Respond To Seeing Him

This week, I invited a new acquaintance at the gym to our Christmas Eve service. He seemed to be excited about it, as he and his family have been out of church for a while, and are looking for a way to “ease back in.” I keep a few of the invitation cards in my truck so I can continue to invite people. Who will be sitting with YOU on Christmas Eve?

If you haven’t already, why doesn’t your group take a second right now, go to our church Facebook Page, and like/share our Christmas Eve service event? Leave a comment also!  Your social interaction EXPONENTIALLY increases our reach!

 

Respond To His Worth

Have you ever lost something of symbolic value (i.e., a wedding ring, a family heirloom, or some sort of memorabilia)? If so, explain what made this item special, how it felt when you lost it, and if you were able to retrieve it later.

Which is worth more to you—monetary value or symbolic value?

What does the way we treat items of symbolic value say about how we think about the things they represent?

God had commanded that His nation, Israel, care for something valuable… The Ark of the Covenant. That ark represented dtheir history and relationship with YHWH, the One True God.

The Israeltes made a big mistake, though. They assumed that simply possessing the ark meant their relationship with God was good. They thought that simply having the Ark would make them strong, and give them victory over their enemies.

1 Samuel 4:1–11 (NLT)
At that time Israel was at war with the Philistines. The Israelite army was camped near Ebenezer, and the Philistines were at Aphek. The Philistines attacked and defeated the army of Israel, killing 4,000 men. After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”
So they sent men to Shiloh to bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were also there with the Ark of the Covenant of God.  When all the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD coming into the camp, their shout of joy was so loud it made the ground shake!
“What’s going on?” the Philistines asked. “What’s all the shouting about in the Hebrew camp?” When they were told it was because the Ark of the LORD had arrived, they panicked. “The gods have come into their camp!” they cried. “This is a disaster! We have never had to face anything like this before! Help! Who can save us from these mighty gods of Israel? They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness. Fight as never before, Philistines! If you don’t, we will become the Hebrews’ slaves just as they have been ours! Stand up like men and fight!”
So the Philistines fought desperately, and Israel was defeated again. The slaughter was great; 30,000 Israelite soldiers died that day. The survivors turned and fled to their tents. The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed.

Oops.

Israel got careless. They THOUGHT that simply having the ark with them in battle would be good enough… But Israel was supposed to care for and honor the Ark of the Covenant. It represented so much more than simple power.

Possessing the ark did not indicate a right relationship with God anymore than wearing a wedding ring indicates a healthy marriage. They symbol serves the greater reality, but the symbol does not control or define the greater reality.

Unfortunately, this was a tough lesson for the Israelites to have to learn. How many died that day?

This next set of passages is kind of long, but divide it up and read it together.

1 Samuel 4:12–5:5 (NLT)
A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefield and arrived at Shiloh later that same day. He had torn his clothes and put dust on his head to show his grief. Eli was waiting beside the road to hear the news of the battle, for his heart trembled for the safety of the Ark of God. When the messenger arrived and told what had happened, an outcry resounded throughout the town.
“What is all the noise about?” Eli asked.
The messenger rushed over to Eli, who was ninety-eight years old and blind. He said to Eli, “I have just come from the battlefield—I was there this very day.”
“What happened, my son?” Eli demanded.
“Israel has been defeated by the Philistines,” the messenger replied. “The people have been slaughtered, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also killed. And the Ark of God has been captured.”

When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark of God, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight. He had been Israel’s judge for forty years.
Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near her time of delivery. When she heard that the Ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth. She died in childbirth, but before she passed away the midwives tried to encourage her. “Don’t be afraid,” they said. “You have a baby boy!” But she did not answer or pay attention to them.
She named the child Ichabod (which means “Where is the glory?”), for she said, “Israel’s glory is gone.” She named him this because the Ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and husband were dead. Then she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.”

After the Philistines captured the Ark of God, they took it from the battleground at Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod. They carried the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside an idol of Dagon. But when the citizens of Ashdod went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the LORD! So they took Dagon and put him in his place again. But the next morning the same thing happened—Dagon had fallen face down before the Ark of the LORD again. This time his head and hands had broken off and were lying in the doorway. Only the trunk of his body was left intact. That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor anyone who enters the temple of Dagon in Ashdod will step on its threshold.

Why do you think losing the ark to the Philistines was a big deal to Eli and the Israelites?

How did losing the ark reflect the spiritual state of Israel at the time?

How did the Philistines repeat Israel’s mistake regarding God’s power and holding possession of ark?

God does not allow false gods to rob Him of His glory. How do you see this demonstrated in the passage so far? (Dagon’s statue)

What did the symbolic objects representing Dagon (statue) and Yahweh (ark with tablets) say about each of them and the differences between the two divine figures? How is Dagon about man reaching up to God, and the Ark about God reaching down to man?

What is God showing us in this incident between Dagon and The Ark?

1 Samuel 5:6–12 (NLT)
Then the LORD’s heavy hand struck the people of Ashdod and the nearby villages with a plague of tumors. When the people realized what was happening, they cried out, “We can’t keep the Ark of the God of Israel here any longer! He is against us! We will all be destroyed along with Dagon, our god.” So they called together the rulers of the Philistine towns and asked, “What should we do with the Ark of the God of Israel?”
The rulers discussed it and replied, “Move it to the town of Gath.” So they moved the Ark of the God of Israel to Gath. But when the Ark arrived at Gath, the LORD’s heavy hand fell on its men, young and old; he struck them with a plague of tumors, and there was a great panic.
So they sent the Ark of God to the town of Ekron, but when the people of Ekron saw it coming they cried out, “They are bringing the Ark of the God of Israel here to kill us, too!” The people summoned the Philistine rulers again and begged them, “Please send the Ark of the God of Israel back to its own country, or it will kill us all.” For the deadly plague from God had already begun, and great fear was sweeping across the town. Those who didn’t die were afflicted with tumors; and the cry from the town rose to heaven.

So, now it isn’t just Dagon. Now it is the Philistines themselves “falling down” before The Ark. What does this part of the story suggest about God’s commitment to display His holiness to the world?

The Philistines were just passing The Ark… The Holy Ark… The dwelling place of the presence of God… They were passing it around from place to place… How is this like the way people today think about God and worship Him?

What were they overlooking about The Ark? What were they missing here?

1 Samuel 6:1–9 (NLT)
The Ark of the LORD remained in Philistine territory seven months in all. Then the Philistines called in their priests and diviners and asked them, “What should we do about the Ark of the LORD? Tell us how to return it to its own country.”
“Send the Ark of the God of Israel back with a gift,” they were told. “Send a guilt offering so the plague will stop. Then, if you are healed, you will know it was his hand that caused the plague.”
“What sort of guilt offering should we send?” they asked.
And they were told, “Since the plague has struck both you and your five rulers, make five gold tumors and five gold rats, just like those that have ravaged your land. Make these things to show honor to the God of Israel. Perhaps then he will stop afflicting you, your gods, and your land. Don’t be stubborn and rebellious as Pharaoh and the Egyptians were. By the time God was finished with them, they were eager to let Israel go.
“Now build a new cart, and find two cows that have just given birth to calves. Make sure the cows have never been yoked to a cart. Hitch the cows to the cart, but shut their calves away from them in a pen. Put the Ark of the LORD on the cart, and beside it place a chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors you are sending as a guilt offering. Then let the cows go wherever they want. If they cross the border of our land and go to Beth-shemesh, we will know it was the LORD who brought this great disaster upon us. If they don’t, we will know it was not his hand that caused the plague. It came simply by chance.”

So these instructions were carried out. Two cows were hitched to the cart, and their newborn calves were shut up in a pen. Then the Ark of the LORD and the chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors were placed on the cart. And sure enough, without veering off in other directions, the cows went straight along the road toward Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went. The Philistine rulers followed them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.

What does this discussion and action of the Philistines show us about humanity’s knowledge of spiritual things?

I think the lesson for us here is, “Don’t take God’s presence for granted.”

What do you think? How do we become careless and presumptuous about God’s presence?

What steps should we take right now during the holiday season to respond appropriately to Him?

Worship is for Everyone

For today’s discussion, you will want to have a sheet of paper and something to write with. Make sure your group gets that together BEFORE you start the discussion questions this week.

Everyone Worships

Have you ever had a relationship with someone who frequently said one thing, but did another?  What do you call a person like that?

How do you feel about that person?

Can you trust someone like that?

Are we ever that way with God?

Worship is more about what we DO than what we SAY… What does this mean?

I think we are that way with God, mainly because we forget what we are here for. We think Christmas, along with everything in our lives, is about US. But what does the writer of Colossians say about that?

Colossians 1:15–17 (NLT)
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.

Take a minute and read that again, but this time read it quietly to yourself.

What word or thought stands out for you in that passage? Why?

Paul pleads with us to live differently. Read what he says about it here:

Romans 12:1–2 (NLT)
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The Apostle Paul, writing this letter the Romans really defines worship for us. And our worship should define everything else in our life. In fact, after this definition of worship, most of the rest of his letter is really just an expansion of how worship works in our life.

First, Paul gives us the context of how we should live lives of worship:

Romans 12:3–5 (NLT)
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: 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. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

What is the main point here?

How does this idea break the back of worshiping self?

How, then are we to truly worship God? Let’s do a little  project together. Grab your paper and read through the rest of Romans 12. (verses 6-21) As you read, jot down ways Paul is telling us to flesh out out true worship. In other words, if worship is more about what we do than what we say, then what are we supposed to do?

And, in verse 21, what is the result for each of us?

After you make your lists, spend some time in your group talking about this, and how we are to work out our worship.

The rest of the letter to the Romans pretty much fills out Paul’s thought on this. Read it this week!

Finding Contentment In Life

Think of the last movie you watched or book you read. Would you describe the main character as content? What about them made you describe them that way?

What are some things in your life that you are not content with?

On Sunday, we read the words of Paul, who had been through a LOT of bad stuff… After his rejection by his own people, the Jews, after the beatings, after the imprisonments, throughout the loneliness, the hunger, and the pain, Pau says this:

Philippians 4:11 (NLT)
I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

Do you think this was easy for Paul? Do you think it came naturally?

Compared to Paul’s circumstances, most of us have life pretty easy, don’t we? So, why do we find it so difficult to be content?

Paul “learned the secret” of contentment, (Philippians 4:12) and he didn’t want it to stay a secret. In fact, he wrote this letter to the church to help them explore that very secret! Here is how he puts it:

Philippians 2:14–15 (NLT)
Do everything without complaining and arguing…

Okay.. Can we stop right here for a second? I know I struggle with this, and I bet you do, also. I know… Because I hear it ALL THE TIME. I hear it from myself, and I hear it from seemingly everyone around me. Why are we who should be “full of joy,” and who should “shine like the sun” so quick to go negative?

(Wait, what? You aren’t negative? Okay… What were the last three things you said about politics, the weather, the holidays, and traffic?)

As a group, what can we do for each other about this?

Let’s go back to what Paul, the beaten, the imprisoned, the rejected says:

Philippians 1:27 (NLT)
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.

Describe that.

Is that us?

Philippians 2:14–15 (NLT)
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Paul tells us that there is a PURPOSE for our being positive, rather than negative… He wants no one to be able to criticize our attitudes. How does that last statement clarify our purpose in this dark, cynical, negative, politically polarized world?

How does our negativity undermine our purpose, dimming our light?

According to Paul, there is only one way to accomplish this… What is it? (see verse 16, below.)

Philippians 2:16 (NLT)
Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

It is easy for us to jump to the conclusion that the “word of life” is the Bible… But don’t forget… These people did not have a Bible. There literally wasn’t one yet. So, what is the “word of life?”

I think Paul describes this “word of life” as he writes to the church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 15:1–4 (NLT)
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

For Paul, the “word of life” is the gospel. Literally, the Good News of Jesus for us. Paul is showing us how the gospel transforms our very attitudes and changes the way we see and approach life.

It sure changed Paul, didn’t it? Because of the gospel, Paul was able to be content.

Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

What do you and I need to do during this holiday season to be reminded of who we are, and how we should live in a manner worthy?

Continue to Ask

On Sunday, Paul Stippich concluded his two-week mini-message series with us. Isn’t it great to have a guest speaker every now and then?

As part of his message preparation, Paul sent us the following questions for our discussion:

What is going on around Ellijay that we need to be burdened by? (okay.. That is a big question. Your group should probably spend some time on this one.)
James 2:14–17 (NLT)
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
How can our lifegroup begin to make a difference in some way? (in other words, dream up a project, pick a date, and start preparing!)
What season are you in with giving? Time, Talent (skills,) Talents (money,) touch.
What do you think about our church involvement with our community? How engaged are we with:
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • School assistance
  • Summer Food Program at Tower Road
  • Benevolence assistance
  • Downtown Outreaches
    • Independence Day
    • Halloween
    • Light Up Ellijay
  • Hope Tree
  • Community Christmas Celebration
To what level is our group involved?
How are we equipping the next generation to serve, rather than to be served?
What does a life without action look like? How would that affect our church?

Words In Action, Part 1

What kind of culture do you want to be a part of? Be as specific as possible.

What was an instance where you saw someone doing something remarkable, and you passed on saying something?

When is the last time you have made yourself available to have a long conversation with one of your friends / family members? If over a couple of weeks, brainstorm ideas and put the date on the calendar. Group accountability is key here.

When is the last time you have specifically acknowledged someone for great work and what was it about? When were you last acknowledged for something you did and what was it about?

Luke 19:7 NLT
But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

We talked about getting over your ego and going into the places where the hurt and broken are. What are the places around your community that would be good for you to get involved with?

What are some ways to encourage each other to continue to pursue and live out the year of A.S.K.?

Looking For The Wrong Thing

Family Day was awesome

Thank you to everyone who made this past Sunday our best Family Day ever! It was really a lot of fun AND very powerful. Families made musical instruments together, then we used them to sing some of our favorite songs. We helped parents have a strategy to “not skip a beat” over the next several weeks, and we challenged dads to be the spiritual leader in their homes.

Thanksgiving Turkeys

Hey, we are STILL in need of turkeys for the upcoming community Thanksgiving dinner. This is a great chance for US to cooperate with other churches to BE the Body of Christ in Gilmer County by providing a free Thanksgiving Dinner to anyone who wants or needs one.

Sign up to help HERE

Who is your “Joshua?”

On Sunday, we talked about how Israel went into the darkest period of their history as a nation because Joshua didn’t have a Joshua. What does that mean to you?

Think about a typical week of your life. What responsibilities do you have each week? Who do you see and where do you go?

Out of the places you frequent, including your work, how would you describe your relationships in those places?

We recognize the big name folks in the New Testament, but there are so many others who’s names we may or not remember. These men and women are no less significant and represent to us a picture of gospel partnership and friendship among the early church. Paul met many of these people in his daily lives and they became much needed partners in his ministry.

Acts 18:1–3 (NLT)
Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was.

Acts 18:24–26 (NLT)
Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.

Why do you think Luke included this reference to Paul’s staying with Aquila and Priscilla and working with them as a tentmaker? What do we learn about Paul’s ministry approach from these details?

Paul was an evangelist… Someone who spread the Good News. But, he didn’t make his living by preaching, right? What did he do for a living?

While in Corinth, Paul worked as a means to an end. But, I am certain that Paul did not see himself as a maker of tents. Paul earned a living to fund his mission.  Paul did what he did so he could be who God wanted him to be.

How is that different from our typical American mentality towards our work?

What does the fact that Aquila and Priscilla left Corinth with Paul suggest about the relationship he had built with this couple?

What do we learn about Apollos from the verses above? What lessons can we learn from Priscilla and Aquila’s investment in Apollos’s life? What key truths about Jesus would have been included in their teaching?

Apollos was well educated, and a cultured, eloquent person. As a Jew, he was well-versed in the Old Testament. Apollos learned about Jesus from others who passed the word along.

BVut Apollos only knew part of the story. He knew about John the Baptist, but didn’t realize that Jesus was the Messiah. That’s why Priscilla and Aquila had to step in. This husband and wife team heard Apollos’s teaching, and they recognized it to be incomplete. Priscilla and Aquila filled in the gaps- including Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection.

Who might God be putting on your heart to tell about Jesus? Why might it be challenging to listen to that person attentively and engage him or her in conversations about faith?

Romans 16:3–5 (NLT)
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.
Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ.

2 Timothy 4:19 (NLT)
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila and those living in the household of Onesiphorus.

What must these believers have meant to Paul to include them in his most important missionary letter and the last piece he ever wrote?

Who are those friends that you would count on when it matters most? Who has invested in your life in an impactful way?

Who has invested in your faith like Priscilla and Aquila invested in Paul, Apollos, and others? How have they done that?

If you are married, how can you invest in someone or disciple another couple together as a family?

How can you minister and disciple your spouse and children?

As you pray together, pray for each other’s heart towards others, and for God to speak into and through us to bring someone specific (pray by name) to Himself.

What Just Happened?

Thank You

Over the past few weeks, YOU gave over 13,000 pieces of candy for kids downtown on Halloween. (that is, 13,000 by Saturday, October 27!) Each piece of candy is a potential opporrtunity to make a connection to a family this week, and invite them in to Christ.

NOT ONLY have SO MANY people brought candy, but Dianne Fowler tells me that we have PLENTY of volunteers to work this important community event!  You guys are just awesome. What a privilege to be part of a group that is COURAGEOUS, and outward-focused!

Thanksgiving Dinner

The other big thing we’re doing is serving together at the Thanksgiving Dinner, which is November 17. This is a GREAT opportunity for us to work with believers in multiple churches from across Gilmer County to say “thank you” to God for our neighbors.  This Thanksgiving meal is free to anyone and everyone.  Your group can do a shift along with me there!

SIGN UP HERE

Discussion Questions

What is one physical or character attribute you know you inherited from your parents?

If you have children, what is one characteristic of yourself that you see in them right now?

All of us have inherited something from our parents. Most of these qualities are passed down unintentionally, simply by virtue of our relationship. But the pattern for discipleship, and therefore the completion of the Great Commission, is more intentional. In order for us to complete our assigned mission, we engage in this process of multiplication. (making disciples that make disciples.)

The Apostle Paul challenges his young apprentice Timothy to be courageous. “Be strong . . . suffer hardship . . . remember Jesus Christ.” Those are the words of counsel to Timothy in a fallen world, in an imperfect church, facing many persecutions, and many dangers, as he lives and ministers. It takes courage to lead and courage to follow. These words are not only inspired words for a minister of the gospel, they were suitable for all those in the Ephesian church, and they are suitable words for us today, as we multiply courageous ministry.

2 Timothy 1:1–7 (NLT)
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.
 I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.
May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.

Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

What do you learn here about Paul and Timothy’s relationship?

Who did Timothy first learn about Christ from? Who set an example for him in how to follow Christ when he was young?

What do you think it means to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you”? What does that mean with reference to our relationships with others?

In this letter, Paul wanted to continue discipling Timothy, a ministry Lois and Eunice had started long before Paul had visited their city. Paul began to build on their work of exhorting Timothy. Paul was reminding Timothy that it was time to add fuel and fan the coals of his ministry into an open flame by recalling the passion he had felt at his ordination into ministry and the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. God’s desire for His people is to demonstrate a strong, enduring lifestyle of faith, even if that genuine faith resembles glowing coals hidden beneath the ashes of long-past victories. Paul’s challenge should encourage us to take seriously the influence we have over the people in our lives and to look for ways to actively point them to Christ.

2 Timothy 1:8–18 (NLT)
So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.
 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.
As you know, everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me—even Phygelus and Hermogenes.
May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me. May the Lord show him special kindness on the day of Christ’s return. And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus.

In what way does Paul describe the gospel here?

Why was Paul worried about shame? What kept Paul from being ashamed of the gospel? What keeps you from being ashamed?

Paul was afraid that Timothy and others would be ashamed of the testimony of Christ, and that they would be ashamed of Paul himself because he was in chains. Some may construe Paul’s incarceration as a sign that he was giving up on the gospel, or that he did not believe that he needed to keep proclaiming the truth of Christ. Salvation is through Christ and so is the gospel, it was not about Paul.

2 Timothy 2:1–13 (NLT)
Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.
Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
This is a trustworthy saying:

If we die with him, we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.
If we deny him, he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.

If you’ve been mentored, what was that relationship like? If you haven’t had a mentor, who has been a spiritual leader or example in your life?

How are you carrying on their legacy of multiplying gospel truths?

Timothy’s ministry would play out much differently than Paul’s, but Paul knew that no matter the scenario, remaining strong in faith was necessary. The more active we are in ministry, the more we realize the need for a source of strength outside of ourselves. Paul used multiple examples of endurance, but the common theme was discipline and sacrifice. The metaphors Paul used bring to mind words like loyalty, commitment, patience, labor, stamina, and selflessness. In each case, personal circumstances and comforts take a backseat to leadership and evangelism.

Why is our courageous ministry important for future generations?

Evaluate your passion for those who do not know Jesus. What are you willing to do for the sake of their salvation? What steps can be taken to endure hardship for their sake?

When we endure, we have the ability to share the gospel. At times we do not share our faith because we fear what others may think. We must remember what Paul says, that sharing the gospel is for the sake of their salvation, not our reputation.

Look again at Paul’s “trustworthy saying.” What were the incentives Paul focused on that allowed him to endure, regardless of circumstances?

If we die with him, we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.
If we deny him, he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.

How do the above two promises inspire you to courageously share your faith?

The notion of endurance presumes an active, courageous Christian life. No endurance or courage is necessary if we seclude ourselves from the world and don’t spread the gospel. However, the calling to follow Jesus requires activity, and thus, endurance. In this final trustworthy saying, Paul gives Timothy the incentive of enduring in faith to the end of our lives as he had modeled.

What is one area of your life in which you need a greater dependence on the strength and grace of Jesus to live out courageous ministry? How are you going to remind yourself of that need this week?

How are you following the pattern of Jesus and Paul right now in multiplying disciples?

PRAYER
Pray that we would come to understand the biblical multiplication process for making disciples. As a group, pray that you would all be actively engaged in this process, continuing to depend on the grace of Christ, invest in the people of Christ, and repeat the pattern of Christ.

Dealing With Suffering

This was the final message in this series.  You can listen to the whole series on our website. You can even browse through previous message series as well.

Will Your Group Serve For Gilmer?

above: Mary Callihan invites people to Family Day

above: We definitely get all kinds when we’re downtown.

Has your group decided when to serve downtown? This year, we are going to be at the River Street Parking Lot, right beside the Times Courier, and we will most likely be serving more kids and families than ever before. Will you serve a shift?

SIGN UP HERE

Thanksgiving “Thank You” Dinner

The other big thing we’re doing is serving together at the Thanksgiving Dinner, which is November 17. This is a GREAT opportunity for us to work with believers in multiple churches from across Gilmer County to say “thank you” to God for our neighbors.  This Thanksgiving meal is free to anyone and everyone.  Your group can do a shift along with me there!

SIGN UP HERE

Lifegroup Discussion Questions: Suffering

If your group hasn’t already discussed our upcoming Halloween outreach, would you please swipe back up to the top of this page and have a look?  These questions will still be here when you get back to them.

I mentioned that I had preached about this topic before. Here is my message from April last year that can’t hold a candle to what Lee Stroebel says:

What is one thing you quit doing as a kid or teenager that you wish you would have stuck with? Was it playing a sport? Learning an instrument? A difficult class in school?

Why did you quit? Why do you wish you would have stayed with it?

At some point in our lives, all of us have quit something. But sticking with a challenge is one of the ways we learn to persevere. Perseverance is one of the most important characteristics we find God building into His people throughout Scripture. Nobody knew the value of perseverance more than Job who had every reason in the world to give up. But when our circumstances might make us want to give up because we can’t see what God is doing, we can still trust Him when we take our eyes off those circumstances and place them on Him.

Job 1:1-5 (NLT)
There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.  He had seven sons and three daughters.  He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.
Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.

Based on these verses, what kind of man was Job?

What do you think the people in his community thought about him?

By all accounts, Job was a respected and upstanding member of his community. In fact, based on these verses, he had everything anyone could ever want. But pain and suffering is no respecter of qualities like these; it comes on us all at some point in our lives. Job’s blessed life was about to be turned upside down.

Job 1:6–12 (NLT)
One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the LORD asked Satan. Satan answered the LORD, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”
Then the LORD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”
Satan replied to the LORD, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”
“All right, you may test him,” the LORD said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence.

Who brought Job into the conversation—Satan or God? Why is that important to know?

Job 1:13–22 (NLT)
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The LORD gave me what I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!”

In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

Can you imagine responding to these types of circumstances in your life the way Job did? How do we typically respond?

What are some ways Job might have responded to what he was going through?

What does Job’s confession, “Praise the name of the Lord,” show you about his faith?

Why is it hard to remember that God is still God and that God is still good when you’re experiencing pain?

Do you think it would have made a difference to Job if he would have known why this was happening to him? Why or why not?

Job recognized that his circumstances were more than a streak of bad luck. God is sovereign in both good times and bad times. But Job chose instead of focusing on his circumstances to look higher. True faith is not dependent on our circumstances; it must find its root in something that does not change—the character of God.

Hebrews 12:1–2 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

How does fixing our eyes on Jesus instead of our circumstances help us to not give up?

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NLT)
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Why is it so hard for us to remember that “our present troubles are small and won’t last very long?”

No matter what’s happening in our circumstances, God is working for good.

How have you seen God use your pain for your progress?

Our job isn’t to know exactly what He’s doing; our job is to hold on and not give up. When things are falling apart around us, the best thing we can do is trust.

How can we best pray for people in our group who are going through pain right now?

Hey, did I mention the Halloween Outreach?

Five Reasons We Do Halloween Downtown

Every year, we head downtown for the big Halloween Trick or Treat event.  There, we love on kids and families by providing interactive games, candy, and more. We LOVE it. Some people aren’t too sure why a church would participate in a Halloween event, so I thought I would publish these five reasons:

Making the Gospel Relevant

We believe we are called to this more than anything. Making the gospel “relevant” simply means to bring it right to where it applies to people the most. It means to make it alive and to connect it in a meaningful way to people. We do NOT want to be one of those “come to us” churches, we are a REACHING church, so we do whatever we can to step towards our community!

Doing Things Nobody Is Doing

When we first started doing this, NOBODY else was serving families downtown. In fact, this “event” was little more than a cruel joke. We just happened to discover that families from all over Gilmer County were descending on downtown Ellijay, and we just knew we wanted to get right into the middle of them with the love of Jesus!

What Every Parent Wants

We believe that every parent wants to be a better parent. That’s a big part of why we are “Orange.” Our Children’s Ministry philosophy is not about daycare… It is about resourcing and equipping parents to disciple their kids, and about us backing them up each weekend.

We Are The Light Of The World

Jesus is pretty clear that our role is to light the world… Why would he give us light, only for us to hide it under a basket, or keep it within the walls of a church building?  Instead, he says “let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Jesus Went There

Okay, he may or may not have attended some downtown event, but he did hang with the common people. He partied with Levi and his fellow tax collectors, causing the religious people to complain that he would “eat and drink with such scum.” Jesus response was just classic: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (Luke 5:29-32)

You should go there

It is really hard to get younger families to sign up for helping at this event… Most parents want to be able to spend Halloween trick or treating with their kids. Who can blame them? Maybe you can go there and be part of serving alongside us downtown this year. Would you hit the link and sign up to serve?

SIGN UP HERE

Thanks for the Reminder, God! UPDATE: containers in now

We’re going to BUILD A WALL, and….

Wait. Not the same thing. At all.

There’s a privacy fence up on part of our property now. Why? Because God decided to give us a little reminder.

The elders were recently talking about the increased expenses that we have around the church right now. (Continued building expenses, not to mention a new roof needed on the 30-year old office trailer to replace the rotten one there now.) I was a little down, wondering if these expenses were ever going to actually decrease, or if they were going to continue onward and upward. I think I expressed a desire for God to just give us a little fistbump… Just a little encouragement that His plan was still better than our plan.

That’s when it happened.

Out of the blue, we received a phone call from Doug Williams at World Fiber Technologies. His company is going to be in the area area installing new traffic signals for the next 7 or 8 months, and need a staging area for their equipment.  SO, they are renting a one-acre section of our property through May or so, and they are paying The Orchard Church $1000 per month!  They have put up the privacy fence, and have just a little bit of equipment up there now.  Don’t worry… There will be much more to come.

Thanks for the fistbump, God!

Please Continue Anyway

So, YES, the gate will now have a lock on it while that one acre is being rented, but PLEASE continue to go up there whenever you want to.  (you can just walk around the gate, but you can’t get a vehicle up there.) Watch the sunrise, sunset, just walk around, and most importantly, CONTINUE TO PRAY on our property for what God will be doing up there NEXT!

 

UPDATE:

Storage containers brought in!