LIFE group discussion guide: suffer

-

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 15) 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 remind us that fully following Christ will cost us; leading us to, and thru, suffering.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. … He was oppressed and treated harshly … When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. (Isaiah 53.3a,7a,11 NLT)

• He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things … (Mark 8.31 NIV)

• A disciple is not above the teacher, but … like the teacher. (Luke 6.40 NIV)

• … calling the apostles back, they had them beaten. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let them go. The apostles left … rejoicing because they had been regarded as worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the name. Every day they continued to … proclaim the good news … (Acts 5.40-42 CEB)

• … he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well. (Philippians 1.29 NRSV)

• … if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. … even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. (1 Peter 2.20-21; 3.14 NIV)

Relation

Use the following icebreaker question to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. Tell us of a time you thought you’d get something for free, but found it cost much.

2. What have you paid dearly for in life, and so, have special thought or feeling for it?

Research

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

1. List the things people did to Jesus that must have caused his heart anguish.

2. Read and ponder James 5.7-11 and 1 Peter 2:19-25; 4.12-19.

Reflection

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

1. What specific sort of sufferings, because you believe, unsettle your heart most?

2. Tell us of a time you suffered because you believe and some good came from that.

3. How does self-pity express itself? How does it hinder spiritual maturity in Christ?

4. What attitudes are needed to face suffering well? What actions grow such a mind?

Response

This idea/suggestion is for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid your living out today’s message.

1. Become more aware of the plight of Christians elsewhere on earth. Pray for them.

2. Develop a “How can I bring the most glory to God in this moment?” mindset.

links: this went thru my mind

-

Here are links to five articles I’ve found to be interesting.

Apologetics, archaeology, manuscripts & Mark’s Gospel: Earliest Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Apparently Found

“Craig Evans, who is most certainly a careful scholar, has announced the discovery of a piece of Mark’s Gospel that may well date to 80-90 A.D. making it by far the earliest portion of any NT book yet found. … We must await the publishing of the materials and the evidence for these claims, and then the vetting of the claims by peer scholars, but thus far, it looks like Craig is on to something big!”

Children, divorce & parenting: ‘Kids Are Resilient’ and 7 Other Lies Divorcing Parents Should Stop Believing

“As a former divorce mediator, and current couples and family mediator, I have heard every excuse that parents use to feel better about breaking up their family.”

Climate, ecology, global warming, nature & pollution: Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says

“A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. ‘We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,’ said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science. … Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.”

Deception, false claims, heaven, lies & personal testimonies: Boy Says He Didn’t Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book [required reading]

“Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.”

God, suffering & the problem of evil: If God Is in Control, Why Does Bad Stuff Keep Happening? [essential reading]

“You can never look at the way the world is and read God’s purposes off from the way the world is. It’s always more puzzling and confusing than that. … Part of our trouble is that in the Western world, we’ve assumed that God is, as it were, the celestial CEO of this thing called the universe incorporated. And then, as one of Woody Allen’s characters says: ‘I sort of believe in God, but it looks like He’s basically an underachiever.’ In other words, He’s not a very good CEO, He’s not good at running this show. But actually, the world is much more complicated than that. It’s not simply a machine or a business with God as the CEO. God is involved with it in ways which it’s hard for us now, particularly in the modern world, to grasp.”

links: this went thru my mind

-

Here are links to five articles I consider interesting and helpful for thought.

American history, memory, myth & religion: Why 1940s America Wasn’t as Religious as You Think — the Rise and Fall of American Religion

“It’s common for people to believe that religion was always more vibrant in the past. Earlier generations were always more religious than we are, right? Not always. Religiosity can rise and fall just like other things do over time. In fact, America of the 1940s was about as religious as America today.”

Bethlehem, nativity scenes & the birth of Jesus: Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn

“What actually did a stable look like in the time of Christ?”

Church shopping: ‘It Meets My Needs’ and Other Bad Reasons for Choosing a Church

“If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice.”

God, love, punishment & suffering: Did God Love the Egyptians?

“Did God love the Egyptians when he struck Egypt with plagues? In the larger biblical narrative, the answer is obviously yes. The prophet Isaiah later prophesies about judgments on Egypt (Isa 19:1-17, 22; akin to judgments he also prophesies against Israel); as a result, Egyptians will turn to God and they will become part of God’s people alongside Israel (19:18-25). In the law of Moses, Israelites are forbidden to despise Egyptians, because Israel’s ancestors found refuge in Egypt (Deut 23:7).”

Judging: Fellowship & Judgment

“‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Luke 6:37) These instructions are more specific iterations of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), if you think about it.”

links: this went thru my mind

-

Church & kingdom: Raising Stones at the Gateway of Heaven: The Kingdom of God as Event

“Kingdom of God is an event rather than an organization. Some time ago I described the relationship between the Kingdom and the church this way …”

Church dropouts, twenties & young adults: The Real Reasons Young Adults Drop Out of Church

“Young adults drop out of church because their faith isn’t their own.”

Eternal punishment, God’s character & hell: Hell & Eternal Punishment?

“How are we consistently to conceive of a God who loves and died for every human who ever existed preserving their existence forever for no other purpose than perpetual torment? Further, how are we to understand the redeemed enjoying untainted bliss in heaven if alongside of this kingdom billions of people and fallen angels will be experiencing excruciating, unending anguish? The problem is exceedingly difficult and extremely important.”

Fish, fishing & the Sea of Galilee: Fish of the Sea of Galilee

“… there are 18 species of indigenous fish in the Sea of Galilee, and that 10 of those are important commercially.”

God & the Old Testament: 10 Old Testament Passages That Shape How I Think About God [required reading]

“God is not impressed with what we call success but with what is deep within us, perhaps even deeper than we ourselves can see.”

Happiness, joy, politics & suffering: * What is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness? [required reading]; * The Political Significance of Joy [a 20 min. video of an interview of N.T. Wright by Miroslav Volf]

* “or the most part, segments of our life, often entire chunks of it, aren’t going well and much of it we don’t live well. Given that joy attaches to life going well and being led well, must joy be lost to us? It need not be. We can rejoice over the many small goods we experience, and for those of us who are religious, we can find joy in the One Good that is both the source and the goal of our existence. Though fragmentary, all small joys celebrate goods in our lives that are and remain wonderful, at times no more than tender plants in the cracks of our otherwise heavily cemented and gray lives. And in all true joys we yearn for, and perhaps also faintly experience, a world in which all things and all manner of things shall be well.”

* “… the suffering is a badge of the fact that we’re sharing the Messianic sufferings of Jesus. … suffering is hope-full.”

links: this went thru my mind

Christian faith, ISIS, nonviolence, violence & war: A Christian Response to ISIS [essential reading]

“…  as Christians, we should be more concerned about faithfulness not effectiveness; we need to take our marching orders from the King of Kings and Prince of Peace, and we should not be blinded to think that a destruction of our enemies through violence will actually conquer evil. And I’m certainly glad that Jesus didn’t destroy me—even though I was His enemy.”

Faith, extra-terrestrial life & religion: Are the World’s Religions Ready for E.T.?

“In 1930, Albert Einstein was … asked whether science and religion conflict. ‘Not really, though it depends, of course, on your religious views.'”

God, pain & suffering: Is Suffering Part of God’s Secret Plan?

“…  in light of God’s revelation in Christ, our assumption should be that their suffering is something we should oppose in the name of God rather than accepting it as coming from God. Hence, the only relevant question disciples of Jesus should consider is, What can we do to bring God’s redemptive will into the situation, to alleviate suffering and to glorify God? How can we respond in such a way that God’s will is further accomplished ‘on earth as it is in heaven’? Instead of asking ‘Who sinned?’ we should ask, ‘How can we bring glory to God in this situation?’ (John 9:1-3).”

Koch Industries, politics & pollution: * Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire; * Response to Rolling Stone Story; * Koch Industries Responds to Rolling Stone – And We Answer Back

“The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they’ve cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House.”

Parenting, privacy, social media, social networking & youth: 5 Social Networks You Don’t Know the Kids are Using

“The ones I’m going to talk about are ones the kids in your life probably know. However, they aren’t that kid-friendly, which means you need to know about them, too. You especially need to know the last one because you don’t want kids using it at all.”