Worship

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.

Fasting- An Act of Submission

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When we think of “worship,” fasting rarely comes to mind, but in truth, they’re closely related. Fasting and worship share the same root – submission to God.

1. Read

James 4:6-7 [ESV] “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.”

Fasting, just like worship, is an act of willful submission. It rarely comes easily, but that’s part of what makes it so powerful. If God is really “Lord,” we owe Him worship, whether we feel like it in the moment or not. Q . What has been the most challenging part of your fast so far? Have you been tempted to cheat, or to quit? How does sticking with it – against your natural desires – help you deepen your devotion to God?

2. Challenge

Psalm 8:1-4 [NLT] “LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens…What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”

Whatever the expression is, worship begins with an understanding that God is, well – God, and you’re not. Before you call on God to meet your larger-than-life need or give you divine wisdom, you have to get off of the throne of your life and bow before Him. Fasting is a season of practicing that dynamic, as you say “no” to your desires, and “yes” to God’s plan. Q . What’s an area of your life that needs divine intervention? Is He Lord in that area of your life right now, or are you? Q . God wants us to be humble, but not to feel broken-down or worthless. How would you describe the right balance between self-worth in God, and humble knee-bowing before His throne?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a minute to search your heart. What are the areas where your will often puts up a fight against God’s way? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you, as you continue a season of fasting, to focus on submitting better in those areas.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Life is a Highway: STOP

1. Power Verse

Galatians 5:25 “…let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

What’s up: “S-T-O-P Say No To Sin!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Life Is A Highway”. In this series, we’re learning that life is a lot like a highway. The Bible says that there are two roads that we can choose to travel on. One leads to life in Heaven forever and one leads to sin and death. We have to make sure we are on the road that leads to Heaven.

2. Activity

Ask your kids to make a list of “BIG” sins and “little” sins. When they finish, take turns reading each list.  Sin is dangerous. ALL sin is dangerous. Sadly, many Christians have decided there are “BIG” sins and “little” sins – they divide them up just like we did. There are some sinful habits that we tend to ignore and allow to remain in our lives.

3. Discussion

What are some of the sinful habits we tend to ignore and allow to remain in our lives? Why? ALL sin breaks God’s heart and can cause eternal damage to our souls. It’s important to S.T.O.P. sin in its tracks and defeat those nagging sinful habits that tend to continue to hang around. S – Stop What You Are Doing T – Think About What The Bible Says O – Obey It P – Pray That God Will Give You Strength To Resist It

4. Prayer Focus

Pray for your children if they have been struggling with the same sinful habits over and over. Pray God will help them break those habits and follow the S.T.O.P. method.

How to Overcome You

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

It’s hard to do the right thing sometimes. Sure – in a vacuum, we can usually determine what God’s way is in any situation, and we’d like to think that’s the decision we would make. Real life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, though, and in the heat of the moment, our sin-nature sometimes wins out over our God-nature. The struggle is real.

1. Discussion 

Romans 8:5-6 [ESV] “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Q . Have you ever set your mind to do the right thing, and then changed and did the wrong thing in the moment? What made you change?

Q . What are one or two battlegrounds in your life where you wrestle often between doing things God’s way and doing things your way? 

Why do you think it’s such a challenge?

2. Challenge

Galatians 5:22-24 [NLT] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

When we devote ourselves to studying the Bible and listening to the Holy Spirit’s direction, we strengthen the push for God’s way in our mind and weaken the push for self and sin.

Q . In the struggle to do right, do you normally focus on pushing the sin-nature down or building the God-nature up? Which should it be?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in you to teach you a better way. Ask the Holy Spirit to grow His outlook and attitudes in you so you can win more and more of the struggles in life.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

How To Be A Faithful Follower

1. Power Verse

Matthew 16:24 (ESV) “…If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”

What’s Up: I Will Follow God With All Of My Heart!”

This week, we start a brand new series called, “Elisha: God’s Powerful Prophet.” From the amazing life of Elisha, we learn how to be faithful followers of God! In this lesson, we learn some valuable lessons from the story of Elisha being called to follow the prophet, Elijah. If Elisha had not learned to be a good, faithful follower, he never would have become the powerful, godly leader that he became.

2. Read

1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2 (NIRV)  Elisha was plowing in a field. Elijah went up to him. He threw his coat around him. He ran after Elijah. Then he started to follow Elijah. He became Elijah’s servant. The Lord was going to use a strong wind to take Elijah up to heaven. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. The Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “I won’t leave you. And that’s just as sure as the Lord and you are alive.” There was a group of prophets at Bethel. They came out to where Elisha was. They asked him, “Do you know what the Lord is going to do? He’s going to take your master away from you today.” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied. “So be quiet.” So the two of them walked on. Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan River.  Elijah rolled up his coat. Then he struck the water with it. The water parted to the right and to the left. The two of them went across the river on dry ground. After they had gone across, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me. What can I do for you before I’m taken away from you?” “Please give me a double share of your spirit,” Elisha replied.“You have asked me for something that’s very hard to do,” Elijah said. “But suppose you see me when I’m taken away from you. Then you will receive what you have asked for.” They kept walking together. Suddenly there appeared a chariot and horses made of fire. Then Elijah went up to heaven in a strong wind. Elisha saw it and cried out to Elijah, “My father! You are like a father to me! You, Elijah, are the true chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha didn’t see Elijah anymore. Then Elisha took hold of his own garment and tore it in two. He picked up the coat that had fallen from Elijah. He went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan River. Then he struck the water with Elijah’s coat. “Where is the power of the Lord?” he asked. “Where is the power of the God of Elijah?” When Elisha struck the water, it parted to the right and to the left. He went across the river.

3. Discussion

Q. Who showed up and put his cloak around Elisha, saying, “Follow me”? What did Elisha ask for when Elijah was about to ascend into Heaven?

Before we can be a good leader, we first have to learn to be a good follower. Of whom in your life should you decide to be a good follower?

4. Prayer Focus

Pray your children will be faithful followers. Challenge them to be humble, and to be committed to God even through the tough times.

Faith Like a Child

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

In this life we’re all coming out of a hardship, in the middle of one, or about to go through one. When we were kids we didn’t have a care in the world because we knew our parents would take care of us. Like a child has trust in their parents, God wants us to know Him well enough that we have child like faith in Him.

1. Discussion 

Proverbs 3:5 [NIV] “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;”

We all know that we need to trust in the Lord but putting that into practice is hard. We are hardwired to try to take care of things ourselves or try to fix the issue on our own. Jesus wants us to give it to Him.

Take a moment to discuss a time that you trusted in God to take care of a situation and a time that you didn’t.

Q. What was the difference between the two situations?

Q. Do you feel that you grew closer to God more in one than the other?

2. Challenge

Luke 18:15-17 [ESV] “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”’

The disciples were too concerned about what position they would have in Jesus’ Kingdom and missed His teachings.

Q. Have you ever placed your circumstances at a higher priority than your relationship with Jesus?

Sometimes we think that we can handle our situation better than God, when all He is really asking is for us to give it to Him.

3. Prayer Focus

Pray that all of us, no matter how young or old, will know that God is always there, taking care of us, no matter what situation we are in.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God more and more so that we will worry less and less!


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Faith Like a Child

1. Power Verse

Luke 18:17 (ESV) “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

What’s Up: “I will trust in God and stay strong in Him!”

This week, we celebrated “Family Sunday” and learn together with our family in big church.  Most of the time  we learn things from people who are older than us, but there are times that the kids can teach the adults some things about faith in God.

2. Read

Luke 18:15–17 (NIRV)  “People were also bringing babies to Jesus. They wanted him to place his hands on the babies. When the disciples saw this, they told the people to stop. But Jesus asked the children to come to him. ‘Let the little children come to me,’ he said. ‘Don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them. What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who will not receive God’s kingdom like a little child will never enter it.’”

3. Discussion

Q. Why do you think the parents wanted Jesus to touch their babies?

The disciples became upset that people were bringing children to Jesus.  Why do you think the disciples thought that the parents shouldn’t bother Jesus?

Jesus told the disciples to let the kids come to Him.  He enjoyed having them near Him.  

Q. What do you think it would have been like to meet Jesus while he was walking with His disciples? What are some things that you would have said to Him?

Sometimes adults have a harder time trusting God than kids do.  

Q. Why do you think that is?

As we grow older, we often start to worry more and more about things like money, our health, our relationships, and important decisions.  

We often spend more time worrying, than praying and trusting God.

Q. What are some steps we can take to keep our faith strong?

4. Prayer Focus

Pray that all of us, no matter how young or old, will know that God is always there, taking care of us, no matter what situation we are in.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help us trust God more and more so that we will worry less and less!

What do you know?

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

Knowing the Bible is a great thing – the more were read, study and memorize, the better! Knowing about God won’t do us any good, though, if it’s just knowledge. God wants us to know Him intimately – in a way that changes us fundamentally.

1. Discussion 

Philippians 3:8-11 [ESV] “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Paul knew the Old Testament a lot better than you do – he devoted his early life to studying it; but that head knowledge was nothing compared to the relationship he developed with Jesus.

Q . On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your biblical knowledge?

Q . On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the intimacy of your relationship with God?

Q . How could raising one of those numbers help raise the other?

2. Challenge

Luke 7:39 [NLT] “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this (the woman washing Jesus’ feet), he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!’”

Simon the Pharisee knew the Scriptures like Paul did, yet he didn’t recognize the Savior who was sitting at his table. 

Q. What was the difference between these two? Which do you associate with more? What made the difference for you?

As you consider your role in teaching the next generation to know God, Bible knowledge is clearly important, but there’s more needed than that. 

Q. What else can you do to guide people to knowing God, not just knowing about Him?

3. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for reaching out to know you personally, not just to enlist you as a servant. Ask the Holy Spirit to use the knowledge about God that you gain to help you get to know Him better.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

In Prison For Good

1. Power Verse

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

What’s Up: “God Can Use My Prison To Change Someone’s Life!”

This week, we continue our series called, “Prison Break.” In this lesson, we will learn that God can use the bad for good. If we are faithful to God during the bad times, others may be blessed!

2. Read

Acts 16:25-34 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up. He saw that the prison doors were open. He pulled out his sword and was going to kill himself. He thought the prisoners had escaped. “Don’t harm yourself!” Paul shouted. “We are all here!” The jailer called out for some lights. He rushed in, shaking with fear. He fell down in front of Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out. He asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him. They also spoke to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night, the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Right away he and everyone who lived with him were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house. He set a meal in front of them. He and everyone who lived with him were filled with joy. They had become believers in God.”

3. Discussion

Q. What happened after the earthquake? Did Paul and Silas leave the jail?

Q. What happened to the jailer? 

Q. Did Paul and Silas help him to become a Christian or not?

Q. Who else became a Christian after the earthquake? Sometimes, bad things happen – even for Christians. 

Sometimes a bad situation can be really bad – and we feel like there is NOTHING good that can come from it. We feel like we’re in a prison and there is no hope for good to come out of it. 

 Q. Has there been a time that God has used your bad to help others?

 Q. Has there been a time that God helped you because of someone else’s bad?

 Q. Have you faced something that seemed too bad to ever be used for good?

 

4. Prayer Focus

Pray that your children would see that God can use the bad for good. Pray that they would see the reason for their prison and stay faithful to God, no matter what. Pray that others would be blessed because of their faithfulness in the bad times.