The Truth about Adoption

Truth Book of James

James 1:27-2:1: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world. My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”

In this passage, James is saying that part of believing and embracing the love of Jesus is that we are automatically going to have a desire to extend that love to others.

3 Aspects of Adoption 

  1. Adoption’s History
    It is important to understand that the people who first read the words of James lived on a different continent, spoke a different language, and had different norms and practices from us.
  1. Adoption’s Significance
  • Adoption is one of those incredible pictures God has given us in family life that helps us understand what He has done for us and how He sees us.
  • God doesn’t just save us, but He takes us into His family as children and heirs (J.I. Packer)
  • If you have placed your faith in Jesus, God has not only said that you are forgiven. He has also said, “I love you. You are my child, and I want you to share in my inheritance.”
  1. Adoption’s Response
  • Respond by extending love to those who feel disconnected from the love of God
  • Respond in a direct way by literally caring for orphans
  • Respond by really embracing the adoption that we have received in Jesus Christ

Be encouraged today that we are co-heirs with Christ and our position as adopted sons and daughters of the living God of heaven is unshakable and irrevocable.

Discussion Questions

  1. Even though we have faith in Jesus, why do we sometimes show favoritism?
  2. How do you know that God loves you?
  3. Why do we struggle to believe and accept God’s love for us?
  4. How do we extend love to those who feel disconnected from the love of God?
  5. How is God calling you to have a role in adoption?

Politics and the Christian

Scripture Passage: Mark 12:13-17

Mark tells the story of an occasion when the Pharisees and the Herodians tried to get Jesus to align with a political system. Rather than giving them the answer they wanted, Jesus challenged them to render to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

As Christians we should keep in mind three things when considering the political landscape and how to engage with those with whom we disagree. As we engage with others when should demonstrate humility and listen to others.

Three Rules for Political Activity as a Christian

1. Acknowledge the complexity of political issues.
We cannot pledge allegiance to a political party.
There are often many issues we all care deeply about.
We must listen to other people and their perspective.

2. Don’t worship the government.
The government is not responsible to uphold our faith.
There is no perfect political candidate.

3. Remember your King.
Jesus is King, not a political candidate.
Our greatest need is not an external need, it is internal and only solvable by our King.

Think About It
• Have you ever thought about the complexity of political issues? How can you better grow in understanding of those complexities?

• Have you ever found yourself indirectly worshiping the government or a political candidate as the solution to problems?

• Which kingdom keeps you awake at night and do you talk most about?

• How well do you listen to other Christ followers with different views? How can you better respect and love those who may see differently on political issues?

Jesus and the End Times

Scripture Passage: Matthew 24

According to the Scriptures, Christ will return. Prophecy is an often talked about topic and often looked at incorrectly.

When is the return of Christ? This is a question we all would like to have answered.

When will He return?  Scripture doesn’t tell us the day but it does give us some signs that point us to the return of Christ.

The Bible points of signs that indicate the season of Christ’s return.

  1. Cults | There have always been cults that easily deceive people and turn them away from Christ. The explosion of cults has taken place in the 20th Century.
  2. World Politics | Wars and Rumors of wars. Kingdom against Kingdom. During the 20th Century over 100 million people have died in wars.
  3. Natural Disasters | The Bible says there will be earthquakes, famine, floods, plaques. These have happened for years but the intensity has increased year after year.
  4. Christian Persecution | over 200,000 people annually suffer for their faith in Christ. Persecution of Christians is rampant around the world.
  5. Apostasy | The church is declining around the world. Never would we have thought that churches would accept homosexual ministers, same sex marriages.
  6. Breakdown of Society | America has become the moral polluter of the world. For example the movie “Gone with the Wind” was held up because the movie had a curse word in it. Recently a movie from Hollywood, “The Wolf of Wall Street” has one particular curse word 506 Times!
  7. Proclamation of the Gospel | Finally some good news. In all the horrific signs of His coming there will be the proclamation of the Gospel. Never before has the Gospel been proclaimed to so many people. Over 90% of all the people in the world have access to the Bible in their language.

He is coming again!  Are you ready?

The Blessing and The Curse

Scripture Passage: James 3: 9-12: 9

The Nature of a Curse
The word for “curse” is literally “wishing evil.” Sometimes we think of cursing as synonymous with cussing, but it’s more than that. It might be done with eloquent words, but the curse drowns out even the good things said. Also, the absence of a blessing is a curse.

Table Talk: Share with others how you might have suffered by someone “wishing evil” upon you through words spoken. How did that make you feel? Will that help you to speak blessings instead of cursing?

The Power of a Blessing
To give a blessing is to give honor by intentionally ascribing God’s promise to another.

This definition talks about intentionality. It doesn’t happen by accident. We must be intentional with our blessing. Remember though that the blessing of people flows from our blessing the Lord.

Two important conclusions:
• Every one of us needs to receive by faith the blessing God has for us. He made you to love you. And he saved you to bless you.
• You were made to bless others. You were given the power to bless.

Table Talk:
• Share how God blesses you. Can you speak of His love?
• Who would God want you to bless today? Talk about your habit, or lack of a habit to bless those around you.
• Talk about the correlation between loving God and loving people. (See Matthew 22: 36-40)

The Truth About Mercy

Truth Book of James

Scripture Passage: James 2:8-12

We each receive an invitation from God to have a personal relationship with Him. Pastor Ryan spoke from James 2:8-12 about some reasons people don’t accept this invitation.

1. “I don’t trust the source.” – Is the Bible true? The reliability of the Bible is proven true over and over. We are encouraged to do some homework on our own to understand how we know it is true.

2. “I don’t need a Savior.” – People often think they are “good enough” on their own. Verse 10 and I John 3:4 make it clear that even one sin is enough to separate us from a holy God. So what is sin?

  • Breaking God’s Law
  • Not Doing What You Should Be Doing (Omission)
  • Not Living By Faith
  • Our Lack of Belief

3. “I’m not worried about God’s judgement” – All sin requires punishment. God IS a loving God and He offers mercy to everyone, but we must choose to accept it.

4. “I’m not worthy of God’s love.” – Verse 13 tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment. God loves us no matter what we’ve done.

Salvation and freedom from sin are free gifts God offers each of us. Have you accepted his grace, mercy and forgiveness?

Discussion:

  • Share your salvation story.
  • Can you think of any other reasons people might turn away from God?

The Truth About Temptation

Scripture Passage: James 1:12-15

“Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

The Components of Compromise

Anonymity – When you are emboldened to sin because you know that no one is watching.

Availability – When you are emboldened to sin because of the things available at your disposal.

Appetite – We all have hungers and desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:17-21)

The Defense Strategy for Victory over Temptation

• The Defense for Anonymity is Access

Conversation: Around your table today share who has access to your heart, home, personal time, and tech devices. Or, who might God direct you to give access to these areas? If you’ve not done so already then be intentional about making your personal life open to a close and trusted Christian relative or friend.

• The Defense for Availability is to create Boundaries

Conversation: Share with your group what boundaries you have in place that keeps you from crossing the line? Or, discuss what boundaries you might create for your stage of life. The goal is to have a plan!

• The Defense for Appetite is Contentment

Conversation: Be open with your group, or special friend, about the level of confidence and contentment in your life, relationships, and marriage. What changes do you feel you might need to make? Is your confidence on your relationship with Jesus Christ, or in your abilities, education, status, finances, etc.? The LORD is calling you to look to HIM.

How we look at a problem makes a difference in how serious we are about dealing with it. Open conversation about these temptation defenses is the first step in managing these temptations that we all face in our life. While your group is together spend a few minutes in prayer asking the LORD to give each of you wisdom in defending yourself against temptation.

The Truth about Temper

Truth Book of James

Scripture Passage: James 1:19-20

An NBC News poll conducted recently among a national sample of 3,257 indicated that Americans are basically all furious about something. 68% of us are either angry once a day or multiple times a day.

Were you furious about something this week? Did you lose your temper or hold it in? Have you had an argument with someone more than once in the last month? The reality is that all of us deal with anger. Today’s Bible passage shows us how to deal with conflict and anger in a healthy way.

1. Attentive Listening

Am I giving my full attention? Even when we are multi-tasking we can still only devote our full attention to one thing at a time.
Am I seeking the whole story? If we take the time to really hear where others are coming from, you’ll have more credibility when you bring your thoughts to the table.

2. Responsive Speaking

Ryan and his wife Lana shared “The Seven C’s” to keep in mind when dealing with conflict:

  • Don’t Confuse – Address one issue at a time
  • Don’t Compare – “Why can’t you be like ____?”
  • Don’t Condemn – Beware of absolutes like “You always…” or “You never…”
  • Don’t Command – Don’t end by force
  • Don’t Condescend – Passive aggressive comments just provoke
  • Don’t Challenge
    • “Just try that and see what happens!”
    • “I Dare You!”
    • “I’ll show you what a bad husband looks like!”
  • Don’t Continue
    • Don’t burry hurts (showing avoidance)
    • Don’t store up hurts to bring up later

3. Honest Assessment

We do in reality have the ability to limit our anger, but often the solution is more than just faking that we’re not mad. When we allow God to search our hearts, we will often find some deeper underlying stresses or hurts that are expressing themselves in anger.

Discussion Questions:

  • Describe how you felt the last time you were speaking with someone and it felt like they weren’t listening.
  • Which one of “The Seven C’s” do you struggle with the most?
  • Share a time when God has healed a wound or hurt in your life and how it affected your interaction with others.

The Truth about the Truth

Truth Book of James

Scripture Passage: James 1:21-25

This morning, we continued our James study by looking at James 1:21-25. Pastor Rush stated, “For all of life, there are right ways and wrong ways to use things. To make the most of what you have you need to use it the right way. Otherwise you’re missing out on the total benefits and may even find yourself getting frustrated because something isn’t working quite right. “

Here were three ways we can become not just a hearer of the Word, but a doer of the Word.

  1. “Put On” the Word (“Take Off” the World)

James calls us to take off the old sinful ways – those “nasty clothes” – and clothe ourselves with Jesus. Pastor Rush said, “the only way we can recognize those old ways is through the truth of the Word.”

  1. “Take In” the Word

The Bible is like food. Again, Pastor Rush stated, “If we are going to be doers of the Word we have got to start seeing this as our source of life. That if we go without consuming this food we are going to starve. This is not just the vegetables I need to eat cause they’re good for me. This is a full course Banquet meal.”What this means is we must meditate on God’s Word, bring it into our hears and consume it.

  1. “Live Out” the Word

It’s interesting that James uses the analogy of the “mirror” in this passage. Pastor Rush mentioned, “So now James brings in this image of a mirror where we see our reflection. But this mirror of God’s word works differently than a regular mirror. We don’t just see our reflection as we ARE – we also see our refection as we SHOULD BE. The Bible has the power to do both at the same time. If you treat the Bible correctly, not only will you read the Bible; the Bible will read you!”

Let’s not make it a “hobby” to simply listen to sermons or read God’s Word and have no intention of being a doer of God’s Word.

Discussion Questions:

  • What about today’s sermon from Pastor Rush stuck out to you?
  • Which of the three points from today’s message is most difficult for you to do? Why?
  • What does salvation have to do with this passage in James? Why did James talk about salvation in this passage? Is there anything you need to be reminded of regarding your salvation?
  • Would you say you lean more towards being a hearer of the Word only or a more towards being an actual doer of the Word? Why?
  • What is one small step you can take today to become more of a doer of God’s Word than just a hearer?

Wisdom for Hard Times

Scripture Passage: James 1:2-4 2

3 Priorities That Are Necessary for Hard Times

1. In Hard Times, Facts Are More Important Than Feelings

Many people inadvertently build strongholds in their mind. We must run to the Word of God during a crisis. We need to reprogram our mind to see things as God sees them, or we’ll be crushed by the emotions of hard times.

2. In Hard Times, Trusting is More Important Than Understanding

Ask for wisdom, not just deliverance when you go through a trial. Remember what faith is: Believing God will do what He says He will do and acting on it regardless of the circumstances.

3. In Hard Times, Growth is More Important Than Comfort

Begin to recognize that God is doing something significant in you in the midst of the hard time. The goal is for you to be more like Christ. When you face inevitable trials, make the decision to trust God through the trial.

Discussion Questions

• What connections in your brain need to be reformed? (Romans 12:2)

• Do you find yourself only asking for deliverance during trials? Why or why not?

• Who is God? How does your answer affect your expectations of your prayers?

• Will you take the challenge to memorize James 1?

The Fear That Lies Beneath

Scripture Passage: Numbers 13:26 – 14:9

There is much we can learn about the debilitating power of fear from the story of the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land.

Scene 1 | The Israelites reached the Promised Land and sent 12 spies to scope out the land and its inhabitants. The spies noted the land was every bit as good as God had promised. The spies should have looked for how to take over the land and not whether or not they should.

Scene 2 | The spies reported that while the land was prosperous, it was also filled with giants. They became frightened and documented the reasons they should walk away from what God had promised. Fear exaggerates the obstacles to God’s will. We should measure the size of our obstacles against the size of our God.

Scene 3 | The people allowed fear to rewrite their future and the future of those close to them. They were too afraid to take what God promised them. The inhabitants in the Promised Land were no stronger or more powerful than the Egyptians God had just defeated, but the people forgot to look back at what God had already done for them.

Scene 4 | Caleb gave a rebuttal. Unlike the fearful spies, he believed that they could take the land — because God had told them to do so. It is always safe to take what God gives you.

Remember that the opposite of fear is love. Perfect love casts out all fear.

• What are you afraid of?

• Where is God leading you?

• Lay those fears at the foot of the cross and go where God tells you to go and do what God is telling you to do.

• Talk about times when you overcame fear to do what God had for you.

• Discuss the things you are afraid of and pray for each other.