LIFE group guide: baptism’s four compass points

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 22) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. 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.

To note the company that baptism keeps, giving it meaning, as related by the authors of the Four Gospels.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  … Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20 NRSV)

•  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (Mark 16.15-16 NLT)

•  He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. … Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. (Luke  24.46-47; Acts 2.38; 3.19 CEB)

•  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.5-8 NIV)

Relation

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

1. Tell us about your experience in the use of a compass. Did one ever help you get “un-lost?”

2. Tell us about someone’s baptism that was especially meaningful to you or deeply moved you.

Research

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

1. How is it the rest of Matthew 28.18-20 flows into, and out of, the “due north” word “disciple?”

2. Mark 16.9-20 was likely not a part of Mark’s original Gospel, but is, nonetheless, ancient teaching. In several different English translations, note the explanatory footnotes of this text.

3. What words in the four sets of texts above stress how baptism is for all people, everywhere?

Reflection

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

1. “Baptism is meant to be part of the beginning, not the end, of becoming a Christian?” How so?

2. What does it mean to be a “disciple?” Why do we tend to use the word “Christian” instead?

3.  One person says baptism is a matter of immediacy and urgency. Another says it’s not to be rushed into, but must be approached with premeditation and preparation. Weigh in, allowing the four sets of texts above to determine and shape your perspective.

4. Which of the four main thoughts concerning baptism above is easiest for you to grasp? Most challenging? Most comforting? Why?

5. When is a person truly “ready” for baptism? When are they not ready?

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. Are you ready right now to learn of Christ, lean on Christ, line up with Christ, and live by his Spirit? Well then, decide to be baptized into Christ today.

2. Compose a prayer that centers on how you will live out the meaning of your baptism.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Change, church, leadership & ministry: Your Three Options When Instituting Change

“Change is hard no matter where it happens, but it seems like it can be hardest in churches.”

Choices, decision-making, poverty & time: No Money, No Time

“When Mr. Shafir first began to study poverty, he came in with an overarching assumption: The poor made the same mistakes in judgment as everyone else, except theirs ended up being more costly. He soon learned he was wrong. ‘They were making mistakes that were different. They weren’t the typical decision errors. They were worse,’ he recalls. ‘When you don’t have enough, you focus on the little you have, and it leaves you with less attention.” And the “little you have,” he found, didn’t have to come from financial hardship.’”

Ecology, eschatology, future & hope: Jesus is Coming: Go Plant a Tree

“Yes, we need to be saved; Yes, we are saved by Christ; but Why? So we can bring glory to God as God’s Eikons ruling creation on God’s behalf.”

Intercession, prayer & public prayer: Praying for Others in Public

“Hope is at the core of prayer, and this means we need to be immersed in Scripture in order to see how God has acted so we can know how God will act. We need to name God’s faithfulness as the foundation for our intercession. We need to dare to be imperative before God the Father. The resurrection, the transfiguration and the incarnation form the core of our intercessions. We ask — we don’t hint or suggest or go all vague. Expect results, spell them out, express our hopes. Be the change or become the answer to the intercession. Pray for the church to become what God wants it to become.”

War: After All – On the Folly of War

“In my lifetime, we have not fought in one single war that was a declared war, or met the Geneva conventions for a justifiable war. Not one.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

American churches & change: Nine Rapid Changes in Church Worship Services [essential reading]

“If you were attending a church worship service in 1955 and then returned to the same church in 1975, the changes would be noticeable but not dramatic. Churches were slow to change over that 20-year period. If you, however, attended a church worship service in 2000 and then returned to that same church in 2010, there is a high likelihood you would see dramatic changes in just ten years. … Choirs are disappearing. … Dress is more casual. … Screens are pervasive. … Preaching is longer. … ‘Multi’ is normative. … Attendees are more diverse. … Conflict is not increasing. … More worship attendees are attending larger churches. … Sunday evening services are disappearing.”

Busyness rest, sabbath & work: Sabbath: Oasis for Body And Soul

“Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are finished [our emails, our projects], we will never stop—because our work is never completely done. … the Sabbath is patterned on the first days of creation, on a rhythm that predates both Christianity and Judaism. Sabbath keeping is not merely good advice for you to lead a nicely-balanced life. It is a practice that is knit into the created order.”

Children & communion: Children at the Table [essential reading]

“The Supper was originally experienced in the context of a meal—it was a Supper. Neither guests nor children would have been excluded from that meal. It was for everyone as witness to the grace of God, which is for everyone. Children, in particular, are invited to the table because they belong to the kingdom. They are kingdom people. They are on the journey of faith, and the Supper will shape the growth and development of that faith. The Supper testifies to the faithfulness and love of God, and when children eat, they experience that faithfulness and love at the table. The table, then, is a learning event for children.”

Church: 5 Church-Types to Probably NOT Avoid, but Embrace

“A church in which ‘Truth’ is embodied in the people, not merely in lists and statements. … A church that is driven by Jesus’ personality – not only the pastor’s. … A church that sees everything it does as an act of worship in union with Christ – so much so that social action is a natural outcome. … A church that speaks about the here and now rather than some Hollywood style Doomsday. … A church that consciously values being citizens of God’s Kingdom – one that tears down walls rather than oppressively reinforcing them.”

Hispanics & faith: Even as U.S. Hispanics Lift Catholicism, Many Are Leaving the Church Behind

“Even as a rising percentage of American Catholics is Hispanic, a falling percentage of American Hispanics is Catholic. … Only slightly more than half of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic.”

Jesus & violence: Was Jesus Violent in the Temple?

“… Jesus’ temple cleansing wasn’t a spontaneous outburst of anger. It was a premeditated, strategic act. … while Jesus’ behavior was certainly aggressive, there’s no indication whatsoever that it involved violence.”

Marriage: 5 Toxic Marriage Habits

“Nagging … Complaining. … Selfishness. … Anger. … Keeping Score.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Authority & personal experience: Sola Experienca is For Real. [essential reading]

“There was a time when experience saluted Scripture.”

Belonging, change, church membership, expectations & transformation: * Performance Anxiety; * Corporate vs. Individual Christian Identity [essential reading]

* “Choosing a church (or non-church) where we ‘fit,’ may be the strongest guarantee that we will never be asked to change. This, I suspect, is why we do it. In church, as in the rest of life, we don’t want transformation as much as we say we do. We’d rather have comfort. The best thing many of us could do is envisage church as an opportunity to embrace that which is outside of us, that which does not – at least on the surface – appeal to what we already are.

* “The documents of the NT, with a few exceptions, are addressed to communities and not to individuals.  Many of us know this and it may not be too shocking, but the significances of this reality must continue to transform how we envision Christian identity.”

Commitment, endurance, faithfulness, love, selflessness & vision: Father-Son Duo, Team Hoyt, Celebrates 37 Years of Inspiring Teamwork With One Last Boston Marathon

“In 1962, Dick and Judy Hoyt welcomed their son, Rick, into an unsuspecting world — a world that would forever be changed by their presence and sacrifice. Because of complications with his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. … Dick remembers the advice of the doctors who suggested that his son would essentially be non-functioning, and that he should place him in an institution. Dick refused.”

Gossip: Gossip is a Spiritual Issue

“Whether it’s cloaked in a prayer request, ‘concern’ for another or simply news from the grapevine, Christians have a problem with gossip. I have yet to find a place where gossip isn’t present on some level or another.”

Hearing, listening, preaching, responsibility & sermons: When Hearing Fails

“We can control what we preach, but we cannot control how the message is heard. This is frustrating, but it is also something we need to come to grips with. We have no power or control over how another person hears our words.”

Jesus, sacrifice, & suicide: Did Jesus Commit Suicide?

“So Jesus did not kill himself, but he did act in such a way so as to bring about his death.  In some extraordinary way he seemed to control those final hours and what ultimately happened to him.”

Marriage: Letter to Our Grandsons on Choosing a Wife [essential reading]

“The typical thinking has always been that the main issue for marriage is ‘do we love each other?’ It isn’t.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Busyness & God: 5 Ways to Remember God in Your Busy Life

“Unaware as it happens, we can allow our busy lives to crowd out our devotion to God. We enjoy our families, our homes, our food, our salvation—all of God’s blessings to us. But before we know it, we replace a devotion to the Lord with a devotion to His blessings. And in a sad, twisted irony, those blessings become our focus instead of the God who gave them. You’re going to stay busy. I get it. So let me share with you 5 ways you can remember God in your busy life.”

Change, church, repentance & transformation: Learning from a Lesbian Visitor to Your Church

“So many of us think of the lesbian caller and unknowingly respond like the Pharisee going to the temple to pray: “I thank you, God, that I’m not like that.” Meanwhile, we cling tenaciously to the sinful attitudes and actions that characterize our lives. And then we go home unjustified… and unchanged.”

Christians, faith & pride: Can You Really Tell the Difference Between Christians and Non-Christians?

“Instead of putting ourselves on a pedestal, we need to realize that everyone is created in God’s image, and that God loves all of creation — everyone. The point is to have a relationship with Christ. Are we working on knowing Jesus better, or simply working on trying to visibly act like we do?”

Debt ceiling, government shutdown & politics: * Debt ceiling: 8 Things You Need to Know but Wish You Didn’t; * The Captain Ahabs of the House; * Government Shutdown: Get Up to Speed in 20 Questions

* “… shutting the government down would be aggravating and a waste of time — and could reduce economic growth if it goes on too long. But that’s nothing compared to the risks posed if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling soon. So what happens if Congress doesn’t raise it in time? No one knows for sure because that’s never happened before. But the going assumption is that no good will come of it.”

* “How many more times must the economic neck of the nation have a knife pressed against it by Republicans demanding a ransom?”

* “Here’s a quick Q&A to get you caught up on what happened over the weekend and what to look forward to Monday.”