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.

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.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, Christians, culture, fear, indignation: Angry Christians [essential reading]

“This is not the way to be Jesus to the world.”

Apartheid, Mandela & racism: Dreaming of Mandela

“A friend of the family let slip a sentiment widely felt but seldom articulated: ‘Thank God for the blacks. If not for them it would be us.’”

Applause & clapping: The Science Of How Applause Spreads In An Audience

“When people clap at a performance, they’re not really driven by how much they enjoyed what they saw, according to a new study. Instead, they decide how long to applaud based on the applause they hear around them.”

Bible translation: Finding the Right Words for God’s Word

“… Bible translators never achieve strict, word-for-word accuracy–even when they promise it.”

Boredom, church & worship: Our Fear of Boredom is Simply a Fear of Coming Face to Face with Ourselves [required reading]

“The Sunday morning hour, like the therapeutic hour, is a place to contemplate our capacity to deal with the fear of emptiness.”

Church: Go Big or Go Home? [essential reading]

“When our churches are big, and getting bigger, we take that as a sign that we must be doing something right, because surely, bigger is always better. Our culture teaches us to chase big, and we’re quick learners.

“But all this obsession with big creates problems for today’s followers of Jesus, because so much of what Jesus teaches and shows us is concerned about what happens on a smaller scale: attitudes of the heart, how we handle our possessions, learning to forgive, getting free of our addictions and idolatries, the nature of our trust and commitments, and so on. Jesus had big ideas and big dreams, to be sure—as big as his Father’s purposes to redeem the cosmos. But he went about his mission in surprisingly small ways, gathering small groups, touching the little people, focusing on deep problems in areas that might seem small-scale, such as how we treat one another, tending to a sick or needy individual, and working on personal speech habits. Big seems powerful, and sometimes it is. But when the basic unit of Christian community is so large that you can’t even see it all at once without going a mile up into outer space, the impressive view from a distance can lead us to lose sight of the fact that the Lord’s main work is meant to happen on the small scale, in up-close and personal ways. Big churches are not necessarily in a better situation to do that work, and they are often less adept at it.”

Children & parenting: 7 Tips For Surviving The Terrible Threes Of Parenting

“As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the ‘terrible twos’ that is a problem … it’s the ‘terrible threes’.”

Evangelicals: 6 Evangelicals You Don’t Know … But Might Want To

“Meet six “new evangelical” leaders who embody aspects of the change under way in evangelical America, and whose work is clearing out a larger space for the common good.”

Fidelity & marriage: 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair

“When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind. I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair. There are a few rules I have in place that serve to protect my heart.”

Jesus: Jesus in Non-Christian Sources

“These 7 points are nicely summarized by Paul Barnett in his volume Is the New Testament Reliable? (IVP Academic, 2003 [second ed.], p. 34).  Notably, each fact corroborates the record of the New Testament. …”

Motivation: Are You Doing It Because You Love It Or for the Reward That Follows? [essential reading]

“Psychologists believe there are two reasons people choose their behavior: They are motivated intrinsically or extrinsically.

“Intrinsic Motivation: This means a person chooses a behavior simply because of interest or enjoyment. The act of doing the behavior is itself the reward. One researcher defined intrinsic motivation in terms of what people will do without external inducement. When you do behaviors because of intrinsic motivation, you feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. …

“Extrinsic Motivation: This means you do something because of factors outside yourself. For instance, you want your parent’s approval, a trophy, or a treat. Or perhaps you want to avoid the disapproval of others. The reason for the behavior comes not from the love of the activity, but from the reward that follows the activity. …

“Being intrinsically motivated correlates with maturity, and having a strong sense of self.”

Prayer& work: How Micro-Prayers Can Get You Through the Work Day

“To deal with the constant rash of self-centered and negative mind-chatter, I have taken to saying tiny micro-prayers at various points throughout the day: prior to walking into a difficult meeting; in the midst of same meeting; before presenting a Big Idea to the Big Cheese; while staring blankly into my computer; or just about any time when I suspect there might be head-butting and ego-clashing coming down the hall.

“The idea is to detach, to unlatch my ego-driven agenda from the situation, to make it more about the possibilities of God’s presence, or opportunities for the spirit to shine rather than about me getting my way.”

Salvation: Salvation is Bigger than Forgiveness

“In the journey toward the Beautiful One we become beautiful through transforming grace. God is beautiful and defines what Beauty is. Knowing God in love is to be drawn into the glorious beauty of God, and this drawing is a transformative drawing. Fear of God does not transform; the beauty of God does transform.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible interpretation: The Purpose of the First Testament by Chaplain Mike

“After 35 years in pastoral ministry and Biblical study, I’m convinced that many if not most Christians have a simplistic view of ‘The Bible’ and how it came to us (if they even think about that question at all).”

Communication & relationships: Communicating With Men Tips by Ron Edmonson

“My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike, but there are some generalities that can perhaps help a woman better understand a man and improve communication.”

Control, gender roles, men & women: Control over Races and Women: This is a Heart Issue by John T. Willis

“Throughout human history, various cultures have adopted the idea and practice that men are superior to women. The Bible itself reflects this view. But this is not a truth of God as presented in the Bible–Old or New Testament!!!”

Foreign missions & missionaries: Do You Really Support Our Troops! by Mark Woodward

“When the nation is tired of foreign entanglements, the church becomes tired of them as well.”

Gossip: Stopping Gossip in 7 Ways by Ron Edmonson [required reading]

“…  I’m listing 7 suggestions for how to stop, or at least slow, the spread of gossip. Will you consider each and take them personal? If the shoe fits will you wear it. Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!”

Les Miserables: * A Pastor’s Take on the New Les Miserables by John Frye; * Jesus Himself Would Have Bought a Ticket and Waited on a Half Hour Line to See ‘Les Miserables’ by Peter Enns [required reading]

* “Anyone who knows the storyline of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (Les Mis) knows that any cinematic rendition will push strongly against the most common USAmerican movie theme: revenge. … If you’re not the church going kind of person, or if you were but left because Christians are fake and self-absorbed, or if your main exposure to Christianity has been TV evangelists or the Tea party, you ought to see this movie.”

* “Les Mis will help you see what the Bible means, and what the church at its best has meant, by ‘good news.’”

this went thru my mind

 

Baptism, discipleship, evangelism & salvation: Saving Souls is More Than Counting Baptisms by Terry Rush

“Be about soul winning this week.  If any should be at the waters of baptism, praise God.  But, too, if any happen to be over a cup of coffee or in a waiting room and you seek to inspire someone back to greatness….this too would be winning of the soul.”

Bible interpretation: My Take: The Danger of Calling Behavior ‘Biblical’ by Rachel Held Evans

“… the Bible is not a position paper. The Bible is an ancient collection of letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own. When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.”

Military service, pacifism & the early church: What Can We Learn From the Early Church? – Living Like the First Christians

“There can be no question but that Christians of the earliest period were overwhelmingly pacifist. I would say, until the year 200 pacifism was the norm for Christians. That began to change slightly from 200 to the Constantinian Edict in 313. Tertullian (160-225) was very strong in arguing that Christians could not participate in war, and he went so far as to say that those who were already soldiers must quit the military when they became followers of Jesus.  There are cases during this early period where Christians chose to be martyred rather than to serve in the military.”

Movies & politics: Why We Love Politics by David Brooks

“… ‘Lincoln,’ directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. … portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way.”

Reading: Four Reasons Men Don’t Read Books (with a Practical Suggestion) by Tony Reinke

“… many Christian men do struggle with reading. Here are four reasons why: Men don’t read books because they don’t know where to begin. … Men don’t read books because visual allurements are more appealing. … Men don’t read books because they think it’s a waste of time. … Men don’t read because they lack literary discipline.”

Special needs: 4 Ways the Church Can Support Families with Special Needs Children by Chad Nall

“A parent of a special-needs child shared with several of us in a seminar four things the church can do to support families. They include …”

this went thru my mind

 

Church growth: Let it Grow – Advice on Church Growth by Tim Spivey

“Each church’s journey is different, and it’s hard to get down to the level this can be talked about. However, someone needs to put on the table: The reason some of us aren’t growing is because our soil is sick.”

Google: Get More Out of Google [infographic]

“Here are some crucial tips for refining your Googling …”

Discipleship, gospel, salvation & the sinner’s prayer: The Gospel of Sin Management and the Loss of Discipleship by Jeff Clarke

“When we reduce the gospel story to salvation and salvation to personal forgiveness and forgiveness to a plan of salvation that focuses exclusively on getting people to make a decision (what Dallas Willard referred to in The Divine Conspiracy as the gospel of sin management), we essentially de-storify the gospel of Jesus and offer people what proves to be a serious mutation. We move from the birth of Christ to the death of Christ and forget the in-between life of Jesus. As a result, we end up living as though the middle section (i.e., his teachings, miracles, healings, and other kingdom-of-God-has-come indicators) has no inherent significance and salvific import …

“When we couple this with our North American preoccupation and unhealthy interest in numbers, we end up trying to compel as many people as possible to make a decision (whatever it takes), but only end up presenting a powerless, lopsided, half-story. However, our methods of persuasion ask people to make a decision, not for Christ alone, as the goal of the gospel, but to avoid hell (fire insurance), make us happy, help us find a mate, heal our marriage, etc, setting people up for failure. Then we add up the ‘salvations’ as though numbers indicate success. …

“However, by reducing the story of Jesus, a story that calls people to a life of devoted discipleship, to a system of salvation that only asks people to make a decision, we effectively short-circuit the power of the gospel.”

Manuscripts & preservation: Papyrus Conservation Videos

“… two videos on papyrus preservation. The first describes the work of Leyla Lau-Lamb, the principle papyrus curator at the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection. he second video from the British Museum records the restoration of a Book of the Dead scroll which was pasted to a sheet of paper.”

Miscarriage: Letters to My Unborn Children: the Silent Grief of Miscarriage by Shawn Collins

“Our first pregnancy in 2004 ended in a miscarriage right after Easter. Through my wife Kristine’s five subsequent pregnancies—another miscarriage in 2004, healthy girls born in 2005 and 2008, a third miscarriage in 2010, and a healthy girl born in 2011—I wrote letters to my children to reflect on these experiences. These letters extended my lifelong habit of journaling about both formative and mundane events in my life.”

this went thru my mind

 

Andy Griffith: * Andy Griffith: A Life Remembered; * Sheriff Who Gave Stature to Small-Town Smarts; * ‘Andy Griffith’ Theme Song Also; * What Faith, Family Meant to Andy Griffith; * Andy Griffith: Celebrity Profile

Archaeology: Temple Mount Time Bomb

“… ordinary cement was used in the repairs of walls and pavements. Large areas of new pavement have been laid in the southern part of the Temple Mount, again with ordinary cement in between the joints. This causes a greater flow toward the outer walls, which simply cannot absorb so much water. … It is only a matter of time when large sections of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount will collapse. When that happens, the Muslims will predictably incriminate the Israelis, when, in fact, they only have themselves to blame.”

Calvinism: Why are Young People So Drawn to Calvinism? by Matt Dabbs

“Calvinism is all over the place. Many of the best known young preachers are Calvinists. Many of the most well read blogs are from a Calvinist perspective. … What is the story?”

Change & the United States: Things I Would Change About America If I Could by Ben Witherington

“I could easily come up with another top twenty, but let’s fix these things first.”

Counseling: How Pastor-Counselors Differ from Secular Counselors by Justin Taylor

“Every counselor brings a ‘message’: an interpretation of problems, a theory that weighs causalities and context, a proposal for cure, a goal that defines thriving humanness.”

Dreams: Are Your Big Dreams as Big as Your God? by Wayne Stiles

“As Christians, we have more to do than get up, work hard, and come home for a few hours of television … only to rise and begin again.”

Fireworks: * How Fireworks Work ; * The U.S. Spends $600 Million on Fireworks [infographic]

Flags, patriotism & worship: * If You Love That Flag, Don’t Put It in the Sanctuary by Robert A. Ratcliff; * Just Jesus & Unjust July 4th: Why I Don’t Celebrate Independence Day (Annual Unpopular Post) by Kurt Willems

“… placing the flag in the sanctuary presents us with two untenable options: either ignore the flag, and treat your country with disrespect; or honor the flag and commit an act of idolatry. I’m sorry, but this is not one of those times when we can have it both ways. The only good option is the third one: leave the flag out of the sanctuary. If we love that flag, we won’t make people choose between it and God.”

* “Even if one holds to the possibility of a ‘just war,’ historically, the victory we celebrate as Americans every 4th of July, does not count. May we quit appealing to pseudo ‘just war’ theories and start appealing to just Jesus, because the only Independence Day worth celebrating is Easter – which reminds us that violence doesn’t win because the tomb is empty!”

Hospital visitation & introverts: How to Hack Your Introversion and Warmly Visit Someone in the Hospital (Even If You’ve Never Met) by Eric McKiddie

“Jesus went out of his comfort zone for you. Go out of your comfort zone …”

Humor: The Percontation Point: A Desperately Needed New Form of Punctuation by Marc Cortez

“Finally, a punctuation mark for those of us who think sarcasm is the highest form of communication but are afraid that other people will miss the point.”

Ministry: An Example to Follow by Jeff Anderle

“What if I burned up all my exit strategies and climbed up on the altar and said my life is not my own, but it belongs truly to the sheep to which you’ve called me, Lord. What if …”

Mormons: I’m a Mormon, Not a Christian by David Mason

“I want to be on record about this. I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian.”

Online habits: Are People Sharing Too Much Online?

“… 78% of ex-cons believe that social media is one of the essentials steps to identify the next target.”

Prayer: A Prayer for America

Preaching: Preaching the Good News as GOOD News by John McClure

“… the heart and soul of preaching is the good news of God’s redemptive grace and mercy.”

Salvation & Southern Baptists: Thoughts about “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” by Roger Olson

“Recently a group of non-Calvinist Southern Baptists wrote and signed ‘A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation. I certainly have no objection to a group of non-Calvinists pushing back against the tidal wave of Calvinism surging over contemporary evangelical and Baptist life in the U.S. (and other places). … I have thought, upon reading some of their writings … that they are Arminians who just don’t want to wear that label. Now, however, I’m not so sure. Here is their statement about original sin and depravity …”

Social media: 15 Social Media Scams

“From Facebook phishing lures to Twitter and Tumblr hoaxes, here are 15 scams to watch out for on social networking sites.”