hiding behind your baggage

10.14.21

Connect Lesson #65: Hiding Behind Your Baggage by Jeremias

Scripture References: 1 Samuel 9 and 10 NLT

 

Overview (5 Minutes)

Saul was the son of a wealthy man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the most handsome man in all of Israel and he was tall in stature.

 

One day, Kish’s donkeys had disappeared. He sends Saul and a servant to look for them, but after several hours, they couldn’t be found. Saul wants to go back, but his servant suggests they seek out a prophet named Samuel to help find the donkeys.

 

The day before, Samuel receives a word from the Lord that he would run into Saul and that he was to tell Saul that he would be King of Israel. As Samuel is making his way to the place of worship, He sees Saul. Samuel prepares a feast and a room for Saul and the following morning; Samuel anoints him with oil.

 

Soon after, he meets with some other prophets. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Saul, and he begins to prophesy. Samuel brings him before the people, but suddenly, Saul cannot be found. When the people asked of his whereabouts, the Lord revealed that he was “hiding behind the baggage”.

 

Discussion Questions (15 Minutes)

Q#1: What do you think was Saul’s hesitation about taking on this role?

Q#2: How can fear, insecurity, and worry keep us from fulfilling God’s call on our lives?

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The Spirit of God came upon Saul as he was obedient to the call of God on his life and the Lord began flowing through him. He was an ordinary man who through obedience saw the power of God move in his life.

When you step into the place God has called you to, even if you don’t feel qualified or if you just feel ordinary, He will make a way where there is no way. Rely on God and His Word. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

The same thing happened to Jesus. Isn’t this the son of Joseph the carpenter? What good can come from Nazareth? Jesus said that a prophet is not without honor except in his own country.

People who know the “real you” may question your motives, your abilities, and even your calling. They look at past mistakes, fumbles, and errors. But when God calls you, no demon in hell can stop you. Just put your trust in God. Don’t defend yourself. Let God do the defending. He sets up a table before you in the presence of your enemies. If God calls you, expect critics.

You are not responsible for seeing your calling through, you’re responsible for being obedient to the call. If He gave the vision, He’ll give the provision. That goes for all of us. The question is, will you respond? Don’t hide behind the baggage!

redeeming opportunities

10.7.21

Connect Lesson #64: Redeeming Opportunities by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Ephesians 5 and James 3

 

Overview (5 Minutes)

  •          Today, our world and even the church are facing increasingly dark times, and for some, it might be a walk in the park, but for others, it can be challenging to their faith. We’re reminded in Ephesians 5 to be mindful of how we live because these days are evil. Paul gives us some ways to respond: Walk as Christ did. Flee immorality. Live pure. Give thanks. Those who do this will inherit the Kingdom of God. 

 

  •          The light of Christ reveals what’s hidden in us and others. It counters darkness. Confrontation brings freedom. We must live wise and make the most of every opportunity, again because the days are evil. Be filled with the Spirit. Not drunk on the world. Encourage each other. Pray and do the will of God. 

 

  •          Now is the time to confront our fears, insecurities, and desires for approval. The need to be liked brings compromise. You find your true voice in caring about what God wants above all else. Who do we need to forgive? What is holding us back? We may be holding up opportunities to grow because we refuse to acknowledge some things in our lives that aren’t pleasing to God. 

 

  •          The enemy wants to take you out. He’ll begin by trying to distract you from your purpose. We all have a basic universal purpose to love God and love people, but there’s a specific plan and purpose for each of us as individuals as well.  But we must seize every opportunity to remind the enemy of who’s in charge of our lives. The mind is a battlefield. We’ve got to do what we can to bring our negative thoughts into submission. 

 

Discussion Questions (10-15 Minutes)

Q#1: Why is it so vital for the church to grow stronger and more cohesive in these last days?

Q#2: What can we do as individuals to make the most of every opportunity to build God’s Kingdom? 

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes) 

  •          Seduction from the enemy purposes to move your heart far away from God’s heart. The enemy will try to get you to put your focus on what you think you deserve and then, he’s got you. Be sensitive to God’s Spirit. Hear the voice of the Great Shepherd. Do not listen to the voices of those who do not honor God.

 

  •          James chapter 3 tells us that demonic wisdom is directly connected to self-seeking, envy, lies, bitterness, and pride. Living a life free of those things brings ultimate freedom. So, again, make the most of every opportunity in these dark times as we approach the end. God’s challenging the church to get in order. We elevate and put emphasis on deliverance, the prophetic, even charismatic preaching. We must build cohesion and relationships in the body of Christ. Flowing in spiritual gifts are important, but learning how to forgive and love and respond properly to offenses the way God does is paramount. 

 

  •          Let us journey until we find ourselves fully yielded with a heart expressing God's nature. Revive us, oh Lord.

 

  •          That should truly be the prayer of those who desire to humbly serve the Lord and do His work for the Kingdom. We have to set our minds on higher things and submit to His will so that we may be able to function the way we were intended to. May we find the grace and mercy we need to carry out the tasks He has laid before us and may the God of peace surround us as we go forth in the knowledge of His Word. Amen

 

Growing opportunities

9/30/21

Connect Lesson #63 Growing Opportunities by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Philemon 1 Overview (5 Minutes) Lesson Scripture and Background: 

● Paul is writing to Philemon, a prominent figure in the church at Colosse. Philemon is committed to God’s people, the church, and the community. 

● Paul is grateful for Philemon who he desires to see deepen his faith so that he may “become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is you in Christ Jesus” 

● He’s setting up Philemon to take advantage of an opportunity here to grow and mature in his faith...how would Philemon be able to do this? 

● Paul asks Philemon, this prominent church figure, to grant a runaway slave (possibly indentured servant) named Onesimus his freedom. 

● Onesimus has not only given his life to the Lord, but he is serving with Paul and doing ministry work. 

● He is sending Onesimus back to Philemon, and Onesimus is going willingly with this letter requesting his release as Paul says that he would be more beneficial to them all as a coworker in the body of Christ than a slave. His gifts and talents would be better served as a bondservant to Christ than to man.

 ● He’s asking Philemon to do this willingly, not out of compulsion. He’s challenging his faith. He’s saying prove what God is doing in your life by honoring this request.

 ● Paul could have easily hidden Onesimus or had him escape, but he created an opportunity for maturity on both sides to flourish. 


Discussion Questions (10-15 Minutes) Q#1: How can we be like an “oppressor” when we don’t choose to forgive those who sin against us? Q#2: Can we become enslaved to our own pride and stubbornness when we don’t forgive or let go of the pain that people have put on us? How?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes) Forgive and love each other. Let Christ’s love flow through you. Don’t be enemies, don’t let the devil bring separation. Reconciliation allows God to use us so we may grow and mature in our faith as individuals and as a body. Don’t be slaves to this world, shackling yourselves to pride, unforgiveness, hatred, anger, jealousy. Put aside those things that try to hold us down as a collective body. Let’s rise and build. Free yourselves of the weight of hate and unforgiveness. Let’s move forward together, not out of compulsion, but show your maturity by doing it freely. God’s a God of second chances. If your enemy has made a genuine change in their lives, why hinder their growth by holding their past against them? The Bible says that stubbornness is idolatry. Gloating and thinking you’re in the right could blind you to the fact that you may be an idol worshipper. The energy we put into getting retribution or vindication could be used to build the kingdom. Keep your hand on the plow, and don’t look back. Forgive and move on. God will restore what you’ve lost in those moments you’ve been wronged. Let go and grow. We need each other’s gifts and talents to grow the Kingdom! Otherwise, you’ll stew in your own anger while watching your “enemy” prosper. We’re all growing. Don’t worry about going higher, go deeper and God will take you to places you’ve never dreamed. Amen

don't worry, pray

9/23/21

Connect Lesson #62: Don’t Worry, Pray By Jeremias Alicea

Overview (3-5 Minutes)

●     Today, people are in a panic over what’s going on in the world, even believers. Fear and worry can set off a chain of events that cause us to make hasty decisions.

●     Pastor Larry said: Worry invites death in a hurry. Understanding God’s Word and allowing it to be implanted and deeply rooted in your life will help you in times of panic.

●     Fear and worry are often connected to attachment and the fear of what we’ll lose.

 

●     In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us that: We should store up treasures in heaven. Earth, not so much. We shouldn’t fill our lives with darkness. We shouldn't have “worry” in our lives. God’s got us. Worry adds nothing. Seek the Kingdom of God first and what you need will be added to you.

●     The Kingdom of God is: Righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost. Doing God’s will, loving God, and loving people. Taking care of the poor, visiting the widow, visiting the orphans. Caring for the well-being of others. The early church took care of each other out of their own love. Not forced.

 

●     Psalm 37:8 says: Do not fret, it only causes harm. Philippians 4:5-7 tells us to be gentle to all. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing. Pray humbly and with thanksgiving. Then peace of God will rule your life.

●     The Word is a blocking mechanism for fear. But it must be implanted/rooted.

●     Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Make Him priority one.

●     Ezekiel 18:32 says God has no pleasure in the death of one who dies,therefore turn and live!

 

●     James 1 tells us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers. We must keep ourselves unspotted from the world.  We forfeit peace in times of struggle because we do not pray, we worry. Worry leads to death in a hurry! Fear brings things to a head faster. We’ve got to tell our minds “Peace be still!” and go to God in prayer.

●     All the energy we use stirring up fears and worries could be used to go before the Lord in prayer. We can go boldly. He hears us and He teaches us.

 

Discussion Questions (10 Minutes):

●     How can fear and worry cripple a person physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?

●     Why do people give in to fear so easily? How can they fight it off?

 

Conclusion (2 Minutes)

●     1 Peter 4 says  The end of all things is near. Be serious and watchful in your prayers. Love each other. Be hospitable. Don’t grumble. Minister to each other through God’s grace. Rejoice in your trial. God is growing and perfecting you! Take joy that God has chosen you to go through this and fellowship in His sufferings. Let’s all the more draw close together, praying for and taking care of one another as we approach the end. Don’t worry, pray. You were made for this!

 

Rise up & build

9/16/21

Connect Lesson #61: Rise Up and Build by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Romans 14:8, Proverbs 3:5-6, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:18-20, 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, Nehemiah 2: 17-18, Philippians 4:6-7, Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 5:10, John 15:20, James 1:21-25

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Many of us have been going through it a lot lately. When the body of Christ suffers in some way, we all feel it. Weep with those who weep. Christians worldwide are facing persecution, sickness, even death, but we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Jesus has overcome the world. Regardless of what happens, in the end, we win. Death has no real power over us because if we live, we live to the Lord, if we die we die to the Lord, so whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8). The Lord is good, His lovingkindness is greater than life itself. We all have a purpose and an appointed time on earth. We must live it out. We will all have to give an account to the Lord of our time here. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not unto your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways. He will direct your path Proverbs 3:5-6. We must RISE UP and Build. Take authority over that which tries to hinder God’s people.  Jesus gave His disciples authority. Read Luke 9:1 and Luke 10:18-20 But while Jesus is sharing this power, He’s saying that more importantly, their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Yes, we have power and authority, more importantly, we have Jesus! In Him, we live, move, and have our being! Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. We have this treasure and this excellence and the power of God, but we also face persecution and trials and tribulations. But we don’t have to despair because we are not forsaken or destroyed. The life of Christ is working in us. In these last days, we’ve got to be bold, rise up and build!

 

Nehemiah was impassioned about rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem which was laid waste and in ruins. So, with the King’s permission, he spoke to the people passionately about his God-inspired desire to rebuild this wall. Read Nehemiah 2: 17-18.  Nehemiah challenged his people to rise up and build. We need that same passion. We are called to rise up and build. We are going to rise up and build Laurel Another Chance Church, Northwest Indiana, and the Kingdom!  We must take our God-given authority and do what God has called us to do. We may face hardship and haters while doing it, but God will have our back as we acknowledge the call to unity, building, healing and trampling over the power of the enemy. Read Philippians 4:6-7. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Read Deuteronomy 31:6. Be bold, be strong. The Lord your God is with you! We’ve got authority! Feel like your marriage is falling apart? Rise up and build! Feel like you’re losing your mind? Rise up and build! Need direction in life? Rise up and build!! Ask God to reveal the truth! Listen for His direction and take authority over your circumstances!

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q1: How have you been challenged to exercise your authority over a circumstance in your life?

Q2: What are some ways we can rise and build our community and our church?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Yes, God is in control, but we still have to speak the Word over whatever is shaking your life. It’s important to know what you know and don’t know! Internalize scripture, get it in your spirit, declare that you have authority according to Luke 9:1. No weapon formed against me will prosper, I am more than a conqueror, I am the head and not the tail, I am above and not beneath. Give Him praise. Praise opens up possibilities. Israel praised and worshiped God as they went into battle. Worship God and sing songs of deliverance. “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You, Jesus!” Let the weak say I am strong in the strength of the Lord! Will there be persecution? Absolutely! Believers are dying for the faith. But we get offended if someone calls us names! Be thick-skinned and tender-hearted! Jesus said in Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Read John 15:20.   So how do we do all of this? We commit to the Word, we commit to prayer and we gather with the saints as they did in Acts chapter 2. Pastor Larry said it like this: The early church was devoted to the teaching of the Word, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Out of their fellowship came signs and wonders. If you're wondering why we’re not seeing as many signs and wonders as we did at one time...It’s because (in these times) we are not as devoted to the things of the Spirit as we are the things of this world. Read James 1:21-25 Don’t forget who you are. Don’t just be a hearer of the word, be a doer. Use your God-given authority to do what you are called to do. Only then can we truly rise up and build! Lord, I thank You that no matter what I’m going through, all will be well!

 

Jonathan Russo made this statement: 2021 was and still is a setup for God to step in. If you feel you have been waiting... be encouraged! THERE IS POWER IN THE WAIT! I hear the word "hibernation." Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. The Holy Ghost is going to come upon you and you will come out of your sleep and the world will feel the impact of your life.  The enemy has not won. He is being exposed. And the truth is, while you wait, your strength is being restored so you can be shot out with such power the enemy will not know what hit him.

 

Yes! Let’s rise and build the Kingdom in Jesus’ name!

 

Your Best Under Pressure Pt1

6/17/21

Connect Lesson #60: Your Best Under Pressure Pt. 1 by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: 1 Corinthians 13:11, John 16:33, Psalm 46:1, Matthew 11:28, and Romans 12:2


 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Pressure. How many find this issue to be seemingly more and more prevalent today? It’s probably safe to say that society has done a fantastic job of making people feel tremendous amounts of pressure for one reason or another and it’s certainly irrespective of age. In fact, it’s been said that the pressure an average teenager faces today is the equivalent of what a grown man in his 50’s would have to deal with in the 1950’s. Pressure to conform to societal standards has reached a high we haven’t seen in decades. The saying, “having the weight of the world on our shoulders” is not hyperbole when it comes to this world as a “system”. There is a real pressure for us to conform to its pattern. This pressure has caused people to feel like they have to be someone they’re not. People are feeling pressure to compromise their beliefs. Their peers, employers, and even government officials have a way of pressuring people to meet certain societal demands. But pressure doesn’t always have to be seen as negative. In fact, one way or another, we’re all going to find ourselves in pressured situations because that’s just the way of the world. The question is, how will we respond? As children, most of us are cared for by our parents. They house, feed, and clothe us. They educate us as best as they can, but then a time comes for us to grow and get out on our own. If we get too coddled and comfortable in our childish dependability, we may not be able to progress in the real world.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: Can pressure be both positive and negative? How can pressure actually benefit us?

Q#2: Have you ever felt pressured to conform to certain things as an adult? How did you handle it?

 

So, as adults, growth and maturity are going to require some sort of pressure in order to survive and thrive. On the spiritual side of things, we have the hope that our heavenly Father will give us guidance, but there’s still a maturity that needs to develop within us. There may be moments where God will allow certain pressures in life so that we can grow spiritually.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. At some point, spiritually and in the natural, we’ll have to grow up and face pressure from trouble in our lives. Jesus Himself said in John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” So while we will have pressures in this world, we know that there is someone we can lean on in times of trouble.  In fact, He’s an “ever present help” (Psalm 46:1). When we are spiritually or emotionally wounded, we can bleed all over people who have nothing to do with how we were hurt. Hurting people hurt people, and if we have the wisdom to discern that, we don’t have to allow those who say or do hurtful things to us to cut so deep that we bleed on others. Think of it this way: What are we told to do if someone gets a deep physical wound that starts to bleed profusely? You’ve got to apply pressure.  The same is true for an emotional wound. When you show love to those who are broken, you’re applying pressure on the wound. You’re easing the hurt and in doing so you’re actually relieving the pressure they're feeling in natural. The world and even religion has a way of putting a burden on us that’s hard and can be hurtful. But Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light”. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Sometimes, the only pressure we need is the pressure of a strong hug from a loved one in moments like these.

 

Pressure is part of the refining process. The forming of a pearl, the cocooning of a caterpillar, or even the process coal undergoes to form a diamond will require heat, pressure, and time. Will pressure cause you to fold or will it motivate you? Sometimes pressure needs to be applied. Sometimes it needs to be relieved. Sometimes it’s relieved while being applied. Pressure and patience have a way of refining us. It brings a perfecting into our lives according to James. There’s pressure that will try to conform you and there’s pressure that can transform you (Romans 12:2). God will not pressure you to do anything against your will, but if you’re asking Him to work within you and your heart’s desire is to please Him, He will allow circumstances to help you grow, and with it will come a little pressure. It’s His way of getting all the “me” out of us. Don’t fold under it. Embrace it. “Press” toward the mark...

 

 

 

 

a finished work

6/10/2021

Connect Lesson #59: A Finished Work by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Romans 1:16, Acts 16:31, Genesis 15:6, Mathew 5:6, Romans 8:38-39, Romans 2:4, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 5:6, 1 John 4:7-8, 1 John 4:19, Genesis 3:15, John 8, Isaiah 64:6, and John 14:6

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Last week, we talked about the goodness of God, His grace, and the incredible finished work of the cross. We ended the series talking about not being ashamed of the gospel. We know that according to Romans 1:16, the Gospel (or good news) is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Acts 16:31 tells us to simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved. Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness and Jesus tells us that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (Mathew 5:6). Knowing who you are as a believer is vital. We must first realize that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). God is good and it is the goodness of God that brings people to repentance (Romans 2:4). We can be joyful in knowing that according to Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Our religious works have no bearing on who we are as believers. It’s simply faith working through love (Galatians 5:6). We know God is love (1 John 4:7-8), it’s the very essence of Who He is! We love God, He loved us first (1 John 4:19). We love one another because love is of God and if we know God and are born of God then we can say we know God. Our actions and how we carry out our day to day will reflect who God is in us. But it starts with knowing the truth about who you are in Christ. Let’s start from the beginning.

When Adam and Eve partook from the Tree of Knowledge, it changed everything. Prior to that, humanity had no concerns about what was right or wrong. Everything they did was pure, untarnished. They had a solid relationship with their Creator. When sin crept in, it created a separation within that relationship. There was a spiritual death. Nothing they could have done in and of themselves could restore that. But God had a plan of restoration. Genesis 3:15, God gives Satan a heads up saying to him that because of this deception: “I will put enmity, between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head. And you shall bruise His heel.” Jesus was that “Seed of a woman” (Mary). But who is the “seed of the devil”? In John 8, Jesus exposed those religious leaders who tried to push the idea that we are justified by works, pulling from our own resources and not God’s truth and saying those who preach this are of the devil’s seed.  

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

#1: What does defiled (works based) “religion” look like today? Give examples

#2: How can we be sure about what we believe when our faith is challenged?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The only work that needed to be done was the finished work of the cross.  This walk of faith isn't about trying to do your best. In fact, Isaiah 64:6 makes it clear: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” It’s trusting in the finished work of the cross. In His parables regarding the Kingdom, Jesus talks about the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy, but He’s not just talking about the devil specifically; He’s talking about how the enemy tries to get us “earning” our way back into God’s graces. He knows it’s impossible. Man makes it impossible.  Jesus came to give life and give it more abundantly. He is the only way, truth, and life. No one comes to the Father except through Him according to John 14:6. It is finished. He is our living Hope. He is our salvation. It has been completed. Take joy in knowing who you are in Christ. Take joy knowing that who the Son has set free is free indeed! Be free to engage God’s will by the grace of God. Take heart in knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we can overcome sin through the grace we’ve been given. It’s exciting to be a believer!

 

 

 

 

 

Unashamed Pt3

6/3/2021

Connect Lesson #58: Unashamed Pt. 3 by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Ephesians 4:2-3, Galatians 5:13, Matthew 5:44-45, Romans 12:20, 1 Peter 3:9, Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Luke 6:27-36, Romans 12:9-12, and Galatians 5:22-23

  

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

During these last few weeks, we’ve been discussing what it means to be unashamed. The world has no problem telling the church how to live our lives. In fact, the enemy of our souls is wildly passionate and unashamed about what he wants people to believe, preaching faith without substance, hope without promise, and love without truth. We need to be equally, if not more wildly passionate about sharing the love of Christ. Pastor Larry Raftery said, “The volume of the Gospel needs to be turned up in these last days.” Yes!. But there are some things we must do in order to successfully get our message across. First, we must be humble, gentle, loving, patient and eager to maintain unity in the Spirit (Ephesians 4:2-3) Secondly, we need to understand our freedom and its purpose, which is not for personal gain but to serve others. (Galatians 5:13) We’ve got to take off the parameters when it comes to loving and serving others. Thirdly, we’ve got to love those who come against us (Matthew 5:44-45). Being wild and free will require you to do “crazy” things like love and serve those who hate you. Romans 12:20 says “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink...” 1 Peter 3:9 says: Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. Philippians 2:3-4 says: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says: See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: What are some ways we can turn the volume of the Gospel way up in these last days?

Q#2: Why is it important not to return evil for evil? Why is revenge not always so sweet?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

We’ve got to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us (Luke 6:27-36). Romans 12:9-12 says: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. The key words and phrases here are zeal, constant, and to outdo one another in showing honor. We can live and love wildly and unashamedly without coming across as strange, even though we’re called peculiar, we can still be relatable. Love must be genuine, real, honest. Pastor Larry said, “Don’t oversell your spirituality”. We must be led by the Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. There are no laws against it, we can be as free as we want to produce the fruit of the Spirit, don’t hold back. As one of our elders stated last week:  When a tree grows fruit, does it do so for itself? No, the fruit is for others to consume. Imagine if we all bore fruit together, our supply and survival would be endless. Let’s continue to bear fruit as the Spirit would have us and let us continually be unashamed to show the love of Christ. Amen?

unashamed pt 2

Connect Lesson #57: Unashamed Pt.2 by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 13

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Last week, we began the discussion of being unashamed as a believer, beginning with our foundational principles of faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13). Tonight, we’re going to discuss the importance of having an understanding of our faith in these last days, and we’re going to quickly find out the importance of knowing who we are, what we believe, and why we cannot be easily shaken.

 

All throughout Christianity’s history, there have been movements, reformations, and revivals that have shaped the beliefs of many today and with a growing number of denominations, many have often been confused about what it is they believe. We’re not going to delve into a theological discussion about doctrine right now, but we do need to stand on solid ground concerning our beliefs because our faith is increasingly under attack with many believers getting caught in the crossfire and falling out of agreement with even some of the basic understandings of doctrine. In the late 1960s, there was what was once called the “Jesus Movement” and within that movement, were people called “Jesus Freaks”. This term was used to describe a person who emphasized communal living, Bible study, spiritual gifts, and the active work of the Holy Spirit in the modern world. It was usually used as a disparaging term to describe a devout Christian. During the Jesus Movement, there was a sweeping move of God happening most likely, in part, as a counter to what was happening during that time. God was being removed out of a lot of American institutions, buildings and governmental centers. A different kind of movement was being ushered in, immorality was rising up and it would create a whole new atmosphere and direction for where the world was headed. The gospel began to spread like wildfire and passionate people took to the streets with their music, long hair, and love for Jesus. From it, came the foundation for a lot of Christian Rock music and a breakaway from traditional Christian music and hymns. It was a movement that would bring people to Christ in a big way. It was another dark time in history when we needed to cry out to Jesus as a nation.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: Why do you think many believers today are struggling with what they believe?

Q#2: How can we encourage a wavering believer to stay the course and keep fighting the good fight?

 

Life Application (5-7 MInutes)

Today, a new movement is forming of people who are wild, passionate and unashamed, taking the message of the gospel to the streets in new and unique ways. Believers are gaining a new perspective, understanding, and newfound revelation, ushering in a powerful wave of seasoned and new believers who will engage people in becoming followers and disciples of “The Way” as the gospel was once called. It’s a movement where people become unraveled from defiled religion and just simply follow Jesus. This will increase, even in the midst of those falling away from the faith. But this is why we must study His life and become a fervent student of who Jesus was. We must get an understanding of what He taught, from the parables to the coming of His Kingdom. We must allow our lives to unravel into who He wants us to be. Let revival come to you! Again, it’s about faith, hope and love, with love being the greatest. It’s that simple. Love God and love people. Discover the truth and then share that truth. Be unashamed. Amen.

 

FAith, Hope, & Love Unashamed Pt1

5/20/2021

Connect Lesson #56: Unashamed Pt.1: Faith, Hope, and Love by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 10:38, 1 Corinthians 13:7,Galatians 5:6,

1 Corinthians 13:13, Hebrews 11:1,Hebrews 6:19, Romans 15:13, Romans 5:5, and Psalm 42:11

 


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

In the realm of Christianity, the concept of faith is one we frequent often because it is a foundational principle of who we are as believers. In fact, scripture tells us that without it, it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We are also told that the just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38). 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love never loses faith, in fact, it’s empowered to work through it (Galatians 5:6).  It’s also one of the three foundational principles that will always remain (1 Corinthians 13:13), meaning, when all is said and done, faith, hope and love will always be here.

 

So what is faith exactly? According to Merriam-Webster, faith is: a strong belief or trust in someone or something : belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs. : a system of religious beliefs. This seems like a nice, well rounded definition, but faith, according to Hebrews 11:1 is the substance (or realization/assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence (or confidence) of things not seen. Faith is the realization or assurance of what we hope for and we can obtain confidence to receive that which we cannot see. Believing, in spite of not physically seeing, causes us to see the end result before it becomes reality. Hope is our anchor (Hebrews 6:19), it keeps us grounded, love serves as a vehicle or means by which we exercise our faith. We’ve got to keep loving, it will help build our faith. We’ve got to keep hoping. It will keep us anchored.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1:Why is it easier for people to put their trust in worldly things rather than in God?

Q#2: What are some ways we can encourage one another to keep our hope and trust in the Lord?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The irony is that if what we’re hoping for doesn’t materialize, then we somehow find ourselves cutting the anchor and drifting away into a sea of hopelessness. That is, until we realize that our hope was never meant to be in what we’re looking to obtain, but in God. Romans 15:13 says: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5). Time and again, we are told by the Psalmist to “Hope in God” (Psalm 42:11) when we are down. Sometimes we unconsciously put our hope and trust in those things we are actually hoping for, which is fragile. Hoping in God shows us that despite what we do or do not receive, we can stand firm in knowing that God has something greater for us and if we trust and put our hope in Him, we will never be disappointed (or removed from our appointment). There is an appointed time for us to receive something greater than anything this world has to offer and we can take comfort in that as we push toward obtaining the ultimate prize when we stand before our Maker.

 

the honor of motherhood

5/13/21

Connect Lesson #55: The Honor of Motherhood by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Ephesians 6:2-3, Proverbs 1:8, Proverbs 15:20, 1 Timothy 5:8, John 19:26-27, Psalm 68:6


 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

This past week, we celebrated Mother’s Day, the holiday some consider to be the Mother of all Holidays and for good reason. Because, let’s face it, most of us know, there’s just no one like momma. For many, momma was the person you went to for everything. Regardless of what you were doing or going through, momma was always there. Momma had instinct, understanding, and unconditional love. In fact, Mother’s Day should really be EVERY day. Scripture tells us that we are to honor our father and mothers. So while having to obey them changes when you’re an adult, giving never does. Ephesians 6:2-3 says that honoring our father and mother is first commandment with promise that it would go well with us and that we would live long on the earth.  Today, the institution of motherhood is under attack, constantly being challenged and changed in the name of social progress. Worldly progression isn’t always Godly progression. The title of a Matriarch, in any capacity, is an honorable one to bear. While sometimes gone unnoticed, a mother’s essence is felt in every aspect of the lives for which she cares. Someone who willingly lays down their lives for the lives of others is worthy of honor. Scripture agrees: Proverbs 1:8 tells us not to forsake her teaching Proverbs 15:20 says that hating her is foolish, and 1 Timothy 5:8 says that those refusing to care for their family have denied the true faith and are worse than unbelievers. You can see how serious God takes this “honoring mothers” business. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had the honor of bearing, birthing, and raising the Son of God. She also had to bear his death, and as John held her at the foot of the cross, Jesus continued to show her honor in this way: Read John 19:26-27: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. Jesus showed honor to His mother even from the cross.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: What are some life defining lessons you’ve learned from your mother or mother-like figure?

Q#2: What are some of the best ways we can show honor to our mothers?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

One way we can honor our mothers is by honoring God, regardless of what that relationship looks like. It reveals God’s goodness and that will bring a person to repentance, even if that person is you.  Knowing and accepting God’s goodness brings healing to anger, bitterness and resentment. For those who don’t know the love of a mother, the scripture says in Psalm 68:6 that God places the lonely in families...He gives them joy. Know that you are not alone.  God bless those women who have stepped into the role of a mother to children whose natural mothers were not available or present for one reason or another. What selfless love one has to have to put their lives on hold for someone that isn’t even their blood. For many, Mother’s Day is particularly hard because many of us have experienced the loss of a mother. It’s a pain like no other and it’s not something you get over quickly. May God forever hold you in His peace and may you come to an understanding of His love like never before. God loves us all. We are a family and within the embrace of this collective body of believers, we can physically and emotionally feel that love and peace. May it be with you always.


making the right connection

5/6/2021


Connect Lesson #54: Making the Right Connection By Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Romans 3:23, Ecclesiastes 7:16, Philippians 4:13, Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21, and Romans 8:11

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

It’s been commonly understood that this walk of faith simply comes down to two basic commandments: Love God and love people, but loving people requires us to not only accept God’s love, but also share it. In order to get there, we have to be able to make the right connection. So how do we do it? Making connections simply starts with being honest about yourself and remembering that All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When people see your humanity and compassion, they tend to be more open and less guarded. After all, like someone once said, “God uses broken people like you and me to fix broken people like you and me.” CS Lewis said this statement: “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” If we truly desire to be a follower of Christ, He’ll make it so we’ll grow weary of trying to be “good” and self righteous. We’ll simply bathe in the grace He’s given us because we’ll know from what we’ve been delivered and we will let mercy lead our conversations in our connection with those who don’t know the love of God.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 minutes)

Q#1: What are some ways you’ve found to be effective in connecting with others about God?

Q#2: What are some steps you can take to continually build your confidence to connect with others?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

If we are to make any kind of impact on people for the kingdom, we must first humble ourselves. Ecclesiastes 7:16 says: Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? If our hearts are to truly serve the Lord, He will remove those things that are not of Him. He’ll humble us, but it’s easier to just do it ourselves. That road to humility can be rough, but Jesus Himself was humble enough to not only serve others, but be willing to just be human! We must rely on Christ for everything. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13) , it’s no longer I who live but Christ in me (Galatians 2:20), to live is Christ to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), do you see a pattern here? If the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you (Romans 8:11), you’ll find that through His divine transcendent nature, you're able to do incredible things. You’ll be able to connect with people in diverse ways!

 

Jesus met people where they were without judging, even though He was qualified to do so. Regardless of their lot in life, people sincerely mattered to Him. He transcended all personalities and compatibility and was well rounded in understanding the human experience in all of its fragility and fickle minded nature. People felt comfortable around Him. He was authoritative, yet humble. He gave correction, yet was loving. He saw the deeper need in people because He had discernment. We can have that type of discernment if we just learn to listen to people and more importantly, the voice of the Holy Spirit. Then you’ll find yourself connecting with other people and introducing them to Christ, the ultimate example of making the right connection. Amen.

knowing what we don't know

4/29/2021

Connect Lesson #53: Knowing What We Don’t Know By Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: John 14:25-27, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

In our last two sessions, we talked about the importance of having knowledge, not just as a self-serving tool to hold over others, but one that would provide solutions to a world in search of answers. People today are confused about who they are, what their purpose is, or whether or not they hold a significant sense of value. We are subtly being pulled into a complex mechanism that is meant to divide, discourage, and dishearten us. People today are being lulled to sleep and a lack of knowledge is to blame.  In a world searching for significance, individuals need to know that there are people out there that will encourage and inspire them to know who they are and what their purpose is. But how will they know, if they’re not aware? There’s an old teacher mantra that says: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. The same is true in connecting with everyday people searching for answers. It often begins with showing them the importance of understanding their value. For some, hearing that they are valuable can be life changing. They may never have seen themselves as valuable because they were either never told or ever made to feel like they were. Poet, Writer, and Activist Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What a powerfully true statement! We’ve all got to know what we don’t know! The old cliche is that what we don’t know won’t hurt us, but the truth is that not knowing what we don’t know is leading people down a path of destruction.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: How has knowing what you didn’t know before helped you in an ongoing struggle?

Q#2: How can being willfully ignorant have an impact on our witness?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

As odd as it sounds, we as a people have sort of developed an almost unhealthy form of self-sufficiency to the point where even having to connect with others is becoming a chore. In an age where we’re already feeling the sting of isolation, we’re finding that even being around people under normal circumstances is starting to feel a bit abnormal. It’s a sign of the times and we need to get an understanding of it. Biblical prophecy is literally unfolding in front of our eyes and if we’re not aware of what’s going on, we’ll miss it. Share the gospel with others like never before. Share your testimony and allow the power of Christ to work through you. Love and serve others. Inform and inspire others to do the same. Increasing our knowledge of the Word isn’t just a religious exercise, it’s meant to equip and empower us. If you’re unsure of what to say, the Holy Spirit will remind you (John 14:25-27). Stay in tune with God’s Word. Get wisdom! Get knowledge! Get understanding! Those looking for answers to the questions of this life are more likely to be drawn to those who genuinely care as opposed to a “know it all” who just wants to be heard. There are brilliant people from all walks of life who have incredible knowledge and wisdom, but if not utilized in a caring way, it’s of non effect.  As Paul said to the people of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 that divine tongues, prophetic gifts, vast knowledge, deep understanding of mysteries, mountain moving faith, and even giving to the poor without having love is nothing but noise. Speak the truth in love! Give God the glory! In doing so, you’ll reap an incredible harvest. Let’s build this kingdom together. We need to know what we don’t know! 

the transcendent believer

4/22/2021

Connect Group Lesson #52: The Transcendent Believer by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: 1 John 4:17, John 4:21, Isaiah 55:8-9, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, 1 Timothy 4:2, 1 Peter 3:15

 


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Today, more than ever, the world is desperately seeking answers to the greatest mysteries of life. As believers, we should be ready to give it to them. But even many believers today are finding themselves in a crisis of faith, struggling to confidently respond to those who challenge their beliefs. When asked to give a defined stance on certain issues, many often crumble under the weight of societal pressure both from a worldly and religious standpoint. Listen, we don’t always have the correct answer to every single problem. We’re all still learning and growing. It’s why we need to stay humble. Humility brings grace and peace and in that peace, we can rest assured knowing that the Holy Spirit brings to mind the answers we need to a world that’s searching. Jesus always had a response to those who questioned Him from the lowliest of people to the most prominent religious and political figures of His day. Some, like Nicodemus, were humble enough to admit that he didn’t have all the answers. Jesus kindly gave him guidance. Then there were those leaders who had it “all figured out”, and were trying to entrap Jesus, but He always had a response to confound them. Most of the time, we communicate things out of our present understanding of the Word. Sensitivity to the Spirit is paramount. It takes the limits of the flesh off and begins to stir within our spirits, the things God wants us to share!

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: Have you ever found yourself in a crisis of faith with unbelievers? What was the outcome?

Q#2: Why is it important to be sensitive to the things of the Spirit?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Before claiming to have “deep spiritual knowledge”, we must first submit to God to develop His nature and character. We must be like Him. As He is so are we (1 John 4:17). Our flesh limits us, but God is Spirit and as such, we will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:21). We can operate in the things of the Spirit. God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). In fact, it’s transcendent. It’s beyond the human experience, it’s higher, deeper. Jesus always gave transcendent answers. We must develop a sensitivity to the Spirit so we may do the same. We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, not the wisdom of this age. The Spirit searches the deep things of God. God has something prepared for those who love Him. We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).  The truth of God is transcendent. If you have the Spirit of God actively working inside of you, you will be able to discern certain things and you will deliver wise responses when faced with scrutiny regarding your faith and the promises of God. Be ready in season and out of season (1 Timothy 4:2). Be ready to give a defense to those who ask about the hope within you (1 Peter 3:15).  Being humble, listening, and learning to discern will help us to give appropriate responses when we are faced with challenges that are meant to belittle us or cause us to question our faith in front of others. Don’t fall for the lie, God wants to use you, and in today’s radical climate, we’ve got to be able to lean not on our own understanding, but acknowledge God in all of our ways so that He will direct our Paths...it really is that simple, God will do the rest. He will do His work through you! Be encouraged, He’s always working on our behalf. Keep learning. Keep discerning and keep burning with love and hunger for righteousness and you will be filled! Amen? 

inspiration not just information

4/15/2021

Connect Lesson #51: Inspiration, Not Just Information By Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: 1 Timothy 5, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 26:22, Ecclesiastes 1:18, 2 Corinthians 7:10, 2 Peter 1:3, James 3:14-15,  and 1 Corinthians 8:1

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Today, we are experiencing an age of information like no other generation has before, processing information at record speeds. From historical documents to personal identity profiles, we’re able to obtain endless info with impeccable accuracy. That being said, we also know that society thrives on knowing other people’s business from celebrities to personal associates and it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of wanting information for the wrong reason.  But we also know that some information, intriguing as it might be, may actually not be beneficial to us at all. They say ignorance is bliss. Being willfully ignorant is suppose to absolve incriminating behavior. Sure, there are some things of which we don’t want to be willfully ignorant, but being in the know about everything may not always be beneficial.  We all know people who thrive on knowing other people’s business. After all, idleness leads to nosiness. Paul talks about this in 1 Timothy 5. While he’s referencing a specific group of people in that scripture, the principle remains that those who are idle often involve themselves in the lives of others. Proverbs 16:28 tells us that perverse people sow strife and whisperers destroy friendships. Proverbs 26:22 tells us that gossip is like tasty morsels. They don’t call gossip “juicy” for no reason, people love to eat that stuff up! Knowing other people’s business, especially if it doesn’t pertain to us, can cause us to take up unnecessary burdens and unwittingly align ourselves with inane causes.

 

Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: How can having useless, idle knowledge be detrimental to a believer?

Q#2: How have you experienced the impact of worldly wisdom in your life or in the lives of others?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

We’ve got enough to deal with as it relates to an increase in knowledge. Ecclesiastes 1:18 makes it clear, that with much wisdom is much grief and he who increases knowledge, increases sorrow. In other words, as we’re increasing in knowledge and wisdom, what’s not of God becomes more evident, bringing us Godly sorrow, which in turn leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). 2 Peter 1:3 says that His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. All we need to know has already been provided to us.  We’re living in a new, perverse “Age of Enlightenment”. As Satan did in the garden with Adam and Eve, today we are meant to feel as if there are some things we “need to know” in order to be “enlightened”. It has nothing to do with God’s wisdom.  This so-called enlightenment ironically brings people to a place of darkness. Why? Because it’s all self-motivated. In fact, James calls bitterness, envy, and self-seeking a form of demonic wisdom, calling it earthly, and sensual (James 3:14-15). Our pursuit must be to seek those things that pertain to life and godliness. Knowledge IS vital, in fact, scripture tells us that God’s people perish for a lack of it, but we must be mindful of what we know and why we need to know it. Our pursuit of knowledge should be attained for the purpose of building ourselves up so that ultimately we may build our relationship with God and others. Some people pursue knowledge, even godly knowledge, so they can hold it over people, and it’s often done subconsciously. For those who struggle with insecurities, gaining knowledge helps them feel empowered, and as they grow in knowledge, they can become arrogant. To this, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 8:1 knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. Knowledge is important, but love is more important than knowledge. Remember, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Let’s all pursue love and humility and even in our pursuit of knowledge, let us do so for the purposes of building each other up and strengthening the body as a whole. It’s more about quality than quantity and gaining more inspiration than just information!

 

your sunday's on the way

4/8/2021

Connect Lesson #50: Your Sunday’s On the Way by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: John 20 and 1 Corinthians 15

  

Overview (5 Minutes)

On Good Friday, we talked about how death has a way of making things seem final, but that we also know as believers there’s hope in knowing death doesn’t ever have the final say. We said that when it seems like Friday night, we know that Sunday’s on the way. We can confidently stand firm in knowing that from struggles, losses, and brokenness will come resurrection and revival! In John’s account of the Ressurection (John 20), Peter and John searched for Jesus in His tomb but couldn’t find Him. They had not fully understood the scriptures concerning His resurrection until they stepped foot into that empty tomb. Mary Magdalene also searched the tomb and upon finding it empty began to weep, she thought Jesus’ body had been taken. But then, as we all know, Jesus shows up!

 

Many of us can testify, that in those moments when we’re searching for Jesus in the midst of what seems like a hopeless situation, He will suddenly show up! Jesus instructs Mary to inform His disciples and let them know that Jesus is alive! He then appears to the disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, further empowering them for their purpose. To those who doubted, He reassures them, saying “Don’t be faithless any longer.” These things were written down to show that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and that we would have power in His name!

 

Discussion Questions (15 Minutes)

Q#1: Have you ever been in what seems like a hopeless situation, but then suddenly, Jesus “shows up”? Explain.

Q#2: What can we do as believers to encourage those who are in the midst of their brokenness or their “renewal phase”? How can we help them along the way?

 

Life Application (5 Minutes)

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul shares his experience with the resurrection in his own way. While he wasn’t there at the time it happened (he referred to himself as being born too late), we know that he had his own experience with Jesus and shared with us the importance of understanding that what was dead in brokenness will be made alive in glory. We can take comfort in knowing that one day we will arise and be made new. He said that what dies acts as a seed that must be broken and changed before it becomes new. God desires to take our brokenness and make us new in every area of our lives. Sometimes the losses we experience are great, but from it can come something glorious. Be made alive in Him gives us access to resurrection power. In Him, we have hope. In Him, we have freedom. In Him, we can be renewed! Let His resurrection power bring freedom to your life today! Remember, when it seems like Friday night, know that Sunday’s on the way and your Sunday could be today

the great set up

4/1/2021

Connect Lesson #49: The Great Set-Up by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Matthew 21, John 11-12, 1 Peter 1:7

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

This past week, we celebrated Palm Sunday, a day we set aside annually to recognize the events that unfolded a week before Jesus’ death, primarily focusing on Jesus’ Triumphal Entry. During this event, we read (in Matthew 21) that Jesus, sitting on a colt, rode into Jerusalem and as He entered the city, many waved Palm branches and cried out, “Hosanna, blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Jesus was recognized as one called of God to bring deliverance to His people. This revelation became manifest over the course of His three-year ministry. People would steadily come to understand Jesus’ God-given power and authority through His miracles and teachings. These events incensed the religious leaders, chief priests, and elders as they were slowly losing their grip on the people, especially because Jesus’ continuously rebuked them for not doing the will of God. One miracle, in particular, brought these religious leaders to a breaking point. It was the raising of Lazarus from the dead.


This potential foreshadowing of the things to come caused the religious leaders to not only want to kill Jesus but Lazarus as well (John 11-12). Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the people’s recognition of His divinity further incensed them. Jesus would then go on to re-establish a sense of holiness by cleansing the temple of money changers and those who desecrate a house of prayer. He was creating a foundation by which a new order would be established and it would begin with holiness. Then, through the further use of parables, Jesus began to teach those who would listen, the value of recognizing the difference between those who loved God and those who were merely “religious”. His authority was challenged and questioned by the religious leaders, but they couldn’t have their way. The plot to kill Jesus was now in motion. What they didn’t realize is that by then, His divinity had been established, holiness had been restored and what they thought would be the end of His ministry would be the beginning of a revolution. Jesus created the Great Set-Up and no demon, religious or otherwise, would be able to stop it.


Discussion Questions (15-20 Minutes)

Q#1: Why does truth tend to ruffle religious feathers?

Q#2: What can we do to ensure that we maintain the humility needed to heed correction when given?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Jesus desires to set things up for us in preparation for our new season. But doing so will require us to be broken, pruned, refined, and purified. Old religious habits have to go, sin has to be dealt with, holiness must be restored, some things will have to die. Will it hurt? Possibly...in fact, it’s very likely, but death is never final. It’s only a setup for the destiny God has set in place for us. When we come out of the fire, we can walk into our purpose without doubt or wrath. We will be established, refined...prepared. Don’t be afraid of those things that break us, it’s really meant to shape us. It can best be explained this way: These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 God desires to set you up for great things, but we’ve got to let Him. Come and be a part of the Great Set-Up!

 

 

identity theft

3/25/2021

Connect Lesson #48: Identity Theft by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Proverbs 29:25, John 8:37-47, Galatians 6:7, and Matthew 13:24-30

 

Overview (7 Minutes)

Christians today are facing an identity crisis. It’s a deception that’s fueling both sociological and philosophical divides and because the world believes that identity is primarily a social construct, many today are confused about who they are. It’s a perverted version of the truth and in these last days, we cannot afford to be deceived about who we are. The enemy is in the business of identity theft, causing even believers to question who they are. If he can get us to question who we are, then we’ll begin to question our purpose. He’ll fill our lives with distractions and all the cares of this life, and often we give in to those things because we are not spiritually prepared to respond. In fact, many Christians know more about the Kardashians than they do the Word of God. Perverted principles are those that are self-serving. It looks and sounds like wisdom but it’s meant to serve self. You can’t understand purpose if you don’t understand your identity. You’ve got to know who you are.

 

Today, identity is wrapped in emotion and feelings. Worldly systems have been established to dismantle Godly institutions. Jesus came to disrupt the status quo. We’ve got to develop a healthy fear of God and abandon the fear of man, which the Bible says is a trap (Proverbs 29:25). Self-righteous people struggle with this often. They appear outwardly pious to impress men, but inside, they are dead. The priests of Jesus’ day tried to convince Him that they were of their father Abraham. Jesus told them that if they were of Abraham they would have known the truth of who Jesus was, so he told them that they were of their father the devil (John 8:37-47). They were deceived about who they were.

 

Discussion Questions (15 minutes)

Q#1: Why are so many people today finding themselves in the midst of an identity crisis?

Q#2: What can we as believers do to keep ourselves from falling into the trap of identity theft?

 

Life Application (5 minutes)

Knowing whose you are will help to establish who you are. Once you know who you are, you can move on to discovering your purpose. Unrecognized, or unfulfilled purpose is a tragedy. The Word of God will make it plain. The world will cause you to doubt your identity and purpose.  If we don’t define who we are, someone will do it for us.  Do not let the world take your identity. Too many in the faith have walked away from it because they’ve allowed self-serving social constructs to dictate how they ought to live. If we turn over our identities, what else is there? Confusion and confusion causes double-mindedness. If the enemy can cause you to question who you, then he’s got you. Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows that he shall reap (Galatians 6:7). What you’re sowing into your life will yield a life-changing crop that will either be positive or negative. The time will come for sheep to be separated from goats and the wheat from the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). Where will you stand? 

staying grounded

3/18/2021

Connect Lesson #47: Staying Grounded by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Matthew 13:1-23, Luke 6:47-49, and Psalm 119:41-48

  

Overview (5 Minutes)

This week we discussed the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13:1-23 (NLT) (Read) Jesus told His disciples, that there will be some individuals who will hear and listen to what’s being said in God’s Word. Those who embrace His Truth will be wise, building upon their knowledge and understanding. But He said, to those who hear, but won’t listen, even what little understanding they have, will be taken away. Choosing not to listen to and obey God’s Word has ramifications.  When it comes to engaging Christ in this walk of faith, we can’t afford to just “wing it”. It requires diligence. Jesus made it clear in this famous parable that there were 4 types of people.


●     The first category of people were those who committed to God with their mouths but their lifestyle couldn’t line up with it. Some will even reject the Word upon receiving it.

●     The second category of people are those who have a very superficial relationship with God, they’re excited about engaging the faith at first, but it doesn’t stick. It’s more of a fad, it looked enticing, it felt fun to be a part of something, but then it lost its luster. There wasn’t a true understanding of who He was.

●     The third category of people are those that hear the Word of God, but it’s choked out by the cares of this world, and the lure of wealth. They are blind to its power.

●     The fourth category of people were those who had hearts of good soil. The seed of the Word was planted in them and they flourished, being fruitful in their faith.

 

Discussion Questions (5-7 Minutes)

Q#1: Why is it important to cultivate God’s Word regularly in our lives?

Q#2: How can we as believers stay accountable in our walk of faith?

 

Life Application (5 Minutes)

Are we heeding the Word of God? Are we being doers or hearers only? Are we building our houses on the rock or on sand? (Luke 6:47-49). When exposed to the Word, we must listen to it, internalize it, and then do it. Check your own life. Are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit? Then you can decide if you are going to be part of the 4th category, the one whose heart has good soil and receives, internalizes, and does what the Word says. Like reaping a harvest in the natural, it takes time to develop and nurture the Word within you so that His seeds remain inside of you and flourish. Jesus said in John 15:7: But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! Why? Because your desires will line up with the Word of God. It’s already in you and you are in Him! Read Psalm 119:41-48. The Psalmist rejoices in the Word. It is Truth. It is hope. It is freedom. It provides boldness.  He speaks of his love and devotion to God and His Word. Oh, that we would develop such a love for Him! We’ve got to be grounded in His Word! 

Clearing the atmosphere of fear

3/11/2021

Connect Lesson #46: Clearing the Atmosphere of Fear by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Matthew 6:26-28, Philippians 4:6-7, Romans 8:38-39, 2 Timothy 1:7,

Psalm 56:3, Psalm 32:7, 1 John 4:17

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Today, we are living in an atmosphere that is clouded with fear. Many people at this moment are experiencing anxiety and are on edge concerning their health, wealth, relationships, and overall sense of well-being. The world is looking for solutions. So how do we respond?

 

#1: Don’t Worry. Easier said than done, right? While anxiety, fear, and panic are natural reactions to traumatic events, there is always knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to be gained from it. The Word tells us that worry only adds to the problem and Jesus said in Matthew 6:26-28 that if the birds are being taken care of, how much more are we? Pastor Larry always said, “Worry invites death in a hurry!”

 

#2: Bring it to God. The Word tells us to be anxious for nothing. We don’t have to worry about anything, but instead, pray about everything. Inexplicable peace will guard our hearts and minds. (Philippians 4:6-7)

 

#3: Seek out His Word. Living in isolation can create an opportunity to get some alone time with God and His Word. Getting alone with God is essential especially in times like these. It’s important to be steadfast in the Word during these times because knowledge and application of the Word in the midst of ongoing circumstances create wisdom. Study the Word, meditate on it, and get an understanding of it. Letting it get into your heart allows you to develop sound thinking. In fact, the scripture says that a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. There is so much wisdom in the Word.

 

#4: Recognize God’s Love. Get a fresh revelation in your heart about the importance of knowing and understanding God’s love.  Giving in to fear means giving in to torment. Giving in to God’s love brings peace. Romans 8:38-39 tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Understanding of His love allows it to be perfected in us and as the scripture says, perfect love casts out fear. As we’re perfected in love, we can become unstoppable. When you know you’re loved, it changes your perspective on life a little. Love drives us to action. God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, LOVE, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

 

Discussion Questions (10-15 Minutes)

#1:How can fear affect our judgment and skew our perspective on life?

#2: Why is it so vital that we truly understand the Love of God in our lives?

#3: How can fear be a contributing factor to hearts growing cold in these last days?

 

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The Word says that the hearts of many will grow cold in these last days. A lot of it will be rooted in fear.  Psalm 56:3  says, Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. Psalm 32:7 says “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” 1 John 4: 17-19 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love [c]Him because He first loved us. Scripture tells us that in the end times, men’s hearts shall fail them for fear of what’s coming. Fear is a liar. Most of us will experience fear from time to time, but, sometimes you’ve got to do it afraid. Listen, courage is not the absence of fear, it’s continuing in the midst of it. We can do this, we can grow in our understanding of God and His promises and know that no weapon formed against us will prosper and that includes fear. Fear is a liar, don’t be deceived by his ways. Amen? 

walking by wisdom

3/4/2021

Connect Lesson #45: Walking in Wisdom by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Proverbs 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 5:15-16, Mark 4:10-19, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:11, Isaiah 55:11, 2 Peter 1:3, John 1:1, John 1:14, 2 Timothy 4:2

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

If history has taught us anything, it’s that there will always be a need for wisdom. In fact, Proverbs 4:7 says “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom and in all your getting, get understanding”. In a fallen world, we must be mindful of how to respond to the deceptions of a worldly system. The scripture tells us to be sober, vigilant (1 Peter 5:8).  We are to walk circumspect and wise, redeeming the time in these evil days (Ephesians 5:15-16). If we’re not rooted in the Word, we’ll easily get swept away by the cares of this world (Mark 4:10-19). Society has been lulled into giving more credence to televised fantasies than actual scriptural truth. Walking in the wisdom of God allows us to discern correctly what is honest and what is not. God’s Word is living and sharp. It reveals our hearts, it isolates what isn’t His (Hebrews 4:12). Scripture is God-inspired. It reproofs, corrects, and gives instruction in righteousness. It equips and brings completion in God’s work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Being knowledgeable in the Word is great, but having the wisdom and understanding to apply it is vital. We can’t just get by with scripture memorization alone. It has to be in our hearts. It keeps us from sinning! (Psalm 119:11). God’s Word will never come back void! It does what it sets out to do (Isaiah 55:11). God’s Word will always have substance, sustenance, provision, and life-changing power.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: How has the Word of God been a source of strength to you?

Q#2: How has applying the Word to specific challenges in your life changed the outcome?

Q#3: How can we challenge ourselves to stay more committed to God’s Word?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Divinely walking in the Word of God allows us to respond to any given circumstance. We find hope, faith, love, and peace in His Word. In fact, everything we need for life and godliness has already been provided! (2 Peter 1:3) Be it so according to Your Word, oh Lord. Yes, let it be so! God and His Word are one and the same (John 1:1). John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh! That’s Jesus! He dwelt among us! The Word has existed since the beginning. All things were created through it! It is both WITH and IS God!  We have the Word living in us! Imagine the power we’d have if we all embraced the understanding of the Word and lived it out together in unity. We’d be unstoppable! Why does the enemy want us so divided? He knows that together, through God’s divine power, we are a threat to the kingdom of darkness  The cares of this world should not easily beset us. In fact, it’s quite possible that we can become drunk by the cares of this world. We must be able to respond to the enemy when he tries to use people to divide us. We need to know what to pray and what to say so that we can be prepared to handle what comes at us. Be mindful of those wounded spiritual warriors that we may have to pick up when they are down. We can do this together when we all allow the Word of God to change us from the inside out. As far as the church is concerned, we must preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2). We’ve got to work together to get it together so we can be a legitimate threat to the Kingdom of darkness! Amen?

 

 

Simply let go

2/25/2021

Connect Lesson #44: Simply, Let Go by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Hebrews 12:1, Proverbs 13:12, Hebrews 6:19, Matthew 10:8, Matthew 11:28

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

We live in a society today that often markets self-centeredness as self-care by reminding us of all the things we “deserve” in this life. And while self-care is absolutely important, it doesn’t have to mean amassing large quantities of material things to sustain happiness. Sometimes in life, both in the natural and spiritual, it doesn’t hurt to develop a minimalist attitude that says, “There are just some things in this life that I simply don’t need.” If we all did a little soul searching, we’d eventually see how true that really is. In life, there are just some things we need to simply let go of. But the hardest part of letting go of anything is losing control. You might find that the more you try to hold onto something, the more likely you are to lose it. Either your grip will be so tight that it slips through your fingers or it will just simply be taken away.  Any true servant of God who desires to follow hard after Jesus will find out quickly that’s it’s best to just let go of our own agendas and lean into God’s. God will not allow anything to get in the way of His relationship with you and that includes making self-sufficiency priority one. After all, scripture doesn’t say “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for self-righteousness”. God desires to free us of the sins that would so easily beset us in this life, it’ll weigh us down (Hebrews 12:1).  It’s time for us to truly let go of some things.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why is it often so difficult to want to give up control of certain things in our lives?

Q#2: What are some steps we can take to help loosen our grip on things that are spiritually unhealthy for us?

Q#3: How can submitting our will to God’s will help us in our struggle to relinquish control?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

As much as we hate to admit it, we can’t control everything. Submitting to the will of God helps us to unburden ourselves of unnecessary spiritual dead weight. Holding onto self-destructive vices like hatred, anger, and unforgiveness can cause us to lose sight of the truth. There’s value in simplifying our lives. We can’t hold onto these things, it defers our hope. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). Hope is our anchor (Hebrews 6:19). Would we rather be anchored in hope or submerged by dead weight? It is less maintenance, after all. Maintenance comes with a cost. Letting go of control may also mean letting go of what people think of us, including our reputations, and our egos.  Jesus invites us to come to Him for rest. So many people are willing to exchange what’s eternal for what’s temporal. Everything belongs to God anyway. Even this life we live is given to us on loan. Freely give as you have received (Matthew 10:8).  Letting go means taking leaps of faith. It means letting go of your shame and your burdens. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus wants to exchange your burden for His. It’s an open invitation. Will you accept?

 

loving on purpose

2/18/2021

Connect Lesson #43: Loving on Purpose by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: 1 John 4:19,1 John 4:8, Matthew 22: 37-40, Job 42:2, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 19:21

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

We’ve just celebrated Valentine’s Day, a day many consider to be the “Holiday of Love”. But how many know that we couldn’t have known true love unless it was first shown to us? 1 John 4:19 tells us that we love Him because He first loved us. He is the source of love, it’s who He is. (1 John 4:8). Everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. If you don’t know love, you don’t know God. He should be our center. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that when all is said and done, 3 things remain: Faith, hope, and love, with love being the greatest. In Matthew 22: 37-40, Jesus broke it down simply to loving God and loving people.  All of life’s purpose is built on this. Keeping these commandments brings clarity and focus to our lives and our calling. Your existence alone has value and purpose. God loves you where you are, but He also loves you enough to grow you in your love for Him and others.  Job 42:2 tells us that no purpose of God’s can be withheld from Him.  No one can stop the plans God has for us, except, well, US. If we’re heading in God’s direction, He’ll make a way where there seems to be none. Delight yourself in Him. Most of us, at some point, will deviate from God’s plan. Thank God for grace. Wrong moves and detours happen, so we recognize and readjust. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Proverbs 16:9 says: A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 19:21 says: You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What are some ways you’ve deviated from God’s plan and how did you readjust?

Q#2: What are some ways we can encourage one another to “stick to the plan”?

Q#3: Why are loving God and people so important as it relates to understanding our purpose and our calling?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Here’s a great quote from Apostle Dion Campbell: “Purpose is a serious matter. When you're sent, you can expect a great Warfare because your presence will disrupt the status quo. The enemy will sift through your family, your place of employment, the region in which you exist to find the strongest weak person in the world to attack you, but know this: No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper. Every tongue that rises up in judgment against you, God shall condemn. The enemy cannot stop God, but he can stop people. It took your entire life for God to get you to the place you are right now. Don't you dare give up. Father, forgive my enemies for they know not what they do.” Trusting God’s plan and process brings confidence in trials. Lost battles? Fallen short? Don’t despair, He’s got you! Priority 1: Stay in faith, hope, and love. We make mistakes, repent, and move on. God forgives. He’s just. Move forward.  Push toward your purpose with everything you’ve got. Opposition will come, stay close to God and His purpose for you. Your secondary purpose will become more evident. Some things will come by knowledge and some by faith.  Our initial and primary purpose is to love God and love people. But even purpose has a process. Trials and self-denial are part of that process. Search our heart, God, remove what’s not of you. Following after the Spirit and engaging practices and disciplines that God has set in place will be essential.  But in that period of growing, stretching and learning awaits a promise that all will work together for the good. We must be willing to seek Him with all that we’ve got. I think we all have it in us. When we recognize His love for us, it makes loving Him simpler. This Valentine’s Day, let the Love of God show you His Divine purpose and allow it to penetrate your heart along this journey of life. Amen.

always there, not always aware pt 2

2/11/2021

Connect Lesson #42: Always There, Not Always Aware Pt. 2 by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Proverbs 28:14

 


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Last week, we discussed how a hardened heart can cause us to miss the presence of God. Hardened hearts cause us to see life through the lens of our hurt, offense, and/or disappointment, allowing sensitivity to God to lessen, and self-centeredness to grow. Wounded hearts left unchecked will stunt spiritual growth. We must be mindful of God’s presence. In His presence is fullness of joy.  In good times and bad, we must spend time in His presence. Life without God is hopeless. Hopelessness sickens the heart. God is our Living Hope. Therefore, we must fight against bitterness like our spiritual health depends on it. Proverbs 28:14 says: Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Out of the heart flow the issues of life, so we must guard our hearts. Use the breastplate of righteousness. How we respond to challenging situations is a reflection of our hearts. An unwillingness to change makes it our treasure. Jesus said our treasure is, where our heart is. Do we value our hurt and need for vindication over our freedom?  Pastor Larry said that “Fighting spiritual battles by physical means is always a losing battle.” The children of Israel had this problem. They couldn’t see God’s provision in their deliverance from Egypt because their primary expectations were to have tangible, physical freedom with luxurious provisions, but God’s primary concern was for their spiritual freedom from Egypt. While God had delivered them from physical slavery, their minds and hearts were still enslaved. They’d picked up a “hardness of heart” mentality from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God wanted His people to trust Him for everything. He’ll never withhold any good thing from His children, but we can’t allow the provision to be more important than the Provider. God delivered Israel, but it was their responsibility to maintain a relationship with Him. In the same way, Jesus saved us, but it’s up to us to maintain a relationship with Him. God will not play second fiddle or take a back seat to anything or anyone else.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q1: How can we stunt our spiritual growth by allowing our hearts to be hardened?

Q2: How can we learn to properly respond to offensive situations so that we don’t allow it to harden us?

Q3: Why do we as believers, at times, find it difficult  to engage spiritual disciplines?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

God wants to be the number one priority. Everything we need for life and godliness, God has already provided, but it’s hard to see when we’re inward-focused. We need to engage God regularly. This isn’t about ritual. God wants us to be honest with where we are. He’ll respond. Experiencing unbelief or a lack of faith? Ask Him about it. It wasn’t beyond the disciples to do it. God knows our hearts. We must be mindful to keep them tender and open before Him. Every attempt Moses made to garner Israel’s freedom brought Pharaoh to a crossroads. But Pharaoh’s hardness of heart grew with every plague that came and went. As relief came, Pharaoh went back on his word, thinking he could play God and get away with it. We can’t wait till things go bad to be obedient. People say things like “God, I’ll serve You if You just take this trouble away”. What they’re really saying is “God, I’ll serve you until I get some relief” then it’s back to business as usual. We can’t wait for the battle to begin to start training. We’ve got to be geared up! Your inner warrior will strengthen your outer one. When things get tough and you face a situation where no amount of money or self-sufficiency will give you what you need to fight and stand, you’ll crumble like a cookie. Too much hope and faith in the natural causes fragility in the spiritual. You’ll quickly find, as Pharaoh did, that regardless of the power you wield, the money you have, the status you hold, the people you know, all will eventually bow their knee to the one true King.

 

 

always there, not always aware pt 1

2/4/2021

Connect Lesson #41 - Always There, Not Always Aware: Part 1 by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Genesis 28:10-22, Mark 6:45-52, and Proverbs 4:23

 

Introduction (5-7 Minutes)

God is always present. And while some may scoff at such an obvious notion,  many times, the presence of God isn’t so obvious to us, especially in times of need.  Now, this isn’t meant to be condemning; in fact, some of the greatest heroes of the Bible, at times, found themselves unaware of God’s presence. For example, Jacob, on his way to finding a wife, was visited by God in a dream where he saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder, and God had spoken to him about all He would do in Jacob’s life, and Jacob woke up and said, “Surely, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:10-22) Wow. In Mark 6:45-52, Jesus’ disciples found themselves in a crisis of faith when they were on the boat, trying to cross over to the other side of Bethsaida, but finding themselves in troubled waters and fierce wind. Amid their straining and rowing, the Master had slowly been making His way toward them, and the scripture says that Jesus would have passed them by. When He did become visible, the disciples thought He was a ghost, and they panicked! So, not only did they not see Him at first, they couldn’t even recognize Him! How can this be?

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q1: When it comes to our walk of faith, why does it seem that God isn’t present when times get tough?

Q2: What can we do to regain our focus when the “troubling waters” and “harsh winds” of life have us doubting?

Q3: What are some ways we can fail to recognize that Jesus is not only present but is helping us?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The scripture says that He told them not to be afraid, and He got in the boat, and the wind ceased. But the critical verse there, in the end, reveals that part of the disciples’ problem of fear was that they had hardened hearts. Hardened hearts can be the result of several things, including fear, doubt, disappointment, and offenses, to name a few. That’s why the scripture says to keep (guard) your heart for out of it flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). Having a hardened heart can cause us to miss the presence of God, but ironically it’s also the place where hearts soften. We need to be more aware of His presence, but it may take having to let go of some things. God showed up to Jacob in a dream; maybe it was because he was less “self-aware”. May we be less self-aware in that sense and be more aware of His presence. In Part 2, we will further examine what a hardened heart looks like and why we must fix it.

 

victory steps lesson 4

1/28/2021

Connect Lesson #40: Victory Steps by Pastor Larry Raftery

 

Victory Steps – Week 4: January 28th – Divine Direction


Overview (5-7 minutes)

We’ve spent the last three Thursdays discussing our Victory Steps. We’ve reminded ourselves of the calling God has on our lives, we’ve unearthed excuses/reasons we haven’t started the journey and we’ve talked about the F word…FEAR. Today let’s discover God’s Divine Direction. God made available to all of us “divine direction” for “every detail” of our lives but we must join hands with him in our journey. He is there to keep us from “falling” and to “stabilize” us in our “stumbling”.

At this point, you may be sitting there thinking I took a “faith journey” once and it didn’t “end so well”. I don’t know what happened to you, maybe you “stopped” following “divine direction”, maybe you “started” directing your own steps. Maybe you let go of His hand. No matter what happened to your journey, God always has a recovery plan. God has for “your journey” a divine purpose AND a divine finish! He will “raise you up” to “finish” the journey.


Discussion Questions (20 -25 minutes)

  • 1. Looking back over your journey, was there a defining moment in which you let go of God’s hand? If so, what did that look like?
  • 2. Read Psalms 23:3 – “He renews my strength. He guides me along the right paths, bringing honor to His name.”  and Psalms 25:4 – “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.” Based on these two verses, how can we know if we are on the right path?
  • 3. Knowing that God has a divine purpose and a divine finish for your life, your dreams and your goals, how does that change how you view your “first step”?

Life Application (5-7 minutes)

Listen: Some of you are getting raised up today. Some of you are getting your feet “reset” on solid ground. All some of you need is to be steadied. Did you hear that????!!!! SOME OF YOU ARE GETTING RAISED UP TODAY! SOME OF YOU ARE GETTING YOUR FEET “RESET” ON SOLID GROUND!!!!


PSALMS 40:2 in the New King James version says: “He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.” The journey is “not over”.


Here’s how this will happen. In John 16:13 (NLT) Jesus said: “When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” Your “future steps” have been established in “victory”. As we end this series on Victory Steps, take some time to review your notes and meditate on the Holy Spirit. Thank God for ordering your steps and for establishing them in victory. Then take a few moments to create your goals/steps for 2021. (Suggested goals: Spiritual Goals, Health/Fitness Goals, Personal/Relationship Goals, Career Goals and Financial Goals). 

victory steps lesson 3

1/21/2021

Connect Lesson #39: Victory Steps by Pastor Larry Raftery

 


Victory Steps – Week 3: January 21st – Fear Has No Place in 2021


Overview (5-7 minutes)

Over the last two weeks, we’ve focused on Victory Steps in 2021. We’ve looked at how pivotal the first step is in the journey and we’ve identified seven excuses we make that stop us from taking that first step. This week we are focusing on the area that hides behind every excuse…FEAR. Most of the time, “fear” holds back our first step. One of the effects of “fear” is to.............Paralyze you. The word “paralyze” as it relates to the journey means to bring to an end. “Fear” will end things before they ever get started. For some of you, “fear” has stolen the first step of your dream, your vision and the word of God that the Lord has put into your heart.

FEAR is the #1 reason why 97% of people do not set goals. If you don’t set a goal, YOU WON’T achieve it! You have to measure where you are and have checkpoints so you can see if you need to speed up or slow down. There are a lot of variables in the plan but you need a plan. Don’t worry about if the goal WON’T come to pass. Do all goals come to pass? No, but you can tweak and extend the goal but don’t allow compromise to come in. Extend it so you CAN accomplish the goal.

 

Discussion Questions (20 -25 minutes)

  • 1.      What would happen if your goal DID come to pass?
  • 2.      How would your life be better?
  • 3.      How would your dream or calling benefit the lives of others if it comes to pass?

Life Application (5-7 minutes)

Some of you “don’t trust” your own “abilities” or your own “ideas” and that’s ok, just don’t let that “stop you”. Trust in God’s abilities and God’s ideas as he “orders” your steps. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT. People often quote this scripture but do you remember the verses that precede it? The previous verse reads: “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid hands on you.” The Life Application Bible reveals that Timothy was experiencing great opposition to his message and to himself as a leader. His leadership and gifting were under fire from believers and non-believers but Paul urged him to be bold. The power of the Holy Spirit can help us overcome our fear so that we can continue to do God’s work. As we conclude this week, take a few minutes to jot down what you are afraid of in relation to your calling or dream. Then share your fear(s) with God and ask the Holy Spirit to help you overcome them.


Our last message in the Victory Steps series is next week. We will discover how God made available to all of us “divine direction” for “every detail” of our lives. 

victory Steps Lesson 2

1/14/2021

Connect Lesson #38: Victory Steps by Pastor Larry Raftery

 

Victory Steps – Week 2: January 14th – The Excuses We Make


Overview (15-20 minutes)

Last week we kicked off our Victory Steps journey talking about the “first step”. We looked at the one step you could take toward the dream or calling God has on your life. This week we are going to delve into the excuses and reasons people have for not taking that first step…or any step toward the things of their heart.


1. Lack of direction - In the Christian world, a lot of people lack direction because they are waiting for something to fall out of the sky and say “this is God!”. The Bible says a man makes plans and God directs his steps. If you are making NO plans, God isn’t directing any steps. God will make sure he directs you toward the RIGHT plan. Don’t over spiritualize this.


2. They confuse activity with achievement - Busyness does not mean accomplishment. You can be someone that is running around putting out fires all day but never starts your own fire for God.


3. RISK - There is always a risk at stake of not reaching your goals. If you set a goal and miss the mark, it’s better than never setting a goal. If you start a goal and work toward it, whether you achieve it or not, you will still be further along and better for it! There is nothing to lose. You don’t accidentally accomplish anything of value.


4. They don’t connect today to accomplishing great things 10-20 years from now. Lifetime goals should dictate daily goals. What did you do today that brought you closer to your lifetime goals?


5. Excuses - An excuse is nothing more than a reason wrapped in a lie. Don’t be deceived and live by excuses. Luke 14:16-24 - Excuses about attending the banquet. The only thing standing between you and your goal is the excuses you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t get started.


6. Lazy - We just don’t want to put forth the effort to accomplish anything greater. There are two people that God can’t even help and that is a LIAR and a LAZY person. After our lesson, read Proverbs 6:6-11. It speaks to learning from a tiny ant how NOT to be lazy. “...The ants have no chief, no boss, no manager— no one has to tell them what to do. You’ll see them working and toiling all summer long, stockpiling their food in preparation for winter. So wake up, sleepyhead. How long will you lie there? When will you wake up and get out of bed? If you keep nodding off and thinking, “I’ll do it later,” or say to yourself, “I’ll just sit back awhile and take it easy,” just watch how the future unfolds! By making excuses you’ll learn what it means to go without. Poverty will pounce on you like a bandit and move in as your roommate for life.”


7. Lack of Confidence & Low Self-Esteem - Lack of confidence causes you to doubt your ability. God has put unique, wonderful, powerful, creative, original abilities in every single one of us. Do not doubt your ability. We are more than overcomers in Christ Jesus. Have confidence in yourself! Believe in yourself!


Discussion Questions (20 -25 minutes)

  • 1.      In reviewing the list, how many of the excuses can you related to that are preventing you from taking that first step? (SURVEY)

  • a.      Lack of Direction
  • b.      Activity but not Achievement
  • c.       Risk
  • d.      Not Connecting Now to Later
  • e.      Excuses
  • f.        Laziness
  • g.      Lack of Self-Confidence/Low Self-Esteem.


  • 2.      From that list, what do you see as the biggest obstacle?
  • 3.      How can you take that first step, despite the obstacle listed?


Life Application (5-7 minutes)

We’ve all made “excuses” like: the money’s not there... When the kids get older... I’m not qualified... The list goes on...Looking at the obstacles above, jot down one or two that seem to be your “go to” or default ones. What can you set in place or do to thwart your own excuses before they start? What’s really behind all of the things we just spoke about…FEAR. Next week we will spend time focusing on how fear hinders our steps and cripples us from doing God’s will for our lives.

 

 

 


 

VICTORY STEPS lesson 1

1/7/2021

Connect Lesson #37: Victory Steps by Pastor Larry Raftery

 

Victory Steps – Week 1: January 7th – The First Step


Overview (5-10 minutes)

How blessed are we that Pastor Larry left a New Year’s message for his sheep? The message, which Pastor Victoria shared last week, is called Victory Steps. Over the next four weeks we are going to dive into his message and walk away with a plan for 2021!

The word “steps” popped into Pastor Larry’s heart one morning recently and so did the scripture Psalms 37:23. The King James Version says: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way. While God surely orders our steps, it doesn’t say He will walk for us! That “first step” is important! It’s important because it “starts” the journey. So many amazing things happen when a simple step is taken. Peter took a step out of the boat and started his faith journey with God.

Some of you are scheduled for a particular journey in life, but you have not taken the first step. God has put an “idea” in your heart, a “dream” in your heart. God has given you a vision, a word but you need to “act upon it”. What does that first step look like? Today and the rest of the month, we are going to focus on our 2021 journey.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

  • 1.      What idea or dream has God put in your heart that you need to act on?
  • 2.      What would one step toward that idea or dream look like?
  • 3.      What does “Victory” in any pursuit feel like?


Life Application (5-10 Minutes)

There’s a famous Chinese proverb that says... “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Take a couple of minutes and visualize what the completion of your dream or idea would look like. If you don’t have a dream or idea from the Lord, ask Him now to reveal your calling to you. Ask Him to make it as simple and easy to understand as possible.

It’s not simply enough to think of this dream or idea. We have to speak those desires out and write them down. In Habakkuk 2:1-4 the Lord instructs him to write down the vision of the future. Write it down and make it plain (by putting a plan in place, setting goals, etc.). You won't accomplish it by yourself. The only way to get others on board is to get them to see the vision. You have to write it down and make it plain so they can run with it. Clarity, simplicity...

Between now and next week, truly think on your dream and vision and take the first step by writing down your plan or goal to get you started. Next week, we will talk about the excuses we make. You don’t want to miss it.

 

 

pushing toward the promise

12/17/2020

Connect Lesson #36: Pushing Toward the Promise by Jeremias Alicea Scripture Reference: Luke 17:11-19


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Read Luke 17:11-19. Here were these lepers doing some extreme social distancing per their laws and customs. This contagious flesh-eating disease had marginalized them in ways we couldn’t understand. They pleaded with Jesus and their cry was “Lord, have mercy on us!” They came to Jesus with humility, knowing their lot in life and they took a shot at connecting with THE MAN! They were in a place of desperation. Listen, we may not be facing something as physically dire as leprosy, but we were born into  spiritual sickness. We must understand the gravity of the darkness from which we were saved. These lepers knew that they had an opportunity of a lifetime. Jesus’ first response wasn’t “Be thou healed!” It was for them to go show themselves to the priest. Healing didn’t come immediately. It wasn’t until the lepers took action, obeyed the word of the Lord, and went on their way to the priest. The scripture tells us that “as they went, they were cleansed”. Their healing came when they obeyed Jesus and pushed forward. They could have just looked at Him and said, “We’re not healed, we can’t show ourselves to the priests” They believed, took action, and got their healing. Sometimes healing is a process. It can happen while you’re in the midst of doing what God has called you to do. It’s about our attitude. Humility and Gratitude go a long way. We’ve got to push toward the promise. Mary pushed through by being obedient in the midst of potential criticism from her betrothed husband and Joseph pushed through the potential shaming they would endure because of Mary’s pregnancy. From their obedience came the Christmas miracle and the healing the world ultimately needed.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why is it important to approach life with humility?

Q#2: What can we learn about the value of obedience concerning God’s promises?

Q#3: Why is it important to give thanks for the gifts we’ve been given?

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)


The story doesn’t end there. One of the lepers came back and thanked Jesus, while the other 9 just went on their way. Jesus says, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” King James says that his faith made him WHOLE. If you don’t know anything about Leprosy, it’s a flesh-eating disease that causes people to lose limbs and appendages. It’s quite possible that although the other nine were healed, they were not made whole, but this one who came back, well he was fully restored and made whole (spirit, soul, and body) because he chose to come back and give God the glory!  Note the importance of gratitude. When we receive gifts from friends or family, we know it’s common sense to show gratitude. Equally, we’ve all been given gifts from above, primarily the gift of the promise, Jesus Christ. People often view these gifts with disdain instead of gratitude as if salvation is a burden.  It’s difficult to engage in the ultimate fulfillment that salvation is meant to bring with such an attitude. Gratitude goes a long way. There’s something to appreciating and operating in your gifts and talents, acting in them that activates a true sense of fulfillment. Humility and gratitude are lifesavers within this walk of faith. Acknowledging these things during this holiday season brings the reminder of why we celebrate this season. Let the Light of Christ shine brightly in your life as we move into this season of promise. Your devotion to the King of Kings requires communication and thanksgiving which ultimately will remind us of the Hope we truly have! Amen!

 

peace is a person

12/10/2020

Zoom Connect Lesson #35: Peace is a Person by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Luke 2:1-20, John 14:27, John 1:11

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The Christmas season is here. It’s a time to dream, to hope, to love, to give, to find peace and goodwill toward men. It’s also a time when many reflect on their childhood experiences and all the wonder that came with the hope and anticipation of getting that one gift for which they’d waited all year. For a child, it means the world. Now, imagine the children of Israel, who had waited for generations in anticipation of the gift they were promised, the coming Savior that would bring them a deliverance greater than they would ever know.


Luke 2:1-20 paints the perfect picture of the Christmas story as we’ve come to know it. It’s a story about shepherds and angels, a Divine proclamation, the Glory of God, and peace on earth. Ultimately, it’s about the hope of the world, Who, while born in a stable, was able to offer stability to all of mankind. O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appears. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. These lyrics echo the cries of a nation for their Father, Savior, King. It was their divine hope and peace. For generations, they’d waited in anticipation for the coming of their prophesied King to deliver them from tyranny. Though they thought it would be from the tyranny and exile of their earthly captors, it would turn out to be a far greater deliverance than they had ever anticipated. It was deliverance from a greater enemy, and it was reconciliation with their Heavenly Father. What a powerful moment in time! What an incredible gift to receive! It was indeed “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” still skeptics inquire, “Where is this peace on earth and goodwill toward men, today? I thought this ‘Child of Promise’ was supposed to bring that peace.” Ah, but true Peace is not a feeling, it’s a person. Jesus said the peace I give is not the peace the world gives (John 14:27).


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What is the difference between the peace that the world offers and the peace that Christ gives?

Q#2: Why are some people are so skeptical about the phrase “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men”?

Q3: What can we do as believers to boldly share the Good News about the Prince of Peace?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Peace indeed did come to earth and it’s in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gift of Peace resides within our hearts. It passes all understanding, it transcends feelings, and it calms a troubled soul. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Yes, Peace HAS come and He lives within us. We must see and know it for ourselves. Jesus in the flesh came among His own, but His own did not recognize or receive Him (John 1:11). Will you receive Him? Will you recognize Him? Will you share Him with others? Peace is here on earth. Peace desires to enter your heart and to reconcile with your Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth and righteousness. We can find true peace in the person of Jesus Christ. Will you give Him your heart today?

 

truth and love

12/3/2020

Connect Lesson #34: Truth and Love By Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Galatians 5: 13-14, Ephesians 4: 15, 1 John 4:8, John 14:6, and Proverbs 13:24

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The holidays, while a time meant to bring families together, often have a way of being a breeding ground for opinionated relatives, religious zealots, and/or complainers of society’s ills. Figuring out a way to cut through the murk and mire of opinionated loved ones while trying to maintain righteousness isn’t always easy. Recently, we addressed the value of not going it alone and how the enemy often tries to separate us either through death and disease or bitterness and unforgiveness. But we must strive for peace amongst ourselves. Society often preaches self-preservation above helping others and while maintaining our own health IS important, we are commanded to love our neighbors AS ourselves. It’s the same kind of preservation. We are also called to serve one another (Galatians 5: 13-14). But serving each other doesn’t mean giving in to all of their opinions either. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4: 15).  We have to be able to communicate Truth to those who lack understanding, but we ourselves must first follow after the Spirit to guide us in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  If we’re not truthful with people, is that really showing love? Love and Truth cannot be separated.  Love bears witness to the truth. It rejoices in the Truth. If Love is separated from Truth then it isn’t truly Love. 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is Love and we know that Jesus is the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life (John 14:6). He is both Love and Truth.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Question #1: Why does humanity struggle so much with communicating and/or receiving truth?

Question #2: What is the importance of self-examination when we communicate truth to others?

Question #3: What are some vital things to keep in mind when delivering a strong truth to someone?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

We must be mindful of HOW we communicate Truth. What does our relationship with that person look like? How much have we invested in that person? If we come at relatives with some Truth and they have no idea whether or not we truly have their best interest in mind, why would they hear this truth? It’s about approach and attitude. Sometimes we think ourselves wise and end up destroying our arguments simply on the basis of being right. We must approach people with humility, not spiritual haughtiness, showing kindness and inviting them to have a discussion where they feel heard. Only then, can you truly engage in an open and honest dialogue. That’s how we best SERVE them. Servant evangelism is an effective tool. We can be bold in our faith and express the Truth to anyone, but we must be led by the Spirit in communicating relationally. Truth can sometimes hurt, but lies ALWAYS kill and not just in the physical sense. It kills relationships, reputations, even potential reconciliations. Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies, and in context, refers to him as a murderer from the beginning. Lies kill. There’s no truth without love and no love without truth. They are inseparable. Regardless of how the world views love, if there’s no truth in it, it’s not true love.

 

 

know your enemy

11/19/2020

Connect Lesson #33: Know Your Enemy by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: James 4:1-2, 2 Peter 1:3, Genesis 15:1, 2 Corinthians 2:10-12

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

In the book The Art of War, author Sun Tzu makes this statement: “All warfare is based on deception”. Truer words have never been spoken. At the core of any conflict, you’ll find deception. In fact, James 4:1-2 says, Where do [a]wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and [b]war. [c]Yet you do not have because you do not ask. When we covet others, it’s usually tied to the notion that we feel like something is missing. Therein lies the deception. Even as believers, we can be deceived into thinking that what God has provided for us isn’t enough. But the scripture clearly tells us in 2 Peter 1:3 that we’ve been given everything we need that pertains to life and godliness. In Genesis 15:1, God told Abraham, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Wow. What we need we already have! Satan’s plan from the beginning was to get us thinking that God is keeping things from us. As cliche as it sounds, he’s tried to get us thinking that we need more in order to be happy. This scheme has been working on people since Eden. But the scripture says that we are not ignorant of the enemy’s devices. At least, we shouldn’t be. In fact, Paul is addressing the issue of forgiveness to the Corinthians warning them that Satan tries to take advantage of us through unforgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:10-12).

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why is God so adamant about the importance of not coveting?

Q#2: What are some subtle ways the enemy sows discord and division among God’s people?

Q#3: What advantage do we have in knowing the Word and knowing who we are in Christ?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Today, the world is rabid with hate and unforgiveness. The desire to obtain more has forced society to think that we can take what we want (physically and figuratively) regardless of what it does to others. Envy, self-seeking, and strife is on the rise and even believers are falling victim to it. We have to recognize what’s going on. Those who study the subject of war have also said that it’s important to know your enemy. Be aware of what he’s trying to do. Equally, we have to know who we are and know the great gift we’ve been given through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We have the answer, but we have to know the answer in order to provide it. The world is searching for answers….will we be the ones to provide it or will we find ourselves asking the same questions? As Andrae Crouch sang so beautifully, “Jesus is the answer for the world today.” Amen.

 

let us love one another

11/12/2020

Connect Lesson #32: Let Us Love One Another by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: 1 John 4:7-8, Galatians 6:10, 1 Corinthians 13

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

We’ve been called out to a state of non-conformity. We’re born to be free, not chained to political structures, man-made kingdoms, or worldly systems. In a world divided by strife, our response needs to be different than that of the world. 1 John 4:7-8 says: Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God and he that doesn’t love, doesn’t know God for God is love. Love is the core of what we believe. Love God. Love your neighbor. It’s that simple. Division is a word that doesn't belong in our vocabulary. Losing relationships over the fragility of worldly loyalties isn’t a good look.


We are salt and light, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. We have the answer to a broken world. We’re the welcoming committee. Today, we need each other now more than ever.  Galatians 6:10 says: Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Last week we talked about the significance of doing good. If we have the opportunity to do good, let’s start off by doing good by each other.  1 Corinthians 13 is often called the “Love Chapter”. It can serve as sort of a guideline for what love really is and isn’t. 1 John makes it clear to us that if we claim to love God but hate our neighbor, then we are a liar. Love rejoices in the truth, but if we walk in deception, then truth may evade us. Jesus said that those who are of the truth hear His voice. The question is, would we pass the love litmus test? Do our lives line up with the following?: Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not boast. Love is not rude, self-seeking, provoked, and it thinks no evil. Love believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love rejoices in the truth!

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: How can we easily lose sight of what it means to be “led by the Spirit” when blindly submitting our loyalties to man-made constructs?

Q#2: How can the 1 Corinthians 13 guideline keep us from falling into a pattern of worldly conformity?

Q#3: How can the message of “love” be distorted? What role does Truth play in its effectiveness?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Love never fails. This is the starting point for us as believers in a world filled with hate, anger, and division. We are called to unify and not conform to worldly systems. The world calls for love and unity, but it’s misguided and not entirely filled with truth. This world is not our home.  Why be easily divided by man-made constructs and political ideologies? A man of understanding is of a calm spirit. When things aren’t going the way you’d hoped, it doesn’t mean all is lost. God is always up to something. Change needs to come from the church, not the government. Social moral ambiguities are a matter of the heart which can’t be changed by man made laws. We’ve got to show them the way, the truth, and the life. We’ve got to pray for true revival and as a result, the enemy loses his grip. It’s up to us to get the word out. Be strong in the Lord and in the Power of His Might! Amen!

 

Being great at doing good

11/5/2020

Connect Lesson #31: Being Great at Doing Good by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: James 4:17, Isaiah 1:17, Hebrews 13:16, Luke 6:27, Psalm 34:14, Exodus 14:14, 1 Peter 2:15, Galatians 6:9


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The scripture tells us that to know to do good and not do it is sin (James 4:17). It’s pretty simple. We are called to do good in this world. Isaiah 1:17 tells us to learn to do good, seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, and plead for the widow. We must LEARN to do good. We must not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:16). Doing good is a required part of the Christian life. We must do good even when good isn’t being done to us. Luke 6:27 tells us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate you. So even in the midst of challenging circumstances and people, we have to learn how to make the sacrifice of doing good. We will be challenged in this area. Doing good can sometimes cause problems, it exposes insecurities in others and can cause them to rise up against you. Respond by continuing to pursue holiness, stay kind, and stay humble. We are to depart from evil, and do good . Seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14). So even when people are seeking to take your peace know that the Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14)


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: Describe a time when your diligence and good work may have cost you some friendships. How did you respond?

#2: Why is it so vital to hold onto our peace when faced with trouble in the midst of doing good?

#3: What message does “doing good” send to those who don’t believe?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Men and women of God all throughout the scriptures had to face this. Among them were Joseph, Daniel, and Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. All of these men were deemed “do-gooders” who desired to live righteous, gaining both favor with their leaders AND animosity with their peers. Their enemies tried to pit them against their authorities. But each one continued to remain humble, honoring leadership while maintaining their holiness. All were vindicated and their enemies paid dearly, some even with their lives. 1 Peter 2:15 tells us that doing good silences foolish talk. Are you being persecuted? Keep doing good. Are people talking about you? Keep doing good. Didn’t get that promotion? Keep doing good. Build in silence and continue to pursue holiness; watch how God moves in your life. That’s why we are told to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). When the time comes, we will receive a great blessing if we don’t give up! The enemy hates it, especially when it’s done with a willing and cheerful heart. But more importantly, it’s a witness even to those who persecute you. God loves them just as much as He loves you and He wants them to come into His kingdom. Love your enemies. Be good toward them. Don’t give up your peace. Keep pursuing it with people. Don’t grow weary. Dr. Edwin Louis Cole says that “Perseverance will always outlast persecution”. Truer words have never been spoken. Stay in the fight. Continue doing good, in fact, Be Great at Doing Good! Amen!


the greatness of gratefulness

10/29/2020

Connect Lesson 30: The Greatness of Gratefulness by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Nehemiah 8:10, Philippians 4:4, Psalm 16:11, John 15:11, Psalm 23:1, John 8:44, Genesis 15:1, Hebrews 11:6, Psalms 68:19, Psalm 103:2

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. We, as a church, recently celebrated with our shepherds as they celebrated 30 years as Senior Pastors of Laurel Another Chance Church. The role of a spiritual shepherd, while frequently honored, can also be frequently underappreciated. There’s something about showing appreciation that keeps us as human beings in the right frame of mind. An attitude of gratitude for what we’ve been given keeps us from falling into the trap of self-centeredness where a sense of fulfillment is lacking. Loading up our lives with temporal things won’t keep us happy, but true everlasting, satisfying joy comes from above. The Joy of the Lord gives us strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  We are to rejoice in the Lord always and again... rejoice (Phillipians 4:4). Note the emphasis on rejoicing, after all, “In His Presence is Fullness of Joy”(Psalm 16:11). Jesus said to abide in His Love, keep His commandments, saying, “I’ve spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11)

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why has it become so easy today for humanity to fall into the trap of ungratefulness?

Q#2: What can become of those who choose to live a life of ungratefulness?

Q#3: What can we do to urge one another to remain grateful and appreciative of what we’ve been given?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Having a continual sense of appreciation challenges us to keep what’s important in front of us. The word “appreciate” means to grow in value. Taking time to give thanks for what you have can really bolster how you perceive things and how you perceive things can determine the way you approach life. Having gratitude allows us to approach life with clarity of vision. A lack of gratitude muddies it. Muddy vision blinds us from seeing solutions that are right around the corner. We sometimes miss solutions when we focus on problems and engage the perception that we are lacking something. Psalm 23:1 says, The Lord is our Shepherd, we will lack nothing. The enemy, who the scripture says is the father of lies (John 8:44), can trick us into believing that what we have isn’t enough. But there is so much more to this blessed life that we often don’t see because of what the enemy tries to keep in front of us. He’s been doing it since the garden.  But our God is more than enough! He is THE great reward (Genesis 15:1). Hebrews 11:6 tells us that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him! Psalms 68:19 reminds us that He daily loads us down with benefits.  Psalm 103:2 tells us that we are not to forget those benefits. Keeping the daily reminders in front of us and seeing all that God has truly blessed us with gives us a sense of gratitude we may not have had before.  Being grateful and appreciating what we have and will undoubtedly remind us that the material things we think we need lack in comparison to what God has ultimately already provided. It’s great to be grateful! Amen.


give me some space

10/22/2020

Connect Lesson #29: Give Me Some Space by Jeremias Alicea


Scripture References: Proverbs 27:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Hebrews 3:13


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

People today, now more than ever, are growing weary of “trying”. They’re trying to live up to the Christian standard of “churchy” people. Young believers of the faith and those trying to get back on track are often made to feel like they’ll never “measure up”. The truth is, the world needs to see more vulnerability, honesty, and transparency regarding our humanity. We’ve said it before, God’s not looking for “actors”, but He is looking for those willing to admit their weakness, accept the finished work of the cross and rely on the hope and grace that comes with Salvation. We’ve all got “stuff” and most of us imperfect people have had out vices. It’s important to remember that when we’re telling people to “get it together”. That’s never really been a successful means of encouraging behavior modification.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What is the grave danger we face in condemning those we deem to be “unChristian”?

Q#2: What kind of message do we send to the world when we become self-righteous?

Q#3: Why is it so important for us to exhort and encourage one another?


How we communicate with others says a lot about where we are. We got to give each other “space” to grow. There’s a statement that reads: “Every time you judge someone, you reveal a part of yourself that needs healing.” Condemnation reveals more about the judge than the judged. Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Let’s stay sharp! The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. Sharpening yourself with the Word gets to the core of things. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says: Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Our goal ultimately should be to be of one mind and be at peace. Hebrews 3:13 says: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Do you see this? Encouraging one another keeps us from falling into the deceitfulness of sin. Let’s work together to encourage one another, giving each other the space we need to grow together in His fullness!


the utility of futility

10/15/2020

Connect Lesson #28: The Utility of Futility By Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 3:17, John 8:36, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Romans 1:18-31,

Jude 1:16-22


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Utility can be defined as the state of being useful, profitable, or beneficial. Futility can be defined as pointlessness or uselessness. Futility is a utility of the enemy. Worldliness within the church is a growing trend. Sound doctrine is subtly on its way out. People are walking away from the church, citing a lack of “freedom”. But where the Spirit of the Lord is, there’s freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Are we allowing the Spirit of the Lord in? Who the Son has set free, is free indeed (John 8:36).

Paul gives this firm command to Timothy: (2 Timothy 4:1-5) He tells him to preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. The time will come when people will get rid of sound doctrine looking for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. We need to be aware of the subtle ways the world can cause hearts to fall away. Romans 1:18-31 clearly shows a strong but subtle progression. 1. Unrighteousness suppresses the truth. 2. God has already made Himself known through creation, so man is without excuse. 3. Refusing to give God glory and gratitude creates futile thinking. 4. Futile thinking leads to a darkened heart. 5. Darkened hearts lead to self-glorification and self-righteousness. 6. Worldly wisdom makes you feel and appear wise. 7. God turns them over to a debased mind.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1. What are some specific ways the enemy can subtly creep into the lives of believers?

Q#2. How can we combat the enemy in moments like these?

Q#3. How can we pull other believers who are going that direction out of the fire?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The solution is to retain God in your knowledge, continually give God glory, and be grateful. Complaining leads to the futility of the mind. We’ve got to stay hungry and thirsty, emptying ourselves constantly so we can be filled with righteousness. Unrighteousness blinds us from the truth. We must humble ourselves and pray in the Spirit. Build yourself up in the faith. Be mindful of those who are starting to slip away, we’ve got to do what Jude says (Jude 1:16-22) - Don’t complain. Don’t take advantage of others. Recognize that there will be people walking after their own agendas and desires. They don’t have the Spirit. But you must build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God, look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Have compassion for others and pull those falling away out of the flames


my kingdom come

10/8/2020

Connect Lesson #27: My Kingdom Come by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: John 9, 1 Peter 5:5, Galatians 5:13, Romans 12:10


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

In this walk of faith, we will certainly face challenges meant to mold and change us into the likeness of Christ. We need the wisdom, patience, understanding, and above all humility to respond. We must also let our “Kingdoms” fall. “Kingdoms” are the attitudes, principles, and privileges we arrogantly set up and refuse to let go, hindering spiritual growth. “Kingdoms” are things like stubbornness, unforgiveness, our political affiliations, and even our religion. And religion is often the most nefarious of them all because it displays a sense of piety but does little to change us into who we were meant to be. Religion is unsatisfying and Jesus was very adamant about not being “religious”. The Pharisees were good at it, even Judas was good at it. Here’s a man that walked with Jesus for 3 years and remained unchanged. He was full of the devil but he was good at playing the role. Some look at others and say, “They don’t act like a Christian” but God isn’t looking for actors. Attending church doesn’t make you any more of a believer than sitting in a garage makes you a car. We set up these religious “Kingdoms” by trying to act like we’ve got it together, but Jesus was more interested in the sinner who knew he needed saving than the religious man who assumed self righteousness. Often those who “mean to be spiritual” just end up being “mean spirited”, We need humility! The saving we truly need is from ourselves.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: How can self-righteousness have an effect on our witness to others?

Q#2: How is being “religious” different than having a relationship with Christ?

Q#3: How can we encourage one another to avoid the pitfalls of “playing church”?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

In John 9, Jesus heals a blind man and uses it as an example of the spiritual blindness the Pharisees had. They claimed to see clearly, but Jesus revealed how blind they really were. Education won’t save us, even if we’re educated in the Word! Knowledge without revelation is useless. We must come to God with an attitude of humility and surrender. We have to surrender our “Kingdoms”. It’s not “My Kingdom come”, it's “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” In the Kingdom of God, you give up your rights to have any rights. We are called to submit ourselves to one another (1 Peter 5:5), to serve each other (Galatians 5:13), and to prefer one another above ourselves (Romans 12:10). What “Kingdoms” have you set up? Stubbornness? An unyielding spirit? Your sin? Your unforgiveness? Your political party? Your religion? The fact is that when we get to heaven, even the crown we receive will be thrown at the feet of Jesus. Often, like the Pharisees, we can’t see what Jesus is trying to show us because we’ve made our position, title, status, and knowledge an idol. But we’ve got to ask the question: Will it be My Kingdom Come or His?


building character and hope

10/1/2020


Connect Lesson #26: Building Character and Hope by Jeremias Alicea


Scripture References: Romans 5:1-4 



Overview (5-7 Minutes)  


Last week, we talked about the importance of allowing God to not only work things out FOR US but to allow God to work things out OF US. And when it comes to growing in the things of God, we’re going to have to go through some stuff and hopefully learn and grow from it so we can be ready to face life’s challenges head-on and more importantly, grow the Kingdom using the gifts and talents God has placed in our lives. We are going to expound on that a bit. There’s an old quote that says, “People will destroy with their character what they've built with their gift”. There’s another quote that says, “Your talent can take you where your character can’t keep you”. Ro-mans 5 takes us further into the how we can develop character and how character can turn into hope. 



Romans 5:1-4 says this: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us



Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes) 


Q#1: Why is a character just as important, if not more important, than talent?  


Q#2: Why must we allow God to bring us to the “cutting floor” spiritually  


Q#3: How is hope produced in us as an indirect result of suffering? 



Life Application (5-7 Minutes)  


The Word breaks down the progression for us and if we have the humility and the wherewithal to obtain this through our hunger and thirst for righteousness, we can begin to see what God is showing us. It starts with a hunger, a willingness, and humility to begin to see what God wants to show us. We need to get out of our own way and when we meditate on His promises, then comes healing, change, and transformation. Our bodies and even our humanity are subject to ailments at times. People experience suffering in different ways, but the Spirit is always willing when the flesh is weak and when we are weak, He is strong. The flesh profits little in comparison to the power of the Spirit. We must be led by the Spirit. This week, we’ve heard some incredible stories of people who have overcome incredible odds and obstacles and have given God glory. They understood that God would use their trials to grow them and mold them into what He wants them to be. It’s heartwarming. God desires to see us grow in Him and as we begin to grow, we can see the full manifestation of His Work and promises being fulfilled. God is a good God. His love is so good as the song says. Again, let us continue in the fight for our growth so we can see Him move like never before. Amen?  



weaponizing your wounds

9/17/2020


Connect Lesson #24: Weaponizing Your Wounds by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Hebrews‬ ‭12:14-17‬ (‭NKJV), Galatians 6: 9-10 (NKJV), Acts 8: 9-17 (NKJV), Mark 6:45-52 (NKJV), Proverbs 24:17-18 (NKJV), Galatians 6: 1-3 (NKJV), ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭3:19‬ ‭(NKJV)‬‬, James‬ ‭3:13-18‬ ‭(NKJV‬‬), Ephesians 4:1–3/30-32 (ESV)


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Today, many believers find it hard to be a Christian. And while being a believer certainly has its challenges, we know those challenges allow us to grow and mature. If we truly are hungering and thirsting for God, we will be filled, but in doing so, we’ve got to endure some things. The good thing is that Jesus made it clear: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. Still, some would rather just carry it because it makes them look and feel “righteous”. Do you know what makes Christianity seem hard? Christians. Of course, there’s also religion, condemnation, and bitterness. Jesus accused the Pharisees of making the journey to know God difficult. It was “works” based and they left out important things like justice, mercy, faith, and love. Works based religion makes things difficult. Then there’s the burden of bitterness. Embittered believers are often in search of peace, purpose, and/or a move of God in their lives, but they often find themselves falling short. Unforgiveness, disappointment, disillusionment, unachieved dreams, broken relationships, and misplaced trust all have the tendency to create bitterness. Also, offenses are big Christian killers. Once people go down that road, unforgiveness comes in, and with it, bitterness. ‭‭Read Hebrews‬ ‭12:14-17‬ ‭NKJV. Throughout scripture, the Lord is adamant about His people being at peace with one another. Bearing false witness and coveting others sows discord which God calls an abomination. Today, relationships face greater challenges. People are embittered because they’re locked down and are kept apart from others for long periods of time. They are losing their personal connection.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why do believers sometimes allow offenses to creep in so easily, knowing that it’s detrimental to their spiritual health?

Q#2: What can we do as fellow believers to respond when the enemy tries us to make us become embittered?

Q#3: How can we work together to better resolve or disarm things when an opportunity for offense arises?

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)


We cannot afford to be angry with each other, especially during these times. Read Galatians 6:9-10. We must do good to all, but especially to those who are of the household of faith. If we don’t have each other, who do we really have? If we’re not pursuing holiness and peace with all people, we can’t engage or even begin to see the move of God in our lives. Read Acts 8: 9-17. Here’s a man desiring the things of God, but going about it the wrong way. He wanted God’s power, but His bitterness and iniquity kept him from it. Bitterness can stop us from acquiring the power we need to carry out tasks for the Kingdom! “Iniquity” is having wicked or immoral nature or character. Continual sin and bitterness can lead to iniquity, causing hardness of heart and a “seared conscience”. It suppresses the truth (Romans 1). Read Mark 6:45-52. The New Living says they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hardened to take it in even after they’d witnessed an incredible miracle. Hardened hearts make it difficult not only for the power of God to move but for us to have an understanding of it. The enemy knows about the power of love and he doesn't want us to have any part of it. A hardened heart with people is a hardened heart with God. When King David lost his child with Bathsheba, he prayed to God to take his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh (Psalm 51). He understood that his sin came from a bitter and hardened heart. He coveted something that wasn’t his, his envy gave way to sin. He thought he could just take what he wanted. He had the “power”. His pride and lust drove him to commit adultery and murder. That’s the hardness of heart. Bitterness even causes people to lash out at God and the church (See Proverbs 19:3 NLT). They weaponize their wounds and try to justify it through worldly wisdom. Reacting out of your own hurt only causes more hurt, making it difficult for God to move in their lives. Read Proverbs 24:17-18 God is so adamant about bringing people together in peace and unity that He doesn’t even want you to rejoice when your enemy falls. In fact, when a fellow human falls, there are very specific instructions on how to handle it. Read Galatians 6: 1-3 Anything else is just worldly wisdom.


Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

Unforgiveness is a festering wound and forgiveness, for believers, should never be contingent on receiving an apology. Read ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭3:19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ and James‬ ‭3:13-18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬. We’ve got to stop weaponizing our wounds and sharing it as gospel. The wisdom of God is pure and peaceable. Worldly wisdom is clouded, inconsistent, and born out of torment. The world's wisdom plays from the victim mentality. It says you’re not delivered from your past. The Lord says, “Who the Son has set free is free indeed”. Watch your words. They can justify you or condemn and defile you. Bitterness is poison. People who weaponize their wounds look for ways to express it. They avoid people who they deem as “toxic” but are themselves already intoxicated by the world. We’ve got to encourage one another. We can’t bully people back to restoration. Read Ephesians 4:1–3/30-32 ESV. We may, at times, feel justified in letting people know, on a grand scale, who hurt you an why it needs to be noticed. We can even look for spiritual ways to back it up, but no one really wins in the end. It only causes more problems and makes healing that much slower. Take these burdens to Jesus and people you can trust. God calls us to bear one another’s burdens. Let’s sharpen each other, encourage each other, and be at peace with one another. Love is the only way to fix our world’s ills and spiritually bullying people into submission is not “tough love”. Let’s selflessly work together to put our pride aside and unify so we can begin to see God move like never before.


seeing people god's way

9/10/2020

Connect Lesson #23: Seeing People God’s Way by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Galatians 6:9 (NLT), Habakkuk 1:5 (MSG), Matthew 9:9 (NKJV), Matthew 7:12 (TPT)/(MSG), Matthew 7:1-5, 1 Corinthians 13:4 (TPT)


 

Overview (5-7 Minutes) 

The atmosphere in the world today is “Why try with people?” We need to understand there is value in the seemingly “pointless”. Galatians 6:9 (NLT) says: So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. (It’s not pointless)... At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up...Blessings for you and them. Jesus walked this earth daily ministering to people about the goodness of God. He didn’t give up on them. But there were those on the sidelines of life offering up all kinds of negative commentary. It was mostly filled with questionable comments and criticism. Some of the commentaries were because of people’s ignorance. They had never seen or heard of God’s goodness. Habakkuk 1:5 (MSG) says: God says, “Look!” “Look around at the godless nations. Look long and hard. Brace yourself for a shock. Something’s about to take place and you’re going to find it hard to believe”. Jesus also dealt with those whose commentary was a little more “sinister”. These people had a godless-agenda because of their own personal and professional jealousy. Does this sound familiar? God‘s goodness makes-men look bad. When the goodness of God is being demonstrated through your “everyday life”, it will cause these negative commentators to look bad in every way.  The people attacking the goodness of God said it was of no value and pointless. Pastor Larry said that they had heard the same sinister commentators for the last 44 yrs of ministry saying, “Why are you doing that? What you are doing is a waste of time, a waste of money, and a waste of energy. It has no value, it’s pointless”. Thank God those aren’t the only voices coming from the sidelines.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Have you ever experienced a situation where you felt called of God to do something but at times felt pointless? How did it all work out?

Q#2: In that same experience, how did you respond to your critics or those who didn’t understand your purpose.

Q#3: Why is it important to see people and purpose the way God does?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)        

Matthew 9:9 (NKJV) says: As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office and He said to him, “follow me.” So he arose and followed him. Pastor Larry said that he loved what this says because every time he reads it, he knows that what he’s doing is not pointless, even if “some people” think so. In verse 9 it says of Jesus that he saw a man. “What” Matthew did and “who” he was, didn’t keep back God’s goodness and God’s invitation. Here’s Jesus inviting a despised tax collector who was an agent of Rome, an aristocratic pawn, and an overcharging, oppressive, and corrupt custom officer to be one of “His apostles”. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Notice here Matthew wasn’t seeking Jesus or trying to get in. Verse 9 says: Matthew was... “...Sitting at the tax office...” The scripture says...We have not chosen Him, but He has chosen us. Jesus goes after us with His goodness and His invitation to  “follow Him”. You might be one to say it’s pointless and of no value reaching out to people like Matthew and his type. The Pharisees saw Matthew as a crook, riffraff, and scum, but verse 9 says of Jesus: He saw a “man” named Matthew. The name of Matthew means the gift of God. Jesus saw Matthew as a gift from God. How are you seeing people right now? See people God’s way!

  

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

Matthew 7:12 (TPT) says: “In everything you do, be careful to treat others in the same way you’d want them to treat you, for that is the essence of all the teachings of the Law and the Prophets.” The (MSG) says: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. What do you want people to do for you? We tend to set the bar really high for ourselves. We have an opportunity to overcome and not judge people. Matthew 7:1-5 tells us how to do that. If we don’t judge, we won’t be judged by the same standards. Most people don’t like to be negatively judged. Sometimes we need just to get over the little hiccups and be there for people. We don’t like to be messed with. So why focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and fail to notice the glaring flaws in your life? How can you see the flaws in others when you might be doing something worse? Don’t be hypercritical or be a hypocrite. We’ve got to deal with our own shortcomings and be better. We can choose to be better to people. We’ve got to acknowledge our own blindspot and deal with them and then we can be capable of dealing with the blindspot of your friend. Sometimes people have “blind spots” and some people just have “blinders” to keep themselves from looking at all the negative. Sometimes that’s how we have to be, putting on “spiritual blinders” to keep us from focusing on all the negativity that’s out there. It will keep you focused on what’s really important. It’s scary out there, but God is good. We’ve got to have the right attitude. 1 Corinthians 13:4 (TPT) says Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance  Rejoice when people get blessed! You don’t need to brag about how great you are. God is doing things. God is moving today. He’s already starting revivals. We need to talk about what God is doing and what’s going to happen! Don’t put up walls, walls won’t let love in. Let’s see people God’s way. 

victory steps

9/3/2020

Connect Lesson #22: Victory Steps by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Psalm 37:23 (NKJV), Psalm 40:2 (NKJV), John 16:13 (NLT)

 


 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The word “steps” popped into Pastor’s heart for this message, and so did this scripture: Psalm 37:23 (NKJV) The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in His way. There’s a famous Chinese proverb that says… “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”. That first step is important! It’s important because it starts the journey. Some of you are scheduled for a particular journey in life, but you have not taken the first step.  God has put an idea and a dream in your heart. God has given you a vision and a word, but you need to act upon it. You’ve made excuses like “The money’s not there”... “When the kids get older,”... “I’m not qualified”... the list goes on. But most of the time, it’s fear that holds you back from that first step. One of the effects of fear is to paralyze you. The word “paralyze” as it relates to the journey means to bring to an end. Fear will end things before they ever get started. For some of you, fear has stolen the first step of your dream,  your vision, and the Word of God that the Lord has put into your heart. Some of you don’t trust your own abilities or your own ideas, and that’s ok, just don’t let that stop you! Trust in God’s abilities and God’s ideas as He “orders” your steps. God made available to all of us “Divine Direction” for every detail of our lives, but we must join hands with Him in our journey. He is there to keep us from falling, and He will stabilize us in our stumbling.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Was there ever a time when you’ve allowed fear instead of God to give you direction in a particular situation? How did you handle it?

Q#2: What impact can past failure have on your current circumstances?

Q#3: How can we find freedom from the fear of failure?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

You may be sitting there thinking, “I took a ‘faith journey’ once, and it didn’t end so well.” I don’t know what happened to you; maybe you stopped following divine direction, maybe you started directing your own steps, or maybe you let go of his hand. No matter what happened to your journey, God always has a recovery plan. God has a divine purpose for your journey, a divine finish, and He will raise you up to finish the journey!  Some of you are getting raised up today. Some of you are getting your feet re-set on solid ground. All you need is to be steadied. Psalm 40:2 (NKJV) says 2 He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. The journey is not over. Here’s how this will happen: Jesus said: John 16:13 (NLT) 13 When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. Your future steps have been established in victory!

i only need one thing

8/20/2020

I  Only Need One Thing by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture Reference: Luke 10:38-42


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

In the book of Luke chapter 10, we read the story of Jesus sending out the 72, a group of followers who were given the power to not only share the good news that the Kingdom of God was near, but to bring healing, signs, and wonders to the people. They performed miracles and were casting out devils! When they returned, the scripture says they were filled with joy. Jesus said that they have received power to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy. He rejoiced in the Spirit. It’s in this chapter we then hear the story of the Good Samaritan. Afterward, we find this group heading to the home of Mary and Martha which is our starting point.


Luke 10: 38-42 says  As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Now, here is a whole group of people who have come into this house, tired and hungry after a very busy day. They needed to be refreshed, recharged, and energized. Serving these guests is priority one! How many of you have experienced this? You’re running on fumes, trying to meet your own family’s needs, and the needs of others? You’ve got a full plate at home, it’s time to go to church and serve, but you’ve barely got anything left to give the Lord because you’ve exhausted all of your energy on worrying about everything and everybody else. You’re burned out,  seemingly helpless and ignored by those who SHOULD be helping you...why has it all come down to this?  Here is Jesus’ response to Martha: Vs. 41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”


Discussion Questions (20-25 Mintues)

Q#1: How might have you responded if Jesus said this to you?

Q#2: Why do you think taking a “spiritual inventory” of yourself is so important?

Q#3: How can a lack of spiritual maintenance have an effect on your day-to-day?

 

Life Application (5-7 Mintues)

This may have been unexpected for Martha. She wanted vindication. Jesus gave her something better. She received wisdom from Him that day. For centuries, people have been chasing those things which are carnal, earthly, and pleasurable but when obtained, find it unsatisfying. We hear it from children all the time: “If you could just give me this one thing, I won’t ask for anything again for a long time” and of course, a few days later they’re asking for their next one thing they “need”. Today more than ever, we are in desperate need of that one thing. It’s essential for survival. It’s the one thing that can bring satisfaction like no other, it’s why David could say, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. We need only to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. We’ve become far too distracted by everything from politics to media to just day to day busyness and even in our attempt to serve the Lord with what we have left, we’ve fallen short because we’ve forgotten how to sit quietly and allow the Lord to speak to us. How can we begin to know God unless we are still?  Jesus said if you drink from Me you’ll never thirst again. David said as the deer pants for the water, my soul longs after you. Jeremiah said that putting my trust in God is like a tree planted by a stream where the roots grow into the water and is satisfied.

 

Final Thought (5 Minutes)

God not only wants us to know Him, but He wants to know you too. If that weren’t important then why would He say to those who are workers of iniquity, “Depart from me I never knew you” This isn’t about “spiritual routines”. At some point, those can become empty and fruitless. We can’t forget that Jesus was both divine and human. Sometimes spending time with God can be in the joy of being with others, fellowshipping, and giving Him praise in the way you raise your family or communicate with your spouse. Let God speak to you in your quiet time and not so quiet time. If you can’t be still and know, you certainly can’t be active and know either. Roaring lions are distracting, you’ve got to be able to be still. People who give up on the faith do so often because it isn’t maintained and balanced. GK Chesterton said  “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”  Being a follower of Jesus won’t leave you unsatisfied. A life lived without Him will.This race isn’t about behavior modification. It’s about engagement with the Giver of Life. Get wisdom! Get Understanding! Don’t stake eternity on seasonal pleasures. Don’t exchange the truth of God for a lie. There’s nothing wrong with giving His story a good read. It might just change your life! 

Self-Centered religion

8/13/2020

Connect Lesson #19: Self-Centered Religion by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NLT), 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT), James 3:13-18, James 4:1-10, 1 Peter 2:15 (NKJV), Ecclesiastes 2:26 (NLT), Proverbs 16:3 (NKJV)


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The world has done a fantastic job of spreading its own ancient religion. Its popularity has been increasing rapidly in these last days. Its subtle, but imposing nature doesn’t rear its ugly head until it’s carried out its mission...division. Once it divides, it multiplies, growing stronger as it destroys lives. It causes bitterness to take root and by the time most people figure it out, the damage has already been done. It creates a sense of emptiness and then acts as the solution for it. Once people give in to it, it’s very difficult to let go. It’s like cancer, lacking compassion, it thrives on fear and doubt. It promises the world, taking in more than it gives. It does give, but the return on investment is limited and disappointing. As the pleasure wears off, individuals are worse off. Pride and stubbornness are its pinnacle principles. In fact, you are truly religious when you display these characteristics, your piety will know no bounds. What is this sanctimonious ancient religion? It’s called the Religion of Self. Self-centeredness has been the cause of society’s ills since the dawn of time. It seems nowadays that it's ramped up because everything today is a competition. It’s very clear why one of the 10 Commandments is not to covet. It’s not just about having things but also having knowledge and being better and smarter than everybody else, using that knowledge to puff themselves up.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q1: Why are people so easily ensnared by the trap of self-centeredness?

Q2: What seems to be driving people toward success nowadays?

Q3: What can we do to avoid falling into the trap of self-centeredness?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Read Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NLT). Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT). Read James 3:13-18. Read James 4:1-10 The scripture is filled with many more examples of how God despises self-centeredness. In fact, Christ called us to self-denial. Read Mark 8:34. Most people who have a chip on their shoulder are usually self-indulgent - they're so caught up in their own world because of unforgiveness. There are people that will get offended by this message. People will often preach through their offenses and use scripture to justify their actions. You see it all the time on social media - Facebook preachers, preaching out of their own hurt. But again, that’s pride. CS Lewis said this: The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity - it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God. He said: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. Pride is what made the devil, the devil. Anything that causes indulgence of self is a completely anti-God state of mind. Pride takes on so many forms. It is critical of others, it’s stubborn, it's envious, it desires and gets nothing. It’s fruitless. It’s powerless. You can't plug a toaster into itself and expect to get toast. You need a power source! Self-reliance is exhausting. It’s time to empty ourselves of ourselves more than ever in these last days. You can’t have a God-centered mentality and be wrapped in self-sufficiency. Man may use metrics to determine accolades, but God levels the playing field. There will always be critics, but take a look at 1 Peter 2:15 (NKJV). There’s something to being at the bottom of the barrel by the world’s standards. It’s a good place to be because it’s easier to humble yourself. I don’t care how smart or talented you think you are, Ecclesiastes 2:26 (NLT) says that it’s God (Who) gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please Him.


Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

You’ve got to change your thinking. Mind renewal comes from the Word (Romans 12:2). Yes, your thought life can affect your actions, but your actions can also determine your thoughts. Read Proverbs 16:3 (NKJV). We need wisdom, wisdom brings order, order brings peace, peace brings prosperity. Bringing Godly order to your life makes life better. Let’s put away foolishness and rise up in power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. It takes commitment! We have to desire the Wisdom of the Word. We need understanding and a desire to be filled with His righteousness. Did you know that it’s pride to think little of yourself? That’s not humility, that’s stubbornness, which the Bible refers to as idolatry. Your refusal to see yourself as anything else but a child of God can be detrimental to our spiritual survival. There are some people who choose to remain in a state of self-pity where they voluntarily refuse to think differently about God and themselves. An overdose of self can lead to depression because people think self-sufficiency is satisfactory but most of the time, you get let down. Sometimes we don’t realize what we’re doing and we can’t fix what we don’t see! James says if you lack wisdom then ask, but if it’s just to puff yourself up, don’t expect anything from God. Your motives and mindset determine what you will have. God cannot work with people who are double-minded. Do you go to the “First Church of Me, Myself and I”? You’ll find that without the source, there is no power. When you practice humility, you’re less likely to be easily offended, you’ll be less judgmental, be more open to learning and thereby gain understanding, you’ll be more likely to be merciful and gracious to others and you’ll be more forgiving. Without God, we can do nothing. The faster we understand this, the better things will go for us. Perform on a level playing field before God levels it for you.


spending time with your heart

8/6/2020

Connect Lesson #18: Spending Time With Your Heart by Pastor Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Luke 6:45 (NKJV), Psalm 139:23-24 (TPT), Psalm 139: 1-5 (NLT), Haggai 2:9 (NLT), 2 Kings 9:5-10 (NLT)


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The Lord wanted Pastor to pose a question to everyone today: When was the last time you spent some “quality time” with your heart? Luke 6:45 (NKJV) says ...For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks. Pastor said that when he was praying this week, he saw pain hidden in people’s hearts. People can get good at hiding their pain from their face in public, but if you listen carefully, they can’t hide it from their mouth. Most of the time, when people hear pain on people’s lips, they just think of them to be crabby or having a bad day. For whatever reason, many people today aren’t spending much time on their own heart, much less noticing the pain in others. Here’s how you spend time with your own heart: Psalm 139:23 (TPT) says 23 God, I invite Your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. (Which crowd’s out and chokes the Word so that it produces nothing according to Mark.4:19). Psalm 139:24 says, See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—the path that brings me back to You.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What steps can we take to be more sensitive to the needs of others?

Q#2: How can we encourage people who are visibly trying to hide obvious pain?

Q#3: How can anxiety cause us to lose sight of God’s Word in our lives?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Are the anxious cares of the world choking out the Word of God in your life? What path of pain are you silently walking on that leads you away from God’s glorious, everlasting ways? Like the psalmist, we should be crying out, “Lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—the path that brings me back to you!” Spending time with your heart is what Pastor calls “spiritual reflection.” It’s taking the time to think about what’s being taught in these messages and what you’re reading in scripture. Without spiritual reflection or renewing your mind, there’s no getting away from anxious cares and paths of pain. Psalm 139: 1-5 (NLT) says O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. 4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. 5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Let God place His hand of blessings upon your head and deliver you from all your anxious cares and paths of pain!


Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

God will shower you with His grace. He will give you a plan. He will never overwhelm you. Your latter will be greater! We can hold onto the hope of God’s Word! Haggai 2:9 (NLT) says 9 The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place, I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” God is greater than our current circumstances. God is bringing Jehus for the Jezebels! 2 Kings 9:5-10 (NLT) says 5 When he arrived there, he found Jehu sitting around with the other army officers. “I have a message for you, Commander,” he said. “For which one of us?” Jehu asked. “For you, Commander,” he replied. 6 So Jehu left the others and went into the house. Then the young prophet poured the oil over Jehu’s head and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the Lord’s people, Israel. 7 You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of my prophets and all the Lord’s servants who were killed by Jezebel. 8 The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out. I will destroy every one of his male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. 9 I will destroy the family of Ahab as I destroyed the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha, son of Ahijah. 10 Dogs will eat Ahab’s wife Jezebel at the plot of land in Jezreel, and no one will bury her.” Then the young prophet opened the door and ran. The spirit of Jehu is rising up! To know God in His power is to see the impossible done! He makes it happen. He’s the greater one to get the glory! Be full of faith and glory, and thank God for the seasoned people. You need to have guts to give a prophetic word! We intimidate the devil because we belong to the King! God will avenge us, and we know Who our God is. There is so much fear in the world; we’ve got to pull on the anointing, every joint supplies. We’ve got to make things glorious! Praise God; He is doing amazing things! We must throw down the Jezebel spirit and claim our victory in God!


Hearing changes things

7/30/2020

Connect Lesson #17: Hearing Changes Things by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: John 12:17-19 (NLT), Matthew 16:18 (TPT), Isaiah 1:19 (TPT), 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (TPT), Psalm 119:2 (MSG), Matthew 18:19 (NLT), Matthew 18:19 (TPT), Psalm 32: 8-10 (TPT)


 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The entire world is changing rapidly and dramatically through what is being heard. Make no mistake, change comes through people acting on what is heard. The last time the world changed this dramatically was when Jesus came to reveal God’s true nature.  When people acted on what they heard from Jesus, their lives changed. Jesus’ life and death revealed God’s power, holiness, justice, and love. There was one thing that separated us from all that God had to offer. That was our sin. Jesus became the final and complete sacrifice for our sin through His death on the cross. Don’t live without Him. When He spoke and people acted on what they heard from Him, their lives changed and it’s no different today. John 12:17-19 (NLT) says Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet Him— because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after Him.”  Because of Jesus’ willingness to the Father and the people’s willingness to God’s Word, the world changed for the better.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Mintues)

Q#1: Compare and contrast the value and impact of following God’s Word in your life versus a life devoid of God’s Word.

Q#2: Why are some believers today subtly becoming indifferent to the Word of God?

Q#3: What role does having a willing heart play in our ability to receive and actively incorporate the Keys of the Kingdom?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Matthew 16:18 (TPT) says I give you the name Peter, a stone. And this truth of Who I am will be the bedrock foundation on which I will build My church—My legislative assembly and the power of death will not be able to overpower it! 19 I will give you the keys of heaven’s kingdom realm to forbid on earth that which is forbidden in heaven, and to release on earth that which is released in heaven.”  Hear this: We have the power to forbid all the works of darkness and release all the works of God when we become responsive or willing to do what heaven is saying. We will overpower the darkness. Isaiah 1:19 (TPT) says If you have a willing heart to let Me help you, and if you will obey Me, you will feast on the blessings of an abundant harvest. The blessings of an abundant harvest come with willingness. You must willingly empty yourself of building “your own” kingdom “first”. You must be willing to build God’s kingdom first! Say “Yes!” to God and “No!” to the world. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (TPT) is “reversed willingness”. It says But you need to be aware that in the final days the culture of society will become extremely fierce and difficult for the people of God. But hearing with willing actions changes things! Vs. 2 says People will be self-centered lovers of themselves and obsessed with money. They will boast of great things as they strut around in their arrogant pride and mock all that is right. They will ignore their own families. They will be ungrateful and ungodly (living without any Godly influence) vs 3 says They will become addicted to hateful and malicious slander. Slaves to their desires, they will be ferocious, belligerent haters of what is good and right. 4 With brutal treachery, they will act without restraint, bigoted, and wrapped in clouds of their conceit. They will find their delight in the pleasures of this world more than the pleasures of the loving God. 5 They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality, they want nothing to do with God’s power. Stay away from people like these! God has a reason for you to stay away from people like this! Hearing from them will change you into them. Be careful not to let these people speak “directions” into your life. You might feel a little lost right now because you’ve been hearing from the wrong sources. Psalm 119:2 (MSG) says You're blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him. Hearing from God changes things!

 

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says I also tell you this if two of you agree on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in heaven will do it for you. He didn’t say you have to have a whole group of people. Just two. That can be just you and God! That’s all you need. When you come into God’s Word and truly believe it while trusting in Him, you can declare life over your situation and the power comes! Matthew 18:19 (TPT) says Again, I give you an eternal truth if two of you agree to God for something in a symphony of prayer, My heavenly Father will do it for you. Psalm 32: 8-10 (TPT) I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with My eyes as your guide. So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make Me tug you and pull you along. Just come with Me!” So my conclusion is this: Many are the sorrows and frustrations of those who don’t come clean with God. But when you trust in the Lord for forgiveness, His wrap-around love will surround you. The Word will not return void! You cannot do things successfully on your own. We need God. Do you want to go to a better place with God? Do you want to know His power? Don’t you want better for your kids, neighbors, this world? We need the broken to be healed. We are the church. We need that passion. Don’t make God tug and pull you along. Just go with Him! People will believe when you follow Him. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are heavily laden, and I will give you rest.” When people are yielded to God, it’s anointed. Let God do His work through His Word. Do the Word, speak the Word. We can soar like the eagle! 

burning for discerning

7/23/2020

Connect Lesson #16: A Burning For Discerning by Jeremias Alicea

Scripture References: Romans 1:16, Psalm 119:11/105, Psalm 127:1


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The Word of God is the essential manual for all of life’s questions, trials, and mysteries. God’s Word gives us the ability to know and do incredible things. The Word of God should be as the prophet Jeremiah said… fire shut up in our bones. From it, we have... the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power unto Salvation for all who believe Romans 1:16. The time has come now more than ever for us to really buckle down and study the Word of God like never before. We’ve got to truly know what we believe, increase our knowledge of the Word, and increase the time we spend in prayer with the Lord. People today are confused about what they believe. They’re unsure if what they’re being taught is the truth. There’s only so much knowledge one can gain from television and social media. Pastor Larry put it this way: “The way you combat confusion and disorder is through walking by faith, being patient, knowing God’s Word, living God’s Word, and being victoriously single-minded. Then you exit the free for all.” Many people, even believers, are in a spiritual free for all…arguing and fighting amongst themselves, being selfish and not even considering the Word of God in their lives. It’s foolishness. While it’s true that no one is perfect, we must strive to be at peace with all men. And while things don’t always go the way we want them, we can still choose to love, make better choices, and strive for peace among the brethren. We are at a pivotal point in our nation today. People are like scattered sheep going all different directions without a single clue as to where they are headed. The Word of God helps us to discern the sign of the times. Psalm 119 tells us in vs 11: "Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You” and vs 105 says “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light unto my path”. Are we rightly dividing truth according to the Word of God?


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why is it important to be discerning now more than ever?

Q#2: When a believer is under pressure, how does his/her response to it reflect their devotion to the Word?

Q#3: What is one practical way that God speaks to us?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

One practical way He speaks to us is through His Word, bearing witness by His Spirit. We can respond to questions people ask through the Word. It strengthens and empowers, bringing light to the darkness and hope into hopelessness. Take delight in the Word of God. It’s the Sword of the Spirit! We’ve got to recognize what’s going on in our heart and minds and we’ve got to straighten out our convictions, beliefs, and standards. Are we falling into the world’s religion of self centeredness and allowing the enemy to pit believers against each other? Are we striving to be what the Lord wants us to be? Are we laying down our lives for the cause and for each other? Are we submitting to God? Are we humbling ourselves to allow God to convict us, change us and make us into what He wants us to be? Are we being faithful in the little things He calls us to do? Listen, this faith race that we’re running is not about behavior modification. We can’t even begin to obey the Word if we don’t even know it. Romans tells us that we have to be changed by the renewing of our minds. An unrenewed mind is a mind likely to make fleshly decisions. The flesh profits nothing. Psalm 127:1 says that Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Are we living to profit ourselves? What is of the Spirit is eternal. What is of the flesh dies. Yes, we can have nice things and build a decent life on this earth for ourselves and our families, but that should pale in comparison to the spiritual lives we must build for ourselves, our families and those seeking to know the truth in these last days.


Final Thought (5 Minutes)

Be who God called you to be. Study His Word, be strong, be courageous, train your children to do the same, because we’re living in perilous times, times that are creating more questions than answers and we need to be prepared to respond to a world filled with questions, fears and doubts. We need to be confident of the very thing God called us to. Let’s be steadfast in the calling and the proclamation of His Word, let’s get real and honest about where our lives are and call upon our brothers and sisters to help us along this race. The finish line is fast approaching and we need to be geared up so we can run this race! Be led by the Spirit and allow God to show you mighty things to come.


lean on me

7/16/2020

Lesson #15: Lean on Me by Pastor Larry Raftery

Scripture References: Proverbs 3:5 (NKJV), Matthew 11:29 (NKJV), Acts 17:28 (NKJV)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

On Sunday morning, Pastor shared with us that he was out in the yard on  Wednesday and the Lord spoke to him saying, “Lean on Me”. He said, that to him, it was as if “Lean on Me” was a key to survival,  a weapon in combat, or directions in righteousness. The words “Lean on Me” are life-giving. That phrase is meant to bring life, renew life, and strengthen life. When He said, “Lean on Me”, there it was, a purpose beyond a support system. It involved learning and living. When he said, “Lean on Me”, it was emphatic because without understanding and being able to apply this phrase “Lean on Me”, we would be deceived to believe a lie, preyed upon and manipulated, or seduced off course and led astray by the enemy of our soul. God is saying with a sense of urgency, “Lean on Me!” So, you can learn, live, lean on God. Learn from God, live for God, and lean on God because Satan seeks to draw us away from God in these last days. Learn from God because Satan seeks to thwart us in God’s purpose and plan to harvest souls in the last days. Live for God because Satan seeks for us to deny God the glory, honor, and praise that’s due Him. Live Godly lives by putting faith and trust in Him.  We are not in Satan’s grip, but we are in God’s loving arms! In these last days, we need to lean on Him and place our focus on the life of Christ and his power that’s in us. Don’t get consumed with fighting the devil or engaging in spiritual warfare. Lean on God, learn from God, and live for God.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What tends to happen when we lean on our own understanding in challenging times?

Q#2: Why do we need to learn, live for, and lean on God more than ever today?

Q#3: Why does it appear at times as if “resisting the devil” doesn’t seem to “work”?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Yes, God’s word urges us to resist the devil and to stand firm and withstand his “clever tricks”, but the truth of God’s Word is that the war has already been won. Defeating the devil was the work of Jesus and it’s been accomplished on the cross. Lean on God, learn from God, and live for God because we belong to God Almighty. He is our source, He is our victor, and He is our ally at all times! He is our strength and supply. He is our protector and deliverer. Again, you’re not in Satan’s grip, you’re in the loving arms of God. He says, “Lean on Me”. God tells us in His Word to “Lean on Me”. Proverbs 3:5 (NKJV) says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. God tells us in His Word to “Learn from Me”. Matthew 11:29 (NKJV) says, Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. God tells us in His Word to “Live for Me”. Acts 17:28 (NKJV) says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.

 

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

Learning from Him is all about taking direction from Him. Don’t turn a deaf ear to His call or have a defiant attitude toward His commands. Taking direction from God frees God to bless you. Say it, “I can take direction from Him”. Living for Him is all about traveling with Him. Say it, “I can travel with Him”. To travel with God is to travel with hope’s expectation. There is always something good just ahead even though you can’t see it. Trust in Him and as you lean on Him, take from Him. As you learn from Him, travel with Him and live in hope! 

 

fight freedoms fight

7/9/2020

Connect Lesson 14: Fight Freedom’s Fight by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References:  I Corinthians 14:33, II Corinthians 2:14,  I John 5:4 (TPT)/(NLB), I John 5: 4 (TPT), James 4:7 (NKJV), II Corinthians 1:19-20, 22 (TPT)

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

As Christians, we’ve all got a few fights under our belt. We’ve fought with family members, people at work, or other Christians. Some fights we’ve picked or started ourselves. Other fights came our way without our invitation. We’ve watched fights from the side-lines and cheered for our favorite. But then there are those strange times when a fight accelerates into a free-for-all, where people are hitting people without any just cause. You’ve seen it in professional sports, two players get into a fight, then suddenly the bench clears and everyone’s in the fight. Our message is about life seeming to be a fight and at times turning into a free-for-all.  You start getting hit from every direction without cause and you say things like: “I didn’t do anything to them, what’s up with this? “Are people crazy?” “Where did this come from?” You’re doing everything you can to avoid getting hit. You try hard to get out of the way, but you’re getting blindsided. Your life is focused in a specific direction, and then out of left field, you get run over. It wasn’t anything you expected, it caught you off guard. In a free-for-all, there’s a lot of confusion. I Corinthians 14:33 says, For God is not the author of confusion but of peace. This “free-for-all” didn’t drop out of heaven, it came from hell. Satan is the author of confusion and disorder.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Have you ever felt like you were in the middle of a “free-for-all”? How did you handle it?

Q#2: What impact does being in a “free-for-all” potentially have on your overall well being?

Q#3: How should we as believers combat the confusion the enemy tries to bring into our lives?

 

Life Application (5-7 Mintues)

The way you combat confusion and disorder is through walking by faith, being patient, knowing God’s Word, living God’s Word, and being victoriously single-minded. Then you exit the “free for all”.  II Corinthians 2:14 says, Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph. In Christ, the direction of God’s leading is always in triumph, always in the direction of a grand and glorious victory! I John 5: 4 (TPT) says, You see, every child of God overcomes the world for our faith is the victorious power that triumphs over the world. The New Living Bible says, For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. Every child of God defeats this evil world through faith. Again, victory is always achieved by being patient, knowing God’s Word, living God’s Word, and being single-minded. That’s faith. Faith is a mighty spiritual force that comes from a person’s heart. Faith is assured of God’s promise and God’s Word. Within every one of God’s promises is the power to perform what’s been promised. When you look at one of God’s promises and embrace it with faith, assurance, or conviction, the power of the promise is released. The real facts of life are written in the Word of God’s promises. Say it, “It is written”. Faith brings the reality of God’s promise into your life. The spiritual force called “faith” is always forward directed. Faith is always reaching forward to what God has promised and provided. He always leads us in triumph. In Christ, when the free-for-all starts, it’s the evil of this world showing up to show off. Faith says, “Shove off, Devil!” James 4:7 (NKJV) says, Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Before we tell the devil to “shove off”, we must submit to God. God has a plan to take us out of the middle of this “free-for-all”. Are you getting tired of getting hit? Then submit to God’s Word. Let’s do what it takes so we can enjoy the fruit of victory for a while. Fight freedoms fight!

 

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

You’ve got to decide what you’re going to declare. You’ve got to declare the promise. Who are you connected to? Is it your heavenly Father? He knows everything about you. We need to be bathed in love as never before. Love never stops loving. The world will try to “power words” to create a perception that isn’t reality. They will try to manipulate your feelings using words that cause you to relive past experiences and bring back those negative feelings. But God has never stopped loving us. Love never gives up. It is a safe home. It brings a sense of hope. We need to put hope over perception and deception. We must submit to our Heavenly Father, not the distractions of the enemy. He has no authority over you. Get behind me Satan! You belong to God and you have covenant rights. No evil or plague shall come near your dwelling. We’ve got to keep on praising God even when people try to tell us not to. II Corinthians 1:19-20, 22 (TPT) says, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and He is the one whom Timothy, Silas, and I have preached to you-and He has never been both a “yes” or “no”. He has been and always will be a resounding “YES!”. For all of God’s promises find their “yes” of fulfillment in Him. And as our “yes” and our “amen” ascend to God, we bring Him glory! He knows we are His since He has also stamped His seal of love over our hearts and has given us the Holy Spirit like an engagement ring is given to a bride - a down payment of the blessings to come! We must commit only to God. We have to decide who our partner is. It is the lover of our soul or the enemy? We’ve got to choose today! Amen.

blending generational blessings

7/2/2020

Connect Lesson #13: Blending the Generational Blessing by Pastor Larry Raftery

Scripture References: 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV), 1 Peter 2:9, Psalm 79:13, Psalm 105:1 (NLT), James 5:16 (TPT)


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Last week we celebrated Father’s Day. We said that the great power associated with fatherhood is the power of influence. Sometimes we think our fathers don’t understand our generation. Look around, all kinds of generations are represented in society. Each generation has its own set of responsibilities. All of us have responsibilities to the generation that we are a part of and to the generation on either side of us. In this blend of generations, we have the responsibility to bring knowledge and develop skills. I Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV) says: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. Paul is dealing here with spiritual growth and responsibility. Raising children is a huge responsibility, but “being a child” doesn't carry the same weight of responsibility. Have you ever thought: “I'd love to be a child again or I'd love to be a teen again?” Well, wish away, but we have a generational assignment that God has preordained for us. We are placed into the blessings, promises, and responsibilities of our generation and it’s up to us to participate in the generational blessings. 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) says: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why do we have a responsibility to BOTH of the generations on either side of us?

Q#2: Do you find that now more than ever, it’s important to bear the responsibility of bringing knowledge and skills to the next generation? Why or why not?

Q#3: What do you believe is the best way for children to obtain maturity and responsibility?


Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Let’s say it: “My generation is chosen by God”. Every generation must forge ahead into what the future holds for it. Proclaiming our generational blessings, promises and responsibilities is the responsibility of the entire generational community. Children learn responsibility and maturity from the adult generations living around them. Children are taught responsibility and maturity through observation and instruction. Psalm 79:13 says: So we, your people and sheep of your pasture, will give you thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations. Pastor Larry said that when he read Psalm 79:13, he saw a generational assignment for a lifetime. He sees the church being filled with joy and thanksgiving for all that God has done. All of this joy and thanksgiving was coming from different generations, sharing their praise for God. Again, responsibility and maturity come from observation and instruction. All of us have a responsibility to our generation and the generations around us. We get lost when we forget community. Give thanks and show forth His praises before all generations.


Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

Psalm 105:1 (NLT) says: Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world (every generation) know what He has done. God has done both small and great things for all of us and it's time that we let every generation know. We have generational responsibilities. James 5:16 (TPT) says: Confess and acknowledge how you have offended one another (a generational assignment) and then pray for one another to be instantly healed (a generational responsibility) for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a Godly believer! The power of prayer rest in every generation. We need the wisdom of this collective generational community blending the generational blessing!


champions of influence

6/25/2020

Connect Lesson 12: Champions of Influence by Pastor Larry Raftery

Scripture References: John 10:29, John 14:9, John 1:14, John 6:57, John 10:38, John 6:27, John 10:30, John 8:54, John 5:20, John 8:28, John 10:18, John 8:38


 

Overview (5-7 minutes)

Our Heavenly Father is the “Champion” of Fatherhood. Jesus establishes that fact in John 10:29 saying, “My Father is greater and more powerful than all”. There’s a great power associated with Fatherhood and that’s the power of influence. That “powerful influence” was seen in the Gospel of John through the relationship of Jesus Christ and His Father. In fact, Jesus said in John 14:9, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen My Father”. That’s the power of the Father’s influence. Fathers are that influential. In fact, every father directly or indirectly affects the condition and development of everyone and everything that surrounds them by just being a “father.” Fathers are powerful influencers. Here is the way fathers influence: The father gives life, the father gives identity, and  the father gives direction.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 minutes)

#1: How is the effect of spiritual fatherlessness similar to the effect of physical fatherlessness?

#2: Why does a father’s approval carry so much weight in so many lives?

#3: How can a father’s influence provide life and direction?

 

Life Application (5-7 minutes)

Let’s take a look at the Father’s influence #1.“Fathers Give Life”:  In the scriptures, Jesus said, “The Father gives life”. In John 1:14, Jesus says, “He was begotten of the Father”. In John 6:57, Jesus says, “I live because of the Father”. The influence of every father is to give life in a “one and only” form. Fathers have the God given ability to give your unique life into everyone and everything that surrounds them. When that God life goes into operation, it produces in the lives of the recipients, love, purpose, and attention. If for any reason the Father isn’t allowing the life of God to flow through them, the people around them will be lacking in love, purpose, and attention. Let’s look at the Father’s influence #2. The Father Gives Identity: When the father is making sure that he’s allowing the power of “identity” to flow through him to others, it’s accompanied with a sense of approval, equality, and honor in others. Jesus said in John 10:38, “The Father is in Me and I in the Father”. The Father gives identity. Along with identity,  the father gives approval. John 6:27 says, “God the Father has set His seal on Me.” We are living in a world that is suffering from an identity crisis. Fathers, rise up in the power of the Spirit and know who you are in Christ and Who Christ is in you. We need fathers who know they’ve been accepted into the beloved. Your identity with Christ brings a shared stability to those who surround you.  “Identity” with the Father gives a sense of “equality and honor”. John 10:30 says, “I and My Father are one.” John 8:54 says, “It is My Father Who honors Me”. I know who I am and  what I have. It’s fathers who make known the richness of our inheritance, bringing honor as well as benefit. Looking at the Father’s influence is #3. The Father Gives Direction Through Instruction, Commands and Examples. John 5:20 says, “The Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself does.” In John 8:28, Jesus says, “I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father taught Me...” In John 10:18, Jesus says, “This command I have received from My Father.” In John 8:38,  Jesus says, “I speak what I have seen with My Father...” This is the Father’s influence.

 

Final Thought (5-7 minutes)

Fathers, you are only equipped to fulfill this awesome position through your yielded-ness to God, our Father. We are not left to be influencers in our own strength and ability. Fathers are leaders for all seasons. God, your Father, lives big within you. He’s got life to give, He’s got identity to give and He’s got direction to give and “You are His man”. Jesus said, “The works that I’ve done shall you do, because I go to My Father and He will send you a helper, the Holy Spirit”. Fathers are Champions of Influence!

 

 

 

"i see you"

6/18/2020

Connect Lesson #11:  “I See You” By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG), Matthew 10:30, Genesis 16:2-13, Psalm 27:14 (NLT/MSG), Proverbs 19:23 (NLT/MSG)

 

Reminder: Please don’t forget to remind your group that they may pay their midweek tithe online, through the app or by texting LACC to 779-77.

 

Overview (5-10 Minutes)

The title for this lesson: “I See You” was quickened by the Holy Spirit. God wants you to know that He sees you! He’s there with concern, care and provision! Your life matters to him and to others. Even in the midst of billions of people in the world, He sees you. He notices. Psalm 139:13-16 MSG says, He saw you before and during conception...He sculpted you from nothing to something. He’s involved. Matthew 10:30 says, He sees how many hairs you have on your head. He saw you through time, lost and needing forgiveness, and He sent Jesus to die for you. How many of you have taken matters into your own hands when God’s promises weren’t manifested “fast enough”? This thought comes: “He’s not there like He promised, with concern, care, and provision! Your life doesn’t really matter to Him.” That was Abraham and Sarah. God had made them some promises. Spiritual uncertainty makes you believe and feel as if God doesn’t care or that He just isn’t “seeing you”.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Q#1: Why do you think we as believers tend to grow impatient and doubtful even after God’s given us a promise?

Q#2: What impact can being impatient and doing things on our own have on other people?

Q#3: Have you ever felt like you were among  those who seem to always be treated unfairly all throughout life? How have you handled it and what is its impact on your personal life?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Abraham and Sarah brought someone else into their “we’re not being recognized” party. When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, you can get all kinds of troubled people on board with you. So here’s an egyptian servant in the land of Canaan, the land of prosperity and promise and she’s working for the people that seem to have “everything”. Where is her Canaan? Genesis 16:2-3 says, So Sarai said to Abram, “the Lord has prevented me from having children. No, God had promised you children. Here it is again, spiritual uncertainty. “God doesn’t care” or “He just isn’t ‘seeing you’”. Genesis 16:2 says, “Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai's proposal. 3 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. All decisions made in “spiritual uncertainty” or feeling sorry for yourself are regretted. Genesis16:4-6 says, So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault!” Are we missing something here? Look where the fallout goes when you follow someone into the spiritual uncertainty of “God doesn’t care” or “Nobody's ‘seeing me’ here”. Genesis 16:5 says: ...I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!” 6 Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

How many runaways are we dealing with today? How many of you don’t feel like you got treated fairly in life? You may feel like you’re the person that constantly gets overlooked. Listen, God’s saying He “sees you”! Genesis 16:7 says,  The Angel of the Lord found Hagar and God says…”Yes, I see you!” 8 The Angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. 9 The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” That’s that’s the last thing a rebellious person wants to hear. But sometimes you’ve got to let it go and let God do it. He sees the heart! Genesis 16:10 says, Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” I see you...And I pronounce a blessing over you. When God blesses you, He doesn’t take it away. Genesis 16:13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, Who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God Who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One Who sees me?”. In the midst of the battle, God sees you! In that moment Hagar felt known and she gave God the name “El Roi,” (Pronounced EL RO EE) the God who sees me. God is saying....” I see you!” Psalm 27:14 (NLT) Wait patiently for the Lord, be brave and courageous, yes, wait patiently for the Lord! The Message Bible says, I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God. Proverbs 19:23 (NLT) says, The fear of the Lord leads to life, bringing security and protection from harm. The Message Bible says, Fear-of-God is life itself, a full life, and serene—no nasty surprises. We’ve got to wait with God, stay with God, take heart and DON’T QUIT!

 

 

 

heaven in your heart

6/11/2020

Connect Lesson #10: Heaven in Your Heart By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: John 14:1-3, John 14:27 (NKJV)/(MSG)/(TPT), Isaiah 55:11 (MSG)/(NLT), Titus 1:15-16 (NLT)/(MSG), Deuteronomy 31:6 (MSG)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Heaven is in your heart. This will be a revelation or infusion. John 14:1-3 says, “Let not your heart be troubled; (bc your heart was blind & ignorant) you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive You to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. God’s plan is to never leave you behind without Him. You are the temple of God and “God dwells in you”! (1Cor 3:16). God doesn’t want His temple, your heart, to be troubled or filled with fear. When Jesus speaks to you out of the scripture, it’s “God’s will” speaking. John 14:27 (NKJV) says, 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Heaven wants to come into your troubled or fearful heart with peace, grace, and glory. God’s peace is heaven on earth. God’s grace is favor on earth. God’s glory makes us rise and shine on earth. A troubled heart is: Distressed, upset, and anxious. If that’s your heart, let heaven’s peace rule and reign, rise and shine. Jesus said… “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you”. Maybe your heart is a “fearful heart”. A fearful heart is a heart that is intimidated, reluctant, and panicked. It lacks heaven’s peace and rest.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why do you think believers easily fall into the trap of having a “troubled heart”?

Q#2: What’s the difference between the world’s peace and the peace that Jesus gives?

Q#3: How can we not only obtain but maintain God’s real peace and rest?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

God wants you knowing in your heart that you’re connected, through the prince of peace, to His rest. Rest is the spiritual reality that comforts and settles your heart no matter what. “Rest” is when “your heart” humbly acknowledges the power and goodness of God. Let’s clear this up: Heaven is in your heart in all its power and presence. Your heart is filled with heaven, not distress, fear, or anxiety. Fear comes many times when a heart is out of harmony with God’s purpose and people. God’s peace is the effect of harmonious relationships. Peace literally means “perfect well-being”. Jesus said, “Perfect well-being I leave with you, My well-being I give to you.” If that’s not “heaven on earth”, nothing else is. John 14:27 (MSG)  says, 27 I'm leaving you well and whole. That's my parting gift to you. Peace. I don't leave you the way you're used to being left--feeling abandoned, bereft. So don't be upset. Don't be distraught.

 

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

John 14:27 (TPT) says, “I leave the gift of peace with you - My peace….” It’s nice to have gifts, but it’s an amazing gift, this gift of peace. We already have the gift of peace as a person. The scripture continues…”Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world”. The peace of the world is fragile…. “but My perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts - instead be courageous!” The only thing that is going to bring Heaven on Earth in your heart is for you to have a courageous attitude. It’s your hope in God and His Word. When you Proclaim God's Word, things just happen. You cannot chain the Word of God. It’s impossible. When you declare the Word, signs and wonders follow it. What changed your life from the sinner that you were? The Word. What changed your life when you had a horrible marriage and God redeemed it? The Word. What changed your life emotionally when you were a basket case? The Word. The Word is so powerful and when it’s put out there in the realm of the spirit and we keep declaring it, it will not come back empty. Isaiah 55:11 (MSG) says, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. What do you want in your hands today? Do you want empty hands or full hands? It continues…They’ll do the work I sent to them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them. When you declare it, it becomes a done deal. God is the great deal maker. He’s the only one that can make it happen, the devil is the deal breaker. He gives us fragile peace. It’s weak. God is about giving strength and power. Isaiah 55:11 in the New Living says, It is the same with My Word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. Do you want fruit and abundance in your life? It continues… It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

 

You can you submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he's going somewhere, he's leaving, but every time you quote the Word of God, it says whatever you're proclaiming it shall prosper. Get the fullness of God's heaven in your heart today. Titus 1:15-16 (NLT) says, Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving because their minds and consciences are corrupted. In The Message Bible it says, Everything is clean to the clean minded; nothing is clean just dirty-minded unbelievers they leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act. They say that they know God, but their actions speak louder than their words. The Word says you will know them by their fruit. The Word continues… They’re real creeps, disobedient good-for-nothings. God is asking, Who are we when we're in a battle? When you speak the Word, the victory’s ours but the battle is the Lord’s. Deuteronomy 31:6 (MSG) says, “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won't let you down; He won't leave you. You’ve got to know that God has put a courageous spirit within you and that is to win others for His kingdom.  God is about advancing His Kingdom. He loves everyone the same. He’s a just and Holy God and He’s about redemption. In the midst of everything, be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed for God is with you wherever you go and wherever you put your foot. He’s giving it to you as unto Moses. You can't fix it, but God can fix it. Amen!

 

the reward of faith or fear

6/4/2020

Connect Lesson 9: The Reward of Faith or Fear by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Revelation 3:7-8 and Matthew 16:24 (NKJV)

 

 

Overview (5-7 minutes)

There are many forms of fear swirling around in the world today. It’s important to not let these different fears determine your decisions. These decisions become the “navigational tool” of your life. The future direction of your life is guided by that of faith or fear. Fear not only wants us to make the wrong decisions, fear wants us making no decisions. More failure comes from indecision than ever comes from wrong decisions. With wrong decisions, you have to come up with new solutions and other options. With indecision, you live in the grips of failure, failure to engage, failure to embrace life, and failure to pursue God’s will. The fear of making a mistake causes us to miss glory filled opportunities. God, through His promises and by His Spirit leads us to open doors of opportunities.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Was there ever a time in your life where indecision had a major effect on the outcome of a certain situation? If yes, explain.

Q#2: Why is it important, especially as a believer, to venture out in faith when it comes to walking through doors of opportunities?

Q#3: What guarantee do we have from the scriptures that can encourage us to walk boldly into open doors of opportunities?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Revelation 3:7 says, Jesus has the key of David and He opens the doors that no one shuts and shuts doors no one opens. In verse 8, He says, “I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it”. It’s not that we are without opportunities, in fact, we have an abundance of open doors and opportunities. The question is: Will we use our “fearless faith” to walk through these open doors? Do not let your fears dictate your decisions! Don’t “play it safe” and miss out on open doors of opportunities. Jesus is there in the doorway of open opportunities calling us to venture out to follow Him. It’s faith that keeps you from backing down from open doors of opportunities. It’s faith that says, “God is our promise, so He is my assurance. God is our power, so He is my strength. God is our propitiation, so He is my favor!”

 

         

Final Thought (5 Minutes)

Again, Jesus is there in the doorway of open opportunities calling us to venture out. Jesus said to all of us, “Follow me”. We follow Jesus through faith. Fear keeps us from following Jesus. Faith says, “Yes” to Jesus and “No” to self. Fear says, “No” to Jesus and “Yes” to self. Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” This makes it very clear: we follow Jesus, Jesus doesn’t follow us. He has a plan for us, a destiny for us, and a purpose for us. These are fulfilled in our life as we, by faith, follow him. Faith will always take you out of your comfort zone. Faith leads you beyond your knowledge, your understanding, and your ability. It’s faith that keeps you from backing down from open doors of opportunities. We should be working towards the opportunities the Lord places before us because in these opportunities we find life’s delights and rewards!

      

when this is over

5/28/2020

Connect Lesson #39 When This is Over By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: James 2:17 (NIV) and 2 Corinthians  6:2 (NLT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

A message had been developing in Pastor’s heart and it’s a single thought: “When this is over...” as in “When this is over, I’m going to: move, take a trip, change jobs...etc”. Whatever you're going to do, start it now or it becomes only the voice of “procrastination”. Procrastinate means: to put forward to tomorrow. Those “tomorrows” keep getting extended to another tomorrow. Collect all your information, get all your counsel, and pray God’s will is revealed to you; then, put your faith in gear through action. James 2:17 (NIV) says: Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead. Some people get to the point where they are about to do something and then they get hit with the double whammy: Fear of People & Fear of Failure. Fear feeds on people’s insecurities, killing dreams, stopping visions, destroying lives, and putting destinies on hold. Start where you are with what you have because most of the time, “When this is Over” is never over”. 2 Corinthians  6:2 (NLT)For God says, "At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you." Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation. God is ready to help you now!

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What are some excuses you’ve given yourself to prevent you from pursuing your dreams?

Q#2: Why do you think the fear of man and failure are so prevalent among believers trying to pursue their dreams?

Q#3: Why do dreams, sometimes die in the midst of “activity”?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Some say, “Pastor, I can’t start today because I’m so busy.” There’s a big difference between activities & actions. Most of our “activity” isn’t productivity. We do things that aren’t productive or meaningful, they just fill in the empty places of our lives. We find ourselves so busy that we have to put off our dreams and visions until “when this is over” is...over. But “when this is over” is never over!  When you begin to act on what the Lord puts into your heart, His help comes.  If our lives are filled with activities & our lips are bursting forth with excuses, we’ve entered “the hesitation zone”. In the “hesitation zone”, activities rule over action, good rules over what’s best, and barren rules over what’s fruitful. Just because you’ve got some motion going doesn’t mean you’ve got action or productivity. Dreams can die in the midst of activity because there’s no action taken towards them. Activities will fill your lives with excuses. Actions will fill your lives with new ideas.  What do you have right now, excuses, or actions? In the “hesitation zone”, it’s easier to talk about “when this is over” than it is to put action into “today”. It’s easier to be busy with mindless activities than it is to “give action” to new ideas. If all you can come up with are excuses for your dreams & visions, you’re in the “hesitation zone”, no matter how much “activity” you’re involved in. But if you’re coming up with new ideas for your dreams & visions, then your faith is in gear through productive action. You might say, “When this is over”....but what about now?

 

 

Coming together again

5/21/2020

Connect Lesson #8: Coming Together Again by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Matthew 18:19-21 (NCV), Matthew 9:36 (NKJV), and Isaiah 40:11 (NKJV)

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

We need to understand our reason for coming together. We come together so that things can come together in all of our lives. Matthew 18:19-21 (NCV) says: “Also, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about something and pray for it, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. 20 This is true because if two or three people come together in my name, I am there with them.” It's more than just coming together physically, it is coming together in agreement. It creates ”synergy”.  It’s coming together in God’s power and authority. It’s an unstoppable, creative force. Jesus says, “Come together and I’ll be there with you”. God is there as a healer, deliverer, restorer, provider, peace-maker, and way-maker. We come together so that things can come together. When things are falling apart, it's just a sign that everything is starting to come together in a new way. Notice what happened when Jesus gathered people together. Matthew 9:36 (NKJV) says: He was moved with compassion for them, (or it broke His heart) because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: Why is it so important for us to truly understand the value of coming together?
Q#2: Why is it often so difficult for people (sometimes even believers) to want to come together?

Q#3: What does the scripture tell us about the Good Shepherd’s role in bringing us together and how can we carry that on to others?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The Good Shepherd came with a kind hand and a healing touch for all of us in all our needs. Jesus came for the hurting, confused, sorrowful, frightened, weak, and lost. He’s not "repelled" by any of our needy conditions or attitudes, no matter what they are! Jesus always "gathers" with one purpose in mind: To protect and provide, to comfort and bless, and to help and heal. Isaiah 40:11 (NKJV) says: 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young. He will gather his flock in the arms of his power. His strength shall be made perfect in all our weakness. He will gather us in when we wander away. He will gather us up when we fall. He will gather us together when we are separated. We are better off gathering in his presence, so we can reap where we have not sown.

 

      

the battle that counts

5/14/2020

Connect Lesson 6: The Gathering of Hope By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 1 Thessalonians. 2:17-20 (TPT), Colossians 3:14 (NLT), 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Romans 12:5 (NCV)

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

1 Thessalonians. 2:17-20 (TPT) says: 17 Beloved friends, we may have been torn away from you physically for a season, but never in our hearts. For we have had intense longings and have endeavored to come and see in your faces the reflection of this great love. 18 We miss you badly, and I personally wanted to come to you, trying again and again, but our adversary, Satan, blocked our way. 19 For what will be our confident hope, our exhilarating joy, or our wonderful trophy that we will boast in before our Lord Jesus at His appearing? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our glorious pride and joy!

 

We may have been “torn away” from each other physically for a season, but it’s up to us to determine what happens in our hearts. Connectivity needs to be rooted in a deeper bond than just “the natural”. It’s a bond that is cemented in the Spirit. Paul said he never ceased giving thanks for them and prayed for them continually. Colossians 3:14 (NLT) says: Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Though we are not together in person we are bonded together in love and harmony. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 says: For what will be our confident hope, our exhilarating joy, and our wonderful trophy? Paul says, “You are the church!” You are our glorious pride and joy. As the church of Jesus Christ, we share in something that’s beyond an earthly fellowship.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What can happen if our connectivity isn’t rooted in a deeper bond than just “the natural”?

Q#2: Why does Paul stress the importance of “clothing yourselves with love”?

Q#3: How does the enemy often deceive believers into thinking they are “outsiders” within the body of Christ?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

No matter how you feel, no one is an outsider in Christ. Romans 12:5 (NCV) says: In the same way, we are many, but in Christ, we are all one body. Each one is a part of that body, and each part belongs to all the other parts. Let’s say it!....“I belong!” You belong to the person of Christ,  the people of Christ, and the purpose of Christ. And in each of these, there is a blessing, the blessing of belonging because we belong to the person, Christ. Redemption and forgiveness belong to us because we belong to the people of Christ. Love, comfort and fellowship belong to us because we belong to the purpose of Christ. Our labor is not in vain in the Lord. No one is an outsider. In Christ, yes, you belong! We are the gathering of hope!

       

 

 

gathering of hope

5/7/2020

Connect Lesson 6: The Gathering of Hope By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 1 Thessalonians. 2:17-20 (TPT), Colossians 3:14 (NLT), 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Romans 12:5 (NCV)

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

1 Thessalonians. 2:17-20 (TPT) says: 17 Beloved friends, we may have been torn away from you physically for a season, but never in our hearts. For we have had intense longings and have endeavored to come and see in your faces the reflection of this great love. 18 We miss you badly, and I personally wanted to come to you, trying again and again, but our adversary, Satan, blocked our way. 19 For what will be our confident hope, our exhilarating joy, or our wonderful trophy that we will boast in before our Lord Jesus at His appearing? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our glorious pride and joy!

 

We may have been “torn away” from each other physically for a season, but it’s up to us to determine what happens in our hearts. Connectivity needs to be rooted in a deeper bond than just “the natural”. It’s a bond that is cemented in the Spirit. Paul said he never ceased giving thanks for them and prayed for them continually. Colossians 3:14 (NLT) says: Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Though we are not together in person we are bonded together in love and harmony. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 says: For what will be our confident hope, our exhilarating joy, and our wonderful trophy? Paul says, “You are the church!” You are our glorious pride and joy. As the church of Jesus Christ, we share in something that’s beyond an earthly fellowship.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What can happen if our connectivity isn’t rooted in a deeper bond than just “the natural”?

Q#2: Why does Paul stress the importance of “clothing yourselves with love”?

Q#3: How does the enemy often deceive believers into thinking they are “outsiders” within the body of Christ?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

No matter how you feel, no one is an outsider in Christ. Romans 12:5 (NCV) says: In the same way, we are many, but in Christ, we are all one body. Each one is a part of that body, and each part belongs to all the other parts. Let’s say it!....“I belong!” You belong to the person of Christ,  the people of Christ, and the purpose of Christ. And in each of these, there is a blessing, the blessing of belonging because we belong to the person, Christ. Redemption and forgiveness belong to us because we belong to the people of Christ. Love, comfort and fellowship belong to us because we belong to the purpose of Christ. Our labor is not in vain in the Lord. No one is an outsider. In Christ, yes, you belong! We are the gathering of hope!

       

 

 

god wants your family blessed

4/26/2020

Connect Lesson # 5: God Wants Your Family Blessed - Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 2 Samuel 7:18-21 (MSG), Ephesians 3:14-16 (NKJV), Philippians  4:19 (NKJV)

 


 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

God wants your family blessed no matter what. 2 Samuel 7:18-21 (MSG) says King David went in, took his place before God, and prayed: “Who am I, my Master God, and what is my family, that you have brought me to this place in life? But that’s nothing compared to what’s coming, for you’ve also spoken of my family far into the future, given me a glimpse into tomorrow, my Master God! What can I possibly say in the face of all this? You know me, Master God, just as I am. You’ve done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are—out of your very heart!—But you’ve let me in on it.” God’s desire is to let your family into all of His many blessings. The blessings of God’s fullness for families come because of who He is, not because of who you are. God wanted David to know and he wants us to know that our families are of great significance to Him now and to all of his future plans.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Mintues)

Q #1: What is so significant about David’s humility in his heartfelt prayer to God?

Q #2: Why is it important for us to recognize that the blessings bestowed upon us and our families have nothing to do with who we are?

Q #3: What benefits can come for us and our families when we ground ourselves in the Word of God?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Ephesians 3:14-16 (NKJV) says 14 For this reason, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man. The Lord wants to see our families living with a powerful inward strength, a sense of great significance drawn from the riches of His glory. God wants you feeling good inside of your life and inside the life of your family. No family is strong enough to manage its affairs apart from God’s provision. Philippians  4:19 (NKJV) says 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. God supplies the needs of the family through “His Word”, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The family is always the object of God’s special concern. Why? Because it carries His name. Family is God’s idea! It’s to be lived out under the authority of God’s Word. Our family loses its way when we depart from the Word of God in our attitudes and actions.  God wants to move in your life and the life of your family today. God wants your family blessed!

fight the good fight

4/19/2020

Connect Lesson #4: Fight the Good Fight of Faith by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV), Psalm 68:19 (NKJV), Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV), I Corinthians 13:5, and 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

In our daily lives, there is a constant mix of battles, benefits & blessings. In 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV) we are told to “Fight the good fight of faith”. We all have some kind of battle going on in our life right now. What has captured your thought life, the battle or the blessings? If the battle has captured all of our attention, then we might not be seeing or realizing the simultaneous benefits and blessings that are in our life right now. Psalm 68:19 (NKJV) says, 19 Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! The “good fight of faith” always asks you to leave your comfort zone. Faith is always an invitation to move on with God to “something better”. Faith in God helps you to see life differently. You begin to “see” with an eye for possibility. Faith will cause you to reach for and secure what you thought would never happen for you. Faith shakes up the norm by accessing the supernatural. When you put God into your daily, natural battles, you’ll see the supernatural.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q1: Was there ever a time when a dire circumstance required you to walk in faith? Explain.

Q2: Why do we find it so difficult at times to get out of our comfort zones when it comes to walking in faith?

Q3: How can offenses cause us to lose sight of God’s work in us through faith?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Sometimes we do battle for our health, our families, our finances, our gifts, and talents, but if we only see the battle through the eyes of the natural circumstance, then we are fighting a losing battle. Look what Paul says Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV): Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Battle in faith with the power that created the universe, parted the red sea, crushed Egypt’s rebellion, and defeated death, hell, and the grave by raising Jesus from the dead. We need to fight the good fight with the tools of our trade: Faith, commitment, obedience, and God’s truth. Your heart can be bumped, bruised or broken in the “good fight of faith”, but whatever has happened to you, God has promised it’s going to be alright no matter what. We may, from time to time, get bumped,  knocked off course, a little set back for a time, and disappointed for a moment. But stay focused on where you’re going. Don’t get sidetracked. There’s no need to change things, it’s just “a bump”, but getting bruised comes from a harder hit and it leaves a tender spot that isn’t easily “passed over”. The word of the Lord for you is, “Don’t be offended!” The whole idea of an offense is 1) To lose your faith 2) To turn you against people 3) To see things from only a human point of view and not God’s.

 

Final Thought (2-3 Minutes)

Listen, the scripture says in I Corinthians 13:5, “Don’t take account of a suffered wrong”. Don’t be a “record keeper” of what people have done to you. God’s love takes care of bruises. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance”. Some of you have been bruised so many times that you’re hitting back. Let God deliver you. Remember, God is saying, “It’s going to be alright no matter what”. Being broken-hearted is a very “serious condition.  It means: To break in pieces, rend violently, wreck, crush, shatter, cripple or rupture. This is a lot different than being bumped or bruised, but God’s promise is the same. It’s going to be alright, no matter what, so let’s fight the good fight of faith!

Worldwide resurrection

4/12/2020

Connect Lesson #3: Worldwide Resurrection By Pastors Larry and Victoria

Scripture References: 1 Corinthians 15:57, Matthew 28:1-7, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Romans 10:13, Romans 6:4, John 10:10

 

Overview (5 Minutes)

On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the glorious day of victory for the church. Jesus has risen! Death has been swallowed up in victory! 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NKJV) says: “Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Victory is written all over the Easter story. Your “starting point” in life is always your victory in Christ Jesus. Live your victorious life with an unshakable confidence. Let’s read the Gospel of the Good-News:

 

Matthew 28:1-7 (NLT) says:  1 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. 5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” He said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. Remember what I have told you.”

 

He has risen!  2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NKJV) says: 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: Why is it important to understand that our starting point in life is always victory in Christ Jesus?

#2: How can we ensure that we will obtain and can remain in unshakeable confidence?

#3: What assurance do we get from knowing the Ressurection Power of the Cross?

 

Life Application - Resurrection Moments  (5-7 Minutes)

1. The Resurrection Power of the Cross has recipients. It’s everyone. Romans 10:13 says: For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

2. The Resurrection Power of the Cross has a reason. It’s a new life. Romans 6:4 says: That we might walk in newness of life.

3. The Resurrection Power of the Cross has a reward. It’s abundance. John 10:10 (TPT) says: I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!

 

There is an abundance of resurrection moments!

      

Palm Sunday

4/9/2020

Connect Lesson #2: Palm Sunday Message By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Romans 10:13 (NLT), Mark 11:8-10 (MSG), Joel 3:14 (NKJV)

 

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be aware of a greater force that’s at work in our midst right now. Worldwide salvation is taking place. People are praying like crazy. Romans 10:13 (NLT) says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Here we are having just celebrated Palm Sunday or as Pastor calls it, “Salvation March” Sunday and Jesus was leading the march. Mark 11:8-10 (MSG) says, “The people gave Him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in God’s name! Blessed be the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in highest heaven!’” The crowd was following Jesus into Jerusalem, but they really didn’t understand what He was about to do.

 

Discussion Questions (25-30 Minutes)

#1: Do you think this pandemic is bringing God into people’s lives? How?

#2: Do you think this pandemic is changing people’s focus and understanding of family and community?

#3: Do you think that people right now are in the midst of making life-changing decisions?

#4. Does this world just need a “political” solution or is it in greater need of a “spiritual” solution?

 

Life Application (5 Minutes)

On the road to Jerusalem, that day was the Lamb of God, who had come to take away the sin of the world. The prophet Joel said this in Joel 3:14 (NKJV) “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” The multitudes of people that day were declaring “Hosanna!” Actually, they were crying out for salvation. The crowd was right! The Messiah was marching for salvation. That’s exactly why Jesus had come, to bring salvation to the world. Within a week, Jesus would be giving His life on the cross. The shouting crowds thought Jesus was going to be their “solution” as a “political king”. This Easter season, let’s march and shout for the only solution! Jesus, the Savior of the world!

 

the arrow of victory

4/2/2020

The Arrow of Victory By: Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery



Scripture References: 2 Kings 13:14-21 (Message context) and Psalm 27:13

 


Overview (5-7 Minutes)


Since we are “closed in” these houses, Pastor said he was reminded of a story in 2 Kings 13:14-21 about Elisha being shut up in his house. There he was, in his home with life closing in all around him. Life as he knew it was coming to an end. Life wasn’t at its “best” for him. Elisha may have been circumstantially weak, but he was strong in spirit. When your walk of faith is being “pressured” remember, no circumstance hinders God’s Word or His promises. Joash the king of Israel came to Elisha and wept over what seemed to him to be a losing battle with his enemy. Elisha had the king do something that seemed in the natural insignificant. Elisha told King Joash to pick up a bow and some arrows and open up a window to the east in the direction of his enemies. Sometimes doing “spiritual things” make no sense in every day natural life. Then Elisha told the king to draw the bow, and he put his hands on the king's hands, then the king shot an arrow out a window and Elisha said: “This is the arrow of victory, victory over your enemy.” Remember it’s through faith that God’s promises are released, bringing victory in any of our life circumstances. Elisha had also told the king to take the other arrows and strike the ground so the king struck the ground three times and stopped. Elisha got angry with him saying, “You should have struck it 5 or 6 times to totally destroy it.” The king didn’t put much effort into Elisha’s word about these being the arrows of victory.

 


Discussion Questions (20 Minutes)


Q1: What are some ways we can feel circumstantially closed in


Q2: How can we remain spiritually strong in the midst of trouble regardless of natural circumstances?


Q3: Why is it important to be  FULLY compliant to God’s instruction for our lives?



 Life Application (5-7 Minutes)


How much effort are you putting into your spiritual life? You may not be feeling spiritual or very “victorious” right now because of life’s circumstances. It’s what’s in your heart that determines victory or defeat, it’s not what’s in your life circumstances. You may have some fear or a sense of defeat in your heart. Do not believe the lie that you don’t love God or that your life is completely out of order. That sense of fear and defeat knocks on all of our doors. Don’t avoid fear and a sense of defeat. Face it and walk through it! It’s the only thing standing between you and God’s overcoming victory. Life in general always objects to God’s way of doing things. Today with everything that’s going, on you must regain faith or a sense of Christ’s victory. In Psalm 27:13 David said: “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Which came first, believing or seeing? It’s believing or faith that keeps us from despair. It’s not what we see but what we believe. Pick up those arrows of victory, the hand of God is upon your life. Open that window, which is your mouth, and send out God’s word. God will enable you to endure and overcome all of life’s tests and hardships. 

remember who you are

3/19/2020

Connect lesson 38: Remember Who You Are! By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG), 2 Corinthians 10:5 (MSG), Matthew 10:16 (TPT), 2 Timothy 1:6-8 (TPT), Philippians 2:9-11(NLT/TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 minutes)

In these perilous last days, there is an attempt by spiritual darkness to try and erase our identity in Christ. The means and tools being used are to fill our minds and hearts with fear and misinformed spiritual ideas. When you are born again, you are transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Old things have passed away and all things become new. The Bible literally calls you a new creation. This new creation is packed with the power and potential of Christ, mighty spiritual weapons, and the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit. Our message last week was titled “Who Do You Think You Are?” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG) says “The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. Culture is the “behaviors” and “beliefs” characteristic of a particular society.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q1: What are some obvious ways in which the enemy tries to erase our identity in Christ?

Q2: Why is society so obsessed with us obtaining a self-serving identity?

Q3: What impact can our lack of both knowledge and spiritual survival skills have on our lives?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

We have a fight on our hands with our massively corrupt culture. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (MSG) says, “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” Remember who you are! In a crazy kind of way, the world has “got it right”. We need to clean house and separate ourselves. We need to get up and grow up spiritually and stand our ground. As Paul says, we need to “fit every loose thought and emotion and impulse into ‘the structure of life’ shaped by Christ.” Whose world are you living in? Is it a world devoid of God or a world full of God? Matthew 10:16 (TPT) says, 16 “Now, remember, it is I who sends you out, even though you feel vulnerable as lambs going into a pack of wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes yet as harmless as doves.” Remember who you are! Jesus is telling them that there needs to be a bold combination of uncompromising zeal and calm wisdom as they go out into this dog-eat-dog world. These God-tools are already in our hands for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. 2 Timothy 1:6-8 (TPT) says, 6 “I’m writing to encourage you to fan into a flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted to you when I laid My hands upon you. 7 For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control. 8 So never be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor be embarrassed over my imprisonment, but overcome every evil by the revelation of the power of God!” Remember who you are! As a new creation, you’re packed with the power and potential of christ, mighty spiritual weapons, and the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit!

 

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

Philippians 2:9 (NLT) says Therefore God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name that’s above every name. Who I am is in His name. It’s not in the name of cancer, coronavirus, poverty, or lack of provision. It’s in the name of Jesus, the name above all names. He took upon Himself every sickness. There is power in the name of Jesus. The enemy desires to aggravate you till the day you die. Be encouraged to go to the name that is above every name. Philippians 2:10 (NLT) says, That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Every knee will bow whether you’re a believer or an atheist. He is a God of faith and a God of grace. We are complete in Christ but our imperfections make us beautiful among one another. When we focus on our imperfections, we get off balance. But if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love others. That’s when Christ becomes elevated in your life. Philippians 2:9-11 in The Passion Translation (TPT) says 9 Because of that obedience, God exalted Him and multiplied His greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names! 10 The authority of the name of Jesus causes every knee to bow in reverence! Everything and everyone will one day submit to this name—in the heavenly realm, in the earthly realm, and in the demonic realm.[a] 11 And every tongue will proclaim in every language: “Jesus Christ is Lord Yahweh,”[b] bringing glory and honor to God, His Father![c]. There is no name greater than the name of Jesus. Every spirit of fear, disease, and calamity must bow its knee because we serve an Almighty God. He is who He says He is! We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! Jesus is worthy of all! The servant will be raised up and highly exalted with Jesus. We thank God for His victory. Amen?

 

Who Do You Think you are ?

3/12/2020

Lesson 37: Who Do You Think You Are? By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 10:5 (TPT), 1 Corinthians. 2:16B (AMP), 2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Has the Lord ever spoken to you right in the midst of some pretty crazy stuff? God gave Pastor Larry this word: He said, “Here’s your message: Don’t let the circumstance of life define you.” So...who do you think you are? We often think of ourselves in a variety of ways. It’s like we have spiritual D.I.D (Dissociative Identity Disorder) which is a multiple personality, all of them with their own thoughts. This odd mixture of thoughts determine our decisions and those decisions dictate our behavior depending on where we are and who we are at the time. Our decisions and behavior are controlled by these different “thought platforms”. All of this puts our emotions into a spin and our thinking seems out of control. How many of you feel like your emotions are everywhere? Suddenly you find your relationships are being affected. Here’s the truth: It’s not your circumstances, it’s your thought life. The starting point for your thought life should be your redemptive definition. Some of you need to find out again who you are in Christ. You’ve been so busy in life, defining yourself and redefining yourself that you’ve lost your redemptive identity. Who do you think you are?

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: Why do some believers often fall into the trap of lost identity?

#2: Our societal culture today is fixated on “defining who you are”. What is the danger of finding our identity by the world’s standards?

#3: What are some things that can cause confusion in our thought life and have an effect on how we identify ourselves?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

How many of you remember the lyrics to the song “Mr. Big Stuff, tell me who do you think you are?” The lyrics are as follows:  “Mr. Big Stuff, you're never gonna get my love. Mr. Big Stuff, you're never gonna break my heart. Mr. Big Stuff, you're never gonna make me cry. Mr. Big Stuff, tell me just who do you think you are? Mr. Big Stuff, you're never gonna get my love. Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?” See, Mr. Big Stuff, the devil has taken your thoughts captive. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (TPT) says: We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the anointed one. Spiritual D.I.D destroys our faith and hope. Because of these conflicting thoughts of who you are, your heart is broken, you spend a lot of time crying, your love loyalty is confused, and you can’t stay in relationships. You can break the cycle of these “out of control thoughts” by having the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians. 2:16B (AMP)  says: But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes]. It’s not your emotions, it’s who you think you are!

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Minutes)

The devil really thinks he’s Mr. Big Stuff, but the Word says to him, “Who do you think you are?” 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Lord God has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind.” The Passion Translation says: For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit, Who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control. When you meditate on the Word of God and how real it is, He shows us that fear doesn’t belong to us, it isn’t in our covenant rights, God gives faith and grace. He gives miracles, healing, and goodness. The enemy thinks he’s Mr. Big Stuff. He’s thought that from the beginning, but he quickly learned that his day is coming. He will be cast into hell. Fear, sickness, and disease will be eradicated forever. The spirit of grace, healing, victory, and deliverance shows proof of the God we serve. We are His children. We belong to Jesus, we are His ambassadors. You belong to the real Mr. Big Stuff, God Almighty. He created all humanity and He is for you, not against you. He’s given us grace and healing. He’s going to wash us clean, so we can walk as a whole person, spirit, soul, and body. We have His personality and attributes. The Holy Spirit will rule and reign within you! Get your hands ready to worship God and lay hands upon the sick so they will recover! This is about God’s Kingdom, not being separated or ostracized. We serve one God, let us worship Him!

 


Monsters or miracles

3/5/2020

Connect Lesson 36: Monsters or Miracles By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: John 6:16-21 (NLB), 2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV), John 12:46, Genesis 50:20-21 (CSB)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

John 6:16 –21 (TLB) 16 That evening His disciples went down to the shore to wait for Him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed out across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but He called out to them, "I am here! Don't be afraid." 21 Then they were eager to let Him in, and immediately the boat arrived at their destination!

 

The monster became a miracle. Listen to what Jesus is saying: “I am here!” “Don’t be afraid.” Let’s say this together, “Jesus is here for me!”  “I will not be afraid”.  In life, we are all headed somewhere when life’s storms hit. Where were you headed in life when the storm hit? Has the “Sea of Life” been growing very rough?  Are you getting a little terrified when suddenly comes the Monster of What’s Next? That thought will place you before the door of “vain imaginations”. Anxious pictures behind that door are the haunting monsters of imaginations. Like the “Monster of Rejection” saying, “You’ll never get that promotion because of who you are” or “You’ll never have anyone ask you out on a date” or “You’ll never get used by God.” Maybe you’ve been attacked by the “Monster of Insecurities and Confusion”.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: How can accepting lies from the Monsters of Rejection, Insecurities, and Confusion be detrimental to your faith walk?

#2: Why do we as believers often fear the Monster of What’s Next?

#3: What can we do to fight off these Monsters when the “the sea of life” seems to be a little too rough?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Another translation says: Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy. Webster defines fantasy as imaginative fiction, featuring strange settings and grotesque characters creating unrealistic or improbable mental images.

 

Don’t imagine yourself sick or at your funeral. Don’t imagine yourself out of work and on welfare. Don’t imagine yourself divorced or widowed. Bring down the deceptive fantasy! See yourself according to the promises of God. Let your imaginations be filled with the wonders and glory of God’s intentions towards you. Paul says, “Cause every thought to come under the authority of Christ.” Make your mind surrender in obedience to Christ. The truth is that Jesus is here for you with miracles! You don’t need to be afraid! We must learn to minimize the paralyzing power of fear, so we can maximize the potential producing power of faith. When your walk of faith starts taking its direction from feelings, you have just left the path of God’s will that leads to the manifestation of the promise. Jesus comes into our storms and says “I am here, leading you into My promises. I am here, don’t be afraid.” Jesus said in John 12:46 “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness.” Jesus is telling you, “I have come into your storm, I have come into your darkness to bring the light that will dispel it” No more monsters in your mind!

      

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

God will provide a rope of hope to those who are in desperation. He wants to take you to another level spirit, soul and body. We need to keep speaking life into the realm of the Spirit. We have to give Him thanks and exalt Him because He is the God of the impossible. The devil is a liar. God can move in the midst of your circumstances but you’ve got to trust Him. When you put your hands on everything you get the natural, but when you give everything to Jesus you get the supernatural. God is faithful. It’s not just about what you say, it’s about what you declare in the realm of the Spirit. That stays for eternity. Sometimes you can change a person’s life with just 6 words and it’s there forever. When you’re given the opportunity, take it, but know that God’s already working it. Genesis 50:20-21 (CSB) says: You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result - the survival of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid, I will take care of you and your children and He comforted them and spoke kindly to them. The NIV says in verse 20: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. What the enemy meant for your harm and evil God is going to turn for good and use it for His supernatural purpose. Amen! 

get going in god's glory 

2/27/2020

Connect Lesson #35: Get Going in God’s Glory by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Mark 9:23, John 20:29, Ephesians 5:27(TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 minutes)

As the church, our theme for this time of transition has been: New Beginnings Are Here: Start and Finish Strong. The Church of Jesus Christ has always been in and will continue to be in transition. Transition is defined as: Movement, passage or change from one stage to another. New beginnings are always here. What we are experiencing as the body of Christ right now is nothing new or strange. What we need to do is believe that we are going to start and finish strong. We cannot afford to forget what it means to believe. Believing is expecting God’s best in every situation. Believing is your faith actively reaching forward right now to grab hold of what God has promised. Believing is getting you thinking in line with God’s word. Jesus said in Mark 9:23 All things are possible to him who believes. Jesus also said in John 20:29 Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed. So, transition is about believing and moving forward in faith more than anything else.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 minutes)

#1: Why do people sometimes have a hard time with “transition”?

#2: Why is it important to remain strong in our belief during times of transition?

#3: What can happen if our focus becomes more about the building and organizational aspect of the church rather than its intended purpose?

 

Life Application (5-7 minutes)

Our focus right now must remain on believing, not just on a building. The Church is not just a brick building or simply a human organization. The Church was born through the resurrection power of Christ. Then, people put their hope, trust, love, and belief in the name that’s above every name. We need to see and understand that the Church is more than a natural experience. The Church of Jesus Christ is supernatural. It’s held together by the power and glory of God through believing and unity, not held together by brick and mortar. When it comes to the Church, we cannot take it for granted, handle it lightly, or carelessly talk about it. We need to understand that: We Go because we are called in Christ Jesus, We Belong because we are redeemed in Christ Jesus, We Stay because we are accepted in Christ Jesus, and We Serve because we are identified in Christ Jesus. We are the church of Jesus Christ! Our “transition” centers in going from glory to glory, not “building to building”. Let’s get going in God’s glory. Take what you’re experiencing in life now and give glory to God through your attitudes and actions. God, by His Spirit and by His resurrection power, wants to transition your loss into His glory, transition your suffering into His glory, and transition your struggle into His glory. Ephesians 5:27 (TPT) says: All that He does in us is designed to make us a mature church for His pleasure, until we become a source of praise to Him— glorious and radiant, beautiful and holy, without fault or flaw.

 

Our focus right now must remain on believing, not just on a building. Amen.   

a busy life will trick you

2/20/2020

Connect Lesson #34: A Busy Life Will Trick You By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References:  2 Thessalonians 2:15 (TPT), Galatians 6:9 (TPT), Hebrews 3:13 (NCV), Acts 2:42 (NIV), 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (TPT), Hebrews 10:25 (TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

You will notice that as we move into what the Bible calls the “last days”, deception will increase. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (TPT). In life, how many of you are more tired out than you are fired up?  Being tired out doesn’t make you a “bad Christian”, it makes you a “busy Christian” who has been tricked in how you sow. Read Galatians 6:9 (TPT). We are allowing ourselves to become so weary and disheartened that we are too busy to plant good seeds.  We can live one of two ways: #1. You live life and you’re “fired up” or #2. Life lives you and you’re “tired out”. Read Hebrews 3:13 (NCV). Without daily encouragement from each other as believers, we become susceptible to sin’s tricks and hardness of heart.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: What are some things in our lives that can easily “tire us out” as believers?

#2: What are some ways we can avoid being tricked in how we sow our time, talent and treasure?

#3: Why is fellowship with other believers so important?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

The “trick of sin” is to get you to believe a lie about God’s Word, God’s intentions, those who love you, and about yourself. One of those “tricky lies”  is that fellowship with other believers isn’t important. We make excuses as to why we don’t fellowship with other believers because we’re deceived into not believing it’s important. There is more emphasis put on secular activities than there is on Christian fellowship. For proof, just take a look at your schedules. The early church had a different take on the scheduling of their time. Read Acts 2:42 (NIV) Out of their fellowship came signs and wonders. Needs were being met, lives were filled with praise, the favor of God and growth.

          

Too many secular activities tire you out, but Christian fellowship fires you up. We need to make greater investments in spiritual activities, less sowing to the flesh and more sowing to the Spirit. Sowing to the flesh means living for the flesh or satisfying our own sinful nature. In other words, we are investing more time and money on things that won’t last. But “sowing to the Spirit” means spending time and money on “things eternal”. Here is a statement about money that will help you understand why you must spend it right: Money is merely time minted, so we can spend it again. As Christians, we really need to ask ourselves, “Are we spending more time and money on the flesh or on the Spirit?” In order to grow in grace or to reap spiritual fruit, we need to sow more to the Spirit. It takes faith and patience to sow to the Spirit, but God promises a harvest in due season at the right time. A busy life will trick you. Being tired out doesn’t make you a “bad Christian”, it makes you a “busy Christian” who has been tricked in how you sow.

      

Final Thoughts (5-7 Minutes)

Hebrews 3:13 shows us that we need each other. We need each other for accountability and strength. You don't want to be lonely and isolated because you become the prey of the enemy. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (TPT) We need each other more than ever. We are brothers and sisters. The church needs to set an atmosphere that can help us to be followers of God so we may persevere. We need the Holy Spirit to come and strengthen us and speak to us so we can be healed in our families, bodies, and finances. We need Him more than ever. We get MRIs and XRays to see what’s inside of us. God wants the same. He wants us in the Word so we can expose the devil. God will reveal every little thing that is against you. He’ll make you smarter and more gifted when you stay in the Word. God is so good. Read Hebrews 10:25 (TPT). We don't need to neglect or hang back, but we need to dive into those waters so we may see wonders and obtain peace and joy. We need to be the Army of God so we can stand up for righteousness. We need to declare who we are. We are the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. The devil is under the soles of our feet, we are complete in Christ. We are more than enough because He is more than enough. Together, we are united and no weapon formed against us will prosper. We are able because we are more than conquerors! Amen.

 

 

 

 

built for beauty not brutality

2/13/2020

Connect Lesson #33: Built for Beauty, Not Brutality by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV), Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV), Psalm 139:13-14 (MSG), Matthew 5:3-10 (NLT), Titus 1:15 (TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Last week, we talked about how in Christ Jesus you are built for blessings, not for blame. Stop blaming yourself for things you have no control over. When we live within the limited boundaries of blame, we become blind to the countless expressions of God’s love. Listen, the Lord will save you and will not let you be defeated, blamed, or defined by the bad you’re facing in life. You are blessed, not blamed! Our message before that was “Built for Battle, Not Beaten”. In Christ Jesus, we are mighty soldiers of the Lord, victoriously equipped for every battle. Anything you’re fighting right now was placed on the cross and beaten by the blood of Jesus into a glorious victory. That message taught us to let the battle build you, not beat you! This week, we want to talk about how we are built for beauty, not brutality. Brutality means: Curlily, viciously dismissively, harassingly, furiously, demandingly, exhaustingly, irrationally, and unreasonably. God didn’t build you for this! Read Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV).

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Q#1: What are some ways we allow ourselves to bear unnecessary burdens of “brutality”?

Q#2: What must we do to recognize that we were built for more?

Q#3: How can we encourage others to recognize that we are all “built for beauty”?

 

We are all familiar with the story of beauty and the beast. You had to “get beyond” the “brutality” of the beast to see His beauty. There’s something beautiful on the other side of life’s brutality. God says,”I will give you beauty, but you must give Me your ashes. People at this time would sit in ashes or cover themselves with ashes to express mourning or loss, such as grief over a distressing situation. Maybe you’re covered with anger, unforgiveness, depression, denial or a phony attitude. God will give you beauty, but you have to give Him your “ashes”. His beauty is His holiness or (wholeness), His justice, mercy, glory,  goodness, truth, dignity, reputation, and His honor. God says, “I will give you the oil of joy, but you must give Me your mourning, your tears, and your brokenness.” God says, “I will give you the garment of praise, but you must give Me your spirit of heaviness, your sadness and your rejection of others.” This is why life isn’t changing for you. You’re holding on to “brutality” instead of reaching for “beauty”. You’re built for “beauty” not “brutality”. People, at times, are unreasonable with us, including our friends, our family, and the people we work with, but the worst is when we are unreasonable with ourselves. So when you’ve done something “brutally stupid” or been treated with brutality, give Him your ashes for “His beauty”, mercy and justice. You are built for beauty, not brutality!

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Minutes)

This message could also be titled “Beauty or the Brute” serving as a representation for how our attitudes can sometimes have an effect on how we see things with God.  When we fail to recognize our beauty, we can make an “ASH” out of ourselves. The appropriation of the word is all about our attitude. Will we follow the Beatitudes or simply “Be” an attitude? God has the ability to make beauty out of any brutal situation. He can take unequally yoked marriages and create powerhouse couples for the kingdom that can last a lifetime. We need to be adorned by the beatitudes. God knows your measurements. He created us. He formed you! He didn’t require certain measurements from you. Read Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) You are fearfully and wonderfully made! God knows you inside and out. God looks at the heart and destiny. We are built for beauty not brutality. Read Psalm 139:13-14 (MSG) The True beauty is within. If you don’t like how you look on the outside, if you’re unhappy with who you are, remember, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God is the supreme designer of everything. If God is well with it, we should be well with it also. Everybody likes something different. Read Psalm 139:13-14 (TPT). Ever think about how you were made and how much your heavenly Father loves you? We need to Be the Attitudes of God. They are antibiotics from God’s pharmacy. He’s the complex vitamin that keeps us sharp. God has special plans for each of us. If we knew that, our lives would soar, instead of fall. Read Matthew 5:3-10 (NLT)

 

The Kingdom of God belongs to us - We need to be conscious of our need to depend on God. We’ve got to stop being demanding and unreasonable, we’ve got to be kind. Are you sad? Be comforted by the Spirit of God. Take time to minister to the broken. Do you need an inheritance? A blessing? You’ve got to be humble. Leave the bragging rights behind. Physical food cannot satisfy the longing we have within us. Everybody needs grace and mercy, we need to show grace and mercy to others, not condemnation. We all need God’s glory and God’s grace. When the world comes to you and is unjust, know that God will be your avenger because of your pure heart. Stay engaged with God’s Word. If they hated Christ, they’re going to hate you. The spirit of Jezebel hates and doesn’t know why. You cannot give up on people. You’ve got to fight with God until you win. Know that God is going to turn things in your favor. If you’re pure in heart you will see right. We are built for beauty not brutality, we’re going to be blessed! We are the peacemakers, sons and daughters of God! Be the witness to those who speak out against you. Read Titus 1:15 (TPT)

 

 

built for blessings not blame

2/6/2020

Connect Lesson #32: Built for Blessings Not Blame By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Psalm 34:19 (TPT), Psalm 40:5 (TPT), Matthew 26:39 (TPT), Philippians 2:9 (TPT), Hebrews 6:18-20 (TPT)


Overview (5-7 Minutes)

This past Super Bowl Sunday, Pastor Larry talked about the need to “gear up for the many blessings and not be burdened with the blame”. He used the following illustration: 32 teams are now in the NFL. 6 of those teams were in the playoffs. 2 of those teams will play the Super Bowl and in its 100-year existence, 4 teams have never been to the Super Bowl, but no matter the “stats”, there is still a blessing in “playing the game”. In Christ Jesus, you are built for blessings, not for blame. What benefit is derived from placing the blame on someone or something for a lack of blessings, a low score, or a lost game? Read Psalm 34:19 (TPT) If you’re facing a scoreboard in life that says you have “lost the game”, listen to this: the Lord will save you and will not let you be defeated, blamed, or defined by what you’re facing in life. You are blessed, not blamed. When playing sports,  there is always the reality of the next game or the next season in life. You have to see things moving forward like that, don’t take the blame, take the blessing.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Question #1: Without going into too much detail, what do you think the “scoreboard” for your life is reading right now? Are there some things you feel you’re taking the blame for at this moment?

Question #2: What are some ways we can encourage one another to “keep playing the game” despite taking a few losses?

Question #3: What are some things we should remember when we’re faced with a “not so hot” record or season in life?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Remember, God has a plan to get you beyond it! Every time, not sometimes! No matter what life‘s scoreboard looks like, God has more blessings for you. Read Psalm 40:5 (TPT) When we live within the limited boundaries of blame, we become blind to the countless expressions of God’s love. You are blessed, not blamed! Things in Jesus’ life began to head in a downward spiral and the earthly scoreboard of His life was about to dramatically change.  He was leading the way in healing and miracles, signs and wonders, crowd size and response. Jesus was lighting up the scoreboard, fireworks were going off everywhere, the game was about to change. Read Matthew 26:39 (TPT) Notice in this scripture, the shift from the effect of blame to blessing. When we shift from our plan to His plan, from blame to blessing, heaven shows up with strength no matter how life looks. God has plans of blessings. What we want is not important. Lord, we only desire to fulfill Your plan for us. Read Philippians 2:9 (TPT) Because of that obedience, God exalted Him and multiplied His greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names! Like Jesus, you are built for blessings not blame. Keep your eye on God‘s promises, not life’s scoreboard. Blame, guilt, and shame are never payments for our sins. They never change the scoreboard, they will only paralyze you and cause hopelessness to overshadow your victory in Jesus. In Christ Jesus,  you are built for blessings, not for blame.

 

 Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

We are equipped with power. We have unshakable hope. We play to the end. When we are walking with Christ, we feel pressured at times. We feel like the ball is in our hands and we have to be the one to make the touchdown. But it’s not your responsibility, it’s Christ in you. He’s the unshakable hope you have to hold onto. Faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things not seen. When you hold onto the hope, you can get the victory, the touchdown and you don’t have to take the blame in the game. Jesus took our guilt and our blame, He took it at the cross so that we were built to win, run and conquer. Hebrews 6:18 (TPT) If you know that God will not lie and He’s given us a promise for us to use as part of His covenant for His kids, it’s not going to change.  What we are believing for with God is going to change things. We know that there is a win in Christ. We’re on an undefeated team. We’ve got bragging rights with Jesus. We are on the best team, no one can conquer Him, no one can compare to Him. He’s more powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword. We have to run into His heart to hide ourselves in His faithfulness. This where we find His strength and comfort. This leads to an unshakeable hope. We have a certain, unshakeable hope like a strong unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God Himself. Our anchor of Hope is fastened to the Mercy Seat which sits on the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold. Were already seated there with unshakeable power hope, deliverance love freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ. What God created for us was perfection and authority to rule and reign in heaven, already seated and anchored by hope, connected to Christ Jesus our Lord. We’re on winning team and there’s a touchdown for every need we have! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

built for battle, not beaten

01/30/2020

Connect Lesson #31: Built for Battle, Not Beaten: A Message By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, 2 Timothy 2:3 (TPT), Romans 8:5-8 (TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

The Lord spoke a word to Pastor Larry this week and He simply stated this: “Let the battle build you, not beat you! Pastor Larry then shared the following story:

 

During the Civil War, there was a regiment of Wisconsin infantry under fire for the first time. The color sergeant was a college student named Jerome Davis. The regiment was ordered to advance and hold a certain ridge. Davis marched as ordered until he gained the ridge. Crouching behind a stump, he looked back and saw the regiment wasn't there. As Davis looked down the slope, he saw the ragged line wavering and threatening to break as bullets flew and men fell, but sergeant Davis held his ground. A few minutes later, an orderly came forward crawling on his stomach. He cried from a distance: "Sergeant Davis, bring the colors back!" Davis shouted this reply: "The colors are where they belong; bring up the regiment!" They did and won the battle.

 

As a leader in the army of the Lord, Pastor Larry echoes Sergeant Davis' cry: “The colors are where they belong; bring up the Army of the Lord!” The colors for the Army of the Lord is the message of our victory through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul makes the following declaration: Read 1 Corinthians 15:57-58. Bring up the Army of the Lord in the heat of the battle. When everything seemed lost, the orderly said to sergeant Davis, “Bring the colors back!” Sergeant Davis said, "We are not going to change the command of ‘advance and hold the ridge’. The colors are where they belong. Bring up the regiment!”

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: Describe a troubling encounter you’ve had where you may have felt like the “orderly” of the situation. How were you able to overcome it? 

#2: How can we urge one another as soldiers in the Lord’s Army to advance on the enemy, despite overwhelming odds and circumstances?

#3: Do you believe strong spiritual leadership is needed now more than ever today? Why?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Like sergeant Davis, Pastor is not in a place to change the command of “the Commander and Chief”. We have been commanded to advance and hold our place in the victory as conquerors through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Say it, “I’m built for battle”. The Army of the Lord is called to rally around the message of our victory as conquerors through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Let’s bring up the Army of the Lord. People look for “quick results” that require “little sacrifice”. Paul had this to say to Timothy: Read 2 Timothy 2:3 (TPT) Today, the real battle with evil is disguised as life’s pleasures without God. There’s a difference between the joys of life with God and the pleasures of life without God. Adam and eve, in the garden before their fall, experienced the joys of life with God.  But when they ate the forbidden fruit, they experienced the pleasures of life without God and that’s called sin! Here is how you become a good soldier of Jesus Christ, how the “battle” will “build you” and not “beat you” and how you will “advance and hold the ridge”: Read 1 Corinthians 15:58 (TPT) We know that we “prosper and excel” in “every season” by serving the Lord, because we are assured that our union with the lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures.

 

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

What is your pulse today for the kingdom of God? It’s important to know. Are you alive under Jesus? If you’re fighting anxiety and fear, check your pulse. Read Romans 8:5-8 (TPT). We can’t be dominated by a sinful nature, we can’t be people OF the world, we’re people IN the world who have the Kingdom of God moving through us so we may rescue others. What is your impulse today? Who’s got your attention, your time? Jesus must be a major part of your life, you take Him everywhere, you are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Think about it. Every conversation, everything you’re viewing, you’re taking the Holy Spirit with you. It’s like taking your mentor everywhere.  Check your spiritual pulse, is it the pulse of God.  Are you built for battle? Christ in us makes us righteous, but we still have choices. Are you going to have the pulse of the world or of God? Are you going to have righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost and the favor of God? We can’t correct yesterday, but we can make changes today. It’s simple. Do you want a healthy pulse or one of guilt and condemnation? You belong to the Father, you have greatness because of His covenant. A worldly mindset refuses to submit to God’s plan. Resistance is only as good as your submission. God finds no pleasure with those controlled by the flesh. He hates evil, but He loves you. The Spirit of God is empowering us. Goodness and Mercy follow us. You are not dominated by the flesh, but by the Spirit! This makes you built for battle and not beaten! We can taste abundant life. God champions us for victory. We have peace and can live as His ambassadors. Be moved by the impulses of the Spirit. We sometimes miss it and we need to reset. We need to act within the moment. When God leads, we must respond. The Spirit will quicken your mortal body when you’re meditating on connecting to God. Those led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Will you adhere to the voice of God today? Be built for battle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

moving forward fearlessly

01/23/2020

Connect Lesson 30: Moving Forward Fearlessly By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Luke 12:32 (NKJV), Romans 14:17 (KJV), Joshua 1:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21 (TPT), Ephesians 2:8-10 (TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

We’re going to make 2020 a fearless year, but in order to do that, we’ve got to take a look at one very specific aspect of fear as it relates to us moving forward. As most of you know, fear always tries to hold us back. It’s a weapon that impedes forward motion. Faith, on the other hand, is forward reaching. Read Luke 12:32 (NKJV) The fear is in you thinking you’ll not receive the gifts of God’s kingdom provisions. God the Father has, in Jesus, given you the Kingdom of God. The apostle Paul gives us this great reminder in the book of Romans: Read Romans 14:17 (KJV). You’ve been given righteousness  (right standing and acceptance with God). You’ve been given peace (security and well-being with God). You’ve been given joy, (a deep assurance with God that ignites gladness). God is with us and we are moving forward fearlessly. We read in the book of Joshua that after the death of Moses, God encourages Joshua to fearlessly lead the Israelites into the promised land. Read Joshua 1:9. Fear always attacks three fronts: #1. Fear over the enemy (fear of the outside), #2. Fear over your weakness (fear of the inside) and #3. Fear over your task (fear of the unknown).

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: How can fear easily blind us from seeing the provisions God has already provided for us?

#2: Have there ever been times when you’ve allowed fear to dictate a life situation? How did it affect you?

#3: How can we allow the Kingdom of God to penetrate our hearts so we that may receive true righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

First, let’s look at fear over the enemy (fear of the outside). Joshua 1:9 says, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed...because I command you”. Strong’s Concordance says the phrase “I command you” means: You have been appointed a messenger with My authority. So, our first defense in Moving Forward Fearlessly (or MFF #1) is that we have power over all enemies! Now, let’s look at fear over your weakness (fear of the inside) Joshua 1:9 says, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed...because I made you strong and courageous”. Strong’s Concordance says this phrase means: Inside, you are bold and secure! So, our next defense in Moving Forward Fearlessly (or MFF #2) is that we have power over all fiery darts! Finally, let’s look at fear over your task (fear of the unknown). Joshua 1:9 says, Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed because I am with you wherever and in whatever. Strong’s Concordance says this phrase means: Jehovah, the self-existing One, is with you. So our final response in Moving Forward Fearlessly (or MFF #3) is that we have power and prosperity over all pursuits! So, while fear may attack us on three fronts, remember we will move forward fearlessly with power over our enemies, power over the fiery darts and power & prosperity over all pursuits!

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Minutes)   The Holy Spirit wants us to open our eyes to who we really are. The key to our salvation is believing in Him, being washed of our sins and becoming the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Yes, we’re comfortable with receiving salvation, but not calling ourselves “righteous” and it’s because we’re negative by nature. But when we allow God to move and we start to accept who we are, something extraordinary begins to happen. We’re able to combat doubt, unbelief, guilt, and condemnation because we realize that it’s not our righteousness, its His. Sometimes, we develop a sort of “payback” mentality as if we’re going to pay back God for all he’s done for us, but that’s wrong. We must have an attitude of gratitude, developing a desire to be more like Him. Getting out of that mentality causes us to stop “working” and we won’t condemn ourselves for messing up. The Redeemer has cleansed us from unrighteousness and made us the righteousness of God in Christ. Getting the revelation that we’re loved and not saved by works, thinking we’re gonna miss heaven, gives us the liberty to walk free from attacks and the battlefield of the mind. We need to get the mind of God into our heart because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The Rhema Word is the Word whether preached, taught, shouted or done in silence, the God within you makes it happen, helping you to win and live a life of faith, not of doubt and unbelief. It puts up a standard against fear. He’s here to help. He’s called and quickened us, we belong to Him, and are partakers of His divine nature. We’re seated with Him because of who He is, greater is He that is in me then he that is in the world. At times we get sidetracked, putting off our time alone with God, maybe it’s even just to watch that one more episode of our favorite show, but then soon after, condemnation sets in. But we all make mistakes. God loves us all equally, He’s a just God and we’re to be in love with Him and love people, not judging, but edifying. Love wins all. Only the Agape love can cover all sins. Love lets things go. It keeps you giving and forgiving and it keeps encouraging and showing up for others, not to show out. Only God knows the intents of our hearts, it can be deceitfully wicked. We need to bow our knees and get a heart charge, The simple things confound the wise, God uses the weak things. Jesus became sin so we may become righteous. Read 2 Corinthian 5:21 (TPT). Do you have a dream? A vision? It takes that extra passion to give your life to others who are not bold, but it’s in you. Remember, righteousness is not a payback. We serve because we love. Read Ephesians 2:8-10 (TPT). It’s not payback, its a reunion. Negativity and the comfort of the flesh - it likes doing works because it’s familiar, it makes you boastful. God loved us when we were in our greatest mess. You can never do enough in the natural, so quit trying. Every day with Jesus is greater and better. Let go of the old, embrace the new. God is so good and we’re connected to the Anointed One! Declare that you are joined with Him! We are more than conquerors! Amen   

get over what's over

01/16/2020

Connect Lesson 29: Get Over What’s Over By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Philippians 3:13-14 (TPT), Philippians 2:5-9 (TPT), Ruth 1:16-17, Ephesians 3:20, Romans 16:20 (TPT)

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

In order for this to be a “new year”, we have to get over some things from years past. It’s time to tell yourself, “I’m getting over what’s over!” One of the most powerful and compelling Bible statements is found in Philippians 3:13-14 (TPT) 13 I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this...you’ll never get “over what’s over” if you depend upon your own strength, you’ve got to reach down into the greater one in you. Verse 13 reads on: ...however I do have one compelling focus...let’s stop right there. To get over what’s over,  you only need one compelling focus. Verse 13 continues... I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. Forget and fasten. Some of you have figured out this fastening thing, but it’s to your past. You’re “fastened to” your past. Fasten means: to attach firmly or securely in place; fix securely to something else. So, it’s like being attached to your past. We need to “forget” about the past and get “fastened” to what God has promised in our future.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: What are some indications that one might be “fastened to their past”?

#2: How can being “fastened to your past” impact your future?

#3: How can we encourage one another to forget the past and fasten ourselves to the future?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Read Philippians 3:14 (TPT) Fasten yourself to the divine invitation, fasten yourself to the anointing of Jesus, fasten yourself to the victorious prize. “Forget the past” and “fasten yourself to the future”. Read Philippians 2:5-8 (TPT) In order for it to be a “new day” for humanity, Jesus had to get over some things from His past. He became “The Way” for us to “forget and fasten”. The apostle Paul explains how He did this, in fact, He said he was a perfect example. Philippians 2:7 says: He emptied himself of His outward glory by reducing Himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human! 8 He humbled Himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a man and was obedient. He came down so we could go up! Now you can get over “what’s over”. Read Philippians 2:9 Because of that obedience, God exalted Him and multiplied His greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names! Now, you can forget and fasten yourself to the victorious prize!

 

Final Thought (5-7 Minutes)

When you get over what happened “yesterday”, you can begin anew. We can believe that we’re gonna get back everything we’ve lost and more. When we take a look at Ruth in the scriptures, you’ll find that she’d lost everything. She was devastated. After losing her husband through death and the overwhelming thought of her mother-in-law Naomi leaving, there was a new awaking of love and dedication within her. Read Ruth 1:16-17. Ruth and Naomi had a beautiful relationship. Ruth wanted to be encouraged by and stay connected with Naomi, maintaining accountability, so she wouldn’t get left behind. We all need a new beginning. We all need an encouraging voice and we need to be encouragers. We all need accountability. We all get into difficult places that we didn’t create, locked into scenarios that were not of our making. There are things we can’t change in the natural, but the Redemptive One can give us a new start, creating life even greater. When Ruth met Boaz (a foreshadowing of Christ) he became a kind of “redeemer” for her life. When we’re at a crossroads, and it seems like life is over and we’ve given up, we’ve got to trust our Redeemer, saying “I’ll go, I’ll follow, and I’ll take a new path in life”. In transitional times, we could either do well or not so well. If you don’t get over what’s over then you can become broken-hearted. Studies show that broken-hearted people, if not healed, often do not make it. Out of the heart flow the issues of life. Optimism alone won’t carry you through. It requires dependence on God. Sometimes we place due dates on our lives for an expected miracle and when not received, hopelessness can set in. But like Ruth, sometimes we’ve got to leave it all and seek our Redeemer. She lost it all but got everything back and more. Read Ephesians 3:20 (TPT) We’ve got to continually keep the Word in front of us or we will perish. Never doubt God’s mighty power will accomplish this “new” in you. He has not given up on you or forsaken you. God makes the latter greater. Get a bigger vision of who you are. As the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, you are in a powerful place. Pray from the power and position of who you are and not from the circumstances facing you. Do you believe in the transformative power of God in the midst of your wait? With Jesus, it’s always a win-win. The Word of God doesn’t return void. We’ve got to stir the gift within us we’ve got to get excited about the Word of God. Get a new vision. Remind yourself who you are. Read Romans 16:20. Do you believe that you are surrounded by the Word of God and that the enemy is pounded underneath you? God is all-powerful and able to carry out the vision He’s given us! Amen? Let God Arise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

three steps in or out

01/09/2020

Connect Lesson 28: Three Steps In or Out By Pastor Larry Raftery

Scripture References: 1 Thessalonians 1:5 (TPT), Galatians 1:10 (TPT), Galatians 1:10 (TPT), Read 2 Timothy 4:10 (NKJV), 2 Corinthians 4:9, Colossians 4:7-14, 1 John 2:15-17 (TPT)

 

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Last week, in our message entitled “A New Day in the Neighborhood”, we asked 2 important questions.  #1: Will 2020 be just “another day” in the neighborhood or will it be “a new day” in the neighborhood? #2: Will 2020 just be “business as usual” or will it be the beginning of something “unusually beautiful”? We saw that our lives can get turned around like Saul of Tarsus when he was converted and became the apostle Paul. We will need to make new decisions, take new directions and partake in new dedications in 2020! Your life, like Paul’s, can get turned around or converted through these 3 simple steps. Conversion is a spiritual change from sinfulness to righteousness, from what’s wrong in life to what’s right, from what’s lacking to what’s abundant. Before there’s any kind of conversion, there is always conviction. 

 

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:5 (TPT) Conviction is heaven’s way of letting your heart know what’s right or wrong. 2020 will be filled with blessings as we say “yes” to God’s Word. It comes down to following these three simple steps:

 

Step 1. Conviction (Your response). Step 2. Compliance (Your agreement). Step 3. Compensation (You’re in).

 

This is what happened in the apostle Paul’s life. In writing to Timothy, he spoke of a brother in Christ, who was living his life quite the opposite. You could say he was “striking-out”. His name was Demas, which means “popular”. Read what Paul says in Galatians 1:10 (TPT). There’s three strikes and you’re out:

 

Strike 1. Conviction (Ignoring it). Strike 2. Complacency (Self-satisfaction). Strike 3. Cost (You’re out).

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

 

#1: Why is it important to heed the conviction of the Holy Spirit?

#2: How can ignoring conviction be detrimental to your spiritual walk?

#3: How can saying “Yes” to the Word of God keep you from “striking out” in the game?

 

Personal strikes don’t have to take you out of the game. Just say, “Yes!” to the Word of God. Demas' life has provided one of the most powerful teaching moments about “striking out” because of a lack of passion to please God. Read 2 Timothy 4:10 (NKJV) The Word of God doesn't “hide” from us. There were “strike outs” in the Old and New Testament from men of God like Moses, David and Peter. When you strike out, you’re not taken out of the game. That doesn’t happen unless you take yourself out of the game.  2 Corinthians 4:9 says Struck down, but not destroyed or abandoned. Your walk with God continues, not through flawless perfection, but through on-going passionate faithfulness. Read 2 Timothy 4:10 again: “Demas has forsaken me (deserted me) having loved this present world (loved his own life) and has departed”. Notice not a lot is said about Demas in the New Testament, but it’s enough to give us clarity on what can happen if we “don't” handle “conviction” correctly. The apostle Paul listed Demas along with the apostles, like Mark and Luke as one of His fellow laborers in Philemon 1:24. But then in Colossians. 4:14, he is simply called Demas. Read Colossians 4:7-14 The apostle Paul put some kind of a "spiritual adjective" on everyone except Demas.

 

In Vs 7, Tychicus, is a beloved brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant. In Vs 9, Onesimus, is a faithful and beloved brother. This happens all the way through the chapter until it gets to Demas. Verse 14 says “Luke, the beloved physician and Demas greet you”. This is an interesting and sad digression of favor. The 3rd and last time Demas is mentioned can be found in our text 2 Timothy 4:10. He goes from: Demas, a fellow laborer to Demas: (nothing said) to: “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world and has departed.” That was Strike 3. This all happened by degree. Demas' “strike out” was caused by a change in his love. Read 1 John 2:15-17 (TPT). Demas chose the popularity of the world over his faithfulness to Christ & His cause. We have to understand that "worldliness" is just as much an "attitude" as it is an “activity". It's a gradual process:

 

Step 1: Creating “friendship” (an affair) with the world (James 4:4.). Step 2. Getting “spotted” (or corrupted) by the world values (James 1:27). Step 3. Becoming “conformed” to (or copy) the world (Romans 12:2)


1 Corinthians 11:32 says: Conformity leads to condemnation with the world. The Message Translation says: “A fiery confirmation”. Later, Demas was first, unfaithful to the Word of God, then he was unfaithful to his walk as a believer, and lastly, he was unfaithful to the people who needed and who loved him. 2020 Can be a year of great compensation/payoffs if you just take these three steps…three steps and you’re in:

 

Step 1. Conviction (Respond) Step 2. Compliance (Submit) Step 3. Compensation (You’re in!)

 

2020 will bring manifestations of what you live for and who you live for? Will you “step into” His favor, abundance, power, and glory? 2020 is the Year of Plenty…Plenty of what?

     

 

the SPirit of christmas favor present

12/19/19

Connect Lesson 27: The Spirit of Christmas Favor Present By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 1 John 3:8 (NKJV), Matthew 1:18-21 (NKJV), Luke 2:52 (NKJV)  

 

Overview (5-7 Minutes)

Our series for this Christmas season is titled “Christmas Favor”. We are looking at the Spirit of Christmas Favor: Past, Present, and Future. It’s a favor that flows from the heart of God. Favor is defined as: Excessive kindness or unfair partiality, preferential treatment. There is nothing fair about favor. In fact, you could say favor isn’t fair. When you team up Christmas and favor, you end up with Christmas Favor. It helps if you understand that Christmas is all about God‘s plan of salvation. There’s a promise of favor on your salvation. You cannot remove favor from God’s plan of salvation. In tonight’s session, we’re going to look at God’s favor on the execution of the plan of salvation or the favor on the birth of Christ. We want to step into the story as if it were happening at this present time. Again, Christmas is all about God’s plan of salvation. When you look at the birth of Christ, you see a broad group of people who were involved. At the center, you have Mary and Joseph and some family members like Elizabeth and Zacharias. We can call this “Family Favor”. Then there’s business people like the inn keeper and shepherds. We can call this “Workplace Favor”. Then there are some people of notoriety, the three wise-men, also some supernatural beings like the angelic host. We can call this “Unique Favor”. So, Christmas Favor Present provides for us today Family Favor, Workplace Favor, and Unique Favor. This is why we are looking at Christmas Favor Present because the Christmas story brings favor for us now. We can all relate to the family, the workplace, and the unique situations, all of which can set the stage for God’s favor!

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

Question #1: How can we develop a deeper sense of understanding concerning God’s favor for us today?

Question #2: What are some ways you’ve experienced God’s favor in your family, workplace, or in a unique situation?

Question #3: How does having the favor of God allow us to overcome opposition to God’s will for us?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Where you see the Will of God being demonstrated, you’ll see the Favor of God being manifested. Read 1 John 3:8 (NKJV) Remember, Christmas is all about God’s plan of salvation. Favor destroys the effects of disrespect, hindrance, loss, opposition, criticism, denial disapproval, disregard, impartiality, and meanness. Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zacharias, and anyone else involved in the manifestation of God‘s plan of salvation, had to overcome, with God’s favor: Disrespect, hindrances, loss, opposition, criticism, denial, disapproval, disregard, impartiality, and meanness. Read Matthew 1:18-21 (NKJV)  Where you see the will of God being demonstrated, you’ll see the favor of God being manifested, so Christmas Favor Present provides, for us today, Family Favor, Workplace Favor, and a Unique Favor. You have favor to overcome all opposition to God’s will for you!

 

Final Thoughts (3-5 Minutes)

Favor is the Kiss of God. The Word declares that God is all about us. Read Luke 2:52 (NKJV). God will get you to the right place at the right time. He will take you from the small places to the palaces. God has honored us with  amazing favor, it’s a kiss from Him, everyday day of our lives, several times a day, but you’ve got to know who you are. It takes God’s great favor to promote you! Ask God to keep kissing us with His favor, wisdom, knowledge and stature. Sometimes in our prayer walk, we can feel a little blah, a little empty, but when you begin to thank God and confess the things He is going to do, breakthrough begins to happen. We’ve got to really want it and if we don’t then we need to pray breakthrough for someone else. We don’t want to live the same ordinary life. When the body of Christ unties, things happen, favor comes upon us. Many times we don’t recognize favor when it’s there, but it is! Favor can come in many ways and we can all have it. We can all believe for things to happen, but we’ve got to keep praying for each other, so we can all be victorious in of our battles. Favor is here for us now. Amen!

 

The Spirit of Christmas Favor Past

12/12/19

Connect Lesson 26: The Spirit of Christmas Favor Past By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Luke 1:69-75 (NLT), Isaiah 11:1 (NLT, Jeremiah 23:5-6 (TLB), 2 Cornithians 5:21 (NKJV), Colossians 3:3 (NCV), Proverbs 3:4 (NLT), Hebrews 10:23 (KJV), Ephesians 2:7 (KJV), Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV)

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

Our series for this Christmas season is entitled “Christmas Favor”. It’s a favor that reaches beyond “special deals” as we’re buying gifts, finding front row parking spaces, and finding favor at family functions. It’s a favor that flows from the heart of God. The dictionary defines “Favor” as: Excessive kindness or unfair partiality, preferential treatment. There is nothing fair about favor. You could say favor isn’t fair. When you team up Christmas and favor, you end up with “Christmas Favor”. Over the next three weeks we’re going to look at the Spirit of Christmas Favor Past, Present, and Future. It helps us to understand that Christmas is all about God‘s plan of salvation. There’s a promise of favor on your salvation within “The Spirit of Christmas Favor Past”. We’re going to look at God’s favor on the plan of salvation.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Q1: Why is it essential for us to understand God’s favor toward us? Can it impact how we approach God?

Q2: What are some ways people try to “earn” God’s favor?

Q3: What does God’s plan of salvation from the beginning reveal about His nature?

 

You cannot remove favor from God’s plan of salvation. Let’s look at God’s favor on the plan of salvation from the beginning. As the apostle Luke is telling the Christmas story, he records a prophetic word from Zachariah in the scriptures: Read Luke 1:69-75 (NLT). This is the spirit of Christmas Favor Past, in other words, favor from the beginning. This is very important to understand: There is a past promise of favor on your salvation. This promise, through His holy prophets of long ago, is seen again in the scriptures. Read Isaiah 11:1 (NLT). This is the one and only Messiah, the Son or Seed of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. Here he was, the long awaited deliverer, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Christmas is all about God‘s plan of salvation. Read Jeremiah 23:5-6 (TLB). Favor was upon the plan of salvation from the beginning, in Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV). Imputed righteousness and favor, your favor, doesn’t come from “right doing” but “right being”. Read Colossians 3:3 (NCV) The plan from the past was to keep your life in the favor of God. Philippians 3:19 tells us that we have the blessing of favor because we believe in Christ....The Christ of Christmas! From the beginning, the blessings and benefits have been flowing towards us. They are here and now in Jesus, the Spirit of Christmas Favor Past!

 

Final Thoughts

Favor is riches in grace. Grace is favor. You’re not “getting favored”, you were already favored. Read Proverbs 3:4 (NLT). The Word is the Word of God and He has already promised us His favor. We’ve got to stay in line with God’s Word in order to maintain that favor. We already have it. When we own a home, no one has a right to say it isn’t ours. We know it’s ours, we can tell them to exit. The same is true with our favor. We should hold onto our faith and confession for God and what He wants to do in our lives. Read Hebrews 10:23 (KJV). The Message translation says to get a firm grip on God’s promise.  Don’t be talked out of your favor by the devil. God promised us His word. We’ve got to stay in line. Keep hold of the promise that keeps us going. You’ll know you’re favored by Christ. Hold on to that. Read Ephesians 2:7 (KJV). It’s favor in the future. The past holds us back. Stop believing the lies of the past. Let it go! Favor is a gift from God, it’s not earned. The Spirit of Christ is to keep on giving. Read Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV). Everything with favor, including the covenant, is from God. God’s not taking it back. You didn’t earn it, He did it at the cross for our atonement, so we can rule and reign with Him and be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. If you don’t know how much you’re loved and if you don’t know your convenant, know that God has already favored you with Him and all men. God has His eyes on you and has blessed you. You have to stay in line with His agreement and His promises that faith works! That’s the joy! We’re saved by favor! If we would just get ahold of these simple truths and stay in line with Jesus, we’d be a lot happier. We need to be happy this holiday, celebrating Christ. We need to be the kindness of God in a time when people are ready to take others down in life. Be patient. Jesus always represented the Father, loving people even when they beat Him, pierced Him and nailed Him to a cross. He tells God, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”. We’re gonna keep believing with the favor of Christ. Pronounce the favor of God over your family, you’ll start seeing positive results. When people tell others that they can’t be what they desire to be, we don’t have to agree with that because the Word can change anything. We’ve just got to love them and help them through it. We got to tell them how good they are doing, not all the wrong they’ve done. We all like to feel appreciated at times, especially when you’re the one doing all the running around in life. Hold on to that favor! Amen.

 

"just show up"

12/5/19

Connect Lesson 25: “Just Show Up” by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Romans 5:6-8 (NLT), Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT), Matthew 28:19-20 (MSG), John 14:27 (KJV)

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

Pastor recently read a quote from a famous personality that really got his attention. It said: “Whether you like me or you don’t, I still dig showing up for work”. That quote was from actor and wrestler, John Cena. Showing up for anything has everything to do with you. Showing up in the right mood and showing up at the right time is all on you and no one else. You decide whether you will work through the circumstances and push through other people’s opinions or not. You decide whether you will deem it “worth it” or not. We’re talking about showing up in spite of our circumstances, other people’s opinions or whether we “deem it” worthy or not. There is help here for us today to enable us to keep showing up, no matter what’s going on in our life.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: Why is it important to have the right attitude when it comes to showing up for anything?

#2: What is the value in pushing through the opinions of others when it comes to “showing up”?

#3: How did Jesus set the standard for “showing up” when it comes to being present at the right time?

 

Life Application (5-7 Min)       

Read Romans 5:6 (NLT) Jesus “showed up” right on time! Jesus “showed up” to die for our sins. Another translation says: To make us “fit for God”. We certainly couldn’t do it on our own, but He did it “right on time”! Read Romans 5:7 (NLT) Jesus would’ve never shown up if He had to wait for us to “get ready” spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Jesus showed up for the weak and undeserving, even those fighting Him. Read Romans 5:8 (NLT). Jesus showed up with love when, in the natural, there was no use in showing up. He showed up and pushed through, a world of circumstances, a world of people’s opinions, as well as whether or not the world was worthy. Now we can “show up” no matter what, having a great advantage in life. When we show up, He shows up! Read Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) God our Father needs us showing up in these last days, not hiding from the world’s circumstances or opinions. We must show up no matter if we feel the world’s “worth it” or not. Our gracious God wants us there showing His mercy, helping the world find the grace to help them when they need it most. Whether the world likes you or not, you still need to dig “showing up” for work in God’s kingdom! Read Matthew 28:19-20 (MSG). Keep showing up!

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Min)

We need to show up and have no regrets. We don’t have to live with a troubled, unsettled heart filled with pain, anxiety, and fear. The scripture says, “Peace, I leave with you, My peace I give to you, but not as the world giveth”. The world cannot give you peace, only God can give you peace. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid John 14:27 (KJV). We can use this word when we feel like we are in turmoil. This particular word on “showing up” will not return void. When circumstances don’t seem to change or move in your favor, know that it isn’t over yet. That’s why the Word encourages us to wait for it. There are breakthroughs coming. Stop and come to Him and say to God, “Let not my heart be troubled, let me not be afraid for me and my family, I cast all fear away, in Jesus name!” We’ve got to let it roll it off and know that the Word works. God will do the impossible. Nowadays, words like “sinners” or “repent” are almost considered  curse words. Some ministers want to be so popular, they won’t say it. But thank God the Rhema Word is the most powerful thing and it brings results. God is the author and finisher of our faith and it’s Who we've got to hold onto because God is faithful. We weren’t built to be tormented. We were meant to be tough as teflon, letting things just slide right off of us. When you've got cracks in your foundation, it’s not an easy walk. We’ve got to take the right steps toward God in order to remain spiritually healthy. You’ve got to put on the mind of Christ. The only thing we can control is our own thought pattern, you’ve got to cast down those negative thoughts. The purpose of the church is to urge you toward and equip you for good works, from the worship to the message. Worship is essential, without it, you’ll struggle. Whether you’re abounding or abasing, learn to be content. The Word can create and bring back “The New”. Some of you need to move in life, regain circulation and let the flow of Emmanuel be in your veins. We do it by showing up, casting down negative emotions and not letting our hearts be afraid. Fear brings torment and it will make you sick. It’ll point out everything it can to make you feel restless, but God said, “I will give you sweet rest”. God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind, a disciplined mind, a healthy mind. God wants us healthy. Don’t focus on the negative things. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it’s a tree of life. When you reflect back on your victories over and over again, those trees of life eventually surround you and become a shade to shelter you from the heat of life’s problems. It really is that simple. Sometimes when we get a victory, we rest in it for a second and then impatiently anticipate the next one or sometimes we’ll be in such a good place that after a while we begin to worry about what’s going to hit us next. Trauma can train us to think a certain way. We need to know that God is so good to us, He’s always blessing us and we need to write down those blessings, so a new positive vision can drown out the negativity. Amen?

 

revelation in life's low places

11/21/19

Connect Lesson 24: Revelation in Life’s Low Places by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV), Romans 8:26 (NLT), Hebrews 4:16 (MSG),Matthew 11:28- 30 (MSG),Isaiah 40:29-31 (NLT)

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

In life, it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve all hit low places. In fact, different people handle these “low places” in their lives in different ways. Some people get angry, depressed, anxious, and mad. Others feel abandoned or rejected. They do crazy things to themselves or to others. Some people choose to just stay in, binge watch TV and eat crazy. Some people “go out” and party like there’s no tomorrow. Then some people in their low places choose to pray and read their Bible. Sometimes we don’t even know where, when or how these low places have come in. But here’s a revelation for you that Pastor discovered while in a “low place”: Your weakness or “low-place” will never cast a shadow across your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ! Let that sink in. His mighty power is drawn towards what seems to be your chronic need of help. Don’t run from Him. Come to Him. Allow Him to fill you with the light and life of His love! Your weakness or “low place” in life doesn’t act like a water repellent jacket, keeping you from your amazing relationship with Jesus Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV). The New Living says “...My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” or “low places”. The Apostle Paul said “...that the power of Christ, may upon me.” Vs 10 says “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Because of the grace of God, His mighty power is drawn towards what seems to be your chronic need of help.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Question #1: Why are people so easily drawn to counter productive vices when encountering a “low place”?

Question #2: Why do we as believers sometimes run away, rather than toward God in our moments of weakness?

Question #3: How can we encourage one another to lean into God when circumstances lead us to a dark and lowly place?

 

Life Application (5-7 MIn)

Let’s say this: God’s grace, power and favor is here for me in my weakness or “low place”. Some of you feel condemned right now because of your weaknesses or “low place”. Just know your weakness has gotten the attention of God’s power, not His judgement. Pastor shared that he’s personally seen God deliver him from a weakness, sustain his chronic need and use his low place for God’s glory!  He’ll grace your weakness with His power and lift your low place with His love. Read Romans 8:26 (NLT). Somehow we have gotten the wrong idea about God concerning our weak and low place. Our weaknesses or “low place” attracts His power. It garners his help. Read Hebrews 4:16 (MSG). Jesus, as our high priest, is there to help and give mercy in our weakness. In your weakness, confess your faith and love in Him. Don’t confess your fear of Him. He understands our chronic need of help and stands ready to help! Just receive this revelation in your low place!

      

Final Thoughts (5-7 Min)

We’ve got to stay online with God. We need to stay updated. Just like with computers, we don’t use old programs because they don’t benefit us. It’s the same with the internet, nobody wants to use slow internet. Even when there are software updates, it’s easier to reject them because just when you’ve finally learned how to use the old operating system, they turn around and update the software.  It’s not always easy, but in the same way, God wants us updated. He wants us fully powered everyday, so we’ve got to stay online with Him. We’re not going to eat the old manna of yesterday. We want the new for today. We can’t compare ourselves to yesterday and worry about who we want to be tomorrow. It can hinder our healing. We’ve got to say, “Help me Jesus”. With those simple words, God comes in like a flood. It's not difficult. We make it difficult. We’ve got to be on the high places, we’ve got to stay online with God. Read Matthew 11:28- 30 (MSG). God’s got the best updates, He knows exactly what's going to happen and we’ve got to be ahead of the game. The devil is the one laying the heavy burden. God is the lifter of it. Don’t let people label you. God is the one Who has the blueprints of who you really are. It’s great when you can declare the Word about who you are and not be frightened. You’ve got to say, “God, speak to me in those little moments.” Thank God that when we have those low moments, you have somebody to keep encouraging you. Yes, unpleasant things happen and we wonder why. But your best counselor is God. Your help is God. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. If you want good results, say “God, help me. I need help right now, I need Your strength, I need Your peace, I need Your courage, right now!” Doing that can instantly change the situation. It's not an easy thing. We need to guard our hearts, for out of it flow the issues of life. We need to know that God is going to do it. Isaiah 41:10 in the New Living Translation says, “Don't be afraid, for I Am With You, don't be discouraged, I Am your God.” Doesn't it feel good? Don't be discouraged, God is going to help you, He hasn't given up on you. We’ve got to look up to where redemption draweth night. We’re already seated in Heavenly places and we’re empowered. Read Isaiah 40:29-31 (NLT). Everybody needs strength and power when we become weak and tired. Our youth is renewed like the eagle’s. When an eagle sees a storm coming, it soars above it. When we hear from God we can soar above our circumstances. We will be protected. We will run and not grow weary. He said, “Come all ye that are heavy laden.” He's going to give you rest. It’s a matter of trust. It's trusting our Abba Father, our dad, He's going to make it all better. When you feel weak, when you feel like you can't face another day, look up to heaven for your redemption draweth nigh! You can say, “Jesus I trust you. I trust you. I don't understand it, but I trust you and I know that You're going to be there for me!” He has the wings of healing. God is miracle worker. He loves you and He's kind. He’ll work with you and with your emotions if your heart is hurting, if you're broken physically, if you feel like everything is going wrong in your life, there's a turnaround coming! Amen?

 

 

 

 

 

the power of prayer

11/14/19

Connect Lesson 23: The Power of Prayer by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Romans 8:34 (MSG), James 5:13-15 (MSG), Mark 16:18 (NKJV), 1 Corinthians 12:28, Philippians 3:12 (NKJV), 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLB)

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

The power of God is released through prayer. Have you ever been in a situation where someone stepped in and stuck up for you and because your circumstances had changed, you were vindicated, and your life was saved. You need to know that Jesus is sticking up for you every moment of your life. Read Romans 8:34 (MSG).  The New Century Version says Jesus is “appealing to God for us”. The New Living says “He is pleading for us”. The New King James says “He makes intercession for us”. Heaven knows the value of prayer. That’s why Jesus is constantly praying for us. There is power in prayer. Listen to what the apostle James has got to say: Read James 5:13 (MSG) Are you hurting? Pray.. Are you “hurting” tonight emotionally, physically, relationally, even financially? The apostle James says if you’re hurting, “pray” or “put yourself in the middle of prayer”. James 5:13-15 (MSG). God is forgiving tonight anything and everything. God is healing tonight inside and outside of your life. Read Mark 16:18 (NKJV). The Message says “They will lay hands on the sick and make them well.”

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: What impact does the power of forgiveness have on the power of healing?

#2: What is one moment in your life when the power of prayer made an impact on a seemingly impossible situation?

#3: How can believers put limitations on their expectations thereby hindering God’s best for them?

 

Life Application (5-7 Min)

Read 1 Corinthians 12:28 (NKJV). Listen to what verse 28 says...And God has "appointed" in the church "miracles".

Who appointed it? God appointed miracles for us, His church. I've been noticing more and more how people live with limited supernatural expectations. It’s more of a “self-imposed” limitation than anything else. It’s almost like people look for reasons not to raise expectations, not to push past limitations, not to reach beyond boundaries. Many people live and die within their own self imposed boundaries and limited expectations. We are “called” to "press in"! Read Philippians 3:12 (NKJV). We need to “press on” to the promise and “lay hold of” the provision. Jesus’ purpose for us is everything that He has laid hold of.  Through redemption we can “lay hold of” through faith. Say this: “In Christ Jesus, miracles are mine, miracles are in my future. We need to be pressing into this with our faith and expectations. The reason why there’s power in prayer is because it’s already there.

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Min)

Miracles and healing are already here now. Sometimes we may not know what to do, but we must remember where to go! Read 2 Chronicles 16:9 (TLB) 9 for the eyes of the Lord search back and forth across the whole earth, looking for people whose hearts are perfect toward Him, (committed to Him) so that He can show His great power in helping them. Commitment to God pays off. Let's think about this. Should I be committed to the God, Who has appointed miracles in my future? Should I be committed to the God, Who is also willing to show His great power in helping me? Believers with limited expectations become very uncommitted, complaining Christians. They can get into a negative cycle. They complain about what isn't or what probably won't be. It's not necessarily outward complaining, it's the inward complaining that affects us most. Negative inward conversations leads us to complain, argue and moan to ourselves about how life is! This doesn't put us in a place of faith and trust or even commitment to God. Faith never “denies” our present reality. Faith just acknowledges that everything is possible with God. His promises are “yes” and “amen”. There are miracles in my future, stop refusing to see God’s unlimited possibilities. There are miracles in your future!

 

Every once in a while, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and reject it. There are many reasons she may do this. If the lamb is returned to the ewe, the mother may even kick the poor animal away. Once a ewe rejects one of her lambs, she will never change her mind. These little lambs will hang their heads so low that it looks like something is wrong with its neck. Their spirit is broken. These lambs are called “bummer lambs.”

Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die, rejected and alone. So, do you know what the shepherd does? He takes that rejected little one into his home, hand-feeds it and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up with blankets and hold it to his chest so the bummer can hear his heartbeat. Once the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock. But that sheep never forgets how the shepherd cared for him when his mother rejected him. When the shepherd calls for the flock, guess who runs to him first? That is right, the bummer sheep. He knows his voice intimately. It is not that the bummer lamb is loved more, it just knows intimately the one who loves it. It's not that it is loved more, it just believes it because it has experienced that love one on one. So many of us are bummer lambs, rejected and broken. But He is the good Shepherd. He cares for our every need and holds us close to His heart so we can hear His heartbeat. We may be broken but we are deeply loved by the Shepherd.

 

Author, Sheila Walsh

Book, "Loved back to life"

 

christian courage

11/7/19

Connect Lesson 22: Christian Courage By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery 

Scripture References: John 2:13-18, Luke 9:22, Luke 9:51, John 19:17-18, Joshua 1:9,1 Corinthians 16:13,  Isaiah 41:13

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

Every Christian has the ability to be courageous! This word courageous can also be defined as adventurous, fearless, strong, tough, and lionhearted. Jesus as The Lion of the tribe of Judah, has “prevailed” and so will you through Him. He has all authority and holds the title deed to everything. That courage is built into God’s plan of redemption for you, so “redemptive courage” is Christlikeness. For you that means seeking and saving the lost, Spirit lead empowerment and being stewards of all of God’s provisions. The hero of all heroes is Jesus Christ and He is the victorious, ever present God. Every aspect of courage, bravery, and heroism is demonstrated in Jesus’ life and ministry. Every place that Jesus lived and ministered was filled with evil in all its forms. He pierced the heart of all religious hypocrisy in all its forms. Hypocrisy manifests it’s self in bigotry, deceit, dishonesty, insincerity, lies and lip service. He never backed down from truth. Read John 2:13-18 (NKJV) Time after time His courage struck the core of hypocrisy, never shrinking back in fear. In Him, you’ll never procrastinate, shy-away or drop back. Jesus faced His frightening future with redemptive courage. There is more fear in doing nothing than doing something. In Luke 9:22, Jesus tells His disciples that “the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” This is the redemptive courage that’s within you in Christ.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: What is the daily value gained in having a clear understanding of “redemptive courage” that’s freely available to us?

#2: Why do we, at times, procrastinate, shy-away or drop back when it comes to sharing the truth with others? How can recognizing it help us to reaffirm our spiritual authority in Christ?

#3: How can we encourage one another to maintain Christian courage and not compromise when faced with extreme challenges in this world?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

What are the things of life you desire and value most? Jesus put them under his feet and went to the cross saying “I do always the things that are pleasing to Him.”Jesus, in the midst of the overwhelming rejection demonstrated His courage. Read Luke 9:51 (NKJV) He knew what was coming yet courageously he didn’t back down. Read John 19:17-18 (NKJV). This is the redemptive courage that is in each and every one of you as a believer in the world. There’s battlefield courage and moral courage. Battlefield courage is seen as bravery or valor. When times are most difficult, it’s a resolve within our hearts to act bravely. Moral courage is even more important as demonstrated in Jesus’ life and ministry. Moral courage is doing the right thing even though it may cost you everything. It was moral courage that took Jesus to the cross. He laid aside His wonderful reputation, popularity and all the applause to be counted as a blasphemer, traitor and lunatic, to die for us. This is being courageous. As a Christian, you don’t need more courage, you just need to live more like Christ!


Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

Sometimes we don’t feel like we are very courageous or strong, but God says we are. Read Joshua 1:9 (NASB) It’s good to know that we’ve got God going with us wherever we go. The Greater One is housed within us. Getting that revelation will give you the courage to go on. God is going with you wherever you go. Even when you feel like you’ve blown it or have lost that identity that you wanted to project, your next step is going to be better. Think about a better you. We’re not building off of yesterday, we’re gonna built off today. Read 1 Corinthians 16:13. Sometime we get off our guard and we get blindsided. When you can’t see clear, and you’re only hearing things, you might get a little off. When you’re constantly being told you’re not doing something right and you feel you cant seem to see things clear, you can get a little off.  Today is our time to come back as the body of Christ; let’s join faith with each other as never before. People are suffering. We expect so much out of them, but think about where they are. Allow the Holy Spirit to comfort you, build you up, and help you know the Father is greater and bring you comfort, not to beat you up. God doesn’t whip you into shape, He draws you by His goodness. Read Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV). When we need help we can lift up our hand and say, “You got me God, You got my hand and You’re going to help, I don’t fear anything” It takes fear out of it. When you know your God, you know everything’s going to be ok and that no matter the circumstances at that moment, God’s going to make it right. Feeling pressured? God will turn it for good. We can rehearse our victories because of Jesus. We must be there for people, rejoice with them. We have a God that’s on board and faithful. You might be a person that doesn’t sleep well and want rest, God’s Word says we can have rest.  Ask God to give us rest and make our sleep sweet.  No nightmares or disruptions. When God does it, you feel so good. The Word says that if we come to God we get rest and peace. There are a lot of restless souls. People are struggling, really trying to put up a greater front, they need to know we’re there for them. Some of you have been detoured and delayed in your victory. Some people have the best resources available to them, but it’s off. All “godly” counsel is not godly. It must line up with God’s Word and 2 or more witnesses. You can’t just pick and choose and make a doctrine of it. There are witnesses to God’s Word. It’s balanced from Genesis to Revelation.  This is a new season for everyone. We are grateful for the how everyone has stood with us, trusted the Spirit of God, and we’re gonna go! We provoke one another unto good works. We want to prosper spirit, soul, and body. We will be a voice and a world changer in our communities. Things are going to happen, people are going to be used of God. Start going into your war chamber being courageous. Let God use you and show you things to come! Be on alert! We all want to be happier, be on alert. We have no fear, even if we’ve gone through difficult times, it’s going to be ok! If you’re broken, victory is coming to your house!

 

god has gone public

10/31/19

Connect Lesson 21: God Has Gone Public by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Titus 2:11 (NLT), Titus 2:11-14 (MSG), Romans 3:25 (MSG), 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (AMP), Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP), 2 Corinthians 3:6 (AMP)

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

God has “gone public” to let everyone know that He’s 100% into giving and forgiving. He wants the world to know that salvation is available to everyone! Read Titus 2:11 (NLT) God wants everyone to know that no matter their life condition or position, His generous love has freed them! The apostle Paul wanted people to know about God’s true salvation, nothing less. Although some religious people seem energetic regarding God, they’re really doing everything exactly backward from God’s plan of grace for salvation. They don’t seem to know that salvation is God’s business.  Our own self styled religion doesn’t make things right. People set up their own “salvation shops” refusing to deal with God on His terms. People, instead, insist on making it about their own deals, but they have nothing to show for it in the end.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Question #1: What impact can “religious energy” have on the effectiveness of those professing to be a follower of Christ and their witness?

Question #2: What are some examples of how religious people can set up their own “salvation shops”?

Question #3: How can we as believers show the world that the Good News of Jesus can transform a corrupt culture from within?

 

Life Application (5-7 Min)

Let’s look at the apostle Paul’s letter to Titus, who served as sort of a ministry “trouble-shooter”. Paul commissioned him to show believers how the Good News of Jesus and the power of the Spirit could transform a corrupt culture from within.  It takes a casual, but constant witness.  He wanted these believers to show God's salvation message,  to transform their communities daily while living and participating in the culture around them. If they would just “daily devote” themselves to Jesus and promote His love, they could open people’s hearts to the goodness of God. The whole purpose of this epistle is to teach believers how to live godly and win others to Christ in a godless and indulgent society. Read Titus 2:11-14 (MSG) The key is to be energetic in God’s goodness. Where is your energy going? Is your energy being spent on a God-filled and God-honoring life? What are your appetites craving? God’s wonder should be stirring us up. We should be consistently craving the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ appears. Paul is instructing Titus to let everyone know that if this isn't the people’s cravings, then this new life can start right now. Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life. Not just us, but to also free those who live around us. Read Romans 3:25 (MSG)  Can you see how God has “gone public”? Now it’s time for all of us to go public. Let everyone know He’s 100% into giving and forgiving!      

 

We want to change the world around us. Change starts with us. A lot of times people are walking around with horrible attitudes. There are people in the church walking around with bad attitudes. They love church, but they’re not happy. The church isn’t perfect, not everyone will like you. Still, God is good and we need to let go of the attitude. How will we change the world? We have an opportunity to be world changers and touch people so they know we really care about them. People want to be around those who show care for them, not those with crabby faces. The devil’s already at work on that chain. Read 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (AMP) We need to fan the flames of God. Some of you need more wood thrown in than others. The spirit of timidity is keeping believers' mouths shut instead of being a voice. You are a voice. Encourage others, let them know they can make it, you’re gonna stand with them, not push them in front of the fire. Everyone has been given opportunities to reach others. We’ve been given the spirit of power! When you have power, you have control and the Holy Ghost talking to you. We’re going to rekindle the flames of fire! We need to stay stirred up! The enemy’s constantly rehearsing your failures, but God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear. Read Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP). We need each other. We need to stay humble and it’s not our job to humble others. Jesus is coming back empowered. He is our champion! Read 2 Corinthians 3:6 (AMP). You are enabled and qualified to share the Word with others. Be you! Live supernaturally natural. Love on people. Just doing something good for others will be a witness unto itself. God will use you if you pay attention. Just love on people. We want life, health and peace. Seasons can be difficult but those seasons change and from it comes beautiful things. You may try to win everybody, but not everyone will like you, let God deal with them. We want to change our world around us!

victory through

10/17/19

Connect Lesson 19: Victory Through By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery   Scripture References: ​1 Corinthians 15:57 (NKJV​), ​1 Corinthians 8:6 (NLT), John 8:59 (NKVJ), Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT), Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV​), ​2 Corinthians 10:5   


Overview (5-7 Minutes)  In life, when we’re going through some tough times, we need to address the world with this announcement:                  “I’m coming through victoriously!”As you may recall on Sunday, Pastor said that as he was reading his Bible,a scripture “yelled” at him from the pages! ​Read 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NKJV​). It yelled, “You have a victory all the way through, Jesus, God’s Word, will take you through victoriously while the enemy is trying to take you out!” You must have a mentality that says, “I am going to make it through,victoriously!”“I’m going to make it through the pain, the loss, the humiliation and the break-up...victoriously!” ​Read 1 Corinthians 8:6 (NLT)​. God has created a way through. Our victory through every life situation is given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, we need to remind ourselves: “I’m going through, victoriously!” When we’re going through something, there’s always an entrance and exit point.  


Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes) 

#1: How can your life be affected by not having an attitude of “coming through victoriously”when confronted with trials?   

#2: Why is it important to know about the entrance and exit points of your trials?  

#3: What kind of trials did Jesus have to endure and how did He go about obtaining His victory?    


Life Application (5-7 Minutes) 

In John chapter 8, Jesus was really going through it. In verse 48, the Jews accused Jesus of having a demon and      being a Samaritan or a lowly half breed .The Jews had enough of Jesus’ teaching and wanted to end His life and His ministry. The Message Bible says that Jesus’ teaching pushed them over the edge. ​Read John 8:59 (NKVJ) Then they took up stones to throw at him; but “Jesus hid himself”and went out of the temple, “going through”the midst of them,and so passed by. How did he “hide himself”? He hid himself in obedience.  Faith-filled obedience takes you out of the realm of defeat and darkness and put you into the realm of victory and light. ​When Satan rebelled against God he was placed under eternal judgment, which 2 Peter 2:4 calls pits or the bonds of darkness​.​The devil and all the demons have been relegated to live in darkness, which is essentially a moral darkness,a life lived outside of biblical blessings .This darkness is not simply “the absence of light”,it’s the“absence of God”, Who is light. Read Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT)​. When you“walk in the light” you are given a freedom pass through the effects of darkness. Jesus, that day in the temple, stepped into the   light and He “passed through” the midst of them passing through “defeat into victory”. It’s victory“through” obedience!  


Final Thoughts (5-7 Minutes)  

Pastor Victoria shared the story of the Python that slept with its owner and over the course of its nightly cohabitation, it began to change, eating less and changing its posture. Little did the owner know, it was sizing her up to be eaten. There are many believers out there sleeping with the enemy and the enemy is patiently waiting for the opportunity to devour. We need to wake up. Not only do we need to cease sleeping with the        enemy, we must break ties with the enemy all together. Get loose of the things that have bound you. Freedom has come to your house, but until you begin to yield and walk in obedience, it’s not going to happen. The enemy is deceitful. ​Read Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV​) Do you want that kind of a thing around you? We must guard our hearts for out if flows the issues of life. The enemy is all about taking you out through relationships,            addictions, health, finances that have had you bound. He’s sizing you up. We need to rid ourselves of the internal dialogue of negativity. We need to be assured of who we are. Some believers need to be mentally rewired. We need each other and wise counsel. Self talks lead to failure. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 12:2 tells us to renew our minds. God will tell us things to come. ​Read 2 Corinthians 10:5​. We must declare who your God is. You’ve got to guard your heart and reject comments of negativity. Confess your blessings . Confess your victory! Start enjoying life like never before!                                     


power to leave the valley

10/24/19

Connect Lesson 20: Power to Leave the Valley by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture Reference: Luke 15:1-7 (NKJV), Ezekiel 37:4-9 (NASB), Zechariah 4:6 (NASB)

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

Read Luke 15:1-7 (NKJV). There are many valleys mentioned in God’s Word, like; the valley of vision, slaughter, backsliding, salt... and the list goes on. It’s the low and difficult places of life. The prevailing thought is to stay out of the “valleys” and live on the “mountain tops”, but we know that isn’t always possible as we live in this flesh. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, or the Word of God, sees His sheep that are in the valleys of difficulties. His powerful plan to deliver them is His uncompromising Word. God’s under-shepherds or pastors must be willing to use the power of God’s Word, boldly going into these valleys and leading His sheep out. The power is in God’s truth. John 8:32 says: “The truth will set you free”. Today, some shepherds find it more popular to stand on the mountain top and call into the valleys with a weak, compromising word.Their voices become only an entertaining and powerless sound echoing in the distance. Verse 4 says that the Good Shepherd, the Word of God’s power, goes after the lost sheep until He finds them.The lost and frightened sheep always lie down helplessly and refuse to budge. Vs 5 says, when the Good Shepherd, Who is God’s powerful Word, has found these sheep, He lays them on His shoulders. No pastor can do that speaking a weak, compromising word from a mountain top.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Question #1: Why do you think there are so many pastors preaching a “weak, compromising word” today?

Question #2: What overall effect can this have on the body of Christ as a whole and its influence on the world?

Question #3: What impact does God’s uncompromising Word have on our “valley experiences”?

 

Life Application (5-7 Min)

God’s truth takes any pastor into the deepest depths of dark valleys. There are many good people in the midst of a “valley experience”. The reason for valley experiences may differ, but the release is basically the same, a powerful word from God. In studying the valleys of “life’s low places”, you’ll see why Jesus said: “In the valley, there is a promise of a lily to be found”. In the Song of Solomon 2:1, the Lord declares Himself to be “the lily of the valleys”. Pastor shared that over the years, he’s found himself searching these “valleys” with God’s powerful Word, delivering messages and ministry, always saying, “Let me help you find the lily in this valley.” The lily can always be found. It’s the power of God’s Word. Your valley may be sickness, destruction, or rebellion.  Your valley could also be fear, hurt, disobedience or unforgiveness. Your valley may have a “name” and a “power”, but there is a promise of a greater power. There’s a lily to be found, His name is Jesus! The reason for your valley doesn’t need to be rehearsed over and over. That’s only your refusal to budge. Pastor says, “The message is my ministry and call to come into your ‘valley’ under the power and direction of the Great Shepherd and say, “There’s a release from your valley of sorrow, misery, hurt, unforgiveness, and bitterness. There’s a release from your valley of disobedience, failure, hatred, coldness, indifference, drugs, alcoholism and pornography! It’s in the message and ministry of the power found in the lily of the valley.”

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Min)

Sheep have been proven to be dumb, they’re basically a snack for the wilderness without a shepherd. They talk a lot and if one decides to go off a cliff, the rest will follow. That’s why the role of a shepherd is so important for all of us. We have a Shepherd that loves us unconditionally. Humanity is often resistant towards the things of God, resistant toward each other, even having a resistance within themselves. God might be speaking, but we’re not willing to yield. It happens to all of us. Read Ezekiel 37:4-9 (NASB). How many of you need things to come to life? You’ve got to prophesy to those dry bones. Some of you need to come back to life, you don’t have real joy any more. Some are looking to their mate like, “What’s your problem?” Maybe there’s something wrong in you. You’re never satisfied. But you’ve got to have structure in life. An Olympic hopeful can’t expect to be a serious contender in the Olympics if he/she isn’t putting in the proper training, conditioning, and diet needed to be successful. It’s all about structure. It works the same way spiritually, we’ve got to take in His Word, being in His presence, knowing Who He is because we are made new in His presence and we won’t compromise. The still small voice is always speaking and causing us to yield to His Word, bringing results. Read Zechariah 4:6 (NASB). It’s not by might or power, but by His Spirit. God has laid the foundation and asked all who are heavy laden and broken to come to Him to find rest and healing. He wants to unlock His promises in every area of your life. Life goes by quickly, it’s a vapor. Enjoy every moment, live and rejoice in the moment because you may never get it back. Jesus is about His work, not condemnation. We teach in faith the principles of God, stirring up the gift within you and bringing life back into you because God is good! Amen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fuel to finish

10/10/19

Connect Lesson 18: Fuel to Finish by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

 

Overview (5-7 Min)


 Recently, Pastor Larry shared the following story: “The other day, I found myself in a rush, running out the door to meet one of my many commitments for the day. When I entered the car, I noticed that the low fuel light had come on and it began beeping like crazy. It caught me off guard because I had filled the tank 2 days prior. Where did all the fuel go? Surely, I didn’t use all that fuel, someone must have siphoned my tank! But as I recounted my last two days it made sense. I had been running the fuel pretty hard. Fuel keeps my car alive because without it, it would die. That car, sitting there without fuel, still resembled a car in every way, but it wouldn’t take me anywhere. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of things in life running out of fuel. Life had just been ebbing out of different situations ever so gradually. I saw marriages that were dying a slow death, not ending in divorce, but the vitality and life within the marriage was gone.” 

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

 

#1: What are some things you’ve noticed within your circle of influence that have seemingly lost life and vitality?

#2: What are some ways we can take this life for granted?

#3: How can we learn to develop a deeper appreciation for the life we’ve been given?

 

Life Application (5-7 Min)

 

Life is a gift. Sometimes we don’t fully understand or appreciate this gift until it is lost or diminished in some way. There are times we are excited about life and other times not so excited. We tend to look at life and value it by the conditions of our circumstances, so we say, “Life is good” when everything is going great and “Life is bad” when things aren’t so good. We can say that over our lifetime there have been moments when we’ve been upset with life, disappointed in life, and discouraged over life. We’ve seen those times in life fade, pass, and transform into life being wonderful. Suddenly, we become excited in life, content with life, and completely blessed by life. Over the years, we can grow to understand that life itself is God’s gift and it’s wonderful, no matter what’s going on in the midst of it. Read Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)


Final Thoughts (5-7 Min)

Life should be fun. It’s what keeps relationships together. Laughter heals people. We can’t just focus on each other’s faults. Start laughing and you’ll fall in love all over again. We should be able to enjoy life without people constantly having to ask if you’re ok. You’re going to have moments in life where there will be disappointments and discouragements, but we cannot view life in it entirety as one big disappointment. We all have our issues, but if you’re going to “debate”, do it from the neck up. Don’t allow anger to pour from your heart. Phrases like “Forgive me”, “I love you”, and “I was wrong” are the pathways to healthy communication. Be quick to forgive. The key is to be content and learn how to flow in the moment and not give up, you’re going to make it! You’ll be filled, fueled up and ready to take a trip for a better life. You can climb the biggest mountain and soar to great heights! Know who you are! Fuel up and live a life complete in Christ!

 

love and live

10/8/19

Connect Lesson 17: Love You and Live You by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT), Philemon 1:6 (NLT), I Corinthians 12:12 (NLT) Proverbs 4:23 (NIV), Matthew 7:17-18 (NLT), Proverbs 3:1-8 (NIV)

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

God wants us remembering that we are a “family within a family”. Whether single, married, divorced, separated; it makes no difference. In Christ, we are part of a family. We belong to God’s family! We are a family inside of a family. Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT). We’re not just a “new family” inside of the family of God. In Christ, we are ALL made new and uniquely gifted individuals inside the family of God. God’s family is filled with “variety” so you’re free to be you! The family of God is filled with promise, so you are individually free to dream your dreams. The family of God is filled with miracles, so you’re individually free to believe and receive. God wants your heart filled with the sense of your own individual uniqueness. This is you, love it and live it! God wants you living life knowing you have individual privileges, potential, power and purpose. When God brought you into His family, it was through the door of Jesus Christ, His son. God will never slam that door in your face because of your sense of individual uniqueness.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: Why is it important to have a clear understanding of who you are in God’s family?

#2: What is the value in having our own individual uniqueness within the family of God?

#3: Have you ever felt, as an individual, like you were really different from others? How has that affected you?

 

Life Application (5-7 Min)

If you ever feel, individually, like you’re really different or even messed-up, you’ve got to know that when God opened that door into His family of redemption, He intended for the door to stay open for you throughout all eternity. God has a plan to handle all of the individual difficulties we bring into His family. God wants you to know whatever individual barriers you feel in life, He never put them there. Whatever limitations or rejections you feel individually in life, God never put them there. You are living an “individual life” of endless opportunity, possibilities acceptance, and favor. Be you individually in the family! Love it and live it! Read Philemon 1:6 (NLT). God has put some really good stuff in you. God has put His generosity into you so be generous with who you are individually. Stop backing down from who you are because you don’t see yourself like your family or other people. Love you and live you! Read I Corinthians 12:12 (NLT). The Holy Spirit takes all of our unique difference sand creates a oneness that we are incapable of doing ourselves. It's the Holy Spirit that makes us one with each other. We won't always see, feel, or hear how we fit into this “oneness”. We must always accept that our unique individuality “fits in”. It's not about forgetting who you are and becoming neutral, it's about being totally yourself with no need of trying to impress or explain or make excuses for who you are. Love you and live you in Christ!

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Min)

There is greatness within us and we’ve got to be confident in that, knowing that it will never run out! When a cow fills a bucket of milk, she’s not concerned about not having more, she’s naturally replenished. A chicken isn’t worried about laying its last egg, she’s confident that she’ll lay more. We’ve got to get over this idea that when we lose things in life, it’s the end all, be all and we’re never going to obtain more. God will take the miraculous from the ruins of life. It’s not about what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside. Read Proverbs 4:23 (NIV). When brokenness and the spirit of “run” comes upon our lives and we want to say, “I don’t care about anything,'' we've got to know who we value and  really trust. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What’s inside is going to leak out, don’t think you can hide or mask it. God sent the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into all truth. He’s there to direct our path, our steps are ordered by Him. If you’re praying, you’re on a course. God’s going to direct you. It’s not an accident, you’re not an accident. God’s bringing you to a place where you’re no longer invisible, but visible. Within you is the tree of goodness bringing forth amazing results. You won’t have to think about it. Live right from the inside and results will show outwardly. The more you go through the storm, the greater you’ll come out on the other side. God’s faithful and He’ll do it. The pressure that comes against you is going to grow you because you’ll realize who the Maker is. You’ll face the giant and the giant will go down. We need to slay giants in Jesus’ name. Read Matthew 7:17-18 (NLT). What’s inside of you? Good conquers evil. Stand fast in your confession, proclaim who our God is, the person of peace inside of us. It’s time to grow, diaper season is over, we’ve got to do what God’s called us to this season. Enjoy the season you’re in, but allow yourself to be stretched. If you’re broken in anyway or have given up on your dream, if the devil has told you there’s nothing good in you, know it’s a lie from the pit of hell. Whom the son sets free is free indeed. Read Proverbs 3:1-8 (NIV). God wants to move. Declare the Word and don’t let the devil beat your brains out. Have a healthy heart that sees dreams come alive. You can obtain favor. God fights the battles, we get the victories!

strength for life's seasons

9/26/19

Connect Lesson 16: Strength for Life’s Seasons by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery
Scripture References: Philippians 4:12 (NLT), Proverbs 16:8, Proverbs 13:6, Philippians 4:13, Philippians 4:19 (NKJV), Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

 

Overview (2-5 Minutes)

We’re in a new season at Laurel Another Chance Church, so it’s only natural we discuss the different seasons of life. Throughout our lives we will experience different seasons...some great, others not so great. We’ve all had different seasons. It’s good to learn from people who have successfully accomplished what it is we’re trying to do. In fact, as believers, we can learn a lot through the writings of  the apostle Paul. His life is one of the greatest Bible stories of redemption. This man  lived in just about  every kind of a season you could imagine. Read Philippians 4:12 (NLT). Did you hear that?  “I know how to live, no matter the season.” We’ve all had our seasons! Paul then says “I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” There’s a “scriptural secret” for living redemptively in any kind of situation!

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: How confident do you feel about being able to live “in every situation”?

#2: What scriptural secrets have gotten you through some of your toughest seasons?

#3: How can our choices within our darkest seasons determine its outcome?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Deuteronomy chapter 30 tells us to choose life, good, and blessings in any given situation as opposed to death, evil, and cursing. So our choices in the good or bad circumstances determines the outcome, no matter what. Read Proverbs 16:8. You can live right in the wrong season. Read Proverbs 13:6. Paul’s “scriptural secret” for living redemptively in any kind of situation is to “live right”. Read Philippians 4:13. We’ve found this “strength” to be the peace of God. Part of the meaning of peace is to be made “secure” and have an assurance in your heart no matter what the circumstances. Read Philippians 4:19 (NKJV). God supplies in all seasons! So, if you’re in a “season of lack”, your supply is coming from “His riches” in glory. We will see it in all of our seasons as we acknowledge the grace of God in our lives and as we stand in faith believing God’s Word. It’s not the season of your life that makes life worth living, it’s the “reason” of your life. No matter the season of your life, God’s unfailing love is there for you. Your “attitude” in the season will work for you or against you. If you’re in a bad season, don’t let your heart be deceived into thinking God doesn’t love you! Read Psalm 23:6 (NLT). Through God‘s goodness and unfailing love, you have strength for all seasons!

 

Final Thoughts (5-7 Minutes)

You’ve got to be serious about your season because if not, you will not see the effectiveness of what God’s going to do in your season. Everyone goes through seasons. But it’s not what you’re dealt with, it’s what you do with it. Everybody likes something different in life and that’s the key to being who God wants you to be in your own uniqueness. We all have a special gift. Some of us just need to know who we are and allow ourselves to be unique. Nobody wants a “left over voice”, we need to all be a voice. Circumstances will try to challenge that. Listen, anytime you buy a house, you have an inspection done to check for termites and we need to be inspecting our seasons for those “termites” that might try to subtly destroy us. Termites can be unforgiveness, fears, deferred hope, a sense of lack or not feeling valued. How many have ever felt devalued in life? Respect means a lot to people. People have lost relationships because they didn’t feel respected. We all need to know that we’re all valued, respected and that we will get through this season. What you’re going through is only a part of the bigger picture. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Don’t allow yourself to be guilt ridden, allowing the enemy to lie to you constantly. Don’t get too focused on YOU instead of the impossible that God wants to do through you. You’ve got to keep fighting. Have a plan. Put in the work, use your voice, you need to have a starting point. Philippians 4:13 really gives us the muscles we need to do what we need to do. Never devalue yourself because of your age. It’s just a number, you can do it! Defy that age and celebrate in it! God does the impossible and if you’re thinking, “Well, God what about me?” Know that God is speaking to you even now, He’s faithful, know there is a bigger picture. You were created for a purpose. There’s a gift in you and nobody that can keep it from you. Damaging winds of adversity can come, but wind can also be peaceful and comforting, no matter what storms are in your life, allow God to get you through it. Realize that all things are possible to them that believe. So just believe! No matter what’s going at the moment, know that this is the day that the Lord has made and we’re going to rejoice and be glad in it, take it for what it is. Tell yourself you can do it! We need to come together, this our time, this our season and we are going to be blessed!

 

 

 

 

never say never

9/19/19

Connect Lesson 15: Never Say Never by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Mark 9:23 (NKJV), Mark 11:23-24 (NKJV), Ephesians 6:13 (NKJV), Romans 12:2 (NLT), Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT), Psalms 46:1-3 (NKJV)

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

You’ve probably heard or used the expression “never say never”. You might have said, “I’ll never talk to them again!” or “I’ll never get out of debt!” or  “That’ll never happen for me!” God wants to remove the “negative never” from your vocabulary. Jesus said in Matthew 12:37 (MSG) Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation. Your spoken words can fill your life with either possibility or impossibility. God wants to fill you with a sense of possibility.When Pastor Larry got saved, the Lord branded these scriptures on his heart: Read Mark 9:23 (NKJV). Read Mark 11:23-24 (NKJV). Early in his salvation, etched into his heart, was this powerful revelation of believing, receiving, saying and seeing. It wasn’t some kind of a “formula”, it was spiritual revelation. God had spoken to his heart! But like everything else, it had to be tested by fire.  He would learn another important revelation: Read Ephesians 6:13 (NKJV).

He found, early in his walk of faith, that he’d have to stand for what he believed. His “never say never” would have to fight hell and its attacks against his stand of faith, believing and receiving, saying and seeing.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: What are some “nevers” you’ve vocalized that you may have had to “walk back”?

#2: Why does your position of faith need to go beyond “words” when it comes to pushing back on the enemy’s attacks?

#3: What are some things we may need to “check” in our lives in order for us to “back down the devil”?

 

Life Application (5-7 Min)

The devil doesn’t back down from what you say, he backs down from where you stand when you say it. Say it from a position of faith believing, an unshakable revelation, a determined purpose, and your authority in Christ.  Never say never! When it comes to God’s promises for your life, He wants to fill your heart  with an unshakable sense of possibility. Let possibility fill your heart! In the natural, barriers of impossibility are being broken through every single day of our lives, yet we wrestle with it spiritually. You can only grow in your walk of faith as far as you allow your mind to be transformed by God’s Word! Read Romans 12:2 (NLT) When your thoughts are God’s Word, then you’re thinking God’s way. When you’re thinking God’s way, you have faith to invade and conquer the impossible. The promise of God is His way of thinking! What has God promised you? 2 Corinthians 5:7 says for we walk by faith, not by sight! We break through the tremendous resistance of impossibility by continuing to walk in the direction of God‘s promise. What we see in the natural is what the enemy uses to keep us from pressing on to possibility and break-throughs. Remember, in Romans 10:17, Abraham called those things which “did not exist” as though they did. You break through the site barrier by believing, receiving, and speaking God’s promises. It’s believing and speaking God’s promises over natural circumstances that pulls life back around. You’ll know when life is working against you because you’ll feel overwhelmed, hopeless, and unresponsive. Read Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT). Never say never because when you believe in and speak God’s promise, it releases the incredible greatness of God‘s power.

 

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

We can take the “ever” out of the “never” and stand “forever” with Christ Jesus because of Who He is. We all have stories, the good news is that God is for us. The old saying  that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” we all know is not true. Words do affect us. It can make us feel sad and broken at times.  Read Psalms 46:1-3. He is our refuge and our strength, He is our covenant God, He’s more than enough, plentiful and all giving. When we're in trouble with our pitiful selves, we don't call Ghostbusters, we call on the Holy Ghost to bust it up. Things are hitting our nation, natural disasters are upon us, things are being shook up, but we serve a mighty God! We serve a God who is coming back for His people, He is high and lifted up and His train fills the temple. We serve an amazing God Who is asking us to be ambassadors for Him, being beacons of light to go out and win the broken for Christ. Amen!

somewhere between

9/12/19

Connect Lesson #14: Somewhere Between By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Romans 8:28, James 1:2-4 (MSG), 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV), 2 Corinthians 12:10 (MSG)

 

Overview (2-5 Minutes)

This week we’re going to discuss what it means to be in “that place between”. Everyone on their way to “the fulfillment” of their prayers pass through that place between your present reality and the manifestation. That place between can be frustrating, painful, and difficult. Many times when you’re in that place between, it can appear that there’s no progress towards your dream or desire. God measures our progress by what’s going on inside of us, like the growth in our joy, faithfulness, trust and peace. You could be closer to the realization of your dream than it looks on the outside. We really don’t have a clue of what God is doing behind the scenes. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. Right now your circumstances could be maneuvering you into a position for a breakthrough. If you only see yourself as a success when everything on the outside is going great then that place between becomes a place of failure for you. If you can only see what’s around you, your ability to see what’s before you will be diminished!

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Minutes)

#1: Has there ever been a time when you felt like you weren’t any closer to your dream now than you were 5 years ago? Explain.

#2: Have you ever made any snap decisions or moves in the pursuit of your dreams  that have created negative outcomes? Give an example.

#3: How can we combat feelings of abandonment when it seems like our dreams won’t be realized?

 

Life Application (5-7 Minutes)

Remember, there’s a purpose and a divine connection with “that time between” and God’s manifested promise. God hasn’t forgotten you! Read James 1:2-4 (MSG). That place between is a gift because it’s where our faith and maturity are being developed so we’re not deficient in any way. Most of us make mistakes concerning our dreams and desires. We think immediate action is required, but really they need patience. Just because you aren’t “moving on” doesn’t mean nothing’s “going on”. The way God measures our progress is by what’s going on inside of us, not what’s going on the outside. Our dream must develop and mature on the inside. Many times in that “place between” you’ll feel like there’s always a lack of resources for your dream. These “between times” can make you feel alone, even isolated as you pursue your dreams and desires. In that “place between” sometimes the only encouragement coming to you is from your desire “not to let go”. This is why we need to mature! You’ll always have people telling you that your dreams will never happen, but remember, what God originates, He orchestrates! There’s no limitation with God’s potential and resources to fulfill your dreams and desires. When God puts something in your heart, just remember, He’s working behind the scenes to make it happen. You’re not responsible for figuring out how to “pull off” God’s dream and desire for your life. God is not depending on you to make it happen. He’s looking for your dependence upon Him to make it happen in that “place between”. The focal point of your dream should always be God no matter what your role is in it. When God is the “focal point” then faith can flow. Faith is the confidence that God is who He says He is and that He’ll do what He has promised to do. Count it all joy when you are in that “place between”. You may be somewhere between, but you are not alone and on your own.

 

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

You can be strong and love on people at the same time. Jesus Christ is our sufficiency and our grace in the “in between”. He’s Jesus “Grace” Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV) - Look, we’re all gonna blow it in life, but we gotta take it to Jesus. We all gotta grace each other. God’s always working behind the scenes for us, even when we don’t feel Him, He’s working for us. In the dark, people move about, but when the light hits them, they scramble. At first, the light might be too bright or too much for us and it might take a moment to process, but God is there for you. Read 2 Corinthians 12:10 (MSG). God’s not putting it on you. He said He’s not associated with evil. He created and blessed us. He told Adam and Eve to keep away from the tree, but man wanders, detours in life, we all do that. We say things we wish we could take back. Our strength comes within our weaknesses. Paul stopped focussing his handicap. He focused on his gift. Don’t  focus on your handicap, it will only handicap you. Don’t focus on your weaknesses. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, focus on your gift. It will soar. We have to know that it’s about God’s grace and sufficiency, realize how loved you are. The Lamb has the power of the cleansing blood from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. He will take out any poison. Don’t be hardened by the way things are. Hardness is ugly, bitter, it causes disease. Hardness brings confusion. Let the joy of the Lord become your strength. Let God’s grace and sufficiency become your health, strength, praise, love, peace and joy. That’s who we serve, let Him become everything you need. Let’s have an encounter with Jesus. Bring Him to your job site and your home. Let’s let Christ take over. If you believe it, you gotta walk it, you’ve gotta talk it, you speak and you’ve got to do it. That’s the God we serve, the weaker we get, the stronger we become. We have to come together on this. Amen!

love labors for a lifetime

9/4/19

Connect Lesson #13: Love Labors for a Lifetime by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Hebrews 6:10 (NKJV), Galatians 6:9 (MSG), Hebrews 3:13 (NCV), Acts 2:42 (NIV), Hebrews 10:25 (NCV), Galatians 6:7-10 (NKJV), Luke 6:31-36 (NLT)

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

In keeping with the tone for Labor Day this week, a simple, but powerful thought to keep in mind is this: Love Laborers For a Lifetime! Read Hebrews 6:10 (NKJV) We as believers need to consistently be stirred-up and not stripped-down in our walk of faith. Read Galatians 6:9 (MSG). Everyone needs to be encouraged in their walk of love and faith as well. In fact, Hebrews 3:13 (NCV) says: But encourage each other every day while it is today. Help each other so none of you will become hardened because sin has tricked you. Without daily encouragement from other believers we become susceptible to sin’s tricks and hardness of heart. The trick of sin is to get you to believe a lie about the Word of God, God’s intentions towards you, those who love you, and about who you are in Christ.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: What are some ways we as believers can get “stripped down” in our walk of faith?

#2: What kind of “empowerment” comes from encouraging others or being encouraged?

#3: What are some ways sin can trick us into believing lies regarding who we are in Christ?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

Sin’s “trick” is to put more emphasis on secular activities than on Christian fellowship! Just look at your schedules. The early church had a different take on scheduling of their time. Read Acts 2:42 (NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. Out of their fellowship came signs and wonders, needs being met, lives filled with praise, the favor of God and growth. Secular activities strip you down, Christian fellowship stirs you up. These Connect Groups are a perfect example! Read Hebrews 10:25 (NCV) From our fellowship comes encouragement, from encouragement comes signs and wonders, labors of love and growth in all forms. By this you stay stirred up instead of being stripped down. The enemy tries to eliminate God-centered fellowship out of our schedules. Read Galatians 6:7-10 (NKJV). Spiritual activities require greater investments from us. Sowing to the spirit is spending time and money on things that are eternal. Money is merely time minted so we can spend it again! Let’s ask ourselves, are we spending more time and money on the flesh or the spirit? Growing in grace or reaping spiritual fruit requires more sowing to the spirit with faith and patience! God promises an abundant harvest at just the right time. A growing spiritual harvest requires faithful sowing in all of our activities. Sowing to the spirit gets you stirred-up, sowing to the flesh gets you stripped-down. By recognizing that “sowing to the spirit” is stepping into His presence, a greater appreciation of spiritual activities grows. Spiritual activities produce spiritual harvests or manifestations of God’s promises. Remember love labors for a lifetime! Remind yourself of this: Read Acts 17:28. There’s a picture of how a believer should live. All aspects of our lives: family, business, and leisure are to be lived in harmony and oneness with Christ. Our ethics, morals, and life philosophies need to flow from God’s Word, character, design and desire! For in Him we live, move and have our being! That’s how we stay stirred-up and not stripped-down. Remember: Love laborers for a lifetime!

 

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

Those who launch into the deep waters will experience the mighty acts of God. If you don't put action into anything, you’ll never get results. God wants us to be smart, He wants us to know our Maker so that when opposition arises, we’ll have Christ confidence, not self confidence. The devil will try to beat you up when you declare who you are. Sometimes we’re tempted to reach for the remote or the refrigerator door for something to fill that longing inside our soul, but when you step in and hear the voice of God, it makes you feel so good. You feel like you’ve been detoxed. God brings out who we were meant to be, passionately in love with Him. Read Luke 6:31-36 (NLT) That’s a good way to invest in life. How will we treat others? How do we want to be treated? We’d love or everyone to pardon us and give us grace, but are we there for people when they’re hurting or do we say, “Suck it up and move on”? Allowing God to use you doesn’t have to be orchestrated. It could just be one prompting, one scripture, one Word that becomes Rhema and the whole atmosphere changes. When you minister to others it comes back to you. As you worship God, you become more vitalized and invigorated with youth. God designed us to seek Him and when we do, He heals us. Every time you worship Him, an opportunity for healing comes. He’s working on your inner being, showing you things, giving you creativity. The devil doesn’t want you to have an encounter with God. He wants you to sit back and be lazy. We’ve got to intercede for others. When you do that, things begin to change, gifts begin to operate, God begins to show up and the miraculous begins to happen. But we can’t do it if people don’t show up. We need each other. We’re the body of Christ. We need to be a weapon of worship against the enemy. We can’t just do our own thing. There’s healing in the Word, praying in the Spirit brings things back. When’s the last time you prayed in the Holy Ghost? When’s the last time you felt like you wanted to go out and save your neighborhood? We are God’s people, we are His army and we need to change the world with His power. Amen.

 

 

watch your step

8/29/19

Connect Lesson #12: Watch Your Step By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Ephesians 5:15-16 (MSG),Psalm 119:133 (NLT), Ephesians 4:1-3 (NLT),

Ephesians 5:2 (NLT), Ephesians 5:8 (NKJV), Ephesians 5:15-16, James 1:5, Proverbs 1:1-6 (MSG), Ephesians 3:14

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

Many people today have become extremely mindful of how they take their “steps” on a daily basis. They say it takes 10,000 steps a day just to be considered an “active person”. But God’s been telling man to “Watch their step” since creation. Read Ephesians 5:15-16 (MSG). These are desperate times! God’s clearly warning us in these times to watch our step, use our head, and make the most of every chance we get! Your “steps” will never be in the right place if your head isn’t in the right places. Read Psalm 119:133 (NLT). The apostle Paul tells us how to walk by God’s Word in unity, love, light and  wisdom.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: What are some things that can happen in life if we don’t “watch our steps”?

#2: What are some examples of not having our mind in the right places?

#3: How can not having our mind in the right places create chaotic situations in our lives?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

#1: Walking in unity releases God’s purpose in our walk. Read Ephesians 4:1-3 (NLT). Make “unity” the purpose of your walk. We’re called to walk in unity, making room for each other’s faults. Our purpose as believers is the Ministry of Reconciliation, living in the peace of God. #2: Walking in love releases God’s passion in our life. Read Ephesians 5:2 (NLT). Loss of a willingness to serve comes from a love or passion has grown cold. A life filled with love will sacrifice anything to accomplish the will of God. Passionless love isn’t a pleasing aroma to God. Love is the fragrance of God’s Spirit. #3. Walking in light releases God’s power in our life. Read Ephesians 5:8 (NKJV). The world says, “Step into the darkness where you’ll find fun or bondage.” The Lord says, “Step into the light, where you’ll find My power”. Read Ephesians 3:20 (NCV). Walking in light, brings power to your path.#4: Walking in wisdom releases God’s potential in our life. Read Ephesians 5:15-16 (NASB). The wisdom of God brings to our life God’s potential and ability. Read James 1:5 (NIV). God’s wisdom opens the doors of all possibility! Remember, watch your step, use your head and make the most of every chance you get! We’re in desperate times!

 

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

We need to love like Jesus. In life, we should always walk in love, we don’t always achieve it, but we strive toward the mark. Life’s about loving one another, doing things for each other. Passion’s where you’re at your best! It out rocks perfection. You don’t have to be THE best. Passion makes you best by opening doors to people who need love. They want to feel it and know God is there. Read Proverbs 1:1-6 (MSG). It all starts here. There’s something for everyone. Growing with the rhythms and seasons of life makes us blessed. We can enjoy life on a whole different level. Let’s teach young people how to live. There’s hope in living, there’s courage, authority and power in knowing our Maker. They’ve got to know that in Christ they’ll survive and go to another level. Connect with God’s power, it’s the only way to make it through these days. We’re equipped to do great things. God’s given many gifts, praise Him for those laboring for His work. First step of knowledge is bowing down to God. Only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. Bow your knee and your heart. It’s the epitome of what we should be. Read Ephesians 3:14. Bowing your knee makes life more wonderful. Love gets greater, sweeter. Learn to forgive, embrace people. Don’t expect everyone to be like you. We can’t judge others based on how we live and who we are. It’s about God’s love, the greatest gift. In love, you never lose. There are no losers when we love, only winners. Love wins, conquers and keeps us healthy. Be extravagant in the love of God. Reach out and experience the breath of Christ and the fullness of God. Be moved by the fullness of today and not of yesterday. We don’t breathe yesterday’s air, we take in the new. Let’s advance in a new dimension today. Live in the moment of having each other today! God’s going to do the miraculous as we bow our knee. He’s called us to be able ministers of the gospel, beacons of light. He created variety so we may share His Word in our own way. The spoken Rhema Word will change your life forever! Allow the Holy Ghost to lead and guide you into everything. Be moved by the assured Word of God!

a thread that won't break

8/22/19

Connect Lesson #11: A Thread That Won’t Break by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG), Psalm 37:25 (NLT), Romans 5:5 (NKJV), Job 14:7-9 (NKJV), Ephesians 6:13 (MSG), 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV), Hebrews 12:2, Psalm 119:105 (MSG), Psalm 37:23, Psalm 32:8 (MSG)

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

Most of us have heard the expression “hanging on by a thread”. Usually, it just means “being in a desperate situation”. Harper Collins Dictionary describes the phrase “hanging by a thread” as being in a very uncertain state and unlikely to survive or succeed. The world doesn’t offer much hope when we’re in desperate situations, but the Bible also has something important to say about it. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG). #1. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says you’re not being singled out. There’s no room for self-pity. Some people use self-pity as a self-soothing mechanism, but it’ll soon become a tool of self-destruction. You need to hit your problem head-on and not question the fairness of any circumstance or compare yourself with “others”. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says that’s not wise!

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1. How can self-pity become a “tool of destruction”?

#2. What’s the danger in comparing yourself to others?

#3. How can the object of focus become a determining factor in how we handle “hanging by a thread”?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

When you give all of your attention to one thing, you begin to notice everything. It’s the “emotional snowball” effect. Suddenly, you notice your entire life’s been “totally unfair”. You’ve got to stop this train before it gets rolling or your emotions will take over your reality.  True reality comes back as you start counting your many blessings.

#2. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says God won’t let you down. Read Psalm 37:25 (NLT). This realization will start a reorganization of your emotions first, then your life situation and resources. An unfailing hope will begin to fill your life and flood your circumstances. Read Romans 5:5 (NKJV). Hope doesn’t disappoint and God‘s love never fails. There’s an old saying in Texas: It doesn’t matter how much milk you spill as long as you don’t lose your cow. Stop crying over the “spilled milk” of old situations  and move forward with your cow called “hope”. Read Job 14:7-9 (NKJV). Hope is a thread that won’t break #3.1 Corinthians 10:13 says God will never let you be pushed past your limit. Read Ephesians 6:13 (MSG). You’re not alone or on your own. Keep the battle out in front of you (in the Spirit) through prayer, not in your head, conversations, or your relationships. Read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV). When you feel you’ve reached your limits, remember, the “push back” and “pull down” of all the demonic strongholds rests solely on the finished work of Christ. Read Hebrews 12:2. #4.1 Corinthians 10:13 says He’ll always be there to help you through it. Jesus is your hope. He’s the thread that won’t break!

 

Final Thought (2-5 Min)

God’s forever seeing us, He’s the all seeing One. He sees us when we hit those walls, feeling that pressure, and are on that last thread. His eyes are on you. It’s not a threat. Read Psalm 119:105 (MSG). We can see where we’re going because He’s beaming the light down on our dark path. We’re spotlighted by the God of Glory. When you feel like you’re stumbling, God’s directing you. Read Psalm 37:23. Know that your darkened corners are gonna be lit up, your footsteps are ordered. We’re in this time for God to do the supernatural as never before. God has supernatural power flowing through each of us. Read Psalm 32:8 (MSG). God’s directing you even when you’re not asking Him to, He’s amazing. When you’re combatting in life, you get tired, but you’ve got to stay stronger than ever and have the right attitude because the Word works and will not return void. By God’s Words we can see where we’re going. We naturally want to see where things are going, but we’re not going to walk in darkness. We need to stand with the Word, not wrestle or feel sorry for ourselves, we want to walk fear free. We’re the sons and daughters of God, there is no spirit of fear. Faith arises and we walk in authority, knowing our faithful God and what He’s capable of. He’s going to walk with us and favor us, even with those who don't like us. Pray they’ll have His heart. We’ve got to find common ground with others, there’s beauty everywhere. People want you to notice, respect, and love them. If we’re going to be beacons of light, we’ve got to be lit up. That Godly light’s going to draw people. With light comes freedom, let God beam His light on you. Walk out with hope and victory knowing who you are in Christ. Be happy knowing that the joy of the Lord is your strength! Do you believe God is for you and not against you? He’s guiding us by His light and He’s gonna get us through! 

your reason for being

8/15/19

Lesson 10: Your Reason for Being By Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: 2 Timothy 1:7, Ephesians 1:3-6, Jeremiah 29:11, Mark 9:23, 1 John 3:8, Isaiah 54:17, James 1:2,17

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

There’s a God reason why you are here on this earth! But rejection will try to destroy you. You cannot let rejection replace your God “reason for being”. Rejection is a bully that causes you to cower and retreat from the possibilities and potential of your redemption! Fear is rejection’s best friend. The torment associated with rejection is caused by fear in all of its forms. Read 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)  These “evil twins” of fear and rejection want to empty your life of redemptive power, acceptance, and sense of well-being.  Read Ephesians 1:3-6 (MSG) The redemptive and rewarding hand of God is upon you, you’ve been taken out of the cruel hands of rejection and placed into the loving and accepting hands of God. His hand upon your life has a plan.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

1. What are some ways we can allow fear and rejection to steal our hope and confidence?

2. What are the dangers of accepting the lie that your life is just a “random existence”?

3. How can we encourage one another to stay in the fight when rejection tries to take us out?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

Read Jeremiah 29:11. We’re not living some kind of random existence. There’s a reason for your life! When people say, “What’s wrong with our world today? We need to respond with, “There’s no God connection through Jesus Christ!” Without God, we are left with a “random existence” that only offers a temporary, futile purpose, a purpose that reaches no further than the dust it returns to. You were put on this earth with a God plan and purpose... plans to have hope and a future. It’s believing that will take you out of rejection’s grip. Read Mark 9:23 (NKJV) A father and his precious son were being tormented by an evil spirit and society. This father had to believe his son and the entire family had a purpose in life beyond being rejected. Rejection is one of the most powerful weapons in the devil's arsenal of destruction, but knowing you have a God-given purpose or a reason for being will always defeat rejection or any other weapon formed against you. Read 1 John 3:8. Remember, you’ve got to enforce your redemptive power, acceptance, and sense of well-being! Read Isaiah 54:17 (NCV) “You will show that those who speak against you are wrong. These are the good things My servants receive. Their victory comes from me,” says the Lord.

 

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

Rejection is Kryptonite. It paralyzes us, making us ineffective. We could be doing well and get hit by the devil in a surprise attack, taking our breath away. Read James 1:2. Sometimes we just feel like, “Are you gonna break through for me, God?” We all go through it. When you fall, you’ve got to be determined to maintain joy so the disease and the kryptonite doesn’t come into you. Don’t inhale the trauma. Know in faith, that this is going to pass, God’s raising a standard against it. God’s into adding, not subtracting. He brings victory into everything. God doesn’t tempt us with evil. Just because something isn’t happening right away doesn’t mean we quit. We have to maintain joy in Him, believing He’s going to bring the victory. Don’t be enraged. Rage will cause people to do crazy things like taking advantage of loved ones. We are in the last days, we’ve got to be determined not to inhale the poison but be illuminated and refreshed in God. He does the impossible. God’s for us, not against us. We can all be weary in well doing and broken at times, but look up to where your redemption draws nigh, the One Who moves on your behalf. He says, “I am here”. Debt and other circumstances aren’t worth losing your life over. We’ve got to live for others...for each other. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, God is the hope. He’ll feed you through people. He’s good. It’s good to be alive. Breakthroughs are coming, rejoice with those who receive their breakthroughs, it’s another opportunity to worship God. Everybody needs somebody. Read James 1:17. We’re a good gift to each other. We need each other more than ever, when you think you can’t make it, think of someone else. It will bring you joy unspeakable and full of glory. It brings peace and value. It gives a greater outlook on life because God is that good. Be determined to have God’s joy, that’ll be your strength, giving you Christ confidence. We can do all things through Christ. Our God is able! 

ruined or rewarded by pressure

8/8/19

Ruined or Rewarded by Pressure by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: James 1:12 (MSG), Galatians 2:20 (NKJV), 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NLT)

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

Life’s pressures come in all shapes and sizes! There’s no such thing as a life without pressure. Having more money, having the right connections, and even having “great faith” doesn’t eliminate pressure. Don’t buy the lie of, “If you do less in life, you’ll have less pressure.” Life will pressure you even if you are sitting still, doing nothing or if you are moving backwards, away from any new opportunities. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you don’t move forward, you’ll have less pressure. Life is going to be filled with pressure whether you’re “doing” something or not. We’ve got to move forward through the pressures so you can reap the reward and understand that life, good or bad, carries with it pressure. No life equals no pressure, but where there is life, there is pressure.

 

Read James 1:12 (MSG). There’s a fortune to be found in managing pressure. Life‘s pressures will challenge you, forcing you to be more creative and resourceful. It’ll grow you out of your comfort zone. The key is to let it leverage the dormant skill-set God’s placed deep in your life! James 1:12 tells us our good fortune comes from facing down the challenging pressure by hitting it head on and sticking it out until it rewards us! Having enough strength to “face down” or manage pressures requires you have to have a higher purpose than your own personal gain. You can look at the pressure and say, “It’s not worth it to me” and walk away from the fight AND the reward, but to really understand life and its value, we must include more than just ourselves. The more God and people you include into your life and its equations, the more purpose you have to prosper from pressures.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

How we can life’s pressures become one of life’s privileges?

How can we miss being rewarded by giving into life’s pressures?

How can making self-centeredness your starting point eventually lead to ruin?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

Self-centered people have little purpose beyond themselves and couldn’t care less about how their actions affect others or their witness as a Christian. Self-centered people make decisions without considering the impact it will have on others or God’s kingdom. The title “self-centered Christian” is an oxymoron and a contradiction to a person who lives a Christ-centered life. Read Galatians 2:20 (NKJV). When pressured by life, the center for our thought life must be “ It’s no longer I, but Christ.” If that’s your starting point, you’ll always do the right thing while counting it as a privilege concerning life’s pressures. When you’re starting point for your life’s actions centers in the “I” of life, like “I” will not put up with...“I” will not listen to this…“I” will not be the one, your Christlike character becomes compromised. The power of pressure is in Christ. The “Christ-centered life” as opposed to the “self-centered life” has a greater power and purpose which is the wisdom, strength and reward of God. How are you facing life’s pressures? Who is your first consideration in making your decisions? If it’s God and His kingdom and not you, then you’ll receive God’s “refreshing reward”. Face down life’s pressures by putting Jesus first in everything and be “renewed, not ruined” by life’s pressures.

 

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NLT). You’ve got to go down in the depths and awaken the power God’s put within you. We’ve got to turn on the switch. Your qualification comes from God. You only have to trust Him. He’s already qualified you. Let God work through you!. He has enabled us to be ministers of God’s covenant. It’s God who gets you up in the morning. He is passionately in love with you, when no one seems to care, He all about you. This is not a covenant of written laws, but of the Spirit - the new covenant gives life. It’s the Spirit that quickens and enables us to make us more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Look at Joshua, he was fierce, he was a fighter. There are passive people, there are aggressive people, you know that in your workplace, we all have different gifts. Aggressive people can be great when under Christ, but if not they become combative. We all need each other. We inspire one another but we’ve got to do it by the word. God needs every gift. Brothers can have similarities doesn’t mean they are the same. God’s going to take the pressure off of life, we are able ministers for the covenant. Are you a Joshua, Caleb, Sarah, a Deborah, or a Gideon? Be motivated by the pressure. We all can be leaders, we can advance in life, but you’ve got to head out into rough territory. Problems will arise, but ain’t no grave gonna hold us down. Troubles grow us. The more God uses you and the more you move forward, the more you’ll get different challenges. We want to go with the power, there’s power in God, He will qualify us. Joshua made sure he would take territory. Others didn’t because of doubt and unbelief. Pressure comes off with praise. You might say, “I cant do it!” But God can! He’s the One that raises you up, puts people on platforms, opens doors and causes creativity - know that you are an able minister - God is going to do the impossible through you!

 

the break out moment

8/1/19


Connect Lesson 8: The Break Out Moment By Ps. Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Matthew 9:22, Luke 8:55, Romans 11:29, Acts 16:26

 

Overview (2-5 min)

How many of you feel like there needs to be a break-out moment from your current life circumstances? Maybe you’re thinking, ”Something’s wrong here!” The truth is that God wants your heart filled with “hope” even in the midst of these “mysterious”circumstances. You might not have, at this point, a clear picture of what your life should look like, but you know it must be done. You need to have a “break-out” moment. Remember Jairus, a leader of a local synagogue, came to Jesus. His daughter was at home dying. He said to Jesus in his personal pain, “Lay your hand on her and she will live!” But circumstances kept stopping Jesus from getting there to help, like the woman with the issue of blood. 12 Yrs in her sickness but in faith she reached toward Jesus. Read Matthew 9:22 (NLT) This woman was healed in a moment. Now, Jairus was looking for “his moment” and Jesus did what He promised him. Read Luke 8:55 (NLT)

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 min)

Question #1: Was there ever a time in your life when you thought you’d never get “your moment”. How did it effect you?

Question #2: What are some ways we can change our outlook, when it seems like “our moment” has been forgotten?

Question #3: How can the impact of not receiving “your moment”, when you want it, affect your passion?

 

Life Application (2-5 min)

Here’s what it comes down to: You need to look at the areas in life where you have lost your passion. Maybe you feel like the things you loved and did so long with all of your heart are gone. Your passion is where you’ll find the strength needed to break out of those circumstances. Doing something dramatic or drastic isn’t necessary. You just need some “redirection” of “certain elements” in your life. Moving forward, your life will return and you’ll stand up immediately. Losing your passion for something requires redirection into a new endeavor or you’ll “die on the vine”. Hopelessness can set in, making you feel like unwanted in your current situation. Don’t buy the lie. It's your passion for something, not people, that makes you feel needed and wanted! It's not about losing your “effectiveness”, it's about not letting a “vibrant passion” lead in the direction of your life’s endeavors. Living life devoid of passion is a “downward spiral” leading to a lack of desire, motivation, or to just do things out of obligation. There’s no joy in a passionless existence. Don’t be “fooled” by new little projects or ideas. Those come to your heart from your gifts of “creativity”.  All of that will fall short of what used to fire-up your passion. Thoughts and ideas may come, but will never grow legs and take off because they are born out of “desperation” and not “vision”. Great ideas are just creative attempts of escape rather than a passion driven purpose. You don't need little side-show events. You need to step back into the big ring and do what you’re called to do. Read Romans 11:29 (NKJV) Side shows can be wonderful, but they’ll only become a treadmill of existence going nowhere related to your purpose!  Just “doing something” isn’t a satisfying way to live. That’s when you begin to explore unnecessary options, but it's only a self-induced placebo of a remedy. Our hearts need to be set on the big picture, not things that lead to “short term” versions of diversion and deception. When you are led by money, you'll always be lead by money, not a life giving, need meeting passion. When we expose our deepest frustrations, it makes way for our deepest desires

 

Final Thought (2-5 min)

We gotta break the chains of imprisonment, they hinder and restrict us in every area of life. There’s no immunity for these chains except the Word of God. When things come at you in the natural, know that there is a freedom you can walk in. Passion is important, it’s strong and it reveals who you really are. There’s passion in praise. When Paul and Silas went to prison, they were in chains but they sang songs of praise and victory. They were determined that no matter what,  they’d put their trust in Christ alone. They were His followers! Read Acts 16:26 (NLT). It happened suddenly! When the foundation of our life is shaken, we don’t always like how it feels, but the result is wonderful. We pray about getting from A to Z, but God does it in His timing and we get uncomfortable. Sometimes we have to allow God to break up the ground for us. But when the fire comes, people will rush to find out where it’s coming from. God is good, He wants to use you to help others. You’re gonna be rejected at times. There are gonna be little snakes that try to bite you. Don’t let it get to you, fling it off like Paul. When you start letting go, you’ll have freedom, you won’t care, you’ll enjoy your life. When people are Debbie Downers, just walk away from them. We cannot engage in that. You’ve got to know that you can have a break through moment. Do you want a passion for Jesus? Passion is when you get a fire in you. Don’t let that passion get away! 

redemption power

7/25/19

Connect Lesson 7 - Redemption Power by Ps Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Colossians 1:13-14, Psalm 107:2, Hebrews 12:2, Exodus 14:13, John 15:7,

2 Timothy 3:14-15

 

Overview (3-5 Min)

What is Redemption Power? To put it simply, it’s a “Fix It” power, it’s a “Find It” Power and it’s a “Finish It” Power. So Who does all of the fixing, finding and finishing? One of the best scriptures to explain Redemption Power is found here: Read Colossians 1:13-14 (AMP) Redemption Power is a “Fix It” Power because He saved us from our sins and the dominion of darkness. It’s a “Find It” power because He searched for us, drawing us to Himself into the kingdom of His beloved son and it’s a “Finish It” power because He stays with us, forgiving and canceling our penalty for sin. God wants people feeling “secure” in their “redemption.” There’s nothing worse than feeling unsure if God is really with you, for you, and in you.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: How can feeling unsure about God’s presence in our lives affect the way we commune with Him?

#2: How can sin make us feel insecure about God’s position in our lives?

#3: How can worrying affect the overall outcome of a situation? How can we combat it?

 

Life Application (2 Min)

Psalm 46:1 tells us that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. There’s no need to worry, life’s going to work out for you! Remember: Redemption is a “Fix It” power, He’s your refuge while things are being “fixed”. Redemption is “Find It” power, He’s your strength through the “searching for” and “finding of” God’s plan and purpose for your life. Redemption is a “Finish It” Power, He’s your ever-present help enabling you to stay in the race and “finish” all God has started in and for you. Read Psalm 107:2 (KJV) You’re in the hand of the one who is fixing it, finding it and finishing it. God wants you walking in peace. Read Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) From this place of honor, He is fixing it, finding it and finishing it. It’s called Redemption Power!

 

Final Thoughts (3-5 Min)

Read Exodus 14:13 NLT - There are “Egyptians” or enemies in our lives, God wants us to see our salvation, our Abba Father wants you to know He’s there to save us. Stand still. Watch God bring you salvation. We want to see miracles by the Spirit of God in us. We can have power. We can do it with God. He’s there to enlighten us, to give us discernment on everything, to be ahead of the game so our enemies will be done in. You don’t have to allow problems to have power over you. God’s your fixer, He makes life possible, He puts broken pieces together. We've got to let go. It’s a new day of freedom and victory.  Christ has laid a foundation rich with principles on which to build and resurrect your life. We’d better start making declarations and prophesying. This is our salvation and victory, we’re not losing out. The world is dark, but despite all the hate and evil, God is faithful. Read John 15:7 There’s vitality and energy here. God’s Word gives us the secret, the reason to abide in Him. When life gets shaky, when you've had a loss, you must believe what's already in you. Don’t walk away, walk closer, not further out. We’re to stand unmovable, we’re to say, “I’m standing, it’s who I am, it's my right and my covenant. I declare who I am in the name of Jesus.” Things will begin to happen. Wisdom is enlightenment, a discernment that will show you the way, it’s Christ confidence making you unmovable, regardless of what hits you. If God is for me who can be against me? We say, “In you, I'm in the light, You're gonna rescue me, I'm gonna walk in authority because Christ is who He says He is.” Though weapons are formed, it will not prosper. A mind set on Jesus gives assurance and it’s a threat to the enemy, he knows you’re getting the Word. If you want the power, you get in the Word. Regardless of what your mind tells you, let go. Read 2 Timothy 3: 14-15 (AMP) You've got to hold tight to God, let go of the devil’s lies. Don’t consume your mind with opinions. Truth is in the Word of God. Be surrendered, have confidence in His wisdom and power, continuing in the faith, holding onto what you’ve learned. Challenges will come, but God makes an escape for us. God is creating within our church a fresh breath, His Rhema voice. He’s stirring and quickening, making us alive. He’s got new things for us, saying, “I have planned victories that you have not seen.” We need to claim it. If God is for us, who can be against us? God’s working in different ways to bring relief to His people. If we don't witness, how will we show them, how will they know? They’re seeking what’s real. It doesn't take much to minister to people. Let them know they're valued, lift them up, it's their moment to be recognized. God is good.                                                                                                                                                                            

redefined by love

7/18/19

Connect Lesson #6: Redefined by Love by Ps. Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: John 20:24-27, John 11:8 &16, 1 Corinthians 12:23-26

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

For centuries, believers around the world have often referred to the apostle Thomas as “Doubting Thomas”. He had obtained that name because of one “defining moment” in his life. Tonight, we’re going to delve into this “defining moment” and discover how he obtained “redefinition”. Read John 20:24-25 (NKJV) This was the “defining moment” that forever labeled him as “Doubting Thomas”. We don’t ever really hear of him being referred to as “Thomas the Courageous”, “Thomas the Brave One”, or “Thomas the Fearless”. But let’s switch gears for a moment.  Now, the Bible tells us of the story of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who was terminally ill and who was on his deathbed. When word had reached Jesus about Lazarus, He wanted to be with them. Jesus loved their family dearly. But His disciples had a different idea. Read John 11:8 (NKJV) They said, “Are you crazy?!” So even based on this moment, you might add to Thomas the title of “the Doubting Coward”. Moments like these can be a place in time where we can be defined and/or redefined, but let’s take a look at something here that may change your mind about “Doubting Thomas”. Read John 11:16 (NKJV) Right here, Thomas is actually encouraging the others to push past their fears, so why isn’t he called “Thomas the Courageous”? What happened to him? Some moments can have an emotional impact on our lives.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Question #1: Have there been times when you’ve been labeled because of a “defining moment”? Explain

Question #2: Have you ever wanted to “drop out” of certain circles because of a “defining moment”? Explain

Question #3: How can we help ourselves and others bounce back from a negative “defining moment”?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

Thomas’ life changed after Jesus’ arrest, trial, suffering and His death by crucifixion. He found it hard to bounce back from that moment in his life. He dropped out of fellowship with the disciples, it’s why he wasn’t there when Jesus showed up the first time. Being with Jesus and the disciples brought out the best in him and dropping out brought doubt into his life. Love won’t allow you to be defined by a moment or season in life. Read John 20:26. Some of you have had moments where you have shut the door in your heart. Love walks right through, shuts the doors and says “peace to you”. Read John 20:27. Love won’t leave you out of the fold because you had a moment and stopped believing.  Let love redefine your life today!

 

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

Jesus showed Thomas that Love can enter through any door. When we break fellowship, the Holy Spirit reels us in and something divine happens. The Word speaks of faith, hope and love, but the greatest is love! It’s our greatest weapon. People can’t defy it, it breaks down barriers and walks through doors. It can convert even the evilest person. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG) says, No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others had to face. You’re not the only one facing opposition. People go through much worse. Let’s remember that while others (even ourselves) will disappoint us, God never will! He won’t let you get pushed past your limit. He’ll always be there to get you through it, just like he did with “Doubting, Courageous, Heroic” Thomas. Nobody likes to be labeled, you are designed by God! Read 1 Corinthians 12:23-26 (NLT). We all want harmony among the body so we can care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer. Favoritism and prejudice cause trouble to arise. We must help those who are hurting without judging or always correcting. Be loving. Love heals people and brings honor. We’re the arms of Christ, we’re the voice of God. It doesn’t mean we don’t bring them the Word in love, but just being there in time of need. We need everybody. Sometimes we’ve got to tell ourselves to be quiet. Don’t take “feel sorry for me” days. When the Holy Spirit deals with you, you’ve got to listen. Human nature causes us to flip around like a fish out of water. It's crazy out there. We gotta stop labeling people and start honoring them while being better to ourselves.

jesus and marginalized people

7/11/19

Connect Lesson 5: Jesus and Marginalized People by Ps Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture Reference: Matthew 9:35-38

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

In society, there are groups of people today that are considered “marginalized”. Marginalized people are those deemed insignificant or seen as “outsiders”. You can’t pick up the newspaper,  watch TV or look at social media without noticing stories of “marginalized” people. In fact, recently, there have been stories about people today who Jesus would’ve seen as being “marginalized”:

 

For example, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria from San Salvador were found dead in each others arms on the banks of the Rio Grande. These “illegal aliens” as they were called (or those whom Jesus sees as “marginalized”), were swept away by the current of the Rio Grande River. This was just a father who simply felt like he was “born for more”. Now, this isn’t about politics, but about how Jesus handled people who were being marginalized or treated as unimportant and insignificant. Recently, a young man from Merrillville named Jordan Mitchell,19 was shot to death in Gary, Indiana. He, along with with an 18-year-old Chicago man (who was wounded), was shot multiple times. How would the world characterize these two young men? Regardless of how the world saw them, Jesus sees them as being “marginalized”. Let’s take a look at how Jesus ministered to the “marginalized” people of the world. Read Matthew 9:35. Now, here were religious people who thought they had it all together concerning God but was really just religious observance, not a relationship.  Jesus saw people being marginalized by their religion and not being centered in truth.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Question #1: How can we find ourselves marginalizing people without realizing it?

Question #2: How can we avoid falling into a “having it all together” mentality?

Question #3: What can we do to remain consistently centered in truth?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

Jesus stood firm on His position of the Kingdom Gospel, but He built relationships with people, spending time with them while sharing the Gospel. We can’t fear people whose religion isn’t centered in truth. We must open our heart to witness to them because these people get “marginalized”. Matthew 9:35 says that Jesus was healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Somehow these people get “stigmatized” leaving them to suffer in their sickness while we pray for our own among ourselves. The most marginalized people are disabled. Read Matthew 9:36. Here were people who were “helpless”, being “harassed” and living without a shepherd. Jesus saw people without a shepherd and a church family as being “marginalized”. Jesus said, “This is how you fix the problem of people being marginalized” Read Matthew 9:37. He’s telling us, “Let’s step up” with the Gospel and do something for the marginalized people around us! You got this in the power of Jesus name!

 

 

be curious for more

6/27/19

Connect Lesson 4: Be Curious for More by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery

Scripture References: Romans 12:2, Luke 19:1-6

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

Who here believes you were born for more...more of a life than what you are living right now? The truth is, we were ALL born for more. Some people have gotten really good at pressing down those desires for more by wearing a smile in public, but inwardly they’re struggling with disillusionment, defeat, desolation, and despair. But we’ve got to break free, somehow our life must be transformed. The apostle Paul gives us our first building block: Romans 12:2 (NLT) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think, then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Listen, you are not a copy, you are an original. You are the best YOU, you’re one of a kind! When your life becomes a copy of the world, you disengage from life. You simply exist from day to day, your potential remains untapped living without passion and enthusiasm. The truth is that living as a copy of “the world” causes you to drag down those you care about the most.

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

#1: What are some ways we can find ourselves being a “copy” of the world?

#2: How can an unchanged mind have an impact on the outcome of our lives?

#3: How can we allow the Word of God to transform the way we think?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

Paul says in Romans 12:2...but let God transform you into a new person by...changing the way you think. It’s difficult to move in the right direction if your head isn’t thinking in the right direction. This verse says: let God “transform” you into a new person by...changing the way you think. Where is your mind headed? That’ll be where you’re going. You’ve got to free yourself from beliefs that hold you back. You’ve got to tell yourself, “I was born for more!”  Life changes when we change. Take responsibility and change your thinking, beliefs, AND actions. Most people live their life by “accident” instead of by “design”. Three simple questions to ask yourself are: What am I “thinking”? Where am I “going”? What am I “doing”? You’ve been born for more and you know it! Now, what are you going to do?

   

Final Thoughts (2-5 Min)

All throughout God’s Word you’ll find people breaking free from a crowd or a multitude into “a life of more”. One day they realize they were made for it. They took what they had and reached for the life they were “born for”. Nothing is beyond the reach of faith. Mark 9:23 tells us that faith makes all things possible. You can use your faith to break free into MORE. A great faith lesson to grasp is this: Just showing up in life will cause you to break free into “what you were born for”. You were born for more, you’ve just got to show up. Look at Zacchaeus, he showed up for the impossible. Read Luke 19:1-6 (NKJ). Zacchaeus broke free from the crowd even though he was disadvantaged, being short in stature. He used what he had, his curiosity. Curiosity caused him to break free into the more he was born for. Are you a curious person? Use it to break free into who you were born to be, doing what you were born to do! You are born for more! Show up, even if you're at the disadvantage! Don’t believe the lie of the world, there is a lot more in life and it’s just waiting for you to show up!

New beginning: signs and wonders

6/20/19

Lesson #3 New Beginning: Signs and Wonders by Ps. Larry and Victory Raftery

Scripture References: Hebrews 2:4, John 2:1-11

 

Overview (5-7 Min)

Read Hebrews 2:4 -At the start of 2019, the Lord said of Laurel Another Chance Church: “New Beginnings are here, start and finish strong.”  Now, when God speaks, sometimes we don’t grasp “the depth, the length or the breath” of what He’s saying, yet here we are in the midst of what God’s called New Beginnings of signs and wonders! It goes far beyond a building, this is all about God’s Kingdom! Reducing our attention to simply a building would be missing the mark. Before His ascension, Jesus commissioned His church in Mark 16:15 (NKJ) And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” Paul said...the Gospel is the power of God unto “salvation.” Salvation is healing, deliverance prosperity, preservation, and safety. It’s the sum total of all the “blessings and benefits” in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Salvation is deliverance from all enemies and it happens through us Being His Voice!

 

Read John 2:1-11 - In this scripture, Jesus makes it clear that He is guided by His Heavenly Father, not the agenda of human beings, or even His family. It’s the “will of God and faith” that drives forth to manifestation the power of heaven. Verse 5 says: His mother said to the servants, “whatever He says to you, do it.” We must learn this! Here is Mary, you have a demonstration of faith in the “will of God” and now God’s power will be released

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Question #1: What are some ways we can “miss the mark” when it comes to hearing and obeying the voice of God?

Question #2: How can our “human agendas” interfere with the will of God for our lives?

Question #3: How has heeding the voice and direction of God in your life allowed signs and wonders to enter your challenging circumstances?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

We are told in 1 Cor. 12:28 God for His church has “appointed”, or approved, predetermined, provided, equipped & empowered the church with miracle-working power. We’ll experience in this hour new beginnings of salvation, miracles, signs, and wonders! Acts 5:12-16 describes who we are. Through the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were done among the people! They were united, esteeming others and adding to the church. God is going to multiply and use us with signs and wonders following. We’re all commissioned heirs of salvation. God has a bigger plan to use your anointed hands to do good to give people hope and confidence that they can serve a mighty God. God will bless us to bless others. Get excited and impassioned about the God Who gives hope in the midst of tragedy. People who are sick and tormented by unclean spirits will be healed. Knowing God as Savior and the Redeemer is exciting! Be the one standing in the gap for others. People need Jesus and someone to believe in them. God makes the impossible happen and when no one seems to show up, He’s gonna show up. Manifestations of His glory, “God’s best” is here now! And it’s going to be really, really good! 

let the new move into you

6/14/19

Lesson 2: Based on the message “Let the New Move Into You” by Pastors Larry and Victoria Raftery on 5/30/19

Scripture Reference: Read Matt 9:16-18

 

Overview (2-5 Min)

In this parable, Jesus was speaking of a “new thing” using the examples of cloth and wine. The cloth represented spiritual wholeness, not just being patched up, but being made completely new. He was making clear that the message of the Gospel couldn't be poured into old “law containers”. Mixing grace and law brings confusion and we lose both in the process. Jesus came to make things new, meaning a new life and old things passing away! This means that a life in Christ is more than just changing or “making new” what we do (the patch), it’s bringing that “newness” to who we are! Trying to be a nicer person while being filled with bitterness and un-forgiveness won’t work, it only makes things worse. It ruins everything! It’s more than a “new do”. It’s a “new who”. You cannot forge a relationship between “pretending” and truth. Who we are and what we do need to be preserved and kept closely together! Let the new move into you!

 

Discussion Questions (20-25 Min)

Question 1: What kind of effect can “pretending” have on a believer?

Question 2: What kind of effect can “pretending” have on a believer's witness?

Question 3: How can one truly allow the “new who” to bring about the “new do”?

 

Life Application (2-5 Min)

The reality is that you cannot join “pretending” with the “truth” and expect an agreement that will yield positive results. Matt 18:19 says “again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my father in heaven. The word “agreement” means to sound together, to be in harmony. Vs 19 says it will be done for them by My Father in heaven! In Mark 16:15 Jesus gave them the “new do”: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Vs 20 shows God’s intended purpose: and they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the Word through the accompanying signs.

 

Real change has nothing to do with getting new clothes, a new job, or even a new spouse! Real change is inward. When real change happens, the new comes in. People desire sincerity, genuine love. This brings real change. Being outwardly polished changes nothing. Inward change brings peace, peace brings clarity. We need higher vision with our eyes fixed on Christ with His direction and wisdom, not leaning on our own understanding. He will direct our paths if we acknowledge Him. God is saying will you trust Me for the new? We get comfortable, then we falter, but we’ve got to stay in there, walk with Jesus and trust Him. God is a just God. He’ll make a way, He’ll gather all who trust Him. But we must change our mentality and believe that we can do it in Christ. We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, a vessel that God wants to use. Once you have real change, life will be different. So let the New Move Into You!

"lifted up in the letdowns"

6/6/19

Connect Lesson 1: “Lifted Up in the Let Downs” By Ps. Larry and Victoria Raftery

 

Scripture Reference: Read Genesis 7:17-23 (NKJ)

 

Overview (7-10 minutes)

The world as Noah knew it was passing away because of the tremendous flooding that was consuming the earth. It came with intense rainfall, underground water eruptions, and gigantic tidal waves.  As death and devastation surrounded them, fear, panic, and dread began to set in and with it a sense of helplessness, frustration, and disappointment. The increasing waters were so intense, it lifted up the ark as its surroundings were being destroyed. All Noah had and all he could hold onto was God’s promise.

 

In moments like these, the Spirit of God is saying, “ Life’s letdowns is where I lift you up!” We all get let down, frustrated and disappointed in life. Noah and his family were saved from the death and destruction around them because of the ark. No matter how much the “devastating waters” increased, they were lifted up in life’s letdowns. God lifts us up!

 

Discussion Question #1 (7-10 minutes): What are some ways we can respond when life around you is filling up with disappointments, devastation, and destruction?

Discussion Question #2 (7-10 minutes): How have you seen God intervene in your own life during your own “moments of chaos”? What effect did it have on the circumstances and people around you?

Discussion Question #3: (7-10 minutes): Can anyone share some examples of how being outside the will, promise, and plan of God had an effect on your lives and how coming back into that place brought with it restoration?

 

Life Application (Read after discussion)

Man’s salvation, just like the ark, was planned by God, not invented by humans. Noah was faithful to obey all that God had commanded. In spite of the devastation on the outside, Noah’s family was secure inside the ark. No matter how they felt, or how much the ark was tossed on the waters, they were safe in God’s will. The people outside of the ark “perished” in their “own plans” for life. Within the will, promise and plan of God there is an eventual lifting up. Are you seeing clear springs or muddy pools? There's a big difference! One is beautiful and has clarity, there’s vision in it. But you can’t see through the other. It's dirty and not the way we want to feel in life. But just as Moses received revelation from God, so must we. He wants us to trust Him. If God has called you, He’s uniquely equipped you! Don’t be talked out of what God has equipped you to do. When you’re struggling, doing all you know to do, you’ve got to stand, trust God until the end! The devil tries little by little to shut us down until we give up right before the victory. We need to get in God’s presence. God’s presence stills the hand of the enemy. Our God is more than enough to get us through.  Are you in the Ark? Are you saved, separated and operating in God’s will and purpose for your life? Remember it’s in life’s letdowns that God lifts you up!