LIFE group guide: the colors of Christ’s cross

 

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.

Reason

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.

Revelation

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)

Relation

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 ___.”

Research

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?

Reflection

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.

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. 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.

LIFE group guide: deny yourself

 

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.

Aim

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.

Word

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)

Open

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?

Dig

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?

Reflect

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.

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceAustralia & gun control: I Went After Guns. Obama Can, Too. by John Howard

“… nothing trumps easy access to a gun. It is easier to kill 10 people with a gun than with a knife.”

Children, culture, guns, heroes, power & violence: Giving Up Chuck and the Daisy Red Ryder [required reading]

“My heroes have always been powerful. Heroes are and should be powerful, but how you define power… that makes all the difference. … The American definition of “power that solves problems” is intertwined with the cultural mystique of guns and violence. Once my definition of power changed, a few years ago, my heroes did as well …”

Christ’s cross, discipleship & violence: A Meditation on the Cross by Paul Smith [required reading]

“I’ll say it again. If you are nailed to a cross you cannot hold a gun. If your hand is wrapped around an instrument of death you cannot grasp the hand that was pierced with an instrument of death.”

Deception, fake quotations, & lies: Did Jefferson Really Say That? Why Bogus Quotations Matter in Gun Debate

* “‘The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.’ … staff ‘have not found any evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote’ those words.”

Drone strikes: The Guilty Conscience of a Drone Pilot Who Killed a Child

“The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported last August that in Pakistan’s tribal areas alone, there are at least 168 credible reports of children being killed in drone strikes.”

Faith & guns: If I Can’t Take My Gun, I’m Not Going by Neal Whitlow

“Modern weapons and an individual’s right to possess them are not dealt with in scripture. All the texts dealing with warfare don’t seem to apply. However, there a few principles from the New Testament that inform my thinking on the subject.

“It is not the responsibility of God’s people to overwhelm the darkness by force of arms. We use other tools to fulfill our mission. Our weapons are truth, faith, patience, love, forgiveness, and hope. … God’s people defend the defenseless. …  Jesus calls us to abandon our compulsions of power and control. Let’s face it. A big part of the reason that Americans can’t let go of our guns is we are enamored with the feelings of power and invincibility they give us.”

Faith & nonviolence: Jesus’ Way Doesn’t Work by Tim Archer [required reading]

“The church heard Jesus’ message. They didn’t run away. They didn’t fight. They endured patiently. For more than two hundred years. They suffered. They died. They loved their enemies and prayed for them. They turned the other cheek. And they were killed for it.

“Because Jesus’ way doesn’t work. It doesn’t protect your from suffering. It doesn’t protect you from death. (well, not immediately) It doesn’t bring your enemies to their knees. It doesn’t protect the weak nor avenge the innocent. In the eyes of the world, Jesus’ way is a complete failure.

“If you’re looking for something that works, don’t look to Jesus’ teachings. But remember one thing: if you choose what makes sense to men, you’re choosing something that God despises.”

Gun control & President Obama’s plan: * The President’s Plan to Reduce Gun Violence [required reading; download the .pdf file]; * Joe Biden Addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Jan. 17 [55 min. video; skip to 10 min., 20 sec. to begin]

* “Download the full text of the President’s plan.”

* Scroll down to the Opening Plenary Luncheon to find this video.

Gun control & public opinion: In Gun Control Debate, Several Options Draw Majority Support

“Fully 85% of Americans favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, with comparable support from Republicans, Democrats and independents. Similarly, 80% support laws to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing guns, with broad support across party lines. But this bipartisan consensus breaks down when it comes to other proposals.”

Gun control & the states: * Gun Laws in the US, State by State – Interactive [very interesting & helpful]; * The Gun Challenge

* “… the majority of gun legislation in the US is enacted at the state level. That has brought broad variations across the country, with states taking different approaches to issues ranging from sales, permits, licensing, self-defence and carry laws.”

* “Inevitably, a bill like Wyoming’s has been filed in Texas.”

Guns & self-defense: * How Often Do We Use Guns in Self-Defense?

“We don’t know exactly how frequently defensive gun use occurs.”

Guns & the escalation of danger: Lessons From Guns and a Goose by Nicholas D. Kristof

“… that episode … underscores the role that guns too often play in our society: an instrument not of protection but of escalation. … One study, reported in Southern Medical Journal in 2010, found that a gun is 12 times more likely to result in the death of a household member or guest than in the death of an intruder. Another study in 1993 found that gun ownership creates nearly a threefold risk of a homicide in the owner’s household.”

Gun ownership: Why I Don’t Own a Gun by Brian Zahand

“I don’t own a gun because I don’t need one and I don’t want one. And that is perfectly acceptable. Please try to be at peace with this. As I said, I don’t own golf clubs either, and that’s bound to upset some people too.”

Gun violence & statistics:* Lack Of Up-To-Date Research Complicates Gun Debate by Carrie Johnson; * How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown? [interactive map]

* “Public health research dried up more than a decade ago after Congress restricted the use of some federal money to pay for those studies.”

* “The answer to the simple question in that headline is surprisingly hard to come by. So Slate and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths are collecting data for our crowdsourced interactive. This data is necessarily incomplete. But the more people who are paying attention, the better the data will be. You can help us draw a more complete picture of gun violence in America. If you know about a gun death in your community that isn’t represented here, please tweet @GunDeaths with a citation. (If you’re not on Twitter, you can email slatedata@gmail.com.)”

Military & prayer: How Do We Pray for the Troops? by Craig M. Watts [required reading]

“The language of public prayer should express a reality shaped by the creative and redemptive activity of God, not simply one that can be read from the pages of the newspapers or heard from the mouths of either marketers or politicians. …

“So when I stand to pray in worship I never pray that God protect our troops for the simple fact that we don’t have any troops. We do not gather as Americans who plead on behalf of national interests or partisan favor before either God or the world. We are the church. Who we are has been determined by whose we are. We are people of God. We gather as the body of Christ united with Christ’s body throughout the world. Yet I do pray for the protection of soldiers and civilians alike. I pray indiscriminately, without regard to borders because all people are creatures made by the hand of God and are so loved by God that God sent God’s only begotten Son on their behalf. May they be preserved from danger and be restored to circumstances where they can live without the threat of violence either to them or from them.”

Bruner on John 8.28

 

“So Jesus now said to them, ‘When you have hoisted the Son of Man up, then you will understand – that I Am, and that I do not do anything at all by myself, but that exactly what the Father taught me to say is exactly what I am saying.’” The Cross will be God’s Greatest Single Meeting Place with the human race, his one great hour of sharing. There, the Gospel of John dares to assert, in this strange hoisting, God has made himself most accessible to the world. What is God like? Look there. How much does God love the world? Look there. How can I come to know him? Look there. … The ignominy of the Cross is so countercultural, such human nonsense, that only God could have created this plan of world salvation. and carried it through. … Jesus’ whole vocabulary in the Gospel of John is deciphered by the dictionary of the Cross: the high God makes himself known in the low Jesus, and most particularly in God’s being with and for Jesus in the utter lowliness of Jesus’ degradation in Crucifixion. Deus semper minor, “God is always less.” This hoisting onto a tree is the revelation of the majestic I Am. The Burning Bush was only preview; the Bleeding Tree is the feature itself – of God’s Self-Revelation in Jesus’ Self-Immolation.

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), p.524

war stories: the hidden cross

For years I’ve been dogging a friend of mine to make a written record of some of his “stories with impact.” And then, the light bulb turned on for me today: (a) perhaps I should stop asking others to do what I am not willing to do myself and (b) perhaps I should lead by example.

And so, this is the first post in a series of random recollections from across my years thus far in preaching ministry. Some might make you smile, some will likely cause you to sigh, and some will simply just be stories. But all of these stories will have these two things in common: (a) they’re absolutely true and (b) none of the events come from any of my experiences with my current church family.

Place: a Church of Christ in a small town in Oklahoma
Time: about 1963

There were three Churches of Christ in this small town, two of them having a Sunday morning attendance average of between 150-200 members each. One day, one of these two larger church buildings burnt to the ground. Instead of rebuilding the one that was destroyed, the two larger churches decided to merge and construct a new building. And so they did.

During the course of construction, the question arose among them as to whether or not a cross would be placed in, or on, the building. Some passionately wanted one. Some passionately did not. The latter prevailed. Or so they thought …

Place: the same Church of Christ in the same small town in Oklahoma
Time: 1984

I was preaching with this congregation and I was standing in the church parking lot talking with one of the members. This brother had served as an elder for years in that church back in the 1960′s and 1970′s. His house was located across the street from the back of the church building. The front of his house had a large, unobstructed view of the back of the church building.

As we stood in the parking lot, this brother was telling me the story of “the fight over the cross” in/on the church building. He noted with a wee bit satisfaction that no cross had been placed there. That’s when I pointed to the massive brick wall that made up the back of the church building and asked, “Well then, what do you call that? How’d that get there?”

Understand that in the top third of the center of the huge back wall of the building, a large number of bricks had been set so that they slightly protruded, forming a subtle, but very distinct – and quite large! – cross.

Following my eyes and extended finger toward the top of the wall, I thought his jaw was going to fall off and his eyes would bug out! After a long pause, he said he had never noticed such before. Do recall, the wall had been erected over twenty years prior. Add to that the fact my friend had lived in his house for many years and still served as the church’s custodian and grounds keeper. Though his house faced the wall (and the cross in bold relief therein) – though his house had a large picture window and kitchen window facing it – though he walked daily from his house to the church building – and though he had served as an elder when the building was constructed – the cross had gone completely unnoticed by him.

Our conversation continued briefly, and let’s just say that he was not happy with what the contractor had deliberately done, clearly doing what he had explicitly been told to make sure didn’t happen!

That “hidden cross” provided the spark for, and something of “the punch” in, a sermon I preached that next Sunday morning. The sermon was about how we Christians often keep the cross of Christ hidden from our friends by refusing to mount it ourselves with Christ. When I got to the part about the cross in our building’s most prominent wall, there were quite a few dropped jaws and unbelievers … until they raced outside into the parking lot, and looking up to the cross, believed! By the account of all, it appeared I was the first member there to have ever even notice it!

I never heard a negative word about crosses and church buildings again there. And from that day forward, I rarely saw the former-elder/custodian & grounds-keeper walk across the street and up the parking lot to the church building without seeing him cast a glance up toward that cross. I’m left to wonder what went through his mind.

this went thru my mind

 

Absolutely required viewingDon Tapscott on Gov 2.0 with the U.S. State Dept (75 min. video; speech begins at 2:32; he shifts into high gear at 13:14; Q&A starts at 57:00)

Archaeology: Tomb of Apostle Philip Found

Bible: How the Physical Form of a Bible Shapes Us

Church & welcome: 10 Signals That Say “You Are Not Welcome In This Church”

Church & politics: Why Last Saturday’s Political Conclave of Evangelical Leaders Was Dangerous

Claims: “We Go Only By the Bible”

Cross: The Fence of Matthew Shepard

Elders: * Effective Elder’s Meetings * They Met to Consider this Question * Elders: How Should Elders and Staff Relate to Each Other?

Generations: To stop the flow of young people leaving Churches of Christ, intergenerational relationships are vital

Notice the comment by Ed Dodds: “Change Gov 2.0 to Church 2.0 in Don Tapscott on Gov 2.0 with the U.S. State Dept and one thing you’ll discover is that ‘the young folk’ don’t practice geo-locking in their thinking; churches, employers, universities, politicians still do.” This comment/link is also referenced in the “Required Reading” link below.

Hispanic ministry: A Spanish Service Is Not Enough: It’s Time to Feed the ‘Hellenized Latinos’

Nationalism: * Baptizing the American Dream * You Might Be a Christian If…

Pacifism, violence & war: * Fighting for Peace * Jesus Christ, Faith, and Freedom * King, Lipscomb and the Spirit of War

Parenting: Turn Your Homes into Heaven

Proverbs & Twitter: Solomon Invented Twitter

Reading: 12 Reasons I Have Decided to Read One Book Per Week

Self-confidence, shame & subversion: On Subversion and Shame: I Like the Color Pink

Tim TebowThe Secrets of Tebow Hatred by Michael Medved

30 days with the Human One (11)

 

Peter was the first person to put two and two together and make the candid assessment and statement that Jesus was both “the Human One” and “the Christ” (the Messiah). His declaration is recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 16:13-19; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21). After his statement, everything in the Gospel accounts begins to change.

How so? The answer is painful.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and legal experts, and that he had to be killed and raised on the third day. (Matthew 16:21 CEB)

Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” He said this plainly. (Mark 8:31-32a CEB)

He said, “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected—by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts—and be killed and be raised on the third day.” (Luke 9:22 CEB)

The Human One – the one who was just like us, but who had been doing things impossible for us – giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, forgiving sins, etc. – now reveals that he will soon do the unthinkable. He will do what all of us humans do: he will die.

Peter, the same who was first to identify the Human One as also the Christ, is now the first to object to the Christ being human! The Human One simply can’t die! But Peter could not be more wrong. Matthew and Mark record their clash with these words:

Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But he turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.” (Matthew 16:22-23 CEB)

… But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.” (Mark 8:32-33 CEB)

Pay particular attention to the last sentence in both of those accounts and you’ll come away with something like the following. (1) The Human One was thinking God’s thoughts. (2) The Human One desires the rest of us humans to do the same. (3) The worst thing we can do as humans is to think merely human thoughts.

Read that last sentence again and let that soak in.

“So how exactly are we humans supposed think beyond our merely human thoughts, Human One?,” we ask?

By ceasing to live for ourself and to begin living after the Human One by putting our whole being under his rule. By replicating the Human One’s way of living as much as is possible for us to do so. Or in the words that immediately follow in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

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? For the Human One is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done. I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see the Human One coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28 CEB)

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? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38 CEB)

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? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see God’s kingdom.” (Luke 9:23-27 CEB)

We need to pray.

In the name of Jesus, Heavenly Father, I want to die to myself and live to you. May none of my ways shame you. Let me unashamedly proclaim you with my thoughts, my words, and my ways. Amen.

Question: in what do you find yourself most often settling for thinking human thoughts, rather than thinking the Human One’s thoughts?