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Kingdom of Heaven Lesson #4

“Like Treasure”

Mathew 13:44

(October 22-29, 2017)

The hunt for a treasure chest said to contain millions in gold may have claimed its third victim this past summer (July 2017). A 31-year-old man went missing while searching for the treasure (estimated value $2 million) that art dealer, Forrest Fenn, claims to have hidden in the Rocky Mountains. The clues to its location are hidden in a poem written and published by Fenn in 2010. With the discovery of a body in the Arkansas River, friends and family of this man fear he might have been the victim of a hunt that has already claimed the lives of two Colorado men.

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. Have you ever searched for a treasure? Why?
  2. What is the most money you have ever spent on a single item? Was it worth it? Why or why not?
  3. What is the most valuable thing you have ever found?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Like Treasure”.

Jesus says that the kingdom is found sometimes just like that. Many of you weren’t really looking for anything. You were fine. SO you thought. Oh you might have had some interest in spiritual things – but you just were doing life. Going about your business. Maybe someone said to you, “Would you like to go to church?”

“I’m good. Really, but thanks for asking.”

Maybe someone asked you to go to a fireworks show at a church. Sure – no harm in going to that. But something happened that night. You saw things and heard some things that piqued your interest. You decided to investigate – came to church. Your curiosity continued. Could this be real?

Refer to Matthew 13:44-46 and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. In one story the treasure was stumbled upon by a man, in the other story the merchant went looking for the pearl. What are some ways people might stumble on the Gospel message?
  2. What are some ways that people actively seek after God, eternal life, religion, or the “treasure” of the Gospel message?
  3. Both men in the stories knew right away how valuable the treasure or pearl was. How can we help people understand how valuable the gospel message is to their eternal life, personal life, family, and relationships?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Like Treasure”.

A lot of the decisions in the kingdom of heaven will not add up, will not make sense. Especially to someone who is on the outside looking in.

Why would you give up your vacation to go build a house in Mexico? That makes no sense.

Why would you commit to teaching fourth graders every Wednesday night? That does not make any sense. You know that night is lady’s night. You will be missing out. You used to be so fun. Oh well – suit yourself.

Why would you sponsor a kid in Ecuador at $38 a month? That’s like an Apple watch. What are you doing?

I believe that one of the things that is missing from most of our lives is the sense of adventure – the risk…

Refer to the lesson’s scriptures and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. The men went and sold everything to buy the field and the pearl. What are people in our world afraid they will have to give up to have eternal life?
  2. What are some things that people are willing to “give up” for the kingdom of God?

Reflection and Wrap-up

  1. What does it mean to you to give up everythingfor the kingdom of heaven?
  2. What might you have to give up?

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

If you have time during your Small Group or you want to study more about message topic, read and consider the following passages:

Luke 12:27-34; Luke 18:18-30; Colossians 2:2-3; Hebrews 11:24-27

For the printable PDF of this lesson, click the following link:

Kingdom of Heaven Lesson #4

Kingdom of Heaven Lesson #3

“Kingdom of Heaven”

(October 9-15, 2017)

 The Ugly Duckling

In the story of the Ugly Duckling, one of the little birds is perceived by the other birds and animals as a homely little creature and suffers much abuse from them. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He finds a home with an old woman, but her cat and hen tease and taunt him mercilessly and once again, he sets off alone.

Later, the ugly duckling, now fully grown and mature, unable to endure a life of solitude and hardship any more, decides to throw himself at the flock of swans, deciding that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, finally to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them. The flock takes to the air, and the now beautiful swan spreads his gorgeous large wings and takes flight with the rest of his new kind family. 

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. Have you ever felt like the ugly duckling? Can you describe a time when you felt like you were pleasantly surprised by an outcome or someone else?

Read the following excerpt aloud or watch message segment #1.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Kingdom of Heaven #3”

Watch Online

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is more than meets the eye.

In Matthew 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Once again – Jesus uses an everyday moment to teach what the kingdom of God is like. He would have watched his mom go into the courtyard – along with the other women in that little area of Nazareth. Bread would be made, probably daily ..

The amount that Jesus is talking about would have been enough to feed 100-150 people. 60 pounds would have required about 3 pounds of leaven to ferment the flour.

A little bit leaven transformed the flour – then there would be some leaven held back to used the next time bread would be baked. This scene would happen all over the region. 

Refer to the following scriptures and answer/discuss the following questions.
Matthew 13:33; Galatians 5:9; 1Cor 5:6-8; Matthew 16:6
 

  1. In Matthew 13:33, Jesus uses leaven or yeast to describe the kingdom of heaven. Given that leaven changes dough from within, what effect does being a part of God’s kingdom have on us?
  2. Describe how the Holy Spirit is like leaven and Christ followers are like dough. How are Christ followers like leaven to the world?
  3. Once leaven is mixed into dough, it not does not stop working and it transforms the entire batch of dough. How do these principles apply to the Holy Spirit and us? Us to the world?

Read the following excerpt aloud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Kingdom of Heaven #3”

Watch Online

Life to the full – to the brim –

The Kingdom of Heaven is a group of people – the church that lives out the life of – loving God and loving people – and in doing so it transforms you. It transforms life. Jesus filling the water jars with wine is a glimpse of heaven’s joy.

We all yearn of life like that – for all the way to the brim – wine not water – leaven bread not unleavened bread – …

Jesus was letting us know – the kingdom of Heaven provides more than enough – and it comes in the form of joy because we know God.

This parable also lets us know that we are transformed from the inside out.

Leaven changed the character of the flour. So too when we live the life of the kingdom of Heaven we are transformed from the inside out.

Refer to the following scriptures and answer/discuss the following questions.
John 10:10; John 2:1-11

  1. How does the story of the wedding in Cana help remind us that Jesus wants us to have life to the full?
  2. Explain how the work of the Holy Spirit in influencing and changing you affects all aspects of your life, including you marriage and relationships, your family, your character and business ethics, your conversations, what you watch on TV, etc. 

Reflection and Wrap-up 

  1. How are you, or how can you be, like leaven in your family, neighborhood, workplace and society?
  2. How can the slow work of leaven in making dough rise encourage you when
    1. you struggle with sin, and
    2. you do not see immediate change in others from your efforts to spread the gospel? 

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study:

  • Philippians 4:8, Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Matthew 13:11-12, Romans 5:17

For the printable PDF of this lesson, click the following link:

Kingdom of Heaven Lesson.3

Kingdom of Heaven Lesson #2

“The Kingdom of Heaven”

Parable of the Mustard Seed 

Matthew 13:31-32

(October 8-14, 2017)

            In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Duncan, the King of Scotland, is a good, considerate and kind King. He sees potential in Macbeth and tells him, “I have begun to plant thee, and will labor to make thee full of growing.” The good King Duncan commits to personally labor so Macbeth can grow and succeed. Has someone in your life “planted” you and helped you grow as a Christ follower? Are you planting seeds of faith?

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. Are you a “plant person” with a green thumb, or are plastic plants safer in your home?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1. 

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Kingdom of Heaven”.

Watch Online

Yes, Jesus spoke to big crowds at time, but most of the time it was with just one person. One blind guy. One woman who could not get well. One tax collector named Zacchaeus. One little kid with a lunch. One rich young ruler. Yes, sometimes Jesus spoke to large crowds, he has some intense moments in the temple courts. But mostly Jesus met people. A woman at a well. A short guy in a tree. A time in a garden with his friends.  One seed planted at a time. The big thing for Jesus was not the crowd, but the person.

Where we would tend to say, “bigger is better, crowds are awesome,” the kingdom really spreads one seed at a time. Don’t forget the power of the small. I love the fact that we have lots of people attending our services, but I have a feeling that Jesus says, “That does not impress me. What impresses me is that one kid gets sponsored, that one person gets baptized, that one marriage gets restored, that one person finds sobriety, that one mom finds courage.”

Read Matthew 13:31-32 and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. What do you think the seed and the soil in the parable each represent? Describe what the man in the parable does with the mustard seed.
  2. What does Jesus say the mustard seed will do when planted in the garden? How is planting a seed in a garden like sharing the gospel?
  1. What does the nature of a mustard seed teach us about the power of sharing the gospel with one person, serving one person or one family in need, or “small” acts of Kingdom work?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Kingdom of Heaven”.

Watch Online

In the book of Acts, in the first chapter it tells us that after the death of Jesus and after he had come back from the dead there were only 120 people who believed. What? Only 120? Jesus was walking around after he had died and people were still not convinced. But that was it, 120. My guess is that they looked around the room and thought, “This is not going to work. I know what Jesus said, but this is a group of folks that don’t have what it takes. We are a group of folks that never had what it takes to be great. We didn’t even believe that Jesus was coming back from the dead. We had our doubts.” But they decided to start planting little mustard seeds. And from that 120 seeds that they had that day, it has become the Christian Church that we know today.

Never be discouraged by a little group, a little gathering, a little beginning. That is how the kingdom of God works.

Read the verses noted below and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. Based on the following passage, describe what is happening with the number of people becoming Christ followers.
  • Acts 1:15, Acts 2:41, Acts 4:4, Acts 6:7, Revelation 7:9-10
  1. In order for a seed to grow, it has to die and be buried. Explain how the mustard seed describes Jesus and the result of his death and resurrection. Based on the description of the birds and the nests in this parable, where is the home of a Christ follower?

Reflection and Wrap-up 

  1. How can the nature of a mustard seed, which spends much of its time underground, provide encouragement to us when we do not see the results of our ministry or the times we share the gospel?
  1. Where is your “garden” for sharing the gospel? Is there a specific person in your “garden,” or your circle of friends, family, neighbors or co-workers, that you can share the gospel with or help grow in faith?

Pray Together as a Group 

Additional Study

If you have time during your Small Group or you want to study more about the Kingdom of Heaven, read and consider the following passages:

  • Matthew 14:15-16
  • Matthew 3:2
  • Matthew 7:21
  • Matthew 10:7

For the printable PDF of this lesson, click the following link:

Kingdom of Heaven Lesson 2

Kingdom of Heaven Lesson #1

“The Kingdom of Heaven”

Mathew 13: 24-30

(October 1st-6th 2017)

According to Iowa Agriculture Literacy 2015, there are a lot of reasons for farmers to plow or till their fields. But, plowing does present some challenges. One of the principle problems with plowing fields is the potential wind and water erosion that might carry soil away from the field. For this reason many farmers chose to plant their fields using no-till technology in which last year’s organic matter is left on the surface and seeds are drilled directly into soil without plowing. The organic matter from previous years helps hold the soil in place.”

In the parable of the wheat, Jesus illustrates how we like farmers have to be careful not to erode the soil or those God is calling to himself, but to drill the seeds of the Gospel message directly into their hearts.

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

If you or your small group was put in charge of building a kingdom, what would it include and why?” Is there anything or anyone that would definitely be left out?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1. 

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Kingdom of Heaven”.

Watch Online

“One of the things that was different about Jesus – than all of the other religious teachers was – that Jesus hung around folks that just didn’t fit in. The religious leaders – the Pharisees big complaint about Jesus was that he hung out with sinful people.  It really bothered them that Jesus wasn’t bothered by them.

A real religious person would not have talked with – associated with – eaten with – or even let them touch their robe – if they did not keep the law. The world was divided into 2 worlds – good and bad

They would have been very bothered that Jesus was not weeding out anyone.”

Read Matthew 13: 24-30 and answer/discuss the following questions.

From Matthew 13:24-30 identify who is:

  • The Enemy
  • The Man who sowed the good seed
  • The Wheat (good plants)
  • The Tares (weeds, bad plants)

Look at Matthew 13:27 and 28, Sometimes we are like the owner’s servants who see others as bad seed, something evil, something to get rid of, or to keep out of the church. What are some of the ways or the reasons we do this in the name of Christianity?

Look at Matthew 13: 29 and 30, Jesus doesn’t want anything to happen to the plants until they have the chance to mature to see if they will be wheat or not. Jesus feels the same way about people inside and outside the church. What are some ways we “the church” can keep from pulling up the “wheat” (judging) when interacting with others that are different than ourselves, have “sin issues,” or just do things we don’t like?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Kingdom of Heaven”.

Watch Online

“Lovingly confront Christians on sin issues. But I would say that we are anything but loving and usually we yell at people who are outside of the faith. I certainly need Christ followers who will lovingly hold me to the path. This should be done in a humble manner that is grace filled. But when it comes to people who are outside the church – leave the judgement to God. Let’s tell people about Jesus and his grace rather than judging and condemning.”

Read Answer/discuss the following questions.

2nd Timothy 4:2 tells us, “… we are to correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.” Those that have accepted Jesus as the Lord of their life, do need others in a loving, humble manner to help correct and encourage them using scripture. What would be some good examples of this practice? What would be some poor examples of this practice?

In the sermon, Pastor Mark said, “Loving God and loving people would mean that we talk about sin and repentance – but it also means that we love – and that involves relationships not rules.” What does this mean to you and what does it look like?

Pastor Mark also shared, “Love involves time.” What are some ways you are currently spending time to show God’s love to those inside and outside the church?

Love also involves telling people about the goodness and the grace of God. How do you or would you tell people about the goodness and grace of God?

Reflection and Wrap-up

As a result of this study, what practical steps do you need to take to ensure those attending Stonebridge find a place that is safe, loving and with the main focus being sharing the message of God’s love and saving grace through Christ?

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

If you have time during your Small Group or you want to study more about the Kingdom of Heaven read and consider the following passages:

Matthew 5:20

Matthew 7:21

Ephesians 2:8-9

John 1:16

Acts 11:23

For the printable PDF of this lesson, click the following link:

Kingdom of Heaven Lesson 1

Breaking Bad – Lesson #3

“Parenting Fail”

Luke 2:41-52; Exodus 20:12; Psalm 111:10

(September 24-30, 2017)

In Dr. Seuss’ popular book The Cat in the Hat, young Sally and Sam’s Mother leaves them alone for a while. While bored on a rainy day, the young kids are tempted by an exciting stranger. As the Cat in the Hat approaches their house, he reassures the kids their Mom won’t mind if he comes in to play. The Cat looks fun and acts fun. “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny,” the Cat tells them. The young kids let him in, but the Cat makes poor decisions, tries to play with too many things at once and creates a big mess. When Thing 1 and Thing 2 arrive, matters go from bad to worse as they fly kites in the house and knock everything over. Thankfully the young boy Sam takes a stand. “I do NOT like the way that they play! If Mother could see this, oh what she would say.”

            When you were young and away from your parents, would you have let the Cat in? As parents, we want to help our children mature and have the wisdom to take a stand before things become messy. In other words, as the Cat said, “It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”

Answer and discuss the following question with your group.

  1. Share a time when either you or your parent’s had a #parentingfail? Or How have one of your children made a good decision that made you proud?

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #1.

 An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Parenting Fail”.

Watch Online

The law required every adult male Jew who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem to attend Passover. Mary and Joseph were 90 miles away. This would have been a big deal. Still to this day the goal for every Jew all over the world is to attend once in their lifetime, to celebrate in Jerusalem the Passover feast. The celebration would last seven days. It really was the most important celebration you could go to. It has a happy time filled with hugs and singing.

God was indeed good. He was a deliverer and I am sure that at every camp fire there were conversations and prayers that again God would deliver the nation from Rome, a Messiah would come who would save the people.

After seven days Mary and Joseph and Jesus are heading home. The way travel would have worked was that these families that had come from Nazareth would have traveled in a caravan. It was for protection and fellowship. Women and children would go first. The men and young boys would follow. They would meet up at the end of the day to set up camp.

At the end of the day Mary and Joseph find each other, but Jesus is not at their camp. Maybe he is with his friends. No one has seen him all day. Mary thought he had been with Joseph. Joseph thought that he had been with Mary. He was just at the age where he could have been with either group. It was an honest mistake, but Jesus was lost.

Read Luke 2:41-50 and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. As set forth in Luke 2:41-42, Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem and the Passover festival “every year” and, when Jesus was twelve, attended the festival “as usual.” Based on these verses and the message excerpt above, explain the spiritual culture instilled into Jesus’ home by his parents.
  1. What “parenting fail” did Jesus’ parents make during the Passover festival? What was the emotional state of Jesus’ parent during this event? Do you think this was an honest mistake by good parents, bad parenting, or a possible case for child protective services? How come?
  1. This is the only glimpse of Jesus between his infancy and his adulthood. What does this passage reveal about Jesus’ identity and his mission.

Read the following excerpt out loud or watch message segment #2.

An excerpt from the StoneBridge message, “Parenting Fail”.

Watch Online

Many of us have lived our lives without wisdom. The choices that we have made with our money have been foolish. The choices that we made with regard to relationships have been stupid. Have you ever said this, “How could I have been so stupid. I can’t believe I did that. If only I would have listened.”

Parents, part of our responsibility is to teach the wisdom of God to our kids. The primary way that kids learn about God is through their parents. StoneBridge loves to teach kids God’s Word. We will do our best to do that in creative ways, but we know that partnering with parents will truly help them in the area of wisdom.

We don’t want our kids to learn the hard way. We want them to avoid the lessons that we learned by being foolish. “Well I don’t care what God says about money, I can figure this out.” OK. “I don’t care what God has to say about sex, I can figure this out.” “I don’t care what God says about being healthy, I got this.” Then we are choosing to ignore the wisdom of God.

Read Luke 2:51-52, Exodus 20:12 and Psalm 111:10 and answer/discuss the following questions.

  1. What were the different ways in which Jesus matured? How does Luke 2:51-52 reflect the truth of the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 and the promise of this commandment?
  1. Given that “Fear of the Lord” refers to revering God and honoring his commands, What is the difference between living with a knowledge of God and fearing God? Based on Psalm 111:10, what is the result of fearing God?

Reflection and Wrap-up

 

  1. When it comes to matters of faith, what is the culture in your family and your priorities? How can modeling a right relationship with God as a parent can lead to faith being “caught more than it is taught.”
  1. Parents sometimes make mistakes. Explain how the passages in this lesson can help you not only recover from your mistakes, but also encourage you to teach your children the benefits of revering God and obeying his commands.

Pray Together as a Group

Additional Study

If you have time during your Small Group or you want to study more about helping your children mature in faith, read and consider the following passages:

Proverbs 9:10

Deuteronomy 10:12

James 1:19

Philippians 2:14

Luke 11:4

Galatians 6:9

1Thessalonians 5:11

Matthew 6:24

For the printable PDF of this lesson, click the following link:

Lesson 3 Breaking Bad

 

 

Breaking Bad Lesson #2

“When Bad Things Happen”

(September 17-23, 2017)

“The Sound Of Silence”
(originally by Simon & Garfunkel)

 

Hello, darkness, my old friend.
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping.

And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone.
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp.
I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking.
People hearing without listening.

People writing songs that voices never share.
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence.

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know:
Silence, like a cancer, grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you,”

But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.

And the sign said,
“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whispered in the sound of silence.”

read more…

Breaking Bad – Lesson #1

“Starting Off Bad”

Luke 1:26-38

(September 10-16, 2017)

Children Are A Gift From God
by Sandra Tolson

God sent me three packages
That needed special care
“Take care of these tiny gifts
For they are very rare.”

“Watch over them with all your love
And let them feel your touch
Take care of their every need
For you are needed very much.”

“These gifts will grow up very fast
As you soon will see
Love them with all your heart
And let them be what they will be.”

“When these gifts have fully grown
Look at Heaven up above
Know they exist because of God
And all his precious love.” read more…

Learning to Love – AGAIN

 

“Learning to Love-Again”

1 John 4:18

 (September 3rd-9th, 2017)

“Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s chief operating officer took the command to love your enemies seriously, initiating a conversation with and ultimately befriending a LGBT activist.

The activist reported, ‘Cathy expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being a follower of Christ more than a Christian. Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A, but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.”
(Christianity Today, 2013) read more…

For Thou Art With Me – Lesson #7

For Thou Art with Me

 

“I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever “

 

Psalm 23:6; John 10:7-15; Deuteronomy 11:18-21

(August 27-September 2, 2017)

The long and winding road

That leads to your door

Will never disappear

I’ve seen that road before

It always leads me here

Lead me to your door.

The Long and Winding Road (Lennon-McCartney)

read more…

For Thou Art With Me – Lesson #6

“For Thou Art with Me”

“Goodness and Mercy”

Psalm 23:6

 (August 20, 2017)

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked with a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors…. And our charity must be a real and costly lover, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner…. Your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

— The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis

I’m holding all of my life up to the light,
The light of eternity I know what I should let go.
I see what matters most in the light of eternity,
I want You to see me shine in the light of eternity.

— The Light of Eternity, Matthew West read more…