Empty: Anxiety and Peace

Anxiety is an epidemic in our society. We live in an age where we are overwhelmed with worry and bombarded with fear tactics. Our lives are left with no room to enjoy the peace that God intends for us to experience. Only honest, heartfelt prayer has the ability to shift our focus from an anxious thought to the God of peace - Pastor Dave

Open: Describe a time you were worry-filled: What were the circumstances? What made this event an anxious event?

Read: Philippians 4:4-9; Matthew 6:24-34; 1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 13:5-6

Discuss:

1. In what ways do you see anxiety displayed in epidemic proportions? Why do you believe anxiety and worry are at an all-time high? What are some things that make Americans anxious? What makes you anxious? Do you believe the following statement is true: “82% of the things we worry about never happen!” Why or why not?

2. What sorts of things occupy your mind? How does your preoccupation with these things affect your relationships? How does it affect your joy in the Lord? How does it affect your relationship with the God of peace?

3. What does Paul give as the prescription to overcome anxiety? Describe the progression of prayer in Philippians 4:6-7: What role does gratitude play in our prayers? What makes thankfulness so difficult in our anxious moments? How does your circumstance look different when you face it with worry compared to facing it as God prescribes here?

4. God doesn’t promise a quick or easy solution to our worry. Instead, He offers His peace. What is the difference between “peace with God” and the “peace of God”? How is peace with God a better promise than the promise to a resolution to your worrisome situations? What are some things that keep us from peace?

5. Paul gives us a plan that calls us to shift our focus. Describe this shift? How does having the “who” help us to worry less about the “what”? How have you seen this true in your life? Describe the eight characteristics in Philippians 4:8: Which one stands out to you most?

Pray: Pray that you would shift your mind from the places of anxiety to the person of God.

Memorize/Meditate: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 O

Empty: Depression and Hope

Emotions may tell you that there is nothing ahead but darkness, despair and emptiness, but we must continually preach the gospel to ourselves. If it’s true that Christ walked out of the grave, then we can have full assurance that his mercies are abundant for each day and His faithfulness has no end. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever experienced a season of depression? Explain the circumstance and describe your feelings:

Read: Lamentations 3; Jeremiah 4:19-21; 8:18-19,21; 10:19-20; 15:10; Chapters 36-38

Discuss:

1. Why do you believe that depression is so rampant in our society? In what ways do you see this demonstrated in the world around you? How does depression present itself as a grand imposter?

2. One author describes depression among Christians as “the church’s dirty little secret.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? In what ways has the church failed and succeeded in helping those who suffer from depression?

3. Name a few Biblical characters that experienced depression: What surprises you most about their circumstances? What stands out to you about Jeremiah’s experience with depression?

4. What is a lament? Describe the context of Jeremiah’s Lamentations: What is Jeremiah lamenting? How does Lamentations 3 reveal two different reactions to depression? How is Lamentations 3:21 the turning point of the book? How is Jeremiah pushing his heart toward what is true despite what he sees with his eyes?

5. Describe how both crying out to God and speaking who God is help in the battle of depression: How should the character of God redirect our thoughts toward depression? What have you found successful in battles of depression? Why? Describe some of the ways you have seen God’s faithfulness in your own life.

Pray: Pray that you would be able to recall God’s faithfulness when facing moments of depression.

Memorize/Meditate: But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23

Empty: Frantic Pace

Life moves at warp speed and we have had to become masters of frantic-paced living. Without realizing it, our soul begins to grow weary, shallow, and empty as it dissolves to a margin-less life. Meanwhile, busyness robs our soul of the rest we can only find in Christ. - Pastor Dave

Open: How have you experienced life’s frantic pace? Describe a situation when you felt empty due to busyness:

Read: Mark 1; Exodus 20:8-11; Colossians 2:16-17; Matthew 11:28-30

Discuss:

1. Describe the concept of “margins”: In what ways do you see “margins” pushed past limits in our culture? How about in your life personally? How do these empty spaces keep us from feeling empty? What connection do you see between the frantic pace of life and the high levels of stress? How have we tried to solve these issues culturally? In what ways have these ideas only exacerbated the problem?

2. How is Mark 1 a picture of both Christ’s deity and humanity? Describe how the word “immediately” is used throughout Mark to paint a picture of Christ’s ministry? How can immediacy create busyness?

3. In what ways do we confuse busyness with faithfulness? How do we use busyness to inflate our importance? How vital is the word “no” in a culture with frantic lifestyles? Why is “no” so difficult for us to say?

4. Describe the pattern of rest laid out for us in Scripture: Why did God rest after creation? How does Christ model rest for us? Why is rest such a difficult experience in our culture today? How should the spiritual rest we have in Christ motivate physical and emotional rest in our lives?

5. How does our purpose help us live in the right priorities? How is our purpose hindered when we give in to the demands of culture? What would you consider the most important things in your life?

Pray: Take some time out of your schedule this week just to pray and bask in God’s faithfulness to you. Thank Him for filling you with eternal promises.

Memorize/Meditate: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Choices

Jesus is not offering us merely a better life. He is making the claim that there is only life in Him… life abundant, life eternal, and life on mission. When you follow Christ, you will walk the right path, produce the right fruit, and stand firm in life’s storms. – Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever gone the wrong direction or eaten something that you didn’t realize was rotten? Describe the situation:

Read: Matthew 7:13-8:1; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5 1.

Discuss:

1. Most Americans love reality TV. It’s blunt, honest, and unfiltered. Why do you think we are so drawn to this kind of entertainment, but struggle when confronted with the reality of life? How has the Sermon on the Mount shown Jesus uncensored?

2. Jesus describes two paths. What are the differences? When you consider current culture, what does the wide gate look like? How is it easy and popular? What makes the narrow way difficult?

3. Describe what false prophets look like in our day: How does what we do reveal who we really are? In what ways can we use what we do to mask who we really are? How does Matthew 7:21-23 challenge the motives behind our good works/fruit? Why do you think this passage is considered one of the most scary in all of Scripture? How could someone do good works, but still be a “worker of lawlessness”?

4. How important is the right foundation for a home? How do storms reveal the strength or weakness of a foundation? How is Jesus both the right path and right foundation for our life? What are some things that can weaken our foundation in Christ?

5. As Jesus ends this sermon, the crowd is astonished. Why? Chapter 8 reveals that after the sermon many followed Him. How could such a difficult sermon insight such a response? What steps do you need to take in your relationship with Christ?

Pray: Pray that you would be a consistent salt and light in your relationships by living with the Kingdom in mind.

Memorize/Meditate: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24

Sermon on the Mount: Look at Them

Whether we admit it or not, we are in a consistent state of judgment. We are constantly evaluating what people mean, say, and do for or against us. The question isn’t do we judge but how do we judge. Do I begin judgment with an healthy, honest look at myself? Do I judge to condemn or to complete? Do I judge with blind assumptions or with clear truth? Do I see the faults in others without seeing the failures in myself first? – Pastor Dave 

Open: Have you ever judged someone or has someone ever judged you inaccurately? Describe this experience:  

Read: Matthew 7:1-6; Romans 14:10-13; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; James 2:1-13 

Discuss:  

1. How has this passage (Matthew 7:1-6) been taken out of context by both Christians and non-Christians? How does our culture seek both individual autonomy and corporate tolerance? How are these two concepts contradictory? In what ways do we judge every day?  

2. Jesus commands his followers, “Do not judge.” Yet throughout the gospels we find Jesus making keen judgments. What does “do not judge” mean in the context of the Sermon on the Mount? How is condemnation different than evaluation?  

3. How are we hypocritical in our judgments? How does Jesus challenge hypocrisy in this passage? What does it mean to take the “plank out of our eye” before we take the “speck out of another’s eye”? Describe some “planks” we can find in our own eyes?  

4. What are some consequences that arise after judging from a position of pride and self-centeredness? Do you agree with the statement, “When we find a fault in someone’s life, it usually flows out of some insecurity or failure in our own life”? How have you seen this as exemplified in your own life? 

5. Is Jesus saying that judgment is prohibited? Why or why not? Describe the illustration Jesus uses with dogs and pigs? What are some steps we can take to make sure that we are judging appropriately? 

Pray: Pray that you would be a consistent salt and light in your relationships by living with the Kingdom in mind. 

Memorize/Meditate: 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. Matthew 7:1-2 

Sermon on the Mount: Removing the Stumbling Block

We live in a culture of revenge, retaliation, and resistance…a place where hurting people hurt people. But Jesus calls his followers to live an upside-down, counter-cultural world. Christians turn the other cheek, forgive those who have hurt us, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Instead of paying back our enemies, we push back self in order to demonstrate His love to the undeserving. - Pastor Dave

Open: Jesus finishes this section by focusing on retaliation and treatment of our enemies. Have you had an instance where you retaliated?

Read: Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:9-21

Discuss:

1. Jesus’ response to “an eye for an eye…” was to not resist the one who is evil. It carries the idea that we shouldn’t seek personal revenge, but instead go the extra mile for the person. Why do you think Jesus commands his followers to behave in this way?

2. These passages continue to prove Jesus’ point in Matthew 5:17-20 where he stated that, “He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” Thus, in some sense, he’s calling his followers to “go the extra mile” in every aspect of our lives. What experiences do you have that fit with what Jesus is saying about retaliation? Instead of retaliation, how can you go the “extra mile” in them?

3. We’re prone to hate our “enemy”, but it seems best to define enemy first. So, how would you define an “enemy”? What are characteristics of an enemy?

4. Why are we so inclined to hate our enemy? Think of some of your enemies, when someone becomes your enemy, how does your view change of them? Jesus calls us to overcome these desires to treat our enemies with less dignity and respect, but rather love them as we love ourselves. Give an example of how you can love one of your current enemies.

5. Not only are we to love our enemies, but we’re also to pray for them! Why do you think Jesus adds prayer here? What does prayer do to your heart for someone if you’re sincerely praying for them?

Pray: That God would soften your heart towards those who have wronged you and remind your heart of these truths that would lead to love and prayer for your enemies. Ask God to remind you of His ultimate love that He has shown us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross while we were His enemies.

Memorize/Meditate: “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’” Matthew 5:44-45

Sermon on the Mount: Redefining Kingdom Commitments

Jesus isn’t just looking for people to follow rules. He is aiming for hearts. That means that we should not talk one way and live another. Many are good at putting on the facade of Christianity and then living contrary to their spiritual commitments. May we never allow that to happen. Live a life of consistency. That is what God calls his people to do. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever made a commitment only to regret it afterward? Describe the situation: What was the end result?

Read: Matthew 5:27-37; Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Ephesians 5; 2 Timothy 2:22; James 5:12

Discuss:

1. What makes living as “Kingdom people” so difficult? Spiritually, what does it mean to be real? How is the Sermon on the Mount a call to authentic, genuine and radical kingdom living?

2. Jesus gives six tests (commands) to help us understand the sincerity of faith. How does superficiality move into our spiritual journeys? How does Jesus contrast society’s interpretation of the law with His radical teaching about Kingdom living? In what ways do you see these same contrasts today with God’s Word?

3. Define lust: How do you see an overwhelming toleration of lust in society today? Chuck Swindoll said that “the #1 secret problem in the church today is lust.” Do you find that true or not? In what ways do you struggle with lust? Why do you think that Jesus uses provocative language (“if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” Matthew 5:29) to describe how we ought to deal with lust? Read 2 Timothy 2:22. What are some steps we can take with the lust we battle?

4. Describe the three Jewish teachings concerning divorce and remarriage (Shammai, Hillel, and Akiba). What is Jesus’ focus in verses 31-32? In what ways has the sacredness and permanence of marriage been compromised today? In what ways should marriage be a reflection of Christ and the Kingdom?

5. Describe oaths in the first century: Why should we be cautious with the oaths and commitments we make? In what ways do we see “yes” and “no’s” manipulated and dishonest? What commitments do you struggle with today? How do we as Kingdom people reflect Jesus’ unwavering commitment to His promises?

Pray: Pray that you would reflect Kingdom pursuits and commitments. In the areas where you may be falling short, pray that God will strengthen you for the task.

Memorize/Meditate: So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

Sermon on the Mount: You Mad Bro?

Anger in and of itself is not wrong. In fact, it’s initially a response, not a choice. It serves as a warning light telling us there might be something wrong. What we then choose to do with that anger is a decision between faith and sin. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever had a situation where you were overcome with anger? How did you respond? What was the result?

Read: Matthew 5:21-26; Matthew 15:17-19; Ephesians 4:16; Proverbs 14:29

Discuss:

1. How have you seen anger personified in culture today? Why do you think we are such an “angry” society? How is anger a secondary emotion? What are some of the causes of anger that you have experienced? How does anger tend to take control?

2. Jesus didn’t say a lot about anger. What stands out the most about anger in Jesus’ sermon on the mount? Why does He equate anger with murder? How do we view murder as the ultimate sin? What connection does anger have with murder?

3. Describe the progression of anger: How does anger progress from “raca” (insults) to defining someone as a fool? What does “fool” mean? How does increased anger equal increased liability? In what way do we attempt to play the role of God in our anger?

4. In what way is anger an alarm in our lives? How does it reveal what’s happening in us? What are some ways we can overcome anger?

5. Why is forgiveness so difficult? What is our motivation for forgiveness? How is anger an opportunity for faith? Pray that you would allow your moments of anger to become moments of faith.

Pray: Pray for the courage to release your anger to God.

Memorize/Meditate: You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment… Matthew 5:21-22