Pride

Jonah: “Enemy”

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It’s always refreshing to see the “bad guys” in life get what they deserve, but in the economy of God’s grace, your enemy isn’t who you think it is.

1. Read

Jonah 3:10-4:3 [NLT] “When God saw what (the people of Nineveh) had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. …Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if whatI predicted will not happen.”

In Jonah’s day, the Assyrians of Nineveh were the “bad guys,” and Jonah was really hoping they’d get the Sodom and Gomorrah treatment.

  • Think of a few people, groups or organizations that feel like enemies of the church, or of you as a Christian. Based on their actions, what kind of judgment (in this life and the next) do they deserve? 
  • How would that make the human side of you feel?
  • Is that God’s preferred outcome for their lives?

2. Challenge

Jonah 4:11 [NLT] “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals,” (God replied). “Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Luke 6:35-36 [NLT] “…(God) is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

Through the lens of God’s grace, no human is the enemy. Hell is. God’s greatest desire for the antagonists in your life is not to nuke them, but to guide them back to repentance (genuine life change) by showing kindness and compassion.

  • For those people / groups you listed, what are some ways you or the church as a whole could show them unexpected kindness and compassion?
  • Coupled with an unwavering standard of God’s truth, how do you think these acts of compassion would be received, vs a picket line or boycott?
  • Which approach better fits God’s long-term goal for those people?

3. Prayer Focus

Spend time praying for your “enemies.” Ask God to bless them, even though they don’t deserve it. Ask the Holy Spirit to put love in your heart for them, and to use you to extend His kindness – and truth – to them.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: How To Survive A Night With The Lions”

1. Power Verse

Psalm 55:16 “But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me.”

What’s Up: “Building Good Character Makes Me Strong!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Spy Kids”. In this series, we’re learning from the story of Daniel!

2. Discussion

Before you start, double some grocery bags and fill them with enough books or canned goods so your children can’t lift the bag easily. Then call your children in and ask them to pick up the bag. When they can’t, take one item out and ask them to lift it again. Continue doing this until the bag is easy for them to lift.

  • If you knew that sometime in the future your life would depend on you being able to pick up something this heavy, what would you do? (Some type of weight training where they would start with smaller weights and work up to heavier ones; having someone train them.)
  • You’re going to face many types of problems in life. Some will be easy to overcome, but others may not be. All of the problems will be easier to face if you prepare ahead of time by learning to rely on God.
  • If you never pray, read the Bible, or worship God, how easy do you think it would be to rely on Him when you have a problem?
  • Do you think you could pray or worship for an hour without stopping?
  • How do you learn to pray or worship for longer periods of time?

By starting small and building good spiritual habits now, you’ll have the strength you need to face any problems that may come your way.

3. Prayer Focus

Ask God to help you develop those spiritual habits so you can rely on Him when you face problems.

Jonah: Lost Cause

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Have you ever written someone off as a lost cause? Maybe you wrote yourself off! Let’s be honest – if you look from a human perspective, some people are so far from faith in God it would take a miracle to change them… and that’s exactly what God has in mind.

1. Read

Jonah 3:4-5 [NLT] “On the day Jonah entered the city (Nineveh), he shouted to the crowds: ‘Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!’ The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.”

If you asked an 8th century B.C. Jew who the most unlikely people on the planet were to receive God’s mercy, the Assyrians of Nineveh would’ve topped the list. They were right in the cross-hairs of God’s judgment – but they repented powerfully.

  • Name an individual who seems like a lost cause spiritually. Now, think of a few people groups who fit that description. Do you think God has given up on reaching them? Do you act like He has?

2. Challenge

Jonah 3:4-5 [NLT] “The people of Nineveh believed God’s message…”

Jonah didn’t have angelic vocal chords. It wasn’t his presentation that changed the hearts of a wicked city, it was God’s message. When we write people off as too far gone, we do it with our abilities and strategies in mind. When the Holy Spirit is involved, though, no one is beyond his reach, even the lost causes.

  • You can certainly tell people about God’s grace, but what are some other ways His message can be communicated through you?
  • God didn’t prophecy doom to dishearten the Ninevites; He did it to give them a chance to change (yes – even the worst of the worst!) How does God’s dealing with Nineveh affect the way you view His heart for the lost causes that you listed?

3. Prayer Focus

Talk to God and thank Him for coming to rescue you – even while you were a sinner. Ask Him to help you see those “lost causes” in your life the way He does – as people in need of His message and life-changing power. Then, ask Him to use your life to present that message.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: Where’s Daniel When You Need Him?”

1. Power Verse

Proverbs 12:26 “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

What’s Up: “I Will Choose To Have Godly Friends!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Spy Kids”. In this series, we’re learning from the story of Daniel!

2. Discussion

Explain to your children that their lives are like a NASCAR race. Ask them what the goal of a race car driver is. Then explain to them that winning the race of life means living eternally with God. However, in order to win the race, we all need some help.

Every race car driver has a pit crew that keeps his or her car in the best shape possible during the race.

  • What are some of the responsibilities of the pit crew?
  • Would the driver win the race if she had to take care of all those responsibilities by herself? Why not?
  • Can we win the race if we don’t have anyone helping us?

The crew chief is in charge of the entire crew and remains in constant contact with the driver by using microphones and headphones.

  • What kind of person should be the crew chief in our life?
  • Ask your children who owns the car the driver is racing. (Some children may think the driver owns the car, but actually a company owns it.)
  • Who owns our lives?
  • Could we win the race if we didn’t have an owner?
  • Who ultimately should get the credit when we win the race?

Talk about how important it is for us to have people in our lives (“Daniels,” as we learned this week) who will help us win our race.

3. Prayer Focus

Ask God to help you have a good pit crew in your life. Thank Him for owning your life and giving you everything you need to win.

I’m All In!

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Have you ever been the recipient of unfair criticism? Ever been the one to give it? Not all criticism is constructive, and if we’re not careful, a critical spirit can make us miss out on a lot of good around us.

1. Read

2 Samuel 6:15-16 [NLT] “So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. But as the Ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she was filled with contempt for him.”

When you become a spectator, you’re a lot more prone to criticize those who serve God with gusto. David’s dancing probably would’ve looked a lot different if Michal had been in the crowd.

  • In church, who would you identify with more – the one doing or the one watching?
  • What are some expressions of worship that seem goofy or over-the-top to you? What motives do you think are behind those actions? 
  • What are some other possible motives for them?

2. Challenge

2 Samuel 6:23 [NLT] “So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.”

Michal witnessed a season of unparalleled blessing, as God’s presence came to her home town – yet, she missed out on it by standing back and criticizing. Don’t suffer the same fate! Get engaged, and give people the benefit of the doubt – there are a lot of great ways to express praise and thanks to God.

  • What’s your favorite way to express your heart to God? How might that look to someone who was completely unfamiliar with Christianity?
  • Sometimes people are in the wrong, and a challenge to change is just what they need. How is that different from Michal’s experience?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes to express your heart to God in whatever way comes to your mind. Go all in! He deserves it.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

“Spy Kids: Do The Right Thing!”

1. Power Verse

1 Peter 1:15 “…be holy in all you do.”

What’s Up: “Even If I’m All Alone In The Fight, I’m Gonna Choose To Do What’s Right!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Spy Kids”. In this series, we’re learning from the story of Daniel and his friends about remaining faithful to God no matter what!

2. Activity

Read the following scenarios and let your children answer the questions:

A kid in your class has somehow managed to get a copy of the answers to a major math test you’re having later in the week and will give a copy to anyone who wants one. Most of your friends took a copy, but you can’t decide whether to take one.

  • What are some short-term consequences of taking one? (You’ll pass the test, your friends will accept you, you won’t have to study.)
  • What are some possible long-termconsequences? (Your teacher may find outand fail you, you’ll feel guilty, you may not learn what you need to know for future tests.)

Your friends have started calling people names that you’re pretty sure your parents wouldn’t approve of.

  • What are short-term consequences if you start using the word, too?(You’ll feel like you’re part of the group, no one will tease you for not using the word, you’ll feel cool.)
  • What are some possible long-term consequences? (Your parents will find out and punish you, you’ll hurt someone’s feelings, you may start using other words you shouldn’t.)

3. Discuss

It’s normal to feel tempted to do what everyone else is doing even when you know it’s wrong. That’s why it’s important to think about the consequences of our actions before we do them.

4. Prayer Focus

Ask God to give your children strength to fight temptation and to help them see the consequences of their actions.

The Security of Humility

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Nobody likes to be humiliated. From childhood on, we all learn to avoid embarrassing situations and improve our standing with others. In God’s leadership system, though, the noblest thing we can do is to voluntarily lower ourselves, not in shame, but in service to others.

1. Discussion 

Philippians 2:3–4 [ESV] “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Q . Which is easier – serving your own interests, or those of others? Which requires more strength?

Q . What’s a scenario in your life where it’s easy to serve others? What makes it easy?

Q . What’s a scenario where it’s hard to serve others? What makes it hard?

Q . Godly humility doesn’t mean belittling yourself or being a doormat for others to abuse. Describe an example of “humility” that’s belittling and abused. Contrast that with an example of humility with dignity and strength.

2. Challenge

Matthew 23:12 [ESV] “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

One way or another, everyone will be humbled or, “made low.” If you do it voluntarily, God will bless you. If not… well, it’s not a pleasant experience, to say the least!

Q . Think of a time in your life when you were proud, and someone / something brought you down a few notches. How did that feel? Was the end result positive or negative for you?

Q . Think of a time when you voluntarily lowered yourself to put someone else first. How did that feel at the time? How do you feel about it now, looking back? Was the end result positive or negative for you?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank Jesus for modeling true leadership by serving humanity. Ask the Holy Spirit to point out places in your life where you tend to “exalt” yourself, and to give you the strength of character to choose humility and service.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Don’t Keep It To Yourself

1. Power Verse

Mark 16:15 “…Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.”

What’s Up: “I Will Share God’s Love With The World!”

In our Bible Story, we learn from Elisha and four lepers the importance of sharing and not holding good news to ourselves. Especially, since we have the greatest news – the Good News of Jesus dying on the cross and raising to life for our salvation and eternal life in Heaven. The world is starving for the truth, and we must deliver the Good News to the world!

2. Read

2 Kings 7 (NIRV)  

Elisha replied, “Listen to a message from the Lord. He says, ‘About this time tomorrow, flour won’t cost very much.’ The king was leaning on an officer’s arm. The officer spoke to the man of God. The officer said, “Suppose the Lord opens the sky and pours down food on us. Even if he does, could what you are saying really happen?” “You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha.

The Attack on Samaria Ends

There were four men who had a skin disease. They were at the entrance of the gate of Samaria. They said to one another, “Why should we stay here until we die? So let’s go over to Aram’s army camp. Let’s give ourselves up. If they spare us, we’ll live. If they kill us, we’ll die.” They arrived at the edge of it. But no one was there. The Lord had caused the soldiers of Aram to hear a noise like a huge army. So the soldiers of Aram had run away at sunset. They had left the camp just as it was. And they had run for their lives. The men who had a skin disease arrived at the edge of the camp. They entered one of the tents. They ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes. They went off and hid them. But then they said to one another, “What we’re doing isn’t right. This is a day of good news. And we’re keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until sunrise, we’ll be punished. Let’s report this to the royal palace.” Then the people went out of the city. So 12 pounds of the finest flour sold for less than half of an ounce of silver. And 20 pounds of barley sold for the same price. That’s exactly what the Lord had said would happen. What Elisha, the man of God, had told the king came true. 

3. Discussion

Q. Who doubted Elisha when he said there would be plenty of food the next day?

Q. Who was at the gate of the city? Where did they decide to go?

Q. What did the lepers find in the Aramean’s camp? What did they decide to do when they stopped eating?

Q. What happened when they shared the good news with the whole city?

The world is full of bad news. There are lots of bad things going on in the world. People are constantly dealing with tough stuff. The world is longing for the truth that someone loves them and has the power to help them! As Christians, we have that truth, and we have to share with the world that God loves everyone and has the power to help us with whatever we face in life.

4. Prayer Focus

What Good News do we have, as Christians, that the world needs to know? What can you do to share that Good News of Jesus with others? Pray for your children to have the courage to share the Good News about Jesus and let everyone they know see the truth of God’s love every day.

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.”

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!

Pride is Expensive

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For those of you reading this who attend ALCC you know that this past Sunday I began a new series of sermons centered around the life of Daniel, with courage being our focus.  I’m excited to examine how God’s word can equip us to rise above the fear that seems to be abundant in today’s world.  While circumstances that produce fear abound I am truly convinced that while fear may always be a part of our lives we are intended to be courageous and act valiantly in the face of that fear.

In the preparation for this series I came across another biblical character that shows what can happen on the other end of the spectrum.  2 Chronicles tells us the story of a King that ruled Judah named Uzziah.  Uzziah had a great start and in the early years of his leadership he moved Judah away from idolatry and back towards a right relationship with God.  However, an all to common thing happened as God blessed Uzziah.

In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.   2 Chronicles 26:15–16 (ESV)

In his weakness Uzziah trusted in the Lord and was made strong.  However, once gaining the throne, conquering all of the nations that threatened Judah, gaining fame and position, Uzziah grew proud as if by his own ability he accomplished these things.  Had Uzziah remained humble the length and strength of his leadership might have been legendary but due to his pride and the loss of his humility God placed leprosy upon Uzziah and he lived the rest of his life isolated and alone.

Here at ALCC we are experiencing God’s blessing with so many new people just this past week that it’s beginning to be difficult to even recognize who’s new and who’s been here a while.  Since May we have had 66 adults that have indicated that they are here to stay!  This doesn’t include the children that are in these families just the adults.  We are stretched for space in every way.  Even after creating the early service and having about 125 people move we are once again running out of space at the 10:30 service.  In many ways we are being blessed like Uzziah was, but unlike Uzziah we will not grow proud to our destruction.

The same is true on an individual level.  Do you think that your success came because you deserved it?  Was it your work or your intellect or your skill that caused you to advance?  The moment you begin to believe that you deserve the good things in your life you are moving into dangerous territory.

Everything good comes from the Lord.

Every blessing, every skill, every resource, every warmth, every comfort.  If humility and gratitude fills your heart for the blessings that surround you then you are a candidate for even greater blessing.  Start thinking that they belong to you and that you earned them and they can be gone in a blink.

Blessings,

Roy