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Perhaps you’ve heard the plea: “If only life came with an instruction manual!”  Well, the fact is it does.  God has provided us with basic, practical principles for successful everyday living; it’s in the Bible.  Ephesians chapters 4-6 give us God’s own “Principles for Successful Living.” In these three short chapters are practical instructions on what really matters; relationships at home, at work and in the church.  Everything we need to know about living life to the fullest is right here.  Throw away all your “self help” books and learn God’s principles for successful living.

 


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According to the Bible the Church of Jesus Christ is the only hope of the world.  Unfortunately the stereotype most of society has of Christians is too often that of bigoted, narrow-minded and judgmental people.  Many Christians think of themselves simply as: "just a sinner saved by grace;" but in reality we are much, much more.  The only way to be what God intends us to be and to smash these stereotypes is for followers of Jesus to discover who they really are. In this series "The New You: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are?" covering Ephesians chapters 1-3 we will find out who we have become in Christ and how the actual power of God is working in each of us and together in the Church to change the world.


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Many believers have a desire to follow the Lord in their lives but don’t know where to begin. Just how do you grow spiritually? The book of James, written by the brother of Jesus, is a “how to” manual for living the Christian life.  James provides us with practical instructions on such topics as “how to overcome temptation,” “how to profit from trials,” “how to gain wisdom,” “how to communicate constructively” and much more.  In this series we will learn: “How to Grow Spiritually” in our personal lives and assist others who desire to follow Christ day by day.


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The idea of heroes has captured the imagination of America.  We make heroes out of all kinds of people… whether they accomplish anything or not.  Some people are heroes just for being famous others for their looks or being in the right place at the right time.  God makes real heroes out of ordinary people.  People like you and me.  Throughout the Bible God used regular people in unique ways even though they many times suffered and lost much in the process.  In our series: “Heroes: Ordinary People, Extraordinary God” we will discover that anyone can be a hero in God’s eyes… all we have to do is trust Him in difficult situations.


 

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Life can be hard. It seems we are always running into obstacles to our happiness and well being. It’s easy to let our difficulties define us and get stuck. When faced with adversity we have a choice: to become bitter or get better. In the Old Testament we meet Joseph, a remarkable young man who faced all kinds of adversity; from a dysfunctional family, to unbelievable temptation, to being punished for doing the right thing and even unfair imprisonment, yet he was able to overcome each obstacle and thrive. In this series we will learn principles for: “Overcoming Adversity: Turning Stumbling Blocks into Building Blocks” and realize that no matter what life throws at us we can face adversity and become better.


 

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We live in an increasingly secular world where people try to define life totally apart from God.  Our rapidly changing world provides the church with opportunities it has never had before. There are also pressures, problems and questions it has not experienced in the past. With the advance of technology and our rising standard of living come questions about work, leisure and the meaning of life. The moral and ethical foundations of our society are being steadily undermined. Relationships are being redefined in such a way that the idea of marriage and the commitment it requires is being questioned. All this points to our need for a word from God that will give us direction for living in a post-Christian world. Today, more than ever, we need to find out: “What God Says About… Life.”


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Christmas is a time we seek to give the “perfect present” to the ones we love.  We put extra effort into thinking, planning and coming up with just the right thing that will give them years of enjoyment. This attitude is no accident, it a reflection of what Christmas really is. God, knowing our greatest need planned from creation to give us the perfect gift in Jesus Christ.  He is totally unique, and not only meets our deepest needs, but continues to bless us with enjoyment, satisfaction, peace and purpose in a dark world. Through receiving “God’s Perfect Gift” we can experience a lifetime of blessings and an eternity of peace.


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Sometimes life can become a “ho hum” existence. We go through the daily routine and wonder where our joy has gone. When life has lost its “spark” we have probably stopped living by faith. The book of Hebrews lists “God’s Hall of Fame” in chapter 11. You’ll be surprised by who is included… ordinary people like you and me who lived extraordinary lives of faith. By their example we’ll see how it’s possible for us to experience: “Faith: Breaking Out of the Ordinary” and realize that no matter what our situation in life we can trust God and realize the wonder of an authentic life lived by faith.


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If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk with Jesus during His time on earth, here’s your chance.  Mark wrote to the Romans and recorded in his gospel the experience of traveling with Jesus during His tours of Palestine through the eyes of Peter one of Jesus’ closest friends.  In this action packed book we’ll see what Jesus did, hear what he said and be challenged and encouraged to follow Him more closely in our daily lives.  “Walking with Jesus” is a great trip to the Holy Land without leaving home and will change your life!


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Paul wrote the Philippian letter from a prison.  Yet he talks a lot about a remarkable joy that he could experience in prison when things were going wrong. It is a quality of life worth knowing, because we all have our prisons of one kind or another. What is your prison? A weak body? An office desk?  A struggling relationship? There is a way to have joy in your prison. Your prison will not change but “Having Joy in a Cold World” will perhaps have a bigger impact on your prison than your prison will have on you.


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The idea of worship is a foreign concept to our 21st century culture.  The term is relegated to superstitious people in ancient societies with various gods and temples.  But people engage in worship all the time at the feet of the NFL, movie stars and celebrities.  The word worship literally means to adore and people are caught up in worship of famous people, the latest fashions and technology, to name a few.  But worship means much more to followers of Christ. There is only One who deserves worship and adoration: the God of creation.  In this series we will discover the “Wonder of Worship” Our Response to God; as we come to understand the incredible privilege we have and renew our hearts in pure worship of the One True Living God.


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When you hear the word “church” different things come to people’s minds depending on their background and experience.  For some it means following rituals and customs, for others it is all about following the “rules,” for most it is largely a spectator activity and not seen as relevant to daily life or even generational.  God designed the church to be the most vital, powerful, encouraging place on earth.  It is His chosen vehicle to change the world.  Once you experience the real thing you will marvel at the beauty and power of this incredible collection of people.  This series will help us in “Rediscovering the Church” as God intended and finding our part in making it totally unique.


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We all have friends or family who don’t know Christ personally.  We pray for them but when opportunities for spiritual conversations come up you may feel unprepared or awkward trying to tell them how to have a personal relationship with Jesus.  As believers, each of us has the responsibility to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  This series will equip you to share the gospel with others in a natural way that fits with your personality.  You will learn the facts of the gospel and discover your unique evangelism style so you can be involved in “Getting the Word Out” in an effective way.


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All of us know of Jesus; the great teacher, philosopher, religious leader and even Savior and Lord.  But do we really know Jesus the person? Luke sets out to answer that question in the book he wrote on the life of Jesus. With a physician’s trained eye he starts with his family and background and moves on to the way he treated people touching their lives and transforming them regardless of where they stood in the social hierarchy. In this series: “Getting to Know Jesus” we will find out more about this man who changed history and can change our lives as well.


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Emotions are a powerful thing that can sneak up on us and surprise us with their intensity.  Our emotions come from our thoughts; responding to our environment or circumstances.  Many times they can easily end up dictating our behavior in harmful ways.  The way we view ourselves determines how we act, and react, to people and situations. Unfortunately many of us have adopted false beliefs about ourselves that produce emotional bondage in our lives.  This series explores what the Bible has to say about this important area.  God has revealed the truth in His Word that enables us to go about “Overcoming Emotions that Destroy.”


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Billy Graham was quoted recently as saying: “There was a headline recently about more Americans tailoring religion to fit their needs; mixing a little Christianity with the religions of the world. It is called a 'trendy faith.' Society does not object to this kind of faith. We have dismissed God, resulting in skewed thinking and consciences that are desensitized to right and wrong, basing moral decisions solely on what 'fits in' with our individual preferences.” Our country has turned its back on God and has gotten to this place, in part, because believers have failed to live lives doing good.  “Doing Good” and living like Christians isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally. Discover the extraordinary power of one righteous life as seen in the book of Titus. Join us as we refer to God’s manual and learn the “Why,” the “What,” and the “How” to do good in the church, in relationships, and in the world


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How do you view God?  Do you see Him as a kindly old grandfather, a “drill sergeant” to be pleased at all costs, cold and aloof or vengeful and stern? Our concept of God has a lot to do with the quality of our life.  It is easy to be confused, angry and even resentful toward God when we look at things from our human point of view. God is really nothing like we think… He is so much greater!  The more we know about who God really is deepens our faith, strengthens our trust and sustains us in our troubles.  In this series “Surprised by God” we will be able to expand our thinking and broaden our understanding of the reality of who God really is and in the process provide a foundation for a more confident, peaceful and satisfying life in the world we live in.


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The world is not a very encouraging place.  For the most part, life in the 21st century is "every man for himself."  Our culture is heading downhill fast making it more and more difficult to live the Christian life.  In this kind of climate it is easy to lose hope and feel that nothing will ever get better.  The Book of I Thessalonians was written to address the difficulties which a young, very enthusiastic, but still not completely instructed, church naturally encounters as it seeks to live out its faith.  The letter covers instructiion on how to "survive" in a hopeless world.  It touches on relationships, the role of the pastor, living with problems, finding hope in trouble, the Christian's lifestyle, end times and practical living.  This study will give us a roadmap for "Finding Hope in a Hopeless World."



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America has long considered herself a Christian nation. But over the last few decades our culture has done everything it could to distance it from traditional Christian values. Our education system has revised history and science books to minimize any reference to God. Lifestyles and values contrary to Scripture are celebrated and even protected by law.  What does it really mean to be a Christian? People have various definitions but the one that counts is God’s definition found in the Book of Colossians. When we understand who we really are in Christ it will revolutionize our lives and enable us to decipher what is truth in our culture of relativism. The key to our freedom begins with “Christ the Center.”


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Many times in life we find ourselves in situations not of our own making.  Through no fault of our own we are placed in tough circumstances with hard choices to make. How do we deal with these instances?  In the Book of Esther we find some of God’s people in challenging situations having to make tough choices. The fascinating story shows us that faithfulness is rewarded and the importance of standing for convictions in the face of danger and pending disaster.  Through its study we will be reminded that God is always in control and that nothing is a coincidence because He has placed us: “Here for a Reason.”


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Having just returned from driving across country from Atlanta, Georgia to Sacramento and then to Prunedale, Hank saw a lot of the country and a lot on the road.  The principles of driving easily correlate to spiritual principles we are to called to live our lives by. This two-part “mini series” will be a spiritual refresher course, reminding us of things we know from God’s Word and help us gain some perspective for daily living as we apply these: “Lessons from the Highway”


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People today are looking for compassion and acceptance; an authentic love they can count on.  We need someone to trust to stick with us while facing the various challenges of life. Unfortunately people, even those with the best intentions, let us down.  Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” He didn’t just say it… He did it.  John 11-21 is the eyewitness account of Jesus’ final days on earth.  He demonstrated His great love for you and how you can know it and share it with others.  In Jesus is where you find… “No greater love.”


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“Who is Jesus Christ?” The question divides people by their answers.  Jesus Christ is God in human form.  He is the heart of the gospel message. Our culture today is suffering from a lack of real, authentic love.  Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and He is the One who brings God’s everlasting love to people today.  As we follow Jesus through the middle of His earthly ministry in John chapters 6-10 we will see God revealed in His “Everlasting Love” that will move us, that He would love us so dearly; and motivate us to share His love with others who desperately need to know it.

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There is a difference between religion and Christianity.  Religion is all about rituals, rules and regulations. Christianity is all about relationship, freedom and liberty.  Paul wrote the book of Romans to help us understand the real freedom we have in a relationship with Christ.  Too often we are bound by the chains of the past and feel trapped in destructive thought and behavior patterns; when Christ wants us to experience the freedom He has provided us.  Romans chapters 5-8 tell us how we can keep: “Experiencing Real Freedom in Christ” and live in the liberty of our new life in Christ.


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As we begin a New Year the age old question persists: “Why am I here?” The search for purpose and meaning in life is universal.  God wants us to know why we are here.  In fact He created each one of us for a specific purpose.  You are important to God and He made you the way you are for a reason. This study will help us understand God’s plan for our lives and how He has uniquely created each of us specifically to accomplish certain things.  The fact of the matter is we have all been: “Born to Make a Difference.”


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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This prophecy from Isaiah is relevant to us today.  We have received an incredible gift from God to all who will receive it.  This series will look at who Jesus is as we celebrate the commemoration of His birth in Bethlehem.  His appearance long ago began something that continues to this day and has implications for all of us.


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Has God ever asked you to do something that was hard for you? There are times when we all have run away from God or His explicit guidance.  And we have all run back to God in times of desperate need.  Hopefully we have experienced the wonderful delight of running with God, in step with His plans for us. But who hasn’t run ahead of Him, trying to use our prayers to tell Him what is best for us, others, and situations?  The Old Testament prophet Jonah experienced all these things.  His story is recorded in the Bible as an object lesson from God reminding us that we are all His “Agents of Mercy.”


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We have started a new year and a new decade! For many of us it will be a year of uncertainty; certain to be full of unforeseen blessings, unpredictable challenges but also the unchanging faithfulness of God. Life is full of unwanted transitions where things are not what they used to be and the future is in question. We all have challenges… how we handle these problems is the difference between becoming bitter and living a life full of meaning and purposefulness. This series is designed to enable you to not just survive the experience but help in: “Finding God in Life’s Difficult Transitions” so the result of the journey will be deep, lasting growth instead of destruction for our souls.


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Being a Christ-follower in today’s world is not easy.  Our whole culture nowadays is geared against just about everything the Bible teaches.  In this series we will follow the culmination of the people of God’s journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.  As we see how they trusted God and conquered the land we will learn the principles of courageous faith to posses all that God has planned for us in today’s world as we experience: “Being God’s People in a Hostile World.”


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The writers of the Psalms were real people.  They faced all the same challenges and frustrations in life that we are confronted with.  Sometimes they were overwhelmed by all that living in world heaps on us.  They knew what it was like to be discouraged, wounded, helpless and even depressed. In their misery they would cry out to God in desperation and hurt. God has recorded their private prayers to Him in the book of Psalms for our benefit.  This series will bring us hope and encouragement as we look into their “Psalms to the Heart of God.”


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When we think about Almighty God it brings to mind many things.  We know He is the God of Creation, infinite in wisdom with understanding beyond comprehension.  He is enthroned in heaven inunspeakable glory and holiness. His majesty is indescribable and His power unfathomable.  But we need to remember something else about God. This incredible God of the universe, who holds the world in His hand, wants you to know Him. Not just know about Him and his power and glory, but to know Him personally; friend to friend.  In Psalm 139, David describes for us how to enjoy the wonder of the peace and confidence and downright joy that comes from: “Intimacy with God.”


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As we move into the New Year of 2012 many of us are facing hard choices.  We have to make decisions about relationships, resources (or the lack of them), lifestyle, job concerns, health care and even the care of others, to name a few.  Some choices seem inconsequential; others of tremendous importance.  How do we make the right choices? How do we know out of all the potential options which is the best way to go?  God has made some significant promises to His followers.  This series will remind us of a few basic principles for making: “A Fresh Start for the New Year.”


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