Brian Behrends, Creative Pastor

Isaiah 40:3-5
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD;
          make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
          every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
          the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
          and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

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Matthew 3:1-6
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
          “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
                    ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
                    make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

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“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”


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…for the kingdom of heaven…

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…has come…

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Colossians 1:19
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…

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Matthew 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

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Small Group Questions

  1. How has your approach to Christmas changed over the years? In what ways do you feel the need to prepare differently for Jesus this Christmas?
  2. What do you think are the most common misconceptions about repentance? Why do you think repentance has such negative connotations attached to it?
  3. Jesus talked more about the Kingdom of God more than anything else. Why do you think that is? What does that mean for you this Christmas season?
  4. What’s something Jesus is inviting you to let go of this Christmas season? What’s something he’s inviting you to pick up?
  5. Who is God putting on your heart to invite to Christmas Eve this year?
  6. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?


Brian Behrends, Creative Pastor

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

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What do we do when God says ?

Galatians 4:4-5
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

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What do we do when doesn’t look the way we thought it would?

Luke 2:7

And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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What do we do when God’s plan is full of ?

Luke 1:26-27

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

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Small Group Questions

  1. What were some of your favorite holiday traditions growing up?
  2. Tell us about a time when God’s timeline was different than yours. What did you do in the waiting? How did you keep your faith?
  3. How can cultivating a spirit of gratitude help us see God’s hand even when things don’t go as planned?
  4. There is inevitably a tension between making plans and surrendering those plans to God. Have you found a way to strike a balance between responsible planning and yielding to God’s perfect plan?
  5. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?


Grant Fishbook, Lead Teaching Pastor

God does miracles that begin with a .


Pieces of the Christmas Puzzle from Ancient History

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.” – Genesis 3:15

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When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law. – Galatians 4:4-5

Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

The Lord has said to me, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” – Psalm 2:7

And the angel answered and said to her… “that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

“I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom…I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father and he shall be my Son.” – 2 Samuel 7:12–14

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But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel. – Micah 5:2

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem…with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son. – from Luke 2:1–7

“…out of Egypt I called my Son.” – Hosea 11:1b

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[After Jesus was born in Bethlehem], an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”
          When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” – Matthew 2:13-15

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Small Group Questions

  1. What did you do to live out Thanksgiving this past week?
  2. What is the most difficult puzzle you have ever done? What was the picture?
  3. Read all of the scriptures again. What does God say to your heart about his attention to detail?
  4. How can practically you trust God today with the pieces of your life?
  5. There is always something more to our story. Is there something you can share with your small group—a piece of your life—that you have never shared before?
  6. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?


Grant Fishbook, Lead Teaching Pastor

Matthew 1:1–16
This is a record [genealogy] of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.
Abijah was the father of Asa.
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.
Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah was the father of Jotham.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz [the worst king in Israel’s history] .
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh [the second-most evil king].
Manasseh was the father of Amon.
Amon was the father of Josiah.
Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).

After the Babylonian exile: Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.
Abiud was the father of Eliakim.
Eliakim was the father of Azor.
Azor was the father of Zadok.
Zadok was the father of Akim.
Akim was the father of Eliud.
Eliud was the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar was the father of Matthan.
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

Your notes

Truth #1 – God planned a way to make brokenness whole.

The word Messiah means .

The name Jesus means .

Your notes

Truth #2 – God used to bring about his plan.

Your notes

Truth #3 – Jesus what once defined us.

Your notes

Small Group Questions
  1. Are you a live tree or a fake tree person? Why?
  2. Have you ever done any research into your family tree? What did you find? Are you related to anyone famous?
  3. Read the genealogy out loud and share any of the stories you know from any of the people listed? Why do you believe God included them in his lineage?
  4. Grant hung some “ornaments” on the tree. What ornament would you hang on the tree from your past? What ornament would you hang on the tree that would describe your new life in Jesus?
  5. You are included in the family line of Jesus. How does that change your perspective on Thanksgiving and Christmas?
  6. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?


Brian Behrends, Creative Pastor

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

Daniel 3:22-26, 28
The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers, who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, And these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
          Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
          They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
          He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

“Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”

Your notes…

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Your notes…

Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Your notes…

Small Group Questions

  1. When you feel overwhelmed, where do you look first for comfort? What are your go-to coping mechanisms?
  2. Have you ever been in a season of life that you were so busy trying to get out of that you never really saw how God wanted to move in it?
  3. Are there areas of discomfort, challenges, or risks that you believe God is calling you to embrace? What holds you back from stepping into those spaces?
  4. What does it mean for you to keep the cross in the middle of your life instead of comfort?
  5. In what ways can a community support and encourage one another to resist the idol of comfort and embrace growth and obedience?
  6. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?


Grant Fishbook, Lead Teaching Pastor

The marks of a Cross-centered life:

A supreme love for (Luke 14:26-27 CEV and Galatians 5:22-23)

A denial of (Matthew 16:24)

A deliberate choosing of (John 14:15)

An unswerving commitment to embracing the (John 8:31)

A commitment to love God loves (John 13:35; Proverbs 6:16-19)

Luke 9:57–62: Three Case Studies in Discipleship Excuses

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 
        58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

For this man: the excuse… this .

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
          But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
          60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

For this man: the excuse… .

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
          62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

For this man: the excuse… .

Small Group Questions

  1. What’s your favorite excuse for being late?
  2. How do you feel when someone you love starts making excuses for bad behavior? What happens in your heart?
  3. Who is the most devoted Jesus follower you have met in your lifetime? What makes their life different?
  4. Read the Marks of a Cross-centered Life and the corresponding scriptures listed above. Where are you at when it comes to being a faithful follower of Jesus?
  5. Read Luke 9:57-62. What is God saying to you through the responses of Jesus to these three men?
  6. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?



Question: What is the of the family of God?

2 Ways the Economy of the Cross has Impacted Ryan’s Finances

  1. Forgiveness
  2. Trust

Every time there is  it’s because someone  the loss.

Matthew 25:14-30
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
          19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
          21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
          22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
          23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
          24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
          26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?
27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
          28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

“Grace is given without condition. It is given for free but it is given with expectation of return.”
– John Barclay


1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

Small Group Questions

  1. How much money do you have? (Just kidding—don’t answer this!) How easy was it to talk about money in your home growing up?
  2. Is money easy for you to talk about now? With whom, or in what settings?
  3. Is there an example of generosity that inspires you? Tell us about it.
  4. What’s your reaction to the idea that every one of us is an idol (an image, a representation) of God? Does that change anything for you?
  5. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?


Grant Fishbook, Lead Teaching Pastor

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

– 1 Corinthians 1:18


The Cross is a place of

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again, No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again…” – John 10:17–18b

The Cross is a place of

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:23–25

The Cross is a place of

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. – Isaiah 26:3-4

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

The Cross is a place of

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. – Colossians 2:13–15

The Cross is a place of

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” – Matthew 16:24–26

The cross is the for all people —
those who are perishing and those who are being saved.
Will you be saved today?

Small Group Questions
  1. Have you ever been truly afraid for your life? What was the situation and how did it turn out?
  2. What do you think of when I simply say the word cross?
  3. What is the message of the cross to you, personally? Which of the five aspects that Grant shared is the most important to you?
  4. Read Matthew 16 out loud. How can you deny yourself in a way that honors God?
  5. The cross is a dividing line. Share about the moment when the cross divided you from your sin.
  6. How can we pray for you right now and throughout the week?


Wendy Powell, Community Outreach Pastor

What does the cross mean to you?

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

John 1:18

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

The cross is a point of decision where faith and repentance lead us to surrender.

Ephesians 4:22-24

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Galatians 2:20

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The ongoing redemptive work of the cross is to refine us, heal us, sanctify us, mature us.

Hebrews 5:12-14

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 

Self-Centered Life vs. Cross-Centered Life

Our schedule vs. Divine interruptions

Our plans vs. Inconvenient needs of others

My money, my bills vs. Planned, prioritized generosity

Creature comforts vs. Going without to bless others

Comfortable social distance vs. Connecting with a stranger

Apathy vs. Choosing to see, to care, to seek God

My need to be right vs. Perspective of others

Idol of entertainment vs. Time & attention caring for others

Holding grudges vs. Forgiveness

Hurry and worry vs. Peaceful, trusting presence

Centered on Christ, our lives should find balance and stability.


Emily Jamieson, Guest Speaker

Your notes…