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.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Capitalism, economy, income inequality & politics: Inequality Is Not Inevitable

“Our current brand of capitalism is an ersatz capitalism.”

Faith: The Ridiculous World of Sheer Faith

“What is it that allows men and women and children to dare to tackle the unthinkable, the impossible, the unimaginable and encounter successful results? Faith is it.”

Fireworks & photography: 4th of July: Step by Step How to Photograph Fireworks Tonight

“There are four main categories of guidelines to understand in order to take fireworks photos that aren’t all black or out of focus.”

Independence Day, nationalism, patriotism and the United States: * Lighten Up: America is Not the Kingdom of God; * God Does Not Love America [essential reading]

* “And now for one of the most ridiculous examples of confusing the Kingdom of God with America.”

* “God does not love America. He loves the people of America.”

Predestination: Predestination: What Does It Mean?

“From the start God’s heart was set on humanity being incorporated ‘in Christ.’ God committed himself to making sure – predestining – that all who would be in Christ would be called, made holy and blameless, justified, and eventually ‘conformed to the image of Christ’ (cf. Rom. 8:29-30). But God didn’t predetermine which individuals would and would not belong to this ‘in-Christ’ class of people. God wants everybody to be in Christ and Jesus died for everybody to end up being in him (Jn 2:2). But since God is not a coercive God, and since love must necessarily be chosen, people have the ability to resist God’s will and the pulling of the Spirit, if they so choose.”

LIFE group guide: baptism’s four compass points

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 22) 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 note the company that baptism keeps, giving it meaning, as related by the authors of the Four Gospels.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  … Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20 NRSV)

•  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (Mark 16.15-16 NLT)

•  He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. … Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. (Luke  24.46-47; Acts 2.38; 3.19 CEB)

•  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.5-8 NIV)

Relation

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

1. Tell us about your experience in the use of a compass. Did one ever help you get “un-lost?”

2. Tell us about someone’s baptism that was especially meaningful to you or deeply moved you.

Research

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

1. How is it the rest of Matthew 28.18-20 flows into, and out of, the “due north” word “disciple?”

2. Mark 16.9-20 was likely not a part of Mark’s original Gospel, but is, nonetheless, ancient teaching. In several different English translations, note the explanatory footnotes of this text.

3. What words in the four sets of texts above stress how baptism is for all people, everywhere?

Reflection

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

1. “Baptism is meant to be part of the beginning, not the end, of becoming a Christian?” How so?

2. What does it mean to be a “disciple?” Why do we tend to use the word “Christian” instead?

3.  One person says baptism is a matter of immediacy and urgency. Another says it’s not to be rushed into, but must be approached with premeditation and preparation. Weigh in, allowing the four sets of texts above to determine and shape your perspective.

4. Which of the four main thoughts concerning baptism above is easiest for you to grasp? Most challenging? Most comforting? Why?

5. When is a person truly “ready” for baptism? When are they not ready?

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. Are you ready right now to learn of Christ, lean on Christ, line up with Christ, and live by his Spirit? Well then, decide to be baptized into Christ today.

2. Compose a prayer that centers on how you will live out the meaning of your baptism.

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 ___.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church decline, Churches of Christ & mission: Future Church

“… I want to talk about the way forward … at least where it begins because I don’t believe in waiting around for the bells to finally toll.”

Discipleship & Jesus: What If Jesus Was Serious?

“What if Jesus was serious when he said: Love and pray for your enemies, do not judge others, give to the poor, and don’t worry about your life?”

Gospel: The Gospel: Far More Than a Key to the Front Door

“… the gospel isn’t something we need only to become a Christian.”

Legalism: Legalism: Old and New Perspectives [essential reading]

“Legalism is any practice or belief that is added to the gospel that compromises the sufficiency of Christ as Savior and jeopardizes the adequacy of the Spirit in moral guidance. Secondarily, then, legalism demands that one adopt a group’s special markers in order to be fully acceptable to God.”

Mental health & religion: Religion is a Powerful Resource for Good in Mental Health

“Dr. Harold Koenig is one of the world’s most prolific scientists in psychiatry and medicine. … Within the period of 1878 to 2010, he found over 3,000 empirical studies in the literature across these three centuries. Amazingly, nearly 2,000 of them have been published in the last decade—from 2000 to 2010, pointing to a significant interest in the mental health field about the role of spirituality in health. Koenig found that nearly 75%—three cases of every four—showed a positive relationship between spirituality and physical or mental health. A deep and active faith, in other words, translates to robust health, good mental health, and a long and satisfying life.”

Ministry: Losing a Game We Deny We are Playing

“One result of the toxic brew of Kingdom and American values in our churches is a high degree of confusion and anger among ministers. Many are profoundly worried there is something wrong with themselves while they long for the kind of affirmation they know to be bad for them.”

Morale, productivity, respect & trust: Want Productive Employees? Treat Them Like Adults

“Distrust begets distrust in return. It kills motivation rather than sparking it. Treat employees like children and you increase the odds they’ll act like children. You reap what you sow — for better and for worse.”

Poverty & taxes: In the South and West, a Tax on Being Poor

“When it comes to state and local taxation, we are not one nation under God. In 2008, the difference between a working mother in Mississippi and one in Vermont — each with two dependent children, poverty-level wages and identical spending patterns — was $2,300. … These regional disparities go back to Reconstruction …”

this went thru my mind

 

Aging & scams: Why It’s Easier To Scam The Elderly by Patti Neighmond

“The older adults rated the trustworthy faces and the neutral faces exactly the same as the younger adults did, but when it got to the cues of untrustworthiness they didn’t process those cues as well,” she says. “They rated those people as much more trustworthy than the younger adults did. In a small follow-up study using brain imaging, Taylor’s findings suggest older adults may have less activity in the very area of the brain that processes risk and subtle danger.”

Archaeology & ancient peoples: Did Moses Know the Alphabet? Was There Writing in Ancient Israel? A Lecture with Dr. Alan Millard at Lanier Theological Library [55 min. video; there’s a great, brief bit of humor regarding graffiti from 16:54-17:18]

“… there is the question of how early in their history the Israelites could write their records, rather than relying on oral tradition. This lecture will explain how discoveries in the Holy Land are helping to answer these questions and consider if it matters whether Moses could write, or not.”

Bethlehem: Bethlehem: Then & Now by Mitrib Raheb

“At the time of Jesus, Bethlehem was a little town of 300-1,000 inhabitants. What people might not know is that the city of Bethlehem today is not in Israel but in Palestine, and that it is a bustling city with 28,000 people. One third of them are Palestinian Christians.”

Culture, ethics & trust: Gallup’s Ethics by Profession by Ed Stetzer

“Gallup releases their listing of professions and the public’s perception of their ethics. Sadly, “clergy” are about in the middle of the pack. But, be thankful you are not a car salesman.”

Loving your enemies: Can Israel Love Its Enemies in Gaza and Keep Its People Safe? by Morgan Guyton

“Many of my fellow Christians see Jesus’ command to “love our enemies” as an impossible moral standard that we are exempted from fulfilling by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. What’s even more ludicrous to many is to claim that Jesus’ teachings are relevant not only in private life but in the most complex geopolitical situations. I am convinced that loving your enemies is not only a moral standard but could be a very successful foreign policy strategy, even though it gets laughed out of the room by the same people who claim to advocate “Biblical” values in our government. What would loving your enemies look like in the greatest foreign policy crisis in the world now? What would it look like for Israel to love Gaza?”

Poverty: Poverty Pictured by Larry James

“Mental … spiritual … social … physical.”