The Hero's Journey (part 6): Bringing It Home

Like we said last week, the arrival of summer signals a change in our small group format. From now until school starts back in August we won’t be providing small group discussion questions. We do, however, encourage you to keep meeting and deepening relationships.

If your group is NEW, we encourage you to continue meeting weekly and engaging through discussion. Contact Dan Burgess at dburgess@rrcoc.org for resources.

If your group is SEASONED, you are encouraged to pursue whatever you think is the best path for your group (though we’d definitely encourage you to meet). You might study a book together, use video curriculum or simply use the summer as an opportunity to grow closer through fun and fellowship.

Whether your group is NEW or SEASONED, we ask that all group leaders would contact Dan to discuss their plans. Thanks so much!

 

TO START

Have you ever come home after a long time away? How did it feel? What was good? What was weird? Did home feel different now that you were different? Explain.

 

TO DISCUSS

We said this week that the last step in the hero’s journey (and the final phase of our transformation) is to return home having been changed. We said, when a character returns, they inhabit their familiar world with a new energy, perspective, awareness, confidence, gravity, or joy.

Can you think of any examples of this in your favorite stories? What do those epic homecoming moments look like?

Justin said on Sunday, “All of Christian behavior is living into our identity as people resurrected by Christ and living in him. It’s being people who have been changed as a result of the journey they’ve been on.”

Do you feel like you’ve been changed by your journey with Christ? How so? What’s different about you today as compared to twenty years ago? Two years ago? Last month?

  • What do you think are the biggest changes God’s brought about in your heart and behavior?

Because we come home at the end of our journey, our transformation affects more than just ourselves. Is your transformation changing your relationships at all? Is it making you feel more comfortable at “home” or less comfortable? Have the people around you noticed a change?

  • What can you do to allow the positive change happening inside you to glorify God?

  • What does it look like (practically speaking) to allow our light to shine in places where we were previously dark? Give examples.

We ended this series with the call to be who we are. After the long journey of becoming the person God made us to be, how terrible would it be to shrink back from our destiny and new identity? What does it look like to be the person God’s making you into? Personally, what do you feel like God’s calling you to do or not do? Share an example of something you’re striving to step into right now.

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Luke 8:26-39.

  • What was the change that happened in the man they called “Legion”?

  • What did Jesus tell him to do when he begged to follow Jesus to the next town?

  • Why do you think Jesus wanted him to go home?

  • Imagine someone from your town became possessed with 1,000 demons and you witnessed it happen. How would you react to that? Then, what if they returned entirely cured? What would your reaction be? What would you want to know?

 

TO PRAY

This week pray Colossians 3:1-17, turning commands into requests. Try something like this:

God, our Father,

Since we have been raised with Christ, set our hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at your right hand. Set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. For we have died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in You. When Christ, who is our  life, appears, let us also appear with Him in glory.

God, empower us to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

We used to walk in these ways, in the life we once lived. But now help us rid ourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. By your Spirit, we vow not lie to each other, because we have taken off our old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in Your image, Creator God.

God, we are Your holy people, dearly loved by You. Clothe us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Enable us to bear with each other and forgive one another, to forgive as You forgive us. Wrap us in love and bind us all together in perfect unity.

Let Your peace rule in our hearts, since as members of one body we are called to peace.

Thank you God. Empower us to thank you more.

Let Your message dwell among us richly.

In Jesus’ powerful name we pray, amen.

The Hero's Journey (part 5): The Cost of Discipleship

Like we said last week, the arrival of summer signals a change in our small group format. Beginning June 4th and running until school starts back in August we won’t be providing small group discussion questions. We do, however, encourage you to keep meeting and deepening relationships.

If your group is NEW, we encourage you to continue meeting weekly and engaging through discussion. Contact Dan Burgess at dburgess@rrcoc.org for resources.

If your group is SEASONED, you are encouraged to pursue whatever you think is the best path for your group (though we’d definitely encourage you to meet). You might study a book together, use video curriculum or simply use the summer as an opportunity to grow closer through fun and fellowship.

Whether your group is NEW or SEASONED, we ask that all group leaders would contact Dan to discuss their plans. Thanks so much!

 

TO START

What is the most expensive thing (besides a car or house) you’ve ever purchased? If you don’t want to share that, think of the first legitimately expensive thing you ever bought. How did you feel about it? Was it worth the sacrifice?

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, summarizing the hero’s journey, “You don’t start where you end. You don’t end where you start.” Does that truth give you hope or make you nervous? Or both. Share how you feel about the inevitability of the journey.

There comes a time in most stories when the character is confronted with the reality that gaining what they want most will require them to sacrifice something dear.

  • Think of a moment in a movie or book you love when the hero is called to give up everything for the sake of the thing she most wants. Share with the group.

  • As you’ve followed Jesus He’s repeatedly asked you to give things up. What’s been one of the hardest things you’ve sacrificed in following Christ and taking up your cross?

What kinds of things might God call us to sacrifice? Make a list together. Include the things you’ve already shared as personal examples.

Sometimes the things God calls us to sacrifice are very, very important to us (our lives, for example). Are you afraid of what God might call you to give up in following Him? If so, share a little about that. What in particular are you afraid of? How might you conquer that fear? What do you need to know, what do you need to see more clearly, and what do you need to do to get over your fear?

Because following where God leads will definitely take you further than you “want” to go, what do you do with the tension between your priorities and God’s priorities? Where are your priorities different than God’s? Give specific examples. How can we better align our priorities with God’s priorities?

On Sunday Justin paraphrased Jesus’ words to his disciples, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,” this way:

You’re going to be so concerned with getting the most out of life--and so you’re going to work more than you should and keep as much as you can so that you have as much money as you want. And you’re going to sleep with whoever you want so that you enjoy as much pleasure as you want. And you’re going to lie so that you don’t get into trouble; And you’re going to be selfish with your spouse because you want to make sure that you get taken care of; And you’re going to compromise your morals so that you fit in and people like you.

And the whole time, you’re going to be doing it to “save your life”--to get the most out of life...and it’s going to be such a cruel irony: that very effort is going to produce the opposite of what you want. You’ll end up losing your life--missing out (now and later) on the best.

  • Did this touch you or convict you or move you in any way? Share.
  • Do you think you’re doing this, sacrificing the reward to come (and the reward offered here on earth) on the altar of your desires and urges? Are you losing your life trying to save it? Take this opportunity to reach out to your group for help.

Though it will cost you everything to follow Christ, following Christ pays more than it costs. Make a list of the rewards of following Jesus.

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Deuteronomy chapter 34.

  • What must it have been like to be Moses? As he was about to die, what do you think went through his head? What scenes from his life played on the movie screen of his closed eyelids?

  • What did Moses give up to obey God? Think through everything God called him to sacrifice.

  • Do you think it was worth it?

 

TO PRAY

Things to pray for:

  • What you’ll do as a group this summer, that it would be a blessing to you and would draw you closer to one another and to God.

  • About your willingness to give up everything. Ask God to grow trust in you. Ask Him to make you a willing living sacrifice. You might also pray through your fears, sking God to lift them, naming them.

  • Thanksgiving for the many ways God gives us life when we’re willing to give up our lives. Refer to the list you made earlier in the discussion.

The Hero's Journey (part 4): Finally Found

TO START

Summer is coming soon! As we do not provide summer curriculum for small groups, you’ll need to begin to think about what you’d prefer to do together this summer. Next week we’ll offer you some suggestions, but this week we’d simply like to encourage you to keep meeting. Changing up what you normally do is a great idea. Parting ways for three months--not so much. Take some time tonight to look at one another’s summer schedules and figure out a way to prioritize group.

 

TO DISCUSS

Have you ever wanted something, worked to get it, and discovered when you received it that it wasn’t what you really needed (or needed most)? Share any examples that spring to mind.

Why did you originally turn to God? What would you say was the reason you were baptized? Take a minute and have each member think back to their baptism and share.

  • As a group leader, be sure to validate those reasons. Just because there’s more to life in Christ than we realized, doesn’t make what we wanted back then small or insignificant.

Now that you’ve been a Christian for a while, have you discovered more than you anticipated? What are the treasures of life with God that you didn’t know you’d receive back when you first signed on?

Do you feel like you have a “relationship” with God? What does that relationship involve? What’s so good about it?

  • If you don’t feel like you have a relationship, what do you think you’re missing and why do you think you’re missing it?

  • What does it really mean to be in a relationship with God?

Paul says in Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

  • What does it mean to “know” Jesus? Offer specific examples.

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read John 1:35-51

  • What were Andrew and Nathanael looking for? Did they find it?

  • What didn’t they realize they would find in finding Jesus?

  • Consider what you know about where Jesus led Andrew and Nathanael (the journey they would take with him as His apostles). What “treasures” are Andrew and Nathanael still to discover? What do they have wrong about what they’re looking for? What will they realize later about what they really need?

 

TO PRAY

This week ask God to open your eyes to the full measure of the gift of life in Christ and thank Him for the gifts you’ve discovered. You might each offer one reason you’re thankful to love and be loved by God.

You might also pray for people you know who’re seeking God and still need to find Him.

 

THE HERO’S JOURNEY (part 3): Refined

TO START

Think back to high school. If someone made a hero’s journey movie about your time in high school, what one scene would best represent the hardship or suffering that made you the person you became by the end of senior year.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we talked about “the road of trials,” arguing that hardship is one of the most effective ways to help a hero become who she’s supposed to become.

What do you think about this sentence Justin shared on Sunday: “God likes suffering”?

  • How does that make you feel?

  • Is it true? In what way might it be true?

  • Why might God like suffering?

  • Have you ever seen God use suffering to transform a person? Share what you observed.

  • Has God used suffering to shape you? Give an example.

Read the following passages about suffering:

James 1:2-4,

Hebrews 12:7-12

  • What does God intend to do to us in hardship and suffering?

  • How does viewing hardship through this lens change the way you approach/endure it?

Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

  • Have you ever been hurt by another person and watched God use that hurt/offense to make you better? Share.

Knowing what we know about hardship, why do you think we so often avoid suffering? What would it look like to embrace suffering?

In addition to hardship, another way God transforms us on the “road of trials” is through a mentor or guide. Consider your favorite hero stories and make a list of mentors or guides (if you’re struggling consider these stories to get you started: Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Star Wars, Moana or watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_NgqiCECIg).

  • What is the purpose of the mentor or guide?

  • Does the hero usually embrace the mentor or guide immediately?

What mentors or guides has God used to grow or shape you? Who were they? How did they influence you? Did you want their help from the start? What caused you to embrace what they had to show you?

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Genesis 16:1-15

  • Who, in this story, is walking “the road of trials”?
  • What exactly does she have to endure?
  • What good seems to come out of this hardship?
  • Who perpetrates the evil against Hagar? Is that hard to understand? What does this chapter reveal about what it means to be human? Think about that through Hagar’s eyes, Sarah’s eyes and Abraham’s.

 

TO PRAY

Because suffering is a big part of our journey, you can be sure that your group members are going through some tough stuff. Tonight, share the difficult things you’re up against right now and pray that God would equip, empower and shape you in the midst of it.

 

TO WATCH

Watch this compilation video of “road of trials” moments:

 

  • What do all these moments have in common?

  • What are you fighting these days? Where are you encountering opposition?

  • How might God use that to shape you?

Lots of movies about heroes in the making include a training montage. Watch this one from the movie Rocky 2:

  • What might be in your training montage?

The Hero's Journey (part 2): Crossing the Threshold

TO START

What’s your favorite movie “threshold moment” (a moment when a character must finally make a choice to go down a path or step through a doorway, probably one that seems scary or mysterious)? Consider the movie clips Dan showed on Sunday and add your own to the list.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we talked about threshold moments. What is a threshold? How do you know when you’re in a threshold moment? List a few threshold moments common to most people.

Generally speaking, what kinds of adventures does God call us into? What specific fears might prevent us from going?

Think of moments in your own life when you felt like you were being called to set out on a holy adventure. Share with the group. (You might have each person write down one moment when God presented them with an opportunity to set out on a journey. Then, have each person answer the questions below on their paper before sharing their responses with the group.)

  • What made you feel compelled? Was it a person? A book? An experience? A tension or problem?

  • How did you decide to go?

  • What barriers stood in your way?

  • What influences helped affirm your decision? Were you met with support and encouragement or ridicule and criticism?

Do you struggle with fear? Do you feel like fear sometimes keeps you from the adventures God has for you? If so, share with the group.

What can we do to overcome fear? What does God tell us about fear?

Share a time when it would have been more dangerous to stay where you were than to strike out on a journey? Did you know that at the time or only from hindsight?

Have you ever ignored a call to go by resolving to stay in your situation? How did that play out?

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Joshua 1:1-9 and 3:7-17.

  • For whom is this story a threshold moment?

  • What is the call to adventure? Who issues it? Who responds?

  • What does God indicate could stand in the way of Joshua answering the call?

  • How does God respond to Joshua’s bravery?

 

TO PRAY

This week, pray your fears. Have each group member share one fear that’s standing in between them and doing what God’s calling them to do. Pray God would make them brave.

 

TO WATCH

Here are a few more Crossing the Threshold scenes from movies to get you inspired:

True Grit

Lord of The Rings

Frozen

The Hero's Journey (part 1): How It Begins

TO START

This week we said classic stories begin with a character who’s in a zone of comfort, but they want something.

  • Make a list of movies that start this way. If your group isn’t a big movie-watching crew, make a list of books.

 

TO DISCUSS

If you happened to hear the sermon this Sunday, how did it strike you? Does this hero’s journey framework seem interesting, confusing, exciting, compelling or weird? Share.

Would you say you’re in a zone of comfort right now? Is it possible God wants to lead you out?

What more, better or different are you desiring lately? Share with your small group to check and see if your desires are holy and provoked by God or perhaps unholy and simply discontent.

Donald Miller writes in his book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years,

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”

● Is it possible the things you want aren’t big enough things? What wants are too small to make a good story? What wants make great, holy stories?

Without Jesus, you are not what you were made to be, and only He can help you become that. Do you feel like you’re not what you were made to be? Do Paul’s words in Romans 7 resonate with you ("I do not do what I want to do but what I do not want that I do")?

  • Share one way with your group. Offer up an area in which you desire growth and could use some accountability.

Justin said on Sunday that for most of us, when we realize we want something more or better or different, we either...

  1. Try Harder OR

  2. Rationalize our behavior and shift the categories (meaning, we just decide we’re

    already what we want to be by measuring ourselves against a less strict or

    ambitious standard)

Have you done either of those things when you started to feel stirred toward disrupting the status quo?

Have you ever ignored God’s call to adventure? Give an example and share how that went.

We said on Sunday that the hero’s journey begins with a character who wants something and eventually the want reaches an apex and leads to a moment of disruption.

● Have you ever experienced a moment of holy disruption? When have you seen your life upended in a way that led you on transformative journey?

We said Sunday that God’s goal for you is that you would be transformed. Does that make you nervous or excited? Explain. Do you want to be transformed? Do you want it enough to do something dramatic to get it?

● Share something you want that you’re not willing to sacrifice for (maybe to be a good piano player, to retire early, or to lose weight).

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’ll look at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Acts 9:1-9.

  • Who is the person experiencing a call to adventure and a disruption of the status quo?

  • What was Paul’s zone of comfort before Jesus disrupted him?

  • Do you relate to Paul’s story at all? If so, share how so.

 

TO PRAY

Earlier in the discussion group members shared their holy wants and the ways in which they desire more, better or different. Pray over these desires. Take them to God and ask Him to accomplish them. Ask for strength for the journey and, if necessary, a holy disruption. Go one by one through your group, praying for one person at a time.

 

TO WATCH

Check out this easy, entertaining summary of the story structure of “the Hero’s Journey.” It’s animated! :)
https://youtu.be/Hhk4N9A0oCA

You can also check out this compilation of Disney “I want songs”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa23K79spt8 

EASTER: Hope Rises

TO START

Share how you chose to celebrate Easter. You might share three delightful blessings from the day. If Easter was hard for you, share why it was. What were you struggling with?

Is Easter a big holiday for your family or is it kind of a minor holiday? Do you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not so much? What Easter traditions do you have?
 

TO DISCUSS

Hope is “confidence that what will be is better than what has been.”

  • Does hope come easily to you? Or do you have to work at it? Why do you think that is?
  • What can we do to intentionally grow/strengthen our hope? Give practical examples, action items.

Flannery O’Connor writes in Mystery and Manners, ”Those without hope don't take long looks at anything, because they haven't the courage.”

  • What does that mean?
  • Have you ever avoided really taking a long look at some part of your life because of a lack of hope? Did you know it was a lack of hope in the moment or have you only realized that in hindsight?

What does Christ’s resurrection mean to you? Why is Christ rising from the dead a big deal?

On Sunday Justin said,

“My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep investing, because there’s hope for broken relationships. My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep trying, because there’s hope of the parts of me still bound by sin. My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep encouraging, because there’s hope for wounded children. My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep following him and trusting him, because there’s a time coming when I won’t be sinful or exhausted or sick or weak or dying anymore.”

  • What hard thing are you dealing with that requires hope?
  • Give an example of a time hope helped you get through something you couldn’t have endured without it.
     

TO READ

This week let’s read some delicious and delightful Heaven promises from Revelation 21:1-5 and Revelation 22:1-5.

  • What do we know about Heaven from these two descriptions?
  • What will definitely be in Heaven?
  • What will definitely NOT be in Heaven?
  • How does this picture of Heaven make you feel?
     

TO PRAY

This week, pray for the hopeless. Who needs hope and doesn’t have it? Pray for them. Pray, too, for those of us who should have unshakeable hope but sometimes don’t. Pray that our hope would be strengthened.

If you have group members going through very trying seasons, be sure to pray that they would persevere in hope.
 

TO SING

Want to sing together this week? People with hope are singing people. You might look up some favorite old school Heaven songs and have a sing-a-long.

If you’d rather learn some new songs, here are two that reinforce Sunday’s message:

Feast People (part 3): Celebration 101

TO START

How many times do you think the word “celebrate” appears in the NIV Bible? Have everyone guess. Closest to the correct answer wins a prize. (You’ll need a prize!)

The answer is (48+30-10)+68) divided by 2  (just in case you wanted to guess too, we figured we wouldn’t make the answer flagrant).

Have you ever attended a really great party? Tell your group about it. What made it so great?

How’s your feast planning coming? Discuss what you’re planning.

 

DISCUSSION

What did you learn about Passover during this week’s sermon? What is it? Why did Israel celebrate it? What were some of the ways they celebrated it? What did that celebration teach Israel about God? Why/how might it have been effective at shaping them into holier, more God-like people?

How might it be helpful to know communion first occurred in the context Passover? What do the two feasts have in common? Where does the story of communion overlap with the story of Passover?

What are we “celebrating” at the communion meal? Personally and corporately?

This Sunday we asked, if we’re to be Feast People who cultivate joy by gathering regularly to celebrate the work and blessing of God, what does that look like and what are some ways can we do it on purpose?

  • What kinds of things can we celebrate? Make as long a list as you can.

  • Now go back over your list of reasons to celebrate and imagine how you might celebrate each of those things in a practical way.

 

SCRIPTURE

Read 2 Chronicles 5:2-6; 11-14; 7:1-10 (You might also skim Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6)

This passage describes one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) celebrations in Israel’s history.

  • What are they celebrating?

  • How are they celebrating?

  • Use some adjectives to describe this event. Can you imagine doing something like this today to celebrate some good thing the Lord has done? Why or why not?

 

PRAYER

This week ask God to open your eyes to things that should be celebrated. Perhaps you might also do a round of “Look what God’s done! We love it! Thank you, God!” having each member share one “look what God’s done!” and the group responding in prayer with “We love it! Thank you God!”

 

FOR FUN

Watch this video to remind you of all you have to celebrate in light of God’s identity as giver of good gifts (ignore the Christmas theme): http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=19C1CJNU

  • You might encourage your group to text one another throughout the week with “over the top” exclamations at what God’s done. :)

Feast People (part 2): Ode to Joy

TO START

Describe a strong person. What do they look like? How do they act? What do they wear? You might have everyone draw and label a picture of a person who’s strong.

  • What makes this person strong? Write a list of things that contribute to this person’s strength.
  • If you hadn’t heard this week’s lesson would joy have been on your list? Does the person you drew (or described) look or seem joyful? If not, why do you think that is?

 

DISCUSSION

Last week we began a discussion of celebration as a spiritual discipline. Just to be clear, which kinds of parties are NOT spiritual exercises?

The kinds of parties and celebrations that “count” as spiritually filling, challenging, and shaping are celebrations of Who God is and what He’s done. They fundamentally glorify God. (Other parties are fun and totally worth doing, but not what we’re talking about in this series.)

What characterizes the kinds of celebrations we find in the Bible? What are they like? What do people do?

This week our sermon was rooted in Nehemiah chapter 8. If your group members mostly heard the sermon you can have a member summarize the text. If members didn’t hear the sermon, consider reading a portion of the text.

  • Had you read this story before? If not, how did you feel reading it or hearing about it?
  • What’s interesting to you about this passage?
  • What’s challenging or compelling?

Our bottom line from Sunday was: If you want to be strong, you’ve got to cultivate joy, because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

  • What does that mean? What does joy have to do with strength?
  • Brainstorm ways that purposefully pursuing joy might strengthen you.
  • When has the joy of the Lord been your strength?

Have you ever practiced feasting or celebration intentionally in order to help yourself stoke the fire of joy in your heart? When did a feast or celebration lead you into deeper, more stable joy?

Brainstorm some potential sorts of celebrations you might host for the purpose of growing and exercising joy.

In your experience, what are some other ways, in addition to feasting or celebrating, to cultivate joy on purpose?

 

SCRIPTURE

Read the following passages. Have a member summarize each one in his or her own words. What does it mean and what does it mean to us?:

  • I Chronicles 16:26-28
  • Psalm 21:1
  • Isaiah 58:14

 

PRAYER

Does anyone need strength? Pray for joy. Go around the room and have each member share one way in which he or she needs strength in the following week. After each person shares, pray these words together out loud: God, make Your joy our strength. It’ll be a blessing to say those words over and over.


TO DO

Just checking in. Have you planned your feast? Be sure to make it special and God-focused.

Feast People (part 1): Welcome Home

TO START
To get in the spirit of things, watch these videos of folks celebrating...enthusiastically. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlteEPh6G2s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aA4_CGzmFw

Do you remember celebrating anything as a child? Could be a personal celebration or a family celebration, spontaneous or planned. Share with the group.

 

SCRIPTURE

Read Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

DISCUSSION

What are the challenges involved in obeying God’s command to rejoice? Is it hard for you to rejoice right now? Why? Share that with the group. Then consider this together: Why might God insist on our rejoicing, even when he knows that sometimes times will be hard?

What’s involved, according to this passage (Phil. 4:4-7), in this posture of joy? What, according to this passage, does it seem we must pursue to attain joy?

How might you incorporate more intentional celebration into your life?
-Put one thing on your calendar--schedule it for sometime within the next 3 weeks.

 

PRAYER

Make a list of things in your life worth celebrating; list as many as you can in 2 minutes; share highlights.

Take a few moments to thank God together as a group for those things.

 

TO DO

Plan a feast together as a group. Figure out ways to make it meaningful. Remember, celebration doesn’t require extravagance. It’s more about purposeful cultivation of joy and communal reflection on what God’s done than it is about anything else.

What will you celebrate?
What will you eat?
What will you intentionally discuss? How do you make sure that happens? What will you wear? 

Signs (Part 3): Clean

TO START

Have you ever been unclean and made someone or something else unclean by association? We’re not looking for lofty metaphor here. Have you ever been literally unclean (dirty) and tracked your mess into someone else’s clean house or bedroom or nice white shirt? Tell your group a funny story.

 

DISCUSSION

Heads up: This week’s discussion guide looks a lot like last week’s (and like the week before’s). You haven’t got them mixed up. And if you don’t much like the way we’re encouraging you to read the text together--no worries; this is the last week in the series. :)

Also, as we’ve been saying, this series works well as an opportunity to let kids join the group discussion.

This week we were in Matthew 8: 1-4. To start small group this week we strongly encourage you to do a meditative reading of the text together (just like you did last week and the week before), encouraging members to use their imaginations and try to enter the story as if they were present.

  1. Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Read it once, then read the questions below (#2), then read it a second time.

  2. Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination.

 -What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?

-See what’s going on and watch the men and women in the scene.

-What does Jesus look like?

-How do the others react to him?

-What are the people saying to one another?

-What emotions fill their words?

-Is Jesus touching someone?

Explain to the group that they’re welcome to enter into the scene, perhaps as an observer, as as an apostle, as a Pharisee observing (whatever makes sense).

You can construct a movie-like scenario or simply enter the story verbally, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of meditation. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.)

When you’ve given the group time to do this, come back together to discuss what you saw, felt and understood. (If you decided for some reason not to do this activity, still read the passage together and discuss whatever’s interesting to you. What sticks out as powerful, tender, special or confusing?)

After your time in meditative reading, consider some ideas from our message Sunday:

Justin said in his sermon, “Jesus exercises reverse contagion.” What does that mean? If you weren’t at worship Sunday, consider the text we’ve read and make a guess.

Because Jesus makes unclean things clean, we said, “Rather than driving you away from God, your sin should drive you toward him.”

  • Has this been your experience personally? Do you usually turn toward God when you’re waist deep in sin? Why is it so hard to do?

  • When you have turned to God in your uncleanness what was the result?

Take a moment in your group to enable confession. Do any of your members need to confess a sin that’s consistently getting the best of them, a sin they need Jesus to cleanse them of? Group is a place where people can confess sins and find healing, help and accountability. Remind your group of the way Jesus responds to us when we’re sick with sin.

This week we’ve talked about clean and unclean. These days we don’t call people clean or unclean but we still have ideas about which people are in and which are out, which people meet social standards and which ones don’t. Which kinds of people do you think might be considered “unclean” today?

If Jesus exercises reverse contagion, so should His body, the church. Are today’s “unclean” typically the kinds of people who feel comfortable in a church building? If not, what can we do to make church a more welcoming place for the unclean? Concentrate on things you can do personally to make church more welcoming. What does it look like as a church to help people become clean?

 

PRAYER

Pray Psalm 51:1-4, 7, and 10 together with your group in an effort to appeal to Christ, asking for the cleansing only He provides. Have one member read it and the rest close their eyes and open their palms, as if giving God their sin.

 

EXTRA

Read this poem from Walt McDonald. According to it, what is God like? Is that your understanding of God, too? If so, give an example of a time you’ve seen God “bat on the side of the scrubs.”

“Faith Is A Radical Master”

God bats on the side of the scrubs.

With a clean-up hitter like that, who needs

to worry about stealing home, a double squeeze,

cleat-pounding triples? If nothing else works,

 

take a walk, lean into the wicked pitch

 

careening inside at ninety miles an hour.

At bat, just get on base and pray the next nerd

doesn’t pop up. When someone’s already on, the coach

 

never calls me Mr. October, seldom signals Hit away.

 

If Johnson with the wicked curve owns the strike zone

or the ump, I’ll bunt. No crack of the bat,

no wildly cheered Bambino everyone loves.

 

Lay it down the line like the weakest kid in school,

 

disciple of the sacrifice. Some hour my time will come,

late in the game, and I’m on third, wheezing from the run

from first after a wild pitch, and Crazy Elmore

 

waving like a windmill by the third-base line.

 

Hands on my knees, I’ll watch the pitcher

lick two fingers, wipe them on his fancy pin stripes

and try to stare me dead. I’ll be almost dead,

 

gasping, wondering how I’ll wobble home if someone bunts

 

or dribbles a slow roller and the coach yells

Go! But there, there in the box is God,

who doesn’t pound home plate like an earthquake

 

but slowly points the bat like the Babe toward center field,

 

and all my family in the clouds go wild, all friends

I’ve loved and lost, even the four-eyed scrubs

in the dugout slugging each other and laughing,

 

tossing their gloves like wild hosannas, and why not–

 

it’s bottom of the ninth, two outs, a run behind

and a hall-of-fame fast baller on the mound,

but I’m on third and leaning home, and look who’s up.

 

If poems aren’t your thing, follow this link (http://ecdu.dionc.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/2350072) to read a story called “The Ragman,” another metaphor/parable to explain what God’s like. Ask the same questions you asked for the poem: According to it, what is God like? Is that your understanding of God, too? If so, give an example of a time you’ve seen God “take old rags.”

Signs (part 2): Moved With Compassion

TO START

This week we’re talking about compassion. Compassion is “concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” The thing about compassion is that you can’t have it unless you’re a person who NOTICES other people. Are you good at noticing other people or do you get too caught up in yourself? To test yourself, think back through your last conversation with another person. How many questions did you ask about them? How much did you talk about yourself?

Share with the group if you feel like you have room to grow. Think through some things you could do to be more aware of and interested in other people.

 

DISCUSSION

Heads up: This week’s discussion guide looks a lot like last week’s. Don’t worry; you haven’t got them mixed up.

Heads up #2: This entire series works well as an opportunity to let kids join the group discussion.

This week we were in Matthew 20: 29-34. To start small group this week we strongly encourage you to do a meditative reading of the text together (just like you did last week), encouraging members to use their imaginations and try to enter the story as if they were present.

  1. Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Read it once, then read the questions below (#2), then read it a second time.

  2. Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination.

 -What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?

-See what’s going on and watch the men and women in the scene.

-What does Jesus look like?

-How do the others react to him?

-What are the people saying to one another?

-What emotions fill their words?

-Is Jesus touching someone?

Explain to the group that they’re welcome to enter into the scene, perhaps as an observer, as as an apostle, as a Pharisee observing (whatever makes sense).

You can construct a movie-like scenario or simply enter the story verbally, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of meditation. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.)

When you’ve given the group time to do this, come back together to discuss what you saw, felt and understood. (If you decided for some reason not to do this activity, still read the passage together and discuss whatever’s interesting to you. What sticks out as powerful, tender, special or confusing?)

After your time in meditative reading, consider the bottom line from our message Sunday:

Jesus is moved with compassion.

  • Does this trait of Jesus’ affect the way you feel about him? How so?
  • Can you think of other times in the Bible Jesus is compassionate? Make a list of at least five examples.
  • Has Jesus been compassionate to you? What does that look like?
  • What does it look like for us to imitate Jesus’ compassion? Give several examples of action inspired by compassion.
  • Can compassion exist without action? Why or why not?

Consider the following quote from John Holmes:

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

  • Do you think this is a good definition of compassion?

  • When have you witnessed someone reaching down and lifting another person up? Share a story.

What gets in the way of you feeling compassion for other people?

 

PRAYER

Tonight ask God to give you hearts easily moved by compassion, ask for eyes to see the people who’re in need of compassion and hands eager to serve in compassion.

After you pray, share someone in your life who’s calling out in need of your compassion, and ask the group to hold you accountable in responding to their need.

 

AN OPPORTUNITY

In case your group isn’t familiar, Compassion International is an amazing organization “reaching down and lifting people up.” Compassion pairs one poor child in a developing nation with a financially blessed supporting family. You pay a small amount per month and correspond with the child via letters and emails. The money you pay provides for your child’s unmet physical needs and their instruction in a local Bible school. Watch this video together to see if you might be interested in partnering with them to help lead the developing world toward Christ and out of poverty.

https://youtu.be/VqZntNNBMe4

 

EXTRA

Make a pitch for ShareFest! Let your group members know what it’s like, and encourage them to sign up to help. You might even make time for people to sign up on their phones during group.

 

 

 

Signs (part 1): Interrupted

TO START

For some people this question will be ridiculous, but it’s likely a few people in your group have a very passionate response: Do you have an all-time favorite Billboard or sign? Describe it to the group.

You might want to visit this lovely collection of church signs: http://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/funny-church-signs

  • What do these outside signs tell you about the church inside?

Changing directions, do you have a favorite Bible miracle? Which one? Why do you like that one so much?

 

DISCUSSION

(Heads up: This is a great week to include the older kids (6+) in your group discussion if you'd like.)

This week we were in Mark 5:21-43. To start small group this week we strongly encourage you to do a meditative reading of the text together, encouraging members to use their imaginations and try to enter the story as if they were present.

1. Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Read it once, then read the questions below (#2), then read it a second time.

2. Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination.

-What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?

-See what’s going on and watch the men and women in the scene.

-What does Jesus look like?

-How do the others react to him?

-What are the people saying to one another?

-What emotions fill their words?

-Is Jesus touching someone?

Explain to the group that they’re welcome to enter into the scene, perhaps as an observer, as one lining up for healing, or as one helping others to Jesus (whatever makes sense).

You can construct a movie-like scenario or simply enter the story verbally, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of meditation. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.)

When you’ve given the group time to do this, come back together to discuss what you saw, felt and understood. (If you decided for some reason not to do this activity, still read the passage together and discuss whatever’s interesting to you. What sticks out as powerful, tender, special or confusing?)

After your time in meditative reading, consider the bottom line from our message Sunday: Jesus is in charge.

  • Is that an easy truth to accept or a hard one? Had you been present for those miracles do you think you’d a have more solid sense of Jesus’ authority? Why or why not?

How does knowing Jesus is in charge shape the life you’re living?

 

LISTEN

Consider the following two song representations of this miracle (both of these links are videos with lyrics):

“One Touch” by Nicole C. Mullin:

“Hem Of His Garment” by Sam Cooke:

  • Which one do you think captures the essence of the miracle best? How so?

Don’t like songs? How about a cartoon version?

 

EXTRA

As our church is in the process of looking for new elder candidates you might take some time in your group to discuss what that means and see if any of your members have questions (about the process or about elder qualifications).

Songs About God (part 4): "Where Are You?" Songs

TO START

As a kid, did you ever get lost, lose your parents in a store, get left behind accidentally? How'd it feel? Tell your small group the story. It’ll help you forgive your parents (and it’s cheaper than therapy).

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Psalm 10.

  • How does it make you feel?
  • Do you relate to the Psalmist at all?
  • Why do you think this is the Bible?

Consider the psalmist’s words:

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off?

   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

  • Have you ever wanted to pray these words to God?
  • Share a time when you wondered why God seemed so far off.
  • Did you turn to God during that time? If so, do you think that was a good choice? Why or why not? If you turned away from God, how did that go? What finally got you turned back?

 

DISCUSSION

On Sunday we said it’s important to bring our pain and questions to God for two reasons:

  1. He wants that because that’s how you have a relationship with someone.

  2. He wants it because he wants you to know him better.

How would bringing our doubts, sadness and confusion to God in prayer enable those two things? Have you seen those two things happen when you talk to God honestly in prayer? Explain.

Justin said on Sunday that it’s a good idea when you’re feeling far from God to make two lists: “Here’s what I don’t know” and “Here’s what I know.” Have you ever done something like this? What’s the value in mapping and categorizing your thoughts, feelings, and convictions?

Has this series inspired you to talk to God in a different way? Have you noticed any changes taking place in your prayer life? Have you tried writing a Psalm? Tell us about it.

 

PRAYER

Make a list of places, circumstances, relationships where it seems like God is far off. Make another list of things you know about God. Fill in this prayer (based on Psalm 10) with your lists:

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Times like these when ________________________ and ______________________ and

_______________ and ____________________ …

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.

Do not forget the helpless.

The Lord is King for ever and ever;

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;

you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

You are _______________ and _________________ and ____________________ and_______________ ...

God, be close to us and hear our prayer.

 

WATCH

A spoken word “Where Are You?” psalm (and imagined answer) by Joseph Solomon: https://youtu.be/QeY8lndPsdE

Songs About God (part 3): Angry Songs

If your small group meets on Sunday nights, please consider attending Plus 1 together. Don’t cancel group! Just change the location. :)

 

TO START

Have you ever done something really stupid when you were angry? Share with the group! This is a safe place. It’ll be fun. :)

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Psalm 69.

How does it make you feel?

Do you relate to the Psalmist at all?

Why do you think this is the Bible? Would you have put it in the Bible if you were in charge?

 

DISCUSSION

Have you ever been really and truly angry? What made you so upset? How did you handle your anger? Did you talk to God about it or run away from God because of it? Do you think you handled it well or poorly? Share with the group.

What’s valuable about turning toward God in our anger as opposed to turning away from Him? Think of relationships you’ve had with people--which is better, 1. to ignore and avoid someone when you’re angry with them, 2. to stuff your anger and pretend you’re fine, or 3. to face your anger and share it with the person who’s hurt you? Give an example if you have one.

On Sunday Justin asked, “Have you ever been so angry, you actually wished pain and suffering on the person who wronged you?” Then he said, if so, “What do you do with that?”

Well, what do we do with that? After considering these angry Psalms, what have you learned about dealing with vengeful anger in the presence of God?

If you’re not a person who gets angry, do you think you should get angry more? Is it possible you’re not getting angry because you’re not passionate about holiness, goodness, justice, etc.? What should you be angry about?

What can the church (remember, that’s you!) do to make more room for righteous anger? In our gatherings, in small groups, in personal relationships… Think of practical examples.

 

PRAYER

In the sermon, Justin said the psalmists have good reason to be angry. They’re angry about real injustice. What real, hard, hurtful or terrible things are you angry about? Share them together. Make a list and then pray it together. Say, “God, we’re angry about _______________.” You can also go on ahead and say what you wish would happen to those people/forces you’re angry at (so long as you do it in submission to the will of God).

 

DIGGING IN

So far in this discussion we’ve focused on expressing anger in God’s presence as being okay. What about what David does in the Psalms we’ve referenced--praying for the people who oppose him to be damned eternally? Is that something a Christian can do? Is David’s example permission (or more than permission, perhaps an invitation?) Consider this quick answer from John Piper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA7B9Qk9Tbo

Is Piper right or wrong? Or right and wrong? Discuss.

Songs About God (part 2): Story Songs

TO START

 

As a kid did you have a favorite story? Maybe a family story handed down from your parents about the way they grew up or about your family’s homeland. Maybe it’s a fairy tale or fable. Maybe it’s a book that shaped that childhood. Share with the group. What did you love about it? Did that story affect the person you grew up to be?

 

DISCUSSION

Humans love stories. What is it about a story that so moves us? Why do you like stories? What are your favorite kinds of stories? What do you like so much about that kind?

In an article about family storytelling from The Atlantic magazine Elaine Reese writes,

“In the preteen years, children whose families collaboratively discuss everyday events and family history more often have higher self-esteem and stronger self-concepts. And adolescents with a stronger knowledge of family history have more robust identities, better coping skills, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Family storytelling can help a child grow into a teen who feels connected to the important people in her life.”

  • Do stories make you feel more connected to the people who tell them? To the people with whom you hear them? If so, how so? Give an example of a story that made you feel connected to someone else.

Do you have stories that make you feel more connected to God? Think of one story (that makes you feel closer to God) in each of the following story categories:

  • A story told by a friend or family member

  • A story in your Bible

  • A story you heard at church (in a sermon, in Bible class, in a video, in a testimony...)

What do those stories teach you about who God is and how He acts?

Read Psalm 107 together as a group. Identify the stories with in this Psalm. What are they about? Why is the Psalmist telling these stories?

You have stories about God. In fact, your entire relationship with God IS a story. Have you ever written down a part of your story? Do you find yourself sharing your story often? How does it feel to tell it? What do you think you could to do to be more proactive about telling the story God’s writing in you?

What’s your story with God about? If group members struggle with this, encourage them to spend some time in reflection and prayer.

We said on Sunday that when one person shares a story about their encounter with God, “One person’s experience with God becoming the community’s worship to God.” How have other people’s stories pointed you to God? Share an example.

 

 

TO DO

As a group, write a story Psalm about what God’s been doing in your small group. Write down the victories you’ve shared together over the years. Write about the moments you saw God work. Write about your collective struggles. Because it’s hard to write a PSalm together, let this Psalm just be a list of moments you’ve shared.

If your group is new, this activity probably won’t work for you. Instead, your group should spend time sharing personal stories of faith to get to know one another better. Perhaps you’ll use this prompt: Once, I saw God work powerfully…

 

Songs About God (part 1): Love Songs

TO START

Do you have a favorite song (it doesn’t have to be the absolute best, most perfect favorite--any song you like a lot works)? What is it? Why do you love it so much? Share with the group.

Also, before you start group, remind your group members to participate in our 24 hours of prayer and fasting. You can find more info about it at rrcoc.org/livelovepray 

 

DISCUSSION

When you read the Bible do you often go the Psalms? Or do you shy away from them? Why do you think that is? How does reading the Psalms make you feel?

Do you have any Psalms that have particular associations, a Psalm that makes you feel a certain way because of memories attached to it? Share with the group.

Justin said on Sunday, “Our relationship with God--yours and mine--should be vibrant enough, dynamic enough, active enough to inspire songs, to fill us with emotions and thoughts that beg for expression!”

  • Is this the reality of your relationship with God? Allow people to be authentic--whether that means being really excited and satisfied with their relationship or being dissatisfied and sad.
  • Do you often find yourself talking to God? When is it most natural to talk to God? When is it hard/inconvenient/not on your mind?

If praise is “observation turned proclamation,” what are you doing to observe Him intentionally, actively, and often? What behaviors or practices lead to faithful observation of God’s activity in our world and lives? Pick a few things you could do to more intentionally look for God this week.

Have you ever written a love letter? Give some examples of things you might say (or categories of things you might say) in a love letter. Do those same categories exist in a love letter to God? Give examples.

Consider this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible...

“But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself. For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings–all of which the heart can do by itself–with prayer. And we confuse earth and heaven, man and God. Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty. No man can do that by himself. For that he needs Jesus Christ.”

  • What do you think of it? What does it mean?
  • Do you find it easier to pray on a full heart than on an empty one?
  • How might the Psalms lead us into the kind of prayer Bonhoeffer recommends?

Derek Kidner in his commentary on the Psalms defines friendship as candor and constancy. Do you feel like that’s something you have with God? Do you think candor is easy or hard? What about constancy? Explain your answer.

 

TO DO

This week, take some time to write Psalms together.

●  You might write a list of the characteristics of God: God, You are ________________ (filling in the blank as many times as you can).

●  You might read a praise Psalm together and modernize it. Don’t just take out the thees and thous. How would a modern writer express the same sentiment? What examples or metaphors would she use? How would Bruno Mars write this song if he suddenly decided to serve God? It’ll sound silly at first, but when you’re done you’ll have a Psalm that makes sense to you, one you might actually write in the car on the way to work.

●  You might compare God to things in similes or metaphors. What is God like? How so? Make a list of ten or twenty things. (Example: God is like a giant oak tree--beautiful, ancient, alive, massive, imposing, strong...)

 

SCRIPTURE

For this series let’s have group members share their favorite Psalms. Some of your group members won’t have favorites. Encourage them to be reading and looking for one. Others of your members will have favorites--let them go first. Read two Psalms tonight, looking particularly for the relationship between the Psalmist and God. How would you describe that relationship? What does this Psalm reveal about God or what it looks like to love Him?

 

PRAYER

This week, your praise activities are actually prayers, so that’s all we’re asking you to do. However, as the discussion goes on, be looking for members who seem like they’re struggling in their relationship with God. Identify what you can pray for.

 

TO WATCH

Check out this Song adaptation of Psalm 46 from Shane and Shane (you can find more Psalm songs on their Youtube channel): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbr-Oky1qV0

Looking for something informative/historical to read about the Psalms? Here’s an introduction to the book by The Bible Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9phNEaPrv8 

Marriage Material (part 4): Filling In The Gap

TO START

This week we said love is willing to look foolish. Think of a time when you did something foolish for the sake of love (particularly romantic love). Share with the group.

 

DISCUSSION

Here’s the thing. This week’s lesson probably made some of your group members feel squirmy. Resist the urge to find all the loopholes for loving other people this way. Focus instead on all the ways you should and can love other people in a way that protects and believes the best. We need to talk about what we CAN do. Talking about what we don’t have to do is less productive.

So, consider the four characteristics of love we discussed in the sermon. Consider them one by one. What does it mean and how do we do it? Define terms and give examples of what this would look like in real life. If your group members can’t do this, you should park here for a while. Understanding what God is asking of us and identifying ways to do it is your main goal in group tonight:

  1. Love always protects
  2. always trusts
  3. always hopes
  4. always perseveres

Ask yourselves these questions as a way to enable self reflection:

  • When my spouse does something wrong, do I punish or protect?
  • When I don’t know how my spouse acted in a moment (whether or not he or she met my expectations), do I believe the best or assume the worst?
  • When things get hard, do I lean in or turn away?

Do you feel uncomfortable with the answers you gave to these questions? There’s no question loving like this is hard. What makes it so hard?

We said on Sunday that people who love get hurt. Have you ever been too concerned about your own safety/protective to love someone well? Give an example.

Think of examples from scripture of people who loved someone else and got hurt because of it.

Why is love worth the risk of pain and heartbreak?

According to our text this week,

  • Love isn’t always drawing attention to failure.
  • Love covers the sins of another, protecting from harmful exposure.
  • Love is willing to risk looking foolish.
  • Love bears ill treatment bravely and calmly.

Which of these challenges seems the hardest to you? What gets in your way as you try to live it out?

Which one brings to mind a positive example, particularly of a married couple who practiced this characteristic of love?

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Proverbs 10:11-12.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, 

but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Hatred stirs up conflict,

but love covers over all wrongs.

As opposed to hate, what does love do? What does that look like exactly?

What do you get/learn from this passage?


 

PRAYER

Tonight, take the chance to ask God to enable you to love like I Corinthians 13 says you should. Together, ask God to fill you with His Spirit and grow the fruit of love in your life.

Too, look back over this series and identify one way you want to be better at loving. Pray for one another.

Marriage Material (part 3): No Record

TO START

Give a funny, light-hearted example of a time when you wanted your spouse to act one way and instead they acted in a much different way. (ex. Maybe they wore something you thought was atrocious. Maybe they told a joke you didn’t think was funny...)

Also, check in with your group to see who memorized I Corinthians 13:4-8. Bestow prizes.*
*If you can’t buy prizes (candy bars?), positive words of affirmation count. And isn’t memorizing the scripture reward enough. ;)

 

DISCUSSION

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Are you a person who keeps records of wrongs? Take a minute and let anyone who feels like he or she probably is a recorder keeper share that. What does it look like in their lives to keep records of wrongs? Share a story about a time when you did that.

For those who didn’t feel like they were record keepers, let’s take a quiz to see if they were right: Get out a piece of paper and write down the last time each of these people offended you or hurt your feelings. You have sixty seconds to answer (obviously not all of these relationships will apply to everyone):

  • Your boss
  • Your spouse
  • Your mom
  • Your brother or sister
  • A co-worker
  • A waitress or waiter
  • A store clerk
  • Your preacher or someone at your church
  • Someone on Facebook
  • How quickly were you able to recall wrongs? Do you feel good or bad about your response rate? Were the results surprising at all? If so, why?

Why is forgiveness such an essential part of love? Consider God’s decision to forgive us. Is that forgiveness essential to our having a relationship? If so, why?

Has someone forgiven you recently? How did it feel?

Have you had any positive examples of forgiveness in your life? Have you seen it modeled well? Share with the group.

Are you holding onto something you haven’t forgiven? Have you held onto something for too long before? Don’t share the offense, but do share how holding onto it has affected you.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote these words from prison:

“In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts...”
  • How good are you at accepting your spouse as he or she is? Is that hard?
  • Was it harder or easier when you were dating?
  • What does it take to get good at accepting that your spouse won’t ever be exactly what you want him or her to be?

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Matthew 18:21-35.
Jesus says, “ This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

●  How will God treat us if we don’t forgive our spouses?

●  Does having this in mind change the way you think about forgiveness at all?

 

PRAYER

Tonight pray The Lord’s Prayer together.

Before you do, look at the line, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Who do you need to forgive so God can forgive you? Have members write any names down before the prayer. If they’re willing, ask them to forgive those people. They might even need to send a text before the prayer. Or personally commit to a conversation. Just give your group a minute or two of silence for soul-searching. Then, pray the prayer together out loud. 

Marriage Material (part 2): Less of Me

TO START

Over the next three weeks let’s make it our goal as a group to memorize I Corinthians 13:4-8a. Here’s the text:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Practice saying it together as a group. Have one person read it one line at a time and have group members repeat it. You might also have everyone write it out on an index card (or color it via this pretty downloadable coloring page: http://www.bibleparent.com/pdf/1corinthianesv.pdf).

You might offer a prize for group members who memorize it by next week. Kids aren’t the only ones motivated by the treasure box.

 

DISCUSSION

Consider the characteristics of love from I Corinthians 13 we covered this week. Define each one in your own words and offer an example of what it would look like to live that characteristic out in a marriage.

  1. Love is not self-seeking.

  2. Love is patient.

  3. Love is kind.

  4. It does not envy.

  5. It does not boast.

  6. It is not proud.

  7. It does not dishonor others.

What’s the problem with selfishness? What does selfishness do to a marriage? Give an example.

When, referring to the Copernican shift, Justin called us to put our spouses “at the center of our universe” instead of ourselves, how did that make you feel? How does the prospect of making that kind of effort make you feel?

  • Do you feel vulnerable? Does it seem dangerous? Do you feel guilty?
  • What would need to change for you to take that call to selflessness seriously? What’s keeping you from exercising that kind of selflessness?

Make a list of things you could do to self-less in your marriage--be practical and specific. What opportunities do you have to serve your spouse on a daily basis? Once you’ve made a long list, choose two or three things to do THIS week. Report back to your group next week about how you did.

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Philippians 2:3-8

  • According to this passage what shouldn’t we do? What should we do?
  • What example does Paul give of selflessness?
  • Paul says Jesus refused to use His equality with God “to his advantage.” In what ways are you more powerful than the people around you (your spouse in particular)? Do you ever use that power to your own advantage? What does that look like? What would it look like to use that power to their advantage?

 

PRAYER

Consider this prayer from Saint Vincent:

“O Dearly beloved Word of God, teach me to be generous, to serve Thee as Thou dost deserve, to give without counting the cost, to fight without fretting at my wounds, to labor without seeking rest, to spend myself without looking for any reward other than that of knowing that I do Thy holy will. Amen.”

Pray it together.

Now, change the words a little to ask God to help you be selfless in your relationships. Maybe have a female pray it for the wives and a man pray it for the husbands:

“O dearly Beloved God, teach me to be generous, to serve my spouse even more than he/she does deserve, to give without counting the cost, to fight for him/her without worrying about my wounds, to labor beside him/her and for him/her without looking for any reward other than knowing I’m doing what you want of me. Amen.”

 

TAKE A QUIZ

Consider this “You Might Be Selfish If…” list from a christian blogger. Keep track of how many hit home. No winners or losers in this quiz, just some good self evaluation.

You might be selfish if you get angry when someone cuts you off.

You might be selfish if you refuse to forgive.

You might be selfish if you don’t allow yourself to be inconvenienced.

You might be selfish if you don’t give money to church or charity.

You might be selfish if you are chronically unhappy (because selfless people are content).

You might be selfish if you refuse to help certain people.

You might be selfish if you are lazy.

You might be selfish if you think that what you are doing is more important than what others are doing.

You might be selfish if you insist on having your way.

You might be selfish if you always have to win or always be right.

You might be selfish if you refuse to sincerely apologize.

You might be selfish if you like being in control and find it hard to compromise.

You might be selfish if you hear constructive criticism as a personal attack.

You might be selfish if you find it difficult for someone else to be the focus of attention.

You might be selfish if you don’t want to work with others on a team.

You might be selfish if you prioritize what’s for your benefit rather than what might benefit others.

You might be selfish if you usually give negative feedback first.

You might be selfish if you are irritated when others ask you for help.

You might be selfish if you hear a message and think “______ (fill in a name)” should hear it.

You might be selfish if you think, “someone should do something about this” when you could do it.

You might be selfish if you are self-conscious about helping strangers in public.

You might be selfish if you are grumpy, sour, complaining or whiny.

You might be selfish if you only help others when it makes you feel good.