LIFE group guide: light

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 30) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Light”) works out of Matthew 5.14 and 1 Peter 2.9.

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 what it means to be this world’s light, with the aid of photography as a metaphor.

Revelation

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

•  You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5.14 NIV)

•  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. (Ephesians 1.18 NLT)

•  … once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5.8-9 NRSV)

•  … be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. (Philippians 2.15 NRSV)

•  … you are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2.9-10 CEB)

Relation

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

1. You’ve snapped a photograph or two before. Tell us about one of your favorites.

2. Some photos have seemingly been seen by all; they’re “common knowledge.” Describe one.

3. Which best describes your picture-taking style: [a] “spray and pray” (take lots of pics with the hope of getting a good one) or [b] “one shot, one kill” (take a few, carefully thought out pics)?

Research

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

1. “You are the light of the world.” What other “you are” statements do you recall in the NT?

2. “… a people who are God’s own possession.” Compare this rendering in other translations.

3. Both photography and Christian faith (a) see things ________ [understand light], (b) pull back the ________ [capture and use the available light], and (c) tell a ________ [give/share light].

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 are some unhealthy ways of interrupting what it means to be “the light of the world?”

2. How can faith show up as a bit “underexposed” or “overexposed” in a Christian’s life?

3. “… let your light shine in front of others.” (Matthew 5.16) How to do that and not be “glare”?

4. True or false: to be “an exceedingly dim Christian” is worse than being no light at all. Explain.

5. What are some things you’d say Christian faith and photography have in common? How so?

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. Think of a co-worker, school mate, or neighbor. Make a list of specific ways you can be Christ’s light to the person. Similarly, what available light might you be unwittingly blocking?

2. Snap a few pictures this week. A you do so, pay special attention to what the light is doing in terms of the composition and exposure of each photo. Let this exercise prompt you to pray about your role as a part of “the light of the world.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger & offense: Choosing Not To Be Offended [essential reading]

“… there are many opportunities to be offended. … Offense is always a matter of perspective. … What kind of spirit are you trying to foster in your own heart? … What is the higher road that you can walk when offended? … Decide ahead of time to show love when love has not been shown to you.”

Appreciation, love, respect & value: The Most Ignored and Undervalued People Within Churches Today

“Churches are supposed to be communities that represent Christ’s infinite love — and many of them do — but certain groups of people seem to be continually ignored, alienated, undervalued, and simply lost within American churches. … Below are categories of people that I’ve repeatedly witnessed being underappreciated within various church environments …”

Children & parenting: * The Important Thing About Yelling; * Imprint the Image of a Godly Man on Your Daughter’s Heart; * Are You Raising Entitled Kids?

* “Let me tell you what had become of me. My distractions. Excessive phone use, commitment overload, multiple page to-do lists, and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And yelling at the people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control I was feeling in my life.”

* “Perhaps the greatest gift a father can give his daughter, outside of leading her to salvation, is to imprint the image of a Godly man on her heart. One day we will be walking our daughter down the aisle, and the choice she made for a husband will likely hinge more on our actions than hers.”

* “Breaking the chains of entitlement begins at home. As you live out gratitude and graciousness, your children will see these values as worthy. You teach them by how you live, what you say, and how you allow them to struggle and work their own way toward responsibility. You can raise kids who live with humility and thankfulness, who see and appreciate what they’re given daily by the Giver of all good gifts.”

Church: * Why People are Staying in Churches [required reading]; 10 Reasons Why We Must Love Unlovable Church Members

* “If you still attend a Christian worship assembly, what is it that keeps you coming back? Here are some reasons I see that people are staying with it …”

* “I would be lying to say I never struggle now, but I’ve learned something about loving others.”

Communication, evangelism & outreach: * 5 Churchy Phrases That are Scaring Off Millenials; * 5 Things Mistaken for Evangelism

* “… let’s examine these terrorizing and terrifying words to see if we should drop them, modify them, or indeed say them more …”

* “The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

Early Christianity: Where did Earliest Christians Meet?

“For some time now, the general view has been that earliest Christians met (e.g., for group worship) in houses, at least mainly. In a newly-published study, Dr. Edward Adams (Kings College London) queries this, contending that the evidence for this view isn’t as solid and consistent as commonly thought, and that the extant evidence suggests instead a variety of settings.”

Evil, disaster relief, natural disasters & the Philippines: * Philippines Disaster Draws Limited Interest, Donations; * Typhoon Haiyan and “Natural” Evil

* “About one-in-three Americans (32%) say they are very closely following news about the deadly typhoon that struck the Philippines on Nov. 8. By comparison, 55% of the public closely followed the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, 58% followed the tsunami that struck coastlines around the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, and 60% followed the 2010 Haiti earthquake.”

* “… on Typhoon Haiyan and the reality of “natural” evil that’s not really natural at all. “This an enemy has done.” (Matthew 13:28)”

Grief: 10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

“The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible interpretation & Romans 8.28: Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: It’s All About Me [essential reading]

“It’s not uncommon in an American Christian Bible  study for this verse to be  interpreted to mean that God will make it all turn out okay for me – so that there really is no  cause for sadness or disappointment. God has a plan. … But we read our desires and self-importance into the text.”

Christian outreach, evangelism, influence, insensitivity, politics, witness & words: Politics, Social Media, and More Important Things [essential reading]

“All those political rants may be hindering your Christian witness. … Christians are often unnecessarily burning bridges on the altar of political partisanship. … You can complain on Facebook about who shut down the government but you might just shut down a more important conversation. … “

Culture & society: Barbarians at the Gates? [required reading]

“The recent government shutdown, frustrating as it is, should not really come as all that big of a surprise. In Western culture – and particularly in the United States – we have been cultivating habits for many decades that are dissolving our capacity to talk civilly and live peaceably with our neighbors, and especially our neighbors who differ from us in prominent ways: politics, economic status, race, sexual identity, etc.”

Faith & Malcom Gladwell: Malcolm Gladwell on His Return to Faith While Writing ‘David and Goliath’

“Author Malcolm Gladwell may not be known for writing on religion.”

Homeless: Homelessness, a Personal Response …

“When it comes to relating to and moving alongside a person or persons who are homeless, what can be done practically?”

Marriage: Five Ways a Marriage Can Become Stuck

“As married people who walk with Christ, we have resources that will help us as we share our lives together.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Culture, George Zimmerman, justice, racism & Trayvon Martin: * Trayvon and George: A Take of Two Americas; * Dear White Folks: Black People are Sensitive to Race [essential reading]

* “Emerging America doesn’t love Trayvon and hate George, or love George and hate Trayvon. Emerging America owns both Trayvon and George as their beloved sons, their Cain and Abel, their Jacob and Esau, their older and younger sons in Jesus’ most famous (but often worst-interpreted) parable. That’s why Emerging America is heartbroken about the recent verdict. But we will not let our hearts break apart in sharp and dangerous shards of resentment and shrapnel of fear. With God’s help, we will let the pain of love break our hearts open in renewed hunger and thirst for true justice and peace … for all people, equal and indivisible.”

* ” I’m a Black woman in my late 30s who grew up in mostly White, solidly middle-class neighborhood in Raleigh, NC.I was raised by parents who valued education. Both had Master’s degrees. My father was a chemistry teacher and served in the Army. My mother was a nurse and retired as a full-bird Colonel in the Air National Guard. I was an enviably good student, who was president of my high school Service Club, a member of the National Honor Society, an officer on the Student Council and a Varsity soccer player. I had a good childhood. And yet my childhood is stained – like so many other African-Americans’ – by a string of indignities that might seem slight to many. For the most part, I’m not talking about blatant, in-your-face ‘N word’ confrontations. I’m talking cowardly, ingrained, without-a-thought and possibly subconscious behaviors which tacitly and overtly tell a person they’re valued less by society than those with White skin.”

Disaster relief: UN Designs Giant LEGO Bricks for Disaster Relief

“When enlarged to human scale, the unique design of  this giant LEGO brick allows it to function as both a way to transport food, and a building block for constructing real-life buildings.”

Discernment, discipleship & spiritual maturity: Advice to New Christians [required reading]

“I wish someone told me the following things when I was walking on the clouds of the newfound joy of my salvation at age 16.”

Evangelism & outreach: The Art of Spiritual Conversation in a Changing Culture [required reading]

“The majority of Christians and non-Christians alike can agree on one thing: They are uncomfortable with the “E” word — evangelism. It’s one of the highest church values, and the least practiced. Perhaps there is a different “E” word that fills the need in this secular culture and lays essential groundwork for the Gospel — engagement.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

American history & the Fourth of July: Debunking the Fourth: Top 10 Unsightly Facts about the American Revolution

“The majority of the Founding Fathers weren’t Christians, but deists.”

Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: Ask a Conditionalist (Annihilationist) … Edward Fudge Responds

“Conditionalists begin with the premise that only God is inherently immortal. For humans, immortality is God’s conditional gift, bestowed at the resurrection but only to the redeemed. Those who reject God’s grace throughout life do not live forever. When John 3:16 says the options are eternal life or perish, conditionalists say that means just what it seems to say.

According to conditionalism, at the end of the world, the good and bad alike are raised to face judgment. The righteous enjoy eternal life with God; the lost are sentenced to hell. But God does not keep billions of them alive forever to torment them without end. Instead, those in hell suffer such precise pains as divine justice may require, in a destructive process that ends in extinction. This is the second death, the wages of sin. Eternal punishment is eternal destruction, eternal capital punishment.”

Christianity, civil religion, nationalism, & nominalism, & the United States: 7 Marks of A Stereotypical American Christian

“Obviously, many Christians are more complex and inspiring than the attributes listed above, but we need to start realizing the influence American culture has on our faith. Unfortunately, many of these stereotypes are still perpetuated by American Christians who have strayed away from Christ’s example of sacrificial love and are using religion to serve their own misguided agendas. Nobody is perfect, but we need to start emulating Christ instead of subtly allowing our social surroundings to dictate our spiritual priorities.”

Climate change: Bill Nye The Science Guy Explains The Basics Of Something You Should Really Know [4 min., 34 sec. video]

“If you know anyone who’s having trouble wrapping their head around climate change as a human-driven crisis, this video could really come in handy.”

Culture, evangelism & outreach: Christians and Cultural Engagement

“… Jesus established a relationship in which he could speak and have it heard as a word of grace rather than a ‘I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong’ word of condemnation.”

Children, fatherhood, parenting & singles: The Rise of Single Fathers: A Ninefold Increase Since 1960

“In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.”

Communication, credibility, gossip, lies, slander, speech & words: Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear

“Slander is a serious sin, and according to Paul, slanderers will be barred from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).”

Divorce & marriage: Jesus Never Moves On

“…  he has chosen me, he has set his love on me, and nothing will cause him to abandon me. He will never give up.”

Doctors, health & medicine: Common End-of-Life Medical Terms

“Here are some terms likely to be used in such situations as defined by Dr. Darlene Nelson, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at the Mayo Clinic.”

Head coverings, interpretation & women: Head Coverings in Worship: Why Female Hair is a Testicle (parts 1 & 2)

“Recently, my colleague Trevor Thompson, who is a New Testament scholar here at ACU, shared with me some of the work of another NT scholar, Troy Martin, who is a friend of Trevor’s. One of Martin’s areas of expertise is using ancient medical texts to illuminate NT passages, particularly passages that seem confusing to us. In various studies Martin makes the observation that some of these confusions stem from the fact that we don’t share the same medical understandings of the NT writers and their audiences. When ancient medical terms or ideas are used we often miss the meaning. A good example of this comes from 1 Corinthians 11.2-16.”

Ministry & preaching: * I Am a Preacher; * 10 Things You May Not Know About Senior Pastors

* “I offer this in tribute to all the brave men and women of God who bear up under the weight of our call. I hope it articulates some of the ambiguity, beauty and tension wrapped up in saying ‘yes’ when God summons you to the pulpit.”

* “… I know this is a representative list for many.”

Poverty: Greg Kaufmann on the Truth About American Poverty

“Greg Kaufmann, poverty correspondent for The Nation, says the poor in America are stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.”

Tipping: Tipping: To Ban or Not?

“If I had my way, we’d take this idea to its logical conclusion and get rid of the practice of tipping altogether. Just outlaw it …”

Worship: Ready to Worship

“As we prepare ourselves for worship each week here are three things we should keep in mind.”

this went thru my mind

 

Anarchy, civility, control, leadership, power, relationships & spiritual warfare: CSC Paper: “It Should Not Be So Among You” (Previously “On Anarchism and Assholes”)

“In 2004 [Dr. Bob] Sutton proposed and wrote up what he called the “No Asshole Rule” as a “Breakthrough Idea” in the annual edition on that topic for The Harvard Business Review. Basically, the “No Asshole Rule” states that a company would do well to attend to and address the behavior of mean, nasty, selfish, egomanical, and rude persons in the workplace. After publishing his idea in the Review Sutton was overwhelmed with feedback from people around the globe telling him stories of the toll assholes exact in the workplace. He also received confirmation that companies who had implemented a version of the “No Asshole Rule” had experienced not only a boost in their corporate culture but to their bottom line as well.”

Anger, frustration, listening & worry: How to Listen When Someone Is Venting [essential reading]

“The way to listen when someone is venting is to ask them the following three questions …”

Change, church, ministry, evangelism, outreach & tradition: * 3 Things Churches Love That Kill Outreach [essential reading]; * Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing

* “1. Too many churches love past culture more than their current context. … 2. Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission. … 3. Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.”

* “”There’s no shortage of studies bemoaning the next generation’s exodus from the Church. Yet while some have written off Millennials’ spiritually, this is a mistake—for the Church and for the Millennials. In the face of this reality, a new opportunity is emerging. … Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents. But this opportunity comes with one, big condition: Millennials won’t give up quality to gain intimacy. And they shouldn’t have to.”

Culture: Lego Faces are Getting More Pissed Off, Study Says

“The study leaves us with an open question about what sort of impact the growth in conflict-based Lego characters might have on children’s play. The authors also acknowledge that this trend might be necessary for the toy company to maintain its place in the market and meet customer demand. The children that grow up with Lego today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces,” reads the conclusion. It does recommend that toy designers take care in creating expressions and test the effect of the designs on children. What do you think? Are Lego toys becoming too negative?”

Discipleship & politics: 10 Political Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus

“…  this is not a complete list but it’s a pretty good place to start.”

Elders & leadershipThe Problem With Elders (parts 1 & 2)

“I have listened to literally thousands of members, hundreds of elders, and hundreds of ministers in the last ten years and many of them have the same complaints/issues … Perhaps it’s time we talked about elders. The problem is … where to start?”

Grief & healing: * 5 Signs That Your Grief is Healthy; * Megan’s Hands

* “When do we know we are grieving well?  And when do we know our grief is becoming potentially destructive?  Walking through grief is a balancing act between allowing yourself to mourn in healthy ways and not allowing grief to take over your life making you unhealthy in mind, body and spirit.  But the question is “How do you know when your grief is being constructive and healing and not destructive and causing you further trauma?” Here are some suggestions on when you know grief is good and when you know grief might be causing you problems …”

* “… the dam broke and I was close to drowning from the depression, the doubt, and the grief. Fast forward many years to today.”

Love & Islam: Hard Teaching: Amid Fear and Division, What Does it Mean to Love Our Muslim Neighbors? [essential reading]

“I don’t call Amir Arain my brother in the faith, but that doesn’t make him any less my neighbor. According to Jesus, everyone is a neighbor, and there’s no one who’s not my neighbor. Yes, I disagree with Amir on the precise meaning of Jesus’ life. Because of this — not in spite of — I believe that the real test of my disagreement with Amir is in the depth of my commitment to love Amir as Jesus has loved both of us. It’s easy for me to love my brothers and sisters in the faith. Jesus wants to know if I know how to love my neighbors.”

Ministry: * 7 Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience; * 7 Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

* “What do you think are some of the most frustrating things that pastors experience?”

* “Here are 7 most exciting things pastors experience …”

N.T. Wright: Ask N.T. Wright …(response)

“Wright is the author of over 100 books, including the popular Surprised by Hope and Simply Christian. [He] … is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews in Scotland.”

Singing, songs & corporate worship: Ten Questions to Ask of a Song’s Lyrics

“… here are ten questions to ask about the words of any song that you’re considering including in corporate worship.”

this went thru my mind

 

Attention, complaints & leadership: Ministry Inside.113

“Church leaders, sometimes, give far too much attention to people who are demanding our attention in some way, often in the form of a complaint. I want to encourage us to take notice of the following people …”

Church decline, evangelism, mission & outreach: Why “Insiders” Are Killing Your Church

“Almost everybody who follows Christ, and almost every gathering of those Christ followers constituting a church, says the same thing: ‘We want to reach the world for Christ.’ Yet, most don’t. So where’s the breakdown?”

Church politics: Church Politics: This is a Heart Issue by John T. Willis

“One of the most pervasive problems ravaging and destroying the church is church politics. This has always been a major portion of the wiles of the devil. The church does not fall because of external opposition, but because of internal strife and division. This always has to do with personal preferences, self-centered goals, and arrogant behavior. The Bible presents numerous examples of this. Here are only a very few.”

Easter, fear & Mark’s Gospel: Easter Shouldn’t Be Good News by Richard Beck [required reading]

“The oldest gospel we have, the gospel of Mark, ends in the most curious of ways …”

Minister’s wife: Lies Ministry Wives Believe

“As a pastor’s wife, I find myself fighting the same old internal battles that have plagued me from year one, only now I recognize them more quickly and have tools to combat them. Do you think or believe these lies, too? … 1. My identity is that of a ministry wife. … 2. I am not called to ministry. … 3. As a ministry wife, I’m playing a specific, scripted role. … 4. My husband is important to the work of the church, but I am not. … 5. My job as a ministry wife is to serve people. … 6. I have to be available to everyone at all times. … 7. I can’t ask for help or reveal my weaknesses and struggles.”

Morale, productivity & time management: * Urgent, Please Read ASAP; * Why, ‘Do More With Less,’ is Stupid

* “The problem, of course, is that the queue of urgent never ends, it merely changes its volume as it gets longer.”

* “‘Do more with less,’ demotivates employees. It’s code for work harder. If they’re already working hard, they think, ‘The more I give the more they want. I’m giving less.’ ‘Do more with less,’ disengages and demotivates those giving most. Those hurt most by, ‘Do more with less,’ are the ones doing most.”

The Bible mini-series: A Celebration of Mary Magdelene [required reading]

“In this post I would like to turn to a feature of the series that has so far gone without comment in other reviews, the depiction of Mary Magdalene.  I will not hide from the reader just how thrilled I am with the way that Mary Magdalene (Amber Rose Revah, left) is played.”