All Enter Life Sessions

The Relationship Rescue Plan

God didn’t give up on us when things went badly not according to plan in the beginning. Instead God sets in motion a plan using covenants to rescue the relationships that were wrecked. The last covenant is finally being kept – just maybe not in the way you think.

This is Session 4 in Series 2 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 2 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


My parents tell a story about me (usually with great glee in front of other people) from back when I was just starting to walk. I had discovered the knobs and buttons on our stereo system, which were – in fairness – at precisely the same height as my eyes. It took only a few loud experimental radio blasts for my parents to ban me from going anywhere near the dials. The ban frequently resulted in my being shouted at (over the screech of radio static at volume 10) – and then, inevitably, tears. It soon reached the point where I would start bawling just looking at those enticing buttons (knowing, I guess, what was likely to happen next.) Must have been fun times for everyone back then…

I wonder if God, or my parents, ever felt like giving up on the having-humans-around idea after seeing firsthand the unpleasant mess that resulted from us wanting to do things our way (trying to turn the great celestial volume button maybe?)

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Fortunately neither God nor my parents gave up on the situation they found themselves in. Instead, God begins to roll out a plan to restore the relationships that were messed-up in that inglorious disaster when humans chose to say ‘speak to the hand God, we’re doing this OUR way…’ Paul does some straight talking with us in Romans 2v18-32 about what the knock-on effects were (read The Message version if you can).

It took a serious solution to fix the serious mess we’d made. God’s plan was to fix the very thing that was broken – relationships. God does that by making covenants – binding agreements made to bring two parties together kinda like marriage is a legally recognised and, at least in theory, a binding agreement between two people.

Ancient Babylonian contract sealed with seven seals

Ancient Babylonian contract sealed with seven seals

To forge a covenant in ancient times you needed a few key things:

1)   two individuals or groups needing to agree on something and benefit from that agreement
2)  a list of what each party had to do
3)  a list of consequences – both for doing, and not doing,  the things they promised.

In many cases an animal was sacrificed – sealing the covenant in blood and making it legally binding. It was also a sign to remind people of the agreement and make sure everyone knew this was serious. Here’s a link to an example of an ancient covenant or treaty

Skip forward a thousand years or so to where a small group of frightened people are having supper together. One of them – who has claimed recently to be one with Yahweh, the God who forged the ancient covenants with people like Noah, Abraham, Moses and David – takes one of the glasses of wine and says: ‘tonight, we celebrate the making of a new covenant between God and everyone else. I’m at the center of it. It will be my blood and my body that gets carved up to seal this deal.

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According to the law at that time, any normal bloke should have been killed for making that kind of statement. Oh, wait … Anyway, to get just how ridiculous and radical that must have sounded to the dinner party we need to jump back briefly to the story of the covenants in the Old Testament

Back then God makes a number of covenants with different people. They generally go like this:

1)      God promises to show up as God and to bless the people in various ways – by caring for them, guiding them, giving them a place to live, children, even a line of kings. And God promises to bless every nation on earth through the people he chose.

2)      The people in the covenant generally have to do just ONE thing – let God be GOD. That meant being faithful to, loving, obeying and worshiping God more than anything else.

3)      If the people keep to their side of the deal things will go really well for them. If they don’t things will get pretty ugly really quickly (not because God is mean and vindictive, it’s just that is how life works – with or without God).

(For a more detailed look at the covenants check out this article)

Deuteronomy 28 is probably one of the happiest but also scariest chapters in the Bible. God has just given the Law to Moses and his bunch of followers. The Law was how people back then were to keep their side of the covenant with God.

God spells out just how good and how hard life will be depending on what they choose to do …

Any guesses as to how it turned out for the next few thousand years? (Read an Old Testament prophetic book like Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel to track the ups and downs of the next few hundred years.)
So that’s covenants in a very small nutshell – the core part of God’s Relationship Rescue Plan. It’s where we’ll leave the story for now.

So how does this help my faith now?
This may seem a bit like a boring history lesson but it really does set the stage for what comes next (and we’ll be tracking that in the next sessions). For now, the story so far can help in two ways:

1. It can give us a better vision of what God is like. I mean, what kind of God (given all the many alternatives out there) would even want to enter into a covenant with us lot?

It’s worth thinking a bit about the kind of God this whole covenant story shows God to be. God doesn’t need to pursue his relationship with us, but God chooses to. God doesn’t give up on us – even when it cost God something massive. Jeremiah 31v31-33 is one of the best expressions of God’s heart for us – and how he hopes the covenants will work. As you read this ask: how does God feel (like, emotionally) about this?

2. It can give us a better idea of what Jesus did (and does) for us…It turns out that us humans could never keep our side of the deal – people always tried (and still try) to put other things in God’s place. The result is a sense that life is often difficult – ‘cursed’ even? Have you experienced that?

Eventually God sends Jesus to become the ONE faithful human who is able to forge and keep a new covenant with God – sealed in Jesus’ own blood. The terms of the covenant are the same as always (I’ll be your God, you be faithful to me) but now OUR side is being faithfully kept. The curse of breaking the covenant has itself been broken by Jesus. As a result we get to receive every blessing that God has for us just by putting our faith in Jesus – the faithful, human, covenant-keeper (three passages that capture this idea are: Luke 22v19-20, Galatians 3v13-14, Ephesians 1v3).

Doesn’t that sound like a pretty amazing outcome from what was a really messed up situation in the beginning?

redperson

Teaching Kit

A few ideas about how to teach this session to a class or youth group. These are just our ideas – we’re pretty sure there are some way better ones out there. If you know a video clip or intro idea or teaching illustration we’d love to hear about it and include it here too. Use the comment box below to get in touch.

What’s the one thing you want people to remember when they leave?
How are you going to get that idea across in the time you have?

Intro options

The idea of Covenants might seem a bit dry and disconnected with our world today. It’s easy to miss the deep, crazy love that God had for all of us – a love that drove him to do whatever it took to win us back. Whatever it took – the Covenants plan ended with God sacrificing himself to finally win us back.

Check out this short clip from the movie Frozen. Like Elsa, we also have the power in us to freeze things. Our self-centered sinfulness has wrecked all kinds of relationships. The only thing that can break the spell is a monumental act of love and self-sacrifice. In Frozen, that happens with Anna in this clip. In God’s Story it begins when God decides not to wipe us all out but begin a relationship rescue plan that would take centuries. It ends on the cross with a real death.

Leaders Kit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
Have you ever had a massive fight with someone you love? If so, did you manage to patch things up again? How did you do that?

Does it seem to you that God is more out to get you or bless you? Any experiences you’ve had that swings that either way?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab.

replay

Some questions to help you replay your story …
o  Was there anything in this session that might help your faith in God right now?

o  How do you respond to the thought that everything in our lives – even the sinful stuff – can fall under God’s blessing because of Jesus? What would be the things you need to do?

o  Is easy or more difficult for you to believe that in Jesus there’s nothing that gets in the way of us receiving the love God drenches us with?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
If you’ve read point 2 at the end of the post in the Story tab – does thinking about how Jesus enables us to experience the blessing of being covenant-keepers change or challenge your idea of who Jesus is?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something about the lengths God has gone to to rescue his relationship with us that makes you want to say to God:

wow, I kinda need to work on my relationships – with you, or with someone else – or maybe with myself. Help me get rid of anything that’s breaking those relationships down.

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o  Jesus might be keeping the new covenant for us, but we still need to live as covenant-keeping people. That’s mainly about worshipping and obeying God. What would it look like to do that more this week?

o  Are there any relationships you need to patch up this week? What would it take to go and do that?

o  We are still under a relationship-mending covenant, but Jesus is keeping it for us. What practical steps could you take this week to step out from what might seem like the curse of disobedience and into the spiritual blessing Jesus has made available to you?

o  Psalm 25 is a great Psalm about living a covenant life. Spend some time this week making this your own prayer.

If you want to read a great passage on even more covenant stuff check out Hebrews 9:11-28

WordSpace Posts


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

#1
God is NOT like Loki. Thor’s foster brother, Loki, is an evil villain who misuses his power. He’s always plotting, scheming, lying and manipulating. Most of all he despises the human race.

Thank goodness this is not a description of our loving God. Don’t believe the lies the devil tries to tell you about our God. God is love and he delights in you and rejoices over you and wants to be in a real vibrant relationship with you. God is truth so he cannot lie.

When God says he loves you so much – he means it! Be encouraged today by Zephaniah 3v14-17 http://bit.ly/14XNvEu

#KnowingGod
#doctER

#2
‘If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness so that we can, with reverence, serve you.’ (Psalm 130v3-4)

Ever want to hide from God because of all the stuff in your life you’re not proud of? Here’s an uncomfortable truth: God knows everything about us. On our own we have no hope of being right with God.

The good news is that God doesn’t ‘keep a record’ of all the ways we mess up. God forgives us if we open the dark parts of our lives to him and invites us into an intimate and reverent relationship with him.

That’s our God! That’s what God does. How could you respond?

Psalm 130 here: http://bit.ly/17esQRO

#knowingGod
#andrewv

#3
‘Jesus is LORD’ of my heart Jesus sums up his will for our lives in Mark 12v30: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and strength.’

That’s a BIG love God desires from us. How do we begin to do that? In every situation in our lives we should ask: ‘how can Jesus be Lord here?’ When someone or something is ‘Lord’ in your life, it means you allow them or it to rule over your life.

Will you let our Saviour King rule over your life? In saying yes, you step into a FULL life! Do it!

Read Mark 12 here: http://bit.ly/15ajaT9

#JesusisLord
#darrelhoff

#4
Jesus is Lord of the ugly stuff.

There is a war in a lot of us! ‘For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live.’ (Romans 8v13)

If ‘Jesus is Lord’ in our lives, we need to actively NOT follow our sinful desires: lust, greed, selfishness, disobedience, anger/hate, jealousy, bitterness etc. Instead, ask for and let God’s Spirit lead you in actions of righteousness.

Why keep on living with the ugliness we carry when we mess up? Jesus’ way is not about hurting us; but giving us a FULL life. Is it not time to trust Him now?

Read Romans 8 here: http://bit.ly/1aiLTen

#JesusisLord
#darrelhoff

#5
‘I’m mature enough to forgive you, but not dumb enough to trust you again’ (Teenager post #5756)

Is that a familiar thought? Relationships can get pretty messed up. Unforgiveness, lack of trust, anger, jealousy, bitterness, rage. Lovely stuff hey!

In Colossians 3 Paul compares all that stuff to the clothes we wear. We can choose to cover ourselves in that stuff, or change the wardrobe and starting ‘wearing’ patience, kindness, graciousness instead.

To do that you’ll need to trust that God has already made us right with him (Colossians 1v21-23) and that God is working in you to change us into much better versions of ourselves.

You ready for the journey?

#andrewv

What We Lost – the Relationship Breakup

The main casualty of our decision to try and become Lords of everything like God is a breakdown in all kinds of relationships between ourselves, God, other people, creation, and us too. This might explain a lot of what we see is wrong in the world around us – and what the fix needed to start with.

This is Session 3 in Series 2 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 2 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


One of the most awe-inspiring places I visited on my motorcycle journey home from Vancouver to Cape Town was the city of Volgograd in south-west Russia. It was awe-inspiring for all the wrong reasons – this was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in World War Two back when the town was known as Stalingrad. In just 6 months over 1 million soldiers on both sides died in a brutal close-combat war of attrition made even more miserable by winter temperatures that went as low as mnus 30 degrees Celsius. The Russians eventually won the battle mainly because they had more replacements to keep feeding the slaughter.

Now, a massive monument stands on the hill where the greatest fighting took place. It’s a statue of Mother Russia calling her children to come and fight the approaching enemy. It’s a very humbling place to visit.

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Genesis 3 paints a picture that helps us see why things have gone so badly wrong at so many points in our history as people on this planet. It shows us what has gone wrong between us and God – and between us and just about everything else too. Whether there was a real talking snake and a juicy apple is mostly besides the point – it’s a powerful story that grabs our imagination and tells us some deep truth.

Here’s the breakdown: God creates everything very good – including us. God breathes his breath into us and gives us everything we need. God is really keen to have a loving, trusting relationship with us but refuses to force that on us. In the story, God lets us know what our options are by putting a tree in the garden and warning what will happen if we choose to try become like God. Before that happens God and the first humans get to enjoy a really cool relationship. The story tells us the people are naked and without shame – which is a way of saying there was nothing to hide from God or each other, or be ashamed of.

Tragically, the decision is made to try and shove God aside and become like God – something we keep trying to do . 

The next thing we hear in the story goes like this:

‘… the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?

He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ (Genesis 3:8-10).

It’s amazing how quickly things change. In the previous chapter things were cool between God and people. Now, just hearing God makes them afraid and sends them running into the bushes to hide. How sad is that? So we come back to the scenario at the top of this post. If God were waiting in the room next door – would your first instinct be to burst in, or hide?

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The main casualty of our decision to try and become Lords of everything like God is a breakdown in all kinds of relationships: relationships between us and God; between us and others; between us and the rest of creation; between us and ourselves. Here’s how Frederick Buechner puts it:

The power of sin is centrifugal. When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything out toward the periphery. Bits and pieces go flying off until only the core is left. Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing at all is left. “The wages of sin is death” is Saint Paul’s way of saying the same thing.

Other people and (if you happen to believe in God) God or (if you happen not to) the world, society, nature—whatever you call the greater whole of which you’re part—sin is whatever you do, or fail to do, that pushes them away, that widens the gap between you and them and also the gaps within yourself. (Wishful Thinking)

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Exactly how this happens is kinda hard to explain but it’s easy to see the evidence around us, right?

Take the relationships you have with others, for example. How far back do you have to remember to think about a difficult relationship in your life? What about the stories of conflict you hear all the time in the news – conflict that is born out of broken-down relationships between people?

Or the ‘relationship’ we have with creation. Just the existence of societies like the SPCA, or things like canned hunting or the mess we’re generally making of the environment are just a few reminders of how broken things are.

And what about the relationship we have with ourselves? Someone in my youth group once asked me this: ‘it says in the Bible to love your neighbour as yourself, but what if you hate yourself?’ Too many young people struggle with a destructive self-image. The ‘relationship’ they have with their inner selves sometimes gets just plain toxic.

A poet called Steve Turner once said this: ‘God, here are my thoughts. Some of them hate each other.’ Sometimes, like David in Psalm 13, we ‘wrestle with our thoughts’, and give in to patterns of behaviour that really are bad for us.

Things are generally pretty messed up right? The bit in Genesis 3:16-19 might sound harsh from God but actually it’s more God saying: ‘ok, so you chose to try do life without me – well here’s how life without me works … ‘

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So what now?
Well, God doesn’t leave things like that – which is seriously the best news you will hear, ever. The first hints of God’s grace and mercy towards us are right in the middle of Genesis 3 too. God graciously intervenes in the relationship between ourselves and the Devil, making sure it’s a hostile one to protect us from even more temptation. God provides ways for us not to be totally ashamed of our ‘nakedness’, giving us ‘garments’ that allow us to get on with life as it is now. God prevents us from achieving immortality – and staying the way we are forever.

Imagine that. God immediately begins to do something about the mess, choosing not to undo what happened but to make sure there’s a way we can be transformed and saved through the pain and suffering that’s part of life now.

Those first hints are just the first few indicators of a grand plan to rescue those broken relationships – of all kinds. In the next session we’ll take a look at the center piece of that plan. A new relational agreement that begins to put back together and restore what was shattered when people chose to try do things their own way.

It really is an incredible story …

redperson

Teaching Kit

A few ideas about how to teach this session to a class or youth group. These are just our ideas – we’re pretty sure there are some way better ones out there. If you know a video clip or intro idea or teaching illustration we’d love to hear about it and include it here too. Use the comment box below to get in touch.

What’s the one thing you want people to remember when they leave?
How are you going to get that idea across in the time you have?

Intro options

Some ideas to get people thinking.

1) The breakup of relationships are a core theme in loads of movies. Here’s a clip from Thor you could use to get people thinking. It’s not pretty but it’s a neat illustration of how bad choices wreck lives and inflict suffering on others. After watching this, get your group to think of other examples of relationships that go bad in movies – or in real life. What are some of the most common reasons relationships get ruined?

2) The very existence of societies like the SPCA, or things like canned hunting or the mess we’re generally making of the environment are just a few reminders of how broken things are. What’s the issue or cause that people in your group are most passionate or angry about? What’s at the heart of these problems?

3) Do you identify with Calvin in this cartoon? Do you have the feeling that God (or someone else) is out to get you? If so, why is that?

calvin_hobbes

4) Do you identify with any of these?

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Options for your input time

1) Focus on this text in the Genesis story. Does that scene ever play out in your life? What would it take to stop trying to run away from God?

‘… the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?

He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ (Genesis 3:8-10).

2) Get your group to think about this definition of sin from Frederik Buechner. Do you agree with this?

The power of sin is centrifugal. When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything out toward the periphery. Bits and pieces go flying off until only the core is left. Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing at all is left. “The wages of sin is death” is Saint Paul’s way of saying the same thing.

Other people and (if you happen to believe in God) God or (if you happen not to) the world, society, nature—whatever you call the greater whole of which you’re part—sin is whatever you do, or fail to do, that pushes them away, that widens the gap between you and them and also the gaps within yourself. (Wishful Thinking)

3) See if anyone in the group can describe the next part of the Story. What does God do next, or even what does God do ultimately to fix the problem of messed-up relationships caused by sin?

Finding Jesus in the Story

Jesus experienced all kinds of relationships when he was physically here on earth. One of the strangest and hardest to deal with was when his mom and siblings thought he had lost his mind because of the strange things he was saying and came round to take him home! (Mark 3v21) Imagine how that must have felt for Jesus.

Then there was the breakdown in the relationship he experienced for a while with God – his father in heaven as Jesus became the embodiment of sin on the cross (Matthew 27v46).

o  Does knowing that Jesus has experienced pretty much the worst kinds of messed up relationships change the way you think about him? What about the idea that Jesus’ main mission was to bring peace and wholeness to our relationships again (Colossians 1v20)?

Something to take-away

1) What relationships in your life are showing signs of having been damaged by bad choices you, or the other person have made? What could you begin to do to repair what’s been broken?

2) Is there something in your life that’s causing you to try and hide from God in the bushes as Adam and Eve did in Genesis 3? What would it take for you to come out and invite God to be present again in your life?

Group Kit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
Think back over the last few weeks – how have your most important relationships been? What about the ‘relationship’ you have with yourself?

If God were in the room next door – and waiting for you to go in and have a chat, how would you feel? Excited? Nervous? Would you want to run in or away?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
Some questions to help you replay your story …

o  Did the thoughts and ideas you heard in this session make sense to you? Did it raise any questions? How do you feel about what you heard?

o  How different would your life be if the various kinds of relationships you had were in a better place? What would it take for that to happen?

o  Spend some time imagining the scene in Genesis 3: 8-10 where Adam and Eve hear God and run away in fear. How would you feel if you were one of those two people? How would you feel if you were in God’s shoes?

o  If you were God what would you want to do next?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Jesus experienced all kinds of relationships when he was physically here on earth. One of the strangest and hardest to deal with was when his mom and siblings thought he had lost his mind because of the strange things he was saying and came round to take him home! (Mark 3v21) Imagine how that must have felt for Jesus.

Then there was the breakdown in the relationship he experienced for a while with God – his father in heaven as Jesus became the embodiment of sin on the cross (Matthew 27v46).

o  Does knowing that Jesus has experienced pretty much the worst kinds of messed up relationships change the way you think about him? What about the idea that Jesus’ main mission was to bring peace and wholeness to our relationships again (Colossians 1v20)?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Is there a pattern of thinking or relating to other people, to God, or yourself that needs to change? What would it take to start doing that? Maybe start by asking God for forgiveness and the power to be transformed in that area of your life.

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Something to help you remix your story …
This part of the story kinda ends in a bleak place. Sometimes though, it’s good to just sit and reflect on the way things are and express that back to God.

Psalm 13 is a great prayer to use. Maybe spend some time letting these words shape a prayer:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’
and my foes will rejoice when I fall

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

WordSpace Posts


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

#1
Ever feel like this world is just really messed up? Nobody needs to tell us that we live in a broken world full of injustice and suffering. Question is: does God care? Turns out God does!

‘LORD, you listen to the desires of those who suffer. You steady their hearts; you listen closely to them, to establish justice for the orphan and the oppressed ‘ Psalm 10v17-18

God cares. God is compassionate and just. And God calls us to reflect his compassion and care. Any ideas how you could begin to do that today?

Read Psalm 10 here: http://bit.ly/13YAJql

#KnowingGod
#do_justice
#linda

#2
What would you do if you were caught doing something to hurt someone you loved a lot? Would you hide because you felt bad, or try and beg for forgiveness?

Often when we realise we’ve sinned against God we go into hiding until we think God might have forgotten! Hosea’s encouragement is this, ‘Come, let us return to the Lord!’ (Hosea 6v1)

Coming back to God when we’ve let him down can be hard, but it’s also the most healing thing we can do. Do you need to return to God and tell him about some stuff?

Check out Hosea 6 here – http://bit.ly/1lUEsAH

#fridayfeedback
#andrewv

#3
‘A society can only be judged by its ability to take care of its most vulnerable. As things stand, ours is failing dismally’ according to Mugwena Maluleka. It seems we so often hear about rape, sometimes (at least in South Africa) even of babies. What does hearing about this bring out in you? Fear? Criticism of government? Anger? Helplessness? Or your own painful memories?

The Eternal Healer gives us a powerful and effective response to this evil: ‘Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.’

2 Chronicles 7V14 http://bit.ly/186Dqeb

#GodsStoryNow
#hein

#4
What would you do if someone deposited R250 000 into your account and it seemed like no-one would ever know? Seriously, how much cool stuff could you buy with that?!

That actually happened to a 16-year old in Georgia, USA recently. The guy bought himself a car and a whole lot of McDonald’s meals :/

Psalm 33v5 says: ‘The Lord loves righteousness and justice, the whole earth is filled with his unfailing love’

Righteousness is about being in right relationship with God, with yourself, and with others – even the people who make mistakes. Righteousness is about loving people – even (especially!) when no-one’s looking.

The guy eventually turned himself in to the police. How much space is there in your heart for doing things the ‘right-relationship’ way?

Ask God for more?

Psalm 33 here: http://bit.ly/Pcq1dY

#andrewv

#5
Someone in my youth group once asked me this: ‘it says in the Bible to love your neighbour as yourself, but what if you hate yourself?’ Do you, or does someone you know, struggle with a destructive self-image? Is the ‘relationship’ you have with your inner self sometimes toxic?

Messed up relationships of all kinds are what we get to live with in a broken world. The good news is that nothing is more important to God than rescuing broken relationships.

However dark the place you might be in right now, God has a path to healing for you. It may be through counselling or prayer or medication. It may be over quickly or take a long time.

Will you trust him for your healing?

Read Revelation 21v1-5 here: http://bit.ly/1yXK2GK

#andrewv

Into Temptation… short cuts, substitutes and cheap options

Temptation is the art of making bad things look good. Our human desires make us vulnerable to the lure of shortcuts and cheap substitutes for the life-giving things God wants us to seek out instead. Seeing temptation for what it is is the best way to begin resisting it.

This is Session 2 in Series 2 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 1 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


Here are three hypothetical situations that might help you to understand temptation in a new way:

Situation #1: Imagine you could download everything you’ll ever learn at school direct into your brain in one morning – just like like Neo learning Kung Fu in the Matrix movie. You could be earning money by your 7th birthday and retire at 20 …

Or imagine there’s a skills pill you could take to instantly be playing soccer like Lionel Messi. Would you take it?

smartpil

Situation #2: I don’t know if you like bathing much (personally, I hate it) but imagine back when you were a little kid and you’ve just got out from a long soak. You’re dry, dressed and warm. Then your mom takes you back into the bathroom and tries to convince you to get back into the cold, mucky water again. Not happening right?

Now imagine your mom somehow convinces you that getting back in to that old bathwater was exactly what you wanted to do – so in you jump, and then … yeah, that wasn’t a great idea …

What would it take for you to climb in?

What would it take for you to climb in?

Situation #3: One morning your mom or dad says to you that they have decided to buy you a brand new car for your 17th birthday – a nice one with cool wheels and whatever pimped-up stuff you want. It’s just a few years to wait. But then you reply that actually the old pedal-powered go-kart you had as a kid is all you really want…  cos you can have it now – and learning to drive is SUCH a mission.

Your dream car

Your dream car

Trying to take a shortcut to something valuable; choosing a bad-option that’s been dressed up; settling for cheap substitutes. That’s temptation right there.

These three things are right there in the beginning in Genesis 2:15 – 3:13. Read it and see if you agree with this interpretation:

The shortcut: Hey, if we can be like God then no more being just a lame human! Instant awesomeness and knowledge of deep mysteries. Just take a bite … God’s got no clue what he’s doing …’

The pimped-up bad thing: So we know what happens in the world as a result of the early humans giving into temptation, right?: world wars, natural disasters, genocide, poverty, plagues and epidemics, bullying, addictions, suicide and self-harm, bulimia, STD’s…. Fun hey?

In the story all they see is a fruit that’s pleasing to the eye and good for food. Tragically, it’s too good for them to resist

The cheap substitute: God made us humans in God’s image to be ‘lords’ of creation – to look after the earth and be responsible for it. The one condition was that we allowed God to be God and Lord over us too. We wouldn’t have it. Disobeying God in the garden is about wanting to substitute our status as ‘lords’ for God’s role as ‘Lord’.

Seems a bit stupid when it’s put like that right? It is. And yet we keep getting caught in the trap.

There was a movie that came out a few years back called the Last Temptation of Christ. It was pretty controversial but it nailed the temptation Jesus faced to avoid the painful road that had a cross on it.

Here’s how the Mark described Jesus’ biggest temptation in his gospel:
in Mark 8v31-33 Jesus tells his disciples about the heavy and painful road he needs to walk to the cross. Peter says to him ‘No, I’ll never let you die!’ Jesus says: ‘get behind me Satan.’ Pretty harsh words to say to your closest friend you think – and you’d be right. I think Jesus is harsh towards Peter because he was severely tempted to do things the way Peter suggested – to somehow find an easier way than the cross. The Devil himself tempted Jesus with this in Matthew 4v1-11

Jeremiah 2v4-13 is a passage we’ll keep coming back to in the Enter Life series. In this text God says to his cranky crew of people on earth:

You’ve committed two sins against me: you’ve abandoned me, the well of living water, and you’ve dug for yourselves wells in the desert that are cracked and can’t hold any water.’

desert

Hey, I’m just going to scrape out a sandy hole with my hands in this hot, dry desert and totally ignore the huge oasis right over there!’ said no lost guy in the desert ever …

That seems crazy, but how often do we go in search of things to satisfy our deep desires that have nothing to do with God?

So, what temptations come your way?
We all desire (pretty much) three basic things: someone to love; something meaningful to do with our lives; someone significant to be. There’s no shortage of things that promise shortcuts, substitutes and attractive options for these things. Are these good examples?

  • Cheating on an exam promises a better mark without you really learning anything or, you know, actually having to study
  • Lying to get ourselves out of trouble is attractive because it promises a way out of facing the consequences of something we’ve done to mess things up
  • Gossiping about someone is tempting cos is promises to make us feel better about ourselves by taking down someone we compare ourselves to – even if it’s a friend
  • Watching people have sex on the internet and maybe ‘participating’ in that by masturbating promises an experience of instant sexual intimacy without the hard work (and deep satisfaction) of a real relationship
  • Drinking too much or using some other addictive substance promises to turn us into better versions of ourselves – more able to enjoy a party without our natural inhibitions. It may also promise to dull the pain of something we’re going through – without letting the awkwardness or struggle forge us into better versions of ourselves.

Any others you can think of?

Often the illusion breaks down almost immediately after we’ve given in – either when we get caught, or realise we’ve been lied to (by others or by ourselves) Check out this tragic and bizarre story of temptation and regret in 2 Samuel 13v1-21.

tumblr_m90mlaA6LG1qiaqpmo1_500

So how can we resist temptation better?

I think that one of our best defences against temptation is to know how it works. Here are four things that might help:

#1: Home in on the truth. Knowing what’s really real, weakens the seductive power of the lies we’re tempted with. Watch how Jesus combats the lies of the devil in the desert with truth from the Bible in Matthew 4. Jesus offers to show us the truth too – and set us free from everything that holds us captive (John 8v32). Also check out Ephesians 6v14. The ‘belt of truth’ is an essential part of the armour Paul urges us to put on so we can stand firm against temptation. How do we get truth? By letting the message of God ‘live richly inside us’ (Colossians 3v16) and by asking the Holy Spirit to teach us (John 14v15-27).

#2: Be smart. If you don’t want to end up eating the chocolate cake in the fridge then stay well away from the kitchen. Sometimes we can’t avoid being around the things that tempt us. Sometimes we can. Wherever possible give temptation the smallest chance of starting that conversation.

#3: Be open. Sin and temptation has great power over us if we try do battle with it alone. If you can find someone you trust (and who isn’t too easily tempted too) to share your struggle that will really help.

#4: Refuse to feel condemned. Our enemy loves to turn around and condemn us with the things he’s just tempted us to do. There’s no condemnation for those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 8v1). Believe it.

At the same time be open to the conviction that the Holy Spirit brings. Sometimes the Spirit shakes us with the reality of what we’ve done to get us to do something about it. It’s not pleasant, but it’s good.

redperson

Teaching Kit

A few ideas about how to teach this session to a class or youth group. These are just our ideas – we’re pretty sure there are some way better ones out there. If you know a video clip or intro idea or teaching illustration we’d love to hear about it and include it here too. Use the comment box below to get in touch.

What’s the one thing you want people to remember when they leave?
How are you going to get that idea across in the time you have?

Intro options

Some ideas to get people thinking.

1) Here are three things people desire:
* knowing who you really are (and that you’re actually ok)
* having something meaningful to do with your life
* having someone to love
Would you be happy if you had these three things present in your life? Which one would you miss the most? Which one would you be most tempted to get quickly, now?

2) Temptation is a big theme in the Lord of the Rings movies. Here’s a clip where Galadriel is tempted to accept Frodo’s offer to take the ring. She knows it will give her great power, far beyond what she possesses now. The real evil behind the temptation is revealed as Galadriel is shown what she will become if she takes the ring.

You could use this clip to open a discussion about how the art of temptation is to make bad things look good. The last line is worth thinking about: the true and lasting path to changing the course of the future is through a long and tough journey. There are no shortcuts to achieving big things or being fully transformed into mature people.

Gandalf is tempted in the same way in this clip.
And Flight of the Conchords have some fun with their song Frodo Don’t Wear the Ring

3) Agree or disagree: There comes a point when you’ve given into the same temptation so many times it’s not really worth asking for forgiveness any more …

Options for your input time

1) Use the examples in the beginning of the article, or think of your own, to help your youth understand temptation as being about shortcuts, choosing bad-options that have been dressed up, or settling for cheap substitutes.

2) Read or summarise the stories in Genesis 2:15 – 3:13 and/or Mark 8v31-33 . See if people can identify the shortcuts or cheap substitutes in the temptations there?

3) Go through the list of common temptations in the article – and add others if you’d like. Can your group identify the shortcuts, dressed-up bad options or cheap substitutes in those?

Finding Jesus in the Story

Can you picture Jesus being really tempted to avoid the cross that both the devil and Peter dangled in front of him? Did you know that the main thing that enabled Jesus to resist that temptation was knowing that if he endured the cross we would be set free to enjoy life with God again (see Hebrews 12v1-3)?

o  How does that change or challenge your picture of Jesus, and the way you imagine he views you now?

Something to take-away

1) Check out the list of things (in the Story tab) we’re often tempted by.  Cheating, lying, gossiping, watching porn, getting addicted to some substance. In what ways could these be shortcuts or cheap substitutes for something more meaningful and satisfying?

2) Which of the four defences against temptation at the end of the article would be good to focus on? Is there anything else that would help?

Group Kit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
Think back over the past few weeks of your life. What have been some of the things you’ve been tempted to do that you felt bad about afterwards? What one temptation do you find the hardest to resist?

What are your general strategies to avoid or resist being tempted to do stuff you know is wrong?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab.

replay

Some questions to help you replay your story …
o  How do you feel about what you encountered in this session – encouraged, discouraged, hopeful, disappointed, anything different?

o  Did anything seem like particularly good news? Anything that was not so great news for you, or hard to understand?

o  Imagine you were able to see the truth behind the things you’re tempted by and had the strength to resist that temptation better? How would your life be different?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Can you picture Jesus being really tempted to avoid the cross that both the devil and Peter dangled in front of him? Did you know that the main thing that enabled Jesus to resist that temptation was knowing that if he endured the cross we would be set free to enjoy life with God again (see Hebrews 12v1-3)?

o  How does that change or challenge your picture of Jesus, and the way you imagine he views you now?

 

remix

What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
If you’ve given in to temptation and wondering what to do,God has given us a gift for that: it’s called repentance (Romans 2v4). Repentance is not just saying sorry and forgetting about it. Repentance is about recognising the trap you’ve fallen into, asking for forgiveness and actively putting in place a strategy to do the opposite thing in future. Jesus beat the power of evil over us and refuses to condemn us – so don’t believe otherwise!

Is there anything specific you need to repent of?

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o  Which of the four practical suggestions about resisting tempation do you need to practise this week?

o  What ways could you let God’s truth about yourself and the things you desire live more richly in you? What can you do to access that truth when you need it most?

o  Is there someone with whom you can share something you’re being tempted by this week?

WordSpace Posts


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

#1
Did Jesus ever struggle with temptation? Absolutely. Jesus was tempted in ‘every way’ (Hebrews 4v15) but one was especially hard for him to resist: was it sex, money, drinking, smoking weed?

I think it was taking the easy way out: in the desert with the devil (Matthew 4v8-11), hearing Peter say no to the cross (Mark 8v33) and in the garden (Luke 22v39-44) Jesus really wanted to avoid the cross. But he chose the hard path – the only way to deal with sin.

Being prepared to say no to the easy life teaches obedience, brings maturity and strips away all the fat that weighs us down. Not many choose it. We’re celebrating the life of a man who refused the easy path this week.
Are you up for the challenge?

Read Matthew 7v13-14 here: http://bit.ly/18l5kDg
Great Jars of Clay song on this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpZtzfqdCi4
#andrewv

#2
God is like Iron Man. Tony Starke designs a protective suit of iron armour that helps him do amazing things and fight bad guys.

God has also made armour. In Isaiah 59v17 it says that God, as he fights against injustice, puts on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head. Sound familiar? God not only made armour for himself, he’s made special spiritual iron man suits for us. Why? Because it’s dangerous out there and we need God’s protection against the devil’s evil tricks.

Are you wearing your spiritual iron man suit or are you running around in spiritual underwear?

Read Isaiah 59 here: http://bit.ly/11A3M1i

#KnowingGod
#doctER

#3
We recently asked WordSpace subscribers to say what sins tangle and trip them up.

Here’s just some of what we got back: Porn, lust, dodgy stuff in relationships, money, vulgar words, lies, game addictions, losing trust in someone, pride, selfishness, anger, guilt, comparing the way I look to other people, cheating on a boyfriend, gossiping, the way I eat…

On that cross Jesus experienced the full effect of each one of these (imagine that for a minute).

Does believing in what Jesus did simply make these struggles go away? Well, no – not always. But it does mean we don’t have to be separated from God any more. And that’s where healing begins…

What’s your response to that?

Read Colossians 2v13-15 here: http://bit.ly/1lyi9SQ

#sinsthatentangle
#andrewv

#4
It’s no Flappy Bird, but Temple Run is a pretty cool cell-phone game. You play the part of a treasure hunter who, after stealing an ancient relic, is immediately chased by a pack of evil-shadow-monkey-guardian-things. One wrong move and you’re dead. It’s terrifying.

Proverbs 13:21 describes a similar feeling: ‘Trouble chases sinners, while blessings reward the righteous’. Sin leaves us anxious, looking over our shoulder, wondering when our actions will catch up with us. But right choices bring the peace and joy that only God can give.

Why live with the stress of sin when we can relax in the blessing of right living?

Read Proverbs 13 here: http://bit.ly/1aiM6hE

#wisewords
#timsmith

#5
It happened again yesterday. I heard the question. I knew the truth. And as much as I felt bad for doing it, I said something completely different. ‘Yes I have’ (I haven’t), ‘I meant to call you’ (I totally didn’t), ‘I’m fine’ (I’m really broken).

Why am I so afraid to speak the truth? My body isn’t fooled – my itchy nose and blushing cheeks feel awkward. I suspect my friends aren’t fooled much either…

Jesus, speak gently to my heart. It’s the source of everything I say. Help it to trust you more. Heal what’s broken inside. I want to find freedom in the truth of my words.

Luke 6:45 here: http://bit.ly/14XW9XL
Proverbs 4:23 here: http://bit.ly/18kuXTh

#temptation_diaries
#andrewv

What’s the deal with sin and evil?

The Big Idea: At the heart of all evil, sin and suffering is the human desire to try and run our own lives – to live as if God didn’t really matter, or even exist. The story in Genesis tells how God gave the first humans the job of ruling over creation – with God ultimately in control, and how people then desired to be like God themselves. We’re all suffering from the fallout of the choice they made – and that we keep on making. Life is messed up because we keep trying to do life on our own. The good news is that God loves us too much to leave us in that mess…

This is Session 1 in Series 2 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 2 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

A small part of God’s Story to help leaders home in on the core idea in this session

If you could make someone love you, would you?

Imagine you were able to create a world with creatures capable of love and intelligence. You love them a lot – cos you made them – and you’d like nothing more than for them to love you back. But they are also a LOT less intelligent and generally awesome than you are – so they really need you to show them how to do things properly.

As supreme Creator of your world here’s your choice: create things in such a way that your creatures will automatically love you and want to be guided by you, OR let them choose who or what they will love and be guided by.

locker aliens

You have to then hope like crazy they choose you. (or you could try do what Bruce Almighty attempted … )

Your potential reward? – if they choose you, the love relationship will be so much deeper than if it’s something forced … Your potential problem is that if they don’t choose to love and obey you then they will do stupid things and your world will get seriously messed up.

Also, if you show yourself to them too much they will be overcome with awe and wonder – and lose their ability to choose freely …

So, two questions:

1) What do you go for? If you let them choose freely, how would you let them know about the choice they have without influencing their decision too much?

2) If you were one of the creatures, which option would you want to have?

So what did God do with that choice? It’s there in Genesis 2 and 3. In chapter 2 God creates a beautiful and ‘very good’ world. Into a garden God plants two trees: the ‘tree of life’ and the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. And then he commands Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of those trees. In chapter 3 they end up doing just that – and it all goes horribly wrong from there …

So why did God put those trees there in the first place?
Here’s a hypothetical script for the movie version of Genesis 2:

God (thinking):I really want these people to love me and be with me – but I also really want them to choose to love me. I don’t want a relationship with robots.

Hmm …

Ok, here’s what I’ll do. I’m going to let them know what I want them to choose but I’ll also let them know what the alternative is. If they want, they can try to do life without me. They can try make their own decisions about what is right or wrong. I’ll tell them it will be like a whale trying to get out of the water and live on an island –they just are not made to do that. I’ll tell them that life will be horrible and that their relationship with me (and themselves and other people) will die like a dehydrated whale on the beach. After that life will pretty much suck for everyone.

But I want them to know the island exists so at least they can choose. I really want them to choose me! But I think I know what they’re going to do …

That’s ok, we can work with that too…

As we find out in Genesis 3, people chose – and we keep choosing – to love and rely on pretty much anything other than God.

We beached ourselves and realised what had happened only when it was too late.

whale-scrapey-times-color

And here’s where evil enters …

‘lords’ or ‘Lords’?
In Genesis 1:26 God gives us humans the authority to rule over Creation.

God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” 
(The Message)

In other words, God made us ‘lords’ (small ‘l’) of the earth. But we wanted (and still want) to be ‘Lords’ (big ‘L’) instead.

At the heart of all evil, sin and suffering is the desire to try and take God’s place as Lord over all things.

In the beginning, God took a huge risk in giving us that choice: be the ‘lords’ he made us to be and really enjoy life, or try and be Lords like God and experience struggle, suffering and death, like that whale stuck on the beach.

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What, me too?
The Bible says everyone has sinned in the same way Adam and Eve did (eg Romans 3:23, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 51:5).. That’s a hard belief to explain but it’s pretty easy to see the evidence around us – right? We are all sinful – we’ve all rejected God’s advice and tried to climb onto the beach as whales.

And we’re all suffering from the fallout.

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The good news is that God immediately set in motion a plan to get us beached whales back in the water again. Since the main casualty was broken relationships God needed to devise a plan to restore that. We’ll see how that works in the next few sessions.

redperson

Teaching Kit

A few ideas about how to teach this session to a class or youth group. These are just our ideas – we’re pretty sure there are some way better ones out there. If you know a video clip or intro idea or teaching illustration we’d love to hear about it and include it here too. Use the comment box below to get in touch.

What’s the one thing you want people to remember when they leave?
How are you going to get that idea across in the time you have?

Intro options

Here are some ideas to get people thinking.
1) If God didn’t want there to be evil in the world then why did God put that tree in the garden in the Genesis story?

2) Agree or disagree: The presence of suffering and evil in the world means that God can either be good or supremely powerful, but not both. Either God is good but not able to prevent bad things happening, or God is all powerful but not good …

3) What event in the past few weeks has been a reminder for you of the presence of evil in the world?

4) Can you relate with any of these quotes? Why? Can you think of a one-liner that expresses your experience of a messed-up world?

tumblr_m5ru3bRoBN1qiaqpmo1_500 264886_339939349423677_107437415_n

Options for your input time

1) Imagine you were able to create a world with creatures capable of love and intelligence. You love them a lot – cos you made them – and you’d like nothing more than for them to love you back. But they are also a LOT less intelligent and generally awesome than you are – so they really need you to show them how to do things properly. As supreme Creator of your world here’s your choice: create things in such a way that your creatures will automatically love you and want to be guided by you, OR let them choose who or what they will love and be guided by.

You have to then hope like crazy they choose you. (or you could try do what Bruce Almighty attempted … ) Your potential reward? – if they choose you, the love relationship will be so much deeper than if it’s something forced … Your potential problem is that if they don’t choose to love and obey you then they will do stupid things and your world will get seriously messed up.

What would you choose?

From the story in Genesis 2v15-17, what does God end up choosing to do?

2) Watch this clip from Bruce Almighty (on YouTube here). Why do you think love is something not even God can command from us? Can you make any connections between people choosing not to love and obey God and the evil we see around us?

The key parts of the Story
1) In Genesis 1:26 God gives us humans the authority to rule over Creation. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” (The Message) In other words, God made us ‘lords’ (small ‘l’) of the earth. But we wanted (and still want) to be ‘Lords’ (big ‘L’) instead. At the heart of all evil, sin and suffering is the desire to try and take God’s place as Lord over all things. In the beginning, God took a huge risk in giving us that choice: be the ‘lords’ he made us to be and really enjoy life, or try and be Lords like God and experience struggle, suffering and death, like a whale stuck on a beach (see the Story tab for the whale analogy).

2) The Bible says everyone has sinned in the same way Adam and Eve did (eg Romans 3:23, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 51:5). That’s a hard belief to explain but it’s pretty easy to see the evidence around us – right? We are all sinful – we’ve all rejected God’s advice and tried to climb onto the beach as whales. And we’re all suffering from the fallout. Yeah, you too.

3) The good news is that God immediately set in motion a plan to get us beached whales back in the water again. Since the main casualty was broken relationships God needed to devise a plan to restore that. We’ll explore Covenants in the next few sessions.

Finding Jesus in the Story

One of the saddest moments in the Gospels is when Jesus has just returned to Jerusalem – a visit he knows will end up with him on the cross experiencing the full horror of what human rebellion against God results in. As Jesus overlooks the town he sees in one glance how broken people are because of sin and evil and what will one day happen to the city. For a moment all he can do is weep bitterly. Read it in Luke 19.

o How do you think Jesus still feels about the broken and messed up stuff in the world around you??
o How does that change or challenge your idea of who Jesus is or what he is like??

Something to take-away

1) Does it change your idea of what God is like to know that God values a real relationship with us too much to force us to love him?

2) Is there anything in your life that smells a bit like the sin and rebellion we’ve been talking about in this session? Maybe you’ve tried to do life without God and are feeling the results of that. Repentance is about being open with God about that stuff and asking for a renewed mind and spirit to do things differently from now. Maybe spend some time doing that now or when you have a moment on your own.

Group kit

Here are some ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
Think back over the last week or two. Can you recall something that reminded you of the presence of sin and evil in your life or in the world? Something you did or thought or said, or didn’t do … something you saw in the news?

Someone once said that, for some reason we all keep trying to hide from God inside a God-proof shell. How true is that for you?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab. Here are some videos we linked in:


replay
One thing people in the Bible often do when they realise how messed up and sinful they are (or the world is) is to cry out, or ‘lament’, to God about it. Lamenting is about letting God know what we really think and feel about the mess in our lives or the world around us. Psalm 86 is a great prayer of lament for what’s gone wrong and a cry for help. Let the words of this prayer become your words as you call out to God.

Some questions to help you replay your story …
o  Did what you heard in this session answer any questions about sin and evil you might have had? Did it raise any new ones for you?

o  Was there one specific thing that stood out for you in what you heard? Anything that was confusing or that you disagreed with?

o  How do you feel about the decision God made to risk losing our love by giving us a choice to love him or not?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
One of the saddest moments in the Gospels is when Jesus has just returned to Jerusalem – a visit he knows will end up with him on the cross experiencing the full horror of what human rebellion against God results in. As Jesus overlooks the town he sees in one glance how broken people are because of sin and evil and what will one day happen to the city. For a moment all he can do is weep bitterly. Read it in Luke 19.

o  How do you think Jesus still feels about the broken and messed up stuff in the world around you??

o  How does that change or challenge your idea of who Jesus is or what he is like??

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Is there anything from the past week that smells a bit like the sin and rebellion we’ve been talking about in this session? Maybe you’ve tried to do life without God and are feeling the results of that.

Repentance is about being open with God about that stuff and asking for a renewed mind and spirit to do things differently from now.

Maybe spend some time doing that now.

Something to help you remix your story …
o  What can you do this week to affirm Jesus’ place as Lord of your life? Or to ask him to be that for the first time? Lords can be trusted to protect you and supply the things you need. They also need to be obeyed! Can you think of any specific ways to do that this week?

49

WordSpace posts

Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic. Get your group to subscribe to the Enter Life channel on Ripple Messenger or speak to us about creating your own channel.

#1
What’s the most amazing thing humanity has done? Prosthetic limbs, the internet, land a man on the moon?

There have been some big setbacks recently for space exploration with the rockets exploding and Virgin Galactic’s test flight crashing. Space exploration is an exciting and challenging part of our role as keepers of Creation, but sometimes big failures can remind us to stay humble.

Human beings tried to achieve something great without God in Genesis 9: ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name’ God came down and helped them to realise that without him there is nothing (http://bit.ly/1u85GJx).

Let’s take Solomon’s advice in Proverbs 16v3 and commit our ways to the LORD – whatever exciting and challenging things we venture into (http://bit.ly/1wRifGS)

#Pride_the_final_frontier
#Godstorynow
#Hein

# 2
Google says ‘Don’t be evil’. Paul says ‘Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Romans 12:21

This is an easy verse to remember because the numbers go forwards and backwards as do the words in a sense. But a little harder is putting it into practice. Typically when something bad or evil hits us, we give it straight back, or are very tempted to, right?

What this verse is promising is that when God works in us, and if we train ourselves then in time the good can actually take the evil over and transform it into good. How exciting is that?

Read more about this in Romans 12v9-21 here: http://bit.ly/1ad4b0E

#Romans12
#transformevilintogood
#brettfish

#3
God is like The Hulk. Uncontrollable rage turns Dr Bruce Banner into the destructive Hulk.

Now God definitely doesn’t turn into a huge green monster but he does get angry. Did you know that? God gets really angry. But his anger is righteous. He gets angry when evil people hurt the innocent, where injustice is the norm and his own children reject him.

Yet even in the middle of describing God’s anger, the Bible says The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him (Nahum 1v7) Thank you God that you are slow to anger and quick to love us!

Read Nahum 1v2-8 http://bit.ly/173zU5z

#doctER

#4
Did you get asked this week to re-broadcast something to ‘prove’ that you love Jesus or get blessed, or avoid bad luck? Did you get worried when you saw a black cat or forgot to do something you’re superstitious about?

In Colossians 2v8 Paul says ‘Don’t get taken captive by empty human ideas!’ For us that includes all those threats and promises that arrive in your inbox. Jesus is in charge now. He completely disarmed all the forces of evil that might be out to get you when he died on the cross (Colossians 2v15).

There’s nothing you need to rebroadcast, or avoid because of superstition to bring blessing or keep you safe!

Read Colossians 2 here: http://bit.ly/X9afjJ

#andrewv

#5
People are murdered around our world every day. Each is one tragedy too many.

Sometimes, the violent and senseless death of someone famous has the power to shake us out of our sleepy tolerance of the evil around us and stare it in the eyes once again (http://bit.ly/1pR68oQ ).

God weeps and rages at the destructive power of evil but, for now, does not always choose to intervene in ways we would expect. One day God will.

We should weep and rage too. Shout out that this brokenness in our country is NOT ok. Ask God with more urgency to bring an end to evil and for healing for our nation.

How will you make your rage heard today?

#GodsStoryNow
#andrewv

Ask … and You Will Receive

Jesus invites us to ask God for stuff, and to ask often no matter how much faith you think you have or how unfaithful to God you’ve been. Jesus shows us that God is a good Father, who loves to give us good gifts. How hard can that be? Turns out quite hard actually! Here are some thoughts on what’s really on offer and why we don’t seem to be able to ask the way we’re invited to.

This is Session 3 in Series 5 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 5 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


One of the deep truths that Jesus tried to teach people is that when we zone in and preoccupy ourselves with the wrong kind of things, we end up living with anxiety. On the flip side, if we learn what it means to live in God’s Kingdom we’ll begin to shift our focus onto the right things, put our hope in God and learn to rely on God’s faithfulness. The result is that we will begin to feel more secure and restful. Which would you rather live with?

In this series we’re exploring 6 life-changing things that Jesus invites and calls us to do. This one is really simple but strangely, also really hard. It couldn’t be easier yet we so often forget to do it.

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Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?  (Jesus in Matthew 7v7-11)

You do not have, because you do not ask God – James 1v2

Boom! Imagine if we simply asked God for more things? Or maybe it’s not so easy? Let’s dig a bit deeper…

What can we ask God for?
In Matthew 7 Jesus doesn’t mention anything in particular, he just says: ‘keep on asking…’ It’s an open invitation. We can ask God for anything.

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t limit what we can ask for, you know, like only the things you think you’re likely to get from me, or obviously good stuff like world peace or the end of poverty. I think Jesus just wants to encourage us to ask. Don’t worry if this is a good thing to ask for or not – just ask!

Jesus also says, however, that God only gives us ‘good things’ (v11) …. and, yes – that’s a good thing.

Read Chapter 6 and 7 of Matthew and you’ll find that God loves to give us all kinds of things – things we’d expect and things we might not even know we need.

Does that raise any questions for you? Like …
* What if we don’t get what we ask for?
* What if God seems to send ‘bad’ things our way?
* What about poor people who love God but don’t have enough to eat or wear?

You can check out some answers at the end of this post. Keep reading though, the next bit might answer some of these.

Can anyone ask God for stuff?
Verse 8 seems to be pretty clear doesn’t it? ‘everyone who asks …’ You don’t need to have done all the right religious things and been a good boy or girl to ask God for stuff. (Read that again, and again. Then read it a few more times. Is that something you find hard to believe?)

If you’re asking God to give you something it does kinda say a few things about you: you have some kind of faith that God exists, that God is able to hear your prayers; and you believe that God might just be able to give you what you’re asking for – right?

It turns out that when Jesus says ‘everyone’ he means everyone who wants to be part of God’s Kingdom. You don’t have to have made it very far into the Kingdom. It’s about who you’re seeking the things you want from.

Is it God or something else you’re seeking stuff from?

The answer to that makes all the difference.

How much faith do I need to receive things from God?
It’s also interesting that Jesus doesn’t say: ‘if you have faith, then ask …’. I think that’s partly because Jesus assumes that we know that at least some faith in God is needed.

But here’s the main reason:

this ‘asking thing’ is much more about God’s faithfulness in giving than our faith in receiving.

God’s faithfulness is one of the great themes of the Bible. Check these out …

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD’ Jeremiah 29:13

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me’ Proverbs 8:17

This is all really about God’s faithfulness – which of course should boost our faith too!

Keep on asking …
When Matthew wrote this passage in Greek, he used a form of the verb ‘to ask’ that is best translated as ‘keep asking’. Asking God for something is a continuous act –not just something we do once. How many things have you asked God for, maybe just once, and then forgotten about them? What would happen if we kept on asking – bugging God – until something happened?

Jesus made this clear in two parables in Luke 18: 1-8 and 11:5-8 about people who got what they want from God because they refused to quit asking … A widow gets what she wants from a judge who becomes worried that she will eventually wear him out with her asking! A man who boldly and persistently asks his friend for bread late at night eventually gets what he needs. You can read more about this in the last session of our Prayer series.

push

Your Father in heaven is not like your real mom or dad
How did you feel when you read or heard the bit in the passage about parents giving good things to their kids? Everybody deserves to have good and loving parents. Tragically, it’s way too common for people to grow up with parents who are distant, or abusive or just not very loving. Jesus says it like it is: everyone’s parents are sinful (v11 – just like you are too…). It’s sometimes tempting to imagine God is just like your earthly dad or mom who’s disappointed or hurt you.

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Don’t believe it. It may take a big step of faith to begin to believe that God – your true ‘Father’ – is good and that God gives good things to those who ask. If that’s your story then maybe a good place to begin is to start re-imagining what God is really like.

Here’s what Jesus is saying: Do you need something? Ask! Ask often; ask no matter how much or little faith you think you have; ask for anything – not just what you think are the correct things to ask for.

How hard can that be?

redperson

K, so any questions?
Jesus’ invitation to ask God for anything (Matthew 6: 6-11) raises a few obvious questions. Here are some thoughts on those:

What if we don’t get what we ask for?
A few ideas:

  • maybe we think we’re asking for something good but actually we’re not. God won’t give us something that’s bad for us even if we might think it’s good
  • perhaps the thing we’re asking for is good – but it will only be good for us later, once we’ve grown up a bit or are in a different situation
  • maybe we need to just keep asking – be a bit more persistent like the widow in Luke 18.
  • it’s also important to realise that passages like these don’t mean that there’s a formula involved – like if we do or say the right things then God will automatically act in a predictable or guaranteed way. God is not like that (whew!). Jesus is teaching us about how things work in general in God’s Kingdom: God is a giving God who gives good things to those who ask.

What if we seem to be given ‘bad’ things?

  • So you’ve asked for something and bam – something goes horribly wrong. What now? Again, hold on in faith that your Father in Heaven is good. God will not give harmful things to us – no ‘snakes or stones or scorpions’. Sometimes God ‘gives’ us things to help us grow up and become mature. Those things can be painful – but they are still good for us.
  • Maybe what you’re experiencing is not from God at all. Maybe it’s a natural result of some way you’ve messed up, or something that someone else has done to you. God doesn’t guarantee that we won’t be hurt by others or escape the consequences of our sin.

 What about the poor who love God and ask but still don’t have the money, or food, or clothes they need?
K, this is a bit of a tough one. Here are two thoughts:

  • Jesus is talking about life in God’s Kingdom – about the kinds of things that happen when Kingdom people do Kingdom stuff. It doesn’t take much looking around to see that there are big parts of life that are very far removed from the way God wants things to be. That includes poverty and all kinds of injustice. God hates that – and is slowly but surely bringing his Kingdom more fully into this world.
  • It’s clear in the Bible (see for example James 1:27 and Isaiah 58: 6-7) that God commands people who are not poor to help those who are. Perhaps the reason people don’t receive what they ask God for is sometimes more our fault than God’s?

What other questions do you have about this? Can you think of different responses to the ones above? Let us know: email andrew@theyouthhub.net

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

Take a few minutes to think back over the last few weeks or months of your life. What are some of the things that have occupied your thoughts the most? Maybe a relationship, or work at school, a series you’re hooked on, a sport you’re trying to better at…

o How are you feeling overall as a result of having those things on your mind: secure and peaceful or more anxious?

o Have you ever wanted to pray about something, but decided not to? What stopped you from praying?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Post tab.

Here’s Brad Fish diving into invitation 3… On YouTube here

replay

Some questions to help you replay your story …
o  How do you feel about what you encountered in this session – encouraged, discouraged, hopeful, disappointed, anything else?

o  Did anything seem like particularly good news for you? Anything that was hard to understand?

o  ‘You don’t need to have done all the right religious things and been a good boy or girl to ask God for stuff.’ Do you find it hard to believe that?

o  How hard can asking God for things be? Quite hard actually, if we keep trying to control and manage things on our own. How much do you try and keep things all under control in your life?

o  How many things have you asked God for, maybe just once, and then forgotten about them? What would happen if we kept on asking – bugging God – until something happened?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Jesus asked his Father for lots of things when he was physically on earth. Some of those things happened, some didn’t. The Holy Spirit was sent in response to Jesus’ asking (John 14v16) but the suffering Jesus was going to face on the cross wasn’t taken away from him as he begged God to do (Matthew 26v39) . That didn’t stop Jesus from asking – and in the end accepting the answer ‘no’ when he realised what he wanted wasn’t what God wanted.

o  How does seeing Jesus in that light change or challenge the way you understand what Jesus is like?

o  Does it help you see that Jesus understands what it’s like to be human and dependant on God??

remix

What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something about asking God for things that makes you want to say to God:

wow, I’ve really not been asking you for things the way I should be. Help me get over whatever it is that’s keeping me from asking you more’

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o  What’s an area that’s really important to you that you haven’t prayed about yet? What about giving God a chance to get involved there?

o  Do you feel you lack faith or struggle to view God as a good parent (maybe you don’t know what that actually looks like?) Ask Jesus to show you a Father who is good, and loves to give good gifts – and to help you trust in that.

If there’s something stopping you from praying, what is it and how can you deal with it? If you’re feeling unworthy of God’s attention, why is that? Spend some time this week digging into who Jesus says you are – find your identity in Him, not what you’ve done? It may help to ask someone to do that with you.

From the WordSpace

Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

# 1
‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4v16http://bit.ly/1ah6Vq7 )

God is kind and generous. He’s your father. He wants to help you. He also knows you and loves you better than anyone. He knows all the plans he has for you and he is perfect in power and wisdom. So he has in store for you the very best – the most suitable – gifts. That doesn’t mean you’ll like everything he does in your life. But like Brussels sprouts, what’s good for us is not always nice 🙂 Ask … and trust Him … and you will receive.

#ask
#knowingGod
#deereyburn

# 2
James said: ‘you don’t have because you don’t ask’ (James 4v2)

So why don’t I ask? Do I think I can provide for myself? Am I too proud to get on my knees? Is my faith in God’s ability to provide too small? Do I keep forgetting about the last time God gave me what I needed?

Truth is – I see myself as really not that needy.
Truth is – God sees me as completely needy (and that’s a good thing:

‘You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.’ (Revelation 3v17http://bit.ly/17gJgsZ )

Woah. Is that a word for me?

Mercy…

#ask
#Godsviewofyou
#andrewv

# 3
‘Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’ (Matthew 7v7 http://bit.ly/1hsMKzw )

Have you read that incredible invitation from Jesus in those words before? It’s a good and accurate translation. Keep on asking, seeking, knocking… Don’t do it just once!

The best part about this invitation? It’s open to ANYone – yes even if you feel you’re too far from God to deserve anything.

So go on ask God to give you what you’re looking for. See what happens…

#ask
#faithworks
#andrewv

# 4
Here’s some good news for anyone who thinks they can’t scrape together ‘enough’ faith for God to answer their prayers. Jesus doesn’t even mention faith in Matthew 7v7 (http://bit.ly/1hsMKzw)

Why? Partly because this ‘asking thing’ is much more about God’s faithfulness in giving than our faith in receiving. God’s faithfulness is one of the great themes of the Bible:

‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you’ declares the LORD’ Jeremiah 29:13

‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me’ Proverbs 8:17

How about relying more on God’s faithfulness as you ask God for what you need?

#ask
#andrewv

# 5
God, it’s so easy to become fixated with what I’m asking you for. It’s like having a spot on my sunglasses… every time I look around that’s all I see. In the midst of all the things I think I need, what one thing do you want me to see?

‘I’m asking God for one thing and only one thing – to live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty. I’ll study at his feet.’ (Psalm 27v4)

What does that look like for me here and now God? Consume me with this one thing.

Psalm 27 here: http://bit.ly/1jjeEeL

#ask
#fridayFeedback
#wendyb

Stay Connected to Me … and You Will Do Awesome Things

How many of us are on a  journey trying to become the best versions of ourselves – trying to make our lives work? We work hard to succeed in sport, school, relationships, whatever. Dressing up our outsides and our resumes, but never really changing who we are – just what we do. We can’t change the kind of people we are. No self-help or positive thinking will do that. Only when we come into contact with Jesus and abide in Him do we really start becoming the people we were created to be.

This is Session 2 in Series 5 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 5 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


Every generation has its own gods that it likes to worship. You can tell what they are by looking for the things that achieve untouchable, almost sacred status in the community.

bsl_maya_maize_god_channel_624x351

Here’s one I think our generation loves to bow down to: The I-can-do-anything-I-want-on-my-own god. It’s the belief that I can achieve everything I want on my own.

sad17alt

How well do you think this speaks for your generation?

‘From the moment I could understand words, people have been telling me I’m special and unique. It’s been pretty hard to fail anything at school. Overall, it’s kinda hard to escape the conclusion that if I try hard and pull together all the right resources, or just rely on my own specialness, I can achieve anything I want. And if I don’t want to achieve anything that special, well that’s ok too…”

Jesus rocks that little god with a pretty radical and inconvenient statement:

‘Without me you can do nothing’

Sure, we might be able to succeed at school, or enjoy friendships or do well at sport or music or something. But when it comes to being able to enjoy real life – the eternal kind Jesus spoke of, and in the process becoming the best version of yourself – the real you God made you to be; when it comes to being able to really do the things God wired you to do, if we don’t stay connected to Jesus, we’re lost.

Here are some questions I hear a lot from young people: Where is God? Why do I feel so distant from God? I’ve been falling back into old ways and habits that I really wish I could get away from. What can I do about that?

Jesus nails the problem and the solution with something he says in John 15:
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

Ok, so what does it mean to live ‘in’ Jesus?
Grapevines might not be part of your everyday life so maybe think about this: What’s the first thing you open up on your phone or computer when you wake up? Where do you go to check what new statuses or photos or links have been posted by your friends? What’s the one social media platform you go to to express yourself or draw comfort from? Facebook, BBM, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram… Anyone remember the days of Mxit??

When we live ‘in’ something it somehow feels part of life: always there, never offline.

Back then the best analogy Jesus could use was a grapevine. The core of a vine is the thick stem that grows straight up out of the ground. The branches spread out sideways from the stem and are the things that actually produce grapes. Jesus told his disciples that they were just like branches. They had to stay firmly connected to the central stem and draw all the good stuff from the stem if they wanted to stay healthy and producing grapes.

Two really good things happen when we ‘live in’ Jesus:
1) We get to experience God making his home in us. This truth is a great mystery that Paul reckoned we really need God’s help to understand. Jesus promises that if we choose to anchor ourselves in a relationship with him, then Jesus and his Father and the Spirit – the whole of the Trinity – will choose to come and live in us too. Here’s how Jesus said it in John 14:23:

‘if anyone loves me, they will do what I command. Then my Father will love him and we will come and make our home with them.’

‘Live in me, stick around with me … and I will come and live in you. I’ll stick around in your life.’

Jesus never forces himself on us but waits at the door of our lives ready to come in when we invite him in. Jesus invites us to invite him to be at the center of everything in our lives …

2) We bear much fruit…
The second promise is that we will be like vine branches that actually produce what we’re supposed to. I think there are two aspects to ‘bearing fruit’ the way Jesus meant it. We ‘bear fruit’ when we are changed on the inside, and when we get to do meaningful stuff with our lives

What you become:
Check out this list of characteristics: Patient, loving, kind, gentle, self-controlled, good, joy-filled, peaceful, faithful.

Choose any one of those and imagine you had just a bit more of that quality in your life. Wouldn’t that be good? This isn’t about becoming the Super-Christian at school that everyone would honestly rather stay away from. This is about being someone who is attractive to others because, well – you’re just a good person to be around. This kind of person has good friends. They are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t need to prove anything.

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That’s what begins to grow inside you when you make Jesus the source of your life. You bear fruit that grows naturally from what’s going on inside you.

What you get to start doing:
The other really cool thing about bearing fruit is that God begins to be able to use us to do meaningful and significant stuff with our lives.

Here’s another question I get asked a lot: what is God’s will for my life? All (well, most?) of us want to have something significant and meaningful to do with our lives. When we invite Jesus (and the rest of the Trinity) to live inside us, we discover how God has wired us to do things that make our lives count. We discover things to do that bring us joy and a sense of purpose.

Becoming the best version of ourselves, getting something significant and lasting to do with our lives…

Who wouldn’t want that?

redperson

Leader's Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
Have you ever tried really hard to get something right, but ended up getting it wrong anyways? We live in a culture that says if you try hard, you can do almost anything – but we’ve all probably got experiences (school, sport, friends…) where we tried our hardest but failed anyways.

Think about your relationship with God: have you ever been really on fire for Him and really keen to get to know Him better, but you ended up far away from him. Or where you tried really hard to walk away from a sin pattern, but ended up going back to your old ways? Why do you think it was that you weren’t able to follow through on that?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

Here’s Brad Fish taking us through invitation number 2… On YouTube here

replay
Maybe you’d really like to have a source of strength and energy that didn’t seem to run out as easily as your current one does; maybe you want to become the kind of person who bears good fruit – the one that builds the people around them up. Maybe you just don’t like what your life looks like now, and you’d like it to be more rooted in Jesus.

Some questions to help you replay your story:
o  How do you feel about what you encountered in this session – encouraged, discouraged, hopeful, disappointed, anything different?

o  Did anything seem like particularly good news? Anything that was not so great news for you, or hard to understand?

o  Imagine you were connected to Jesus like he says in John 15. How might your approach to challenging stuff in your week (people, schoolwork, etc) change?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
We don’t often think about Jesus as being arrogant, but that’s almost what he sounds like in this passage: ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ He must think he’s got something pretty important that we lack.

Jesus isn’t afraid to speak the truth that sometimes we need to hear – not because he wants to make us uncomfortable, but because it’ll really help us if we hear it. That’s love. What do you think of a Jesus who loves even when it isn’t the easy or the convenient thing to do?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
In Romans 12v2 Paul says:

‘Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

That’s repentance – learning to think and live in a more God-shaped way.

For lots of us, repentance might look like figuring out what we’ve been anchoring ourselves to, and asking God to help us put them more in Jesus instead. That’s where we can start to experience real life.

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story:
o  What would being more connected to Jesus look like practically for you this week?

o  Is there one thing you really want to do, but have kept feeling like you’re not able to – no matter how hard you try? Try asking Jesus to come check that out – is it the kind’ve thing he wants you to be doing? If you think it might be try asking him to help you do it out of the life he gives you

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

#1
Jesus says, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15v5) That last bit is awesome. Apart from God we’re pretty lame. And it’s encouraging to know that when you’re being attacked on every front, God loves you and invites you to walk with him – remain in him.

As Christians we have the Holy Spirit – God in us. He is infinitely more powerful than Satan and his schemes. Also, the fruit of the Spirit is patience. Satan doesn’t have the Spirit so he doesn’t have the fruit so he doesn’t have patience. So when the waves are battering your boat: be patient. Remain in Him. Stand firm. You will bear much fruit.

John 15 here: http://bit.ly/1dhzvip

#stayconnected
#KnowingGod
#deereyburn

# 2
There is this band from Canada called Thousand Foot Krutch. They have these great lyrics:

‘I wanna be so far gone in You, so far nothing else will ever do I wanna be lost in You’ (So Far Gone. Listen here: http://bit.ly/1eNvVf2 )

I really like that! Jesus said that tight connection with himself was like a vine: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ John 15v5

You belong with Jesus! Awesome, hey?! Ever felt like you are drifting through life? Like you don’t have a purpose or that there is no plan for your life? Then take comfort from John 15 (read it here: http://bit.ly/1dhzvip)

As the branches in a vineyard are intertwined; so can you be with God.

#stayconnected
#Godsviewofyou
#darrelhoff

# 3

‘I feel like I’ve lost my connection with God. I don’t hear anything when I pray. I don’t even really feel like praying or worshipping or whatever ‘

That a familiar feeling for you?

A deeply spiritual woman called Julian of Norwich long ago wrote this honest prayer: ‘Lord, I don’t love you. I don’t even want to love you. But I do want to want to love you.’

Maybe that’s the place to start. Tell God how you’re feeling. Ask the Spirit to spark that desire to connect with him again.

Talk to God (and maybe someone else) about stuff that might be getting in the way. And rest in this knowledge: God’s deep love for you never changes.

Read Psalm 13 here: http://bit.ly/1bM8VHB

#stayconnected
#faithworks
#andrewv

# 4
The movie Gravity was definitely worth seeing (trailer here: http://bit.ly/1fhqAJx .) Sandra Bullock and George Clooney get stranded in space after their shuttle gets destroyed. Suddenly all kinds of connections become very important: a radio connection to ground control; a cable between them as they drift; their connections to oxygen…

Jesus said our connection to him was just as vital. Without it we drift into a void (John 15v5-8 http://bit.ly/1dhzvip).

And yet it can be so tempting to try live as if we don’t need God – especially when life is good. It’s then that we start to lose our way…

Time to check the status of your connection to Jesus?

#stayconnected
#theStoryinmovies
#andrewv
# 5
God, I’m often so afraid of confrontation. I don’t want it to break down relationships. This week it seems you showed me that confrontation happens so that I can go on believing the best about others. And that’s why you confront me too, right? So that the lies that I believe about myself or others can be shown for what they are (lies)… and to assure me of your love the whole time!

Thank you that you want our relationship to grow… for us to stay connected – even if I sometimes don’t understand what you’re doing.

Read Psalm 139v23-24 here: http://bit.ly/1mP1N3m

#stayconnected
#fridayfeedback
#wendyb

Come (as you are) … and see

Often we feel like we have to act a certain way or believe certain things before we can follow Jesus and start a relationship with Him. That feeling might come from your friends, church leaders or even yourself, but it definitely doesn’t come from Jesus. He invites us to come and follow Him, just as we are – our brokenness and doubts aren’t barriers that keep us from Him.

This is Session 1 in Series 5 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 5 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


When I was at university I had two good friends who were lived in one of the residences with me. We’d lived in the same flat for about two years so we knew each other pretty well. They knew I was a Christian but they didn’t really have a working faith in God. I remember having a conversation over dinner with them with one of my other Christian friends. After debating some theological point one of them said to me: ‘this Christian stuff sounds good, I can see why you believe it. But to be honest, I’m not prepared to give up the fun I’m having now.

That pretty much ended the conversation. I wish they could have seen what really was on offer.

One Bible story I wish my friends could have read (and understood) is in John 1v35-42. John gives us this really cool picture of what it’s like to follow Jesus.

Jesus has just begun to go public. John the Baptist has been pointing him out ‘Look! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ People are getting interested – there’s something different about this guy. Then one day John is hanging out with some of his followers. Jesus comes by and John doesn’t miss an opportunity to make his point. ‘There’s the Lamb of God!’

John’s two disciples are curious. What does the ‘Lamb of God’ do? What is he like? They follow behind at a distance – a bit shy and nervous. Jesus senses he’s being followed and, turning around, sees them and says ‘what do you guys want?’

Now, imagine Jesus was in the flesh in front of you and asked you that question. Seriously, the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things is asking you what you want …

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Where do you start! A girlfriend, a nicer nose, good marks this term, a bit of cash, a new phone … Or maybe, if this was back then you’d be asking for a goat that behaved itself, a fishing boat that didn’t leak, or a new pair of sandals or something …

That’s not what the disciples asked for. In fact they didn’t ask for anything. They just wanted to know where Jesus was staying …

Huh.

Capture4

John loves to pack in deeper levels to his stories – kinda like an ancient Christopher Nolan. At one level these guys are asking where Jesus lives: ‘Let’s go there and hang out with the Lamb of God! That would be pretty cool.’ But there’s another level to this story… Later on (in chapter 15) Jesus tells his disciples they must become like branches attached to a vine and stay attached to him. ‘Remain in me’ Jesus says.

Other Bible translations use the word ‘abide’. Attach, remain, abide are all ‘connection’ words – words that speak about relationship. Jesus’ most important relationship was with his Father. For Jesus, knowing the Father was the ultimate experience. Just knowing the Father was the essence of eternal life. We know that because Jesus said so in John 17v3:

‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’

For Jesus it all came down to staying attached, connected, abiding. Now here’s the thing: the word John uses in the original Greek for ‘abiding’ is exactly the same word the disciples use when they ask Jesus where he’s staying.

Picture1

John does that to make sure we see the connections and get the point. Sure, they’re asking where his house is located but John is hinting at a much deeper question: ‘Where are you connected? Who are you connected to? What is your life all about?’

‘What do you want?’
‘I want to know the secret to the best kind of life possible’

Yeah, that makes more sense.

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I think Jesus had been secretly hoping they would ask that question. He spent the rest of his earthly life showing as many people as he could who his Father was (he’s still doing it now). It’s interesting then that Jesus doesn’t launch into a sermon about who God is and how to have a relationship with the Father. He says just five words:

‘come, and you will see.’

That’s always the way in. We’re invited to enter right into the middle of the relationship Jesus has with his Father. There are no third wheels with Jesus and the Father. We are included and welcomed into a friendship where we discover just how much we are loved. In that place all the things we’re afraid of become really small in the presence of this love.

Jesus was always inviting people to come and check it out. And like most relationships, the presence of God is there to be experienced before it’s fully understood. If we wait to have it all worked out in our head we’ll never enter in. When we encounter God everything is transformed – including the way we think and reason.

I suspect that many of us have a secret, inner conversation with ourselves that goes something like this: ‘There’s too much stuff I’ve done, or thought, or said for God to really want to have anything to do with me. I don’t deserve to be tight with God.’

Jesus interrupts that false conversation: ‘Come! As you are. Just like that. Experience the love I and my Father have for you.

Seriously, it will change everything.

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
If God were to ask you: ‘what do you want for your life?’ How would you answer?

How well do you relate to this thought: ‘There’s too much stuff I’ve done, or thought, or said for God to really want to have anything to do with me. I don’t deserve to be tight with God.’

What would you say the most essential part of following Jesus would be?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o  Are there any feelings you’re aware of after having heard some of the stuff in this session?

o  Did anything seem like particularly good news? Anything that was not so great news for you, or hard to understand?

o  Do you ever feel like you’re not worthy of following Jesus or knowing God? What are some of the things in your life that make you feel that way – thoughts, actions, experiences that you feel like put a barrier between you and God?

o  If you got the chance to follow Jesus (to see where He was abiding), what would you like to see? What answers or new ideas would you hope to get out of it?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Christians (just like everyone else) can sometimes seem quite judgemental, and that can lead us to think of Jesus the same way. Are there any ways you’ve felt ‘judged’ by Jesus?

What do you think the “come as you are, and see” Jesus would say about those things?

Has what you’ve encountered in this session changed or challenged your idea of what Jesus is like?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
In Romans 12v2 Paul says:
‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’

For this one, repentance might look slightly different to how we usually imagine it. Repentance can seem like something you do to say sorry for the sin you’ve done and promise not to do it again – but here it’s not about trying not to do bad stuff any more. Repentance here means recognising what in your life made you feel like you weren’t worthy of God, and resolving to stop thinking that way.

Some questions to help you remix your story:
o  How can you stop yourself from getting into the patterns of thought that keep you from God? What are the areas of your life that you feel guilty about – that make you feel unworthy? And next time you start feeling unworthy of coming to God because of it, what are you going to say to remind yourself that Jesus invites you to join Him – not matter where you are?

o  Where do you think you need Jesus’ help at following Him? Instead of focusing on trying to follow Him better, why not focus on asking Jesus to show you what that might look like for you, and to help you do it better?

o  Can you think of one way in which you could spend time hanging out with Jesus this week?

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

# 1
Is there something in your life you feel would make God want to keep his distance from you? Maybe you’ve been rejected by someone, or there’s something that makes you feel kinda dirty…

There was a woman in Jesus’ time whose bleeding problem made her untouchable for religious reasons. She hears that Jesus is in town and desperately sneaks a quick touch of Jesus’ coat.

Jesus is awesome. Instead of stepping away he says this:
‘Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed.’
(Read the story in Mark 5v21-34 here: http://bit.ly/1nEXXNx )

Do you need to take a risk of faith and approach Jesus with the thing that makes you feel dirty?

#comeandsee
#KnowingGod
#andrewv

# 2
Bruce Almighty was a pretty cool movie – watching Jim Carrie have God-powers was a bit weird but it made me think about what it would be like to be God and know, like, EVERYthing. Would you want that?

The Bible is full of people who fell flat on their faces when they encountered God. Some even said: ‘I am unworthy, go away please!’ (Luke 5v1-11 http://bit.ly/1j7KqOn )

God knows everything about you – better than you know yourself. It’s a scary thought but there’s no hiding from God. What would you say to someone you knew that well?
Here’s what Jesus says to you:
‘Come! Just as you are’

Isn’t that amazing? How do you respond to that?

#comeandsee
#GodsviewofYou
#andrewv

# 3
‘Come to me, just as you are ‘
‘But Jesus, I’ve sinned so many times. I’m – like – addicted to such ugly stuff’
‘I know – and I knew that when I said ‘just as you are”
‘but I’ve asked for forgiveness so many times – I’m never going to change’
‘you’re never going to change if we – me, my Father, my Spirit – are not present in your life. It’s our presence that brings ‘goodness’ – not the other way round.
‘I just feel so ashamed – I’m not sure I want you to see what’s going on’
‘I’ve already seen it – I got covered in all your stuff on that cross.

It’s done.
Just come ‘

Read Colossians 2v13-15 here: http://bit.ly/1lyi9SQ

#comeandsee
#faithworks
#andrewv
# 4
It hurts when you get left out of a party. It sucks when it feels like no one wants to be your friend. It’s horrible when people who call themselves your friends gang up on you. Seems it’s ok in this world to hurt someone so you get to fit in.

These lyrics we sing at youth really help in times like this:

‘with a broken heart, I come to you / In my loneliness, I call out to you / From my emptiness, I turn to you / Even in this mess, I worship you /… Come now risen one and rise in me’

Laura, 17, Cape Town
#comeandsee
#teens2teens
# 5
Tired of doing the right thing? Wish you could escape where people don’t expect you to behave like a Jesus-follower a place where you can do what you want?

Sometimes I wish I could do what I want Sometimes I get tired of saying, no! to temptation.

But Jesus knows that about me and loves me anyway: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with mewatch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.’ Matthew 11:28-29 http://bit.ly/13pYZBA

#Comeandsee
#FridayFeedback
#hein

Us: made to need someone to love

The God-given desire to have someone to love is one of the deepest we have—it’s also an area of great vulnerability for us. There are good – and broken – ways to satisfy these longings. Where we go searching makes all the difference.

This is Session 7 in Series 1 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 1 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

I shot one of my favourite photographs on the motorcycle ride I did with a friend from Vancouver to Cape Town just north of Volgograd in western Russia. An old Russian Lada car was stacked with jars of honey with the sun shining brightly through. I figured it would be rude to simply take a photograph without buying anything, so I picked out a jar of honey and handed over 100 Rubles, about R40.

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The man was happy to see me and we had a conversation (mostly mimed) about the bike and what we were doing. Eventually I showed him my camera and asked if I could take a photograph of the jars spread along the roof of his car. My new friend hesitated, not sure what I was asking. When I tried again, he looked very uncomfortable and shook his head. As he did so he pointed to his ears and spread them forward self-consciously. He didn’t want his big, floppy ears in a photograph. I packed my camera away and got back onto the bike.

As I rode off I thought about this old man, one of hundreds of people we’d passed by and who would remain there for many more days, selling his jars of honey and think he was too ugly for a stranger’s photograph.

Life is full of people living with broken relationships – relationships with themselves, with others, with God. Here’s something the writers of Genesis wanted to tell us about this…

Read Genesis 2v18-25. As you do that see if you can pick up any clues about why relationships are so important to people.

When we asked a bunch of teenagers what they wanted most for their lives the top three responses were about relationships: relationships with God, with ourselves, with someone special, and with other friends. In many ways that’s not a very suprising result – God created us to be relational people.

In this part of the Story God has created Adam – the man formed from the dust – to be God’s image bearer in the world. Adam has been doing the work God gave him – using his authority to name the living things God has created. There’s a deep significance in having the power to name something. Names create and reflect the nature and identity of the thing being named. To name something is to have authority over it. And God goes along with what Adam decides to call these creatures. God trusts Adam’s judgement – that relationship is in a good place.

But there’s something missing. Adam can name the animals but can’t really relate to them – at least not in the way he was made for. And so God creates another kind of human being to be an intimate companion. They are naked and without shame – there is nothing to hide or lie about. Their relationship is all about intimacy and honesty and trust.

And at the end of the chapter in Genesis 1:31 the writer tells us that God looks on the scene and it’s not just good, but very good.

Remember Genesis was never intended to be a historical account of how exactly an eagle became ‘Eagle’ or how a man’s rib became a woman. That wasn’t what the writer was interested in telling us. The purpose of this story is to paint a picture of who God is, who we are, and how we’ve been designed to really enjoy life. We were made to live in relationship with people—and for those relationships to be in a good place and to have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. The ancient Hebrews called that ‘Shalom’.

shalom-black-clip-art

Is it any wonder then, that life seems so wrong, so disrupted, when a relationship, even just one, is in a bad place?

Relationships can be the source of our greatest joys and deepest pain. That kinda makes sense doesn’t it—when you remember that we are made to be God-like—and God is in essence, a relationship.

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Because the desire to ‘have someone to love’ is one of the deepest we have—it’s also the greatest area of vulnerability for us. We don’t always go looking to meet this need in God or in healthy committed, loving, mutually humble relationships

Think back to the last few ads you saw on TV or heard on the radio—how many of them were about buying something to make yourself more attractive to someone else? A lot of things that young people struggle with are there because they try and meet this desire in broken places.

It’s that image we encountered in the previous session of someone dying of thirst in the desert digging frantically for water but ignoring the great big oasis next to her. God tells us in Jeremiah 2v13 that’s why we get things so wrong.

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

I think that’s what’s going on with the person who rebounds from one short dating relationship to another in desperate need of someone to really love; the person addicted to porn because it offers an easy and controllable way to experience some kind of intimacy (without the commitment and challenge of a real relationship); the person who has felt rejected by too many people and now isolates themselves; the person who gives into peer pressure because they are so afraid of being rejected by their friends …

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These and other struggles find space in our lives because we lose sight of how we’ve been made and how those good desires for intimacy and friendship can be met – genuinely and richly.

redperson

Leaders Toolkit

In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Read our leaders guide to explore how to get the most out of these four parts.

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

Imagine you’re watching a few Vines on Instagram of your life as it is right now … In these clips you are with all of the people you see regularly during the week or who are close to you. Which relationships bring you joy and happiness? Which ones are difficult? Who do you love? Who you are avoiding? If you had one wish for any of your relationships what it be?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab. Here are some videos we linked in:

replay
Think back to the relationships you pictured at the beginning of this session. Has anything you’ve heard today helped you understand them better?

Some questions to help you replay your story …
o  What do you think about the idea that the deep desires we have to be intimate with someone are part of the way God created us – and that they are good desires?

o  What would the right ways to meet those desires look like for you?

o  In which ways are you tempted to go looking for intimacy in broken places? o  Is there any role that God might play in the way you form and conduct your friendships and relationships?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
If you have time read the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus meets a woman who is a serial wife (5 husbands and counting …) and who clearly has relationship issues. They meet at a well which takes us right back to the image of the oasis in Jeremiah 2v13.

I love how Jesus never condemns this broken person but offers her the real thing instead. Here’s what Jesus says: ‘If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water … Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.’

What would ‘living water’ look like for you? How could that bring new life not only to your relationship with God but also your relationship with friends, boy/girlfriend etc?

o  Does this change or challenge your view of who Jesus is and what he is like?

o  How do you think Jesus feels towards you right now?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
What things in your life are like the broken wells that don’t hold any real hope of satisfying your desire for intimacy and relationship with others? What would it take to recognise what they are, let go of them and start looking for the right kinds of things? Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it! Spend a few minutes imagining what your life would be like if more of your relationships—with God, with yourself, with others—had more of the peace—Shalom—that God intended them to have? What might need to change in you in order to move closer to that?

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

# 1
I remember watching a sci-fi movie where alien beings could read each other’s thoughts and communicate without speaking. I was terrified! What if people could see the ungodly things that sometimes go through my mind: the anger, the pride, the lust, the greed?

The woman at the well in John 4 must have been astounded when a complete stranger described her history of failed intimate relationships. Awkward moment of note

Your secrets aren’t secret to God. He loves you, the whole you, the broken you. His body was broken so you could be made whole. Jesus invites us out of the things that tie us up, and into the joy of living free and openly with Him. Will you accept the invitation?

Read the story in John 4 here: http://bit.ly/17pO5jW

#knowingGod
#JesusStories
#timsmith

# 2
Jesus, those bodies on the screen are so beautiful – so much more lovely than mine. And the sex I’m watching calls so deeply to the desires I have inside. Surely these feelings can’t be that bad? Didn’t you create this body to want intimacy?

You did. And I think I know that you want me to enjoy deep intimacy born of a real relationship, not the love-faking I’m so tempted to watch on my phone.

Help me see this temptation for what it is: a cheap substitute for the sacrifice and deep joy of true, committed, selfless love. Fill me with your mercy and grace. Help me leave this broken shortcut to real intimacy behind.

Read 1 Corinthians 13v4-13 here: http://bit.ly/11CMRKo

#temptation_diaries
#andrewv

# 3
Is there someone you used to be good friends with but something happened and now things are all awkward or even really messed up?

Bastille’s song Bad Blood echoes the hurt that kind of break up can cause:

‘All this bad blood here, won’t you let it dry? / It’s been cold for years, won’t you let it lie?
If we’re only ever looking back / We will drive ourselves insane / As the friendship goes resentment grows / We will walk our different ways’ (listen here: http://bit.ly/1piwsfT )

Jesus’ command to forgive and not let resentment grow may be hard – but living with broken relationships is harder.

Is it time to let the warmth in on a cold relationship?

Read 1 Corinthians 13v4-7 here: http://bit.ly/1aOyzRs

#YourSoundTrack
#realrighteousness
#andrewv

# 4
Kodaline have a great song called ‘All I Want’.

Their lyrics (and their music video – http://bit.ly/1thkZ0i ) speak of a deep longing to connect with someone special – and how hard that can be when physical appearance or the stupid things we can say or do get in the way and mess up relationships.

‘All I want is / And all I need is / To find somebody / I’ll find somebody like you’

God desires our relationships to be made right – so that our deep longings can be met. All those laws in the Old Testament were part of that relationship rescue plan.

Will you allow the Spirit to get you in shape for better relationships?

Read Jeremiah 31v31-34 here: http://bit.ly/1bBIwjq

#realrighteousness
#YourSoundTrack
#andrewv

# 5

I’m not sure God has a big Kingdom plan in place aimed at securing you a girl/boy-friend. The plan God told us about is this: ‘Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matthew 6v33) My take on it is that God is more interested in you being the right person.

So don’t wait until you are in a relationship to start learning how to be in relationship. Grow strong friendships and trust that as you become ‘the one’ someone at the right time might take notice. And if not, then still you would have taken hold of the most important thing.

Read Matthew 6 here: http://bit.ly/WyKmKY

#GodsViewofYou
#brettfish

Us: What Am I Supposed to be Doing Here?

God has created each of us to do significant things with our lives. That’s why we want to know what our purpose in life is and why we feel frustrated when that doesn’t seem to work out. When we find something to do that makes us come alive and meets a need in the world we get a real sense of being blessed…

This is Session 6 in Series 1 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 1 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


A little while back when I was a student I was walking on Cape Town’s Table Mountain and saw a Boeing Jumbo jet come roaring overhead. I was awed by the power of the plane’s engines and I decided that one day, I wanted to work in an engineering firm where I could help design such amazing machines. Incredibly, 6 years later I got to work in the Roll-Royce design office helping make the engines for the great Airbus A380. It was exciting and challenging work and very satisfying to be able to use my engineering skills to help transport people to where they need to be—and to do it in an environmentally responsible way.

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For those two years I loved my work (I still do, although the work is different now), and I felt right where God wanted me to be – doing stuff that was in line with God’s great job description for all of us in Genesis 1-2.

Let’s check that command out … Try reading Genesis 1 :26-2:25 and listen out for how God gives people things to do—and what those things are.

“God blessed them: ‘Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, or every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.’”(The Message)

Gen1.28

Gen1_28b

God creates humans in his image but we were never meant to be static displays on a shelf gathering dust. God blesses us and part of the blessing is a job to do. God has put in us God-like qualities – creativity, intelligence, enthusiasm, compassion, imagination etc – so that we can look after what God has created well.

We have even been given authority to be lords (yes, little ‘l’) of the earth. That’s what ‘rule over it’ means. God has placed us in charge of the earth (and maybe the rest of the universe too when we find a way to travel there??)

To ‘control and rule over’ doesn’t mean bully and exploit (we’ve done way too much of that: shrinking polar caps, human trafficking, polluted oceans are witnesses to how bad we’ve been as caretakers…)  To ‘fill and control’ the earth means to tame and to tend. A garden left to itself becomes wild, it needs to be subdued – pruned and cultivated.

This doesn’t mean we need to all go and become farmers or game rangers! Our job includes looking after and making productive everything that has been created – people, natural resources, technology—every part of our world. We are called to use our influence and time and skill to work with what God has already put here.

That engineering job of mine was totally part of God’s original command—just as much as being a youth pastor is for me now.

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What about you? What job has God given you as part of the big command to be a caretaker of Creation?

The good news is that God has wired each one of us in a unique way so that the things we have been given to do will feel right and be satisfying for us. Here’s how David described how God forms us:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. Psalm 139v13-16

When I ask young people what they desire most, one of the top things they say is to be able to do something significant in their life that leaves the world a better place. That desire is there because God created us to do significant things with our lives. Good work is deeply satisfying. It is a blessing from God – as strange as that may sound! The right purpose gives our lives meaning. The fact that many people find work boring or even destructive is a sign of how much has gone wrong.

The thing that God has wired you for and calls you to do may or may not be the job you end up doing. Some people work out their calling in other ways, through things they do outside of official ‘work time’. Others find paying jobs that are in line with their sense of calling.

Here are three questions you can ask yourself that are really helpful for figuring out what God might have wired you for and called you to do:

1) What activities make me come alive? What things do I do that make me feel ‘I was made to do this!’

2) What is the world’s greatest need the way I see it?.

3) What things am I good at? What have people told me I do well? What things do I know I do well?

The unique talents, gifts, personality and experience each of us have will work best together and find their most satisfying outlet when we are doing things that answer each of those three questions.

God has created each of us to do significant things. That’s why we want to find our purpose in life and why we feel frustrated when that doesn’t seem to work out. When we find ourselves doing work that makes us come alive and meets a need in the world we get a real sense of being blessed.

Isn’t that an exciting possibility?

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Read our leaders guide to explore how to get the most out of these four parts.

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

o  What’s the feeling you get when you see the word ‘work’?

o  Would you rather work hard in a satisfying job for five years or have an extended 5-year-long holiday?

o  What’s your dream job? What kind of work do you hope to be able to do one day?

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theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them on the website.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
Some questions to help you replay your story …

o  What one thing stood out for you most in what you heard in this session?

o  Did anything in this session change or challenge your idea of what work is about?

o  What questions does this session raise for you?

o  Do you feel hopeful about finding something that gives you a sense of purpose in your life?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
We know from the gospels that Jesus spent time during his early life learning how to be a carpenter. Carpentry is hard, skilled work – especially without the power tools we have today: you need to know how to use the various tools well; be able to creatively turn an idea into something solid; handle customer orders; work to deadlines.

stock-footage-work-in-the-carpentry-shop

See if you can imagine Jesus working hard with his father, Joseph in the workshop. What frustrations might there have been? When was discipline to keep working hard needed? What skills did Jesus need to learn? What mistakes and mess-ups were there? What kinds of things were the end product of their labours?

How does this change your idea of what Jesus is like and how he might understand the way you experience your work now?

remix
What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Is there something about your attitude towards work or the way you work right now that you need to change? Something you need to do differently? Something you need to ask God to give you the strength to do?

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o  If you’re still in school the ‘work’ you have to do isn’t always very inspiring. How could you see the work you do as part of God’s calling for your life as a student now?

o  What answers would you give at this stage of your life for the three questions about the things that make you come alive, the world’s need, your abilities? If you aren’t sure yet, what could you begin to do to start finding what they are?

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

# 1
If you’ve been listening to pretty much anything in the media when Nelson Mandela died you probably heard someone talking about the kind of person Madiba was: forgiving, humble, caring, gracious, quick to forgive, intolerant of injustice and oppression, willing to reach out and welcome enemies, a strong and wise leader

Nelson Mandela, just like us, was a human being created to reflect a small glimpse of what God is like. Each one of the good things people are saying about Mandela point to the source of grace, wisdom, kindness, justice, love, mercy and forgiveness.

That’s our God!

What’s your idea of God like right now? What qualities has God given you to show off about him?

Read Genesis 1v26-27 here: http://bit.ly/1d3JnYK
Read an amazing passage from Paul (Philippians 2v12-16) here: http://bit.ly/1d3JmnC

#knowingGod
#andrewv

# 2
‘What’s it gonna be? Gotta another theory you want me to hear. Taking your refuge in your reason just to beat the fear – that we don’t know why we’re here’ (Kongos – I Want to Know http://goo.gl/IPM6S )

Is that your fear? Reason and faith together can help. God gave us purpose when he made us to be his image-bearers in this world and told us to take care of his creation. God also placed desires and abilities in us for the good work God has for each of us to do. Check the story out in Genesis 1v26-28, Psalm 139v13-16 ( http://goo.gl/iUY2q ) and Ephesians 2v10

Let this truth give you the freedom to step into God’s purpose for you today.

#YourSoundTrack
#andrewv

# 3
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.: Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ Genesis 1:28

Here’s an ancient text to shape your day. One of God’s first gifts to us was a deeply significant job. God created us in his image and made us lords (or rulers) over everything God made on earth. This is a core part of your identity! You are someone with God-given authority to take care of the things around you: people, animals, plants, buildings, whatever it is you encounter. How could this shape the way you live today?

#GodsViewofYou
#andrewv

# 4
I have often faced the prospect of ending my own life. Life has been really tough at times for me, especially when facing depression, I’m sure a lot of other people can relate.

But you know what keeps me going? Knowing that I have a purpose on this earth. We are called ‘not [to] conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds’ (Romans 12v2 http://bit.ly/1ad4b0E )

Knowing that my purpose is to glorify Jesus while on this earth is far better than choosing to die, for we are more than conquerors through Christ.

How can you live out God’s purpose today?

#teens2teens
#LiamTillett, 16, Pietermaritzburg

# 5
‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me so I am sending you.’ And with that Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’ John 20: 21-22

Do you have a sense of purpose for today or tomorrow? In the language John uses, to forgive also means to set free or release. Jesus sends us into this world for the same purpose his Father sent him – to help build God’s Kingdom by releasing the people we encounter from things that hold them captive – fear, insecurity, doubt, sickness, whatever it is…

Put yourself in that room with the disciples, ask Jesus to fill you with the Spirit and show you who you can help set free today.

#faithworks
#andrewv

 

Us: Who Am I Really?

If you’re wondering who you are or what your identity is, the story in Genesis 1 and 2 is a good place to start. We are God-created, in-breathed creatures alive with the Spirit of God in us, with a mission to be God’s image bearers.

This is Session 5 in Series 1 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 1 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


A few years back a friend and I rode two motorcycles across Russia and the Middle East and then down through Africa to Cape Town. It was a fun, crazy adventure.

One time we were trying to ask some people in eastern Siberia where to find the road out of the town we were in. We couldn’t speak much Russian and they had no English. I remember standing there blankly while they gabbled to each other in that strange language.

I felt so dumb – literally – that I started saying something random in English to my friend Graham. I just wanted to show those Russian guys that: ‘hey – I can actually talk, just not in your language, ok?’

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That 30000 kilometer trip halfway around the world taught me all kinds of things about myself. Experiencing so many different cultures and exploring ancient places often made me feel very small and insignificant…

The writer of the Genesis story wanted to show us a few things about who we as humans really are. Small and insignificant in some ways? Yes; in other ways very much not…

Check out the story as it’s told in Genesis 1v26 – 2v7.  As you read it see if you can pick up any clues about our true identity as human creatures.

God created human beings; he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature. Genesis 1v27 (The Message)

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33v4

Here’s what the original Hebrew text of Genesis 2v7 looks like (it’s written from right to left!):

Gen 1_7a

adam in Hebrew means man but it also means earth or dust. It’s kinda cool how the writer tells it: the man (Adam) is formed out of the dust (adam) of the earth. We are literally earth-lings (dustlings?). But we are more than just earthlings…

Gen 1_7b - Copy

Then God breathes into the earth-man’s nostrils. The word for ‘breath’ used here is nishamah which also means wind or spirit.

The earth-ling also becomes a breath-ling.

Humans – women and men – are the only creatures in the Story that get the breath – the spirit – of God.

Now, it may help to know what the first listeners of this story might have been thinking at this point. They were probably familiar with the many different religions in that part of the world. In some of these religions, people would build great, big temples that would be the home for their god. If you wanted to worship the god, you would go to where the god was – in its temple.

It was also usually the case that this god was invisible. People tend to have a hard time worshiping invisible gods (that your experience?) To solve this problem, people would make wood or stone or clay statues that they could see.

‘You wanna know where our god is? Well, it’s over there, on the shelf …’

zeus

But the statues did more than that. They were made to represent some characteristic of the god. So if they thought people needed to see the god as strong – then they would make a statue that was ripped and flexing, and probably killing something.

So now they could say ‘yeah, there’s our god on the top shelf and he’s really strong. Probably stronger than yours so … maybe bow down or something …’

There was one thing they had to do before the statue could be placed on its shelf. In order to really represent the god, the people would perform this ceremony in which the god itself was supposed to breathe into the statue. When it this happened, something of the god’s life would go into the wood or stone and the statue could go stand in the temple.

Can you see now what the people listening to Genesis would have been thinking as they hear this story for the first time?

They’re like …  ‘hey … wait a minute! This creation story sounds just like the stories from the tribe over the hill. You’re saying our God Yahweh did the same kind of thing?’

Yeah’

‘Ok well, where’s the temple then?’

‘God’s going to give us a temporary temple in a few Old Testament books time but the answer for now is: Yahweh’s ‘temple’ is everything he’s created – earth, stars, planets and more stuff we can’t even see.’

‘And the where are the statues?’

‘Um, we’re the statues.’

 ‘Woah … so if, say an alien or something from some other universe were to come here it’s supposed to get an idea of what Yahweh is like from seeing us?’

‘Yup, that’s what it means to be made in God’s image.’

(There’s some silence as people let this sink in. Some are scratching their heads…)

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So, with the world as messed up as it is and all, we’re wondering what this alien will actually think of God …’

‘Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem. We’ll get to that in the next chapter…’

We humans were made to reflect God’s image in this world. We are in-breathed creatures.

If you’re wondering who you are or what your identity is, or next time you’re searching for some inspiration – this story is a pretty good place to start!

And if you’re wondering what your purpose in life is, this is it in its rawest form: our purpose as people created in God’s image is to enjoy being God’s creatures and reflect something of who God is in the world.

Even though our image-bearing ability has been seriously messed up by the human desire to BE the Image rather than reflect God’s image, we can sometimes catch glimpses of the real thing when we see people at their best: when two friends get a relationship right we see God’s relational character lived out; when we see stunning creativity from artists we see a God who is infinitely creative; when people care for each other because God cares and heals; people love beauty and music and poetry because God loves those things too; when we see someone who loves adventure and discovery it’s because God is an adventurous God.

photomanipulations-self-portraits-zev-fiddle-oak-2

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there’s a lot that people do that would horrify God, would most likely horrify our alien visitor, and horrifies us. We are broken images that often reflect evil instead of goodness. But not completely broken.

There are still glimpses that hint at what we will one day fully become.

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Read our leaders guide to explore how to get the most out of these four parts.

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
o If the friends who know you the best were asked to come up with a list of 5 words or phrases that describe you, what do you think they would be?

o What for you are the things – possessions, skills, talents, habits, people you love etc – that define who you are the best?

o The question: ‘am I worth something?’ is an important one for most people. What ideas or tangible ‘evidence’ would you use to answer that for yourself?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
In this session we’ve explored the idea that God is always there creating new things out of nothing in our lives…

Some questions to help you replay your story …

o  What one thing stood out for you most in what you heard?
o  Did anything in this session make you feel encouraged or hopeful?
o  How does it feel to think of yourself as someone who has God’s living presence in you? How alive does that presence feel to you right now?
o  What does it mean to you to see yourself as someone who reflects something of God’s character to people who might not know God?
o  Has there been anything in this session that has challenged your idea of what God is like?

Enter the Story
If you have time Read John 20:19-22—imagine you are there in the room with the other disciples. Listen as Jesus says ‘peace to you!’ Then watch Jesus as he does something that only God has ever done before—back in Genesis 1. Jesus breathes the Spirit of God over you and into you… ‘Receive the Spirit’ he says.

Spend a few moments focusing on your breathing. As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in God’s presence and life into you. Invite God in. What does that feel like? Breathe out anything that is making you fearful or worried or just tiring you out. Leave them for Jesus to deal with. How does that make you feel?

remix
What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something about the way God creates new things this session that makes you want to say to God:

wow, I’ve kind of lost my sense of who I really am, what you created me to be and to do. There are lies I’ve believed about who I am instead. Help me rediscover and live out the truth of who you made me to be.

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o  We can only reflect God to others properly if we keep being filled and inspired by the Spirit in us. What do you need to do to invite God in more?
o  What things in your life need some of Jesus creative touch or the Spirit’s power to change?
o  Is there something new God might be wanting to create in the world you live in by using you in some way? Is there a practical step you need to take to help make that happen?

Worship
The writers of the Old Testament story wanted to show us new things about God so that we would be inspired to worship God and live right. How does this – and what you’ve seen about God – inspire and give you the words to worship God today?

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

# 1
Do you know who you are – really? One of the highlights in the creation story in Genesis is what it says about who we are – made by God, male and female, in God’s image. Being a teenager is a lot about discovering who you are.

At the most basic level – truth is … you’re someone who bears the image of the Creator of the Universe. That’s actually pretty amazing.

How much of the temptation to gossip about others, or to lie about ourselves or hide behind the masks we create is because we’re insecure, because we’ve lost that core sense of who we are?

Ask God to remind you of your true identity today?

Read the story in Genesis 1v26-31 here: http://bit.ly/1d3JnYK

#the_sin_that_entangles
#GodsViewofYou
#andrewv

# 2
What can I do to remind myself how much you love me? Set a reminder on my phone, wear a special piece of jewellery or write it somewhere I see often?

God, this truth needs to live deeply inside me. ‘Beloved of God’ – that’s my identity! Today God, I choose to listen for your voice saying how much you love me; not my own or other voices that say I’m not worth it.

Let your unfailing love surround me today ‘cos my hope is in you! (Psalm 33v22)

Psalm 33 here: http://bit.ly/1386tfh

#fridayfeedback
#wendyb

# 3
Do you have any idea who you are? How much do you tend to get caught up in trying to make a name for yourself?

Here’s John Piper: ‘We weren’t meant to be somebody – we were meant to know Somebody’

What is more important than status is whether you know God. Only in Him can you find who you are meant to be. Are you sometimes confused about your identity? Have you been worried what people think of you?

Get to know God better – and you’ll discover some amazing things about who you are.

#GodsViewofYou
# wendyb

# 4
Who would have thought God would actually want to include me (and some really crazy people I know) in his plans for saving the world. I mean, if I were God I’d just do things my way. Less mess, less fuss, more results…

Maybe not…

The more I read the Bible, the more it seems God really does want weird, unreliable me (and my crazy, random friends) in his plans. Not sure if that’s more awesome or scary!

How is God saving the world? By being present. Where is God present? In us – in the lives of every Jesus-following person. Living stones in a great God-building, every one of us.

That change anything for you?

Read Ephesians 2:19-22 here: http://bit.ly/1gpUIbd
#Godsviewofyou
#andrewv

# 5
Sho, so many things that want to define who I am: Man U supporter (or Liverpool / Arsenal / Chelsea (?)), Top academic or Maths lit, Jock or Nerd, Gay or Straight, Emo or Gangsta. So many people judge me by what grade I’m in, my clothes, my music, my accent, my looks …

(so what’s ‘normal’ anyways?)

Jesus, you define us differently: people lost in sin and in desperate need of rescue… then rescued and adopted as God’s children through what you did (and our faith in you.)

Your kids, all of us.

Now, please help me get on with all these crazy brothers and sisters of mine.

Read Galatians 3v26-29 here: http://bit.ly/1eWYsgS

#GodsViewofYou
#andrewv