Fresh Water: Motivations
Pastor Mike Halstead
This week, we are looking at how we use our speech to motivate ourselves and others, and the detrimental impact we may have when we are not in full control of our tongue. Before reading on, think of a way that you have used words to motivate someone that may have not been the most gentle or positive.
1.What is the difference between a “gentle answer” and a harsh word?
2.How would you define the “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking” found in Ephesians 4:29?
3.Ephesians 4:29 advises against using language that tears people down. How can we work to create a habit of gentleness and grace in our language?
1.Is anger always a negative emotion? If not, when is anger acceptable?
2.How can the use of course language be a detriment in our interactions with others? Would you say that course language is always sinful, or is it subjective to the situation?
3.Guilt can be a powerful motivator for taking positive action. What is the line between positive and negative guilt?
4.We all struggle with being critical of others from time to time. How can we begin to create a habit of being less critical and more wholesome in our speech?
This week, ask God for opportunities to build up others in the way that you speak to them. Thank Jesus for being an example of someone who uses gentle words, even when he is angry or in the midst of persecution. Additionally, ask close friends for accountability when you use course, unwholesome, or harsh words.
Fresh Water: The Course of your Life
Pastor Mike Halstead
In his epistle, James takes time to pay special attention to the potential dangers of how we use our speech.
1.What kind of situations may be present in James audience that he takes time to discuss the dangers of the tongue in such great detail?
2.Which of the metaphors that James uses sticks out to you?
3.Why does it seem like James is placing such an emphasis on the tongue as a dangerous part of
1.What kind of consequences can an uncontrolled tongue have on a church body?
2.Have you ever had a time when your speech has had a lasting impact on your life? Share that with the group.
3.Read James 1:19. How would this approach have helped the situation from the previous question? If you didn’t have an example, when is it the most difficult for you to be “slow to speak and quick to listen?”
4.Why is it that we often find it so difficult to apologize?
Praise God for giving us the ability to overcome our tendency to use poisonous words with others. Ask for courage to apologize to those with whom you may need to rebuild bridges that have been burned.
Fishing with Jesus
This week, we’ll take some time to take a look at the first instance of Jesus calling some men to follow Him. While it seems like this story is a pretty simple one, there may be a deeper truth to Simon’s interaction with the Christ then we may notice at first.
Luke 5: 1-11
1.How do you interpret Simon’s tone in verse 5? Does he seem reluctant?
2.Peter was sure that putting out the nets was a waste of time, because of his recent experience in doing so. What is something you have tried in the past that did not meet your expectations, leading to doubt in the future?
3.Why would Simon Peter react the way that he does in verse 8?
4.How do you think Simon, James, and John felt after this miracle took place?
1.What does it mean to go “fishing for men?”
2.How do you imagine you would respond to Jesus asking you to literally drop everything and follow him?
3.Have you ever had a time of doubt in your life that was followed up with a moment of truth? In other words, have you ever felt like Peter, when he told Jesus that fishing was pointless and was quickly shown Jesus’ power? How does that affect you moving forward?
Pray this week that you assumptions about what God can, cannot, will, and will not do are all erased. Ask God to show you your areas of doubt and mistrust. Examine your life and look for areas in which you may be hesitant to trust God because of your past experiences and ask Him to give you an opportunity to change.
The Free Gift That Costs So Much
Speaker: Cash Lowe
April 8th, 2018
This week, we are taking a look at two stories from the last week of Jesus’ ministry on Earth. Both of these stories are well-known, but because of the chapter interruption in between, we often tend to create an artificial disconnection between two moments that happened very close together. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, take time to read Luke 18:25-19:10, doing your best to ignore the chapter and verse designations.
Now, let’s take a deeper dive into these two encounters.
1 Why do you think the beggar used the words “have mercy on me” instead of something more direct, like “heal my eyes?”
2. Why would Jesus’s followers rebuke the beggar?
3. When Jesus asked the beggar what he wanted Him to do, he was in fact asking if he was ready for the entirely different life that would come with the ability to see. His way of living would shift drastically. How is this similar to our experience in encountering Jesus?
1 Tax collectors were included in the category of “sinners” in Jesus’ day. They were cast on the outside of society for their collaboration with the Jewish peoples’ Roman oppressors. Who are people that we might push away in society today?
2. The followers of Jesus had probably spent a good amount of time witnessing the miracles of Jesus, and hearing Him teach. Why do you think they sound indignant when Jesus then decides to stay with Zacchaeus?
3. Reread verse 9-10. To whom do you think was Jesus actually speaking?
1 What parallels do you see between these two stories?
2 The people following Jesus attempted to stop the beggar from Who in our society have you unconsciously decided is not worthy of Jesus’ time or grace?
3 Just like the followers of Jesus in these stories, we often tend to put our own selfish desires above the actual will of Jesus. How do we try to reverse this way of thinking?
Ask God for opportunities to extend an open invitation to know Jesus to people with whom you may have difficult time doing so. Ask for forgiveness for the times you’ve decided that certain people don’t actual deserve to encounter Jesus.
I’m likely not going to be telling you anything you don’t know here, but this past Sunday was Easter, the day when we take special time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Today, we are going to take a look at a passage not commonly read during the Easter holiday: Revelation 5. The book of Revelation is…interesting. Full of colorful imagery and epic scenes of triumph and defeat, it culminates in the return of Jesus to Earth taking his rightful place as King. Let’s take a deeper look.
Lion, Lamb, and Savior
Pastor Mike Halstead
Read through Revelation 5 in its entirety.
1. Who is “the one who sat on the throne?” (Vs. 1)
2. Why would nobody be worthy to break the seals and open the scroll? (Vs. 4)
3. Verse 6 includes describes the Lamb as “looking as if it had been slain.” What is significant about this?
4. The second half of this passage depicts a grand scene of worship, and includes several songs that are sung in praise of the Lamb. What are some songs that you sing that depict the majesty and royalty that our Savior deserves?
1. Why should this passage be significant to us on the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ?
2. It is often the case that we relegate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection to one day of the year- Easter. How do create a habit of celebrating this monumental event year-round?
3. I believe that a major purpose of Easter should be to remind us of the importance of the story of the gospel, which has the possibility of being something we can take for granted. Who will you spread the “good news” of the gospel to as a response to this reminder?
This week, pray that we start to recognize that our Easter celebration should not be kept to a single day of the year. Praise God for his mastery over death and his gracious decision to bring us into eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 28th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
A Spiritual House
Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/28/17
This week, in our series on the spiritual nature of the church, we take a look at the role that prayer plays in the mission of the church, and how is it used when we look at the community we have been placed in as our target audience for the gospel.
- The first verse tells the audience to both pray and sing praise. How are the two activities connected?
- Why is it so important to remain prayerful in times of blessing?
- What can we learn from Elijah’s faithfulness and habit of prayer?
- Who is somebody you know that has “wandered away” and needs prayer to help bring them back?
- What else can we do, apart from prayer, to bring the lost sheep back into the fold?
- What does James mean by his assertion that the one who brings back a wanderer will “cover a multitude of sins?”
- What is a time in your life when you find a habit of prayer comes easiest? How about when it is more difficult?
- What is a way you can influence our community in our collective effort to spread the gospel?
- Why is a personal habit of prayer important in the global mission of the church?
This week, start a regular habit of prayer. Take some time each day at the same time to pray for our community. Harvest has the opportunity to affect our city for the gospel, but will only succeed if we are continually dedicating ourselves to God’s will for us. Ask God to show who and how you can personally influence as we seek to bring our home into the kingdom of God.
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 21st) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
A Spiritual House
Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/21/18
In the second week of our series entitled “A Spiritual House,” we take a look at the story of Nehemiah, a man who saw the need for the wall of Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and took personal responsibility in gathering together the people to make it happen.
The task of building and strengthening the kingdom of God has been given to us by our Creator. He has graciously allowed us to take part in the glorious mission of spreading the gospel to the world and bringing together the church in way that shines the light of God to those still outside its walls.
- Nehemiah’s first task is to inspect just how much damage has been done to the walls of his city. When we set forth to accomplish our mission, what are some ways we prepare to do so?
- When Nehemiah goes the Jewish people and explains to them the task that is before them, how does he convince them that this is something that needs to be done?
- How do we “strengthen [our] hands for the good work” (vs. 18) that we need to do?
- Nehemiah then encounters people who oppose the work that he intends to do. What kind of opposition might we face in our mission to spread the gospel?
- 6 says: “And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” Why is this verse significant?
- How do the Jews respond to the threat of opposition and violence from those who don’t want their work to continue?
- Sometimes we consider the mission of spreading the gospel to the entire world a massive undertaking, one that might be impossible to fully accomplish. What does verse 14 tell us about how we should approach our mission?
- In chapter 3, we see that the people of Jerusalem took personal responsibility for portions of the wall that were near to their homes. What lesson can we take from this?
- Nehemiah’s specific task was to lead people in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, something near and dear to his heart. What is your specific task?
- It is important to recognize, as the Jews did, that our work will not always be easy, nor will it always feel like we can accomplish the task set before us. What are some ways to get through those times?
If we are to see the mission of the church to be accomplished, it has to become personal. We need to see that we are not just trying to do “good,” but to bring the peace, love, and grace of God to those closest to us. We should start to see that our mission to the world doesn’t just include third-world countries across oceans, but that it should start in the communities in which we live!
Pray for clarity and discernment as to who you can reach in the church’s mission to spread the gospel. Pray for unity amongst the church as a whole and see the urgency in the needs that must be addressed. Thank God that he has given us the opportunity to be a part of His plan, and for a way to actively show our gratitude for the grace He has given us.
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 14th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
A Spiritual House
Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/14/17
This week, we began a new sermon series entitled “A Spiritual House,” in which we are examining what “church” is truly supposed to be.
In our first passage, we will look at what Peter says about what it means to be a spiritual house and who God’s people have been called to be.
- Based on this passage, what is a “spiritual house?”
- In the first verse, Peter mentions things that cause dissension between people in the church. Have you ever experienced something like this? What was the result of that strife?
- This entire passage focuses on the spiritual aspect of what it means to be a Christian, and the importance of God’s people, rather than the buildings, titles, and services we use. What is the danger of viewing the church as a physical place?
Peter’s words would have pleased Jesus. He, too, was concerned with the goings on of not just His followers, but also with the actual workings of the temple and made efforts to right the wrongs that were being committed in the courts of the House of God.
- How does this image of a violent, passionate Jesus clash with the popular image of Jesus we have today?
- How does the scene in this passage relate to having a pure and spiritual house of God?
- If Jesus were to attend a church service this Sunday, how do you think he would react?
- How can the church become a more spiritual house in 2018?
- How about your own house?
- Pastor Mike talked about the misconception that we have sometimes that church is supposed to be a boring event. Do you agree? How do we make church less boring? How does this relate to the idea of a “spiritual house?”
Pray for guidance in how to build yourself, your family, and the church into a spiritual house. One that seeks to build each other up and spread the message of God’s kingdom to those who’ve yet to hear it.
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 7th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
The story of God’s people -the one that began with Adam & Eve and will continue even after Jesus returns- is not a straight line. It has its ups and downs, times of doubt and declination and times of prosperity and blessing.
In the sermon, “Momentum,” we will take a look at some biblical examples of how clinging to the past can be a detriment, and how we can use that same past as a stepping stone to a brighter future.
Let’s begin with the nation of Israel, newly-freed from the Egyptian bondage.
- Knowing what you know about the future of the Israelites, how do you react to their complaints?
- In the first passage, Egyptian soldiers are hot on the trail of Israel. For us, the time that comes immediately after breaking a sinful habit or making the decision to leave a bad personal situation can be both liberating and dangerous. How do we combat the temptation to fall back into our old ways?
- Compare and contrast the two options the Israelites give themselves in Exodus 14: serving Egypt vs. dying in the desert. What are the pros and cons of each?
- In Exodus 16, the Israelites have on what we call “rose-colored glasses” when they are looking at the past: all they are remembering are the good things they had, not the horrible situation they were in. Why is this so easy to do?
Philemon (Yep, the whole thing)
- Paul wrote to Philemon attempting to convince him to forgive the crimes of his slave Onesimus. Indeed, he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a friend and brother in Christ! Why would this be a difficult thing to do?
- Why is it so hard to forget the sins of those who’ve wronged us?
- In what way can refusal to forgive others hurt ourselves?
Our past can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is all-too-easy to get trapped in our nostalgia and have a skewed version of what really happened. However, the past can also be useful to see where we’ve come from and the progress we’ve made in our faith. We can point to times when dealing with doubt and indecision would be a time of crisis and see that we can handle those issues much easier today. Let’s take some time to look to our past and do just that.
- What would you say is your “starting point” in your faith, the time when you started building the momentum that brought you to this point?
- Is there a time in your life that you tend to look at with rose-colored glasses? How can that be detrimental to you?
- As we look back on our past, what is something you can change to make the future a better place? Someone to forgive, a habit that can be broken, etc.
Pray for a clear picture of the past, and thank God for giving us a history of the church and His people. Ask Him to guide you toward the future with an honest understanding of where you’ve come from. Ask also for opportunities to spread His kingdom as we use the momentum we’ve built thus far.
Star over Bethlehem
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Dec. 17th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
In the grand story of Jesus’ arrival on earth, it can be a bit strange to modern day readers that 3 out of the 4 gospels of the Bible take time to give at least a part of Jesus’ lineage in their writings. Family legacy and heritage is simply not as important in 21st century American culture as it was to the Israelites during the time of Jesus.
However, this does not negate the fact that where and who we come from has a large impact on how we view people. If you were to learn that your spouse descended from a former US President, or has some connection to a royal European family, you might not see it as a declaration of their character, but you certainly could start to view their family in a different light.
The ancestry of Jesus is where we enter the story of the birth of Christ in this week’s topic.
- Why is authenticity so important to us?
- If authenticity is so important to us, why is it that we tend to doubt when something is presented to us as genuine, even if we might not have a reason?
- Why do you think the gospel writers found it important to inform their audience of the ancestry of Jesus?
- What is a name that stands out to you in the genealogy? Why?
After Matthew’s recounting of Jesus’ lineage, he takes to time to talk about Joseph, the husband of Jesus’ mother. Once more, we see that it is important to the gospel-writer and his audience to know about the people from whom Jesus came.
- Special attention is given to Jesus’ “step-father,” Joseph, pointing out his reaction to being told his soon-to-be-wife is pregnant with the savior of mankind. Why do you think this is?
- Joseph had a tough decision to make. He was caught between being faithful to what God had said, and dealing with being socially ostracized for marrying a woman who was already pregnant. What do you think was going through his mind at the time?
- Talk about someone from your “spiritual lineage,” that is, someone who has influenced you in becoming a Christian. Is it important to recognize the people who’ve had this role in your life?
- Have you ever had to make a decision that you know was correct, but led to ridicule or humiliation, like Joseph? What makes it easier to get through that situation?
Pray for the people in your spiritual lineage, thanking God that He placed them in your life. Also pray for your future opportunities to influence others for the gospel.