Grace

Happiness=Forgiveness

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Everyone’s looking for happiness – from diet plans, to dating sites, to shopping trips – we’re looking everywhere. And yet, happiness-producing things are already all around us… if we can see them.

1. Read

Romans 14:17 [SEV] “God’s kingdom isn’t about eating and drinking. It is about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness. All this comes from the Holy Spirit.”

God doesn’t want to snuff out the happiness in your life – He wants to fill your life with it.The instructions we find in the Bible are there to make your life better, and in the end, they produce the kind of happiness that will last.

  • What’s your favorite fruit? Think of all the work that goes into producing it – planting, fertilizing, harvesting, etc. Does the fruit come without the work?
  •  What are some God-adjustments to your life that take effort? What sort of fruit might they produce in your life in the long run? What about in someone else’s life?

2. Challenge

Proverbs 17:9 [ESV] “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”

Resentment & unforgiveness keep you so focused on the bad in your life that you become unable to appreciate the good. God calls you to forgive, not only for the sake of others, but to keep you from nullifying your own happiness.

  • Think of someone you know who’s bitter or resentful. Is their “right” to be angry making them happier? Are they pleasant to be around? 
  • What are some ways their life might change if they let go of old hurts?
  • List a few things God has forgiven you for. Did He deserve what you did? Did you deserve His forgiveness? In light of His example, what sorts of things should you be willing to forgive when people do them to you?

3. Prayer Focus

Thank God for how ready He is to forgive you when you mess up. Ask the Holy Spirit to highlight old wounds you still hang onto, and to help you to truly forgive, so you can move forward in uninhibited happiness.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Super Science Sunday!

1. Power Verse

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

What’s Up: “God gives us friends and family to help us during tough times.”

The kids experienced wacky science experiments in Overflow Kids Church today, all designed to demonstrate Biblical truths.  Take a few minutes to discuss the service with your kids.  What was their favorite experiment? Did they learn any scientific facts? 

2. The Science

These are some of the experiments that were used in the children’s service, and the Biblical points they demonstrated.

Balloon on a bed of nails: A balloon can be popped by a single nail, but not when placed on a bed full of nails. This reminds us that God gives us friends and family to help us during tough times.

  • Think of a time when you were helped by someone.
  • Have ever been blessed by another person?
  • What are some ways that people can really help each other?

3. Discussion

Inertia Beads Demonstration:  A long string of beads is placed into a cup.  A slight tug on one end of the beads creates an inertia reactions that pulls all of the beads quickly out of the cup.

Proverbs 12:26  “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

  • Why is it important to have good friends? 
  • What are some ways that our friends might encourage us to make poor decisions? 
  • How can we encourage our friends to be more like Jesus?

4. Prayer Focus

Take a moment to pray for our friends and family members.  Ask God to help each one of us to be good friends that point people toward good decisions and ultimately, closer to God.

Erasing Hell

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Hell is a real place. As Christians, we typically believe in a literal hell, but have the concept pushed so far into the corners of our awareness that it has little to no impact on our lives. If we want to do this God-life the right way, we need to live like there’s a hell to be avoided.

1. Read

Matthew 25:41 [NASB95] “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…”

Hell is a very real place, with very real regret and suffering. Any concept less than that will fall short as a motivation for us and for the people we love.

  • What was your concept of hell as a child? How was it talked about in your family, peers and church?
  • How is today’s cultural understanding of hell different from when you were growing up?
  • How is your personal understanding different? Are those changes positive or negative?

2. Challenge

Matthew 6:14-15 [NASB95] “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

It’s easy to say you’ve forgiven someone while still harboring anger and resentment in your heart. The kind of forgiveness God expects, though, is complete restoration of the relationship.

  • Think of a time when you forgave someone who wronged you – but you still didn’t like them. Maybe you even wished them ill. Now think of a time you’ve asked God for forgiveness. Imagine Him “forgiving” you, but still disliking you, and even looking for ways to pay you back for your wrongdoing. How “forgiven” would you feel?

  • God’s forgiveness is a model for what He expects of us. What offenses do you still carry hard feelings over? What could you do this week to move toward restoration, and forgive more like God does?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes to thank God for rescuing you from an eternal future in hell. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep the reality of hell in your mind as motivation to live right, forgive others, and share the good news of His offer of salvation.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

I Want it Now

1. Power Verse

Luke 12:15 “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

What’s Up: “I Won’t Be Greedy For More And More Stuff!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Living Large”. In this series, we are learning how to handle our money and possessions God’s way.

2. Activity

Place a plate of candy, cookies, or some other food your children really enjoy in front of them. Tell them they can have one piece right now, BUT if they’ll wait until you come back, they can have two. Then leave the room, telling them to stay there until you come back. Depending on the age of your children, you should stay away for 2-10 minutes. Come back and tell them if they didn’t eat the candy or cookie, they can have two now.

  • Did you eat the candy or cookie? Why or why not?

  • How did you feel while you were waiting for me to come back?

  • Was it hard or easy to resist the temptation to eat the candy or cookie?

  • If you ate the candy or cookie, how do you feel now?

  •  If you didn’t eat the candy or cookie, how do you feel now?

3. Discussion

This activity is kind of like saving money. Sometimes you see something you want to buy, but if you wait to buy it, you might either have more money or discover that you don’t want it after all.

  • Have you ever bought anything that you later regretted buying? What was it? 
  • Why did you regret buying it?
  • What are some ways you can prevent this from happening in the future?

God wants us to handle the money He gives us wisely, and buying things on an impulse isn’t a wise way to spend money.

4. Prayer Focus

Spend time thanking God for the money He’s given to you and your children and asking Him to help you give, save, and spend it wisely.

Own it

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Nobody’s perfect – even the best of us are going to make mistakes sometimes. Though we all know this, it can be really difficult to own up to our actions – to God, to others, even to ourselves. If we want to move forward, though, we’ve got to be bold enough to own our mistake.

1. Discussion 

Genesis 3:11-13 “…the Lord God asked. ‘Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What have you done?’ ‘The serpent deceived me,’ she replied. ‘That’s why I ate it.’”

From the very beginning, humans have been blame-shifting. It’s intimidating to admit our faults!

Q . Why do you think Adam and Eve shifted the blame? What were they afraid of?

Q . When you shift the blame from yourself, who or what usually gets blamed?  How does that make you feel in the moment? How might that negatively affect you in the long run?

2. Challenge

1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

God is rich in love and mercy, but he wants us to be honest. When we fail, we’ve got to own it, confess it to Him, and move forward.

Q . How do you feel in the moment when you confess your sin to God? How do you feel afterward?

Q . Is “moving forward” and letting past mistakes go difficult for you? How might confessing your sin to God affect that? 

How might confessing to others affect it?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for his mercy and forgiveness. Confess any sins, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to move forward in confidence and the assurance of your salvation.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Stay Humble

1. Power Verse

Luke 14:11 “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

What’s Up: “I Will Choose To Be Humble!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Stand Out!” As Christians, it’s important that we stand out from the world and from culture. We must be different, and one of the greatest ways we can be different and stand out is to stay humble!

2. Discussion

Read: Luke 7:36-50 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him. So he went to the Pharisee’s house. He took his place at the table. There was a woman in that town who had lived a sinful life. She learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house. So she came there with a special jar of perfume. She stood behind Jesus and cried at his feet. And she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair. She kissed them and poured perfume on them. The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him. He would know what kind of woman she is. She is a sinner!” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.“Two people owed money to a certain lender. One owed him 500 silver coins. The other owed him 50 silver coins.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back. So he let them go without paying. Which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who owed the most money.” “You are right,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman. He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water to wash my feet. But she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss. But this woman has not stopped kissing my feet since I came in. You did not put any olive oil on my head. But she has poured this perfume on my feet. So I tell you this. Her many sins have been forgiven. She has shown that she understands this by her great acts of love. But whoever has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to talk about this among themselves. They said, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Q. What did the sinful woman do when she saw Jesus? How did the religious leaders respond?  How did Jesus respond to them?

3. Challenge

This world is full of prideful people who are constantly looking to promote themselves and make themselves greater. It’s all about popularity! However, that’s not how Jesus lived – and that’s not how Jesus wants us to live either. Jesus displayed a life of humility. He was humble and he constantly blessed, promoted, & added value to humble people.  We need to do our very best to live like Jesus – a life of humility. Jesus had an “Others First, Me Last” attitude about everything! We should too! If we put others first, we will really STAND OUT for Jesus! 

4. Prayer Focus

Pray that your children would have a humble attitude in life. Pray that they would truly live out “others first, me last.”

Growing Where You Are Planted

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Life with God is good, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes we find ourselves in a season of frustration, and the natural tendency is to complain or shake our fist at the Creator. What we need to do instead is to remind ourselves whose we are and whose purpose we live to accomplish.

1. Discussion 

Psalms 92:12-15 “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.”

God doesn’t plant His servants anywhere with the intent to wither and kill them. He wants us to flourish in any season – even the difficult and frustrating ones.

Q. If you spend a difficult season looking for a way out, how will that change your effectiveness for God? How about if you spend a difficult season looking for ways to learn or to serve?

Q. Psalms 92 says the “righteous” will flourish. What kind of attitude & response to frustration does God expect from someone who is “righteous?”

2. Challenge

Galatians 1:10 [NIV] “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

If we look at a confusing or frustrating season of life from our own perspective (how does this affect me? Where am I at, compared with my peers?), we’re going to stay frustrated. When we remember, though, that our lives belong to God, and we’re instruments in His hands to serve His purpose, we can find growth – and even joy – in the hardest circumstances.

Q. Think back to a frustrating season in your life. Was your attitude positive or negative? Was your focus primarily “God, why are you doing this to me?” Or was it “God, what do you want to do through me?” How did your response affect your attitude in that season? What would be the best response in a future season of frustration?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for loving you through the easy times and the hard times in life. Ask the Holy Spirit to develop the attitude of a servant, so you can have the right attitude and response in any season of life.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Evidence of Grace

1. Power Verse

Titus 2:11  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”

What’s Up: “I Will Show The World God’s Grace In Me!”

This week, we start a brand new series called, “Stand Out!” As Christians, it’s important that we stand out from the world and from culture. We must be different, and one of the greatest ways we can be different and stand out is by demonstrating the evidence of grace in our lives.

2. Discussion

Read: Mark 2:13-17 “Once again Jesus went out beside the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd came to him. He began to teach them. As he walked along he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus. Levi was sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him. Levi got up and followed him. Later Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house. Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples. They were part of the large crowd following Jesus. Some teachers of the law who were Pharisees were there. They saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors. So they asked his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus heard that. So he said to them, ‘Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do. I have not come to get those who think they are right with God to follow me. I have come to get sinners to follow me.”’

Q: Who did Jesus ask to be his disciple? 

Q. What was his job? Where did Jesus have dinner?

Q. How did the religious leaders feel about that?

Q.  How did Jesus respond to the religious leaders?

3. Challenge

We need to show the world with our words and actions that we have been changed by God’s grace. Matthew ended up going from a despised, wicked tax collector to a man with the evidence of grace in his life.

Q. What does grace mean?

Q. Who does God give grace to?  

Q. How can you show the evidence of  grace in your life? 

God’s grace is for everyone and it helps us say  “NO” to sin and stay focused on Heaven! We need to make sure we have the evidence of grace in our lives!

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for salvation if your children are ready to receive God’s grace and forgiveness. Pray that they would trade their sins for the hope of Heaven. Pray that they would begin to spend their time focused on the Kingdom of Heaven, instead of the temporary pleasure of sin.

Peace

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Everybody wants to be at peace – peace with God, with others, peace with whatever life throws at you. God wants that, too. He has peace that’s beyond anything humans can find or cultivate, but it can only be experienced when we’re submitted to His leadership.

1. Discussion

2 Thessalonians 3:16 [NLT] “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation.”

The peace of God is different than a human emotion. Just like His contentment, it supersedes logic and circumstance, and works no matter what kind of storm is blowing around us.

Q. What’s the greatest stress in your life right now? What situation brings the most anxiety?

Q. Have you tried just talking yourself out of stress/worry? How did that work for you?

Q. If you could hit a button and instantly relieve the stress from this situation, how would that impact your quality of life? What other areas in your life might improve?

2. Challenge

Isaiah 26:3 [NLT] “You [God] will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

God’s peace is perfect- it overcomes any stress or worry- but it’s not a promise to every human. His peace comes with His presence, to those who trust Him and keep their thoughts fixed on Him. When we lean in close to our heavenly father, we can experience the peace of His protection- something truly supernatural.

Q. Think of your stressful situation again, is it easy or difficult to trust God to see you through, no matter the outcome?

Q. What steps could you take this week to keep your thoughts focused more on God your helper and less on the situation and the stress it brings?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for His supernatural peace. Whatever is stressful to you, hand it over to Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep your thoughts focused on Him, and to bring, with His presence, perfect peace in every situation.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Lessons From Haman

1. Power Verse

Philippians 2:3 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

What’s Up: “Treat People Nicely – Don’t Be A Jerk!”

2. Discussion

This week, we continue our series called, “You Only Live Once”, or “YOLO.”  We’re learning some important lessons about making our lives count!  Since we only live once, we need to make sure we do our very best to honor God with our life and remain faithful to Him.

Q. What do you think the word “pride” means?

Q. Have you ever met someone that was filled with pride?

Nobody likes a jerk.  They’re filled with pride, always get what they want, and treat others as less than themselves.  As followers of Jesus, we need to avoid becoming a jerk.

In the Bible Story this week, we learned from King Xerxes how to NOT be a jerk.  King Xerxes made a lot of terrible mistakes that made him a total jerk!  We learned to avoid the mistakes King Xerxes made and be much better examples of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

3. Activity

Q. Who in your life is a great example of kindness?

Q. How can we avoid becoming prideful?

Q. What are some things we can do to show kindness to others?

We need to do our very best to always be humble, to not get mad when we don’t get our way, and to treat people like they matter!

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for your children to avoid being a jerk.  Pray that they would love and treat everyone with humility and kindness!

Generosity

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Have you ever received way more than you expected? Whether it was a bigger tax refund, or an unexpected hand from your neighbor hauling bags of mulch, it feels great to be on the receiving end of generosity. It feels great to be on the giving end, too… because generosity is a function of God’s character at work in us.

1. Discussion

Ephesians 1:7–8  [ESV] “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”

God modeled generosity – going beyond what’s required or expected – when He sent Jesus to live and die to redeem humankind.

Q. God didn’t have to go to such great lengths to save humanity. What other responses to sin could He have taken? What response would you have taken if it had been your decision?

Q. God’s generosity shows up in plenty of other areas in life beyond our salvation. What are some other ways that God has gone above and beyond for you?

2. Challenge

Ephesians 3:17–19 [ESV]  “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

God expects His children to take on His character – including His generosity. And that encompasses more than money – it’s a willingness to give, whether the need is funds, time, energy, attention, etc. The only way that character change happens is by growing in faith through discipleship.

Q. If someone gauged your relationship with God based solely on your generosity, how close to God would they think you are?

Q. Is generosity easy for you, or is it a challenge? Is there one area for you where generosity comes more easily than others?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for giving to you so freely and extravagantly. Ask the Holy Spirit to grow His generous character in you as you work to know and serve Him better.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Lessons From Haman

1. Power Verse

Psalm 4:4a “Don’t sin by letting anger control you…” 

What’s Up: “I Won’t Let Anger Control Me!”

2. Discussion

This week, we continue our series called, “You Only Live Once” or “YOLO.” We’re learning some important lessons about making our lives count! Since we only live once, we need to make sure we do our very best to honor God with our life and remain faithful to Him.

Q. What are some things that make you angry?

Q. How do you normally respond when things make you angry?

There are many things in life that can make us angry. From not getting our way, to attacks against those we love, many things can bring out the anger in us.

Anger is a powerful emotion. If we allow it to take control of our lives, it can bring some dangerous results. If we don’t allow God to help us with our anger – it can turn to bitterness.

3. Activity

Q. Have you ever allowed anger to take control of your life? Explain.

Q. Why should we ask for God’s help when we’re angry?

In the Bible Story this week, we learned from the story of Haman and how he reacted to Mordecai and the Jews. We learned that it is not a sin to become angry, but it is a sin to allow anger to control you.

Q. What are some appropriate ways to act when you become angry?

Q. What can you do to avoid allowing anger to take control of your life?

4. Prayer Focus

Pray that your children would begin to ask for God’s help when they become angry so they don’t allow their anger to control their lives or lead to bitterness.

Contentment

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Everyone wants to be happy. When you’re happy, life is sweeter, your outlook on the future is brighter, the glass is always half full. God wants you to have hope and a positive outlook, too, but in a way that supersedes the human formula for “happiness.” He wants us to experience supernatural contentment.

1. Discussion

Philippians 4:11-13 [ESV] “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Paul found the secret to feeling content with his life, no matter what it looked like. It wasn’t a switch that flipped instantly – it was a process.

Q. When Paul says in verse 12 “I have learned,” in what sorts of ways do you think he was taught?

Q. Paul wrote this letter nearly 30 years after deciding to follow Jesus. How long do you think it took him to grow to the place where he could write these words truthfully?

2. Challenge

Paul may have been content with his life, but most outsiders looking in at his life would call it difficult at best. It’s hard to understand how someone who was repeatedly rejected, beaten, and threatened could write about contentment, but that’s just the point – God’s contentment bypasses our logical understanding. It may not makes sense to others, but when it’s you… it just works.

Q. What are 3 things you would change about your life today?

Q. Is contentment and thankfulness for your life- just as it is – easy for you to feel and express, or is it a challenge right now?

Q. Learning contentment means seeing your life through God’s worldview. What can you do this week to strengthen that worldview in your mind & heart?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for the good in your life… and for the challenges that help you to learn true contentment. Ask the Holy Spirit to develop His worldview in you more and more, so you can be content under any circumstances.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

1. Power Verse

Galatians 6:9 “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

What’s Up: “God Will Honor Those Who Do What’s Right!”

2. Discussion

This week, we start a brand new series called, “You Only Live Once”, or “YOLO.” We’re learning some important lessons about making our lives count! Since we only live once, we need to make sure we do our very best to honor God with our life and remain faithful to Him.

In the Bible Story this week, we learned from a man named Mordecai in the book of Esther. We learned from his example of caring for others, doing the right thing no matter what, and remaining faithful to God.

Q. What are some ways you can show others you care about them?

Q. What are some things you can do because they’re the right things to do, even though you may not enjoy doing them? (i.e. chores, school, etc.)

We should never grow tired from doing the right thing. Instead, we should stay faithful to God because, just at the right time, God will honor and bless our faithfulness.

3. Activity

Have your children do some of the things they discussed earlier when asked some ways they could show others they care about them. Perhaps, they could

write a card to someone, do a  craft to give as a gift to someone, help clean something for someone, lighten someone’s load, or simply share kind words with someone who needs encouragement.

Because you’ve done these things, God said He’ll bless your faithfulness to Him and your faithfulness in doing the right thing no matter what!

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for your children to care for others and always do the right thing – no matter what. Pray, as they care for others and do right, God will honor their faithfulness.