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.

LIFE group guide: our declaration of dependence

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (July 6) 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 declare and underscore our complete dependence on God, the only true Power.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. … The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 28.8; 29.11 NIV)

•  No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and  our shield. (Psalm 33.16-20 NIV)

•  The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21.1 NRSV)

•  I am the vine, you are the branches. … apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15.5 NRSV)

•  From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. (Acts 17.26-27a CEB)

•  … it doesn’t depend on a person’s desire or effort. It depends entirely on God, who shows mercy. (Romans 9.16 CEB)

•  … let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. … the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. … Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (Galatians 5.16a,22-23a,25 NLT)

•  … through your faith, God is protecting you by his power … (1 Peter 1.5 NLT)

Relation

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

1. At what age would you say you became independent of your parents? Where were you in life?

2. Tell us of an instance in which you became keenly aware of your total dependence on God.

Research

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

1. As a group, read Ps. 23 aloud. For what does this psalm’s author sense his God-dependence?

2. Categorize each of the texts above as to what each specifies we’re dependent on God for.

Reflection

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

1. How does a gathering of believers (e.g. a LIFE group or church) express dependence on God?

2. If a person seeks to live totally dependent on God what will they not do?

3. How is prayer tied to our dependence on God? Humility? Faith?

4. What steps can a person take to mature their awareness of dependence on God? A church?

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. Itemize specifics in which you sense your God-dependence. Study the list for what’s missing.

2. Methodically pray through the Psalms of Ascent (Ps. 120-134) with your mind on dependency.

devoted: wash your hands

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Nov. 25. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: Wash Your Hands. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scriptures quotations listed below, unless otherwise noted, are from the Common English Bible (CEB).

Aim

To consider what it means to devote our hands to God.

Word

• Make a copper basin for washing along with its copper stand. Put it between the meeting tent and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons will use it to wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the meeting tent or approach the altar to minister … they must wash … their hands and their feet so that they don’t die. (Exodus 30.17-21 CEB)

• Who can ascend the Lord’s mountain? Who can stand in his holy sanctuary? Only the one with clean hands and a pure heart; the one who hasn’t made false promises, the one who hasn’t sworn dishonestly. That kind of person receives blessings from the Lord and righteousness from the God who saves. (Psalm 24.3-5 CEB)

• Let the kindness of the Lord our God be over us. Make the work of our hands last. Make the work of our hands last! (Psalm 90.17 CEB)

• We carried the weapons of righteousness in our right hand and our left hand. (2 Cor. 6.7 CEB)

• Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need. (Eph. 4.28 CEB)

• I want men to pray everywhere by lifting up hands that are holy, without anger or argument. (1 Tim. 2.8 CEB)

• Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4.8 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Make a list of phrases that include the word “hand” (e.g. – a helping hand, a hand out, etc.).

2. Who has the largest hands? Smallest? Roughest? Smoothest? Right-handed? Left-handed?

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Read the context of 2 Cor. 6.7 (vs. 3-10). What moral goals or principles do you see here?

2. Given the words of Eph. 4.28, what is the purpose of the work of our hands?

Reflect

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

1. What do you tend to do with your hands when you pray?

2. What is your “right hand” of strength? That is, with what are you spiritually gifted?

3. Our hands express our desires and will. What do your hands say about you to others?

4. Tell us of some people you perceive as being “at your right hand;” people you lean on.

5. Have you ever been consecrated or appointed to a special task, having had the hands of others laid on you, designating you as commissioned for such work? Tell us about it.

6. What work of your hands do you hope most will endure after you’re gone? Why?

Psalms: prayers of the heart (3)

 

Why do the nations rant?
Why do the peoples rave uselessly?
The earth’s rulers take their stand;
the leaders scheme together
against the LORD and
against his anointed one.
“Come!” they say.
“We will tear off their ropes
and throw off their chains!”

The one who rules in heaven laughs;
my Lord makes fun of them.
But then God speaks to them angrily;
then he terrifies them with his fury:
“I hereby appoint my king on Zion,
my holy mountain!”

I will announce the LORD’s decision:
He said to me, “You are my son,
today I have become your father.
Just ask me,
and I will make the nations
your possession;
the far corners of the earth
will be your property.
You will smash them with an iron rod;
you will shatter them like a pottery jar.”

So kings, wise up!
Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
Serve the LORD reverently—
trembling, kiss his feet
or else he will become angry,
and your way will be destroyed
because his anger ignites in an instant.

But all who take refuge in the LORD
are truly happy! (Psalm 2 CEB)

Who makes this world go round?

The unstable trying to go nuclear? People marching in the streets? Economists who advise? Super-rich who influence? Politicians who make deals? Criminals who corrupt entire nations? The indifferent who sludge up the whole system?

Listen to the news and you might come away with the thought that one, or all of the above, are the real powers in this world.

What is the source of true Christian strength?

A favorable culture? A similar society? A stockpile of cash? Deep resources? Great visibility? The right person in office?

Listen to the church at times and you might get the impression that she believes these factors are supreme.

Not so.

God makes this world go round. And we dare not forget it.

True happiness and real peace will never come when it’s sought for as an end in itself. The church has nothing to fear when it stays on its knees worshiping the living God. So let come what may and let God ever be our joy and refuge.

So be it.

a people possessed

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church‘s LIFE groups tomorrow night. This discussion guide works the same subjects and primary texts as the Sunday morning sermon. You’ll find these guides categorized each week under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

To raise our awareness and increase our sensitivity to the fact that as a community of faith, the church is a people possessed by God and that that fact should be obvious to all of the church and to the entire world.

Scripture

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who 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.” (1 Peter 2:9 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are intended to get all of us talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. What is something you have owned that you had a special affinity for; perhaps to the point of being unwilling for others to use it or even touch it?

2. What are some truly “peculiar” or “special” ways (i.e. – as in “Oh, that’s just messed up!”) that you’ve seen Christians or churches come to be known for?

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture text.

1. Compare the various translations of 1 Peter 2:9 in the Bible versions represented in your group. How else is the fourth phrase of the first sentence translated aside from “… a people who are God’s own possession …” (CEB)? For example, the KJV used the phrase “a peculiar people.”

2. How do the first four phrases of 1 Peter 2:9 relate to each other (i.e. – chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and people belonging to God)?

3. According to 1 Peter 2:9b, what is the express purpose of our being people who belong to God? How do we live out that purpose?

4. According to 1 John 4:8-12, what odd thing grows out of people who love God?

Reflect

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

1. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “peculiar” or “special?”

2. A.W. Tozer once said Christians today tend to be “too much at home in the world.” After reflecting on that statement, would you say you agree or disagree? Why?

3. Recall the quote from the beginning of this morning’s sermon. Does the church today look to you the way it did to the author of the fifth chapter of the Letter to Diognetus? Why or why not?

4. Are there particular people who come to your mind as exemplary demonstrations of being “possessed by God?” What in their life says such to you and what does that do for you and your faith?

5. How have your earliest experiences with life in the church – regardless of whether or not those experiences were “healthy” – shaped your view of Christian community?

6. As a group, brainstorm a list of what happens when God’s people are not much different from the world in terms of beliefs and behavior.

7. Which is more challenging for you as a Christian to grasp, the concept of Christ as our model (pattern) for living or Christ as our means (power) of living? Explain.

8. What will you commit to doing this week to become more intentional and deliberate about belonging to God, for the sake of Christ’s church, for the benefit of all who are yet to believe, for your own benefit in terms of spiritual growth, but most of all simply to declare praise to God?