LIFE group discussion guide: strength

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 1) 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 call us to never forget the ultimate source and shape of our strength in the Lord.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to possess eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you understand it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, his heart went out to him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two day’s wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10.25-37)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. Tell us of a trip you made which simply didn’t even begin to turn out like you’d planned.

2. Tell us of a time someone was a Good Samaritan to you in some big or small way.

Research

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

1. Read 1 Cor. 16.13-14. What would it look like to be “courageous” and “strong” in the context of the life of the church in Corinth, knowing what we know from 1 Corinthians?

2. Read Eph. 6.10-18. What exactly are some of the “flaming arrows” the “evil one” shoots at us? Hint: consider some of the exhortations of the immediately preceding context (cf. 5.1-2,15,21; 6.9 – especially 5.1-2).

Reflection

These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.

1. Does giving strength to others increase, or diminish your own? Explain. (cf. 2 Cor. 9.8)

2. What are some the barriers/challenges to giving compassion and mercy? Which is biggest?

3. Discuss: “To demonstrate mercy is to simply reveal God’s strength to another.” (cf. Heb. 13.20-21a)

4. A disciple wants to “build muscle for mercy.” What habits will they do well to adopt?

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

1. ID and face your deepest fears and sources of hesitation that cause you to withhold mercy.

2. Deliberately and regularly put yourself in situations where you’re near folks in deep need.

links: this went thru my mind

Acceptance, evangelism, fellowship, forgiveness, hypocrisy, love, mercy, murder & outreach: He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God [essential reading]

“Mr. Dahmer left behind confused parents, dozens of distraught relatives of the victims, the traumatized city of Milwaukee — and this white-bearded minister, struggling still at 60 with the sense that he, too, had been condemned, for having the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil.”

Announcements & corporate worship gatherings: Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

“I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, payback & revenge: Don’t Give Tsarnaev Death Penalty [required reading]

“Should we kill Tsarnaev? And the answer, despite the abhorrent nature of the crime, is simple: No, we should not. We are better than that. The fact is that the death penalty isn’t justice, it’s revenge.”

Choices, farming, generations, life, lifestyle, Millenials & priorities: A Young Generation Sees Greener Pastures In Agriculture

“America’s heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years. Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But, in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there’s new crop of farmers to thank for it.”

ISIS, money, Muslim, power, stereo-typing, terrorism & violence: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion [required reading]

“When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising Mohammed or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims. It’s like bank robbers wearing masks of presidents; we don’t really think Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush hit the Bank of America during their down time.”

links: this went thru my mind

Church, Christian faith, immigration, justice & mercy: * Immigration and Church – Why It Matters; * 5 Immigration Myths Debunked [essential reading]; * Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration; * 4 Ways (Im)migration Impacts the Mission of the Church [essential reading]

* “…  Christians must agree that we have a responsibility to love and care for the immigrant.”

* ” Here are 5 myths about undocumented immigrants, and why they’re wrong. Myth # 1: They don’t pay taxes. [ Undocumented immigrants are already U.S. taxpayers. Collectively, they paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010 … On average they pay about 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes] …

Myth # 2: They don’t pay into Social Security. [… undocumented immigrants contribute more in payroll taxes than they will ever consume in public benefits. Take Social Security. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), unauthorized immigrants — who are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits — have paid an eye-popping $100 billion into the fund over the past decade. ] …

Myth #3: They drain the system. [Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years] …

Myth # 4: They take American jobs. [ The American economy needs immigrant workers. The belief that immigrants take jobs that can otherwise be filled by hard-working Americans has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data. ] …

Myth # 5: It’s just a matter of following the law. […  under current immigration laws, there are very few options for legal immigration, the costs are increasingly prohibitive and the wait for any kind of status can be long and frustrating.]”

* “… Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is ‘not who we are’ and cited Scripture, saying, ‘We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.’ … Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?”

* “While there isn’t space in this blog post to propose and unpack all the issues, I think it’s valuable to examine four ways immigration is impacting the church and its call to share the gospel with all peoples.”

Compassion, love & mercy: Gate A-4

“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

Consumerism & contentment: * The Cult of Contentment [required reading]; * God is Not Santa Claus: How the Consumerist Worldview Affects the Church

* “… I have a modest proposal, instead of fighting to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ what if we fought to keep the Friday in Black Friday?”

* ” God is not Santa Claus. But we seem to forget that sometimes because we have embraced a worldview called consumerism. In this way of seeing the world, the consumer is at the center, and his or her goal is to find pleasure and avoid pain by consuming things, experiences, and people. Unfortunately, we take this same consumerist worldview to Jesus and his church, but he wants to move us from being consumers to contributors.”

 

links: this went thru my mind

 

Attention, busyness, communication, connection, distraction, listening & relationships: 3 Ways We Lose When We Don’t Connect with Others

“… sometimes the failure to be fully present with others is more than a momentary occurrence. Some people are just not emotionally present regardless of the circumstances. This is just the way they function. In other words, they live each day not really present in the moment they have right now. What do we lose when we are not fully present?”

Boko Haram: * Boko Haram is Not New; * Supplement to Boko Haram is Not New

* “The recent kidnapping of 300 girls in northern Nigeria has rightly ignited a fresh firestorm of concern about Boko Haram. We must be grateful that the world’s attention has turned to this crisis. … Although Boko Haram itself may date to 2002, similar violence was occurring in northern Nigeria in the 1990’s.”

* “… it is important for the world to know that these events have been building for a long time. Those in Nigeria working for peace and restoration (including help for the girls) need our prayers.”

Church, conformity, culture & Millenials: It’s Not About Conforming to the World

“These so-called ‘progressive evangelicals’ believe the Church must conform to the world or die. They tell us millennials will leave if we don’t get with the program and imitate the culture when it comes to gender, sexuality, and science. But we must remain faithful to the Gospel and to God’s Word in the face of this pressure or else risk losing our identity. We can’t just give in to the world because of pressure to be cool.”

“I hear some version of this argument at least once a week … and I believe it is common enough (and reasonable enough) to warrant a brief response here, extended with nothing but grace, peace, and goodwill for my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I respectfully disagree.”

Depression: * The Hard Fought War Over Depression; * How to Help a Friend Fight Depression

* “Depression is a buried mind-field warfare and we must be careful not to step on them. We can blame others; yet I believe such charges are weak excuses. We are the ones who decide whether to let circumstances and comments take us down. We have the choice to resist. I was notoriously weak at resistance. For one, I didn’t know how. However, Philippians 4:4-9 urged me to practice thinking about the many things going right, with the promise that if I would, then the peace of God would persist.  When I began to obey this divine charge, a new and surprising life arose. I’d never seen this side of the thought terrain.”

* “I know I’m hard to love when I’m depressed, but if you are the rare friend who is committed to staying with me through the pain, consider these seven ways you can help me.”

God, grace, mercy & Scripture: The Bible Wasn’t Written to Tell God What He Has to Do [essential reading]

“… God will have mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy.”

LIFE group guide: be merciful

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Dec. 22). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon marks the conclusion of the Jesus, Master & Commander sermon series.

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 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 Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon.

• She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1.21)

• Mary said … “In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. … He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God.” (Luke 1.47-48,50)

• … Zechariah … prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us … to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember … the oath he swore to our father Abraham: … to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1.67-69,72-75)

• Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.36)

• For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Romans 9.15-16)

• … he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3.5a)

• … judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2.13)

• … await our Lord Jesus Christ’s mercy. … In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering (Jude 21-22)

Relation

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

1. In your own words, define “mercy.” What is it? What is it not?

2. Tell us of an instance in which you know you were the recipient of great mercy.

Research

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

1. As you read Jesus’ birth narratives (Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2), make a list of every act of mercy.

2. Go through the headlines of today’s news. How could mercy be shown in each event?

Reflection

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

1. How is forgiveness and mercy linked? Why is it often quite difficult to be merciful?

2. How sick is it to expect mercy and not be merciful? Define the elements of the disease.

3. What are some very specific ways in which we can extend mercy to others?

4. What happens inside us, to God, and to others, when we are merciful to others?

5. What essential steps must be taken after extending mercy? After receiving it?

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. Visualize specific instances and ways in which you will be merciful throughout a day.

2. Pray for someone you need to forgive. Make a decisive and direct action plan to do so.