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.

Awakened (part 4): Feeling Tremors

TO START

Would you describe yourself as a “people person”? If so, what do you enjoy about being around others? If not, think of (and share) a situation in which you do enjoy company.

TO DISCUSS

Share an example of a time you depended on the body for something you couldn’t do yourself.

We said on Sunday, “As followers of Jesus, we are vessels of the Spirit of God--He lives inside of us… For that reason, one of the best ways to experience the presence of God is to spend time with other disciples.”

-Has that been your experience?

-Share a time when God’s people were the very presence of God for you.

In the sermon we identified three paths to experiencing God in community.

-First we said to pay attention, to look first for the good in others.

-Does that come naturally or do you have to do this on purpose. What practices might help us be more intentional about looking for what’s good about our brothers and sisters?

-In light of this, why might gossip prevent us from experiencing God?

-Second we said to “use more eyes,” to share with one another our experiences of God so your experiences become mine.

-Lean in to this truth tonight in group by sharing where you’ve seen God work this week.

-Third we encouraged you to be a channel of God’s presence and love.

-How do we open ourselves up to Christ and let Him reside in us, blessing others through us? Consider Col. 3:15-17. See if you find any helpful wisdom.

-“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

TO READ

In Exodus 34: 29-32 Moses comes back to the Israelites after having been with God. As evidence of that proximity, Moses’ face glows.

-This is a moment when the Israelites get a glimpse into the enchanted world.

-How do they react?

-Have you ever felt uncomfortable around people who were clearly and powerfully connected to God (maybe especially people who seemed more connected to God/wiser/more spiritually mature than you)?

-Why might we feel that way?

-What can we do to embrace the holy gift of Spirit-filled friends instead of turning away from it? Practical suggestions encouraged.

-Share a story about when you sought out wisdom from a person who had clearly been spending time with God.

-How’d it go?

TO PRAY

This week have group members pray for one another but don’t take requests. Pray what you feel led to pray for your group members. Embrace your group members’ prayers for you. Trust that the spirit of God in your brothers and sisters will intercede on your behalf in a way that blesses you.

-Logistically, you might put members in pairs and have them pray over one another.



Awakened (part 3): Going Away

TO START:

When’s the last time you were truly alone, on purpose? Share with the group. What motivated that solitude?

TO DISCUSS:

How does the idea of practicing solitude make you feel? Is it appealing or does it make you uncomfortable? Why do you think that is?

How many minutes/hours each day do you spent completely alone? How do you use that time?

If solitude means, as many have suggested, being free from outside voices that would mean no tv, movies, internet, podcasts, music or books. Given that definition, how often are you practicing solitude?

What would get in the way of you practicing solitude? What could you do to overcome that hurdle?

What are the benefits of getting away to be quiet and alone?

Have you felt awakened to the presence of God while practicing solitude? Tell your group about it.

Jesus often practiced solitude in nature. Do you find yourself feeling closer to God in nature? Consider the following John Muir quotes. Do you relate?

  • “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”

  • “In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Share a place where you’ve experienced God more fully.

TO PRAY:

Consider creating a few moments of solitude right there in your group meeting. If possible, make sure you can get a few minutes without interruptions from children. Then set a timer for 5 minutes, and have your group spend those 5 minutes with their eyes closed, not speaking, just sitting in the presence of God.

You might talk together for a moment afterward about what that quiet was like, and what benefits you might anticipate in pursuing more times like that in your relationship with God.

TO READ:

This week’s story finds the prophet Elijah sequestered in a cave during the reign of king Ahab, his life having been threatened by the queen because of his loyalty to God. Read 1 Kings 19:1-19.

  • How does Elijah react to discovering the enchanted world? What can we learn about how we should respond?

  • What does Elijah’s discovery of the enchanted world change about his outlook on his situation?

  • Focus on verses 11-13: How does Eljiah’s encounter with enchantment differ from his expectations? What can we learn from this?

Awakened (part 2): Speaking Up

TO START

To learn a little about why prayer helps us notice and appreciate God’s presence, play a game. Start with one group member and have that member intentionally notice any other group member they’d like. They need to say the other member’s name aloud and comment on one thing they notice about that person (can be what they’re wearing, how they’re sitting, if they seem excited or tired, a comment on one of their talents or attributes, etc.).

Example: I see you, James White. I like your blue hoodie. OR I see you Jill Black. You’re always on time to group. I appreciate that about you.

Go around the circle noticing one another. Do you see more than you did before the exercise?

TO DISCUSS

Do you have a strong prayer habit? If so, how did you develop that habit? How do you keep it up? If not, what’s getting in the way of you praying more?

Do you feel like God is close when you pray? Why might He sometimes feel far away? Is there anything you need to change about the way you’re praying to better/more consistently encounter God? (For example, if we only ask God for things we might be hyper aware of prayers he hasn’t answered. More gratitude would remind us the prayers he’s already answered.)

Do you ever feel like God speaks to you through you in prayer? Do you ever find yourself praying for things you didn’t intend to pray for? What could we do to open ourselves up to listening to God more in prayer?

Of the four prayers Justin mentioned on Sunday, which kind are you most comfortable with? Which kind are you most uncomfortable with? Why?

Give an example of a time prayer awakened you to God’s presence.

TO PRAY

Try any of the four types of prayer we mentioned on Sunday:

HEY // Acknowledge God’s presence by noticing what He’s up to in your life. Where did you see God today?

STAY // Perhaps your group would benefit from spending all of your small group meeting time tonight in prayer. You might pray through one of the prayer guides from our time of prayer and fasting. You might make lists of ways your group’s families need help/guidance/rescue/blessing.

FLIP // Consider praying Ephesians 6:10-18. Read it first; then ask God to help you do what He’s calling you to do in the text.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

FLEX // Encourage your group members to pray with their hands palms-up tonight. Or, if you’re praying a prayer of confession, have the group get on their knees. You might offer a prayer of praise with hands outstretched.

TO READ

This week’s story finds Mary living an ordinary life when suddenly an angel appears and changes everything. Read Luke 1:26-56.

  • How does Mary react to discovering the enchanted world? What can we learn about how we should respond?

  • What does Mary’s discovery of the enchanted world change about her life after this moment?

  • How does Mary respond to the Spirit’s message through her cousin Elizabeth? What kind of prayer is her song (hey, stay, flip or flex)?

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.