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2 How to Use the CORE Group Discussions From the very beginning, we want to express our deepest thanks for being willing to engage in CORE. At the heart of these discussions is a desire to see you and those around you encounter the presence of an amazing God and grow deeper in your spiritual maturity as you follow Him daily. We want you to have a firm foundation in your Christian faith, and we long to see you help others develop that same confidence and assurance. To maximize these group discussions: Everyone will need a Bible, a copy of the discussion questions, and some kind of writing utensil to write down answers to the questions. Follow every question in sequential order rather than picking or choosing only a select number of questions. Every question is critical to the process. Read all the verses or passages related to a particular question. Delegate verses or passages to those in the group so that everyone is engaging the Word of God on some level. At different points during the discussion, you may be prompted to share elements of their own testimony in connection to the topic at hand. Our encouragement is to be as open and authentic as possible in an effort to personalize and internalize the heart of each discussion. You can never be sure when your story may make all the difference for someone else in your group. Complete the Personal Devotionals (typically 4-5 each week) directly related to the Group Discussions. What if I already know all this? GREAT! Grab a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor and walk with them through the discussions and devotionals, facilitating their spiritual growth and helping them to experience the love and presence of God more. How to Use the CORE Personal Devotionals The simple fact that you are looking at these personal devotionals indicates that you, on some level, are hungry for more of God and desire to grow in your relationship with Him. These personal devotionals are designed to get you into the Word of God to discover the truth about God and how we are to live as His followers. The intent is to progressively establish a routine of spending time in God s presence, hearing from Him and responding to Him. To maximize the impact of these personal devotionals: Carve out a consistent time and place each day to work through the questions. Each devotional should take minutes at the most. Approach each devotional with the right heart and frame of mind. This is not about completing the devotional for a sense of accomplishment; it is about encountering God, being with Him, hearing His voice, and responding. Ask the Lord before even beginning each day to prepare your heart and mind for what He may want to reveal to you through the devotional. Read and respond to every question in sequential order. There is a purposeful progression to the questions, and skipping a question may cause you to miss an important element of the devotional. Read all the verses or passages related to a particular question. Some verses are very clear-cut in terms of the question, while others may require some deeper consideration.

3 Group Discussion God desires abundant life for His followers (John 10:10). His heart is to give good gifts to every believer, to bless them and to meet their deepest needs (Luke 11:9-13; James 1:17). One of the most critical gifts of God is spiritual freedom, where believers encounter healing from past wounds, receive and extend forgiveness, find release from sin and bondage, and experience the goodness of God s presence (Romans 6:17-22; 8:1-2; Galatians 5:1; John 8:31-36). In this process of renewal, their true identity as sons and daughters begins to be regained (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-7). GO DEEPER 1. In Matthew 7:7-8, what does Jesus say about those who ask, seek, and knock, revealing the father heart of God? From verses 9-11 of the same passage, what does our Heavenly Father give to those who ask Him? 2. According to Romans 8:15, what have believers in Jesus received, and what do they cry out to God? From verse 17, what else does the Apostle Paul call those who are children of God? 3. In John 8:31-32, 36, who and what gives us freedom as the sons and daughters of God? From Romans 8:1-2, why do those who are in Christ Jesus have no condemnation? 4. A significant part of walking in freedom as spiritual sons and daughters is forgiving those who have hurt us. According to Matthew 18:23-35, what does Jesus teach should be our primary motivation for extending forgiveness to others? LEADER TESTIMONY Share with your group how you personally have experienced freedom and healing because of your relationship with Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in you. What was the greatest obstacle to your freedom? What steps did you take to receive freedom and healing? MAKE IT PERSONAL 1. Do you see God as a Heavenly Father who wants to give you good gifts and abundant life? What makes it most challenging for you to see God in this way? 2. In what areas do you truly need freedom and healing (e.g. forgiving someone, an addiction, pride, selfishness, etc.)? What is the next step for you to pursue that freedom and healing at this point? PRACTICE IT NOW Because we are sinful beings, experiencing freedom and knowing our true spiritual identity is a perpetual process. Take 7-10 minutes as a group, in an attitude of prayer, to ask God for freedom and healing, especially in the areas mentioned by the group. Ask Him to bring to light those areas where we need freedom, including the areas we cannot see well. Ask God to establish in you a true sense of your identity as sons and daughters of an incredible Heavenly Father. TAKE ACTION THIS WEEK The challenge this week is to take one step towards pursuing freedom and healing in an area God reveals to you. This may involve visiting with your group leader, a pastor, a close friend, or a spiritual mentor. It may entail receiving specific prayer. It may include confession and repentance before God in an attitude of brokenness and humility. It may also involve pursuing professional help. Ask God to show you what step needs to be taken, and then walk that step with immense courage.

4 Day 1: The Father Heart of God Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them - Henri Nouwen At the Heart of It God, at the center of His essence and being, is a loving, gracious Father who longs to tenderly bless and protect His children. He is the source of all that is good, and is the giver of good gifts. His heart is to bring life, hope, and healing to the brokenness of our lives. He stands with open arms to welcome us into His powerful embrace. Go Deeper 1. According to John 10:10, why did God the Father send Jesus? In contrast, what does the thief (i.e. the enemy, the devil, etc.) seek to do? 2. From James 1:17, where does every good and perfect gift come from? In Luke 11:11-13, what is the good gift the Heavenly Father longs to give to those who ask (see also Matthew 7:9-11)? 3. In Psalm 139:1-6, 13-15, King David writes about how deeply and intimately God knows us as our Heavenly Father. What specific phrases does he use to describe how God knows us? Make It Personal 1. What is (or was) your relationship like with your earthly father, and how has that affected or influenced how you see God? Do you see Him as a Heavenly Father who longs to bless you and give you good gifts (see Romans 8:1-2)? 2. What good gift do you desire the most from your Heavenly Father right now? Practice It Now Take 5-7 minutes to declare to God, in an attitude of prayer, that He is your Heavenly Father. Thank Him for His father s heart that desires to give us good and perfect gifts, including His Holy Spirit. Ask Him for more of His Holy Spirit. Specifically thank God that He knows you deeply and personally, that no detail of your heart and life goes unnoticed by Him. Profess your sincere trust and dependence on Him as your Heavenly Father.

5 Day 2: Spiritual Sons & Daughters At The Heart of It At the center of walking in the freedom of Jesus Christ are two core issues: knowing who God is and knowing who we are now as His sons and daughters! Profound, lasting freedom is unattainable until we believe deeply that God is passionate about loving us and treating us as His children. Because of His incredible heart and actions towards us as His children, the Spirit of God in us cries out, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-7). Go Deeper 1. According to Romans 8:15-17, what is the Spirit that believers receive? In verse 16, how can we have confidence that we have that Spirit and are children of God? 2. From reading Galatians 4:4-7, what are we no longer because of Jesus, and what have we received or become instead? What cry does this release in our hearts through the Holy Spirit? 3. Because of the father heart of God, He actively moves us away from brokenness towards wholeness and freedom. According to Hebrews 12:6, what does God do for those He loves? From verses 7-11, why does God do this, and what does it produce in His followers? Make It Personal 1. What do you honestly believe are God s thoughts and emotions about you? Do you believe He loves you dearly as a son or daughter and takes pleasure in you? If not, what keeps you from being able to believe this? 2. How confident are you that you are a son or daughter of God? Does the Holy Spirit testify with your own spirit that you are His child? Practice It Now According to Galatians 4:4-7, we have been adopted by God and the Spirit of His Son now lives in us. That same Spirit convinces and releases us to call God our spiritual father. Take 5-7 minutes to declare to God that you are His son or daughter. Tell Him how much you love Him and need Him to care for you, to lead you, to protect you, and to guide you as His child. Thank Him that you are no longer a slave to sin and death!

6 Day 3: Freedom in Christ Quite often, the behaviors we want to change are outward symptoms of the freedom we lack inwardly. Bob Hamp At the Heart of It So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). Real, lasting freedom comes through Jesus Christ alone. Through Him we can be released from the chains of sin and death, becoming instead servants of righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:17-23). Go Deeper 1. According to Luke 4:14-21 (which quotes Isaiah 61:1-2), what was Jesus anointed and sent to do through the Spirit of the Lord? 2. In Galatians 5:1, 13, what warning does the Apostle Paul give to those who have found freedom in Jesus? According to verse 16 of the same passage, how does a believer best guard themselves against this warning? 3. In Romans 6:17-23, what is a believer freed from, and what do they become? In verse 22, what is the benefit or fruit of this freedom? Make It Personal 1. In both Galatians 5:1 and John 8:36, the authors make statements that seem to suggest that often there is a gap between what Jesus accomplished for us and the reality of our lives. They want to emphasize the fact that in Jesus we are indeed free, that freedom in Him is available for the taking. Is freedom in Jesus a reality for you? If not, what is the primary barrier or wall that is keeping you from fully receiving this incredible gift? 2. According to 2 Corinthians 3:17, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. How open are you to the person and work of the Holy Spirit (see also Week 6 of CORE)? How have you created an environment both physically and spiritually that is welcoming to the Spirit and to the freedom He brings? Practice It Now Take 5-7 minutes to reflect on freedom in Jesus, that through His death and resurrection we can be freed from our slavery to sin and death. In an attitude of prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to come and be present with you, to bring healing and freedom. Acknowledge verbally to God that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Ask Him to make freedom in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, a greater reality for you today!

7 Day 4: Offense vs. Forgiveness Forgive all who have offended you, not for them, but for yourself. Harriet Nelson At the Heart of It In Luke 17:1, the Greek word for offend is a form of the word skandalon. This particular word was also used historically to refer to the part of a trap to which the bait was attached in order to capture its prey. Offense is a form of bait to bring people into a place of captivity or imprisonment. As believers in Christ, we are to be aware of this trap and alert to the schemes of the enemy, actively standing and resisting by the power of God (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11). Go Deeper 1. In 2 Timothy 2:23-25, what does the Apostle Paul instruct Timothy to avoid that is a symptom of offense and resentment? Instead, how should Timothy and all believers respond? 2. According to Mark 11:24-26 and Matthew 6:14-15, what are the consequences for those who choose not to forgive? 3. When facing conflict and offense, believers often pretend everything is fine or refuse to deal with the issue directly. According to Colossians 3:13 and Matthew 5:23-26, what should the response be when a believer is facing offense? Make It Personal 1. In what ways are you frequently offended? 2. How do you normally react when someone says or does something to hurt you? Who is someone you possibly hold a measure of offense or resentment towards right now because of how they hurt you? Practice It Now Take 5-7 minutes to get quiet before the Lord and to hear what He is saying to you through this devotional. Ask God to reveal more clearly any offense or bitterness that is in you. What is the Lord showing you concerning offense in your own heart? Did you discover you are offended with someone and had not even realized it? Would you be willing to forgive? Write out here a simple prayer of forgiveness toward your offender.

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