Rooted (part 3): Testing the Waters

TO START

Two things, a little review and a game:

  1. Did you pray your seed prayer last week? It’s still early, but roots have to start somewhere, so... Did you feel like God answered your prayer in any particular way? Share any cool “baby roots” stories with your group. 

  2. Read the list below, one line at a time. Have group members raise their hands if they trust the person, institution, etc. Encourage members to choose immediately, no deliberation allowed. Just go with your gut (there’s no right answer--only funny ones). Here we go:

    Do you trust…

    The government?

    Mark Zuckerberg?

    Reality TV?

    Statistics?

    McDonald’s?

    YouTube?

    Russia?

    Bill Nye the Science Guy?

    Doctors?

    Yelp reviews?

    Your neighbor?

TO DISCUSS

Early in his sermon this week Justin listed a series of synonyms for the word “rooted”: Established, Centered, Anchored, Mature, Unflappable, Fruitful, Nourished, Long-Lasting. Which of those words sticks out to you most as something you want to be? Why that word?

This week we’re talking about trusting in God. Is trust something that comes easy to you? Or do you struggle to trust? Explain. 

Share a time, season, or category in which you’ve struggled to trust God. 

Read Colossians 2:6-7. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him.”

  • What does it mean to receive Christ Jesus as Lord?

  • Think of a decision you made today under the authority of Christ, your LORD--a time when you wanted to do something but Jesus wanted you to do something else and you went with what Jesus wanted. 

We said Sunday that trusting in God isn’t just sitting and waiting. Trust is active. Has that been your understanding of trust? Or does it challenge your idea of trust? Explain.

If trusting God is active, what might trust look like? Make a long list of things a person who trusts God might do. Don’t stop until you have at least 20 things. Any group that makes it to fifty receives a prize (just email your list to jlgerhardt@rrcoc.org).

TO READ

Read Proverbs 3:1-12.

After you’ve read it, look again and list the blessings God wants to give to those who follow Him.

What do God’s people have to DO in order to get those blessings? 

TO PRAY

Already in this series we’ve encouraged you to pray this prayer from Jeremiah:

Lord, bless me by teaching me to trust in You. 

Empower me to put my confidence in You. 

Plant me like a tree planted by the water.

Move me to send out roots / to the stream of Your love and power.

Make me like that tree, unafraid when heat comes;

     my leaves always green, alive.

Rescue me from worries in a year of drought

     because in You, I never fail to bear fruit.

Tonight, have group members share one way they’re feeling called to act in trust. What would it look like for you to take a step of trust right now? Then pray for each person, that God would empower that action. 


Rooted (part 2): Don't Go It Alone

TO START

Garth Brooks famously sang the line, “Blame it all on my roots.” What was he talking about? 

What are your roots? If you had to describe your “roots” in three adjectives, which would you choose?

If you’re in the mood for a game, don’t discuss your three adjectives together. Instead, have each group member write their three words on one index card. Collect the cards and spread them out on a table, then have each group member write the name of the person they think wrote the card on the back. See how many you can guess correctly!

TO READ

Let’s start by re-reading Ephesians 3: 17b-18

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

Why is love such good soil?

According to this passage, being rooted in love (loving and being loved by others), enables us to better grasp God’s love. Has that been your experience? 

  • Have you ever had a human relationship that helped you understand the way God loves you? Tell the group about it. 

TO DISCUSS & PRAY

This week we have our prayer earlier in the discussion guide than usual. That’s because we’d love for you to discuss this prayer before you pray it. 

Consider the roots prayer we gave you on your seed packets Sunday (read it aloud):

Father, plant me among your people. 

Help me be rooted in relationships that anchor and nourish me. 

Strengthen me to stay in community even when it’s hard.

Make me patient as together we grow and bloom. 

Before you pray it, walk through it line by line:

  • What would it look like to be planted among your small group? What commitments should you make? How might you ensure that you’re devoting yourself to these relationships in a deep and meaningful way? Offer some practical steps you might take to get serious about putting down roots.

  • How have you seen your small group anchor or nourish you in the past? How do you hope your small group will anchor or nourish you in the future? What do you most need from this group? 

  • Is community hard for you? Are you good at long term relationships or do you struggle? What are some personality traits or skills you have that enable success in developing healthy relationships? What are some personality traits or weaknesses that cause frustration as you strive to develop healthy relationships? 

  • Are you generally patient with relationships? Why is it so important to persevere in friendship? Share a story/example of a relationship you’ve seen bloom over the years that took a while to get going. You might also tell your group about a relationship that’s directly influenced your spiritual growth over the years. 

Now, that you’ve discussed it, pray it together. You might have the leader say a line and then have the group repeat, almost like wedding vows. :)

You might also decide to pray your prayer from last week. Lots of prayer is always a good thing. 

Lord,  bless me by teaching me to trust in You. 

Empower me to put my confidence in You. 

Plant me like a tree planted by the water.

Move me to send out roots to the stream of Your love and power.

Make me like that tree, unafraid when heat comes;

my leaves always green, alive.

Rescue me from worries in a year of drought

because in You, I never fail to bear fruit.


FOR FUN

Watch this video about Pando, the largest living organism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwHyEz0qSnA

  • What might we learn about community from this story?

ONE MORE THING

If you’re looking for another passage of scripture to dig into this week, Romans chapter 12 would be a great place to go to discuss HOW we persevere in deep, enriching relationships. Hint: It takes sacrifice. 

Rooted (part 1): What's At Stake

TO START

Watch this video on tree roots: https://www.brightview.com/resources/ask-brightview/how-does-trees-root-system-form-and-what-its-purpose

  • What’s the purpose of a root system?

At the end of the video the horticulturist says that 50% of a tree is beneath the surface and we need to pay as much attention to what’s below the surface as we do to what’s above. 

As you proceed as a group tonight, remember that your group can’t see what’s below the surface unless you share it. Help them help you by being as open and honest as you can manage.

TO DISCUSS

Justin began his sermon Sunday describing someone without roots, someone struggling to overcome bad habits, someone feeling lonely, someone who quits more things than he’d like, someone who isn’t much different today than he was five years ago. 

  • Did you relate to any of that? Have you ever experienced a season (or are you currently experiencing a season) marked by lack of growth or a feeling of being unanchored?

  • How does that feel? Describe your experience.

  • Would you say  you lack(ed) roots? Was that a surprising diagnosis? Why or why not?

  • What have been the consequences of not having deep roots? 

We said Sunday that roots anchor you and roots feed you. 

  • What are some of the places/people/systems (other than God) we look to for anchoring and feeding? Make a list.

  • Have you ever depended on a root system that let you down? Tell the group about it.

In the context of the parable of the sower, Jesus said in Matthew 13:21, “But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”

  • Why would roots be important in a season of trial or persecution? 

  • Share a time when either roots saved you or a lack of roots failed you as you weathered a difficult circumstance.

What are some of the reasons we might fail to develop roots? 

  • As this series goes on we’ll talk more about how to develop roots, for now, brainstorm with your group a list of ways you think you might pursue a deep and grounding relationship with God. 

TO READ & PRAY

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

    whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

    its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

    and never fails to bear fruit.”

Read this passage together.

Have you ever seen a mature tree growing near fresh water? What’s different about that tree versus the tree farther away from the river or lake? (Do you have a favorite place to go look at trees? Share with the group!)

During this series, let’s make this passage your group’s aspiration. Read it together aloud a few times. Then pray it together. Here’s a way to turn it into a prayer:

Lord,  bless me by teaching me to trust in You. 

Empower me to put my confidence in You. 

Plant me like a tree planted by the water.

Move me to send out roots to the stream of Your love and power.

Make me like that tree, unafraid when heat comes;

    my leaves always green, alive.

Rescue me from worries in a year of drought

    because in You, I never fail to bear fruit.

Watermark (part 2): Newly Alive

TO START

Write encouraging notes (or pass around a card to sign) for whoever was baptized on Sunday. If we don’t have any new baptisms, consider writing a note to someone recently baptized (a few members baptized this past year: Christine Taylor, Gregg Jones, Kate Hudson, Amanda Tuttle, and Josiah Nett).

TO READ

Read Colossians 2:9-15.

  • Who has the power to rescue you? 

  • According to this verse, what happens in baptism?

  • When you were dead, God made you ________ in ________.

    • What does it mean to be alive with Christ?

  • What are the powers and authorities?

  • How does this verse portray Jesus? What’s He like? What’s He done?

TO DISCUSS

Justin started his sermon this week with these words: “No matter who you are or what you’ve done (or haven’t done), God loves you and wants to rescue you from guilt and hopelessness--AND, best of all, he offers that rescue as a gift.”

Last week we talked about our baptisms and the moment when we first accessed God’s grace and received the gift of God’s rescue. This week, let’s talk about life after baptism. (If you have members who haven’t been baptized, consider ways to involve them in this discussion--perhaps encouraging them to ask honest, prying questions as the discussion unfolds).

  • Has your journey with God been a consistent upward climb since your baptism? Describe the shape of your journey with God.

  • Do you ever feel unloved, hopeless, or guilty nowadays? Are you still confident God loves you and wants to rescue from guilt and hopelessness? Why or why not? How does that make you feel? 

  • What do you do when your baptism feels too far in the rearview mirror? How do you come back to life in Christ? What do you do now that you’ve already been baptized to access God’s rescue? What are the ways God provides rescue for His children? Make a list of specific examples.

  • When/how has God rescued you lately (big or little)? Tell the group a rescue story from your walk with God. 

The promise of baptism is the promise of death to our old life and the promise of new life in Christ. What part of your old life have you been so thankful to see die? What part of this new life is your favorite?

In Romans 6:5 we read, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

  • What does it mean to be resurrected like Jesus? (Hint in verse 6)

How might we position ourselves to better receive abundant life in Christ? How might we be getting in God’s way as He tries to rescue us?

TO PRAY

Pray for anyone who might have been baptized this week. So often the days and weeks directly after a person’s baptism are some of the hardest of their walk with Christ. Let’s do all we can to intercede on their behalf and encourage them. 

If no one was baptized on Sunday, be praying for the people who contacted Justin this week and are considering baptism. 


Watermark (part 1): Rescued

TO START

Welcome back to small group discussion guides! If this is your group’s first week back together be sure to spend some time reconnecting. Maybe play a round of peaks and pits, summer edition. What was the best thing that happened in your life this summer? What was the worst? You might also spend some time setting a few small group goals for the year. Who do you want to be together? Make a plan.

If your group has been meeting for a few weeks already, feel free to jump right into this week’s discussion. 

This week we’re talking about baptism. Any idea where the idea of baptism came from? What did it mean originally? Who was the first person in the Bible to baptize someone? See what your group knows...

A: “Though today the word baptism generally evokes thoughts of identifying with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, baptism did not begin with Christians. For years before Christ, the Jews had used baptism in ritual cleansing ceremonies of Gentile proselytes. John the Baptist took baptism and applied it to the Jews themselves—it wasn’t just the Gentiles who needed cleansing. Many believed John’s message and were baptized by him (Matthew 3:5–6). The baptisms John performed had a specific purpose.

In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist mentions the purpose of his baptisms: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Paul affirms this in Acts 19:4: “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” John’s baptism had to do with repentance—it was a symbolic representation of changing one’s mind and going a new direction. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Being baptized by John demonstrated a recognition of one’s sin, a desire for spiritual cleansing, and a commitment to follow God’s law in anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival.” (gotquestions.org)

How was John’s baptism different from the Christian’s baptism?

TO DISCUSS

Why would a person today need to be baptized? What does God accomplish through baptism?

This week we encourage you to go around the room sharing your personal baptism stories, answering at least these questions: When?  Where? Why?

Have you ever had an especially powerful experience watching someone else be baptized? 

If you have a group member who hasn’t been baptized be sure to ask if they have any questions or reservations about baptism. What might be standing between them and that decision? Be kind and helpful. 

What could you do in your everyday life to better remind yourself of what happened at your own baptism? How might you intentionally celebrate what God’s still doing in you? How could you help someone else celebrate their baptism?

Justin started Sunday’s sermon with these words:

“If you’ve ever felt guilt that just won’t leave you alone, if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, if you’ve ever felt hopeless, isolated, or like you were unseen or forgotten, this is a story (and a Sunday) for you.”

  • So, have you ever felt guilt that wouldn’t leave you alone? Have you ever felt hopeless or isolated? Forgotten? Share an example with the group. What lifted you out of that place?

  • Do you currently experience any of those feelings? If so, why do you think that is? What could change that for you?

  • Do you have people in your life who’re feeling that way? What might you do to be a reason for them to come home? Think through a couple practical steps. 

What questions do you have about baptism? 

TO READ

How about another baptism story? Read Acts 8:26-40 together.

What is the eunuch reading when the Spirit moves Phillip to catch up with his chariot? What does Phillip teach him?

Why does that lead the eunuch to want to be baptized? What does the good news about Jesus have to do with baptism?

What is the eunuch’s response to his baptism?

TO PRAY

Is there anyone in your group considering baptism? Pray for him.

If not, pray for the people attending our church who need to take this step. Pray that God would convict and compel someone to come home.

Good With Money (part 4): Return on Investment

TO START

What would you say was one of the best investments you’ve ever made? All answers welcome: funny, financial, and metaphoric.

***This week is the last week of small group discussion guides until the fall (mid August). We encourage your group to continue meeting over the summer, praying, sharing, and loving one another just as you always do.***

TO DISCUSS

Eccl. 11:1 says, “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.”

  • What does that mean? How does “investment” work? Share a few examples of ways you might invest your time and money--including what you might hope to gain from the investment.

Consider a few of the purchases you’ve made this week. What did you invest in? Do you usually think of purchases as investments?

Our bottom line from the sermon this week was: “Do what you can with what you’ve got while there’s time.”

  • What does that mean?

  • Personally, how does that challenge you? Have you struggled to invest kingdom-wisely? Explain why that might be or how it’s played out.

  • Perhaps this gives you peace? If so, how/why?

  • What might living into this bottom line look like in your daily life?

Consider this sentence from Klyne Snodgrass: “The church should demonstrate by its use of money the reality of the gospel.”

  • Have you ever known anyone who demonstrated the reality of the gospel in their use of money? Share with the group. What did it look like? How did they invest their resources?

It can be hard to make choices here on earth in light of an eternity we can’t see or don’t always feel like we can understand. Take a minute to talk Heaven together. What’s it going to be like? Why is it going to be so good? What makes it worth the sacrifices here?

Has this series affected you in any particular way?  What are you thinking about differently? Have you made any decisions to act differently?

TO READ

Read I Timothy 6:18-19.

According to this passage, what should we do with our money and stuff?

  • Why?

  • What does this phrase mean: “so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life”?

  • What do you think the “life that is truly life” will be like?

TO PRAY

Don’t leave group tonight without having prayed about money. Here are a few things you might assign group members to pray for:

  • Freedom from slavery to money

  • Contentment

  • Generosity / Open Hands

  • Realistic expectations of what money can do

  • Wisdom

Good with Money (part 3): Enough is Enough

TO START

Start tonight with a little truth or dare. Every group member has to do either the truth or the dare--their choice.

TRUTH: What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever put on a credit card or taken out a loan for?

DARE: Take a swig of one of the condiments in the fridge (BBQ sauce, mayo, mustard--anything you wouldn’t usually eat by itself).

TO DISCUSS

What does it mean to be content?

On Sunday Justin said, “If you never feel like you have/make enough, you may very well love money.”

Did you find that convicting? Why or why not? Do you usually feel like you have enough? Or do you usually feel like you need more?

Justin said, “Many of us often feel like we don’t have extra or don’t have enough because we’ve tethered ourselves to our aspirations. We’ve blurred the line between what we want and what we need by  turning our wants into needs.”

Have you ever done that?

Have you ever allowed yourself to get in debt reaching for things you don’t need? Share an example.

How did it feel?

How do we decide how much is enough? What kinds of questions could we ask ourselves to determine an actual mile marker for “enough”?

With which of the following are you most likely to be discontent:

  • Your shoe collection

  • The amount of money in your 401K

  • Your vacations (or lack thereof)

  • What you eat for lunch every day

  • Your car

  • The nice-ness of your house

  • Your phone or TV

Why do you think that particular thing is a struggle? What could you do practically speaking to grow in contentment in that category?

How often do you find yourself shopping for things you don’t need? What rules could you put in place to prevent that?

Consider the following practical ways to fuel contentment and do one or two together:

Practicing Gratitude. Listing blessings often takes our eyes off what we don’t have and turns it toward the abundance of gifts we’ve been given. As a group make a list of ways God’s showing you his love and provision. End with a rousing, Thank you, God. We love it!

Remembering His promises. If you’re feeling like you won’t have enough, listen to God promise you will. Read the following passages as reminders:

  • Psalm 111:2-5

  • I Timothy 6:17

  • Luke 11:9-13

Looking Back. Think back to a time when you were less wealthy and happy. Share a memory of a time when you were delightfully content with less.

TO READ

Read Luke 12:13-34.

Start with the parable. What’s the point? Have you ever made plans for bigger barns? How’d that go? If we aren’t supposed to make selfish plans for our wealth, what should we plan for the money we make? Should we not plan?

How does this parable challenge you personally?

Consider Jesus’ words about worry. What’s the relationship between worry and money/stuff?

Why does Jesus say we shouldn’t worry?

What does Jesus say we should seek? What will be the result?

Have you found seeking the kingdom to be a distraction from other kinds of worries? What does it mean to have treasure in Heaven?

TO PRAY

If you didn’t make a list of blessings earlier in the night, use your prayer time to express gratitude. If you already did that, be sure to include a prayer for contentment, asking God to help you trust Him for enough and help you not be striving for more than you need.

Good With Money (part 2): What Do You Expect?

TO START

Just a reminder that this sermon series will be the last before our summer break from small group discussion guides. We’ll start back again in August.

As a kid, do you remember the first time you held a lot of money? Tell your group the story. How did it make you feel?

Consider starting group tonight with a money playlist! Listen to snippets of these songs and summarize their philosophy of money. Which song best captures your relationship to money?

https://www.digitaltrends.com/music/best-songs-about-money/

TO DISCUSS

What are the financial markers that make you personally feel secure? (Examples: a big paycheck, cash in your wallet, 401 K…) Why do those things give you so much security? Be totally honest.

Have your markers moved over the years? Do you need more to feel secure now than you did in the past? Why is that?

Have you ever accumulated enough money to feel safe and secure only to watch it vanish? Tell the story to your group.

Have you ever said to yourself, “If I can just get enough money, then I’ll finally have…” What was it you thought money would buy? How could we reframe that hope and move it from hoping in money to hoping in God?

Do you ever connect money to your identity? Do you feel like a better, more important person if you’re making more or a lesser person when you’re making less? Why do you think that is (or isn’t)? Explain. How does your identity in Christ compare to the identity you have through money? Are they different?

Do you feel money pressure from your family or friends? Do you feel like the people around you have money expectations of you? Practically speaking, how do we deal with those kinds of expectations in a holy way?

Have you ever been tempted to think you have what you have because of you? What voices are telling you you’re the one who controls your financial fate (culture, tv, parents, college, talk radio, bloggers…)? What jars you out of that way of thinking?

How might we, practically speaking, give credit where credit is due? What would it look like for you to intentionally attribute your wealth to God in a way that helped remind you not to credit yourself? (Are there prayers you could pray, habits you could develop, things you say to yourself in certain situations?)

In I Timothy 6, Paul encourages the church to put their hope not in wealth but in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Is this the way you think of God, as a Giver of gifts for our enjoyment?

Do you struggle to enjoy your gifts? Does it ever make you feel guilty to have good

things? Why do you think that is? How does this verse affect you?

We said this Sunday that they key to a healthy relationship with money is low expectations. What would it look like for you to lower your expectations?

TO READ

This week make yourself a reminder not to trust in money. Write the following passage on an index card and keep it in your car or on your bathroom mirror:

“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”

Prov 11:28

TO PRAY

Praying about money in a group may seem strange, but let’s do it anyway. Have each group member share one way they’re working on their relationship with money. Pray for God to help.


Good With Money (part 1): The Object of My Affection

TO START

Let’s take a trip back in time. How did you spend your very first paycheck? What’s the first big purchase you remember making with your own hard-earned money? How did it make you feel?

TO DISCUSS

For the next few weeks we’ll be talking money. People aren’t always eager to talk about their money (their lack of it or their excess of it). Encourage your group to be vulnerable and remind them group is a safe place to be honest (both in our struggles and in our victories).

How would you describe your family’s relationship to money when you were growing up? Were you struggling? Did you have lots of extra?

Did your parents talk to you about how to handle money when you were a kid? If so, what did they say? If not, what effect did that have on you?

Justin offered a list on Sunday of ways you feel when hear the word money. Which of the following best describes your gut reaction? Why that word? Take some time to share your journey with money. How do you and money get along? What defines your relationship?

  • Frustration

  • Hope

  • Guilt

  • Betrayal

  • Longing

  • Confusion

  • Fear

  • Pride

  • Shame

  • Happiness

  • Sadness

  • Anger

We said on Sunday that the big question when it comes to being blessed by your money or cursed by it is this:  Do you love money, or do you love God? Justin shared four ways love behaves:

  • Devotion

  • Enthusiastic desire

  • Sacrifice

  • Fear associated with losing

Work through those four behaviors offering practical and personal examples. What would it look like to be devoted to money? How might an enthusiastic desire for money manifest in your life? What have you/would you sacrifice for money? Have you ever been afraid of losing money (or particularly shaken by the loss of money)? Share an example.

TO READ

Read Luke 12:22-31.

This isn’t a passage about money, but also it definitely is. Are you tempted to worry about money? What does God say we should remember if we’re tempted to worry about our clothes or food (or other things money buys)? What does He say we should DO?

TO PRAY

Tonight might be a good time for some confession and intercession. Do you think maybe you do love money? Tell the group and let them pray for you.


Jesus, Monarch (part 6): Resurrected and Reigning

This week we encourage you to get together with your group and celebrate the risen Christ. Eat dinner together (or some yummy dessert), and talk about where you’re experiencing new life. Be casual, but also intentional. Direct the conversation toward Christ. You might print off the following questions and let each member respond to one or two.

Where is Christ enabling resurrection in you? In the people you love?

When (recently) did you almost give up only to find God enabling your perseverance or victory?

Looking back over the past calendar year, where have you more fully turned over your life to Christ’s authority?

What do you have hope for right now?

What are you most looking forward to about Christ’s return?

You might end the night celebrating resurrection in prayer, thanking God for the hopes and victories you’ve shared, or with a reading. Consider I Corinthians chapter 15 or Philippians 3:7-14.


Jesus, Monarch (part 5): King on a Cross?

TO START

Tonight, set a mood of calm before group. Maybe light a few candles. Play some quiet, mellow music. Let’s make tonight meditative and leave space for emotion.

TO DISCUSS

Spend a little time tonight in discussion, but be sure to move into the more meditative/devotional period.

Consider for a moment what the cross meant to the culture in which Jesus died. Consider that most people had seen many criminals killed on crosses in their lifetimes. How does that change the way you view the cross? How might Jesus have died today in America?

Does the idea that sacrifice is required for love make sense to you? Or do you think it’s a little strange that God “couldn’t” get around sending Jesus to the cross? Mull over the question, “Why did Jesus HAVE TO die?”

Consider the following statement from the sermon Sunday:

“Even flawed human beings like us know that you can’t just overlook evil. It can’t be dealt with, removed, or healed just by saying, ‘Forget it.’ It has to be paid for, and it’s usually expensive.”

When have you seen this to be true? Share an example from personal experience, history, or fiction.

What does the cross teach us about what kind of King Jesus is?

Justin said on Sunday that the cross teaches us something about suffering. He said, “He hangs there, testifying that though it is not the ideal, suffering is also not the ultimate evil. It is not something to be avoided at all costs….but instead something to which those who pursue true love will inevitably find themselves called. Something that is worth enduring for the sake of what’s on the other side.”

How do you generally feel about suffering?

What have you learned about suffering on your journey with Christ?

TO MEDITATE

For this you may want to turn down the lights a little. Your choice.

Read together the story of the cross in John chapter 19. Try to imagine yourself in the moment, following Jesus to Golgotha. Don’t comment on it. Just listen and receive it.

When you’re done, listen to this song from Andrew Peterson, “Is He Worthy?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FEuAr8f6bo

This isn’t a song about the cross, but as you listen, keep your picture of Christ on the cross in the front of your mind. When the song ends, sit for about thirty seconds in the quiet. Then ask this question: What does it mean to you that your King died for you?

Go around the room and share answers. As each person shares, say together as a group, “Worthy is the lamb.”


Jesus, Monarch (part 4): More Dispatches from the Kingdom

TO START

This week we’re talking humility as the path to exaltation. So, how about we take some time to not boast about ourselves but rather to exalt one another in Christ? Have group members draw the name of another group member (write member names on a piece of paper and put it in a bowl for drawing). Then, have them create a blue ribbon for that person with the words “God’s made me at awesome at _______.” Then have members award the ribbons (pin or tape them onto one another’s shirts).

You’ll need thick paper, markers, and safety pins or double sided tape.

TO DISCUSS

Justin started this week’s sermon with these two questions: Ever think you’re better than anybody else? Ever want credit for being better than other people?

Well? Do you? Give an example of a time you compared yourself to someone else in order to make yourself feel better. Funny and serious stories both welcomed.

Recap the parable Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14.

What do you find interesting or compelling about this story? Does it make you feel a certain way? Does it make you squirm? Explain.

Have you ever tried to justify yourself to God based on your good works? Tell your group about it. How’d it go?

Do you find yourself trying to do more good than the people around you in order to prove something or distinguish yourself? What are you trying to prove?

We said Sunday, A bad heart will nullify your good deeds. What can we do to be sure our heart is in the right place? What questions might we ask ourselves to take our heart’s temperature?

Consider this quote from John Stott:

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

  • Does reflecting on the cross have that effect on you? Why do you think that is?

  • D you regularly spend time contemplating the cross? What would it look like, practically speaking, to give more of your attention to the cross?

What would change if, instead of looking to other people to prove our worth (I’m better than they are), we instead looked at other people as equal participants in God’s mercy? How might some of your relationships inside the church be different? If you don’t need other Christians to be worse than you (and you don’t need to be “better” than other Christians), how does that affect the way you

  • Help/confront someone who’s struggling in sin?

  • Encourage (or don’t encourage) others?

TO READ

Our parable this week ends with this gem from Jesus: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” That same phrase occurs as the bottom line in another of Jesus’ parables.

Read Luke 14:7-11.

What’s new in this parable? What’s the same as the parable in Luke 18? Which parable is more challenging to you? Why that one?

TO PRAY

Consider going around the circle and repeating, person by person, the tax collector’s prayer: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”



Jesus, Monarch (part 3): Dispatches from the Kingdom

TO START

Parables are a little like codes or riddles. They take work to figure out. See if your group can figure out the riddles (answers at the bottom of the guide):

  1. What has a head, a tail, is brown, and has no legs?

  2. What comes once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?

  3. David's father has three sons : Snap, Crackle and _____ ?

  4. A doctor and a bus driver are both in love with the same woman, an attractive girl named Sarah. The bus driver had to go on a long bus trip that would last a week. Before he left, he gave Sarah seven apples. Why?

  5. Mr. and Mrs. Mustard have six daughters and each daughter has one brother. How many people are in the Mustard family?

TO DISCUSS

This week we looked at a parable. What do you know about parables? Do you like them? Are they confusing? Interesting? Why do you think Jesus used parables?

This week’s parable is found in Matthew 25:1-13. Go ahead and read it together again.

What questions do you have? What’s interesting? What’s confusing?

Logan said the main point of this parable was this message: Jesus is coming back! Be ready!

  • Do you often think about Jesus coming back? Do you feel like your life revolves around the return of Jesus?

  • What would it look like to live lives that were intentionally, actively waiting on the King?

  • If you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow, what would you do? What wouldn’t you do that you’d be planning to do?

Do you think there’s a chance you’re sleepwalking through life a bit? What signs do you see that might be pointing that way? What could your small group do to help you wake up?

What four ways of growing complacent did we discuss in the message Sunday? (exhaustion, overindulgence, numbing, lack of disruption). Each of these patterns is sinful. Did you find any of those surprising to be on a list of sins?

In order to be ready, Logan suggested we do four things:

  • Rest

  • Pray

  • Meditate

  • Disrupt Rhythms

Which of those comes most naturally? Which comes hardest?

What does it look like to practice each of these?

Do you have experience learning to do one of these things? Share with the group.

TO READ

Consider another waiting parable, this one also in Matthew 25 (verses 14 to 19).

Decode the parable: Who is the master? Who are the servants? What do the talents (or bags of gold) represent?

What do you learn about waiting for Jesus from the parable? What should life here be like in light of the life to come?

TO PRAY

This week pray asking Jesus to come back. Tell Him reasons why you want Him to return.





Riddle answers:

  1. A penny

  2. The letter m

  3. David

  4. To keep the doctor away

  5. 9--one brother total.

Jesus, Monarch (part 2): Heir Apparent

TO START

We know you’re all adults, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun and play a game. How about a rousing round of Simon Says? See how good your members are at following orders. :)

TO DISCUSS

Are you good at following a leader? Do you tend to be critical of leadership or generous? How do you respond to having a boss at work? Are you good or bad at giving up control? Explain.

Justin said Sunday that we humans tend to “eat our leaders.” Have you seen that to be true? Share an example.

Share a story of a time you depended on a leader/king and found yourself disappointed.

The Apostle Paul says in Colossians that Jesus has supremacy over everything. What does that mean exactly? What does it mean for you as you consider following Him?

What are differences between the dominion of darkness and Christ’s kingdom?

What would it look like if Jesus showed up today in Round Rock, TX to assert His claim to kingship?

  • How might he act?

  • Where might he teach?

  • What kinds of miracles might he do?

  • Who might he call to be His disciples?

  • Who would be offended/angry? Why?

  • Who would be accepting? Why?

What are the ways Jesus challenges our ideas of kingship/authority? In what ways is Jesus a surprising King?

Consider this quote from NT Wright in his book Simply Jesus: “We want someone to save our souls, not rule our world! Or, if we want a king, what we want is someone to implement the policies we already embrace.”

Is this true for you? When you decided to follow Jesus, what parts of your life were hard to give over to His reign? What parts of your life are you still struggling to put under the authority of Christ?

TO READ

Read Revelation 11:15-19.

We said Sunday that Jesus’ kingdom hasn’t come yet partly to give more people the chance to submit to Christ’s authority. Consider this glimpse into Heaven on the day when Jesus does in fact, assert His power.

  • What do you learn about Jesus as monarch from this passage?

  • How will Jesus’ reign ultimately be received?

  • As you consider Jesus’ return and full reign, how does it make you feel personally? What emotions emerge?

TO PRAY

This week work a prayer of allegiance into your group prayer time. Tell Jesus you submit to His reign and welcome His rule. Ask Him to show you how to walk under His authority.

Jesus, Monarch (part 1): Startled

TO START

What are your thoughts on graffiti? Nuisance or delight? Argue your case. (If you like it, do you have a favorite piece? Artist? Style?)

For this sermon series we’ve chosen to embrace graffiti as a symbol for the way Jesus asserted His reign as King. Any thoughts on what graffiti might have to do with Christ? (You’ll get an answer next week in part 2)

TO DISCUSS

Let’s do some word association. What do you think of when you hear the word “Jesus”? Any answers will do. Spit them out as fast as you think of them.

Do you feel like you know/understand/get Jesus? Explain your answer.

  • What do you feel like is easy to know about Jesus? In what ways is His character straightforward?

  • What’s hard to know about Jesus? What’s mysterious about Him?

On Sunday we identified four ways that Jesus startled the religious people of His day: forgiving sins, eating with sinners, healing on the sabbath, and refusing to mount a war against Rome. Justin said, “Each collision with Expectation demonstrates a truth about who Jesus is and what he’s after. When Jesus forgives sin like only God can, Jesus is saying ‘I am God.’ When Jesus eats with sinners, Jesus is saying ‘This is who I care about; these are the people I love.’ When Jesus says he is ‘Lord of the Sabbath,’ Jesus means he is the Sabbath. When Jesus refuses to wage war on Rome’s army, Jesus is demonstrating that he intends to engage Rome’s hearts. And Israel’s.”

Which truth about Jesus is the most startling to you? Which is the most comfortable?:

That Jesus has power over you?

That Jesus loves (and seeks time with) the people outside the church walls?

That Jesus brings deep rest?

OR

That Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world and won’t be accomplished through nations?

Justin said in the sermon, “When your experience with Jesus collides with your expectations of him, that’s a chance to get to know him better.”

When have your expectations of Jesus collided with your experience of/with Him?

Share a time when you were startled or surprised by Jesus.

If Jesus was startling/surprising to the religious establishment AND the world, how should we follow in His footsteps? How should Christians be startling in this current culture?

We sing a song on Sunday mornings titled “Jesus at the center of it all.” What does that mean? Why is Jesus so important to the Christian faith? Why can’t the Father be “enough”?

TO READ

Consider Matthew chapter 8. Work your way through the chapter looking for answers to this question: Where do you see Jesus acting in a way that likely surprises the people around him?

When you read this chapter, what’s your overall impression of Jesus?

What’s Jesus like?

What’s clear about Him? What’s confusing?

TO PRAY

Tonight, begin your prayer time by asking Jesus to give you eyes to see Him. Invite Him to surprise you.

Still Breathing (part 3): How To Read

TO START

Start group tonight with these general questions about reading:

Do you like to read? If not, why not? If so, what kinds of books do you like to read?

Was it hard for you to learn to read as a kid?

What was the first book you remember loving? Hating?

TO DISCUSS

Do you feel like your posture toward reading in general affects how you view reading the Bible? How so?

What could you do to bypass or overcome the reading hurdles that keep you out of your Bible? Brainstorm options.

Did anything from the sermon Sunday stick out to you as confusing, interesting, surprising or helpful? Anything you need more information about or direction in?

Imagine you’re being interviewed for your very own Still Breathing video.

  • When has the Bible come alive for you?

  • What’s your favorite part to read?

  • What advice would you share?

TO READ

This week we encourage all groups to spend some time in Psalm 119.

Have group members turn to Psalm 119 and read/skim individually for about three or four minutes. Ask them to mark passages they relate to or appreciate. After you’ve read for a while have group members share the passages that stood out.

Now, work together to make your own Psalm in homage to the Word of God.

  • What do you love about the Bible?

  • What is God accomplishing through it?

  • How is it at work today?

  • What does it tell you about God’s nature?

Write a poem together. It doesn’t have to be pretty or rhyme, but it does have to include at least ten things you value about the Word of God. Send it to us at jlgerhardt@rrcc.org, and we’ll send you a prize.

Still Breathing (part 2): What You're Reading

This week’s lesson doesn’t lend itself to our usual pattern of reflection and discussion. In light of that consider one or two of the following options for group this week:

  • Have members share any questions they have after listening to Sunday’s sermon. If you don’t know the answers, research them together on your phones. Share what you discover and discern what answer seems right.

  • Consider creating a Bible reading plan as a group. Commit to what, when, and how much you’ll read. Plan a time to check in and/or discuss what you’re reading. If this isn’t a good idea for your group, share your current personal reading plans.

  • Watch one of the following videos and discuss together:

    • This video on how modern Bible translation works at Seed Company (an organization devoted to translating the Bible into all the world’s languages) : https://vimeo.com/275649513

    • This video from The Bible Project on what the Bible is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak06MSETeo4

    • This other video from The Bible Project on the story of the Bible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_CGP-12AE0

    • This Bible facts trivia game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcNaKl1KIgc

    • This video on the differences between English translations and why they all exist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swbCX1EgpZ0

Still Breathing (part 1): Taste and See

TO START

Let’s start with a word game. Give members a piece of paper and a pen. Give them 90 seconds to write down any words they think of when they hear the word “Bible”-- no word is off limits (assuming its a word you think of when you think of the Bible). Share your words at the end of the 90 seconds (explain the unconventional choices). The person with the most words wins.

TO DISCUSS

When was the first time you picked up a Bible and tried to read it? How did it go? Share a little about that first experience. If you can’t remember the very first time, share an early memory with the Bible.

Justin started his message Sunday saying for a long time he’d been “around the Bible but not close to it.” Did that sound familiar to you (if not now, at some point in your walk with God)? Share with the group where you are in your relationship to the Bible currently. Are you smitten? Are you committed but not exactly passionate? Are you still getting to know one another? Are you at odds?

What would you say are the circumstances contributing to that relationship? Do you feel like you spend time with the Bible? Do you understand it? Do you enjoy it? Do you find it helpful, comforting, challenging?

What does it mean that the Bible’s “alive”? Have you experienced that while reading it? Share a time when the Bible seemed especially relevant to your life, like it was talking right to you.

If you could ask one question about how to read/understand the Bible what would it be? (Please compile these questions and send them to jgerhardt@rrcoc.org.)

TO READ

This week in the sermon we spent some time just reading highlights from the Bible. Do you have a favorite passage (or really any passage you like a lot)? Go around the circle tonight reading your favorite verses. Group leaders, be prepared with a few passages in case your group comes up empty. Be sure to give them a few minutes to flip through and pick something they like (ideally you might text them before group so they have more time to pick).

TO PRAY

Consider praying scripture tonight.  Here’s a prayer based on Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11 for group leaders to pray over their groups…

God, thank you for the people in this room, my partners in the good news of Jesus Christ.

They’re a joy to me.

I am confident that you’ve begun a good work in them and that you’ll carry it on to completion until you return to get us.

God, this is my prayer: that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that they may be able to discern what is best and so they may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

Fill them with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to your glory and praise.

The Perfect Prayer

TO START

This week we’re talking prayer. Prayer is just a conversation with God. To get us started, what’s one piece of conversation wisdom you can share with the group? What makes for a good conversation? How can you show up for a conversation?

Have you ever been in a truly terrible conversation? What made it so bad?

TO DISCUSS

Is prayer natural for you or is more awkward/stilted? What gets in the way of you praying?

What’s the best prayer advice you’ve ever heard?

Do you have experience praying The Lord’s Prayer? Is it something you often do? Why or why not? Tell the group about your experience or inexperience. Does the idea of raying a scripted prayer seem weird to you or natural? Why?

Consider Matthew 6:9-13 together. Read the prayer and then discuss it. Is there any part you don’t understand? Is there any part that sticks out as surprising or challenging to pray? Why that part?

If God’s people regularly prayed this prayer, what might be different about us as individuals, as a church, as a world?

TO PRAY

You know what your group should do this week? How’d you guess? Yes, pray The Lord’s Prayer.

Try praying it as it’s written out loud and all together first. Then, pray it in parts this way:

Our Father Who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name

(What praise do you want to offer God? God around the room filling in this blank: God, You are _______.”)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

(Where do you want God’s will to be done? In your family? At your job? In someone’s heart? Fill in the blank: Your will be done in __________ as it is in Heaven.”)

Give us this day our daily bread.

(What do you need from God? God, give us this day _________.)

And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.

(What do you need to confess? Who do you need to forgive?)

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

(What do you need to be delivered from? God, deliver us from ________.)

Amen.

TO LISTEN

If you’re interested in getting The Lord’s Prayer in your hearts, you might consider listening to “The Lord’s Prayer,” a song from the worship band Hillsong. It’s a lovely meditation and a good way to spend some time with this powerful prayer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCxqjEz5hJ4

Awakened (part 5): Building Altars

TO START

Are you sentimental? What’s one thing you’ve held onto for a long time and wouldn’t ever throw away? Why does it mean so much to you?

TO DISCUSS

This week we’re talking about building altars.

  • What is an altar?

  • What’s the purpose of it?

  • How does building an altar awaken you to God’s presence?

  • How does interacting with an altar you built a long time ago awaken you to God’s presence now?

Have you ever built an altar? Tell your group about it. Perhaps you don’t recognize your altar as an altar. Have you ever done something to help commemorate an important moment or remind you of something important from your past?

Make a list of possible altars we might build.

16 times in the book of Deuteronomy Moses encourages the people of Israel to remember what God’s done for them.

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Deut. 5:15

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. Deut. 15:15

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. Deut. 24:18

Remember the days of old... When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance. Deut. 32:7-8

Why is remembering so important for Israel?

Why is it so important for you to to remember what God’s done in the past?

Do you dedicate intentional time to the practice of remembering and reflecting? If so, what does that look like? If not, what could you do on purpose to prioritize looking back, looking for God in your past?

We said on Sunday, “Build more altars and you’ll have more reasons to build more altars.” What does that mean? Has it been your experience that altars spur on encounters with God?


TO READ

This last story in our series of enchantment stories finds Moses instructing the Israelites on what to do once God leads them out of the wilderness and into the promised land. The moment will inevitably be one in which the Israelites see the power and presence of God in a way they haven’t in a long, long time. Read Deuteronomy 27:1-7.

How does Moses tell them to mark the moment?

Does this altar in any way invite the Israelites into God’s presence? How so?

What can we learn from this altar about making altars? What’s important?

TO PRAY

We’re forgetful people, and remembering doesn’t come naturally. Pray tonight asking God to help you remember the times He’s shown up for you.

You might also make tonight’s prayer a thanksgiving prayer, encouraging members to thank God for the ways He’s shown up.

TO MAKE
Bring some craft supplies and encourage group members to memorialize a moment when they encountered God. You could draw pictures. You could use hot glue and rocks to make a desktop altar. You could make a collage from pictures cut from magazines. You could just write yourself a letter as a reminder. Whatever you do, be sure to build an altar. It’s good to get some experience.