one another


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family devotionals ACTIVITY:

Week #1: Love One Another

Get a small tub and fill halfway with water Gather a few towels Place the tub and towels by a chair As a family sit in a circle. Open your Bible to John 13:1-17. Have someone read the passage, taking turns reading to help keep attention. While someone is reading have family member wash the feet of another family member. Take turns so everyone has the experience of washing and being washed. Why were the disciples surprised when Jesus washed their feet? Why did Jesus do it? How did you feel washing someone’s feet? How did you feel having your feet washed?

FOCUS:

Jesus was showing love by serving. Note: Do not be concerned if your kids have more fun splashing in the water than answering questions. This can be a building block moment for future conversations.

STEP IT UP:

(if you are able to make more time in your week)

Get a large piece of paper. Make a list of ways you can serve others either individually or as a family. For inspiration search “Random Acts of Kindness” or visit oprah.com/spirit/35-Little-Acts-of-Kindness. Agree as a family on a prize you will earn if you accomplish one the service ideas. Note: the prizes should be for motivation and encouragement, keeping in mind we don’t serve to get something.

GO DEEPER:

(have older kids or are just ready for more?)

Read John 13:10 Do you think Jesus meant more than actual dirt when talking about clean? Continue and read Verse 11. Discuss what this verse meant. Turn to John 18:25-27 to see what Jesus was talking about. Have you ever been humbled (made to feel less important) by someone’s kindness to you when you know you didn’t deserve it? Think of someone you really don’t like. They make you feel bad about yourself, they annoy you, they make fun of you. With that person in mind. Pray: Lord, I pray for ____________________. Please be with them today. Provide for their needs. If they do not know you please bring someone to tell them about you. Please show me today how I can follow your example in how I treat ____________________. AMEN. Common Ground 2017: One Another

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 1: MONDAY “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.” - John 13:34-35 We live in a broken world: broken relationships, broken promises, and broken people. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. Forty percent of marriages end in divorce. The suicide rate is steadily on the rise. How can we mend this brokenness? We are all part of Jesus’ solution—love one another. In John 13:34-35, Jesus commands his disciples to “love one another.” Love is the glue that holds us together as a body of believers. Love is what sets us apart as Christ followers, and makes us an example to the world—“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” But this is no ordinary love. Jesus’ love is a different kind of love. The Greek word used for “love” in these verses is “agape,” a sacrificial and selfless love. Tim Keller defines agape as: “It means to serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you. Its opposite is fear: self-protection and abusing people. Its counterfeit (a fake version) is selfish affection, where you are attracted to someone and treat them well because of how they make you feel about yourself.” Agape love doesn’t expect anything in return. We are to love one another unconditionally and to seek the good of others despite the impact that it may have on us. Loving others this way will take up our time, our finances, possibly our reputation, and most definitely our patience. It is a sacrifice, but it is this kind of love that can heal a broken world. So how are we supposed to live out agape love? What does it look like in action? Jesus tells his disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jesus should be our model. He displayed the ultimate example of agape love by dying on the cross for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Throughout this week, we will spend time studying Jesus’ life to find examples of how Jesus displayed agape love, and learn how we can apply agape love in our lives. Take a moment to pray and thank Jesus for his true example of agape love by dying on the cross. Ask him to open your eyes to opportunities to display selfless and sacrificial love to those hurting within your church, community, and office.

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 1: TUESDAY “Jesus said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a

banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” - Luke 14:12-14

We find it easy to love someone when we get something in return. We don’t mind giving our time to a friend or family member when they will return the favor. We are more willing to give money to someone when we know they will pay us back. But when we meet people that are sick, poor, or needy, caring for these people can be challenging. Agape love isn’t about loving those who can repay us. Agape love is a sacrificial love. We know that we won’t gain anything from loving those in need, however, Jesus commands us to love without expecting anything in return. The verses today are a part of Jesus’ parable of the great banquet. Jesus was invited to dine at the house of a prominent Pharisee, and he tells the man not to invite friends and rich neighbors, because they will invite you in return, but instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind because they cannot repay you. Interestingly, Jesus points out that the very reason to invite those in need is because they can’t repay us. This is an example of true agape love. Jesus dedicated a large portion of his ministry seeking out the sick and healing them: he heals a man with leprosy; he makes a lame man walk; he raises the daughter of a distraught father from the dead; he gives sight to a blind man. These are just a few examples of Jesus’ love for those who could never repay him. And above all, Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins was an act of love for all of us, which none of us can repay. Think about those in your life that are in need. Are you caring for them? Are you sacrificing your time and resources to love them like Jesus would? Let us seek out our troubled coworkers, ailing neighbors, and poor in our community, and care for them despite the fact that we may never be repaid. Let us invite the crippled, the lame, and the blind to our banquet tables, and let them taste agape love.

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 1: WEDNESDAY “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in

adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” … When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” … At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time…until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared.“Go now and leave

your life of sin.”

- John 8:3-11

When we meet someone for the first time, what do we do? We typically judge them based on their gender, skin color, appearance, and how they talk. Before we even get to know them, we have assembled a picture in our subconscious of who they are. Judging others based on our opinions and perceptions is part of our sinful nature. As Christians, one area where we are quick to judge is someone else’s sin. Despite the fact that we are all sinners, we find it easy to carelessly and hastily accuse someone else of sin. This causes us to treat them as inferior, and we do not love them as we should. In today’s verses, we see the teachers of the law bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They want to stone her for her sin, but Jesus replies, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees is a good reminder to us who the real judge is. Jesus wants us to go out and love everyone despite their appearance, gender, skin color, or sin. We need to leave the judging to God. Even Jesus does not act as a judge to the adulterous woman: “Then neither do I condemn you.” How can Jesus say that to a woman who was caught in adultery? Because he paid for her sin on the cross. Like this woman, we have been forgiven, so we shouldn’t be condemning others for their sin. Jesus leaves the woman with a challenge as well, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” It is important to remember that while we shouldn’t judge others, it does not mean that we are to condone the sin. But it is the gospel that truly changes hearts, not our condemnation. Let us go out into the world and love others with compassion, not judgment. Will you put down your stones today, and show someone agape love?

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 1: THURSDAY “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name

of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy… When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” - Luke 19:1-2, 5-7

We all have people in our lives that seem impossible to love: a cheating spouse; a violent, short-tempered father; an alcoholic brother; a demanding, and self-centered boss; the IRS. Tax collectors aren’t popular today, but during Jesus time, they were some of the most despised people in the Roman Empire. They were seen as traitors by working for the Romans instead of their Jewish community. Many were also corrupt. Tax collectors earned a percentage of what they collected, so they would wring as much money out of people as they could. In today’s passage, we read about a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus had heard that Jesus was passing through Jericho, so he went to see him. When Jesus walked by he picked Zacchaeus out of the crowd and said, “I must stay at your house today.” Having a meal with a tax collector was an egregious insult to the Jews. They were appalled. “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’,” they muttered. But Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. In verse 10 he says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” He was showing love to someone that was lost and unlovable. Loving someone that may seem impossible to love can cause powerful and lifealtering reactions. Here we see Zacchaeus, within only a few hours of being with Jesus, stand up and declare, “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” When we show love to our adulterous spouse, or demanding boss, they take notice. There is no guarantee that they will be changed like Zacchaeus, but showing love rather than hate can soften hearts. Ask God to give you the courage and patience to love the people in your life who you feel are impossible to love.

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 1: FRIDAY “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” - Luke 6:27-31 Before he died, Jesus was brutally beaten, relentlessly mocked, and humiliated. When he hung on the cross, he experienced one of the most excruciating and barbaric methods of execution known to man. Yet, as he hung there, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a) Jesus showed love to his enemies even while they were torturing and killing him. Loving our enemies is the most difficult type of agape love. An enemy is a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone. We all face enemies in our lives. Maybe, for you it is a coworker that undermines your work in order to get ahead or a competitor that lies about your company to land a project or a manipulative and controlling family member. Our society teaches us to fight back, and conquer our enemies. Society thinks Jesus’ words in Luke 6 display weakness and inferiority. It can’t comprehend a person blessing someone that curses him or turning the other cheek. But therein lies the beauty of loving one’s enemies. In 1 Peter 3, Peter tells us not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but repay with blessing. Then a few verses later he says, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for this hope.” People start to wonder and ask questions when we do something drastically countercultural like loving our enemies. We should be prepared to tell them how we once were enemies of Jesus, but he loved us despite our rebellion and forgave our sins. And now, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to love our enemies. Find a small, practical way to show love to one of your enemies today. Ask God to give you the strength to love your enemies and the courage to share the gospel when people begin to notice.

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ONE ANOTHER

WEEK 1: LOVE ONE ANOTHER SEPTEMBER 17, 2017

DISCUSSION GUIDE

MAIN POINT People will know we are Christ’s disciples by the way we love one another.

INTRODUCTION Today we begin our 2017 Common Ground series, “One Another.” God continues to draw more people to the Chapel through our ministries in Lincoln Park as well as the launch of new sites. As our numbers grow, so will the needs of the Body. People are hurting; we see this in many of our marriages, in our friendships, in the needs of our children and young adults—and there is no reason to think these challenges will diminish or take care of themselves. As we grow, we must all be equipped to care for one another. This year’s Common Ground series will lay the foundation for that, and the ongoing “Soul Care” training that follows will give you the tools you need to do this effectively. We begin today with the foundational command Jesus gives us to love one another.

On the TV show, “Bluebloods,” starring Tom Selleck, the Reagan family is known for its strong ties to law enforcement in New York City. In fact, every adult family member serves the city of New York in the field of law enforcement in some capacity. The Reagan family includes a Deputy Commissioner, a retired Deputy Commissioner, a policeman, a detective, and an attorney who works for the District Attorney’s office. On the show, to be a Reagan, means to be committed to working for justice. Law enforcement is the family business and is the one thing the Reagan family is known for. As Christ followers, we too, are called to a “family business.” As Christians, we should all share a similarity that identifies what family we belong to. Jesus said our love for one another will be the mark that communicates we are His disciples. Do your family members share any similarities that make it easy to identify which family you all belong to? (physical characteristics, family business, athletic talent, etc.)

In our culture, do you think Christians have a reputation for loving one another? Why or why not? Explain why you feel the way you do.

UNDERSTANDING > READ JOHN 13:34-35.

What is the new command Jesus gives to His disciples? How was it new?

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ONE ANOTHER THE CHAPEL

DISCUSSION GUIDE

Love is the defining mark in our lives that communicates we belong to Christ (v. 35). Glance back at the latter part of verse 34. What guideline does Jesus give His disciples (and us) as to how we love others?

As Jesus prepared to go to the cross, He instructed His disciples on what was expected in His absence. His new command was that His followers are to love one another. The command is not new in the sense that nothing like it had ever been communicated before. In fact, the Mosaic covenant included two love commandments (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). Rather, it was new because Jesus said His disciples are to love others in the same way He had loved them. For the first time, Christ followers were called to demonstrate Jesus’ love to a watching world. The way we love one another should communicate to others that we belong to Jesus.

How would you describe Christ’s love? Can you name several ways He showed sacrificial love to His disciples? If so, what are they?

Practically speaking, how can we show love to one another in our community of believers?

How might seeing Christians love each other well be enticing to nonbelievers?

Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus modeled love through sacrifice and service. The ultimate demonstration of that love was His death on the cross for our sins. But He also showed love every day of His earthly ministry. Jesus was never rushed, and He intentionally made time for all types of people. He cared for the sick and suffering, rich and poor, believers and those who were struggling with doubt and discouragement. Jesus was always meeting needs and He made people a priority. > READ JOHN 15:12-13.

What do you think Jesus meant when He spoke of “laying down one’s life for one’s friends”?

Has anyone ever demonstrated sacrificial love to you? If so, what were the circumstances? How did you respond?

We live in a society where many people are hurting. In fact, there are people hurting in our own church community. Christians aren’t exempt from the suffering that comes

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DISCUSSION GUIDE

from living in a fallen world. In every biblical community, there are members who are struggling with illness, marital problems, bereavement, broken family relationships, financial strain, unemployment, and other losses. As the body of Christ, it is both our privilege and responsibility to show the love of Christ to those who are hurting. This is what we mean when we talk about Soul Care. Jesus commanded us to love one another and said our love would be the one way the world knows we belong to Him. > READ 1 THESSALONIANS 3:12.

What is Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians?

What are common obstacles that keep us from loving one another as Jesus commands us?

Paul prayed that the Lord would make the Thessalonians’ love for one another increase and overflow. This is a wise thing to pray for our church community and ourselves. Paul said that without love we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). It is God’s will for us to love each other as we have been commanded, so it’s a wise thing to ask God to empower us to love as we should. In our own flesh-oriented nature, we are more prone to think only of ourselves. But the gospel calls Christ followers to a new standard of living. We must be people who pray that God will give us His supernatural love for others so we can love the way Jesus instructed. As Christ told His disciples before He went to the cross, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The good news is that in Christ we have every spiritual blessing, and in His power we are able to carry out all that He commands, including loving each other in the same manner that He loves us.

APPLICATION What is the greatest challenge that prevents you from loving others in your church community as Christ commands? What steps can you take to overcome this challenge?

Practically speaking, who can you reach out to in your faith community this week who could use some encouragement and Christ-like love?

What would it look like for you to start praying as a group that God would increase your love for one another to the point that it overflows to your whole church community?

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DISCUSSION GUIDE

As a group, is there an individual or group in your church that you could collectively minister to and show the love of Christ to on a regular basis? (i.e. single mothers, pastoral care needs, bereavement, unemployed, homebound)

PRAY Father, we thank You for showing us the ultimate Source of love in the Person and work of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We ask that You would empower us to love in the way Jesus commands us. Give us opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ. And Father we pray that the outside world will recognize we belong to You, because of the way we love each other.

MEMORIZE “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). 34

COMMENTARY JOHN 13:34-35

Jesus invited His followers to embrace His love and to express His love through their interactions with each other. His commandment to them was not new in the sense that it was different in substance. Rather, it was new in application—one’s neighbor was anybody. It also was new in its model—Jesus’ self-sacrificing love, especially displayed later on the cross. In an encounter with a scribe, Jesus summarized the commandments in the Mosaic law (Mark 12:28-31). Stated in two Old Testament passages (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:4-5), the Mosaic commandments directed believers to love God wholeheartedly and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. As Jesus prepared His disciples for their future in His body, the church, He yearned for them to experience the new commandment in their relationships. He had corrected their earlier ambitions over position and greatness by His own humble service of washing their feet. As Judas left the Passover supper the disciples were eating with Jesus, He focused attention on their covenant commitments to one another. Three times in two verses, Jesus repeated the essence of His teaching. To love one another was the supreme means of identification for His disciples. The kind of love Jesus commanded the disciples to give was not merely the brotherly love of human fellowship. Even unbelievers related to others on that level of love. Jesus wanted His followers to experience and to express God’s love. Each of the four

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DISCUSSION GUIDE

occurrences of the Greek word translated “love” and “loved” in John 13:34-35 uses a Greek word meaning God’s kind of love. This love seeks the good of another rather than benefit for self. It sacrifices without condition and serves without motive of personal gain. The source of such love is the Lord Himself. Jesus knew human nature does not love sacrificially and unconditionally as God loves. He reminded the eleven disciples of the way He loved them. The words Just as meant they were to love one another in the same way and to the same degree He loved them. Their only hope for success in loving this way lay in their relationship with Him. As they were channels, receiving and passing on Christ’s love, they could fulfill His intention for their lives. The object of the disciples’ love was one another. Jesus certainly was not excusing the disciples from loving other people who were not His disciples. He was not suggesting they form an exclusive club in which they loved each other but not those outside their group. Rather, Jesus was setting a new standard for love among believers. The disciples’ purpose in showing godly love was to witness for Jesus. According to Him, only the disciples’ love for one another showed the world they were His disciples. Only by love would they endure together and impact their world. Jesus calls Christians to love one another, as He said, “Just as I have loved you.” We who have received Christ’s sacrificial love are to extend that same love to others. His love transforms our hearts so we cannot help but love. If we fail to love, we should examine ourselves to see if His love truly resides in our lives (1 John 4:7-8). Love among believers provides the foundational testimony to the lost. Unbelievers may criticize Christians, but many do have high expectations of those who claim Christ’s name. They look for holy lifestyles among believers and love in their relationships with one another. Weak love among believers results in weak witness to nonbelievers. Worse, when Christians argue and fight with one another, lost people use their bickering as an excuse to reject Christ. The world judges our love for God by the love we have for one another. Christians should love one another to glorify God. Just as children’s behavior reflects on parents’ character, even so our love paints a portrait of our Heavenly Father. Just as you are glad when people comment on the good behavior and loving attitudes of your children, so our Heavenly Father rejoices to see His children living in harmony and love.

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Notes:

Love One Another John 13:34-35

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Prayer Requests:

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family devotionals ACTIVITY:

Week #2: Encourage One Another

Large piece of paper per child Markers or crayons Have someone read Acts 14: 21-28. While reading imagine in your head what Paul and Barnabas’ journey looked like and draw a map. Mark each location and draw the routes they took. Feel free to draw what you think the land looked like. After reading and as kids are still drawing, talk about how many places they went and why you think Paul and Barnabas felt they needed to do this. What was driving them? Read Matthew 28:19-20 Note: Check the back of your Bibles and see if you have a map of this journey. It may be called Paul’s Missionary Journeys. You can also Google it!

FOCUS: STEP IT UP:

(if you are able to make more time in your week)

God wants everyone to get along and encourage one another. One sheet of paper per family member. Markers and tape. Tape a piece of paper on each person’s back. Walk around and write encouragements to each other. What do you like about that person? What makes them special? What do you want them to know? How do you feel about them? Feel free to write many things!

When everyone feels they are done. Take the papers off and give everyone a chance to read (or read to them) what their family said about them. Pray: Dear God, Help us to remember to encourage others. Thank you for this family that loves each other. May we never forget the kind things we read and heard today. AMEN.

GO DEEPER:

(have older kids or are just ready for more?)

Read Acts 14:8-15. First, try to imagine this. Paul tells someone to get up and walk and they do…or I should say…they CAN! God used Paul to heal this person. Describe what this must have been like. Why did the people start worshipping Paul and Barnabas? Do we still do that today at times? We can “misplace” our praise on someone who is “just human” like us. For example we read a story about an athlete that has gotten in trouble and are surprised that someone we look up to has messed up! Although this is disappointing and what they did was wrong we need to remember they are only human. Only God is perfect, only God is worthy of our worship, only God never messes up. Common Ground 2017: One Another

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 2: MONDAY “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most

Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” - Hebrews 10:19-20 There’s a crowd outside for the opening of a big event. The gates are locked—those gathered outside are filled with anticipation—they anxiously await being allowed in— but there has been a delay. Peering inside, all they see is one staff member. But then, finally, the gates are opened—the crowd surges in. Today’s scripture explains that in the Old Testament, no one except the high priest was allowed into the Most Holy Place in the temple, the place that was closest to God. Sure, the prophets had promised that one day that was all going to change, but people were still waiting outside. Finally, that all did change, with the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. Now we are allowed in to draw near to God! This week our theme is encouragement, and we’re starting off by seeing that it’s only because of what Jesus Christ did that we can offer true encouragement. Any other ways of trying to give encouragement are futile. You might hear a motivational speaker who says something like, “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities!” or you might recall the poem that says, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” But Jesus does not call us to tell people that they can have their best lives now. No, as we encourage each other, whether our present circumstances are good or bad, we remind one another to look at all that happens with the power and consolation and glimpse of eternity that Christ gives. Because of Christ, as we encourage one another in our small groups, we are people who have been freed from guilt. Instead of being fearful, we grow in assurance. We learn to walk with sincere hearts instead of putting on a mask or presenting a façade. Now, in our small groups, Jesus, our best encourager, is present in power and in love. This week, pray that you will draw near and receive more of the Lord’s power of encouragement in your group and in your life.

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 2: TUESDAY “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you

are doing. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14 Picture the two steps of a baker making gingerbread men, working with a cookie cutter. At first, all the cut cookies look exactly alike. And in an important way, we are all exactly alike in Christ. In today’s chapter, Paul reminded the Thessalonians that they were all united in their Christian walk, and they shared the same faith, love, and the hope of salvation, and life with Christ. Yes, all of us who are in Christ are redeemed, forgiven, and given eternal life. We all have the same identity in Christ. But did God mean for us Christians to be exactly alike in all other ways? Let’s go back to the cookie baker. After being baked, the baker gives each cookie its own unique decoration. No two are alike. Similarly, no two of us Christians are exactly alike. God gave us different personalities, backgrounds, ways of reacting to things, and much more. As we build each other up, keeping in mind that we are to be patient with everyone, we see that some folks need gentle encouragement and others a sterner warning. Exactly what we need to hear, and even how it is said, will be different for each one of us. One person is faint and needs extra care; someone else is overconfident and needs some admonishment. We learn to bring Jesus’ love to people in the right way at the right time. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10) When we encourage, we want to encourage each other to have life to the full in Jesus. Our end goal is for all of us to be complete in Christ, despite all our idiosyncrasies. Today, think of the different personalities and temperaments and backgrounds of the people in your small group. How can you better tailor your encouragement to meet each one exactly where they are?

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 2: WEDNESDAY “ Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

- Psalm 42:11 You wake up early one morning when it is still pitch dark outside and very, very slowly the darkness gets gradually lighter until finally, the sun begins to rise… Someone in your small group is having a dark night of the soul. They feel cut off from God. They feel cut off from other people. How do we come alongside that downcast person to encourage them to put their hope in God? How can we draw that depressed person into praising the Lord? The sad person is likely thinking, “I am not supposed to feel like this, I will conceal it and not be a burden…I am alone in my despair and sorrow. I am alone, and I am the only one who is troubled.” But we can point out that the Psalmist did not feel ashamed or afraid to admit that they were at a place where they felt apart from God. They were open about their distress. And as we think of how to care for that sad person we are drawn to what Paul said: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Our Lord is the Comforter! The wonderful comfort we receive from him empowers us to comfort others. We are comforted comforters. We can comfort someone in the dark night of their soul. They do not have to wrestle it out on their own. Today, dwell on how you are a comforted comforter, not afraid to admit it when you need comfort, and willing to pass comfort along when others need it.

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WEEK 2: THURSDAY “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” - Colossians 2:2-3 Someone has built a railroad trestle to bridge a gap between two mountain ranges. Before, it was a long, arduous, and dangerous single-file hike to cross that gap. Now, a whole group of people can get on board the train, sit together, and be whisked across. As Christians, we also face a gap. Since we all live in a fallen world, no matter how much we love Jesus, there is a gap between all that we know he has for us and wants us to be and where we presently really are in our lives. At first, we are tempted to close the gap single file. We think we need to work it all out on our own. But today’s verses say we need to be encouraged in heart and united in love. Then, we get to know the mystery. Here, mystery is not a detective story, but rather something that used to be hidden, and now it is out in the open. Jesus is being uncovered right in your small group! We share wisdom with one another that we would never think of on our own. Because Jesus gives us treasures of wisdom, we can fight the gap together between where we are and where we know Christ wants us to be. We don’t need to walk single file. Being united in love, we can stride together sideby-side to get on board with what God is doing. That’s how we can bridge the gap. Are you ready to get on board?

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 2: FRIDAY “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - Hebrews 10:24-25 Do you like being poked in the ribs? It depends on whether someone is being playful or hostile, doesn’t it? When we get poked in the ribs, it’s a provocation which causes us to respond. In today’s passage, the Greek term translated here as “spur one another on” carries the idea of a provocation. That word can be used positively or negatively. Here, of course, provocation is meant to be positive. However, do we as today’s Christians, automatically and enthusiastically view it as positive? Don’t we often think, “My Christian life depends on me and God, I must try my best, and I don’t really appreciate the meddling of others?” But the picture that today’s scripture gives is very different. We are encouraging each other as we walk side by side, calling out to each other, urging “Love, love even more! Do good!” As we meet in Jesus’ name we should respond with love and good deeds. Does this mean we are forcing each other to do good things out of guilt and shame? Not at all! Remember that Christ is the Lord who invites us in to the holy of holies. Our good deeds are provoked by thankfulness for Christ’s dying on the cross for us and giving us salvation. And even more, knowing that “the Day” is when Christ will return amplifies our encouragement of one another. As we long for him to finally fulfill all his promises, we have an even greater eagerness to respond to him together. Do you welcome being “poked” to love Jesus and people more and more?

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ONE ANOTHER

WEEK 2: ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER SEPTEMBER 24, 2017

DISCUSSION GUIDE

MAIN POINT To persevere in faith, we need to encourage one another.

INTRODUCTION It has been said, “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” We all need encouragement. Biblical community is crucial for a number of reasons, but not the least that it gives us an opportunity to encourage one another in a way that keeps each other believing what we know to be true about God. All human beings are inclined to forget what we know to be true about the nature and character of God. We know the gospel, but we forget to apply gospel truths to our lives. That’s why we need to be in a small group based in biblical community. It provides us the opportunity to be encouraged and to encourage others. It keeps us grounded in truth rather than believing the lies our culture, the enemy, and our flesh tell us. Have you ever experienced a word of encouragement from a teacher, coach, parent, or friend when you really needed it? What impact did it have on you?

When are you most likely to need encouragement? How can you recognize when a friend or loved one needs encouragement?

What happens when we fail to encourage someone who really needs it?

UNDERSTANDING > READ HEBREWS 10:19-22.

According to verses 19-20, why can Christians now enter into the Most Holy Place with confidence? Why is this a new privilege for New Testament believers?

Glance back at verse 22. How does the author instruct his readers to approach God? Why is authenticity necessary in our relationship with God and other people?

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In the Old Testament, no covenant worshiper would have dared to enter the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle. It was a place limited to the high priest, and even they could only enter once a year. The thick curtain mentioned in verse 20 was a veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and was a barrier between people and God. But after Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and in view of what He had done, believers can now and forevermore approach God with confidence. Because of Jesus, this privilege is no longer limited to the priesthood, and all believers can come into God’s presence. As we spend time in prayer and experience God’s presence we are strengthened spiritually and then have the ability to encourage and minister to others in our biblical community. > READ HEBREWS 10:23-25

Verse 23 urges believers to hold firmly to the hope we profess. How does surrounding ourselves with other believers in biblical community help us to remain strong in our hope and faith?

According to verse 24, what responsibility do Christians have to their fellow believers?

Christians have a corporate responsibility to one another. Fellowship with God must never be self-seeking or selfish, but rather, we are called to fellowship with other believers in the local church. Life is hard and our brothers and sisters in Christ need encouragement. There are no “lone rangers” in Scripture. All of God’s people are called to live in Christian community with one another. As the author of Hebrews writes, we are to, “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (10:24). Biblical community was modeled in the New Testament church and is the standard we should model today. In the Book of Acts, Luke described the New Testament church this way; “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Practically speaking, what does it look like to “spur one another toward love and good deeds”?

What are the risks associated with not being involved in biblical community?

In verse 25, the author instructs his audience to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Persecution may have led some believers to drop out of Christian fellowship. Today people use a variety of reasons to avoid being an active member of biblical community. But regular fellowship with other believers is a crucial part of spiritual growth.

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Today, many people listen to podcasts and online sermons. It’s a blessing to be able to access gospel teaching in a number of different ways and listening to the gospel online is a valuable way to spread biblical teaching. But online podcasts and sermons can’t provide Christian fellowship found in the local church. Christians need to spend time with each other on a regular basis. It’s notable that the author’s focus is not what believers can get from being a part of the local church, but what they can contribute to the local assembly. > READ 1 THESSALONIANS 5:11.

What does Paul instruct the Thessalonians to do?

How might our relationships with other people thrive if we committed ourselves to encouraging one another and building each other up?

Christians who meet together with the purpose of seeking godliness and encouraging one another can do far more together than they could accomplish on their own. God intends for His children to be a part of biblical community where we have the opportunity to encourage one another and be encouraged. Life is too hard and the enemy is too fierce to consider attempting the Christian life alone. Christ followers need to be in fellowship with one another, and that means meeting together on a regular basis and being active members in the local church.

APPLICATION Are you an active participant in a biblical community where you have the opportunity to both encourage and be encouraged by others? If not, what steps can you take to connect with other Christ followers on a regular basis?

Who do you know who needs some encouragement? This week who can you call, send a card to, or have a cup of coffee with?

Who do you know that you haven’t seen in church for a while? How can you connect with them this week?

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PRAY Father, we thank You that because of Christ’s finished work on the cross we can approach You with confidence. We thank You for the gift of the local church and the relationships we can enjoy with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray we will be people who are quick to encourage one another and active in a thriving biblical community.

MEMORIZE And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. –Hebrews 10:24-25 24

COMMENTARY HEBREWS 10:19-25

10:19. We experience Christ’s power by drawing near to God, maintaining our faith, and loving other believers. “Therefore” emphasizes that in view of what Jesus has done, believers can approach God with confidence. “Confidence” describes a boldness believers have because of our new relationship to God. “The Most Holy Place” was that part of the sanctuary which symbolized the presence of God. This verse uses the term not for the tabernacle but for the presence of God. All believers can come to God’s presence. This privilege is no longer limited to the priesthood. Believers can approach God because of the blood of Jesus. Not animal sacrifice but Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself has opened the door. All who have found a new relationship to God through Jesus can experience this privilege. 10:20-21 We have the boldness to enter into the holiest place because Jesus has opened for us a new and living way. He serves as our great priest to encourage us to enter God’s presence. Christ’s way to the Father is new because he opened it by his death. The resurrection of the sacrificed One has made the way living, or effective and enduring. “Curtain” refers to the veil that stood between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. In Hebrews it becomes a symbol of Jesus’ human life. As a human being, Jesus opened up a new way to God. Jesus presented his human life to God to bring us to him. Jesus’ human life and sacrificial death have made the Most Holy Place wide open so believers can enter directly into God’s presence. This was part of Jesus’ high priestly service. 10:22. We can now approach God and have the mercy and grace of our High Priest standing over us. How? First, we are to come with a sincere heart. This calls for genuine devotion rather than hypocrisy. Second, we are to come in full assurance of faith. This demands a bold confidence that God has provided full access to his presence through Christ alone. Third, we are to have our hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience. This demands constant confession of our sins and openness to God. Finally we are to have

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our bodies washed with pure water. This may be a reference to baptism as an outward commitment to Christ, or it might be symbolic as is the previous reference to hearts sprinkled with blood. If it is symbolic, the hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience would picture our salvation, and our bodies washed would symbolize a righteous lifestyle. In this new state of purity made possible by Jesus, believers can come boldly to God and claim his grace and mercy. 10:23. This exhortation appeals to us to maintain spiritual consistency. We are urged to hold firmly to the hope we profess. This hope offers glory which beamed more brightly than the glories of the old order. “Unswervingly” denotes an object which stands absolutely straight, not departing from the perpendicular. We are to lay hold of Christ and never let go, even in the slightest. No persecution, real or feared, was to lessen the ardor of these believers for Christ. 10:24-25. This exhortation calls us to responsibility to one another. The appeal to consider demands concentrated attention. The goal of this attention was to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. As Christians we have a corporate responsibility. We must help others who stumble and falter. We must concentrate on the needs of others and not on our individual salvation only. To spur other believers forward in the Christian life, followers of Christ must meet together. Some of the readers of Hebrews were neglecting to meet together for worship, and this limited their ability to give and receive encouragement toward good works. Christians who meet together with the aim of promoting godliness and love for one another can be remarkably successful in their ventures.

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Notes:

Encourage One Another Hebrews 10:19-25

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Prayer Requests:

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family devotionals ACTIVITY:

Week #3: Forgive One Another

Read Matthew 18:21-35. You can choose to answer these separately on paper and then go over them or just walk through it as a family and discuss as you go. If kids are unsure go back to the passage to find the answer. True or False: __ Jesus said you only have to forgive someone 7 times. __ The King felt sorry for his servant. __ The servant also forgave the other servant who owed him money. __ We are the servant in this story and God is the King. __ We are not really to count how many times we forgive someone. __ It is easy to forgive someone when they keep hurting you.

FOCUS: STEP IT UP:

(if you are able to make more time in your week)

We forgive others because God forgives us. Get slips of paper and pens/pencils for each family member. Write down the name of someone who has hurt you. Pray: “God, ____________________ really hurt me but I know you want me to forgive them. Please help me to forgive them and show them grace like you do to me. AMEN.” Offer for kids to share who they wrote down but do not force them to share. Remind them that this is between them and God. Everyone should take that piece of paper and destroy it. Shred it, scribble on it, or even throw it in the fireplace (be careful!). As you do this remind kids that this is a reminder that we should not hold onto our anger but forgive and that will give us a feeling of relief.

GO DEEPER:

(have older kids or are just ready for more?)

Read Matthew 18:35. What does it mean that the Father (God) will treat us “this way?” How does this make you feel? If we have truly received Jesus as our Savior one of the things that should result or that we should have is a forgiving heart. We cannot RECEIVE forgiveness if we do not GIVE forgiveness.

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 3: MONDAY “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” - Colossians 3:13 Forgiveness comes up often in “churchy” conversations and is a common theme in the lyrics of praise music. You can probably think of a few Bible verses right now that mention forgiveness. But how much of our talk of forgiveness is just lip service vs. real recognition of the importance of both giving and receiving forgiveness? Is forgiveness really a priority for us? The world is a tough, unfair place, and we all are wronged or suffer injustice more often than we’d like. It could be something relatively minor like getting cut off in traffic or something big like a deep hurt in a relationship. If I’m honest, when I’m wronged, or when I even think I’ve been wronged, my first thought is not always a loving, patient thought about forgiveness. Instead I think, if only briefly, “How can I get back at that person?” Road rage, anyone? Yet forgiveness is clearly a priority in the Bible. The words forgive, forgiven and forgiveness appear 121 times throughout the Bible, and forgiveness gets special mention in the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” And think of Christ’s powerful words on the cross, “Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing.” In contrast, two words that represent the opposite of forgiveness—revenge and vengeance—are, maybe surprisingly, mentioned sparingly only about 40 times in the entire Bible. That’s one-third as much as forgiveness! Maybe that should inspire us to prioritize forgiveness and de-emphasize getting revenge. In situations in which you’ve been wronged, is your first reaction to think of forgiveness? Starting today, pray that God would help you to make forgiveness a priority in your personal relationships and daily interactions.

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WEEK 3: TUESDAY “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another…” - Colossians 3:12-13 Forgiveness is good for you. If you’re the one offering forgiveness, there is real power in allowing yourself to be free from the controlling feeling that you’ve been wronged and nothing will ever be right again. If you’re the one being forgiven, you can move past the guilt that comes with the sense that you’ll never be able to get away from your past. And in a community, forgiveness can build relationships and create a foundation for growth and service. Why is this the case? In the above passage, forgiving one another goes hand in hand with a list of other attributes of Christian character. Similar to the list of the “fruits of the spirit” found in Galatians 5:22-23, key Christian traits like compassion, kindness, and humility are elements of a healthy spiritual life. These traits both describe how we should act and also provide a foundation that enables us to “bear with each other and forgive one another.” But don’t take my word for it, or even the Bible’s. Modern psychology recognizes the power of forgiveness and of letting go of wrongs suffered from others. According to the American Psychological Association, forgiving someone else can improve both mental and physical health across a range of measures. On the other hand, when we don’t forgive, we can do emotional harm to ourselves as well as to the relationships we have with others. That’s good modern-day confirmation for what the Bible told us 2,000 years ago! Do you recognize how forgiveness goes hand in hand with a healthy, balanced Christian walk? When faced with an opportunity to forgive someone, think of how forgiveness reinforces all of the traits God is trying to build in us as individuals and as a community of growing, healthy, believers.

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WEEK 3: WEDNESDAY “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” - Colossians 3:12 Does forgiveness have a limit, in terms of what types of things we should forgive? Have you ever heard someone say, or even said yourself, “Oh, I could never forgive someone for that…?” For most of us, the good news is that the things we forgive are mostly minor, shortlived issues that thankfully are not too serious or too deep: the unintentional slight from a friend, a harsh word spoken in haste. Those offenses need to be taken seriously and might cause some strong emotions, but hopefully we can deal with them with quick, graceful forgiveness. What about those situations, though, where there is a deep, ongoing, serious sin against you by another person? Are they forgivable? The life story of World War II veteran Louis Zamperini offers an amazing and powerful lesson in “extreme forgiveness” and provides us with an example of just how far we can go to forgive. Zamperini spent years in a Japanese prison camp after his plane crashed in the Pacific. As told in the best-selling book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, he suffered incredible injustice and unimaginable injury at the hands of his captors. After the war, he struggled to recover from his experiences and descended into bitterness and substance abuse as a way to cope. Thankfully, he later found peace after becoming a Christian during a Billy Graham crusade and his life turned around. Convicted and motivated by his newfound faith to offer forgiveness for the terrible things he had suffered—or especially for those things—he later traveled to Japan and made attempts to reconcile with the worst of his abusers. As Zamperini tells it: “My forgiveness was so authentic and total that I looked forward to seeing each of them. I longed to look into their eyes and say not only “I forgive you,” but to tell them of the greatest event of forgiveness the world has ever known when Christ on the Cross, and at the peak of his agony, could say of his executioners, “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.” Is there a limit to your forgiveness? Is there anyone that you need to forgive that you’ve been avoiding because the hurt is too deep? Take a minute to ask God to expand your view of forgiveness.

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ADULT DEVOTIONALS

WEEK 3: THURSDAY “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” - John 8:11 Forgiveness gets a bad rap. Unfortunately, in practice and perception, offering forgiveness is often equated with being a victim, getting taken advantage of or letting someone get away with something. “If I forgive him,” we argue, “he’ll just think it’s OK and do it again!” But being forgiven doesn’t mean anything goes. In the biblical model forgiveness should be seen as a corrective step, a chance for the one being forgiven to start over, to change course, and change heart. A great example of this comes from John chapter 8, in the story of a woman who is about to be stoned by a group of legal scholars after she has been caught in adultery. Jesus comes to her rescue by pointing out the hypocrisy of her accusers, shaming them into letting the woman go free. So far so good, right? But then Jesus, after forgiving her, goes one step further by admonishing her to “go now and leave your life of sin.” Why is that important? It illustrates that although Jesus forgave her sin, he was definitely not condoning her adultery. He wasn’t saying, “I forgive you, so that makes anything you do OK.” In the biblical model, forgiveness and justice can, and should, go hand in hand. If you are forgiven, it does not mean that you are no longer accountable for your actions. Instead, it means that you’ve been given a valuable chance for a fresh start. To take advantage of forgiveness and view it as a cheap license to go on sinning would be disrespectful of the one offering you grace, whether the forgiveness is offered by another person or by God. When you think about forgiveness, remember: If you forgive someone, you’re not giving them free rein to continue what they were doing. And when you’re forgiven, your behavior still needs to change.

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WEEK 3: FRIDAY “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” - Colossians 3:13 How does God forgive? Forgiveness can be a tough thing to offer. It is often difficult to receive. And unfortunately, the world’s model of forgiveness doesn’t always align with the biblical ideal, making it hard for us to have the right perspective when we’re faced with a situation that calls for forgiveness. But when we consider the many Bible passages that talk about forgiveness, a pattern emerges of a God who forgives freely, fully, and forever. That’s a model we should all try to follow. First, God forgives us freely. He is not stingy with forgiveness, and he doesn’t withhold it from us when we ask. As we read in 1 John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” No mumbo jumbo or “pretty please” necessary. Next, God forgives us fully, not partially. When a sin is forgiven, it is forgiven completely, all the way. Isaiah 1:18 tells us, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” It’s comforting, isn’t it, to know that every sin is fully forgivable? Finally, God’s forgiveness is forever. It is not a temporary, conditional act that needs to be renewed. A reminder comes from Isaiah 43.25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Forgive and forget, indeed! Forgiveness can be a challenging, emotional act. But by taking some helpful lessons from these and other examples in the Bible, and making a prayerfully conscious effort to put them into practice, we can learn to forgive as the Lord does. Whether you’re forgiving someone, or you are the one being forgiven, remember to approach forgiveness the way God does. Don’t view forgiveness as something you give grudgingly, partially, and temporarily. Instead, forgive freely, fully and forever.

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ONE ANOTHER

WEEK 3: FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER OCTOBER 1, 2017

DISCUSSION GUIDE

MAIN POINT As Christ followers, we have been fully forgiven by God, and are therefore called to forgive others.

INTRODUCTION On June 17, 2015, nine church members were ruthlessly gunned down during a Wednesday night Bible study at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Following the shooting, the victim’s family members made headline news when they faced the shooter in the courtroom. But instead of launching justifiable insults against the young man who killed their loved ones, they took a different approach. They forgave him. “I forgive you,” Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.” (washingtonpost.com) Why did the family members make headline news? Because forgiveness of this magnitude is rare. To some, it might even seem inappropriate. Most of us struggle with forgiving small offenses. We want mercy for ourselves and justice for those who sin against us. But receiving and granting forgiveness is at the core of the gospel message. The Bible teaches there is a direct correlation between having been forgiven by God and extending forgiveness to other people. Do you think forgiveness is difficult for most people? If so, why? Explain why you feel the way you do.

Are you prone to nurse a grudge?

What offenses are hardest for you to forgive?

C.S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” What are your thoughts on Lewis’s quote? Do you agree or disagree? Explain your answer.

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UNDERSTANDING > READ COLOSSIANS 3:12-14.

According to verse 12, whom was Paul addressing in this passage?

What did Paul instruct his audience to do?

What do you think it means to “clothe yourself” with the virtues Paul mentioned?

The characteristics of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness stand in stark contrast to the vices mentioned in the preceding verses. As individuals and members of a church community, our aim is to be part of the transformation process of being renewed in the image of Christ. Our old ways of living are to be discarded, and the new characteristics of Christ are to take their place. Since the old way of living has been “put off,” we are to “clothe ourselves” with a new way of living that represents our new life. It’s notable that the behaviors Paul described all pertain to personal relationships.

Why do you think Paul went to great lengths to instruct believers on how to treat one another? Why are relationships so important in the body of Christ?

Practically speaking, how do we “clothe ourselves” with these virtues?

Two lessons ago we studied a new commandment Jesus gave His followers. Look up John 13:34-35. How does Paul’s instruction build on Jesus’ commandment for His followers to love one another?

When you look at the characteristics Paul listed in verses 12-13, which is the biggest challenge for you? Explain.

Paul understood that when people live in a close knit biblical community, disagreements are inevitable. Having a disagreement with another person isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But how we respond to disagreements is extremely important. Christ followers are called to address problems in our church community with the characteristics of compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience that

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Paul described in this passage. In American culture, it’s a common thing for people to call for “tolerance.” But Christians are called to do far more than tolerate one another. We are called to love and forgive one another.

What is the difference between tolerating someone and loving and forgiving them?

Why does simply tolerating someone fall short of the biblical command to love one another?

> READ EPHESIANS 4:31-32.

To what degree did Paul instruct the church at Ephesus to forgive one another? Does this sound realistic to you? Why or why not?

In your opinion, how does it look to non-believers when there is fighting within the church community and members refuse to forgive one another?

Paul warns his readers to “get rid” of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice. Obviously, to “get rid” of something requires intentionality on our part. We can’t simply ignore our emotions and hope they will go away. But as Christians, we can work through our negative emotions and prayerfully ask God to help us deal with them. Being kind and compassionate to one another flows from the fact that God has forgiven us completely. We need His forgiveness on a daily basis. As Christ followers, we are called to forgive others in the same manner that God forgave us. The enemy of our souls will exploit an unforgiving attitude, and if we refuse to forgive we will likely become angry and bitter. When someone sins against us, we need to treat him or her in the same manner God has treated us—with kindness, compassion, grace, and mercy. We are called to forgive others for Jesus’ sake. As Christians, we are to care for one another. When disagreements arise, rather than simply writing people off, we should focus our effort on a peaceful resolution that leads to forgiveness and restored relationships. Christ followers need one another.

APPLICATION What old sins have you discarded since you became a Christian? Have you “clothed” yourself with positive characteristics (like Paul described) to put in their place? If so, what are they?

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Is there someone in your family or church community with whom you need reconciliation? Is there someone to whom you need to apologize? Do you need to ask for forgiveness? If so, what’s holding you back?

Who in your church community could you show some kindness to this week?

How would you describe your relationships within your church family? What steps can you take to draw closer to your brothers and sisters in Christ?

PRAY Father, we thank You that because of Christ Jesus, our Savior, you are quick to forgive us when we sin against You. We ask You to make us people who are quick to forgive others. We pray you will empower us to show each other kindness, compassion, and patience. We ask for strong and healthy relationships in our church community.

MEMORIZE Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13

COMMENTARY COLOSSIANS 3:12-14

3:12. The new clothing of the Christian begins with personal attributes: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Their inclusion suggests the need for long-suffering with others in the group. The entire context is slanted toward harmony in the church. Since the letter does not reveal a problem in the church, either these are always appropriate or they addressed a problem otherwise unknown to the modern reader. Significantly, Paul focused on the individual who is to have patience, rather than the one who caused a problem. The place to begin in any group tension is with oneself rather than others. 3:13-15. Paul added two character qualities to his list. The Greek term rendered “accepting” means “putting up with.” Believers were to endure offenses patiently. Forgiving has the sense of pardoning others as a gift of grace. If a believer had a complaint (grievance) against another Christian, the offended person was to take the initiative to forgive the offender as (in the same manner) the Lord

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graciously had forgiven the one offended. Christians were to take the initiative to forgive others because of their personal experience of Christ’s forgiveness. Above all literally is “over all.” As an outer garment covering the items Paul had listed, believers were to put on love—agape, determined good will that seeks others’ best interests. Such persistent good will is the perfect bond of unity. Christ had called believers to His peace—spiritual wholeness under His lordship. The phrase in one body implies believers’ oneness under Christ’s rule as the Head of His body, the church. They were to allow Christ’s gift of spiritual health to exercise control (literally, “act as an umpire”) at the center of their lives (in their hearts). Gratitude was to be a continuing characteristic of their life together. The exhortation to be thankful applied especially to corporate worship. EPHESIANS 4:31-32

Paul challenged the Ephesian believers to rid their lives of every form of evil attitude and action towards others—bitterness (simmering, seething anger), rage (hot temper), festering anger, brawling (literally, “shouting”), slander (speaking evil of others), as well as any form of malice (vicious thoughts and intentions toward another). Paul may have intended a progression in this list. Simmering bitterness easily leads to explosive rage, which in turn develops into festering anger that produces angry words and slanderous attacks on others. Rather than starting that terrible sequence, the end of which can be murder, we are to respond differently. The response that avoids behavior described in the previous verse is to choose to act toward others with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. If God in Christ has forgiven us of rebellion against Him, how can we not forgive those who have sinned against us? Our relying on the Holy Spirit to enable us to deal with all people kindly, compassionately, and with forgiveness is powerful evidence of the work of God’s Spirit in us. We Christians are to live in ways that differentiate us from unbelievers.

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Notes:

Forgive One Another Colossians 3:12-14

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Prayer Requests:

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PFKCQL LKA =KLQEAO &QIFTJBOT

family devotionals ACTIVITY:

Week #4: Sing to One Another

Read Ephesians 5:18b-20. Singing is one part of worship. Go on YouTube (kids) and search for songs. (Recommended searches: Go Fish, Jesus Loves Me, Seeds Family Worship) When you find one you like play it and sing along as a family.

FOCUS: STEP IT UP:

(if you are able to make more time in your week)

GO DEEPER:

(have older kids or are just ready for more?)

We can worship God by singing to Him. What is your go to music app? Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon? Go on your app and make a “FAMILY WORSHIP MIX”. Everyone in the family gets to pick a few songs to add to your play list. Now challenge your family to listen to this list when prepping dinner, driving in the car, or getting ready in the morning. Don’t have music apps? Go online and make a playlist on YouTube or bust out your old worship CD’s and put it on shuffle (do people do that anymore?). The point is to worship God together as a family. Read Ezra 2:1, 68-70; 3:1-13. The people of Israel had been through a lot and although they were starting over they had much to praise God about. Why were some people crying? Although some were sad remembering the “old days” many declared, “The Lord is good. His faithful love to Israel continues forever.” Ezra 3:11.

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WEEK 4: MONDAY “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” - Ephesians 5:15,16 Of course, who wouldn’t want to live wisely? Except sometimes the wise way doesn't seem like as much fun. (I’ll talk about this in a future devotional.) The Message states it very directly, "So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!" To live wisely, we need to qualify what wisdom looks like. Human wisdom is tainted with fleshly desires. A wise business move to advance a career is not necessarily wrong but has self as the focus. Godly wisdom is to walk safely within God's counsel and function in His will and for His purposes. That He will provide this wisdom is one of the most direct and unrestricted promises. James 1:5 states, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." I love this scripture! I am so thankful that if I need wisdom, I just have to ask, without having to deal with all my faults first so that I qualify. After all, with His wisdom, I will be better equipped to deal with my faults—LOL! He does have one qualifier though, we have to believe He'll do it. He will. When I look at Ephesians 5:15-16, I could let it make me feel fearful or legalistic. Days are evil! Desperate times! Better talk to everyone I see, or I will have failed or let the Lord down! But then wisdom steps in with discernment. Recognize the times, but fear not (Isaiah 41:10), speak to those whom the Lord lays on your heart, live your life in a way that represents to whom you belong. We live in a world that requires more of us than to spend 18 hours a day reading our Bibles and witnessing. We have jobs, families, friends, and neighbors. What do we look like to them on our jobs, at a ballgame, a neighborhood bar-b-que? Are we showing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Living like this is making the most of every opportunity on a daily basis, and when the door opens for more, walk through it.

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WEEK 4: TUESDAY “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.” - Ephesians 5:17 This verse begins with the word therefore, which means it is connected to the previous verse. Again, we are looking at how we live. The word foolish can also be understood to be unwise. As I read this verse, it seems to say that being foolish can be a result of not understanding the Lord's will. So how do we understand His will? I'm not relating this verse to seeking an answer for a specific instance, like looking for a new job. I see this as how we live our lives daily. The way to know how to do this is to know God's Word, the Bible. Between the Bible and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can know how God desires us to live and represent Him. We have the Ten Commandments that tell us not to kill and steal, and the list of the gifts of the Spirit from Galatians 5, along with so much more throughout the book. The way to know His will is to know His Word. If we call ourselves by His name, but then go out and live however we desire, are we not likely to be making our own determinations on what is ok or not ok based on our own desires or society’s acceptances? Thus the warning about being foolish or unwise. It is the foolish person who assumes they can do whatever they want, claiming God's grace. Paul addressed this in Romans 6, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" God's grace is an amazing and wonderful gift, something to be appreciated, not used as coverage for foolishness. In this country, there are very few who do not, or could not, own their own Bible. For many, to just sit down and read and try to understand the Bible on their own is daunting. I encourage you to find a good Bible study to be involved in. No matter how wonderful your pastor's message may be on a Sunday morning, they have limited time in what they can teach us. It does take effort on our part, individually, to know God's Word and His will. There are churches and para-church organizations that offer great studies. I encourage you to find a good study and grow in your knowledge and understanding of God's will.

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WEEK 4: WEDNESDAY “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” - Ephesians 5:18 Right off the bat, let me tell you this will not be a message on whether or not Christians should drink. Not my call for you, it's between you and the Lord. So, moving on... Debauchery is a pretty serious word. As a noun it means crazy partying and wild nights, usually accompanied by alcohol. As a verb, debauch means to lead astray, especially when referring to leading someone away from another person to whom he or she has an allegiance or duty. No wonder the warning is to instead be filled with the Spirit. We should want to be drawn closer to God, not be enticed away. But truthfully, that's not always the case. Sometimes, we would rather try to escape into some distraction than to avoid hearing what we don't want to hear or facing what we cannot face. Sometimes, we don't even know what we're running away from, and sometimes those distractions turn into addictions. We can prefer to bury and numb rather than let the Spirit reveal truth. We can use distractions to temporarily escape our prisons, but in so doing, we can create a whole new prison. In contrast, being filled with the Spirit creates freedom. We use addictions to hide, or we go to God to reveal and heal. I do not mean this to sound like I think this is an easy subject. It is a whole lot easier to write than to live. I have been reading Seth Haines' (our Sunday guest speaker) book Coming Clean. It is about his struggle from addiction to sobriety, the ghosts he had to face, and learning to let God restore and heal. He had many choices to make, as do we. Wisdom would call us to choose the Spirit first and avoid addictions. If already there, we can make the choice to seek help. Both choices involve others, because we are part of a body, a community of believers. I encourage you to read Coming Clean, whether for yourself or to better understand others. May we all desire to be filled (set aflame, KJV) with the Spirit and be free in Christ.

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WEEK 4: THURSDAY “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” - Ephesians 5:19 There is nothing like a good old sing-a-long. It might be in church, around a campfire, or a happy birthday. There is a freedom and joy when singing to the Lord both corporately and individually. I recently heard an interview of a man who had taken recording equipment into a prison to record the prisoners’ songs and stories. One prisoner spoke of the difference it made in his life to sing. He said that when he was singing, there were no walls. He would forget he was in prison. When he would stop singing, the walls would return. When we sing corporately, we are a community, together in worship and praise. When we sing together, we are encouraged together, we sing words of truth about our Lord, our minds are taken off ourselves, and there is joy. We are also part of a much larger community, the whole body of Christ. Think what the sound must be in Heaven when praise and worship from all over the world rises to the ears of God, and we are all part of a heavenly choir. There is also a place for individual song. There have been times as I sat out in my yard to read and pray, when a song appears in my heart, and I have to sing. (I publicly apologize to my neighbors.) Song can help settle my heart, direct my focus, and just give me a sense of peace and joy. Sometimes those songs are ones we sang on Sunday or favorites from my past. Even though I may be singing individually, in truth I'm sure I'm singing corporately as well because believers all over the world could be singing at that same time. What about you? Are you like the prisoner who when he sings, his prison walls disappear? Have you forgotten what it is to feel the freedom to sing to the Lord? Sing to the Lord, let Him remove your prison walls and know His presence.

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WEEK 4: FRIDAY “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” - Ephesians 5:19b-20 As I read this challenging verse, I couldn't help but think of the movie Pollyanna. She was a girl who always looked for something for which to be thankful. Her father was a missionary and told her there were over 100 thankful Scriptures. She always believed this but then had a crisis of her own and had trouble holding onto that hope. Without realizing it, she had established that “thankfulness” mindset in those around her, and they were then able to remind her and walk through the crisis with her. When we are in a crisis situation it can be extremely difficult to be thankful. Being thankful does not mean being happy and walking through it like it doesn't hurt or is no big deal. Just like Pollyanna, we need our community to walk through things with us. I remember when I was hospitalized during a pregnancy, and I told a friend I couldn't even pray. She told me not to be concerned, this was a time for everyone else to be praying for me. I was very encouraged by that. I had to look for what I was thankful for in that situation, but it was that I was pregnant, and I had others standing in the gap for me. Being able to offer thanksgiving when in a hard place comes from having trust in the One we're thanking, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is always something to be thankful for: the sunrise, a bird's song, other's prayers, knowing God is always there even when you can't sense His presence and looking for what He will do in the midst of our pain. If you can't come up with something on your own, read the Psalms. David can give you the words out of his struggles. I wonder if God told us to do this because the very act of finding something to be thankful for gives us encouragement and hope. Today, take some time to remember who God is and how He has already proven Himself faithful many times over. Maybe it will enable us to be able to sing once again.

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ONE ANOTHER

WEEK 4: SING TO ONE ANOTHER OCTOBER 8, 2017

DISCUSSION GUIDE

MAIN POINT Allowing the Holy Spirit to direct our behavior will result in fruitful ministry and good relationships with other people.

INTRODUCTION Charles Spurgeon said, “When home is ruled according to God’s Word, angels might be asked to stay with us and they would not find themselves out of their element.” Sadly, many homes are not ruled according to the Word of God, even those who identify themselves as Christians. As a result, there is a good deal of strife and friction among families, friends, and even church members. But Christians are called to have good relationships with other people. So what’s the solution? Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can believers live in consistent harmony with other people. In today’s passage, Paul instructs believers on the role the Holy Spirit plays in our relationships.

What are some common challenges people face in relationships?

How in tune are you to the needs of other people in your life?

How would you rate the quality of your relationships with family, friends, and colleagues?

UNDERSTANDING > READ EPHESIANS 5:15-17.

According to verses 15-16, what does Paul instruct his audience to pay close attention to?

What do you think it means to live wisely? In contrast, can you give an example of what it looks like to live unwisely?

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Why do you think Paul instructs believers to make good use of their time? In what areas are you prone to waste time?

Paul instructs Christ followers to pay close attention to how we live and use our time wisely. If we aren’t mindful of how we live, it’s easy to coast aimlessly from one week to the next with no real focus. If we aren’t intentional about living wisely, we will likely make foolish decisions. It is God’s will for us to live wisely and for our lifestyle to be in alignment with Scripture. > READ EPHESIANS 5:18-20.

According to Paul, what should believers avoid?

Glance back at verse 18. What does Paul instruct believers to be filled with?

Ephesus was a center of pagan worship and ritual. The Ephesian culture worshipped Bacchus, the god of wine and drunken orgies. The people in Ephesus believed that to commune with Bacchus and be led by him, they had to be drunk, and only in a state of drunkenness could they determine the will of their god and how best to serve him. Paul, on the other hand, was teaching how to commune with the God of heaven, and how to live for Him. With the God of heaven, you do not get drunk with wine, but rather, you are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. To get drunk with wine would lead to immorality, but in being filled with the Spirit, you can determine God’s will and serve Him faithfully.

Practically speaking, what do you think it means to be “filled with the Spirit”?

How does being filled with the Spirit assist us in our relationships? What kinds of things are believers capable of when we are influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit?

Have you ever relied on the power of the Holy Spirit within you to do something you couldn’t do in your own strength? If so, what was it? How would you describe it?

To be filled with the Spirit means to be directed, influenced, and controlled by the Holy Spirit. To “be filled with the Spirit” is God’s command, and He expects us to obey. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit results in joyful praise

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and song. It is not difficult to be around people who are controlled by the Holy Spirit because they are kind, compassionate, and enjoyable to be around.

How would you summarize verse 19 in a word or two? What would be the opposite attitude or behavior of what Paul encouraged his readers to do?

What do you think Paul meant when he wrote that we should speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? How do we do that as we meet together for worship as a church? How do we do it when we meet oneon-one?

When we are filled with the Spirit, we desire to serve others and God. One of the ways we do so is by reminding one another of the things we believe about God. When we participate in singing and making music, we serve God by praising Him. Singing together also expresses our unity and fellowship. Our singing affirms the biblical truths we believe, along with the convictions that the Holy Spirit brings in our lives.

We know singing is important to the body of Christ because of how often we are encouraged to do so throughout Scripture. Have individuals read the following verses and point out what that verse reveals about why we sing: 2 Samuel 22:15; 1 Chronicles 16:23; Psalm 47:7; Psalm 51:14; Psalm 57:5; Psalm 66:2; Psalm 71:22; and Psalm 145:7.

> READ GALATIANS 5:22-23.

What would our relationships look like if we consistently displayed the fruits of the Spirit?

Do you know someone in your faith community who regularly displays the fruits of the Spirit? How does he or she stand out from other people?

In direct contrast to behavior that comes from “the flesh,” those who are obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit produce beautiful character and spiritual fruit. It’s notable that these are the “fruits of the Spirit” and not the “fruits of self-effort.” To live this way, we must learn to rely on the Holy Spirit and move forward in faith, trusting He will empower us to live in a manner that is pleasing to God. When we obey the Holy Spirit, our relationships will be better for it. Even when things are difficult, it’s natural for believers to be filled with gratitude and joy when they operate under the influence of the Spirit. When Paul and Silas were in a Philippian

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jail, they were still able to sing praises to God because they were directly influenced by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:25). As Christ followers in biblical community, we need to constantly remind one another what we know to be true about God. Being directed by the power of the Holy Spirit empowers us to live in this manner.

APPLICATION Describe a specific way you have been encouraged and strengthened when singing to one another at our worship gatherings.

What can we do to open ourselves up to being continually governed by the Holy Spirit?

Think for a moment about your most challenging relationship. What steps can you take to depend on the Holy Spirit’s influence in the midst of your most difficult relationships?

What is one thing you can do this week to promote harmony in your family and your faith community?

PRAY Father, we thank You that You have not left us as orphans, but You have gifted us with the Holy Spirit to reside within us. We pray that we will be people who are quick to obey His promptings and direction. We pray we will rely minute by minute on the Holy Spirit to live in a way that pleases You and blesses those around us.

MEMORIZE Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:18b-20

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COMMENTARY EPHESIANS 5:15-20

5:15-17. The world in which we live is filled with dangers and deceptions. It is not always easy to live an enlightened life even when we want to. We can get tripped up or ambushed by events and people without even being aware of the danger. We must be very careful to live our life rooted in wisdom, using our time wisely. Not to do so would be foolish. The will of the Lord is that we live carefully, cautiously, always matching our lifestyle with the teachings of Scripture. 5:18. Ephesus was a center of pagan worship and ritual. The Ephesian culture worshiped Bacchus, the god of wine and drunken orgies. They believed that to commune with their god and to be led by him, they had to be drunk. In this drunken state, they could determine the will of their god and determine how best to serve and obey him. Paul was talking about how to commune with the God of heaven, how to live for Him, how to serve and obey Him, how to determine His will. It was natural for Him to draw the contrast between how the god of Ephesus is served and how the God of heaven is served. With the God of heaven, you do not get drunk with wine. Rather, you are filled with the Spirit. Being drunk with wine leads to the sexual sins and immorality of darkness described above. By being filled with the Spirit, you can determine God’s will and serve Him faithfully in moral living. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Some interpreters equate this command with instances of being filled with the Spirit in the Book of Acts in which miraculous things happened: people spoke in tongues; prophecies and visions were given; people were healed. “Be filled” in this verse is not the same word as the one used in the Book of Acts, nor are the consequences the same. Rather than understanding this command in verse 18 to have anything to do with miraculous or extraordinary happenings, it is better to understand it in context. In this ethical context, it means directed, influenced, and ultimately governed by the Holy Spirit. This filling, then, is best understood, as a command for the believer to yield himself to the illuminating, convicting, and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. As He works in our hearts through His Word, our lives are brought into conformity with the will of God (v. 17). 5:19-21. Four Greek participles—”speak, make music” (melodying), “giving thanks” (thanking), and “submit” (subjecting)—in verses 19-21 modify the verb “be filled” of verse 18, describing the person filled with the Holy Spirit. The first two participles suggest the importance of music and Scripture in being filled with the Spirit. An attitude of gratitude is a third characteristic of being filled with the Spirit. Finally, an attitude of mutual submission among believers is a characteristic of being filled with the Spirit. GALATIANS 5:22-23

Paul contrasted the fruit of the Spirit to the works of the flesh. The word “fruit” refers to virtues only the Spirit can cultivate and bring to full growth in believers’ lives. Human nature apart from God can perform works; only the Spirit can produce

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fruit. For purposes of study, we can place the virtues in three groups: Christian, social, and personal conduct. The first three virtues in the cluster of the fruit of the Spirit show that only God can generate and maintain His desired harvest in the lives of believers. The second group of virtues in the cluster of Spirit-produced fruit pertains to believers’ relationships with others—their social virtues. The third group of virtues is made up of qualities that believers exhibit in personal conduct. Where the fruit of the Spirit is present, no law is necessary. One purpose of the law was to prevent evil, but Spirit-empowered Christians not only fulfill the law in principle but go far beyond what it requires. The presence of the fruit of the Spirit removes the need for the law’s restraints.

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Notes:

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Sing to One Another Ephesians 5:15-20

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Prayer Requests:

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=??AMQ LKA =KLQEAO 3P N B O T       

family devotionals ACTIVITY:

Week #5: Accept One Another

Grab a dry erase board and markers OR a chalk board and chalk OR simply a paper and pencil with eraser. Note: Peter is referred to as both Peter and Simon Peter.

This is a long passage but you can choose to read all of John 18 and 21, or simply read John 18:10-11, 15-17, 25-27; 21:15-17 Note: The specific verses are those that are most helpful. What you want your kids to see is the relationship Peter and Jesus had; the good and the bad.

While someone is reading ask family members to draw a sad face on the board each time Peter says he does not know Jesus. Then as you get into Chapter 21 ask family members to erase and change the sad faces to smiley faces each times Peter says he loves Jesus. Isn’t it great that God loves us when we mess up? He wants us to share that with others!

FOCUS: STEP IT UP:

(if you are able to make more time in your week)

God wants His people to accept and pray for one another. Get a large poster Markers/colored pencils A stack of post-its. Have someone, or take turns, write Romans 15:7 on the poster. Then as a family color and draw all over the poster. Encourage kids to draw pictures that help them remember the verse. Take the stack of post-its, have everyone close their eyes and have one family member pick random words in the verse to cover. See if you can remember those words that are covered without peeking. Have everyone close their eyes again and let a different family member cover new words. Keep doing this until the verse is memorized. Hang your poster up somewhere you will see it all week.

GO DEEPER:

(have older kids or are just ready for more?)

Read John 21:25. The final verse in John quite interesting. We have so many stories about Jesus yet this verse makes it clear that we don’t know the half of it. As a family write a story about Jesus. Choose your setting, plot, and characters. You may draw pictures or use cartoon bubbles, whatever you want. You can have it set in Bible times or present day. You can be in the story with Jesus! What would He say? Would He perform a miracle? Would He be telling a great story? It’s up to you! Note: If your kids need to move a bit more. Act out a story you create about Jesus. Common Ground 2017: One Another

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WEEK 5: MONDAY “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” - Romans 15:5-7 Paul wrote this letter to the Romans and when studying letters in the New Testament, it's always interesting to look at the people they were written to and how that affects what the writer chose to say. Paul actually directs his letter to some of the different groups of believers that were in Rome at the time. There were Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah. There were Gentiles that had also accepted Jesus. As you can imagine, it would not have been easy for these groups of believers to come together—to unify. This week, we are looking at the concept of “accepting one another”. Paul gave these instructions to the Romans, and isn't it amazing how it can apply to us today as well? Have you ever had an experience in the church where you realized how different you were than others around you? What was that like and did it ever seem to hinder your ministry? Were you able to look past differences and remember your common ground? Sometimes it can be hard to remember that our foundation is in Jesus Christ. We all come from different backgrounds. We have different personalities, thoughts, and ideas. Paul speaks on the profound truth that we are truly unified with “one mind and one voice” through Christ and our relationship with him. How incredible is that? God made us so uniquely different and yet, we are made the same in Him to ultimately glorify Him on earth. Have you seen this power in a group of believers? Take time today to pray for unity within our church and among all believers. It is so easy to dwell on our differences, but there is power in glorifying our Father together.

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WEEK 5: TUESDAY “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” - Philippians 2:3-4 Humility is mentioned quite a few times throughout the Bible. Its importance for the believer cannot be overlooked. It is such an important quality, especially when it comes to unity among believers. Humility allows us to have a more modest and correct view of ourselves, and therefore will allow us to view God properly as well. But it will also show us a way to look at others in a new light. We see the importance of “valuing others” above ourselves and looking to the “interests of others”. Does this come easy for you? I think it's safe to say that it doesn't come easy for most of us. Our nature is to look out for ourselves and to even be selfish. It's also easy to look down on those around you who are different than you. Is this something you have struggled or are struggling with? Having a wrong view of ourselves can be such a hindrance for us as believers, as well as the unity that God desires for us. How can we act as one body united if we think we are better than those around us? Take some time today to confess to God where you have not valued others or shown humility that they deserve. Ask God to open your eyes to see those around you in a new way and to understand that we are so much better when we are working together for His glory. If you have time, take a look at other places in the Bible where humility is mentioned and let these verses change your outlook on those around you. Be completely humble and gently; be patient, bearing with one another in love. - Ephesians 4:2 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. - 1 Peter 3:8

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WEEK 5: WEDNESDAY “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” - Psalm 133:1 Unity and acceptance in the church is so important to allow our common mission to succeed. And it pleases God! God wants us to remember that as believers, we all have the Holy Spirit in us. Through Jesus, we are all unified no matter our circumstances, our backgrounds, or the strengths and weaknesses God has given us. In the book of Philippians, Paul tells a short story of two women, Euodia and Syntyche, who came into a disagreement. Biblical scholars believe these women may have been leaders in the early church, which would have made this disagreement and disunity all the more harmful to the mission. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. - Philippians 4:1-3 Paul encourages these women to come together in their unity for the cause of the gospel. Their acceptance of one another should stem from their acceptance of Jesus as their savior just as it does for us. What are some ways that you can ensure that our mission is not hindered by disagreements and arguments among one another? Today, pray for a like mind in Christ Jesus and that we can be accepting of one another just how God made us and placed us together for a common purpose. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one person for the faith of the gospel.” - Philippians 1:27

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WEEK 5: THURSDAY “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” - Ephesians 4:4-6 There is no better example of loving others, accepting others, and serving others than that of Jesus Christ. He went to the cross where he humbled himself for each of us. How incredible is that? And what an example it is for how we should be treating our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can use Christ's example to put the needs of others before our own. Has anyone in your life ever sacrificed something so that you could have an opportunity you may not have had otherwise? Has anyone in your life ever humbled themselves and seen themselves as less than they were so that you could get ahead? Jesus was willing to lower himself and give up so much to serve us. This love and this acceptance of us, just as we are, is what drives us all forward and is what allows us to reach others together with the gospel of Christ. Take some time today to thank God for those in your life that have accepted you and have made it possible for you to excel. Take time to thank Jesus for lowering himself to the point of death for you and for us all. Finally, think of some steps you can take to model yourself after Jesus, especially in your ministry. Maybe you need to set apart some time each week to pray or even fast. Maybe you need to reach out to someone who has been on the outskirts of our church. Take bold steps in the coming weeks that will ultimately unify us as one body. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8

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WEEK 5: FRIDAY “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” - Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 God's people are such a diverse group of people. We come from different backgrounds, have different gifts and strengths, and we also have different thoughts and opinions. It is only through Christ that we can be truly unified and accepting of each other. Let this message change you this week and beyond. God can come into our church and into our individual lives and change things in a big way. He can break down walls between us and unify us in a way no one else can through the Holy Spirit. God brings acceptance among believers and unity with our mission. It's our prayer that for this year's Common Ground and beyond that we will have a new way of working together.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. - Colossians 3:14 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. - Ephesians 4:1-6

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WEEK 5: ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER OCTOBER 15, 2017

DISCUSSION GUIDE

MAIN POINT God’s people are called to accept one another and pray for a spirit of unity.

INTRODUCTION There are few things more beautiful than a symphony playing in perfect unison. Although the instruments are unique on their own, when musicians play the same song, in the same key, with the same timing, the music is an inspiring blend that highlights each musician’s talent, while still creating something together that they couldn’t produce as solo artists. But imagine what would happen if each person played in a key of his or her own choosing, or decided to play his or her own song. Rather than a thing of beauty, the symphony would sound like a jumbled and chaotic mess. A symphony can only make beautiful music when there is unity among its members. In the same way, God’s people are called to live in unity with one another. Christians have a variety of gifts and diverse characteristics. Christ’s church is comprised of people from all different races, backgrounds, languages, and skill sets. Unity does not mean blandness; unity means using our gifts and talents in harmony with others in the church body, with the shared goal of bringing glory to God.

What are common stumbling blocks to unity in the local church? Have you ever witnessed personal disagreements that led to friction?

Why should diversity be valued in the body of Christ? Can you give specific examples of how diversity is a blessing in our church community?

UNDERSTANDING > READ ROMANS 15:5-7.

In your own words, what did Paul pray for in this passage? Why do you think Paul asked God to grant unity to this group of believers?

Is unity something you pray for regularly for The Chapel? From Paul’s words to the Roman Christians, why should it be?

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Paul prayed that God would give the church at Rome a spirit of unity among its members. Paul recognized that church members have different opinions, mindsets, attitudes, and skill sets. Diversity of all kinds is a good thing in the local church. But one thing that must be consistent is a shared attitude toward Christ and one another. So Paul specifically prayed that God would grant unity to this group of believers. He understood that unity was something that needed to be prayed for. Paul’s desire that they “have the same attitude of mind toward one another” didn’t mean they should all think the same way or come to the same conclusion; rather, they should be unified in their focus on Christ and Jesus should be considered the model for Christian conduct.

Glance back at verse 7. What does Paul instruct his readers to do? What does it mean to “accept” one another?

Why is feeling accepted such an important factor in biblical community?

What would happen if newcomers and longtime church members didn’t feel accepted at The Chapel?

Paul instructs the church at Rome to “accept one another” in the same way Christ has accepted us. All people are sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Christ has accepted us with our flaws and shortcomings, so we, too, are to accept one another. When the local church doesn’t embrace people, they will look elsewhere for a place to belong. Some translations use the phrase “welcome one another.” It’s important for believers to continually welcome new believers into the local church. As the body of Christ grows in our local church communities, it is imperative that we embrace and accept one another despite our differences. Unity in Christ far outweighs any other differences or preferences. Paul isn’t the only one in the New Testament who prayed for unity in the local church. > READ JOHN 17:20-23.

What does Jesus pray for future believers (v. 21)? Why do you think Jesus prayed that we would be “one”?

Jesus prayed for unity in the church. How does this change the way you relate to one another (or how should it)?

How does division in the church undermine the greater purpose of making Christ known to a lost world?

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Just hours before going to the cross, Jesus prayed what theologians refer to as the High Priestly Prayer. In the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus not only prayed for Himself and His disciples, but He also prayed for future believers. Jesus was concerned for unity among His followers. Jesus knew that His number of followers would continue to expand and multiply. Of course, the same is true today. Through the power of the gospel, men and women from different cultures, races, languages, and backgrounds become Christ followers, and Jesus prayed to the Father for continued unity among us. Inevitably, disagreements will arise among believers. But when they do, we need to model humility with one another. > READ EPHESIANS 4:2-3.

What role does humility play in promoting a culture of unity? What pitfalls could be avoided if we truly learned to accept one another and embrace unity in our church community?

Do you think Satan works to undermine Christ’s church by sowing discord among members? How does the enemy often use pride (the opposite of humility) to cause problems among people?

How do disagreements over minor details cause us to lose focus on the greater goal of sharing the gospel? Can you think of any examples?

Jesus constantly modeled a Spirit of humility (Phil 2:3). As Christ followers, we are to humble ourselves for the sake of unity in the church. Christians experience unity when we are united in God and in the truth of the gospel. As a unified church, we will be empowered to bear witness to the true identity of Jesus and the way to eternal life. Although as believers we all have distinct backgrounds, personalities, and spiritual gifts, we are to be one in purpose. We live in a divided and hostile world that is in desperate need of the unifying power of the gospel. Unity among the body of Christ is essential if we are going to share the gospel with a lost world.

APPLICATION Practically speaking, what steps can we take as a church family to promote unity in our community?

What steps can we take to avoid division that leads to strife among church members?

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What would it look like for you to be accepting of those in our church family who differ from you?

What might happen if everyone who walked through the doors at The Chapel felt accepted and embraced? What would that tell a lost world about our God?

PRAY Father, we thank You that You accept us in Jesus Christ, despite our sins and shortcomings. We pray for unity in our church. We ask You to empower us to be people who accept others as they are. We pray that we will love each other and be unified in sharing the gospel with a lost world.

MEMORIZE “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” -Romans 15:5-7

COMMENTARY ROMANS 15:5-7

15:5-6. Paul’s prayer is that God will bring these house churches of Rome to the place of harmony, love, and unity that will enable them to best honor God. 15:7-8. These verses show that people from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds struggled with accepting one another. Jesus as the Messiah was born a Jew and ministered to Israel (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Mt 15:24) to fulfill OT promises and prophecies. His primary purpose was for Israel, but He also had a design for the nations (Gentiles). JOHN 17:20-23

17:20-21. If we had any doubt that this prayer applies to believers today, it is erased by verse 20. The heart of this final paragraph of the chapter focuses on unity—the ultimate demonstration of God’s work through his people in the world. We learn here that body unity is patterned after divine unity. The absolute oneness of the Father and the Son will now be spiritually transferred to believers for a specific purpose— spiritual unity.

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The union of the church is not patterned after some earthly organization or any wellmeaning intentions of humanity. God joins our spirits through the Holy Spirit because Jesus’ blood is “thicker than water” and thicker than human bonds. Perhaps there is no verse in all of Scripture which has been more frequently quoted to support ecclesiastical church union than John 17:21. However, the emphasis of the prayer centers in spiritual unity, not organizational unity. It must be understood in the light of John 10:30, “I and my Father are one.” If we are to understand the unity of the church, we must first understand unity between the Son and the Father. 17:22. Christian unity is facilitated by glory, first given to Christ and then in turn to the disciples. Glory in this context is not an absolute attribute of God but a relative possession that can be reassigned to believers. Some interpreters see heaven here, but there would be no point in such a futuristic view with respect to the mission statement of verse 23: “to let the world know that you sent me.” Peter wrote that the divine nature was already in us as a result of regeneration, so we already have a measure of the glory of Jesus himself. 17:23. We also learn in this passage that body unity is a witness to the world. Like a set of matched mixing bowls, we are the smaller one that fits into Christ who fits into the Father. Purpose? To let the world know that you sent me. Mixing bowls may provide too mundane a metaphor here, but Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches in chapter 15 is affirmed by this prayer of chapter 17. The unity of believers calls forth a recognition of God’s hand by observers in the world even while the church is on earth. Just a few hours before this prayer, Jesus told the disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love fore one another” (13:35). EPHESIANS 4:2-3

4:2. Four attitudes are essential to the Christian’s worthy walk—humility, gentleness, patience, and love. Humility is the lowliness of mind that sees other people as valuable. Gentleness refers to strength under control. Patience means slowness to avenge a wrong or to retaliate when hurt by another. Love is the famous Greek noun agape, the John 3:16 kind of sacrificial concern for others that sent Jesus willingly to the cross. 4:3. The unity of the spirit already exists. It was brought about historically by Christ’s cross. We experience it by God’s Spirit. Thus we do not have to manufacture unity; rather we are to work at diligently keeping it. This happens as we focus our energy on expressing the peace that binds us to God and to one another (Col. 3:15). Christians are not called to create spiritual unity but rather to demonstrate it through relational unity.

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Notes:

Accept One Another Romans 15:5-7

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Prayer Requests:

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PAOSA LKA =KLQEAO (BMBUJBOT

family devotionals ACTIVITY:

Week #6: Serve One Another

Gather index cards and markers or colorful pens Read Galatians 5:13. What does it mean to serve? What does humble mean? To make it a bit more active have them do some research. They can “Google” the words, ask “Alexa”, or dig out an old dictionary. Pick out, as a family, the description you like best. Memorize Galatians 5:13. Have each family member who is able to write, write the verse on an index card. Then each family member should pick a “high traffic” spot to display the card they made. Try on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, in the car or by your bed so family members can work on it as they go about their day. (For younger family members have them work on the part of the verse, “Serve one another humbly.”)

FOCUS: STEP IT UP:

(if you are able to make more time in your week)

God wants people in the church to serve others. Put your service into action. Have one family member take notes as other family members suggest ways you could serve one another. Or really step it up to serve a neighbor. IDEAS: Help Mom with the dishes. Help Dad make dinner. Help my sister make her bed. Help my brother walk the dog. Weed our neighbor, Mrs. Smith’s garden. (Maybe you have items on your Random Acts of Kindness list from Week #1 you didn’t get to do. Now is your time to love others through service.)

GO DEEPER:

(have older kids or are just ready for more?)

Read Acts 11:19-30 and Galatians 5:13 again. In our culture of North Jersey it can be difficult to think about serving others. Talk about as a family why you think this is the case. What does it mean to serve humbly? (not expecting anything back) Why would God ask us to “humbly serve”? We have so many freedoms in this country. How can we enjoy what we have been blessed with but still serve and help others?

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WEEK 6: MONDAY “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” - Acts 5:14 Peter must have been shocked at the response he got to his first sermon. Cut to the heart, the people said, "What should we do?" “Repent and be baptized,” Peter replied, “every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39) Three thousand accepted his message, were baptized, and joined the others. Most of these people had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. Normally, visitors were received with hospitality at such times, but just for a limited time. These people were going to stay, and they had no homes or jobs there. Not only were they welcomed, but the believers “sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” All the believers freely, generously shared everything they had; they sold things and gave the money to the apostles to distribute. The apostles continued to preach and God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. Still, the Lord kept adding to their number—up to five thousand! (Acts 4:4, 32-35) We have the same problem the early church had as described in Acts. We’re bursting at the seams! God continues to draw more people to The Chapel. We’ve added to the number of services and launched new sites. Still God sends us more people. And the needs are growing as well. People are hurting—in marriages, in their personal lives, and in the needs of our children and youth. We’ve increased our staff, but they can’t do it all. Our leaders are doing as the Apostles did: calling others to come serve. It’s the Lord our God who’s calling us. Are you willing to come serve his people?

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WEEK 6: TUESDAY “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” - Galatians 5:13-15 As the number of believers increased, the Hellenistic Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The twelve Apostles decided, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables.” (Acts 6:1-2) The word translated distribution in Acts 6:1 and ministry in 6:2 quoted above is the same Greek word from which we get the words deacon and deaconess. Those titles are used today in many churches for their helpers. The interesting thing is that those serving daily hot meals and those preaching the Word were all called deacons, “ones who minister to meet the needs of others.” The twelve Apostles knew their own priority. They couldn’t neglect their own study and meditation on the word of God. This is what they were called to do. However, they saw a potential fight brewing between two groups and didn’t want them to “bite and devour one another,” eventually destroying each other. So, the Apostles told the people to select “seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Note the seven should be “from among us” and “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Even if they were just supervising pouring coffee and serving food. Under these seven men were hundreds of helpers serving the thousands of new believers. Many unseen bakers prepared the bread they broke daily. Various people did laundry, bought the groceries, washed the dishes, cleaned the bathrooms, watched the young children, and taught the youth. What talents and abilities has God given you to use in serving the needs of others?

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WEEK 6: WEDNESDAY “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” - 1 Peter 4:10-11 Piles and piles of presents fill the table and floor. Larger ones lean against the wall nearby. The mother sits in a rocker with a beautiful hand-quilted baby blanket across the back. She opens the gifts, but few, if any, are for her. Similarly, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to us, but they are not for us. They are for the Holy Spirit to use through us for others. When we become Christians, we receive the Holy Spirit. He lives inside us and brings us gifts.* We all have at least one gift. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” These gifts are supernatural—beyond natural abilities. Some are leadership gifts: apostles (missionaries, pastors), prophets (presenting God’s Word to the people), evangelists, and pastor/teachers. Other gifts include encouraging, contributing to others’ needs, showing mercy, wisdom (knowing how best to apply knowledge), helping, knowledge, faith (beyond what every believer has), and administration. In Acts, we read about Peter, the leader (chapter 1), the preacher/evangelist (2), healer (3), miracle worker (4), man of faith (5), missionary (8), prayer warrior (9), and prophet (10-11). Some gifts, rare since the early church, may become more common as we reach the last of the last days. In Acts 2, Peter quotes the Old Testament prophet Joel when he says: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18) Do you use the Spiritual gift(s) God has given you? *See lists in Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:4-8, and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-30.

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WEEK 6: THURSDAY “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” - Acts 10:38 Jesus laid aside some of his divine attributes when he left heaven and became a tiny baby. He submitted himself to doing only what the Father gave him to do (John 5:1921). Jesus defined his Mission when he read Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (See Luke 4:16-21.) He came to preach, free from bondage, heal, and declare the coming of the Kingdom of God. And he submitted to doing these things the same way we can do them: by using the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus applied the gift of Knowledge when he met Nathaniel and surprised him by saying, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48). Jesus used the gift of Discernment when he saw the work of the Father in Peter’s confession, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and the work of Satan when Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross (Matthew 16:16-17 and 22-23). Jesus used the gift of Healing for many—including those with leprosy, blindness, and paralysis. He used the gift of Miracles to change water into wine, and to multiply five small barley loaves and two fish into enough to feed five thousand people. He drew on the gift of Faith to walk on water (as did Peter until he doubted), and the gift of Wisdom and gift of Knowledge to deal with the woman at the well and rich young ruler. He Prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Last Days yet to come (Matthew 24). Do you only do what you see the Father doing and what the Holy Spirit enables you to do?

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WEEK 6: FRIDAY “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” - Romans 12:1 I know some of you are saying I haven’t room in my schedule for anything else! It’s been said that 20% of the people in a church do 80% of the work. What would happen if everyone did what God wanted them to do? To keep in tune with what God wanted him to do, Jesus went off to pray alone, sometimes all night. He didn’t succumb to the demands of the crowds. He set limits on his life. He didn’t become a leader in the local synagogue, he had little time for his family, he didn’t marry and have children, and he allowed others to support his ministry so he wouldn’t have to earn a living. But how do you know what God wants you to do? Pray. Ask him. Look at yourself. What are your natural abilities, your Spiritual gifts? Where’s your heart? Look at your experiences—where has God given you a victory over something? Who do you most like to help? What do you feel strongly about? At the end of your life, in what area(s) do you hope you’ll have made a difference? When you’ve determined your purpose, develop a personal “mission statement”. Then do only those serving things which contribute to your mission, and let others do the rest. Your serving should be joyful, not something no one else is doing, or something you must do so God won’t be angry. And don’t worry if you think you don’t have the ability. Jesus’ disciples were mostly uneducated men who went on to preach to great crowds, to turn their world upside down, and to write books we still read today. Need ideas on how to implement your mission statement? Go to thechapel.org and click on “Serve,” “Care,” and any of the groups you’d like to serve. Match a ministry to your experiences, gifts, talents, and heart. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Go! Serve wholeheartedly, for you are serving the Lord, as you serve his people.



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WEEK 6: SERVE ONE ANOTHER OCTOBER 22, 2017

DISCUSSION GUIDE

MAIN POINT Christians are called to serve one another.

INTRODUCTION How would you summarize our culture’s general attitude about serving others? Is it something our culture values and promotes, or something it belittles? Explain your thoughts and give some examples.

Why do you think most people would rather be served than serve others? How does the gospel challenge our thinking?

What makes you the most uncomfortable about the thought of serving others? What about having others serve you?

The Bible makes it clear that we are to serve one another. In American culture, people place a strong emphasis on being served rather than serving others. But as Christians, our identity and self-worth is not found in being served or waited on by others. Our identity is found in Jesus. And since our identity is found in Jesus, we have nothing to prove, and that gives us the freedom to serve others as the Bible commands us to.

UNDERSTANDING > READ GALATIANS 5:13-15.

In verse 13, Paul said that Christians are called to be free. What did Paul mean by that?

Have you ever been enslaved to a sin that threatened your freedom and consumed your time and energy? How does Christ set us free from enslaving sins?

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Paul taught that freedom is the privilege and right of every Christ follower. Before coming to Christ, all people were slaves to sin. Paul warned his readers not to fall back into a lifestyle of slavery. On the other hand, Paul made it clear that freedom in Christ should not be viewed as a license to sin but, rather, as an opportunity to serve others. Christian liberty is not to be used for selfishness; the true goal of a Christian’s freedom from sin should be to love other people. Paul quoted Leviticus 19:18 and summarized the law: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).

Glance back at verse 13. How did Paul instruct his readers to serve one another?

Do you think the term “humility” has a positive or negative connotation in our culture? Explain why you feel the way you do.

How would you describe humility?

It has been said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” It’s human nature to often think of ourselves first, but the gospel calls us to a new way of living. The culture we live in promotes a mindset of entitlement and selfpromotion that is anything but humble. In fact, the Bible’s command to serve others is countercultural to modern-day society. One of the ways pride manifests itself in our society is through an unwillingness to serve in menial tasks. However, the gospel calls for a different way of living. If we are living with the intention of being served, we have missed the core of what it means to live as a Christ follower. Christ’s entire life and ministry destroys the notion that Christians are to be served. Like Jesus, we are to take on the role of servant. > READ EPHESIANS 5:21.

What does it mean for believers to “submit” to one another?

According to Paul, what should our motive be for submitting to each other?

The Greek word for submit is “hupotasso,” which means “to place under, “ or “to subordinate.” Submission is a word that people in our culture often find unpleasant to talk about. But submission does not in any way mean inferiority. Paul goes on to say that we are to submit out of reverence for Christ. Jesus often taught His disciples that they were not to throw their weight around or take advantage of their authority. In Christ, we can look to the perfect model of humility and sacrificial living.

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> READ JOHN 13:2-17.

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, how did He destroy the notion that Christians are to focus on other people serving them? What message did the foot washing send to His followers?

Glance back at verse 14. What did Jesus instruct His disciples to do? How does this relate to modern-day believers?

In this passage, Jesus models what it means to serve one another. Jesus said in verses 13-14, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” As the Son of God, and Savior of the world, Jesus had the least reason among any living man to be humble. Yet Christ modeled a life of perfect sacrificial humility and taught His disciples to do the same.

Re-read John 13:3. How did understanding His identity and purpose empower Christ to serve others without reservation?

How does knowing who we are in Christ free us to serve others?

It’s likely that the disciples had no issue with washing Christ’s feet, but did not want to wash one another’s feet. Yet in verse 14, Jesus made it clear that we are to serve one another. Judas Iscariot was undoubtedly among the men at the foot washing. It’s hard to imagine, but Jesus was willing to wash Judas’s feet, knowing that only hours later Judas would betray Him. Jesus’ jaw-dropping act of humility demonstrates that our service to others should not be contingent on their behavior, but should be motivated by our love for Christ.

APPLICATION Are you serving others on a regular basis? If not, what steps can you take to find a place to serve?

As a group, how can we offer ourselves to serve the greater church community of The Chapel?

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What reservations do you have about serving others? What is holding you back? What next steps do you need to take to overcome these obstacles?

PRAY Father, thank You for giving us the perfect model of sacrificial service in our Savior Jesus Christ. We pray we will be people who revere Christ and dedicate our lives to the service of others.

MEMORIZE “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” – Galatians 5:13

COMMENTARY GALATIANS 5:13-15

5:13-14 Paul expressed concern about the behavioral opposite of bondage: licentiousness (an opportunity for the flesh). He also expanded his initial reference to love. While it is foolish to “submit again to a yoke of slavery” (v. 1) in trying to keep the law, it is right to be servants to other believers “through love.” Paul said that to love your neighbor as yourself fulfills the entire law. 5:15 The phrase bite and devour one another probably looks back to “an opportunity for the flesh” (v. 13) and looks forward to parts of the listing of “the works of the flesh” (vv. 19-21). Paul had apparently heard that there was serious dissension in the churches of Galatia. He warned them that such attitudes and behavior would destroy (Gk analisko; “to consume, eat up”) them. EPHESIANS 5:21

5:21 This verse serves as a hinge to connect what is prior with what follows. Grammatically, the participial phrase (lit “submitting yourselves”) goes with verses 18-20. The content of verses 22-33, however, depends on the principle of submission in verse 21. JOHN 13:2-17

13:1. The time had come, and Jesus would soon leave this world. This term for “world” appears 185 times in the New Testament; 8 times in Matthew; 3 times in Mark, 3 in Luke; but 78 in the Gospel of John. The other two key words are time and love.

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DISCUSSION GUIDE

13:2. Judas typifies a society in rebellion against God, but the Lord’s treatment also demonstrates God’s grace and compassion with that society. Though the disciples never grasped Judas’ true nature until after the betrayal in the garden, Jesus knew it from the beginning. Yet He gave Judas every opportunity to turn from his wicked ways, repent, and follow his Lord. John pulled no punches in his description of the betrayer and his evil master. In a few more verses (v. 27) we read that “Satan entered into him.” 13:3–5. Verse 3 reminds us that Jesus was the omnipotent God. Jesus allowed the full scenario to play out as the errant disciple made choice after choice leading to his suicide. Some interpreters take these words symbolically, making the water equal to the Word, the towel demonstrating righteousness, and so forth. That hardly seems necessary in light of the culture of the first century. An old proverb says, “Actions speak louder than words,” and the Lord’s willingness to wash the feet of His disciples, even Judas’s, reflects servant leadership at its best. People who are familiar with first-century culture will immediately recognize how socially inappropriate this behavior was. Never in Jewish, Greek, or Roman society would a superior wash the feet of inferiors. 13:6–7. Little discussions with Peter fill the synoptic Gospels, and John enjoys recording them as well. Shocked by the cultural reversal as he literally looked down at his Lord, Peter said in effect, “What’s going on here?” And Jesus replied, “You have no idea, but some day you will.” Presumably Jesus began the foot-washing with Peter, so he was the first to be shocked. 13:8–9. Peter was too humble to have his feet washed, but not too humble to command the Lord. As soon as Jesus emphasized that this symbolic act united the disciple with the Lord in some significant way, Peter took the full plunge. Let us not miss the practical theology of these verses. There is no place in the body of Christ for those who have not been cleansed by the Lord. Washing in this symbolic context cannot refer to baptism, but the atoning cleansing of sin. 13:10–11. Here we have a beautiful picture of forgiveness and one of the most important theological texts of the New Testament. How often does a person need to be saved? Once? Every time he or she sins? Just before death to make sure? These verses tell us that a person who has been completely cleansed once will only require regular washings after that. A full bathing depicts initial regeneration; the repeated washings symbolize forgiveness of ongoing sinful behavior. 13:12–14. The washing not only demonstrated humility and servanthood to the disciples, but also laid an experiential foundation for the teaching of verse 10. When the foot-washing ended, Jesus taught an important lesson about the relationship of believers—you also should wash one another’s feet. Jesus emphasized the words Teacher and Lord in contrast with the way they had behaved toward Him. The Lord reminded them that He washed their feet as their leader. 13:15–17. Throughout the New Testament, we learn the importance of example, never more so than when Jesus refers to Himself. But here we are not focused on some great spiritual reality or doctrinal truth; the passage deals with how we treat other people. Since Jesus loved His disciples and loves us in the same way, we need to do for others what He has done for us.

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Notes:

Serve One Another Galatians 5:13-15

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Prayer Requests:

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Small Group Wrap-Up 1. Which “One Another” had the greatest impact on you personally?

2. What will you do differently as a result of what you learned?

3. Which “One Another” had the greatest impact on your group as a whole?

4. What will your group differently as a result of what you learned?

Spend time praying for one another based on your discussion and the following scripture:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” - James 1:22

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