Jesus began speaking to a foreign woman at a local watering hole. His conversation was not socially acceptable in that day, and yet He engaged regardless of what others may think. Why do you think He did that? Why would Jesus take the time? Her people group was considered low class according to the Jewish customs and heritage, so Jesus ignored her status as a Samaritan, not to mention that women were considered a lower class than men at that time in history. Why would He ignore the social norms and do more than talk and offer her living water?

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This week we kick off our study of John's account of the life of Jesus. Of the 4 gospels, John's is the most unique. He has a great deal to say about IDENTITY. Who is Jesus and who are we called to be in relation to Him? As you read through the daily passages, look for identity statements with a fresh perspective. Invite God to speak to you through the Scriptures about who He is and who you are meant to be.

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How do you imagine Jesus calling out that particular phrase when standing beside the occupied tomb? I once heard a pastor say, "Jesus needed to call Lazarus by name, for if He had merely said, 'Come forth', every dead man and woman within an ear shot would have rallied the call!" That would have been something to see, perhaps a bit like Michael Jackson's Thriller video. It's important to keep in mind that Jesus has resurrection power! He has the power to raise the dead and to breathe life back into situations, relationships, finances, children, marriages and any other area of life that we may deem beyond repair. Do you believe that? How would we live life if we truly believed that on a daily basis?

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How many world religions have a shrine or memorial to commemorate their life? They visit the tomb of a unique individual to pay homage. If you want to do the same with Jesus, you can visit the top locations where Jesus was believed to be buried, yet nobody's home! What is more remarkable than resurrection is the fact that Jesus predicted that this would be the case while He was alive and interacting with His closest followers. It was even prophesied before His birth.

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"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit."  This is the time of year when we remember the price Jesus paid for our sin. He went willfully to the cross for one reason: LOVE. He loves us and was willing to pay the ultimate price to remove the barrier of sin.

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"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is SIN for them." (James 4:17)  Our culture seems to be confused these days about what SIN actually is. Try telling someone from your school, neighborhood or office that certain practices and behaviors are sin and see how they respond. You may be called judgmental or closed minded, but what can people agree on regarding sin? If we are not clear about sin and try to justify all human actions, then there is no need for the cross.

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Concerning God and creation, David once wrote, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, for what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)
Have you ever considered the fact that you have been made by a God who thinks of you and cares about you? How does that concept impact your life?.

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Long before Taylor Swift wrote her 2014 hit single "Shake it Off," the Apostle Paul already understood the concept. After being imprisoned and then shipwrecked on the Island of Malta, he was still a captive in route to Rome, awaiting trial with Caesar himself. When asked to build a fire, a deadly viper slithered from the woodpile and fastened its fangs onto Paul's hand. Natives watched and waited for him to drop dead. Paul merely shook it off. The snake fell into the fire and Paul kept loving and serving those around him. When he showed no reaction or ill effects from the poison, the natives thought he was a god. Paul was quick to point the locals to the One true God and reason for his miraculous reaction.

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Have you ever met someone who you felt you had nothing in common with? Where do you begin or is it best to just walk away? Paul found himself amongst foreigners who had many strange beliefs. He walked through their garden full of idols set up as false gods for worship. He stumbled upon one altar with an inscription to an "Unknown God" (Acts 17:23).  Rather than walk away and judge the Greek citizens for their misguided beliefs, Paul managed to establish Common Ground. He said, "The God you are confused about is the one I am going to proclaim to you." Then he used this as an opportunity. Instead of burning bridges with people he had very little in common with, he built a bridge and shared the love of Christ with those who had never heard about it. How do you and I build common ground with those we do not share much in common with?

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ACTS OF GOD (Pentecost and Power)


Most people refer to the Book of Acts as the "Acts of the Apostles", while a more accurate description is, "The Acts of God through the Apostles." The Book of Acts is packed with amazing stories of the first believers attempting to follow God during a time in history when following Jesus could cost you your life. The promised Holy Spirit was unleashed on the pioneers of the faith to empower ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things.

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Numerous television episodes of "Seinfeld" are centered around relationships - many had to do with relational breakups. One such episode, Jerry found a woman who was beautiful...that is until he saw her hands, which he described as "man hands." He stayed in the relationship until it seemed unbearable, and then he dumped her. Commitment and relationships never lasted long in that show when it came to dating, and yet the 4 primary friends were inseparable. What relationships would you fight for? How deep is your commitment?

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What does a healthy love relationship look like?  How would you describe two people who are in love? We have so many mixed ideas of what LOVE should look like based on the movies and television, music, our families of origin and any dating we may have done or not done. How do you think God would answer these questions?

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"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:6) Does this verse describe your average conversation with those you love? Would those who know you best say that you are "full of grace"? How do you speak to others when you are tired or in a bad mood? Our words carry great power to impact others and are a valuable tool God has given us to communicate love.

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"I just fell out of love and no longer want to be with her." Those were the words a friend told me recently concerning his relationship with his wife. What's LOVE got to do with it? The question Tina Turner raised in her 1980's hit is still a relevant question in today's world. What does the Bible have to say concerning the intersection of love and feelings? Join us over the month of February as we discuss this subject, as well as marriage, communication, lust and love.

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“The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’  But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.”   (Mark 15:3-5) 

When Jesus was accused publicly of crimes he hadn't committed and questioned by the local governor, he remained almost completely silent. How do you suppose you would respond in a similar situation?  Jesus did not feel compelled to defend himself, nor was he concerned about what others thought of him. Can the same be said for us? 
When it comes to the concept of "Traveling Light", many carry the heavy burdens of others. This could mean that we seek to bear the burdens (such as other people's cares) that we were not meant to carry;  Or perhaps we drag the luggage of constantly caring far too much about what others think of us.

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In Exodus chapter 20, the Lord warns against worshipping false gods. Then, He speaks of "punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the 3rd & 4th generation of those who hate Him." (20:5).  What implications do the sins of our parents have on us now that Jesus has died for our sins? Does this generational curse still exist?

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What was your childhood like? Even if your family put the "fun" back in "dysfunction" there are no perfect families. Consider some of the unhealthy models from this week's passages: Cain & Abel, Rebekah & Isaac, Jacob & Esau, Aaron & Miriam, David & Absalom...  How do you deal with family baggage when it comes to traveling light?

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Many people live their lives in the tyranny of the urgent. When we move at a rapid rate it can be difficult to stop and reflect on the past. Our past is important. Remembering God’s faithfulness and lessons He has taught us along the way help to inform our future. What has God taught you in 2018? What do you believe He has in store for you in the coming year?

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