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Next Steps: Through the Kitchen
Next Steps Sermon: Through the Kitchen Pastor: Troy Neilsen Acts 9:26-30 Sermon Summary This week we’re diving into the story of Saul, who finds himself back in Jerusalem. We’ll hear how his new friend Barnabas steps into the Kitchen and serves him by helping him become one of the greatest missionaries and evangelists of all time.  Barnabas knew if he stood up for his friend, it might cost him something- maybe his reputation. We’ll find that it would eventually cost him a lot more as once again, the believers had to save Saul's life by getting him out of town. It may have cost them a lot but they also found that by doing so, it was worth it. This weekend, we’ll talk about how to take the Next Step; getting into the Kitchen to serve where it might cost us. Will it be worth it?
September 18, 2022
Next Steps: Belonging
Next Steps Sermon: Belonging Pastor: Troy Neilsen Acts 9:19-25 Sermon Summary: This weekend we're celebrating our Fall kick off by looking at the story of Saul after he turned his life over to Jesus. We see that because of that choice, he’s in trouble; his old friends are trying to kill him now that he believes that Jesus is the Messiah. We’ll see how Saul is quickly invited into “the living room” of others to belong. Saul goes from someone who was searching to kill followers of “The Way”, to someone who would be one of the greatest evangelists of all time. However Saul would have never become Paul if it weren’t for the others in his life who welcomed him, encouraged him and gave him a place to belong. Questions for Discussion: 1. How can we take the Next Step and get into the living room where we're not only being supported, but also being a support? 2. How can we find a place where we belong?
September 11, 2022
Next Steps: A Porch Experience
Next Steps Sermon: A Porch Experience Pastor: Jim Lucas Acts 9:10-19a Sermon Summary: People make decisions to follow Jesus all the time, all over the world.  Each situation is unique but there are some factors in common.  We see these illustrated in the conversion of Saul; the Lord initiates the connection, faithful believers follow up and welcome the individual into the Kingdom and the community of faith. Those who welcome home the new brother or sister in Christ must exercise faith and boldness.  Question for discussion: Do you know of anyone who is on the porch of the Kingdom?
September 04, 2022
Next Steps: Life Interrupted
Next Steps Sermon: Life Interrupted Pastor: Jim Lucas Acts 9:1-6 Sermon Summary: This weekend we start a new series "NEXT STEPS." The Story of the Apostle Paul's conversion plays an important role in the book of Acts.  It is more than an encounter between Saul, the church's greatest antagonist at the time, and Jesus, the risen Lord. Luke wants us to see this story as an example of how the Gospel spreads. Jesus initiates connections with people. He calls us into a personal relationship with him and invites us to take the next step in our transformation. In this new series we will see in Paul's story how Jesus is at work calling and shaping his people.
August 28, 2022
Stories Around the Campfire: Learning From Our Mistakes
Stories Around the Campfire Sermon: Learning From Our Mistakes Pastor: Troy Neilsen Luke 22:54-62
August 21, 2022
Stories Around the Campfire: God vs. god
Stories Around the Campfire Sermon: God vs. god Pastor: Troy Neilsen 1 Kings 18:20-37
August 14, 2022
Stories Around the Campfire: Burning Bush Excuses
Stories Around the Campfire Sermon: Burning Bush Excuses Pastor: Noah Reed Exodus 3:1-10
August 07, 2022
Stories Around the Campfire: Setbacks and Snakebites
Stories Around the Campfire Sermon: Setbacks and Snakebites Pastor: Len DenBraber Acts 28:1-6
July 31, 2022
Stories Around the Campfire: Jesus Cooked Breakfast
Stories Around the Campfire Sermon: Jesus Cooked Breakfast Pastor: Jim Lucas John  21:1-14 Sermon Summary: Everyone messes up! We all have moments when we are less than faithful, less than what we would hope to be.  How does Jesus respond to our failures? We all have experienced bosses or parents who have completely gone off the rails when offended by others.  We have all experienced that kind of poisonous response to failure that leaves us a bit traumatized.  Maybe we think Jesus is like that. He's not! This week's scripture gives us a wonderful and comforting insight into how Jesus responds to our failures.
July 24, 2022
The Truth About Lies: A Humble Resistance
The Truth About Lies Sermon: A Humble Resistance Pastor: Phil Juthman James 4:1-10
July 17, 2022
The Truth About Lies: You Should Make You Happy
The Truth About Lies Sermon: You Should Make You Happy Pastor: Jim Lucas Proverbs 14:12 Sermon Summary: Come next week and learn about the lies the world tells us, how to avoid them and the consequences of our choices.
July 10, 2022
The Truth About Lies: Life's Not Fair
The Truth About Lies Sermon: Life's Not Fair Pastor: Troy Neilsen Matthew 25:14-30 Sermon Summary “That’s not fair!” Has been spoken by kids around the world for centuries. Whether it was because someone got a bigger piece of cake or not being able to stay up late at night. Now, many adults around the world are now grown up and “fairness” is something that we might even complain about. "Life should be fair" is something that many of us think should happen, but what does Jesus say about that? Does he make life fair? This week we’ll look at a story where Jesus shows us that life isn’t fair and never was intended to be. What he talks about is what we should do when we see that life isn’t fair.
July 03, 2022
The Truth About Lies: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Truth About Lies Sermon: The Devil Made Me Do It Pastor: Phil Juthman John 8:44 Sermon Summary BIG IDEA: The root of Satan’s deception lies in leading us to consider our own will before God’s will. When we take the driver’s seat in deciding what is right and wrong we push God away from us and set ourselves up as god and experience the shame and hurt of sin. In contrast, by submitting to God we discover great freedom, beauty and life. It can be a tricky thing to figure out why we do the things we do. We have an incredible capacity for goodness and love, but also great ability to hurt and hate. Lying in the center of this is the scheme of the Devil, who uses lies to lure us away from God’s good order back into chaos. Satan leads this rebellion by tempting us to put what we want before what God wants, separating us from Him. By examining Genesis 1-3 we discover that God’s boundaries are good for us because they keep us in His presence. We can guard ourselves against the lies of Satan through the journey of submitting our lives to the will and promises of God by Christ’s saving work for humanity. What Satan tricked Adam and Eve into, Jesus undoes on the cross! Questions for discussion: 1. There are often two extremes: ‘The devil makes us do it’ vs. ‘The devil isn’t real’. How do you think scripture communicates the reality of ‘the Devil’? 2. Pastor Phil talked about the idea that we have freedom in boundaries. Do you have any experiences where having boundaries actually ended up helping you? 3. Discuss this thought: We don’t get to decide what is good and evil. How can we communicate this well to a culture that is set on the idea of discovering our own truths? 4. What are some promises of God that you regularly hold onto that help you defend against the temptation toward sin?
June 26, 2022
The Truth About Lies: The World, The Flesh, and The Devil
The Truth About Lies Sermon: The World, The Flesh, and The Devil Pastor: Jim Lucas Ephesians 6:11-12 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we are in a battle over truth. We must be more aware that we fight this battle on three fronts: the world, the flesh and the devil. We are beginning a new series this week. We are indebted to John Mark Comer’s excellent book, "Live no Lies" for stimulating some of our thinking, reading and praying on this topic. There is no doubt that the people of God are in a battle to remain faithful and keep following Jesus. We fight this battle on three fronts, what we sometimes refer to as the unholy trinity: the world, the flesh and the devil. By the world we mean the ways of the world or society that move contrary to the ways of Jesus. By the flesh we refer to the disordered desires of our minds and bodies that lead to destructive behavior and thinking. By the devil we mean the enemy of our souls that Jesus warned us about so often in the Gospels. This week we learn that we need to be very aware that the devil is a liar and that his deceptions often capture the attention of the world because they appeal to our fleshly natures. Once the lie has taken hold in culture it is often weaponized and used to attack the Church and make us appear to be antagonistic to the way things really should be. We are marginalized and portrayed as out of step with reality and judgmental. Ephesians 6 warns us to be alert and pray to counteract the schemes of the enemy. Questions for Discussion: 1. Do you think generally speaking that the Church takes evil and the devil seriously enough? Do people outside the Church believe in the devil’s existence? Why or why not? 2. Discuss the difference between the offensive and defensive strategies of the Church. How does prayer fit in? 3. Review and discuss the 5 schemes of the devil: Temptation; Accusation; Intimidation; Deception; and Division. 4. Can you think of other lies of the enemy that have become entrenched as truth in our culture? 5. What is Paul’s council in order for us to stand firm in the truth? 6. Can you make prayer in this regard a part of your normal devotional routine?
June 19, 2022
How Does God Grow Your Faith? When Jesus Brings Friends Into Our Lives
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Sermon: When Jesus Brings Friends Into Our Lives Pastor: Jim Lucas Romans 16:1-16 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that friendship is a huge factor in growing our faith. Even the Apostle Paul, the gifted author and orator, encircled himself with good friendships. One of the remarkable things about our text this week is that the Apostle Paul has never visited the church in Rome, yet he has so many good friends there. This tells us not only that Paul was not a lone ranger kind of Christian, he worked well with others. It also tells us that in the 1st Century people were pretty mobile in that Paul has encountered these folks in places other than their home town. Keep in mind that Claudius expelled Jews from Rome around 41-52 AD (Acts 18:2). Most of the people Paul addresses are slaves or freemen and freewomen who had bought themselves out of slavery. But while they were slaves they were also important people. Slaves in the 1st Century were often highly educated and carried on much of the skilled labour of the Empire. Slaves managed much of the household and government affairs. Paul mentions 24 friends in Rome, many of whom were women who labored with him. The letter carrier (Phoebe) probably had an important role in reading and interpreting the letter to the church. Junia, another woman, is called an apostle. Keep in mind the New Testament uses the term Apostle in a strict sense to identify the first disciples of Jesus and also in a broader sense as those “sent out” by the church to serve the Lord. But even given this secondary meaning, he identifies a woman as someone sent out by the church. Whatever we make of passages like 1 Cor. 14:34 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15 we see that Paul is not a misogynist (woman hater). Questions for Discussion: 1. Have you found that Covid has diminished your circle of friends? Why or why not? 2. Why do you think Paul takes the time to mention his friends in Rome? Would that help his letter to be better received? 3. What are the key qualities that you look for in good friends? 4. Where can you go to find and connect with new friends? 5. Have you ever had to cut off a friendship that you felt was unhealthy? Why? 6. What are some habits that you might try to enhance the quality of your friendships?
June 12, 2022
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Pivotal Moments
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Sermon: Pivotal Moments Pastor: Troy Neilsen Acts 16:6- 10 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we need to realize that there are pivotal moments in our lives that are opportunities for growth. For many of us we have goals, we want to make a certain amount of money, have a certain kind of job, and have a certain size of a house. And what we do is put a plan into place and we work to see it accomplished. But what happens when that doesn’t happen? How do we react? For some of us it looks like a road block, or a detour, or even a fork in the road, a moment where our lives have to pivot. It’s probably not even a huge event; it’s just something that happens to us. This week, we are talking about how these everyday interruptions happen in our lives and how they can help you grow your faith. This is where we are going this week: We are going to talk about seeing God in those everyday events and growing through them. Questions for Discussion: 1. There are some people who love planning out their whole lives almost to the minute, any interruption they might view as an annoyance. Then there are those who love to take whatever comes their way, they feel like life is an adventure. Which of these two do you most identify with and why? 2. Read Acts 16:6 -10. After being as successful as Paul and Silas were, how do you think you would have handled that situation? What is your fallback behaviour when you don’t get what you want? 3. Read Proverbs 16:9. If God really determines our steps, how do we tell if it is really Him? How do we know that we are not just following what we want in our life? 4. In hindsight, is there anything that has happened in your life that when you were experiencing it, it seemed like bad news, but only after time did you see it as a good thing? Share that experience with your group.
June 05, 2022
How Does God Grow Your Faith? When We Serve
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Sermon: When We Serve 1 Peter 4:10-11 Pastor Jim Lucas Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that our faith grows when we serve one another. Serving others is the way that God’s gifts are distributed to the world. In this series we are discovering how the Lord grows our faith. This week we will be exploring the idea that when we use our gifts to serve others we are administering his grace. That’s right, in other words, whatever the Lord has given to us in terms of ability or talent or insight, when we use those gifts, we are allowing his grace to flow through us. The Apostle Paul even considered financial gifts to the church of Jerusalem a grace (2 Cor. 9:6-11). We are administrators of God’s grace to those around us. We need to take this responsibility seriously as Jesus taught us in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25). As God’s grace flows though us to others a number of things happen. We experience abundance because God always makes sure we are full so that our fullness can bless others. We promote gratitude in ourselves and others and this results in praise to the Lord. We also change the world as people are touched by God’s grace. Questions for Discussion: 1. In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25) Jesus indicates how seriously he considered our use of our gifts. How might this have informed what Peter is writing in 1 Peter 4? 2. Our gifts are expressions of God’s grace. Why does the Lord use us as his distribution hub? 3. Everyone has a gift and everyone is responsible for its distribution. What does that mean in everyday life? 4. Why should this knowledge transform our behavior?
May 29, 2022
How Does God Grow Our Faith? When We are Generous
How Does God Grow Our Faith? Sermon: When We are Generous Luke 6:38 Pastor Phil Juthman Sermon Summary: The Big Idea is that Generosity is a practice that forms us toward Christlikeness. When we give of ourselves towards God and people, we become formed by God as he pours back into our lives. Jesus wisely said ‘Where our treasure is, there our heart lies.’ So much of what forms our life is a byproduct of what we invest our resources in. Jesus challenges us in this week’s text that we shouldn’t only look to be generous from a position of security and safety. The generosity that we should aim for is an unfair kind of generosity that gives before they receive. The early church demonstrated this keenly. The reason for their great generosity was the conviction that God had already been so generous to them through Jesus Christ, and it was their delight to invest their resources back into building the kingdom of God. In this way, generosity is a powerful, practical tool to teach us how to love properly, forming our beings around the ethic of ‘Loving God and Loving our Neighbors’ (Mark 12:30-31). Questions for Discussion: 1. How do you think Jesus, putting this idea of giving within the context of loving your enemy (Luke 6:27- 37), changes our expectations of what giving looks like and what we get in return? 2. Discuss this thought: “We are more than thinking things, we are loving things”. How do you think we can avoid an either/or attitude? 3. Discuss an experience (a hobby, a practice, a relationship) that has deeply formed your life. What was the journey of investing into that person or thing that in turn shaped you so greatly? What kind of change did it make in your life? 4. How might you work through ways you can increase your generosity on the journey of giving our whole lives over to the will of God and his Kingdom?
May 22, 2022
How Does God Grow Your Faith? When We Experience the Supernatural
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Sermon: When We Experience the Supernatural John 2:1-11  Pastor Jim Lucas Sermon Summary  The Big Idea of this study is that our faith grows when we experience the “signs” that Jesus is the Son of God and that we can have life in his name. While our Western World downplays the existence of the supernatural, Jesus continues to reveal himself and his power in creation. From the very beginning of the Church the people of God have experienced the manifestations of his power over creation through miraculous healings and miracles of many kinds. Sometimes it is hard for those of us in the Western World to understand that Christianity is not simply an intellectual belief system. For the truth of our faith is demonstrated with power. The earliest disciples believed because of the signs that Jesus used to demonstrate who he was. It is not so different today. People believe because Jesus demonstrates that he is worthy of belief. Our text this week is a study in the importance of the miraculous in the life of a believer. Our faith grows through miraculous experiences. It is not the only reason for belief but it is an important way that the Holy Spirit works in our lives. In fact we should be expecting the Lord to work this way. He answers prayer, he does the unexpected, he gets our attention and reminds us as Paul did the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:20) that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. Questions for Discussion: 1. What convinced the disciples that Jesus was the son of God? If they were not convinced by his intellectual arguments from Scripture, his genealogy or his divine presence what does that say about our attempts to convince people of his deity and saving work? 2. Discuss this thought: “Our faith is not a leap in the dark, it is not a choice without evidence, it is putting our trust in someone who have been proven to be trustworthy.” 3. Discuss miracles that you have experienced personally. What does that remembering do to your faith? 4. How might you add a habit to your life that would remind you of the power of God?
May 15, 2022
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Through Trials
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Sermon: Through Trials James 1:2-4 Pastor Troy Neilsen Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we need to realize that trials in our lives are opportunities for growth. Through everyone’s life there will be tough times. Jesus even promised us “In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33. This is not a promise we repeat to ourselves for encouragement, but it is a promise. We should expect them to come our way. The important thing that we should remember is that pain, trials, tests and even tough times are opportunities for growth and as James says they can bring “joy”. We have to learn to take the lessons from them and apply them to our lives. The fact is that you probably learn more through tough times than good times. Questions for Discussion: 1. What is your response when someone tells you that life isn’t fair? 2. What have you learned through your ‘troubles’? How have those trials brought joy? 3. Why do we look at trials as a negative? How do you think that we can remember that it is an opportunity for growth? 4. Why do you think that safety is so valued in our society? Why do we look down on failure? How can we turn those failures into badges of honor? 5. What risks has God been encouraging you to take in the last few weeks that maybe you need to just take a step of faith into? How do you think that would grow your faith?
May 08, 2022
How Does God Grow Your Faith? When the Word Lives in Us
How Does God Grow Your Faith? Sermon: When the Word Lives in Us Colossians 3:16-17 Pastor Jim Lucas Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we need to allow the word of Christ to penetrate our hearts so that we grow spiritually. The Word of God is powerful. Hebrews 4:12-13 “(12) For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (13) Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” In this series we are looking at those things that cause our faith to grow. In other words; what helps us take the next steps to become all that Jesus wants us to be. Perhaps foremost we should understand that the Word of God has to become part of who we are. This is what our text this week is saying. The Word of Christ must live in us. This makes all the difference in the world. It enables us to instruct and direct one another, it results in gratitude and wisdom, and it causes spiritual songs to rise up from within our hearts. Questions for Discussion: 1. Describe in your own words what you think the Apostle Paul means when he encourages us to allow the Word of Christ to richly dwell in us. How else might the Word affect us? 2. Discuss how the Body of Christ might teach and admonish one another. How might life groups play a role in this? 3. Why has singing always been so important for the people of God? Have you ever experienced a spiritual song that spontaneously came from within? 4. Give examples of testing your behavior with the presence of Jesus.
May 01, 2022
Change Before You Have To: Not Alone
Change Before You Have To Sermon: Not Alone 2 Kings 6:8-24 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this message is that often when we find ourselves in a situation or have to make a change, we feel like we are all alone. Sometimes we feel like we are the only ones who have ever experienced what we are facing. This is the last week of our series on Elisha. This week we looked at a story of Elisha and his assistant thinking that they were outnumbered by their enemies. The assistant was looking at the problem and not the solution. God was there fighting for them. So know that if you are facing a decision, a situation or a change that you are having trouble with, you might even think that you are the only one who’s ever faced it. You are not alone. There are people who have gone through what you’re going through. You just have to look for those who are there to help. Questions for Discussion: 1. Talk about a time in your life where you saw someone overreact to the situation that they found themselves in. (extra points if you can admit it was you.) 2. What is in us that allows us to drift toward seeing the problems in situations and not the solutions? 3. What sort of examples in your experience, do you see where someone only see what they are looking for? How do you think that people can make the switch from seeing the problem to seeing the solution? 4. What does it look like for you to be that miracle that someone is looking for? What does it look like for you to look for that miracle in someone else? Take some time and share some of the situations that you are facing and see how God provided.
April 24, 2022
Easter 2022: He Is Risen Indeed!
Easter 2022 Sermon: He is Risen Indeed! Luke 24:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:14,16-19 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that the Resurrection of Jesus is essential to Christianity. Without it, our faith is in vain. The resurrection of Jesus is essential to Christianity. Either it happened or it didn’t. There is no third option. If it didn’t happen, our faith is in vain. As Paul in 1 Cor. 15 says “we are to be pitied more than all men.” But if it did happen and we accept that reality, our sins are forgiven and we too will enjoy eternal life in resurrected bodies. The evidence for the resurrection is very strong. Throughout the centuries several alternatives have been suggested. Even on cursory examination, they all fall short. Jesus rose from the dead. There is no other plausible explanation for the historical and eyewitness testimony. Even beyond that, there is the testimony of believers over the centuries who give powerful evidence in the life changing power of the resurrection in their own lives (see Phil. 3:7-11). To accept the resurrection of Jesus as fact is a game changer. It resolves the problem of sin and our alienation from God and it provides for us the opportunity to experience for ourselves resurrection and eternal life with Jesus. Questions for Discussion: 1. How would you respond if someone suggested that all religions are alike? 2. Have you noticed in others even non-Christians the universal longing to worship something and for some kind of future panacea? 3. Discuss the difference between being saved by faith and being saved by grace. 4. Why would anyone be attracted to a religion that had no vision of an afterlife? ie. The Sadducees in Jesus’ day. 5. Have you heard of any other alternative explanations for the resurrection? What were they and what is your response? 6. Discuss the 3 major evidences of the resurrection. Which ones do you most identify with?
April 17, 2022
Change Before You Have To: Humility Helps – The Healing of Naaman
Change Before You Have To Sermon: Humility Helps – The Healing of Naaman 2 Kings 5:1-19 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that humble obedience is key to the change Jesus expects in his followers. The Children of Israel are the poster children to warn us to change before we have to. They failed to change. They were warned about the consequences of worshipping foreign gods and neglecting their role as God’s chosen people. They ended up in captivity and it is only there that they humbled themselves and began to follow the Lord with passion and faithfulness. Out text is a study in contrasts. See the difference between the attitude of the servant girl and that of the King of Israel. The little girl leads the way in demonstrating humble obedience and service; while the King seems totally out of it. Even Naaman, the mighty man of valour, eventually shows humble obedience and washes in the Jordon river. He ends up devoted to worshipping Yahweh only, something the Israelites were reluctant to do even while in the Promised Land. There is also a contrast in our story between the might of Aram’s army and the Word of the Prophet. It is not horses or chariots or financial resources that save the day. It is the power of God. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” This principle is repeated three times in scripture. First in Proverbs 3:34 then in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 the same idea is emphasized. Humility is a fruit of the Spirit and one of the primary marks of the followers of Jesus. In fact we see this as one of the often repeated descriptions of Jesus. See Matt. 11:29; John 13:12-15; Phil. 2:8; Etc. Questions for Discussion: 1. What does it mean to be humble? Discuss C.S Lewis’ quote: Humility is not thinking less of yourself; but it is thinking of yourself less.” 2. Why is humility such an important fruit of the Godly life? Where do you see it most radically demonstrated in the life of Christ? 3. In the story of Naaman, who is the hero and why? 4. What contrasts do you see in the story? How do they highlight the lessons to be learned? 5. How might we engender humility in our lives? Is there a soul exercise that would help us stay humble?
April 10, 2022
Change Before You Have To: The Widow’s Son – Everything is Fine
Change Before You Have To Sermon: The Widow’s Son – Everything is Fine 2 Kings 4:8-37 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that our faith will be tested; it is the only way to grow our faithfulness. 1st and 2nd Kings are books that are written to exiles. They are directed to the Jews who had been taken captive by the Babylonians and were living in a foreign country. The books are intended to help the Jews understand why calamity had fallen on Judah and Israel. They were explaining how the covenant people had failed to live up to their part of the covenant and were now suffering from the consequences of their unfaithfulness. If they could hear and obey the lessons of the books, the Lord would restore their homeland and bring them back home. Our text this week is an illustration of the kind of faithfulness the Lord desires of his people. Keep in mind that it took place in an age where the Holy Spirit was not immediately available to individuals but certain men of God were chosen to be the spokespersons for the divine presence. Elisha was one of those people. Although he was an imperfect guy the Lord expected that people would seek him out as the Lord’s representative. Many of the stories of these books are illustrations of the Lord’s power over the power of the foreign gods that so often had tempted the Israelites into idolatry. Questions for Discussion: 1. Were you struck (shocked) by the “everything is fine” comments by the Shunammite woman? The author intended that reaction from you. When we sing the hymn “It is Well” are we not saying something similar? Why or why not? 2. Read James 1:2-4. How important is it that we experience challenges in life? How have you found they have changed you? 3. In what ways might we be overprotecting our children these days? How do we keep them safe yet not raise wimpy children unable to withstand the opposition they will face as adults? 4. Discuss this statement: “One of the great challenges in the church today is that scores of Christians have been taught to believe that Christianity is simply about acknowledging certain facts and saying certain words, they fail to realize it is about absolute surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.” 5. How have the events of the last 3 years made you re-examine your faith and practice?
April 03, 2022
Change Before You Have To: Start With A Little
Change Before You Have To Sermon: Start With A Little 2 Kings 4:1-7 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this message is that when we are looking for change, God often asks us to start with something small. Small decisions, small changes. We know that when we do an act of faith God is faithful. This is our second week of our series on Elisha. This week we told a story of a poor widow who found herself in a tough situation. She was in a situation that if she didn’t get some help quickly something drastic would happen. She found Elisha and he asked great questions, encouraged her to take a step of faith and God came through for her. There might be times we need to start with something small, and take a step of faith. We’ll see that when we take a step of faith, we’ll see God come through as faithful. Questions for Discussion:  1. Talk about a time in your life where God did a lot with a little. What did you learn during that situation? 2. Why do you think that it is hard to see what we have during difficult times? 3. How have you seen God's faithfulness in your life after you’ve taken a step of faith? 4. Troy said, “action is always connected to change and miracles.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? How have you seen it happen in your life? 5. What small step are you going to do this week that’s going to lead to something much bigger?
March 27, 2022
Change Before You Have To: Burn Something
Change Before You Have To Sermon: Burn Something 1 Kings 19:19-21 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this message is that God often asks us to change and move on, but to move on we often have to let go of the past. This week we started a brand-new series on Elisha. Elisha was a prophet who was willing to take big risks to see change happen. Change is always hard. But for us to be where God wants us to be, we often have to leave some activities, ideas, habits and even some people behind. In the story that we looked at this weekend, we saw Elisha making a hard decision by moving on from what he was comfortable with; burning his past so he can go forward into what God has called him to do. Sometimes we need to burn the past so we’re not tempted to go back. Questions for Discussion: 1. Share with your group some of the tough changes that you have faced in your life. 2. What examples of ridiculous obedience have you seen in your life? 3. Have you ever had to obey God without knowing what was on the other side? Talk about that. How did that turn out? 4. How do you think that you can hear the voice of God asking you to change? 5. What is God is asking you to burn this week?
March 20, 2022
You in 5 Years: You – Completely Secure
You in 5 Years Sermon: You – Completely Secure Romans 8:35-39 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that in spite of the challenges that we face in life we can rest assured that God loves us and is actively working on our behalf. In the final lesson on this series from Romans chapter 8 we hear the Apostle sum up what he is trying to help us understand. God is for us. God loves us. Nothing can separate us from his great concern for our wellbeing. Remember, love in this context is not simply affection. In fact the way the Bible describes God’s love; it is not at all about warm fuzzy feelings. That is a modern and secular concept of love. God’s love for us is seen in benevolent action on our behalf. It stems from his commitment to us and is unaffected by our circumstances. Paul assures us that nothing can come between us and his love for us because of Jesus Christ. He lists two kinds of problems we might encounter. The first kind come from challenges thrown at us because of our faith in Jesus. The kinds of challenges and trials Paul faced throughout his life. Paul quotes the Old Testament Psalm to remind us that difficulties for the faithful are not new to our generation. The book of Revelation calls these “tribulations.” The second category of challenges we face come simply from life on planet Earth. But whatever we face, Jesus is near. The whole chapter is summed up in these last few lines. Why is there no condemnation? Why does the Spirit live in us? Why has he promised heaven? Why are we more than conquerors? Because he loves us and will never allow anything to separate us from that love. Questions for Discussion: 1. What challenges might you face in the next 5 years? 2. What is your level of confidence in facing what may lie in your future? On a scale of 1 to 10 are you scared to death or boldly optimistic about your ability to thrive? Why? 3. Have you experienced tribulation? Tribulation is pressure that comes against those who endeavor to remain faithful to Jesus. This is an age old problem for those who love God. 4. People who attend church regularly are the happiest people on earth. That statistic shows up all the time in surveys. Why is that the case? 5. Can you commit to meditating on the truth of Romans chapter 8? What habit might help remind you to do just that?
March 13, 2022
You in 5 Years: You – In Good Hands
You in 5 Years Sermon: You – In Good Hands Romans 8:31-34 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we are in good hands. We should feel secure in knowing our life today and our eternal destiny are cared for by a God who at great personal cost has proven he has our welfare in mind. The Apostle Paul in our text this week intends to evoke a response from his readers. He uses a series of rhetorical questions to prompt us to come to the conclusion that we are entirely secure both in this life and the life to come because of what Jesus has done for us. This God whom we serve is not the kind of God the 1st Century world was familiar with. The gods worshipped at that time had little care for the welfare of the human population. They were enveloped in their own realm of drama and one-upmanship. Humans were mere pawns in their escapades. This is the way ancient humankind explained the world’s events which appeared random and harsh. The gods were at play. Paul paints a far different picture of God Almighty. He is on our side and Jesus is cheering us on. So powerful and intentional are his ways that nothing can interfere with his good and eternal plans for us. Our destiny is in his hands entirely. Our response to all this is an inner conviction that any opposition that we may encounter; any accusations thrown at us by the enemy of our souls is inconsequential. With God on our side, how can we lose? Questions for Discussion: 1. When you read this text does it stir any emotion in you? Why or why not? 2. Discuss this statement: “God has invested in our future.” 3. The price Jesus paid indicates how serious he is about our outcome. We need to keep that in mind as we encounter the challenges we face in life. Can you recall a challenging time when this truth was helpful to you? 4. The only one who has the right to judge us has instead decided to defend us. How does that make you feel? 5. What response is Paul hoping for from his readers?
March 06, 2022
You in 5 Years: You – A Transformed Life
You in 5 Years Sermon: You – A Transformed Life Romans 8:28-30 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that God works toward a specific purpose in our lives. He works every circumstance toward that end. We will be like Jesus. Our text this week is one of the most well-loved verses in the Bible. But it is often misunderstood and misquoted. Paul does not say “all things are good.” In fact bad things happen. We will have trouble in this life (John 16:33). He does not even say “all things work together for good.” In fact, all things on their own don’t work toward good. The idea here is that God works all things for the good. He is the subject of the sentence. Without him, all things work toward chaos. Paul defines for us what that “good” looks like in verse 29. It is the purpose for which he has called us. It is the image of his dear son. Our greatest good is to become like Jesus. Not only to act like him but to be motivated by what motivated him. This is the best kind of life. It involves taking on his character traits like love, joy, peace, etc. It also involves acting like him, using our spiritual gifts to bless the world around us. Just like Jesus.  Our text is an exclamation of praise at the wisdom and sovereignty of God. That he is able to take all the messy stuff of our lives and to make something good of it is truly amazing. Our responsibility should be to understand that this is his purpose in us and to cooperate with him.   Questions for Discussion: 1. What are the hallmarks of a mature disciple of Jesus? Which characteristics do you find most telling of a person’s spiritual maturity? 2. Do you “know” what Paul is exclaiming? Has this been your reality? Why or why not? 3. Why is it important to keep God the subject of the sentence and not “all things?” 4. Discuss how short sighted we often are when trying to determine what is good for us. 5. Why does God want us to become like Jesus? Is it for his benefit or ours? 6. What is God working on in your life to move you toward his ultimate purpose for you?
February 27, 2022
You in 5 Years: You – A Great Future
You in 5 Years Sermon: You – A Great Future Romans 8:18-24 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this message is that everything that we experience is temporary. For us to have a better future, it is important for us to remind ourselves that whatever we are facing right now isn’t here forever. Our world is full of sin and suffering, but Paul is telling us about a future that is without sin and suffering. This week the Apostle Paul takes some time and compares the situation that we find ourselves in with the future that we have as followers of Jesus. In this passage, Paul talks about a few negative things that we encounter in our world: suffering, a curse, death and decay. He doesn’t leave it totally negative; he balances that out with a promise of a better future, he gives us hope. This week as we face the tough circumstances that life often brings us, how can we remind ourselves and the people around us that what we are facing isn’t normal and it won’t last forever? How can we be reminded that we have a hope in Jesus? Questions for Discussion: 1. What events have happened in your life that felt like it would be there forever, but you realized were just temporary? 2. Do you agree with the statement that sin brings suffering? How have you seen that in your life? 3. Troy talked that the suffering that you’re experiencing isn’t your final destination. What ideas can we remind each other with so that we can get through some of the tough times we find ourselves in? 4. What is the one thing that you are looking forward to in heaven? 5. Is there someone in your life who is struggling with a tough situation? How can you be a distributor of hope to them this week?
February 20, 2022
You in 5 Years: You – No Fear
You in 5 Years Sermon: You – No Fear Romans 8:12-17 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we can live without fear. If we are children of God then the wonderful outcome of our lives is assured. Fear and uncertainty go hand in hand. When our future is ambiguous we are tentative and afraid. We fear negative outcomes. This is a common and even prevailing response to the times in which we live. I believe from everything I have been reading recently that anxiety, even among children is at an all-time high in our culture. This is not God’s plan for us. At least 365 times we are told not to fear in Scripture. He wants us to live with no fear. Fear and faith cannot coexist. Our text this week points us to the reason we can live without fear. We have been adopted as God’s dearly loved children and share in Christ’s inheritance. The Holy Spirit leads and guides us away from a fear based slavery to the old ways of living into a love based guided relationship with our heavenly Father. Once we are certain of our relationship to God, the way we envision our future changes. Questions for Discussion: 1. Discuss what Paul means when he says “by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body.” How and when does this happen? 2. While we were once slaves to sin and were obligated to follow the disordered desires of our flesh, now we are “led by the Spirit of God.” Contrast how sin enslaves, while the Spirit leads. How is this different? 3. What parallels does Paul want us to see between 1st Century Roman adoption and our adoption as children of God? 4. Discuss what Paul means to “share in the sufferings of Christ.” What does it mean to share his glory? 5. What do you know with certainty about God our Father?
February 13, 2022
You in 5 Years: You – Living in Freedom
You in 5 Years Sermon: You – Living in Freedom Romans 8:5-11  Sermon Summary  The Big Idea of this study is that we need to trust God’s action in us. When we focus on ourselves we are bound to fail but when we turn our attention to the Holy Spirit at work in us we find freedom, life and peace. This week in our text the Apostle Paul gets more specific in telling us about life in the Spirit in contrast to life in the Flesh. When the Spirit is in us, he changes our focus: off of self and on to Jesus. This even creates new thought pathways in our brains and therefore opens new opportunities for us to move away from old thought patterns that once held us hostage. There is a tremendous difference between the mind governed by the flesh and the mind governed by the Spirit. Life and peace characterize those who set their mind on the Spirit. Anyone who has not welcomed the Spirit into their lives will not understand this. But for those who do, the same Spirit that was alive in Jesus is alive in us and will change us from the inside out. This is his doing and not ours. If this same Spirit lives in us then we can be assured that just as God raised Jesus from the dead, so he will raise our mortal bodies and we will be forever with him. Physical death does not scare us. Questions for Discussion: 1. If our brains contain so much information how do we make sure that the Word of God has a prominent place and that it does not simply fade into the subconscious as so many of our past experiences and education? 2. Discuss the crises of authority and trust in our culture. In particular discuss this statement. “Unless we place our trust and authority in God the Father our foundation is on shaky grounds.” 3. Can you find the promise in verse 10? What is it? There is another promise in verse 11 regarding our mortal (physical) bodies, how are the two promises different? 4. If this is all true, then what difference should it make in how we live our everyday lives?
February 06, 2022
You in 5 Years: You – Guilt Free
You in Five Years Sermon: You – Guilt Free Romans 8:1-4 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that Jesus has set us free from condemnation. We are free to live according to the Spirit and we are no longer at the mercy of our disorderly fleshly desires. This new series is a deep dive into Romans chapter 8. A chapter which many theologians believe is the greatest chapter in scripture. It has so many important ideas. One way of looking at this series is to think: “If this is true; then what?” A helpful book on this topic is Mark Batterson’s book If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities. It has prompted some of  our thoughts in this series. Our text today is wonderful. It stresses that we have a new standing with God because of what Jesus has done. We are no longer guilty. Paul uses some Jewish theology about sin offerings and the like to explain that Jesus has taken our guilt and shame and we are free to live in accordance with the Spirit of Jesus. In Paul’s letter he has been contrasting life in the Spirit with life in the flesh. By flesh he means life ruled by the disordered desires of our human nature. We get the idea that not only has Jesus come to save us and take us to heaven someday, he has come to change us. We are learning to say no to the flesh and yes to the Spirit. His life and death give us the power to make this choice and it is a lifelong adventure. If we are guilt free, if we can live a new kind of life, what then? How should we then live? Questions for Discussion: 1. Discuss the importance of inner transformation in helping us deal with the outer circumstances of our lives. Are most of your prayers directed toward your circumstances or your inner transformation into the likeness of Christ? 2. Discuss how Paul uses the term “flesh” in two different ways in his letters. It can be a negative term or just a way of saying “humanly speaking” or “just from a human point of view.” 3. When are you most vulnerable to the disordered desires of the flesh? 4. So what does it mean to live guilt free? What difference does that make in our inner lives? 5. How does this affect our thinking about our past mistakes or God’s disposition toward us? 6. What changes does this allow you to make in your life today?
January 30, 2022
Bless Your Neighbour: Words are Important: Share Your Story
Bless Your Neighbour Sermon: Words are Important: Share Your Story Romans 10:12-14 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we need to learn to share our story of how we came to know Jesus. The Apostle Paul encourages us by saying this is the way people come to believe in Jesus. Question of the Day: 1. What was your life like before you met Jesus? (Or if you have been a believer since childhood: What is your life like when you forget to rely on Jesus?) 2. How did you meet Jesus? 3. What difference does Jesus make in your life?
January 23, 2022
Bless Your Neighbour: Jesus Came to Serve
Bless Your Neighbour Sermon: Jesus Came to Serve John 13:3-5  Sermon Summary  The Big Idea of this study is that serving others is essential to Kingdom of God living. This requires a radical change in how we perceive the role of leaders. Jesus modelled this for us. Question of the Day: “What can you do this week to serve your neighbour? What might you have to give up or lay down in order to do so?”
January 16, 2022
Bless Your Neighbour: The Sacred Practice of Sharing a Meal
Bless Your Neighbour Sermon: The Sacred Practice of Sharing a Meal Matthew 9:9-13 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that sharing a meal with our neighbours is a great way to bless them. Sharing a meal is more than just eating together, it is a sacred practice. Jesus modelled this for us. Question of the Day: “What would it take to plan a neighbourhood barbeque this Summer?”
January 09, 2022
Bless Your Neighbour: Listen
Bless Your Neighbour Sermon: Listen Luke 18:35-42  Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is to understand that we have been blessed to be a blessing. Through this series we are talking about 5 ways that we can love our neighbors and change the world. Today we talk about what it would look like to really listen to those around us. Question of the Day: Think of a time when you felt heard by someone else. What did that other person do to make you feel like that? How can you do that for others?
January 02, 2022
Bless Your Neighbour: Begin with Prayer
Bless Your Neighbour Sermon: Begin with Prayer Genesis 12:1-3; Luke 6:12-16 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we should begin every new adventure with prayer. We pray for our neighbours so that our hearts are ready to bless them. Question of the Day: “Will you consider fasting and prayer as a way to prepare your heart for what the Lord wants to do in your neighbourhood?”
December 26, 2021
Get Ready: Get Ready to Tell
Get Ready: A Season of Preparation Sermon: Get Ready to Tell Luke 2:16-20; Matt. 10:26-27 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that God expects us to share the Good News. He whispers to us in the dark and we are to proclaim his praise in the light. Question of the Day: “While we should be careful not to be obnoxious about sharing our faith, there is a time to speak up and let our voice be heard. Do you err on the side of caution?”
December 24, 2021
Get Ready: Get Ready for Jesus
Get Ready: A Season of Preparation Sermon: Get Ready for Jesus Matthew 1:18 - 21 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that Jesus not only came as our Saviour but also our King. Saviours get you out of trouble and Good Kings keep you out of trouble. Question of the Day: What is it in all of us that has trouble taking direction from someone else? What have you been avoiding thinking about because you think that Jesus will lead you somewhere you don’t want to be?
December 19, 2021
Get Ready: Get Ready for God to Be Involved
Get Ready: A Season of Preparation Sermon: Get Ready for God to Be Involved Luke 1:1-4, 26-38, 46-56 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that even when we feel like we have random events happening around us, God is with us and involved in our lives. Question of the Day: Do you believe that God can work everything for His purpose in your life?
December 12, 2021
Get Ready: Get Ready for a Test
Get Ready: A Season of Preparation Sermon: Get Ready for a Test Matthew 2:13-18  Sermon Summary  The Big Idea of this study is that our faith will be tested. God already knows us so this kind of testing is not for God to understand us, but for us to understand ourselves so that our faith will grow. Question of the Day: “When in the midst of a test of your faith would it help to remember that the Lord is allowing you to test His faithfulness? What is really on trial here: your faith or God’s faithfulness?”
December 05, 2021
Get Ready: Get Ready for a Miracle
Get Ready: A Season of Preparation Sermon: Get Ready for a Miracle Luke 1:11-17 Sermon Summary  The Big Idea of this study is that God still works miracles. We are all in need of his supernatural intervention in our lives. Question of the Day: When was the last time God did a miracle in your life? Where do you need His supernatural presence right now? Talk to Him about that.
November 28, 2021
Made for Mondays: Creating With Your Co-Workers
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: Creating With Your Co-Workers Romans 12:9-11 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that while we are made for Monday, we do not always find Mondays easy. Work was interwoven into the story of creation and right from the very first chapter of Genesis we see God working. Right from the beginning we see God separating the waters from the heavens from the waters from the earth. Right from the beginning God created and invited us to come alongside of him and create together. God asks humans to come along and do a part, we were to name the animals. Naming the animals was not above God’s skill set, but God asks us to partner with him in the creation process. God wants us to partner with Him in all the areas of our lives and continue this process of creation. Today we talked how God continues to ask us to create in our work spaces, by naming the gifts that God has already placed in many of the lives of those we work with. There is an idea of common grace. Common grace says that God gives amazing gifts to people who don’t know him. What would it look like for us to take a close look at what those gifts are in other’s lives? What would it look like to encourage our coworkers with the great gifts that Jesus has already placed in their lives? Questions for Discussion: 1. What is the best job you ever had? Why did you like it so much? 2. Have you ever had someone “pretend” to love you? Have you ever worked in a place where you felt genuinely loved? What things do you think that you can do to show people you work with that you love them? 3. What do you think the best way is to show your co-workers that they are more than just an employee? More than a co-worker? 4. What do you see in some of your co-workers that you admire? What would it look like to tell them this week what you appreciate about them? 5. What is one idea that you are going to take away from this series and try and implement into your work world?
November 21, 2021
Made for Mondays: Work and Sabbath
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: Work and Sabbath Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12, 15 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that Sabbath rest is a reminder or our identity as image bearers and our freedom from slavery. Yes, work is God’s good idea for us. It is to bring him glory. But every six days we are supposed to stop work and rest. There are two texts which help us understand why work combined with rest is so important. Each gives us different but complementary reasons to observe Sabbath. The Exodus text tells us it is because God rested on the 7th day of creation. As his image bearers we are to be like him and take time to enjoy and reflect upon his creation. In the Deuteronomy passage we are to observe the Sabbath because it is a reminder of our emancipation from slavery. Here we have two really important Biblical themes. The first reminds us of who we are. We are to follow the Lord’s pattern at creation and rest after six days because we are like Him. This truth that we are image bearers is probably the most important idea in human history. Our identity is settled. We are made to be like him and enjoy a special, loving and eternal relationship with him. While some may think that our identity is something to be discovered or that we are the product of our own belief system, the Scripture is clear. Our identity is found in our relationship with God as his image bearers. The second reason for Sabbath reminds us that we are free from the tyranny of work or the many motives that drive people to work incessantly. Work, or even the quality of our work, does not make God love us; it does not increase our value as human beings. We are not slaves, we are free. The world won’t stop spinning if we take a day off. We trust the Lord and rest in him. Questions for Discussion: 1. Did you ever wonder why Sabbath is so important in Scripture? While Jesus disagreed with the many laws that were added regarding Sabbath during the intertestmental period (Matt. 12:1-14; Mk. 2:23-28; Lk. 6:1-11) he was still Lord of the Sabbath, Mark 2:28. 2. Have you found it hard to observe the rhythm of Sabbath rest? Why or why not? 3. Why is it so important to pause and reflect on our work and enjoy our rest from it? 4. Can this help us to be reminded of our connection to God as his special creations? 5. Why is it important to define what it means to be human by starting with our identity rather than starting with our behavior? 6. By keeping Sabbath can we be freed from the slavery of depending on work for our self-esteem, financial security and fulfillment? 7. Discuss how you might make Sabbath more meaningful than just a day off work?
November 14, 2021
Made for Mondays: Work and Justice
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: Work and Justice Isaiah 59:3,6-9a  Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that justice issues are very important to the Lord. We can’t be in a right relationship with him without caring for those he cares about. Those of us who have been around for a while can remember when we put a great deal of trust in institutions and corporations. It was shocking to hear of an organization that betrayed the trust of its employees, or customers. Today it is commonplace to hear of outrageous things happening in corporations, the police force, and even the church. Imagine what this means for the generation of folks under 30 years of age. They have never lived in an era when they could completely trust their world.  I’m sure there are many reasons for the suspicion and lack of trust we are experiencing. In this week’s sermon I discuss some of those factors. But regardless of the reasons, we have a responsibility as followers of Jesus to reverse the trend. We are really talking about issues of justice and integrity. Distrust is a direct result of injustice. We all know what it is like to be treated unfairly and the impact is certainly a breach in the relationship. In our text the Lord is reminding Israel of the importance of looking after the disadvantaged. He says that a relationship with Him requires healthy and just relationships with others who are less fortunate than us. Our prayers are hindered when we don’t care about those he cares about.  Questions for Discussion: 1. Imagine growing up in a world where you don’t trust any institution. What would this do to your worldview? Do you see that in the youngest generation? 2. Do you think the Israelite exiles are shocked by God’s response to their prayer and fasting? Why or why not? 3. Notice how the Lord defines fasting, not as abstaining from food, but as caring for the needy. (See verse 6a) 4. What religious duties might Christians think puts them in good stead with God that in reality miss the point Isaiah is making? 5. Read again verses 8-9 and discuss the benefits promised those who care for those who are in need. 6. Discuss this statement “Followers of Jesus disadvantage themselves for the advantage of others.”
November 07, 2021
Made for Mondays: All For the Glory of God
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: All For the Glory of God 1 Corinthians 10:31  Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that we need to see our problems and disagreements through Gospel glasses. Knowing the Gospel story and identifying the real problem is essential to bringing glory to God at work, home and in the church. In my lifetime I have pastored through many disagreements in the church. The current Covid controversies are just the latest in a long line of issues that thoughtful, devout followers of Jesus have disagreed about. I can remember when not wearing a tie on the platform was considered irreverent and then there were the worship music wars and the length of men’s hair. I served under a pastor when I was a youth pastor who was convinced that any music with a rock and roll rhythm was from the devil. The Apostle Paul’s advice about a very hot topic in the 1 st Century was to be careful, no matter what side of the controversy we find ourselves on, to do everything for the glory of God. In other words, His reputation is at stake, we need to respond in keeping with the Gospel story. We need to remember what the real problem is, and things like love, respect, generosity and grace need to flavour our conversations. The world will have all kinds of solutions for our problems at work, at home and in society at large. But they locate the problem and the solution as something in creation. But we know something they do not. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 3-5) Questions for Discussion: 1. When thoughtful, devout followers of Jesus disagree, how are we to respond? Why is this so difficult? Hint: 2 Cor. 3-5 2. Discuss the Gospel story in terms of hero, problem/antagonist, and solution. Discuss how your life responses reflect which story you believe. 3. Have you noticed how in movies and in culture there are other stories being advocated? How do they differ from the Gospel story? Where do they think the resolution will come from? 4. Pick a problem you are encountering and view it through Gospel glasses. What do you see? 5. How does knowing and trusting Jesus make a difference in your work world, family life, and church life?
October 31, 2021
Made for Mondays: Idols at Work and the Gospel Solution
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: Idols at Work and the Gospel Solution Exodus 20:4-5  Sermon Summary  The Big Idea of this study is that while work is God’s good idea there are aspects of work that lead to pitfalls in our spiritual lives. Any good thing can become an idol in our hearts. The Biblical view of idols is that they can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives. Even good things can become idols if they are taken too far. Ezekiel 14:3-7 talks about “idols of the heart.” Anything that replaces the Lord in terms or our security, happiness, satisfaction, etc. has become an idol. We should be careful to be on guard against the tendency to allow anything to come between us and the Lord. The history of Israel is of course riddled with examples of them gravitating toward idolatry and the terrible consequences. The problem with idol worship is that it does not lead to good and meaningful lives, it leads to bondage. This is why the Lord wants us to worship him only and rely on him only for our security, happiness and fulfillment. When we worship the Lord he does not abuse us, as idols do, but rather he frees us and leads us toward joy. In John 15:11 Jesus reminds us of this. The danger of idolatry is that it leads to demonic oppression. In both the Old and the New Covenants we hear that demons lurk behind the idols people worship (See Deut. 32:16-17 and 1 Cor. 10:20). While this does not need to be a concern for the spiritually aware Christian, it behooves us to be very careful that Jesus remains the centre in our work world. Don’t give the enemy a foothold. Questions for Discussion: 1. Discuss together the Biblical definition of idol worship as anything we love, serve or derive meaning from more than from the Lord God 2. John Calvin said: “The human heart is an idol factory.” Why do you think that may or may not be true? 3. Discuss why authentic worship of the true God is the antidote to idolatry. 4. Can you think of other things that are good that can easily become idols if taken too far? 5. While material possessions, joy, and power are all good things if kept under the lordship of Jesus, how can we make sure they stay in their proper place? 6. Discuss the importance of being on Mission for the success of our family and work life. By this I mean having a purpose in life given by the Lord that is greater than happiness or money or status.
October 24, 2021
Made for Mondays: Called For Work
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: Called For Work 1 Corinthians 7:17, Genesis 37, 39-41 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that while we are made for Monday, we do not always find Mondays easy. We live in a world where people seem to be on a happiness quest. They get in relationships to make themselves happy, buy cars to make them happy and some even take a job to make themselves happy. What if we are shooting for a target that doesn’t exist? We’ve all bought, signed up for and dated what we thought would make us happy and found out that happiness is a feeling and we know that feelings lie to us. This weekend we looked at the story of Joseph from the Old Testament. Joseph was one who had jobs that were terrible. Joseph worked as a slave and worked in a jail, but “(he) succeeded in whatever he did.” (Gen 39:2) Joseph took a job that shouldn’t make him happy and he found purpose in it. What would it look like for us to look at our jobs not as something to bring us happiness, but to bring us purpose? Questions for Discussion: 1. What is something that you bought that you thought would make you happy but didn’t? 2. Have you ever suffered from “can’t wait disease” what did that look like in your life? 3. What does it mean to you to be present in the moment that you are living in right now? What practical steps can you take to remind yourself that you shouldn’t always look to what’s next in your life? 4. In your own words, what is the difference between finding a job with purpose and finding a job that makes you happy? 5. Troy talked about the 3 different brick layers at the end of the message. If you were to describe what you do, your purpose for your job, what would it be? How can you remind yourself of that when your job might be something that you don’t want to do?
October 17, 2021
Made for Mondays: Problems at Work
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: Problems at Work Genesis 2:15-17; 3:17-19 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that while we are made for Monday, we do not always find Mondays easy. Something is wrong with both work and the workers. But fear not, the Gospel has a solution.  The original sin messed up creation. Both humankind and the rest of the created order are tainted by the fall. Adam and Eve hide from God, thorns and thistles begin to grow. The results of the fall reverberate through time all the way to our own generation. We sometimes sum up our frustration with the comment “there are problems at work.” Keep in mind that the problems at work are not just with the projects that get messed up or the delays in processes or the computer crashes, but there are people problems as well. Not only can work be messy, people are messy. The Gospel is not just about saving souls it has all kinds of ramifications for the workplace and all of creation. “God so loved the world” not just the people in the world but the whole world. This includes forests and cities and cultures and workplaces: everything in all of creation. So his redemptive work applies to both the invisible and the visible world and he places us in the middle of all that as his servants in restoring creation. Questions for Discussion: 1. Between 1 and 10, what is your level of frustration at work? Why? 2. Are people problems the most difficult to work with? Why? Maybe all problems stem from people problems? 3. In what ways can you see your challenges as a result of the original sin? What similarities can you see between Adam and Eve’s reaction to their sin and your problems with people? Are there thorns and thistles at work that cause fruitlessness in your endeavors? 4. If the Lord is concerned for all creation and not just people, how might he be wanting to work in your workplace? 5. How might you be involved with and cooperate with his purposes at work?
October 10, 2021
Made for Mondays: Work and the Image of God
Made for Mondays: Work and the Glory of God Sermon: Work and the Image of God Genesis 1:26-27 Sermon Summary The Big Idea of this study is that as image of God bearers we reflect God’s image in the way we work.  We work to bring orderliness to creation and work is about service, love and worship. What it means to be made in the image of God has occupied theologians, both Jewish and Christian, since the beginning of time. It is probably best to think of a constellation of characteristics that humankind has in common with God. It also helps, I think, to remember that the basis of the similarities is so that God can share an eternal relationship with us. He made us to share in his presence forever. This week we are learning about the nature of God’s work in creation and how it sets the stage for how we are to work as his representatives. We stand between two worlds: the world of heaven and the physical realm. We represent to creation the nature of God and we present up to God the worship of his creation. As followers of Jesus, we worship and bring deserving praise to God while many of our fellow creatures refuse to acknowledge him. In some way we are carrying the responsibility of all of creation to honour their creator. We need to reframe how we view our work in light of how God worked in creation. Work is meaningful and satisfying when we view it as ordering, serving, and loving creation. It is an act of worship to our creator friend. Questions for Discussion: 1. Do you find Monday mornings difficult? Why or why not? 2. Discuss some of the ways humankind are different from the rest of creation.  How might these differences fit us to spend eternity with God? 3. Discuss your occupation as an ordering activity. In what ways does chaos continue to encroach on creation? 4. Discuss this statement: Chaos or disorderliness is a sure sign that Satan is at work. 5. Is chaos in family life (over commitment, time pressure, etc.) God’s best for you? 6. Talk about your work as service, love and worship. How might that attitude toward work make your Mondays better?
October 03, 2021
Made for Mondays: Work is God’s Idea
Made for Mondays Sermon: Work is God’s Idea Genesis 2:1-3, 15 The Big Idea of this study is that work is God’s good idea; we are Made for Monday. While work cannot provide our self-fulfillment or our identity (only Jesus can) it is a way God continues his work on Earth. Question of the Day: Knowing what you now know about Identity and Self-Fulfillment, what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
September 26, 2021
Listen Like Jesus: Listen for Opportunity to Make a Difference
The Big Idea of this week is that Jesus listened for an opportunity to make a difference, not just to make a point. Jesus followers often come across situations where we can help and make a difference, and all that we do is tell them that we are praying for them and wish them well. We have to learn to look for these opportunities. We know that God is working in lives around us. This story encourages us to look for where he is working and helping in areas that we can. Love is an action. We should let Jesus do what he does and meet needs in areas that we can meet. Other scriptures to read: James 2:15-17 Group Questions: What are some of your famous sayings that you hear or say? What are some of the worst clichés that you’ve heard? What’s the opportunity that you wish you could have over again that you missed in your life? Read John 11:1-44 As you re-read that passage, what do you think that John wished he understood as he experienced this first hand? What practical things do you think that you need to remember so you don’t miss the next opportunity? What practical need do you see in your world that you can meet?
September 19, 2021
Kick Off Sunday: Pick Up a Shovel
The Big Idea of this study is that often the Lord invites us to participate in his miracles. Faith and obedience are required. Question of the Day: Can you determine to pray for your neighbours? When will you do that? What’s your plan?
September 12, 2021
Listen Like Jesus: Jesus Asked Great Questions
The Big Idea of this study is that in order to listen like Jesus we need to learn to ask great questions. Good listeners are curious. Question of the Day: Can you determine to ask clarifying questions in your next conversation?
September 05, 2021
Listen Like Jesus: The Samaritan Woman
The Big Idea of this study is that in order to listen like Jesus we need to hear more than words. Good listeners are detectives.  Question of the Day:  Think back to your last conversation. Did you pick up on any nonverbal clues? How might you improve your listening skills?
August 29, 2021
Listen Like Jesus: Listen for Opportunity
This is week 3 of our sermon series "Listen Like Jesus" and this week Pastor Troy dives into John chapter 3 looking at Nicodemus and some of the questions he asked Jesus.
August 22, 2021
Listen Like Jesus: Listening with Discernment
In our message today we look at Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine.  Our focus is not so much on the miracle as it is on the conversation Jesus had with Mary.   When Mary brought the problem to Jesus – ‘they’ve run out of wine’, Jesus listened with discernment.   He was aware of Mary’s concern but he was also aware of His priorities.  He understood the embarrassment and guilt that could come upon the wedding party if they run out of wine – but he also understood what was most important. Mary told the servants to “do whatever he (Jesus) tells you to do”.   She was willing to ask anything – but also willing to yield everything.  As followers of Jesus, we need to be willing to ask. God wants us to bring our requests to Him – but we also must be willing to yield to His will.   Ask anything – yield everything! Personal Reflection: Is there an area of my life I haven't fully yielded to God?   What is that area?   How will I respond?
August 15, 2021
Listen Like Jesus: Listen to Know
The Big Idea of this study is that for us to truly listen to other people it is more than hearing them, we need to know them. Question of the Day: What one thing can you do to show people that you are listening to them by seeing them?
August 08, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: Selective Hearing
“I Used to Think that God Didn’t talk to me, Now I know that I have selective hearing”
August 01, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: Practice Makes Perfect
The Big Idea of this study is that Jesus warns us that unless we put in practice his teaching on the Kingdom of God we will crash during the storms of life. He doesn’t want people to just study his words, he wants us to hear and do what he says. Question of the Day: What is one thing you can focus on this week to build a solid foundation?
July 25, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: True Religion
The Big Idea of this study is that fake religion leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. In our speech, care of others and Jesus honouring lifestyles we have the opportunity to cause people to instead, have a hankering for Jesus and his community of friends. Question of the Day: Would someone be attracted to Jesus and his community of friends by getting to know you?
July 18, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: Just Say “Yes”
“I Used to Think I Had to Be Special for God to Use Me, Now I Know I Just Have to Say Yes” - Bob Goff •Series Prompted by Several Quotes in His Book: Love Does
July 11, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: Leadership is Influence
The Big Idea of this study is if we really want to influence people, we need to help them see the good attributes that God has given them. In Love Does, Bob Goff states: “I used to think that words said about us describe us, but now I know they shape who we are.” Our world is full of people who suffer from self-doubt and insecurity. We’ve all seen how online no matter what your opinion people can be beat up and criticized just for stating their mind. We see Paul in his letter to Timothy encouraging his protégé in what he saw in him. He took ink and pen and encouraged Timothy in an area of strength in his life. We need to remember our 3 circles of relationship and actively look for way to encourage those people in them. There are 3 circles of relationships that everyone can have influence over. Inner circle: There are the people that are closest to you, your family members, your or your best friends. Your Influence Circle: These are the people that you run into on a regular basis. The people that you work with, your neighbors Your Life Circle: These are the ones that you have a shallow relationship with: The person who serves you coffee or the people you might walk by in your neighborhood. We know that if everyone suffers from self-doubt and insecurity, it is part of our duties as Jesus followers to make people’s lives better. We can do that by encouraging them this week. Questions for Discussion: Do you see our society more as a place where people are encouraged or a place where they are criticized? How do you think that effects the way they live? When in your life did someone reach out to you and encourage you when they noticed you needed it? After that encouragement, how did that fuel you? If you have encouraged others in the past, how was it received and how did you react? Troy said, “Many people don’t feel good enough about themselves to let you feel good enough about yourself.” Do you find that to be true? Why or why not? How are you going to reach out to someone in one of the three circles and encourage them this week?
July 04, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: Participants Needed
The Big Idea of this study is that what we sometimes call “the life of faith” is really a life of action.  True belief is not just a matter of our heads or hearts; it requires participation in the work of Jesus. In Love Does, Bob Goff states: “I used to think that being a believer was enough, but now I know that God wants participants,”  I often put it this way: “I want to not only believe in Jesus, I want to act like I believe in what Jesus believed in…for even the devil believes in Jesus.” In our text the Apostle Paul is summarizing discussion on believers attending idol festivals. In doing so he concludes with some important principles for living out our Christian faith. Put simply, following Jesus will make a big difference in how we live compared to people who don’t know Jesus. We do everything for the glory of God!  That is a huge statement. It encompasses everything we do: work, leisure activities and our Christian service. Everything for the glory of God. Everything with the intent of praise and honour going to Jesus. Therefore, be careful that your behavior doesn’t do the opposite and malign the intent of the Gospel. Paul calls this “causing others to stumble.” When followers of Jesus act in ways that confuse nonbelievers about what it means to be saved or when we confuse new believers, it certainly does not help the cause of Christ. In everything we are to follow the example of Jesus. This needs to be our highest priority but it is a grand task and will require some real sacrifices. Just like Jesus. Questions for Discussion: 1.  While in Paul’s day eating at idol festivals was a hot topic in Christian circles with lots of debate, what are the hot topics today for believers? To vaccinate or not? Alcohol consumption? Etc? 2.  What does it mean to do everything for the glory of God? How do we do that at work or school when it is not always acceptable to even mention Jesus? 3.  In what ways can your everyday life affirm the truth of the Gospel and in so doing, bring glory to God? 4.  How can we remember to put others first and not simply make decisions in our own best interest but for “the good of many” as Paul puts it? 5.  Why is it important to keep referring back to Jesus as our example and not get too enamoured with the teaching or example of fellow believers?
June 27, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: Shaped By Love
The Big Idea of this study is that the Lord uses our circumstances to shape us. We make choices with our renewed minds and trust the Lord with our choices. Like clay in his hands, he shapes us in the midst of our life events. “I used to think I could shape the circumstances around me, now I know my circumstances shape me.” - Bob Goff in Love Does. I am not entirely sure what Bob meant by that, but it has prompted in me the question of how we find God’s will. Many believers tie themselves up in knots trying to discern the Lord’s will, hoping to hear a voice from heaven when they simply need to move forward with the decisions at hand. God allows us to discover his will by making choices. He has given us a renewed mind so that we can think like Jesus, so we need to rely on that and trust the Lord. Our choices and the circumstances we find ourselves in will shape us, but we can trust that we are in the Lord’s good hands and he knows our needs. Matthew 10:11-14 is informative along this line and it demonstrates how Jesus expected the Apostles to find his will. They were to move ahead and look at their circumstances and make wise decisions. During this all important mission to the lost, Jesus trusted his followers to allow their circumstances to lead them.  There was no voice from heaven, no burning bush, and no prophetic spokesperson. They just made informed choices and moved forward. There are three primary ways to follow the Lord’s leading. The Word of God, His Holy Spirit, and our circumstances each play a role in shaping our future.  While it may not seem very “spiritual” to realize how much our circumstances shape us, but it takes a great deal of trust in Jesus to move ahead knowing that he gives us the ability to make wise choices. Questions for Discussion: 1.  When faced with a decision between two alternatives have you ever been stuck just waiting to hear definitively from the Lord? How did that work out? 2. If Jesus lives in you, can you make decisions based on the confidence that he has given you a renewed mind and that he guides your thoughts like the disciples in Matthew 10:11-14? 3. Discuss these three cautions: 1. Closed doors are not an indication of God’s pleasure or displeasure with us. They are just indicating “yes” or “no;” 2. Don’t assume the worst when circumstances are difficult; and 3. Remember you are being shaped by love in the hands of the master potter.
June 20, 2021
I Used to Think…But Now I Know: Love Does
The Big Idea of this study is that love is more than thinking good thoughts about someone or something. It requires action. When we truly experience Jesus, we walk as he did. Bob Goff wrote a wonderful little book a few years ago that caught my attention called Love Does.  Bob is a lawyer and follower of Jesus. He has started a nonprofit that helps children who are in prison in underdeveloped countries get a fair trial. This series is based on a number of quotes found in his book that resonated with me. I have built this series around the quotes and have endeavoured to explore the Biblical values that they present. In our text this week John is refuting a false claim by some teachers he has come across. While they were claiming to know God because of some kind of ecstatic experience with God like a vision or mystical revelation, John maintains that if we really know God we will act like Jesus acted, or in his words, “walk like him.”  In particular, true believers will love their brothers and sisters in Christ and treat them as such. Loving behavior is for John the acid test of truly knowing God.  Everyone likes to be loved. Everyone likes to think about love and ponder the benefits of being in love, but followers of Jesus go beyond this to act in loving ways. Love does. Questions for Discussion: 1.  Have you ever caught yourself thinking about love but fallen short of actually doing the loving thing? 2.  Explain the difference between judging someone and discernment. 3.  What is the most profound experience you have had with the Lord? These can be amazing and incredibly moving. John is not trying to depreciate these things but he is trying to put the emphases on our response to these kinds of encounters. Have you known people who have the big story about experiencing God but little follow through in terms of love or “walking as Jesus did?” Why does this happen? 4.  Discuss the idea that what John is saying is countercultural. Can you cite examples of how our culture puts such a huge value on individuality and personal freedom to determine truth. 6.  How must we then live? 5. (Bonus Question for Keeners) Discuss how that second cultural shift in slide 10 (from goods produced at home to goods produced in factories) has affected raising and educating children and family values.
June 13, 2021
Sayings of the Wise: Avoiding Dead Ends
Today we conclude our series in Proverbs with a look at Proverbs 24:19-22.  This “Saying of the Wise”, challenges us to consider how we respond to evildoers in the world today.  Have you ever looked at the world and thought evil doers are winning the day? We watch evil doers seemingly prosper and have success. How can that be?  How should we respond to them?  We’re told not to fret or be envious because they have no future.   This begs another question though – why would we be angry or envious? If we find ourselves envious towards evil doers, this may reflect a false narrative  and/or perhaps I’ve forgotten my identity in Christ.  Both errors will lead me to respond to evil doers in an unhealthy manner. How should I respond?  In Matthew 5 Jesus tells us we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Easier said that done – true!  But yet, this is how Jesus instructs us to respond. With God, all things are possible. Discussion Questions: Can you share an example of an evil doers succeeding? How did this make you feel? Talk about how the false narrative (God responds to me based on my behavior). Have you seen this narrative lived out? Discuss our Identity in Christ and why it is important for us to remember who we are in Christ?  How does our identity in Christ impact how we relate to and view evil doers? Read Matthew 5:43-48 and discuss: Who are our enemies? What does it look like to ‘love my enemy’? Why is it important to pray for those who persecute us? What does it mean to “Fear the Lord”? When I have ‘Fear the Lord’ in what ways will that impact my daily living? Read and discuss Romans 13:1-7 How Christ Followers should respond to our leaders in government. How should we respond to government laws regarding COVID protocols (ie, wear masks in church, limit the size of group that meets, etc).
June 06, 2021
Sayings of the Wise: It Takes Wisdom to Build a Home
The Big Idea of this study is that wisdom bids us to build a home full of wisdom that requires understanding and knowledge, but there will be other competing voices calling out to us, don’t go there. In the book of Proverbs wisdom is often personified and depicted as a woman who builds a house.  Lady wisdom calls to the youthful to come and enjoy the benefits of living a wise life.  This image is set in contrast to another kind of woman, often a prostitute, who also calls out to come and enjoy her favours. Our text reminds us that both wisdom and folly appeal to us. Wisdom requires effort to be effective (build a house).  Understanding and knowledge often don’t come easily. On the other hand, folly or Lady Folly, who tends to call out more loudly and boisterously, promises easy pickings. “Stolen water and food eaten in secret is delicious” (9:17). The idea of folly as a home or a place of residence that becomes a trap or house of horrors has a long history in North American lore.  Songs like Hotel California and The House of the Rising Sun depict very similar motifs to our Biblical Proverbs.  In the teaching of Jesus the wide and narrow pathways of Matthew 7:13-14 teach a similar lesson. Be careful where you go, dire consequences result from poor choices. Questions for Discussion: 1.  Discuss the house or home motif as it depicts wisdom and folly. Does this still resonate with our culture? Why or why not? 2.  What are the rare and beautiful treasures found in the house of wisdom? 3.  Compare the effort to gain the house of wisdom with that of the house of folly.  Have you found this to be true? 4.  Why are forbidden things so attractive? 5.  What is the take home lesson from these proverbs? How should we then live?
May 30, 2021
Sayings of the Wise: The Silent Epidemic
The Big Idea of this study is that wisdom demands that we be very cautious regarding consuming alcoholic beverages. When I lived in dorms at University I chose not to drink beer with my friends.  When they asked why I would say:  “If ten passenger jets fell from the sky every year and killed everyone on board, you would think twice before boarding a plane.” The abuse of alcohol has even more devastating effects.  According to the World Health Organization, alcohol abuse is the number one killer in the world: more than war, more than cancer, and certainly more than the current Covid epidemic.  Yet very little is ever reported about this silent epidemic. The Bible perceives wine as a blessing from the Lord (i.e. Prov. 3:9-10; Psalm 104:14-15). Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle. But it also warns of its misuse and danger.  Proof that any good gift from the Lord can be abused and end up causing great harm. Our Proverb this week is a warning about drunkenness and the abuse of alcohol. “It bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.”  The abuse of alcohol is a worship disorder.  It is an attempt to find something only the Lord can supply.  Peace, security, joy, etc. cannot be found at the bottom of a bottle but only in worshipping our creator. Be very careful then about your reason for consuming alcohol, if you do.  If you can’t find these things without a drink, you are in danger. According to Stats Canada almost 20% of Canadians have a drinking problem in that they are drinking heavily; way over the limit of what is safe to drink.  This is concerning and affects people who are following Jesus. We have people in our congregation who have suffered greatly from alcohol abuse. The solution of course is to continue to come to Jesus.  There is no problem too great, no failure too terrible that He cannot resolve. Questions for Discussion: 1.  This proverb is more than the two line classic bit of wisdom that we see in most of the Wisdom Literature, it is a lot longer.  Is that significant? 2.  Are you surprised by the extent of the harm due to alcohol abuse?  Why do you think this is underreported? 3.  Discuss the idea that God’s blessings can be abused.  Can you give other examples? 4.  Discuss the abuse of alcohol as a worship disorder. What is the cure? 5.  Part of the problem with alcohol addiction is that often people who are addicted don’t realize they are addicted.  How can we check to see that our use of alcohol is not problematic?  Have you had that conversation with yourself or others?
May 23, 2021
Sayings of the Wise: An Armload of Nothing
The Big Idea of this study is that our desires need to be kept in check by our will which needs to be in line with the will of Jesus. I believe Confucius had it right when he wrote: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection, which is the noblest, second is by imitation, which is the easiest, and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”  Scripture encourages us to learn wisdom by the first two methods. Our proverb this week challenges us to be careful about what we desire. It contrasts the desire to follow the ways of sinners and the desire to follow God’s will. Sin is that which is harmful to us and others and detestable to God. The reason it is detestable to God is that it is harmful to his creation. Sin is not attractive. In fact it is ugly.  The only reason we are attracted to evil people or evil things is that our desires have focused on them and we unthinkingly follow our desires. But if our wills are focused on the Lord and his will, then we will filter our desires through that grid and reject those things that do not line up with God’s purposes for us. Our proverb gives us the motivation to do this: So that we don’t end up with an armload of nothing. So that we have a good future.  Our posture as we walk the pathway of life is to look up at the Lord and “fix our eyes on Jesus” and look forward to the future because God has a good plan in store for us. Questions for Discussion: 1.  Is it surprising that our desires may not be good for us?  Why do we so easily assume that what we want is good for us? 2.  How can your will be a filter for your desires? How do you make sure your will is submitted to the will of Jesus? 3. Discuss sin as “that which is harmful to us and others and offensive to the Lord.” 4.  How much grief would be avoided if people would just pause and think about the consequences of their desires?  Why is this one of Satan’s favourite tricks? 5.  What promise is there in our proverb regarding the future? In contrast, what does that say about unrepentant sinners or those who follow the ways of “careless rebels?” (Eugene Peterson’s term) 6.  Take a moment to examine your strongest desires. Do they fit with what you know to be Jesus’ desire for you?
May 16, 2021
Sayings of the Wise: Practice Restraint
The Big Idea of this study is that riches will not buy happiness. It is better to be “rich toward God” and “rich in good deeds.” It seems like it is natural to think that money will solve our problems.  And money does solve many problems.  If you are very poor, more money will make a big difference in your well-being.  But wealth does not solve the most important problems, even though it seems we think it will.  Seeking riches can be a trap and lead to all kinds of problems. Our text this week warns us about the danger of trying to get rich.  This is the Old Testament equivalent of 1 Timothy 6:7-10 “The love of money is the root of all evil…” and of course Jesus’ teaching on the subject. In particular the story of the rich fool in Luke 12 comes to mind “I will eat drink and be merry…” Since wealth cannot solve the biggest issues of our lives it is better to seek after being “rich toward God” (Luke 12:20) and “rich in good works” (1 Tim. 6:18).  Remember Matthew 6:33 "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.” That is a tremendous promise, but we must focus on seeking the right things. Questions for Discussion: 1.  Why is it that it is so natural and prevalent to assume that wealth and happiness are linked together and that if we just had more money we would be happier?  What evidence do you see contrary to this myth? 2.  What does it mean to “show restraint” regarding riches? 3. Put in your own words the reasons craving wealth is dangerous and unsatisfying. 4. Discuss C.S. Lewis’s quote: “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” 5. What new habits might you adopt to help you become “rich toward God?”
May 09, 2021
Sayings of the Wise: Wise Words in Our Hearts Bring Wise Answers to Our Lips
The Big Idea of this study is the importance of the Lord’s wisdom.  It should be a lifelong goal to get wiser. Have you ever looked back on your past mistakes and wished you had been wiser? It sometimes seems that the only way to get wisdom is through mistakes. How often have you said: “I’ll never do that again!” But scripture tells us that wisdom comes from the Lord. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom. But we have to take it to heart. Our text this week says that when we apply wisdom to our hearts it is ready on our lips. The study and application of wisdom need to be a life-long pursuit. It will save us from a world of hurt. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at this collection of thirty sayings from Proverbs 22 to 24.  I believe we will find that placing these principles in our hearts will help us when we encounter those times when we are faced with challenging circumstances – like Covid! Questions for Discussion: 1.  Discuss examples of how technological change has prompted the need for greater wisdom. One big example of this would be the availability of pornography. 2.  Discuss the importance of having a storehouse of wisdom so that when we encounter difficult situations we will have a ready response. 3.  How much time or energy have you spent this past week contemplating wisdom? 4.  Discuss the three reasons the writer of Proverbs gives for gaining wisdom. 5.  Discuss the relationship between wisdom, trust, and effectiveness. 6.  How might you plan to increase your wisdom?
May 02, 2021
Jonah: Salvation Comes From The Lord
The Big Idea of this weekend’s message: Many of us have surrendered to God’s moral will for our lives, but many of us have never surrendered to how God wants to use us with the people we interact with each and every day. As we look at the story of Jonah, it’s more than the kid's story we might have read to our children. It is not just a story of someone who disobeyed and learned his lesson. It was someone who thought that his own death might be better than a whole city repenting and turning to God. Many of us are satisfied with being good people. We love our family, we follow the rules, pay our taxes and try and smile at our neighbors. Jonah had the same attitude. Maybe he thought, “God, I’ll serve you where people who think like me live.” God had a greater plan for his life. God is calling us to be more than just ‘nice Christians’, he wants us to make a difference in the world that we live in. There are many things that we can get angry about in our world. Our neighbors make a mess, make too much noise, their yard isn’t nice enough. What about those customers who get mad at the barista who didn’t make their $6 Latte hot enough? Then there are the people who don’t think like us and no matter what argument you throw at them, they still won’t believe what you believe in. In this story we see Jonah angry and upset about stuff that really doesn’t matter. Like Jonah, maybe we need to ask ourselves what we are really concerned about and find out if that aligns with what concerns God. Questions for Discussion: If you were read the Bible as a child what was your favorite Bible story? Talk about a time when you wouldn’t help someone because they didn’t deserve it. Describe a time that someone was good to you where you didn’t deserve it. What do you get angry about? How is what you get angry about relate to what concerns God? How can you take who you are and who you’re connected with and intersect with what God is doing in your world?
April 25, 2021
The Good and Beautiful Life: Our Place in God’s Family
The Big Idea of this study is that peacemakers demonstrate that they are brothers and sisters of Jesus. Our families of origin, for better or for worse, have a lot to do with our view of ourselves. Our nuclear family dynamic: conversations around the dinner table, on the way to school, and in front of the TV have a lasting impact. Those early impressions of who we are in the world and of our particular giftings and shortcomings tend to greatly influence our life’s trajectory.  This is why the Kingdom of God is such Good News. We have been adopted into a new family. We are being shaped by a new paradigm.  Our trajectory has been altered by the grace of God. Our new family and in particular our new Father and Older Brother change just about everything about us. This is the gist of our text. Peacemakers (and we need to define that carefully) will be called Sons of God. Actually “children of God or sons and daughters of God” the intent of the original language is not to focus on the male gender. But the language definitely wants us to reflect on Jesus as the Son of God and our connection to him. Peacemaking efforts must take into account the idea of “shalom.” This is the Hebrew way of viewing peace, not the absence of war, but the presence of wholeness or wellbeing. Sometimes efforts to achieve peace can be wrongheaded and end up making matters worse, especially if they are based on avoiding difficult issues or running from problems. Keeping in mind the idea of shalom helps to avoid that tendency. Peacemakers, those who contribute to shalom, are recognized as brothers and sisters of Jesus, children of God.  This is at the heart of his work in the world, both globally and at the individual heart level. It is both good and beautiful to be a peacemaker.  It indicates our new identity as children in God’s family. Questions for Discussion: 1.  When did you first become aware that your nuclear family largely influenced your life’s work and calling?  Was that a good thing?  Have you considered that if it was a bad thing, you need to forgive them? 2.  Discuss how the idea of shalom is different from the English word for peace. 3.  Try to think of Gospel stories that demonstrate the idea of shalom.  Doesn’t Jesus just exude shalom wherever he goes? 4.  Discuss the connection between shalom and the good and beautiful life.  Have you experienced moments when beauty and shalom meet together in a moment of time? 5.  Discuss this statement: “The Sermon on the Mount is not like the law ‘Do this and you will live’ but rather ‘Really live and you will do this.’”
April 18, 2021
The Good and Beautiful Life: Blessed Are The Pure In Heart
The Big Idea of this study is God is more concerned with the interior reality of our hearts than the outward appearances of our lives. As we focus on Jesus’ definitions on “The Good Life” this week we see his emphasis on the internal life. We can all be tempted to put on appearances, if even for good reasons. We can be led to believe the good life consists of having a persona or image that is approved of by the people around us. We can even believe that God is impressed with the exterior appearances of our lives. The Pharisees were a group of religiously-motivated people in Jesus’ day whose goal was to maintain the ritual purity of the people’s worship. Their initial goal was good – to honor God with the system of worship he had given them – but they had lost the plot, the heart of the issue. “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.” They began to concern themselves with the exteriors of piety, hoping that would move God to solve their problems. But God is much more concerned with interior truth than exterior appearances. David is a great example of someone who, though entangling his heart in false pursuits of the good life, recognized his need for a new heart. He did not hide his sin before God but prayed for God to restore his heart, and spirit which had been encumbered by sin and idolatry. He knew that his sin was always on full display, and couldn’t be hidden. We need this kind of openness before God, in order for God to do the interior work of purifying our hearts. God has promised to give us new hearts – and he does this by making us new creations in Christ. When we come to Jesus and open our lives in submission to him, he pours his Holy Spirit into us and turns our hardened hearts into soft ones, sensitive to him. This is the good life. Questions for Discussion: One way to determine if your heart has been captured by a false idol is by paying attention to your unusually strong emotional reactions. Have you ever noticed yourself having an unusually strong emotional reaction that was associated to an unhealthy dynamic in your heart? The centre of Israel’s identity was “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.” Discuss the challenge of having a singular devotion to God in the world today. How can the good intention of honoring God with our lives become too much about our appearances, and not so much about interior reality? How can we foster an emphasis on our hearts without neglecting external obedience? Read Jeremiah 17:9 – does this resonate with you as true? Then read Ezekiel 36:26. How does this promise give you hope? A good phrase to remember is : “Don’t ask ‘How Do People See Me?’ Rather ask: ‘How Can I See God?’” Discuss the challenge of remembering this in your life.
April 11, 2021
No Ordinary Death, No Ordinary Resurrection, and No Ordinary Outcome
The Big Idea of this study is to think more deeply about the death and resurrection of Jesus. This was no ordinary death, no ordinary resurrection and no ordinary outcome. It is sometimes said of John’s Gospel that it is book in which elephants can swim and children wade. By that it means his writing is both for children and scholars. It is one of the first books we give new believers to read. It is also fitting material for serious study by mature believers.  John is writing later that the synoptics (the other Gospels) and he is perhaps more interested in writing theology than simply telling us the story of Jesus. John introduces holy week with the account of the resurrection of Lazarus. In fact this miracle is what really hardens the Jewish leaders resolve to put him to death. For them, it is the last straw. John is also using the Lazarus story to prepare us to see some significant details in the resurrection of Jesus.  In particular in both accounts a stone needs to be removed and a body unwrapped. In both situations the Jesus event far supersedes what happened in the Lazarus account.  With the Lazarus miracle fresh in their minds and don’t forget what an incredible miracle that was; he was dead four days!  What happened at the tomb of Jesus must have been mind blowing. John takes us even deeper into the meaning of the resurrection when Mary Magdalene sees the two angels at either end of the shelf on which the body of Jesus had once rested. The image was meant to mirror the mercy seat in the most inner sanctum of the Temple where the lamb’s blood was sprinkled for atonement. For those who have eyes to see this is the great significance of the crucifixion and resurrection. Once and for all, the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29). John wants us to see the significance of all these things. Questions for Discussion: 1.  Read John 20:1-18. Why are they running? How unusual is this? Might there still be some fear of discovery by the enemies of Jesus? What were they expecting to find? There is usually no hurry to visit a cemetary. 2.  Mary comes back with them but hangs around the tomb instead of going home. Note the role of women in the revelation of the resurrection. Why might this be significant? 3.  Discuss this idea: “They removed the stone so Lazarus could get out. The angel removed the stone so that the disciples could get in.”  What stones might be acting as barriers to see the resurrection in your friends lives? How might they be removed? 4.  List as many differences as you can between the resurrection of Jesus and that of Lazarus. Why is this Good News?
April 04, 2021
Good & Beautiful Life: Intolerance and Resentment Will Eat Us Up
The Big Idea of this study is our need to be shown mercy and our need to be merciful. Like forgiveness it is one of the key characteristics of Kingdom of God living. As we approach Easter it is important to remember that there is more going on than meets the eye. We tend to focus on the details of the event and miss the big picture. This in fact is the greatest moment in history. It culminates God’s grand plan to redeem humankind from the dastardly effects of the Fall in early Genesis. This is what the Old Testament stories have been building toward.  The Law, the Prophets, the Wisdom Literature are all pointing in this direction. The Crucifixion and Resurrection set in stark contrast the ways of God with the ways of humankind. We see the way the world deals with its problems through the abuse of power, lies and injustice. In Jesus we see how God responds to the challenges of dealing with the human condition with love, forgiveness and mercy. Mercy is one of the characteristics of the Kingdom of God that is in sharp contrast in the Easter event.  While Jesus receives anything but mercy during his trial and crucifixion, it all culminates in mercy being offered for all.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) Our text this week emphasizes the reciprocal nature of mercy. Like forgiveness, what goes around, comes around. Those who give mercy, receive mercy. And mercy is an amazing thing. It is the withholding of punitive consequences to the guilty offender. It is exactly what Jesus has done for us on the cross. There is something good and beautiful about mercy. Like forgiveness, it releases us from the bondage of things that have been done to harm us. In contrast, intolerance and resentment will eat us up. It is far better to live the Jesus way. Questions for Discussion: 1.  At several points during the Passion Narrative (The Easter Story) the Gospel writers contrast the attitudes of the enemies of Jesus with Jesus’ attitudes and actions. Where do you see mercy, intolerance and resentment reflected in the story? 2.  How and why is mercy less passive than the previous beatitudes? 3.  Discuss other examples of mercy in the Old Testament narrative. Why is it so often demonstrated in the history of Israel? 4.  Why is showing mercy difficult? 5.  Compare the reciprocal nature of both mercy and forgiveness. 6.  Discuss other mercy busters that you have experienced. 7.  In what ways can you demonstrate mercy in your family, work, and social life? 8.  Discuss St. Augustine’s quote: “Trust Your Past to God’s Mercy, Your Present to His Love and the Future to His Providence.”
March 28, 2021
Good & Beautiful Life: Healthy Cravings
The Big Idea of this study is that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness we cooperate with God’s purposes in the world. He is at work making everything right. I used to think that living a righteous life was about what I didn’t do. The old saying: “I don’t drink or smoke or chew or hang around with girls who do” was the tongue in cheek slogan of my early years. Now I realize that righteousness is more about what I do and not what I don’t do. It is about cooperating with Jesus in his work in the world. Jesus’ work in this world is a reclamation project. He wants to make things right or shall we say; righteous.  He wants to help the creation fulfill what it was intended for, to give God glory.  When we hunger and thirst for righteousness we crave this “setting right” of the world, which is currently way out of whack. We want to see justice and peace and equality. We crave His Kingdom come where the lion and the lamb lay down together.  We crave a good and beautiful life for everyone and work toward that end. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness we are filled with that righteousness. In other words, we are set right. Again as in all the beatitudes we see that character transformation, who we are on the inside, always leads to the best kind of life to live. Questions for Discussion: 1.  Do you know people who are morally good but no fun to be around? Their moral goodness is not attractive or beautiful. Why is that? 2. Discuss examples in the life of Jesus where he demonstrated both his goodness and his beauty so that not only did he take “the high road,” he attracted others to the high road. 3. I think we need more attractive Christians. What do you think I mean by that? 4. Discuss how the beatitudes describe the character of Jesus. Which of the Gospel stories reveal these “blessed” traits? 5. How might you increase your appetite for righteousness?
March 21, 2021
Good & Beautiful Life: The Mourning and Meek
The Big Idea of this study is that those who mourn, as well as the meek, are blessed. Not because of their condition but because in spite of it they experience God’s grace. Who is really living the good life? Often our perspective is tainted as we compare ourselves to others from an outside point of view. Though people’s external circumstances may look ideal, they may not be experiencing the good life of God. On the other side of the coin, many people today they would never consider themselves to be living the good life, and looking at their circumstances we may agree. Most people who have ever lived on planet earth have found themselves suffering along with the masses of poor and underprivileged. Jesus spoke to these people in the sermon on the mount. The crowds were made up of common people who were suffering and oppressed. He was healing them from their physical illnesses and teaching them and, because of their great number, he went up on the mountain so all could hear him. He taught them that though their circumstances might lead them to believe they were cursed or forgotten, they were not forgotten by God, but rather blessed. Those who mourn were blessed because they would receive comfort. Our God is the God who suffers along with his creation. In the incarnation of Jesus, he put on flesh, stepped into our shoes, and feels the suffering of the world along with it. How can he bear it? The pain of all the world? Yet this is what our God does. In our mourning we find comfort in a God who can truly empathize with our pain, who can feel it with us. He taught that the meek were blessed. This may not refer to the virtue of gentleness, but rather to an inability to fight back. The lack of capacity to pull themselves out of their circumstances. Likely this refers to people caught in systems that would keep them subservient to landowners for generations. But Jesus taught that they were blessed – that they would inherit the entire earth, for it belongs to their Father in heaven. We are not blessed because of the hard situations we find ourselves in. We are blessed in spite of them. And we who may not be experiencing grief or oppression, and who call Jesus Lord, must find ourselves working on the side of the mourning and the oppressed. Questions for Discussion: 1.  Consider your perspective on who is living the good life. What does that look like to you? 2. Consider the most populated places of the world today and the often low quality of life there, as well as the thousands of years of history before us. Most people lived “nasty, brutish, and short” lives. Yet Jesus taught that there is a blessedness of life within their circumstances. What does this tell us about the nature of “the good life”? 3.Grief and mourning are built into living human lives. When we need comfort in our mourning we receive both sympathy and empathy from others. Sympathy says, “I’m sorry you’re going through this.” And empathy says “I feel it too”. Discuss how the incarnation of Jesus was the greatest act of empathy the world has seen. 4.  The meek are those who are not able to fight back for themselves, or do not have the power to change their circumstances. (Ie. Indentured, potentially oppressed servants who worked for landowners) Jesus said they will one day have land of their own, the entire earth will be their inheritance. How does the hope of eternity affect our blessedness?
March 14, 2021