the wisdom of peace

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Oct. 30). This guide will enable your follow-up of the sermon that I’ll preach, God willing, that morning from James 3:13-18. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

To appreciate God’s peace as we live by his wisdom and how wise it is to live in his peace.

Word

“Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. … (17) What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. (18) Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.” (James 3:13,17-18 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Recount a funny instance of your knuckleheadedness when you failed to use “wisdom.”

2. One thing I do to try and bring peace in a tense situation is to __________.

Dig

These questions are intended to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture text.

1. We’re to have a humble lifestyle (vs. 13). In context, what would such a lifestyle look like?

2. How would everything change if the wisdom from above was not “pure?” (vs. 17a)

3. Compare the wording of the seven qualities of pure wisdom from above (vs. 17) in several different English translations. What variation in wording do you notice?

4. Pick a word from vs. 17 and explain how such is crucial to forming or keeping peace.

5. Substitute the phrase “right relationships between people” for the word “justice” in vs. 18. How does this help you understand James’ point with this whole passage?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. God is what he expects of us. Recount an instance in the life of Jesus Christ that depicts him living out each of the seven qualities mentioned in vs. 17.

2. Would you say there can be wisdom in a church without peace? How about real peace without wisdom? How do you think James would answer those two questions?

3. What sort of things would you expect to be common in a church that was well exercised in the seven qualities enumerated in vs. 17? What would you expect to be hard to find?

4. James points to the seven qualities in vs. 17 as distinctives of true heavenly wisdom. What would you say the church today tends to emphasize as her “wisdom distinctives?” How does the list you come up with differ from the list here in James?

5. James says the experience of peace among Christians doesn’t just happen, rather, it is the result of deliberate effort. It’s like the work of a farmer (“sow … seeds of justice;” vs. 18). What qualities must a farmer exhibit when planting seed and expecting a harvest? How are those qualities necessary for the work of planting seeds of peace?

6. As a group, recite and practice the last sentence of vs. 17 until you have it memorized.

7. Pick one of the seven qualities in vs. 17 that you would say best completes the following sentence: “If I was truly wise, I would personally work hard at becoming more __________.”

at war

What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? (James 4:1 CEB)

Far too often as Christians we live in the middle of a war zone. That’s bad enough, but what makes it an especially bitter pill to swallow is the fact we cannot deny, namely that we have no one to blame for the war but ourselves.

For many, this is the hardest part about being a Christian. The hardest part. Trust a God that can’t be completely understood? Lots of folks do that. Withstand mockery or abuse from folks who are antagonistic against Christian faith? Many do that. Resist a temptation that seems almost irresistible? I see it done all the time. All of this by the grace of God.

But to stay with a church over the long haul that is filled with systemic disputes and conflict? Well, let’s just say the casualty rate is horrific and the “collateral damage” is through the roof. It’s a tremendous challenge to survive in such a setting. Few can or will.

The ceaseless temptation in such an environment is to point the finger at others and then use the war and the gore as an excuse to walk away from it all. But James refuses to let us do so. He takes hold of our pointing finger and turns it right around at us and says, “Its your dispute. It’s your cravings. It’s your own selfishness that fuels the conflict. Deal with it.”

Where does all the conflict and disputes among you come from? It’s your own cravings, I tell you, that are the cause of the war (James 4:1 DSV)

Heavenly Father, by the grace of your Son, help me ever to deal with it; to deal with what I can. Me. Amen.

this went thru my mind

Capital punishment: Why Capital Punishment is Not Such a Capital and Christian Idea by Ben Witherington

“Let me be clear that all the harangues in the world about what the OT says about capital punishment will not persuade me in the least that this makes it o.k. for Christians to participate in the legal taking of someone else’s life. Christians are not under any form of the old covenant, they are under the new covenant, and the new covenant is not just the old covenant renewed or Parte Deux, the sequel.”

Church attendance: Why Sunday Is Not On Your Travel Itinerary! by Mark Woodward

“I have a feeling that many, if not most Christians do not plan to go to church on Sundays when they are traveling. Sometimes we haven’t, but most of the time we try to and I’d like to tell you why.”

Church budgets: Church Budgeting Myths by Tim Spivey

“The area of church finance is riddled with myths. They have pure motives behind them, but they are myths all the same. If you buy into them, you’ll set yourself up for financial peril down the road. Here are a few with some observations.”

Church membership: Why I Have No Difficulty Helping “Issue Christians” to Move On by Ed Stetzer

“… we should always provide guidance, but we should not always provide a platform. “Issue Christians” want a platform with you and your church because they are passionate about an issue–don’t let that distract you or your church from being and doing all that God has in store. Move on… and move them on.”

Committees: If Committees Told the Truth by Seth Godin

“… we will compromise the art and the vision out of it, we will make it reasonable and safe and boring.”

Computing: (1) Online Traffic Shifts from PCs by Jameson Berkow and (2) What to Do if Your E-Reader Is Lost or Stolen by Eric Dye

(1) “For possibly the first time, the most popular online activities are being carried out on devices other than a PC …”

(2) “The last thing you want to happen after realizing your Kindle is missing, is to find someone purchased hundreds of dollars worth of e-books under your account. Here’s what you need to do if your Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader vanish.”

Frustration: 5 Steps for Handling Frustration by Rick Warren

“Here are five simple steps for dealing with frustrations in your life.”

Hebrews: Hebrews Recited by Joel Shorey

The book of Hebrews describes itself as a sermon. Joel Shorey memorized the entire book of Hebrews and recited it, without comment, as a sermon. This is a 45 min. video of that recitation. Wow.

Jealousy: Jealousy at the Boiling Point by Brian LaMew

“What are you really jealous for in life? Isolate your jealous feelings. What is it that you really are seeking after and will obtaining that actually give you the contentment you desire?”

Love: The Dangerous Myth of Unconditional Love by Dan Bouchelle

“Here is a hard truth to hear that you need to know: God is the only one who is truly capable of unconditional love.”

Parenting & sports: When Sports Becomes God by Jonathan McKee

“… maybe parents need to think ahead when it comes to signing up for sports and decide exactly how committed to a team or activity they are really ready to be.”

Occupy Wall Street: (1) A Devotion for Wall Street: Does Jesus have anything to say about the “Occupy Wall St.” protests? by Shane Claiborne and (2) The Health and Wealth of the Church by Christ Altrock

(1) “Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.”

(2) “Occupy Wall Street might force America’s top 1% to soberly reflect on the “soundness” of their own fiscal lifestyle. Perhaps it ought to force us all, especially Americans, to soberly reflect on the “soundness” of our own fiscal lifestyles.”

Twenty-somethings: 20 Somethings: Why are they Leaving and What Can We Do About It? by Matt Dabbs

“Boil down all the issues and here is what you get – the vast majority of churches have a ginormous culture gap within the congregation and are doing little to nothing to resolve it.”

Violence: God Hates Bloodshed by Richard E. Oster, Jr.

“The commitment of the early followers of Christ to humility, peace, non-violence, and meekness stands in stark contrast to the glorification of brute force and bloodshed prevalent in the entertainment values of so many cultures, both ancient and modern.”

the top 10 books I’m currently coveting

10. Moral Formation according to Paul: The Context and Coherence of Pauline Ethics by James Thompson

9. The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement edited by Douglas Foster, Paul Blowers, Anthony Dunnavant & D. Newell Williams

8. 25 Books Every Christian Should Read

7. Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

6. The Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically by Richard Bauckham

5Common English Bible Gospel Parallels

4. Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster

3. Common English Daily Companion Bible

2. Who is My Enemy? Questions American Christians Must Face about Islam–and Themselves by Lee Camp

1. The Kingdom New Testament by N.T. Wright