He possessed no splendid form for us to see, no desirable appearance. He was despised and avoided by others; a man who suffered, who knew sickness well. Like someone from whom people hid their faces, he was despised, and we didn’t think about him. (Isaiah 53.2b-3 CEB)
Change & habits: How to Form a Habit, a Scientific Approach
“… habits are reinforced by a three-part loop: trigger, behavior, and reward. The trigger tells you—consciously or unconsciously—to start the behavior, the behavior is the habit or action, and the reward is the benefit that you get from that action. You can see the loop: That coveted reward teaches us to continue the behavior, over and over again, until it turns into a habit.”
Christ, Ephesians 4, Psalm 68 & nonviolence: A Christological Reading of Psalm 68 [required reading]
“… what is startling about this imagery is how Jesus wins his victory over his enemies non-violently. On the cross Jesus is disarming and defeating his enemies–sin, death and the Devil–and taking them as captives in war.”
Churches of Christ, humility, leadership & the Spirit of God: Fix Me, Jesus: Jesus’ Plans for the Churches of Christ
“If God answered the prayer, ‘Fix me, Jesus,’ at the congregational level, what would a congregation under repair look like? what stories might we be able to tell?”
History, Middle East, politics, President Obama & Vietnam: Will Syria Be Obama’s Vietnam?
“War has a forward motion of its own. Most of Johnson’s major steps in the escalation in Vietnam were in response to unforeseen obstacles, setbacks and shortcomings. There’s no reason the same dynamic couldn’t repeat itself in 2014.”
Learning & study: Better Ways to Learn
“‘Most of us study and hope we are doing it right,’ Mr. Carey says. ‘But we tend to have a static and narrow notion of how learning should happen.’ … The first step toward better learning is to simply change your study environment from time to time. … “
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed. He redeemed us so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, and that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3.13-14 CEB)
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (April 13) 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.
Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.
To help us sense and appreciate the full spectrum of meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• The message of the cross is … the power of God for those of us who are being saved. (1 Cor. 1.18)
• Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, “Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” (Gal. 3.13)
• God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. (Gal. 6.14)
• He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross … (Eph. 2.16)
• He brought peace through the blood of his cross. (Col. 1.20)
• … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2.8)
• He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed … (1 Pet. 2.24)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. Do you have a favorite color? If so, what is it? Why is it your favorite?
2. Overall, are you more of a visual learner or an auditory learner?
3. Think of someone you love. What color are their eyes? “Their eyes often seem to ___.”
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
1. Chew on Galatians 6.14 (especially vs.14b). What is the apostle Paul saying to us here?
2. Consider Eph. 2.16 and Col. 1.20. How did (does) Christ’s cross bring people together?
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. What one color dominates your sense of what Christ accomplished on his cross? Why?
2. Just as we need Four Gospels, we need multiple colors to truly see the cross. How so?
3. With #1 in view, has your dominant color of his cross changed with age? Experience?
4. Picture Christ’s crucifixion. Does his resurrection and ascension re-color things?
5. Visualize taking up your cross and following Jesus. What colors do you see? Explain.
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.
1. Assign the color you “see” in each paragraph of Mk. 15.16-40. Let such prompt prayer.
2. As you pray through each day, allow colors of whatever stands out to you or strikes you to prompt your mindfulness of, and reflection on, Christ’s cross, and yours.
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Sept. 8). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning from Luke 9.23-25 (and related texts). This sermon is entitled “Deny Yourself” and is another installment in the Jesus: Master & Commander series.
To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.
All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.
To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.
Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them. (Matthew 10.37-39)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? (Matthew 16.24-26)
After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? (Mark 8.34-37)
Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them. What advantage do people have if they gain the whole world for themselves yet perish or lose their lives? (Luke 9.23-25)
Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. Whoever serves me must follow me. (John 12.25-26a)
Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.
1. What food or drink do you find to be virtually irresistible?
2. What do you think of the death penalty, capital punishment? Why?
These questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.
1. Compare Matt. 16.24, Mk. 8.34, and Lk. 9.23. How do they differ from each other?
2. From these texts, make the case that self-denial is needed to come to Christ initially.
3. What does it mean to “take up” your “cross” and “follow?” What does it not mean?
4. What role does love play in self-denial, cross-bearing, and following Christ?
These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.
1. What does Jesus’ command to deny self say about us as human beings? About God?
2. Why is it so difficult to deny ourselves?
3. What are some remarks you often hear among Christians that, whether wittingly or unwittingly, water down true Christ-following self-denial and cross-bearing?
4. Compare and contrast how self-denial, cross-bearing, and following Christ might have different, daily implications for Christians in the U.S. and say, North Korea.
5. Specifically, where do we as Christ’s disciples find the attitude and strength required to daily deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus?
6. Name some practical steps a disciple can take to grow in execution of self-denial.