Week 2: Fighting For Your Family

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The word “Fighting” was chosen intentionally, because families are not amazing by accident. There are all kinds of forces working against your family in our society. The family is under attack.

We see throughout history where families are strong, society is strong. Where families are weak, society is weak. Today, there are forces working against your family; economic forces, spiritual forces, moral forces and cultural forces that want to destroy the idea of family.

God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. People related to one another by marriage, by blood, by adoption are the foundation of human society.

Where you have strong families, you have a strong society.

This is another reason why all human life is sacred. We are created by God, in His image. Children, from the moment of conception the Bible says are a gift from God. The same worth and dignity is attached to every human being; pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged and every other condition. We are commanded by God and His Word to defend, protect and value all human life. The entire family.


Essentials For An Amazing Family

When the families of Jerusalem were under attack thousands of years ago, the leader Nehemiah said this to the people, 

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’” Nehemiah 4:14 NIV

They were under physical attack as members of Jerusalem, but we need this kind of intensity against all the forces coming against our families. Nehemiah’s saying your family is worth fighting for. Don’t just give up thinking it can’t change or it’s too late.

Whether you’re starting out or at the end, it’s not too late to fight to make your family better.

1. Authentic Faith

There are a lot of people that haven’t figured out that there’s more to God than Sundays. There are many people who don’t know that strength, anointing and their abilities come from God.

If you’re just playing church or toying with God and He’s in your life, but it’s not an all consuming thing, you’re missing an incredible relationship where the Holy Spirit guides you in the middle of your situations. A strength that isn’t only in the middle of a worship service, but there for every situation you face.

There is more to God than religion. We want to lead you beyond attending a church on a Saturday or Sunday to an authentic relationship where you are known and loved. It’s dynamic, meaning that God’s wisdom applies to every situation. Before you make that phone call, before you discipline, the Holy Spirit is working with you and you’re reaping the benefit of knowing Him.

Get close to Jesus. The best marriage advice, the best parenting advice or dating advice is get close to God. If you and your spouse both focus on getting closer to God, you’ll grow closer to one another.

“Reverence for the Lord gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security.” Proverbs 14:26 LB

Look who benefits from the reverence for the Lord, the children benefit from you putting God first.

2. Intentional Schedules

Great families will tell you they are very intentional about what to do and don’t do. They make time for just being together, for making meals together and playing games together. If you want to know why the families and relationships especially between parents and kids are struggling in our society, let Cornell University tell you.

The average father in the United States spends 7 minutes a day with his kids, that’s 49 minutes a week.

The average father spends 37.7 seconds a day with his preschoolers.

Intentionally spend time together. You’re going to have busy weeks or seasons, because you work hard and provide, but schedule some time together on either side of those times.

“We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.” Psalm 39:6 NLT

Nobody looks back and wishes they’d have gone to more parties or played more sports. They look back and wish they’d have spent more time with the people they love.

“It is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time…” Ecclesiastes 4:6 GN

3. Discovering Purpose

You can’t discover purpose without God, because He’s the Creator who knows your purpose. You can’t have purpose without authentic faith. When you have purpose, you know how to spend your time.

We need to focus on our family and the unique thing that distinguishes them. Quit trying to be good at everything and focus on the few things God has made you to do with your life.

Parents, there’s an anointing on your life to speak into the life of your kids and help them develop in their spiritual gifts, their passions, abilities and personality.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” Acts 20:24 NIV

How do you help someone develop in their calling? There are three types of calling we all have.

  • Primary Calling: Know God
  • Secondary Calling: Grow in knowing God in the time and place God has placed you
  • Heart Calling: Your uniqueness

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Be careful with your words. Don’t let your mouth outrun you. Look at what Jesus did with the kids around him.

“And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:16 NIV

He spoke statements over their lives so they’d be encouraged to fulfill their purpose. He’d show them the anointing on their life and how God made them special.

4. Right Relationships

We are the sum total of our relationships and friendships. Good or bad. You are the product of your friendships.

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Look at who your kids hang around with, you’ll see who they become. Look at your married friends, that’s what your marriage will look like. Your friends are a mirror.

This is why we love small groups. The best decisions you’ll ever make in your life are your relationship decisions. The most important question to ask yourself is, “Who should I do life with and who should I reach out to?”

“A mirror reflects a man’s face but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” Proverbs 27:19 GN

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 NIV

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV

5. Amazing Grace

God’s grace on families is so extravagant. Grace is so amazing, because it makes no sense. Who treats you better than God? He takes all the stuff we do and forgives us.

Relationships need this same grace. There is not a single relationship, there’s not a person on earth that you won’t have to have grace to stay in relationship with them.

Begin by recognizing that your family members are going to mess up. We’ve all blown it, but that’s when we need family the most.

Somebody right now is thinking about bailing on your marriage, on your kids, on your parents. You think they’re unbearable. You think the grass is greener on the other side. The grass is greener on the other side because it’s fake.

The world teaches us that all that matters is how you look, how much money you have or how successful you are. None of it is true.

Our kids are learning a lot of values from movies, from video games, from songs, from their friends, from culture – all these things that aren’t true.

We end up bailing on our relationships based on things that are not true.

It takes the grace of God to be in relationships with others.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV

You can offer grace when you go back to the cross. Because the grave is empty, the cross has power. It gives us the power to live in the grace of God.


A Time To Gather Stones

In the book of Ecclesiastes it tells us there is a time for everything. A time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to mourn and a time to dance. They all make sense until you get to verse 5.

“There is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.” Ecclesiastes 3:5 NIV

This is referring to an Old Testament observance that needs to take place in your heart today. It comes from Genesis 31, where Jacob had an issue with his father-in-law Laban. 

Jacob couldn’t take it any more and decided to run away with his wife and flocks and herds. Laban realizes what happens, gets furious and chases Jacob down across the desert. The night before they were to meet, an angel of the Lord speaks to Laban and says, don’t do what you have planned.

Anybody need this statement right now? Are you making plans to quit on some relationships with your parents or spouse? God may be saying to you what He told Laban, don’t do what you have planned, instead, go reconcile.

Jacob was bracing for the fight. Laban shows up. Laban says these words that now can become our words.

“’Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.’” So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. He said to his relatives, “’Gather some stones.’” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap.”  Genesis 31:44-46 NIV

There are two things you can do with a stone. You can take it and throw it at people or you can take it and pile it up as an altar unto the Lord. Every wrong thing done to you is a stone you can either throw or gather to build with.

You have the choice to scatter your offenses all over the place or you can stack them up before the Lord and make an altar. Try tapping into the grace at the cross and give grace.

What does it look like to gather the stones instead of scattering them?

1. Acknowledge your own mistakes.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 NIV

Decide to not focus on the other person’s role and focus on what God has given you to control and you’ll bring your brokenness. Tell your kids you let them down in this situation. Acknowledge your mistakes and lead the way.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 NIV

2. Abandon your right to get even.

Christians don’t take revenge, Christians forgive. It’s radical, but the other way isn’t working too well is it?

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 NIV

God will take care of it. Let God take care of it. He will better than you anyway.

3. Apply God’s grace to my relationships.

Maybe you’ve applied it to your life, but not your relationships.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:8-11 NIV


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts about the message or your conversation of fighting for your friends?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

There are certain “non-negotiables” that apply to all aspects of family relationships. Those essential principles must be in place in order to have a home that proves to be both honoring to God, and fulfilling to us.

  1. Authentic Faith
  2. Intentional Schedules
  3. Discovering Purpose
  4. Right Relationships
  5. Amazing Grace

Read: Genesis 31

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message? Which of the five essentials do you need to work on most right now?
  2. We must be sure that our faith is “authentic” if we are to enjoy fulfilling family relationships. What are some indicators which reveal the authenticity or lack of authenticity of our faith? What does authentic faith look like in a family environment?
  3. What should have the highest priority when it comes to our schedules?
  4. Part of the role of a parent is to help assure that their children realize their life purpose? What is the most important thing we can do to make that a reality in our families?
  5. How can you more effectively give grace to those you deal with in life? Write down the various ways God has extended grace to you, and look for ways to give that same grace to others.
  6. If there is a broken relationship in your life, determine that you will be the one to take steps to resolve issues and rebuild the relationship.

Tell Someone Else

Your words are the key to great relationships, either building up or tearing down those with whom you come in contact. Have group members pray with one another to allow their words to be “seasoned” with love and grace, leaving in their wake, people who are edified and encouraged.

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Week 1: Fighting For Your Friends

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We’re in the fight of our lives. Are you fighting with the people in your life or are you fighting for them? We’re starting a new series of posts on relationships today. We’re going to start today with friendship.

One of the biggest secrets to success in your life is the friends you choose, the people you are committed to.

When we talk about friendships and making a commitment to people, the first thing we think about is all the people we really don’t want to make a commitment to. Here’s a list of high maintenance people you may be familiar with.

  • The Martyr — Forever the victim and wracked with self-pity
  • The Critic — Constantly complains and gives unwanted advice
  • The Wet blanket — Pessimistic and automatically negative
  • The Steamroller — Blindly insensitive to others
  • The Gossip — Spreads rumors and leaks secrets
  • The Controller — Unable to let go and let be
  • The Backstabber — Irrepressibly two-faced
  • The Cold Shoulder — Disengages and avoids contact
  • The Green-Eyed Monster — Seethes with envy
  • The Volcano — Builds steam and is ready to erupt
  • The Sponge — Constantly in need but gives nothing back
  • The Competitor — Keeps score of everything

Any faces coming to mind? Did you see your own face on any of those? If you don’t think you fall into any of those categories, you don’t need this post, you need therapy.

The culture we live in, is highly disfunctional. There are many hurting people. Hurting people, hurt people. We have the tendancy to push back when people hurt us. If that’s our perspective, our friendships just become the fruit of convenience rather than commitment.


Why You Need Friends

  • For spiritual growth.

You cannot become all God meant for you, by yourself. You cannot grow to spiritual maturity by yourself. Even the Apostle Paul loved friendship, because:

When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”  Romans 1:12 NLT

  • For emotional support.

You need people who support you. Without a good support system, our emotions are blown every which way. Any storm destroys us.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV

If you’re not helping out with any other friends you’re not fulfilling the law of Christ which is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • For better health.

If you don’t have healthy friendships you’re going to die sooner than you imagine. People without friends don’t live as well than people with deep friendships. One of the reasons is friends give you a place to unload your negative emotions.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16 NIV

Nothing is harder on the body and mind than concealed sin. Unconfessed, concealed, secret sin creates anxiety, fear, depression, gut issues and mind issues.

If all you want in life is to be forgiven for your faults and sins, just confess them to God. But if you want to be healed of them, if you want to get over them, the starting point is to share them with somebody else.

God says we are to live in the light. That means we bring things out of the dark into the light.

  • For social enjoyment.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, not merely endured. Friendships are the bedrock of a satisfying life. You can make all the money in the world, have all the achievements in the world, have all the pleasure in the world, but if your relationships stink, life stinks.

“God says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.'”  Genesis 2:18 NIV

  • For reaching goals.

You will never fulfill your goals by yourself. If you can, then you have weak goals. It takes a team to fulfill a dream.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT

How do I develop these awesome friendships? Follow the Golden Rule. Two thousand years ago, Jesus gave us a statement that has become known as the Golden Rule.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 7:12 NIV

Give people what you’d like to receive. Let’s apply this to friendship. If you really want to have great, deep, meaningful, lifelong friendships it’s really simple:

Be the friend that you would like to have.


Six Golden Rules of Friendship

Whether it’s at work, with your husband or wife or in a small group use these 6 things to build great friendships. They will change your life if you will follow them.

1.  Invest the time.

Deep friendships are not cheap. You must choose to invest the greatest commodity in your life your time, energy and effort.

“A man that has friends must show himself friendly.” Proverbs 18:24

Stop waiting for people to be your friend, and you make the effort. Show them how to be a great friend. Don’t just show up when you need something. Show up over and over again.

“Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” Philippians 2:4

The context of this verse is in a powerful section of scripture that’s describing how we are to live in light of the cross of Jesus. You can’t be a friend to someone without your presence. Physical presence is essential to having a long term, deep friendship. Friends show up.

2.  Earn their trust.

If you want to build friends you’ve got to earn their trust. Trust is what makes it a friendship. This is the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. You talk to acquaintances but you trust your friends.

“Many people declare themselves loyal, but who can find someone who is really trustworthy?”  Proverbs 20:6 GW

How Do You Earn Trust?

People don’t give you their trust automatically. You have to earn it. Honor is given, we’re supposed to give honor to everyone. Forgiveness is given, you are to forgive everyone.

Trust is earned. That’s why friendships aren’t automatic. The Bible says you can earn trust a couple of ways.

  • By being loyal.

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17 NLT

Loyalty is the difference between a friend and a flake. Loyalty is a commitment that says, “I’m going to put you before myself at this point.” Loyalty is the opposite of self-centeredness. Loyalty helps you right now instead of helping his or herself.

“If you love someone, you’ll be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best, and always stand your ground in defending them.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 LB

Love is just loyalty in action. Now if you have been betrayed, abandoned or abused, you probably have some trust issues. Rightfully soIf you need to get some Christian counseling, get it. God doesn’t expect you to trust the person who manipulated you or controlled you, but you can’t build new deep friendships without trust. You can’t build deep trust if you’re always afraid.

  • By keeping confidences.

Everybody needs one person in their life who is safe. The mark of a true friend is they know how to keep a secret.  If you really want people to trust you, you cannot be a gossip.

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

3.  Listen with empathy.

You can’t love people without listening to people. In a conversation you have to keep making the choice to listen to what they’re saying instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next. One of the main things when interacting in a group is learning to listen to the emotion that somebody’s using rather than just the words. Hearing and responding to their emotions.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 NIV

If you are quick to listen and slow to speak, you will be slow to anger. What does it mean to listen with empathy? Empathy simply means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 NIV

4.  Accept their flaws.

We all have flaws, faults, defects, failings, weaknesses and sins. Nobody’s perfect.

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.” Romans 15:7 NLT

That doesn’t mean God approves of everything we do, but He accepts us. You want to know what glorifies God? Accepting people like Christ accepts you.

If you’re married or have friends, your spouse or your friends have some characteristics that bug you to death. Those characteristics are probably not going to change. So you’ve got to decide if you will accept that or be miserable the rest of your life. To overlook someone’s flaws is what the Bible means by acceptance.

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 NLT

5.  Celebrate wins and share losses.

Celebrate the wins of your friends and share the losses of your friends. The Bible commands that we do this:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV

Learn how to celebrate not just the good things that happen to you but you need to learn how to celebrate the good things that happen to other people without becoming envious, jealous, critical, resentful or competitive.

A friend celebrates your wins as much as they celebrate their own. If you only know how to celebrate the good things that happen to you, you’re going to be unhappy most of your life.

6.  Bring out their best.

Your best friend is the person who brings out the best in you. The way to get that kind of friend is to bring the best out of someone else.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Do you have friends that will bring out your best? Would your friends keep you from cheating on a test? Would your friends keep you from drugs or get you on drugs? Would your friends cheer your faith on or ridicule it?

Every marriage goes through bumps. You need to make sure that your best friends are as committed to their marriage as you are to yours. Because then when your marriage goes through a tough time, the friends around you are pulling for your marriage, not against it.

“An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.” Proverbs 24:26 GNT

The older your friendships are, the better they get. A man’s best mirror is an old friend. A true friend makes you face yourself. Sometimes a mark of a friend requires frankness, the kind that loves you too much to let you do the wrong thing.

They can speak into your life with grace and truth. Grace without truth is meaningless and ruth without grace is just mean. 

Do you have anybody in your life who you’ve given permission to get in your face with truth and grace? Where do you find friends like that?

Treat people the way you want to treated. 

Be the friend you’d like to have. The best place to get friends like that is at church. Because you’re going to find similar goals and values. If you want to have sincere, deep friendships, join a Dream Team. Serving elbow to elbow with people creates friendships. Attend Celebrate Recovery or get in a Small Group.

Lifeway organization did a study that surveyed Christian church members. They discovered that in an average church, only about 50% of the people say they have developed significant relationships with people in their church family. But people who are in a Small Groups or a Celebrate Recovery Group, it’s 90%.

In an average church, only 42% say they know their spiritual gift and are using it to serve God and others. But for those in a Small group it’s nearly 75%. In a average church, only 45% say they think about Bible truths throughout the day. But in a Small Group or Celebrate Recovery Group, it’s about 75%. You need to be in a small group you need deep meaningful friendships.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts about the message on sleep or the frequency series as a whole?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week, we started a new series about fighting for our relationships rather than with our relationships. We learned that we need friends for spiritual growth, emotional support, better health, social enjoyment and reaching goals.

We learned from Matthew 7:12 that we are to be the friend we want to have. So, if you want great friends…

  1. Invest the time
  2. Earn their trust
  3. Listen with empathy
  4. Accept their flaws
  5. Celebrate wins and share losses
  6. Bring out their best

Read: 1 Corinthians 13

Application

  1. God gives us the ultimate example of trust because he loves us and stays with us in any circumstance or situation. How does his example give you courage to trust others? How can you use the biblical principle of loving your neighbor as yourself to grow into a more trustworthy person?
  2. Share a time when a loyal friend made a positive impact in your life. How does your appreciation for their loyalty motivate you to become more loyal to your friends?
  3. Why do you think it is easy to turn to gossip instead of holding a confidence? As a group, create a list of strategies to avoid gossip.
  4. An important part of friendship is speaking the truth in love and not standing silently by watching a friend make a mistake.  Share an example when you either watched a friend make a huge mistake while you were silent, or when you counseled a friend who took your advice and avoided a painful situation.
  5. Read Romans 12:15. Talk about how to rejoice with a friend who is rejoicing and mourn with a friend who is mourning.   

Pray: Father, you are the one who first called us to friendship. Jesus modeled being a friend to his disciples. He calls us to love one another as we want others to love us. Help us develop friendships within our small group, and with others. Give us discernment as we develop trust with others. Let us be an example to the world of a loving and trustworthy friend. May you be glorified as we show the world your love. In Jesus name. Amen

Tell Someone Else

Who can you be a friend to this week? How could this message help or encourage someone else?

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One Group Away

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Do you ever feel like something’s missing? It might not just be something…it might be someone that’s missing. You could be one group away from changing the future of your family and changing your ability to make a difference in this world.


Every time you change jobs, enter into a friend group, join a sports team or sit with a new group at lunch, you are entering into a culture and a community with an identity, a language and a protocol that will affect your life.

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”  Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

Everyone has a part of their story with hurt or pain in it. There are also people who have found freedom in the midst of those difficult situations. Almost all of those stories, in the bad parts and in the good parts, in the before and after, in the destruction and restoration, both the bondage and freedom result from the group of people around them.

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”  Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

How do you become wise? Be around wise people. Wisdom here doesn’t mean book-smarts, because you can get good grades and still not be wise. Wisdom here means good judgement, humility and acknowledging God in all things. The way you get that is by who you are around.

Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future. 

You will become like those you spend the most time with. If you hang around those who are passionate, positive and faith-filled, you will become more passionate, positive and full of faith. If on the other hand, you hang around with people who are negative, sarcastic or critical, you’re going to stoop to that level.

Chances are you want to be rich in wisdom, not wisdom impoverished. When we think of poverty, we normally only think of one specific thing, but there are three different types of poverty.

  • Material poverty

Someone who is lacking money and possessions and the ability to provide the basic necessities is material impoverished.

  • Spiritual poverty

You can have material wealth but if you have no eternal hope, you are spiritually impoverished.

  • Relational poverty

It seems the more financial blessings people have, the more they are losing the blessings of relationships. If you’ve ever been to a third world country, you know about this. At first, you see their physical condition and you feel sorry for them. Then, you discover their hope and their values as family and friends and you start to feel jealous of them.

We’re losing the blessings of relationships and there’s a lot of reasons why. One of them is that in our society we celebrate and strive for independence and self reliance. We don’t want to depend on anyone to the point that we forget that to be self reliant is to be distinctly non-Christian. God did not create us to be independent or self-reliant, but instead, but to be dependent on Him and the people in His family. Jesus died for us and loves the church and we, together, are to serve one another, love one another and lift one another. 

In our culture we have so many external blessings and yet so many people, internally, are relationally impoverished. Here are three reasons why so many people are relationally impoverished today. 

1. Increased mobility

We don’t stay in one place very long anymore. The average American moves once every five years. If you’re between the ages of 20 and 40, you move, on average once every three years. It’s difficult to have long-term, committed relationships when we don’t stick around.

2. Modern Conveniences

Things like air conditioners and automatic garage door openers have massively changed the landscape of friendship. Before the air conditioner, people hung out in front of their houses because it was cooler outside and you would get to know your neighbors. Now, because of garage door openers, you can pull right into your house. You can live in the same neighborhood for years and never get to know the people next to you.

3. More and more media

Media can be a tremendous blessing, but at the same time, it’s not the same as face to face contact.

So many of us are going through life surrounded by people, yet, with no one we could call if we really needed to talk.

We start thinking something’s missing, something’s wrong or something is not as is it should be. It may not be something that’s missing, but it might be someone that’s missing. It may even be that it’s not someone that is missing, but it could be a group of someones is missing from your life.

You might be one group away from changing the course of your destiny. 

You might need to be in one group of strong, committed believers. People that you do life with in the highs and in the lows, those who lift you, pray for you, encourage you and always have your back. You might honestly be one group away from changing the future of your family, changing future generations and from changing your ability to make a difference in this world. You might be one group away from finding freedom. You might be one group away from kicking that addiction. You may be one group away from changing the course of your destiny.

The kinds of groups the Bible talks about don’t happen by accident. They are a group of devoted people making a commitment to grow in Christ and grow in relationships.

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—  all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”  Acts 2:42-47

You don’t just stumble into a group like this on accident. You create it and cultivate it in an intentional way. Here are three things we cultivate in our small groups at Rock Brook.

1. Small Groups are a place to connect with others.  

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”  Romans 15:5-7

You can’t have a Biblical community if every time you meet or get together you wonder if you are getting anything out of it. To really be fulfilled in godly community, to really be fulfilled in your friendships, to get anything out of it, you will have to think of what you can give, not what you can get.

Small group can be a place to find encouragement and renewal every week. However, it may not feel that way every time because we are all imperfect people meeting together. There are times when forgiveness is tough. Someone might do something and it might rub you the wrong way. You might get offended or maybe feel excluded. But pour out grace to these people and know they aren’t trying to offend you. Prepare yourself, there will be people who offend you this week, go ahead and forgive them right now. Don’t be surprised by it. Forgive them in advance. We are all broken. We all need forgiveness. We all need each other.

2. Small Groups are a place to grow together.

We all want to grow in our faith, that happens collectively. We’re better together.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”  Proverbs 27:17

Do you know how iron sharpens iron? Sparks fly, metal clanks together, it’s active. It’s worth it though. You are sharper today because of the wise people in your life. Growing isn’t easy. Wisdom isn’t easy, but it’s a lot better than harm. The cost of growing together in the context of healthy, godly relationships is great. The cost of not doing it, is greater. The cost of wisdom is great, the cost of harm is greater.

“But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7

Light and salvation from God doesn’t only mean fellowship with God, it means fellowship with others. It doesn’t only mean peace with God, it’s means peace with others.

3. Small Groups are a place to protect each other.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sister.”  1 John 3:16

When you give up your time for great relationships, you give your life. Your time is your life. There’s nothing more precious in life than time.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.”  1 Peter 5:8-9

Now, don’t miss the connection between Satan and the lion. We have a spiritual enemy who wants to devour us, to pick us off, to steal, kill, and destroy everything that matters to the heart of God. We live in a battleground. Our enemy comes to attack, and destroy everything that we know. We have each other’s backs and we’re at each other’s sides. We can fight and we can be in there with one another when the enemy comes, we do not roll over. 

You have to build that group before the lion comes.

You don’t know what’s coming in your life, but you don’t want to fight it alone.

You don’t want to fight cancer alone.

You don’t want to hurt financially alone.

You don’t want to parent alone.

No one knows how the lion has a hold of you today, but don’t hold to it in any longer. Sometimes we want to hold our sin in, and try to beat the devil alone in hopes to then talk about it from a conquered state. It doesn’t work that way. We fight our battles in community. When you have community, it is so rich and satisfying and so meaningful. 

At that point, the unbeliever starts looking on and sees how we love each other, how we take care of one another and how we care about each other.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. – Jesus  (John 13:35)


Check Back

Check back and review what we talked about last week. How did the Go & Tell series affect your life? Are you having any gospel conversations? Is there someone with whom you can have a gospel conversation?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: Acts 2:42-47

Application

1. “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)  

Think over your life, your family, your friendships. How have you seen this truth demonstrated in your life? Have you ever done anything you regret because of the influence of people around you? Have you ever grown in wisdom because of the people around you?

2. Are you experiencing any relational poverty in your life? What would you say was the major cause of relational poverty in your life?

3. A small group of honest and godly friends in your life accomplishes a lot of things. Of the three mentioned in this message, which do you need in your life the most right now and why? What would you say a great community of friends look like?

4. In what way do you need help from your group to fight the lions that you’re facing?

Tell Someone Else

When it comes to relationships, you ultimately receive back what you put in. You get what you give. Who can you connect with? Who can you pray for? Who can you help grow? Who can you protect? Who can you listen to? Who around you could use your experiences, encouragement and love?

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Week 2: Not Many Fathers

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We love our community and want to show the love of Christ tangibly in our neighborhoods, workplaces and homes. This summer, through weekend sermons, small group curriculum and daily devotionals, we will discover how serving can make a difference in our community, makes an impact for God and grows our faith. Join us as we discover significance through serving.


A lot of the books in the New Testament were letters written by Paul. He wrote to churches and pastors. Paul also planted churches, that’s why he was called an apostle. Paul planted a church in the city of Corinth. This city had a lot in common with America. They were very intellectually arrogant, prosperous and wealthy and had a lot of immorality, just like America. Paul established this church and they started doing some crazy things. Paul wrote the book of Corinthians to correct them.

“I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”  1 Corinthians 4:14-17 (NIV)

Because of Paul’s deep love for these churches he planted, he considered the people in these churches to be like his children. He was their spiritual father and a father is supposed to admonish, discipline and correct children.

One of the most painful parts in a person’s life is when you start talking about a father that was horrible; not only for the things that happened, but also for the things that didn’t happen that you wish would have happened. The devil wants to destroy the relationship that God designed for your growth and your maturity.

God intended you to have a relationship with your fathers: your natural father, your spiritual fathers and your Heavenly Father.

Your relationship with your mother is extremely precious, but it cannot replace your relationship with your father. God designed it that way. That’s why the devil attacks this relationship so much.


The last verse of the Old Testament. The verse that sets up the coming of Jesus, summarizes the problem of why Jesus even needed to come.

“He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  Malachi 4:6 (NIV)

God intends for us to be blessed. That’s why all of hell is committed to messing up all your relationships, specifically the relationship with your father. That’s why we have stories about hurt, abuse and disappointment from a father figure in our life. This is such a big deal that research offers us proof about how crucial this father relationship is.

  • Fatherless homes, fatherless children are:
    • 5 times more likely to commit suicide
    • 8 times more likely to go to prison
    • 9 times more likely to drop out of high school
    • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
    • 20 times more likely to have behavioral problems
    • 32 times more likely to runaway
    • 33 times more likely to be seriously abused
    • 73 times more likely to be fatally abused
  • Fatherless homes produce:
    • 90% of all homeless and runaway children
    • 85% of all children with behavioral disorders
    • 71% of pregnant teenagers
    • 71% of high school dropouts
    • 70% of juveniles in state operated facilities
    • 63% of youth suicides
  • Daughters of fatherless homes are:
    • 53% more likely to marry as a teen
    • 92% more likely to divorce if they marry
    • 164% more likely to be a single parent

Those statistics break the heart of God. This is not the life He desires for us. So what are we going to do about this? For every problem on the planet, for every problem you face, God has the solution. Here are some principles to help you in this area. Some tools to help you get you started on the processes that can be worked out over time. It is a spiritual journey of growth you will work on most of your life. Take these three steps and God will do a great work in your life.

1. Allow God to heal the father wound.

Your Father wound may not be from your biological father, a spiritual father, a teacher, coach or some other authority figure who disappointed you, abused you or hurt your feelings.

In John Eldredge’s book “Wild at Heart,” it says that when you have a father wound, you become a poser. You pretend to be something that you are not.  Because you are trying to make up for something that you are not. It usually comes out in one of two ways: you either become overly passive or overly aggressive. When a man becomes overly passive, the wife has to run the home, raise the kids, take care of the finances and the guy is basically in charge of the remote. Because of his woundedness, the guy just gives up. Men who are overly aggressive, bully everybody. In their insecurity and woundedness, they pose as “tough guys” and assert themselves with an overly aggressive attitude, not because they are tough but because they are broken. What do we do about it?

“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16 (NIV)

Notice the last two words of this verse. You need to … be healedIn fact, I would go so far as to say that every one of us needs inner healing in some kind of way. The question is how do we get this healing? 

The first part of the verse says to confess your sins to each other. It doesn’t say to confess them to God. If you confess your sins to God you get forgiveness, but that is not God’s formula for healing.

God’s formula for healing is confessing your sins to another person and pray for each other.

There is a miracle that occurs when you get close enough to another person to that you can take the mask off and confess your hurts and needs to another person. You are only as sick as your secrets.

As soon as you allow the truth of your hurt to come out, your healing begins.

Get into a small group or a Celebrate Recovery Step Study. Not so you can go through another bible study, but so you can get connected into deep relationships with other people and take our masks off. Some of you have confessed your hurts to God and you have been forgiven for years but you have never found healing because you have not followed God’s process for inner healing. As soon as you share and are prayed for, you begin the process of great healing in your life.

2. Find a father and be a father.

No one had a perfect dad. We all have a father wound. Our father’s had father wounds. Our grandfathers had father wounds.

Look around and find someone who can be a father figure: a coach, a mentor or an encourager in your life. Find someone who can be a positive role model for you. Don’t stay fixated on your broken relationship with your father; instead, find good, positive men that can speak into your life. Have conversations with them, watch how they treat their wives, kids and friends, watch what kind of decisions they make. Find these guys at church, in your small group or serving on a Dream Team.

This guy might be someone you will never meet. There are parenting, financial and marriage experts out there. Read their books and listen to their podcasts. Instead of focusing on the disappointments and wounds from your biological father, shift your focus to positive role models.

There is more to this second step than just finding a father. If you are truly going to be healed, you’ve got to be a father. Get involved in someone else’s life. Be a small group leader. Get involved in Rock Brook for Kids. It will minister to you even more than it does to them.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”  Psalm 68:5-6 (NIV)

We are fatherless. There are not many fathers. What is God doing about it? God sets the lonely in families, Small Groups, on Dream Teams. If you don’t have a biological father then get connected with a spiritual family. God wants to set you in a new family and in some new relationships that will provide you with everything you have been missing. Often times when we are hurt or wounded we think the solution is isolation. God says the solution is not isolation, the solution is to establish new, healthy relationships.

When you do that, “he leads forth the prisoners with singing.” They’re not prisoners anymore, they have found freedom.

You find freedom by getting connected in relationships with other believers.

God wants to set you in a relationship that can move you from being a prisoner to singing. Some of you are walking around in a prison of pain that is more binding than a prison of bars. God wants to set you free! He does it by setting you in a family.

3. Relate to God as Father.

When Jesus addressed God, He called Him Father. When Jesus taught us to pray, He taught us to pray to Our Father, who art in heaven. Jesus said that the key to a powerful prayer life is to address God relationally not religiously.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in heaven. He never changes or casts a shadow.”  James 1:17 (NLT)

Look at the last phrase of this verse. God never changes. Everyone changesBut God never changes. No matter what happens, He never kicks you out of the family. He loves you. He never changes, He never casts a shifting shadow. That means he never turns his back on you.

“He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation became his prized possession.”  James 1:18 (NLT)

God doesn’t want you fatherless. Allow God to heal the father wound. Make the decision to change from fatherlessness to finding a father and being a father. And seek to relate to God as Father.


Check Back

How did the following truths affect your relationship with God this past week?

  • The first purpose of my life is to be loved by God!
  • My first calling is to enjoy a relationship with God.
  • The relationship God made me for is to be his son or daughter.
  • The #1 thing I need to understand and remember: How much God loves me.

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 (NIV) and Malachi 4:6 (NIV)

The “fatherlessness” of our generation has led us down a path that’s far from how God intended. His intention is that we would be blessed by our fathers. No matter our experience with our earthly fathers, we have the promise of God to be set in families through our church family. This week’s message encourages us, men and women alike, to look to fathers in our life and to be a father to someone else so that we can begin to change our generation!

Application

  • We shared a list of statistics on how “fatherlessness” has affected the youth of our generation. Discuss why fatherless homes have had this affect on our culture. What can we do to change that?
  • Every man needs the affirmation of another man. Discuss why men are wired to need that, and why certain affirmation can’t come from women in their lives.
  • Read Psalm 68:5-6. Discuss how God sets the lonely in families and how He is a Father to the fatherless.
  • Read James 1:17-18. Discuss how God, our Heavenly Father, loves us and desires that we would see him as Father. Why is it so important that we relate to Him as Father?
  • There are three father relationships: natural father, spiritual fathers and Heavenly Father. Whether your natural father is living or deceased, what are you most thankful they shared with you? What short-comings do you need to forgive in them?

Tell Someone Else

Acknowledge your spiritual fathers this week. Think about who God has put in your life to father you and thank them this week. If you can’t think of who they are, begin looking for spiritual fathers that will pour into your life and pursue relationships with them. Then find some people in your life that you can be a father for and begin investing in them.

 

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