Family Portrait: The Church

The gospel of grace leads to a gospel of love, which manifests itself in authentic gospel community. Although imperfectly, we are all presenting a picture for the world to see. As the gap between the church and culture continues to widen, Christians must make every effort to reflect the gospel of Christ more fully. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever attempted to take a good family picture or selfie with the family? Describe the

experience: What makes getting a family picture so difficult?

Read: Matthew 16; Colossians 1, 4; Philemon 1-7

Discuss:

1. How does our culture of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and selfies demonstrate our desire to present the best possible reflection of ourselves?

2. What does the word “church” mean? Why does God describe the church as the “body of Christ”? How have you seen the church as the “body of Christ”? Do you think that the church is doing a good job reflecting this portrait of Christ? How has the church failed as the body of Christ?

3. Why does the church get such a bad rap in our culture today? What are some of the faulty views about the church that you have experienced? How has the church traditionally viewed the culture around them? In what ways does Christ call the church to be a bridge to the culture?

4. The church of Colossae is a case study of the church’s purpose and work. In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul calls the church to think strategically and act urgently toward those outside of the church. How should the gospel be the center of the church’s mission? Describe Paul’s relationship with Philemon:

5. Philemon is the Apostle Paul’s shortest book but most personal. What characteristics did the church at Colossae reflect so vividly? How does reflecting Christ well demonstrate the “full knowledge of every good thing that is in Christ” and “refresh” both the church and the culture?

Pray: Pray that you and the church would reflect the best picture of Christ in our community.

Memorize/Meditate: I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. Philemon 1:6

Living With Courage in Difficult Times

The story of Gideon is a needed reminder that our inadequacy is a poor excuse for inactivity. We are not called to follow Christ because we are courageous, but rather God awakens courage in us with each step of obedience. -Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever had a time you cowered in fear? Describe the situation:

Read: Judges 21:25; Judges 6-8; Hebrews 11:32; 1 John 4

Discuss: 1. Describe the sin cycle in the book of Judges: What is the condition of God’s people at this point in history? Who is ruling over them?

2. What are your first impressions of Gideon? What made him afraid? Is this a healthy fear? What are the things that bring us fear in our lives today? How does fear keep us from obeying God?

3. Compare the words of God to the words of Gideon in 6:7-15. How did Gideon’s view of himself differ from God’s view of Him? How did Gideon’s view of the problem differ from God’s? In what ways do you feel inadequate for God’s service?

4. In 6:25-32 what was God’s first command to Gideon? Why was this important? How do small steps of obedience help move us to greater levels of opportunity? How do you account for Gideon’s need for more signs of God’s presence (6:36-40)? Why do you suppose God obliged Gideon’s “erratic” faith? Describe how God continued to work on Gideon’s faithfulness in the preparation for battle with the Midianites?

5. How does the story of Gideon show us God’s patience with His people? Gideon’s life ends oddly. Describe the overconfidence of Gideon: How do we move from lacking adequacy to overconfidence in our spiritual journey?

Pray: Pray that you would release the fear that grips you and step out in obedience in the places God is calling you.

Memorize/Meditate: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalms 56:3-4 O

The Aroma of Christ

The world doesn’t need more Christians to culturally assimilate. It needs dedicated followers who are willing to permeate their families, cities and workplaces with the aroma of Christ. -Pastor Dave

Open: Describe a smell that reminds you of a specific moment in your life:

Read: 2 Corinthians 2; Matthew 16; Romans 8

Discuss:

1. Describe the situation in Corinth: Why was Paul’s “spirit not at rest” in spite of the open doors in Troas? How do we get so focused on our own situations that we can neglect the mission of God? How have you seen this true at times in your own life?

2. Even though there was amazing ministry happening in Troas, Paul gave thanks to God for the victory in Christ. How can remembering our victory in Christ help us cope with disappointments and setbacks? In what ways does Christ “always” lead us in victory? Why do so many Christians live in defeat instead of victory?

3. Paul finds encouragement in the fact that he serves as the diffuser for the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. How do we as the church (and Christians specifically) diffuse the fragrance of Christ? Why does Paul change the word from “fragrance” to “aroma?” How is “aroma” used as a picture of sacrifice?

4. Describe the “triumphal procession”: In what ways does our lives in Christ bring about “life” to some and “death” to others? In what sense is knowing God fragrant to people who are open to God? In what way is this fragrance repugnant to people who are closed to God?

5. In what ways do your neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family experience the aroma of Christ through you? What steps can you take to make sure you carry the aroma of Christ every day?

Pray: Pray that you would infuse your family, workplace and friendships with the aroma of Christ. Pray that we as a church would permeate this region with the gospel.

Memorize/Meditate: But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

UnCommon

What makes God’s love so abounding, grace so amazing, and mercy so able? Holiness. You can’t have true, life-altering love, grace and mercy without a holy God. As Christians, there is a danger that these holy gifts become normal, everyday and commonplace. They can become mere artifacts in our lives instead of the active pursuit of our lives. - Pastor Dave

Open: Describe things that were once exceptional and rare but are now overly familiar and commonplace in your life:

Read: 2 Samuel 5-6; 1 Peter 1; Exodus 25

Discuss:

1. Describe the importance of the “ark of the covenant.” What did it represent? Why were David and the people of Israel bringing the “ark of God” to Jerusalem? Why wasn’t the ark in Jerusalem already?

2. Why did God act so strongly against Uzzah for doing what seemed to be a helpful deed? How does this affect our definition and understanding of holiness? How do we tend to make love, grace and mercy the opposite of holiness? How are these things uniquely connected when it comes to God?

3. After the death of Uzzah, David takes 90 days to ponder his mistake. Contrast the difference between David’s first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem with his second. What differences stand out to you? Why was the second attempt so meticulous?

4. Do you believe Christians are living holy lives? Why or why not? How should the gospel motivate and inspire holy living? How is holiness different than perfection? In what ways do we act ignorant to our call to holiness?

5. How does the story of David model the truth that direction trumps intention? Why are good intentions not enough? What holy things in your life have become common things?

Pray: Pray that you would be continually amazed by God’s holiness and consistently reflect His holiness in all that you do.

Memorize/Meditate: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

Habakkuk: God the Shelter

No matter how dark the night is or how hard the storm blows, we have not been abandoned to walk through the difficult seasons alone. God is working deep in our souls to bring us to the heights of hope that can only come from the depth of our faith. So believe deeply, remember constantly, and rejoice greatly. – Pastor Dave

Open: Describe a time when you wanted to quit, but faith in Christ kept you going:

Read: Habakkuk 3:1-19; Exodus 19-20; Joshua 10; Psalm 103; Philippians 4:4-7

Discuss:

1. Habakkuk chapter two ends with a call to be silent. Why is it so difficult to be silent in moments of turmoil and struggle? Describe “the dip” that we can face in our spiritual journey? How do most people respond to “the dips” in life?

2. 3:1 describes this section as a prayer. What specific requests does Habakkuk make in his prayer? What other elements of prayer do you find in this passage (other than making specific requests to God)? What are some things we can learn from Habakkuk’s prayer that might help us to be more effective in our own prayer life? In what sense did Habakkuk “fear” the work of the LORD (v. 2)?

3. Habakkuk recounts God’s past faithfulness toward Israel. When you find yourself in times of despair do you tend to reflect on other similar times you have suffered, or do you remember ways God has proved His faithfulness to you in the past? How has your spiritual health been directly affected by reviewing the benefits you have in salvation?

4. Describe a time you had to accept that God was doing something you didn’t like: What brought you to the point of acceptance? How does God’s concern for the salvation of His people fit within His stated purpose of sending the Chaldeans as instruments of judgment against Judah (ch.1:5-11)?

5. How does Habakkuk’s attitude in verses 16-19 of chapter 3 compare to what we found in chapter 1? How is it that Habakkuk can rejoice when he sees such a dismal future on the horizon? What can we learn from these verses when facing difficult times in our lives today?

Pray: In the unknown, unclear circumstances of life, pray that you would seek God as your shelter and strength. Take some time to review God’s past faithfulness in your life.

Memorize/Meditate: I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:18-19

Habakkuk: Where to Run When Things Go Wrong

In our spiritual journey, we all face seasons of waiting, times where it seems as if God is distant and withdrawn. The question isn’t will we wait; it’s will we wait passively or purposefully. In moments of waiting, God isn’t just working on a solution for us, He is working in us, to realign our focus and reinforce our faith. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever been in season of waiting? Describe the situation: What was the result?

Read: Habakkuk 2:1-3; Job 14:14; Psalm 27:14; 40:1-2; Isaiah 40; 2 Corinthians 4

Discuss:

1. Do you agree with this statement, “Silence doesn’t mean absence”? Why is silence from God so difficult? What makes seasons of waiting so difficult? While we know God hears our prayers, why do you think He sometimes calls us to wait for the answers? How is waiting connected to trust?

2. In spite of Habakkuk’s distress, what does each phrase in 2:1 indicate about Habakkuk’s attitude and expectations? Describe the function of the watchtower: How does stopping and withdrawing help us to refocus our feelings and realign our faith?

3. What does the statement at the end of 2:1, “what I will answer concerning my complaint,” mean? How is Habakkuk expecting God to correct him? What are the differences between passively waiting and purposefully waiting? Describe each of them:

4. God encourages Habakkuk to write down the vision (2:2). How does anchoring our souls in God’s character and promises help us endure seasons of waiting? Can you give some examples of Biblical characters who had to wait?

5. Everything has an appointed time (2:3). How does knowing that our season of waiting has an appointed time of completion call us to live confidently and faithfully in moments of pain? Describe this statement, “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”

Pray: Pray that you would learn to wait on God’s work to be accomplished in you even when you want Him to fix a situation for you.

Memorize/Meditate: Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

Habakkuk: Who's in Charge?

We all feel the tension between what we see happening around us and what we believe about God. Many times it leaves us asking deep-hearted questions about God’s character. But He doesn’t work as we predict. He isn’t limited to what we think He ought to do. Instead, He is accomplishing a greater plan than we can ever realize and calls us to trust His character even in the chaos of life. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever questioned God because you felt that he was distant or even silent? Explain the situation:

Read: Habakkuk 1; 2 Chronicles 34-36; Psalm 10:1

Discuss:

1. What are the things that make you question God? How do these things affect you personally? Have you ever looked around and questioned whether or not God was just? Should we ever question God in these ways?

2. What were Habakkuk’s questions? How have you asked these same questions? How does knowing that God is able to answer at any moment leave us frustrated? Why does God seem silent sometimes?

3. What is God’s answer to Habakkuk? Why is this answer so unexpected and unwanted? Has God ever used the unexpected in your life? Describe a situation:

4. Do you think it is possible for God to accomplish good without us even realizing it? Do you think God ever does good, wise, and perfect things that are beyond our present circumstance or understanding? Do you ever wonder, stand amazed, and give God glory even when you don’t understand what is happening around you? Do you trust God even when things don’t look favorable? Why or why not?

5. How do our questions reveal our thoughts about God? How can a longing for clarity in a situation become a call to faith?

Pray: Pray that you would recall the character of God in the chaotic moments of life.

Memorize/Meditate: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

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