Monthly Archives: April 2013

4.28.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

A Sanctuary That I May Dwell With Them

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.


Exodus 25:1-9

The very first worship structures recorded in the Bible were the altars that Abraham built to worship God after he arrived in Canaan (cf. Genesis 12:7-8). But after Israel left Egypt, God through Moses asked them to create a larger structure, an elaborate and beautiful tent, to symbolize God’s presence among them. They obeyed and built the Sanctuary in the desert.



1 Kings 8:1-13

When the people of Israel were firmly settled in the land of Canaan, King Solomon set out to carry out his father David’s plans for a Temple in God’s honor in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Kings 5:1-6). He built a building of great scale and beauty. In his prayer at the Temple’s dedication, Solomon made it plain that God is not bound to any one place or building (cf. 1 Kings 8:27). But the God of the universe honored Solomon’s Temple, filling it with his glory.



Ezra 1:5-7, Haggai 1:1-8, Ezra 6:13-18

When Babylon’s armies overran Jerusalem in 586 B.C., they destroyed Solomon’s Temple (cf. 2 Kings 25:9). Two generations later, the Persian ruler Cyrus gave the Israelites permission to return to Jerusalem from exile. Interestingly, Israel’s leaders did not talk first of starting a new government. Their primary focus was on rebuilding God’s house in Jerusalem.



Luke 2:43-49

In Jesus’ time, King Herod (a vassal king appointed over Israel by Rome) had greatly expanded and beautified the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, trying to win his Jewish subjects’ favor. Luke’s story about Jesus as a young man showed him in the Temple, fascinated, inquisitive and at home. He matter-of-factly referred to the Temple as “my Father’s house.”



John 2:13-21

Although King Herod and many manipulative politician/priests used it as a political pawn, Jesus honored the Temple. Seeing its spiritual meaning sullied stirred him to angry action. John said as his disciples watched him, they thought of Psalm 69:9, a poem about passion for God’s house. Both Matthew and Luke wrote that Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7 (“My house will be a house of prayer”), showing how the Temple should link God with God’s people.



Acts 2:42-47, 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:1-5

The religious leaders in Jerusalem conspired with Rome to crucify Jesus, and fought against Jesus’ followers as they proclaimed that their Lord was risen. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, the early Christians continued to honor the Temple as a worship and prayer center. God used it, as God has used many other buildings throughout history, as an instrument to build his spiritual temple in human lives.


To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from



Almighty God, help us to build sacred spaces in which others can meet you. Help us to honor your house in our lives and in our worship. Give us a hunger to worship you, and to offer our small gifts with a heart full of love. May our buildings demonstrate our commitment to you and to your will, but may our hearts forever be your true sanctuary. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

As you drive around the city, which are your favorite church buildings? What about some of the church interiors you have seen? What do you tend to like and dislike about these churches? Do you think they are a physical reflection of their congregations?



• Read Exodus 25:1-9. Why did God tell the Hebrews to build this Sanctuary? Was it for God, or for the Hebrews who were to wander in the desert for 40 years? Did God demand that everyone give? Why not? Where did they get the items they donated? What made this structure holy? Did it offer solace and hope to the people? What kind of structure would God have us build today? Who would it benefit? What would be the benefits of having such a sanctuary, designed by God? Is it possible for us to have a sanctuary that we believe God has guided in designing?

• Read 1 Kings 8:1-13. After the Ark of the Covenant was brought in, God entered the new Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple replaced the portable Tabernacle as the Hebrews’ central sanctuary. How did the Temple compare to the Tabernacle in size and majesty? Why was this Temple the right thing for the Jews to build? Was its location important? What purpose(s) did the building’s grand scale serve? Do we honor and worship God with the churches we build today?

• Read Ezra 1:5-7, Haggai 1:1-8, Ezra 6:13-18. The Babylonians overran Jerusalem, destroyed the first Temple and dispersed the Jews throughout the Babylonian empire. Where did the Jews worship then? Was this when the concept of the Synagogue arose? When a new Temple was proposed, didn’t the Jews still have synagogues in which to worship? Do you suppose that some Jews questioned the need for such a grand, magnificent Temple? Did the new Temple serve a good and noble purpose, even though other places of Hebrew worship already existed?

• Read Luke 2:43-49. Do you suppose that, when the second Temple was being proposed, the people had any idea how significant it would become to the coming of the Messiah? Can anyone see the future and truly predict the value of anything that belongs to God? Did the presence of the young Jesus serve to further sanctify (make holy) the Temple and the worshippers within? Was this the first time Jesus had been in the Temple? Prior to the construction of the Temple, could the people have predicted that their Messiah would have been consecrated there? Do you look forward to entering “your Father’s house”? How important is that to you?

• Read John 2:13-21. How can we maintain “zeal for God’s house”? Is there any risk that we might forget the purpose for which it was built? Is there any risk that we might “worship” the building rather than God? How might we prevent that? Once inside, are we open to encounters with both God and our fellow worshippers? Do we build church buildings only for ourselves, or do we also build them for people who have not yet met Christ and for future generations? Can we build confidently, believing in God’s continuing blessings for our church, a community of believers?

• Read Acts 2:42-47, 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:1-5. Does God use physical buildings to do great spiritual work? Can you think of any examples? Can you describe this work? If, God forbid, our church buildings burned to the ground today, would we still be a church? In what way are we like “living stones”? How do we continue God’s great spiritual work as bodies of believers? As individuals?

From last week: Did you think about how your own “love of money” might be clouding your judgment? Did you make a list of these attitudes and situations? Did you ask yourself what you could do to combat your own attitudes and then act on them? Please share with the group any surprises you discovered in this process.



From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, April 28, 2013:

We’re taking a break from our current sermon series so I can share with you our leaders’ thinking regarding our future building plans. I’m really excited to be sharing this with you! But first I want to remind you that our mission is not to build buildings. Our mission is to build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians. Our vision is to be used by God to change lives, transform communities through our work with the poor, and to renew other churches by our work with them. Any talk about buildings must help us to do these things….

We hope to reach 10,000 more young adults in the next twenty years – this will not only change their lives, but will give this church a future. Those 10,000 will continue our work in the schools, touching 10,000 children, each of whom will touch thousands more. Together we’ll work to strengthen 10,000 other churches which will touch one million people in those churches, each of whom will touch thousands of people. Do you begin to see the ripple effect? The course of history will be changed in so many ways by God’s work through you.

While building buildings is not our mission, our buildings play a key role in fulfilling our mission. Buildings can either impede our mission, or they can support it. What I’m going to suggest to you today is that our current buildings, without any modifications, are going to have a detrimental impact upon our mission in the years ahead. And the buildings we’re proposing address our current challenges and will have a positive impact upon our mission in the years ahead….

This week I spent time reading many of the Bible’s passages about buildings. What I found was that God seems to have felt having a place for people to come and worship was important. He also insisted that this place be built with beauty and excellence and serve as a reflection of his presence with his people. He called the people to give sacrificially to make these buildings possible, even as they continued to care for the poor.

Exodus is a hugely important book in the Bible. In it we read the story of the birth of Moses, his call to lead the Israelites, the plagues, and the liberation of the slaves from Egypt the biggest stories of the Old Testament. Exodus devotes the first 14 chapters to these stories. But it goes on to devote the final 15 chapters to God’s instructions to Moses to build a sanctuary and the very specific architectural plans and design God gave him. The building was called the Tabernacle or the Tent of Meeting….

Later, 15 chapters in I and II Chronicles detail David’s work in planning for the building of the temple, the people’s sacrifices, and his son Solomon’s actual construction of what they called “the house of the Lord.” Solomon himself noted that God does not live in houses built by human hands, but the place represented God’s presence in their midst, and was where heaven and earth met in the people’s experience. The Psalmist captured the spirit of the Israelites about the temple when he wrote: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” Why? Because it was there that he went to meet God, to receive grace, to discern God’s will, to find life….

The Babylonians destroyed the Temple in 586. Returning to the Holy Land 50 years later, the people began to rebuild their homes, some of them fabulous paneled houses, but left the temple in ruins. God sent the prophet Haggai who pronounced that it was a sin that the people had built their paneled homes but left the temple in ruins. The governor, Zerubabbel, began a capital campaign and rebuilt the Temple.

By the New Testament period, that temple was replaced by Herod’s temple. In the only childhood story of Jesus, we find him at age 12 in the Temple, his parents unable to find him. When they do find him he says, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” In one of the most dramatic events of Jesus’ life he threw out the moneychangers in the temple and cleansed it, noting once more that the temple was “my Father’s house.” The last week of his life he came there every day to teach. Jesus knew that his father did not live in buildings made by human hands, but the building was important to him—for it represented his Father.

After his death and resurrection the apostles gathered daily in the Temple. That Temple, like the tabernacle and the two temples before it, represented God’s presence and the meeting place between heaven and earth. It was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, but it was considered so sacred that to this day Jews return to the western wall of its foundations—and they come there to pray and to leave their prayer requests for God.

Here’s my point. God recognized the value of sacred structures, as did Moses, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles too, as places where people would meet him and as symbols of his presence in their midst. He commanded that these buildings be built with symbolism and beauty, and crafted with excellence. You will hear people say, and you may feel yourself, that there is something wrong with building a sanctuary. That does not seem to be God’s perspective in scripture. Nor is this a matter of either helping the poor or building a sanctuary. We will do both, and we’ll do more to help the poor by having the right building.

How important are church buildings?

In the middle of World War II, the chamber of the House of Commons was destroyed. As Britain’s parliamentary body deliberated how and when it would rebuild, Prime Minister Winston Churchill rose to defend reconstructing it in the exact style and layout as the previous version. He opened his speech with what is now a classic statement of the importance of architecture: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Churchill went on to argue that the shape and size of the room were integral to how the House of Commons functioned. Among other reasons, he contended that the small room was necessary for their conversational way of doing business, as the smaller room inevitably made the discussion more intimate.

Churchill’s basic insight is that our physical environments subtly affect how we act in ways we usually don’t consciously notice. Theologian Jamie Smith puts it in a slightly different context: a building can be an “incubator for the practices that shape [us] into a certain kind of people.” A medieval cathedral makes certain responses and dispositions more likely than others. Buildings like Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame make it easier to cultivate a sense of quiet reverence, if only because the stone walls and tile floors offer little muting effect to sounds. The places even make certain forms of music more plausible: Palestrina’s masses are built for the soaring heights of St. Peter’s basilica, while a praise band with drums would be an acoustic nightmare.

Buildings don’t determine our behavior, of course. But because they do make certain forms of life more plausible, our architectural judgment needs to be theologically informed.

The indwelling of God’s presence as a result of Pentecost chastens any pretensions that buildings can pass on or preserve the faith on their own. At the same time, this indwelling life of the Spirit needs external, visible support to flourish. The life of Christ is “poured out in our hearts,” but it gets there by way of the body. Reading the Bible or hearing the proclamation of the Word are just as sensory as walking in a church, which is why we attend to the words differently depending on whether we are saying them out loud, listening to them, or reading them. Cut ourselves off from this practice or the other practices of the church, and the fruit inevitably withers on the vine.

Buildings help shape us then, because our bodies affect our souls as much as our souls affect our bodies. While evangelicals have rightly focused on the interior life, the interior life has a particular shape based on whether and how we “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice.” While architecture may not be the main thing for evangelicals, the main thing isn’t the only one that matters.



Final application:

This week, think about how you hope your own home is somehow a reflection to others of who you are and what you believe. Does it in any way reflect your love of and commitment to God? Can you think of changes that might make it a better reflection of your faith? If so, consider making some of those changes this week and next week, share with the group whatever you discovered.


4.21.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

The Requirements of the Lord

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.


Genesis 2:4-15, Revelation 11:15-18, 22:1-5

On Earth Day, we remember that the Bible’s archetypal creation story said God gave humans the task of caring for the good earth he had created. But, even long before the industrial age, humans failed. Revelation said judgment awaits those who “destroy the earth.” God’s work, in which we can join, is to recreate and restore the world to its original beauty.



Psalm 82:1-4, Proverbs 31:8-9

In all human cultures, some people are more powerful than others, and their power (physical, economic or social) gives them a greater ability to affect the actions of others. The natural inclination is for those who have power to use it for their own benefit. But the psalmist and the sages of Hebrew wisdom said God calls on the powerful to speak, not on their own behalf, but on behalf of the powerless and voiceless.



Amos 5:14-24

Amos the prophet lived in a time of “conspicuous consumption,” and of conspicuous religious rites, in Israel. Many Israelites believed that on “the day of the Lord,” God would crush their enemies, and make them rulers over all the earth. But Amos saw that their outward religiosity had no effect on how they lived. On God’s behalf, he urged those who profited by exploiting others to change course, to “let justice roll down like waters.”



Isaiah 58:1-10

Isaiah spoke to Israelites who engaged in many religious practices, including fasting, but did so from self-serving motives. They wondered why God didn’t honor their religious feasts and fasts. In impassioned language, Isaiah told them their piety was only skin-deep. They didn’t need showy, external fasts from some kind of food. They needed to “fast” from injustice.



Matthew 6:1-4, 19-24

Jesus was a realist about human nature, and he knew it feels good to us when people praise our good deeds. Sadly, that can mean that even our “generous” acts spring from our need to put on a performance—to make ourselves feel better, or get others to think better of us. But Jesus said that, as his children, we bless others in order to honor God as Lord of our life.



Matthew 7:24-27, 1 Timothy 6:11-19

Jesus said only the principles of his kingdom give us a solid, purposeful foundation for our life. A history of crumbled empires and dramatic falls from power by arrogant rulers shows the accuracy of Jesus’ image about life’s foundations. Paul urged his young protégé Timothy to build his own life and ministry on Jesus’ solid foundation, and to faithfully call others to live by those same principles.


To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from



Lord Jesus, transform us and free us to truly live in your kingdom where we are fixed on you and on what you want. Reshape us from the inside out and open our hearts to others. Heighten our awareness of the needs of the people around us so that we might act on your behalf and alert us to the needs of the Earth as you intended it. Amen.


CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Are you a supporter of environmental issues? Why or why not? Which environmental issues seem most important to you (water pollution, water conservation, air pollution, destruction of the rain forests, protection of endangered species, etc.)?



• Read Genesis 2:4-15, Revelation 11:15-18, 22:1-5. Revelation warned about destroying the Earth, God’s good creation. Are you in any way a “nature lover”? At what times do you most feel appreciation for nature? Have you ever seen nature spoiled as a result of human action? As Christians, do we have any special responsibilities with regard to protecting the Earth? God plans to restore the Earth. How can we serve in completing his plan? How could our lifestyles change for the benefit of the Earth?

• Read Psalm 82:1-4, Proverbs 31:8-9. God seeks to bring justice to the world. We often read this as something that will happen in some distant future. How will, or how does, God do this? Can we simply wait for God’s justice to come about? What action does God expect of us? How can we bring about greater justice in the world, or even in our little corner of the world? Do “the powerful” have greater responsibilities to bring about justice than “the weak”? Which are we, the powerful or the weak? Have you “picked your battle(s)”?

• Read Amos 5:14-24. Read aloud the comments under “Wednesday”, above, for some perspective about this reading. God, through Amos, was trying to show Israel the wrongness of their living and thinking. Why did God despise their religious activities? Do you believe any of this could apply to some aspects of Christianity today? Is it possible for us to be Christian in name only? God calls us to stand for justice and righteousness. How do we go about doing that? How does the culture of our world tend to twist us and contaminate us? What can we do to overcome this?

• Read Isaiah 58:1-10. These verses are both a warning from God and a promise. What does God warn against? Who does his warning apply to? What is God’s promise? Who does his promise apply to? Do you believe in this promise? What various forms does oppression in America take today? As Christians, what should our position be toward these situations? How active should we be in combating these situations? If your own attitudes toward the oppressed and the poor are either neutral or cold, rather than warm, would you be willing to try to change?

• Read Matthew 6:1-4, 19-24. Is our desire to receive the approval of others part of the human condition? If so, is there anything that can lift us above that need? How do we overcome what John Ortberg calls “the narcotic of approval”? How do you interpret Jesus’ phrase “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”? How do we do this? If we do this, how are the lives of others affected? How is our life affected?

• Read Matthew 7:24-27, 1 Timothy 6:11-19. Paul was urging Timothy and his flock to avoid the love of money and to embrace the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Today, once again, we face the temptations of the culture of our time. What do we mean by that? Who comprises our culture? Our family, friends, co-workers, government, media, public personalities? How do we go about putting Christ ahead of any negative influences? Can we avoid the love of money while pursuing any form of financial planning? What comprises a healthy attitude toward money?

From last week: Did you wear something gold to remind you to live every hour of every day and treat every person in your life by the Golden Rule? Did this present blessings, but also challenges and quandaries? Can you share with the group some of the rewarding and frustrating experiences as you tried to live a life in Christ?




From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, April 21, 2013:

Today we turn our attention to the “requirements of the Lord” found in Micah 6:8, one of the most oft quoted texts in the Old Testament: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”…

Micah lived in an agrarian society. At this time wealthy landowners had taken over most of the small farms, leaving the poor growing poorer, no longer farming their own land. Listen to Micah, and God’s, condemnation of the people: “They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away.” (2:2) We read in 6:11-12, “Can I tolerate wicked scales and a bag of dishonest weights? Your wealthy are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, with tongues of deceit in their mouths.” In response to the powerful taking advantage of the powerless, to the injustice that was happening in the land Micah, speaking on behalf of God, offered these warnings: “You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be a gnawing hunger within you; you shall put away, but not save, and what you save, I will hand over to the sword.”

Micah summarizes the ethical and spiritual requirements of God with three things: doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God. In Hebrew the word for justice in Micah 6:8 is MISHPAT. It is a very important word in the Old Testament, appearing 412 times. It is usually translated as “justice.” It means doing what is right, fair and equitable….We see this in passages like Zechariah 7:9-10: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor.”

Zechariah mentions the widow, the orphan, the alien (or immigrant) and the poor—these have been called the Bible’s “quartet of the vulnerable.” They are mentioned often in the Old Testament, and God demanded that people give special concern to ensuring they were afforded justice. Listen to Deuteronomy 10:18-19, where we read that God is the one who “Executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.” Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

It is interesting that today the church spends a great deal of time denouncing sexual sins, but in the prophets of the Bible, there are very few references to sexual sins. The two sins most frequently mentioned were idolatry–that is, the worship of false gods—and oppressing the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. Yet today we seem to devote ourselves to the worship of much that is not God, and we often forget the cause of the poor and vulnerable.

Lest we think this is just an Old Testament concern, I’d remind you that James says: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” What did James mean by “unstained by the world?” In the context of the chapter he meant adopting the world’s values.

Doing justice is protecting the rights of the vulnerable. And often this requires acts of great courage….You may not have all the answers, but don’t sit around waiting until you do. Look for those who you are clear are being denied justice, fairness, equity—who are voiceless, powerless and poor—and do something….

Micah says that God requires that we do justice, but also that we love kindness. The Hebrew word for kindness is HESED. It is sometimes translated as “steadfast love” or “mercy.” Old Testament Professor John Oswalt defined hesed in this way: “The word speaks of a completely undeserved kindness and generosity done by a person who is in a position of power.”

This is meant to be a part of the daily rhythm of our lives. We are meant to look around, to pay attention, and to stop to help the one in need. We’re meant to invest in the communities around us and by our deeds, to bless and lift others up….

The last part of the three-fold requirement Micah outlines is to “walk humbly with your God.” The emphasis is on walking with God, and doing so with humility. Too often I feel like I’m asking God to walk with me, to go with me as I do what I want to do. But Micah calls us to walk with God where God wants to go. This is to walk beside God. In Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels Jesus doesn’t call people mere to believe in him, but his direct invitation and challenge was, “Come and follow me.”

I just started reading Jim Wallis’ new book, On God’s Side. He begins with these words: “Ours is a shallow and selfish age, and we are in need of conversion—from looking out just for ourselves to also looking out for another…Christianity is not a religion that gives some people a ticket to heaven and makes them judgmental of all others. Rather, it’s a call to a relationship that changes all our other relationships.” I want to walk with God. I want to humbly follow him. And when I walk with him, he leads me beside the still water and restores my soul.


What Is Treasure in Heaven?

In Jesus time, the Jews he was speaking to would have been very familiar with the terms “earthly treasure” and “heavenly treasure”. It was common for their vernacular. In fact, the Jews defined storing up treasure in heaven as deeds of mercy and deeds of kindness to people in distress.

Jesus, in Luke 12:33-34, gives us an idea of treasure in heaven when he says: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

We see here that Jesus equates selling possessions and giving to the needy as treasure in heaven. If I were to define it myself, treasure in heaven would simply be living life with open hearts and open hands.

Open hearts means we have a heart that God has – one for the poor, the weak the disenfranchised and the marginalized.

Open hands means that we live life with a loose grip mentality so that our earthly goods are not used for our own contentment, but rather are used to have an impact on those who are less fortunate for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself said he had come to “Proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18. We store up treasure in heaven by seeking the Kingdom of God through helping others, which demonstrates the greatest of all sacrifices that God made for us!

So how should we respond to this?

Repent From Earthly Treasure

We always need to start here any time we see that we’ve been living for something else besides Christ himself. Turn from earthly treasure and turn to God and worship Him.

Replace Earthly Treasure

Earthly treasure (and our love for it) must be replaced by a deeper love for Jesus. There is only one way to deal with this issue correctly and that is a reorientation back to the greatness of the gospel: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Cor. 8:9

Rearrange Our Priorities

Instead of living for six digits, job status, houses, cars, TV’s, vacations, comfort or security – we should be living for the next level of giving, of helping the poor and of using our money for the sake of the gospel!!

In other words, our priorities should be set on simplification for the Kingdom of God, not accumulation for our own earthly kingdom!

Here are some practical ways to rearrange priorities and start living for heavenly treasure:

Build generosity into your budget – start budgeting for giving and start looking to give to others and those in need.

Give time and money to local shelters – The Boys and Girls clubs are in desperate need of volunteers to come and spend time with disadvantaged youth. That’s one out of hundreds of organizations that need help.

Have a garage sale or sell junk on eBay – and give the proceeds away to a hurting family!

Adopt an orphan or become a foster parent – there are so many kids that need good structure and parents who love them.

Teach financial skills to those who need help

Think twice – Instead of accepting a promotion based on money think about whether your job will allow you to invest into others



Final application:

This week, think about how your own “love of money” might be clouding your judgment. Make a list of these attitudes and situations. Ask yourself what you can do to combat your own attitudes and then act on them. Next week, share with the group any surprises you discovered in this process.



4.14.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

The Gold Standard

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.


Leviticus 19:11-18

What we often call “the great commandments” and the Golden Rule (which we will read tomorrow) present the same premise for human behavior: treat others as you would want them to treat you. Israel’s Levitical code of laws was the first written form of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It didn’t place that command in isolation, but used it to sum up a list of specific ways of loving your neighbor.



Matthew 7:11-14, Luke 6:27-31

People often call Matthew’s version “The Sermon on the Mount;” in Luke it’s often “The Sermon on the Plain.” (Fact is, both writers’ descriptions could apply to the same site on the edge of the Sea of Galilee.) In this sermon, which laid out his kingdom’s guiding principles, both Matthew and Luke said Jesus included the command, “You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you.”



Luke 10:25-28

Luke said, “A legal expert stood up to test Jesus,” which seems to show that he was not just curious but taking an adversarial approach to Jesus. Jesus answered a question with a question, in good Middle Eastern style. The expert quoted the law from Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus agreed with the Scriptures he cited. The expert’s concept of “neighbor” was quite narrow, though, and Jesus went on to tell the famous parable of the Good Samaritan to try to expand his view.



Galatians 5:13-16

The Apostle Paul started a new church in Galatia (modern day Turkey) that had fallen into disagreement and struggle. After Paul left, “false teachers” came to the church and began convincing people they still had to follow certain rules and laws in order to for God to accept them. Paul, through his letter, resisted the false teachers. He urged his readers to claim their freedom in Christ, but to use that freedom to “love your neighbor as yourself.”



1 Peter 3:8-15

Many Bible students believe 1 Peter put in writing some of the instruction the early church gave to converts before baptism. These Christians lived in a hostile Roman world, where they would often face contempt and persecution. The apostle Peter wrote to them that loving others as themselves was the best way to defuse whatever hatred they might meet.



Romans 12:17-21

Living and traveling in Nero’s corrupt, cruel Roman Empire, Paul must have sometimes felt the urge to lash out in anger against evil. There was so much that was unjust, dishonest and immoral! Yet Paul, and Christians who lived out his counsel, formed a movement that has long outlasted Nero and the Empire by living by completely opposite principles. As Paul said it in today’s reading, they committed themselves to “defeat evil with good.”


To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from



Lord, help us to act less like warriors and more like ambassadors for peace. Teach us the language of peace and instill in us the attitude of peace. We long to love as you would have us love, honestly and completely with a heart that listens and longs to serve. May your Spirit overcome our nature, instilling humility and justice while eliminating self-importance and vengefulness. In your name, Amen.


CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

As an American society, do you think we are more, A. nostalgic for the past, B. looking forward to the future, or C. just living one day at a time? Does our personal focus on yesterday, tomorrow or today have any effect upon our attitude toward and treatment of others?



 Read Leviticus 19:11-18. Don’t, don’t, don’t! Why was the Old Testament so filled with “thou shalt not’s”? If the Old Testament spoke to people from barbaric backgrounds who had no boundaries to their lives, wouldn’t God need to first establish some boundaries? Even so, note how God’s Spirit inspired the writer of these verses to close with perhaps the most basic admonition of what we should do. Does the New Testament also seem contain many “thou shalt not’s”? Why would this be? How much more “civilized” would the people of New Testament times have become than those more than 500 or more years prior? How much more civilized are we today?

 Read Matthew 7:11-14, Luke 6:27-31. What a turnaround from the “thou shalt not’s” of the Old Testament! Here is Christ switching from a “do no harm” approach to a “do all the good you can” approach. Do we Christians sometimes find it hard to adhere to this advice from Jesus? Is there a difference between knowing the golden rule and proactively seeking opportunities to practice it? Is Christ just saying, “Be nice”? Can you think of circumstances in which limitations to the golden rule need to be established to protect yourself and others?

 Read Luke 10:25-28. Think about your own neighborhood. Is there a difference between not being thought of as a bad neighbor and being thought of as a good neighbor? Should Christians do what they can to make a real effort to be a really good neighbor? Aside from your own reputation, does being a really good neighbor have any effect on the image of Christ and Christianity? Does this effort need to extend to strangers? To your own friends and family? Is there at times a difference between how we should act and how we feel? Is this what is meant by saying that God knows our hearts?

 Read Galatians 5:13-16. What does “walk by the Spirit” mean to you? Is it limited to how we act? What about how we think and feel? Although as Christians, we may control our actions, do we sometimes indulge our negative thoughts and feelings? What kinds of things can we do to reduce or even eliminate negative thoughts and feelings toward others? How do we strengthen our ability to “walk by the Spirit” in these circumstances? Remember: we’re not perfect in this life. We are committed to growing better and better every day with the help of the Holy Spirit. How have you felt those subtle changes within yourself?

 Read 1 Peter 3:8-15. Have you noticed how the New Testament constantly reminds us to be humble? Why is humility so important to God? Is it important to our own quality of life? If so, how? Does humility have more to do with how we act or how we feel? If we feel better than someone else, are we more or less likely to treat them well? Let’s try a real life test of the golden rule: You are a manager with a subordinate whose performance is terrible, and who refuses to accept warnings to change. Could firing that person ever be consistent with the spirit of the golden rule? What if firing might be the only thing that would get their attention and get their career back on track?

 Read Romans 12:17-21. Does this passage encourage us to reinforce bad behavior? Or do these verses speak against all forms of revenge in the case of bad behavior, and then encourage us to act contrary to how that person might expect us to act? Can you see a difference between rewarding bad behavior and acting more positively than your “enemy” might expect? Can you see how this might turn your relationship around?

From last week: Did you reflect on the fact that the Book of John is, for many, a favorite of the Gospels? Did you consider how our focus on this Gospel, your reading and study, affected you in any personal, spiritual way? Did this study help you understand how you could be a better disciple and “fisher of men”? Please share with the group.





From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, April 14, 2013:

A willingness to imagine what I would want if I were walking in someone else’s shoes is really important. And when we do that, and then follow the Golden Rule, it affects our relationships and interactions with others.

Some years ago I had become consumed by my work here. It was a really busy season and I was at meetings virtually every night of the week for two weeks. One night when I got home LaVon said to me, “I want you to imagine what it would be like if the roles were reversed. What if you were here every night with the kids, and I was in a busy season at work and was gone every night for two weeks. How would that feel to you?” I’m embarrassed to say that I had not considered this. But once I did, it forever changed how I looked at my work life. It helped me think differently about marriage and my actions towards LaVon.

The Golden Rule also calls us to treat every person we meet differently. When the telemarketer calls, you imagine having an $8 an hour job calling people, and the amount of rejection they receive. Treat them how you would want others to treat you if you had the job. We had to replace our furnace this week. We’d received four bids and finally decided upon one. I wrote a note to each of the guys who had bid on our system thanking them, explaining our decision and describing something I appreciated about their presentation or bid. That’s how I’d want to be treated if I didn’t get the bid. One guy wrote back and said, “Thank you so much for writing. No one ever takes the time to contact me to let me know they went a different direction.”

Often, particularly when we’re frustrated, we don’t follow this rule. Joe Stowell, president of Cornerstone University, was in a Starbucks one morning. The customer ahead of him was the first customer in the store that morning. All he wanted was a New York Times. He was waving a $50 bill and becoming increasingly agitated at the barista because he didn’t have change for $50 yet. Joe finally said, “Put it on my bill.” The guy left with his paper. The clerk said, “That was really nice. The world would be a lot better place if more people were like you.” It was a small thing—only cost him $1.50, but he had compassion on the clerk. And the barista was right—the world would be a lot better place if everyone treated others the way they would want to be treated.

Listen, the Golden Rule works in marriages, in interpersonal relationships, and also in business. One of you reminded me this week of a guy named James who grew up in Hamilton, Missouri. His dad was a pastor who taught him, from the time he was young, to live by the Golden Rule. So ingrained in his heart and values was the Golden Rule, when the boy grew up and started a dry goods business in the little mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902 he decided he would build his business on the rule, and he even named his store The Golden Rule Store.

James taught his employees that their task was to treat each customer the way they would like to be treated. He then treated his employees the way he wanted to be treated, calling them associates and sharing the profits with them. The store was so successful that he soon opened another, and then another, and another. Within 26 years the company had 1,000 stores nationwide, but by this time James Cash Penney had renamed the stores, JC Penney.

Herb Kelliher was the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, and with his former Administrative Assistant, who became its President, led Southwest to huge success with this one key principle. He said, “Treat people the way that you want to be treated, and pretty much everything will fall into place.”…

There are 20,000 members of this congregation, one in every 100 people who live in Kansas City. One in every 33 people in Johnson County are members of this church. Here’s my question: What will be our legacy? What impact might we have on our city as we invite people to become passionate followers of Jesus Christ, and as we seek to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? How would our marriages be different? How would our businesses be different? Where is there inequality or injustice, and how might Kansas City be different if we lived the Golden Rule?

What others have said about the Golden Rule

– The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatever unless you realize it is your move. – Frank Crane

– And in this community, as in all others, the golden rule still applies – we must be act toward other nations as we would have them act towards America. – Adam Schiff

– I believe in the golden rule. I believe in practicing it. – Loretta Young

– We have committed the golden rule to memory; let us now commit it to life. – Edwin Markham

– The golden rule for every business man is this: ‘Put yourself in your customer’s place.’ – Orison Swett Marden

– The Golden Rule of Parenting is; do unto your children as you wish your parents had done unto you! – Louise Hart

– I would like to have engraved inside every wedding band ‘Be kind to one another.’ This is the golden rule of Marriage and the secret of making love last through the years. – Randolph Ray

– The Golden Rule finds no limit of application in business. – James Cash Penney

– Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others. – Socrates

– “If you contemplate the Golden Rule, it turns out to be an injunction to live by grace rather than by what you think other people deserve.” – Deepak Chopra

– Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought.” – Augustine of Hippo

– If we don’t manage to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be, as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation – Karen Armstrong

– Practicing the Golden Rule is not a sacrifice; it is an investment. – unknown


Final application:

This week, wear something gold to remind you to live every hour of every day and treat every person in your life by the Golden Rule. This will present blessings, but also challenges and quandaries. Next week, share with the group some of the rewarding and frustrating experiences as you strive to live a life in Christ.


4.7.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

The Long Shot

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.



John 21:1-6

Much of John’s gospel happened in or near Jerusalem. Chapter 21, however, told of Peter and several other disciples back at the Sea of Galilee. (People have made various guesses, but John did not explain what their reasons were for going fishing.) The story made clear, however, that despite their past experience they did not fish successfully on their own. When Jesus guided them, they hauled in a huge catch.



John 21:7-14

Jesus was no ghost, but truly, physically alive. He built a fire and cooked breakfast! John, a master of images and echoes, must also have recalled that Peter’s faith “crashed” around a fire in Caiaphas’ court (cf. John 18:15-18, 25-27). He probably meant the unbroken net full of fish (153—fishermen would count!) to point to the wide reach of Christ’s gospel, and the fact that there would always be room for all the people for whom God’s messengers “fished.”



John 21:15-17

Three times Peter denied knowing Jesus. As his dive into the water and swim to shore seemed to show (cf. John 21:7), Peter was aching, eager to reconnect with Jesus. Jesus didn’t want that failure to haunt the rest of Peter’s life, either. Three times, he allowed Peter to affirm his love, deeper and more solid now because he knew he Jesus could forgive him even when he failed.



John 21:18-19

When Peter first chose to follow Jesus, he couldn’t possibly have realized all that Jesus’ call meant. Now he’d seen Jesus go to the cross. And now Jesus told him that he would yet have the chance to live up to his words in John 13:37 (“I’ll give up my life for you”). Now, with the cost of following him clearly in view, Jesus repeated the same simple, sweeping call: “Follow me.”



John 21:20-23

In John 17:18 Jesus prayed, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent [my disciples] into the world.” In John 20:21 he told them, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Peter had personally accepted Jesus’ call anew, and he would follow, even at great cost—but he wondered what might await the other disciple. Jesus said our call is to follow him, not to compare our path with anyone else’s.



John 21:24-25

In Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, scholar Richard Bauckham documented that first century readers considered history nearly worthless unless an eyewitness wrote it. The writer of the Gospel of John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, he said. He could have written much more about Jesus, but his testimony was trustworthy and powerful. “I saw it—you can believe it!” he seemed to say at the end, probably echoing Jesus’ words to Thomas (“Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe”—John 20:29).


To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from



Lord Jesus, thank you for calling us to serve you. Help us to trust in you, without comparing ourselves or our service to others. Do with us what you will; may your will become our will. Strengthen our love and commitment to you and forgive us when we fail you. Feed our bodies, our minds and our souls, and recreate us to be the kind of people you would have us be. In your name, Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

We’re often horrified as the news media report the terrible events that seem to occur almost daily in our country. In light of history’s many recorded human conflicts, is America today more violent than a few decades ago, or do we just hear about it more?



 Read John 21:1-6. After Christ’s death, these disciples had returned to the activity they’d earned a living at. They might not have even been thinking about Jesus. Why not? They couldn’t catch fish without Jesus. What does this say to you as you go through your everyday life? Would we be more effective if we “take Jesus along with us” every day? Why didn’t the disciples recognize the resurrected Jesus on the shore? What do you do to be able to recognize Jesus when he makes his presence known to you in the ordinary course of your life?

 Read John 21:7-14. Was Jesus a ghost or spirit, or was he physically alive? How do we know this? What was the significance of the big catch the fishermen made? Was Jesus sending a message by filling the net with fish, but not with so many that the net would break? Didn’t Christ tell them earlier that he would make them fishers of men? Why did Jesus ask them to bring some fish to the fire when some were already prepared? Does God require some effort on our part in completing our lives? What effect does the requirement to do our part have on our development as God’s people?

 Read John 21:15-17. Why did Jesus ask Simon Peter the same question three times? How would Peter probably have felt about his triple denial of Jesus? Could Jesus have been helping Peter get over his guilt by asking the question three times? Had Jesus already forgiven Peter? Have mistakes you’ve made in the past haunted you and made you question your relationship with God? What can we do to accept God’s forgiveness and move on?

 Read John 21:18-19. At this time, could Peter have possibly realized what his life would be like and all that he would do to further God’s plan on Earth? Jesus was essentially telling Peter that he would have to suffer for Christ. Did this seem to deter Peter in any way? What changed Peter from the man who denied Christ three times? Did Peter “glorify God” through his own death? What does “glorify God” mean to you? How can and do we glorify God with our own lives?

 Read John 21:20-23. After finding out he would suffer death for Christ, Peter asked what would happen to the “disciple Jesus loved.” One church tradition said John may have been the only disciple who died a natural death, rather than being martyred. If one disciple had an easier time than another, does that mean God was unfair? Are we to compare our Christian life with the lives of other Christians? What’s the risk in doing so? Does God call all of us to live the same lives, with the same purposes? Does God call all of us to have the same degree of impact on the world as do others?

 Read John 21:24-25. Why did John make such a point of being an eye witness to all that he reported? Re-read verse 25. What do you make of this verse? Did Jesus simply stop doing things after his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven? What kinds of things is he doing yet today? Is there any imaginable way that all Jesus’ work could be written down? Could you, for example, write down every single thing Christ has done for you and through you?

From last week: Did you continue reading the gospel of John, slowly reading the final chapter, 21? As you read, did you ask yourself what message the apostle was trying to deliver with his choice of words and his selection of stories? Did you pray for a deeper insight into these verses? Share with the group how these practices affected your week and your faith.



From Pastor Ann Williams’ sermon, March 31, 2013:

Peter very easily could have gone down in history as the guy who denied Christ in the critical moment. But because of Christ’s resurrection, the worst thing is never the last thing. Which means Jesus didn’t let the story end there. Because Christ put fear and weakness, and all our mistakes and failures to death on the cross, there’s a second chapter to Peter’s story, and to our story.

We’ve been asking you, as you have read through the Gospel of John to keep in mind three questions: What is said in any given passage about Jesus? How does Jesus bring life to me? What response is required of me? So I want to use these three questions to think about what this passage has to say to us today:

First, what does this passage say about Jesus? This passage says Christ has the power to restore. That God through Christ gets to decide how the story ends. And God decides to come back from the grave so that we might have another chance. God says our life is not going to be defined by failure.

And the second question: How does Jesus bring life to me? When Jesus is raised from the grave on the third day, he doesn’t just rise for himself. He rises from the grave to bring new life to others. He appears to Peter among the disciples and they have the conversation that changes the course of his life forever. In fact, we might say he is given new life in Christ. Three times Jesus asks Peter to reaffirm his faith because it was three times that Peter denied Christ. In this way we are to understand that Jesus fully and completely reinstates, redeems, and restores Peter. He restores their relationship. He forgives his mistakes, and redeems him. Those three denials are erased. We can hear Peter gaining confidence and his voice getting a little stronger each time he responds to Jesus’ question, “Peter, do you love me?”, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you!” “Peter, do you love me?”, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you!” “Peter, do you love me?”, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you!”

And along with each affirmation of faith comes a call to ministry, a call to action. This answers our third question: what response is required of me? Each time Peter says “You know I love you”, Jesus asks him to respond by taking care of his people—“feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, “feed my sheep.” Jesus reiterates his call to Peter, “The Rock,” and reminds him of his mission: that Jesus will build the church upon that rock. This conversation tells Peter, in essence, you are still called. I know you messed up but I have restored you and you are still the one I choose to do my work. Isn’t this what we all want? We all want that opportunity to have a second chance. For God to see the good within us, rather than the mistakes we’ve made….

Peter represents each of us with all our highs and lows. Scholars have asked why all four gospels include the terribly embarrassing story of when Peter denied Jesus. I think it is because Peter freely shared the story, and it was one people could relate to. We all have moments of greatness. And we all stumble and fall. We know the person we want to be—with Peter we say, “Lord, though all the others deny you, I will never deny you!” We have moments where we have acted courageously to serve the Lord, yet we’ve also turned away from him in thought, word and deed.

But just as God used all of Peter’s unique experiences to serve the church, God does the same for each one of us. Here’s what I want you to get: Whatever your past may be, whatever mistakes you’ve made, God offers you new life. God still has a purpose for you. You are not too far gone!

So I wonder, what if the events of your life (both peaks and valleys) have prepared you for something? Do you believe the world needs something from you? Something only you are uniquely qualified to do?

Peter would go on to be martyred, put to death on a cross, just as Christ predicted. He was crucified but he asked to be placed upside down, feeling unworthy of dying the same way as his Savior. Early Christian history writes that Peter was crucified at Rome under Nero Augustus Caesar in year 64. He was put to death on the cross because of his devotion and commitment to Christ’s church – persecuted for his faith. But none of this ministry, none of this incredible impact would have been possible if Christ had not graciously and generously offered Peter new life.

What does it mean to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17)?

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Mark’s record employs this concept a number of times. Sometimes “following” refers simply to the act of physically pursuing Him, as often occurred during His ministry. On numerous occasions, groups of people journeyed to see and hear this unique man from Galilee. But in a different sense following Jesus signifies a commitment to His cause, total allegiance to Him, whatever the cost. For instance, Jesus told a rich man: “sell all you possess, and give to the poor . . . and come follow me” (10:21). Peter bluntly stated: “we have left everything and followed you” (10:28). And the pivotal passage involves that sequence of events after Peter’s confession near Caesarea Philippi. Here Jesus sets the terms of discipleship. The one who wishes to “come after Me,” He says, “must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (8:34).

To follow Jesus, then, is to enlist in His kingdom and bow to His rule. “The idea is that of responding to a summons, attachment to a person, acceptance of authority, and imitation of example.”

This is what Jesus demanded of Peter and Andrew, and the same holds true today. The call of the Son of God is to a life of consecration and total dependence upon His grace, strength and guidance. We, like those disciples of old, must embark on a spiritual journey through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Passive Element: What Christ Does

Spiritual growth is ultimately a divine accomplishment. As we do our part, God—often through our efforts—intervenes on our behalf. Notice in the text before us that Jesus assures His disciples of the outcome of following Him. A promise is made that His disciples will be transformed into true heralds of the kingdom. There does not appear to be any doubt as to the certainty of this fact. These men will indeed become fishermen in the kingdom of God; Jesus guarantees it.

The passage here does not elaborate, but there are plainly a number of key ideas tied to the concept of becoming fishers of men. Certainly the invisible hand of God is in view. He intervenes in the lives of His children, and equips them for evangelism. We may surmise that this involves a deepening of their love for God, a realization of the plight of lost men and women, and the courage to proclaim the much needed gospel message. Also, it must include a deeper knowledge of the things of God, a greater ability to communicate truth, and the wisdom needed for the variety of challenges we encounter. The Christian evangelist has many needs; these are divinely supplied, according to Jesus, for all who make following Him their highest ambition….

There are no short-cuts to becoming successful messengers of the truth. It is not so easy as plugging in a formula or memorizing a few trite phrases. Rather, evangelism seems to be integrally tied to the workings of God on behalf of (and within) His people. Furthermore, His dealings with us are related to our cooperation with Him. We are all evangelists “in the making.”

All of this, of course, is closely tied to the means of grace, the influences by which God effects sanctifying change in His people. These include prayer, fellowship, meditation, and, especially, the preached and studied Scriptures.

Jesus said “follow me,” and that means, in part at least, coming in contact with the God-given aids to spiritual growth. Evangelists are those who take their Christian lives seriously, and determine to utilize every opportunity for progress in grace. As a result, they become better witnesses for Him.

Do not fret, therefore, as you contemplate your own inadequacies when it comes to evangelism. The very best thing you can do is to realize that God is the One who directs our efforts (even over-rules them at times!) and shapes us into more suitable messengers of Christ. The fundamental principal of evangelistic success is the cultivation of a deeper and more consistent walk with the Savior. Simply stated, we must follow Him. Those who do have this promise: They will become fishers of men.



Final application:

This week, reflect on the fact that the Book of John is, for many, a favorite of the Gospels. How did our focus on this Gospel, your reading and study affect you in a personal, spiritual way? Did this study help you understand how you could be a better disciple and “fisher of men”? Next week, share with the group what you discovered.


3.31.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

Eternal Life

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.


John 20:1-10

Early Sunday, Mary, Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” found the tomb empty. Had the authorities taken Jesus’ body? Had grave robbers been there? The two disciples saw an unexpected sight. Scholar Craig Keener noted, “The face cloth separate from the linen is “folded up”…which could be an indication of neatness, or that it was still rolled the way it had been when it was wrapped around Jesus’ head—that his body had risen straight out of the wrappings and cloth.” “The other disciple…saw and believed”—even without fully understanding.



John 20:11-13

In John’s gospel, as we’ve learned, the details almost always matter. So he described Mary seeing angels in the tomb in a way that evoked the “mercy seat,” the Ark of the Covenant’s cover (cf. Exodus 25:17-20 for a description of the cover). John wanted his readers to realize that Jesus was the true center where God’s mercy always meets human sadness and need.



John 20:14-18

Mary thought Jesus was “the gardener.” In symbol, he was—Adam failed, but Jesus would tend earth’s “garden” well (cf. Genesis 2:15, Romans 5:15-21). Mary didn’t recognize Jesus (scholar William Barclay suggested she may have been blinded by her tears), but it seems his voice, the way he said her name, was unmistakable. Then Jesus sent Mary to be the very first eyewitness to the risen Christ.



John 20:19-23

Everything the disciples thought they understood about Jesus’ mission seemed lost. Their leader and would be Messiah was dead. Now Jesus’ body was missing. The disciples were in hiding, afraid the Jewish authorities would come after them next. But no one had stolen Jesus’ body, and he was still their Messiah, in ways that surpassed their wildest dreams. “Jesus…stood among them” and gave them his peace, his purpose (“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you”), and his power (“Receive the Holy Spirit”).



John 20:24-28

For unknown reasons, Thomas missed Jesus first appearance to the disciples. He refused to take their word for the remarkable claim that Jesus was alive. But Jesus was patient with Thomas’ fears and questions. He came again when Thomas was present, and said “Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side.” As with Mary in the garden, the presence of his clearly-alive Lord overcame all Thomas’ doubt. He worshipped, calling Jesus “my Lord and my God.”



John 20:29-31

Because this gospel was written as the generation of the apostles was dying out, Thomas’ experience took on special significance. If people weren’t willing to trust the testimony of those who’d seen Jesus, the faith would soon die out. Jesus said, “Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” We don’t see Jesus as the apostles did. An eyewitness wrote this gospel, however, so that we may believe as they did, and have eternal life.


To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from



Dear God, thank you for John, for the gifts you bestowed upon him and for your inspiration that enabled him to write this gospel. Gift us and inspire us to do your work, no matter how humble, on this earth. May our work glorify you, Heavenly Father, and by glorifying you, bring others to your side. May we, like Mary, share the good news of a risen Lord. In your name we pray, Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

When you think of Easter, what do you think of besides the religious aspects? Is it Spring, bright new clothes, children, the Easter Bunny? Do these pleasant thoughts in any way deter your focus on Christ’s resurrection, or do they seem to enhance that focus?



• Read John 20:1-10. Even after Christ’s death, Mary Magdalene was so was so anxious to return to Jesus that she went back to the tomb before dawn. Have you ever felt that kind of hunger to be near the Lord? The disciples Peter and John, had no idea what had happened to Christ’s body. Many people reject God and the Bible based on the question of how God can allow cruelty and hardship in the world. Have you ever experienced or witnessed something terrible in life and asked yourself “where could Jesus be that such a thing could happen?” What have you decided about that?

• Read John 20:11-13. John’s arrangement of the two angels was meant to represent the “mercy seat”, the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. What was John trying to tell us with this representation? The angels asked Mary why she was crying. What did this question imply? Mary said “they” have taken my Lord away. Can any nameless “they” ever take Christ away from you? Can “they” destroy your faith? Why not?

• Read John 20:14-18. At first, Mary didn’t realize it was Jesus who was speaking to her. John Calvin, and many other Christians, read this as a metaphor: that Mary’s blindness, despite seeing Jesus, represents the blindness of non-Christians who have already been informed about Jesus. Do you always recognize God when he is speaking to you? When you realize it is God’s nudge, what kind of “sound” do you hear? How can we go about attuning ourselves to this inner voice from God? Do you have an opinion as to why Jesus said to Mary, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father”? Mary made sure she told other followers about her astonishing contact with a resurrected Christ. Are you hesitant to tell other Christians about your personal encounters with God?

• Read John 20:19-23. Apparently, Jesus entered the room without opening locked doors, that is, he simply appeared. Don’t you find this interesting? Why did Jesus do this? Even though these were his own disciples, Jesus saw the need to prove it was him by showing them his wounds. Wouldn’t he have to do the same for us if he simply appeared in our living rooms? Why did Jesus have to twice say, “Peace be with you”? Do you believe you have received the Holy Spirit? Do you necessarily have the same powers as those given to the (then eleven) disciples? If not, does that make you any less a disciple? Have we all been charged with the same responsibility to spread the Gospel?

• Read John 20:24-28. Do you like the story of “Doubting Thomas”? Why? Do any of us fail to see ourselves in mindset of this disciple? Thomas was very specific about what it would take to make him believe that Christ had risen. When Christ comes again, will we need to place our hands in Christ’s wounds in order to believe? Why? Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.” Does Jesus say the same to us, often time and time again? What relieves your recurring doubts?

• Read John 20:29-31. Verse 29 says, “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” What does this simple, promising verse mean to you? Verse 30 says, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” Do you feel the need to know about these additional signs in order to believe? Have you come to know God better as a result of reading John’s gospel? How has it helped you to feel confident in the role you are called to play in God’s plan for humanity?

From last week: Did you focus on this season of Lent? During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Did you do this? Share with the group how these practices affected your week.




From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, March 31, 2013:

Let’s begin with the touching story of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb. Her life had been forever changed by her encounter with Jesus. But now the faith that she had discovered the last three years had been dashed by what she had witnessed the last three days. She had watched Jesus arrested, seen him tortured, and stood by as he was crucified.

She came to the cemetery at dawn Sunday morning. She couldn’t stay away. Twice John tells us that she weeps as she stands there, and she represents each of us who has lost someone we love dearly. We’ve all known her sadness—the grief that suddenly comes over you like a wave, and the tears that won’t stop. In the last two weeks we’ve had 16 deaths at Resurrection: parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, spouses, a four year old little girl, and just this weekend we celebrated the life of a remarkable woman whose husband and two teenage children will miss her terribly. It is at these moments of death, in the midst of our grief, that we are most interested in knowing, Is there something more? Is there such a thing as eternal life? If so, what is it like?

Different religions and philosophies offer very different answers to the question of death. Christianity’s answer is Easter—it is resurrection. Mary comes to the tomb weeping. The disciples hide behind locked doors, afraid that they might be arrested and put to death too. These are two of our main responses to death—sorrow and fear. But Jesus’ resurrection—Easter—transforms our sorrow into joy, transforms our fears into peace and courage. This is what happens to Mary and to the disciples on that first Easter!

Jesus had been teaching this throughout the Gospel of John. In John 5:28-29 he says, “The hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” In John 11:25-26 he promises: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” In John 14:1-3, just before he is arrested he says to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Fathers house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” But as powerful as these words were, it was in his resurrection that these words gained authority. His resurrection demonstrated his power over death….

The resurrection and the promise of eternal life confirm that evil, sickness, even death will not have the final word. They confirm that “the worst thing is never the last thing.” Christ’s promise “because I live you will live also,” fundamentally changes how I face the death of people I love, how much risk I’m willing to take in life, how I approach growing old, and how I look at my own death. The older we get, the more of our loved ones are on the other side, the more we’re meant to look forward to that great reunion.

That’s what Eliza Hewitt was writing about when in 1898 she penned the words to her famous gospel song: “When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!”

I’ve been asked if I would still be a Christian if not for the promise of heaven. The answer is a resounding Yes! I don’t follow Jesus Christ because of the promise of heaven. I follow Jesus Christ because I believe he is the way, the truth and the life. Like the disciples, I believe he offers the words of life. I find myself most fully alive when I am closest to him, when I am doing his work.

And that leads me to a final point. Let’s return to John 19:41: “Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.” As we’ve studied the Gospel of John the last six weeks we’ve learned that there is always more than meets the eyes in his telling of Christ’s story. This detail in verse 41 seems important to John—that there was a garden where Jesus was crucified. He mentions the garden again, saying, “In the garden there was a tomb.” Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t say there was a garden here.

Genesis 2 and 3 seem to be behind John’s telling of the Easter story. Remember, John’s gospel begins with the words, “In the beginning,” the same words the Book of Genesis begins with. John tells us the crucifixion and resurrection took place in a garden. Genesis 2 and 3 take place in a garden. In John’s resurrection story, when Mary first sees the resurrected Christ he appears as a gardener. In John 2 and 3 God plants a garden. In Genesis Adam and Eve turn from God, eat of the forbidden fruit, and paradise is lost. They’re expelled from the garden, the earth is placed under a curse, and death comes into the world. I read this story as archetypal—it is our story. Each of us hears the serpent whisper. Each of us has turned from God’s path, has done what we know is wrong, and death and pain result.

We relive this story in each generation: deception and desire, violence and vengeance, poverty and the hoarding of plenty. How do we break free? I think John was saying that in Jesus’ life, teachings, death and resurrection Christ has come to reverse what happened in Eden. He has come to repair the garden, to restore paradise. Crucified and resurrected in a garden, appearing as a gardener, his work has begun.

That night when Jesus met up with his disciples, he said to them: “As the father has sent me, so I am sending you.” What he’s begun, we’re meant to complete….Our work is to follow him in restoring the garden. Each day we are on a mission. Each morning we say, “Here I am Lord, send me!” Each conversation we have, every decision we make, every action we take, is an opportunity for us to work to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven….

Easter proclaims: Christ is risen from the grave! Death has been swallowed up in victory. Evil and hate and sickness and sin will never have the final word. The worst thing is never the last thing! The curse is broken. Paradise is being restored! There is always hope! But through it Jesus also calls us to “Get to work!”

For twenty-three years I’ve ended my Easter sermon the same way. People ask, “Do you really believe this stuff? Do you really believe that the tomb was empty, that Jesus rose from the dead? That there’s a place beyond the grave that he has prepared for us? That there is always hope? My answer is always the same. I not only believe it, but I’m counting on it. And I hope you will too.


Why did Jesus say to Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold on to (or touch) me”?

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

Touch me not … – This passage has given rise to a variety of interpretations. Jesus required Thomas to touch him John 20:27, and it has been difficult to ascertain why he forbade this now to Mary. The reason why he directed Thomas to do this was that he doubted whether he had been restored to life. Mary did not doubt that. The reason why he forbade her to touch him now is to be sought in the circumstances of the case. Mary, filled with joy and gratitude, was about to prostrate herself at his feet, disposed to remain with him, and offer him there her homage as her risen Lord. This is probably included in the word touch in this place; and the language of Jesus may mean this: “Do not approach me now for this purpose. Do not delay here. Other opportunities will yet be afforded to see me. I have not yet ascended – that is, I am not about to ascend immediately, but shall remain yet on earth to afford opportunity to my disciples to enjoy my presence.” From Matthew 28:9, it appears that the women, when they met Jesus, held him by the feet and worshipped him. This species of adoration it was probably the intention of Mary to offer, and this, at that time, Jesus forbade, and directed her to go at once and give his disciples notice that he had risen.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

Jesus saith unto her, touch me not … Not that his body was an aerial one, or a mere “phantom”, which could not be touched; the prohibition itself shows the contrary; and besides, Christ’s body was afterwards presented to Thomas, to be touched by him, and to be handled by all the disciples; and his feet were held by the women, which is what Mary would have now done: upon the discovery of him, she threw herself at his feet, and was going to embrace and kiss them, to testify her affection and joy, when she is forbid; not as unworthy of the favor, because she sought him among the dead, for which the angels reproved her and the rest; but either because he was not to be conversed with, as before his death, his body being raised immortal and glorious; or rather, because he had an errand to send her on to his disciples, which required haste; nor need she stay now to show her respect to him, since she would have opportunity enough to do that, before his ascension; which though it was to be quickly, yet not directly and immediately; and this seems to be the sense of our Lord’s reason.

More at the Source:


Final application:

This week, continue reading the gospel of John, slowly reading the final chapter, 21. As you read, ask yourself what message the apostle is trying to deliver with his choice of words and his selection of stories. Pray for a deeper insight into these verses. Next week, share with the group whatever you might have discovered.