God Loves The Boogeyman

Based on the sermon by Logan Owens

A PROMISE

As always, this week we encourage your group to be respectful of one another, but in order for discussion to work you’ll likely need to say some things that will be potentially offensive. For the sake of creating a safe place to share, group members will have to do their best not to take offense. Perhaps you should begin with a promise everyone says out loud. Something like this: I will freely share what I really feel, and I will welcome without judgement how others really feel.

TO DISCUSS

How have you reacted to the increasing division in our country? Does it stress you out? If you’ve been particularly affected, why do you think that is?

Were you familiar with the story of Ishmael and Hagar before Sunday? If not, how did the story make you feel? What surprised you? If you’d heard it before, what stuck out this time as interesting or provocative?

  • If more than a couple of your group members haven’t heard the sermon be sure to read the story in Genesis 21.

This week spend most of your group time answering these two questions:

Who are you scared of? (Who’s the boogeyman to you?) Perhaps consider Logan’s definition of the boogeyman: someone who’s different and coming to take what’s yours. If members struggle to identify the boogeyman, ask, “What are you afraid someone might take?”

AND

What would it look like, practically speaking, to love the boogeyman? (If you’re struggling to generate a list of answers, consider this example from Logan: “You might be scared that your gay nephew, friend, coworker is living in sin. But you love him anyway. And you don’t just say you love him. You love like God loves. You help him and his partner move into their apartment, you invite them over for dinner, you actively and eagerly love them despite your fear.”)

* Expect that your boogeyman answers will be diverse and may very well create tension between group members. Tonight is an opportunity for people to express their differences and talk about those differences in peace and love.

Other questions:

On Sunday Logan said, “God loves the people you’re scared of. So should you.” If, upon seeing someone who’s different from you or competition for you, you were to ask yourself, “How does God see that person?” would that change the way you interacted with them? How so?

How might things change around you if everyone responded to fear with love?

Where have you seen people respond poorly to fear of the boogeyman? What was the problem with their reaction?

TO READ

Read Matthew 5:43-48

  • What does it look like to love your enemies?

  • Have you ever seen someone do this well? Share examples of what it looks like.

TO PRAY

Pray for courage tonight! Too, if your session has been tense, use the prayer time to mend things and restore peace.

TO WATCH

Watch this video about the work of Preemptive Love, an organization devoted to loving the boogeyman: https://www.facebook.com/preemptivelove/videos/10155854613274343/

Everyday Saints (part 5): Strength in Numbers

TO START

Share a story of a time you tried to do something on your own that definitely required a team. Funny stories get extra points!

TO DISCUSS

During our communion meditation this week we encouraged you to say to one another, “Strong in Christ. Stronger together.”

  • What does that mean to you personally?

  • When/How have you experienced greater strength because of your belonging within the family of God?

  • Is it possible to have a relationship with God outside the family of God? Can we do sainthood alone? How does that answer make you feel? Why or why not?

This week we focused on togetherness and partnership as one primary way God makes us holy. How are we “sanctified” (made holy) together? What is it about living in community that makes us more like God?

On Sunday we shared a few things saints do. Consider the list and offer examples of times you’ve seen saints showing up for one another in these ways (be specific and share examples from your personal experience):

  • Saints help people

  • Saints receive help

  • Saints explore and comprehend the love of God  

Consider the following scenarios. As you attempt to determine a way forward, ask yourself, “What would make me holy?” “What should I do if I want to be transformed to look more like God?” Explain how your answers lead to holiness.

  • Someone in my small group annoys me.  They are constantly getting on my nerves. Should I seek a different group? Drop out of small group altogether? Or should I talk to them and seek a way to be at peace?

  • Someone in my church has lost a loved one and the funeral’s coming up. Should I go? What if I feel uncomfortable at funerals? Does it really matter if I go?

  • I know I need an older mentor in my life, but I’m nervous to ask anyone. Should I bother? How do I proceed?

  • There’s a young woman at church who’s always struggling to care for her kids during worship. She looks tired. What could I do to help?

  • My church elders make a decision I don’t like. What should I do?

  • My wife nags me constantly. How do I handle it?

  • My husband lost his job. How do I respond?

  • My friend from church is struggling with depression and can’t get out of bed most days. What’s my responsibility?

  • Someone in my church family needs a place to stay for a couple weeks. What could I offer? How might showing hospitality make me holier?

  • I can’t afford my electric bill next month because I lost my job. Do I turn to my church family for help?

TO READ

Read Ephesians 3:17-19.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Tonight, help one another comprehend the love of God. Go around the room sharing ways you’ve experienced God’s love this week.


TO PRAY

This week, as usual, pray for one another. Consider one another’s needs. Lift up prayers for those among you who’re weak or struggling or doubting or discouraged. Be saints.


Everyday Saints (part 4): Incredible Inheritance

TO START

Tell the group a story about waiting for something you were really looking forward to. How was the wait? What was it like to get what you’d been waiting for?
 

TO DISCUSS

This week we’ll be talking about the saints’ inheritance, forever with God in Heaven. Use these questions as prompts to get you started. Be sure to spend your time not trying to figure out the logistics of death and the afterlife, but rather developing a holy longing for what’s to come.

Hope is an essential part of the saint’s life. Klyne Snodgrass writes, “An essential characteristic of Christianity is its tilt toward the future.” For the Christian, our best, fullest life is still to come. C.F.D. Moule says, “Hope is faith standing on tiptoe.”

  • What does that mean? Is it easy for you or hard for you to imagine that this life here and now isn’t as “real” or as good as the life you’ll one day live with God?

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:24, ”We’re saved by hope.” How can a person be saved by hope? Have you ever had a moment when you realized hope was saving you from something?

What do you know about Heaven (with certainty)? If this question ends up resulting in more ignorance than knowledge, consider the following passages of scripture:

  • Matthew 5:12
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
  • I Thessalonians 4:15-17
  • Revelation 21

What are you looking forward to about Heaven?

What do you wonder/hope about Heaven?

Is the hope of Heaven motivational for you? Why or why not (be honest)?

Do you think about Heaven often? If not, why not?

What does it mean that Saints are citizens of Heaven? What makes a “citizen”?

How did it make you feel to hear that WE are God’s inheritance? That He is waiting to be with us with as much anticipation as we have waiting to be with Him? Does that surprise you? Or effect you in some way? Share.

 

TO READ

Read Hebrews 11:13-16

  • Who’s the Hebrews writer talking about? Who are these people who longed for a better country?
  • What were they longing for?
  • What’s God’s promise here?
  • What can we learn about who we are and how we should live out our identity from this passage?

 

TO PRAY

It’s possible your group is very excited about Heaven. Awesome. But often Christians aren’t living with that kind of motivating daily hope. Often Heaven doesn’t seem incredibly appealing. It’s better than the other option, of course, but they’d rather live here than die and go there. If this is a reality in your group, consider praying that God would plant a longing in your heart for what’s to come. Ask Him to give you a taste of Heaven here on earth to whet your appetite.

Everyday Saints (part 3): Dare To Be Different

TO START

Have you ever belonged to a group of, um, “different” people? Maybe you were in high school and belonged within a merry band of misfits. Maybe your hobbies place you within a group outside the mainstream. Maybe you have uncommon health struggles and have found a community of fellow warriors online. Tell your group what it’s like to be different and what it’s like to find belonging among people like you.

 

TO DISCUSS

Start your group discussion this week with scripture. Jump into the text we considered during the sermon on Sunday, Romans 12:1-2. Read it aloud together:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Does anyone have any questions about the text? Anything they don’t understand? Go verse by verse working together toward full comprehension.

  • What should inspire us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice?
  • What’s significant about the word “bodies” as opposed to “souls” or “selves”? What specifically might Paul have in mind?
  • What do you think of when you think about worship? What behaviors fit inside that box for you? According to this passage, what is true and proper worship?

Justin said on Sunday that us giving ourselves as living sacrifices is certainly hard, but also “proper.” He said, “God is worthy of all of you.”

  • Do you feel like you’re giving God all of you?
  • What’s a way you’ve recently stepped more fully into that?
  • Where’s one place where you still haven’t given God everything?

God calls us not to “conform” to the pattern of this world. What’s the “pattern of this world”? How would you describe it to an alien?  

Justin said often God looks at the pattern of the world and says:

  • -That’s not good for you.
  • -That won’t get you where you want to go.
  • -That’s pretty but it’s poison.
  • -That’s shiny but it’s empty.
  • -That’s a big promise but it’s a lie.

Think through a few examples of the ways the world is lying to you. In asking you to be different, what’s God trying to save you from?

According to Romans 12:2, how does God transform us? What does “renewing” mean?

  • How do we/does God make our minds new?
  • According to the text, how do we get to the point where we can know what God’s will is? What do we need to do, practically speaking, to get to that place.

A big part of renewing our minds lies in identifying the lies we believe, ripping them out by the roots, and planting God’s truth. Look back up at your list of lies told to you by the world. Are there any you might be believing? What does God’s word say about it? Work together as a group to identify some scripture that you can plant in your heart.

We said on Sunday that we’re different and that different has consequences. What consequences have you experienced for being holy (different like God is different)? Good and/or bad.

 

TO READ

Read Leviticus 20:26.

“You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.”

  • While this originally applied only to the Israelites, it’s since come to apply to all God’s chosen people.
  • What’s your gut reaction to this command?
  • How does it make you feel to know you were created to be God’s?

 

TO PRAY

Before you share prayer requests tonight, have group members meditate quietly for 3-5 minutes, considering the question, "Is God’s calling of holiness making me significantly different than the people around me?"

Encourage group members to personally talk to God about their answer.

Everyday Saints (part 2): Called Out

TO START

Tonight’s all about how to be weird (or different). As we live and work in the Austin area and Austin’s city slogan is “Keep Austin weird,” we should know a thing or two about weirdness. For a few minutes make a list of ways Austin is weird. If you’re a long-time Austinite and need to bemoan the dying of the weirdness, go for it. Just keep it brief. ;) The goal is to have a clearer picture of what it means for a thing (or a city) to be weird. 

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, “Nothing shapes the choices you make and the purpose you pursue more than who you understand yourself to be.”

  • Have you ever let a low view of yourself lead you into unhealthy or destructive choices? Give an example.
  • Have people ever applied a label to you that affected how you acted? Share how that made you feel.
  • What positive choices are you making because of who you are? Think of one choice you made this week that was driven by your desire to be who God says you are. Share.
  • What would you say is the purpose you’re pursuing? Take a minute tonight and have group members write down their purpose (give a few minutes of quiet for this). What drives you? What are you here for? Share with the group. How does your identity as a saint shape your purpose? What could you do to better keep this purpose in the front of your mind?

This Sunday’s message was all about action, what a saint DOES because he or she is a saint.

  • How does a holy person act?
  • If holy means “different,” how are you different because of Christ (different from how you were before following Christ OR different from those who don’t follow Christ)? Give specific examples.
  • If this is a tough exercise, consider listing ways Jesus was different when He was on earth.

A good way to end the discussion tonight might be go around the room saying where you see holiness in the actions of your fellow group members. Have the group notice two holy things about each member.


 

TO READ

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

  • What’s the main point of this passage?
  • What does it teach us about who we are?
  • What does it teach us about who we’re not?
  • Should a believer be able to live in harmony with an unbeliever? Why or why not? How might this passage inform our relationships?
  • What does it mean practically to “come out and be separate”? What does that look like? Think of someone you know who does a good job of this. Share with the group.

 

TO PRAY

This week let’s thank God for the victories in holiness and ask for help where we’re not yet there. Go around the circle and have each person briefly fill in the blanks for the following prompts:

Thank you, God, for making me ____________.

Help me, God, to become ______________.

Each time a member prays this short prayer, the group should (together) say, “Amen.”

Community Will Save Your Life (But Don't Expect Too Much)

TO START

Welcome back to small group! Likely, many of you took the summer off, met less regularly, or took time away from intentional discussion. It's time to get back in the swing of things. This week we'd love for you to take some time to get re-connected. 

Consider having members share "one thing" from their summer. Here's a list of possible "one thing" prompts:

  • One funny thing that happened this summer.
  • One difficult thing that happened this summer.
  • One thing I learned (or started to learn) this summer.
  • One place I saw God this summer. 
  • One thing I'm trying to accomplish these days. 
  • One relationship that's blooming these days. 
  • One problem I'm trying to solve these days.

As you welcome your group back and jump into discussion, you might take a minute to refresh them on the purpose of small group: "to provide a predictable environment where we can experience authentic, intimate community that leads to spiritual growth." This week would be a great time to talk through that purpose and flesh out what it means.

  • Drill down on the words "authentic" and "intimate." What do those words look like for your group? If small group meetings were authentic or intimate what would they look like? What wouldn't they look like? What might change? How well do you feel like your group is doing on authenticity and intimacy?
  • You might set some markers for spiritual growth. Describe/detail what "spiritual growth" would look like. You might go around the room and share some spiritual growth goals. OR you might share stories of spiritual growth happening because of this small group community. 

Does your small group have any goals for the year? Things you want to do more of? Less of? Things you want to be better about? Write 'em down, and hold yourselves accountable.

 

TO READ

Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

  • Why is community better than being alone according to this passage? 
  • What benefits have you found in connection with others? Give specific examples.
  • Have you ever found yourself with no one to help you up? How does that feel? How might we avoid it? 

Have you ever been disappointed by community? What keeps community from living into its potential? What are the inevitable hurdles to authenticity and intimacy? 

 

TO WATCH 

Watch this 12 minute video from the TED conference on what circumstances lead to long term happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KkKuTCFvzI

According to the research, "People who are more socially connected are happier, healthier, and live longer." Do you find this information challenging or comforting? Assess your own connectedness and share with your group.

Do you ever feel lonely? What could you do to draw closer to other people? 

 

TO PRAY

This week will likely be chock full of prayer requests, especially if you haven't met in a while. Be sure to devote adequate time and attention to prayer. This is one of the primary ways we experience intimacy as a community. 

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!