Don’t promise to commit, commit to depend.
Romans 8:1-6, Matthew 26:41-42
- What we want can be different from what God wants.
- Before you can submit your will to His, you need to believe what you’ve received.
- To watch is to fix your eyes on what is true.
- Our flesh is brought into submission to the truth of our willing spirit.
- Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. We need to train our flesh to trust.
- The flesh can’t be trusted. It must be trained for submission.
- No matter how strong you make it, your flesh is still weak.
- Your spirit (in Christ) is actually willing, ready and prepared for God’s will and God’s ways.
- We buffet our bodies and make them our slaves so that our bodies are servants instead of masters.
- The body must be trained to do what the mind says.
- Think process rather than perfection and promises.
- What tends to be your reaction when you encounter adversity in your quest for growth and change or notice old habits making a reappearance?
- What is the danger in relying solely on self-willpower to transform your heart, mind, and attitude?
- What we want can be different from what God wants. How does one know if their wants line up with what God desires for them? What are some warning signs that our wants lie in opposition to what God wants?
- How does one take responsibility and ownership for change while at the same time relying on the Holy Spirit to guide them?
- Read Romans 8:1-4. Why was our flesh (effort, rule following, etc.) incapable of fulfilling the law and producing change in our heart? What makes our flesh weak?
- Read Romans 8:5-6. What are the two mindsets described in this passage? What makes each one distinct? What are the ramifications of having a mind set on the flesh versus a mind set on the spirit?
- Read Matthew 26:41-42. Why is it important to set our focus on what is true when we are in search of change and transformation?
- Where are you relying solely on your own willpower and strength to bring about change in your life? What is fueling this approach?
- Is there something you want that you know is at odds with what God wants for your life? Where does your flesh need to be brought into submission?
- In what circumstances have you encountered a setback, disappointment or frustration? How can you focus your eyes on what is true about yourself as well as God? What truths do you need to remind yourself of?
If you want to change your behavior, change what you see.
Matthew 26:36-41, 1 Peter 5:8, John 7:38
- There are things you need to do differently that you want to avoid.
- Temptation is the exchange of one promise for another.
- Temptation appeals to what you want without consideration of how you are made and who you are becoming.
- Change is always scary, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t needed.
- What you do emerges from who you are.
- There’s a reason why you get stuck or remain stuck. Someone (the enemy) is trying to undermine you every step of the way.
- Sometimes the enemy isn’t tempting you to do bad things, but rather tempting you to do your own thing.
- An encounter starts with what you see.
- Hitting the snooze button doesn’t change the reality of the world we want to escape or avoid.
- All of us are becoming something. The question is whether we are doing it intentionally.
- What is your relationship with the snooze button? Is it part of your normal wake-up routine or do you never use it?
- What are some emotions or thoughts that cause us to hit the snooze button and avoid addressing issues that need to be faced?
- What happens to your mindset and perspective when you focus on a “To Be” list instead of a “To Do” list? How often do you give consideration to the person you are becoming?
- If you want to change your behavior, change what you see. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? How does what we see influence who we are becoming?
- Read Matthew 26:36-39. Where was Jesus’ humanity displayed in this passage? How did Jesus wrestle with laying down His desires for God’s purposes? In what ways should we imitate His actions in our own lives?
- Read Matthew 26:40-41. How does our willingness to pay attention and being intentional about where we set our eyes help in our battle with temptation?
- Read 1 Peter 5:8. How should you react when the change and transformation you hope for is met with resistance?
- Read John 7:38. Do you believe this description can be true of your life and your walk with Christ? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- In terms of taking action and living out your faith, where do you find yourself hitting the snooze button? What are you trying to avoid? Why are you trying to avoid it?
- What is one of your temptations? Where do you find yourself most often getting stuck, distracted or thrown off course? Why does this trip you up?
- Who do you want to become in 2018? Why do you want to be that type of person? How are you going to make these hopes of change a reality?
The way to be loved is to be still.
Matthew 2:9-11, Ephesians 3:16-19, Psalm 40:3-8, Psalm 63:1-8, 2 Corinthian 5:13-15
- Christ invites us to align our heart to what is worthy of our affection.
- To be still is to SEEK. To be still is to ALLOW. To be still is to be LOVED.
- Love always overflows in a creative expression.
- We seek that which we want the most.
- If we’re not seeking His Kingdom, we’re just wasting time building our own.
- Restlessness makes us wonder in the wrong direction.
- What you are filled with dissipates what you are full of.
- We get filled with His love by grasping not with our hands, but our hearts.
- Worship is a weapon that pushes the darkness back in order to help us see beyond our circumstances and the emotion of our current situation.
- Love doesn’t politely invite fear to leave. It comes full force to drive it out.
- His love for us empowers us to love and awakens us to see.
“Life with God [of God-with-us] isn’t an intellectual proposition or mere doctrinal adherence, but it is a reality that unfolds before us in breathtaking detail, mediated through the actual experience of our lives.” Richard Foster
- What was the song that spoke to you most growing up? Why did you turn to this song (boost mood, inspiration, let off steam, pump you up, etc.)? How did this song speak to your heart?
- How can worship serve as a weapon to our restlessness and worry?
- Read the quote from Richard Foster. What does one miss out on when their experience with God is just that of strictly head knowledge? How are our eyes awaken to wonder when we live a life of faith?
- How does restlessness cause us to wonder in the wrong direction? What do our eyes gravitate towards when we’re restless?
- Read Matthew 2:9-11. How did seeking lead the wise men to worship?
- Read Ephesians 3:16-19. How does one begin to “grasp” the depth of Christ’s love for them? What’s the difference between grasping with our hands and grasping with our hearts?
- Read Psalm 40:3-8 and Psalm 63:1-8. How did the writer of these psalms use worship as a weapon? In what ways was he utilizing song as a way to refocus his eyes and refuel his heart?
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:13-15. How should Christ’s love compel us to see the world around us and our part in it? Why does love always express itself?
- Where do you need to use worship as a weapon? What would worship be battling against in this situation?
- To seek is to see, allow and to be loved. Of the three, which one do you need to devote more energy and thought towards? Why does this one stick out?
- Take a moment to reflect on the current condition of your heart. At this moment, what is your heart full of? How does your answer make you feel?
- If we’re not seeking God’s Kingdom, we’re building our own. Where are you wasting time and effort seeking your own kingdom? What would it look like to hand over this place to Christ?
We take in Christ’s love so that it takes over our hearts.
Matthew 6:33-34, Ephesians 3:16-19
- The desires of our heart drive everything we do.
- Encounter: what we see. Formation: what we become. Expression: what we do.
- We will do desperate things when we long to be loved.
- Jesus invites us to change where we set our eyes.
- Our lives flow out of what is inside our hearts.
- Your heart is changed by what you see.
- We’re often looking for what we already believe.
- To seek is to look for something. To stare at something is to take it in.
- We run to expression too quickly.
- Attention is a cheap substitute for love.
- We want to seek before we notice. But, we must notice once we see.
- When you are filled with His fullness there is no room for shame, fear and regret.
- We will do desperate things when we long to be loved. Over the years what have you looked to in your search to be loved?
- How has this drive to be loved influenced your relationships with others (people pleasing, insta likes, attention seeker, etc.)? In what ways did it impact the way you approach God?
- What do you see when you look at Jesus? Where did this viewpoint or impression of Him come from? Would you say this lens lines up with how He’s described in Scripture? Why or why not?
- What’s the difference between seeing God’s work and seeing God’s worth?
- Read Matthew 6:33-34. How is “seek first God’s kingdom” both a command and invitation? Why is Jesus so concerned about the lens we use to view the world around us?
- Read Ephesians 3:16-18. How does one begin to grasp how “wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ” is? Why does this involve more than just seeking but taking the time to stare intently at God’s greatness?
- Read Ephesians 3:19. What promise does this passage contain to those who pursue God’s heart?
- What circumstances are you facing where you need to stop jumping to conclusions and looking for what you already believe? How can you begin to see this situation differently?
- Is God getting bigger or smaller in your world? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- Where are you rushing to expression too quickly? How can you pause, reflect and let God’s Word form you in this area?
The first step in seeking first the Kingdom is first seeking the King.
Psalm 10:3-4, Isaiah 51:1, Matthew 2:1-2, Numbers 24:17, Matthew 6:33-34
- Pride prevents pursuit.
- We can’t just notice Him; we must seek Him.
- We see through the lens of what we want the most.
- Seeking first the kingdom of God is an invitation to align our heart with, not only what it wants, but what it was made for.
- When expression is hard, pursuit becomes essential. If things have become stale, the call isn’t to work harder, but to worship.
- What you look at will determine what you wonder.
- Gratitude helps us measure the depth to which Christ is being formed in our hearts.
- We love serving others up to the point when it impedes on our will.
- It’s easier to stay busy than dealing with the things that emerge when we slow down and become still.
- When we get still, we often get restless.
- We are made to be moved.
- How do you tend to react when things become stale in your relationship with Christ? Why do you react in this way and how has this reaction influenced the connection you were searching for?
- In what ways is “seek first the Kingdom of God” both a command and an invitation?
- What is the difference between seeing God and seeking Him? Which one is more proactive and intentional?
- Read Psalm 10:3-4. How does our pride inhibit our willingness to pursue God?
- Read Numbers 24:17 and Matthew 2:1-2. What allowed the wise men to see the star that led them to Jesus? What does it mean that they had expectant eyes?
- Read Isaiah 51:1 and Matthew 6:33. Which part moves you: (1) seek first His Kingdom or (2) all these things will be given to you as well? Why do you answer in the way that you do?
- Read Matthew 6:34. How does our propensity to worry influence our ability to worship? Where is worry consuming your thoughts? How can worship and seeking Him be utilized to combat those things?
- We see through the lens of what we want the most. If this statement is true, what lens are you currently using to view the world around you? Why are you seeing things from this perspective?
- What are some signs that alert us to our desires morphing into things we are demanding from God to fulfill? Where have your desires become demands? What caused this change?
The human heart is searching for something worthy of its attention, affection, and worship.
Matthew 2:1-12, Psalm 10:3-4, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 139:1-6, Psalm 9:1
- Gratitude arises from stillness.
- Our circumstances can make us desperate, but our hearts can make us curious.
- If productivity becomes the marker of success and success is the goal, then the quicker we produce, the more success we enjoy.
- Efficiency has become the highest value in our culture.
- The heart can’t help but express itself. What is formed on the inside gets expressed on the outside.
- Gratitude awakens wonder while entitlement drives us to prove our worth.
- Your sense of wonder is influenced by what you allow yourself to see.
- You never awaken wonder by looking inward.
- God is never in a hurry. Hurry is the enemy of spiritual formation.
- There is a big difference between what catches your attention and what captures the affection of your heart.
- Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God.
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” GK Chesterton
- How are productivity and efficiency viewed in our culture? How do these traits lead one to be “successful” in life?
- When was the last time you stopped and were in awe of something? How did this experience fill your heart?
- Read the quote by GK Chesterton. Why is wonder required in order to express gratitude?
- Why are many of us reluctant to be still and wonder? What makes hurry the enemy of our spiritual formation?
- Read Matthew 2:1-12. What led the wise men to start out on their search? Why was their reaction to bring gifts and worship when they encountered baby Jesus?
- Read Psalm 10:3-4. What causes us to leave no room for God inside of our schedule? How does this influence and impact our heart?
- Read Psalm 46:10, Psalm 139:1-6 and Psalm 9:1. How does our willingness to be still lead us towards gratitude? In what ways does worship awaken wonder?
- Where have you lost your sense of wonder? What have you replaced it with?
- What are some steps you can take to develop a curious heart? How can you be intentional about slowing down and being still during the holiday season?
- The heart can’t help but express itself. If this is true, how is your heart currently being expressed and how do you feel about this expression?
The family is the unifying system by which we live as His people under His authority for His purposes.
Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 2:19-22, Hebrews 3:3-6, Hebrews 2:11
- Redemption is not our work, but God’s work as He fits us together for His purposes.
- The reason for God’s order isn’t to support our lifestyle. It is setup for His purposes and we are invited in and given authority.
- Idolatry is broken by embracing God’s authority over our lives and in our lives.
- What God is redeeming is the relationship between He and His people as we dwell together.
- The purposes of God in our lives aren’t isolated or independent. They are intended to impact and influence others.
- Your purpose is a small part of God’s larger purpose that continues toward completion in the generations that come.
- We each bring ourselves together to become the place where God dwells.
- He provides us with opportunities to influence, input and contribute to a family much bigger than ourselves.
- Your purpose is a small part of God’s larger purpose that continues toward completion in the generations that come. How should this statement reframe the way you approach your own family story?
- Read Hebrews 2:11. Do you believe what has unfolded in your life and family story inhibits you from making an impact and being part of the bigger story God is telling through His family (the church)? Why or why not? How do your actions and mindset line up with your answer?
- Idolatry is broken by embracing God’s authority over our lives and in our lives. How can one make an idol out of themselves or their family story? Where does idolatry exist in your heart?
- Read Ephesians 1:13-14. What does redemption look like? How are the concepts of identity, authority and legacy redeemed in the family?
- Read Ephesians 2:19-22. In what ways is our concept of a “family” smaller than what God intended? How should this passage influence the way we treat and care for others?
- Read Hebrews 3:3-6. How does this passage speak to you and your family being a brick in the house that God is building?
- Every individual and family is given a brick that is part of the house God is building. How would you describe your brick? How does your answer make you feel?
- How can your brick support the weight of another person or family? Who needs to know they are part of a larger family?
- What has been the greatest insight you’ve received during the “Picture Perfect” series? Why did this point stand out and how will it shape you moving forward?
While we wait for answers to prayer, are we waiting with our worries, doubts and fears, or are we waiting with Jesus?
Matthew 11:19, Luke 15:20-24, Ephesians 3:20-21, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
- Every family has its stories, no matter how hard they try to dress them up.
- We can run to Jesus in our mess, and He gets us. God is kind enough and strong enough to handle all of it.
- Prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God.
- Prayer is keeping company with God. He infuses us with new strength as we are with Him.
- If we can’t bring our problems to church then where can we bring them?
- When our children bring us to our knees, we’re in the best position for God to help us.
- God has a way of bringing beauty out of brokenness.
- If redemption means God uses everything, then it is safe to assume God wastes nothing.
- As you face disappointment, don’t just wait for Jesus, wait WITH Him.
- Idolatry is when you look for life or sufficiency in something that isn’t God.
- What do you when things aren’t “picture perfect” in your family or world? How do you deal with disappointment? How do you typically respond to the mess that exists in your family?
- When it comes to the issues you or your family face, how quick are you to bring those concerns to God or share them with others? What causes you to hesitate to pour your heart out in prayer?
- We’re charged with praying for prodigals. How could praying for those who have gone their own way influence your response to them?
- As you face disappointment, don’t just wait for Jesus, wait WITH Him. What is the difference between these two approaches to our disappointment?
- Read Matthew 11:19. What does Jesus being referred to as a “friend of sinners” teach us about God’s heart for prodigals?
- Read Luke 15:20-24. What caused the son to come to his senses and make his way back home? What response was he expecting to receive upon returning? If God is represented as the father in this parable, what should we make of verse 20: “but while he was still a long way off, his father was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him?”
- Read Ephesians 3:20-21. How do we limit God when we say our family situation can’t be redeemed or that a loved one is too far gone to be saved?
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. As it relates to your family situation, where does your heart need to be encouraged? Why have you lost faith and hope in these circumstances?
- Every family has its stories, no matter how hard they try to dress them up. What issues are you dealing with that you are afraid to share or let someone else walk alongside you in support?
- We’re charged with praying for prodigals. Who needs to be in your prayers? Why does this individual or family come to mind? What specifically will you be praying for?
Redemption is the reality that God uses everything. But, you have to let Him use it.
- Identity is who you are created to be.
- Authority is the power of God in and over your life.
- Legacy is the stewardship of God’s promised future.
- The family was established so that your children’s children know God as God.
- When you know what the family does, you’ll know what to do.
- Idolatry crushes the thing you worship while breaking your heart in the process.
- You can’t move into the future looking backwards.
- The context of a relationship built on trust allows our authority as parents to be imperfect.
- Without the family you have no basis for authority.
- We long to know who we are. The family establishes an identity before anything else.
- When you were born you were given a name. How does the family provide us with a sense of identity? What emotions and thoughts come to mind when you think about the name/family you were born into (ex. Smiths, Jones)? Why is this your initial reaction?
- What is the difference between authority and power? Which one is rooted in trust?
- How does one know when they’ve made an idol out of their family? What are some warning signs that should alert someone that this has taken place?
- Read Deuteronomy 6:1-2. According to this passage, why did God establish the family?
- Read Deuteronomy 6:3-6. How does our own walk influence what we pass down to our children, the next generation and those that come after us?
- Read Deuteronomy 6:7-9. How can this passage be misused in the way authority is stewarded from parents to children? What does it look like to “impress” God’s commands on your children? Where and when should this take place?
- How can you trust God’s promise to redeem your future without attempting to control it?
- In what ways have you made an idol out of family? What are you looking for it to fulfill or meet for you? How is this creating pressure for you and others that are involved?
- In regard to your family, where have you lost sight of a legacy mindset and instead focused on your individual wants, desires and demands?
You will not see a new story until you let go of the old one.
James 1:23-25, Revelation 21:1-4, Hebrews 2:11, Ephesians 1:13-14
- The cultural understanding of the family has changed more than we know.
- Redemption is the reality that God uses everything.
- The danger of disappointment is we long to go back.
- The danger of fulfillment is that we long for things to stay the same.
- The way of redemption requires us to let go of demanding things work out.
- Stop looking in the past. There is only one direction and that is forward.
- The restoration and reclamation of the family isn’t the only thing that matters. Redemption does.
- The family is one of the most central concepts of humanity, but it’s also one of the greatest sources of frustration, disappointment and shame.
- We all believe the family is important, but we all know that the family is imperfect.
- The worst possible way to struggle is alone.
- Complete the sentence: My family is ___________________. How does your answer influence your perspective of the purpose of the family?
- What do you believe God’s intention is for the family? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- How has the cultural understanding of the family changed over the years?
- How do you wrestle with the tension that believing the family is important, but knowing that the family is imperfect?
- Read James 1:23-25. Why is it important that we take a step back from our limited perspective and take a larger look at God’s purpose for the family?
- Read Revelation 21:1-4. What is the significance of marriage being the book end stories of the Bible (establishment of marriage in Genesis and the celebration of marriage in redemption seen in Revelation)? Why did God use this imagery to describe our relationship with Him?
- Read Hebrews 2:11 and Ephesians 1:13-14. What does it mean that God has a “view of redemption”? Why does the redemption of the family matter just as much as the restoration and reclamation of it?
- The worst possible way to struggle is alone. What struggles are you dealing with when it comes to your family?
- The danger of disappointment is we long to go back. The danger of fulfillment is that we long for things to stay the same. Of the two (disappointment or fulfillment), which one are you viewing your family story through?
- What would redemption look like for your family? What part of your old story are you holding on to that is preventing you from experiencing a new story?