LIFE group guide: saved from start to finish

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 23) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Saved from Start to Finish”) works out of Acts 16.11-40 and Philippians 2.12-13.

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 particular sermon.

To consider the importance of not only starting life with Christ, but staying with him.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon.

• “’… what must I do to be rescued?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your entire household.’ … He and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. … He was overjoyed because he and everyone in his household had come to believe in God.” (Acts 16.30-34 CEB)

• … my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2.12-13 NIV)

Relation

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

1. As a group, brainstorm synonyms for the word “saved.”

2. Which is most difficult today for most people: coming to, or continuing with, Christ? Why?

Research

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

1. Have the group read aloud of the start of the church in Philippi. That is, read Acts 16.11-40.

2. Read Philippians 2.1-4,12-18. Make a list of what Christians are to work out in their salvation.

Reflection

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

1. Who were the people who had the greatest influence on your becoming a Christian?

2. Name those who have had the greatest impact on your growth and continuance in Christ.

3. If you were to advise someone just beginning their walk of discipleship, what would you say?

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. Using the list you created above (Research, #2), dedicate a different item on that list to receive your special attention and practice daily for one full week during the coming weeks.

links: this went thru my mind

 

 

Art, Christians, cinema, film, movie & the movie Noah: Will Evangelicals Miss the Boat on Noah?

“Not much has changed since the late Francis Schaeffer wrote in Art and the Bible, ‘I am afraid that as evangelicals, we think that a work of art only has value if we reduce it to a tract.’”

Brain, exercise, health & regulation: * The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains; * The Only 8 Moves You Need to Be Fit

* “… the real issue was not this particular group of 12 chemicals. Most of them are already being heavily restricted. This dozen is meant to illuminate something bigger: a broken system that allows industrial chemicals to be used without any significant testing for safety. The greater concern lies in what we’re exposed to and don’t yet know to be toxic.”

* “Human movement can be reduced to three basic categories: pushing, pulling, and hip extension (squatting, jumping, running, and even riding a bike). Functional fitness begins with learning good form for this essential repertoire and then gradually adding weight and difficulty to build stability and strength. Doing these exercises correctly with five pounds, in other words, is better than doing them poorly with 100.”

Church & discipleship: Deep Before Wide: A Vision for Returning Discipleship to the Church

“Discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few to give away your life and the gospel.”

Confession, Lent, repentance & sin: No Needy Among Us?

“This is one of the best arguments for seasons of confession like Lent. Without it, church starts becoming a place for ‘fine’ people to get together. We show up on the weekend with all our junk in order, and if we can’t at least look like that, chances are we just won’t go at all. We learn to stuff down this sense that all is not right in the world and all is not right with us.”

Critical thinking  & statistics: 3 Ways to Recognize Bad Stats

“We need to be shrewd when it comes to statistics and reality: things are not always as they seem.”

Forgiveness, Fred Phelps, grace & hate: * Hate and How to Overcome It: How Should We Respond to the Tragic Death of Fred Phelps?; * The Problem of Fred Phelps; * Fred Phelps: Life of Fear

* “… since a hateful man has died after distorting a message of Jesus’ love, I suggest that we consider three ways to respond …”

* “… to celebrate a death, especially one of such a tragic life, feels like we are starting to be on the wrong side of good.”

* “I pray when Phelps looked into the face of God, he saw a God he didn’t recognize. The God of all Creation, the One True God that casts out all fear. The God who loves us all enough.”

Payday loans: Garland Adopts Strong Payday Lending Regs

“An ordinance with real reforms to these predatory products …”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church & expectations: * Church and The “Jacob Syndrome”; * 7 Things Churches No Longer Do (But Should)

* “The burden is on all of us to be serious about our faith while also being patient with the shortcomings of ourselves and others. So before you are tempted to say you would be a part of a church only if the did X, Y and Z…take yourself out of the driver’s seat for a moment and pray that God would shape your choices and decisions because God often has a way of using imperfect people and situations to really shape us in significant ways.”

* “Participating in church now means attending weekly services — but rarely requires anything beyond that. What if churches required their congregations to go out into the world and be missionaries, sacrificially, humbly, and passionately loving others just as Jesus did — practicing what is actually being preached?”

Discipleship & influence: The Trouble With Being Salt and Light

“Who among us will be common for God’s sake?”

Dogs: How Dogs Read Our Moods: Emotion Detector Found In Fido’s Brain

“Dogs always seem to know when you’re upset and need extra love, even though they hardly understand a word of what you say. How can that be?”

Discontent, disgruntlement, offense & unhappiness: * Spirit Airlines Taps A Nation Of Hate Fliers; * It Is Our Duty To Never Be Offended [essential reading]

* “The hate flier is the guy who knows what he’s getting into, doesn’t like it, but flies Spirit anyway because it’s so cheap.” [This article makes me how many Christians are - unknown to themselves - actually 'hate members' (i.e. - they know what the church they're a part of is like, don't like it, but stay with it anyway because - equally sadly - it doesn't require much of them at all.)]

* “To be “offended” is an expression which should never be welcome in the Christian vernacular. There is no virtue in being indignant and we have no “right” to take offense. There is a lot progress the Church, and humanity as a whole, could make in understand each other if we stopped indulging in this petty and whiny reaction.”

Politics, power & temptation: The Seduction of Worldly Political Power [required reading]

“… why Christians ought to be wary of the seductions of earthly political power.”

Worship: The Risky Nature of Worship [essential reading]

“A world largely driven by consumerism, self-interest, and entertainment might just prefer worship services that have regularity, rhythm, and pleasantness. I am sure many would prefer worship that is relaxing, lovely, and safe. If necessary, one should be able to catch up on some sleep. But from the beginning, worship has not been so innocuous.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible interpretation: My Problem With the Bible [essential reading]

“I have a problem with the Bible, but all is not lost. I just need to read it standing on my head. I need to change my perspective. If I can accept that the Bible is trying to lift up those who are unlike me, then perhaps I can read the Bible right.”

Church, language, race & worship: 5 Reasons People Avoid Visiting A Bilingual Service

“I still have people tell me: ‘I would visit the bilingual service, but I’m not bilingual.’ Explanations about how one only needs to know either one of the two languages used seem to fall on deaf ears.”

Discipleship, generosity, giving, minimalist, possessions & selflessness: 5 Practices Toward A More Radical Christian Life [essential reading]

“The older I get the more convinced I become that as rich Americans, you and I are at a tremendous disadvantage to experiencing the depths of the Kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate. … While I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries and spent nearly 8 years living outside the US, it has been my time in India (and more specifically my time in the slums and brothel areas) that has most motivated me to rid myself of American materialism so that I’m free to embrace the Kingdom Jesus spoke of.”

Free will & God: Open Theism Simplified

“Why would Open Theists think that God knows the future as partly composed of possibilities, and not only a future of settled facts in the mind of God?”

Immigration, love & racism: If People Excluded “Illegal Immigrants”, We Wouldn’t Have Jesus

“Under God’s law, Ruth was an ‘illegal’ and to be excluded– but thankfully, she was not. A man named Boaz comes along and becomes the hero of the story by ignoring a law that was ultimately unloving. Boaz marries Ruth, and they have a family. Like Jesus demonstrated by healing on the Sabbath, Boaz realized that it’s better to love than to obey the law. … We only have Jesus because someone loved an ‘illegal’ immigrant.”

Means & provision: If God Will Provide, Why Are My Means So Meager?

“Without a trust that God will provide, it will seem we work harder and get less.”

Tithing: * There’s More to Tithing Than 10%; * Tithing for New Covenant Believers–Yes or No?; * Why I Tithe – Part 1

* “Even if you give 10 percent faithfully, it doesn’t mean you’ll come away with the right perspective about the other 90 percent.”

* “God is pleased when our giving reflects our love for Him regardless of the percentage or amount.”

* “While I respect and understand differing perspectives. I believe the Bible teaches we are to offer God the first-fruits of our income. Gross, not net.”

LIFE group guide: you have heard it said … but I say to you

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Oct. 13). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning from Matthew 5.17-48. This sermon is entitled “You Have Heard It Said … But I Say to You” 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.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of the sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

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

Revelation

These Scripture texts form some of the foundation of the sermon. Underscored words are emphasized in the Greek text.

“Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them. I say to you very seriously that as long as heaven and earth exist, neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality. … I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. … You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …” (Matthew 5.17-48)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. I believe someone knows what they’re talking about when they speak of God if ______.

2. What is one of the biggest changes you’ve ever made regarding your beliefs?

Research

These questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Read Matt. 5.17-48 aloud, placing emphasis on the statements put in contrast (“you have heard it said … but I say to you …”).

2. How does Matt. 5.17 help you understand what’s intended by the contrast statements and how the Law and the Prophets had been (and can still be) misconstrued?

3. Consider Romans 13.9-10. How does it give commentary on Matthew 5.17-48?

Reflection

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

1. How is it that even experts in Scripture can miss the full force of Scripture’s intent?

2. What does our tendency to lose, lessen, or limit God’s will for us say about humans?

3. In what way, in this context, did Jesus “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets?

4. Are we as Christians today to fulfill the Law and the Prophets? Explain.

5. Which “but I say to you statements” do you think is easiest to fulfill? Most difficult?

6. What must Christians do to prevent (or overcome) blindness to the word’s meaning?

Response

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

1. Humbly list all the matters of faith you can think of that you once believed were true, but of which you now believe differently. Consider what this might mean for your current or future beliefs.

2. Pray with faith often for God to guide you into a greater understanding of his will, and for the resolve and courage to act upon whatever he brings to light.

3. Reflect and meditate on a portion of Scripture throughout the course of each day.

4. Add a phrase to each “but I say to you” statement in Matt. 5.21-48 that makes very specific, personal application to your life today. Think of it as an additional “I can live this out today by doing (or not doing) specifically this _____” sort of phrase.

LIFE group guide: follow me

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Oct. 6). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning from Matthew 8.18-22 (and related texts). This sermon is entitled “Follow Me” 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.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of the sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

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

Revelation

These texts are Scriptures directly related to the foundation and development of the sermon.

As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4.18-22)

Now when Jesus saw the crowd, he ordered his disciples to go over to the other side of the lake. A legal expert came and said to him, “Teacher, I’ll follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One has no place to lay his head.” Another man, one of his disciples, said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8.18-22)

The Jewish opposition circled around him and asked, “How long will you test our patience? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, but you don’t believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you don’t believe because you don’t belong to my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life. They will never die, and no one will snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them from my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10.24-30)

Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you can’t follow me now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I’ll give up my life for you.” Jesus replied, “Will you give up your life for me? I assure you that you will deny me three times before the rooster crows. (John 13.36-38)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. I find myself motivated to go along with someone, or something, if __________.

2. When told what to do, what tends to be your default reaction: comply, question, or challenge?

Research

These questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Find and circle every form of the word “follow” in the four Scripture texts above.

2. In which text above does Jesus note his disciples’ following of him as answer to his enemies?

3. What are two huge hurdles Jesus calls out to following him in Matthew 8.18-22?

Reflection

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

1. What does Jesus mean when he says “follow” me? That is, what all does “follow” imply?

2. Instead of following Jesus, it’s tempting to merely __________ Jesus.

3. Many (most?) people settle for being associated with Jesus rather than following him? Why?

4. What’s the difference between a nominal Christian and a true follower of Jesus Christ?

5. When do you most clearly and consistently sense that you are “following” Jesus?

6. Engage this claim: if we all follow Jesus, we’ll all think and act alike. True? False? Explain.

Response

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

1. Identify the excuses you use for not following Jesus in something you know to be his will.

2. Do something each day this week that’s easy for you in following Jesus, but don’t often do.

3. Do something daily that’s hard for you to follow Jesus in; something that takes you out of your comfort zone.

class questions for ‘Why Jesus?: home wrecker’

 

In the Bible class I lead on Sunday mornings, we’re currently studying some of the surprising ways of Jesus. We’re using William Willimon’s fine little book entitled Why Jesus? as our outline. Following are a dozen questions I plan to use as fodder for discussion in the 20/20 class tomorrow morning. They go along with chapter 7 in WIllimon’s book.

I’ve long been a big fan of Willimon for he never fails to feed my head. However, I do believe this chapter is one of the finest things I’ve ever seen come from his pen. Access to this chapter alone is worth purchasing the book. It’s thoughtful, potent, challenging stuff. Get a copy and devour it!

1. Family is the most important thing in life for it’s the glue that holds things together. If our country was just full of healthy, happy families, everything would be good. True? False? Comment.

2. Make a list. Recall everything you possibly can about Jesus’ biological family, their interactions with Jesus, and what Jesus had to do with them. What does this say to you?

3. Make another list. What all did Jesus say about himself, family and a life following God?

4. What surprises you the most about what Jesus said about family life?

5. What is silent about regarding the family? What surprises you the most about what Jesus did not say about the family?

6. Jesus said: “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, ‘Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple.’ I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households. 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.” (Luke 14.25-26; Matthew 10.35-37) What does Jesus mean by this? What practical and specific application does this have to you?

7. Did it cost you something in terms of your family life to become a Christian? Tell us about it; elaborate.

8. Engage this quote: “Aside to Jesus: You know, don’t you, that today’s younger generations are decidedly suspicious of institutions and organizations? They like you but don’t care for your body, the church. That you became a new family, that you located among a gathering of sinners, that you made the poor, old church to be a sign of you in the world may be the most difficult thing for them to believe about you.” Has there ever been a time this wasn’t the case? If it’s more true than ever now, how is that? What’s the best response the church can give, given such awareness?

9. Which is more like “family” to you: your immediate family or your church family? Why?

10. Engage this quote: “To become a Christian, to have your life taken over by Jesus, is to be joined into a family, a people convened by the ‘water and spirit,’ a family bigger and better than your biological family.”

11. You live in a country rife with persecution of Christians and you’re a member of an underground church. One evening your home is invaded by a small mob of people denouncing you and your faith. A child of yours is instantly shot dead before your eyes. Someone holds a gun to your wife’s head and says: “Deny Christ now or she’s dead, too!” What do you do? Why?

12. Complete this sentence: “If I love God supremely, for my family I will __________.”