Only True Love Will Thaw a Frozen Heart

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10

You can’t escape Disney’s phenomenon “Frozen.” It is the highest-grossing animated film of all time and one of Disney’s top franchises. It was the most downloaded movie from Apple last year, and kids everywhere are still singing the movie’s anthem, “Let It Go.” There are very few people in the country last year that did not have that song stuck in their own head, even if you have never seen the film. We were simply obsessed with Frozen. 

There are so many aspects of this movie that was endearing to all audiences. The fun-loving, persistent, optimistic and full of life nature of Anna. The fun and truthfulness of Olaf. The friendship of Sven. The bravery of Kristof. And then there is Elsa, the Queen. Elsa, who freezes Anna’s heart that only an act of true love can thaw.   

We may not be all that different. We are born with a hardened heart or frozen heart towards God and some of us in life also develop a frozen heart towards others.  Ephesians 4:18 says, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”  Our heart can grow cold for many reasons. It may be hurts, habits and hang-ups. Or failed relationships. Or maybe our heart is cold against one person in particular. Or past hurt, abuse, betrayal. Maybe it is fear or lack of trust.

Regardless of the reason we are fully capable of shutting God and others out, letting fear and mistrust take root, building walls and looking for ways to either run or isolate ourselves. We are all capable of finding ourselves in Elsa’s shoes. isolating ourselves. We are all capable of a frozen heart that needs thawing.

You see the sacrificial love of Anna for her sister Elsa. The sacrifice that led to her death, is what melted Elsa’s frozen heart. That same (and greater) sacrifice is found in the life and sacrificial death of Jesus, who died for us and his death and love can melt the most frozen, hardened heart. Jesus’ act of true love melts our hearts towards God and continues to melt our hearts when we are frozen towards others.

We should first examine our own hearts. God wants to do a work in each of us. He doesn’t want to leave you where you are—He loves you too much. He wants to increase your faith, your reliance upon Him, and your love for Him. Be willing to allow God to transform you. Give Him your heart.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If someone were to ask you “how are things with your heart?”—what’s your response? What words would serve as accurate descriptors of your heart’s inner condition at this time?
  2. In your past, what kinds of experiences have tended to be most wounding to your heart? In what ways have these things influenced your relationships and faith in God?
  3. Elsa ran from her fears. What are the potential dangers involved in allowing unresolved issues or conflicts to smolder in our hearts?
  4. Read Ezekiel 36:26. Do you find the promise in that verse encouraging? Why?
  5. What practical things can we do to protect our heart this week?

Kingdom of Isolation

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” – Proverbs 18:1.

Before the happy ending in Frozen, Elsa turns away, then runs away slamming the door on her life behind her. But running away and embracing her “kingdom of isolation” was not the solution. Elsa faced the kind of fear that we need to face so we can break the status quo cycle and move in a new direction.

Have you ever felt isolated? Or left out? What about loneliness? It’s a universal feeling. At one time or another every person on earth could probably answer yes to one of those questions. We can even feel pretty isolated and lonely even when we’re not physically alone. And attending a church does make you immune from feeling isolated on occasion. It is easy to put so much time and effort into programs and activities that we neglect relationships. If you attend church and feel isolated, I have several suggestions/thoughts for you.  These are not new or revolutionary.  In fact, they are the usual suspects you would expect to hear and have heard from me.  But I believe that if you do these things,  any trace of the kingdom of isolation will disappear. 

The first one may sound like I am deflecting responsibility, but getting connected in the church starts with you. It is much like a new employee who stays all day in his cubicle and then wonders why he is not being included in meetings/discussions. Scripture clearly teaches that relationships are key to a healthy church. In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasizes this reality: “It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”  If you feel isolated ask yourself what you can do to change that by getting out of your cubicle.

Secondly, join a Northstar Group. Northstar groups take place at church and homes all over our areas.  I can’t stress enough the value of getting together for fellowship, fun, and sharing on a more intimate level. Building trust and friendships just happen. Northstar Group members have familiar faces to turn to in times of trials. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from people who told me that attending a group helped them feel validated at Northstar, transition them through trying times, and provide camaraderie as they share their stories and pray together. It is hard to be isolated when you are doing life with other people.   

The last thought is getting involved. Choose one area of outreach whether it be music, teaching, serving, or giving. Identify and use your spiritual gifts in keeping with Romans 12:6-8: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  Serving and isolation are opposites.

If you are feeling isolated, you’re not alone. View it as your responsibility to get connected. Move toward others. Step out, join a group, and reach out to someone. And start serving/using your gifts in the church. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is isolation or loneliness? What are some typical factors that contribute to isolation/loneliness?
  2. Who is the least lonely person you know, and why do you think they are not as lonely as other people?
  3. What are some reasons we have a hard time acknowledging our loneliness/isolation to ourselves and others?
  4. Has anyone made a significant impact in your life when you felt isolated or were experiencing loneliness? How so? What might be a practical way to connect with someone who is struggling with isolation/loneliness?
  5. Spend some time this week alone. Reflect on the lonely times in your life, thanking God for how He has helped you know Him better through them or asking Him to help if you feel lonely and isolated right now.

Defrosting My Relationships

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17.     

In Frozen, Elsa ran away from her problems rather than facing them. The big emotional arc of the movie involves Elsa conquering and controlling her fear and the impact her decision has on the people and on her sister.  The question for today is what is keeping our problems from melting away?  What is keeping us from a better relationship with God and the loved ones in our life. 

Sometimes it is hard to stay focused on God…at least on a regular basis. It isn’t that we don’t have the best intentions. But sometimes something freezes up or freezes over, or someone makes our blood run cold and boom, we lose sight of God. 

If we truly want to find God, we must be willing to do the things that God wants us to do. If we do this, we can start chipping away at the things that separate us from God. Searching for God is like looking for buried treasure. You will never find it waiting at the house for someone to bring it to you. You must go look for it. You must be willing to go to extremes to find it because although we don’t know where the treasure is, we know it is has indescribable value.  Looking for a treasure is never a straight line, you will need to change, adapt, refocus any number of times.

Sometimes we are simply too busy to adapt, to change plans, and refocus our efforts. So our connection with God can be temporarily frozen until we find the time to thaw it out. 

Frozen gives us one possible solution, although Elsa chose not to take advantage of the solution: seeking the counsel of others. I have learned over my years as pastor that in order to live any life—let alone a busy life—that still has God at the center, we need people who are close to us to help me stay focused on Him. That doesn’t mean that all of our friends need to be Christians—far from it. It does mean, however, that we should aim to have a few deep friendships that flow out of a common love for Christ.

These are the relatives and friends who show me how Jesus loves me even when I don’t feel lovable—and they point me back to who God is and the truth that living with Him at the center is worth everything.

The fact is that friends are indispensable in this life. There is something special about having a friend that you can confide in, tell your troubles too, and share your life with. Proverbs 27:10a says, “Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.”  The value of Godly friends and relatives friends is one of the most important things in a person’s life: Their worth are not diminished by time, not devalued by inflation, not worn out by use. They improve with time. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is any part of your walk with God lukewarm/cold/frozen today?
  2. People don’t connect with God, because they simply don’t know how. Agree to disagree?
  3. What are some obstacles to connecting to God?
  4. How would you rate the value of Godly relationships in your life? Is there an example of the value of Godly relationships in your life?
  5. Pray and ask God to find or to benefit from relationships with other followers of Jesus.

“Fear Will Be Your Enemy”

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6.

After accidentally striking her sister with ice, Anna’s parents rush her to Pabbie (the grandfather troll) in hopes of healing her. This is what Pabbie says after removing Anna’s memories of Elsa’s power: “Elsa your power will only grow. There’s a beauty in it and also a danger. Fear will be your enemy.”

Elsa and her parents are afraid of her power so they decide it’s best to remove Anna’s memories of it, and they lock themselves away from the outside world so no one will find out about what Elsa can do. The fear of Elsa’s power leads to Elsa isolating herself from everyone, including her sister. Anna is left alone with no one to play with while Elsa is left alone to try and learn how to deal with what she now views as a curse.

Her power does indeed grow, but her ability to control it does not. In one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie, we see Elsa lose complete control of her power in front of everyone. After losing control Elsa runs away from everyone to continue living in isolation. But as she finds out she can’t run far enough away from her troubles.   

I believe we can learn about faith and fear from the movie Frozen. There are plenty of things to be afraid of in this life, but we can trust that God hold’s us in his hands. His perfect love for us can indeed be trusted. We know that God desires to prosper us and not to harm us, and he has a plan for our lives that is filled with hope for the future (Jeremiah 29:11). Now, as we know, this doesn’t mean that life is easy, but instead that God uses the things we may consider as curses to grow us, and change us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). We also know that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). 

So the main point to take away from Frozen is this: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) God loves us perfectly, so when we are afraid, we can take those fears to God, and trust that whatever is happening in our lives is in His hands. We don’t have to run away, we don’t have to isolate ourselves, and hurt those around us. We just have to trust Him with our lives.

So before we make a mess of things the way Elsa did, we can pray and seek God to show us what we need to do with our fears and worries. 

So my question to you is this; what are you afraid of? What fear in your life has become bigger than the trust you have in God? Will you trust Him today or will you run away? Will you model what perfect love can do to fear?

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you deal with fear in your life?
  2. Which of the following statements best describes you: (1)I feel alone and stuck in life and would love to connect more with others.(2) I feel uncertain if I’m living in isolation but I can relate to Elsa’s experience. (3) I feel connected but I can take intentional steps to further build authentic relationships.
  3. Read Hebrews 10:23-25. When we face a crisis we tend to hide from our greatest resource–our relationships. Do you remember a time someone encouraged you through their friendship? How did they help you?
  4. Loneliness is not due to the absence of people but to the lack of authentic connection with people. Do you agree?What are some obstacles in creating authentic connections with people?
  5. Why is getting a “God perspective” important when we feel afraid?

Why Not?

Each time we cooperate with God, we take one more giant step forward. Because when God asks us to change, it means that He always has something better to give us – more freedom, greater joy, and greater blessings.” – Joyce Meyer

There are people who watched the movie We Bought a Zoo and came away with the conclusion that Benjamin Mee’s decision was an ill-advised illogical gamble that in most cases would have financially ruined the family. They may agree with John F. Kennedy who put it this way: “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

I can understand why people feel that way. In times of uncertainty and economic difficulties, it is difficult to take risks. God has a plan for us. When we discover it, we’ll often reflect for a moment and then conclude, “I am not sure I can do this, it is bigger than I am.” God may give us something to do that will require 20 seconds of insane courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but taking action in the midst of intimidating circumstances. 

It reminds me of the classic story of David and Goliath that we talked about in the Hall of Faith series. Some quick background. David is a teenage shepherd with three older brothers serving in the Israelite army. The Philistines are occupying their land and are intent on taking over their country. 

David’s father tasks him with going to where the army is stationed and bring some bread for his brothers. When David arrives he finds that for forty days Goliath has been trash-talking and taunting the Israelite army. He’s a giant. Goliath has been  challenging anyone from the Israelite army to fight him in a winner-take-all battle. When David arrives he hears the taunting of Goliath and asks the soldiers what is going on. 

David’s older brother Eliab spots David and lectures him by reminding him he is a delivery boy and now that he has completed his delivery assignment needs to go home and tend the sheep. But that didn’t happen. When Saul hears about it he sends for David. David tells Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” (1 Samuel 17:32) Saul did not say “why not” but he did let David battle Goliath. This would seem to be an ill-advised, completely illogical decision. If my son came up to me and told me he was going to fight the biggest, baddest professional MMA fighter tomorrow, I would think he is crazy more than I would laud his courage. I would not answer with  “why not?” There is no way that would end well and there was no way that David’s battle with Goliath would end well. That is without God.

We know how the story turns out.  Now I am not suggesting we go out and make outrageous decisions because we think God will make them right.  What I am saying is what may seem a little crazy to us may fit perfectly in God’s plan. The goal is not to be too complacent. See what God has for us and be stirred up to live life more courageously.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do we know we are in His will?
  2. How does God’s plan unfold in our lives on a daily basis?
  3. Have you ever experienced something in your life that can only be explained by God being involved?
  4. Are you risk averse?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you follow His direction.

The Wonderful Name of Jesus

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians  2:9-10

Jesus said in Matthew 24:19: “”Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”  Those words ring as clearly as ever as Christians are being persecuted and some put to death in many parts of the modern world. We regularly pray for those in prison for being followers of Christ. It takes real courage to follow Jesus in some areas of the world because there are real consequences for doing so. 

In Acts 3 and 4, we read about Peter and John, going up to pray in the Temple, and on their way in, they meet a crippled man begging for some money. Instead of giving them a handout, Peter and John pray in the name of Jesus for this man, and he is healed. Instantly healed. He is really excited as you can imagine he would be. Peter and John proceed into the temple. They get up on a platform and they begin to speak. The religious leaders listening to them are not happy to say the least. So they arrest them. Then the next day they basically tell them the following: OK, you two, we really don’t like what you did. But there is nothing much we can do about it because it was miracle and the crowd gets that fact. So here is what we propose: We’ll let you go, but you cannot, you must not preach in that name. Just don’t talk about the name of Jesus.

Even today, we can talk about God, we can talk about Lord, but when you mention Jesus, people tend to get nervous and defensive. There is something about that name. So Peter and John are thrown into prison and are ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus, yet they go back and continue to meet with other believers. Sounds like courage to me. But you know what they do when they go back? They pray for more boldness. They pray for more courage. 

There is a courage that is built in us when we know Jesus, and tap into the power in His name. Buying a zoo is certainly courageous on many fronts. But all of us have done something courageous in our lives. Maybe dating is courageous for some of us. Maybe immigrating to our country was a courageous move. Or getting married. Or having children. Or making the decision to attend a small group and then to lead one. It takes courage to live life. To live your dream takes courage. Whatever your cause and purpose in life might be, continue to trust in Jesus and pray boldly in His name. He is faithful to help us become courageous.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

Discussion Question:

  1. What does the name of Jesus mean to you?
  2. Is there something keeping you from being bold or courageous?
  3. Talk about a time when you benefited from someone else’s boldness. When did someone give time or money so you could know more about having a relationship with Jesus? How did that boldness affect you?
  4. Is there an example of where people benefitted from your boldness?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you to be bolder and more courageous. Help us to sense your presence and know that you are always with us. We thank you because there is power in the name of Jesus.

The Meaning of Courage

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:12.

James Cameron’s “Titanic” is an epic, action-packed romance set against the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic; the pride and joy of the White Star Line which ultimately carried over 1,500 people to their death in the ice cold waters of the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912. While this is not our movie this week, there is an example of “20 seconds of insane courage” you won’t see in the movie Titanic. That example is Jack Harper.

John Harper was aboard the Titanic when she set sail from Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage. An evangelist originally from Glasgow, Scotland, he was well known throughout the United Kingdom as a charismatic, passionate speaker who led many to Christ. In 1912, Reverend Harper received an invitation to speak at the Moody Church in Chicago. 

Some of the wealthiest people in the world were aboard. While many passengers spoke of business deals, acquisitions and material desires, John Harper was diligently sharing the love of Christ with others.

On the evening of April 14, John Harper put his daughter to bed and read his devotions as he did every night. At 11:40 pm, the Titanic struck an iceberg. The “unsinkable” ship was doomed. Chaos ensued. It all happened so fast. But John Harper’s response left an historic example of courage and faith. Harper awakened his daughter, picked her up and wrapped her in a blanket before carrying her up to the deck. There he kissed her good-bye and handed her to a crewman who put her into lifeboat 11. Harper knew he would never see his six year old daughter again.

Harper then gave his life jacket to a fellow passenger, ending any chance of his own survival. From a survivor we learn that he was calling out, “Women and children and unsaved people into the lifeboats.” So he understood that there was a more important thing than surviving that terrible disaster. He understood that there were those who were unprepared to face eternity. Survivors reported seeing him on the upper deck on his knees, surrounded by terrified passengers, praying for their salvation.

At 2:40 am, the Titanic disappeared beneath the North Atlantic. John Harper was fighting for his life in the icy water. He managed to find a piece of floating wreckage to hold onto. Quickly he swam to every person he could find, urging those about him to put their faith in Jesus Christ. John Harper was moving around as best he could, speaking to as many people as possible. His question was, “Are you saved?” then as rapidly as he could he explained the gospel.

Soon John Harper succumbed to the icy sea. But even in his last moment, this tireless man of undying faith continued his life pursuit of winning lost souls. This is an example of thousands of seconds of insane courage driven by a love of the Savior and his fellow man. 

The story of John Harper aboard the Titanic is told in the book, The Titanic’s Last Hero, published by Moody Adams.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can rob us of 20 seconds of insane courage? 
  2. When something awful happens in your life, do you most commonly assume that the experience is primarily for your benefit or development?  Is your first question, “how is this struggle/hardship making me better/holier/deeper?”
  3. The John Harper story should be a reminder to care for all around us. Everyone matters to God. Everyone’s life has value.  Everyone you see is someone the Son of God felt was worth dying for. This should motivate us to care for the marginalized around us. Who in our life do we need to talk to?
  4. Pray and ask God to give us a heart and a passion for those who are far from the heart of God.

God Of Change

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” – Acts 27:23-26

There are several takeaways from the movie We Bought a Zoo.  One of them is that change is hard. Familiarity is so much more comfortable, even if what we are experiencing is unpleasant. God, however, is all about change.   

It is not that we are against change. In fact, we believe we can change. But it still seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. So is real change possible? Is change that lasts – change that really matters – really achievable? You may be saying, “I can change.” You reference our new technology, our ingenuity and our inventions. Finally, you point out that we can manipulate or change any facet of our life if we want to. 

Change that’s real and that lasts comes from God. God is our change agent. Things can change beginning with our relationship with God. It starts with changing our behavior. Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” Verse 7 says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

But breakthrough change requires courage and also often requires taking a step of faith. We can’t achieve breakthrough change the way we normally handle problems. It requires us to trust God. As I looked back over my years leading up to today, I can see a clear pattern. God had been at work for as long as I could remember to bring me to Himself, guiding choices I made, friendships I developed. His hand had been on me. He never imposed nor compelled, but waited patiently for me to see my need and respond. Even though I had no idea how my life would be different, that step of faith – when I released myself to God and to his care – was a turning point in my life. 

All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. I love that line from We Bought a Zoo, however, if taking a step of faith, the “what” truly does not matter. We can step forward with enthusiasm and confidence not because of thorough analysis or favorable probabilities but because God has promised, over and over again, that He himself will go before us, and will never leave us nor forsake us.  Because we know God and His character, we know He loves unfathomably and unconditionally. For that reason, and that reason alone, we can step into the future and what God has promised without fear. 

Therefore, don’t always ask God to change your circumstances. Instead, view each as an opportunity for God to change you, making you “mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God can change impossible situations. He sometimes moves mysteriously, but will provide what you need in miraculous ways. And it is going to be far better than you can ever imagine.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you are honest with yourself, what area in you is very hard to give to God?
  2. Do you retain “veto rights” in case God asks you to do something unreasonable?
  3. Do you believe God makes unreasonable demands from you? Does God force you to do something that will make you unhappy. Will God take everything in your life that you enjoy? Is God demanding, and it feels like such an obligation to surrender?
  4. Often it feels like we surrender to God and then months later realize that we’ve retaken ownership of that area of our lives. Is that true?
  5. How do we fulfill the command in Romans 12:1 where we continuously present our lives and everything in them as an ongoing sacrifice to the Lord?

Under New Ownership

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”Isaiah 43:19

Looking for a fresh start, Benjamin Mees goes house hunting. Unfortunately, the only place he likes also happens to be part of Rosemoor Animal Park, a working but dilapidated zoo. He buys it hoping the zoo will bring his broken family closer. The zoo is under new management.

How often do you see a business put up a new sign that says, “under new management” or “new ownership”? There are various reasons for putting up a sign new management, but the inference is that the service will be better because the new management team is better. The new owners want you to know things are different so your experience will be different. The bottom line is that being under new management does not guarantee a better experience.

Unlike Benjamin Mees, however, it is rare to get a do-over, a reboot, a get out of jail free card and thus a chance to rewind and have a fresh start.  Often it seems that our original course and direction in life seems to be the long-term course and we are stuck under the old management. The beauty of the message of Jesus Christ, however, is that you can stick up a under new management sign on your heart and it will make a huge difference in your life. 

And when we are under God’s management, He wants to do new things in our lives.  He wants us to forget about our past failures and disappointments and look to the future with anticipation of what He is going to do. God desires to work in our lives as never before, but we must surrender to Him. There are great benefits to be derived from being where God wants you to be and doing what He wants you to do. 

God not only wants to do a new thing in our lives. He wants to clarify our focus so that we can discover what God wants for us. The question is do we see the possibilities or the problems in change? In Isaiah 43:19 God says, “I am making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” God is able to transform the wilderness and desert areas of our lives.

God has already set into motion a new direction and a new purpose for your life — will you follow Him? When God says that He is going to do a new thing, you can be sure that He will follow through with His promise. God does have a plan for your life, but it’s not your job to sneak into his back office and try to find your file that lets you in on all the “secrets”. God’s not hiding something from you. We have the God-given abilities to think through options, assess the cost and dangers, pray for wisdom and direction … and then use 20 seconds of insane courage to prove that we are indeed under new management. 

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Are we more concerned about God’s mission and less concerned about our mission?
  2. If you had the ability, which part of your life would you like to put under new management?
  3. What’s one thing has God asked you to do that you are too scared to try?
  4. What can God do that I can’t concerning a new direction?
  5. Whom can I lean on to support my purpose? How can I reach out to support a friend’s new direction in life?

Develop Deep-Rooted Relationships With God and With Each Other

“So often, it’s others around us who can see where God wants to grow us even before we see it ourselves.”  – James MacDonald,

I believe the old adage is correct that says: The five most important words are “you did a good job.” The four most important words are, “what is your opinion?” The three most important words are, “let’s work together” The two most important words are, “thank you” and the single most important word is, “we.” Yes, this is another pastoral request that you join a Northstar Group if you have not already done so.

In Acts, the Bible tells us we need to be in relationships for our personal and spiritual growth. Paul and the early Christians taught and received teaching from house to house. “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:42) “…how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20) Why did they do this? Because they needed a way and place to do as Christ modeled and taught them, the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches so that God’s Kingdom will be built and glorified. And they needed a way to be connected.

You may be thinking that was great for them, but not so good for me. They didn’t have my schedule. A schedule that is overfilled with the things I am responsible for in life. I do understand and we have talked about that subject often at Northstar. We all struggle with the demands of our career and all of the frustrations and stress resulting from goals, deadlines, work flow and trying to get ahead. Then there are the family obligations, taking the kids to school, picking them up here and there, dealing with all of their activities and needs. Maybe you are already volunteering at Northstar. Add all of those together and it is hard to find an additional minute to invest in anything else.  There is simply no margin. But here is the irony. If you are the person I just outlined, then you are the person who needs to be in a small group the most.   

I know you think I have slipped my moorings a bit. Yes, it does sound counter intuitive. But, don’t stop reading for another minute or so and let me explain my logic. It is God’s plan for you to be in quality relationships to Him and then to others within the confines of a loving community. Because, we all need a place to belong and work through the issues of life, to be loved and to give our love. As a Christian, our primary goal is to know and grow in Christ. How can this be accomplished when all aspects of our life are riddled with stress? The answer is…by learning spiritual disciplines and receiving the discipleship, relationships and encouragement that small groups offer. We need a place to grow and we grow best in community with people who love and care for you. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Small groups are the perfect place to understand and practice authentic relationships to feel a part of God’s family. Agree or disagree?
  2. Small groups are the perfect place for spiritual growth to make God’s truth come to life in our lives. Agree or disagree?
  3. Small groups are the perfect place to unwind, release your stress and reprioritize your life. Agree or disagree?
  4. Small groups are the perfect place to have our needs met and dealt with and fulfill those burdens with others in a stable community. In this way we can handle stress, crisis, changes and the pressures of life better.  Agree or disagree?
  5. Small groups are the perfect place to develop our skills, leadership and ministry so we can be better servants of our God. Agree or disagree?
  6. Please take the initiative and get yourself plugged into a group.