Fresh Water: The Art of Listening
For the last four weeks, we have been examining James 3, a passage dedicated to the dangers of unrestrained speech and the importance of using your tongue for good, rather than sin. This week, let’s take a look at the reverse side of the coin: listening.
In our conversations, the time we spend listening may be just as important as the time we spend speaking. Who and what we decide to listen to can have a profound impact on our life, and will likely change how we decide to speak to others. Therefore, learning what the Bible teaches us about the art of listening is certainly worthy of our time.
1.Why is someone who “uses words with restraint” someone who has knowledge?
2.Why would sin be more present when words are many?
3.Proverbs 10:20 compares the value of two different things: the tongue of the righteous and the heart of the wicked. How are the tongue and the heart connected?
1.While this passage is specifically about dealing with food that may be considered “unclean” to eat, the larger context points to the idea that we should not be concerned with condemning others for taking part in something of we which we disapprove. Is this something with which you struggle?
2.How does the idea of listening, rather than speaking, connect with this passage?
1.If we are to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,” what should our speech look like?
2.How do we use our tongues and our ears to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds?”
1.Are you someone who tends to talk too much?
2.When was a time when you spoke when remaining silent would have been a better choice? Why?
3.What are ways we can train ourselves to speak less and listen well?
4.How can becoming better listeners be useful in our evangelism?
Pray this week for the patience to slow down when you speak, and to be more discerning with how and when you use your words. Ask for guidance when responding to people and for the ability to listen intently and seek to truly understand others before you respond to them. Thank Jesus for his example of someone who took time to listen to those who came to Him, and seek to emulate His ability to respond in love and kindness, even in times when he was being treated poorly.
Fresh Water: The Surface of Faith
Pastor Mike Halstead
This week, let’s take some time to talk about how our faith translates into action. We have been looking at a passage in James 3 for a month now, unpacking the potential our tongues have. Potential to build up or destroy; to encourage or hurt. Oftentimes, however, the potential for good that we have is stymied by our failure to turn our good intentions of our faith into real life action. First, let’s read another passage from James to get a picture of what we are talking about.
1.What is the difference between “faith” and “deeds?”
2.James creates a hypothetical argument between two people, one defending the supremacy of their faith, the other championing the value of good works. If you were to be a part of this debate, on which side do you believe you would find yourself?
3.Verse 19 seems to bring up an entirely new topic, that “demons” believe there is one God.
1.How can the potential for the good we can do with our tongue be lessened by our inaction?
2.How can hypocrisy find its way into our faith through our speech?
3.If faith without actions is dead, but actions without faith cannot bring us salvation, which of these two things to our Christian faith should be given priority?
4.How does the passage from James 3 that we have been studying during this series apply to this passage?
Pray for the courage to turn your words into action this week. If you truly desire a stronger community, then look for a small group to join. If you desire the homeless to be fed, then make a contribution to a local food pantry. Ask for opportunities to take your thoughts and feelings toward others and turn them into actions.
Fresh Water: Good Vibrations and Positive Motivations
Last week, Mike discussed the danger of how we can use our words selfishly, motivating others for personal gain or through methods that don’t reflect the gentleness of Christ. This week, let’s look at how motivation of positive speech habits can be a boon to our lives.
1.What is it like to be around someone who tends to be more positive than negative in the speech? How could it affect our evangelism if we attempt to be more uplifting in how we speak?
2.What does it mean to be “filled by the fruit of a person’s mouth?”
3.Does the passage in James 5 mean that we should no longer make promises?
4.What is more difficult, letting your “yes” be “yes” or your “no be “no?”.
1.For three weeks, we have been discussing how we use our speech and the positive and negative consequences our tongue may lead to. How have you tried to alter your words to become less negative?
2.If we should no longer swear, but rather let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no,” how will that affect our interactions with others? For example, how would work be affected if you became more straightforward and reliable in how you speak?
Praise God for his blessings, and all of the reasons we have to worship Him. Ask Him to remind you this week that your speech is important, and that the words and tone you use are being judged as part of your witness to Christ.
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.