LIFE group discussion guide: whole

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NOTE: We’ll use the discussion guide you’ll find below in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow night (Nov. 23). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning on remarriage (Whole). To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon (or sermon series).

To consider and contemplate the place of remarriage among Christians.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2.19 NRSV)

• He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10.11-12 NIV)

• To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife. (1 Corinthians 7.8-16 NRSV)

• I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin … (1 Corinthians 7.26-29 NRSV)

• A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7.39 NRSV)

• The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some … will turn away from the faith. … They will prohibit marriage … Everything created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should rejected. These things are made holy by God’s word and prayer. (1 Timothy 4.1,3a,4-5 CEB)

Relation

Use the following icebreaker question to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Have you ever repaired some broken something and it turned out stronger than before? Tell us about it.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. What is the meaning of the phrase “only in the Lord” in 1 Cor. 7.39? Study what scholars have written.

2. Read 1 Timothy 3.2 and Titus 1.6, comparing them in various translations. Is Paul saying a remarried man isn’t eligible to serve as an elder, if a man is married he must be a “one woman kind of man” or what?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. The church has generally made life for the remarried: (a) easier, (b) more difficult, (c) both, or (d) other.

2. Why shouldn’t remarriage be an option to those whose divorced mate resists reconciliation or is dead?

3. Fill in the blank: “Most arguments against the divorced being allowed to remarry sound ______ to me.”

4. Studies have shown that with each successive remarriage, most marriages are less likely to last. Why?

5. A divorced friend tells you privately that they’re considering remarriage. What advice do you offer?

6. How does one determine how much time to give a divorced mate an opportunity for reconciliation?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Urge all believers within your sphere of influence, to marry a maturing disciple (if they marry at all).

2. Refuse to “look down on” or “keep at arm’s length” the remarried. Rather, accept and strengthen them.

toward a stranger Thanksgiving

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NOTE: The following is a guest post by a dear friend of mine, Bill Ehlig. Bill happens to be one of my shepherds at MoSt Church and I can assure you, he, more than anyone else I know, “practices what he preaches” in this post. Enjoy, and be challenged!

- Our President took the liberty to refer to a concept from the Bible last night. It is not all that well known, but ignorance of the concept cannot be attributed to the concept being unmentioned. In fact the concept of care for strangers is fairly basic in the Bible from beginning to end. The President said, “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.” He was nearly quoting from Exodus 23.9:

“Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

This is a theme in the Law [Genesis – Deuteronomy] and also the Prophets [Isaiah – Malachi, the Jews adding most of Joshua – 2 Kings]. Have a look if you wish: Ex. 22.21 (20); Lev. 19.33, 34; Deut. 10.18,19; 24.17,18; Jer. 7.6; 22.3; Ezek.  22.7,29; Zech. 7.10. If you looked at these, you may have noticed that the concern is not only negative [don’t oppress], but also positive [take care of the stranger]. The 3rd or 4th commandment [depending if you count the Catholic or Protestant] refers to the same concern [Deut. 5.12-14; Ex. 20.8-11]. Also, Israel was supposed to be somewhat careless regarding the harvest and leave some in the field for the strangers and others [Deut. 24.19-22; Ruth 2.1-23]. The Law took all this one step further regarding taxes in Deuteronomy 14.28-29:

“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Israel paid for assistance whether they got taxes from the stranger or not! This was in their budget. Not too surprisingly Jesus took up the same line as Moses. An example: the commandment he called ‘The Second’ [Matt. 22.34-36; Mark 12.28-34; Luke 10.25-28] “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The story of the Good Samaritan is downstream of this commandment in Luke. Jesus was quoting from Leviticus 19.18. I would add from the same chapter verses 33 and 34.

“And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

A last note from Jesus; he defined the differences between sheep and goats on how they cared for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned [Matt. 25.31-46]. He set the bar high, much higher than our discourse has generally been. Earlier, I wrote ‘beginning to end’. Let me add Genesis 15.13 and Hebrews 13.2. That would be about 92% of span of the whole Bible. There is plenty more between these about caring for others, even strangers.

There is something which should be added to all this: The President used the word ‘stranger’ for his speech. That would be from the King James Version. He could have used other words instead. Other translations do not use ‘stranger.’ They use foreigner, alien, immigrant, and more. Generally the point can be made with a little more umph from these other translations.

I wonder how much the President’s citation from scripture was noticed. I wonder how much hearers realized just how rich the concern for strangers is in Scripture.

There will be those who would prefer the President kept out of religion. Fine, I suppose. But I hope these abandon the song of “our Judeo/Christian heritage”. If we can’t get “the heart of a stranger” right, we might want to avoid other subjects where Scripture is not so clearly represented. Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving. Let us not forget the ‘stranger’ part of that celebration.

Bill Ehlig

links: this went thru my mind

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Church, Christian faith, immigration, justice & mercy: * Immigration and Church – Why It Matters; * 5 Immigration Myths Debunked [essential reading]; * Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration; * 4 Ways (Im)migration Impacts the Mission of the Church [essential reading]

* “…  Christians must agree that we have a responsibility to love and care for the immigrant.”

* ” Here are 5 myths about undocumented immigrants, and why they’re wrong. Myth # 1: They don’t pay taxes. [ Undocumented immigrants are already U.S. taxpayers. Collectively, they paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010 ... On average they pay about 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes] …

Myth # 2: They don’t pay into Social Security. [... undocumented immigrants contribute more in payroll taxes than they will ever consume in public benefits. Take Social Security. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), unauthorized immigrants -- who are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits -- have paid an eye-popping $100 billion into the fund over the past decade. ] …

Myth #3: They drain the system. [Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years] …

Myth # 4: They take American jobs. [ The American economy needs immigrant workers. The belief that immigrants take jobs that can otherwise be filled by hard-working Americans has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data. ] …

Myth # 5: It’s just a matter of following the law. [...  under current immigration laws, there are very few options for legal immigration, the costs are increasingly prohibitive and the wait for any kind of status can be long and frustrating.]“

* “… Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is ‘not who we are’ and cited Scripture, saying, ‘We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.’ … Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?”

* “While there isn’t space in this blog post to propose and unpack all the issues, I think it’s valuable to examine four ways immigration is impacting the church and its call to share the gospel with all peoples.”

Compassion, love & mercy: Gate A-4

“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

Consumerism & contentment: * The Cult of Contentment [required reading]; * God is Not Santa Claus: How the Consumerist Worldview Affects the Church

* “… I have a modest proposal, instead of fighting to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ what if we fought to keep the Friday in Black Friday?”

* ” God is not Santa Claus. But we seem to forget that sometimes because we have embraced a worldview called consumerism. In this way of seeing the world, the consumer is at the center, and his or her goal is to find pleasure and avoid pain by consuming things, experiences, and people. Unfortunately, we take this same consumerist worldview to Jesus and his church, but he wants to move us from being consumers to contributors.”

 

links: this went thru my mind

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Bible classes, community, intergenerational faith formation & spiritual education: Why Bring the Generations Back Together in Churches [essential reading]

“… why did churches in the 70s, 80s, and 90s begin separating the generations by age and stage? … The move toward age segregation in society in general is one key factor that has contributed to age segregation in American churches. … Another factor, and from my perspective the main reason for age segregation in our faith communities, is that we have allowed educational and developmental psychology to influence our praxis too strongly. …

“Why bring the generations back together? … for the spiritual benefits of intergenerational Christian experiences and relationships. … ‘intergenerational relationships in faith communities are crucial.’”

Bible reading, community & interpretation: Misreading Scripture Alone

“Personal piety and a desire for truth are not guarantees that we always read Scripture aright. Consequently, we must rely upon our brothers and sisters in the faith to correct and rebuke us when we err, demonstrating our errors by Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). And this reliance on brothers and sisters refers not merely to those Christians who happen to be alive at the same time as us. Instead, it refers to the whole Christian Church, throughout time. We rely on those who have gone before us. They too get a say in the matter. As G. K. Chesterton has wonderfully put it, this sort of tradition is a ‘democracy of the dead.’”

Children, families, parenting & traditions: 3 Low Cost/High Impact Family Traditions

“Traditions are the building blocks for strong families.”

Focus, life, peace & stress: End Your Day Well to Start Your Day Well [essential reading]

“When you find the rhythm of evening and morning you will have good days.”

Listening: How You Can Learn the #1 Persuasion Technique of FBI Hostage Negotiators

“What do you hear about great groups? Not that the members are all really smart but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic. And in our study we saw pretty clearly that groups that had smart people dominating the conversation were not very intelligent groups.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Bible reading, Churches of Christ, interpretation & open-mindedness: Reading the Bible in Churches of Christ

“The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more.”

Church, generations, leadership, Millennials, ministry & mission: Five Reasons Why Millennials Do Not Want to Be Pastors or Staff in Established Churches

“My plea to Millennials is not to abandon established churches. Not all of them are as bad as many think. Consider yourself to be a part of the solution. Above all, look at these churches as mission fields just as you would a ministry in a distant continent. We need Millennials in established churches. Your present and future leadership is vital. Granted, church revitalization is messy and not easy. It is often slow, methodical, and frustrating. But God loves the members of established churches just as He loves the members of new works.”

Church dropouts: The Rise of the Dones

“… the Dones … these de-churched … [are] among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best. … The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.”

Gun control, right-to-carry laws & violent crime: Right to Carry Increases Crime

“… extending the data yet another decade (1999-2010) provides the most convincing evidence to date that right-to-carry laws are associated with an increase in violent crime. … The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder.”

Jesus & offense: Give Me the Doubly Offensive Jesus, Please

“The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how inclusive He is. The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how exclusive He is. The church is offended by His inclusivity, and the world is offended by His exclusivity. Thus we are inclined to weaken the offense, either by minimizing His inclusive call or by downplaying His exclusive claims. Unfortunately, whenever we lop off one side or the other, we wind up with a Jesus in our own image. Instead, we should celebrate both Jesus’ inclusiveness and His exclusivity, for this is the polarity that makes Jesus so irresistibly compelling.”