Study Guides

Advent – Week 4

Candle Lighting

As you gather this week, take a moment to light your advent candle. If you don’t have an advent candle, any candle will do. There is nothing mystical about the candle. Lighting a candle is simply a way of setting apart time for something unique. Let this time be a different kind of time than the rest of your day. Gather with family, or friends, or somewhere quiet on your own and light your candle.

Historically, candles have been lit to represent the presence of God. As you light your candle, take time to acknowledge that God is present. Consider praying a prayer like this:

 

O God, as light comes from this candle,

May the blessing of Jesus Christ come to us,

Warming our hearts and brightening our way.

May Christ our Savior

Bring life into the darkness of this world,

And to us, as we wait for his coming.

Amen.

 

Love

As we remember our Savior coming as a baby and look forward to his return, we can’t help but be overwhelmed by the incredible love God has shown us in the gift of Jesus. It is often difficult for us to understand God’s love for us because God loves us perfectly, and we are not capable of perfect love. We love a lot of things, and some more than others, but we also know that God’s love for us is bigger and greater than our ability to love. As you go throughout this week, celebrating with family and friends, take time to remember that the greatest gift we’ve received is the gift of love that God has shown us through Jesus.

  • When you think of the word love, what ideas come to mind?
  • What is the difference between God’s perfect love and the way we love?
  • How can our love be more like God’s?

 

Read Matthew 1:18-25

  • As you read this passage, what do you think it must have felt like to be Mary and Joseph?
  • Emanuel means “God is with us.” How would you explain that in your own words?
  • How does this passage demonstrate God’s love?

In the passage above, the angel tells Joseph that Jesus would rescue people from their sins. The Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, summarizes how Jesus did that in the first Chapter of Romans.

 

Read Romans 1:1-7

  • The story of what Jesus had done was so central to Paul’s message, that he includes it in his greeting to the people of Rome. As you read this passage, what word or phrase stuck out to you and why?
  • During this season as we remember that Jesus came and what he’s done for us, we also remember that he is coming again. What does that mean for you today?
  • Paul finishes his introduction by proclaiming grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus the Son to his audience. The grace and peace of Christ are deeply needed in our world. How could you show grace and peace this week?

Prayer

As you close your time, take time to pray together or on your own and close with this prayer:

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one God; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

 


For Families with Children

What do you think of when you hear the word “peace?” Being quiet. Calmness. Freedom. Maybe you feel peace when you’re getting along with others, when you’re going to sleep, or when you’re safe. These all describe feeling peace around us. God sent Jesus, the Savior of the world, for us to have true peace inside us. Another name for Jesus is Prince of Peace. We can have true peace when we trust Jesus to take care of us. Jesus loves us. He wants us to have true peace.

  • What do you think of when you hear the word “peace?”
  • How can we remember that Jesus is the one who gives us true peace?
  • What are ways we can show other people the peace we have in Jesus?

Create a peaceful environment for your family such as sitting together looking at stars outside, turning off electronics, or being in a quiet room. Explain why you feel peace around you. Ask each family member to draw a picture when he or she feels true peace. Then, draw an example when he or she doesn’t have true peace. Discuss ways we can remember that God is our source of peace. Remind your family that Jesus gives true peace inside us.

 


We would love to pray with you! If you have a prayer need, share it with us here.

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Advent – Week 3

Candle Lighting

As you gather this week, take a moment to light your advent candle. If you don’t have an advent candle, any candle will do. There is nothing mystical about the candle. Lighting a candle is simply a way of setting apart time for something unique. Let this time be a different kind of time than the rest of your day. Gather with family, or friends, or somewhere quiet on your own and light your candle.

Historically, candles have been lit to represent the presence of God. As you light your candle, take time to acknowledge that God is present. Consider praying a prayer like this:

 

O God, as light comes from this candle,

May the blessing of Jesus Christ come to us,

Warming our hearts and brightening our way.

May Christ our Savior

Bring life into the darkness of this world,

And to us, as we wait for his coming.

Amen.

 

Joy

During the Christmas season, joy is all around us. Christmas cards and Christmas songs declare that there is much to be joyous about. However, often we believe that joy and happiness are the same thing. There are certainly moments of happiness in joy, but joy has more to do with choosing to trust God in our circumstances. As we wait for the return of Christ, we know that some days will be full of happiness and other days full of sorrow. However, through each day we have the opportunity to choose joy.

  • As a group, or on your own, reflect on why joy is so important.
  • How do we look different from those around us when we choose joy?

When we remember that the source of our joy is that we belong to Jesus, we can have confidence that when we face trouble; he will work all things out.

 

Read Luke 1:46-55

  • Discuss as a group or reflect on your own on what Mary was facing as she spoke these words. How did Mary find joy in difficult circumstances?
  • As you read Mary’s song, what phrase jumps out most to you? How does it connect with you during this Advent season?
  • How does Mary’s song encourage you to choose joy today?

 

The people around Jesus faced many difficult circumstances, and yet they truly understood joy. In the passage we studied this weekend, Jesus praised John the Baptist for what he had done, and yet we know that John ended up in prison and faced an untimely end to his life. Let’s re-read this passage together:

Read Matthew 11:2-11

  • When John’s disciples asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, why do you think Jesus answered the way he did?
  • As you read this passage, what stands out to you most? What is your greatest take away from this passage? If you were going to put Jesus’ words in your own words, what would you say?
  • Throughout John’s ministry and his imprisonment, how do you think he chose joy?

Prayer

As you close your time, take time to pray together or on your own and close with this prayer:

Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN

 

 


For Families with Children

During the Christmas season, we remember that Jesus came, and we know that because Jesus came, we are able to have joy. Joy is greater than happiness because it never leaves us. No matter what happens, we have joy in Jesus.

  • What makes you most happy?
  • What is the difference between happiness and joy?
  • What does it mean to have joy even when we aren’t happy?

As a family, come up with a list of ways you can show the joy of Jesus to people around you this Christmas season. Have each person in your family choose one way they can do that this week. Once you’ve each done this, come back and talk about what you experienced.


We would love to pray with you! If you have a prayer need, share it with us here.

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Advent – Week 2

Candle Lighting

As you gather this week, take a moment to light your advent candle. If you don’t have an advent candle, any candle will do. There is nothing mystical about the candle. Lighting a candle is simply a way of setting apart time for something unique. Let this time be a different kind of time than the rest of your day. Gather with family, or friends, or somewhere quiet on your own and light your candle.

Historically, candles have been lit to represent the presence of God. As you light your candle, take time to acknowledge that God is present. Consider praying a prayer like this:

 

O God, as light comes from this candle,

May the blessing of Jesus Christ come to us,

Warming our hearts and brightening our way.

May Christ our Savior

Bring life into the darkness of this world,

And to us, as we wait for his coming.

Amen.

Before you move on, take a moment to discuss or journal about how you want this time to be set apart. What do you want to be different as you spend the next few minutes reflecting?

 

Repent

Repentance isn’t a word we like very much. Often it carries with it feelings of guilt and shame. However, true repentance, or turning away from our disobedience toward God, is part of the way we prepare for Advent. Repentance helps us focus on doing right instead of being right. It also reminds us that life isn’t about us; it’s about God’s love for and desire to rescue everyone.

  • As a group or on your own, reflect on why it is so difficult to repent? What does repentance require you to admit?
  • How is repentance an important part of the Advent season?
  • When you repent, how does that help you align yourself with God’s perspective?

 

Read Matthew 3:1-12

  • As you look at this whole passage, what is John’s message about repentance?
  • What phrase sticks out most to you? Why?
  • On your own, reflect on what this passage means for you in this season of Advent.

As we wait during this Advent season, it is important to remember what we are waiting for. As you read these next verses, think about who Jesus is and what his Kingdom will be like

 

Read Isaiah 11:1-10

  • As you read verse two, what images or ideas come to mind?
  • As you read verses three through five, which phrase sticks out most to you and why?
  • How would you explain verses six through ten in your own words?

Prayer

As you close your time, take time to pray together or on your own, and close with this prayer.

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 


For Families with Children

Love is an incredibly powerful thing. In fact, God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to rescue us so that he could be our forever friend. At Christmas, we remember that Jesus came to be our rescuer.

  • As parents, share with your children why a relationship with Jesus is so important.
  • Ask them to explain in their own words why the love that God showed us through Jesus is so important.
  • Ask your children to come up with some ways they could show the love of Jesus to others this week.

As a family, create a list of ways you could show the love of Jesus to those around you this week. Pick one person in particular and have your kids help you figure out what you might do together to show Jesus’s love to that person.

 


We would love to pray with you! If you have a prayer need, share it with us here.

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Advent – Week 1

Candle Lighting

As you gather this week, take a moment to light your advent candle. If you don’t have an advent candle, any candle will do. There is nothing mystical about the candle. Lighting a candle is simply a way of setting apart time for something unique. Let this time be a different kind of time than the rest of your day. Gather with family, or friends, or somewhere quiet on your own and light your candle.

Historically, candles have been lit to represent the presence of God. As you light your candle, take time to acknowledge that God is present. Consider praying a prayer like this:

 

O God, as light comes from this candle,

May the blessing of Jesus Christ come to us,

Warming our hearts and brightening our way.

May Christ our Savior

Bring life into the darkness of this world,

And to us, as we wait for his coming.

Amen.

Waiting

Waiting is difficult.  In fact, Christmas morning is a great reminder of how difficult waiting can be.

  • What you are most excited about this Christmas season?
  • Share or journal anything special your family traditionally does to prepare for Christmas.
  • If you have children gathering with you, ask them why it is so difficult to wait for Christmas morning. As adults share a memory you have of waiting for Christmas morning as a child.

 

Read Isaiah 9:6-7

  • What do these verses tell us about Jesus?
  • What phrase sticks out most to you? Why?

For many many years, people waited for Jesus to come, and now two thousand years after he came, we are waiting for him to return.

Read Matthew 24:30-31, 36-44

  • How would you describe these passages in your own words?
  • According to this passage, what will it look like when Jesus returns?
  • In this season, what does it mean for you to watch, wait, and prepare for Jesus to return?

Prayer

As you close your time, take time to pray together or on your own, and close with this prayer:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


For Families with Children

As we wait for Jesus to return, we have hope. Hope means that we believe and trust that something good can happen. We believe and trust that Jesus will return someday and make everything right in our world.

  • What is something you are hoping for this Christmas?
  • What does it mean to have hope that Jesus will return?
  • How can we as a family share the hope of Jesus this Christmas?

As a family, come up with a creative way to make a Christmas ornament that represents the hope we have and place it on your tree as you decorate.

 


We would love to pray with you! If you have a prayer need, share it with us here.

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In Not Of – Week 3

This weekend, Pastor Brian talked about what it means to live in, not of this world. While we live and function in our country, we are ultimately citizens of a different kingdom. Our home is in Christ and his Kingdom. We are “resident aliens.”

 

— READ 1 PETER 2:11-12 —

 

REFLECT
Take a minute to write your reflections on the following questions:

  1. As you read the words “foreigner” and “exile,” what images come to mind. How do these images relate to who we are as followers of Jesus living in the world?
  1. What would it look like for you to live such a good life that those around you would see your deeds and glorify God? What may God be prompting you to do today?
  1. What was your greatest take-away from what Pastor Brian shared last weekend? How does that take-away apply to your life today? (If you were unable to attend worship last weekend, watch the sermon here.)
  1. This week also is a week of celebration . . . a time we gather with family and friends to express our gratitude for the many blessings God has given us. Take some time to make a list of what you are grateful for. What specific blessings are you grateful for as a “resident alien” of our country?

 

PRAY THIS WEEK
Take time this week to continue to pray for our country and elected officials. Also, praise God for his many blessings in our lives and particularly the freedoms we have as Americans. Also, pray for those around the world who do not experience those freedoms. Pray for your neighbors and friends and ask God to help you be a light in their lives – that they may see your good deeds and glorify him.


We would love to pray with you! If you have a prayer need, share it with us here.

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In Not Of – Week 2

After months of campaigning, the election has come to a close. Decisions have been made, and now the real work begins. As followers of Christ, we all have questions and concerns. Fortunately, we also know that God is good and faithful. No matter how we feel about the results of the election, we all have the responsibility to be in prayer for our country and our new leaders.

 

— REREAD PSALM 75 —

 

REFLECT
Take a minute to write your reflections on the following questions:

  1. We read this same passage last week. As you re-read this passage following the election, what phrase jumps out at you? What does this phrase mean for you today?
  1. Read Matthew 6:33-34 and Philippians 4:6. Be honest . . . what worries and fears do you have following the election? As you reflect on these passages and the sermon series we just finished called “Peace,” what is a Biblical response to these fears and worries? What does that mean for you today?
  1. What was your greatest take-away from what Pastor Wayne shared last weekend? How does that take-away apply to your life today? (If you were unable to attend worship last weekend, watch the sermon here.)

 

PRAY THIS WEEK
Take time this week to continue to pray for our elected officials. Here are some things you can pray for:

  • First thank God for our new leaders, and pray for God’s Holy Spirit to lead and guide them and give them good advisers
  • Pray for their safety and health
  • Pray that they would execute justice
  • Pray that they would follow the Lord’s way and repent if they don’t
  • Pray that they would lead with wisdom and for the betterment of all, not for personal gain

We would love to pray with you! If you have a prayer need, share it with us here.

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In Not Of – Week 1

Election week has finally arrived. On Tuesday of this week, our country will decide who will lead us for the next four years. It is an understatement to say that this election has been emotionally and spiritually charged. Yet, in the midst of it all, we know that God is sovereign and good.

 

— READ PSALM 75 —

 

REFLECT
Take a minute to write your reflections on the following questions:

  1. As you read this passage today, what do you believe God desires for you to remember most in the midst of this election?
  1. What does it mean for you this week, with all this is going on in our country, to “sing praise to the God of Jacob”?
  1. Read 2 Chronicles 7:14. As you read this verse and reflect, what phrase jumps out to you? How does that phrase connect with you today? What would it look like for God to “heal our land”?
  1. What was your greatest take-away from what Pastor Wayne shared last weekend? How does that take-away apply to your life today? (If you were unable to attend worship last weekend, watch the sermon here.)

 

PRAY THIS WEEK
Take time this week to pray for the list below. As you vote this week, feel free to use this prayer as a starting point:

Lord God, we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community. We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity. We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom. We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace. We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

ALSO PRAY FOR . . .

  • The national elections, state elections, county elections, and local elections
  • Our Executive branches: President, Governors, Mayors, and Village Presidents
  • Our Legislative branches: Senators, Representatives, those who write our laws
  • Our Judicial branches: Supreme Court Justices, State, and Local Judges
  • Our enemies such as ISIS and other terrorists, that they come to know the Lord Jesus Christ (“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”)
  • God to give us leaders who will honor Him and be motivated by love, kindness, justice, righteousness, and mercy. But above all, may His Kingdom come, and may His will be done.
  • Thank God for the U.S.A. and all the blessings and good things happening here
  • Confess and repent of the sins of our nation and ask for God’s forgiveness

We would love to pray with you! If you have a prayer need, share it with us here.

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Samuel: It’s Complicated – Week 4

Last weekend, Pastor Wayne concluded the Samuel series by unpacking 1 Samuel 15. If you missed the sermon, watch it here.

READ 1 SAMUEL 15

MESSAGE FROM THE LORD
In the first nine verses of this chapter, Saul is given very specific instructions by God through Samuel. These instructions seem harsh, but God was using Saul to address a wrong that had been committed against his people. God did not take this offense lightly. However, Saul did not take God’s command seriously and failed to lead just as Eli, Eli’s sons, and Samuel’s sons had.

  • In this passage, we see Saul choosing to do what was customary instead of what God asked him to do. When are you tempted to do what is customary instead of following God’s guidance?
  • Why do you think God chose to deal so harshly with the Amalekites for what they had done to his people as they were coming out of Egypt? Why is it so difficult for us to believe that God would deal harshly with those who oppose him?

EXCUSES
In the middle section of this chapter, Saul makes excuses for his actions. After Samuel confronted Saul, he tried multiple ways to say that he had obeyed God, and he even attempted to justify his actions by saying he saved the plunder in order to worship God. Samuel’s response was simple: God values your obedience more than your worship, and you rejected him so he has rejected you as king. In verse 24, Saul admitted his wrongdoing and confessed it was fear of his men that drove him to make that decision.

  • Have you ever tried to use excuses to justify your disobedience to God? How do you think God views that? What does God desire from us when we realize we are wrong?
  • Both obedience and worship are important in our relationship with God. Why do you think God chose to emphasize obedience over worship in this passage?
  • How, like Saul, has fear of what others might think or say kept you from following God’s direction for your life?

THE END
As the chapter closes, Samuel completes the task God had given to Saul. Not only did he have to complete the work, but he had to have a painful conversation with Saul that completely altered the relationship they had. While Samuel had to reject Saul as king, he also cared deeply for Saul and mourned for him. The reality is that we all have difficult conversations we need to have with people in our lives, and often there are conversations people need to have with us. The key to this is our willingness to do what is right, in a loving way, even if it is uncomfortable.

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Samuel: It’s Complicated – Week 3

Last weekend, Pastor Wayne continued the Samuel series by unpacking 1 Samuel Chapter 8. If you missed the sermon, watch it here.

READ 1 SAMUEL 8

HISTORY REPEATED
In the first three verses of this chapter, we see an old and weary Samuel attempting to hand the reigns of his leadership to his sons, Joel and Abijah. Despite Samuel’s faithfulness to God, his sons chose a path more like the path Eli’s sons (Hophni and Phineas) chose.

  • As you reflect on Eli’s and Samuel’s families, who or what comes to mind in your life? How may God be prompting you to pray for that situation today?
  • Joel and Abijah put their personal gain before serving the people they were appointed to lead. What should their response have been? What should godly leadership have looked like for them?

WRONG SOURCE
When Samuel’s sons failed, the elders of Israel gathered to figure out their next steps. While it was wise for them to reject Samuel’s sons, their request for a king was unwise. God had great plans for them and had been faithful to them despite their lack of faith; yet they still wanted to be like the cultures around them. As Pastor Wayne talked about this weekend, they pursued the wrong source. In our brokenness we often want what the world has instead of being transformed into the image of Christ.

  • How do you see this idea at play in your own life? What might God be directing you to address in the way you live and think? What would it look like to change that? What will it mean if you don’t’?
  • Samuel’s response to this request was to turn to God and seek his guidance. When you are displeased with life’s circumstances, what does it look like to turn to God? When you see the ungodly motives of others, how should you respond?

LET THEM HAVE IT
God knew that having a king was not best for his people. He knew the people would look to a king to provide for their needs instead of looking to him. He also knew that having a king would mean the government would take from the people. Yet, he let them have a king knowing what it would cost them. Even then, he did not abandon them. He still was the one to appoint their king.

  • Have their been times in your life when God gave you what you wanted even when it wasn’t best for you? What did you learn in those times?
  • How has God looked out for you, even when you have gone outside his desire for your life?
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Samuel: It’s Complicated – Week 2

Last weekend, Pastor Josh continued the Samuel series by unpacking 1 Samuel 7. If you missed the sermon, watch it here.

READ 1 SAMUEL 7

GOD IS FAITHFUL
Pastor Josh talked about God’s faithfulness to his people, and that over and over again God’s people forgot what he had done for them, wandered away, and eventually came to moments of repentance. As we read the Bible and see how God provided for his people, it can be difficult to understand how they could forget. Yet when we look back, we can see moments of God’s provision and faithfulness in our lives, and still we are prone to replace our trust in God with worry, fear, and the idols of our culture.

  • As you look back on your life, think about the moments you have seen God show up. Take a minute to make a list of these and to thank God for his faithfulness in your journey.
  • Take a moment to reflect on the times in your life when you did not put your trust in God. What circumstances lead to those moments?  How would you describe your trust in God’s faithfulness right now?  Is there anything in your life that you need to repent of right now?

 

CRY OUT
When the people worshipped God and Samuel cried out before him, God showed up in a major way (verse 8).  Pastor Josh talked about Herve’s adoption as a time in his life when he cried out to God. In this situation, God’s response was not instantaneous, but he was still faithful to respond.

  • We all have situations, relationships, and circumstances of life we cry out to God for. What circumstances are you currently crying out to God about? Do you believe he will show up? Are there things in your life you should be crying out about that you aren’t? Why not? Take minute to reflect, and if there is something you need to cry out to God about, take time to do that.

 

OUR FAITHFULNESS
As Pastor Josh explained, the final verses of Chapter 7 speak deeply of Samuel’s faithfulness. Year after year, Samuel went to the same four cities and served as a judge. While serving God has moments of extreme fun, often faithful service requires a willingness to do the same things over and over again with joy and excellence. Faithfulness isn’t glamorous, but it is beautiful. As God is faithful to us, we should also be faithful to him.

  • How are you serving faithfully? What have you learned about faithfulness as you serve?
  • Moving forward, what does faithfulness toward God look like in your life?

 

If you missed last week’s post, check it out here.

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