Awakened (part 1): Rejecting Disenchantment

TO START

We said on Sunday that pop culture is obsessed with the idea of enchantment, that authors and movie makers keep coming back to the concept that the world we know isn’t all there is. What’s your favorite story like this? Why do you like it? (Examples include Harry Potter, Transformers, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, etc.)

TO DISCUSS

Do you feel like we live in a disenchanted world? Do you have an expectation that supernatural things will occur in your daily life? Think of some examples of disenchantment.

How does it make you feel to think that there’s a reality you can’t see or measure or directly observe? When you read verses like Ephesians 6:11-12 (“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”), what do you imagine? Does that seem real?

Is it easy for you to forget that God is present in your everyday life? If so, why do you think that is? Why does He sometimes feel far away?

On Sunday we listed a few things that prevent us from experiencing God here and now, things that are dulling our senses to God. Consider the list and share which one is the biggest temptation for you:

  • Busyness

  • Distraction

  • A lack of expectancy

  • Fear

Justin said in the sermon, “The more connected to God’s presence and activity we are, the more we experience joy. We’re emboldened. We’re calmed. We’re made brave. We’re more fully alive.“

  • How does being connected to God’s presence enable those things?

Share a time when you felt very aware of the presence of God. How has that moment or experience shaped you over time?

As humans, we lean heavily on our senses to experience reality. Consider the following prompts. Don’t try to answer them literally. Instead, think of the things that open your eyes to God, places/people/etc where you experience God. Brainstorm answers together…

  • What does God look like?

  • What does God smell like?

  • What does God taste like?

  • What does God feel like?

  • What does God sound like?

You might keep your eyes closed as you answer these questions. Maybe even play some ambient music in the background. This exercise will remind us where we’ve experienced God before so that we can recognize Him when we see Him again.

TO READ

The Bible is full of enchanted stories, stories of men and women discovering that their human experience isn’t all there is. Over the next few weeks we’ll encourage you to read several of those stories with your group. As you read, be on the lookout for things you can learn about being alert to the presence and work of God.

Let’s start with one of the most obvious and epic of humankind’s “through the wardrobe” moments, Exodus 3:1-15.

  • What can we learn from this moment of divine revelation?

  • What can we learn about who God is?

  • What can we learn about how to approach Him?

TO PRAY

This week we encourage you to pray for eyes to see God. Sometimes the reason we can’t see Him is simple: Our eyes are closed. Fortunately, God’s good at opening eyes. Ask Him to help you train your eyes on Him.

You might pray with David in Psalm 27:

“One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.”

& (part 4): Harder & Easier

TO START

We’ll be taking a two week break from the small group discussion guide for the Christmas holiday, returning with the first sermon series of the year starting on January 13th. Likely your group will meet the week starting on January 6th, so remember that you won’t have a guide, and prepare some other way to kick off the year.

You might have members share their spiritual resolutions for the year. You might encourage everyone to be thinking of a word they want to lean into in 2019. Or you might have a meal and pray together. Consider making a plan together at your gathering this week.

TO DISCUSS

When have you felt like following Jesus was harder than not following Jesus? Give a specific example of a time when doing what God wanted you to do took courage, perseverance, hope, or lots of effort.

  • What’s hard about following Jesus in this time and place? How does culture make following Jesus hard?

When have you felt like following Jesus was easier than not following Jesus? Give a specific example of a way in which Christ lightened your burden or led you in paths of freedom or accomplished what you’d deemed to be impossible.

  • What’s easier about following Jesus in this time and place? How does righteousness protect you or deliver you from the consequences of a fallen world?

TO READ

Read Matthew 19:16-26.

What does this passage teach us about the way of God/life in the kingdom?

Is it hard or is it easy?

TO PRAY

This week pray prayers asking God to make life easier and praising God for an easy life.

  • What do you need God to help you do? What do need God to carry for you? Where are you aching for God’s transformation?

  • What is God doing in your life right now? Where’s He blessing you?

& vol 2 (part 3): Already & Not Yet

TO DISCUSS

In so many ways this week’s sermon is a Christmas sermon. Currently many Christians around the world are celebrating Advent, a season on the historical church calendar set aside to practice waiting and expectancy. The word advent means “coming,” and during advent we celebrate the Christ who’s come and wait for the coming Christ.

Already & Not Yet.

Have you celebrated or marked the Advent season before? What practices or ways of celebrating have you tried? What did you learn or how did you grow through those practices?

Michelle Blake wrote of Advent, “One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along ,that while we need to be reassured of God’s arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to trust, to have faith, but it is God’s grace that gives us that faith. As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally true, at once. The mind can’t grasp paradox; it is the knowledge of the soul.”

Right now, in this moment, are you feeling more like God is with us or more like God is still on the way? Why do you think that is?

Take a minute and share ways you’ve seen God work this week. Where do you see the “Already Kingdom”? After each member shares a story make a toast: “To the kingdom!”

Share one part of your life where you’re still waiting for God to arrive. Where do you see the “Not Yet Kingdom”? After each member shares, make a toast: “To waiting with hope!”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”

  • Do you ever get caught up in this world and forget to wait for the coming kingdom? What causes that? Share a season in your life when you stopped waiting expectantly.

TO READ

Read Col. 1:9-14 

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

  • How/In what ways is this passage already true in your life?

  • How/In what ways is this passage not yet true in your life?

 

TO PRAY

This week pray prayers of thanksgiving for the Already Kingdom and prayers of anticipation and request for the Not-Yet Kingdom. Be specific. You might even make two long lists: one of ways the kingdom has already come and one of ways the kingdom has yet to come.

& vol. 2 (part 2): For Gay Men and Women & Against Sin

TO START

Because this topic is often handled with a lack of delicacy we encourage you to consider thoughtfully whether it’s best for your group to discuss the sermon this week. A few reasons you might consider taking another path:

  1. If you’re divided as a group over whether or not it’s a sin to engage in gay behavior. Our leadership is unanimously of the mind that God is clear on this point. If one or two of your group members disagree, that disagreement might be best addressed one on one. We don’t want members feeling ganged up on during group, and we worry one or two dissenters will almost certainly feel like that’s what’s happening. We want everyone to feel heard and loved.

  2. If you have group members who are gay or are tempted by homosexual lust, and you worry (for good reason) that other members of your group won’t handle the topic with sensitivity. The last thing we want is to drive an unnecessary wedge between our members. (In this case, perhaps the best thing to do is to reach out before group with instruction and encouragement.)

  3. If you think all you’ll do is talk about how other people act. We always want small group to be about personal transformation, not about pointing fingers.

If you’re concerned for any of the reasons above or for any other reason, we encourage you to skip discussion and spend this week in prayer. Pray for the men and women struggling with sexual temptation. Pray for their families, for them to feel loved, for the church to make them feel welcome. Pray whatever’s on your hearts.

You might also read a passage of scripture together and work through what it has to say to you personally. Consider Romans 1:18-32 and 2:1-4. What does this passage teach us about sin? What’s personally challenging?

TO DISCUSS

Which part of Sunday’s lesson are you struggling most to embrace? Is it hard for you to embrace the idea of gay sex as sinful? Or is it hard for you to love gay people?

Practically speaking, what does it look like for you to stand against the sin of homosexuality and at the same time to love people who are gay? What do you do and what do you not do?

What practical examples do you have of people who have done this well? Where do you feel like you’ve gone wrong?

In your efforts to love people who’re gay what hurdles have you come up against? What are you trying to figure out how to do well?

On Sunday Justin shared five problems that keep us from calling same-sex sex a sin. Consider this list. Which ones are most likely to trip you up? Why is that? Are there any you need some unpacking on? Ask your group to help you understand.

1. We decide what we are and aren’t okay with God requiring and then make him fit in our box. (Or decide he doesn’t exist.)

2. We’ve made a god out of tolerance and (our definition) of love.

3. We think we are what we want.

4. We believe belonging requires indulgence.

5. We don’t trust God to lead us through a life of obedience (especially when that obedience requires denial, a change of lifestyle, etc)

We also shared four problems keeping us from properly loving gay men and women. Consider these, too. Which ones are you most likely to stumble over? Why is that? Are there any you need to talk through or ask questions about?

1. We elevate the sin of homosexuality above whatever ‘our’ sins are.

2. We’ve made a god out of marriage.

3. We feel as though kindness is endorsement.

4. We do a bad job living in community (so that if you’re not married or at least dating, you really are alone).

How might we address these problems as a community of faith and as individuals? What can we do, for example, to make intimate community more accessible for single people?


TO READ

If your group is struggling to embrace homosexuality as sinful, you might read a few of the passages Justin mentioned on Sunday: I Corinthians 6:9-10 and I Timothy 1:8-11. What’s the bottom line in these passages?

If your group is struggling with love and empathy, read Romans 2:1-10 and Luke 7:36-50. What’s the bottom line in these passages? What do they teach us about sin and love?


TO PRAY

So many people are hurting because of the way the world is framing the discussion around homosexuality. The devil is at work luring people away from God’s life-giving will. Would you pray about it? Pray for people you love who’re deceived. Pray for people you don’t know but love anyway. Pray for wisdom for yourselves.


& vol 2 (part 1): Slaves & Friends

TO START

During this series we’ll be looking at truths that seem contradictory but aren’t. How about a game to get our minds primed for embracing complex things?

Give group members two minutes to make a list of as many oxymorons as they can think up.

An oxymoron is a common pairing of two words which are opposites. “Jumbo shrimp,” for example, is an oxymoron because shrimp are small no matter what.

Any oxymoron that also appears on another group member’s list gets cancelled out. Whoever has the most unique oxymorons on their list wins!

TO DISCUSS

Do you struggle to embrace truths that are more layered and complex? Do you prefer black and white or do you do well with grey? Why do you think that is?

This week we talked about being God’s slave and being God’s friend. Which is easier for you to identify with? Why do you think that is?

What does it mean to be God’s slave?

We said on Sunday that slavery requires “complete submission, unquestioning obedience, and comprehensive compliance.”

  • How does that make you feel?

  • Do you struggle to give up control of your life to God? Do you obey unquestioningly?

  • Share a time when you struggled to submit to someone else’s leadership. Then share a time when you struggled to submit to God’s leadership.

  • What freedom might we find in slavery? Is there a way in which slavery frees us up?

  • Slaves are workers. What work does God have for you to do. Make a list together of the tasks God is calling you to complete right now in your daily lives.

What does it mean to be God’s friend?  

What are the defining characteristics of friendship?

We said on Sunday, “a friend is loved. Liked, in fact. Friends spend time together because they want to. Friends share a common aim and outlook. Friends trust one another. They know things about each other. They share things with one another that they don’t share with others. They’re close.”

  • How does that make you feel?

  • Do you struggle to accept that kind of a relationship with God? Why or why not?

  • Do you act like a friend of God? Do you talk to Him often? Do you feel close to Him? Do you trust him? Do you know a lot about Him?

  • What could you do on purpose to be more of a friend of God?

TO READ

This week settle down in John chapter 15, reading verses 1-17.

  • What do you learn from this passage about what it looks like to be in relationship with God?

  • How will we be shaped/changed?

  • How will we know if we’re in a relationship?

  • What does it look like to abide in Christ?

TO PRAY

Tonight you might decide to pray for your friends and pray for your slaves.

  • Pray for friends who’re in need, friends going through hard things. Pray for them by name and with gratitude.

  • While we don’t exactly have slaves, we do have servants. Every day we’re served by a host of people meeting our needs. Pray for your kids’ teachers, for your postman, for the garbage collectors, the waitresses and busboys at your favorite restaurant. Pray for their good and pray that you’d be good to them.




How We Live Love: Always Be Celebrating

TO START

Who can remember all seven of our church’s core behaviors? Go around the room and see how many you can name.

It’s so important to us to know our members are internalizing this language and these ideas--we’d love to see a video of your group reciting all seven!

TO DISCUSS

What’s so important about celebration? What does it accomplish?

What’s the relationship between celebration and joy?

Consider the following quote from Frederick Buechner:

“Joy is what we belong to. Joy is home, and tears of joy are more than anything else homesick tears. God created us in joy and created us for joy, and in the long run not all the darkness there is in the world and in ourselves can separate us finally from that joy. God created us in his image. We have God’s joy in our blood.”

  • What do you think about that? Is it true? Is it true for you?

  • Do you find Christians to be more joyful than other people?

Read Acts 16:16-30

  • What is it about Paul and Silas’s behavior that convinces the jailer to convert?

  • Have you ever celebrated in an environment or circumstance that wasn’t exactly the kind of place or situation in which people celebrate? What was the reaction of people around you? Have you ever seen someone celebrate in unexpected circumstances?

  • While suffering for the cause of Christ Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

    • Two questions: How? And Why? How do we manage joy in hard times? And why should we rejoice even when things are hard?

    • What if you’re not a naturally joyful person? Do you get a pass on rejoicing?

Make a list of ways we might celebrate the work of God. Think through ways you’ve celebrated in the past (Remember, celebration isn’t always about throwing a party).

What was the best celebration you’ve ever attended/been a part of? What made it so good? Be specific.

TO READ & PRAY

Read Psalm 145:1-8 aloud together; direct your words to God.

I will exalt you, my God the King;

   I will praise your name for ever and ever.

Every day I will praise you

   and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

   his greatness no one can fathom.

One generation commends your works to another;

   they tell of your mighty acts.

They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—

   and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

They tell of the power of your awesome works—

   and I will proclaim your great deeds.

They celebrate your abundant goodness

   and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,

   slow to anger and rich in love.

TO CELEBRATE

Consider spending the bulk of your time in group celebrating God’s activity in your lives. What can you point to this week and say, “Look what God’s done! Thank you, God! We love it!”?


How We Live Love: Be Genuine

TO START

Let’s get to know your real, authentic fellow small group members. Play a game of two truths and a lie. Go around the room and have each member say three things about him or herself--two true things and one lie. Have members guess which thing is the lie.

TO DISCUSS

This week we’re talking about our sixth core behavior: Be Genuine.

  • What does it mean to be genuine? Offer a few definitions or synonyms.

  • Why would genuine-ness be an important characteristic of a follower of Christ?

  • What are the blessings of being genuine?

  • What’s hard about a commitment to be genuine?

It’s important to remember that being genuine isn’t just being real about our sin. What else is involved in being genuine?

Who do you know who’s genuine? What is it about that person that makes them genuine?

Is being genuine something you struggle with? Do you often find yourself posturing or hiding? If so, why do you think that is? What’s keeping you from practicing authenticity and integrity?

We said Sunday, “Being genuine will always enable infinitely stronger relationships than putting up a front ever will.” Why is that? How is a relationship with someone who’s genuine different from a relationship with someone who’s not?

We also said, authenticity is contagious. Share a time when you saw another person’s authenticity inspire you to be more authentic.

During the sermon we looked at a list of four things authentic people say:

“I (don’t) like this”

“Me, too.”

“I’m not where I hope to be”

“I’m not where I used to be”

  • Which one’s hardest for you to say? Why do you think that is?

  • Which one’s easiest for you to say?

  • Share a time when you said one of these things. What was the result/effect?

Being genuine requires that we act like who we are, but before we can be comfortable in our skin in front of others, we have to be comfortable with who we are internally. Ask yourself, “Am I content with who God made me to be in Christ?” Perhaps you can give group members a few minutes to make a couple lists: “Things I dislike about myself” and “Things I like about myself” (keep the lists private). Encourage group members to write over their lists, “Just as I am, God loves me.”

Is that hard to believe? That God loves you even in your current state? Why or why not? If you’re confident in God’s love for you, take a minute to inspire your fellow group members. What led you to that confidence? Share a story or a scripture.


TO READ

Read Matthew 7:15-20.

  • How does Jesus say you can know if someone is false?

  • What would it look like to apply this test for genuine-ness to our lives?

  • What kind of fruit should we be bearing?

Read John 15:1-8.

  • What’s the one thing Jesus tells us is most important to do?

  • What does it mean to “remain” in Christ?

  • What can we learn about how to be genuine from this passage?


TO PRAY

This week you might consider a prayer of confession. James 5:16 reads, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” What do you need to offer up to God so you can accept His healing? While we’re not compelled to confess all our sins to one another, the act of confession pulls sin up and out of the dark. If you’re struggling to be genuine, confession might be just the spiritual discipline you most need.

How We Live Love: Be Open-Handed

TO START

November is, of course, Thanksgiving month. Consider starting all your small group gatherings this month with a time to share things you’re thankful for and praise God for His love and provision. You might create some sort of Thanksgiving list to post (either online or on a refrigerator).

TO DISCUSS

Living an “open-handed” life isn’t a new idea to this church. We’ve talked about it a number of times before. What does it mean to you? How have you been personally challenged by the calling to be open-handed? Are you growing in open-handedness? Or are you resisting it?

Share a story or two about times you’ve had an opportunity to be open-handed OR share a story about a time you saw someone being open-handed.

Are you struggling to understand what it means to be open-handed? Ask your group members for help getting your head around it.

On Sunday we said there’s one big reason God blesses you (beyond His desire to show you love). What was it? Why does God give you resources, joys, time, and strengths?

Look back at 2 Corinthians 9:6-9. Read it together as a group. If God gives us gifts so that we’re equipped to do good works, consider your own life. Are you using your gifts to do good works? Or are you tempted to think of your gifts as yours?

Consider the following three categories of open-handed living. Which one do you struggle with the most? Why is that? What could you do to grow in that category?

  1. Financial generosity--sharing the money you’ve been given with others who need it (including the local church)

  2. Generosity with time--sharing your time, welcoming interruptions to your schedule, freeing giving away vacation time or time off to help another

  3. Emotional generosity--sharing your emotional energy with others, welcoming their pain into your life, listening to the hard things they’re going through, offering your own strength and stability when they’re weak

We said on Sunday that being open-handed isn’t just about giving away what we’re given, it’s also about appreciating it while we have it and understanding that we don’t deserve it.

Is there anything you’re taking for granted right now? What have you never considered losing but know you’d seriously miss if you ever did?

In the end, whether or not we have open hands reveals a lot about our relationship to God. What does it take to stand before God with open hands? What kind of a relationship is that?

TO READ

Tonight in group, read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

Why did the master give his servants gold?

In the end, who got more gold?

According to this parable, what’s the relationship between what we’re given and what we do with it?

How does this parable make you feel?

Is it confusing at all? Talk through it until you think you understand it as a group and until you can see what it’s saying to you personally.


TO PRAY

This week as you pray, encourage group members to pray with open hands, palms up, expectant and resolved to accept and share whatever God gives (or takes away).

Dirt & Spit

Questions based on the sermon from Connections Minister, Dan Burgess

TO START

As this is Dan Burgess’s last week with us here at Round Rock, take a minute with your group to pray for him, his family, and his new work at the Landmark church in Montgomery, AL.

Too, we’d love it if you’d pray for Round Rock’s future, for wisdom as we grow and for patience and vision as we make our next hire. If you have questions or input for the staff and elders, you can email them at input@rrcoc.org.


TO READ

Read the text from this Sunday’s sermon: John 9:1-11.

Close your eyes and imagine you’re there to witness the miracle.

What do you notice? How do you feel? How are the people around you reacting?

What does this miracle teach you about Who God is?

What does this miracle teach you about how God acts?


TO DISCUSS

Dan said in his sermon Sunday, “With Jesus we can and should expect the unexpected.”

What does that mean?

How can you better position yourself to expect the unexpected? Think through a list of practical suggestions.

Do you have expectations of God? Are you holding onto them too tightly?

What is it okay to expect from God?

Has God ever surprised you? If so, tell the story to your group.

If not, is it possible you missed it? Have you been open to surprises from God?

The purpose of this miracle, according to Jesus, isn’t primarily the man’s sight; it’s God’s glory.

What are you looking for more often--healing or God’s glory? For God to do what you want Him to or for God to receive attention and praise?

What can we do to ensure that God gets glory when He does amazing things in our lives?

In this story Jesus uses something not very special to accomplish something very, very special. Have you ever seen God use small, ordinary things to accomplish the extraordinary? Share an example.

Dan asked us as he closed his message, “What in your life desperately needs some dirt & spit?” He said, “Jesus wants your eyes wide open, and He wants you to take whatever step you need to be clean and follow Him.” Where is God calling you to take a step? Where is God at work doing unexpected things?


TO PRAY

This week have group members pray this simple prayer every day: God, open my eyes.

Have members report back next week with what God led them to see. Remember to expect the unexpected!

How We Live Love: Be Together

TO START

Share some of your favorite partnerships, people who were better together than they were apart. You might even play a game and see who can list the most famous partners or teams in two minutes.

OR (for more “serious” groups)

Share a time when you felt really alone and knew you needed help.

TO DISCUSS

Tonight we have one main goal for your group: to be together. In order to accomplish that, we ask that you’d consider where your group is right now and use tonight to best accomplish the goals of connection and help.

Maybe you’ve had a series of heavy group meetings and you really need to just hang out and have fun together. Do that.

Maybe you’re running away from some hard things you need to say one another. Be together and say what you need to say.

Maybe you haven’t spent much time in prayer lately. Talk to God together.

Maybe you have a group member going through something hard and you need to devote tonight solely to that person and their struggles. Lift that burden together.

Whatever you need to do together, do it. Together matters.

If what your group needs most is the consistency of your usual routine, here’s a handful of prompts to get you sharing…

Why is it important to make church attendance a priority? Has it been a priority for you or do you struggle to understand why it matters?

Do you feel like you’ve missed something when you miss Sunday worship?

We said on Sunday that being together isn’t about being the same. What hurdles have you encountered in your efforts to be united with people who’re different from you?

Share a time when difference made togetherness hard.

Our key scripture for the week comes from Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”

So let’s consider it. How may we spur one another on toward love and good deeds? Practically speaking, what does that look like? What could you do tomorrow to encourage someone?

To end your time tonight, you might make two lists: one list of the challenges that stand in our way as we strive to Be Together and another list of the blessings that come when we achieve togetherness.


TO READ

Read Acts 2:44-47.

  • What did it mean for the first Christians to be together?

  • What can we learn about togetherness from their example?

  • Does this example of togetherness seem extreme or overwhelming to you? If so, how so? Is it actually extreme?

  • Have you ever been in a church community that felt like that? Share.


TO PRAY

Tonight, in addition to your usual prayers, consider praying aloud in unison. You might open up your Bibles and pray The Lord’s Prayer together. Or you might pray a Psalm. The only rule is that everyone prays and everyone prays aloud.


How We Live Love: Be Brave

TO START

This week we’re talking about bravery. Go around the circle and share the name of someone you thought was brave when you were a kid (tv and book characters are acceptable answers). Give one reason for your confidence in their courage.

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday that fear...

  1. Keeps us from doing things we would have done

  2. Makes us do things we wouldn’t have done

Have you ever let fear direct your course that way? Share a time when you let fear drive the bus (little or big). Maybe you’re letting fear get in your way right now. Is there something you’re doing or not doing because you’re afraid?

C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” What does that mean? Why is bravery so essential to the Christian way of life?

Justin said in the sermon, “Bravery is when fear takes a backseat to vision. Bravery is not an enigmatic feeling; It’s a logical equation.”

What does that mean?

How does what we have our eyes on shape our response to scary circumstances?

Why is bravery logical for the Christian?

Because bravery is so closely tied to where we’re looking, we can pursue bravery by changing our focus, primarily through these two behaviors:

  1. Seeking truth

  2. Worshiping God

How do truth and worship make us brave? Have you ever found truth or worship making you brave?

“Being courageous isn’t about being detached from reality, naive, or sticking your head in the sand. It’s about being confident that God really is here, that he’s really in control, and that he can be trusted to keep his promises.”

Bravery then is about trust. What can we do to shore up our trust in God?

If bravery is facing fear confident in the presence and power of God, share a time when you witnessed someone being brave.

What about you? Have you ever been brave? Share a moment when God empowered you to face your fears.

We began the sermon on Sunday with a story from Sandra Sibley about a time when God called Sandra to do something scary. Is there anyone in your group who feels like maybe God’s calling him or her to do something, maybe something scary? Maybe even something life-upending like adoption or mission work or extravagant giving? Give them a chance to share. Encourage the group to pray for bravery.

TO READ

Read Matthew 14:22-33.

  • Put yourself in the story. How would you feel if you saw Jesus walking toward you on the water?

  • Would you have pulled a Peter and asked if you could walk on water, too? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think Peter has so much courage to start but ends up doubting?

  • What’s Peter’s downfall?

  • What does this story teach you about being brave?

TO PRAY

Likely, over the course of your discussion, you’ve discovered a few ways in which your group members are struggling to be brave. Pray for each person who’s struggling.

You might also pray this adaptation of Psalm 27 together:

The Lord is our light and our salvation—

   whom shall we fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of our lives—

   of whom shall we be afraid?

   ...

Though an army besiege us,

   our hearts will not fear;

though war break out against us,

   even then we will be confident.

One thing we ask from the Lord,

   this only do we seek:

that we may dwell in the house of the Lord

   all the days of our lives,

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord

   and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble

   he will keep us safe in his dwelling;

he will hide us in the shelter of his sacred tent

   and set us high upon a rock.

TO PRACTICE

Be sure to repeat all our core behaviors this week. We want to be sure and memorize them as we go. You might give a candy prize to anyone who can name all three: Be a reason for someone to come home, Be changed (and changing), Be brave.

How We Live Love: Be Changed and Changing

TO START

We humans are obsessed with before and after. We like before and after makeovers, before and after home projects, before and after weight loss stories. What’s your favorite before and after entertainment? Do you have a favorite TV show or a movie about a huge transformation? Why do you like it so much?


TO DISCUSS

Who remembers this week’s core behavior? Ten points if you also remember last week’s (Don’t forget to be encouraging your group members to memorize this list).

This week we’re talking about transformation: Be changed and changing.

Why is change so central to the Christian life? Is it possible to be in Christ and not be changing?

Read 2 Peter 1:3-9 together.

What does the Christian life look like according to Peter?

Notice that phrase “increasing measure.” Is that good news for you? Does it stress you out? In what ways does this standard of “increasing measure” call you to more than you’re currently doing? How might that same phrase also give you peace and grace?

Next, turn over to Galatians 5:22-23. This is where we find the “fruit of the Spirit.” If you’re a child of God, this is the fruit that should be blooming in increasing measure in your life. Fortunately, as we see in both 2 Peter and Galatians, this fruit doesn’t come by our hard work. It’s a gift from God.

Do you generally think of your spiritual progress as a gift from God? Or does it feel like something you have to earn?

Have you been undervaluing the role of the Spirit in your spiritual growth? If so, why do you think that might be? What excites or scares (or confuses) you as you consider relying on the Spirit to grow God’s fruit in your heart?

What does it look like, practically speaking, to rely on the Spirit for transformation?

Tonight would be a great time for your group to look back at the spiritual growth you’ve witnessed in one another. Where have you seen God shaping your fellow group members? In order to make this kind to everyone, you might make sure each person gets positive feedback and that no one person gets more than another. You might accomplish this by simply going around the circle.

You could also have group members identify their own spiritual growth, answering the question, “How have you grown in Christ over the last few years?” You might also ask what’s contributed to their growth.

TO READ

Read Isaiah 64:8.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.

   We are the clay, you are the potter;

   we are all the work of your hand.

  • How does this metaphor inform your understanding of your relationship with God?

  • How can you embrace your identity as clay?

  • How can you better embrace God’s identity as potter?


TO PRAY

Tonight, pray the fruits of the Spirit. Have your group members all write down the fruits of the Spirit on a notecard (be sure to provide some). Encourage them to memorize these fruits and pray daily for God to grow these fruits in their hearts.

You might also consider the following conversation and prayer prompts:

  • Which fruits of the Spirit are you most in need of? Make a top two list. Confess to God times when you were noticeably short of these virtues. Ask Him to intervene.

  • Which fruits are growing most in you right now? Share with God a time when you were happily surprised at your own Spirit-born behavior. Take a moment to pray, thanking God for what He’s doing in your heart.

  • As you ask God to fill you with His Spirit, consider that maybe you need to pour something out first. Before Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, he lists the following “acts of the flesh”: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Is it possible you’re being led by your flesh? If so, still pray to be filled, for sure. But also begin praying for God to conquer your flesh and lead you out of these behaviors.


How We Live Love: Be A Reason for Someone to Come Home

TO START

This week we began a series of sermons unveiling our core behaviors as a church. Every church has a different personality, different strengths and weaknesses, different DNA. These seven behaviors are, in essence, our DNA as a church.

So far, we’ve revealed one of the seven ways we feel like God is using our church and calling our church forward. Wanna guess what’s coming next? Have your group members share one thing they love about this assembly of saints (or one way they think we’re being made strong by God).

TO DISCUSS

The first way we’re striving to live love is by embracing this call to action:

Be a reason for someone to come home

  • What does that mean? Summarize it in your own words.

  • Why is this core behavior so important to us as a family?

**Please spend the bulk of your time in group considering the next two questions.**

  1. Name someone who was one of the reasons you came home. Share the part they played in your story of faith. Ask all group members to share.

  2. What can we do to be a reason for someone to come? Make a big, long list of potential action steps--some for us as individuals and some for us as a collective body. Be specific! Share your list with the rest of the church (we’d love a bit of your wisdom)  at stories@rrcoc.org.

Being the church means opening the door wide for those who aren’t the church. Sometimes though, opening the door wide is inconvenient and uncomfortable. Making it easier for outsiders who are turning to God often means making it harder for the insiders who already have.

  • What might we need to sacrifice in order to “make it easy for the gentiles who’re turning to God”?

TO READ

Consider Luke 14:12-14

What can we learn about welcoming the outsider from this passage?

TO PRAY
Who are the prodigal sons in your life? Who do you know who needs to come home?  Tonight, pray for those people as a group.

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?