I am Thirsty

John 19:28 (NLT)
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.”

John makes sure to tell us that Jesus’ mission had been accomplished. What does that mean to you? (use the next verses as a guide)

Hebrews 9:22–26 (NLT)
In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.
That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.
For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

Just before Jesus died that day, he said “I am thirsty.” He made this statement knowing that everything he had been sent for was completed. The theological term for this is “substitutionary atonement…” Jesus was our substitute. He atoned for our sins in our place.

We sinned, He died
We were guilty,
He took our punishment.

Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah explained it like this:

Isaiah 53:6 (NLT)
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

Romans 5:8–9 (NLT)
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.

And like this:

Galatians 3:13 (NLT)
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. 

Peter the fisherman/pastor said it like this:

1 Peter 2:24 (NLT)
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.
By his wounds you are healed.

John, the closest friend of Jesus might have been the clearest:

John 3:16–17 (NLT)
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

What, according to Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, is so unique about Jesus?

Colossians 1:15–20 (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.
Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

As we get closer and closer to Easter, how does it make you feel to know that God loves you enough that He sent His Son as a sacrifice for you?

How should your life reflect the fact that your debt of sin has been declared fully paid by Jesus?

How do we tend to take that gift of grace for granted?

As your group closes in prayer, why don’t you pray together for specific people that you are inviting to join you for Easter Sunday?

 

Father, Forgive Them

We’re in this “Red Letter Day” series to prepare our hearts and minds for Easter Sunday. Can you believe that it is just five Sundays from now? Easter is our very best opportunity for Kingdom influence all year long, and I really hope that you are already praying with me about what God would do in and through us on this most important day.

Whatever God wants to do, he will do through us. Are you thinking and praying about that neighbor, co-worker, or friend that you will be bringing with you to the football field on Easter Sunday morning? In your group, make a prayer list of people who you are inviting to Easter Sunday. Use that list for prayer tonight, and at each life group meeting for the weeks leading up to Easter.

Rebecca has created a GREAT landing page for you to use as you invite people to Easter on the Field… Tap the big image here to check it out.

Forgiveness

When you think about forgiveness, is there a particular person who comes to mind? Why that person?

Do you think most people in the world truly understand forgiveness? Why or why not?

What kinds of things hold us back from truly receiving and giving forgiveness?

We forgive others because we have been forgiven by God. In fact, our willingness to forgive others is directly related to our understanding of just how much God has forgiven us. When Jesus told us to forgive others, He emphasized the relationship between the forgiveness we give with the forgiveness we’ve been given. His parable of the unforgiving slave helps us see that when Christians forgive, we demonstrate the forgiveness, grace, and love of God.

Matthew 6:9–15 (NLT)
Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Why do you think Jesus chose forgiveness as the only subject in the Lord’s Prayer that he tied to people’s actions?

According to Jesus, what is the true reason we forgive? How is that different from most people’s motivation to forgive?

Why is it so important for us to practice forgiveness?

Why is it so difficult?

Jesus emphasized forgiveness because it, above all else, shows that a person understands what God has done. Jesus emphasized our inability to pay for sins ourselves in a parable later in Matthew.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT)
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

What do you think Peter expected Jesus to say when he asked if someone should forgive a brother seven times?

Do you think Jesus’ answer surprised Peter?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that forgiving someone might be the same as enabling them? If so, share. How do you think Jesus would handle that situation?

When is the last time you felt in awe of the forgiveness God has shown? How can you make that a regular part of your life?

Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive right now? What is keeping you from giving forgiveness?

Do you think forgiveness is easier the first time or the 100th time? Why?

What is one practical way our group can show God’s grace to our community?

Moral Margin

How have you seen your life or the life of someone you know impacted by sexual sin?

The pattern of sin is described in this passage that we looked at on Sunday:

James 1:13–15 (NLT)
And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

In your own words, what is the pattern of falling into sin?

What are some of the defenses and safeguards that you have in place that help you move in the right direction, rather than settling in with sin?

In what areas of your life could you use more moral margin? How can you go about creating that margin?

Romans 6:12–14 (NLT)
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

God has given us a higher calling, to life, rather than to death. All of us face temptation to go in the wrong direction. Describe how you have been able to live up to that standard and how difficult it can be.

How can we help each other in living with moral margin?

Financial Margin

Finally! Financial Peace

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is really the best thing anyone can do for their personal financial situation. We loved it. You can get details and sign up right here.

Finding Financial Margin

What messages does our culture send about money and finances?

Do you have any fears in regard to money and finances? What are they?

We all have fears when it comes to finances. We struggle between what we need and what we want, and we treat money as if it is eternal, even though we know that we can’t take it with us when we die. For those reasons and more, finances create a lot of anxiety in our lives. If we ever want to live with a sense of contentment rather than fear, we must learn to trust the God who is an abundant provider.

James 4:1–4 (NLT)
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

What prayer problems does James highlight in this passage? What are the implications of this text on your prayers for wisdom in financial matters?

How is your fear of finances affected by lack of prayer or praying with the wrong motives?

James wrote to first-century Christians, exposing bad practices and teaching them right Christian beliefs and the behavior that should follow. In chapter 4 of his letter, he wrote about prayerlessness and wrongly motivated prayer practices. James pointed out their lack of prayer, and God’s seeming unresponsiveness to their prayers. The latter stemmed from the fact that they prayed for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons.

1 Timothy 6:6–8 (NLT)
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

How does Paul’s view of contentment compare with the modern world’s view of contentment?

Why does God want His children to be content? What is He trying to teach us?

What does lack of contentment say about our view of God’s provision for us?

How does the Apostle Paul describe his own contentment?

Philippians 4:11-13 NLT
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 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 made Paul’s contentment possible?

2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NLT
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

What words in these verses describe the attitude about giving that God will honor? What words describe attitudes God will not honor?

How does your attitude affect your giving? What is the result of giving reluctantly or because someone compelled you to do so?

Believers are to give generously and cheerfully. Giving will be neither generous nor cheerful if givers are anxious about meeting their own needs. Christians may have reasoned that the more they gave, the less they would have and the more likely they would become dependent on the giving of others.

How did Paul instruct the Corinthians to become more cheerful givers?

How do you interpret the promise of good return for your giving? Have you experienced this?

What is God’s purpose in providing the giver everything he needs?

Paul was not advocating that we give so we can get rich. On the contrary, when one’s giving is an expression of God’s grace, God will provide more to the giver, who then will be able to give even more. God sees far more clearly than we do that all worldly wealth is temporary. He expects His people to invest their financial resources in ways that will endure for eternity. Generous giving is not to be done haphazardly but purposefully.

Whether you consider yourself wealthy or not, as someone living in America, more than likely, comparatively, you are. Of those born in the United States, almost all will be in the world’s richest 20%. With that in mind, read 1 Timothy 6:17-19. What are God’s expectations for people who are “rich in this present age,” according to this passage?

Why is generosity an effective way to combat the false pride and false security that money brings?

What is one practical way you can pursue contentment in Jesus this week?

Does anything in particular need to change in the way you are approaching your finances? How can we hold each other accountable for that change?

Scheduling Margin

This entry is for week two of the “Margin” message series. I have received a TON of feedback on this series. Seems it is really touching a nerve with a lot of people! I know I need this as much as anybody. I find myself busy all the time, and even though I have learned a lot about how to schedule my own margin, putting the “big rocks” in first, I don’t have it fully down yet. I still have a ways to go. I hope we can move that direction together.

$3554!!!

Can you believe that our little church gave that much to the Tower Road playground project in that short spur of the moment? Wow!! We are doing some research and putting together a plan. Our hope is to be able to get some super-strong steel playground equipment out there, which won’t just last a few years, but will survive for generations to come.  When it all comes together we will let you know, and we can all be part of installing it out there.

Meanwhile, you can STILL give to that project. Just tap here to give now.

Financial Margin

Dave Ramsey’s Finanical Peace University is starting up at The Orchard again really soon. I KNOW so many of us deal with financial pressure. Lots of us went through FPU together a couple of years ago, and it changed our lives! Check out the details here and sign up to create financial margin in your life.

Yep, we’re planning on doing Easter on the field for our community again this year, this time with some EXTRA special surprises! Trust me, your friends, neighbors, and co-workers will WANT to be there. So, start praying THIS WEEK about who God would have you bring with you to our Easter On The Field Celebration!

Scheduling Margin

In this series, I am challenging you to think about your “big rocks.” What are those in your life? What are your best things?

What steals us from those best things?

On Sunday, I briefly talked about saying “no” to good things so you can say “yes” to the best things… We know this is important, but we aren’t very good at doing this. What keeps us from saying “no” well?

Was this hard for Jesus?

It may look like Jesus was always just reacting… Always just dealing with the situations as they came. But, a closer look reveals that Jesus actually had a strategy:

Mark 1:32–39 (NLT)
That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

Is this the only case you can think of where Jesus said “no” to the demands made of him?

John 5:1-9 (NLT)
Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

How many “sick people” were presesnt at the Pool of Bethesda?

How many did Jesus heal?

As far as we can tell, there were no other miracles from Jesus that day by that pool. What does this tell us about Jesus and his focus on what he wanted to do?

How does this tie to the principle that “Activity does not equal accomplishment?”

What determines your daily calendar? Are you more prone to live in reaction mode, or are you proactive in your schedule?

Do you tend to react more to the urgency of immediate needs, or to the voice of God? Are your days filled by your priorities, or by the demands of others?

How do you balance the two?

Did you ever wish you had more hours in a day? Sounds like it could be nice. But, what do you think would happen if we suddenly had 30 hours each day, instead of 24?

What can we do to set our priorities, and prioritize our schedule for those “big rocks” more effectively?

Intro To Margin

Don’t miss this

This series is going to be a really practical attack on the stress and pain in our lives. SO many people that I know are really dealing with this issue right now, and I don’t want you to miss out on any of it. In fact, you may want to go back and re-listen or re-watch parts of this series again.

TAP TO WATCH/LISTEN

Of course, the best way to stay up to date is to subscribe to have our podcast delivered automatically to your device. You can subscribe using your favorite podcast app. (I use Apple Podcasts. Podbean is a good one, and is free on the Google Play store and the Apple App Store)

Also, I HIGHLY recommend the Bible app.. Did you know that if you log in, you can access reading plans, read in community with others, and even save your Sunday message notes for later reference?

This combination of great resources can really help you create MARGIN, and learn to know God’s will for your life in 2019.

Intro to Margin

Margin is the amount available beyond what is necessary. Explain what margin looks like in your life right now.

Let’s look at this very relevant story once again:

Luke 10:38–42 (NLT)
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Do you think Jesus was harsh with Martha?

What was the “one thing” that was worth being concerned about?

Does that seem right to you? Is that the way we live our daily lives?

So, one of the “laws of marginless living” is that “when margin decreases, stress increases.” What are some of the things that are currently causing you the most stress? How does that stress affect your relationships? How does it affect other areas in your life?

How does this stress affect your relationship with God?

When it comes down to it, lack of margin is a result of lack of faith, isn’t it? In what areas of your life do you need to place more faith in God?

An idol is anything that comes before God, right? So, isn’t lack of margin a result of idolatry? What are some things you are placing before God?

How can we change this?  Discuss specific ways.

Matthew 11:28–29 (NLT)
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

On Sunday, I assigned some homework. How is that working out for you?

Fortunately, Martha, the marginless, learned her lesson.

Later, Martha’s home was once again filled with guests. Many relatives, friends, and neighbors had crowded into her home to morn the loss of Martha’s brother, Lazarus. The place was packed. Once again, there was much to be done. But when word came that Jesus was on his way, Martha dropped it all, left the house, and went out to meet Jesus, alone. She reached him before he arrived in her village, and she spent time there with him. During this conversation, Martha makes one of the greatest professions in the New Testament:

John 11:27 (ESV)
Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha ended up chosing the best thing.

Take some time with the best thing this week. Start small! Spend 5 minutes tomorrow to rest with Christ. Remove distractions for just those few minutes and allow him an opportunity to renew your heart and your mind.

Begin the process of reducing some of the stress in your life this week. Identify one or more things that are creating too much stress and create a plan to reduce that stress. Not only write down your plan of action, but have someone hold you accountable as you carry it out!

The Right Message

We are already known as a church that does a lot for our community. I am so excited that we are going to bring that idea to our new “branding.”

It seems that in many cases, the church is actually out of favor with the community. Some churches act almost adversarial, in an “us vs. them” mindset. WE believe that we are here FOR Gilmer, because we believe JESUS is FOR GILMER. Right? So, when we finally put up a sign on our new property, it won’t be an “us” sign… As in, “Future home of… us.”  Instead, it will boldly state our purpose… We are here “FOR GILMER.”

Super Sunday was Awesome

It is hard to believe that it has been ten years. I started this blog ten years ago! In fact, here is my second blog entry, about purchasing our first sound equipment, to be used for our launch service in the movie theater. (remember that equipment, John Crawford?) It had a merciless HUM that we couldn’t stop no matter what we tried. UNTIL God sent us John Crawford, who was able to cure it for us!

A really big THANK YOU to everyone who helped out with Sunday’s party. It was really awesome. We had the chance to look back, to celebrate what God has been doing, and to look forward to what He might be up to next! If you didn’t see the video that we made to tell the story, you can watch it below!

New Series This Sunday

I recently changed up my message series plan, because I am really feeling that practically everyone I know is just overloaded with all the responsibilities and obligations that they are trying to keep up with in their lives right now. Everyone seems to be at the end of their strength, patience, time, and abilities. We need help creating space in our lives!  Me too!  So, this series begins on Sunday. I hope you’ll be with me, and that you’ll bring someone with you.

Discussion: Partners In Ministry

Did you play sports or do any extra-curricular activities in high school? What were they?

Why did you do those?

What did you love about them? What did you hate about them?

When my daughter was in school, she was a cheerleader, and she played soccer. She LOVED soccer, but she HATED cheering. I don’t know what other cheer squads are like, but hers was… Difficult. Those girls honestly never had any idea what was happening on the field during the game… They just knew they were supposed to cheer when the crowd gets loud. The cheerleaders did not play any games, and did not have any rivals to defeat. So they fought each other! That squad was full of drama and infighting and pettiness.

The soccer team, on the other hand, ran drills and practiced together. They used each other’s strengths to fight together to accomplish one thing: winning! They ran, kicked, sweat, bled, fought, won, and lost together as a team. They had a common goal that they all rallied around and celebrated together whenever they won. As a result, those girls were all tight with each other. I still love bumping into some of them from time to time.

Okay.. You might have to think about this for a minute. How is the typical church today more like cheerleading than soccer-playing?

Have you been in one of those? What is that like? (I am thinking about committees, power-families, traditionalism, etc.)

I think the concept of local church membership is partly to blame for this. I don’t believe in local church membership.

First of all, I believe God has been clear with us that local churches don’t make us members… JESUS makes us members. See this in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:19–20 (NLT)
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

Nowhere in the New Testament do you find a verse, instruction, appeal, or command to become a member of a local church.

However, ALL THROUGHOUT the New Testament you find believers who are deeply connected to a local church. In fact, you ONLY find believers that are connected in a deep relationship with the local church. There is no “lone ranger” christian in God’s Word. That is a foreign concept.

The apostle Paul planted a bunch of churches, but there was one church he had a very special connection with. It was this church, the church at Phillipi, which took care of Paul. They funded his mission trips, prayed for him, encouraged him, sent people with him, and saw themselves as an integral part of making the gospel relevant to the world. Paul referred to this church in a unique way:

Philippians 1:4–5 (NLT)
Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.

Paul encouraged his people to stand together. He was clear with them that they were all citizens (members) of heaven, but that they were also connected to each other locally…

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. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Philippians 2:2 (NLT)
Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

How does Paul imply here that they are to be more like soccer players than cheerleaders?

I think a lot of times, we get focused in on our own little pet projects. I see it in churches when they fight over the new hymnals, or whether to wear choir robes, or what color the carpet ought to be. We hate that, don’t we? But, Paul encourages his partners to live with a much bigger picture in mind:

Philippians 3:20–21 (NLT)
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Why is it important for us to live with this bigger picture in mind?

At The Orchard, we’ve identified five different levels of leadership development. Everybody is in one of the five stages. Do you know yours? We think that someone choosing to partner is one of the marks of spiritual maturing. In fact, when considering someone for a key leadership role, leading teams and leaders, the individual’s partnership status is one of the first factors we consider.

As partners, we are working together to accomplish something far bigger than ourselves… So we live our lives as an example to others around us. Like Paul did…

Philippians 4:9 (NLT)
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Clearly, the Bible places a high level of importance on partnering together. Have you partnered with us for this year? We are out to win this.

PARTNER HERE

 

Holy Spirit Power

I am really excited to be celebrating our TENTH ANNIVERSARY this weekend together at Super Sunday! Tap the image below for details.

Dealing with Death… To Self

What is the most difficult decision you have ever made? Why was it so hard?

What has been the most challenging part about the decision you made to follow Christ?

To follow Christ in obedience may require hard choices. When we choose to follow Jesus, we choose sacrifice over selfishness, the cross over comfort, and God’s mission over maintaining the status quo. That’s the nature of the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:18–20 (NLT)
One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.”
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!”

What is Peter saying here about Jesus? Why is this so significant? What does this mean?

“Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah,” which means “Annointed One.” The Messiah was the promised deliverer of God’s people, commonly thought to be a militaristic overthrower of the Roman opression and take over as king of Israel in Jerusalem. Peter’s declaration is, in that sense, a kingly declaration, isn’t it?

This is the critical moment for the disciples. For the very first time, a declaration is being made about Jesus’ identity. Up until this point, a year and a half into Jesus’ ministry with his disciples, nobody has dared uttered these words that Peter seems to just blurt right out. I’m sure they had all thought… Hoped… That Jesus might, in fact be the chosen one… That this man who had chosen them was going to be the history-maker, the life-changer that their hopes were pinned on. But nobody was bold enough to ask it out loud. I bet this was a HUGE moment for these guys. As Peter said this, I am sure each disciple was wide-eyed and looking at Jesus to see how he might respond.

At this moment, these disciples have connected all the dots on their own… They have put it together without Jesus having to point it out to them specifically.  They know his secret identity!  So, Jesus responds… But Jesus’ response is NOT what you might think!

Luke 9:21–22 (NLT)
Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Wait.. What?

Jesus acknowleges being the Messiah, but that they should keep it secret? He tells them that he will be killed? Can the Messiah even BE killed? Why did Jesus take their newfound understanding and immediately shut them down?

Knowing what you know about the disciples’ understanding of Jesus mission and purpose… Watching how they scattered the way they did after he was taken by the Romans… Do you think they could even hear what he was saying about being “raised from the dead?”

Jesus, obviously to us now, would not establish his kingdom by military overthrow. Instead, how did he begin his movement? How does what he actually did contrast with what had been expected of the Messiah?

Jesus shows us that the only path to power is the cross. (that was one of the fill-ins from Sunday!) In what ways do modern disciples misunderstand the path to power? How does that misunderstanding mark the difference between “christian,” and “disciple?”

What does it mean for us when we misunderstand Jesus’ singular purpose in our lives to lead us to the cross?

RIGHT AFTER Jesus tells the disciples to “keep it down that I am the messiah…” he makes these key statements for us:

Luke 9:23–27 (NLT)
 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”

So, according to Jesus, what is the key activity or attitude of a follower of Christ?

What does it mean to “take up his cross?” Why is this necessary for a disciple?

How is this the opposite of what our culture tells us about achieving greatness in life?

How do you think our ideas about “greatness” might need to change as we follow Christ? (hint: John the Baptist had it right when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” -John 3:30)

Jesus specifically commanded we take this action how often? Why do you think that is?

How does carrying a cross through life affect the decisions we make and the priorities we have?

Does denying ourselves mean to have a low opinion of ourselves? What does it mean?

Do you think we have the tendency to water down the requirements of Jesus? Why or why not?

Does it cost us a lot to be willing to follow Jesus? (how?)

What is the actual value of that cost, compared the the cost Jesus paid for us?

How might you decrease this week so that Christ might increase?

Is someone in your life suffering in some way for the sake of the kingdom? How can you encourage them?

In what ways can we help each other take up our crosses and grow in humility?

God Started Something

We’ll be partnering together once again, as we celebrate our TENTH BIRTHDAY on Sunday, February 3! Click the image above for details.

God Started Something

How have you heard the word “love” used this past week? I bet you can think of at least two or three different ways!

What do those uses of the word reveal about the way people typically view love?

Does our culture define love differently than God does? How?

It seems that this world loves being in love, doesn’t it? But, God sees “love” as something different, doesn’t he? Love is the defining mark of the Christian.

Don’t make a mistake about this. Jesus was really clear:

John 13:34–35 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

After Jesus, Paul wrote to us about various gifts of the Spirit, and how they impact us:

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (NLT)
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:

first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.

Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles?  Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.

How would you sum up this short passage?

Paul tells us to “earnestly desire the most helpful gifts,” then he makes a very interesting statement:

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NLT)
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.

In other words, these are good… But let me show you something much better. Here is what Paul says is better:

1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (NLT)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What metaphors did Paul give for using spiritual gifts without love? Why do you think he chose these metaphors?

What happens if people are not motivated to use their gifts out of love?

What do you think the Corinthians felt when they read these words?

Why did all the gifts and power that Paul listed “gain nothing”? What does that tell you about the power of love?

No matter how impressive a spiritual gift may appear, no matter how dedicated a religious act may be, the absence of genuine love renders these actions meaningless. The Corinthians may have felt like Paul was going too far. Paul, however, wanted the church to know that everything they did should come out of love. Greatness without love is at best annoying like a clanging cymbal and at worst completely meaningless.

Paul continues…

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Which of these attributes of love stands out to you the most? Why?

So, based on the above short passage, how would you define love?

Ephesians 5:2 (NLT)
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul implies that you have to know Jesus to know love… Is that true?

Paul is not talking about an emotional love. The kind of love he described here is above emotion; it’s self-sacrificing for the sake of another. These 15 characteristics describe loving others even when doing so is difficult. Of course, that is when love is most needed. If we love only those who measure up to our standards or who never pose any challenge, then is that really love? This is the kind of love that you can only truly see in Christ. It’s only through experiencing the self-sacrificial love of Jesus that we can truly love others. In the final set of verses in this chapter (vv. 8-13), Paul contrasted love’s permanence and eternal presence with the temporal things of this world.

But let’s return to Paul’s famous “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 13:8–13 (NLT)
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

In what ways do you see the difference between the eternal and the temporary in this passage? How do you see the difference between the eternal and the temporary in your life?

Why is love greater than faith and hope? What will happen to our faith and hope when Christ returns? What will happen to love?

Love will never end as we love God and love others. This type of love can play out practically in our relationships. Loving God and loving others is far more than head knowledge. No real transformation in our church occurs without love being at the center of it. Paul’s words are clear that anything we do apart from love will pass away. When we embrace the truth that love is permanent, then we will show it consistently to others, and it will be a defining aspect of our character.

What is something you can do this week to show love and respect to your spouse? To someone in your family?

What are some ways you can show your love by giving/service this week?

In what ways have you seen people interrupt their normal routine to take action on behalf of another person? Which people or groups do you find it difficult to love?

How can you use the way God has spiritually gifted you to love others in the church?

Pray together.  Thank God for showing us the nature of true love in Jesus. Ask Him to help your group remember the central place of love in your lives and our church, and to never allow a focus on spiritual giftedness to take the place of genuine love.