Is this hard to live out? Why or why not?

3. What are examples of God humbling the proud and exalting the humble that you have seen in scripture or life?

APPLICATION

1. Is humility something you feel you struggle with? What has this looked like in your life?

2. What are ways that we can grow in humility? (Use some of the above ideas in the Leader Thoughts)

PRAYER

Use John 3:30 to be the structure of your prayer. Examples... God increase in my life that I may decrease in pride. God increase in my family, so I may decrease my control.

Looking Forward

As we pause at the end of the year to reflect on what Jesus has done. We have the opportunity to celebrate Him. We get to celebrate not only what He has done but we get to celebrate what He will do in our own life in days to come. We are able to celebrate because with Faith we believe that our God is good and faithful in our lives. No matter what our tomorrow will hold we know that God is always loving us. In this weeks small group we want to take a week to pray for each other. Here is a great article about the importance of praying for each other.

“Father, please bless them, I pray.” Ever prayed like this for someone? I have. And it always seems dissatisfying and insufficient. “Is that the best I can pray for them?” I sometimes wonder. “Shouldn’t I be more specific?”

When I pray such a generic prayer, I often wince at the similarity it has to the champion of all nonspecific prayers: “And please bless all the missionaries everywhere.”

Honestly, without some teaching on the matter, I doubt that any follower of Jesus prays well for other Christians. But I do think intercession for others is something any Christian would want to improve.

A Christian Responsibility

Believers are commanded in James 5:17 to “pray for one another.” In the immediate context of that passage, the mutual intercessions include “that you may be healed.” It’s a paragraph about praying in faith for those who are sick.
But the rest of the New Testament makes it clear that the responsibility for Christians to pray for one another isn’t limited to prayers for the sick. Repeatedly, the Apostle Paul pleads, “Brothers, pray for us” (see, for example, 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1). His letters to churches testify of his prayers for them (see Eph. 1:15–23; Col. 1:9–14). Even Jesus Himself asked for the prayers of Peter, James, and John in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:38, 40–41).

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DECEMBER 23, 2018 HOME GROUPS

One of the four chief characteristics of the church in Jerusalem after Pentecost was that “they devoted themselves to ... the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Can anyone doubt that these corporate prayers included much prayer for each other?
While intercession for others may have become more common among believers after Pentecost, it wasn’t unusual in the Old Testament period. For instance, the prophet Samuel assured his fellow Israelites: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).

Given that bearing the burdens of others in prayer is characteristically Christian, how then should we pray for one another? While each situation has its own specifics, here are three ways to pray well for other believers.

Pray Paul’s Prayers

Anytime you want to intercede for a brother or sister in Christ, you can never go wrong praying the words the Apostle Paul was inspired to use when he prayed for other Christians.
It is always good to pray, for example, that others would have

the eyes of [their] hearts enlightened, that [they] may know what is the hope to which he has called [them], what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might, that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:18–20)

A wide variety of such God-glorifying, Christ-centered prayers for others can be found in Ephesians 1:15–23; 3:14–21; Philippians 1:9–11; Colossians 1:9–14; 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13; and 2 Thessalonians 1:13–14.

Pray Other Biblical Passages

You can pray not only the prayers in Ephesians—you can pray the entire letter. Thus, you can ask the Lord to help your fellow believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called” (4:1). After you have expanded on that thought for a moment, you can proceed to pray for their “humility and gentleness with patience,” then that they would “bear with [others] in

love” (4:2).
Continue praying in this fashion through the rest of Ephesians 4 until you reach the end of the chapter or run out of time. The entire Bible can be prayed this way, but the New Testament letters are particularly suited for this. Beyond them, I especially recommend turning the Psalms into prayer.

Pray for God to Be Glorified

Ever had an awkward moment where a fellow Christian asks you to pray for him and you’re not sure that what he wants you to pray is a good idea? Here’s something that’s never out of place to pray in those situations—that God would be glorified in the matter.
In John 14:13 Jesus promised, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” In every circumstance, it’s appropriate to pray “that the Father may be glorified” in it.

Let’s “pray for one another,” and pray biblically.

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DECEMBER 23, 2018

HOME GROUPS

Home Group Guide

OPENING

- What is something that you are most looking forward to in 2019?
- How will this next year be different or the same for you as the years past?

SCRIPTURE

Read James 5:16-17

- What does it really look like for us to pray for each other the way Scripture talks about?

- How can we get better at praying for each other this coming year?

APPLICATION

- Spend a good amount of time talking about how we can pray for each other.

- Have your group explore the passages in the section above “Pray Paul’s Prayers” and choose passages to pray for each other.

PRAYER

- Spend the majority of your time as a group praying for each other this week.

      Love  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16  Love – a very famous Bible speaks of love: the verse is John 3:16. As I sit and ponder this well-known verse and reflect on Christ’s first advent, I am both in awe and am humbled at the understanding that God would give his son Jesus to be born into this world for not only my sake but for all the ages.  Then my mind turns to Mary, the mother of Jesus. I have always wondered what Mary must have felt when the Angel Gabriel told her that she would become pregnant as “the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would cover her.” “For that reason the baby would be holy and be called the Son of God“ (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s response was one of obedience, as she understood that she was a servant of the Lord and proclaimed “Let this happen to me as you say” (vs 38). Soon the baby boy was born, a son as the Angel had told her.  As a mother and grandmother myself, I know that at that moment Mary looks at her baby with so much love that it is uncontainable. Her heart is instantly changed by this precious baby, an immediate bond is formed, and a commitment to love and protect this child is made. That same love, expressed during Christ’s first advent, is the love that God has for you and me, but even more... an unconditional, unfailing, and unending love for you and me. Romans 8:39 tells us that “Nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Consider that thought. How wide and deep is the love of Christ for you and me!  - Written by Vicki Yeats   DECEMBER 16, 2018   1. 1 John 4: 7-17  Questions   SCRIPTURE READING OPENING   - What is one of your favorite love stories? This can be from a movie, book or even a story that you know.  - What stands out about your favorite love story? What makes it special?   SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION   Read 1 John 4: 7-10 - Make a list together of all the things we can learn from this verses about what love is.  - What is the difference between claiming that “God is loving” and claiming that “God is love”? Why is the second one more meaningful?  - God shows His love for you and I in that He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for sin. What insight does this give us in how we should love one another?  Read 1 John 4:11-17 - What does it mean that His love is perfected in us in verse 12?  - How do we abide in God’s love? How do we show not just our own love but the love of God to others around us?   OBSERVATION   - How willing are you to make loving sacrifices in your relationships right now? What does this question show us about our relationship with the father right now?   APPLICATION   - The specific call in his passage is the we love other believers. How can we as a home group show greater love to one another? What are ways that we have loved each other well in the past?   PRAYER   Take a moment to share with your group a person that you may find it difficult to love right now. Spend time praying for that person and our own heart that we would show a sacrificial love.     Adult Discussion:     Children Teaching Element      How do we teach our children to love their siblings when they seem to be fighting a lot?    What biblical advice can we give our child if they are being bullied at school? How do they show love or at least pray for their enemies?    How do you handle situations when you see your child being emotionally hurt by another child?

Love

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Love – a very famous Bible speaks of love: the verse is John 3:16. As I sit and ponder this well-known verse and reflect on Christ’s first advent, I am both in awe and am humbled at the understanding that God would give his son Jesus to be born into this world for not only my sake but for all the ages.

Then my mind turns to Mary, the mother of Jesus. I have always wondered what Mary must have felt when the Angel Gabriel told her that she would become pregnant as “the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would cover her.” “For that reason the baby would be holy and be called the Son of God“ (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s response was one of obedience, as she understood that she was a servant of the Lord and proclaimed “Let this happen to me as you say” (vs 38). Soon the baby boy was born, a son as the Angel had told her.

As a mother and grandmother myself, I know that at that moment Mary looks at her baby with so much love that it is uncontainable. Her heart is instantly changed by this precious baby, an immediate bond is formed, and a commitment to love and protect this child is made. That same love, expressed during Christ’s first advent, is the love that God has for you and me, but even more... an unconditional, unfailing, and unending love for you and me. Romans 8:39 tells us that “Nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Consider that thought. How wide and deep is the love of Christ for you and me!

- Written by Vicki Yeats

DECEMBER 16, 2018

1. 1 John 4: 7-17

Questions

SCRIPTURE READING OPENING

- What is one of your favorite love stories? This can be from a movie, book or even a story that you know.

- What stands out about your favorite love story? What makes it special?

SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION

Read 1 John 4: 7-10
- Make a list together of all the things we can learn from this verses about what love is.

- What is the difference between claiming that “God is loving” and claiming that “God is love”? Why is the second one more meaningful?

- God shows His love for you and I in that He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for sin. What insight does this give us in how we should love one another?

Read 1 John 4:11-17
- What does it mean that His love is perfected in us in verse 12?

- How do we abide in God’s love? How do we show not just our own love but the love of God to others around us?

OBSERVATION

- How willing are you to make loving sacrifices in your relationships right now? What does this question show us about our relationship with the father right now?

APPLICATION

- The specific call in his passage is the we love other believers. How can we as a home group show greater love to one another? What are ways that we have loved each other well in the past?

PRAYER

Take a moment to share with your group a person that you may find it difficult to love right now. Spend time praying for that person and our own heart that we would show a sacrificial love.

Adult Discussion:

Children Teaching Element

  1. How do we teach our children to love their siblings when they seem to be fighting a lot?

  2. What biblical advice can we give our child if they are being bullied at school? How do they show love or at least pray for their enemies?

  3. How do you handle situations when you see your child being emotionally hurt by another child?

      Hope  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick...” Proverbs 13:12 Without hope we can literally become sick. Heartsick. Sick in our minds and souls. This sickness can lead to discouragement, depression, hopelessness. But how do we find hope? Where do we look for it? How do we gain it? How do we fill our hearts and minds with the hope of Christ? We may know in our heads that Christ alone is our source of hope... but how do we get our hearts to believe it, too? “Hope, as you will find, is a skill that takes practice.” Edward Welch Hope takes practice. Hope takes faith. Hope takes work. Hope must be an active word in our vocabulary. Hope is not passive. Hope doesn’t arrive on our front doorstep. Hope must be invited in. Hope must be welcomed. Hope must be practiced. You may be wondering what I mean by “practicing hope” and this is a valid question. It sounds odd or maybe you’ve never considered before that we can be proactive and intentional about filling our lives with hope and joy.    8 Ways to Practice Hope    1. Pray often.  Pray without ceasing. When you don’t know what to pray, say the Name of Jesus. Pray God’s Word.   2. Remind yourself of who you are in Christ.  He delights in you! You are His child. You are chosen. You are loved. You are forgiven. You have the hope of eternity.  3. Confide in a friend.  Do not suffer alone. Send out a plea for help by text. Let others walk alongside you in your trials.  4. Go outside.  Nature can be therapeutic. Take a walk. Thank God for His beautiful creation.   5. Count your blessings.  Actually name them. Write them down. Create a gratitude journal and add to it daily. Count your blessings one by one...  6. Praise.  Did you know that when we worship and praise our Father the enemy flees? Praise silences the enemy. So turn up the praise music! Have a dance party!   7. Do not neglect fellowship through the Body of Christ.  As hard as it can be when we are down and out, we must not forsake the assembling of believers. We were made for relationships. Allow others to encourage your heart and you can be an encouragement as well! Allow others to lift you up in prayer. And when you intercede for others, that also helps to take your mind off of your own problems.   8. Get in the Word.  Stay in the Word. Pray the Word. Memorize the Word. Meditate on the Word. His Word gives life to us. Do not neglect the gift of His Word. This love letter from God is the key to our hopefulness. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3  Friends, we must learn to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Christ, He endured the cross. Can you imagine? With joy he faced the cross... for you and for me. This passage tells us how to gain hope:  “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”   When we lose heart, we become hopeless. To not lose heart, we must practice hope. We must set our hearts and minds on things above and not on earthly things.  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  Colossians 3:1-2  God’s Word is full of admonition and encouragement for where to fix our mind and thoughts. When we meditate on God’s Word, when we fix our hearts and minds on the things of God, what we are doing is practicing hope. And this act of practicing hope is essential to our abundant life in Christ.  - Written by Candace Crabtree    Hebrew 12: 1-3    Colossians3:1-2    Questions   SCRIPTURE READING    OPENING   What was something you hoped for as a kid for Christmas?  How has your concept of hope changed as you have gotten older?  What do you think it means to put our hope in Jesus?   SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION   Read Hebrews 12: 1-3  -  What do you think this text would have mean to the first audience to read it?  -  The author uses some great analogies in this text. What are they and what do you believe they are trying to communicate?  Read Colossians 3: 1-2  -  What does setting our mind on earthly things look like practically in our lives?  -  What does it mean to set our mind on things above? What would these things be?   OBSERVATION   -  If someone else was to examine your life what conclusion would they make in what you put your hope in? What evidence would they find?   APPLICATION   -  What practice ways can we put our hope in Jesus? (Share the ideas above in the Leader Thoughts)  -  How can we be an encouragement to one another to be people who put our hope in Christ?   PRAYER     Hope often brings praise to our hearts. Spend time together making a list of the things we can praise God with in our prayers. Spend time in prayer thanking him for His never-ending hope.       Children Teaching Element   Adult Discussion: 1. What are ways that you teach your child the good news of the Gospel?   2. How do you explain to your elementary age kids what salvation is?

Hope

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick...” Proverbs 13:12
Without hope we can literally become sick. Heartsick. Sick in our minds and souls. This sickness can lead to discouragement, depression, hopelessness. But how do we find hope? Where do we look for it? How do we gain it? How do we fill our hearts and minds with the hope of Christ? We may know in our heads that Christ alone is our source of hope... but how do we get our hearts to believe it, too?
“Hope, as you will find, is a skill that takes practice.” Edward Welch
Hope takes practice.
Hope takes faith.
Hope takes work.
Hope must be an active word in our vocabulary. Hope is not passive. Hope doesn’t arrive on our front doorstep. Hope must be invited in. Hope must be welcomed. Hope must be practiced. You may be wondering what I mean by “practicing hope” and this is a valid question. It sounds odd or maybe you’ve never considered before that we can be proactive and intentional about filling our lives with hope and joy.


8 Ways to Practice Hope

1. Pray often. Pray without ceasing. When you don’t know what to pray, say the Name of Jesus. Pray God’s Word.

2. Remind yourself of who you are in Christ. He delights in you! You are His child. You are chosen. You are loved. You are forgiven. You have the hope of eternity.
3. Confide in a friend. Do not suffer alone. Send out a plea for help by text. Let others walk alongside you in your trials.
4. Go outside. Nature can be therapeutic. Take a walk. Thank God for His beautiful creation.

5. Count your blessings. Actually name them. Write them down. Create a gratitude journal and add to it daily. Count your blessings one by one...
6. Praise. Did you know that when we worship and praise our Father the enemy flees? Praise silences the enemy. So turn up the praise music! Have a dance party!

7. Do not neglect fellowship through the Body of Christ. As hard as it can be when we are down and out, we must not forsake the assembling of believers. We were made for relationships. Allow others to encourage your heart and you can be an encouragement as well! Allow others to lift you up in prayer. And when you intercede for others, that also helps to take your mind off of your own problems.

8. Get in the Word. Stay in the Word. Pray the Word. Memorize the Word. Meditate on the Word. His Word gives life to us. Do not neglect the gift of His Word. This love letter from God is the key to our hopefulness.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Friends, we must learn to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Christ, He endured the cross. Can you imagine? With joy he faced the cross... for you and for me. This passage tells us how to gain hope: “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

When we lose heart, we become hopeless. To not lose heart, we must practice hope. We must set our hearts and minds on things above and not on earthly things.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

God’s Word is full of admonition and encouragement for where to fix our mind and thoughts. When we meditate on God’s Word, when we fix our hearts and minds on the things of God, what we are doing is practicing hope. And this act of practicing hope is essential to our abundant life in Christ.

- Written by Candace Crabtree

  1. Hebrew 12: 1-3

  2. Colossians3:1-2

Questions

SCRIPTURE READING

OPENING

What was something you hoped for as a kid for Christmas?

How has your concept of hope changed as you have gotten older?

What do you think it means to put our hope in Jesus?

SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION

Read Hebrews 12: 1-3

-  What do you think this text would have mean to the first audience to read it?

-  The author uses some great analogies in this text. What are they and what do you believe they are trying to communicate?

Read Colossians 3: 1-2

-  What does setting our mind on earthly things look like practically in our lives?

-  What does it mean to set our mind on things above? What would these things be?

OBSERVATION

-  If someone else was to examine your life what conclusion would they make in what you put your hope in? What evidence would they find?

APPLICATION

-  What practice ways can we put our hope in Jesus? (Share the ideas above in the Leader Thoughts)

-  How can we be an encouragement to one another to be people who put our hope in Christ?

PRAYER

  • Hope often brings praise to our hearts. Spend time together making a list of the things we can praise God with in our prayers. Spend time in prayer thanking him for His never-ending hope.

Children Teaching Element

Adult Discussion:
1. What are ways that you teach your child the good news of the Gospel?

2. How do you explain to your elementary age kids what salvation is?

      ADVENT (PEACE)  Leader Thoughts  Peace  It is not hard to feel a lack of peace during this time of year. With family in town and holiday parties on top of our normal schedules in can seem overwhelming. Along with busyness there also come some very sorrowful moments as this time of year reminds us of loved ones we have lost. Whatever it is that makes us feel anxious God has other plans for us.  In the following home group we will be looking at two passages that we will put together. In our first section of scripture in Matthew 6 we will see Jesus as He calls us to not be anxious. We are reminded that God can take care of what we will eat and what we will wear. Our focus should not be on earthly things but heavenly things. While this is always easier said that done. We must remind our people that this is a shift in priority and focus for us that can create peace in our life.  The second piece of scripture is found John 15. This scripture will couple with the one before to give us an even closer look at how we find true peace in our life. Abiding in Jesus Christ will lead to spiritual fruit in our lives. If we are not attached to the vine when we should not expect to that good spiritual fruit in our life. We will take a look at what this means and how we can abide in HIm.   Goals for Home Group   - Communicate that abiding in Christ and seeking His Kingdom over our desires will lead to peace in our life.  - Take time and pray for people in your group struggling to experience peace currently in their lives.    DECEMBER 2, 2018  HOME GROUPS  1. Matthew 6:25-34 2. John15:1-11  Read Matthew 6: 25-34  Questions   SCRIPTURE READING    OBSERVATION     -  We see this “Therefore”statement at the start of this passage .What is the larger context that Jesus is teaching on here in Scripture?    -  Why do you think God is desiring for us to not be anxious?    -  What does being anxious rob from us in our life?  Read John 15:1-11    -  What can we learn from this analogy given in John 15 in how peace is produced in our  life?    -  How are abiding in Christ and Seeking His Kingdom in Matthew 6 connected and similar ideas?   APPLICATION     -  What are as of our life bring us the biggest anxieties?    -  What does it practically look like for you to seek God’s Kingdom and abide in Him when it comes to your work/family/community?   PRAYER     -  Make sure to take time and pray for anyone that is walking through difficulty that is leading to stress in their life.    -  Ask God to make you a group that shares the burdens of one another.      DECEMBER 2, 2018 HOME GROUPS   Adult Discussion:     Children Teaching Element      How do we teach our kids to strive and grow but not be overwhelmed by stress?    What are ways that we as parents can add stress to our children’s lives? How do we change this?    What are good Bible stories to share with our children to teach they can trust God and don’t need to worry?

ADVENT (PEACE)

Leader Thoughts

Peace

It is not hard to feel a lack of peace during this time of year. With family in town and holiday parties on top of our normal schedules in can seem overwhelming. Along with busyness there also come some very sorrowful moments as this time of year reminds us of loved ones we have lost. Whatever it is that makes us feel anxious God has other plans for us.

In the following home group we will be looking at two passages that we will put together. In our first section of scripture in Matthew 6 we will see Jesus as He calls us to not be anxious. We are reminded that God can take care of what we will eat and what we will wear. Our focus should not be on earthly things but heavenly things. While this is always easier said that done. We must remind our people that this is a shift in priority and focus for us that can create peace in our life.

The second piece of scripture is found John 15. This scripture will couple with the one before to give us an even closer look at how we find true peace in our life. Abiding in Jesus Christ will lead to spiritual fruit in our lives. If we are not attached to the vine when we should not expect to that good spiritual fruit in our life. We will take a look at what this means and how we can abide in HIm.

Goals for Home Group

- Communicate that abiding in Christ and seeking His Kingdom over our desires will lead to peace in our life.

- Take time and pray for people in your group struggling to experience peace currently in their lives.

DECEMBER 2, 2018

HOME GROUPS

1. Matthew 6:25-34 2. John15:1-11

Read Matthew 6: 25-34

Questions

SCRIPTURE READING

OBSERVATION

  • -  We see this “Therefore”statement at the start of this passage .What is the larger context that Jesus is teaching on here in Scripture?

  • -  Why do you think God is desiring for us to not be anxious?

  • -  What does being anxious rob from us in our life?

    Read John 15:1-11

  • -  What can we learn from this analogy given in John 15 in how peace is produced in our life?

  • -  How are abiding in Christ and Seeking His Kingdom in Matthew 6 connected and similar ideas?

    APPLICATION

  • -  What are as of our life bring us the biggest anxieties?

  • -  What does it practically look like for you to seek God’s Kingdom and abide in Him when it comes to your work/family/community?

    PRAYER

  • -  Make sure to take time and pray for anyone that is walking through difficulty that is leading to stress in their life.

  • -  Ask God to make you a group that shares the burdens of one another.

DECEMBER 2, 2018 HOME GROUPS

Adult Discussion:

Children Teaching Element

  1. How do we teach our kids to strive and grow but not be overwhelmed by stress?

  2. What are ways that we as parents can add stress to our children’s lives? How do we change this?

  3. What are good Bible stories to share with our children to teach they can trust God and don’t need to worry?