LIFE group guide: eradicating the Easter error

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (April 20) 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 sermon.

To consider some of what it means for us that God raised Jesus back to life.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  God raised him from the dead … (Acts 2.24)

•  … they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead … (Acts 13.29-31)

•  … believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4.24)

•  We were … buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6.4)

•  … he who raised Christ from the dead will … give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8.11)

•  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10.9)

•  … you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus … (1 Thessalonians 1.9-10)

•  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1.21)

Relation

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

1. When I think of someone being “dead” I think of them being ___.”

2. When I think of someone being “alive” I think of them being ___.”

Research

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

1. Which NT writer speaks by far and away most frequently of Jesus being “raised”?

2. Using the texts above, make a list of what believers do in light of Christ’s resurrection.

Reflection

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

1. Which do you think of most often: Christ’s cross or his empty tomb? Why?

2. Could the Father have not raised the Son? Explain.

3. What is the greatest evidence, or witness to, Jesus having been resurrected?

4. “If the power of the God who raises the dead is working in me as a believer I can ___.”

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. Mediate daily on God’s character and power as revealed in Christ’s resurrection.

2. Start each day: “God, I will let your life-giving power be shown thru me today by ___.”

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.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application & moralizing: Moralizing Scripture…the Rush to Application and Misappropriating the Text

“…  let us be careful when we moralize scripture and rush to application that we don’t, in the process, undermine the text and the power of God to do greater things than make us nicer people.”

Capital punishment & death penalty5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

“In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.”

Children, church & parenting: Let the Children Come to Me…Unless They’re Too Loud, Distracting, or Difficult

“The church in America has raised a whole generation that has never really been spiritually formed by the larger church gathering.”

Cinema, film, movies & Noah: * To See or Not to See the Movie Noah? [required reading]; * What’s Really Behind Christians’ Rejection of Noah?

* “Art often needs to speak honestly about evil, and I hope we don’t sanitize the Bible to the point where we forget just how well it does that. I get the pushback about Noah going off script, and being concerned about disinformation. But I think our real problem is that, unlike Christians of earlier centuries, we no longer understand what art does or how it works.”

* “This week Christians will have the chance to see Noah. And in an ironic twist, Paramount Pictures and the director find themselves defending their film against strong criticism from Christians, the audience they assumed would be the first in line to see this biblically epic story. In what has become a reversal of roles, Hollywood has heard the cry of Christians for bible based films (and the allure of their money, no doubt) and produced an epic picture and now Christians are the ones rejecting it. And in this case, it’s Christians who may not be completely honest about their reasons for rejecting it as we’ve formerly accused Hollywood of being in rejecting bible based films in the past. And the only public leg we have to stand on is the presence of biblical errors in the movie.”

Friendship, Jesus & sinners: Setting the Record Straight on Jesus, ‘the Friend of Sinners’ [essential reading]

“… does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits? It does actually. Because Christians believe they must “live as Jesus did.” If the faithful only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.”

Ministry: * Dear Churchgoers …; * The Friendless Pastor

* “Now I understand you might think I should know all the things that are happening with you. I really do want to. Most of my fellow pastors would agree. We love to know the things that are going on in your life. We want to hear all about it. But there’s a good chance that we won’t know if you never tell us.”

* “It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. … We have too many relationships and too few friends.”

Hebrews: keep calm & carry on (5)

Keep-Calm-Carry-OnDuring the winter Bible class quarter where I minister some of our adult classes will study the book of Hebrews on Sunday mornings (Dec. 1 thru Feb. 23). This study is entitled Hebrews: Keep Calm & Carry On. To aid lesson prep, I’m posting ten sets of twenty exercises/questions to research and consider from each major section of Hebrews (as broken down in David A. DeSilva’s work Perseverance in Gratitude). Today’s set of exercises/questions interacts with Hebrews 7.1-8.13 and is entitled “Jesus, the Better-Qualified Mediator of God’s Favor.”

1. Heb. 7 is all about a comparison of not only of two men (Melchizedek and Jesus), but of two priesthoods (the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Mechizedek). In five sentences, sum up the point being made in each of the five main thought divisions of this chapter (7.4-10,11-17,18-19,20-22,23-28).

2. Without the aid of quality commentary or two, consider the meaning of Melchizedek being “without father or mother or any family. He has no beginning or end of life, but he’s like God’s Son and remains a priest for all time.” (7.3)

3. Find and read what the OT has to say about the origin and work of the Levitical (Aaronic) priesthood.

4. The author’s main argument in 7.4-10 is that it’s obvious that the Melchizedek priesthood is superior to that of the Levitical. One thing that declares such, claims the author, has two points to it. First, Melchizedek blessed Abraham and we all know the lesser is blessed by the greater, not the other way around. That makes Melchizedek superior to Abraham. Second, Levi, a son of Abraham, was yet unborn when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. Therefore, Melchizedek is superior to Levi (the source of the Levitical priesthood). And so: “See how great Melchizedek was!” (7.4a) What sort of questions or concerns can you imagine being about (either among Jews yet to believe or Jewish Christians tempted with turning back) that would lead the author of Hebrews to argue this particular point?

5. What is the difference between Christ having been perfected and our own perfection (7.11,28b)?

6. What is most significant about a priest after the order of Melchizedek is that they don’t die, and so, keep serving forever (7.8,16,23-24). But Christ died. How is it then that he can be a priest after the order of Melchizedek?

7. Since Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, how is it he could ever serve as a priest at all (7.11-17)?

8. In 7.22, the word “covenant” shows up for the first time in Hebrews. What is a “covenant?” What is the “better covenant” in 7.22? What is the “first covenant” in view in 8.7?

9. What is it exactly that makes our salvation “complete” and sure (7.25)?

10. How is it “appropriate for us to have this kind of high priest: holy, innocent, incorrupt, separate from sinners, and raised high above the heaven?” (7.26) Or to put it another way, what do these qualities of Christ have to say about the qualities of the Christians to whom the author of Hebrews is writing?

11. Why doesn’t Jesus, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests (7.27)?

12. The author of Hebrews has stressed the humanity of Jesus Christ (2.17; 4.14-16; 5.7-8). Beginning in ch. 8, the author will stress that Jesus is our man in heaven who sits at God’s right hand as our high priest (8.1; 10.12-14; cf. Ps. 110.1). What do these points of thought say to you and do for you?

13. Remember, Hebrews claims to be a sermon/message (13.22) geared toward “encouragement.” The specific point of encouragement for the original Christian audience is that they keep a tight grip on their confession (4.14). In your own words, how does all that tie in with what the author says is “the main point” of what he has to say (8.1)?

14. No doubt some Jews of the Hebrew author’s time often questioned Christians as to where their temple was located (i.e. – “We have a temple. Where is yours?”). In light of Heb. 8.1-5 and in your own words, how might the author of Hebrews have answered such a question?

15. In Heb. 8, Jesus is portrayed in two ways: (a) as our ministering high priest (8.1-5) and (b) as the mediator of the new covenant (8.6-13). Which of these speaks most powerfully and personally to you right now? Why?

16. In 8.7, the author isn’t saying the first covenant was flawed or messed up from the get go, rather it was God’s people that were messed up (8.9). And the first covenant was never intended to be the end of all things for (a) God clearly had a second covenant in view (something “new”) and (b) something had to be done with his people, a people who had failed to keep God’s covenant with them. What benefit then was the first covenant? Why have it at all?

17. Christ’s way is far superior to the preceding way. Heb. 8.6 names three specifics as to the superiority of Christ’s way. What are they?

18. Jeremiah 31.31-34, quoted in Heb. 8.8-12, comes near the end of a long section in Isaiah that could be referred to as the “Scroll of Comfort.” Read the complete context by reading Jer. 30.1-31.40 and then comment on how it helps you appreciate what’s being said in Jer. 31.31-34.

19. The quotation of Jeremiah 31.31-34 in Heb. 8.8-12 is the longest OT quote in the NT. In this quote, the establishment of a new covenant builds to one supreme, climactic thought (Heb. 8.8-12). What is that point? It will be elaborated on at length in Heb. 9.1-10.18.

20. Heb. 8.13 is another point of persuasion in the talking points offered by the author of Hebrews. The point is this: don’t ditch the new and better covenant with Christ to go back to an old, obsolete, and outdated way that is “close to disappearing.” How was the OT sacrificial system was outdated and obsolete?

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.

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 __________.”