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Satisfy Meeting the Deepest Needs of Your Soul

PASTOR WILL STOLL Northwest Church Fresno, CA Visit us online at nwc.org

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Copyright © 2014 by Northwest Church ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Published by Northwest Church, Fresno, CA No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise – except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Copyright and use of the curriculum template is retained by Brett Eastman.  Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotes are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 and 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. ISBN: 978-0-9915559-2-5 Printed in the United States of America

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Satisfy Meeting the Deepest Needs of Your Soul CONTENTS

APPENDICES

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Welcome

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Using This Workbook (Read This First)

128 Frequently Asked Questions

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Outline for Each Session

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SESSION ONE:

Thrive

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SESSION TWO:

Happy

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SESSION THREE:

Belong

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SESSION FOUR:

Accepted

90

SESSION FIVE:

Loved

110

SESSION SIX:

Known

131 Small Group Agreement 132 Small Group Calendar 134 Spiritual Partners 135 Memory Verse Cards (Clip and Review)

SMALL GROUP LEADERS 137 Prayer and Praise Report 139 Hosting an Open House 140 Leading for the First Time 141 Leadership Training

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WELCOME Welcome to Satisfy. Over the next six weeks, you’re going to experience the joy of life in community, specifically as you look together at ways to find satisfaction in your lives. When God created the world, the only thing He said was “not good” was a person being alone. You were designed for community, to do life with others. In the context of community, we connect with one another and with God in life-changing ways. This unique small group curriculum integrates what you are learning in church on the weekends with what you’re studying in your small group, and with your individual times with God. It provides a taste of small groups for those who are new, while still offering a rich and rewarding experience to those who’ve spent years in small groups. In the context of your small group, you’ll dig deeper into the topics and Scriptures you’ve heard in the weekend messages. In that faith community, you will learn, discuss and grow. On your own between meetings, you’ll be guided through rich devotional times that again integrate with what you’re learning and experiencing at church and in your group. This study consists of six sessions, each focused on a different aspect of what it means to live life to the fullness that Jesus promised us. To live a life that satisfies to the fullest depths of the soul. You’ll have a chance to learn together, to discuss and share your own stories in a way that focuses on practical real-life application as you find your story in God’s story. At the end of each session, you’ll find daily devotions that will help you go deeper in your walk with God and each other. You’ll read a short Bible passage—often just one verse. Let those few words sink in. Reflect, ponder, and then, respond in prayer. In addition to the written study, this curriculum includes a DVD with six teaching sessions, one for each lesson. In your discussion, you’ll dig into the Bible but also respond to what you watched on the DVD. Our prayer is that you would experience God in a fresh way as a result of this study.

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Using THIS WORKBOOK (Tools to Help You Have a Great Small Group Experience!)

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Notice the Table of Contents is divided into three sections: (1) Sessions; (2) Appendices; and (3) Small Group Leaders. Familiarize yourself with the Appendices. Some of them will be used in the sessions themselves.

2.

If you are facilitating/leading or co-leading a small group, the section Small Group Leaders will offer some hard-learned experiences of others that will encourage you and help you avoid many common obstacles to effective small group leadership.

3.

Use this workbook as a guide, not a straightjacket. If the group responds to the lesson in an unexpected but honest way, go with that. If you think of a better question than the next one in the lesson, ask it. Take to heart the insights included in the Frequently Asked Questions pages and the Small Group Leaders section.

4. 5. 6.

Enjoy your small group experience. Pray before each session—for your group members, for your time together, for wisdom and insights. Read the Outline for Each Session on the next pages so that you understand how the sessions will flow.

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OUTLINE OF EACH SESSION A typical group session for the Satisfy study will include the following sections:

INTRODUCTION

HEAR GOD’S STORY

Each lesson opens with a brief thought that will help you prepare for the session and get you thinking about the particular subject you will explore with your group. Make it a practice to read these before the session.

In this section, you’ll read the Bible and listen to teaching—in order to hear God’s story and begin to see how His story aligns with yours. When the study directs you to, you’ll pop in the DVD and watch a short teaching segment. You’ll then have an opportunity to read a passage of Scripture, and discuss both the teaching and the text. You won’t focus on accumulating information but on how you should live in light of the Word of God. We want to help you apply the insights from Scripture practically and creatively, from your heart as well as your head. At the end of the day, allowing the timeless truths from God’s Word to transform your lives in Christ should be your greatest aim.

SHARE YOUR STORY The foundation for spiritual growth is an intimate connection with God and His family. You build that connection by sharing your story with a few people who really know you and who earn your trust. This section includes some simple questions to get you talking—letting you share as much or as little of your story as you feel comfortable doing. Each session typically offers you two options. You can get to know your whole group by using the icebreaker question(s), or you can check in with one or two group members, your spiritual partner(s), for a deeper connection and encouragement in your spiritual journey. 6

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STUDY NOTES This brief section provides additional commentary, background or insights on the passage you’ll study in the Hear God’s Story section.


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CREATE A NEW STORY God wants you to be a part of His Kingdom—to weave your story into His. That will mean change. It will require you to go His way rather than your own. This won’t happen overnight, but it should happen steadily. By making small, simple choices, we can begin to change our direction. This is where the Bible’s instructions to “be doers of the Word, not just hearers” (James 1:22) come into play. Many people skip over this aspect of the Christian life because it’s scary, relationally awkward, or simply too much work for their busy schedules. But Jesus wanted all of His disciples to know Him personally, carry out His commands, and help outsiders connect with Him. This doesn’t necessarily mean preaching on street corners. It could mean welcoming newcomers, hosting a short-term group in your home, or walking through this study with a friend. In this study, you’ll have an opportunity to go beyond Bible study to biblical living. This section will also have a question or two that will challenge you to live out your faith by serving others, sharing your faith, and worshiping God.

FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY If you have time and want to dig deeper into more Bible passages about the topic at hand, we’ve provided additional passages and questions. Your group may choose

to read and prepare ahead of each meeting in order to cover more biblical material. If you prefer not to do study homework, this section will provide you with plenty to discuss within the group. These options allow individuals or the whole group to expand their study while still accommodating those who can’t do homework or are new to your group.

DAILY DEVOTIONS Each week on the Daily Devotions pages we provide scriptures to read and reflect on between sessions—a month’s worth of reflections to keep God’s Word near your heart. This provides you with a chance to slow down, read just a small portion of Scripture each day, and reflect and pray through it. You’ll then have a chance to journal your response to what you’ve read. Use this section to seek God on your own throughout the week. This time at home should begin and end with prayer. Don’t get in a hurry; take enough time to hear God’s direction.

WEEKLY MEMORY VERSES Each session opens with a Memory Verse that emphasizes an important truth from the session. This is an optional exercise, but we believe that memorizing Scripture can be a vital part of filling our minds with God’s will for our lives. We encourage you to give this important habit a try. The verses for our six sessions are also listed in the appendix.

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Session One: Thrive


S E S S IO N O N E

Thrive MEMORY VERSE: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, World English Bible)

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SHARE YOUR STORY

Every person in this room has something lacking, something they are not satisfied with, that they wish they could change. Some of us aren’t satisfied with our bodies or our physical health. Some of us aren’t satisfied with our financial situation or our jobs. Some of us aren’t satisfied in our roles or relationships. And some of us aren’t satisfied by any of these things— and more! We might not always be able—or willing—to articulate our exact needs, but everyone struggles with dissatisfaction at one time or another. Though discomfort or unhappiness can be a good thing when it inspires us or offers us areas where we can grow or change, we were not made to live in a constant state of dissatisfaction. God never intended that for us. Jesus says that He came to bring us life and have it abundantly so that we can live to the fullest. And having an abundant life means that we don’t stay stuck being dissatisfied, rather, we learn to thrive. In this session, we will look at ways we can begin to move from not being satisfied with life to thriving in life. And we’ll do it the best way possible—together.

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1.

What do you hope to get out of this group? What drew you here?

_______________________________________ 2.

What strengths can you bring to this group? What do you think you can offer others in the group?

_______________________________________ 3.

Whether your group is new or ongoing, it’s always important to reflect on and review your values together. On page 130 is a Small Group Agreement with the values we’ve found most useful in sustaining healthy, balanced groups. We recommend that you choose one or two values—ones you haven’t previously focused on ones you have room to grow in—to emphasize during this study. Choose ones that will take your group to the next stage of intimacy and spiritual health.

If your group is new, welcome newcomers. Introduce everyone—you may consider nametags for your first meeting.

We recommend that you rotate host homes on a regular basis and let the hosts lead the meeting. We’ve come to realize that healthy groups rotate leadership. This helps to develop every member’s ability to shepherd a few people in a safe environment. Even Jesus gave others the opportunity to serve alongside Him (Mark 6:30–44). Look at the FAQs in the Appendix additional information about hosting or leading the group.

Use the Small Group Calendar on page 132 to plan who will host and lead each meeting. Take a few minutes to plan hosts and leaders for your remaining meetings. Don’t pass this up! It will revolutionize your group.

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Watch the DVD for this session now. Use the Notes space provided on page 17 to record any key thoughts, questions, and things you want to remember or follow up on. After watching the video, have someone read the discussion questions in the Grow section and direct the discussion among the group. As you go through each of the subsequent sections, ask someone else to read the questions and direct the discussion.

HEAR GOD’S STORY God uses stories to guide us. When we read the true stories of Scripture, we learn what God is like, we see His plan unfolding. And we learn principles for our own lives. How can we become a part of God’s story? By aligning our stories with His. By not just understanding what it means to follow Him, but actually doing it—changing our attitudes and actions to live as He would live. Use the following questions to guide your discussion of the teaching and stories you just experienced, and the Bible passage below. You may want to use the study notes on page 16 to guide your reading and discussion.

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Read Joshua 1:1-9: After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

4.

In this passage, God tells Joshua that His promise to Moses (that God will never “forsake” Moses) holds true for Joshua as well. How does this promise help us be “strong and courageous” as we live our lives? How does being strong and courageous help us thrive?

_______________________________________ 5.

God ties success to obeying His laws. Why do you think this is? Do you believe this is still true in our culture? Why or why not?

_______________________________________ 6.

When God promises prosperity and success, what do you imagine? Material prosperity? Job success? Might God have a different view of prosperity? If so, what do you think that might be? Session One: Thrive

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STUDY NOTES Strong and courageous. In the first chapter of Joshua, God

commands Joshua to be strong and courageous four times. The command is repeated many more times through Scripture. In fact, “do not fear” is among the most-often repeated commands. For good reason. If we believe God is indeed with us, that He walks with us through life’s ups and downs, then we have no reason to be timid or afraid. To the contrary, we have every reason to step forward with confidence.

Meditating on the Word. The word meditate sometimes gets a bad rap in Christian circles. Many Christians hear it and imagine New Age chants. But meditation has a long Christian—and before this, Jewish—history. To meditate means simply “to focus one’s thoughts on” or “to reflect or ponder.” This is exactly what God invites us to do with His Word. Whether it’s in taking time to read through—and think about—a long passage or story or reading a shorter passage through several times, bringing our minds with us as we encounter the Scripture allows us to hear God’s voice in new, fresh ways. This is especially helpful as we seek to thrive in our lives and to find satisfaction. By meditating—focusing, thinking—on God’s word, we find the guidance and the wisdom we need.

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NOTES Use this space to record your thoughts, questions and ponderings as you watch the video and discuss the Bible passage.

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ Session One: Thrive

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CREATE A NEW STORY God wants you to be a part of His Kingdom—to weave your story into His. That will mean change—to go His way rather than your own. This won’t happen overnight, but it should happen steadily. By starting with small, simple choices, we begin to change our direction. The Holy Spirit helps us along the way—giving us gifts to serve the body, offering us insights into Scripture, and challenging us to love not only those around us but those far from God. In this section, talk about how you will apply the wisdom you’ve learned from the teaching and Bible study. Then think about practical steps you can take in the coming week to live out what you’ve learned.

7.

Read this portion of Joshua 1 again: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. …Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Which word or phrase stands out to you? What might this be asking you to do or work on?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 8.

In the video we learned that the first step in living satisfied is to “drink in” God’s word. How have you found nourishment or sustenance in reading The Bible?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 18

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What is one “strong and courageous” step toward thriving you can take this week? What’s an action God’s been calling you toward that you’ve been apprehensive to do?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 10. This week, how will you nurture that connection with Jesus? Can you

commit to spending time in daily prayer or study of God’s Word (use the Daily Devotions section to guide you). Tell the group how you plan to follow Jesus this week, and then, at your next meeting, talk about your progress and challenges.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 11. To close your time together, spend some time with God trying some of the following:

• Choose a Psalm or other favorite verse and read it aloud together. Make it a time of praise and worship, as the words remind you of all God has done for you. • Ask “How can we pray for you this week?” Invite everyone to share, but don’t force the issue. Be sure to write prayer requests on your Prayer and Praise Report on pages 137-138. • Close your meeting with prayer.

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FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY If you feel God nudging you to go deeper, take some time between now and our next meeting to dig into His word. Explore the Bible passages related to this session’s theme on your own, and jot down your reflections in a journal or in this study guide. A great way to gain insight on a passage is to read it in several different translations. You may want to use a Bible app or website to compare translations.

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READ PSALM 1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,  which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,     nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.


The passage says those who delight and meditate on God’s law are blessed. In what ways do you suppose they are blessed?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ How does the image of the fruitful tree planted by streams speak to you? How does this apply to your life—and a pursuit of satisfaction?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________

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Psalm 119:97-106 Oh, how I love your law!   I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers,  for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.

The passage begins with a declaration of love for the law—not a typical emotion for rules—and later describes the law as sweeter than honey. Why do you suppose the writer loves the law and considers it sweet?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

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What’s the advantage of having God’s commands always with us, as the psalmist writes about?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” is oft-quoted verse. But imagine for a moment what this really means. How does this truth help us thrive in life?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

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Read Psalm 143 Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness  like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,  for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit  lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;  in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes,  for I am your servant 24

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In this psalm, we read a lament of David. He’s tired and feeling distant from God. How does being steeped in God’s Word and His law—as David was— help us find satisfaction even when we’re world-weary?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done,” David writes. How does remembering and considering what God has done in the past embolden our steps toward the future?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ Consider the idea of thirsting for God. What role does this play in our own desires and longings for satisfaction?

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DAILY DEVOTIONS Use these daily devotions to go deeper into this week’s topic. Each day, read the verse given. Take your time. Ask God to speak to you through His word. Notice which word or phrase stands out to you. Then take some time to journal your response back to him. You can write whatever is on your heart. Answer the “respond” question only if it’s helpful. Feel free to go another direction, if you sense God leading you. On the first day, you may want to read over all the verses for the week to get the “big picture” of the passage. But then walk slowly verse by verse. Listen to what God wants to say to you through His word, and respond to Him as you meditate on the truths of Scripture. At any point during each week, you may want to read over all the verses for the week to get the “big picture” of the passage. But then walk slowly verse by verse, day by day, listening to Jesus and responding to Him as you meditate on the truths of Scripture and experience His presence. Although the readings are short, don’t rush through them. Read slowly, savoring the words, asking God to speak to your heart as you read. There are six days worth of devotions. On the last day, read back over your responses and let that guide a final time of reflection.

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DAY 1 Read Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Reflect: What might God’s strengthening feel or look like? When have you experienced this?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 2 Read Isaiah 35:4 Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. Respond: When has envy or a desire to seek revenge stopped you from truly thriving? What might life look like if you left all retribution to God?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

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DAY 3 Read Isaiah 43:1 But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Respond: What does it mean to you that God summons you by name? How about the biblical truth that you belong to Him?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 4 Read Lamentations 3:57 You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” Respond: When have you felt God come near? What did you hear? What difference does it make to know He is near you now and telling you not to fear?

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DAY 5 Read Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Respond: When have you actually been afraid to hear good news?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 6 Read 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Respond: How does fully embracing the idea of God’s perfect love for you help drive out fear and lead you toward a satisfied life?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

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Session Three: Belong


S E S S IO N T W O

Happy Memory Verse: Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” (John 4:13-14)

One of this world’s greatest illusions is that if we only had a little bit more or if we only had that, we’d be happy, satisfied, all set. We fall for the lie that more money, a different spouse, a better job or better kids will render us finally at rest, finally content with our lives. Though we don’t like to admit it, many of us spend our waking hours working toward these things that, at best, never satisfy, and, at worst, cause real harm. Without the “living water” Jesus offers, even the best things of life will not satisfy and won’t live up to their false promise. So in this session, we’ll look at ways to separate the false promises of this world from the true promises of God, and discover that not everything that looks like it might quench our soul-thirst will actually do so.

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SHARE YOUR STORY

As we said last week, when we tell our stories, sharing them with others, we give them the opportunity to see God at work. Your story is being shaped, even in this moment, by being a part of this group. In fact, few things can shape us more than community. When we share our stories, we can encourage someone else, and learn. We can experience the presence of God as He helps us be brave enough to reveal our thoughts and feelings. Open your group with prayer. This should be a brief, simple prayer, in which you invite God to guide you as you meet, to give you insight and wisdom. You can pray for specific requests at the end of the meeting, or stop momentarily to pray if a particular situation comes up during your discussion. Then, begin your time together by using the following questions and activities to get people talking.

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1.

Why do you think people believe that more or different stuff will finally make us happy?

____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ 2.

When have you seen someone fruitlessly chasing the “things of this world?”

____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ 3.

Pair up with someone in your group. (We suggest that men partner with men and women with women.) This person will be your spiritual partner for the rest of this study. He or she doesn’t have to be your best friend. Instead, this person will simply encourage you to complete the goals you set for yourself during this study. Following through on a resolution is tough when you’re on your own, it makes all the difference to have a partner cheering you on.

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Watch the DVD for this session now. Use the Notes space provided on page 37 to record any key thoughts, questions, and things you want to remember or follow up on. After you finish watching the video, have someone read the discussion questions in the Hear God’s Story section and direct the discussion among the group. As you go through each of the subsequent sections, ask someone else to read the questions and direct the discussion.

HEAR GOD’S STORY How can we become a part of God’s story? By aligning our stories with His. By understanding what it means to follow Him. Use the following questions to guide your discussion of the teaching and stories you just experienced, and the Bible passage below.

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Read John 4:6-26 Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

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17.

Imagine you’re the woman in this story, hearing this prophet speak of “living water” and never thirsting again. What do you think was going through her mind? What goes through yours as you hear this even now?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ 18. Jesus’ offer of living water kicks off a heavy theological conversation

with the Samaritan woman. What does this have to say about what really satisfies in life?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ 19. What do you think the importance of this woman having had five

husbands plays in our understanding of who Jesus is and what He offers?

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NOTES Use this space to record your thoughts, questions and ponderings as you watch the video and discuss the Bible passage.

STUDY NOTES Barriers to Living Water. The story of the Jesus and the Woman at the Well offers a great example of the cultural obstacles we often have to overcome to learn the truth of who Jesus is and what He really offers. Jesus broke many rules by sitting down with the Woman at the Well. Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans and men did not sit alone (and discuss theology!) with women, certainly not one who had had five husbands. And yet, Jesus did sit with her. They even discussed theology. It’s been said that the Woman at the Well became the first street preacher that day when she rushed back to town to proclaim Jesus as Messiah. This story has much to teach us about the rules our culture establishes for us—rules that can get in the way of our seeking what truly satisfies.

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CREATE A NEW STORY In this section, talk about how you will apply the wisdom you’ve learned from the teaching and Bible study. Then think about practical steps you can take in the coming week to live out what you’ve learned.

22.

In the video, we heard a desert-island illustration—that just because something (like salt water) looks like it will satisfy doesn’t mean it will. What would make a good “salt water” litmus test for the other things that offer false promises to satisfy? How might we learn to reject the false promises of this world?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 23. Complete this sentence (be honest!): I’ll be happy if_________. What is true and what is false about this statement?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________

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24.

Jesus’ idea of “living water” sounds good, but it can be confusing. What do you think this means? Why do you think so many people love Jesus, yet still find life lacking?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 25. How might we learn to look for—and drink—living water during the week ahead? What truly nourishes us?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 26. Spend some time praying about those you know who might respond

to a simple invitation: to come to a church service, to join your small group, or even just to have coffee and talk about spiritual matters. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring people to mind that you can pray for.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________

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27. Take a look at the Circles of Life diagram below and write the names

of two or three people you know who need to know Christ. Commit to praying for God’s guidance and an opportunity to share with each of them. Share your lists with the group so you can all be praying for the people you’ve identified.

FAMILY (immediate or extended)

FAMILIAR

FRIENDS

(neighbors, kids’ sports teams, school, and so forth)

40

FUN

FIRM

(gym, hobbies, hangouts)

(work)

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28.

Developing our ability to serve according to the leading of the Holy Spirit takes time and persistence in getting to know our Lord. So the first step toward serving others is, paradoxically, spending time alone with God: praying and studying and reflecting on God’s Word. Here are some simple ways to connect with God. Tell the group which one you plan to try this week, and then, at your next meeting, talk about your progress and challenges when you meet next time. • Prayer. Commit to personal prayer and daily connection with God. You may find it helpful to write your prayers in a journal. • Daily Devotions. The Daily Devotions provided in each session offer an opportunity to read a short Bible passage five days a week during the course of this study. In our hurry-up world, we often move too quickly through everything—even reading God’s Word! Slow down. Don’t just skim, but take time to read carefully and reflect on the passage. Write down your insights on what you read each day. Copy a portion of Scripture on a card and tape it somewhere in your line of sight, such as your car’s dashboard or the bathroom mirror. Or text it to yourself! Think about it when you sit at red lights, or while you’re eating a meal. Reflect on what God is saying to you through these words. On the sixth day summarize what God has shown you throughout the week.

29.

30.

This week, how will you interact with the Bible? Can you commit to spending time in daily prayer or study of God’s Word (use the Daily Devotions section to guide you)? Tell the group how you plan to follow Jesus this week, and then, at your next meeting, talk about your progress and challenges. To close your time together, spend some time trying the following: • Choose a psalm or other favorite verse and read it aloud together. Make it a time of praise and worship, as the words remind you of all God has done for you. • Ask “How can we pray for you this week?” Invite everyone to share, but don’t force the issue. Be sure to write prayer requests on your Prayer and Praise Report on pages 137-138. • Close your meeting with prayer.

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FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY If you feel God nudging you to go deeper, take some time between now and our next meeting to dig into His Word. Explore the Bible passages related to this session’s theme on your own, jotting your reflections in a journal or in this study guide. Want to go deeper? Select a few verses and try paraphrasing them: writing them in your own words. If you like, share them with the group the next time you meet.

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READ HEBREWS 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

What might you deny in order to choose the “greater value” of Christ?

_________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________


Which fleeting pleasures demand too much of your attention?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ How might “looking ahead” to your reward—as Moses did—help bring you satisfaction?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________

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Read Hebrews 11: 35-40 There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Scripture is filled with stories of people who suffered and died for their faith. What does this kind of devotion tell us about the truly satisfying life? Do you live for something worth suffering and dying for?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

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“They were commended…yet none of them received what had been promised.” Does this passage trouble you or speak to something deeper about faith?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ For a moment, imagine heaven: when all will be made perfect. What will you be doing? What will you have? What won’t you be doing? What won’t you have?

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DAILY DEVOTIONS Use these daily devotions to go deeper into this week’s topic. Each day, read the verse given. Take your time. Ask God to speak to you through His Word. Notice which word or phrase stands out to you. Then take some time to journal your response back to him. You can write whatever is on your heart. Answer the “respond” question only if it’s helpful. Feel free to go another direction, if you sense God leading you. On the first day, you may want to read over all the verses for the week to get the “big picture” of the passage. But then walk slowly verse by verse. Listen to what God wants to say to you through His Word, and respond to Him as you meditate on the truths of Scripture.

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DAY 1 Read Psalm 39:4-5 Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. Reflect: How would you live differently—or, what would you strive for—if you could know how many days you had on earth?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 2 Read Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Respond: What other “virtues” or characteristics have you found fleeting? What difference does that make in how you live your life?

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DAY 3 Read 1 John 2:17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. Respond: How does this speak into your life right now? What temporary “fixes” have you been seeking? What do you think it means for you to do the will of God in your current context?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 4 Read Ecclesiastes 2:17 “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. Respond: When have you found this world’s pleasure’s meaningless? Which of them do you still seek? Why?

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DAY 5 Read Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Respond: What do you sense God calling you take your mind off and set your mind on right now?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 6 Read Mark 4:19 But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Respond: What is keeping you from God’s truth, Jesus’ promise to give you a full life? What do you need to do to remove any lies from your life?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

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E S E S S IO N T H R E

Belong Memory Verse: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20)

The desire to belong runs deep in all of us. Even if we aren’t necessarily “people people” or even if we enjoy time to ourselves, as members of the human race, we are made to belong. It’s why we delight in and readily identify with being part of a family, team, organization or company. This longing to belong is why we get excited to discover someone attended the same school we did or grew up in the same town. It means, even though we may be strangers on some levels, our common experience connects us on another level. Our desire or need to belong taps into our desire and need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Though each of us was given unique talents and abilities, it is when we share them outside ourselves that we truly grow, that we learn to thrive in life and find the satisfaction we were all meant for. In today’s session, we’ll look at the ways we can grow together as followers of Christ, as people who decided that seeking what Jesus has to offer us in this world is infinitely better than what the world tempts us with. Session Three: Belong

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SHARE YOUR STORY

Open your group with prayer. This should be a brief, simple prayer, in which you invite God to be with you as you meet. You can pray for specific requests at the end of the meeting, or stop momentarily to pray if a particular situation comes up during your discussion. Telling our personal stories builds deeper connections among group members. Begin your time together by using the following questions and activities to get people talking. Last week we talked about what it means to love others with the love God’s given us. This week, we’ll look at how that played out in the early church, and what we can learn from their example.

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1.

How have you seen others thrive by sharing their gifts beyond themselves?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 2.

What are the benefits of belonging?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 3.

Sit with your spiritual partner. If your partner is absent or if you are new to the group, join with another pair or someone who doesn’t yet have a partner. If you haven’t established your spiritual partnership yet, do it now. (See Share Your Story in Session Two.)

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Watch the DVD for this session now. Use the Notes space provided on page 57 to record any key thoughts, questions, and things you want to remember or follow up on.

HEAR GOD’S STORY Use the following questions to guide your discussion of the teaching and you just experienced on the DVD, and the Bible passage below.

Read Matthew 4:18-22 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

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4.

What might have compelled these sets of brothers to leave their families and their jobs (upon which their families depended) to follow Jesus?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ 5.

What’s the significance of the words “at once” and “immediately” in this passage?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ 6.

What does this passage tell us about the importance of belonging?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ 7.

What does this tell us about what the world values and what Jesus values?

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STUDY NOTES Follow me. As we learned in the DVD, Jesus’ call to follow Him was a request for these fishermen to become His disciples, something any rabbi worth His salt would’ve had. But one of the most interesting things about Jesus’ word choice is that throughout the Old Testament, God gives His people commands to follow the law and God’s decrees. Traditionally, following a rabbi would’ve meant becoming more like that rabbi or more like one who knew the law and followed it better than anyone. Though James and John, Simon Peter and Andrew wouldn’t have known it at the time, Jesus’ command to follow Him was an opportunity to become more like the One Who did not merely know or follow, but Who was the very fulfillment of the Law. By following Jesus, in fact, the disciples would learn new “laws,” ones of grace and love that superseded the rest.

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NOTES Use this space to record your thoughts, questions and ponderings as you watch the video and discuss the Bible passage.

_____________________________ ________________________________ _____________________________________ _________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ Session Three: Belong

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CREATE A NEW STORY God wants you to be a part of His Kingdom—to weave your story into His. That will mean change. It will require you to go His way rather than your own. This won’t happen overnight, but it should happen steadily. By making small, simple choices, we can begin to change our direction. The Holy Spirit helps us along the way, by giving us gifts to serve the body, offering us insights into Scripture, and challenging us to love not only those around us but those far from God. In this section, talk about how you will apply the wisdom you’ve learned in this session.

8.

As Will asks in the video: what’s the story of your decision to follow Jesus? If you haven’t followed, what’s keeping you from taking that first step?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 9.

What does it mean to you to belong to the “family of God” or to be a brother or sister in Christ with someone?

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10.

How has belonging to this group shaped your understanding of satisfaction—or, lead to even greater satisfaction?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 11. What specific steps will you take this week to cultivate your personal relationship with God. If you’ve focused on prayer in past weeks, maybe you’ll want to direct your attention to Scripture this week. If you’ve been reading God’s Word consistently, perhaps you’ll want to take it deeper and try memorizing a verse. Tell the group which one you plan to try this week, and then, at your next meeting, talk about your progress and challenges.

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12.

In the last session we asked you to write some names in the Circles of Life diagram. Who did you identify as the people in your life who need to meet Jesus? Go back to the Circles of Life diagram on page 40 to help you think of the various people you come in contact with on a regular basis, people who need to know Jesus more deeply. Consider the following ideas for action and make a plan to follow through on one of them this week. • This is a wonderful time to welcome a few friends into your group. Which of the people you listed could you invite? It’s possible that you may need to help your friend overcome obstacles to coming to a place where he or she can encounter Jesus. Does your friend need a ride to the group? Help with childcare? • Consider inviting a friend to attend a weekend service with you and possibly plan to enjoy a meal together afterward. This can provide a great opportunity to talk with someone about your faith in Jesus. • Is there someone whom you wouldn’t invite to your group but who still needs a connection? Would you be willing to have lunch or coffee with that person, catch up on life, and share something you’ve learned from this study? Jesus doesn’t call all of us to lead small groups, but He does call every disciple to spiritually multiply his or her life over time. • Groups that connect outside of the regular meeting time build stronger bonds and feel a greater sense of purpose. Why not plan a social outing with group members? As a group, brainstorm about ways that you could do something fun together—enjoy a meal or a night out together?

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13.

How has belonging to this group shaped your understanding of To close your time together, spend some time with God trying the following: • Read a passage of Scripture together, making it a time of praise and worship as the words remind you of all God has done for you. Choose a psalm or other favorite verse. • Ask everyone to share: “How can we pray for you this week?” Be sure to write prayer requests on your Prayer and Praise Report on pages 137-138. • Close your meeting with prayer.

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FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY Take some time between now and our next meeting to dig into God’s word. Explore the Bible passages related to this session’s theme on your own. Jot down your reflections in a journal or in this study guide. You may even want to use a Bible website or app to look up commentary on these passages. If you like, share what you learn with the group the next time you meet.

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READ JOHN 6:36-38 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

Would you have an easier time following or becoming like Jesus if you could see Him?

_________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________


What does it mean to you—your life and your calling—that Jesus will never turn you away?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ Jesus set aside His will to do God’s will—something that eventually took Him to the cross. How far, and to where, are you willing to follow Jesus?

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Read John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

What does “remaining in Jesus” mean to you? How might this help you bear fruit, as Jesus says?

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Jesus says apart from Him we can do “nothing.” What do you suppose He means by this? Can we really do nothing?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ Why do you think Jesus connects “remaining in His words” with having our “wishes” granted? How might staying close to the Word of God affect what we wish for?

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DAILY DEVOTIONS As you’ve done in prior weeks, use this section to stay connected with Jesus through your week. Each day, read the verse given. Take your time. Ask God to speak to you through His word. Notice which word or phrase stands out to you. Then take some time to journal your response back to him. You can write whatever is on your heart. Answer the “respond” question only if it’s helpful. Feel free to go another direction, if you sense God leading you. On the first day, you may want to read over all the verses for the week to get the “big picture” of the passage. But then walk slowly verse by verse. Listen to what God wants to say to you through His Word, and respond to Him as you meditate on the truths of Scripture.

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DAY 1 Read John 10:1-3 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Respond: When have you heard the voice of Jesus, our Shepherd? Where might He be leading you right now?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 2 Read John 4:4-6 “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. Respond: Are there voices in this world that you recognize more clearly than God’s? What appeals to you about those voices?

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DAY 3 Read John 10:7-10 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Respond: Following our Good Shepherd leads us to a full life. What do you need to do today to secure yourself in His fold and make your life more abundant?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 4 Read John 10:11-13 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” Respond: When have you felt abandoned by the “hired hands” of this world and their false promises of protection? When have you felt Jesus’ protection?

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DAY 5 Read John 10:14-16 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” Respond: Jesus seeks out other “sheep,” ones who are not currently under His care. When did you first know Jesus was seeking you?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 6 Read John 10:17-18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” Respond: How would laying down your life for God’s service actually help you to live it more fully?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

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S E S S IO N F O U R

Accepted Memory Verse: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Our need to belong often warps into a “do anything” attempt to be accepted. We might change our looks, our interests, or our opinions just to fit in to the crowd we want to belong to. But as we will all realize at one time or another: changing ourselves to belong is never a good idea. If the “fake” version of us belongs, we don’t belong at all. One of the best things about God is that we don’t have to change a thing to be accepted by Him. In fact, our memory verse for this week reminds us that Jesus died for us—forgave our sins and offered us the gift of eternal life with Him—while we were all still lost in our sin. God made—and still makes— the first move. No matter where we are in our life, whether we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Savior or not, Jesus accepts us. This is good news—the best news. It’s news that helps us find satisfaction in our lives; it helps us thrive. Because while we seek to live in a way that honors and glorifies God through our gifts, we also know that we’re already fully loved and accepted. In this session, we’ll explore what this means. Session Four: Accepted

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SHARE YOUR STORY

Open your group with prayer. This should be a brief, simple prayer, in which you invite God to be with you as you meet. You can pray for specific requests at the end of the meeting or stop momentarily to pray if a particular situation comes up during your discussion. Telling our personal stories builds deeper connections among group members. Begin your time together by using the following questions and activities to get people talking.

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1.

What are some of the things you’ve seen others do to try and fit in?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 2.

What does being truly accepted look or feel like?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 3.

Sit with your spiritual partner. If your partner is absent or if you are new to the group, join with another pair or someone who doesn’t yet have a partner. If you haven’t established your spiritual partnership yet, do it now. Share one prayer request and one thing you want to thank God for. Spend some time praying about what you’ve shared.

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Watch the DVD for this session now. Use the Notes space provided on page 77 to record any key thoughts, questions, and things you want to remember or follow up on.

HEAR GOD’S STORY Use the following questions to guide your discussion of the teaching and stories you just experienced on the DVD and the Bible passage below.

Read Romans 5:6-11 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

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4.

Paul, the writer of this passage, calls our sinful, distant-from-God state “powerless.” Why do you suppose this is? How does Jesus’ death and resurrection give our lives power?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 5.

What does it say about the nature of God that Jesus died for us “while we were still sinners”?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 6.

How does knowing Jesus died for your sins so that we can be “reconciled” to Him affect the way you live your life and the choices you make?

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STUDY NOTES Justification. Justification is a big churchy word that simply means we are forgiven—justly. It speaks to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, in which He took our sins upon Him and succumbed to the punishment (death) we deserved. This gift is freely given to all who believe (see Ephesians 2:8). This is the grace that makes a satisfied life possible. Reconciliation. We tend to hear more about reconciliation in cultural or racial contexts than we do in churches, but the meaning is the same. Reconciliation—between families or friends or us and God—is the restoration of a good relationship or the act of making two seemingly different ideas or ways compatible. Both of these apply to what Jesus’ gift of grace offers us. We are restored to a good relationship with God, and our sinful selves and God’s holy self become compatible.

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NOTES Use this space to record your thoughts, questions and ponderings as you watch the video and discuss the Bible passage.

_____________________________ ________________________________ _____________________________________ _________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ Session Four: Accepted

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CREATE A NEW STORY God wants you to be a part of His Kingdom—to weave your story into His. That will mean change—to go His way rather than your own. This won’t happen overnight, but it should happen steadily. By starting with small, simple choices, we begin to change our direction. The Holy Spirit helps us along the way: giving us gifts to serve the body, offering us insights into Scripture, and challenging us to love not only those around us but those far from God. In this section, talk about how you will apply the wisdom you’ve learned in this session.

7.

Will spoke of the “exhilaration” of belonging to the surfer crowd. When have you felt this same exhilaration about being accepted?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 8.

Many of us fear we need to change something about ourselves to belong. Has this fear of changing ever kept you from fully committing to a life of belonging to Jesus? Explain.

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9.

How does knowing that God accepts you as you are affect your willingness to live for Him?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 10. In the video, we learned that God not only forgives our sins, but places them as far “as the east is from the west� (Psalm 103:12). As you seek to thrive in this life, how does having your sin cast far away empower you?

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11.

Each of you in the group has different gifts and abilities. And every small group has tasks and roles that need to be done. How could you serve this group—perhaps with hospitality, prayer, organizing an event, researching or studying a topic, worshipping, inviting new people? Have each person share what their gift or passion is, and how they could use it to strengthen and build up the group.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 12. Spend some time praying about those you know who might respond

to a simple invitation: to come to a church service, to join your small group, or even to just have coffee and talk about spiritual matters. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind people you can pray for.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 13. Groups grow closer when they serve together. How could you as a

group serve someone in need? You may want to visit a shut-in from your church, provide a meal for a family going through a difficult time, or give some other practical help to someone in need. If nothing comes to mind, spend some time as a group praying and asking God to show you who needs your help. Have two or three group members organize a serving project for the group, and then—do it!

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FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY Take some time between now and our next meeting to dig into God’s word. Explore the Bible passages related to this session’s theme on your own. Jot down your reflections in a journal or in this study guide. You may even want to use a Bible website or app to look up commentary on these passages. If you like, share what you learn with the group the next time you meet.

READ PSALM 139:1, 13-16 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. God knows you, inside and out. He created you with intention. How does this shape the way you see yourself? Your talents? Your strengths? Your weaknesses?

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Imagine God “knitting” you together as you were created. What does this imagery say about the way God created and crafted you?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ What’s one way to discover how God ordained your days? How do you suppose we might figure out just how God intended us to live each day?

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Read Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

What does being made in God’s image mean to you?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ How might understanding the fullness of what it means to be made in God’s image affect your own self-image? Or, does being God’s image-bearer help you accept your physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual self? Why or why not?

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God is a triune God, meaning God is three in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). How does our being made in God’s triune image speak to our own need for belonging or being accepting?

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DAILY DEVOTIONS Use these daily devotions to go deeper into this week’s topic. Each day, read the verse given. Take your time. Ask God to speak to you through His word. Notice which word or phrase stands out to you. Then take some time to journal your response back to him. You can write whatever is on your heart. Answer the “respond” question only if it’s helpful. Feel free to go another direction, if you sense God leading you. On the first day, you may want to read through the verses for the week to get the “big picture” of the passage. But then walk slowly verse by verse. Listen to what God wants to say to you through His word, and respond to Him as you meditate on the truths of Scripture.

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DAY 1 Read Romans 11:1 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! Respond: God doesn’t reject His people. He knows us inside and out, good and bad, and longs for us to be reconciled to him. What does this kind of acceptance mean to you?

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DAY 2 Read Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Respond: God accepts everyone. Think about that. God accepts you. What does understanding—and believing—this free you up to do?

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DAY 3 Read Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Respond: A natural outpouring of Christ’s acceptance of us leads to accepting others. Who do you need to accept in your life?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________

DAY 4 Read Psalm 6:9 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” Respond: God accepts your prayers—whether of praise, thanks, petition or lament (crying out in anger, pain, fear or confusion). How does this shape your prayer life?

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DAY 5 Read Proverbs 2:1-5 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Respond: Which of God’s commands might He be asking you to accept— without question—right now? How might accepting that bring you satisfaction?

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DAY 6 Read Romans 14:1-3 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Respond: In this small group journey, you’ve met or spent time with people whose faith may be stronger or weaker than yours, who don’t share your interests or hobbies. But God accepts them as He accepts you. How does this help you understand what it means to belong?

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S E S S IO N F IV E

Loved MEMORY VERSE: Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. (Psalm 84:10)

“God is love” makes a nice bumper sticker. It’s easy to say and sounds great to the ears. But too often, it’s easier to say than it is to really believe. God, of course, is love, but the truth of this shouldn’t speed by us. The truth that God loves us should sink deep into our hearts, minds and souls. While every last song on the radio reminds us of our need to seek love in human relationships, few of us truly understand how to seek and find God’s love. And we miss out on the “soul satisfying” love that only God can offer. This all changes after today’s session. We’ll walk through ways we can all experience the deep, nourishing and satisfying love of God in our everyday lives by learning to spend time in His presence and learning what this means.

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SHARE YOUR STORY

Open your group with prayer. This should be a brief, simple prayer, in which you invite God to be with you as you meet. You can pray for specific requests at the end of the meeting, or stop momentarily to pray if a particular situation comes up during your discussion. Telling our personal stories builds deeper connections among group members. Begin your time together by using the following questions and activities to get people talking. Sharing our stories requires us to be honest. We can help one another to be honest and open by creating a safe place: be sure that your group is one where confidentiality is respected, where there’s no such thing as “stupid questions,” where you listen without criticizing one another.

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1.

Why do some people have a hard time believing or experiencing God’s love?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 2.

What suggestions would you offer someone wanting to spend time in the presence of God?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 3.

Sit with your spiritual partner. If your partner is absent or if you are new to the group, join with another pair or someone who doesn’t yet have a partner. If you haven’t established your spiritual partnership yet, do it now. Answer this question: how has being in this group impacted your personal relationship with God? (See Share Your Story in Session Two.)

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Use the following questions to guide your discussion of the teaching from the DVD and the Bible passage below.

HEAR GOD’S STORY Use the following questions to guide your discussion of the teaching and stories you just experienced on the DVD and the Bible passage below.

Read John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

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4.

This passage contains probably the most famous Scripture in the Bible (John 3:16). How does reading it in context give shape to or deepen its meaning?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 5.

What surprises you about the verses that follow John 3:16? It starts out about God’s amazing love and moves toward those who are “condemned.” What’s significant about this?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 6.

What does the final verse in this passage say about how we can experience God’s presence and love?

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STUDY NOTES Condemnation. Condemnation is a scary word. For good reason. It shares a root with damnation and has a similar meaning. To be condemned is to be punished, sentenced or doomed. No one wants to be condemned. And yet, in John 3:16-21, Jesus says that though He did not come to condemn the world, those who don’t believe in Him do stand condemned to eternal separation from the God who loves them so. Jesus, of course, offers a way out of this death sentence. We need only to step into His Light, seek forgiveness for our sins and trust in the One who died to set us free.

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NOTES Use this space to record your thoughts, questions and ponderings as you watch the video and discuss the Bible passage.

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CREATE A NEW STORY God wants you to be a part of His Kingdom—to weave your story into His. That will mean change. It will require you to go His way rather than your own. This won’t happen overnight, but it should happen steadily. By making small, simple choices, we can begin to change our direction. The Holy Spirit helps us along the way, by giving us gifts to serve the body, offering us insights into Scripture, and challenging us to love not only those around us but those far from God. In this section, talk about how you will apply the wisdom you’ve learned in this session.

7.

Will said in the video, “Experiencing the presence of God is as necessary to the soul as breathing is to the brain.” When have you experienced the presence of God?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 8.

In what places (nature, church, a museum) do you most clearly experience God’s presence? What would you need to adjust in your life to be in those places more often?

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9.

In the video, we learned of the connection between experiencing God’s love and experiencing His presence. How do these tie together for you?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 10. This session’s memory verse declares that one day in God’s presence is better than a thousand elsewhere. How has that been true in your life? Or, how might you actively seek to spend more days in God’s presence?

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11.

Spend some time praying about those you know who might respond to a simple invitation: to come to a church service, to join your small group, or even to just have coffee and talk about spiritual matters. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind people you can pray for.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 12. A strong group is made up of people who are all being filled by God, so that they are empowered to love one another. What specific steps will you take this week to connect with God privately, so that He can “fill you up”? If you’ve focused on prayer in past weeks, maybe you’ll want to direct your attention to Scripture this week. If you’ve been reading God’s Word consistently, perhaps you’ll want to take it deeper and try memorizing a verse. Tell the group which one you plan to try this week, and then, at your next meeting, talk about your progress and challenges.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________

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13.

To close your time together, spend some time with God together To do the following: • Read a passage of Scripture together, making it a time of praise and worship as the words remind you of all God has done for you. Choose a psalm or other favorite verse. • Ask everyone to share: “How can we pray for you this week?” Be sure to write prayer requests on your Prayer and Praise Report on pages 137-138. • Close your meeting with prayer.

____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________ ____________________________________

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FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY Take some time between now and our next meeting to dig into God’s word. Explore the Bible passages related to this session’s theme on your own. Jot down your reflections in a journal or in this study guide. You may even want to use a Bible website or app to look up commentary on these passages. If you like, share what you learn with the group the next time you meet.

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READ MARK 1:32-37 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

What strikes you about the time and manner in which Jesus went off to pray?

__________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________


What does it say to you that He chose to do this rather than sleep longer? What do you suppose Jesus got out of this?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ Jesus was “in demand.” Everyone wanted a piece of His time—and sought Him out to get it. How does His need and choice to spend time with God speak into your “in demand” life?

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Read Psalm 19:1-6 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

What does heavens “declaring� God or speaking of His knowledge mean to you? Have you experienced this?

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If God speaks to us through creation, how might you try to hear Him through it this week? What words of love might God be calling you to hear in the beauty of this world?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ How would knowing you are surrounded by God’s presence and His glory every time we step into His world help you find satisfaction in life?

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DAILY DEVOTIONS As you’ve done in previous weeks, use this tool to stay connected with Christ. Each day, read the verse given. Take your time. You may even want to imagine that Jesus is sitting with you, speaking to you. Then, take some time to journal your response back to Him. You can write whatever is on your heart. Answer the “respond” question only if it’s helpful. On the first day, you may want to read over all the verses for the week to get the “big picture” of the passage. But then walk slowly verse by verse, listening to Jesus and responding to Him as you meditate on the truths of Scripture and experience His presence.

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DAY 1 Read Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,  but will rejoice over you with singing. Respond: When have you rejoiced over someone because you loved them? Now, imagine God rejoicing over you that way.

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 2 Read Psalm 86:15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Respond: Take time to consider: what does abounding in love look like?

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DAY 3 Read 1 John 3:1 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Respond: Answer the verse’s question: What kind of love has God given us that we can be called His children?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________

DAY 4 Read Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. Respond: How will you seek God today?

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DAY 5 Read Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Respond: Which promises of God do you cling to or might you need to revisit to remind yourself of His enduring love?

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DAY 6 Read John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Respond: How does your view of loving others change once you understand Jesus’ love for you?

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S E S S IO N S IX

Known MEMORY VERSE: Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8) If we want to truly be known, we have to risk vulnerability. This is never—or, rarely—easy. But if we want to have people around us who understand who we are on a deep level, we must be willing to share our desires, our worries, our fears, our failures, our struggles and our triumphs. However, when we share personal details about our lives, we risk being judged or mocked. We worry people will spread gossip or slander us behind our backs. Sadly, many of us worry for good reason—as we’ve experienced the downside of sharing honestly. However, most of us have also experienced the upside, too. In a group like the one you are meeting in now, there is no way to take your relationship, what you’ve been through together, to that “next level” of interpersonal intimacy without being willing to open up and get real. There is no way to grow your friendship, to tighten the bonds you’ve already formed without being vulnerable with one another in the struggles we all share. Today, we’ll look at how being open and honest—the way Jesus showed us—can lead not only to a tighter bond between the group, but can lead to greater satisfaction in your life. Session Six: Known

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SHARE YOUR STORY

Open your group with prayer. This should be a brief, simple prayer, in which you invite God to be with you as you meet. You can pray for specific requests at the end of the meeting, or stop momentarily to pray if a particular situation comes up during your discussion. As we have said in previous lessons, sharing our personal stories builds deeper connections among group members. Your story may be exactly what another person needs to hear to encourage or strengthen them. And your listening to others’ stories is an act of love and kindness to them—and could very well help them to grow spiritually. Begin your time together by using the following questions and activities to get people talking.

1.

What has surprised you most about this group? Where did God meet you over the last six weeks?

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2.

Why do you think so many people resist sharing what’s really going on in their souls or in their lives?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 3.

Take time in this final session to connect with your spiritual partner. What has God been showing you through these sessions about soul satisfaction? Check in with each other about the progress you have made in your spiritual growth during this study. Decide whether you will continue in your mentoring relationship outside your Bible study group.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 4.

Take some time for each person to share about how they’ve done with inviting the people on the Circles of Life to church or your small group. What specific conversations are you praying about for the weeks to come?

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Watch the DVD for this session now. Use the Notes space provided on page 117 to record any key thoughts, questions, and things you want to remember or follow up on.

HEAR GOD’S STORY Use the following questions to guide your discussion of the teaching you just experienced in the video, and the Bible passage below.

Read Matthew 6:5-8 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

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5.

Why would Jesus say that hypocrites pray in public? What does He mean by this? In what ways have you seen this same kind of prayerhypocrisy?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 6.

Why do you suppose God prefers “secret” prayers? Does this mean we should never pray in public or does it refer to an attitude or posture of prayer?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 7.

How does God’s knowing what we need even before we ask affect your prayer life?

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STUDY NOTES Prayer. Throughout Scripture we see prayer modeled in various ways. The picture Jesus gives us in the “Lord’s Prayer” offers a wonderful way for us to not only get to know one another when we pray together, but also a wonderful way to get to know God. Because as we come to God with our requests, our praises or our laments, we come to know God as One who hears us. Not just physically hears us, but truly listens to our hearts. Psalm 139 tells us that God knows us inside and out, our comings and goings, our every thought. He knows what lies ahead of us in our days and what we need to get through them. But in prayer, we have the opportunity to get to know God as the great listener and friend, the One who craves a relationship with us.

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NOTES Use this space to record your thoughts, questions and ponderings as you watch the video and discuss the Bible passage.

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CREATE A NEW STORY How has God changed your story during this six-week study? What new things is He asking you to do? What truth has transformed your heart? Think about specific steps you want to take to live a new story, to walk more closely with God so that you can be a part of His story, engaged in His kingdom.

8.

In the video, we heard of our universal longing to be known. How does praying together help your group members get to know one another?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 9.

In the video, Will said he hoped that you would open your lives with one another as Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer. This means answering these questions: What’s really going on in your lives? What are your daily needs? Which temptations do you wrestle with? What are the “debts” or trespasses that you need forgiven?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________

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10.

How did it feel to answer these questions? Why did you answer the ones you did? And why did you avoid the ones you did?

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 11. As this is the last meeting in this study, take some time to celebrate

the work God has done in the lives of group members. Have each person in the group share some step of growth that they have noticed in another member. (In other words, no one will talk about themselves. Instead, affirm others in the group). Make sure that each person gets affirmed and noticed and celebrated—whether the steps they’ve made are large or small.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 12. If your group still needs to make decisions about continuing to meet

after this session, have that discussion now. Talk about what you will study, who will lead, and where and when you will meet.

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13.

Review your Small Group Agreement on page 130 and evaluate how well you met your goals. Discuss any changes you want to make as you move forward. If you plan to continue meeting, and your group starts a new study, this is a great time to take on a new role or change roles of service in your group. What new role will you take on? If you are uncertain, maybe your group members have some ideas for you. Remember you aren’t making a lifetime commitment to the new role; it will only be for a few weeks. Maybe someone would like to share a role with you if you don’t feel ready to serve solo.

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 14. Close by praying for your prayer requests and take a couple of minutes to review the praises you have recorded over the past five weeks on the Prayer and Praise Report on pages 137-138. Spend some time just worshipping God and thanking Him for all He’s done in your group during this study.

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FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY If you feel God nudging you to go deeper, take some time between now and our next meeting to dig into His Word. Explore the Bible passages related to this session’s theme on your own. Jot down your reflections in a journal or in this study guide. A great way to gain insight on a passage is to read it in several different translations. You may want to use a Bible app or website to compare translations.

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READ PSALM 139:1-6 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.


What does it mean to be searched and known by God? Does this Psalm comfort you or frighten you?

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ God knows you intimately, yet still loves you. How does that make you feel?

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DAILY DEVOTIONS Continue on with your journey. In this last week, begin to pray about your next step in growing closer to Jesus. Each day, read the verse given. Take your time. Walk slowly verse by verse, listening to Jesus and responding to Him as you meditate on the truths of Scripture and experience His presence.

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DAY 1 Read Matthew 6:9 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name… Respond: What is the significance of noting where God is located in this prayer? Hallowed is a rarely used word. Look it up, if needed. How does “hallowing” God’s name lead us deeper into community with Him?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

DAY 2 Read Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Respond: What’s the risk in praying this prayer? What might need to change in your life for this to truly happen? How might God be asking you to bring about His “kingdom” or do His will in your life?

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DAY 3 Read Matthew 6:11 Give us today our daily bread. Respond: What are you relying on God for today? What need (or needs) can He alone provide?

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DAY 4 Read Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Respond: What specific sins do you need forgiveness from? Who and what do you need to forgive? Does this include yourself? Ponder that.

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DAY 5 Read Matthew 6:13 [a] And lead us not into temptation… Respond: Which temptations do you need help staying away from?

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DAY 6 Read Matthew 6:13[b] …but deliver us from the evil one. Respond: In which areas do you feel pulled by “the evil one” most strongly? What do you need deliverance and protection from?

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Appendices GREAT RESOURCES TO HELP MAKE YOUR SMALL GROUP EXPERIENCE EVEN BETTER!

Frequently Asked Questions What do we do on the first night of our group? Like all fun things in life—have a party! A “get to know you” coffee, dinner, or dessert is a great way to launch a new study.  You may want to review the Group Agreement (page 130) and share the names of a few friends you can invite to join you.  But most importantly, have fun before your study time begins.

Where do we find new members for our group? This can be troubling, especially for new groups that have only a few people or for existing groups that lose a few people along the way. We encourage you to pray with your group and then brainstorm a list of people from work, church, your neighborhood, your children’s school, family, the gym, and so forth. Then have each group member invite several of the people on his or her list. No matter how you find members, it’s vital that you stay on the lookout for new people to join your group. All groups tend to go through healthy attrition—the result of moves, releasing new leaders, ministry opportunities, and so forth—and if the group gets too small, it could be at risk of shutting down. If you and your group stay open, you’ll be amazed at the people God sends your way. The next person just might become a friend for life. You never know!

How long will this group meet? Most groups meet weekly for at least their first 6 weeks, but every other week can work as well. We strongly recommend that the group meet for the first six months on a weekly basis if at all possible. This allows for continuity, and if people miss a meeting they aren’t gone for a whole month. At the end of this study, each group member may decide if he or she wants to continue on for another 6-week study. Some groups launch relationships for years to come, and others are stepping-stones into another group experience. Either way, enjoy the journey. 128

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Can we do this study on our own? Absolutely! This may sound crazy, but one of the best ways to do this study is not with a full house but with a few friends. You may choose to gather with another couple who would enjoy some relational time (perhaps going to the movies or having a quiet dinner) and then walking through this study. Jesus will be with you even if there are only two of you (Matthew 18:20).

What if this group is not working for us? You’re not alone! This could be the result of a personality conflict, life stage difference, geographical distance, level of spiritual maturity, or any number of things. Relax. Pray for God’s direction, and at the end of this 6-week study, decide whether to continue with this group or find another. You don’t typically buy the first car you look at or marry the first person you date, and the same goes with a group. However, don’t bail out before the 6 weeks are up—God might have something to teach you. Also, don’t run from conflict or prejudge people before you have given them a chance. God is still working in your life, too!

Who is the leader? Most groups have an official leader. But ideally, the group will mature and members will rotate the leadership of meetings. We have discovered that healthy groups rotate hosts/leaders and homes on a regular basis. This model ensures that all members grow, give their unique contribution, and develop their gifts. This study guide and the Holy Spirit can keep things on track even when you rotate leaders. Christ has promised to be in your midst as you gather. Ultimately, God is your leader each step of the way.

How do we handle the childcare needs in our group? Very carefully. Seriously, this can be a sensitive issue. We suggest that you empower the group to openly brainstorm solutions. You may try one option that works for a while and then adjust over time. Our favorite approach is for adults to meet in the living room or dining room and to share the cost of a babysitter (or two) who can watch the kids in a different part of the house. This way, parents don’t have to be away from their children all evening when their children are too young to be left at home. A second option is to use one home for the kids and a second home (close by or a phone call away) for the adults. A third idea is to rotate the responsibility of providing a lesson or care for the children either in the same home or in another home nearby. This can be an incredible blessing for kids. Finally, the most common solution is to decide that you need to have a night to invest in your spiritual lives individually or as a couple and to make your own arrangements for childcare. No matter what decision the group makes, the best approach is to dialogue openly about both the problem and the solution.

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Small Group Agreement Our Purpose To provide a predictable environment where participants experience authentic community and spiritual growth.

Our Values Group Attendance To give priority to the group meeting. We will call or email if we will be late or absent. (Completing the Group Calendar on page 132 will minimize this issue.) Safe Environment To help create a safe place where people can be heard and feel loved. (Please, no quick answers, snap judgments, or simple fixes.) Respect Differences To be gentle and gracious to people with different spiritual maturity, personal opinions, temperaments, or “imperfections� in fellow group members. We are all works in progress. Confidentiality To keep anything that is shared strictly confidential and within the group, and to avoid sharing improper information about those outside the group. Encouragement for Growth To be not just takers but givers of life. We want to spiritually multiply our life by serving others with our God-given gifts. Shared Ownership To remember that every member is a minister and to ensure that each attender will share a small team role or responsibility over time. Rotating Hosts/Leaders and Homes To encourage different people to host the group in their homes and to rotate the responsibility of facilitating each meeting. (See the Group Calendar on page 132.)

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Our Expectations • Refreshments/mealtimes ________________________________ • Childcare _____________________________________________ • When we will meet (day of week) _________________________ • Where we will meet (place) ______________________________ ______________________________________________________ • We will begin at (time) ___________ and end at ___________ • We will do our best to have some or all of us attend a worship service _together. Our primary worship service time will be ________________________________________________ • Date of this agreement __________________________________ • Date we will review this agreement again __________________ • Who (other than the leader) will review this agreement at the end of this study _______________________________________

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Calendar

Planning and calendaring can help ensure the greatest participation at every meeting. At the end of each meeting, review this calendar. Be sure to include a regular rotation of host homes and leaders, and don’t forget birthdays, socials, church events, holidays, and mission/ministry projects.

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Date

Lesson

Host Home

Desert/Meal

Leader

Monday, January 15

1

Steve and Laura’s

Joe

Bill

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Spiritual Partners’ Check-In Briefly check in each week and write down your personal plans and progress targets for the next week (or even for the next few weeks). This could be done before or after the meeting, on the phone, through an e-mail message, or even in person from time to time.

Our Plans My Name: Spiritual Partner’s Name: Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Our Progress

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Memory Verse Cards SESSION ONE:

Thrive

SESSION TWO:

Happy

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” (John 4:13-14)

SESSION THREE:

SESSION FOUR:

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Belong

SESSION FIVE:

Loved

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. (Psalm 84:10)

Accepted

SESSION SIX:

Known

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

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Prayer and Praise Report Prayer Requests

Praise Requests

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ Satisfy Small Group Leaders

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Prayer Requests

Praise Requests

__________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ 138

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Small Group Leaders Helps Key resources to help your leadership experience be the best it can be.

Hosting an Open House If you’re starting a new group, try planning an “open house” before your first formal group meeting. Even if you have only two to four core members, it’s a great way to break the ice and to consider prayerfully who else might be open to joining you over the next few weeks. You can also use this kick-off meeting to hand out study guides, spend some time getting to know each other, discuss each person’s expectations for the group and briefly pray for each other. A simple meal or good desserts always make a kick-off meeting more fun. After people introduce themselves and share how they ended up being at the meeting (you can play a game to see who has the wildest story!), have everyone respond to a few icebreaker questions: • What is your favorite family vacation? • What is one thing you love about your church/our community? • What are three things about your life growing up that most people here don’t know? Next, ask everyone to tell what he or she hopes to get out of the study. You might want to review the Small Group Agreement and talk about each person’s expectations and priorities. Finally, set an open chair (maybe two) in the center of your group and explain that it represents someone who would enjoy or benefit from this group but who isn’t here yet. Ask people to pray about inviting someone to join the group over the next few weeks. Hand out postcards and have everyone write an invitation or two. Don’t worry about ending up with too many people; you can always have one discussion circle in the living room and another in the dining room after you watch the lesson. Each group could then report prayer requests and progress at the end of the session. You can skip this kick-off meeting if your time is limited, but you’ll experience a huge benefit if you take the time to connect with each other in this way.

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Leading for the First Time (Ten common leadership experiences. Welcome to life out in front!) Sweaty palms are a healthy sign. The Bible says God is gracious to the humble. Remember who is in control; the time to worry is when you’re not worried. Those who are soft in heart (and sweaty palmed) are those whom God is sure to speak through. Seek support. Ask your leader, co-leader, or close friend to pray for you and prepare with you before the session. Walking through the study will help you anticipate potentially difficult questions and discussion topics. Bring your uniqueness to the study. Lean into who you are and how God wants you to uniquely lead the study. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Go through the session several times. If you are using the DVD, listen to the teaching segment and Leadership Lifter. Go to www.lifetogether.com and download pertinent files. Consider writing in a journal or fasting for a day to prepare yourself for what God wants to do. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Ask for feedback so you can grow. Perhaps in an email or on cards handed out at the study, have everyone write down three things you did well and one thing you could improve on. Don’t get defensive. Instead, show an openness to learn and grow. Use online resources. Go to www.lifetogether.com and listen to Brett Eastman share the weekly Leadership Lifter and download any additional notes or ideas for your session. You may also want to subscribe to the Doing Life Together newsletter and LLT Newsletter. Both can be obtained for free by signing up at www.lifetogether.com/subscribe. Prayerfully consider launching a new group. This doesn’t need to happen overnight, but God’s heart is for this to take place over time. Not all Christians are called to be leaders or teachers, but we are all called to be “shepherds” of a few someday. Share with your group what God is doing in your heart. God is searching for those whose hearts are fully His. Share your trials and victories. We promise that people will relate. Prayerfully consider whom you would like to pass the baton to next week. It’s only fair. God is ready for the next member of your group to go on the faith journey you just traveled. Make it fun, and expect God to do the rest. 140

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Leadership Training 101 (Top Ten Ideas for New Leaders)

Congratulations! You have responded to the call to help shepherd Jesus’ flock. There are few other tasks in the family of God that surpass the contribution you will be making. As you prepare to lead, whether it is one session or the entire series, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind. We encourage you to read these and review them with each new discussion leader before he or she leads. 1. Remember that you are not alone. God knows everything about you, and He knew that you would be asked to lead your group. Remember that it is common for all good leaders to feel that they are not ready to lead. Moses, Solomon, Jeremiah and Timothy were all reluctant to lead. God promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Whether you are leading for one evening, for several weeks, or for a lifetime, you will be blessed as you serve.

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2. Don’t try to do it alone. Pray right now for God to help you build a healthy leadership team. If you can enlist a co-leader to help you lead the group, you will find your experience to be much richer. This is your chance to involve as many people as you can in building a healthy group. All you have to do is call and ask people to help. You’ll probably be surprised at the response. 3. Just be yourself. If you won’t be you, who will? God wants you to use your unique gifts and temperament. Don’t try to do things exactly like another leader; do them in a way that fits you! Just admit it when you don’t have an answer, and apologize when you make a mistake. Your group will love you for it, and you’ll sleep better at night! 4. Prepare for your meeting ahead of time. Review the session and the leader’s notes, and write down your responses to each question. Pay special attention to exercises that ask group members to do something other than engage in discussion. These exercises will help your group live what the Bible teaches, not just talk about it. Be sure you understand how an exercise works, and bring any necessary supplies (such as paper and pens) to your meeting. If the exercise employs one of the items in the appendix, be sure to look over that item so you’ll know how it works. Finally, review “Outline for Each Session” so you’ll remember the purpose of each section in the study.

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5. Pray for your group members by name. Before you begin your session, go around the room in your mind and pray for each member by name. You may want to review the prayer list at least once a week. Ask God to use your time together to touch the heart of every person uniquely. Expect God to lead you to whomever He wants you to encourage or challenge in a special way. If you listen, God will surely lead! 6. When you ask a question, be patient. Someone will eventually respond. Sometimes people need a moment or two of silence to think about the question. Keep in mind, if silence doesn’t bother you, it won’t bother anyone else. After someone responds, affirm the response with a simple “thanks” or “good job.” Then ask, “How about somebody else?” or “Would someone who hasn’t shared like to add anything?” Be sensitive to new people or reluctant members who aren’t ready to say, pray or do anything. If you give them a safe setting, they will blossom over time. 7. Provide transitions between questions. When guiding the discussion, always read aloud the transitional paragraphs and the questions. Ask the group if anyone would like to read the paragraph or Bible passage. Don’t call on anyone, but ask for a volunteer, and then be patient until someone begins. Be sure to thank the person who reads aloud.


8. Break up into small groups each week or they won’t stay. If your group has more than seven people, we strongly encourage you to have the group gather sometimes in discussion circles of three or four people during the Hear God’s Story or Change Your Story sections of the study. With a greater opportunity to talk in a small circle, people will connect more with the study, apply more quickly what they’re learning and ultimately get more out of it. A small circle also encourages a quiet person to participate and tends to minimize the effects of a more vocal or dominant member. It can also help people feel more loved in your group. When you gather again at the end of the section, you can have one person summarize the highlights from each circle. Small circles are also helpful during prayer time. People who are unaccustomed to praying aloud will feel more comfortable trying it with just two or three others. Also, prayer requests won’t take as much time, so circles will have more time to actually pray. When you gather back with the whole group, you can have one person from each circle briefly update everyone on the prayer requests. People are more willing to pray in small circles if they know that the whole group will hear all the prayer requests.

9. Rotate facilitators weekly. At the end of each meeting, ask the group who should lead the following week. Let the group help select your weekly facilitator. You may be perfectly capable of leading each time, but you will help others grow in their faith and gifts if you give them opportunities to lead. You can use the Small Group Calendar to fill in the names of all meeting leaders at once if you prefer. 10. One final challenge (for new or first time leaders): Before your first opportunity to lead, look up each of the five passages listed below. Read each one as a devotional exercise to help equip yourself with a shepherd’s heart. Trust us on this one. If you do this, you will be more than ready for your first meeting. Matthew 9:36 1 Peter 5:2-4 Psalm 23 Ezekiel 34:11-16 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12

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