LIFE group discussion guide: strength

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NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 1) 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 call us to never forget the ultimate source and shape of our strength in the Lord.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to possess eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you understand it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, his heart went out to him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two day’s wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10.25-37)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. Tell us of a trip you made which simply didn’t even begin to turn out like you’d planned.

2. Tell us of a time someone was a Good Samaritan to you in some big or small way.

Research

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

1. Read 1 Cor. 16.13-14. What would it look like to be “courageous” and “strong” in the context of the life of the church in Corinth, knowing what we know from 1 Corinthians?

2. Read Eph. 6.10-18. What exactly are some of the “flaming arrows” the “evil one” shoots at us? Hint: consider some of the exhortations of the immediately preceding context (cf. 5.1-2,15,21; 6.9 – especially 5.1-2).

Reflection

These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.

1. Does giving strength to others increase, or diminish your own? Explain. (cf. 2 Cor. 9.8)

2. What are some the barriers/challenges to giving compassion and mercy? Which is biggest?

3. Discuss: “To demonstrate mercy is to simply reveal God’s strength to another.” (cf. Heb. 13.20-21a)

4. A disciple wants to “build muscle for mercy.” What habits will they do well to adopt?

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

1. ID and face your deepest fears and sources of hesitation that cause you to withhold mercy.

2. Deliberately and regularly put yourself in situations where you’re near folks in deep need.

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

Benevolence, compassion, grace, judging & need: Wasted Grace [essential reading]

“How do you help healthy beggars on the road you cannot know?”

Existence of God: Is God a Hoax?

“Is God real? Or, is this a figment of man’s needy imagination?”

Gossip & prayer requests: Gossip & Prayer Requests [essential reading]

“At what point do those prayer requests become sinful gossip? … It’s complicated. … Here is a mental checklist that I have developed for managing prayer requests in a careful, godly manner. Before you pass on that request, make sure to check your facts, your role, your audience, and your heart.”

Human life, martyrdom, nationalism, pacifism & respect: Blood Trumps Everything: Why the Church Needs Her Martyrs

“My point in all this is that debates about things like nationalism or pacifism aren’t simply abstract theological discussions. These debates need to, but often fail to, take into consideration the sacred element of human blood. These debates need to reckon with the face that blood is the most sacred thing we know, more sacred, even, than God. Emotionally, where this argument will be won or lost, blood will trump theology. Always. And this is why the church needs her martyrs.”

Sexuality & virginity: When Guys Found Out I’m a Virgin

“When it comes to my decision to stay a virgin until marriage — to hold out for that one-time-only chance to fully connect with and know and love another person — I want to make sure it’s the right man. Until then, bring on the squirmy no-sex chat.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Art, cinema, Hollywood & movies: Why are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies? [required reading

“Art is about seeing beyond what’s on the surface and into what’s deep in the heart of people and the nature of the universe. That’s a scary idea to someone who’s surrendered their willingness to be thoughtful, willing and discerning in the name of piety.”

Border security, children, compassion & immigration: * 14 Facts That Help Explain America’s Child-Migrant Crisis [required reading]; * The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: League City’s City Council’s Resolution Banning Undocumented Children from Entering League City [essential listening]

* “The flow of unaccompanied immigrant children across the US-Mexico border — mostly from Central America — is continuing to gain attention as a humanitarian crisis. So here are 14 things you need to know to get a handle on what is actually going on along the border right now; what process the US has in place to deal with unaccompanied kids and families; and what the government wants to do now.”

* “… those people would come to church on Sunday and have blistered ears when I got done with them. … If you claim to be a Christian and you go out of your way to actually be a bad Christian there’s a special place for you and it isn’t League City! You go out of your way to say you don’t want these children who are in this horrible circumstance and that you will do nothing to help them?! I just think that it is incredible.” [listen to 28.29-34.30 on the recording; spot-on!]

Children, conversion, faith & parenting: Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children

“Although salvation is the work of God and not something that we can do for our child, there is hope. Consider the following …”

Education, teachers and teaching: A Declaration for Teachers

“… we, the teachers of this nation, appealing to the good judgment of all who care for posterity and the future of our children, solemnly publish and declare that teacher leadership ought to be the foundation upon which education lies.”

Family, parenting, priorities & time: Finding Family Time in a Busier Than Ever World

“There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment. You can find the balance. It is hard. There’s nothing more rewarding.”

Government, homosexuality, Jesus, laws & politics: Three Reasons It Doesn’t Matter What We Think About Homosexuality

“… as a Christian, I am not called to be a policy maker for others. I follow Jesus, a man who recoiled when the devil offered him the reigns of every nation on earth, who disappeared any time his crowds tried to make him a ruler, and who in no uncertain terms told one of the few government officials he ever met that his kingdom is ‘not of this world.’ I fear we Christians who believe defending rights and patriotism are virtues above selflessness and grace have tragically missed the message of the very savior whose name we bear.”

iPhone: 21 iPhone Tricks You Didn’t Know

“Be an iPhone ninja with these 21 awesome tricks.”

Movies & reviews: Boyhood

“You need to know this about Boyhood going in: the star, Ellar Coltrane, was cast in the film in 2002 when he was six years old, and he—along with co-stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Linklater’s daughter Lorelei—proceeded to shoot the film periodically over the next twelve years, the characters’ ages keeping pace roughly with the actors’ real ages. Just stop for a second and think about that: this film was in production for twelve years.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Benevolence, charity, generosity, money, poor, poverty & Texas: * Boom Meets Bust in Texas: Atop Sea of Oil, Poverty Digs In [required reading]; * Let Them Eat Cash

* “One-third of Texas’ $48 billion in tax revenue last year came directly or indirectly from the oil and gas industry … but very little of it is spent on social services and programs to assist the poor, although some helps finance public schools and universities. So, despite the boom, Texas has some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation and ranks first in the percentage of residents without health insurance.”

* “… he was worried that people might spend the handout on drugs or alcohol. This pessimism (and paternalism) is common and understandable. But evidence from other countries suggests we should be more optimistic.”

Church & complaining: How Complaining Keeps the Church from God’s Mission

“If you want to be a part of a church that makes a difference, if you want your small group to make a difference, refrain from wasting your energy on easy targets. It’s not worth your time. Stop ranting on social media about all kinds of things that are wrong from your point of view. We all have concerns. We all know that life is not as it is supposed to be. Instead focus your energy on what you do have influence. Spend your energy on serving your family today. Invest in a co-worker who needs a listening ear. Pray for your neighbor. You can change the world if you focus on your circle of influence.”

Discipleship: Four Marks of Biblical Discipleship

“The question isn’t merely about the mission; it’s about how disciple-making should be defined. Is disciple-making broad or narrow?”

Efficiency, productivity & work: 5 Unusual Ways to Start Working Smarter, Not Harder

“… it’s easy to fall into a pattern of “always working,” rather than working smart …”

Intercession & public prayer: Using “We” in Public Prayers [essential reading]

“… we need to be very careful about how we use the word ‘we.’ … five groups, for whom the ‘we’ in the congregation/church/service might not apply: (1.) Our troops: what if foreigners are present? (2.) Our country: same. (3.) Our young people (or our older people): what of visitors? or those who have no children? (4.) Our children’s children: same (5.) Our environment, our world: is the world ours? or God’s?”

Marriage: Eight Things We’ve Done Right in Our Marriage

“The most important thing we’ve done right is we’ve never given up on our relationship … no matter how hard things got.”