“Peace for His People” [ Luke 2:8-21]

Today is Monday, December 11th, 2017. I hope you have enjoyed our Advent series and I pray you have had a deeper understanding of peace this holiday season. Today we take a glimpse at the Nativity story, with the angels telling the shepherds of Jesus’ arrival. We then get to see how they respond, seeking out this child, the Savior.  - Mallory

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
- What is your favorite part of the Nativity story (the narrative of Jesus’ birth)? Why?
- How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)

PRAY
Lord, we ask that you would meet us here today as we study your Word. We thank you for the countless times that You have already done so. Please help us to hear from You alone, Holy Spirit guide us into a deeper understanding of peace. We praise You for all that You have done and will continue to do for us this day. Amen.

DISCOVER  [Luke 2:8-21]

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

   and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

- Why did the angels appear to the shepherds?
- What message did they have for them?
- What is meant by “and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (v.14)?

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

- How did the shepherds respond to this news?
- How did Mary respond to what was happening? What does this mean?
- What did the shepherds do after they left Mary, Joseph, and Jesus?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
- How would you have responded if you were the shepherds?
- How would you have responded if you were Mary?
- How can we be like the shepherds today?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

 

 

“God and Sinners Reconciled - Now Reconcile with Others” [ James 3:18 - Matthew 5:9]

Today is Friday, December 7th, 2017.  Christmas day is rapidly approaching!  Perhaps you have been singing about Christ’s glorious incarnation as carols resound in the halls of your home.  Next time you sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” listen for these words of the chorus: “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”  God’s peace, extended to us in the form of His Son, is not only AMAZING but, as we read in the two short Scriptures today, this peace and reconciliation is also something we should extend to others.  - Kim

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ What does peace look like in your life?  Have you sensed when you have it?  Have you sensed when you don’t?  Can you pinpoint a lack or an abundance of something (or Someone) that might affect your peace?  
_ How do you intentionally extend peace others and point them to the source of ultimate peace

PRAY
Prince of Peace; Thank you for extending ultimate peace, Yourself! You came from heaven to earth to show us the way to be reconciled to the Father and to extend Your peace to others.  Thank you for the Holy Spirit that fills us and allows us the power to choose to extend grace and mercy to others rather than judgment.

DISCOVER  [James 3:17-18 - Matthew 5:9]

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

James 3:17-18

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” ESV

“ But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” NIV

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”  The Message

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  ESV
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” NIV

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” The Message

_ Which translation resonates the most with you today?  How is reading all three translations helpful as you listen for God’s voice today?
_In vs. 17 list how heaven’s wisdom is described.  How does The Message translate “peaceable” and “peace-loving?” Would you translate it in a similar fashion?
_ How does the word peace relate to God’s work of reconciling us with Himself?
_In vs. 18 how can one reap a harvest of righteousness?  
_ What does “sowing in peace” specifically look as we interact with those around us?
_ What promise does God give those who are peacemakers in vs 9?  What does it mean to you to be called a child of God?  What joys and responsibilities come with such a title?  How does this title give us peace?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Is there an area of your life that you need to be intentional about sowing seeds of peace?  If so, where and what is your next step this week?
_ Are there any areas Jesus is inviting you to rest in His peace?  As you rest in His arms, who in your life might be able to also rest as they observe your example?
_ Is there a place that you are lacking peace?  Is Jesus calling you to bring that to Him, the Prince of Peace?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

 

 

“Peace of God" [ Philippians 4:4-7]

It's Thursday, December 7, 2017.  In this familiar passage of Scripture, those who call themselves followers of Jesus are COMMANDED not to be anxious in any form or fashion.  Is this even humanly possible?  Find out what the Apostle Paul recommends and GUARANTEES will work!!!  - Chris Adomanis

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ What in life gives you the most anxiety?  Have you ever gone through great anxiety only to find that it wasn't all that big of a deal?

PRAY
Heavenly Father, forgive us for sometimes focusing on temporal things that may bring fleeting happiness rather than on heavenly matters that bring eternal joy.  We want to be a people known for our gentleness and mercy all for Your glory and honor.  Thank You for being a God who desires to hear from His children and bestow on them Your peace.  Amen.

DISCOVER  [Philippians 4:4-7]
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)
_ What do you think it means to "rejoice in the Lord always"?  Why does Paul say it again?
_ What does it mean to be "reasonable"?  Hint: read this passage in the Amplified Version of the Bible.
_ What does it mean for the Lord to be "at hand"?  Why is this important in the context of this passage?
_ What does it mean to offer prayer and supplications "with thanksgiving"? Why is this important in the context of this passage?   
_ What does it mean to have "the peace of God"?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ How do you respond to anxiety in your life?  Why?  Will you change?  Confess and repent to the Lord and He will forgive and strengthen you!!!      

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?
_ Who in your life TODAY is the Lord prompting you to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
_ Do you have someone in your life TODAY that challenges you (and you challenge back)  to be an effective witness for Christ?

 

“My Peace I Give” [ John 14: 25-27]

Today is Wednesday, November 28th, 2017, Happy Wednesday! As we continue the start of the series “City of Peace”, we learn in the following scripture, how it is Jesus through the Holy Spirit that gives us peace within, as the world rages on around us. Please join us at our Gatherings, Sundays @ 9:00 and 10:15am - Max

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ In a tangible sense, what does peace look like to you?
_ How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God for who He is, to pray for those you are walking with, for the needs you/group are facing, and for the Spirit to open your heart and eyes as you read the passage, which has been completely inspired by God.

DISCOVER  [John 14: 25-27]
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)
_ Who does the Father send in v.26, and in whose name? What will be taught to those who receive him?
_What does Jesus leave with the disciples (as well as followers of this time) in v.27? Who does the object belong to?
_Why does Jesus differentiate between the “peace” this world offers and the peace that Jesus gives? V.27
_Why can a follower of Christ not be afraid of what is to come? Why is it important to not be afraid, in terms of obedience to God’s will?
_What does this passage teach you about the Trinity? (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ What does the peace of the world look like? What does Jesus say of the peace He gives? Which of these are you relying on? What is a simple step of obedience you can take this week to better receive and rely on the peace that Christ offers us?
_ Are you spending time in the Word and in prayer, to hear the Lord speak to you? It is these two actions that leads us to repentance, as well as our daily callings to God’s will.

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?
_Who can you tell your testimony to, that you believe would be open to hearing it?

 

 

“Resurrection Peace” [ John 20:19-21 ]

Today is Tuesday, December 5th, 2017. As we continue our “City of Peace” series, we witness Jesus offer peace to those who He has sent into the world.

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
- Is there an area of my life that I am experiencing anxiety or unrest?
- How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God for who He is, to pray for those you are walking with, for the needs you/group are facing, and for the Spirit to open your heart and eyes as you read the passage, which has been completely inspired by God.

DISCOVER  [John 20:19-21]

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)
- Why do we find the disciples in a locked room?
- Why did Jesus present His hands and side to the disciples?
- Why does Jesus’s resurrected presence make the disciples glad? Why does it give them peace?
- Like the disciples, why should we experience peace knowing that we are sent by the resurrected Christ?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
- Where in my life am I not experiencing peace?
- If I identify with Jesus in His death and resurrection, how can that influence my experience of peace in this life?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

Prepare the Way [ Luke 1.67-79]

Today is Monday, December 4, 2017, Happy Monday! As we continue our series “City of Peace”, we look at Zechariah speaking God's inspired words over his son John, the one who was called to prepare the way for the Messiah. 

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever had someone speak truth over you?  What was that experience like? 
_ How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God for who He is, to pray for those you are walking with, for the needs you/group are facing, and for the Spirit to open your heart and eyes as you read the passage, which has been completely inspired by God.

DISCOVER  [ Luke 1.67-79 ]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

_ What do Zechariah's these recount in vs. 67-75?
     vs. 69? from whose house? 
     vs. 70? through whom did he speak?
     vs. 71- who should should we be saved from?
     vs. 72- what are we to remember?
     vs. 73-what promise does he reference?
 
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

_ What does Zechariah speak over his son John in vs. 76-79?
     vs. 76- what will he be called and who will he go before?
     vs. 77- what will he give to his people
     vs. 78- what causes this salvation and forgiveness to be offered?
     vs. 79- what will those who sit in darkness be guided towards?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Is there anyone you need to speak words of encouragement to? (your children, a friend, a spouse)
_ Is there anyone you need to thank God for?
_ Is there anyone you need to prepare the way for?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?
_Who can you share how Jesus is impacting your life that you believe would be open to hearing?

 

 

 

“The Two Directions of Peace ↑→” [ 2 Corinthians 5:16-21]

Today is Friday, December 1, 2017. There are two directions for lasting peace, the vertical relationship between man and God restored by Jesus and the horizontal peace between people. We can only rightly engage with others horizontally after we have rightly related with God vertically. Is the peace you have with God overflowing into your relationships with people? --Monica

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever experienced conflict in your relationships?
_Have you ever thought that peace was unattainable, either in your own life (anxiety) or with others?

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God for who He is, to pray for those you are walking with, for the needs you/group are facing, and for the Spirit to open your heart and eyes as you read the passage, which has been completely inspired by God. Thank God that Jesus has made lasting peace attainable for us.

DISCOVER  [2 Cor. 5:16-21]

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his
appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

_ In vs. 16-17 What do you think it means to regard someone according to the flesh?
_ In vs 18-19 What does is the ministry of reconciliation? What does it mean to reconcile?
_ In vs. 20 What is the connection between the ministry of reconciliation and being ambassadors for Christ?
_In vs. 21 Identify all the players involved here. (We, He, Him) How does the sinless bearing sin give us the ability to ‘become the righteousness of God’?
_ What does this passage teach us about Jesus?, Power?, His Spirit? Or our calling as believers?  

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Is there an area of your life that you need God’s peace in, a part of your heart where God’s peace has not broken in? Do you need to spend time with God and invest in your vertical relationship to accept His peace?
_ Are there people you need to extend God’s peace to? Is there a place where you can repair your horizontal relationships out of the overflow of the peace you have in your vertical relationship with God?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

 

“The Dawn of Peace” [ Isaiah 9:1-6, Matt 4:14-16 ]

Today is Thursday, November 30th, 2017.  There are times when we catch a glimpse of the peace that is to come. The reconciliation of all things that Christ has and will bring to this world. Christmas time is one of those times of year that we wish peace upon all mankind whether that be saint or sinner. This is the peace that Christ brings. When we look to Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew today we can see the dawn of that peace that began with Christ's birth. We long for the shalom that will eventually come. For now, until Christ’s return, we have the joy of knowing that light has come to the darkness and Christ, The Prince of Peace, has given us reason to rejoice. - Austin

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever seen a glimpse of the peace that Jesus has brought to the world or is bringing?
_ How has the Lord used you, big or small, to help bring about peace to the world?

PRAY
Take time to thank God for His grace and His love for us to bring light to the darkness by coming as the Prince of Peace. Pray that we would realize this peace more fully in each of our lives by bringing peace to those around us.

DISCOVER  [Isaiah 9:1-6, Matt 4:14-16]

 

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

9 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,  on them has light shone. 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. 4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood    will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,   and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Matthew 4:14-16

14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,   on them a light has dawned.

_ In vs. 1 What was in the former time? What was in the latter time?
_ In vs. 2 What happened to those who were in darkness?
_ In vs. 3 What happened to the nations?
_ In vs What happened to the yoke the staff and the rod?
_ What will be burned in vs. 5?
_ What are the names of the child, this son?
_In Matt 4:16 What happened to the people?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)

_ Where do you see peace dawning in your community?
_ How can you bring light to those in darkness during this advent season?  
_ Is there any hard area of your life that you feel like peace will never come to? How can you pray for change?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

“Jesus Brings Peace Between God and Man” [ Romans 5:6-11]

Today is Wednesday, 11/29. In our Scripture today, the Prince of Peace, Jesus, comes at just the right time.  He radically changes the landscape of individual, family, corporate, and global peace.  How?  Read on to find out!  Also, come join the gathering at 9:00 or 10:45 as we celebrate our glorious Peacemaker’s coming to earth.  

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Reflect on a time of turmoil, brokenness, or disharmony in your life.  Share some descriptive words that could illuminate your feelings during this time.  Where did you find hope as you searched to restore peace? Did you think that peace could be found?
_ How is the Lord encouraging you to point someone you are walking with to Jesus, the Prince of Peace?

PRAY
Lord, you are our Prince of Peace.  We confess that often we look elsewhere to bring peace to the brokenness in our lives.  Thank you that from the beginning of time you intended to bring peace to us, Jesus.  Thank you for your promise in Micah 5:4-5 that you bring us security and you shall be our peace.  

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,

   in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great

   to the ends of the earth.

5 And he shall be their peace.

Help us, Jesus, to rest in your work of reconciliation.   Help us to see peace and to seek peace in you and you alone!

DISCOVER  [Romans 5:6-11]

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)
_ In vs. 6 what are terms used to describe us before Christ came in the flesh?
_ Vs 7 declares that one might die for what kind of person?
_ Why is the news in verse 8 so radical and amazing?
_ Verse 9 shares that because of Christ’s death on our behalf, it is “just as if we had never sinned.”  We won’t have to face God’s wrath if we believe in Jesus.  How does that change the way we live today?
_ Think of synonyms for the word reconcile.  What does Christ’s death do for the believer?  What does Jesus’s resurrection and His power do for the believer according to verse 10?
_ What does verse 11 call us to do if we believe in Jesus?  

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Is there an area of your life where you feel unreconciled to Jesus or to others?  If so, where and what is your next step this week to trust Christ’s work and His promises to you personally?
_ Does your life reflect the “joy” of verse 11?  What steps can you take to give over your burdens to the One who can carry them?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

“God is Love, Life is Hard” [ Romans 5:1-5 ]

Today is Tuesday, November 28. Some people, usually young ones because this is one of those ideas you grow out of, think that love is a kind of magic stirred up by grand rituals like flowers and walks in the mountains. Those who have chosen to love someone for a long time know that love is also the source of hope which takes you through the hardest times too. - Ian

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever disappointed yourself? Why do you think you were disappointed?
_ How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)?

 

 

PRAY
O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us safely to the beginning of this day: Defend us by your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin nor run into any danger; and that guided by your Spirit, we may do what is righteous in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

DISCOVER  [Romans 5:1-5]

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

_ What is the ‘therefore’ there for? Are you familiar with the preceding thought in Chapter 4?
_ In light of the teaching in Romans 4, what does Paul mean by ‘justification’? What is his idea of ‘faith’?
_ What might the hope of the glory of God mean? Something past, present, or future?
_ How does the explanation of character formation (v3) connect with the future glory of God?
_ Much of what Paul says in these verses concerns our development, maturing, and future. What does he assure us that we possess now?
_ Why does the Christian persevere to live blamelessly, in holiness and goodness?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Have I felt hopeless about some fault of my character?
_ Have I taken God’s grace for granted, missing the hope for a glorious future?
_ Is there a present suffering I can attempt to find hope in?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

 

“When Blood Brought Peace” [ Colossians 1:15-23]

Today is Monday, November 27th, 2017. I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and time spent with those you hold dear. Thank you for joining us as we begin our advent series, City of Peace. I look forward to learning alongside you this season about how Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection have brought peace into our lives. I pray that we can all have a deeper understanding of this peace and the presence it has in our daily lives. - Mallory

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
- What does peace mean to you? What does peace look like to you?
- How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)

PRAY
Lord today we ask that you would teach us, that you would guide us into a deeper understanding of who you are and the beautiful peace you have to offer. We ask that you would take distractions away from us as we sit with Your Word before us. Lord grant us understanding and grant us peace. Amen.

DISCOVER  [Colossians 1:15-23]
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

- What do we learn about Jesus in verses 15 through 20?
- What are the implications of what we learn about Jesus?
- What does Paul mean when he says “making peace by the blood of the cross” (v.20)?
- What do we learn about ourselves, as believers,  in verses 21 through 23?
- What are the implications of what we learn about ourselves?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
- How do I live differently having been reconciled by Jesus?
- How does Paul instruct believers to live in verse 23? How do I actually live in this manner in my day to day life?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

The Daily Break (This Week)

Dear Daily Readers,

Our contributing team is incredibly grateful for your involvement in reading and engaging with the Scripture through the Daily.  We say engagement because the idea behind The Daily is to encourage believers to not only read the Scripture but living the truth they have discovered out in life and relationship through community. 

This week we are taking a break from The Daily to give our contributors a break.  Whether you use the Daily once a week or every day we would encourage you to stay connected in the rich and beautiful truths of the Scripture.  Next Monday we will be picking up with readings for our Advent Series "City of Peace" exploring Shalom through the Scripture as we look behind and ahead to Christ's arrival and return and the peace He has ushered onto the earth.  Beyond Advent we will begin studying the book of Romans! 

If you are interested in contributing to the Daily feel free to shoot Peter Pieringer an email: peter.pieringer@downtownhope.org

We hope and pray you have a wonderful week of rest and living in gratitude, for all the gifts you have in Christ!

The Daily Team

Paul on Malta + Paul in Rome [ Acts 28:1-31 ]

______________________________________________________________________________

 

“Paul on Malta + Arrives in Rome” [ Acts 28:1-31 ]
______________________________________________________________________________

 

Today is Friday, November 17th, 2017.  Today we complete our Autumn series through the book of Acts. It has been an incredible to go on this journey with you. It is our hope that the accounts that you have read and studied have stirred your hearts and inspired you, just as the first followers of Jesus were. - Mike


 

CONNECT

(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)

_ Have you ever been on a trip that has felt like it has taken forever? What did it feel like when you reached your destination? Did you meet anyone unexpected?

_ How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)?

 

PRAY

Take some time to thank and praise God for who He is, to pray for those you are walking with, for the needs you/group are facing, and for the Spirit to open your heart and eyes as you read the passage, which has been completely inspired by God.


 

DISCOVER  [Acts 28:1-31]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

 

1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. 7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.

17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they gathered, he said to them, ‘Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Casear -- though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain. 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you and what your views are, for with regard to his sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them. 28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” [ 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much dispute among themselves.] 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

 

_ In vs. 1-6, Paul has landed on Malta. What happens once they reach the shore? How do the native people react to Paul?

_ What happens in vs. 7-10? How did God use this to bless Paul and those he traveled with?

_ In vs. 11-16 Paul is traveling to Rome. Who does he encounter?

_ In vs. 17-22, Paul meets with the Jewish leaders living in Rome. What does he tell them? How do they respond to him?

_ Vs. 23-28, Paul gets his chance to testify about the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. What does he say? What is the outcome?

_ In vs. 30-31, what does it say about Paul’s remaining time in Rome?

_ What does this passage teach us about Jesus?, Power?, His Spirit?, or our calling as believers?  


 

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)

_ Is there an area of your life that you are being invited to be a witness?  If so, where and what is your next step this week?

_ Is there a place in your life that is unfamiliar territory (family, friends, work, etc.) where you feel compelled to take the Good News of the Gospel?

_ Is there a place that you are lacking power or strength?  Is Jesus calling you to ask for power from the Holy Spirit through intentional prayer?

 

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

“Paul Sails for Rome” [ Acts 27:1-44]

It's Thursday, November 16, 2017.  In this section of Scripture, we read of God's sovereign hand protecting Paul and all those around him on his sailing voyage from Caesarea to Rome. - Chris Adomanis

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever taken a long trip or had a vacation that was just fraught with disaster (car issues, bad weather, sudden sickness etc...)?  How did things turn out in the end?

PRAY
Heavenly Father, help us to see instances of your Sovereign interaction in our everyday lives.  Where we are short on faith, grant us faith.   Amen.

DISCOVER  [Acts 27:1-44]
27 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. 2 And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 3 The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. 4 And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. 5 And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

The Storm at Sea

13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship's boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”

27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship's boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it go.

33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

The Shipwreck

39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.


+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)
_ What does Luke's detailed account of this story tell you about the author?  About Paul?  About God?
_ Compare and contract verses 11 and 43.  What do you think changed the centurion's opinion of Paul?
_ What does Paul mean when he says he "belongs" to the angel of the Lord in verse 23?  

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ How do you respond to adversity in your life?  Have there been times and are there areas in your life where you need to have more faith in God?  Confess and repent to the Lord and He will forgive and strengthen you!!!      

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?
_ Who in your life TODAY is the Lord prompting you to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
_ Do you have someone in your life TODAY that challenges you (and you challenge back)  to be an effective witness for Christ?

“Would You Persuade Me?” [ Acts 26:1-32 ]

Today is Wednesday, November 15th, 2017, Good Wednesday morning to you!  In this passage, we see Paul again giving his testimony, but this time to a King, as the Jews accuse him of actions against the Laws of the Lord and the laws of the land. Pay attention to how Paul is consistently ready to give his testimony, and the response of the King following. Please join us at our Gatherings, Sundays @ 9:00 and 10:15am - Max

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever told your testimony to a nonbeliever? Do you view your testimony as an empowering expression of the Gospel? Why or why not?
_ How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)?

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God for who He is, to pray for those you are walking with, for the needs you/group are facing, and for the Spirit to open your heart and eyes as you read the passage, which has been completely inspired by God.

DISCOVER  [Acts 26:1-32]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

4 “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this
hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?


9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

_ V9-V23 We see Paul retell his testimony (his story of Conversion, and becoming a disciple). Throughout Acts we are told of his conversion multiple times, most of the time through Paul proclaiming the Gospel through his testimony.

+What is the importance of Paul continually telling his testimony?
+ How does Paul view his own Testimony in relation to spreading the Gospel?
+How does King Agrippa respond to the testimony of Paul? V28-32. After answering this question, readdress the above 2 questions.

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ From the scripture reading above and after analysis of the questions following the text, how are you to view your own testimony?
_ Are you spending time in the Word and in prayer, to hear the Lord speak to you? It is these two actions that lead us to repentance, as well as our daily callings to God’s will.

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?
_Who can you tell your testimony to, that you believe would be open to hearing it?

 

 

 

 

 

“Paul before Festus” [ Acts 25:1-27 ]

Today is Tuesday, November 13, 2017.  Today, as we continue through the book of Acts, we see Paul offer his defense before Festus against the Jews. I pray that the reading will be a blessing to you.

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Are there any recurring that God has been teaching you through this series in Acts?
_ How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus)

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God for who He is, to pray for those you are walking with, for the needs you/group are facing, and for the Spirit to open your heart and eyes as you read the passage, which has been completely inspired by God.

DISCOVER  [Acts 25:1-27]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”

6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him.7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.

8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”

9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”

10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.

16 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”

22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”

He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: “King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write.27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.”

_ Why can Paul’s detainment in Caesarea be viewed as a positive thing?
_ What is Paul’s defense to Festus?
_ What do verses 10-11 tell us about Paul and his convictions?
_ How does Festus feel about sending Paul to Rome? Why is he hesitant?
_ How does Paul’s experience with Festus and the Jews reflect Jesus’s experience with the Jews prior to his crucifixion?
_ What does this passage teach us about the Christian life and persecution?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ How do you feel about speaking truth in the midst of persecution? Is this easy or challenging for you? Why?
_ In verses 10-11 we see Paul demonstrate peace about the consequences that may come to him. Do you trust God with the outcome of your hardships?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

Accusations in Caesarea [Acts 23:23-24.1-26]

Today is Monday, November 13th, 2017.  If you missed our gatherings yesterday this text lands us right in the middle of the section where Paul, on his way to Jerusalem is found telling his story.  I am continually amazed at Paul's tenacity and endurance in the hardships he faces.  My hope and prayer is that you would find yourself in the story today- that Jesus would strengthen and encourage you by the power of His Spirit in whatever trials you are facing. -- Joey

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever faced accusation?  How did you respond? 

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God that He is with us in any and every situation we face. 

DISCOVER  [Acts 23: 12-22]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect: 26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”  31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod's praetorium.
_ After Paul's life is threatened in Jerusalem where do we find Paul being sent (vs.33) and to whom is he being sent (vs.24)?
 
Chapter 24
And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: “Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.” 9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so. 
_ In vs. 1 of chapter 24 we find some of the religious leaders coming down to Caesarea from Jerusalem- why do them come? 

10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings.18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’” 
_ How does Paul defend himself in vs. 10-21?   

22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.  24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
_ What does Felix grant Paul in vs. 22? 
_ What opportunity does Paul have with Felix and his wife in vs. 24-25? 
_ What was Felix's response to Paul in vs. 25 and 26?
_ How does this account end in vs. 27? 

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Is there an area of your life where you are facing accusation?  Is there something Jesus is calling you to do?
(e.g., pray for the accusers, meet to share your vantage point and learn where you might be wrong,)

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

“The Plot Thickens” [Acts 23: 12-22]

Today is Friday, November 10th, 2017.  I was struck by how much this passage reads like a suspense novel. It reminds me that thinking the Bible is boring is one of the biggest misconceptions about God’s Word; rather, it is the opposite! Those who are steadfast for the Lord will face opposition, even still God’s faithfulness and provision are still evident for Paul here. .--Monica

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever faced opposition or resistance because of your beliefs?
_Have you had to stand against someone who wanted to hurt you or your reputation? What did you do?

PRAY
Take some time to thank and praise God that He is in control and sustains our lives.

DISCOVER  [Acts 23: 12-22]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul.15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

16 Now the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”

_Remember God’s words to comfort Paul in verse 11 (just previous to today’s reading)  as you consider these events “Take courage, for as you testified to facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
_ Why do the Jewish men approach the chief priest in vs. 14-15?
_ Who is able to come and warn Paul of this plot? (vs 16)
_What does Paul do with this news? (vs 17)  What does this demonstrate about Paul’s character?
_ What does this passage teach us about Jesus?, Power?, His Spirit?, or our calling as believers?  

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Is there an area of your life that you need to face with confidence and trust in God’s power and plan this week?  If so, where and what is your next step this week?
_ Are you discouraged because your path is difficult? Do you need to step back and see in what ways God is protecting you, like He did Paul?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

“You Whitewashed Wall” [ Acts 22:30-23:1 ]

Today is Thursday, November 9th, 2017.  Today we look at Paul standing before the Chief Priests and Council. Often times when our society looks upon someone who is a good person there are those who look to tear them down. Because we know the evil that is within ourselves we often don’t want to believe in the good works of others. Paul faces the persecution of these high priests not because he has done anything wrong, but because he is contrary to them and he knows this. Sometimes it is not because we have done anything wrong to someone that they hate us, but because we are contrary to their worldview. If we are like Paul and stand steadfast in the Lord then ultimately the world with see

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ Have you ever been disliked or even hated by someone just for holding to a belief?
_ Who is someone you place yourself above not because of wrongdoing on their part but because your think of yourself as superior?

PRAY
Lord let me be steadfast like Paul and humble to see when I hold myself better than other. Make me like your servant and not like a whitewashed wall.

DISCOVER  [Acts 22:30-23:11]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn?
(Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

23 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

_ What does Paul call the high priests?
_ What does Paul tell them he is?
_ What does this do to the council?
_ What is the council's descision?
_ What does the Lord say to Paul?

+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)
_ Are you discourage and feel persecuted like Paul merely for being faithful?
_ Are you like a High Priest or a Whitewashed Wall? Is there someone who you hold yourself better than?  
_ Is there an area where you need encouragement from the Lord in a trial or do you need to be humbled to love a brother?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?

 

“I Beg You, Permit Me to Speak!” [ Acts 21:37-22:29 ]

Today is Wednesday, November 8, 2017.  Our journey through Acts brings Paul to Jerusalem RADICALLY changed.  We learn from Scripture that Paul grew up in Jerusalem under one of the most respected teachers in the law.  What happened?  Many want to know, but many think he is causing trouble with his unbelievable position that Jesus actually met with him personally and spoke to him...and claimed that He, Jesus, is/was/and always will be LORD...the YAHWEH of the Jews.  Paul risks everything to share his powerful testimony of how Jesus got his attention, showed his power, justice, and mercy, and transformed him.  - Kim

CONNECT
(Take time to write down responses to these questions or discuss in your group)
_ How often do you or I tell our story in the presence of friends and believers?  How willing are we to share it in a familiar place, like our hometown, in our family, or in our workplace?  How willing are we to risk our life, reputation...everything in order to share Jesus with others?
_ How is the Lord impacting someone you are walking with (to help grow in or discover Jesus) because of your courageous witness?

PRAY
Dear Jesus, thank you for meeting me right where I am.  Thank you that I, like Paul, don’t have to have it all right before You will initiate a right relationship.  Help me see You working in my life.  Help me rejoice in trial and in prosperity.  Help me pray unceasingly.  Help me give thanks.  Help me remember that You are enough.  Help me have the courage to intentionally point others to You, no matter the cost.

DISCOVER  [Acts 21:37-22:29]
+ WHAT is this passage saying and what do we learn? (Use these questions below each portion of text to clarify the main point)

37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.”

_ Paul is being led to the barracks because some Jews saw Paul at the temple and accused him of stirring up trouble.  How does he approach the commander, his captor in verse 37?   
_ Who did the commander assume Paul was? Vs 38
_ Why might Paul have had confidence to approach the commander in spite of being his prisoner?  Vs 39

40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

_ Why might Paul be sharing his resume with this hostile crowd? Vs 3
_ He recounts specific incidences in vs 4 - why might he have chosen those specific stories to share?
_ Why was Paul going to Damascus?  Vs 5

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

_ Summarize Paul’s testimony in your own words.  Discuss the incredulity of Paul’s story.  Why would he share his intense personal interaction with Jesus with this hostile audience?
_ Imagine the crowd when Paul recounts his question to Jesus in verse 8.  Jesus gave a clear answer to Paul and all who were in the audience that day.  How are you personally impacted by this question and answer exchange?
_ Why might Saul’s specific words in vs 21 cause trouble in this audience in Jerusalem?

22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

_ How did the Jews respond to Paul’s powerful testimony? Vs 22
_ How did the Romans respond? Vs 24
_ How did you personally respond?
_ Why did the Roman tribune withdraw from Paul in verse 29?  
_ As a believer, how does your heavenly citizenship affect your response to circumstances and those who are persecuting you?


+ HOW am I compelled to confess sin and how does the gospel compel me to respond with a simple step of action/obedience?  (Here are some thoughts to discuss in break-outs)

_ Is there an area of your life that you are being invited to be a stronger witness?  If so, where and what is your next step this week?  Where might you find your courage even though there is a cost?
_ Are there any area's Jesus is inviting you to patiently wait (vs. 4) trusting in what God has promised? If so, what area?  
_ Is there a place that you are lacking power or strength or courage?  Is Jesus calling you to remember His power and grace and calling you to share it with others?

+ WHO are you walking with to discover or grow in Jesus and what is your next step with them, how can we help?