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.”