Metamorphosis (part 3): How Not To Waste Suffering

TO START

What are you bad about wasting? Consider the following list and then share which of the items on the list you’re most likely to waste:

  • Time
  • Food
  • Opportunities
  • Money

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, “If you want God to redeem your pain, you have to let Him.” What would it look like to stop God from redeeming our pain? How might we get in His way?

Share a time when you think you made it hard for God to shape you.

Consider the following list of ways we show up in suffering: Grieve, Pray, Celebrate, Live, Connect.

Which of these is easiest for you? Why?

Which is hardest? Why?

Which one have you seen done well? Share an example.

Do you usually embrace your suffering or do prefer to run away or distract yourself from it? What do you turn to as a distraction? What could you do to better and more consistently confront your feelings?

Do you usually turn to God in suffering? What kinds of prayers do you pray when you’re hurting?

Celebration doesn’t always come naturally in suffering. Think of a time you were able to celebrate in the midst of suffering (or watched someone else to celebrate in a season of suffering) and share with the group.

When you’re in the middle of pain, do you tend to shut down or over-focus on the hurt? How do we purposefully pursue an abundant life in the middle of suffering? What do you want to be sure you keep doing, even when life gets hard?

What role does connection play in our transformation in suffering? Why does it matter whether or not you’re connected to a community?

 

TO READ

Read Philippians 3:7-14.

What sticks out to you as interesting or moving?

What do you think this passage adds to our discussion of suffering?

How do we become like Christ in death? What is the reward for becoming like Christ in death?

What metaphor does Paul use to describe participation in the suffering of Christ?

 

TO PRAY

As a prayer and meditation, consider listening together to Andrew Peterson’s “Sower’s Song”

https://open.spotify.com/track/07xaSkTKPpG2S2u7g1ZpSJ?si=WCbiZko9SuCrUI1qqBFBAA

Consider the lyrics:

"Oh God, I am furrowed like the field

Torn open like the dirt

And I know that to be healed

That I must be broken first

I am aching for the yield

That You will harvest from this hurt

Abide in me

Let these branches bear You fruit

Abide in me, Lord

As I abide in You"

  • In what current hurt are you hoping for harvest?


 

Metamorphosis (part 2): What God Does While We Suffer

TO START

Give group members 120 seconds to make a list of things that transform over their lifespan. Have members share their answers. The person with the most wins. Any answer another group member also wrote gets cancelled out.
 

TO READ

Read the following passages together:

  • “...we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings” (Rom 5:2-3)
  • “...you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6)
  • “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord,  I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
  • “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad” (Mt 5:12)
  • ”They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Act 5:40-41)
  • “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10)
  • “I rejoice in what I am suffering for you” (Co 1:24)
  • “You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property” (Heb 10:34)

Taken together, what do these verses teach us about being a follower of Christ? What is it all these suffering people are so happy about?
 

TO DISCUSS

This week we focused our attention on the idea that suffering has the potential to transform us to look more like Christ. Why do you think it’s so effective that way?

What kinds of changes do we usually see in ourselves when we endure suffering well? In what ways might we be transformed?

Share a time when suffering was the vehicle for your own personal transformation (or a time when you saw another person transformed by suffering). Hang out here for the majority of your group discussion. If members can’t immediately identify a time, encourage them to share a time when they suffered and allow the group to help them identify any transformation.

Does suffering inevitably lead to maturity and growth? Have you ever seen someone mishandle suffering? What happened?

  • What do we need to do in order to receive the transformation that’s possible in suffering?

 

TO PRAY

This week, pray for transformation. Do you feel like God wants to use something to shape you? Ask Him to do it. Don’t let suffering be wasted! Too, ask for “eyes to see” what He’s up to.
 

 

TO SEE

Consider watching RRCOC member Patti Fatheree’s story of transformation through suffering: https://vimeo.com/186127137

Metamorphosis (part 1): Suffering and Other Guarantees

TO START

This week, do a little housekeeping…

  1. Summer is close! What’s your small group summer plan? We hope you’ll consider maintaining your weekly meeting schedule but also working in a little fellowship and fun. Our current sermon series (3 parts) will be the last for which we provide discussion guides until school starts back in late August. If you’re looking for a good book to study together, video curriculum, or just some ideas for ways to grow closer this summer, let us know! Email Dan Burgess at dburgess@rrcoc.org

  2. How’s your group doing on the service front? Summer is a great time to get serious about serving your community. One way you could help would be to volunteer in the Voigt Elementary School garden. If your group is interested in attending a work day or volunteering to maintain the garden for a week in the summer, email Jennifer Gerhardt at jlgerhardt@rrcoc.org.

 

TO DISCUSS

For the next three weeks we’ll be talking about suffering. To help get your group ready for these discussions, you might key in on a few important things to remember:

  1. Just because we’re talking about suffering doesn’t mean group will be sad. The purpose of this study is to identify the blessing in suffering. We’re looking for light here, not dwelling in the dark.

  2. There will be people in your group who have suffered in significant ways. There will also be people who feel like they haven’t. As a leader try to make sure one person’s suffering doesn’t overshadow everyone else. Explain that all suffering—“big” AND “small”—counts as suffering. God uses all of it. This will give all members the permission they need to weigh in.

On Sunday we said, “Suffering is a part of the human experience.” To drive that home, have group members share the titles of movies or tv shows in which a character (or characters) suffers.

We also said, “Suffering is a part of the Christian experience.” Is that surprising or confusing to you? What examples do we have in the Bible of people who followed Jesus suffering?

If Christians suffer just as much (or more than) unbelievers suffer, why become a Christian? Does God have an answer to the problem of suffering? What is it?

In I Corinthians 12:9 God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

  • What does that mean? How does it work? How does it shape the way we understand suffering?

Share an example of a way God sustained you in suffering. This would be a lovely place to camp out tonight. Don’t rush past the sharing of stories.

If God is with us in our suffering, sustaining us by His grace, that changes both the way we endure our current suffering and the way we anticipate future suffering.

  • How might knowing God sustains us in suffering change the way we feel about the potential of suffering in the future?

It’s been said, “Anything that causes us to depend on Christ is a good thing.”

  • Is it difficult for you to come to terms with something obviously bad also being good?

Do you ever struggle to reconcile God’s identity as good Father and His occasional refusal to lift our suffering? Share your feelings with the group. How do we make peace with these two seemingly oppositional truths?

How does the promise of eternity with God affect the way you endure suffering? If you have a story of a time when the certainty of Heaven helped get you through a hard season, share with the group.

 

TO READ

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18.

What sticks out to you as encouraging? Challenging?

Look back at verse 17: “For our light and momentary affliction is producing an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

How often do you compare today to what’s been promised for tomorrow? How does comparing today’s suffering against an eternity with Christ help us suffer well?

 

TO PRAY

Often in the Old Testament, God’s people use prayer as an opportunity to remind God of His promises. Before you pray together, have group members share one way they’re suffering right now. As you pray over each member, repeat God’s promise back to Him. Say, “God, make your grace sufficient.” Or, “God, be all we need, just as you’ve promised you would be.”

Ascension Day

Guest Speaker: Brad East

TO START

This week we’re talking about Ascension Day. Before we get down to serious business, let’s have a little fun. Imagine Ascension Day became a holiday like Christmas or Easter, and people celebrated with parties and fun (extra-Biblical) traditions.

As a group, invent some Ascension Day traditions. What do people eat? What games do they play? What spectacles or events might people create to commemorate it? How would they decorate? Be creative!
 

TO DISCUSS

Have you thought much about the ascension of Christ? What about this week’s sermon was interesting, challenging, encouraging or new?

To begin your reflection of the ascension, read together the texts with which Brad began his sermon: Luke 24:36-53 and Acts 1:1-12. But don’t just read for information. As you read together have group members imagine they’re actually there on the hill when Jesus ascends. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? How do you feel? Discuss your observations together.

The big question from this week’s message is this: Why is Jesus’ ascension important? What do you think?

Brad gave us several reasons for celebrating the ascension. Let’s run through them and ask some questions…

First, Brad said the ascension is important because it enables the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. What’s so good about that? How do you personally experience the Holy Spirit?

Brad said, “Jesus’ ascension, far from initiating Jesus’ absence from the world, is the beginning of a radical and intimate presence." Do you experience God as present? If so, share an example. If not, why might that be?

We learn through scripture that God is waiting to judge the world and fully usher in His kingdom. Why is that good news?

Post ascension, where is Jesus right now? What is he doing?

What does it mean that Jesus “intercedes” for us? Why is that good news?

 

TO PRAY

Let’s lean into the truth that Jesus intercedes for us. Where do you need intercession in your life right now? Are you struggling to live up to God’s commands? Are you failing in a relationship? Share with your group, and pray together to God THROUGH JESUS (and by his power) for forgiveness and victory.
 

FOR FUN

Consider the following depictions of the ascension. Pick one to meditate on. What do you see? What’s interesting or confusing or beautiful? Who's present? Who's absent? How does this image help you better understand the ascension? 

Dumb Things Christians Say

TO START

Have you ever said the wrong thing at the wrong time? Share one of your more embarrassing foot-in-mouth moments with the group.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we talked about six things Christians sometimes say that we probably ought to stop saying. Consider the list and talk about them in the order that they affected your group. Take a poll to see which saying was most challenging to reconsider.

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “God won’t give you us more than we can handle.”
  • ”The Bible says you shouldn’t do that” (spoken to people who aren’t Christians)
  • “Christians should never judge”
  • “OMG”

For each saying ask:

  • Is this something you’ve said before? What did you mean by it?
  • Has anyone ever said this to you? What were the circumstances? How did it affect you?
  • What reasons do we have not to say it? Why does it matter?
  • Are you settled with the conclusion in the sermon, or do you think it’s more complicated than that? Share reasons why you think it might be okay to say.

Why do our words matter so much?

Read together in James 3:1-12.

  • What does James say about our tongues?
  • Have you experienced this to be true? Share a time when your tongue got you in trouble, hurt someone or made a mess.

 

TO READ

Re-read a few of the passages mentioned in the sermon and discuss…

I Corinthians 5:9-13

  • Does anything stick out as interesting or confusing?
  • What dowe learn about judgment from this passage?
  • What would it look like for us to do a better job judging insiders?

I Corinthians 10:13

  • Has this been your experience with temptation?
  • When you’re in the thick of temptation what makes saying no difficult?

Exodus 20:7

  • What does it mean to “misuse” the Lord’s name?
  • Other than saying “OMG” how might we do that?

 

TO PRAY

This week pray a prayer of submission over your words. Here’s an example prayer. Feel free to pray it word for word if you’d like:

Lord, I know my tongue often gets ahead of my mind and heart. I am quick to speak and I repent of the many thoughtless things I have spoken. I am sorry for words I have spoken in anger or in gossip. Please help me to see when I am about to speak without thinking and to check my heart. Help me be slow to speak. Help me, Lord, to be a person full of loving words, full of your Spirit, overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. Amen.  

Why Do We Sing In Church?

TO START

Do a little karaoke! Here are a few lyric videos to sing along with on a computer or smart TV:

Greatest Showman songs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr3X0DCXI-M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uztIUUh5-WE

Disney songs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fkusy4ylhiY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8UFnc85-xM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPAbx5kgCJo

Beatles songs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHgf_Ocej0I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMHlVdO9tXs

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

It’s definitely fun to sing with friends. Or terrifying. Which is it for you?

What’s different about singing karaoke and singing together in worship on a Sunday? What’s the same?

 

TO DISCUSS

This Sunday Zach Carstens joined us as guest preacher, leading us in a powerful meditation on worship and singing.

Consider together this quote from the start of Zach’s message:

“Here's something that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”

  • Do you think this is true? Does everyone worship something?
  • What things have you inadvertently or actively worshipped? What was the result? Did they eat you alive?
  • Did any of the following questions help you see something you hadn’t noticed in your heart? “What preoccupies you? Frightens you? Drives you? What do you cling to and pursue? Do you ever feel totally satisfied and fulfilled?”

What’s the difference between our worship and the world’s worship?

Zach said, “When we worship God, we start to look more and more like him.”

Have you experienced this to be true? Why do you think it works that way?

Name a few times when God’s people sang together in the Bible. Now share a time when you were powerfully affected by worship through singing. Maybe a particular Sunday worship, maybe at an event or conference. Maybe with family or friends. Tell the group about it.

Make a list of reasons why singing in worship is a gift to us. What does it inspire in us? What does it teach us?

How does singing work to connect us? Why do you think singing together is an intimate thing? Have you felt closer to people after singing with them?

How does our worship affect the way outsiders see God?
 

TO READ

Re-read Psalm 115:1-5.

Read it aloud. Consider reading verses 1-3 in unison.

What’s powerful about this Psalm?

What’s different about our God and the false gods people stumble into worshiping?

 

TO PRAY

This week, sing your prayers. Consider singing together a song that functions as a prayer. Perhaps

  • The Lord is My Shepherd
  • Good, Good Father
  • Build Your Kingdom Here

Easter is for Everyone (part 3): Mural

TO START:

Here’s a list of ways to say hello in different languages. Play a game and have group members guess which language goes with which word. Whoever gets the most right gets a prize—if you buy one ;) Answer key is at the end of the guide.

  • BONJOUR
  • HOLA
  • HALLO
  • CIAO
  • OLÀ
  • NAMASTE
  • SALAAM
  • ZDRAS-TVUY-TE
  • KONNICHIWA
  • AHN-YOUNG-HA-SE-YO
  • MERHABA
  • SAIN BAINUU
  • SZIA
  • MARHABA
  • JAMBO  
  • NI HAU

 

TO DISCUSS:

Have you ever had a moment when language was a barrier, preventing you from understanding another person? Share with the group.

  • Have you ever had a moment when you were able to conquer a language barrier without translation help? How’d you do it?

God said about the people living in Babel: “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

  • Have you ever worked with someone who really understood you? What was the result of that understanding on your work, on your relationship?

We also said about the people of Babel (post language confusion), “They can’t work together if they can’t understand each other.” Have you ever tried to work with someone you couldn’t understand? What was the result?

Share a time when you used your words to push people away. It’s okay to be honest and vulnerable. Your group loves you.

We said on Sunday, “It seems there are some things these days that we just can’t talk about without hurting each other.” Have you experienced this? What do you feel like you can’t talk about?

In our culture, the unspoken rules of communication seem to be: Agree with me, keep your mouth shut, or damage this relationship.

  • Have you ever avoided what might have been a productive conversation in order to keep the peace?

Are you more often a shark or a turtle? What are the potential problems of your way of communicating during conflict or difference of opinion?

Roy Clements wrote in his book, The Church that Turned the World Upside Down: “Is there a way of making people one, without at the same time making them all the same? It is precisely that sort of unity which the Holy Spirit brings.” If this kingdom of God is not a place where connection is predicated on similarity or uniformity, what complications will arise as we try to practice unity in diversity? What are the inevitable hurdles? Brainstorm a few...

Justin said Sunday, “It’s practically impossible for diversity, equality and belonging to coexist. And at the same time, I serve a God who does impossible things, a God who does impossible things in and through me.” What seems impossible right now because of a difference that’s standing between you and someone else? Where do you feel like there’s no chance of clear communication or resolution?

  • Take a minute to pray together over these situations.

What does it look like to speak in the voice of hope? Consider the following scenarios and brainstorm responses that reflect a hope-anchored heart:

  • A friend on Facebook posts a video bashing your political party of choice. What do you say in the comments?

  • A new Christian uses some profanity in a conversation over lunch. What do you say?

  • A new family at church dresses much more casually or much more formally than you do on Sunday mornings. What do you say about them to your friends?

  • The preacher has a really bad week and delivers a mediocre sermon. What do you say about it in the car on the way home? What might you say to him?

  • Someone mentions that they’re a pacifist in Bible class, but you think that’s stupid. What might you say (or ask) in a conversation.

  • Your church does a new thing that isn’t your preference. What do you say when the elders ask for feedback?

  • Your husband says he might want a divorce. What do you say?

  • Your co-worker eats lunch at her desk right next to yours and you don’t like the way her home-cooked food smells. What do you say to her?

  • A family in your neighborhood decides to decorate their front yard in a way that’s not to your taste. What do you say to your friend when you drive by?

  • Your church is growing because people are coming to know God. As it grows you know fewer of the people and fewer of the people look like you or think like you. Your family from out of town asks you how things are going at your church. You say?

 

TO READ AND PRAY

Read Acts 2: 1-21 and 37-39

  • Who is the Gospel for?
  • Who is the gospel not for?

Encourage your group members to do a little soul searching. Is there anyone they feel is outside of God’s ability to save? You might provide some quiet time for prayers of repentance (for lack of faith in God’s power) and prayers for the people (or types of people) we might have written off—that they’d come to salvation.

 

Answer Key:

  • BONJOUR – French
  • HOLA – Spanish
  • HALLO / GUTEN TAG – German
  • CIAO – Italian
  • OLÀ – Portuguese
  • NAMASTE – Hindi
  • SALAAM – Persian (Farsi)
  • ZDRAS-TVUY-TE – Russian
  • KONNICHIWA - Japanese
  • AHN-YOUNG-HA-SE-YO – Korean
  • MERHABA – Turkish
  • SAIN BAINUU- Mongolian
  • SZIA – Hungarian
  • MARHABA – Arabic
  • JAMBO  – Swahili
  • NI HAU – Mandarin

Easter is for Everyone (part 2): Portrait

TO START

Start group this week with a rousing round of pits and peaks (one good thing from the week, one bad/frustrating/hard thing).

AND/OR

You might tell stories of your earliest memory of meeting Jesus. What was your first impression/reaction when you learned about Him?
 

TO DISCUSS

Re-read John 21:1-19.

  • What sticks out to you about the way Peter acts in this interaction? Remember Peter’s previous sin of betraying Jesus. Does it surprise you that he’s so eager to see Jesus? Why do you think he is so eager?
  • What sticks out to you about the way Jesus acts toward Peter?
  • What does this interaction teach you about Jesus’ response to our sins?
  • What does it teach you about how you should respond to your sin?

What is your posture toward God when you’re sinful? Are you more likely to run toward God or away from God?

  • Share a story of a time when your guilt caused you to withdraw from God.
  • Share a time when your guilt compelled you to reach out for God.

Why is it safe for us to turn toward God after sin?

Consider the quote from T.S. Elliot that Justin used to begin his sermon:

“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

  • What does it mean? If you’re not sure, what might it mean?
  • How does it relate to Peter’s experience with God?
  • Have you experienced this to be true in your faith journey? Do you feel like you’ve ever circled around and in coming back found that you had increased wisdom or understanding?

TO READ

Read Psalm 32

  • According to the Psalm, does David turn toward God immediately after his sin?
  • Why does David eventually turn toward God in his guilt? How does God respond?
  • What does this Psalm teach you about how and why to turn to God after sin?

TO PRAY

Here are a few things you might pray for this week:

  • On Easter Sunday we experienced a beautiful and massive surge in our attendance. Pray that God would call those who visited back again and again. Pray we would reach them and help them come to know Christ fully.
  • Thank God for the success of Sharefest and ask him to use the event as a bridge to lead people closer to Him.
  • Pray for the teachers and students at Voigt Elementary School as STAAR testing begins. This is a very stressful season for everyone.

EXTRA

Interested in re-listening to the communion meditation we shared on Sunday? You can find it on our church’s Vimeo page: https://vimeo.com/rrcoc

Easter is for Everyone (part 1): Snapshots

TO START

How did your group members celebrate Easter? Share. Do any of you celebrate Easter with special traditions or in a spiritual way (beyond attending worship)? Tell the group how and why those practices mean something to you.

 

TO DISCUSS

Why is Jesus' resurrection from the dead essential to the Christian faith?

What does Christ's resurrection enable for us?

What does it look like to be resurrection people? How does the concept of resurrection affect your day to day failures, missteps and heartaches?

Share a story of a time when you saw God working resurrection in your life.

What does it suggest about Christ and His gospel message that the first witnesses of the resurrection were such a motley crew?

What do we mean when we say Easter is for everyone? Is that hard to believe? Have you ever struggled to receive God's love and grace yourself? Have you ever struggled to extend it to someone else?

 

TO READ

Read Acts 13:27-39

  • What is the heart of Paul's sermon here? What's it about essentially?
  • What is the promise inherent in Christ's resurrection?

 

TO PRAY

Where do you need some resurrection? What's dead in your life that you revived?

Share with your group and pray for new life. 

 

FOR FUN

Listen to this song from worship leaders Rend Collective. Consider the line "This is my Resurrection Day." What are the implications of that truth in your everyday life? If every day is your resurrection day, what changes?

Wounded & Healed

TO START

Have you ever had something good come from something bad? Share.

This good-from-bad phenomenon is why Christians often refer to the day Jesus died as “Good Friday.” Christ’s death was both terrible and wonderful.

 

TO DISCUSS

Was the artwork we viewed during the sermon uncomfortable for you to look at?

-If so, why?
-Even if it made you uncomfortable, what value might there have been in meditating on it?
 

Art is an excellent way to meditate on the crucifixion--but depictions of Jesus’ sacrifice don’t have to be literal. Take, for instance, the pieces we’ve displayed at the back of the auditorium--each one a reflection on a different moment leading to Jesus’ death. Consider having the group reflect on one or several of those pieces, viewing them and exploring their meaning together.

-(You can view them about halfway down this page. You might show them on a laptop to your group or view them via an Apple TV or similar device.)
 

Brian Zahnd: “There is nothing particularly unique about a religion that worships a resurrected god — the ancient world was awash with such religions. But Christianity is the only religion to have as its central focus the suffering and degradation of its God!”

-What does this uniqueness reveal to you about the essence of being a Christian?
 

We said Sunday that God is to be found in many places, even and perhaps most especially in painful and tragic things--exactly where we do not want to look for God.

-Have you experienced this? Share a time when you found God in an unlikely place.

 

TO READ

Read Matthew 27:27-54

-Imagine the scene as you read the text together--enter the story as a bystander or as a character within the story. Look around: see the sights and listen to the sounds. Fill out the details of the scene with your imagination. Share any thoughts.

-What stands out to you as important?

-Does this scene stir any emotion in you? What/how?

 

TO PRAY

Pray this prayer of confession together as a group. You might print out copies so that one person begins each couplet and everyone else in the group completes it by praying the second line out loud together.

You give us the power to choose,
And our need for power clouds our judgment.

We praise you,
And our praise for you quickly turns to anger.

You call us to obey,
And your call for obedience threatens our control.

You show us that we’re oppressors
And we claim piety in the midst of our injustice.

You offer to make us righteous,
And we attempt to be righteous on our own.

You invite us into the challenge of relationship,
And we choose the ease of religion.

You stand on trial, mocked,
And our loyalty lies with the surrounding crowd.

You seek to glorify God,
And we seek to glorify ourselves.

We are wounded
And you are whole,
And so you are wounded
That we can be healed.

Through Christ, our crucified Savior, we pray, Amen.

You might also consider having each person pray (silently is fine) thanking Christ for something his wounds have healed (or are healing) you of.

Just You Wait (part 3): You Are Here

TO START

Kids know, waiting is easier when you pass the time with a game. What games did you play in the doctor’s office or in the car on a road trip or after church waiting for your parents? Pick a favorite from the games shared and play it together tonight!
 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday that waiting has a way of consuming.

  • Have you ever let waiting consume your life for a while? Tell your group about it.
  • What was problematic about allowing the waiting to take over so much of your attention?

One of the big temptations in a season of waiting is to live in the future instead of the present. What problems might that cause?

For one, living in the future often produces discontent or worry. Have you noticed this? Have you ever become deeply anxious in a season of waiting? How did you deal with it? What could you have done to prevent it?

For another, living in the future causes us to miss our life. As Justin said, “If we’re not careful, we’ll treat the spot we are as a constant temporary placeholder--paying only enough attention to where we are in order to figure out how to get where we want to be.” What’s so bad about that? Have you ever done that? Do you have seasons in your past that you feel like you missed because you had your eyes on the future?

Justin said in the sermon this week, “If you’re always waiting ‘til you’re not waiting, you’ll always only be waiting.” What does that mean?

  • What implications does it have for the way we handle waiting?

Consider the life of Joseph. What important lessons can we learn from the way he handled his time in prison? Would you have acted the same way? How might Joseph have acted in that situation had he not been so full of holy wisdom?

We said that perseverance is “staying in it, even though you want to be done with it.” It’s being active now… when all you want to do is be passive ‘til later.

  • In a season of waiting, have you ever wanted to quit acting/doing/showing up?
  • Have you ever been tempted to just hide under the covers until you had an answer?
  • Tell your group about it.

Share a time when action was difficult, but God enabled you to keep going even in the midst of uncertainty.

Consider some of the things you’re waiting for. Is it possible you’re waiting for something “bad, dumb, or unimportant”? If you’re not sure, share with your group and ask for their input. Encourage group members to be kind and honest, remembering that honesty is kind.

In scripture, what are we encouraged to wait for? How (with what attitude/posture) do we wait on those things? Practically speaking, how can we be sure not to forget what’s coming?

 

TO READ

Read Luke 12:35-46.

  • What is this passage about? What’s Jesus trying to help His apostles and disciples understand?
  • What does a Christian do while he or she waits for Jesus’ return?
  • Be specific.
  • What are the consequences of waiting poorly?

 

TO PRAY

This is your last week to pray for each other in your seasons of waiting. Consider all we’ve discussed, and share with your group one specific prayer request. Where do you need to persevere? Where do you need to get moving? What things might you need to give up waiting for? Ask your group to pray!

Just You Wait (part 2): Held Up


TO START

Have you ever had a wait turn into a party (or at least a joy)? Think of a time you expected waiting to be a chore but discovered it to be an experience of its own.

(Examples might include making new friends in the Black Friday line outside Walmart or getting to read a favorite book at the DMV when you haven’t had time for books in weeks)

Play a game. Divide the group into two teams and have each team make a list of people in the Bible who waited. Have each group share their list. Any name that appears on both lists doesn’t count toward the team’s score. The team with the most names wins a prize (if you, as group leader, buy them one).

Spend some time looking at your lists. What can we learn about waiting from these examples?
 

TO DISCUSS

We started the sermon Sunday with a look at the book of Revelation and God’s response to the martyrs calling for justice (if you weren’t there, read Revelation 6:9-11). How did it make you feel to see God telling them to wait? Did it give you any perspective as you consider your own waiting? If so, share.

Waiting is an essential part of being a Christian. What does that mean? What are Christians waiting for? How does God want us to wait for those things?

We said on Sunday that there are two ways to wait well….

First, we should have ____________ that God will provide.

What does it mean to ‘have faith that God will provide’?

What does that look like practically speaking?

How does faith act in waiting?

Consider this statement: “Waiting on God means letting go of our desired outcome and trusting in a good God who loves us, knows our needs, and is faithful.”

Is that true? What does it mean? What’s hard about it?

Share an example of someone you know who waited with faith, surrendering their own expectations and desires.

Second, we said we should have _________________ for what God has provided.

How does gratitude influence our attitude during waiting?

What would it look like to practice gratitude on purpose during a season of waiting?
 

TO READ

This week read a longer passage together as a group. Read I Samuel 1:1-28 and 2:1-10.

What does Hannah’s experience teach you about waiting?

Consider her song after God answers her prayers. What does Hannah learn about God from her experience?
 

TO PRAY

One of the big ways to wait well is to surrender your desires to God. This week, have group members share what they need to surrender. What do you want God to do that you need to be okay with God not doing? Pray that you’d be empowered to surrender.

Just You Wait (part 1): The Beauty of Delay

TO START

How good are you at waiting?

Think back to childhood. How good were you at waiting for your Christmas presents?

As an adult, how good are you at waiting in a long line?
 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday that waiting people aren’t yet where they want to be. Are you a waiting person? Share one or two ways in which you’re waiting to get to a place where you want to be or waiting to have a thing you want to have or waiting to become the person you want to become. What are you waiting for?

Consider the following potential temptations we encounter in waiting:

-Impatience and Complaining

-Bitterness

-Doubt

-Substitution (Idolatry)

  • Which of these temptations are you most prone to?
  • Give an example of a time you gave in to one of these temptations.
  • What’s wrong with giving in to these temptations?

Waiting doesn’t have to be bad. Consider the following potential gifts of waiting:

-Waiting forces dependence

Have you ever experienced that? Share with the group?

-Waiting enables evaluation

Share a time when waiting slowed you down for long enough to reconsider your plan.

-Waiting reminds you the world doesn’t revolve around you.

It’s also possible that waiting could do the opposite. What could we do, practically speaking, to ensure that our waiting doesn’t lead to self obsession, but instead teaches us patience and gives us perspective?

-Waiting enables preparation

Have you ever had something postponed (a test, a meeting at work, etc) and recognized it as an opportunity to be ready? Share.

We said on Sunday that in our season of waiting we should ask:

  • How will I wait?
  • Who will I become along the way?

Consider one of the ways you’re waiting right now and share with your group who you hope to become as you’re waiting.

If you have a story of waiting that blessed you or transformed you, share with your group.
 

TO READ

Read Lamentations 3: 17-26

  • Why does Jeremiah say he will wait for the Lord?
  • What does Jeremiah mean when he says “The Lord is my portion”?
  • How does hope shape our waiting?

 

TO PRAY

Go back to the list you shared earlier in the night, the ways your group members are currently waiting. Pray that God would give each person what they’re waiting for. AND pray that God would use this season of waiting to shape them into His image.

An Apology...

We want to apologize for not getting you the small group discussion guides over the last two weeks. Our usual guide author was out of town and though we had plans for fill-in help, circumstances made it so that both plans fell through. Again, we're sorry and we won't let it happen again!

Sow (part 2): Shared

TO START

Tell your group a story about a time as a kid when you were forced to share something you didn’t want to share. Or when you thought you were going to hate sharing and actually liked it.

 

TO DISCUSS

What does it mean to “share”? Think of examples of things you might share. How does that terminology shape our understanding of what’s happening when we give our money?

This Sunday we said, “Generosity isn’t just giving something away but sharing it.” Have you ever had the privilege of sharing in the fruit of your giving? Share stories.

Consider the things you get to share in because of your RRCOC giving. Make as long a list as you can come up with. Then pray thanksgiving over the list.

Do you sometimes struggle to give without strings attached or do you only give when the money will be used in a specific way you want it used? How much “say” should we expect when it comes to our giving? Are we only supposed to give when we get to share in the enjoyment of our sacrifice?

 

TO READ

Read Acts 4:32-35.

  • What precipitated the Christians’ eager giving?
  • What was the result of their giving?
  • What can we learn about giving from this example?

Read I Timothy 6:17-19.

  • Not only do we get to share in our giving here and now, what other long term benefits are there to our generosity?
  • What is “the life that is truly life”?
  • How might putting our hope in wealth hogtie our generosity? How does putting our hope in God change the way we handle money?

 

TO PRAY

Tonight, pray what David prayed after the people gave generously. Read I Chron. 29:10-14 aloud together:

“Praise be to you, Lord,

   the God of our father Israel,

   from everlasting to everlasting.

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power

   and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,

   for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;

   you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you;

   you are the ruler of all things.

In your hands are strength and power

   to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks,

   and praise your glorious name.

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

 

Sow (part 1): Resolved

TO START

Did your parents or grandparents talk to you about their church giving growing up? What did you know about how much other people gave to church? Did you grow up assuming one day you would give a significant portion of your income to God?

If you didn’t grow up going to church, how did you react when you first realized you were “supposed to” give?

 

TO READ

Read back over the text from the sermon this Sunday, 2 Corinthians 9:1-11.

  • What new things do you notice?
  • What’s challenging?
  • What gives you hope?

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, “We’re ambitious about a lot of things. God teaches us to be ambitious about something unexpected: our generosity.”

Was that new or challenging to you?

What does it mean to be ambitious when it comes to giving?

Do you have goals you’re working toward achieving in your giving?

Have you ever met anyone who seemed ambitious in their giving? How’d you know?

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

What does that mean? Is it a promise?

Drawing from 2 Corinthians chapter 9, Justin said giving should be personal (“Give what you have decided…” AND planned (”...what you have decided in your heart to give”).

    What do you need to do in light of these two truths in order to grow in your giving?

Have you ever struggled to trust God with your money? What’s the hangup? Do you think you might have a problem believing God IS as powerful as He says He is?

  •     How might practicing thanksgiving now enable trust in the future?
  •     What’s another way we can grow in trust?

Here’s how we said giving works according to God: You give, God takes care of you, God enables more generosity.

Have you experienced this cycle personally? Share with the group.

In verse nine of 2 Corinthians chapter 9 we read, “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Justin asked us Sunday, “What else of yours endures forever?”

How does that strike you--the realization that generosity has eternal consequences, that it builds enduring monuments?

Do you ever think of giving as throwing money away? Or that when you give your money disappears? What lies like those do you hear in your head?

We said in the sermon, “The best way to waste a seed is not to plant it.”

Does that image of money as seed help you at all?

What does it suggest?

End group by challenging members to make ambitious giving goals this week. Don’t ask anyone to share the particulars but do encourage everyone to let the group know when they’ve made a goal. Accountability helps. :)

 

TO PRAY
This week ask God to lead you into ambitious giving. You might discuss some of the hurdles you’re facing as you try to give better/more consistently/more generously. Ask God to help you overcome them.

 

EXTRA

Hop on the website ilikegiving.com to watch videos and read stories of people who’re passionately pursuing generosity. Pick one to watch with your group.

Bad Plan (part 4): Reason To Fear

TO START

What are you afraid of? Big or little.

(If you want, you can play a game. Read a list of things people might be afraid of and have group members stand if they’re afraid of that thing.)

Which of your fears are ridiculous/unreasonable?

Which fears are more valid?

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we looked at one of the most well-known of all the stories in the Bible. Did you notice anything you hadn’t noticed before as we considered not the story of David and Goliath but rather the story of Saul and Goliath?

  • Do you feel like you understand Saul? Do you relate to him? If so, how?
  • What do you imagine he was feeling as Goliath mocked him, his army, and his God?

We said Sunday, “Saul ends up living in fear because he’s exempted himself from God’s power.” How did that happen? What did Saul do to separate himself from God?

Have you ever exempted yourself from God’s power by distancing yourself from God’s presence?  What did that look like?

What role does pride play in fear? Has your pride ever stirred up fear in you? Share an example.

We concluded in the sermon, “Fear reigns where God doesn’t.”

  • Think of some things we could let reign instead of God. Make a list.
  • Why might putting that thing/person/pursuit in charge lead to fear?

According to our discussion of this passage, God’s presence enables courage. If that’s true, when does fear make sense? When does fear not make sense?

Share a time when you were afraid for no good reason. How did you come to realize you didn’t need to fear anymore?

Consider this quote from Samuel Johnson about courage: “Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other. “

What do you think? Is it true? Why or why not?

We said Sunday, Obedience makes you brave.

What does that mean? Why is that true? What’s so inspiring about obedience?

Share a time when knowing you were acting in obedience to God gave you courage.

Right now, what do you wish you were brave enough to do? What’s holding you back?

 

TO READ

Read Matthew 14:22-33

What does Jesus tell the apostles when they cry out in fear?

What’s the relationship between fear, courage, God’s presence and obedience in this story?

What inspires courage?

 

TO PRAY

How does this prayer (the one we said together on Sunday) make you feel?

  • Is this a prayer you need to pray? Why or why not?
  • Is it one you’ve prayed before (in one way or another)? If so, share how you saw it answered.

Father in heaven,

I’m sick of living in fear.

I crave the courage that comes from your presence.

I pledge to do your will. To seek your face.

And as I do, make me brave because I’m not alone.

 

Bad Plan (part 3): No Turning Back…?

TO START

Here are a few ways to check in with your group and see how everyone’s doing. Most groups already use one of these methods (but just in case…):

  • Pits and Peaks--Have each member share one good and one bad thing that happened this week.
  • God sightings--Have members share one way they saw God working this week, either in their lives or in the life of someone close
  • Do-Over--If you could undo one thing you did this week, what would it be?
  • Shout Outs--Have members share times when they experienced God’s love through another person

 

TO DISCUSS

How many of your group members were familiar with the story about Saul we shared on Sunday? Retell it together as a group. You might decide to take a second look at the text together. You’ll find it in I Samuel 14:36-45.

As you read (or remember) this story, does anything stick out as weird, confusing, interesting or challenging?

We said on Sunday that sometimes “you’re working a bad plan, you have an opportunity to change strategies, and you don’t. Or won’t. Or think you can’t. “

Have you ever had a moment like that? When you knew you were in the middle of a bad plan but kept going anyway?

Consider the following light-hearted bad plan categories:

-Home repair

-Fashion/hairstyles

- Big purchases

What about something more consequential?

Have you ever had a time when you realized you were going the wrong way and succeeded in changing direction? What was hard about it? Were you glad you did? Why/why not?

Justin said in the sermon, “The only thing worse than a bad plan is an inability or an unwillingness to admit that it’s a bad plan and change direction.”

Would you say you’re a person who’s willing to change? Would your spouse/best friend/kids say that about you?

What characteristics does a person who’s willing to change have?

In the Bible, when a person’s working a bad plan, realizes he has a bad plan and decides to stop and follow a better plan, that’s called repentance. Consider the following repentance messages from Jesus:

  • Matthew 4:17
  • Mark 1:15
  • Luke 3:8
  • Luke 5:32
  • Luke 24:46-47

What was Jesus asking people to do when He asked them to repent?

What might get in the way of us being willing to repent?

If these three roadblocks don’t come up, be sure to add them to your list:

  • Pride
  • Fear of consequences
  • Laziness

How might pride, fear or laziness hold you back from necessary redirection? Think of a specific example.

It’s a gift whenever someone tells us we’re in the middle of a bad plan. Share a time when you received re-directing counsel.

We said again and again of Sunday, It’s never too late to go the right way.

Do you feel like that’s true? Not, do you know/believe it’s true. Do you feel it? Why or why not? Have you ever felt like in this one instance, it actually was too late? Share with the group.

 

TO READ

This week, take some time to read about “plans” in the book of Proverbs:

Prov. 20:18

Plans are established by seeking advice;

   so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

Prov. 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course,

   but the Lord establishes their steps.

Prov. 15:22

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Prov. 14:22

Do not those who plot evil go astray?

   But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

Prov. 21:30

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.

What do we learn about our plans (making them, following them, expecting them to work…) from these passages?

 

TO PRAY

Prayers of repentance are always good prayers. Tonight, ask God to redirect you, to show you where you need to make a change. If you know you need to make a change, share it with your group. Ask for help and accountability.

 

Bad Plan (part 2): I've Got This, God

TO START

Play a game of Simon Says. It will be so much more fun if you have a good prize for the winner. :)

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we looked at a story from the life of Saul told in I Samuel 13:6-14. Retell it together as a group or re-read it. 

What jumps out to you about this story?

What does Saul get wrong here?

 

We said in the sermon, God’s plan is better than your plan—true, but hard to get our heads around sometimes.

 

Do you usually think your plan is a good plan? Why? What qualifies you for making plans? (This isn’t a rhetorical questions. In lots of ways you’re more qualified to make plans for your life than almost anyone else. Count the ways.)

 

What qualifies God to be the plan maker? Make a list of reasons He’s good at making plans for our lives. 

 

Have you ever thought your plan was better than God’s plan? Maybe you didn’t necessarily say that out loud, maybe you just lived like your plan was a better plan than God’s plan. Share a time when you overruled God’s command in favor of your own wisdom. 

How did that play out? Would you do it again? 

 

Think of a time when you bristled at God’s plan or thought is seemed a little ridiculous but decided to follow it anyway. How did it go? 

 

What has your experience following God’s plans taught you about God? About yourself?

 

Have you ever made an excuse when you chose not to obey God’s plan? Share some of your favorite excuses. What kinds of reasons do we give God for disobedience?

 

Maybe you’re asking, How do I distinguish my plan from God’s plan? God doesn’t talk to me like He talked to Saul. 

Is that true—that Saul’s message from God is somehow clearer or more comprehensive than your message from God? How does God talk to you today? 

What can you do to become a better listener?

 

We said on Sunday that there are two big motivations to follow God’s plan:

A desire to experience the goodness of God’s plan 

A holy fear of the punishment that comes when we reject it

 

Which one is more powerful motivation for you? Why? 

Do you bristle at either of those motivations? Is either one hard to understand/come to terms with/visualize? 

 

TO READ

Psalm 119:30-40

How does the Psalmist feel about God’s commands?

Why does he love them so much?

What does he mean by this statement: “I run in the path of your commands”? Why use the word “run” as opposed to “walk”?

 

TO PRAY

Are you struggling in any way right now as you try to live out God’s plan for you? Share with your group. Ask for prayers for faith, courage, and strength.

Are you wondering what God’s plan for you might be in a certain area of life? Ask the group to pray for your clarity and wisdom. Be open to God using your group members to speak truth. 

Bad Plan (part 1): No Thanks, God

 

TO START

How about a round of “Never would I ever”? Have each group member write on an index card one job they would never ever want to do. Collect the cards, mix them up and read them aloud all the way through once. Then, have all group members try to guess which job goes with which person.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we considered God’s anointing of Saul to become the first king of Israel. Though God was certain Saul was the man for the job, Saul wasn’t exactly. Retell the story together. How did Saul react to being chosen by God for this role?

Can you think of any other men or women in the Bible who bristle at or run away from God’s calling or command? Share.

Read together Exodus 4:10-14.

“Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…”

Why does the Lord’s anger burn toward Moses? Why do you think it bothers God so much that Moses doesn’t want to do what God’s asking him to do?

Has God ever asked you to do something you didn’t feel capable of doing? Have you ever tried to get out of following Him as He’s commanded? Share. Consider that sometimes we do this with 1. opportunities to serve God and sometimes we do this with 2. the righteousness God commands.

What might God be calling you to do right now? If you have something, share with the group.

If you’re uncertain, how could you go about figuring it out? How do we discover/identify the areas into which God is calling us?

Ask the group if anyone has a “calling story”--a story about a time when God pushed them to do something outside their comfort zone.

  • How did they know they were being called?
  • How did they know what God wanted?
  • How did they respond?

The subtitle for this new sermon series is this: When life hands you lemons, sometimes it’s because you planted a lemon tree.

How does that make you feel? How would you react to a friend who addressed those words to you? Have you ever seen that play out in someone else’s life? Why might we be reluctant to embrace it as a reality in our own lives?

How do we know if we’re working a bad plan? What’s our job when the people around us are working a bad plan? How do we best help?

 

TO PRAY

As a group consider the prayer we shared on Sunday:

Heavenly Father,

If you have something for me to do, show me. If it’s important to you, make it important to me. Help me live bigger. Bigger than now, bigger than me.

Give me courage to embrace your calling.

I refuse to refuse.

  • Is this prayer hard for you to pray or no?
  • Have you prayed a prayer like it before?
  • Have you ever had a prayer like this answered in an uncomfortable/challenging way?

 

 

FOR FUN

We started off this week’s sermon with the whale video. Here’s a link in case some of your group members missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVVW8BferzQ

That’s it. No discussion questions related to it. We just didn’t want anyone to miss it. :)