Good With Money (part 4): Return on Investment

TO START

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

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

  • What does that mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO READ

Read I Timothy 6:18-19.

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

  • Why?

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

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

TO PRAY

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

  • Freedom from slavery to money

  • Contentment

  • Generosity / Open Hands

  • Realistic expectations of what money can do

  • Wisdom

Good with Money (part 3): Enough is Enough

TO START

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

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

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

TO DISCUSS

What does it mean to be content?

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

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

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

Have you ever done that?

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

How did it feel?

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

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

  • Your shoe collection

  • The amount of money in your 401K

  • Your vacations (or lack thereof)

  • What you eat for lunch every day

  • Your car

  • The nice-ness of your house

  • Your phone or TV

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

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

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

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

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

  • Psalm 111:2-5

  • I Timothy 6:17

  • Luke 11:9-13

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

TO READ

Read Luke 12:13-34.

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

How does this parable challenge you personally?

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

Why does Jesus say we shouldn’t worry?

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

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

TO PRAY

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

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

TO START

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

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

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

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO READ

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

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

Prov 11:28

TO PRAY

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


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

TO START

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

  • Frustration

  • Hope

  • Guilt

  • Betrayal

  • Longing

  • Confusion

  • Fear

  • Pride

  • Shame

  • Happiness

  • Sadness

  • Anger

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

  • Devotion

  • Enthusiastic desire

  • Sacrifice

  • Fear associated with losing

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

TO READ

Read Luke 12:22-31.

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

TO PRAY

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


Jesus, Monarch (part 6): Resurrected and Reigning

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

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

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

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

What do you have hope for right now?

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

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


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

TO START

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

Consider the following statement from the sermon Sunday:

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

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

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

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

How do you generally feel about suffering?

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

TO MEDITATE

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

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

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

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

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


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

TO START

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

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider this quote from John Stott:

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

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

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

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

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

  • Encourage (or don’t encourage) others?

TO READ

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

Read Luke 14:7-11.

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

TO PRAY

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



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

TO START

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Rest

  • Pray

  • Meditate

  • Disrupt Rhythms

Which of those comes most naturally? Which comes hardest?

What does it look like to practice each of these?

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

TO READ

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

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

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

TO PRAY

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





Riddle answers:

  1. A penny

  2. The letter m

  3. David

  4. To keep the doctor away

  5. 9--one brother total.

Jesus, Monarch (part 2): Heir Apparent

TO START

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How might he act?

  • Where might he teach?

  • What kinds of miracles might he do?

  • Who might he call to be His disciples?

  • Who would be offended/angry? Why?

  • Who would be accepting? Why?

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

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

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

TO READ

Read Revelation 11:15-19.

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

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

  • How will Jesus’ reign ultimately be received?

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

TO PRAY

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

Jesus, Monarch (part 1): Startled

TO START

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

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Jesus has power over you?

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

That Jesus brings deep rest?

OR

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO READ

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

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

What’s Jesus like?

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

TO PRAY

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

Still Breathing (part 3): How To Read

TO START

Start group tonight with these general questions about reading:

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

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

What was the first book you remember loving? Hating?

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

  • When has the Bible come alive for you?

  • What’s your favorite part to read?

  • What advice would you share?

TO READ

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

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

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

  • What do you love about the Bible?

  • What is God accomplishing through it?

  • How is it at work today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Watch one of the following videos and discuss together:

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

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

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

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

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

Still Breathing (part 1): Taste and See

TO START

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

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

TO READ

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

TO PRAY

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

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

They’re a joy to me.

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

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

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

The Perfect Prayer

TO START

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

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

TO DISCUSS

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

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

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

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

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

TO PRAY

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

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

Our Father Who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name

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

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

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

Give us this day our daily bread.

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

TO LISTEN

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

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

Awakened (part 5): Building Altars

TO START

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

TO DISCUSS

This week we’re talking about building altars.

  • What is an altar?

  • What’s the purpose of it?

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

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

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

Make a list of possible altars we might build.

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

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

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

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

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

Why is remembering so important for Israel?

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

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

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


TO READ

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

How does Moses tell them to mark the moment?

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

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

TO PRAY

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

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

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

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?