Trapped: Week 2 – Addictions (10/13 – 10/18)

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Key Verses

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry… you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:5, 8)

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Orientation to the Material

This week Pastor Mike began his sermon talking about people having an addiction to chocolate or working out. These aren’t the traditional vices we normally think of people being “addicted” to. Have someone in your group act as the writer to compile a list on a piece of paper. Leaving out the traditional vices of alcohol, drugs and sex/pornography, how many addictions can you list as a group? Take a few minutes to brainstorm and see how long your list can be…

Discussion Questions

1. Have one person in your group read John 8:34 and 1 John 1:8. Being a “slave” to sin is another way of saying “I’m addicted…” If we are all slaves to sin, that means we are all addicts, including you. Is this hard for you to comprehend? Why or why not.

2. Read 1 John 1:8 again. Take that list you made earlier. Are there “addictions” on that list that you struggle with? For those that feel comfortable, share your struggle with the group.

3. Read Romans 7:14-19. Pastor Mike said this weekend that the first step was to “Admit I am powerless over sin-addiction…” Why is it important to admit that you are powerless and that you cannot control sin-addiction?

4. Have someone read Titus 3:5. Notice, in particular, Paul saying, “God saved, us, not because of righteous things we had done…” This weekend Pastor Mike said, “The key is not what you do, do, do. But what Christ has done, done, done.” Respond to this quote.

Application Questions 

1.  Read Romans 8:26. To overcome addiction to sin, according to Paul, who must we rely on? How can you make the Holy Spirit more central to help you through addiction? Discuss with your group

2. Read James 5:16. How can other trusted Christians help you overcome sin-addiction?

3. Read John 3:17-21. Confessing our sin is powerful. We, almost naturally, want to hide our sin and keep it in the darkness. But in the darkness, we sit alone and in shame, perpetuating addiction. Have someone in the group who feels comfortable share what it was like to finally confess sin and admit their weakness. Why do you think confession to each other is so freeing when it comes to addiction?

Group Prayer

Have the group leader open in prayer for the small group. Then, leave a time for silence and let everyone in the group examine their heart for these “signature sins” Pastor Mike discussed this weekend. In silence, or if someone in the group feels comfortable praying out loud, repent of these sins to God. Ask his forgiveness knowing He is faithful to forgive. Let the small group leader then end the prayer time by praying for each member of the group, specifically that they may each find one or two people of like gender who can safely become their accountability partner.  Close prayer time by thanking God for His forgiveness.

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“Trapped” – Week 1: False Truths 10/06 – 10/11

Key Verses

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18a)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Orientation to the Material

I began the sermon this week talking about the importance of names in the Bible. Names give us a sense of identity and belonging. We know from this weekend that; as Christians, our identity should be placed solely in being a child of the One, True God. In other words, our ultimate name should be “I am a child of the One, True God.” However, all of us struggle in some way being “trapped” in a false truth about ourselves, that becomes a false identity. If you could sum up your false name in one word, what would it be? Regret? Unforgivable? Failure? Success? Go around your group and, if you’re comfortable, share your false name. If not, just say “pass.”

Discussion Questions

1. It seems that the Apostle Paul was also caught up in a false truth at one time in his life. Have someone read Philippians 3:4-8. What was Paul’s false truth? How does he consider that truth after being a Christian?

2. John Wesley said, “Only the power that makes a world can make a Christian.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a from above. As Christians, we are a “new creation,” do you have believing that? In what are of you life? Mind? Soul? Your priorities

3. This weekend we discussed five ways false truths come into our lives: our family, past experiences, failures and mistakes, future desires, successes. Have the group leader read Philippians 3:4-8 again. How many of these does Paul mention, or allude to, in this passage?

4. This weekend I quoted A.W. Tozer who said, “Tell me what a man believes about God and I will tell you about the man.” Respond to this quote.

Application Questions 

1. Have one person in your group read the following passage from Exodus 34:6-7. “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…”

Describing God with words such as compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, is that hard for you? Why or why not? Share with your group.

2. This weekend we learned that the way to overcome false truths in our lives is to rethink our concept of us, rethink our concept of God, and rethink our concept of others. Which is harder for you? To forgive yourself? To believe that God is good and love you? To forgive others? Share with you group.

3. Skip to the group prayer. Spend a little more time there this week.

Group Prayer

Depending on the size of your group, break up into smaller groups, maybe 2 or 3 people (stay with same gender and with someone other than a spouse or family member). Take a few minutes and each of you share a false truth that you have struggled with in your life. Then take the remainder of the time to pray for each other regarding overcoming these false truths and stepping into God’s restoration. Finish your prayer time by thanking God for all his blessings to you.

Rules of Engagement – Pt. 4 “Gossip” (9/30-10/4)

Key Verses

the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set of fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” (Proverbs 26:20)

Orientation to the Material

In the book of James we are told how hard it is for all of us to tame our tongue. In fact, it may well be impossible – without Jesus that is…  Pastor Mike began this week speaking about John 15:1-5 where Jesus ends by saying, “…you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Without being connected to Jesus, it is impossible for us to “tame” our tongue. Our fruit will most likely fall off the trees of our lives and become stinky and rotten, for all to smell. Has there ever been a time in your life when you truly sense you are connected to Jesus? Share about that time of life with your group…

Discussion Questions

1. This past weekend, Pastor Mike stated three ways we participate in gossip. The third way was when we seek rumors. Read Matthew 6:33. What does Jesus tell us to seek? Why is this so hard when it comes to rumor and gossip? Discuss among your group…

2. Erma Bombeck said, “Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It’s gossip.” How true is this quote? It what areas of society have you seen this truth? Share examples with each other.

3. Each of us tend to instinctively desire being “in the know.” We think we build rapport with each other when we have something “good” to share. Have someone in your group read Proverbs 16:28. According to this verse, what does a “perverse person” do? What does a “gossip” do? How does gossip really challenge community? Have you ever experienced this? Share with each other…

4. Read Acts 17:10-11. What did the Berea Jews eagerly do in response to Paul’s message of Jesus Christ? What is your response to the endless philosophies of our day? Do you seek and search the Scriptures eagerly, or are you more familiar with pop/sports  culture gossip? Share with your group…

Application Questions 

1. Joan comes up to you and says her husband, Mike, saw the chairman of the church elder board at lunch with an attractive woman. Joan says her husband was a little concerned about what may be going on. Discuss options of how to respond with your group.

2. Sam has had a struggle in the past with abusing prescription pills. She has been sober for six months and is going through a custody battle with her ex-husband, which has increased her stress. She asked for prayer this week as she confessed in small group that she is really struggling with the temptation to use again. How should this be shared in the post-meeting email? What ways could your group replace gossip with grace as Pastor Mike mentioned this weekend?

3. Are there certain things you share with your spouse, or in front of your kids that you shouldn’t? What kinds of things are best to keep in confidence in family relationships…

Group Prayer

Pick two people and have one read Proverbs 26:20 and the other read Ephesians 4:29. Then have the group leader pray for the small group, specifically that your group would be “firefighters” and not “fire starters.”

Rules of Engagement Wk 3: Toxic Reactions (9/22 – 9/27)

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/75160435]

Key Verses

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there is front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)

Orientation to the Material

Conflict is a fact of life. In a broken world, such as where we live, it is impossible to avoid conflict. It is going to happen. The question is, “how are we going to respond?” Like mentioned in the video, how do you respond when faced with conflict? Do you tend to move toward conflict and invite it or do you lean towards avoiding it at all costs? How did the family you grow up in treat conflict? Was it something hidden and avoided or was it front-and-center? How does this effect the way you currently face conflict? Share these answers with your group…

Discussion Questions

1. This weekend Pastor Mike said, “Nothing puts a smile on Satan’s face more than when the church fights within itself.” Have you experienced in-fighting within a church? Without gossiping or breaking confidentiality, share what that experience was like?

2. Have someone in your group read Matthew 5:23-24. As a group, can you come up with six reasons why we (yes, that’s you and me…) avoid going and being “reconciled” to each other in conflict?

3. Have someone else in your group read James 4:1-3. What is it that James says causes fights and quarrels among us?

4. Read Proverbs 22:24-25. Does giving ear to angry people in triangulation lead to further anger and more discord? How so?

Application Questions 

1. Read Matthew 18:15-17. Conflict happens in all forms and in many places. If you had to pick one place – home, work, school, church, small group, etc. Where is the Matthew 18 model most needed in your life? Why? Share with your group.

2. Pastor Mike said this weekend, “when we don’t know how to handle conflict, little troubles can become lethally toxic.” What can you do daily to keep little troubles from becoming lethal?

3. This may sound odd, but go around the group and each person read out loud Proverbs 29:22. Could you commit this verse to memory this week? Share any remaining thoughts you have with each other after hearing this verse read over-and-over…

Group Prayer

Take a moment to share prayer requests around your group (limit requests to personal or immediate family). Then, have one person volunteer to pray for these prayer requests. As the small group leader, close this prayer time by praying specifically for our church and your small group. Pray for our ability to keep “little troubles” from becoming “lethally toxic.” Pray that we, as the church, would have the wisdom to keep short accounts with each other.

Rules of Engagement Week Two: Connecting

Key Verses

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)

Orientation to the Material

Connecting with people, rather than just “greeting” them… What a profound thought shared with us by our guest Pastor this past weekend, Bob Farr. He told this great story about the importance of connecting with outsiders by realizing that “everybody is somebody.” Take a moment this week and begin your small group by going around the group and retelling about a time when each of you really did feel like you weren’t just an “everybody,” but you were “somebody.” Maybe it was at a church, school, or among a group of co-workers. When was a time you felt like “somebody?”

Discussion Questions

1. This weekend Rev. Farr said that “our culture promotes faking it.” In other words fake relationships, fake answers, fake friendship. Christian author A.W. Tozer speaks similarly in his book The Pursuit of God calling this fakeness the “burden of pretense,” and says, “...by this I mean not hypocrisy, but the common human desire to put the best foot forward and hide from the world our real inward poverty.” He continues by saying “There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be just what he or she is without doctoring up the impression…

Do you agree with Rev. Farr and A.W. Tozer? Why or why not? Have you ever seen inauthenticity in church or other places? How did this experience make you feel? Discuss as a group…

2. Have one person in your group read Colossians 4:2-6.

In verse 5 the Apostle Paul says to “be wise in the way you act towards outsiders…” How do you think that looks at work or school? How does that wisdom look at weekend worship? How does that wisdom look in your small group? Discuss.

3. In his sermon this weekend Pastor Farr said that the two blockages to getting beyond just being nice are forgetfulness and the inability to break away from your group. How would “the inability to break away from your group” look in a small group situation?

The Apostle Paul was a highly-educated Jew. In his day his natural group would’ve been other fellow Jews. In fact, Jews did not associate with non-Jews, or Gentiles as they are called in the Bible. Read Ephesians 3:8. Who does Paul say he was called to preach to? How is he an example in regards to question #3?

4. This weekend Rev. Farr said, “If all we give them is a nice greeting, we could miss them for the kingdom of God…” Discuss the difference between a “nice greeting” and truly connecting?

Application Questions 

1. What are certain things you could do within your small group to show others they are somebody? How can your group move away from just “being nice” and towards truly connecting? Go around the group and brainstorm some answers.

2. Pastor Farr described the 2nd blockage to just being nice as “forgetfulness.” We just simply “forget” to reach out to others in ways that show them we care. What could you do individually to overcome this barrier? Discuss practical ways to overcome forgetting.

Group Prayer

Do you care about people? Do you care about truly connecting with others in relationship? No, I’m actually not kidding. Most of us are quite self-focused and connecting with those outside our group is much harder than just being nice. Have your group leader open your prayer time with a prayer of repentance for this “relationship apathy.” Allow a few minutes of silence for each person in the group to repent silently for their part in it. Then, share one personal concern with the group and each person listen intently when others share. Close by praying for these concerns.

Rules of Engagement: Week One – Bullying (09/09 – 09/13)

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/74025871]

Key Verses

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” (Matt. 5:11)

You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:43-44)

Orientation to the Material

Get that brain thinking about the issue that Pastor Mike discussed this weekend. As he said in his sermon, he thinks of Popeye and Brutus when he thinks of bullying. As I said in my video, I think of that red-haired kid and his little shrimp friend that bullied Ralphy and his brother in the movie A Christmas Story. Who do you think of when you think about bullying? Any cartoon, movie or television characters? Take some time to share it with your group…

Discussion Questions

1. Choose someone from your group to read Matthew 5:43-44.

Jesus says some strong things about how we are to treat our “enemy.” Did, or do you still, find it hard to love the bullies in your life? Maybe your kid is being bullied at school… Is it hard to think of loving that bully?

2. One person in your group read Romans 12:17-19.

The Apostle Paul tells us to “…leave room for God’s wrath.” Is “leaving room for God’s wrath” hard for you to do? Do you struggle with wanting revenge on that ex-spouse, boss or fellow student that pushes you, or your family member around? Why?

3. Read Ephesians 4:25-27.

The Apostle Paul tells us here to be careful to not sin while we are angry. Notice he does’t say anger specifically is a sin. However, anger at that ex-spouse, kid at school or bullies in general can lead to sin on your part. In fact, Paul says to be extremely careful to “not give the devil a foothold…” Have you allowed your anger to fester too much? Has your anger towards a bully/enemy actually become a foothold Satan uses in your life? If you can, I encourage you to be open and share this struggle with each other.

4. This weekend Pastor Mike said, “God seems to always be for the ‘little guy,’ Remember: God is with you and for you…” When you’re in trying situations with other people, do you believe this? Respond as a group to this quote.

Application Questions 

1. How do you think showing love to a bully would look? Go around the group and discuss this idea. How can you incorporate love for even those who are bullies in your everyday life? Share…

2. In one of our key verses, Matthew 5:44, Jesus says to pray for those who persecute you. Have you ever considered praying for that person that bullies you or your child? Do you think this would change your view of that person? How so?

3. Read Romans 8:31. Do you think this might be a good memory verse for these tough situations? Encourage each other to try to memorize this verse to help you in these praying times.

Group Prayer

Have every person in the group think about that one person that is bullying them or a member of their family. For those that are comfortable, please share who that person is and what the situation is (if you haven’t already). Let’s practice together praying for our enemy. Let the group leader begin and then leave some time of silence for others to pray out loud or in their heart for their enemy…