SELF-CONTROL (3): Sermon Prep Guide

READ Matthew 12:43-45

What strikes you? What challenges you? What encourages you? 

How do you see these verses as being related to self-control? 

If, as Dan's been preaching, self-control is more about relying on God's strength rather than exerting our own will-power, how does this parable support this message? 


In the last sentence of these verses, Jesus points the parable directly at the generation before Him, one that is hearing His teachings but not choosing to enter into His Kingdom. In what areas of Jesus' teaching through His scriptures, through the teaching of the church, or through the Spirit's message to your own heart is a lesson being preached that you are not letting in to your "house"?

Are there areas of your life where you have obediently repented of sin, cleansed your life of sinful habits, but not replaced those behaviors with positive full life of the Spirit of God? Put another way, in emptying your life of the bad, where might you be also closing off the power of the Spirit to flow in and through you to re-fill your emptiness with the Spirit's goodness?  


What does God desire to fill your house with? 

SELF-CONTROL (2): Sermon Prep Guide

READ Isaiah 55:1-3

What strikes you? What challenges you? What encourages you? 

When one hears "self-control" our first instinct might be to think about self-denial, refraining from that which is enjoyable. How is that NOT the picture in these verses? 

When you experience pain, especially emotional, what is your very first-instant instinct? If you're like me, you grasp at what you can to escape the pain, distract yourself from it. Many of my own struggles with self-control stem from moments like this - shove a chocolate in my mouth, get lost in a Facebook rabbit hole, bark at someone in anger - all to distract or defend myself from the pain. But none of these go-to's are about my true desires. What do these verses say about our true desires and needs and what God desires to do with them? How might this shift our perspective about a God who desires us to live with self-control? 

What guides those obedient to these verses in how they "delight in rich food?" What does this tell us about the growing of the fruit of self-control in our lives?


Where do you see healthy self-control exhibited around you? What effect does that have on you, others? What effect does lack of self-control have? 

READ Ecclesiastes 3.1-14

How does this passage support a picture where self-control has an important role to play? 

How does this passage paint a picture that contrasts ways of life like asceticism (severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons)? 

How does this passage support living in a rhythm of sabbaths and sabbaticals? 

READ John 5.16-24

If anyone should be free to be self-directed, shouldn't it have been Jesus? How does this passage illustrate something different? 

What rubric or authority should determine how we behave?

How do we lean into a life that exudes self-control? 


GENTLENESS (2): Sermon Prep Guide

For an overview of the book of Jeremiah, check out this video:

You can also use this poster as a reference/overview: CLICK HERE FOR POSTER

[OPTIONAL BONUS QUESTION:] A few weeks ago, Dan preached on the story of Jonah [if you missed it, the whole book of Jonah in the bible is a short one and a great read, so check it out!]. How would you compare and contrast these two, Jeremiah and Jonah, prophets' stories? Which guy would you rather be? 

READ Jeremiah 1:4-10

What was Jeremiah's call? Would hearing Jeremiah's message feel gentle to you? 

READ Jeremiah 11:18-20

How did the Israelite's receive Jeremiah's message?

Definition: Gentleness

  • Humility, yielding, submissive, enduring injury with patience and without resentment
  • Opposites: prideful, self reliant, violent, avoidant

What is the picture of Gentleness in this passage? Is it attractive, desirable? 

Who is Jeremiah Gentle toward? 

Jeremiah's warnings fell on deaf [and hostile] ears. Israel was led off into exile. But with their former covenant wasted, God, in His grace, established a new covenant.

Check out the new covenant, READ Jeremiah 31:33-34

What strikes you? Do you see any Gentleness in God through the announcement of this new covenant? 

How is this new covenant fulfilled? [short cut hint: see Hebrews 10:14-17]

How is it possible for Gentleness to flow through us? [for a hint, see Acts 2]

How is Jeremiah's Gentleness related to our own Gentleness? 


GENTLENESS (1): Sermon Prep Guide

Begin by considering one person or thing that you cherish the most. How does your cherishing influence your behavior? 

REVIEW Galatians 5:13-26

After immersing ourselves in the Fruit of the Spirit for the past several months as a congregation, what strikes you about this passage today? What might God be trying to reveal to you through these studies and scriptures?

READ Matthew 9:35-36

How did Jesus feel about the people he encountered? How did that influence His behavior? 

READ John 4:1-30

What in this story would make you say, "Come and see! Could this be?"

How does Jesus handle this sinful woman? What does that reveal about how He feels about her or what He desires for her?

Where do you see Gentleness in these passages? 

What is the result of gentleness in this passage for the woman? For people besides the woman?

In whom do you see the Fruit of Gentleness pouring forth?

BONUS: Can you find other stories in scripture that reveal God's Gentleness? [comment here on this blog post if you do!] 



GOODNESS (2): Sermon Prep Guide

READ Luke 19:1-10 

What do you most resonate with in this passage? What do you most resist in this passage?


How does Jesus define his purpose in coming to Earth in this story? Earlier in the book of Luke, how is Jesus' mission is defined? (see Luke 4:18) How does the story illustrate that Jesus is "on mission" in both of these respects? 


This and last week, we've been looking at the spiritual Fruit of Goodness, as "setting things to right." Last week we saw Jesus set things to right for the demoniac. Where do we see things set to right in this story (hint: this is slightly a trick question)?


What do you learn about Goodness through this story? Where do you see this type of Goodness flowing forth from the Body of Christ as members dwell in the Spirit? 


What do you learn about God through the process of reading and reflecting on your reaction to these verses? What do you learn about yourself?


What do you learn about your role in community through reflecting on this story as it may intersect with your own life?

GOODNESS: Sermon Prep Guide

READ Mark 5:1-20

Describe the condition of the man who approaches Jesus in this passage.

In your assessment, is the condition of this man right or wrong? 

What does Jesus do in reaction to this encounter? 

At the end of the story, is the man's condition right or wrong?  

What do we learn about who Jesus is through this story? 

Re-read verse 4. Now re-read verse 19. What might it have meant for him to re-enter his community, now set free by the Most High God, as Legion called him, and tamed by Jesus' compassion?  

With regards to the Fruit of the Spirit, Goodness is righteousness in action. Goodness boldly does what’s right, and encourages others to do good as well. An act of goodness might be seen as "setting things right." How do you see Jesus demonstrating Goodness in this story? 

Where do you see the Fruit of Goodness flowing forth from people who dwell in the Spirit? [other stories in scripture are great, AND also try to come up with examples of people you interact with directly in person too]

What is it like to taste the Fruit of Goodness [be on the receiving end of the Spirit's outpouring through another] like that? What does it mean to encounter the type of God who would aim to indwell those who love Him AND flow through them to bless others in that way? 

KINDNESS: Sermon Prep Guide

Most Sunday School storytelling of the story of Jonah ends with chapter 2, but this week, we're going to look at the real ending. It's a short book overall, so if you have the time, it wouldn't hurt to read it in its entirety. If nothing else . . . 

READ Jonah 4

What do you most resonate with in this passage? What do you most resist in this passage?


How would you compare and contrast Jonah's and God's feelings towards Nineveh? 

Have you ever witnessed a bad person seeming to get off too easy? Can you think of any person or group of people you would rather see face the consequences of their own actions rather than the mercy of God? 


What do you learn about God through the process of reading and reflecting on your reaction to these verses?


One might argue that it would be difficult to describe God's treatment of Jonah throughout this book as "nice." And yet, how might it still be considered an illustration of kindness? 


What do you learn about yourself through this reflection? What do you learn about your relationship to others and/or your role in community in reflecting on this passage? 


After spending time with God and reading through this passage, consider, are there any ways that God is calling you to turn away from evil and towards Him right now? After seeing him walk with the Ninevites through such a process, how does it feel to have such a call on your life? How do you respond with your heart, mind, and soul to this call?



FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Sermon Prep Guide

This week, Dan will both be giving us a State of the Church address as well as revisiting the overarching theme of the Fruit of the Spirit. In preparation for this sermon, I invite the congregation into communal prayer. 

Let us pray for the health and well-being of North Harbor, that it might exist to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to ultimately bring God glory. As you pray, listen for what God might have you know about your place in His Body, your place in the Harbor, or what He would have you pray for on North Harbor's behalf. What are you thankful for with regards to the North Harbor Community?

READ Galatians 5.16-23

As you continue to pray over North Harbor, as God to show you where, in whom, the Fruit of His Spirit is being born. Who exhibits love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness? Goodness? Gentleness? Faithfulness? Self-control? How is the Spirit working His transformation in your own life? How are you blessed by this fruit? How is God glorified by these people who live by the Spirit? 

READ Isaiah 55 [especially verses 8-12; super especially verse 11]

Considering the Fruit of the Spirit being born in North Harbor, how do you see the life of the Spirit accomplishing God's purposes among and around our congregation? 

Like the trees of the field in the Isaiah passage, let us go out and clap our hands! Let us worship God for He is alive and active at North Harbor. He is alive and active in our midst!



PATIENCE Week 4: Sermon Prep Guide

Hiddy Folks. I know Christmas is fast approaching, so schedules and brains are probably getting increasingly frazzled. AND I don't want folks to stop preparing for our worship together on Sunday mornings - because that would just give into the cultural communication that anything-but-Jesus is the reason for the season. So let's keep spending time with God, in His word, and loving on each other! With that said . . . 

READ Matthew 1:18-25

If this passage is familiar, try reading it in a fresh way - try a different translation of the Bible, read it outloud, write it out, or read it with someone who is all together UNfamiliar with it (like a child or a non-Christian). 

What strikes you? Why?

Joseph is told to name Mary's son, "Jesus" . . . or in his language, "Yeshua" [our "Joshua"]. He wasn't the first or last Yeshua in history by any means. Yeshua means "to rescue." Who does the passage say that this Yeshua was going to rescue, and from what? 

The passage goes on to give us a different name for Jesus. What is it? What does it mean? Why would Yeshua be a fulfillment of a prophecy for a son by that name? [What do the two meanings teach us when held together?]

As is often the case when an angel first begins speaking to a human, this one tells Joseph, "Do not fear." What would Joseph have been fearing? What is the comfort provided instead? How effective is this comfort in transforming Joseph's behavior? 

As the Christmas song, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen says, this story brings "tidings of comfort and joy." Does that ring true or false to you? Why? If it does ring true, and you find comfort in this story, how effectively are you able to allow it to transform your behavior? How readily can it compel you to obey God's commands?


Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

PATIENCE Week 3: Sermon Prep Guide

Begin by READING Psalm 146 as a prayer for entering into your time of study.

READ James 5:7-10

What are we supposed to be patiently waiting for?


What implications does this passage have on how we go about our Christian lives? How does this inform our morality, evangelism, ministry?


How is this kind of patience also a sense of urgency?


Speaking of considering patient prophets (verse 10), here’s a word from Isaiah:


READ Isaiah 35:1-10

What do you most resonate with in this passage?


What do you most resist in this passage?


What do you learn about God through the process of reading and reflecting on your reaction to these verses?

What do you learn about yourself?


What do you learn about your role in community?


After reading these passages, what is one practice you would like your community group to hold you accountable to for the next week? [Leaders: write down each member’s answer so you can follow up next week!]

PATIENCE Week 1: Sermon Prep Guide

Read Romans 8:18-25

Re-read verse 23: what might the “first fruits of the Spirit” be?


Note: verse 25 includes the word “hypomone” for how we wait for that which we hope for. Hypomone is defined as: “patient, enduring, sustaining, perseverance, and steadfast”


What do we learn about the New Testament’s value for patience through this passage?


Read Romans 13:11-14 and Matthew 24:36-44.

What does patience look like in these passages? What should we be doing as we patiently wait for the realization of our Hope?


This coming Sunday’s service will be more liturgical than is normal for North Harbor. It will include a call-and-response reading [this includes a “Celebrant” (leader) reading passages that the “People” all respond to together]. This reading in particular is designed to prepare our hearts for Advent through confessing our sins and both looking and asking eagerly for Christ to enter.


READ this call-and-response (pasted below).

Flesh out some of the words we’ll speak collectively with your own more personal details – what specific things do you need to confess? Where do you long to see more of Jesus?  


How do the verses you read before speak into or support the words we’ll say together through this reading?  

Call-and-Response Reading: OPENING OURSELVES TO ADVENT


The Lamb of God comes with pardon, giving hope to all creation. In hope and confidence, then, as Your children, God, we arrive at Advent season to wait with honest longings in our hearts. It is with true hope that we pray:

God of all creation, we wait for the fullness of You, for the intimacy of You. Forgive us, God, for the times we have lived against You, for acting or not acting, in ignorance, and spoiling the abundance You give.


O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, pervading all creation, to balance all things with strength and gentleness, come now and teach us the way to salvation. Come, Lord Jesus.


God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. Forgive us for missing You everywhere, for not setting aside time to rest in You, for treating Your name like any other.


O Adonai, ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared as an eternal flame to Moses and gave him the law on Sinai, extend Your hand to us. Come, Lord Jesus.


God, we are at one another’s throats. If we can divide, we will, time and again. Forgive our part in injustice. Who are we to judge who is in the right? What’s good and bad? Who are we to judge sin and righteousness? Who are we to place ourselves in Your seat of judgment? Forgive us for rejecting Your prophets and messengers of peace, forgive us for not seeing that Your way is for us, for fighting against ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and against You and Your creation. 


O Root of Jesse, sprouting as a sign for one and all, Your presence humbles the rulers of earth, everyone will honor You. Bring us to You. Come soon Lord Jesus.

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel, You open what no person can close. You close what no man can open. You have become the gateway, calling through our abandoned souls. Come and lead us through You, Jesus. 


God, there are days we survive only by diving deep inside ourselves. We wince at Your glory and survive by our vices. Forgive us for worshipping passing pleasures. For lying, wasting, using and wanting more and more.


O Radiant Dawn of the East, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Give light to those who sit in darkness, bring life to those who have found comfort in the shadow of death. Come, Lord Jesus.


God, we are bound to make mistakes, but thankfully because of Your grace we not bound to our mistakes forever. We agree we need You to liberate us time and time again. For all the times we’ve missed You being in front of us or behind us, forgive us.


O King of the Gentiles, the One in whom we desire, the cornerstone that brings all together, come and deliver us, the ones whom you formed from dust and breath.

O Immanuel, our sovereign mediator, heart of Your people, savior of all, come and save us, O Lord our God. Come, Lord Jesus.

Time of Reflection.


Graceful God, ever faithful to Your promises, the earth actively hopes to know Your presence here, now, and always. Bless our minds to recognize You. Bless our hearts to accept You. Bless our arms to receive You. 



PEACE Week 3 Sermon Prep

Before you begin, consider one thing you have gratitude for right now. Treasure it: Spend at least 15 seconds meditating on this one thing.

READ: 1 Timothy 2:1-6a


What strikes you? What challenges you? What encourages you?


What does this passage show you about God’s desires for you? Your family? Your group? Your community? Your enemies?


How might God be speaking to you through this passage into your present moment?


Note that “peaceful” and “quiet” [your translation may vary] are listed together, but separate. We often can associate these two words as synonyms. What does their distinction and the rest of the content of this passage teach you about what peace means? 


Who do you find it hard to pray for right now? What would it look like to offer petitions [requests], prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving for and on behalf of even that/those person/people? How might this work to bring about peace? 


READ: Deuteronomy 6:1-9


What strikes you? What challenges you? What encourages you?


What does this passage show you about God’s desires for you? Your family? Your group? Your community? Your enemies?


How might God be speaking to you through this passage into your present moment?


Re-READ verse 4. Fill in the blank: “The LORD our God, the LORD is ______.”

What does this statement mean?


In a divided and fractured society, filled with divided and fractured families, filled with divided and fractured people, what does it mean for us to have a LORD who is ONE? What might His ONE-ness mean for our hopes for peace, or what our hopes for peace could/should look like?


Re-Read verse 5. How does His ONE-ness make possible the healing of our own fractured hearts, souls, and strength?


What would it do to you home if you obeyed this command and wrote the words of this command down on the “doorpost of your house and on your gates”? What would it do to your family? What would it do to your neighborhood? 

Peace Week 2 Sermon Prep

Before you settle into study, try to write out how you define PEACE.


READ Leviticus 3:6-8, and verse 11

  1. Why is this Peace Offering Happening?
  2. What is this Peace Offering accomplishing?  
  3. Is a negative thing being removed?  Is a positive thing being restored? Both?

READ Romans 4:24- 5:2.

Can  you confidently proclaim for their own lives what Paul says in these verses?

  1. If so, why do you feel as confident as Paul?  
  2. If not, what is it that prevents you from confidently declaring that you have peace with God?

Re-READ Romans 5:1-2

  1. Does Jesus remove anything negative between our relationship with God?  If so, what?
  2. Does Jesus add anything positive between our relationship with God?  If so, what?

Revisit Galatians 5:22-23

The Fruit of the Spirit is an outpouring in your life and relationships when the Spirit of God is at work within you. The above passage speak good truths on the peace Jesus makes possible between us and God. What does it look like for this peace to overflow from your life? Where do you see this fruit in others in your community? What is it like to benefit from this fruit? 

Peace: Week 1. Sermon Prep Mark 4:35-41

He is our PEACE

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. ~Galatians 5:22-23

READ Mark 4:35-41

What sent the disciples into the storm that scared them?

In what were the disciples putting their trust? 

What made them secure? At what point in the story did that security begin? 

What do these verses teach you about what peace is and what it looks like? 

In what do you put your trust?

READ Ephesians 2:12-14

What does peace look like in these verses? 


In these verses, what provides security? How does this source provide security?

Consider a person or people group that you identify LEAST with. What wall stands between "us" and them? What would it look like for Christ to break down that dividing wall? 


Is these presence of God ever apparent to you? What is that experience like? Does it bring you peace?

Brother Lawrence is famous for "Practicing the Presence of God." How would your daily life look different if you were seeking out and attending to God's presence in and around you?  

How do these passages inform you understanding of the fruit of the spirit? Do you feel like your life if bearing the fruit of peace [this is not an invitation to be critical, but to be attentive - to see the life of Christ growing in and through you]? 



Joy: Week 5 Sermon Prep Zephaniah 3:14-17

This week, Dan intends to take a more devotional approach to the passage on Joy. To prepare for hearing this sermon, perhaps we should do the same.

Take time to read the passage each day. Journal about what sticks out to you. What troubles you? What encourages you? Do you see elements of these words coming alive in your own life or hopes? Note the mutual joy: instructed for the hearers and also promised from God. What does that say to you about Joy, God, and the nature of our relationship with Him? 

Zephaniah 3:14-17 (NASB)

Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
            Shout in triumph, O Israel!
            Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
            O daughter of Jerusalem!

      15The LORD has taken away His judgments against you,
            He has cleared away your enemies.
            The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
            You will fear disaster no more.

      16In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
            “Do not be afraid, O Zion;
            Do not let your hands fall limp.

      17“The LORD your God is in your midst,
            A victorious warrior.
            He will exult over you with joy,
            He will be quiet in His love,
            He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Joy: Week 4. Sermon Prep for October 23, 2016

Have you ever felt a surge of joy bubbling up inside you and then you catch it in your throat to keep from exploding with a shout or a song or exclamation? Maybe you tame it down to a slight smile. When it comes to Rejoicing in God, our passage this week says to let it all hang out!  


READ Philippians 4:4-9


What strikes you in these verses? What challenges you? What raises questions? What offers encouragement?


ReRead Verse 4:

Because at North Harbor, we’re about practicing elements of our spiritual life so that we can really see life transformation, try practicing what verse 4 talks about as many times as you can manage [shoot for at least 3 this week]: Rejoice in the Lord! When you get together with your group, share when and where and how you rejoiced. Say it outloud, sing it, write it down, do something to remove whatever inhibitions might typically hold you back, and when you feel love for God, joy in Him, let it out!


Note: this verse says “Rejoice in the Lord always.” What does this command say about God’s expectations around joy and how much He expects it to be dependent on our circumstances? Have you ever had joy in the Lord in an unlikely time?


ReRead Verses 6-7

I love how this verse is essentially acknowledging that things come up for us all the time that cause us concern AND it offers us something to do with this daily reality: talk to God about these things.

            Traditionally, Christians conclude prayers by saying, “Amen.”  This comes from the Hebrew word “aman” (ah-MAHN) and shows up in the bible for the first time in Genesis 15:6, where it is translated as “believed.” Feel free to check out the context and story around the word there to see if it offers additional insight on these Philippians passages. But the point is, as Peter Enns puts it, “Amen” isn’t just how we signal that prayers are concluded, it is a declaration of trust. We’re telling the Lord, “We’ve said our peace, gotten this stuff off our chests, and now we release this matter into your hands. Now we TRUST you with it.”  (See Peter Enns book: The Sin of Certainty, page 95)


What does it mean to you for the peace of God to be able to surpass every thought? Have you known that protection? What was or what would that be like?


ReRead Verses 8-9

These verses hit home with strong conviction for me right now. I’ve been having trouble pulling myself away from the news lately, and that lack of self-control works directly against the intent of these verses, and I am fully aware of the negative consequences. Many thoughts pass through our minds throughout the day (and night?), but what does your mind tend to dwell on? What is one thing that fits this prescription that your mind would delight to dwell on for the coming week?


Peace comes up a second time in this short passage here. What do you learn about who God is, and how His peace is related to our joy in these verses?


Read Psalm 23

If you hadn’t found something lovely for your mind to dwell on, this passage is never a bad idea! Do you see any connections between this chapter and the verses in Philippians? What do you come to know about God looking at them together? What are God’s desires for you as far as where and how you dwell? Where do you see joy in Psalm 23? 

Joy: Week 3. Sermon Prep for Oct. 16

READ Matthew 13:44-46

Note: translations vary, but in some, verse 44 says “in his joy, he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.”


What strikes you about this passage? What questions does it raise for you? Does anything resonate with you personally? Does anything make you uncomfortable or confused?


Consider the relationship between desire and delight. How does the Kingdom of God provide satisfaction of desire in this parable?


REVIEW Galatians 5:22-25 [the sermon theme for this year]


READ all of Matthew 13.

Note that in multiple illustrations to explain the Kingdom of God, this chapter uses imagery of good fruit. What does that ad to your understanding of the Kingdom of God, the Fruit of the Spirit, and in particular, what JOY has to do with these things?


There is a challenging complexity to the ownership involved in the work that brings about the Fruit of the Spirit. As much as might consider ourselves to have a responsibility to garden in such a way as to bring about fruit, passages like Dan has been preaching on [John 15] indicate God as the gardener doing the pruning. Joy too, is such an emotional thing, that it is hard to forcibly manufacture. Has true spiritual joy ever sprung up in your life? What do you think did contribute to that experience? Between your experiences and these passages, what does it look like to participate in God’s purposes and see fruit born in your own life?


READ Philippians 3:7-11

Describe how you see joy being illustrated in these verses. How do these verses illuminate a qualitative difference between that which holds joy and that, which does not?


For more study into this passage and theme, check out John Piper’s series: “Jesus and the Journey to Joy” [part 4 touches on these particular verses]


Apply Yourself to This Message:

Where have you discovered the Kingdom of God? How have you sacrificed to take hold of that treasure? How might you make this discovery or sacrifice?


How deep are your desires? For what do you settle that God wants to more deeply satisfy in another way?