SMALL GROUP STORIES CHAD D. HUNT

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SHINING

INTO THE

BROKEN

PLACES OF

LIFE

SMALL GROUP STORIES

CHAD D. HUNT

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STORY #1

SHINING

HAPPINESS & JOY

ECCLESIASTES 2:1-11

HEBREWS 13:8

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Solomon, the son to King David, was given divine wisdom from God (1 Kings 3). As a result, he became incredibly wealthy and popular. Solomon went on a journey to find the ultimate happiness and joy that life had to offer and because of his extreme wealth, money was no object. In our text, we learn quickly that everything Solomon counted on for meaning, let him down. All of his parties, relationships, hard work and success never resulted in true happiness. Frustrated, he says, “There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (2:11).

Solomon later discovers there is only one source of true joy. This joy can’t be found in anything under the sun, but in the One who resides above the sun. Solomon’s journey and experience is oftentimes mirrored in our own daily lives. We are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. I have learned a long time ago, although other things bring us joy, true joy can only come from Jesus.

'I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world. I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards.

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.’ 'So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.'

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. Fill in the blank: I would be happy if _____________ happened. 2. Describe an instance in your life where something that you thought would be meaningful turned out to be meaningless.

3. Psalm 16:20 "Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.” Do you tend to focus on what happens to you more than the happiness God promises you?

4. How is it possible to have joy in the midst of trials? What does that look like? Why is that important as a Christian?

5. Solomon said, “So I came to hate life, because everything under the sun is so troubling…” Have you ever felt like this before? Explain.

6. Read Hebrews 13:8. How does this scripture validate that only God can provide happiness and joy that last?

7. What do you need to turn over to God in order to rediscover His happiness and joy?

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Notes:

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STORY #2

SHINING PEACE &

CONTENTMENT

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In our world today, peace and contentment are a rarity for many. The pandemic changed our world. In what felt like a blur, our cities and communities were locked down; people were flocking to the stores, stockpiling toilet paper, sanitizer and food. For the first time ever, our family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas were cancelled. All of the sudden, we found ourselves in a place where we have never been before with an uncertainty of what the future holds. The reality is, there will always be good times, bad times and sometimes scary times; But God is there in all of them. It’s in the dark places of life that we have the opportunity to shine brighter than ever.

The apostle Paul writes a letter to the church in Philippa while sitting in prison. It’s interesting, that despite his own circumstance, Paul tells us not to worry about anything, even though things were not going well for him. It is normal to have moments of worry, but letting worry control you can be detrimental. I have learned first hand that worry will wear down your physical and spiritual health. It only takes about 15 minutes of watching CNN or FOX news to find ten reasons to worry and be anxious. Paul reminds us that peace and contentment are not optional. He is giving us an instruction. And even better, he shares the secret of how to allow peace and contentment to shine bright, even when everything around you feels like it’s falling apart.

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.'

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. If you could make one worry vanish, what would it be?

2. Have you ever worried about something, that looking back, you can see how God used it to bless you? Can you share with the group?

3. Paul said not to worry, but instead, pray about what you need and also give thanks for what He has already done. How does this disarm worry?

4. Paul said when we pray and give thanks, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. Why do you think this is true?

5. Read verse 8. What enabled Paul to choose such a positive outlook, despite the fact that he was imprisoned? How can you apply this to your life as well?

6. Describe an experience of hardship where your peace and contentment helped others around you.

7. In verse 9, Paul says to “…keep putting into practice…” What does that statement mean to you?

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Notes:

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STORY #3

SHINING HOPE IN

HOPELESSNESS

JOHN 5: 1-10

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Whenever we struggle with an issue for a long time, we begin to develop a sense that it’s never going to change. It can be our health, our finances or a difficult circumstance that feels like it’s never going away. There isn’t anything worse than feeling hopeless. In our story, we are introduced to a man who probably felt hopeless. In addition to being sick for thirty-eight years, he was surrounded by other sick people, (that in his mind) that didn’t seem to care about his

circumstance. When we listen to his conversation with Jesus, it is likely he was at the point of giving up.

Most of us have felt the emotion of hopelessness. I can look back on my own life and remember some pretty scary experiences. Our daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 13; one of our sons struggled with addiction; and just recently our finances were impacted by the pandemic. Yet Jesus was with us through every

episode. We are all still here and God is still on the throne (which is why we’re still here). Regardless of what season of life that you’re in today, chances are, there will be times that you’ll feel like the man in our story. Hopeless and abandoned. The beauty of this story is the willingness of Jesus to walk through an unpleasant situation to shine hope and healing to someone who desperately needed it.

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of

Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”’

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. Have you ever been in a situation that felt hopeless? Are you going through something now?

2. How have those experiences shaped who you are today? How has it impacted your relationship with Jesus?

3. Like the man in our story, sometimes we feel like no one wants to help us, which can lead to hopelessness. Has there ever been a time you felt completely alone in your situation?

4. Jesus waded through a crowd of sick people to get to the paralyzed man. He is never intimidated by an unpleasant situation. Some people think their circumstance is too messy for Jesus to become involved. What would you say to someone to help them understand the love of Jesus and the hope He offers?

5. Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk. In other words, “Pick up the very thing that has held you for 38 years.” How has overcoming a past circumstance given you a new freedom? A new revelation of hope?

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Notes:

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STORY #4

SHINING LIGHT

INTO DARKNESS

MATTHEW 5:14-16

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As Christians, we are all called to be a light in darkness. In our story, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” The word “you” is plural, meaning it applies to everyone. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” In other words, Jesus doesn’t have the light, He IS the light. When we think about what that actually means, He’s calling us to reflect the true light, which is Jesus. In our story Jesus talks about a city on a hill can’t be hidden. Many scholars believe Jesus was referring to the temple in Jerusalem and the temple menorah, a large

candelabrum with six branches and seven lamps. The lamps were fueled with olive oil and produced a bright light. At night, travelers could see the light from miles away. The idea was, produce a light so that people in darkness, even far away, may see it.

It isn’t very hard to shine our light around other Christians. Sharing our faith with other believers is helpful and needed, but our mission is to help unchurched people discover Jesus. It can be challenging when when the Holy Spirit compels us to shine our light into dark places. When I was in my late 20’s, I began working at an automotive factory. I was a new Christian and excited to share my experience. It didn’t take long to realize not everyone was excited about my new found faith. I can still remember the ridicule and insults from some of my co-workers. At the same time, during the ten years I worked there, I also remember leading people to Jesus, sharing my story and encouraging and praying for my co-workers. It wasn’t always easy and many times it was uncomfortable, but that’s the relationship that light has with darkness. It’s never comfortable and there is always spiritual conflict. However, the Bible teaches us that light will always prevail (John 1:5)

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to

everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.’ Matthew 5:14-16

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. What does it mean to reflect Jesus in your everyday personal life? What are some examples?

2. Jesus refers to shining a light like a city on the hilltop. In what ways can you shine your light into the dark places of your city or community?

3. Jesus talks about our light being like a lamp placed on a stand, giving light to everyone in the house. What are some ways you are letting your light shine for your family?

4. Where is the easiest place to let your light shine? Where is the hardest?

5. Jesus said that when our good deeds are seen by others, it results in them praising the heavenly Father. What is an example in your life where an action or good deed resulted in someone acknowledging God?

6. Read John 1:5. Why should this verse bring comfort to us when shining our light in uncomfortable or conflicting places?

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Notes:

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STORY #5

SHINING LOVE ON

PEOPLE THAT’S

HARD TO LOVE

MATTHEW 5:43-48

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In the days of Jesus, religious leaders called Pharisees would create fence laws. These fences (or rules) were created to prevent people from breaking God’s law. Unfortunately, instead of helping people become more holy, they became a burden for people and made it nearly impossible to please God (Matthew 23:4). In addition to fence laws, the Pharisees had no problem adding their own additions to God’s commandments, especially when it benefited them. These additions allowed Pharisees to justify their behavior that contradicted God’s commandments. In our story we see an example of this. Jesus is teaching people that we should love our enemies. The religious leaders were not happy about this, especially since Jesus called them out on a rule they added, making it ok to hate your enemies. Their rule allowed them to ignore or disregard people they didn’t like and still feel justified.

It can be challenging to love people who have hurt us or don’t treat us well. Personally, I think it is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus teaches what love should look like, we are reminded of the heart of God and how He demonstrated compassion to each of us. He loved us when we did not love Him. He pursued us when we wanted nothing to do with Him. God is love (1 John 4:7-8). Showing God’s love doesn’t mean becoming a doormat. Neither does it mean we should endure intentional mistreatment. There are times we must love from a distance. Other times, we must show tough love. At the end of the day, if we’ll love like Jesus loved, we’ll get the results Jesus got. “43 You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ (Lev 19:18) and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. In verse five, Jesus corrects the commandment that was modified by the Pharisees (hate your enemy). Have you ever adjusted one of God’s commandment to make it easier to obey or to feel justified?

2. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Do you feel that love is (or should be) an emotional response or a choice? How does this fit in our love culture today?

3. What are the risks of loving your enemy? What are the opportunities?

4. Martin Luther King said, “When you come to the point that you look in the face of every person and see deep down within them what religion calls ‘the image of God,’ you begin to love them in spite of.” Do you agree with that? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in loving our enemies?

5. Have you ever prayed for someone who you considered an enemy? What was the outcome?

6. According to verse 45, how does loving our enemy reflect the love of our Heavenly Father?

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Notes:

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STORY #6

SHINING GRACE

ON BROKEN

PEOPLE

JOHN 8:1-11

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We are all guilty of playing the role of the critic at one time or another. We have also been among the criticized. It’s not very hard to point out someone’s faults. The greater challenge comes when we try to see our own faults. In our story, we find a modern day soap opera that has three major roles. First, there’s a woman who is caught in the act of adultery. Second, there are the condemning Scribes and Pharisees; and lastly, there is Jesus. The religious leaders are ready to see an execution, while Jesus, the teacher of grace and mercy, stands over a broken, terrified woman. Legally, the religious leaders could demand a death sentence, but Jesus decides to show us another way.

I believe that each of us have played the part in each of these roles, even after becoming a Christian. At least I know I have. I have found myself broken, shackled with sin, desperately needing grace. I have also behaved like the religious leaders, pointing a finger at the sins of others. And thankfully, I have had many opportunities to be the person showing grace to someone who needed it. What have these

experiences taught me? As I continue to grow in my faith, I will strive to always err on the side of grace and mercy.

1Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he

stooped down again and wrote in the dust. 9 'When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you? 11 No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, Neither do I. Go and sin no more. John 8:1-11

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. Who do you associate yourself with in this story? The woman, the religious leaders or Jesus? Or all three? Explain.

2. Have you ever found yourself at the feet of Jesus, needing grace, after becoming a Christian? Can you share your story?

3. Who do you think committed the greater sin, the woman or the Pharisees and Scribes? Why?

4. What do you think Jesus was writing in the dust in verses 6 & 8? 5. In verse 11, Jesus tells the woman to “Go and sin no more.” How do you think grace enhances our willingness to obey?

6. Have you ever shown grace in a public place where others were watching? How do you think it impacted the by-standers? How do you think it may have impacted the Pharisees in this story?

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Notes:

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STORY #7

SHINING

FORGIVENESS

MATTHEW 18:21-35

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Forgiving people isn’t always easy to do. This especially true when someone has been deeply hurt. However, Jesus commands us to forgive for our own benefit. Counselor Gary Smalley once said, “Not forgiving somebody is like drinking poison and hoping the offender will get sick.” Holding a grudge creates physical, emotional and spiritual unhealthiness. Forgiving others is a supernatural work, not a natural work. The good news is, the Holy Spirit empowers us so that we can forgive others.

'Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”’ Matthew 18:21-35

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is the hardest thing you ever had to forgive? What is something you’re struggling with now?

2. Is there a story you feel comfortable sharing about when you needed forgiveness from someone?

3. What do you think Jesus meant when he answered Peter’s question about how often we should forgive someone?

4. If someone asked you why we need God’s forgiveness, how would you answer?

5. Is it possible to forgive someone, but not want to be around that person? We are commanded to love all people, but are we

commanded to like all people?

6. In the parable, the unforgiving man was thrown in prison and tortured. How might holding a grudge torture someone emotionally and spiritually?

7. Would you agree that in certain circumstances, forgiveness is a spiritual act that requires help from the Holy Spirit? Why or why not?

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Notes:

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STORY #8

SHINING

GENEROSITY INTO

PEOPLE’S LIVES

LUKE 9:10-17, 6:38

ACTS 20:35

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Generosity is defined as the quality of being kind and a readiness to give more of something, such as time or money, that is necessary. I know a lot of generous people, both Christians and non-Christians. I believe God has wired some people to be over the top. It’s their spiritual gift. When I contracted Covid-19, I had several people show up and bring food and medicine. Even though we told everyone we had everything we needed, they showed up anyway. We were very appreciative and grateful, but my instinct tells me they probably received the greater blessing. I know this from personal experience and the truth of Proverbs 11:25 which says, “A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water.”

In our story, Jesus teaches the disciples the power of generosity. You don’t have to be wealthy in order to be generous. You simply have to be obedient with what you have. God is generous and expects us to be as well. And when we do, He multiples our generosity to help people see His love and grace and blesses us in return.

'When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida. But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.” But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” For there were about 5,000 men there. Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” So the people all sat down. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!’

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. Who do you know that you consider generous? What traits, behaviors or values do they have that would deem them as generous?

2. Read Acts 20:35. What is your greatest experience of showing generosity? How does your experience validate Jesus’ words?

3. Other than money, what are other ways we can be generous to people in our life? In our church?

4. Jesus identifies a need and then challenges the disciples to meet the need. Has Jesus challenged you to meet the need(s) of someone you know?

5. The disciple’s response to Jesus was basically, “We don’t have enough to help the people.” Share an experience when you gave or received “just a little” but it resulted in a great impact.

6. Read Luke 6:38. What does this say about generosity? 7. If you had to choose one generous act to do this week, what would it be?

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Notes:

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STORY #9

SHINING THE

LIGHT OF THE

GOSPEL

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Healthy things grow. As Christians, we are expected to grow in our faith. Sharing the good news of Jesus should be one area we should continually excel. In 2019, a study showed that 47% of millennial Christians felt that sharing their faith wasn’t necessary. When asked why, they said, “It feels intrusive and makes people uncomfortable.” The apostle Paul said, “'How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). When we hear the word, Preacher, we immediately think about the person who speaks on stage each Sunday. Preaching is, in fact, one of the spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:11), but every Christian is called to proclaim the good news of Jesus. In the Great Commission, Jesus instructs each of us to preach (share, proclaim, tell) the gospel (Mark 16:15).

Jesus said in John 6:44, 'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day’. In other words, salvation requires two parts. First, God deals with our hearts. This is called the conviction. Conviction is when the Holy Spirit reveals our need for Jesus and His forgiveness of sin. This means we don’t “choose” the day we become a Christian. God calls us. However, each person has their own free will to choose. That’s the second part. When God deals with our heart, we have to repent and willfully accept Jesus or walk away. As Christians, it isn’t our job to “save” people, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job to “share” the gospel and show the love of Jesus.

‘9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be

disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’ Romans 10:9-13

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. Can you share your personal experience in becoming a Christian?

2. What does it mean to “come under conviction?” Do you believe people still experience conviction after becoming a Christian?

3. Have you ever shared your faith with another person? Can you share your experience with the group?

4. The apostle Paul brings clarity to the “how” in terms of how people meet Jesus. Which two things stand out to you in verse 9.

5. If someone was sitting in front of you, who never heard the gospel before, how would you start a conversation about Jesus?

6. Why is the word everyone in verse 13 so important? Why should this encourage us to be more proactive in sharing our faith?

7. Besides sharing our faith, what are other ways we can show people Jesus?

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Notes:

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STORY #10

SHINING THE

LIGHT OF THE

HELPING OTHERS

MARK 2:1-11,

HEBREWS 11:16

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When we were moving from our apartment to our home, we knew we had a big job in front of us. We also had a deadline to be out by a particular date or we would have to pay a penalty. One night, while sitting with our friends at the community fire pit, one of my neighbors asked me about our moving date (which was super close). He informed me that several of my neighbors wanted to help. They showed up the following Saturday with breakfast and afterwards the move began! It was the smoothest, quickest move we had ever experienced. But most importantly, they were happy to do it. They showed us love in such a way that it impacted our faith. Their selfless act of helping reminded us that God always provides what we need. He provided more than movers; He provided new friends and we remain friends to this day. As Christians, helping others is one of the greatest expressions of the gospel. It should be the norm, not the exception.

In our story, we find a man who needed help. His friends go above and beyond what it took to get him the help he needed. I think it’s important to note that Jesus saw their faith, meaning the faith of the man’s friends. When we help people, God is pleased. He notices. It is His way of using us to show love and help people meet Jesus, which is exactly what happened in our story.

''When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there

thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are

forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”’ Mark 2:1-11

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. Share an experience where you were impacted by someone helping you.

2. In the days of Jesus, handicapped or disabled people rarely had friends. If they didn’t have family, they were dependent upon society, which rejected them. Have you ever helped someone who experienced rejection or been ostracized?

3. In the story, there were so many people, it was nearly impossible for the man to get to Jesus without the help of his friends. Describe a time in your life where you helped someone become closer to Jesus.

4. The Bible says Jesus saw their faith. What does this mean to you in terms of having praying friends?

5. Do you think the lame man needed faith or was his friend’s faith sufficient? (Read Hebrews 11:6)

6. As a result of helping their friend, the lame man was healed. How do you think the faith of by-standers may have been affected?

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Notes:

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STORY #11

SHINING

HOLINESS &

REMOVING ANGER

EPHESIANS 4:26-32

MARK 3:1-5

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One thing that I learned early on in life is this; Christians aren’t perfect. Although we strive to “do good,” we still found ourselves struggling, or least I do. When I first became a Christian, I tried living by all of the religious rules. It didn’t take long to realize that religion was powerless and resulted in misery. That’s when my life changed. I learned that holiness isn’t the result of something I can do, but rather what Jesus has already done and is doing in me. In our text, Paul is writing to Christians at the church of Ephesus. He is encouraging holiness over carnal behavior. Although he hits a few different

behavioral categories, the main focus seems to be on anger and how we talk to one another. It isn’t a sin to be angry (we all have that emotion); staying angry is when it becomes sinful. Whenever we harbor anger or hold a grudge, we grieve the Holy Spirit, who is the only One who can help us be holy.

Holiness should not produce some sort of weird, religious behavior, but rather love and compassion for people. I recall once while eating in a restaurant (on a Sunday), a server made a mistake at the table next to us. I heard the man loudly fussing and belittling her. She was

humiliated. I wanted to punch him. The sad part was, the suit and tie he was wearing probably meant he just left church. I have often said, I had much rather hear profanity than hear someone mistreat or belittle another person. Treating people with kindness isn’t optional; it is a commandment. How we love, forgive and speak to others shows the love of Jesus, or the lack thereof.

‘'26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the devil an opportunity. 28 Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.‘

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. What makes you the most angry?

2. How do you cool down if something or someone makes you angry?

3. Paul said we can be angry and not sin. Read Mark 3:1-5. What is the difference in righteous anger and sinful anger?

4. What do you think Paul means when he wrote, “…don’t let the sun go down on your anger?” How would doing so create an opportunity for the devil?

5. What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit? In what ways can He be grieved? How would grieving the Spirit affect your walk with Jesus?

6. What did Paul mean when he said we should build one another up? Why is this important in the context of our current world?

7. Are you currently struggling with an anger issue? If comfortable, allow your group to pray with you, so you can begin living out verse 32.

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Notes:

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STORY #12

SHINING

HUMILITY

1 PETER 5:6-9

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Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Winston, “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.” Winston Churchill, best known for successfully leading Britain through World War Two, understood the power of humility. Humility keeps us removed from pride, which creates all kinds of problems.

Peter is writing to church leaders and Christians who are scattered across Asia Minor due to persecution. He is basically telling them how to be successful in leading their churches and overcoming the enemy, Satan. Humility is defined as ‘a low view of one’s self-importance.’ Becoming a Christian begins with humility and becoming a better Christian requires us to continually walk in humility. When we remain humble, we remain dependent upon God. Satan will always tempt us to be prideful (the very thing that resulted in his expulsion from Heaven). He knows first hand that pride can destroy us and greatly impact our relationship with God.

‘'6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. 8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. ‘

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is your most humbling experience?

2. Describe an experience where your pride got the best of you. 3. Peter instructs us to humble ourselves under God’s hand. What does that mean to you?

4. Why do you think verse seven is important? How does understanding this verse help us be humble?

5. Peter says that we should stay spiritually alert in order to detect our adversary. Do you think humility helps us stay alert? How so?

6. Satan is referred to as a roaring lion in our text. What are some thoughts he roars into your mind that attempts to steal your humility? (and by the way, he roars at all of us).

7. Both God and Satan speak to us daily. How do we identify the voice of God from the voice of the enemy?

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Notes:

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STORY #13

SHINING

PATIENCE

PSALMS 37:7,

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Not very long ago, I was sitting in traffic at a red light. I was wanting to turn right, but the lane was backed up, preventing me from getting into the turning lane (which was empty). I couldn’t go around the traffic because there was a large curb preventing me. I thought for a moment and said to my wife, “You know, I could drive over this curb and go ahead and turn. That’s the benefit of having a Jeep!” She looked at me and said, “We have no where to be and we’re not in a hurry, so why do you feel like you can’t wait for the light to change? Why are you always rushing life” I couldn’t answer the question. She nailed me. The truth is, I struggle with rushing life. Hurry is a gear that’s hard to turn off. I am making progress, but I still struggle.

The scriptures instruct us to do something that myself and a lot of people find challenging. Wait. In a world that is ever-changing and constantly moving, it can be difficult to be still, especially if you have a Type A personality. Patience is a sign of spiritual maturity. It’s acquiring the knowledge that we really aren’t in control of the timeline, only God is. A lack of patience also portrays arrogance. It screams, “My time is more important than yours.” I demonstrated that at the red light. Although I still struggle, I have also found the value of taking a breath and listening to God. The more time I spend being still before God, the easier it is to catch myself when the Hurry gear wants to engage. There is a power in being still that our enemy doesn’t want us to discover. ''Be still in the presence of the Lord , and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.’

Psalms 37:7

'But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!’

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you consider yourself a patient person? Why or why not? 2. In the past, how have you justified impatience?

3. The Psalmist instructs us to be still in God’s presence. What does that mean to you? How do you still yourself?

4. The context of Psalms 37:7 is built around being patient, while waiting for God to act. Is there something you have been praying about that you are still waiting on God to act?

5. How can the success, especially of people who aren’t Christians, negatively impact your patience? What are we instructed to do about it in Psalms 37:7? How do we accomplish that?

6. Galatians 5:22 says that patience is produced by the Holy Spirit. How does this truth give us clarity on how patience is to be

obtained?

7. How can being patient glorify Jesus? How can patience help others see your faith?

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Notes:

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STORY #14

SHINING

DISCIPLESHIP

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Humanity unfolds in life stages. We start as a baby, then a child, then a teen and finally an adult. This is true with Christianity as well. When someone first comes to faith, they are a spiritual infant. They lack knowledge and need spiritual nurturing. From there, they grow into a spiritual child; and like a child, they are usually “me-focused” (I attend church, but I don’t want to serve). Next they grow into a spiritual adult, where they become more others-focused (I want to serve, I want to give, etc). And finally they become a spiritual parent, which is the final stage. Spiritual parents help infants grow towards spiritual parenthood. A spiritual parent is a disciple maker. They are mature enough in their faith to help new believers grow towards maturity. Unlike natural life stages, people can become stuck in a spiritual stage. It is possible to be a Christian for years and still be a spiritual child. Spiritual growth only happens when we’re willing to obey Jesus. When we stop obeying, we stop growing.

In our scripture, Jesus shares what it required to follow Him and to grow spiritually. I love the fact that he uses the word “follow.” It means that He requires movement and action on our part. Jesus wants each of us to grow in our faith. He wants us to mature into believers and

leaders so that we can fulfill Matthew 28:19 and help others in their faith journey. Our scripture gives us the pathway for spiritual maturity. It isn’t an easy path, but a necessary one if we are going to be disciple-makers and fulfill the mission of the church.

''Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or

destroyed? ‘ Luke 9:23-25

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Start the Conversation

• Share this scripture in story form, using your own words. • Read the scripture aloud.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is your definition of a disciple? What do disciples do? 2. Jesus told the disciples they would have to give up their own way in order to follow Him. What does that mean to you?

3. What did Jesus mean when He said take up your cross daily? What was the purpose of the cross in Jesus’ day? Why did Jesus say this was a daily requirement?

4. Do you believe it’s possible to lose yourself (even as a Christian) in worldliness? How do we prevent that?

5. Read Matthew 28:19. How are you making disciples today? If someone followed you, would it result in them knowing Jesus?

6. What are some underlined factors that has contributed to your own spiritual growth? (people, books, church, etc)

7. Which stage of spiritual growth are you currently in? Spiritual infant, spiritual child, spiritual adult or spiritual parent? (by the way, there’s nothing wrong with being an infant or a child, unless you stay there too long).

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Notes:

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