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.

The Un-Bold Servant

Scripture Passage: Mathew 25:14-30

The Parable of the Talents is among the most well-known of Jesus’ parables. The parable can also be regarded as a story about a man who lacked boldness. The kingdom of God needs people who are bold and fearless when God says to advance.

In this parable, a rich master entrusted his servants with financial resources to invest while he was away. However, instead of investing these resources, the servant who received one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. He demonstrated fear and a lack of boldness.

God is calling for boldness. Therefore we must understand the factors that determine the measure of our boldness.

1. My Understanding of Biblical Boldness



Boldness is the confidence to act on God’s promises, maximizing the gifts that have been entrusted to us for His glory. Two of the three servants in the parable demonstrated this kind of boldness.

2. My Confidence in the Master’s Character

The servant who buried his talent believed a lie about his master. He believed the lie that his master was a harsh man. When we believe the wrong things about God, we are more likely to act in fear and not in faith.

3. My Anticipation of the Master’s Return

While the master was away, two of the three servants invested the resources entrusted to them in such a way that they would please their master upon his return. We are to live the same way — boldly investing the talents God has entrusted to us in order to advance His kingdom and bring Him glory.



4. My Comprehension of His Calling

The servant who lacked boldness was busy doing the wrong things while his master was away. His calling was to invest his master’s money, something he failed to do.

Think About It and Talk About It



• If you knew that Christ was going to return before the end of this year, what would you do differently?



• If you knew you could not fail, what bold thing would you attempt for Jesus?

The Timing of God’s Kingdom

Esther

Scripture Passage: Esther 8

Today Pastor Ryan continued to look at the story of Esther and how God is at work in what seems like coincidence. God’s timing in the book of Esther is perfect. In the same way, God’s timing in our lives is perfect and He has us exactly where he wants us when He wants it.

God’s timing is trustworthy and we see that from two principles in Esther.

  1. God conquers the coincidental.
  • God is working in coincidences if we have spiritual eyes to see.
  • Looking back in our lives there are many moments that we may label as coincidence that is God working in our live.
  1. God overturns the irreversible.
  • God overturns impossible situations that may seem like they have no hope.
  • God may put you in an impossible situation to lead others to the God who is getting you through it.

We closed with looking at three circles we have in our lives.

  1. Context–This is where God has placed you in your life
  2. Circumstances–These are positive experiences, crisis, clarity from God, seasons of searching and other situations.
  3. Calling–This is unique calling and talents that God has given you and placed in your life

These circles lead us to divine appointments. God has led you to this context with these circumstances in your calling for such a time as this.

Questions:

  • How do we put on spiritual eyes to see God’s working in coincidence?
  • What are somethings that you have labeled as coincidence when God has been at work?
  • Have you ever thought a problem was too far gone to fix? When?
  • Has God ever brought you through a problem that you thought was too far gone? How did He work?
  • Spend some time thinking about your context, circumstances, and calling. What divine appointments are in front of you in your life?

Serving What We Cannot See

Scripture Passage: Esther 4: 8-15

Esther is the only book of the Bible that does not mention the name of God. The unseen hand of God, however, is prevalent throughout the book. Esther was a part of a large group of Jews living in Persia. She was an orphaned girl raised by her older cousin Mordecai.

Though Esther was a Jew, she became the queen!

When Esther became a queen, Mordecai counseled her to kept silent about her ethnicity. Haman, the prime minister, despised the Jews — especially Mordecai. He plotted to destroy Mordecai’s entire race from the country. He manipulated the King to allow an edict to destroy all the Jews in every province of Persia. Mordecai believed Esther was the very best hope for the Jews to hold off extermination. Read his message to Esther in Esther 4:8-13.

Three Essential Decisions That Prepare Us for Kingdom Impact

Expect God to Use Your Pain | No matter how challenging our circumstances are, God can use them for our good! It could be that the challenges we are facing are the very things that God will use to impact our lives and the Kingdom. Search for Him in those difficult, challenging days

Read Esther 4: 14–16.

Realize Comfort is an Illusion | We must embrace the challenges in our lives in order for God to do His work. He will succeed in fulfilling His purposes, whether in our life or the life of someone else. Discomfort is a part of serving Jesus. We will have to stand for what is right, stand on the Word of God. If you do not, you will miss what God wants to do in your life.

Learn to Trust the Invisible | The Book of Esther beautifully establishes the picture of two competing kingdoms – the kingdom of man and the unmentioned (but constantly present) kingdom of God.

The entire book demonstrates God’s invisible hand at work. We never visually see the manifest power of God’s Kingdom but we see the evidence of it everywhere.

Through your challenges, God is at work behind the scenes. The beauty of the Kingdom of God is that the most significant, eternal, exhilarating rewards are for those who embrace the call to serve that which they cannot see!

A.B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance: “God is preparing His heroes and when the opportunity comes, He can fit them into their places in a moment, and the world will wonder where they came from.”

• Have you turned your challenges over to God?
• Are you embracing the work He wants to do in your life?

Trust Him today, it will change your life and the Kingdom.