Sunday, June 6th 2021
This week Pastor Jason Surrell walked us through Revelation 5, where we see that Jesus is the only one found worthy to open the scroll.
He is the Lamb that was slain and His blood purchased the right to our inheritance in Him - to forever be in the presence of God. He will purify the Earth, the Church and put an end to all evil. The angels, creatures in Heaven and creation on Earth worships Him day and night - captivated by His beauty.
Pastor Jason opened the teaching with a reflection question: “Have you ever anticipated something? For example: life events of anticipation such as the birth of a child, the days leading up to a marriage, or a high school, college, or even a kindergarten graduation. For believers in Christ, the most anticipated event is when Jesus returns to earth to set up His kingdom. Share your experiences with this anticipated event. Are you prepared? Have you devoted time to prepare? What are your important components for preparing that can become a daily experience for others searching for ways of preparation?
Pastor Jason shared the eyewitness testimony of John in verse 1. John sees God, sitting on His throne and then stretched out His hand that held a scroll with seven seals. This scroll is thought to be the title deed to the earth; God’s sealed orders for what’s ahead. Most importantly John’s throne room experience is an experience we can enter into using prayer and worship. One of the hallmarks of the Christian life is regularly having throne room time with God, to celebrate His love for you. Are you captivated by HIs love? Share what most captivates you about your love experience with Jesus. Has it changed or matured over time? Share your hopes for the future and how the Lamb is drawing you closer to Him.
Pastor Jason pointed out more of John’s testimony in verses 2-4. John hears that no one is worthy to open the scroll to break its seals. John begins to weep and cry. This cry is a strong, unrestrained emotional cry. One of the 24 elders comforted John in verses 5-7 by encouraging him to stop weeping, by saying, look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is worthy to open the scroll. John then looks and only sees a Lamb, as if slain, with 7 horns and 7 eyes. The Lamb takes the scroll! The Lamb is Jesus! Pastor Jason shared that some of us are lions, while others are lambs. Jesus is both! Share your experiences of unrestrained emotions when you have discovered that Jesus is your Lion and your Lamb. Have you experienced comforting assurances from another believer when you have been overwhelmed?
Pastor Jason shared in verses 8-14 several important concluding thoughts. First, from v 8, he observed that heaven is a responsive place. In this section the elders and living ‘creatures’ fell down to worship and praise the Lamb Jesus. This response to Jesus taking the scroll fills the throne room with songs of praise in anticipation of what’s ahead. Have you cultivated time in God’s throne room as your personal responsive place? In v 10 Jesus is recognized for shedding His blood to purchase for God men and women from all people and nations, to be made kings and priests. Pastor Jason asked us to reflect: “do you feel like a king or priest? Have you cultivated your Spiritual Identity so that your identity and purpose in life is one of kingship? The verses 8-14 have a strong emphasis on praise and worship, recognizing the Lamb Jesus as our King worthy of honor and glory. This throne room lifestyle can be developed by all Christians. It requires meditative and worship time day to day. Share how your throne room lifestyle has evolved over time. What have been your challenges and victories?
In today’s service we celebrated communion. Some reflective thinking from Pastor’s Jason and Heather encouraged us to focus on the Cross, Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, and the purpose for the sacrifice. The communion experience concluded Chapter 5. Think and then share, are you in awe of God? Are you in love with Him so that your heart takes flight knowing how much He loves you? Like John in Chapter 5, do you weep sweet tears? Not tears of anguish, but tears of joy as your heart falls deeper in love with the Lamb? Share how your time spent in the throne room has empowered you, or, transformed you, or delivered you into freedom from strongholds. How has your throne room worship lifestyle developed over time? If you have taken the Identity class at NLCC, were the tools you learned to use helpful in your throne room lifestyle growth? That class focuses a great deal on developing your identity in Christ, and incorporates numerous settings where you enter God’s throne room of worship.
Sunday, May 30th 2021
Pastor Craig expands on chapter 4 of the Book of Revelation. In chapter 4, Jesus invites us into the throne room of heaven. We as believers have full access to the throne of God and are seated with Jesus in heavenly places. When we pray and worship, we enter into the throne room. Jesus invites us into the throne room everyday. Our worship, prayer and radical love for God moves His heart.
God’s throne is the command center of the universe. As we encounter Jesus, we learn that He alone has all authority and power, and He is the only one worthy of the throne of our lives.
Pastor Craig shared in the opening of the teaching that in verse 1 many people explain the rapture of the church, being raptured before the tribulation using this verse. This is known as the pre-trib view of the end times. When John writes that he heard “come up here”, this specific phrase is used to advocate for a pre-trib view of the church not experiencing the tribulation. Share your experience with the three views: pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib. Have you discussed the views with other believers to find out their views? Do you have challenges with any one view? Many that read the calling to John to “come up here” see this as a way for the church to get out of here before the tribulation. Pastor Craig posed a thought to see the phrase as encouragement to become an overcomer today. Share your experiences of being an overcomer, and how you have prepared yourself for that lifestyle?
Pastor Craig shared in verse 2 that John wrote that “I was in the spirit”. The Holy Spirit empowered John to see once he was out of the dimension of space and time. We can be encouraged by John’s description and cultivate living in the spirit, as John practiced. Ephesians 2:6-7 teaches us that we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly places and have access to the throne room. This lifestyle requires a commitment of time on our part to develop living in the spirit. Share how you are growing and living in the spirit. John’s experience can be ours too. Have you experienced victories in this lifestyle as a believer? Have you encouraged other believers to develop a spiritual and perceptive lifestyle? Have you experienced throne room spiritual experiences?
Pastor Craig shared about the four living ‘creatures’ in verses 6-8. These ‘creatures’ are gifted with a close proximity to the center and around the throne, the inner circle nearest God’s throne. They continually sing Holy-Holy-Holy as a worship song and hymn. Pastor Craig described these four as extravagant worshippers of God. This encouraging description as extravagant worshippers can be developed on our part as believers in Christ. This worship lifestyle empowers your walk and influence for Jesus. It also empowers your ministry to other believers as they may have challenges worshipping. Share how you have encouraged others in their walk with Jesus. In the Identity class at NlCC there’s a popular verse from Luke 12:24 that Jesus shares about our identity in Him. “We are extremely valuable.” If we are extremely valuable would this affect the quality of your worship? Do you have experiences in the pursuit of extravagant worship? Have you experienced periods of life as a believer when you were challenged with living out being extremely valuable?
Pastor Craig shared from verses 8-11 that the 24 elders fell down and extravagantly worshipped, then they cast their crowns before the throne. John saw and heard this and most likely was overwhelmed with joy. Their song: “worthy are you, our Lord and God.”The elders are examples of extravagant worship especially when they cast their crowns before the throne. The crowns in our lives may represent financial resources, educational pursuits, career development, cars, housing, and clothing. Sometimes the resources we have distract us from casting our crowns before the Lord. Have there been periods in your life where the casting experience cost more than the value of the crown? How would you mentor a newer believer about casting your crowns to God, if the crowns represent material resources?
Pastor Heather shared a quote during the announcement period. She shared that the “depth of His power is contingent on the depth of your dependency.” God’s power and influence in your life go hand in hand. Chapter 4 is devoted to encouraging our walk with Jesus to be deep, powerful, and dependent. We have been encouraged to see our worship as valuable, and worthy of developing over time, our prayers move God’s hands, and we can cultivate throne room experiences each day. The key to each of these is time spent in the actual development stages, building one day upon the other. Share your journey experience with God’s power and your dependency. What have you learned as a believer about God’s desire for us to become more dependent on His love and grace? Using Pastor Heather’s quote, how would you support and help younger believers in their journey with a lifestyle of dependency?
Sunday, May 23rd 2021
Pastor Craig shows how the church at Philadelphia and Laodicea are contrasted in Revelation chapter 3. Pastor Craig contrasted that Philadelphia was seen by Jesus as living in the Spirit, and Laodicea as living in the flesh, and living with a lukewarm heart towards the God. However, the first church is Philadelphia, Jesus named it the faithful church. Their obedience, perseverance and faithfulness to God was seen by Him. God desires that we be all in our love for Him.
Pastor Craig shared that Philadelphia was a church that pursued Jesus’ command to be obedient to His teachings. Jesus knew intimately the deeds of the church, just as He knows our hearts and lifestyles. Because of their pursuit of Jesus the believers at the church had spiritual power and were active in faithfully sharing Jesus within the city. Obedience to Jesus’ Word marked the believers in Philadelphia. Share how you have cultivated your obedience to Jesus. If you are a long time believer share your challenges integrating obedience into your lifestyle. If you’re a newer believer, what attributes of obedience are you having victory establishing, what challenges are you focused on. Do you have experience and or awareness of your Spiritual Identity in Christ as taught in the NLCC class Discipleship Essentials: Identity?
Pastor Craig taught that Philadelphia was also marked by faithfulness. Jesus knew their lifestyles outside of church and the pressures they experienced to compromise their faithfulness. Philadelphia, the city, was nicknamed little Athens because it was a city that focused on idol worship. The believers at Philadelphia persevered under pressure to join in the idol worship lifestyle, both in their work and family life. Despite all this the church flourished and caused Jesus to recognize them as faithful to HIm. Share your experiences and journey within our culture where you work or in your family. Share your challenges. Have you experienced the effects of compromising your faith in Jesus? Within your circle of friends, has your faith been tested? Share your victories and hurdles.
Pastor Craig taught from chapter 3:12a: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar..” Jesus teaches that the Philadelphia believers represented pillars of strength and stability. These pillars would represent honor and importance. Jesus’ promise to all believers is that faithfulness and obedience to Him despite cultural pressures to compromise will yield in our lives a sense of purpose and strength. Share how you have cultivated and developed your foundation in Christ, where the foundation is built on faith and obedience. Are there important features in your journey that are pillars of strength for others to emulate? If you were a mentor to a younger believer, would that person recognize you as the pillar placed in their life for learning how to build a foundation in Christ? What marks a believer today to live as a pillar of faithfulness and obedience?
Share the characteristics of others in your life that you recognize as pillars of faith.
Pastor Craig concluded the two church teaching with the church at Laodicea. This church was named the lukewarm church. The city was rich in resources, was a financial hub, had a medical training school, and had a developed industry based on wool production. Numerous guilds or unions were a part of the financial foundation of the city. The church had many financial resources. Its members thought material wealth equated to spiritual strength. Jesus knew their deeds and motives, and called the church lukewarm or ones who didn’t pursue obedience to Him. Their relationship with Jesus caused Him grief. Share how things like material wealth, education, a great career, cars, and housing may be obstructions to pursuing a lifestyle of faithfulness to Jesus. Time and priorities are an important part of both lifestyles. Have there been seasons in your journey of faith with Jesus where you met other believers struggling with what was more important? How did you encourage them to work through the choices and priorities? Do you have knowledge of your Natural Identity and your Spiritual Identity in Christ as taught in the Identity class at NLCC? Which of the two are stumbling blocks in developing a stronger relationship with Christ? What attributes mark a lukewarm lifestyle of faith in today’s culture?
Chapter 2 and 3 of Revelation detailed the views that Jesus had of 7 churches. A large component question in each section was the question: are you preparing for His return? Are you building your foundation of faith and obedience for that return? Are you challenged with any of the concerns Jesus pointed out for each of the 7 churches on a personal level? Are you cultivating obedience to His Word? Are you developing a lifestyle marked by faith in Jesus despite distractions in the material world? Has your definition to the word rich been changed in chapters 2 and 3? Discuss the attributes of a rich poor church vs a materially rich but spiritually poor church. In these chapters, Jesus stands at the door knocking at the door of your heart. Have you heard Jesus knocking, either through His Word, His Holy Spirit, or His people? Share your experiences with the knock at your heart’s door.
Sunday, May 16 2021
Pastor Craig takes us into the 4th and 5th letters to the churches in the book of Revelation. As we acknowledge that the letters serve as reminders of how to live, we are able to appreciate the grace of God. As a loving father to his children, he calls for us to awaken from our death.
Pastor Craig taught and pointed out that Jesus is knowledgeable and aware of our daily Christian walk. The church at Thyatira was challenged with challenges of mixing the spirit of immorality that
prevailed in the city with their relationship with Jesus. Jesus pointed out that the church needed to repent of a lifestyle of compromise with the spirit of immorality and idol worship. The church was married to the spirit of deception thinking it was OK to mix immorality and Jesus. When you hear Jesus admonish Thyatira to pursue Him and the spirit of repentance, share your thoughts and experiences from your walk with Jesus about the challenges you have faced developing a spirit of repentance. Share your experiences how you have pursued the question: how are you living out your belief in Jesus?
Pastor Craig shared that the Thyatira church was facing judgment by Jesus, but He also was giving them opportunity to repent and realign their lifestyles within His sphere of influence. His judgment would be of their deeds and lifestyles behind the scenes of public life. Pastor Craig shared that Jesus walks among us, and knows our behind the scenes lifestyle. Many church leaders and church cultures are silent on sexual immorality, very similar to Thyatira. Jesus encourages us to cultivate a lifestyle of repentance and to view that lifestyle as a healthy one. It produces a victorious life in Jesus. Do you walk victoriously? Share the challenges you may have experienced at developing the walk of living victoriously.
Pastor Craig taught about the church of Sardis. This church was spiritually dead. Jesus pointed out that the public view of the church fooled people; it had a reputation of being alive in the city culture. Jesus could see that the church was actually spiritually dead. Sin was a part of the church which was a decay inside the church culture that only Jesus could see. Jesus encouraged the Sardis church to repent just like Thyatira. Jesus could see hypocrisy had set root. Jesus calls it hypocrisy when believers live without purpose in Him and pursue a lifestyle of repentance in Him. Today’s church culture is often bound with hypocrisy just like in Sardis. The pursuit of deeds that had no purpose and direction from God. Share your journey with living out your belief in Jesus when you first said yes to His offer of eternal life. Has your life been marked with challenges in the pursuit of repentance as a lifestyle? Have you been taught by church leadership over the years what a lifestyle of repentance requires and the benefits of pursuing it?
Pastor Craig shared that within the church membership at Sardis, Jesus pointed out, even though the church was dead, that there were a few true Christians. These believers had pursued repentance and viewed it as the stuff of what a relationship with Jesus is built on in contrast with the believers around them that pursued a fake relationship with Jesus. In the church at Sardis there were not enough of these believers to change the overall view of Jesus’ view, but He had not forgotten these believers. Share your journey experience in Jesus over the years with the variety of different believers you have met. When you think about the believers that were pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly and living victoriously, what personal characteristics were on display for you to emulate. How would you mentor a new Christian to pursue the lifestyle of living victoriously in Jesus? Would that be much different than the one you started out with?
Pastor Craig shared some of Matthew’s teachings in chapters 24-25. In these chapters Jesus is asked by His disciples the timing of the End Times. He shared some of the details by using parables. One of the parables is called the Ten Virgins. Jesus opened the parable by saying “it’ll be like”. He pointed out that the group of 10 virgins was composed of 5 wise and 5 foolish. The parable included the ones that were prepared and the ones unprepared to meet the bridegroom. Christians are encouraged in this parable to be in the group of wise, to be prepared and ready. Jesus encouraged our Christian walk and journey to devote time to be prepared, to seek the lifestyle of repentance and the life of living victoriously in Him. Share your journey experiences. Have you met other believers living as the foolish virgin group? What marked their lives? How about believers that were in the wise group? What marked their walk that you can emulate? Share what ways they were prepared and living the life of preparation in Jesus.
Sunday, May 9 2021
Damian Dyer (our Co-director of Discipleship) opens the book of Revelation with us to understand its purpose. As we take the letters written to the seven churches let us utilize the fact that they are being directed to us. These are guides for us to watch our doctrine.
This set of discussion questions covers our recent Sunday message 'Return of the King Part 5' by Pastor Craig Lawrence on Sunday, May 16, 2021. Pastor Craig takes us into the 4th and 5th letters to the churches in the book of Revelation. As we acknowledge that the letters serve as reminders of how to live, we are able to appreciate the grace of God. As a loving father to his children, he calls for us to awaken from our death.
Pastor Damian shared that there are three groups of believers when studying Revelation. First, there is the group that are Pre Tribulation believers that focus on the church not being present during the Tribulation. 2. Secondly, there is a group that focuses on all the symbolic images such as animals, markings, and control of the Anti Christ over the world. Thirdly, there is the group that is continually studying the book for more details about the meanings of the scriptures in Revelation. Share your perspective and questions on the three groups, which one have you more time spent with, and which one do you want to learn more about?
Pastor Damian taught about the characteristics of the first three churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. Share your experience and what you know about each of the three from what Damian taught. Have you attended a church in your journey of belief in Jesus that may have focused on the characteristics of one of the three? Ephesus: The Apostolic Church. Smyrna: Persecuted Church. Pergamum: The Indulged Church.
Pastor Damian shared extensive details about the church in Ephesus. This church was like many churches today. Blessed with many resources, detail oriented, and program specific, but a church that may not have love as an attribute as much as working like a well oiled machine. Jesus encouraged Ephesus to repent, to see that it had lost its first love for Him, and replaced that love and zeal for Him with programs. Share what you have experienced in your church journey with the style of love each of the churches you have attended. Are you encouraged to cultivate a lifestyle of intentionally focusing on God, your spouse, and kids?
Pastor Damian then taught about the church at Smyrna. This city was a port city. It was in competition with Ephesus. Its church was in a rich city with much wealth, but the church itself was poor without resources, unlike Ephesus. Jesus encouraged the church that they were actually rich, despite having no material wealth. He encouraged them with a perspective lifestyle.
Stay focused on the wealth in Him vs. material wealth. Jesus also encouraged them to become prepared for more persecution. But that was a good thing. Jesus also encouraged them to be ready for proving, that is, for the time ahead that their faith would be tested and proven. Share about your experience where you have been encouraged by God when you were in a season of testing, refining, and persecution. How did God meet you? How did your relationship with God deepen because of this testing period?
Pastor Damian concluded his teaching with the church at Pergamum. This was a church that had a mixture of believers in Christ and also idol worshippers. It was tolerant of other beliefs, which Jesus pointed out was not appropriate. Have there been seasons in your church journey where you met other believers with much different beliefs about Jesus than yours? How do you relate to this kind of difference in belief? Are you currently living victoriously, or are you in a season of renewal of your core beliefs in worshipping Jesus? Do you see yourself in any of the three churches in today’s lesson? Do you have any of the characteristics of these churches? Describe what God is teaching you about? Have you had any shifts or new perspectives in your relationship with Christ?
April 30-May 2nd
This set of discussion questions covers the highlights of the Encounter God 2021 Conference starting April 30, May 1, and concluding on Sunday, May 2nd. Conference speakers included Corey Russell, Cheryl Allen, Tom Crandall, and Pastor Craig. The goal of this set of questions is to help individuals examine their walk with Christ using group discussion as a vehicle.
Friday April 30: Corey Russell shared how Jacob wrestled with
Jesus in an all night wrestling match. (Genesis 32:24-28) Out of this wrestling match Israel was born. The result of the wrestling match was that Jacob’s hip was touched which created a limp and required him to use a cane for many years. This created a dependent lifestyle on Jacob’s part. Share and discuss about a season in your life where you wrestled with God for needs you desperately wanted met. It could be experiences from your family, church, career, or personal. Share how your wrestling match life experiences cultivated a more dependent lifestyle in your life.
Saturday May 1: Cheryl Allen shared that in the Old Testament the word or phrase “banquet” is taught or used 47 times. In the context of Cheryl’s instruction, she used a portion of the scripture when Jesus was with Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus pointed out that Mary had chosen the better part of life by choosing relationship building with Jesus vs works and activity. Cheryl used the “banquet” phrase to teach that we are encouraged to cultivate a “banquet” lifestyle with Jesus. We can learn to “banquet” Jesus, requiring our time and devotion, and our devotion includes singing to Him one of His favorite songs: Holy Holy Holy. This lifestyle of banqueting will bless and mature your relationship with Jesus, those in your family, and who you work with. This banqueting lifestyle will develop into a two way street, you banquet Him, and He banquets you. Share and discuss your experiences of your banqueted relationship with Jesus. Share your questions about the tools to use to develop a banqueting lifestyle. If you taken the New Life Community church course Discipleship Essentials: Identity share your experience with its goal of developing your Spiritual Identity in Christ which is a huge tool in the toolbox of developing a banqueting lifestyle.
Saturday May 1: Pastor Craig shared his testimony over his lifetime. He taught that emotional challenges of life are still present in our life after asking Jesus into our heart. That we all need emotional healing and restoration after becoming Christians. Share your testimony and the experiences you have had to become emotional healthy. What tools did you use to seek restoration and emotional health? Did you seek counseling? Or, have you taken the New Life Community Church class on Healing? What have been your break throughs in becoming more healthy?
Saturday May 1: Tom Crandall shared a life experience with a kidney stone and how he developed seeds of thankfulness out of the painful time. He taught that seed planters that God places in scripture are meant for us to use daily to transform our thinking, speaking, and living. He shared that the greatest power source on earth is in the mirror! Recognizing that you are the power source, you can expand your view of self and God by using what at NLCC we call Power Prayers, a training exercise that you can do in the mirror. Share your experiences with developing your seeds of thankfulness. Share how you empower your faith and view of God using scriptures. Do you speak with language coated with God’s power? Share your experiences when the enemy has tried to derail your identity in Christ.
Sunday May 2: Cheryl Allen shared how prayer refines us as well as transforms our thinking of the future. It prepares us for His return. She shared that our lives are like gardens, where we are the tillers of soil. We are co laborers with Christ in this garden. The soil represents the people in our lives, the events, and our role in the process of tilling is to prepare the soil by praying. We have assigned roles as gardeners. Share your experiences about your garden life experiences. Have you developed a view that your life is your garden where you co labor with Christ to minister to the people in your garden? Prayer precedes the harvest in your garden, and nagging or preaching about Christ doesn’t produce the same harvest. Are you cultivating a lifestyle of prayer that focuses on becoming a master gardener? Share your story.
Sunday May 2: Tom Crandall shares that God is a good Father. In the second service, Tom invited people to give their hearts over to Jesus, and a woman came forward. She repeated the sinners prayer. Do you remember when you stepped up to do this for the very first time? Share your experience and how it developed over the following 2 or 3 years afterward.
Then Tom shared about the John 4 chapter about Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. This woman also received Christ for the very first time, and was a missionary to the village she lived in. Many gave their lives over to Jesus because of her shared testimony. Importantly, Jesus represented the Father to her. He reminded her that she had value as a woman. This thought was in contrast to the prevailing culture how women were treated. Jesus represented the love of the Father to her, and that she was His daughter. Share your experience and view of the Father. Do you find that He values you? Do you feel loved by the Father compared to your earthly father? What differences are there between the two in your life? Share what you feel about this phrase: “what you believe about yourself is how you receive the Lord.” Another phrase: “Victorious emotions follow victorious thinking and believing.” Share your experience with Power Prayers if you have taken the Identity class. How have Power Prayers changed the way you view the word victorious.