Adult & Teen Discussion Guide
1. Primary Statement
God addresses a lot of things directly in the Bible- don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t take advantage of the poor, etc. What about modern issues, like abortion, medical marijuana and birth control? If the Bible is our guide, then what do we do when there’s no direct answer?
2. Bible Verse
Start with loving and serving.
Matthew 22:36-40 [NLT] “‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Learn the overarching values presented in scripture.
Matthew 7:12 [NLT] 12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
Jesus was not about adding regulations, He was about heart & motive. If you have love in your heart and are living to serve others, you’ll find yourself on the right side of uncertain issues more often than not.
Decide based on what you know of God’s character.
John 10:27 [NLT] “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
The more we get to know God’s character, the more our thoughts will align with His. As we take on His world view, we’ll naturally do things He wants and avoid things He dislikes.
Q. Name one or two issues that are debated in church circles today. Does the Bible directly address these?
Q. How do you think loving and serving others would affect these issues?
Q. How do you think the overall values taught in the Bible affect these issues?
Q. Based on what you know of God’s character, what do you think His opinion on the subject is?
4. Prayer Focus
Take a few minutes as a family and thank God for giving you the Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to make the right decisions when you’re uncertain about an issue.
Family with Small Children Discussion Guide
1. Power Verse
“Who is the Holy Spirit?”
John 14:26 “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
God is like no one else. He has unique traits that are His and His alone. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit share those unique traits. Why? Because they are One God, even though they are three Persons.
The Holy Spirit does many things for us. Here are two:
1. The Holy Spirit will Teach God’s Truth
2. The Holy Spirit helps us Remember God’s Truth
Since the Holy Spirit is eternal, He was around before the very beginning, before creation. But in the Book of Genesis, we can read about how God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit created all our universe.
Genesis 1:1-2 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
It says that the earth was empty and had no form. But God’s Spirit was there, ready for creation to begin.
Remember, the Holy Spirit is God so He was everywhere, helping with the creation of our world.
The Bible has another great story that tells us that the Holy Spirit is God, one Person of the Trinity. Read the story of Jesus’ baptism in water from Matthew 3:13-17.
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Q. How many Persons are in the Trinity?
Q. Who hovered over creation?
Q. Which Person of the Trinity showed up as a dove? God the Son, (Jesus,) or God the Holy Spirit?
Q, Which Person of the Trinity said, “This is my Son”? God the Father or God the Holy Spirit?
Q. How does the Holy Spirit help us?
4. Prayer Focus
Spend time praying together as a family. Take turns praying for each other, asking for the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you about God’s truth.
This morning I began the preparatory work for a paper discussing the possibility that the theme of the New Testament is “God’s Ultimate Victory Over Evil.” The scope of the paper requires that every New Testament book be considered in relation to that theme. Therefore, I began reading Matthew in light of that theme. My Goodness! It’s everywhere! Consider just the events in the early chapters of Matthew’s gospel:
- The birth itself is a revelation of God’s desire to save mankind and overcome the evil brought into the world through man’s fall to sin through Adam.
- The Holy Spirit causes Mary to conceive.
- Joseph is reluctant so God sends an angel to convince him.
- Herod has decided to kill Jesus so God warns Joseph in a dream and they flee to safety in Egypt.
- John the Baptist preaches repentance to the people of Israel.
- Jesus comes into His Messianic ministry and begins to perform great miracles of healing.
The list goes on and on of examples of God destroying evil in the form of sin in the lives of the Israelites and sickness in their physical bodies. Every time Jesus comes in contact with evil, He instantly overcomes it. Every effort of Satan or men to stop the work of God is defeated.
This is somewhat in contrast to how I used to think about the relationship between God and Satan. I used to imagine God and Satan in conflict over the souls of mankind. God was working with the angels to bring salvation to the world while at the same time Satan and the demons were working to pull people into sin and away from God. It was a great heavenly chess match with some rounds being won by Satan and some by God. You and I were the prize in this match and some people were God’s prize and some belonged to Satan.
Nothing could be further from the actual biblical reality.
God and Satan don’t compete. There is simply no reality in which Satan has the ability or knowledge to engage God. In fact, God made Satan and when God decides his time is up it will instantly be up.
What’s the message for you and me today? God wins!
The growing evil in our world today will not ultimately overcome the good that God is doing in the lives of people. No act of terrorism, no mass killing, no tyranny, no matter how great will overcome God’s plan to save men and women and to bless his children. No matter who sits in the White House, Congress, or House of Representatives it is ultimately God who is all-powerful and in every way He will conquer evil. In your own life, God has a great plan to care for you and nothing can stop that plan. Rest assured today, that even when difficult things happen God is attentive, faithful, and He is working to conquer the evil around you!
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
Was Mary alone when she went to the tomb of Jesus the first time?
How did the disciples receive Mary’s report of what she had seen?
Which two disciples were curious enough to go check out the tomb?
What did they find that would dispute that the body was stolen?
How does the position of the two angels, sitting over where Jesus lay when He was buried, hint that this is probably a new mercy seat (a new way open to God)?
Women were not considered credible witnesses in Bible times, but who does John list as his main first witness to see Jesus after His death?
What in Mary’s past would have made her seem to be an unreliable witness?
What did Jesus ask Mary to do after she realized it was Him?
How does the resurrected Jesus state His relationship to believers & their relationship to God?
Over the past few weeks I have been really looking at the sixteenth chapter of John. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death, resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this teaching there are a couple of verses of scripture that establish a theological and practical truth in my life. In verses eight and nine we read…
John 16:8–9 (ESV) “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me… “
Here’s the truth… All sin rests in unbelief.
So often in our world we think of faith and Christianity in terms of things that you have to do. You have to go to church, give in the offering, tell the truth, etc… However, have you ever thought about Christianity in terms of things that you don’t do? I don’t mean things that you shouldn’t do; we get wrapped up in that at times as well. I mean, have you ever considered that there are things that if left out of your journey towards God, greatly affect your potential destination.
Maybe, simply put it’s like making a cake. There are certain things that you MUST put in. Flour, eggs, milk, sugar, and of course chocolate! Leave any of these out and the chances of having a good cake diminish greatly. The chocolate is just my personal favorite. Anyway, I’m sure you see where I’m headed. There are certain indispensible ingredients. Leave any one of them out and well…you don’t have a cake.
In my walk with Christ it’s like this as well. Without an ever-increasing belief, sin creeps into my life. Or said differently, there is a direct correlation between the degree of sin in my life and the degree to which I believe in Jesus. You might say in response, “But I believe completely in Jesus!” Really? Let’s see.
Jesus said he would never leave nor forsake us. For me that means that He is literally with me every moment of every day. When I turn on the television or sit down and watch a movie, do I allow something to enter into my mind and spirit that is clearly in opposition to Jesus’ teachings? When jealousy or pride shows itself in my heart because of some success that some other minister is having or when I secretly celebrate another person’s downfall or mistake, don’t I have to ignore or not believe that Jesus is still with me in order to maintain those thoughts? You see, there really is a direct connection between how much I believe in Jesus and how much I sin.
Am I still saved during those moments? Absolutely, God’s grace is always bigger than my sin as long as there is any belief in me at all, but I don’t only want enough belief to make it to heaven, I want enough to live an overcoming, Spirit-directed, Christ honoring life before the lost of this world. For that I need more belief. How much more? I don’t know. More every day!
Aside Posted on
Note: This post was written on Monday, January 21 and the Panama Team made it to Panama City.
I am writing this to you from 35,000 feet on a United flight with the Panama team. It’s 6:30 in the morning and we can see a beautiful sunrise on the left side of the plane. This morning we are looking at the twentieth chapter of John. There are a couple of verses here that I love. Notice verses fifteen and sixteen.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Do you hear the tenderness and concern in Mary’s voice? She seems only concerned about how Jesus’ body is being treated. There’s something about the phrase, “I will get him,” that makes the whole moment feel loving and tender. I imagine her leaning forward with tears in her eyes ready to move in whatever direction the “gardener” indicates, in order to get the body of Jesus and return it to its place of burial. There is an aspect that you might miss if you don’t know some of the aspects of Jewish law.
You see, the Jews of Jesus’s day had very strict rules by which they lived. Some of the most rigid had to do with what it took in order to be “clean” so that you could enter and worship in the temple. There were a lot of things that could make a person “unclean.” You could become unclean simply by traveling in the wrong area, eating the wrong foods, or handling certain things. One of the most well known prohibitions was touching a dead body. Do you see it? Mary has changed! Suddenly she loves something more than the temple. In this moment her heart, eyes, and mind have a single focus… Jesus!
I think that perhaps this is why she got to see him first. Have you ever thought about why she was at the tomb anyway? Verse one says that she went to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark. I think she’s having trouble sleeping because she misses Jesus. I think she came to the tomb alone because she simply wanted to be as near to him as she could. It’s the same emotion that made her willing to go find his body and move it back to the tomb. Mary loves Jesus. He has changed her whole life and her heart belongs to him!
How about us today? Are we willing to look beyond the traditions of our lives and simply pursue Him? Is there a longing in our hearts to be as near to him as we can? Hearing her devotion and care Jesus simply speaks her name….”Mary” …and she knows him. I think she starts to move towards him when Jesus stops her and tells her not to touch him yet. Its a powerful picture of devotion the Lord.
A picture we should lean towards in our lives!
Today I want to bring a powerful section of scripture before you for consideration. It is powerful not for the wonder that it instills, but rather for the shame and humiliation that it describes. This section of scripture is found in John chapter nineteen verses twenty three and twenty four.
John 19:23–24 (NIV84) When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did.
Whenever I think about Jesus being beaten and then crucified for you and me, I always try to imagine the extreme physical suffering that Jesus endured. I picture in my mind, the scourging post and blow after blow falling on Jesus’ body. I imagine the blood loss and trauma that is poured out upon him. Ultimately, Jesus arrives at the place of crucifixion and nails are used to pierce his wrists and feet and he is raised up for all to see. It always moves me to imagine it. However, there is a piece that I always leave out.
The above verses reminded me that there is another powerful aspect to what Jesus endured for you and me. These verses remind me that Jesus is crucified naked. Not only did Jesus endure physical suffering to redeem you and me, but he also endured tremendous shame as he hung naked before the world. Not only did Jesus take upon himself the pain that was to be mine, he also took the shame. Something about this causes me to have a deeper appreciation for Jesus. It’s one thing to square your shoulders and walk boldly into someone else’s punishment, but it’s something entirely different to be shamed for that person. That’s what Jesus did for us. He took not only the pain but also the shame.
Can you imagine heaven’s reaction? Although I have no scriptural basis for this, I imagine that the angels wanted to wipe us out. Here is their King being openly shamed by his creation. Surely they did not understand. Do we? Do you and I act like we really understand the price that was paid for our salvation?
Father, today we praise you for the price that was paid, that we might be saved! Let us never take for granted the suffering and shame that Jesus bore for us.
John chapter 18 deals with the events surrounding the arrest and trial of Jesus. Jesus is arrested after Judas’ betrayal and taken first to Annas, then to Caiaphas and ultimately to Pilate the Roman Governor. It is during his time at the High Priest Caiaphas’ residence that Peter’s betrayal takes place and that’s what I want us to consider today.
Have you ever wondered what caused Peter to betray Jesus?
Especially after Jesus told Peter that it would happen. You would think that Peter would be especially on guard after Jesus warned him that he would betray him three times before the rooster crowed. Yet Peter did exactly what Jesus said he would do. What factors could have created enough fear to have Peter, who just hours earlier had been willing to draw a sword and attempt to kill a man to defend Jesus, to now deny him? Before we get too hard on Peter, let me remind you of what Peter and all the disciples thought was going to happen.
Jews during the time of Jesus had a very particular idea of what the coming Messiah would be. He would be a king, a mighty, warring king. I believe that they all believed that he would be very much like King David, who with God’s help, had conquered all the enemies of Israel and had established them as the greatest nation in that part of the world. The Jewish people thought that he would fill all three roles of prophet, priest, and king. Because they had an erroneous view of what God was, they certainly had an erroneous view of what the Messiah who was to come from God would be.
We see glimpses of that in sections of scripture like Matthew chapter twenty and Mark chapter ten where the mother of James and John asks Jesus to let her sons sit on his left and right when he establishes his kingdom. She’s not asking about heaven, they think that Jesus is going to become the king of Israel. They believe that he’s going to take over from the Romans, expel them from Israel, and become King and High Priest all in one.
With all of that in mind, imagine what it does in Peter’s heart and mind when he sees Jesus arrested. Perhaps he can see Jesus when one of the officials near the high priest strikes Jesus for the way that he responded to one of the high priest’s questions (18:22). Can you imagine the confusion and doubt that begins to eat away at Peter’s faith? Have you ever expected one thing to happen and something totally different happened? Have you ever felt the disappointment of expecting something only to be let down? Of course you have. We all have. Now imagine that this disappointment isn’t just about a single issue, but rather that this disappointment touches everything you hope for now and everything you have ever hoped for. Now you have some sense of what Peter was feeling.
In that moment of doubt and confusion, Peter denied that he was a follower of Jesus. I think I understand. I even think that I might have done exactly the same thing. However, Peter’s story doesn’t end there. If you’ve read the first few chapters of the book of Acts, you know that Jesus picks Peter back up, dusts him off, encourages him, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and uses him to change the entire world!
Even if at times you have doubted who Jesus is and his purpose for your life, be encouraged. Jesus is patient and he knows how we are made. He’ll not only prove himself to you as he did Peter, he’ll use you to change the world as well!