September 22 | Faithfulness

Text: 1 Samuel 2.12-26

This past weekend Pastor Jeff Manion described the culture of temple life during the adolescent years of Samuel. Two priests, Hophni and Phineas, were living in open rebellion to God and treated God’s sacrifices with “contempt” (1 Samuel 2.17). Even though their father was Eli, the head priest, they still walked in open opposition to God, abusing the sacrifices and violating the women who served in the temple courts. This was the example that was being set for young Samuel.

Despite this, Samuel “continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people” (1 Samuel 2.26).  Amazingly, Samuel was able to thrive in an environment that was anything but conducive to growth. Samuel is fully devoted to God, living a life of integrity in the middle of an institution marked by serious corruption.

Many of us face similar challenges every day: the environments in which we work or live can be challenging to live with integrity, purity, and mission. Yet, as people transformed by walking with Jesus, we have the potential to grow and shine just as Samuel did.

The One Big Question for you to consider this week is. . . In what environment do you find it incredibly difficult to live as a fully-devoted follower of Jesus? Be prepared to discuss this with your small group. Take time to encourage and pray for each other to live faithfully in these challenging situations.

September 19 | Giving Back

Text: 1 Samuel 1.19-28

When Hannah cries out to God for a child, she makes a sacrificial promise to give the child back to God. God gives her a son, Samuel, and when he is weaned she does just that—she releases him to God. In our culture it’s difficult to understand why she’d be willing to give up the child she so deeply and desperately wanted.

The answer is in her attitude toward God. When she gets up from her prayer of lament, Hannah is no longer troubled. She’s at peace, showing she totally and completely trusts God. She truly believes if he gives her a child, this child already belongs to him and will be safe and secure as his dedicated servant.

By dedicating Samuel to God, Hannah gives Israel one of its strongest and godliest leaders. By taking him to the temple at such a young age, he’s raised in an atmosphere that teaches him what he needs to know and believe to serve God and his people well.

If you’ve been given children, consider dedicating them (and you as a parent!) to God. If you haven’t done so already, plan to dedicate your children at a service in November. You can find out about child dedication and the dates at your campus here.

September 18 | Mercy and Movement

Text: 1 Peter 1.6-9

Peter tells us, “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while…these trials are only to test your faith…”(1 Peter 1.6-7 TLB). Our Lord can bring positive spiritual movement in our lives from some pretty wretched situations. This past weekend, Pastor Manion encouraged us to think beyond what we see as the silence of God to what he’s doing in our life that we can’t see right now.

God lets us endure pain because he has a plan—he wants us to learn and grow through the pain as we await his mercy. As we trust him we can say, “Here I am what’s left of me, where Glory meets my suffering, I’m alive” (MercyMe, “The Hurt and the Healer”).

Listen to the song “The Hurt and the Healer,” by MercyMe. As you welcome God into your day, reflect on how he has grown you through the pain in your life.

September 17 | Believe in God

Text: Matthew 11.28-30 | Believe in God

Up until the day she became completely undone, Hannah acted out her sorrow and stress over being childless by crying and not eating. Elkanah, her husband, thinks his love should be enough. But his love is not enough to take away the shame and hurt a woman in that culture felt about being a childless failure.

Yet, after she poured out her heart to God, she explained to Eli (the priest who thought she was drunk), “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman” (1 Samuel 1.15-16).” She goes away at peace with God, no longer sad.

True peace only comes from bringing our whole self to God; giving it all to him and holding back nothing.

As Jesus says in Matthew 11.28-30, when you are ashamed, and weary from the pains of this world and come to him, “. . . you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Today, meditate on Matthew 11.28-30 and memorize it. If you’ve never given your life to Christ and are tired of carrying your sorrows and burdens, then tell him you receive his yoke. If you’ve already taken that step, allow him to show you where you’re still trying to carry your burdens without him and—like Hannah—ask for his help.

September 16 | Lament

Text: 1 Samuel 1.9-18 | Lament

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me” (Psalm 13.1)? Because the silence of God can intensify our pain, it’s easy to wonder why a loving God allows us to suffer. But Hannah shows us what can come from intense, deep pain when we cry out to God—built-up pain can intensify our prayers, drawing us closer to him through our deepest longings.

Hannah reaches the brink of what she can endure and falls into the waiting arms of God through her prayer of lament. When God seems distant, it’s not that he left, but he’s allowing our pain to draw us closer to him on a deeper level of faith.

A heart of lament is a heart God can shape. Today, write your own prayer of lament to God concerning a painful situation you’re suffering through right now. Don’t be afraid to pour out your true feelings, but make sure to end with the hope you have in God. For help, read Psalm 13 and see how David pours out his lament to God and then glorifies him at the end.

September 15 | Family Pain

Text: 1 Samuel 1.1-8 | Family Pain

If you’re the member of a family, you will experience pain. It’s a given. Families are the testing ground for learning—or not learning—to deal with hurts, angers, jealousies, provocations, and the disappointments of life. The closer we are to people, the more we’re affected by their sin. And there’s no place closer than the family unit: those we care about the most can hurt us the most.

Hannah and Peninnah are caught in a family where each of them lack something of huge value. Peninnah has children, but lacks the love of her husband Elkanah. Hannah has his love, but is barren. Both women are deeply hurt, but deal with it differently. Peninnah finds relief by tormenting her barren rival while Hannah suffers in a silence that turns into sickness and tears.

This week Pastor Manion challenged us to consider how God works in our lives through emotional pain. We can choose “relief” by destroying ourselves and others, or we can choose to give our pain to God and wait in faith for his solution. When Hannah finally cries out to God, his plan unfolds in her life.

This week with your small group, share a situation in your family (or extended family) which could provide you with an opportunity to trust God more deeply. Discuss with the group how you can reach out to God, as Hannah did, and how you should react through the process.

If you’re not currently in a small group, register here to be a part of Group Launch this coming Sunday at your campus. Please register by noon this Wednesday, September 17.

September 12 | Life

Text: Galatians 5.16-26

This week as we’ve explored “How to Stop a Fight,” we’ve contrasted right and wrong ways to deal with the tensions we all encounter. While James 3.13-18 identifies two types of wisdom, heavenly and demonic, the Apostle Paul identifies two sources of desire that direct our life: the flesh (me) or the Holy Spirit (God). In Galatians 5.22-26, Paul gives a list of the beautiful results of a life controlled by God through the Holy Spirit.

On our own we’re separated from God by our selfish desires. But God, in his mercy, wants to save us and give us a God-full life (John 10.10). To rescue us, God sent his only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and offers us his life in return.

When we turn to God and accept his forgiveness through Jesus, we’re given the Holy Spirit to guide us into God’s plan for our lives. By placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, we can daily yield our hearts to the Holy Spirit.

As you begin your day, take a few minutes to pray and ask God to lead you as you desire to follow him alone.

September 11 | Volcano

Text: Proverbs 15.18

While there are moments when it’s appropriate to show intense anger, these moments are usually few and far between. The problem is, many of us live angry. We may not show it all the time, but we’re always bubbling, ready to blow like a volcano with pressure always building. It only takes the slightest poke to release the full vent of our anger. This can be very dangerous for the people who live with and around us.

Patience is the ability to graciously slow down and meet someone at their pace. When you feel your temperature rising because of the challenges surrounding you, allow yourself the time and space to slow down.

Today, take a few minutes to memorize Proverbs 15.18 and call it to mind when you sense your volcano starting to boil.

September 10 | Jerk

Text: Proverbs 22.10

Proverbs seems to suggest situations aren’t the cause of conflict, people are. Unpaid bills, family dynamics, and a messy house can certainly increase the opportunity for tension, but they’re not to blame for the strife that exists between people.

The writer of Proverbs 22.10 says, “Drive out the mocker and out goes strife.” Another term for mocker could simply be “jerk.”  While it’s easy to identify someone else as being a jerk, the truth is we all have moments when we’re the source of the problem.

This week with your small group, discuss those situations when the “jerk” comes out in you. Rehearse with one another what it looks like to live and act as Jesus would in these difficult situations.

Remember, if you’ve placed your faith and trust in Jesus, the Bible says you’re a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5.17). We don’t have to be a “jerk” because that’s not who we are anymore.

September 9 | Breach

Text: Proverbs 17.14

There’s that moment when you feel your temperature rising and you sense an argument is about to ensue. The next words out of your mouth are the most crucial; they’ll either fuel the conflict or help settle the matter. Proverbs 17.14 says if they fuel the conflict, it’s like the breaching of a dam—it starts with a small crack, but ends up unleashing the entire river.

A broken dam has devastating effects on a community: a reservoir is drained, dangerous flooding occurs, and years of labor building the dam are gone in an instant. This is true for relationships as well.

When we enter into a quarrel, be it with family, friends, co-workers, or even some guy who cuts you off on your way to work, we risk dangerous consequences that sometimes wreak unrepairable damage. Worst of all, when we let dangerous words go, we can never get them back.

The wisdom from Proverbs is this: “. . .drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (Proverbs 17.14b). Simply put, drop it and walk away.

Today, recall a time you let words fly you couldn’t get back and the damage you caused. Use this as a learning environment the next time you feel your temperature rising as you drop it and walk away.