Small Things, Big Difference Week 1 – Discussion Questions

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MAIN POINT:

You are how you schedule your time.

ICEBREAKER:

Think of the people with whom you have a relationship—your close friends, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your children, your co-workers. How would your day look if one of them scheduled your time?

INTRODUCTION:

Two items that you carry around most of the time can tell us more about you than even your friends know—your calendar and your checkbook/debit card. The checkbook is a separate lesson. For this study we are focusing on your daily planner.

Most people start their day with some kind of caffeine—coffee, tea or cola. Some read a newspaper, some watch a news program, others catch headlines on their computer screen. Would your day be different if you spent that same amount of time reading the Bible? If you want to be healthier, you know you should exercise. But if you only spend 45 minutes one day per week, how much healthier will you be? For exercise to be beneficial, you need to spend at least 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week.

Similarly, you cannot be who God wants you to be if you only read scripture on Sunday morning in church. In order to understand what God wants you to do, you must read His word daily. For most days, you schedule appointments, lunch dates and car pools. You may set aside time to make phone calls that are necessary to keep up communication. Likewise, if you expect to hear God give answers to your prayers or to tell you which decisions to make, you must schedule time to read His word and listen for His voice. The key is spending time with God daily and consistently. You need to schedule who you want to become.

ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH BIBLE STUDY:

Read Proverbs 8:34-35.
1. How often should you listen to God?

Read Luke 9:23
2. When should you follow Jesus?
3. What would your schedule look like if God were in control of your time? How would it change?

Read Matthew 6:11
4. How often do you eat food? If you are participating in the Faith Promise 21 day fast, how has changing your food schedule affected your prayer life? Remember, fasting without prayer is just dieting!
5. God’s word can also be considered our “daily bread.” Are you eating your daily bread of God’s word? There are many Bible reading plans available to break the task down into manageable chunks. Faith Promise is currently following a plan to read the entire Bible in a year. You can find the plan and read online here.

Read 2 Timothy 2:15
6. What are two reasons to read the Bible daily?

Read Psalm 119:11
7. How can the Bible help your daily life? Can you share an example of a time when you applied scripture to your life and it benefitted you?

Read Luke 4:16
8. What habit was part of each week of Jesus’s life? Are you attending worship services faithfully?

Read Ephesians 5:15-16
9. What does God instruct you to do with your time? How can we put this into practice?
10. Is your schedule working for you?
11. Pastor Chris shared how he now views setting his schedule as a “holy endeavor.” How much do you involve the Holy Spirit in your schedule? Do you pray about or ask God for wisdom in how to spend your time?

This week Pastor challenged us to take the “15 minute Chair Challenge.” If you do not already have a quiet time or devotional time, this challenge is for you! All you need is a chair, a Bible, and 15 minutes. Spend the time reading God’s word, praying, and listening for God’s voice. Do this for at least 2 weeks. The keys are to do this daily and consistently.

Planted – Discussion Questions

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MAIN POINT:

According to our theme verses this year Psalm 92:12-14 in order to flourish we must be planted in the house of the Lord.

ICEBREAKER:

Have you ever had great success or failure in trying to grow a plant? What did that teach you?

INTRODUCTION:

It’s the new year, a time of new beginnings and second chances. As we begin the year, please participate in our church wide fast and prayer beginning Monday January 5th, and join us in our one year Bible reading plan. You can pick up a devotional for the 21 day fast at your FP location or download a digital copy here. This week Pastor preached on the importance of being planted in the house of the Lord. One of our core values is gathering for God (see Hebrews 10:25). We do this during the weekend worship services as well as in small groups which meet regularly. Gathering for God is essential to being rooted in the house of the Lord. Please continue to be faithful in attendance both on the weekends and at small group meetings. These gatherings will greatly enhance your spiritual growth and help you to reach your full potential!

ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH BIBLE STUDY:

Read our theme verses for this year Psalm 92:12-14.

By definition, flourish means “grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.” In our case, and according to our theme verse, that environment is the house of the Lord.

1. What do you think flourishing would look like in your life? What areas would you like to flourish (spiritual growth, work, relationships)? Be specific in thinking about what flourishing would look like in particular areas of your life.

2. How does being planted in the house of God affect our growth?

3. What are some reasons you have had in the past for not attending church? For not reading scripture? For failing to maintain relationships? How can the group hold each other accountable?

4. Are there things we can do as a group to help each other develop deeper roots? For example, would it help if we made plans to attend the same service each weekend and sit together as a group? Or should we check in with each other to see if we are keeping up with the Bible reading plan?

LEADER NOTES

As the new year begins, you might consider doing a “Group Housekeeping” meeting. Here are some questions you might consider.

What are the goals for the group this year?

What do you want to study?

Does every member have a spiritual growth plan?
You can find worksheets for creating a growth plan on Pastor Chris’s blog here.

Are group members on track to be part of the Faith Promise Core?

How are things working logistically for your group? Is your time/place/childcare situation still on track for your group’s goals?

1. Encourage each group member to share at least on area of their life that they would like to see flourishing and what that flourishing would look like. Choose accountability partners or have whole group work on building each other up and holding each other accountable for staying rooted and flourishing. Pray for one another specifically for the goals that members share.

2. Being planted (regularly attending worship, regular Bible study, quiet time and prayer) helps us discern what God’s plan for our life is and helps us to line up our plans with His.

3. Be sensitive and not condemning as you work through these questions. The point is not to cast blame or make people feel guilty. The point is to help them understand where things might have gone off track before and help them to stay on track this year!

4. Encourage members to develop a spiritual growth plan (see above for a link to Pastor Chris’s blog with worksheets). Also make a plan to reassess and check in with the group through the year (perhaps once a month or quarterly) and see if people are keeping up with their plan or if they need help.

A Storied Christmas Week 3 – Discussion Questions

MAIN POINT:

Our response to the unexpected in our lives can draw us closer to God or push us further away from God.

ICEBREAKER:

Can you share a time when life threw you a curve ball? How did you respond?

INTRODUCTION:

Although today in hindsight we can hear the news of Christ’s birth with great joy, when Gabriel told Mary the news of the Messiah to be born it was very unexpected. Mary’s trust in God’s plan “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 most likely threw her life into complete chaos, but it brought the world its Savior. How do we respond when we are faced with the unexpected?

ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH BIBLE STUDY:

Read Luke 1:28-38

1. What is Mary’s response to the Gabriel?

2. How do you process unexpected news?

Read Luke 1:39-45

3. Mary trusted in her relative Elizabeth to help her through her situation. Who do you trust in times of trouble? Do you have trusted advisors?

Read Luke 2:3-6

4. Another unexpected event happens. Due to the census, Mary and Joseph are forced to travel to Bethlehem. Sometimes when going through one crisis or tough situation in our lives it seems like another comes right at the same time. Has this ever happened to you?

5. Mary had Joseph to help her on her journey. Who is helping you on your journey?

Read Luke 2:8-17

6. The shepherds also got a taste of the unexpected. While watching their flocks at night, suddenly they were surrounded by angels giving them news of the Messiah’s birth. What was their response?

7. How can we share the good news of the Christ this Christmas?

LEADER NOTES

1. Walk through Mary’s initial response of shock (she was perplexed), to her acceptance of God’s plan for her.

2. Some people want to tell others and talk about it, some want peace to mull things over. Turn the discussion to how the group can best support each other in times of crisis. Do people want company? Do they want to be alone at first and just need prayer support?

6. The shepherds immediately went to see Christ and then shared the good news.

A Storied Christmas Week 2 – Discussion Questions

MAIN POINT:

Herod tried to use power and control to manipulate people and information; he refused to surrender to Jesus.

ICEBREAKER:

Was it a struggle for you to give up control of your own life in order to accept Jesus?

INTRODUCTION:

We learn in Matthew 2:1-12 that the Magi from the East had seen the star that signaled Jesus’ birth. They asked Herod where they could find the king of the Jews. Herod asked his advisors where the Messiah was to be born. They told Herod to look in Bethlehem. Herod pretended to the Magi that he too wanted to worship this newborn king. After the Magi found Jesus, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

God’s angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to command that Joseph take the child and his mother to Egypt where they would be safe. Once Herod realized he had been tricked by the Magi, he was furious. He commanded that all boys two and under in and around Bethlehem be killed.

Herod was focused on maintaining his power and control. He had an opportunity to surrender to Jesus, but pride stood in his way.

ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH BIBLE STUDY:

Read Matthew 2:13-16.

1. Why did it seem logical for the Magi to ask King Herod where the Messiah was to be born? Refer back to Matthew 2:4-6.

2. What did the Magi give to Jesus? Were the gifts valuable? What gifts do you have to give Jesus?

3. Why did the Magi change their route back home?

4. How did Joseph know to flee Bethlehem?

5. Why do you think God used dreams to warn both the Magi and Joseph?

6. To what extent did Herod want to harm Jesus?

7. What was Herod’s focus? Can you share a time when you were focused on your own power and control? What were the circumstances and how did your focus affect the situation?

8. A focus on our own power and control can lead to pride. Does pride prevent you from a total surrender to Jesus?

LEADER NOTES

1. Herod had the power to call together the chief priests and scribes to obtain information.
2. See Matthew 2:11. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were very valuable. Sometimes what we have to offer God is of monetary value, sometimes what we have to offer is our time or our talents.
3. See Matthew 2:12
4. See Matthew 2:13
5. This is a matter of opinion, but you might turn the discussion to ways in which we can hear God speak to us today. Sometimes other Christian counselors can help us understand what God is telling us, sometimes we might hear a voice inside of us, and some people today have dreams and visions.
6. See Matthew 2:16. Herod did not want just to harm Jesus, but to kill him, and he was willing to kill many others to make sure that Jesus died and did not usurp his power.
7. Herod made the mistake of focusing on himself and his own power. He went to great lengths to try to preserve that power.

A Storied Christmas Week 1 – Discussion Questions

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MAIN POINT:

There was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn. Do we have room for Jesus?

ICEBREAKER:

Have you ever been distracted and missed something important?

INTRODUCTION:

We live in a time with an incredible amount of information at our fingertips. While the printing press and books and the internet have made wonderful advances in human society, they have also allowed us to be more easily distracted. What do you do while waiting? Do you pull out your phone or book or tablet? Television, music and books encourage us to chase the American dream of money, a house, a car, a family and recognition. From an early age we are taught what society views as success. Entertainment and life goals are not wrong, but they can be a distraction from our primary purpose to glorify God by making Jesus Lord of every area of our lives. Let’s discuss ways to make room for the Christ child in our hearts.

ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH BIBLE STUDY:

Read the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-19.

There was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. The innkeeper was distracted by the inn full of guests, and because of his distraction he failed to make room for the Christ. This week during the message we saw the video of Matt’s story. Matt was distracted by busyness and chasing the American dream.

1. What keeps you busy?

2. Have you ever considered that busyness and distraction can be a weapon of the Enemy?

3. What distracts you at Christmas?

Busyness and distraction can cause discontent. At Christmas we are surrounded by ads encouraging us to buy this thing or that thing so that we will be happy.

4. What does it mean to be content? Are you content? What do you need to be content?

5. How can the group pray against distraction in our lives? How can we hold each other accountable for maintaining our focus on Christ?

Watchmen – Discussion Questions

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MAIN POINT:

As Christians we are called to stand guard against evil in this world by being watchmen. This means that it is our responsibility to be good witnesses of God by evangelizing (spreading the word/ blowing the trumpet).

ICEBREAKER:

Do you remember what it felt like when you first realized the truth of God’s love? Take a moment and discuss how you felt. Do you still feel that way now? What’s changed?

INTRODUCTION:

Let’s look at a leader in the Bible who let his fire and passion for following God’s word wane, Elijah. Elijah was one of God’s most enthusiastic followers and prophets. He was so bold he challenged the prophets of Baal to prove that there is only one God and he is Yahweh. This angered Jezebel who ruled the land and worshiped Baal. She swore to have Elijah killed at which point Elijah flees toward the wilderness near Beersheba to hide. During this time way from his mission of evangelizing the word of God he became depressed, his fire went out. Let’s read together what happened to Elijah…

ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH BIBLE STUDY:

Read 1 Kings 19: 1-9a

1) The people in the land were not very open to hearing the truth about God, much like today. How has an effort to evangelize in that kind of environment had an effect on Elijah?

2) How did God respond to Elijah’s needs? What does this tell us about God’s character?

3) Notice in verse seven what the angel says, “for the journey is too much for you.” Did God’s messenger just task Elijah with something he knew Elijah couldn’t handle? If so, how did God enable him to make it?

Dejected and ready to give up, Elijah does what the angel says. He finds himself in a cave within Mount Horeb where God himself speaks to Elijah. 

Read 1 Kings 19:9b -18

4)In verse 10, what does Elijah tell God? Isn’t that just like the world we live in today?

5) How does God reply to Elijah?

6) As Elijah is waiting for the LORD to pass by what does he notice? When does Elijah finally find God? What does this tell us about God’s character?

7) Even after all God has done to show his love and authority how does Elijah respond in verse 14? Have you ever reacted like Elijah does here when God proves in your life His authority?

When God knows we are down and out he often times will speak to us in a gentle whisper to remind us that our efforts are not in vain and that his provision and gentle guidance will always lead us to where we need to be.