On The Road To Better (part 2): Spring Starts In Winter

TO START

Have you ever really wanted something you had to wait a long time to get? What was it? How’d you handle the waiting? Share with the group.

 

DISCUSSION

Have you ever been in a place where it just seemed like God wasn’t coming through on something you thought he said He’d do? Share with the group.

  • What did you expect God to do that He wasn’t doing?
  • How did it feel?
  • What questions did you have?

As we read about David on Sunday, we said that David doesn’t know what God’s up to, but he continues to have faith that God’s up to something.

  • Have you ever watched someone do that, go through something really hard with steady faith? Tell the group about it.

Nothing starts full-grown. Everything starts as a seed. Look for the seeds in your own life. What do you see God planting in you right now?

  • Have you noticed God planting anything in the people around you? Your family? Maybe some of your fellow small group members?

Once we recognize that God’s planting something in us, it’s our job to water it and protect it. What would that look like for you? Consider your seeds and figure out how you can help them grow. Share some practical steps with the group.

Think of a way you’re strong now that you used to be weak. See if you can look back and find the first seeds God might have been planting in His efforts to grow you. When did your transformation really begin? What do you think spurred it? What efforts of yours helped it grow?

Justin said on Sunday, “What we need is not complete protection from difficult things, or a life void of disappointment. What we need is hope.”

  • Why is hope what we need?
  • How does hope make it better?

This world is full of small things that are pregnant with divine potential. How can we do a better job of celebrating the small things God is doing? Give a few examples.

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Galatians 3: 26-29.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

What does it mean that we’re Abraham’s seed?

If we are Abraham’s seed how long ago did God plant us, beginning the process of bringing us to salvation? How does that make you feel?

Consider the hereditary seed God’s sowing through you personally. How can you protect what’s God’s growing in your family? Practically speaking, how can you help your children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews grow in Christ right now? What about your possible/potential children? Think of both things you can do personally and things you can do collectively.

 

PRAYER

Together, pray this paraphrase of Psalm 142. Break the Psalm into parts and have each member pray a little (you'll probably need to print copies or text it to everyone):

We cry aloud to You, Lord;

We  lift up our voices to You for mercy.

We pour out before You our complaint;

To You, Lord, we tell our troubles.

When our spirits grows faint within us,

It is You who watches over our way.

In the path where we walk

We find snares of all kinds..

Look and see, God, sometimes it feels like we’re all alone;

Like we have no safe place;

We feel alone and misunderstood and vulnerable.

That’s why we cry to you, Lord;

You are our refuge,

All we need and all we’re promised here on earth.

Listen to our cry,

For we have desperate needs;

Rescue us from the forces of darkness,

For they are too strong for us.

Set us free from the prison of disappointment,

Of sadness, of loneliness, of loss, of guilt, of pain,

That we may praise your name.

We will find belonging and community among the righteous

Because of your goodness to us.

 

FOR FUN:

Have a discussion about the myth of “overnight success.” Consider these words from KIND bar founder Daniel Lubetzky: http://www.inc.com/daniel-lubetzky/what-overnight-success-really-looks-like.html

  • Are you expecting overnight success?
  • Is overnight success even possible?

On The Road To Better (part 1): Paging Dr. Jekyll

TO START:

Name one of your favorite fictional characters. On Sunday we said people are complicated and inconsistent. So are great characters (that's part of what makes them great). Think of an inconsistency in your favorite character. Share with the group.

 

DISCUSSION:

On Sunday Ryan Crowder led us in a meditation on what it looks like to be human. Quoting his college acting teacher, Ryan said, "Real human beings are not consistent. No one is either all good or all bad. People are always both. And if you’re going to create an honest portrait of a human being in your acting, you need to intentionally build in the inconsistencies, because real human beings are inconsistent."

Do you relate to this? How so or why not? 

  • Do you ever feel inconsistent? Give an example.
  • Do you ever get frustrated by the pace of your progress in Christ? Share a category where God's been growing you lately. Share another category that you thought you had mastered only to find yourself acting out.

Consider the two stories we told about David on Sunday.

  • What was good about David in the story of David and Goliath? 
  • What was bad about David in the story about him and the king of Gath?
  • Are you confused when you read these two stories together? Or does this make sense to you? Try to explain it to your group.

Ryan offered four "rules of the road" for those of us on the journey of transformation. 

1: Pursue better. There’s always more.

2: Success today doesn’t mean no failure tomorrow.

3: Failure today doesn’t mean no success tomorrow.

4: Your journey is not just about you.

Which one did you most need to hear? Which one do you run up against most often?

Consider each rule on its own. Why is this rule important to remember? Do you sometimes forget?

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read 2 Corinthians 3:18.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Who is the "we" Paul's referring to? Are there any requirements for transformation in this passage? 

If we're being transformed into the image of Christ, what does that mean? What does a person who looks like Christ look like? 

What's the source of transformation? Is there anything we can do to make transformation more likely?

 

PRAYER

Share with your group one area in which you're currently being transformed. Ask your group for prayers that you would pursue better and give yourself grace. 

 

FOR FUN

Watch this PG rated short video and observe the character arc of Dr. Grant in the movie Jurassic Park. What circumstances lead to his transformation? Be specific. What can we learn about transformation from watching one?

(The video includes two PG level cuss words)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TK0mTyR6nM

Works Well With Others (part 3): Let Go

TO START

Did your group members bestow their Works Well With Others stickers? Share with the group who you gave it to and why you did.

OR

On Sunday Justin asked, “Do you want your relationship to survive your humanity?” To start tonight, have group members share a funny or embarrassing way they acted like a human (ie imperfectly) in a relationship. Bring on the vulnerability!
 

DISCUSSION

During this week’s sermon we said forgiveness is about relinquishing rights. Think of an offense someone committed against you in the past. In the moment what “right” of yours did you feel was trampled?

  • Take a minute to put together a list of things we feel like we deserve in relationships.

Likely, your list will represent things good relationships strive to achieve. There’s nothing wrong with wanting these things in a relationship.

  • In your experience with relationships, are these things usually achieved with absolute consistency?
  • What happens though when we expect these things from others and they fail us? How do we feel?
  • In those moments we have two options: forgive or don’t forgive. How does it feel to forgive? How does it feel to choose not to forgive? Share a story of a time you chose to forgive or a time you chose not to forgive.

Now think of a time you needed forgiveness. How did it feel to receive it? OR how did it feel not to receive forgiveness? What did that forgiveness or withheld forgiveness do to your relationship?

When Jesus says to forgive seventy times seven times, how does that make you feel? What makes you nervous about that?

  • What can you do, practically speaking, to ensure God’s looking out for you as you step into obedient forgiveness?

Think of a relationship in which you need to offer forgiveness. What’s holding you back? Take a moment to identify the hurdles making it hard to forgive. Don’t forget; this isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s hard and holy, possible only through Christ.

 

SCRIPTURE

Read Colossians 3:12-14.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Here the Apostle Paul calls us to “forgive as the Lord forgave you.” How would you describe the way the Lord forgives you? Take a moment on this question. Encourage everyone to chime in. Then move on to the following questions.

  • What could you do that would exclude you from God’s forgiveness?
  • Do you think God feels weak when He forgives us?
  • What enables God to offer forgiveness so freely? Is that available to us or is it just for God?

What do compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love have to do with forgiveness? In what ways do these virtues enable us to practice forgiveness? Consider each virtue individually.

 

PRAYER

Do you have a person you need to forgive? Do you need forgiveness yourself? Tell your group. If you want, you can tell the group in depth about the situation. If you don’t want to share details simply share that you need prayers.

Ask the group to pray for you, that you’d have the courage and compassion to extend forgiveness or seek it.


 

Works Well With Others (part 2): Race To The Bottom

TO REVIEW

Did any of your group members attempt the “5 Things Authentic People Say” homework? If so, Which of the five things did you find the hardest to say? Share a circumstance in which you said “Me, too” “I was wrong. I’m so sorry.” “I need help. Will you help me?” “I’m not where I want to be yet” or “I’m not where I was.”

 

DISCUSSION

This Sunday we discussed one way to get better at relationships. We said in a good relationship, both people are looking to bless not themselves but each other. 

When our goal in a relationship is to be personally blessed we ask questions like “What do you have to offer me?” “What am I getting out of this relationship?” “How can I get what I want?”

  • What kinds of questions should we ask instead?

Think of a time someone put you and your needs/comfort/blessing before him or her self. It might be a time when someone gave you their time and attention even though it didn’t benefit him at all. It might be a time when someone got less because she gave you more. Share with the group.

How good are you at paying attention to other people’s lives? What does it look like to practice that?

Consider this quote from William Barclay in the context of relationships: “The Christian has no rights. Only duties.”

  • What does it mean? 
  • Is it true? 
  • If it is true, what it look like to live as a person who has no rights? Even if you don’t think it’s totally true, imagine which “rights” we Christians should be willing to give up in a relationship.

Give one practical example of “racing to the bottom” in each of the following relationships:

  • Co-workers
  • Parent to child/child to parent
  • Teacher to student
  • Husband to wife/Wife to husband
  • Friends
  • Brother to sister/sister to brother
  • Neighbors
  • Church members 

Think of a relationship you want to improve. Think of three things you could do in that relationship to serve the other person. Share one with your group and ask them to hold you accountable.

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Philippians 2:3-8.

How do you feel about the prospect of “not looking to your own interests”? Does that bother or concern you at all? Why or why not?

What would it look like for you follow Jesus’ example and “make yourself nothing”? 

  • What would you stop doing? 
  • What would you start doing?

 

PRAYER

Think of the relationship you chose earlier as one you’re committed to improving. Identify one thing your group can pray for the person you’re committed to blessing. Any prayer on their behalf is a blessing to them. :) 

 

Works Well With Others (part 1): Be Real

TO START

Two things:

1. Likely your group hasn't been meeting regularly or in the usual manner over the summer. Take a minute to catch up. How is everybody--really? Did anything hard or sad or wonderful happen while you were apart?

2. This week we're talking about authenticity. Let's practice being real! Go around the group and have each member share one weakness and one strength, one thing they're bad at and one thing they're great at. 

 

DISCUSSION

What does it mean to be authentic? Think of a thing (not a person) you might describe as authentic. Make a list of things (examples: Chinese food, antiques, baseball cards). What do you mean when you call those things authentic?

Now think of a person you'd describe as "authentic" (or full of integrity). What about that person makes him or her authentic?

Do you personally struggle with authenticity? Is it hard to be your full, real, self? If so, what do you think makes that kind of vulnerability/integrity hard? What are the potential negative consequences of being authentic?

Share a time when a person was vulnerable with you. Did that moment of shared vulnerability change your relationship in any way? What about you? Have you ever been courageously vulnerable with someone? How'd it go?

Read Genesis 2:25. "Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

  • Vulnerability often brings shame. Do you feel embarrassed when you imagine telling people private things about yourself?
  • Why didn't Adam and Eve feel any shame? What does it take to be your full, "naked" self in a relationship? What needs to exist within that relationship?

Do you have people in your life who you've known for years but feel like you don't really know? Why do you think that is? What behaviors and/or attitudes are keeping you from getting close?

Make a list of reasons why authenticity is good for relationships. 

Think of practical steps toward being more authentic. What can you do tomorrow to pursue more authenticity, vulnerability and integrity in your relationships? What will you do differently?

 

SCRIPTURE READING

James 5:16 // Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

  • What is the consequence of confessing our sins to one another and praying for each other? 
  • Have you ever experienced physical, emotional, or relational healing after confession? Tell the group about it.
  • What's required in order for you to feel comfortable confessing to a friend? How should we respond when someone confesses to us? 

 

PRAYER

Group prayer depends upon members being vulnerable with one another. Tonight as you take prayer requests, encourage members to be transparent. Remember, in order for members to feel safe sharing their full selves, you'll need to handle their requests with gentleness, compassion, and grace. 

 

FOR DIGGING DEEPER

Consider doing one of these three things as a group:

1. Watch Brenee Brown's famous Ted talk on vulnerability. 28 million people have seen it. It's that good. For a shorter version try THIS clip

2. Read and discuss the following quote from The Velveteen Rabbit. What does it mean? What wisdom does it offer for us in our pursuit of real-ness?

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 
― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

3. Play a round of Holy Truth or Dare (but without the dare). "Holy" means all the questions have the best interests of the people playing in mind. :) Ask questions like these: What kind of person do you want to be, but know you aren't yet? Which fruit of the Spirit is God growing most in you right now? Do you want to be an elder one day? Why or why not? How do you think you're actually doing as a parent? What relationship in your life needs the most work?

SUMMER IN

SMALL GROUPS

This is gonna be fun.

So, summer’s here. And this summer we suggest you and your group do something fun. Really fun. “What?” you ask? Well, that’s up to you. We’re just saying make it fun. ;)

The purpose of small groups at Round Rock is this: to provide a predictable environment where participants experience authentic, intimate community that leads to spiritual growth.” During the year we spend a lot of time and effort encouraging intimacy and spiritual growth through discussion and prayer. In the summer, we encourage you to pursue connection with your group by doing things together. What kinds of things? Consider this list as a starting point…

 

FUN THINGS TO DO TOGETHER THIS SUMMER:

  • Sing karaoke.
  • Play putt putt golf.
  • Take a hike.
  • Go out to eat.
  • Go geocaching.
  • Make a bonfire.
  • Go camping.
  • Go bird-watching.
  • Throw a pool party.
  • Have a game night.
  • Have an old-timey singing night and sing all the songs you sang at church as a kid.
  • Take a day trip to Fredericksburg or Hamilton Pool or Waco or San Antonio.
  • Have each group member write down his or her favorite hobby/pastime. Then, as a group, try it out together.
  • Host a cookout and invite another group to come.

 

FUN AND KIND THINGS TO DO TOGETHER THIS SUMMER:

  • Throw a surprise party for someone who’s feeling down.
  • Work in a neighbor’s yard.
  • Take a trip to a nursing home. Sing some hymns.
  • Visit one of Round Rock’s widows or shut-ins. Bring cards or balloons.
  • Volunteer at the Round Rock Serving Center.
  • Volunteer with STARRY during a foster parent training event.
  • Make care packages for one of our missionaries.
  • Assemble bags of crackers, socks, etc. to hand out to the homeless
  • Adopt another group’s kids for a night, giving them a child-free evening
  • Identify a cause that matters to your group. Figure out a way to pitch in.
  • Spend the summer praying through the church directory together.

 

FUN AND EDUCATIONAL THINGS TO DO TOGETHER THIS SUMMER:

  • Read a book together and talk about it.

  • Watch a video series together and talk about it (We have several available at the building if you’re looking. Just email kt@rrcoc.org for possibilities.).

  • Read a book of the Bible together and talk about it.

Whatever your group decides to do, we hope you’ll do something. Make plans ahead of time and meet even when the group will be small. Only four people strong this week? No problem. Four people can have lots of fun together!

Have a great summer, groups!

The Only Way To Win (by Ryne Parrish)

*Miss the sermon? You can listen to a recording of the current week's sermon immediately after worship here: http://bit.ly/weeklysermon

TO START

Tell the group a story about a time you really wanted to win and you didn’t. Funny details encouraged. :)

 

DISCUSSION GUIDE

What does it mean to “win” in today’s culture? What does a winner look like?

On Sunday Ryne said, “Just as you think you’ve won, you’ve reached the top of the ladder, you find another ladder you have to climb. It’s this never ending cycle of trying to get to the top.”

  • Have you found this to be true? If so, share an example.

This week we looked at a passage in the book of Revelation. Have you read Revelation much before? If not, what do you think about the dream motif? Is it interesting to you or confusing? Did this week make you want to read more?

In Revelation 5:1-10, we see a picture of Jesus as lion and lamb. What does this passage teach us about what it looks like to win?

At the end of this passage God’s children are crowned and given reign over the kingdom of God on earth. Having considered the way Jesus used his power, how should we reign?

Give an example of a way we could lay down our power for the good of someone else.

Do you often find yourself asking the question, “What can I gain from this?” How do you think your behavior would change if you started asking, “What can I give?”

Consider the questions Ryne asked at the close of the sermon. Take a minute and imagine together…

  • What would our relationships look like if every friend sought to be lower than the other rather than to be above them?

  • What could this community look like if everyone was so focused on serving others that they completely forgot about their own agenda?

  • What would the world look like if every government suddenly decided to care less about having the most guns and more about feeding the hungry?

 

PRAYER

Identify one place/arena where you’ve been trying “win” when really you should have been looking to give and help. Pray together for a heart like Christ’s.

 

SCRIPTURE

Read Matthew 10:38-39

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

What does it look like, practically speaking, for you to lose your life?

 

FOR FUN

During your meal or dessert tonight, do what Ryne and his friends do at dinner. No one can take anything for himself. No one can ask for anything. Everyone serves everyone. Kids included! See how it goes… :)

 

Grace Works (part 4): Reset

**NOTE TO GROUP LEADERS**

Next week will be the last small group discussion guide before the summer transition. During summer we encourage groups to focus on relationship building through acts of service, celebration and connection. We’d encourage you NOT to stop meeting during the summer, though you’re welcome to change up the timing, frequency or format of your meetings.

We won’t supply your group with discussion questions for the summer. We will however provide a list of possible ways to spend June, July and August for the glory of God and the good of your group. That list will post to the discussion guide right here on the website next week, and will be provided in print in the church foyer for the duration of the summer.

 

TO START

Have group members share an embarrassing moment from their youth in which they wish they’d had a start over button (or maybe one of those mind erasers from Men In Black). Keep the stories light and funny. We’ll save the heavy stuff for later in the discussion.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Throughout this series we’ve made the claim that you can’t understand God until you understand grace. Now that you’ve spent a few weeks thinking about grace, what do you think you’ve learned about God?

In Exodus 34: 6-7, God shares with Moses His essential identity in just a few short sentences. According to God, Who is God?

This Sunday we focused our attention on the idea that in Christ you can always start over.

  • How does that strike you? Does it feel true? Is it true?
  • Have you ever struggled with guilt over past sins? How does that feel? How does guilt affect your relationship with God? Is it helpful? Or does it get in the way of you being who God made you to be?

  • What can we do, practically speaking, to get rid of guilt?

Have you ever tried to start over and found it difficult? Share a personal experience.

  • What made starting over so hard?

Even though they’re sometimes hard, new starts are also some of the best things that could ever happen to us. Share with the group about a fresh start that was just exactly what you needed. Have you ever started over and seen God do amazing things?


Does starting over get harder or easier with experience? Why do you think that is?

Now, let’s get to the heart of what your group needs to talk about tonight…

Encourage group members to share one way they need to start over right now. Where do you need God's grace today? Is there a sin they just can’t shake, a habit that’s messing everything up, an attitude that’s devolving over time… Have members say one specific place/arena/category where they’d like to start over. 

 

PRAYER

Once members have shared where they need to start over, pray over them as a group one by one. Pray for courage, forgiveness and freedom from guilt. After each prayer go ahead and push the start over button (even if it feels corny). :)
 

SCRIPTURE

Read Isaiah 1:11-18

Who is God in this passage? And what does He want from His children?

 

FOR FUN

Watch this commercial for the “Do Over Button”: https://youtu.be/MIU9DlluX_8

  • What do the “do over button” and the “start over button” have in common?
  • How are they different?

 

Grace Works (part 3): Get Up

TO START

If you’re new to grace (faith in Jesus or going to church), what’s surprising about the idea of grace? Is this the way you expected “religion” to work? 

If you’re not so new, do you have grace baggage? Go ahead and unload it. Share with your group about all the things you used to believe about grace but have since questioned. How have those hang ups bound you in your efforts to accept God’s grace? How did you move past them?

You’re only allowed to talk about baggage productively and even then, for a maximum of 17 minutes. :)

 

DISCUSSION GUIDE

In the kingdom of God, everything flows out of grace. Think about why grace would be so inspiring. 

  • What’s so good about grace?
  • Think of a person you know who really appreciates and understands grace. How can you tell?
  • Does grace inspire action? Have you seen this happen? Give an example. 
  • Has that been your experience? Explain.
  • Do you personally bristle at a connection between grace and works? If so, share with your group. Be honest and speak freely. 

Consider this quote from Klyne Snodgrass: “Salvation is not from works, but surely it is for works.”

  • What does it mean?

What is the relationship between grace and our transformation and kingdom activity?

What has grace done in you? How is God changing you? Think of a recent example.

Do you ever feel like God isn’t doing much in you? Talk about that. What do you think you could do to enable God’s transformative grace? (Think back on the jar metaphor from last week.)

On Sunday, Justin suggested the following list of ways we might allow the grace of God to work in and through us. Consider it and allow it to inspire your own short list. What is God ready to do in or through YOU by His grace?

  • Love someone.
  • Embrace the next interruption.
  • Forgive someone who’s hurt you.
  • Quit your job because it distracts you from following Jesus.
  • Give a bunch of money to someone who needs it.
  • Pray all night.
  • Ask somebody at work if they want to read through one of the gospels with you every Tuesday morning.
  • Tell your wife you’re finally ready to get marriage counseling.
  • Go meet your neighbors and invite them over for dinner.
  • Write an encouraging letter to someone in your church family who’d never expect it.
  • Take your family and move to China so you can tell people about Jesus.

 

PRAYER

This week pray for God to inspire you to DO STUFF. Ask God to light a fire in each heart AND to light a fire under your group. Before you pray, consider ways your group might respond to the grace of God. Plan a service project for the summer. Commit to pray for and write letters to a missionary. Work out the details to help with an adoption. Sky’s the limit. Once you’ve begun the process of choosing something, pray asking God to pour His grace into you and through you. 

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read James 2: 14-19

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

How does James measure a man’s faith? 

If your faith were to be measured that way how would you do? Is your faith dead? On life support? Pretty healthy? 

If your faith expressed in deeds in lacking, ask your small group for help and accountability. 

 

Grace Works (part 2): Our Part

TO START

Share a time you had to trust your life/safety/happiness/success to someone else. Make a list of those moments and then explain why you were (or weren't) willing to trust. 

DISCUSSION

Consider these two ways of viewing entrance into the kingdom of God:

  1. Change and you can join.
  2. Join and you can change.

Have you ever tried to live into #1? How well does that work? Share any experience you have.

Why is #2 so superior (other than the reality that it's God's plan)? In other words, why do you think God might make this the plan?

On Sunday we used an illustration of a pitcher and jar to explain how we accept grace. If your members haven't heard the sermon, show them the illustration. 

  • Have you ever been guilty of accusing the pitcher of not "pouring right"? What kinds of accusations have you made against God?

Consider the three manifestations of faith we discussed on Sunday. 

People who have faith...

  1. Develop an awareness of their need.
  2. Observe God's ability to meet their needs. 
  3. Come in a posture of surrender. 

Which is the hardest for you?

  • Do you struggle to see yourself as needing help? Have you ever pretended everything was fine? 
  • Do you genuinely believe God is big enough to offer you grace? Have you ever struggled with that? Share your experience. 
  • How can you be more intentional about "observing God"? What would that look like?
  • How do feel about surrender? Is surrendering to God something that comes easily? 
  • What areas of your life are hardest to surrender to God?
  • How does it make your feel to realize that every place we fail to surrender to God is exempted from God's grace?

If the reason God requires faith lies in His desire for relationship, what is it about faith (trust) that makes relationships strong? Have you ever had a healthy relationship without trust? What do relationships without trust look like? 

  • Tell ypour group about a relationship that was based on trust that sustained or blessed you in some way.

 

PRAYER

Because faith requires surrender, pray a prayer of surrender as a group. Use Wesley's covenant prayer as a script. Either read it together or have the leader read it line by line with members repeating. 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Romans 4:18-25; 5:1

  • What does faith look like for Abraham? What does Abraham's faith "achieve"? What can we learn about faith and grace from Abraham?

 

Grace Works (part 1): Undeserved

TO START

Have each member use the word “grace” in a sentence that is not about God/church/Jesus/the Bible. Go around the circle until a member can’t think of a sentence. If they don’t immediately have one they’re “out” of the game. Keep going until there’s only one person left.

 

DISCUSSION

What is grace? Give an example of a time a person showed you grace. 

Is grace a good characteristic or bad? Make a case for your answer. 

Read Ephesians 2:7-9

“In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

What does it mean that God shows “the incomparable riches of his grace”? 

According to this passage, can we save ourselves?

Have you ever tried to save yourself? Share a story. How did that effort make you feel about yourself?

To further substantiate God’s essential graciousness...

Get a timer, set it for three minutes, and list as many stories from the Bible as you can think of that evidence God’s grace. How many did your group come up with? Why are there so many?

If God is gracious, how does that reality reality shape your relationship with Him? How would life with God be different if He didn’t offer grace?

Would you say you grew up in an environment of grace? If not, what sticks out as particularly ungracious? If you did, share an example. 

What can we do at Round Rock to follow in God’s grace footsteps and create a family full of grace? Think of practical actions and attitudes.

Consider this video, “The Force of Grace”: http://www.faithit.com/short-video-gods-grace-ridiculously-good-watch-over-and-over/

  • What is the force of grace?
  • Have you ever been guilty of minimizing grace? Or forgetting what a big deal it is? Why do you think that is? What could you do to prevent it?

  • What does grace look like to you on a micro scale? Through the filter of this short film, consider where you might have experienced God’s grace today?

 

SCRIPTURE

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

  • What does it mean that God’s Grace is “sufficient”?

 

PRAYER

Are there any members of your group who’re struggling to accept God’s grace? If so, have a special prayer for them tonight. Put your hands on them. Bring their names to God.

You might also have a prayer of thanksgiving for grace. Have each member thank God for one manifestation of His grace in their life.

 

FOR FUN AND WORSHIP AND CONNECTION

How about singing Amazing Grace together (Print out lyrics ahead of time. Sing all the verses.)? Then you might have members share which lines are most powerful to them.

 

Scratch and Sniff Kingdom (Zane Witcher)

 

TO START

Have group members share their favorite smells. What is it about that smell that you like so much? What good memories are associated with it?

 

DISCUSSION

What do Christians smell like?

Have you ever known a particularly “odorous” Christian? What was it about them that made you feel like they were different?

  • How do Christians smell to people who’re looking for God?
  • How do they smell to people who’re choosing against God?

Have you ever met someone who was repulsed by the Christ in you (perhaps they felt judged--not by your words but simply by the beauty/wholeness of your life--OR maybe your righteousness in Christ ruined their fun)?

How about someone who smelled life in you? Share a story.

Consider and discuss these two questions Zane asked us to consider:

  1. Do you spend time inhaling the aroma of God?

    • What does that look like for you? Be specific.

  2. Do you create space or margin in your life for you to spread the aroma of God?

    • If so, how so? What does spreading the aroma look like for you?

 

SCRIPTURE

Read 2 Corinthians 2: 14-17.

  • How does the fact that Paul sees himself as slave in this procession affect the way you understand the passage?

  • How is our position as slave related to our calling to be an aroma?

 

PRAYER

Have each group member share the name of someone they’re close to who does NOT appreciate the aroma of Christ in them. Perhaps it’s a parent, sibling, high school friend--anyone with animosity toward Christ and the Gospel. Pray over these names, asking God to work through us to change minds and hearts.

Believer (parts 1-4)

Over the next four weeks we'll be looking at evidence for the existence of God and a historical Jesus, along with evidence for the accuracy and inspiration of the Bible. Because this series doesn't lend itself well to lots of discussion, we'd like to offer a few options for you as you consider how to best use your small group time. The options listed below represent content to be used over four weeks.

 

1. Spend a night (maybe the first of this series) answering these questions:

  • When and why did you first come to faith in Christ?
  • What doubts have you had/worked through/still have in the months or years since that first moment of faith? Do you have nagging doubts that won't go away? Share with the group. If you have had doubts, what motivates you to persevere in faith?
  • If your group hasn't shared their stories/testimonies recently, this is a great time for each family/person to share with the group. Give ample time for members to tell how they came to know God and what God's been doing in their lives.

 

2. Watch The Case For Christ, a documentary series on the evidence pointing to Christ's existence and the accuracy of the Biblical account of His life. It's approximately two hours long. You can break it up into 2, 3 or 4 parts. If you don't have access to a TV that will play YouTube videos, email the church office this week (kt@rrcoc.org) and we can provide a DVD copy by next Sunday. Otherwise, you can watch online via the following links:

PART 1: https://dai.ly/xjjqjw

PART 2: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjkjkv_the-case-for-christ-part-2-of-2_shortfilms

You may decide to encourage group members to bring friends to group as you work through this movie.

 

3. If someone asked you, "Why do you believe in God?" how would you respond? It's so important for us to know how to answer this question. Have each group member spend fifteen minutes alone writing an answer. No one is allowed to talk during that time. Come back together and have everyone share their answers. This single question/activity should take between 45 minutes and an hour.

  • You may also decide to do this exercise about Jesus or the Bible.

 

4. In today's culture, more and more people are coming to belief in God and Jesus not because of traditional arguments and proof but rather because they see God working here and now. Take some time as a group to discuss what God is doing in you and through you right now (or recently) and how you could make that plain for the people living alongside you.

  • Try this exercise. Look at your personal life, your small group, our congregation, and the global church. Where do you see God? Start your observation with the words "I see God in..." Now that you see Him,  figure out how you could point out God's presence to your friends who don't know Him yet.

 

5. Discuss as a group the tension between believing and knowing. Can you believe without proof? How much proof is required to believe? What do we do when we think we believe but we can't be certain?

In conjunction with this discussion, pray for more faith. Pray as group that God would grow each of you in faith. Too, use this time to pray for people who don't yet believe. Have members share the names of people they know who need to come to faith and pray over those names.

Audacious

TO START

What's one totally audacious thing you've done in the past (not necessarily spiritual)? Write it down on an index card. Put everyone's index cards in a pile. Have one person read them all. Try to guess which story goes with which person. Whoever gets the most right should get a prize. Of course, you'll have to make that happen, so make it good. :)

 

DISCUSSION

Would people describe you as audacious? Why or why not? Do you think of "audacious" as a good thing?

Name someone you know who is audacious. What makes you describe them that way?

This Sunday's lesson was basically a call to fully live into the life God is calling you to, no matter how scary it seems. Consider the following calls to audacious living we discussed:

  • Loving my neighbor
  • Sacrificial giving
  • Inviting friends to church
  • Embracing our church's priority to reach the lost even when it means my own discomfort/inconvenience/not being catered to
  • Forgiving, patient, committed love
  • Etc.

What hit home for you? Why have you struggled to fully embrace this call in the past? What are you going to do in the future to make it happen?

Research shows that it takes about 6 invitations before most people accept an invitation to church. Do you ask that many times? How does it make you feel to know that fact? Together brainstorm some simple, not-awkward, no-pressure suggestions for inviting people to church.

In Beth Moore's book Audacious she challenges her readers to examine their lives and ask two questions:

  1. What am I most compelled by the love of Christ to do?

  2. What would it take to do it?

Share your answers with your group. What can your group do to help you with your answer to #2? Think of practical steps your group can take to enable one another in audacious living.

 

SCRIPTURE

Read Ephesians 6:18-20

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

What is the relationship between audacious living and prayer?

If Paul needed prayer to be fearless and bold, do you? Consider that perhaps a lack of courage or boldness may be due to a lack of prayer. Is that a possibility for you? How can you make praying for fearlessness a regular part of your life? Be practical.

 

PRAYER

This week, pray for audacious hearts and lives. Pray specifically for the things mentioned in discussion, for the ways each member feels compelled to live love. Pray for wisdom, courage, opportunity, training, whatever's needed.

 

FOR DOING

Our church has two big events on the horizon: Easter and Sharefest. Make some plans as a group to capitalize on these opportunities to reach others with the love of God.

What can your group do to make the most of Easter? Who will you invite? How might you celebrate resurrection together as a small body of believers?

What can your group do to support the work done at Sharefest? Have any of you participated before? Share about your experience (if it was negative, don't talk too much about that as we want to preserve harmony--group leaders redirect negative comments--but do PLEASE share your thoughts with Robin Marrs at rmarrs@rrcoc.org). How might your group band together to volunteer or get donations?

 

How Not To Be Unhappy For The Rest Of Your Life (part 4): Later Is As Real As Now

TO START

Give everyone a piece of paper and a pencil. For five minutes (and five minutes only) have members draw pictures of themselves in twenty years. Encourage them to include a setting, an activity and some other people. If your group is full of people who may not have twenty more years of living, have them draw a picture of their community in fifty years.

What do your imagined futures have in common? How are they different?

What do you need to do today to make that future possible?

 

DISCUSSION

How does it make you feel to hear "The future is as real as now"?

  • Nervous? Excited? Frustrated? Concerned?
  • Why? Elaborate...

Do you have mostly hope for your future or mostly concern? What factors affect how you feel about your future?

Most every choice we make has an impact on tomorrow. Name two things you did this week that will probably have an effect on future you.

Consider the story of Jacob and Esau we talked about on Sunday. Have you ever made a trade like Esau did? Have you ever traded something really big and good in the future for something small right now? How did you feel afterward? Was it worth the trade-off?

What would you say to past you if you had the chance to go back in time? Imagine you're only allowed two pieces of advice.

Take a moment and identify something good for which you'd like to thank "past you." Share with the group.

On Sunday we ended the service with an opportunity to put on Christ in baptism--pretty much the best thing you can do to ensure a happy future. Is there anyone in your group who has any questions about baptism? Spend some time answering them. Do any group members know people at Round Rock who're considering baptism? Pray for those people.

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Psalm 37:1-38. Consider the text and make 4 lists:

  • What do the righteous do in the present?
  • What do the wicked do in the present?
  • What happens to the righteous in the future?
  • What happens to the wicked in the future?

 

PRAYER

Have each group member share one way he or she is sabotaging his or her future hopes and dreams (can be big or little). Pray for each member to make better choices and be encouraged.

 

FOR FUN

Want to know how long you'll live? Take a life expectancy predictor quiz! Have group members pull out their phones and answer just eight questions. https://www.myabaris.com/tools/life-expectancy-calculator-how-long-will-i-live/

  • What are the factors contributing to long life? What now choices affect your future?

 

 

How Not To Be Unhappy For the Rest Of Your Life (part 3): Your Story Isn't Unique

TO START

Watch this short clip about snowflakes: http://www.kcra.com/video/the-weather-channel/snowflakes-come-in-predictable-shapes/30618150

Turns out, snowflakes fall into 35 types and within those types snowflakes demonstrate a very high level of similarity. How does it make you feel to know the old adage "no two snowflakes are alike" is more truth-y than true?

Try to figure out ten things everyone in the room has in common.

 

DISCUSS

Did you grow up being told you were unique? If so, what were the benefits of believing you were exceptional? What were the downsides? If you didn't grow up that way, what might have been the benefits of believing of you were unexceptional? Downsides?

Have you ever said "You wouldn't understand"?

  • Who did you say it to and why did you think they wouldn't understand?

We said on Sunday thinking your story is unique can often lead to three destructive attitudes:

1) “Because my story is unique, I deserve to act out; the rules don’t apply to me.”

2) “Because my story is unique, the consequences experienced by others who’ve made similar choices won’t happen to me.”

3) “Because my story is unique, you don’t have any wisdom to offer me.”

  • Which of those three are you most tempted to give in to?
  • Share a time when you or someone close to you (but it would be better if it were you) leaned into one of these destructive illusions. How'd it go? What were the consequences?

Do you give other people the same breaks/passes you give yourself when it comes to obeying God's commands? If not, why not? If so, does that come from a healthy place or are you letting other people get away with things because you want the same allowance?

Have you ever been surprised to find out someone you never would have expected had a similar background/negative experience/tainted history to yours? Share with the group about what you learned in that exchange.

As we said on Sunday, we can be tempted to think we're the only ones with a story. That temptation lessens when we listen to other people's stories. What are a few things you can do more actively to put yourself into the position to hear what's going on (and has gone on) in other people's lives? What opportunities should you take advantage of? What regular habits can you pick up?

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Romans 3:22-24

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

What do all people have in common?

  • Does this passage give others more or less authority to speak truth into your life? Discuss.

 

PRAYER

This week pray your prayer requests one at a time. When someone in the group shares something they're going through, have someone who's been through (or been close to someone who's been through) a similar thing do the praying.

 

FOR FUN

To see how much you and your group members have in common play the yarn game. Have all members stand in a circle with one member holding a skein of yarn. That member says a fact about him or her self.  Any other group member can say "I connect with that" if they have a similar experience or truth (Ex. 1: I have two sisters. 2: I can connect with that; I have a sister, too.) The first person hands the skein of yarn to that person, while still holding the end of the yarn. The yarn gets passed around the circle, each person holding onto the yarn, until you have a thick web of connection.

How Not To Be Unhappy For The Rest Of Your Life (part 2): Jealousy Is Killing You.

TO START:

How excited are you to talk about jealousy tonight on a scale of 1 to 10?

What is the stupidest thing you've ever been jealous of? Go around the room and have everyone share. This is a time to laugh. :)

 

DISCUSS:

On Sunday we said, "Something good happening to someone else isn't something bad happening to you." We can probably all agree that's true, but does it FEEL like it's true? If not, why do you think that is?

Name three reasons why we should be excited for others (especially brothers and sisters) when they experience good things.

What makes us jealous (hint: it's not other people having what you want)? What factors, circumstances contribute to us being jealous? Do certain seasons of life result in you being more tempted to feel jealous? What is it about those seasons that stirs us to jealousy?

Does time spent on social media (facebook, instagram) inspire jealousy in you? What practical boundaries might you need to put up to prevent jealousy from taking hold?

Does jealousy ever result in something good? Make a list of possible negative results of jealousy. What might it lead to?

Have you ever seen jealousy ruin a relationship? What happened? How might it have been avoided?

Let's make a plan to stop jealousy in our lives. What do we need TO DO? What practical steps can we take to guard our hearts against jealousy?

Consider the following quotes. Discuss/reflect on any you find interesting/true/helpful.

  • "In jealousy there is more self-love than love."  ~François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1665
  • "Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own."  ~Harold Coffin
  • "Envy is the most stupid of vices, for there is no single advantage to be gained from it." ~Honore de Balzac

 

SCRIPTURE:

Read Genesis 30:1-24. Before you read, have someone who knows explain the relationship between Rachel and Leah and Jacob.

  • Who is jealous in this passage?
  • What kind of behavior does jealousy lead to? Would you say this situation is out of control?
  • Does the jealousy stop when Rachel gets a child? Can jealousy be satisfied?

 

PRAYER:

The best ways to beat jealousy are to 1. give thanks for what you have and 2. celebrate what others have. In prayer tonight with your group, share blessings. Thank God out loud for what He's given you AND what he's given your friends.

God's Plan For Your Kids

TO START

What are some things you said you would never do before you had kids that now (or back when you had kids in the house) you've ended up doing? If you don't have any kids, how do you fill in this blank: If I have kids I'll never ____________?

Why do you think you ended up changing your mind? Is parenting harder or easier than you thought before you had kids?

*If your group is largely made up of people without kids, take a poll to see if your group intends to have kids one day or isn't planning on having kids. If you have members who intend to have kids eventually, be sure to orient some of the questions in a way that makes sense for them. If your members never intend to have kids, steer them toward their stewardship of the children over whom they have relational influence.

 

DISCUSSION

Parents, we said on Sunday, "You are God’s plan for your kids." 

  • How does that make you feel?
  • What does it make you second guess? What does it inspire you to do more of? Less of?
  • Have you ever been tempted to push the responsibility for your kids' faith onto someone else's shoulders? Why do you think that's so easy?
  • If your children are grown, what do you think God's doing through you (or might want to do through you) now to reach your children for Him?
  • If you don't have kids, what could you be doing in the lives of children close to you to lead them into a growing relationship with Christ?

What could we be doing, practically speaking, to "impress" God's will on our kids' hearts? Make a list of ways to both model healthy faith/obedience and ways to make God's will stick in our kids' minds.

Think back to your own childhood. Did your parents do anything to help connect you to God?

  • What do you remember as being especially powerful/helpful/memorable?
  • What didn't work so well?

Consider this guidance for parents from Deuteronomy:

Talk about them [God's commandments] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
  • What would it look like for you to live this out in your daily routine?
  • Do you need to make something to display in your home? How do you tie God's commands as symbols on your hands?
  • When you had kids at home what did you do to practically execute this command?

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Deuteronomy 6:20-25

If the Israelites were to tell their children the Exodus story, the origin story of their nation and their faith, what story do we tell our kids? Why is it important to tell it?

 

PRAYER

Have members share prayer requests for themselves as parents. Ask "What one way would you like to be a better parent?" and pray for God to step in and enable that. This question applies to parents of children and parents of adults.

If members are not parents, have them answer the question, "What one way can I be an example of love to a young person I'm close to?" Pray they'd be equipped and emboldened to do that.

 

FOR FUN

How about a craft night for your small group?! Taking a cue from Deuteronomy, make something for your house that prominently features God's command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

How about some good old fashioned adult coloring? Get your printable page here (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0RweH-3RyI0NmV3TUlFTVRUN1k/edit).

You might also try chalkboard art. Grab some cheap chalkboards at Hobby Lobby (less than $2 a piece) and some chalk. Bring to group and make signs like these. It doesn't take an artist. Also, it's chalk. Easy to start over. ;)


How Not To Be Unhappy For The Rest Of Your Life (part 1): It's Not About You

TO START

Do you like awkward conversations? Have you ever been involved in an awkward conversation (initiated by you OR by someone else) that resulted in you (or the other person) being helped or blessed? Share with the group.

How can we be more welcoming of the hard conversations we need people to have with us?

 

DISCUSSION

How does the sentence, "It's not about you" make you feel? Do you bristle at all? Elaborate on your answer.

On Sunday we said "selfish ambition" was a sort of gateway sin. Have you ever let your own self-interest lead you into further sin? Or seen it happen in the life of someone close to you? Give an example.

What do you think about this phrase: "The more we focus on ourselves, the less happy we become"? Is it true? Have you experienced this? Share your experience.

What does it look like for you personally to get self-focused/interested? In what ways are you most likely to over-emphasize your own importance? (Examples: in an argument, budgeting/spending, in a close relationship, at work, dreaming about the future, remembering the past, etc.) Share a time when this happened.

How might you over-estimate your own importance in your walk with God? What does it look like to bring self-interest into that relationship?

  • Consider the things you pray about. Consider the things that might offend you at church. When do you get your toes stepped on while reading the Bible? Where do you make excuses? (These might be places where you're thinking a little too much about yourself or too highly of yourself and/or your opinion.)

Answer the following question in your head (NOT out loud): How much time did you spend serving, helping, blessing, or praying for people other than yourself this week? Go ahead and figure out a precise number of hours. Now, remove your immediate family and answer again.

  • What about the amount of money you spend on others? (Again: NOT out loud) What percentage of your income is spent on someone other than you? Other than your immediate family?
  • You don't have to share your number of hours or dollars with the group, but considering that number, do you feel good about the amount of time/money you spend on the behalf of others? If you feel tension, disappointment with yourself, why do you think you're not doing more? (This week's scripture reading builds on this discussion)

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Philippians 2:3-4.

Paul encourages his readers not to look to their own interests but to look to the interests of others.

  • Why is this so hard? What might keep us from doing it?
  • What practical steps can we take toward doing a better job?

 

PRAYER

Tonight, pray for people not in the room. What causes, people, nations, problems need prayer? Have each group member offer a prayer request for someone not in your small group.

 

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT

Watch this interview with author Jeffrey Kluger on narcissism: https://youtu.be/xVDs4P5MRco

Consider the traits Kluger mentioned as being associated with narcissism. Do you have any?

What did you think about his staement that a little narcissism isn't a bad thing? True or false?

Kluger says social media is like an open bar for an alcoholic--not the cause of narcissism but certainly a way to exercise their bad habits.

  • If you're on social media, do you think it encourages you to think of yourself as more important than you are or simply to think of yourself more than you should? If so, how so? If not, explain.

5 Great Prayers You Aren't Praying Enough (part 5): Make Me Wise

TO START

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? If you're received lots of great advice, just share any of it. Who did it come from? Why has it stuck with you?

 

DISCUSSION

This week we're talking about wisdom and the importance of asking God for it.

What is wisdom? Have you ever known anyone who was wise? What was it about their life that made you decide they were wise?

Do you ever feel like life requires more wisdom than you can muster? Share a time when you felt like you didn't have the wisdom necessary to get through a situation, navigate a relationship, etc.

Is needing wisdom on your mind every day? If not, what can we do to keep our need for wisdom in front of us?

There's a big difference between relying on our own "wisdom" and relying on God's. Give a few examples of ways humans think they're wise that contradict God's wisdom. How is the world filling in this blank: It's wise to ___________. Is God filling it in the same way?

Is praying to God for wisdom a regular part of your prayer life? If so, how have you seen it answered (or not answered)? If not, why do you think you haven't been praying that prayer?

 

PRAYER

Tonight, with your group, pray the book of Proverbs. Open it together and look for three Proverbs you'd like to pray. Once you've found your three, pray them one at a time.

For example, if you chose Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid,” you might pray this: “God, help me to accept (and even love) discipline. Help me to welcome constructive criticism. Help me to empower others to speak correction into my life. Help me not to be stupid."

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Proverbs 1:20-33

  • What happens to the person who chooses wisdom and fears the Lord?
  • What happens to the person who ignores wisdom?
  • Have you seen any examples of these consequences playing out in your life or the lives around you?