HOMEGROUP GUIDE

SERIES | STOP GOING TO CHURCH

October 14, 2018 / Sarah Cowan Johnson

Leaders: series intro: You don’t go to a movement, you join one. You don’t go to a family, you become one. In this series we will share our vision for what we hope God will do in your life as a part of the church. We will look at the early church and explore how Jesus’ first followers who started this movement were loved, formed, equipped, empowered, and sent. Week two: Formed

INTRO

FORMATION DEFINITION: 

  • The process by which God shapes and transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), similar to the process of a potter working with clay (Isaiah 64:8). As we follow Jesus, we begin to look more and more like him – people recognize Jesus in us (Acts 4:13)
  • More than imitating Jesus’ behavior, this is an internal transformation. St. Clare of Assisi: “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become… Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation.”

DISCUSS:

  • Is there anyone in your life that reminds you of Jesus? People whose lives clearly reflect the image of Jesus? What about them reminds you of Jesus?
  • What do you think about the idea that “we become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become?” Are there any ways you seen this play out in your life?

UP / Be with Jesus 

LUKE 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

DISCUSS: 

We can see three formation “ingredients” in this story – three elements that God often uses in our formation process:

ENCOUNTER (vs. 1-7) / A direct, personal interaction with God

  • How does Jesus engage Peter? What do you notice about their interaction? What is this encounter like?
  • What is your experience of “encounter” with God in your own life? If this is something you are familiar with, what is it usually like?

BELIEF  (vs. 8) / Our ideas + right thinking about God, ourselves, and the world

  • Peter’s encounter with God begins to shape his understanding of who he is in comparison to God. As he begins this journey (becoming Jesus’ disciple, going on to begin the church), understanding who he is and why he was chosen is essential. Peter is chosen because God is good, not because he is good.
  • How does a slight misstep in belief here – believing that Jesus loves us or chooses us because WE are good – change how we follow him?

PRAXIS (vs. 10b-11) / Our actions, the way we participate in our formation

  • Jesus is inviting Peter, James & John to be his disciples. They respond by giving him their entire lives, not just a neat block of “spiritual” time. Praxis is about making space for Jesus in our entire lives – creating an environment in which we can encounter God, and our beliefs can be shaped. Praxis is about setting aside intentional time for spiritual practices AND giving Jesus every moment.
  • Where do you struggle to make space for Jesus in your life? Which spaces in your life do you find it easiest to follow Jesus? Hardest? Why?

 

IN / Become like Jesus

How will this passage / topic lead to transformation or growth in your life this week?

DISCUSS: Are there any areas of your life that you struggle to believe God can shape or change to look more like Jesus? In what ways can you trust him this week to be at work within you.

 

OUT / Do what Jesus did

How does this passage / topic impact your mission or calling this week?

DISCUSS: Where are there opportunities in your life to live the way of Jesus this week? Who in your life could benefit from recognizing Jesus in your life?

 

WITH / Do all of this together: 

In pairs or triads, share:

  • What do you need from Jesus this week for your own growth and transformation?
  • What do you need from Jesus this week as you live out your calling and join him in mission?
  • What do you need from us this week to support you and cheer you on?

Pray for one another – bless and send each other into a new week.


SERIES | STOP GOING TO CHURCH

October 7, 2018 / Andrew Mook

Leaders: series intro: You don’t go to a movement, you join one. You don’t go to a family, you become one. In this series we will share our vision for what we hope God will do in your life as a part of the church. We will look at the early church and explore how Jesus’ first followers who started this movement we’re loved, formed, equipped, empowered, and sent. Week one: Loved

Intro question: 

How did Jesus love his disciples?

Setup: explore one example of this.

UP / Be with Jesus 

BACKGROUND TEXT MATTHEW 26 / Peter fails

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath (emphasis “i swear”): “I don’t know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

MAIN TEXT JOHN 21 / Jesus reinstates Peter

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (Jesus’ first words to Peter)

DISCUSS: 

Jesus  has died on the cross and risen again. Remember Jesus calls out the fact prior to Peter’s story that someone will betray him. 

  • Why does Jesus ask the question three times?
  • What is the significance of saying “follow me” to Peter?
  • Take in the whole story. What else do people know about Peter (tried to walk on water, was sure he would never betray Jesus, was told by Jesus that on him the church will be built). How does that inform these moments on failure and restoration.

 

IN / Become like Jesus

How will this passage / topic lead to transformation or growth in your life this week?

Peter was Loved in this way by Jesus  – He was patient and worked to restore Peter to service. A restorative, powerful love is the foundation of the church.

DISCUSS:

  • There are horrible, humbling stumbles along the path of following Jesus. Has shame over past failures and sins ever haunted and inhibited you?
  • Have you ever experienced Gods restorative love?
  • How might Peter’s story lead to transformation or growth in your life this week?

 

OUT / Do what Jesus did

How does this passage / topic impact your mission or calling this week?

Jesus chooses and uses failures. Jesus specializes in transforming failures into rocks of strength (Peter’s name means rock) for his church.

DISCUSS:

  • Peter wrote a letter to some of the first churches – 1 PETER 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. How might this study fuel your commitment to love others?
  • Is there a way you can practice this kind of restorative love this week? Are there people in your life who have failed you?
  • A church is built on a love that restores. Tribes are generally marked out by geography, language, food… ours is to be marked out by love. How might we put this on display as a community?

 

A NOTE TO WRAP UP ON OR FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION BEFORE DOING WITH /

When we do fail at BEING THE CHURCH, we must remember what Jesus said to Peter before his failure: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter was going to mess it up — miserably.
But Jesus’ prayer was stronger than Peter’s sin, and it’s stronger than our sin too.

 

WITH / Do all of this together: 

In pairs or triads, share:

  • What do you need from Jesus this week for your own growth and transformation?
  • What do you need from Jesus this week as you live out your calling and join him in mission?
  • What do you need from us this week to support you and cheer you on?

Pray for one another – bless and send each other into a new week.

 

SERIES | CALLED TO ENGAGE

September 23, 2018 / Guest preacher Brian Sanders

Intro question: 

What are the first three adjectives that come to mind when you think about “the church” and why?

UP / Be with Jesus 

Revelation 21:1-6
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

DISCUSS: 

The whole story of God ends in a union, a wedding – everything in the story leads to this point. 

  • What strikes you about the bridal imagery? What do you like most or appreciate about that metaphor? 
  • What does this metaphor tell you about how God sees the church? 

Leader: Draw out these points in the discussion, or introduce them if the conversation doesn’t go there naturally:

  • The primary way God sees us (the church) is as his beloved
  • This is also the primary way we should see ourselves as the church (not “effective” or “productive” or anything else)

 

IN / Become like Jesus

How will this passage / topic lead to transformation or growth in your life this week?

The church is not perfect, but what God is doing right now is making us holy and beautiful like him – striking, dazzling, breath-taking. This is our destiny: to be beautiful like God is beautiful. 

Brian talked about three ways that we (the church) can engage our destiny to be and become beautiful (1 inward, 2 outward):

1.  Stay out of the judgement business

If we put ourselves in the Good Samaritan story (see Luke 10:25-37), we are invited to focus on caring for the wounded man rather than going after those that hurt him.

DISCUSS: In what ways are you tempted to judge others or put yourself in a place that only belongs to God?

 

OUT / Do what Jesus did

How does this passage / topic impact your mission or calling this week?

2.  Traffic in mercy

In the Good Samaritan story we are also the inn-keeper – we are invited to take wounded, hurting, and broken people into our homes.

3.  Be brave

DISCUSS:

  • When was the last time you took a serious risk for your faith?
  • Who is God calling you to love and serve and share his love with this week?
  • What would you do if you were not afraid? 

 

WITH / Do all of this together: 

In pairs or triads, share:

  • What do you need from Jesus this week for your own growth and transformation?
  • What do you need from Jesus this week as you live out your calling and join him in mission?
  • What do you need from us this week to support you and cheer you on?

Pray for one another – bless and send each other into a new week.

 


CALLED TO A MISSION

September 16, 2018 / Andrew Mook

UP / Be with Jesus

2 Corinthians 5:17-20
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

 

 

REFRESH/BACKGROUND

This week we are talking about how the mission has a church. How God is up to something in the world that we get to be a part of. We learned that God hangs on to his fallen original creation and salvages it / we see RE word everywhere: restore, renew, resurrect and in this passage – reconcile. God refuses to abandon the work of his hands— in fact, he sacrifices his own Son to save his original project. Humankind, which has botched its original mandate and the whole creation along with it, is given another chance in Christ; we are reinstated as God’s managers on earth. The original good creation is to be restored.

Reconcile: to make peace where it has been lacking. To bring back together. To mend what is torn and to fix what is broken.

In this passage: To reestablish or unify In Jesus. An image of God putting it all back together.

GUIDING QUESTIONS

  • Spend time reading through the passage. What questions, thoughts, ideas, convictions, encouragement come to mind?

 

IN / Become like Jesus

How will this passage / topic lead to transformation or growth in your life this week?

All of these (RE) words show us that God always sees us in light of what he intended us to be, and he always seeks to restore us to that design – to reconcile us to himself.

  • God does not count people’s sins against them. Discuss that good news :)
  • What needs to be restored or trusted so that “God’s appeal” might be made powerfully through you?
    • What’s good that could be encouraged?
    • What’s broken that needs healing?
    • What’s confused that needs correction?
    • What’s missing that needs to be created?

 

OUT / Do what Jesus did

How does this passage / topic impact your mission or calling this week?

  • How might God be inviting you deeper into your call to be an “ambassador.”
  • How does this word fuel your commitment to joining Jesus in the renewal of all things?
  • Who are you demonstrating and announcing the good news (the ministry of reconcilation) to this week?

 

WITH / Do all of this together

In pairs or triads, share:

  • What do you need from Jesus this week for your own growth and transformation?
  • What do you need from Jesus this week as you live out your calling and join him in mission?
  • What do you need from us this week to support you and cheer you on?

Pray for one another – bless and send each other into a new week.

 


 

CALLED TO A PERSON

September 9, 2018 / Andrew Mook

UP / Be with Jesus

Colossians 1:15-23
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

BACKGROUND

Paul wrote this letter during one of his many imprisonments for announcing Jesus as the risen Lord. It’s addressed to a group of people that Paul had never met, who met together as a church community that he did not start.

Before Paul moves into lecture or preaching mode, he opens with a long prayer of thanks to God for the Christians in the city of Colossae. He’s heard of their faithfulness, and he wants it to continue, and so the first place his mind goes is to how amazing Jesus is. He knows that true and ultimate devotion to Jesus doesn’t come primarily from being commanded, but rather from being enraptured by the beauty and profound love of Jesus. So then, it makes perfect sense why Paul moves into a poem that is all about—can you guess?—the power and love of Jesus. Like a symphony, the music of the poem and its main themes fall into two movements, depicting Jesus first as the human embodiment of the Creator (Col 1:15-17), and second as the head of the New Creation (Col 1:18-20) that is reconciled to its Creator.

GUIDING QUESTIONS

This week we are talking about the idea of fascination with Jesus. Let’s use three ideas to unpack the idea of Fascination: wonder, intrigue, and imagination.

  1. First off, spend time reading through the passage and discuss the following:
    1. What captures your attention in this passage in this passage?
    2. Does anything convict/challenge you?
    3. Does anything confound you?
    4. Does anything produce wonder, intrigue, or imagination?

 

IN / Become like Jesus

How will this passage / topic lead to transformation or growth in your life this week?

  1. Assess the centrality of Jesus in your life: here is a simple exercise to help you make an assessment of where you are. You could show people this page, use whiteboard and have people draw their own. This is not meant to be comprehensive assessment.

Based on: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 

      
SPEECH profain godly
CONDUCT worldly holy
LOVE conditional unconditional
FAITH empty full
PURITY compromised clean
FASCINATION distracted all-in
  1.   As you reflect on the above, consider inward practices that could increase your sense of fascination with Jesus?
  • Wonder: are there rhythms you have or could create that cultivate this? (worship, nature, etc)
  • Intrigue: what are you hungry to learn more about, and how can you space for that?
  • Imagination: what fills your mind, daydreams, and thought life? what needs to change?

 

OUT / Do what Jesus did

How does this passage / topic impact your mission or calling this week?

  • How does it fuel your commitment to joining Jesus in the renewal of all things?
  • Who are you demonstrating and announcing the good news to this week, and how is this good news?

 

WITH / Do all of this together

In pairs or triads, share:

  • What do you need from Jesus this week for your own growth and transformation?
  • What do you need from Jesus this week as you live out your calling and join him in mission?
  • What do you need from us this week to support you and cheer you on?

Pray for one another – bless and send each other into a new week.

 

PRACTICE AT HOME / 

This week, take some time to write a new prayer of covenant and commitment to Jesus.

 

 


 

 

 

The Prayer of Relinquishment

This past Sunday wrestled with a prayer that leads us to relinquish our own wills to God’s will.

 

Texts to explore

Luke 22:41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground

________

2 Corinthians 12:7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Discuss and Practice

  1. Why is our struggle with God’s will important to our spiritual growth?

  2. Explain how the Prayer of Relinquishment moves us from struggling with the will of God to releasing one’s own will. What is the end result of this prayer?

  3. Why is the “crucifixion of the will” a spiritual treasure? How do you experience it?

  4. Discuss the 4 specific practices/prayers suggested in the talk (below) to help you relinquish your own will and turn over control to God for situations in your life. Share a time in your own life that you were able to relinquish a situation and allow God to take control of it.

 

4 ways dangerous prayers you can pray
The will is surrendered moment by moment as you face the ordinary decisions of home, family, and job. You cant prescribe it – but here are some practices to consider

1. the prayer of self-emptying.
This is the prayer of Philippians 2, the self-emptying of Christ, who was in the form of God but who voluntarily took on the form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death. He became nothing and took on the nature of a servant
ex. “here’s what I got”

2. the prayer of surrender.
Once you’ve emptied out – God begins to point out things – specific things. Go with Jesus into the Garden. Stay awake and watch. See His sorrowing soul. Let your heart be saddened too. Struggle with Him in seeking other options, hoping to avoid the cup. Now, speak His words as your own: “Not my will, but yours be done.”

3. the prayer of release.
into your hands I commit my career, my expectations… committing to putting what you need to in God’s hands. This is the prayer of death, a prayer from the cross.

4. the prayer of resurrection
I only want back whats from you. All I want is the gold, the good stuff. The end of refinement.

 

RICHARD FOSTER “We have no fatalist resignation. We are buoyed up by a confident trust in the character of God. Even when all we see are the tangled threads on the backside of life’s tapestry, we know that God is good and is out to do us good always. That gives hope to believe that we are the winners, regardless of what we are being called upon to relinquish. God is inviting us deeper in and higher up. There is training in righteousness, transforming power, new joys, deeper intimacy.

 

PRACTICE:

Journaling through the four prayer prompts. Journaling helps us name real things and real struggle. Write four prayers.

 

A Prayer of Relinquishment

Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.

May your will be my delight today.

May your way have perfect sway in me.

May your love be the pattern of my living.

I surrender to you

my hopes,

my dreams,

my ambitions.

Do with them what you will, when you will, as you will.

I place into your loving care

my family,

my friends,

my future.

Care for them with a care that I can never give.

I release into your hands

my need to control,

my craving for status,

my fear of obscurity.

Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish your

kingdom on earth.

For Jesus’ sake,

Amen.

 


 

8/19/18- Attention Leads to Adoration

On Sunday Andrew taught from Psalm 73, where we explored the activities that take our attention away from our adoration towards God.

“Attention is the beginning of devotion” – Mary Oliver

READ + DISCUSS

Hebrews 2:1 /  We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Psalm 85:8 /I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.

  • Discuss these verses as a way of being reminded of the teaching and setting up the practice.

PRACTICE /  to do together as a Community right now: (10-30 minutes)

The Prayer of Examen

  • Our practice this week is called “the Examen” or more fully, “an examination of consciousness” (note, it does not say conscience), or more playfully, “a rummaging through a day’s experiences, looking for God.” This practice has four steps.
  • Before you begin, divest yourselves of anything you have that will intrude on this focused time of practicing – mobile phones, for example. Have great respect for how challenging it can be to be fully present only here, only now, and for the sake of this prayerful practice you all will do together. Whoever is leading this should not proceed until everyone in the room has quit fidgeting, has found his or her alertness. Be patient! Let people have the time they need to get settled.
  • Then have someone offer a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to help guide this practice. Something like this: “Holy Spirit, we seek to make ourselves completely available to you – Father and Son and Holy Spirit. We want this designated amount of time to be governed completely by what You want for us as a group, and more hiddenly, to each of us in particular. Give us the Light we need to see, and in seeing, to understand.”
  • Then have the leader patiently walk through each of the following steps.

Step One: Replay the day in your mind

  • Notice where God has been active in the last few days of your life. Take a few minutes to practice active remembering of the last 24-72 hours.
    • Find some moment, however simple it was or brief, when you felt grace in your life. Where did God “show up” for you?
    • Share with the group what happened and how you felt the grace when it happened. Be brief in the saying: “I noticed God yesterday, when I walked outside and smelled the fragrant Spring air. What I felt was a sense of well-being, of feeling gratitude to God for so lovely a day, and of wishing that I could go for a walk right now with a best friend.” Simple. But it gives all who hear this a good sense of the nature of the grace that you experienced. Ask everyone to share something. (Perhaps best to go around the circle.)

Step Two: Name the strongest feelings you have experienced in the last few days. 

  • This next step of active remembering is aimed not at “what happened” but it is about recognizing when in the past few days you have felt most strongly moved in your affections. Which affection in particular was activated strongly? Give a name to that particular feeling: joy, depression, anger, delight, contentment, hope, shame, regret, confusion, disgust, compassion, doubt, gratitude, etc.
  • Share with the group one example of a strong affection you experienced.
  • The main goal of Step Two is noticing your strongest affective reactions to particular things, and wondering with God about those reactions. “Why did I feel that so strongly?” “Does this strong reaction reveal my faith in God, or a lack of it?”

Step Three: Share just one of those strong affections with Jesus.

  • Be honest with Jesus about what “caused” this strong affective response in you, and try to name accurately which particular feeling it was that you felt.
  • Ask Jesus whether He ever felt this same thing, and the way that you felt it, when he lived and moved and had His earthly life among us. You may turn to a Gospel text, to a scene in Jesus’ life in which you think that He reacted as you did. Read that text to yourself and explore Jesus’ affective response. Like yours, or different?
  • Explore through the strong affection you experienced the value that corresponds with that feeling.

Step Four:  Thank God for being present to you in this practice and for helping you grow in your friendship. 

To wrap up, just spend a few minutes debriefing your experience with “the Prayer of Examen.” 

 

Here’s a practice to do by yourself in the coming week: (10 minutes)

 

The Prayer of Examen

  • Each day in this coming week, set aside ten or fifteen minutes at the end of your day (but before you are too sleepy to make yourself attentive to the practice) to practice the Examen.
  • The key to this practice is not to fail to practice it each day!
  • Follow the four steps above.
  • If the four steps above are too in depth, here’s an easy alliteration to remember it by:
  1. Replay – What happened today?
  2. Rejoice – Where did I feel grace today? Where was God particularly present?
  3. Repent – Where did I feel emotional pain today? Where did I sin?
  4. Resolve – To live differently tomorrow, if need be. And sleep with gratitude.

Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)

  1. Do you understand the basic design of the practice?
  2. Do you think that this is just the kind of prayer that Jesus Himself would have practiced each evening before heading to bed?
  3. You might want to talk together about the best time to pray the Examen. The two most famous times are during the noon hour, or else sometime in the evening, but closer to the time when you head to bed – a way of “signing off” on your day in a fuller awareness of God having been with you in it.

 

Close in prayer (5 minutes)

 


 

8/12/18- Pray as you can

Debrief  in small groups (15 minutes)

If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).

Spend a few minutes catching up on life…

Then talk through the following debrief questions:

  1. Did you listen to the teaching? What did you think?
  2. Do you feel like prayer is a strength or a weakness in your apprenticeship to Jesus? Put another way, is this an area you want to grow in? Or an area you feel great about already?
  3. Does prayer feel hard for you? If so, why do you think that is?

 

Transition back to one large group (5 minutes)

  1. What areas of prayer are you hoping to learn more about – either biblically, or practically?
  2. What do you think your greatest challenge will be with growing in prayer?

 

Read this overview (5 minutes)

Let’s be honest, for most of us, prayer is a weak point in our apprenticeship to Jesus. Many of us don’t really enjoy prayer. Some  feel bad, even guilty, about how little we pray. When we finally do make time to pray, we often don’t know what to say. Or we’re so distracted we can’t focus.

For Jesus, prayer was central to life with God. Most people define prayer as simply, “Talking with God.” Prayer is a back and forth conversation that comes out of a depth of relationship. But at an even more basic level, prayer is a junk drawer word for all of our relationship to the Father.

That’s why prayer was such a huge part of Jesus’ life. We read he, “often withdrew into lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5v16)  And for Jesus, prayer wasn’t a drag or a duty. He seems to genuinely enjoy his Father’s company. I think that’s why the disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11v1) Jesus’ answer was “the Lord’s prayer,” which wasn’t a liturgy to recite, as much as a template to follow when you pray.

Our practice of prayer will start there. This week, we’ll just set up a time and place to pray, do a little breathing prayer to center our mind and body, and pray through the Lord’s prayer. It’s an easy exercise that you can do in two minutes, or over two hours. The main point this week is just to get into the rhythm of daily prayer.

 

Do this practice as a Community right now: (10-30 minutes)

  1. Put away your phones or any other distractions, and get into a comfortable, but alert position.

  2. (Leader) Invite the Holy Spirit to come…

  3. Pray through the Lord’s prayer, like this…

“Our Father…”

  • Take a moment and think about the idea of God as your Father, with good intentions toward you. If you want, imagine God in your mind’s eye. Picture his face. Make eye contact with him.

“In heaven…”

  • Take a moment to think about the idea that God is all around you. As you breathe in and out, imagine yourself breathing in and out more of the Holy Spirit.

“Hallowed by your name…”

  • Spend a few minutes just sitting with the Father in joyful, grateful, worship. You might want to sit in silence for a few moments. Or sing a chorus. Or rattle off a list of things you’re grateful for. Or praise God with specific things you love about him. Do this out loud as a group.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

  • Spend a few minutes asking for God’s will to be done in your city/church/community/life.
  • Think of specific things to pray for.
  • Verbally give God a few things in your life you’re wrestling with control over. A simple prayer of, “Your will be done in ______,” is a great place to start.

“Give us each day our daily bread…”

  • Spend a few minutes praying for specific needs and wants in your life or that of your community.
  • This is a great time to pray through your “prayer cards”!
  • This is also a great time to pray over specific people in the community who need something: a job, healing, wisdom to make a decision, etc. Get them in the middle of the room and pray over them.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…”

  • Spend a few minutes asking God for forgiveness for specific areas in your life, and releasing others to forgiveness.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

  • Spend a few minutes praying against temptation (the word can also be translated trouble) in your life.
    • Pray against specific sins….
    • Pray against any kind of evil – spiritual evil (demonic), human evil, natural evil, etc.
    • Pray against bad things in your life or community, and for God’s blessing – the divine flow of good things into your your life and community.
  1. (Leader) Close in a prayer of gratitude to the Father for hearing you.

 

Read over this coming week’s practice before you call it a night (10 minutes)

  • Basically, this week’s practice is just to do the exact same thing as above, but by yourself. It’s that easy.
  • You can do this in two minutes or over two hours – it’s up to you. Go as fast or slow as you want.

Before you do it, here’s two quick exercises to get started:

Exercise 1: (10 minutes) 

  • Get out your calendar or journal, and set a time and place to pray that is quiet and distraction fee. For most, the mornings are a good time. But you might prefer an afternoon walk or evening
  • Set a modest goal –  daily is ideal, but if that’s too much, shoot for three times a week, for 10-15 minutes, or something that feels a little challenging, but doable.
  • Fill in 1-3 prayer cards. At the top put the name or subject, then write out a few bullet points of Scriptures, dreams, or requests you have. Remember, be specific!

Exercise 2: (2-10 minutes) 

  • If you have a hard time with distraction, here’s a little breathing exercise you can begin with, before you start into the Lord’s prayer:
  • Take long, deep, slow breaths (if you want, count 4 seconds in, 4 seconds wait, 4 seconds out, repeat). Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.
  • Start to pay attention to your breathing. Just “watch” your breath go in and out.
  • Release the constant chatter in your mind. Let each thought go as quickly as it comes, and just focus on your breathing.
  • Your mind will sieze this opportunity to run wild with thoughts, feelings, memories, to do’s, and all manner of distractions. That’s okay. Don’t judge yourself, feel bad, give up, or worry. When you notice your mind start to wander, just recenter with a quick prayer word, like, “Father…” or “Jesus, have mercy” or “Holy Spirit,” and come back to your breathing.
  • In the beginning, just 1-2 minutes of this is a huge win, and 10 minutes is a home run. When you feel like you’re ready, move from breathing to praying.

 

Work through these discussion questions (10 minutes)

  1. Any thoughts, creative ideas, or feedback on this coming week’s practice?
  2. How do you normally pray? What creative ideas would you add to this practice from your own prayer life?
  3. What does it normally feel like when you spend time just “being” with God?

 

Close in prayer and call it a night (5 minutes)

 


 

8/5/18

Begin with prayer (5 minutes)

Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.

 

Debrief the teaching in triads (10 minutes)

If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender) and talk through the following debrief questions about the teaching:

  1. Did you listen to the teaching? What did you think?
  2. What was most challenging?
  3. What was most encouraging?

 

Transition back to one large group 

Read this overview

Forgiveness is integral in our discipleship to Jesus. We live in a world polluted by sin and shame, and relationships in this broken world are often marked by disappointment, loss, and pain. The call of God throughout the Scriptures is to release those who sin against us from our personal right to collect on the moral debt for their offense. We see this embodied best in the person of Jesus himself, who, in the face of sin, chose not to look the other way nor to pay the person back, but to deal with the sins committed against him in the most compelling way: by forgiving them.

Now, it’s important to note that forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It is not the same thing as reconciliation. It is not the same thing as allowing someone who has hurt you to be back in your life. It is not always a one time event; oftentimes it is something we have to keep choosing.

If we’re honest, forgiveness is one of the most countercultural Practices of Jesus. By definition, forgiveness is an unmerited gift – it is given to someone who does not deserve it. The cost of forgiveness is great, but the outcome in the lives of those who forgive is greater still. Through the process of forgiving and being forgiven we can experience freedom, wholeness, and intimacy with God and others, all of which is part of life as Jesus intended. For this week’s Practice, we want to reflect on the gift of God’s forgiveness and how it leads us to forgive others.

 

Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)

Have somebody read Luke 7v36-50

Talk about the following questions:

  1. What parts of the Pharisee’s attitude do you relate to?
  2. What is so compelling about the way that Jesus interacts with this woman?
  3. How have you seen the correlation between forgiveness and love in your own life?

 

Do this Practice as a Community right now: (10-30 minutes)

Break up into triads (3-4 people) and designate a leader within that group. Put away your phones or any other distractions, and get comfortable.

We want to spend some time tonight reflecting on the ways in which God has forgiven us. As we press into that, we want transition into a space of asking to reveal if there is anyone in our lives who we need to forgive.

 

Part 1: Being Forgiven by God

• Have someone invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us and allow us to hear his voice as we engage in listening prayer.

• Ask the Holy Spirit:

• Is there anything in my life for which I need to repent? (Allow people time to sit with this question. If anyone feels led to confess something out loud, give them the space to do so.)

• Is there anything in my life of which I haven’t fully received God’s forgiveness? (As people feel comfortable, invite them to share with your triad.)

• Spend time praying over those who need to receive or know the forgiveness of God in their lives. They don’t need to go into detail or disclose any information, this is a space to invite the Spirit to heal and reveal the forgiveness that is their’s in Jesus.

 

Part 2: Who Do I Need to Forgive?

• Have someone invite the Holy Spirit to reveal specific offenses, people, or circumstances in which forgiveness needs to take place. (Give the Spirit time to speak and people time to listen.)

• It is important to record what you sense the Spirit speaking to you, so that you can take the time this week to process and pray through it. (Note: Tonight is not necessarily a space to forgive, but a time to begin a conversation with the Spirit about how we enter into our spiritual responsibility to forgive in light of the forgiveness we’ve received from him.)

 

Read over this coming week’s Practice before you call it a night: (10 minutes)

Note: Just read and talk through this individual exercise before you call it a night.

The Practice for this week is fairly simple. If you sense the Spirit reveal to you a person, offense, or circumstance in which he is inviting forgiveness, take time this week to explore that further. If you did not sense something from the Spirit tonight, set aside time this week to ask him again who you need to forgive. Again, forgiveness is a process, not an event. Give yourself grace as you work through the pain you’ve experienced, but make sure to be accountable to one another along the way.

 

Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)

  1. Any thoughts, creative ideas, or feedback on this coming week’s Practice?
  2. Has your understanding of forgiveness changed this week? In what ways?
  3. What is your greatest fear when it comes to forgiveness?

 


 

07/15/18 

DIRECTION / Upward

We believe that having a deep and connected relationship with God is the best possible way to live. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude, and worship.

  • DISCIPLINE / reflect on the scripture + sermon 
    • Ask questions of the text.
    • Read the context around it.
    • Explore together

Galatians 6:2-5  (but read more on either side)

2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

Commentary

What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens? Does this mean I lend a helping hand if I can? Does it mean I take out my neighbor’s trash or is it something more… heavy? What do I do if my friend tells me his/her spouse just le or if someone comes to me who admits to being stuck in habitual sin? How can I deal with this wisely? is section of text provides some guidance from the Apostle Paul. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What is this law of Christ? Martin Luther explains it well in the following:

“ The Law of Christ is the Law of love. Christ gave us no other law than this law of mutual love: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another.” To love means to bear another’s burdens. Christians must have strong shoulders to bear the burdens of their fellow Christians. Faithful pastors recognize many errors and offenses in the church, which they oversee. In civil affairs an official has to overlook much if he is fit to rule. If we can overlook our own shortcomings and wrong-doings, we ought to overlook the shortcomings of others in accordance with the words, “Bear one another’s burdens.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. Christ loved us when we did not love him. He came and bore our burdens. He paid for our sins with his blood. Because of this we can bear one another’s burdens. However we must take care with the manner within which we deal with one another. We must remember that outside of Christ we have no righteous standing before God and it is in this humble dependence upon God’s grace that we help each other in our burdens.

How can we approach others and fight against pride in ourselves to be too harsh or indifferent? One writer comments using Galatians 2.20: 2 “I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” What we need to break out of the shackles of our assertive pride and our timid pride is not the bolstering of self-esteem, but a radical confidence in the incomparable Christ who came into the world to save utterly unworthy sinners! When you are looking wholly to Christ for your forgiveness guidance, love, and joy, the sinner you admonish and restore will know you do not come in the spirit of pride.”

This also aids us in assessing our own motives in the way we live our day-to-day lives. Paul cautions us to not look to the praises of others for any value in our works, nor to measure ourselves against the merits of others. When we face God a er our life, we will answer for our own life’s work, not for that of anyone else’s. So it is because of Christ we are enabled to fulfill his law and by his grace we are empowered to display it with others through their lives!

Questions

  1. Read Leviticus 19:18, John 13:34 and Galatians 5:14. What do these verses say about living life with one another?

1b. How can you bear another’s burdens while keeping yourself from pride in doing so?

  1. Why would Paul follow the command to “bear one another’s burdens” by stating if anyone thinks they are something, when they are nothing, they deceive themselves?”

  2. Have you ever been tempted to compare things in your life (i.e. work ethic, sin struggles, parenting style etc.) to someone else’s life? If so, what has resulted from these thoughts and/or actions?

  3. Read Matthew 12:36-37; 16:27 and Romans 14:12. How do these verses compare with Galatians 6:5? Does this conflict with the command to bear one another’s burdens? Explain. 5. How can we posture ourselves to provide support to each other and lovingly fight sin in each other’s lives for the right reasons?

WITHWARD / Practice Together

We are called to journey together as one body. We value the image of God in all people, everywhere. We believe that we were created to live deeply with one another, car-rying each other’s burdens, sharing our possessions, to pray for and confess our sins to each other, to suffer and celebrate together. It’s in these honest, loving relationships that God transforms us and truth becomes a reality. The way of Jesus cannot be lived alone.

  • For our second direction pray, listen, discuss ways you can carry each others burdens in real ways this week. Whether it is people in your community, family, or something you can all do together for someone… and then do it!

 

Prayer
Pray that each of us would be given the grace to bear one another’s burdens from a pure and right heart seeking to fulfill the law of Christ. Pray that the outside world sees this and is drawn to the beauty of Christ because of what they see in his church.

 


 

 

 

 

07/08/18 Andrew Mook

DIRECTION / Upward

We believe that having a deep and connected relationship with God is the best possible way to live. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude, and worship.

  • DISCIPLINE / reflect on the scripture + sermon 
    • Spend time in Deuteronomy 8:11-18. This wasn’t the central text but one that was mentioned in reference to humility and God’s opposition to the proud.
    • Context: This is God speaking through the prophet, warning the Jewish people after he has delivered them out of slavery and is about to bring them into the promised land.
    • What do you observe? What questions do you have? 

11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…

NOTES:

  • Humility keeps me not just from rejecting God’s authority but also from rejecting God’s provision.
  • God opposes the proud Proud not simply because Pride says, “no” to God’s rule but because it says, “no” to God’s Provision, and the two are always linked.
  • As theologian and philosopher Ravi Zacharias has suggested, when we sin and push God away, God indeed grieves; not because he has lost something . . . but because we have lost something

1 Peter 5b / “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”

  • Connecting the dots: How does having proper humility before God help inform how we practice humility with one another?

Clothing yourselves with humility seems to be a reference to Jesus clothing himself with the servants apron when he washes His disciples feet. Jesus says “wash each others feet.” What practices might God be inviting you to do as an individual & group?

 

DIRECTION / Inward

We believe that God wants to bring about a new humanity by redeeming every part of us. 

  • DISCIPLINE / confession
    • Confession is not intended to create guilt, shame, or condemnation, but rather to free us from it. Sin: legitimate longings that have gone astray. Sin, particularly secret and unconfessed sin, robs us of joy and confidence. But coming to God at his invitation to receive his grace and walk in freedom and forgiveness is life-altering. An increased awareness of our sinfulness, divorced from the practice of confession, is the perfect breeding ground for shame (the feeling that we are bad and should hide). The practice of confession helps us step into the light, responding confidently to the voice of God that invites us to freedom and life.
    • PRACTICE TOGETHER/ 
      • Where you have you wrestled with and/or given in to pride this week?
      • Where have you thought of yourself more highly than your neighbor?
      • Who/how can you bless this week?
    • PRAY / Spend time in confession to God, and pray for each other. Close with a prayer of absolution, such as: May the God of love bring us back to himself, forgive us our sins, and assure us of his eternal love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

*Close with the ASSURANCE of God’s grace.

1 John 2:1-3

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.

 


 

 

June 17, 2018

DEVOTED TO PRAYER PT 2

(building on last week)

Begin with prayer (5 minutes)

Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.).

Start with this prayer from the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1492-1556):

  • Lord, teach me to be generous.
  • Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
  • to give and not to count the cost,
  • to fight and not to heed the wounds,
  • to toil and not to seek for rest,
  • to labor and not to ask for reward,
  • save that of knowing that I do your will.

 

Debrief last week’s practice in small groups (15-20 minutes)

If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).

Spend a few minutes catching up on life…

Then talk through the following debrief questions:

  1. Did you pray the Lord’s prayer this week? Was it helpful?
  2. What do you feel like God did in your through the practice of daily prayer?

 

Transition back to one large group (5 minutes)

Ask a few questions about the last week’s practice:

  1. How does everybody feel about this new Practice? What areas of prayer are you hoping to learn more about – either biblically, or practically?
  2. Does anybody have a cool story about answered prayer?
  3. What do you think your greatest challenge will be in this practice of prayer?

 

Read this overview

More than anything else, prayer is about being in active relationship with a Person. If one understands this, then he or she will quickly recognize how being in active relationship with a person includes the practice of all kinds of habits of communication by which the relationship is experienced, grown, deepened, and challenged.

Sometimes this means talking; sometimes it means not saying a word, but sharing times of easy silence together; sometimes one shares a special landscape (a forest or an ocean beach, etc.) with the friend, walking with him or her in it; sometimes one shares music; sometimes it means acting for the other – being of help; sometimes it means listening to the friend, letting the other give or show or teach or guide as the friend wishes.

In short, prayer is not as much about “saying prayers” or as much about learning new “techniques” of prayer, as it is about doing whatever is necessary to deepen our friendship with God and making sure to set aside time daily to do that. However, learning from others how to do friendship skillfully, – and, in particular, friendship with God – and learning “techniques” or “habits” or “traditions” given us from the greatest of the friends of God, is still of great value.

A key insight that the churches have, and seek to teach their congregations, is something that many Americans, in our almost pathological aversion to being told what to do (!), might not grasp as significant. It is that we must also learn to do our relationship with God together – a regular and at least weekly practice of praying in common, encouraging one another, bringing everyone else’s spiritual journey into relation with our own. By doing so, we take heart through the faith of others, gaining knowledge and experience through what others share of their own relationship with God, and benefit from skilled leaders with a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures and of the ways of God with humans.

Take some time to discuss what we have presented here.

  1. Does anything surprise you about this way of understanding “prayer”? Why are you surprised?
  2. Do you experience the Father or Jesus or the Spirit more clearly in private prayer or when praying in a group? Why?

 

Here’s a practice to do together as a Community right now: (10-30 minutes)

 

The Prayer of Examen

  • Our practice this week is called “the Examen” or more fully, “an examination of consciousness” (note, it does not say conscience), or more playfully, “a rummaging through a day’s experiences, looking for God.” This practice has four steps.
  • Before you begin, divest yourselves of anything you have that will intrude on this focused time of practicing – mobile phones, for example. Have great respect for how challenging it can be to be fully present only here, only now, and for the sake of this prayerful practice you all will do together. Whoever is leading this should not proceed until everyone in the room has quit fidgeting, has found his or her alertness. Be patient! Let people have the time they need to get settled.
  • Then have someone offer a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to help guide this practice. Something like this: “Holy Spirit, we seek to make ourselves completely available to you – Father and Son and Holy Spirit. We want this designated amount of time to be governed completely by what You want for us as a group, and more hiddenly, to each of us in particular. Give us the Light we need to see, and in seeing, to understand.”
  • Then have the leader patiently walk through each of the following steps.

Step One: Replay the day in your mind

  • Notice where God has been active in the last few days of your life. Take a few minutes to practice active remembering of the last 24-72 hours.
    • Find some moment, however simple it was or brief, when you felt grace in your life. Where did God “show up” for you?
    • Share with the group what happened and how you felt the grace when it happened. Be brief in the saying: “I noticed God yesterday, when I walked outside and smelled the fragrant Spring air. What I felt was a sense of well-being, of feeling gratitude to God for so lovely a day, and of wishing that I could go for a walk right now with a best friend.” Simple. But it gives all who hear this a good sense of the nature of the grace that you experienced. Ask everyone to share something. (Perhaps best to go around the circle.)

Step Two: Name the strongest feelings you have experienced in the last few days. 

  • This next step of active remembering is aimed not at “what happened” but it is about recognizing when in the past few days you have felt most strongly moved in your affections. Which affection in particular was activated strongly? Give a name to that particular feeling: joy, depression, anger, delight, contentment, hope, shame, regret, confusion, disgust, compassion, doubt, gratitude, etc.
  • Share with the group one example of a strong affection you experienced.
  • The main goal of Step Two is noticing your strongest affective reactions to particular things, and wondering with God about those reactions. “Why did I feel that so strongly?” “Does this strong reaction reveal my faith in God, or a lack of it?”

Step Three: Share just one of those strong affections with Jesus.

  • Be honest with Jesus about what “caused” this strong affective response in you, and try to name accurately which particular feeling it was that you felt.
  • Ask Jesus whether He ever felt this same thing, and the way that you felt it, when he lived and moved and had His earthly life among us. You may turn to a Gospel text, to a scene in Jesus’ life in which you think that He reacted as you did. Read that text to yourself and explore Jesus’ affective response. Like yours, or different?
  • Explore through the strong affection you experienced the value that corresponds with that feeling.

Step Four:  Thank God for being present to you in this practice and for helping you grow in your friendship. 

To wrap up, just spend a few minutes debriefing your experience with “the Prayer of Examen.” 

 

Here’s a practice to do by yourself in the coming week: (10 minutes)

 

The Prayer of Examen

  • Each day in this coming week, set aside ten or fifteen minutes at the end of your day (but before you are too sleepy to make yourself attentive to the practice) to practice the Examen.
  • The key to this practice is not to fail to practice it each day!
  • Follow the four steps above.
  • If the four steps above are too in depth, here’s an easy alliteration to remember it by:
  1. Replay – What happened today?
  2. Rejoice – Where did I feel grace today? Where was God particularly present?
  3. Repent – Where did I feel emotional pain today? Where did I sin?
  4. Resolve – To live differently tomorrow, if need be. And sleep with gratitude.

 

Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)

  1. Do you understand the basic design of the practice?
  2. Do you think that this is just the kind of prayer that Jesus Himself would have practiced each evening before heading to bed?
  3. You might want to talk together about the best time to pray the Examen. The two most famous times are during the noon hour, or else sometime in the evening, but closer to the time when you head to bed – a way of “signing off” on your day in a fuller awareness of God having been with you in it.

 

Close in prayer (10 minutes)

 

 

 

 


 

June 10, 2018

DEVOTED TO PRAYER

Instead of looking at the text from Sunday, we will enter into a time of putting the teaching into practice together this week.

READ

Let’s be honest, for most of us, prayer is a weak point in our apprenticeship to Jesus. Most of us don’t really enjoy prayer. We feel bad, even guilty, about how little we pray. When we finally do make time to pray, we often don’t know what to say. Or we’re so distracted we can’t focus.

Yet for Jesus, prayer was central to life with God. Most people define prayer as simply, “Talking with God.” Prayer is a back and forth conversation that comes out of a depth of relationship. But at an even more basic level, prayer is a junk drawer word for all of our relationship to the Father.

That’s why prayer was such a huge part of Jesus’ life. We read he, “often withdrew into lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5v16) And for Jesus, prayer wasn’t a drag or a duty. He seems to genuinely enjoy his Father’s company. I think that’s why the disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11v1) Jesus’ answer was “the Lord’s prayer,” which wasn’t a liturgy to recite, as much as a template to follow when you pray.

Our practice of prayer will start there. This week, we’ll just set up a time and place to pray, do a little breathing prayer to center our mind and body, and pray through the Lord’s prayer. It’s an easy exercise that you can do in two minutes, or over two hours. The main point this week is just to get into the rhythm of daily prayer.

Remember  – prayer is as much about simply being with God as it is asking God for things.

 

Do this practice as a Community right now: (10-30 minutes)

  1. Put away your phones or any other distractions, and get into a comfortable, but alert position.

  2. (Leader) Invite the Holy Spirit to come…

  3. Pray through the Lord’s prayer, like this…

“Our Father…”

Take a moment and think about the idea of God as your Father, with good intentions toward you. If you want, imagine God in your mind’s eye. Picture his face. Make eye contact with him.

“In heaven…”

Take a moment to think about the idea that God is all around you. As you breathe in and out, imagine yourself breathing in and out more of the Holy Spirit.

“Hallowed by your name…”

Spend a few minutes just sitting with the Father in joyful, grateful, worship. You might want to sit in silence for a few moments. Or sing a chorus. Or rattle off a list of things you’re grateful for. Or praise God with specific things you love about him. Do this out loud as a group.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

  • Spend a few minutes asking for God’s will to be done in your city/church/community/life.
  • Think of specific things to pray for.
  • Verbally give God a few things in your life you’re wrestling with control over. A simple prayer of, “Your will be done in ______,” is a great place to start.

“Give us each day our daily bread…”

Spend a few minutes praying for specific needs and wants in your life or that of your community.
This is a great time to pray through your “prayer cards”!
This is also a great time to pray over specific people in the community who need something: a job, healing, wisdom to make a decision, etc. Get them in the middle of the room and pray over them.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…”

  • Spend a few minutes asking God for forgiveness for specific areas in your life, and releasing others to forgiveness.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

  • Spend a few minutes praying against temptation (the word can also be translated trouble) in your life.
  • Pray against specific sins….
  • Pray against any kind of evil – spiritual evil (demonic), human evil, natural evil, etc.
  • Pray against bad things in your life or community, and for God’s blessing – the divine flow of good things into your your life and community.
  1. (Leader) Close in a prayer of gratitude to the Father for hearing you.

Read over this coming week’s practice before you call it a night

(10 minutes)

  • Basically, this week’s practice is just to do the exact same thing as above, but by yourself. It’s that easy.
  • You can do this in two minutes or over two hours – it’s up to you. Go as fast or slow as you want.

Before you do it, here’s two quick exercises to get started:

Exercise 1: (10 minutes) 

  • Get out your calendar or journal, and set a time and place to pray that is quiet and distraction fee. For most, the mornings are a good time. But you might prefer an afternoon walk or evening
  • Set a modest goal –  daily is ideal, but if that’s too much, shoot for three times a week, for 10-15 minutes, or something that feels a little challenging, but doable.
  • Fill in 1-3 prayer cards. At the top put the name or subject, then write out a few bullet points of Scriptures, dreams, or requests you have. Remember, be specific!

Exercise 2: (2-10 minutes) 

  • If you have a hard time with distraction, here’s a little breathing exercise you can begin with, before you start into the Lord’s prayer:
  • Take long, deep, slow breaths (if you want, count 4 seconds in, 4 seconds wait, 4 seconds out, repeat). Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.
  • Start to pay attention to your breathing. Just “watch” your breath go in and out.
  • Release the constant chatter in your mind. Let each thought go as quickly as it comes, and just focus on your breathing.
  • Your mind will sieze this opportunity to run wild with thoughts, feelings, memories, to do’s, and all manner of distractions. That’s okay. Don’t judge yourself, feel bad, give up, or worry. When you notice your mind start to wander, just recenter with a quick prayer word, like, “Father…” or “Jesus, have mercy” or “Holy Spirit,” and come back to your breathing.
  • In the beginning, just 1-2 minutes of this is a huge win, and 10 minutes is a home run. When you feel like you’re ready, move from breathing to praying.

 

Work through these discussion questions (10 minutes)

  1. Any thoughts, creative ideas, or feedback on this coming week’s practice?
  2. How do you normally pray? What creative ideas would you add to this practice from your own prayer life?
  3. What does it normally feel like when you spend time just “being” with God?

 

Close in prayer and call it a night (5 minutes)

 

May 13, 2018

RAISE LIFE SERIES / WEEK 6 : LOVE

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. What is your experience of God’s love like? How have you experienced this lately
  2. Who in your life (specific people, or categories) do you find easiest to love and why? Who is most difficult for you to love and why?

 

SCRIPTURE [UPWARD]
GROUP DISCUSSION

Read the following passages aloud as a group :

  • Genesis 1:27
  • Isaiah 66:13
  • Isaiah 46:3-4
  • Psalm 131:1-3

Discuss:

  1. What strikes you most about these passages? What did you notice? What surprises you? What confuses you? What specific phrases are you drawn to?
  2. What images come to mind when you think about God and what he is like? Do you have a dominant picture or metaphor that you relate to best? How does the idea of God’s feminine/motherly qualities strike you? What are the implications of this idea for you?
  3. How does your view of women affect your view of God? How does your view of God affect your view of women?
  4. Some Hebrew scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hebrew words for “compassion” and “womb.” If God’s love is womb-like, what are the implications for us as recipients of his love? In what ways do you struggle with the idea of being utterly dependent on God? With the concept of weakness? How might this impact your ability to receive God’s womb-like love?

 

THE WAY OF JESUS
TRIADS

Read this intro aloud:

In the same way a trellis encourages rose bushes to grow in a certain direction and and produce a certain-shaped plant, intentionally prescribed spiritual practices can help us bear fruit in specific areas of our lives.

How can we intentionally cultivate the fruit of LOVE in our lives this week?

Have each person in the group read one of the following ideas:

Practice : Recognize Your Dependence. One way to cultivate the fruit of compassionate love in our life for others is to put ourselves in a place where we are dependently receiving this kind of love from God. An awareness of our own dependence and helplessness can help us cultivate a more generously compassionate posture with others. This week choose a practice, such as fasting, that will help you recognize and reflect on your dependence upon God.

Practice : Extend Undeserved Compassion. Is there anyone in your life (specific people, or categories of people) that you feel don’t deserve love in the form of your compassion or grace? Is there anyone you consciously or subconsciously withhold love from? This week, think of a tangible way to extend compassion to someone who, in your mind, may not deserve it. As you do this, reflect on the underserved gift of God’s love and compassion in your life.

Discuss:

  1. Do any of these practices jump off the page or hit you in the gut? Why do you think that might be?
  2. Is there another practice you could design to cultivate the fruit of kindness in your life?
  3. Is there a specific practice you’d like to commit to this week?
  4. How do you need prayer this week in the area of kindness?

Close by praying for one another.

 


May 6, 2018

RAISE LIFE SERIES / WEEK 5 : SELF-CONTROL

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. One idea discussed on Sunday is that the order of the list in Galatians 5:23 is important; when the culture of our hearts is marked by the eight fruit of the Spirit that come first, self-control is the natural by-product or end-result. When we are extremists for the things of God, and the margins of our life become filled with the things of God, we experience less of a need to exercise moderation and control in other areas. What do you think about this idea? Have you experienced this in your life?
  2. Discuss the connection between the secular idea of “self-mastery” and the Christian concept of surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus. How do we master ourselves?

 

SCRIPTURE [UPWARD]
GROUP DISCUSSION

Read the following passages aloud as a group :

  • Titus 3:3-5
  • Galatians 5:23-25

Discuss:

  1. What strikes you most about these passages? What did you notice? What surprises you? What confuses you? What specific phrases are you drawn to?
  2. What does it mean to be “enslaved” by all kinds of passions and pleasures (Titus 3:3)? Why is this metaphor helpful, or unhelpful, to you as you think about your life and your experiences?
  3. What is the significance of the idea that we are saved “not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of God’s mercy.” (Titus 3:5). How do you experience this reality in your life?
  4. The fruit of the spirit grows in our lives by the Spirit’s power, and yet we are invited to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). What does this phrase mean to you, and what are some ways you can do this practically? How can we cultivate the culture of our hearts to reflect the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness of God in the center as well as all the margins of our lives?

 

THE WAY OF JESUS
TRIADS

Read this intro aloud:

In the same way a trellis encourages rose bushes to grow in a certain direction and and produce a certain-shaped plant, intentionally prescribed spiritual practices can help us bear fruit in specific areas of our lives.

How can we intentionally cultivate the fruit of SELF-CONTROL in our lives this week?

This week, instead of considering pre-designed practices, the goal is to design your own.

Discuss:

  1. Is there a specific area in your life where you struggle to exercise self-control?
  2. If yes to the above, what are some specific next steps you could take this week?
  3. How would you describe the culture of your heart? (If your triad is close, feel free to help each other answer this). Which fruit of the Spirit to you see the most of in your life? Which fruit of the Spirit are you lacking in?
  4. What are some specific ways that you can become an extremist for the things of God, and cultivate the culture of your heart to reflect the fruit of the Spirit?

Close by praying for one another.

 


April 29, 2018

RAISE LIFE SERIES / WEEK 4 : FAITHFULNESS

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. When you think of the word faithfulness, who or what comes to mind?
  2. Faithfulness involves the ability to make and keep promises, both large and small, and the idea of being true to our word regardless of whether we make an explicit “promise.” What comes up for you when you reflect on this idea?

 

SCRIPTURE [UPWARD]
GROUP DISCUSSION

Read the following passages aloud as a group :

  • Hosea 3:1
  • Hosea 11:1-4
  • Hosea 2:14-20

Discuss:

  1. What strikes you most about these passages? What did you notice? What surprises you? What confuses you? What specific phrases are you drawn to?
  2. Why does God remain faithful to Israel? What is it that compels him? Why is this significant?
  3. Israel struggled with idol-worship. Gomer had other lovers. What are the “false gods” of our current age that you see yourself and others being drawn to?
  4. Two “false gods” mentioned on Sunday that directly impact our ability to reflect the fruit of faithfulness are personal freedom and convenience. An obsession with personal freedom can lead to a toxic culture of commitment-avoidance and independence. An obsession with convenience can lead to an aversion to doing hard things that demand our time, and eventually to a toxic culture of disposability. Are there any ways you see the fruit of these things, rather than the fruit of the Spirit, reflected in your life? How can you “return to your first love” this week?

 

THE WAY OF JESUS
TRIADS

Read this intro aloud:

In the same way a trellis encourages rose bushes to grow in a certain direction and and produce a certain-shaped plant, intentionally prescribed spiritual practices can help us bear fruit in specific areas of our lives.

How can we intentionally cultivate the fruit of FAITHFULNESS in our lives this week? Here are some ideas of practices to try:

Have each person in the group read one of the following ideas:

Practice : Move Beyond “Maybe”. This week, pay attention to the times you find yourself saying “maybe.” If there isn’t a legitimate reason to say maybe, experiment with saying “yes” or “no” instead, and then following through. Notice how it feels to make and keep small promises, and pay particular attention to any resistance that you feel. What is that resistance about?

Practice : Invite God’s Invitation. Take some time this week to ask God if there’s anything (person, place, community, project, dream, etc.) specific that he’s inviting you to commit to, especially something you may have been avoiding. Notice any hesitation or fear and process that with Him.

Practice : Friendship Inventory. Take some time this week to take an inventory of your relationships. Are there any mendable relationships that you have tossed aside or replaced rather than put in the hard work required to fix?* If yes, consider what the first step toward reconciliation may be. If you need help, reach out to a trusted friend, homegroup leader, or pastor. *Caveat: Not all relationships are salvageable or healthy for us. What we are looking for here is a preference to toss or replace relationships that could and should be mended.

Discuss:

  1. Do any of these practices jump off the page or hit you in the gut? Why do you think that might be?
  2. Is there another practice you could design to cultivate the fruit of kindness in your life?
  3. Is there a specific practice you’d like to commit to this week?
  4. How do you need prayer this week in the area of kindness?

Close by praying for one another.


April 22, 2018

RAISE LIFE SERIES / WEEK 3 : KINDNESS

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. When you think of the word kindness, who or what comes to mind? One definition of kindness is “compassionate other-directed generosity” – what strikes you about this definition?
  2. Describe the last time you experienced kindness in a specific way.
  3. Who in your life do you have the hardest time being kind to? Do you know why that is?

 

SCRIPTURE [UPWARD]
GROUP DISCUSSION

Read the following passage aloud as a group : Psalm 103:8-18

Discuss:

  1. What strikes you most about this passage? What did you notice? What surprises you? What confuses you? What specific phrases are you drawn to?
  2. Describe the kindness of the Lord. How is it like and not like our cultural understanding of “kindness” (politeness, random acts of kindness done to make US feel better, etc)?
  3. How have you experienced the kindness of the Lord recently in your life?
  4. We want to be people who cultivate “Eulogy Values” (such as kindness) rather than “Resumé Values.” Describe any tension you experience between these two ideas in your life. What helps you to lean into the cultivation of “Eulogy Values” in your life?

 

THE WAY OF JESUS
TRIADS

Read this intro aloud:

In the same way a trellis encourages rose bushes to grow in a certain direction and and produce a certain-shaped plant, intentionally prescribed spiritual practices can help us bear fruit in specific areas of our lives.

How can we intentionally cultivate the fruit of KINDNESS in our lives this week? Here are some ideas of practices to try:

Have each person in the group read one of the following ideas:

WITH STRANGERS 

  • Practice : Deliberate Acts of Kindness. This week commit to practice a deliberate act of kindness once a day, keeping in mind that “everyone has a backstory.” Notice how this makes you feel, and what the impact is if any.

WITH THOSE YOU LOVE 

  • Practice : Speak Their Love Language. So often we demonstrate love and kindness to those around us in the ways WE would like to be loved – or, worse, we put no intentional thought or energy into demonstrating kindness to those closest to us. This week, push yourself to notice those closest to you by expressing kindness to them in ways you know that THEY will interpret and experience as love. Notice how this makes you feel, and what the impact is if any.

WITH THOSE THAT ARE “HARD TO LOVE” 

  • Practice : Go Out of Your Way. We all have people in our life that we don’t enjoy being around, or who “push our buttons” and tax us in various ways. This week, go out of your way to express kindness and love to these people in practical, generous, non-self-serving ways. Notice how this makes you feel, and what the impact is if any.

Discuss:

  1. Do any of these practices jump off the page or hit you in the gut? Why do you think that might be?
  2. Is there another practice you could design to cultivate the fruit of kindness in your life?
  3. Is there a specific practice you’d like to commit to this week?
  4. How do you need prayer this week in the area of kindness?

Close by praying for one another.

 


April 15, 2018

RAISE LIFE SERIES / WEEK 2 : PATIENCE

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. Where do you find yourself feeling the most impatient these days? Do you know why that is?
  2. Can you identify the root of your impatience? If not, think about a time you felt impatient recently. Ask yourself “Why did that bother me?” Then take your answer and ask yourself, “And why does THAT bother me?” Keep going until you can’t answer anymore – that may be the root.
  3. Which is harder for you and why: being patient through the small irritations of life (traffic, lines, being on hold with customer service) or being patient with the larger questions of life (your future dreams, longings, hopes)?
  4. (If time…you could also skip this one). Who in your life exhibits this fruit of the spirit? Where specifically do you notice it in their life? What is it like to be around them?

 

SCRIPTURE [UPWARD]
GROUP DISCUSSION

Read the following passage aloud as a group : Matthew 18:21-35

Discuss:

  1. What strikes you most about this passage? What did you notice? What surprises you? What confuses you? What specific phrases are you drawn to?
  2. What does the master’s response to his servant reveal about his heart? What is the master like? What does he desire? What angers him?
  3. Describe the “impatient” servant’s relationship with control. Where do you see him wrestling with or attempting to exert control?
  4.  “Patience has a purpose” – it is active, directed toward others. Reflect on the patience of God towards you, and his desire to be in relationship with everyone he has made. Are there any areas in your life where God is inviting you to reflect his patience to the people around you? (See 2 Peter 3:8-9, 14.)
  5. What is your relationship with control like? Where do you wrestle with your lack of control, or the desire to exert more control than you have? What would it be like to intentionally cultivate patience in these areas instead?

 

THE WAY OF JESUS
TRIADS

Read this intro aloud:

Pledging our allegiance to Jesus and his Kingdom means learning to live and operate from a new reality. As we walk the way of Jesus, the life of the Kingdom comes to life in us. One of the outcomes is that we begin to bear fruit in our lives – fruit of the spirit – that reflects the nature and qualities of our King.

During this series, we want to look at specific ways to cultivate this fruit in our lives. Much like a trellis encourages rose bushes to grow in a certain direction and and produce a certain-shaped plant, intentional spiritual practices can help us bear fruit in specific areas of our lives.

This week, we are asking: How do we intentionally cultivate the fruit of PATIENCE in our lives? Here are some ideas of practices to try:

Pass the phone around and have one person read each of the following three categories:


Category 1: Some of us need to cultivate patience amidst the frustrations, annoyances, and interruptions of everyday life.

“These [moments] in my day are insignificant compared to the immense suffering in our lives and in the broader world…This is not the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is the roadside ditch of broken things and lost objects, the potholes of gloom and unwanted interruption. And yet here is where I find myself on an ordinary day, and here, in my petty anger and irritation, is where the Savior deigns to meet me. These moments are an opportunity for formation, for sanctification.” – Tish Harrison Warren

PRACTICE : Pick the Longest Line. For the next week, pick the longest line at the grocery store, let others go first in traffic, park in the furthest parking spot at work, intentionally sit longer than necessary over a meal. Notice what rises to the surface of your mind and what this tells you about yourself.


Category 2: Some of us need to cultivate patience amidst the relentless urgency of our lives. Not everything that comes our way requires our immediate attention. Not every decision is urgent. Not every emotional surge is the best gauge for determining how to act or respond to others. Pausing on purpose before acting can be a helpful antidote to the frenetic, anxious pace of our lives.

PRACTICE : Sleep On It. For the next week, when logistically feasible and not unkind to others, commit to waiting 24 hours before making emotionally charged decisions or having emotionally charged conversations.

PRACTICE : Sabbath. At some point this week, carve out a 24 hour period that is free from anything you would consider “work.” Pay attention to the fact that some things will remain unfinished and undone. How does this make you feel, and why?


Category 3: Finally, some of us need to cultivate patience as we learn to wait on God in a less immediate and more global sense. We need to learn to trust God with our future, our dreams, our longings, our disappointments, and our dissatisfaction with our current reality.

PRACTICE : Waiting on God. What are the longer-term desires and longings of your heart that are currently unrealized or unmet? For the next week, make space to talk about these longings honestly with God via journal or prayer. Leave space to listen for what he might have to say.


Discuss in triads:

  1. Do any of these practices jump off the page / hit you in the gut? Why do you think that might be?
  2. Is there another practice you could design to cultivate the fruit of patience in your life?
  3. Is there a specific practice you’d like to commit to this week?
  4. How do you need prayer this week in the area of patience?

Close by praying for one another.

 


Jan 7, 2018

GOALS FOR 2018 gleaned from Stephen in Acts 6:8-7:60

Stephen, an ordinary man who, as the church is beginning is tasked with taking care of the elderly in the community. All of a sudden he is thrust into leadership

  1. I will understand the holy spirit, and what it means to walk in the spirit
    • “full of faith and fullness of the spirit”  / “full of grace and power” /  “they could not resist the wisdom he spoke”
    • “You’re not fated to grind out another 30-70 years with the same habits and tendencies.”
    • You have God living inside you / what does it mean to live in full contact with the Spirit.
  2. Theological Depth
    • Stephen makes 3 claims that we are living under the theological shock of.  1. Stephen is the one God uses to bring theological depth
    • How could you grow in profound theological depth?
  3. Having courage to declare what you truly believe.
    • :“you stiff necked people”  / “you’re just like your ancestors… was there ever a prophet you didn’t persecute… failed to obey”
    • this is about living a whole, integrated life. How we relate to each other and city.
  4. Grow in grace and humility
    • “Jesus receive my spirit – don’t hold their sin against them”
    • He graciously forgives them. He picks a fight and lays down life. Our culture needs courage and humility at the same time.

 

How do we grow in these areas?

Andrew spoke about how some of the keys to spiritual growth is breaking through boredom and the trivial. If we have resolved in our heart to grow in these areas – how do we do it?

1 / D R E A M Access God’s heart and imagination for you

2 / ASSESS What’s the reality of your schedule/rhythms like? What are your circumstances like? What things do you have going for you that might be relevant? / What challenges are you facing that might be relevant?

3 / B R A I N STORM Name some achievable practices, exercises, rhythms. • What are some practices that could help cultivate the fruit you long to see this year? How could you maximize some of the things you already have going for you? • How could you minimize some of the challenges you are experiencing?

 

Use prayer and the discussion to help people make a plan.

 

 

 

 


Advent Devotional: Restoring Hope

*located here for others
Silence, Stillness, and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Prayer for Presence: Lord Jesus, in this moment of prayer, free me
from the distractions of the day so that I may be deeply present to you
and myself, for the sake of the world around me.

Devotional:  It is Advent again. We call this time Advent because it
reminds us of what comes from God for the creation of his kingdom on
earth.
“Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is the opposite of desperate
and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is
not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from
our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that
God will do what He said He will do. It is imagination put in the harness
of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it His way and in His time.”
– Eugene Peterson

 

Scripture Reading:

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130:1–6

  • Spend time wrestling with the text. What questions arise? Speak of hope in your own life.
  • What about the message of this Psalm speaks to the Advent/Christmas season.

Space for Reflection: In response spend a few quiet minutes praying, reflecting, or writing. Share together.

 

 

11/26/17: Andrew Mook

DIRECTION / Upward

We believe that having a deep and connected relationship with God is the best possible way to live. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude, and worship.

  • DISCIPLINE / reflect on the scripture + sermon Spend time in John 3 (and 2). What do you observe? What questions do you have? 

Philippians 4:11-13

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength

NOTES:

“Contentment must be learned”

This contentment was not something Paul attained overnight, but he “learned” it through his experiences. Because of this he invites us to embrace for themselves this high goal of contentment.

“Plenty and want”

I have learned how to be content with PLENTY and WANT

Proverbs 30:8

give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

“The secret has a name”

Contentment comes not from WHAT we have but from WHOM we have.

Look back at this letter. Contentment is living in Jesus,

  • the sure hope (1: 19– 20),
  • the unfailing promise (2: 9– 11),
  • the Savior who will come again (3: 20– 21).
  • 2 Corinthians 12: 9, he writes that God’s “grace is sufficient – its enough,”

The strength that Paul learned is available to all believers — to face the humiliations, setbacks, deprivations, as well as the times of goodness.

WRAPUP / DEEPER

Contentment means…

YOU KNOW AND BELIEVE GOD HAS YOUR BACK

When we are discontent, we often believe we are alone, fighting for ourselves. The author of Hebrews writes, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). Contentment is to know and rest in the fact that in all things, God will never leave you or forsake you.

YOU KNOW AND BELIEVE THAT GOD LOVES YOU He offered grace – he is FOR us. It was he who revealed himself to us. It was he who pursued us, not us him. Communion.

YOU KNOW AND BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL MEET YOUR EVERY NEED in a world of evil and brokenness and others choices – even them – all things work together…

YOU KNOW AND BELIEVE THAT GOD IS ENOUGH There is nothing on this earth that can even come close to giving you lasting satisfaction. Nothing. We need to stop comparing what we have—or don’t have—to those around us (2 Cor. 10:12). When we fall into comparison, we get cheap answers or fixes to what we think can fix our discontentment. Asaph in Psalm 73 looked at the wicked and almost stumbled, but then realized that God was enough. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25–26).

REMEMBER IN ALL OF THESE: Jesus endured all shame – even rejection. Hebrews 4:15 -For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 

As you break into smaller groups, practice…

DIRECTION / Inward

We believe that God wants to bring about a new humanity by redeeming every part of us. We embrace the salvation Jesus offers as the only hope for the healing of our relationships with God, each other, ourselves, and creation. We believe that all of life is spiritual, and that all of our fears, failures, and brokenness can be restored and made whole. We value the inner journey because we want to be fully integrated people–mind, body, and soul, emotions, and experiences all offered together to God.

DISCIPLINE / Inventory + confession

PRACTICE

Discuss the sin of discontentment. Not trusting God. What does growth look like.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

11/05/17: Andrew Mook

DIRECTION / Upward

We believe that having a deep and connected relationship with God is the best possible way to live. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude, and worship.

  • DISCIPLINE / reflect on the scripture + sermon Spend time in John 3 (and 2). What do you observe? What questions do you have? 

1 John 3 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

NOTES: the person who recognizes who they are / the one with hope (confident expectation that God has got this, that everything will be made new) is the one who WILL willingly and repeatedly seek the life of heaven now – the “pure life” – a life of full devotion to Jesus.

Pure = hagnizo: be fully devoted to the lord and his way.

1 JOHN 3:1 / WHAT WE ARE

1 JOHN 3:2 / WHAT WE WILL BE

1 JOHN 3:3 / WHAT WE THE SHOULD BE

  • So when we HOPE IN GOD we set ourselves free from ________
  • What convicts, encourages, and spurs you on?

1 John 1:8-10

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

DIRECTION / Inward

We believe that God wants to bring about a new humanity by redeeming every part of us. 

  • DISCIPLINE / confession
    • Confession is not intended to create guilt, shame, or condemnation, but rather to free us from it. Sin: legitimate longings that have gone astray. Sin, particularly secret and unconfessed sin, robs us of joy and confidence. But coming to God at his invitation to receive his grace and walk in freedom and forgiveness is life-altering. An increased awareness of our sinfulness, divorced from the practice of confession, is the perfect breeding ground for shame (the feeling that we are bad and should hide). The practice of confession helps us step into the light, responding confidently to the voice of God that invites us to freedom and life.
    • PRACTICE TOGETHER/  Where you have you wrestled with and/or given in to temptation this week? Can you identify the good and legitimate longing that has gone astray? What steps will you take to avoid temptation this week?
    • PRAY / Spend time in confession to God, and pray for each other. Close with a prayer of absolution, such as: May the God of love bring us back to himself, forgive us our sins, and assure us of his eternal love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

*Close with the ASSURANCE of God’s grace.

1 John 2:1-3

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.


 

 

 

 

 

 

10/29/17: Andrew Mook

RECAP:

“Gods got this”

CHRISTIAN HOPE is the confident expectation of good things to come / Christian hope comes down to trust. Expectancy joined with trust in God and his purposes. It is not wishful thinking.

Because… God has so loved us, God is renewing all things, God will put this all back together, We don’t need to fear death – This is where Christian hope comes from.

 

DIRECTION / Upward

We believe that having a deep and connected relationship with God is the best possible way to live. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude, and worship.

DISCIPLINE / reflect on the scripture + sermon

Print out and Spend time again in:

CONTEXT: The writer is in a hard and seemingly hopeless place. He is reflecting on the exile.

 

Lamentations 3:17-25

17 I have been deprived of peace;

I have forgotten what prosperity is.

18 So I say, “My splendor is gone

and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind

and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

ALTERNATE TEXT: Philippians 4:8

“YOUR mind will always set itself on something.”

COL3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

(Question suggestions)

  1. What stands out?
  2. What stands out about his response to how he is feeling?
  3. He calls what to mind?
  4. What do you tend to call to mind in the difficulties of life?

 

PRINCIPLE:

The struggle to break an addiction is more effective when the addiction is replaced rather than simply resisted. If we only battle sinful thoughts by trying to shut them off, we will find that our minds cannot handle the vacuum.

 It is only when we replace the thoughts that do not honor God with thoughts that bring Him glory that we will have truly taken our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

 

As you break into smaller groups, practice…

DIRECTION / Inward

We believe that God wants to bring about a new humanity by redeeming every part of us. We embrace the salvation Jesus offers as the only hope for the healing of our relationships with God, each other, ourselves, and creation. We believe that all of life is spiritual, and that all of our fears, failures, and brokenness can be restored and made whole. We value the inner journey because we want to be fully integrated people–mind, body, and soul, emotions, and experiences all offered together to God.

DISCIPLINE / Inventory + confession

PRACTICE

  1. Practice recalling (bringing to mind) seasons  of Gods goodness in the past?
  2. What about His future promises bring confident expectation and endurance to the present?
  3. The Phil 4:8 practice Andrew spoke about

 

 

 

 


 

 

10/22/17: Sarah Cowan Johnson

DIRECTION / Upward

We believe that having a deep and connected relationship with God is the best possible way to live. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude, and worship.

DISCIPLINE / reflect on the scripture + sermon

Study together:

2 Corinthians 3:1-12 /

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

SERIES : HOLD FAST HOPE / Week 3

Exploring Christian Hope – which is different from optimism or wishful thinking or a vague sense everything will work out. Christian hope is something concrete and solid and sure because it is rooted in the death, resurrection, ascension, and future personal return of Jesus. This series also explores the fruit this Hope bears in our lives when we hold fast to it. This week, the fruit of BOLDNESS.

CONTEXT OF 2 CORINTHIANS :

Paul is writing to a church in Corinth that he helped to plant and spent a year and a half leading. After he left, controversies erupted. A group of false apostles began preaching a false gospel. Many scholars believe these teachers were Jewish converts to Christianity emphasizing the need for Gentile believers to first become Jewish (be circumcised, follow Jewish customs) to be saved. They were also attempting to undermine Paul’s ministry with a variety of critiques and criticisms. Paul is writing to this confused church.

MEANING OF 3:12 : Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

In Chapter 3, Paul does not defend himself, but defends his message. He is convinced that the New Covenant that God has made with humanity – the new way that God is now relating to humanity in Jesus – is far superior to the Old Covenant. This is particularly important for a church being tempted by a false gospel.

OLD COVENANT

  • Initiated with Moses on Mt. Sinai
  • Covenant is with one nation
  • God writes his will on stone tablets
  • Ongoing sacrifices to atone for sin
  • Relationship with God mediated by priests
  • Temporary – points forward to Jesus

NEW COVENANT

  • Initiated by Jesus on the cross
  • Covenant is with all who believe
  • God writes his will on human hearts by the Spirit
  • Permanent forgiveness of sin
  • Direct access to the Father through the Son
  • Eternal

What is Paul’s Hope? It is the hope of the New Covenant reality. His confident expectation that this new way of relating to God that was initiated at the cross is available to him and the entire world now and for eternity. Paul’s hope is his assurance that God began and is doing something new in Jesus, and will see it through to completion until that day when everything is made new, when Jesus returns to establish his reign on earth forever. 

How does this Hope make him bold? By freeing him from the fear of what being bold will cost him. Something about Paul’s HOPE renders all the possible outcomes of boldly following Jesus powerless in determining how he will live. They have no power over him, because the power of his HOPE IN CHRIST and the reality of the new covenant and the security of his future has so much more power over Paul.

Why should he fear opposition or critique or rumors when Jesus has accepted him and loved him, when he knows not only who he is but who he belongs to and who approves of him eternally and unconditionally?

Why should he fear being thrown in prison or stoned or decapitated (which was how he died) – or any suffering he may experience in this life – when he knows with utter confidence that he will live with Jesus forever?

This is why Paul can say in chapter 4,: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

He is able to see the cost of following Jesus boldly, the suffering he is enduring in this life, as “light and momentary” because he has fixed his eyes on the eternal reality of his life in Christ – because of what Jesus did on the cross, Paul is secure today, tomorrow, and forever. Paul is holding fast to Hope and this makes him bold.

What about us? How does hope make us bold?

Few of us will face the cost of death or dismemberment for following Jesus boldly. But we will face the cost of being misunderstood, judged, and criticized. And we are terrified of this.

But if we are followers of Jesus we are not going to be able to escape the times that Jesus’ call on our lives – the things we hear him asking us to do, the way we hear him asking us to live – are going to come into conflict with what other people think. And in these moments, we are often tempted to shrink back. We are invited to deal with our fears of what other people think of us, our fear of man.

If we find ourselves with a boldness problem, we need to examine the root. It’s possible we actually have a hope problem. Boldness is a fruit of hope that springs spontaneously from us when we are holding fast to our hope – not something we can conjure up.

So how do we begin to address a hope problem?

  1. Name the barrier. That’s often the first step to freedom. What will following Jesus boldly cost you, and how do you feel about paying that cost? Is there a fear that is driving you that you need to repent of?
  2. Make intentional choices to “hold fast to hope” this week and to connect with the source of your hope – to take advantage of the direct access you have to the Father through the Son. What is one practice you could try, or commitment you could make, to help you hold fast to this Hope this week?

 


As you break into smaller groups, practice…

DIRECTION / Inward

We believe that God wants to bring about a new humanity by redeeming every part of us. We embrace the salvation Jesus offers as the only hope for the healing of our relationships with God, each other, ourselves, and creation. We believe that all of life is spiritual, and that all of our fears, failures, and brokenness can be restored and made whole. We value the inner journey because we want to be fully integrated people–mind, body, and soul, emotions, and experiences all offered together to God.

DISCIPLINE / Inventory + confession

Focus on Question 1 above. If something specific comes to mind, confess your fear to God in the company of friends who will not judge you or brush your confession aside, but will carry it with you to the feet of Jesus. Ask God to to remove it by his Spirit, and to replace it with the desire to please no one but Him.


10/8/17: Lyle Mook

DIRECTION / Upward

We believe that having a deep and connected relationship with God is the best possible way to live. We celebrate the divine in the daily, pursuing lives of hope, gratitude, and worship.

DISCIPLINE / reflect on the scripture + sermon

Study together:

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 / But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 / Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

“CHRISTIAN HOPE”

  • Beginning a series on “Holding Fast Hope” may seem to some like an exercise in wishful thinking – or refusing to live in reality! But that would betray a weak understanding of distinctively “Christian Hope.” Followers of Jesus have been, from the beginning, “Traffickers in Hope!”
    • `Q – What are some common misunderstandings of “Hope” in today’s world? What is distinctive about the “Christian Hope?”

 

“THE NOW AND THE NOT YET”

  • As Christians, we swim in the stream of “Tension.” We live between “the Now and the Not Yet.” (We experience God’s life and grace and the beginning of new creation; but we wait for the consummation or completion of God’s salvation and restoration.) We see this in 1 Cor. 4 with Paul describing his real and serious afflictions but living with an eternal perspective that gives true hope and endurance.
    • Q – What are some of the “Now’s” in the Christian life and mission – things we experience already (e.g. the Holy Spirit’s transforming power)
  • And what are some “Not Yet’s” of hope that we wait for? Things that sustain us and can give perspective and endurance for the journey?

SUFFERING”

  • Martin Luther was asked, “What is most important for spiritual growth?” He answered with 3 ingredients: Prayer, Scripture, and Suffering!
    • Q – How has God used suffering of various kinds to “grow you?”

 

“HOLD ON TO HOPE”

  • Paul began 2 Corinthians with these words:
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

    • Q – At Communion time we were called us to: Think about one area where you’re feeling the hardness of life – You’re “Groaning!” Name that area of “affliction.”
  • Bring into your prayer time this prayer:  “As I come, I want to trust You to give me the perspective that will help me grow in endurance and hold on to Hope.”

————————–

As you break into smaller groups, practice…

DIRECTION / Outward

Led by the Spirit, we are passionate about joining God in the renewal of all things, announcing and living out the transforming message of the resurrected Jesus. Jesus calls his Church to be a compelling force for good in the world, and we believe that the Church is at its best when it serves, sacrifices, and loves, caring about the things God cares about. We were created to live for something larger than ourselves.

DISCIPLINE / Pray for the hurting + act

As you move into this week – ask God to bring one person to mind who needs God’s comfort and be available to offer genuine hope with sensitivity and
boldness.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/3/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Study together:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

“THE ‘YOU’ IS YALL”

  • This letter was written to a church. It would have been read aloud to the gathered community.
  • When we say i’m spiritual but I don’t do church we are essentially saying i’m not into people.  
    • Q. How does this affect how we see ourselves as individuals and as a church?

“PROXIMITY BRINGS PASSION”

  • When we move toward each other our passion and love for others grow. We begin to truly “see” each other with new eyes.
  • We experience and “grasp” more of the love of God and be filled with it to a greater measure.
    • Q. Have you had this experience?
    • Q. What are some practical ways we can move towards others?

“FULL MEASURE”

  • How many times have you wondered why you are running on empty? We cannot experience the full measure alone. You are too small of a vessel for God to pour everything into.
  • Many of God’s promises relate to a people not a person.
    • Q. What implications might this have for your HG/Community

 

WITHWARD / Practice Together

  • For our second direction practice “blessing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/3/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with worship or OUTWARD (path b) or Confession of ways we have failed to love

on Sunday I asked: what is one key thing God is saying THROUGH the cross? I answered it with this: God is showing us the power of unfailing love. The power of a love that never fails. A love that “wins” in every situation – even when it’s hard to see at first.

Jesus had all of this happen to him as he headed towards the cross: • Questioned • Betrayed • Deserted • Denied • Spit On • Struck • Slapped • Mocked • Stripped Naked • Beaten • Insulted • Lied about • falsely accused • Condemned • Crucified • Bruised • Rejected • hated • pierced • Stared at • left naked in public to die • Killed.

WITH EVERY PASSAGE he responds with LOVE – he never becomes the evil that is done to him. You never have him come back with a mocking tone. HE RESPONDS WITH LOVE EVERY SINGLE TIME

JOHN 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

NOTES + QUESTIONS

  • Take some time with the passage above.
  • Other biblical writers started to realize the implications of this: ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21
  • everyday we are face with choices on how we will respond to _____. How will we respond?
  • How does God’s unfailing and “overcoming” love for us help empower us to love throughout our week?
  • Lastly, spend time here:

 

  •  1 Corinthians 13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.
  • Use this as a checklist for disciplines and growth. Reflect on one or two qualities of God. ex: if God is love and love is patient – where do i see God’s patience towards me/others and how can i extend a patient love to others? encourage people to be specific.

 

A benediction for Homegroup:

The Jesus Way is to love. No matter what is thrown at us we love. Because we know love is what God is, love is why Jesus came, and love is why he continues to come, year after year to person after person. The love of God is unfailing, it never fails… it always wins.

May you receive it and respond to it this week.

 

 


8/27/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with worship or INWARD (path b)

Ephesians 3
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

NOTES + QUESTIONS

  • Take some time with the passage above.
  • I spoke on not forsaking your first love. This church that Paul is writing to is told years after the above passage that they are getting so much right… “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:4-5b)
  • Paul warns in Ephesians 3 that they must be rooted and established in love. We cannot root ourselves in anything else. 
  • Jesus tells his disciples that they should “remain in my love.” We are to remain in how God feels about us, not how we feel about God. John tells us that “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
  • The only way we are going to keep our love for Jesus alive is if we receive.
  • Do we burst into the day marinating in the love of God (tofu)?
  • Do you have a culture in your life to receive and then respond to God’s love?

 

 


 

7/30/17: Adam Croft

Note to Homegroup leader: Jonah is short enough that you could read the entire book in a few minutes! I think it would be a great way to start the group.

Sermon Notes:
Point 1: We are like Jonah

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement, Jonah is read

Congregation responds with “We are Jonah”

Jonah is supposed to be a mirror for us to see ourselves

When we ask the question: What kind of people run from God?” The answer is people just like us. We run from God. Have you ever run from God?

Jonah is about the disturbing possibility that, having pledged our life to God, we could end up spending much of that life avoiding the God we set out to serve.

Discussion Questions: 

How are you like Jonah? 

What is your Ninevah?

Have you run from God? What happened

Point 2: God’s boundless compassion

Maybe our growth is tied to God’s love for the lost invading our hearts.

Has your heart been invaded by God’s love for the lost?

Do you know his heart? Not the rules or the words…his HEART?

Jonah’s obedience resulted in a revival of sorts. God uses his reluctant obedience to bring about the redemption of an entire city. Hmm.

 
Three principles of Revival:
1. There is no person God cannot use
2. There is no person God cannot save
3. There is no place God cannot breakthrough
Discussion Questions:
Has your heart been invaded by God’s relentless love for lost people?
Which principle of revival challenges you? Why?
Point 3: Jonah points us to Jesus
-Mark 4 comparison

-In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah.

•He was willingly thrown into sea of sin and death in our place.

Jesus: I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves, destroy death.

How is this possible?

On the cross Jesus was thrown, willingly like Jonah in the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death

Yom Kippur

Ends with Micah 7:19

You will again have compassion on us;

you will tread our sins underfoot

and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

 
Discussion Questions
Any of these invitations stick out to you? Pray with each other

1. JESUS: Place your faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross to destroy sin and death

2. JONAH: Stop running from God, turn around and go to “Ninevah”

3. HEART: Ask God for His heart for the lost

 


7/16/17: Brandon Lemois

There are two main ways that the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) is interpreted today. First, David is an underdog and God uses his minor skills to kill the giant. In this interpretation, we are David and Goliath is the next giant in front of us whether it’s a promotion, success, finances, relationships etc. Second, Goliath is the underdog, stricken with a disease known as acromegaly that makes him a sitting duck in long distance combat and David is the sharp new soldier that kills him with a weapon that can shoot a stone at the speed of a 9mm. In this interpretation, Goliath is still the giant in our life and we are still David gifted with new leadership strategies that allow us to succeed. The problem is that neither of these interpretations is how the Old Testament tells this story. The story is about God, not about us – that makes David a representation of Jesus, and we become the soldiers still up on the mountain hiding behind the tents.

Reading the story through this lens will give you a fresh sense of rest, gratitude, and worship because just like David, the victory of Jesus is given to us without us lifting a stone. We stay hiding behind the tents and are given the gift of victory. This victory invites us into some new realities. First, Christ invites us to remember our identity (17v45) as we come in the name of the Lord in our battles. Second, Christ invites us to rest in his work (17v47) – we trust in his provision as salvation isn’t through a sword a spear but is through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Third, Christ invites us to join him in the renewal of all things (17v46) – as we announce his victory through our lives, his name is proclaimed and his reign is spread throughout the world.

In light of these truths:
1. Who is your identity in?
2. Who do you trust in?
3. What is your announcement?

7/9/17: Sarah Cowan Johnson

UPWARD / Practice Together

The life of Joseph spans 14 chapters, Genesis 37-50. Here are some excerpts:

CHAPTER 37 

17b So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

CHAPTER 41

14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

CHAPTER 50

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

NOTES

The story of Joseph demonstrates that God is a Redeemer, at work in every circumstance, no matter how bleak. In Joseph’s story, we see God tearing loose the narrative of Joseph’s life from the jaws of human sin and evil, reclaiming it, and doing something entirely different with it.

Google Artur Bordalo – an artist who makes beautiful works of art out of trash. He rescues things from dumpsters and junkyards, reclaims them, and repurposes them not by fundamentally changing what they are – you can still see a toilet in the middle of the cute bunny – but by weaving them into a larger work of art. 

And that’s what God is like. God redeems Joseph’s story not by changing the story, not by magically undoing the wrongs that had been done to him, or erasing the years of pain, but by by resetting his story in the midst of a larger redemptive narrative. Nothing in Joseph’s life is wasted – the betrayal, the relocation, the time in prison. All of it becomes raw materials in the hands of a capable artist who is writing the story not just of Joseph but of a family and a people and a nation and of humanity.

Ultimately, Joseph’s story, like all redemption stories, points to Jesus: The favored son who was rejected by his human brothers & sisters, betrayed & put to death, left to languish 3 days in the grave. God begins to work his redemptive power even in that sinful human act such that the cross is primarily seen not as the greatest symbol of human brokenness and failure, but as the redemptive climax of human history. And, just like Joseph, Jesus doesn’t reject us when we come to him, but shares his inheritance with us and reconciles us to our Father.

QUESTIONS

  1. Is there anything in your life that feels like “trash” or wasted space? Something that feels unredeemable? (For example: an unexpected turn in your story, a failure of some kind, some kind of purposeless suffering, a wrong done to you that you have suffered from, something in your past you think is unforgiveable?) The truth is that nothing in your life lies beyond God’s ability to redeem. In God’s hands, nothing in your life is wasted. Share and pray with each other for God’s redemptive work to be done in your life, and for the ability to see and recognize the artist at work.
  2. How open are you to the idea that God could still be with you, and could still be at work, in seasons of suffering? Do you have a framework for intimacy with God in seasons of suffering? Have you ever experienced intimacy with God as you have cried your eyes out or screamed your lungs out? If not, what has your experience been? Pray with each other for the ability to trust that God does not abandon us when we are in pain.
  3. Joseph’s redemption story hinges on his decision to forgive his family – though God is the one acting and working the redemption, Joseph is invited to parter with God in the redemptive work and he plays a critical role. Are there any ways that God is inviting you to participate in your own redemptive narrative – someone you need to forgive, a specific area in your life God wants to heal, some other invitation God is extending to you? Is anything holding you back? Pray for one another.

 


 

7/2/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with spending time praying through the Lord’s prayer.

Luke 11

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity  he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. 9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

pray with shameless audacity, expectant for God to respond.

Father, hallowed be your name / 

  • pray for the fathers character to be known
  • jesus starting point is that God is good
  • understand he is your father
  • Unless you break the stronghold of false images of God in your mind you;; never be drawn to prayer

your kingdom come.

  •  if ever there was a time we needed some good government. We are aching for jesus leadership
  • Vision of the Kingdom – IS 61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance
  • To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” ― Karl Barth

Give us each day our daily bread.

  • provision
  • I want you to break you idolatrous dependance on the world
  • Be dependant on me. – Look to me

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

  • we should be praying for this – why?
  • because we sin all the time – if you don’t have a time of daily confession – it will produce in you a delusion that you aren’t very sinful – and the problem with that is you’’ll have a hard time forgiving other people when they sin against you. you will view yourself as self righteous and judgmental
  • we have to have a self awareness of our own sin – produces grace and peace
  • split up with people you know and confess and pray or stay in the big group and confess together

And lead us not into temptation

  • choice architecture

  • the trap of modern culture is we are being shepherded. Our culture is forming us, recruiting our affections

everyday pray – don’t lead me in the way of the false good life. asking God for guidance reasserts that we want tot walk the way of jesus.

 


6/25/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with INWARD (path b) – because revival starts by drawing a circle around yourself.

Focus in on this part of the prayer. Take some time with is.

Isaiah 64:8

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand

NOTES + QUESTIONS

As you read it What comes to mind? What questions for your self arise? What does this team us about trust, entitlement, awareness….

  • I talked about how this part of Isaiah’s prayer is particularly “dangerous” or scary.
  • The prophet saying “do whatever you want to bring us to life. I/we need your presence and power. We lay ourselves before you.”
  • How does this prayer confront our/cultures plans and routines?
  • What doest his text teach us about humility and surrender?

 

 


 

6/11/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with INWARD (revival starts by drawing a circle around yourself)

Acts 11:19-30 / The Church in Antioch
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

NOTES + QUESTIONS

I began by inviting us to look at picture of what happens to a church in a city when they are walking with God. I shared four things that happen in a city when the holy spirits hand is on a community. “When revival breaks out.”

The question for us is this: when we observe these things in this account… what does God stir in our hearts for how we should live, pray, and seek?

  1. RADICAL CONVERSIONS / vs 20-21

revival in the hebrides:  One who came into saving and covenant relationship with Jesus Christ spoke on the following evening to a young man. Suddenly conviction grips him, and he begins to tremble and try to shake it off; he goes to the town of Stornoway and enters the tavern to get away from this overwhelming sense of the presence of God, and when he enters the tavern he finds there men speaking about their lost and ruined state. He says, “This is no place for a man anxious to shake this off; I will go to a dance.” That night he went to a dance, and was not in the hall five minutes when a young woman came to him and said, “Oh, where would Eternity find us if God struck us dead now?” The sense of God was everywhere. That evening that young man found the Saviour; he could not escape God.

  1. RADICAL GENEROSITY / vs 27-30

The early church was strikingly different from the culture around it in this way – the pagan society was stingy with its money and promiscuous with its body. A pagan gave nobody their money and practically gave everybody their body. And the Christians came along and gave practically nobody their body and they gave practically everybody their money.” ― Timothy J. Keller

  1. DESTINIES ARE RELEASED: saul / barnabus

 

  1. IMPACTED THE CITY  / Disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.

The world named the church. The church didn’t name itself.

Revival is the personality of Jesus on a community.

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS FROM DUNCAN CAMPBELL ON THE REVIVAL IN THE HEBRIDES: “Oh, dear people, here was a manifestation of God, something greater than planning, something more wonderful than a new approach, something more convincing than a new dynamic in the realm of evangelism. God at work; and I say that is the only answer to the problems that face us today. We may organize, we may plan, but until we get on our faces before God and do business with a covenant-keeping God, we shall not see revival. We can have our conventions and our conferences, and speak of our wonderful times, but what we want, and what we need, is a fresh manifestation of the mighty power of God that brings men down in deep conviction to seek the Saviour.”


5/28/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with OUTWARD (a discussion on how you and your HG can move toward greater generosity)

1 Timothy 6:5-10 / 17-19

and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trapand into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

————-

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

NOTES + QUESTIONS

Take some time with the passage above.

I spoke on the Why, What, and How of giving.

Explore what spontaneous, strategic, and secret generosity looks like in your life.

What prevents this kind of generosity.

How we can make our lives a living biblical experiment based on the promise in Malachi 3:7-12. (“test me”)

AN IDEA / I challenged Homegroups to fast the lunch before Homegroup (or from buying coffee). Take that money you would have spent and put in a jar. Look at the money at the end of the month/season and find someone to bless. Ex: leave the money for single mom in your building with a note that says “God sees you and loves you… enjoy.”


 

5/14/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with WITHWARD

Luke 24:28-32

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

NOTES + QUESTIONS

The Emmaus Road/Meal reveals a God whose self revelation is so unassuming and ordinary. It takes the shape of a conversation on a road and a meal.

File_000

  • Reflect on the painting.
  • There is a sacredness to the meal. throughout Jesus ministry he reveals the heart of God, the hospitality of God, and the presence of God through it. Jesus uses food as God’s great welcome.
  • There is a connection between the Emmaus meal and the Eucharist.

AN OBSERVATION ABOUT JESUS AND FOOD

“There are actually three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man (Jesus) came…”  1. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); 2. “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); 3. “the Son of Man has come eating and drinking…” (Luke 7:34) “ The First two are statements of purpose: Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement is of method. How did Jesus come? “He came eating and drinking.”

  • The way he came to seek and save the lost – was to look them in the face OVER A MEAL and say “I’m here to make you well.”
  • One of the most subversive things Jesus does is eat with the wrong people.

QUESTIONS / REFLECTION

Reflect on the meal. The meals you have. The meals you don’t have. How has Jesus showed up? How does being hospitable people raise life in our culture. do we slow down long enough to eat with out family/friends never mind our neighbors?

5/7/17: Sarah Cowan Johnson

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with WITHWARD this week.

Also, an option that would allow for a deeper conversation would be to focus your discussion on just ONE of the three qualities of resurrection friendship listed below.  I am including a more comprehensive summary on each point with this idea in mind – that you might focus on just one.

John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

NOTES + QUESTIONS

For the past 35 years, people’s personal friend networks have been shrinking. Social isolation has been linked to everything from increased risk of heart disease, stroke, alzheimer’s & lower life expectancies. Despite an increase in the number of ways to “stay connected,” we are arguably more lonely than we’ve ever been and it’s literally killing us.

Part of “raising life in a culture of death” is living out the concept of resurrection friendship – the friendship we were designed for, that Jesus demonstrated on the cross, and that his death and resurrection unleash on the world.

Resurrection friendship is many things, but three qualities that I think are especially relevant for us as a community are:

1/ PURPOSEFUL

The friendship that we see all around us is primarily concerned with the benefits of the friendship to the people involved in the friendship. Resurrection friendship is about committing ourselves together to a greater purpose. Throughout history, God has embedded sacred projects and kingdom purposes into bands of friends and has used these resurrection friendships to change the face of human history. For example: the apostles, early church, Clapham sect… your homegroup? your friend group?

Questions: 

  • What strikes you about this kind of friendship as compared to the “water we swim in”?
  • Who are your resurrection friends? Do you know what purpose God might be calling you to together? What conversations could you have or what intentionality might be needed to figure this out together?
  • If you are someone, like all of us at different times, experiencing loneliness: where might God be inviting you to serve? Is there a group of resurrection friends he could knit your heart to as you serve side-by-side?

2/ INTIMATE

If we can get this one right, we have the opportunity to speak prophetically to a world that has very little imagination in this area.

The 21st century western cultural narrative about intimacy: some imagination about sex that is not intimate; no imagination about intimacy that is not sexual (concentric circles). The church’s corrective to this is to separate the two ideas into a venn diagram: sex on one side, intimacy on the other, and marriage in the overlap. Church has lots to say about marriage, and some to say about sex, but deafening silence about intimacy beyond marriage. The world idolizes sex, the church idolizes marriage, and the result is that no one has anything hopeful, encouraging, or interesting to say about intimacy to anyone not having sex.

To dismantle the lie that marriage and sex have a monopoly on intimacy, we need to root ourselves in a better narrative (gospel narrative + the true intimacy we were designed for) and begin to live as if it were true. (Caveat is that we are also aware of legitimate temptation/sin, and operating within the boundaries of wisdom.)

Questions:

  • What strikes you about this kind of friendship as compared to the “water we swim in”?
  • Married couples: Think about the last time your dinner table was filled with guests. Did they come in pairs? Or in 1s, 3s, 4s, and 6s. Who is most often invited to your table and why?
  • Singles (+ everyone): Is your picture of friendship big enough to include people who are older than you, younger than you, people who come with little ones attached, people who come with significant others attached. Who strikes you as a good candidate for friendship and why?
  • In any of these scenarios, we should ask ourselves: What are the barriers to initiating friendship and pursuing intimacy? Fear? Jealousy? Preferences? Prejudices? Discomforts? Logistics?

3/ RECONCILING

In our world, conflict kills friendship. But good thing for us, we know someone who can raise dead things to life.

Antoine Rutayisire’s ideas on the gospel as it relates to reconciliation: The cross has two arms for a reason. One is for the victim. And one is for the perpetrator. When victim and perpetrator meet at the cross, the perpetrator’s sins are crucified on one side, and the victim’s wounds are crucified on the other. Jesus takes all of that brokenness onto himself, dies with it, then rises to life again. And with him, the relationship is resurrected too.

Reconciliation has two ingredients: repentance and forgiveness. Matthew 18:15-22 is our go-to guide for reconciling conflict in the church. Some things to remember:

  1. We are commanded to forgive whether or not repentance ever happens. Forgiveness is not about fixing the other person. It is about healing us.
  2. We are also instructed not to wait for an apology but to go to the person and allow them the opportunity to repent. This means if we are talking ABOUT someone who has wounded us with no intention of talking TO them, we are in the wrong.
  3. Continuing to forgive over and over does not make us a doormat. Reconciliation requires both ingredients. In the absence of repentance, the relationship is still broken and healthy boundaries may be appropriate.

Let’s be the kind of community that doesn’t allow conflict to kill friendships, but allows Jesus to resurrect them to life.

Questions:

  • What strikes you about this kind of friendship as compared to the “water we swim in”?
  • Is there a relationship in your life that has died? Do you have hope that Jesus could raise it to life? What steps would you need to take.
  • Is there someone within the Sanctuary community that you need to be reconciled to? What can you do this week to take a step towards reconciliation?

4/30/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with  INWARD this week

Mark 1:35-38

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

NOTES + QUESTIONS

  • There’s this whole village that wants him to stay and he basically says, “No, got to go.” There’s this opportunity to do so much good, help so many people, and he turns it down. Jesus doesn’t do everything.
  • QUESTIONS: How could Jesus walk away from this village of people? Have you ever walked away from something “good”? Why or why not?
  • As you go through the scriptures you begin to get the sense after a while that Jesus is headed somewhere and that ‘somewhere’ is Jerusalem. Now it’s not like he’s some sort of preprogrammed robot who has no control over his life. He gets interrupted along the way. Actually, a lot of his teachings are his responses to the questions that people ask him along the way. But he can’t be everything to everybody.
  • He has a compass. He has an orientation. He has a way to orient his life, a path that he’s on. Jesus says no because he’s already said yes. He’s very clear on what his life is about.
  • QUESTIONS: Do you have a hard time saying no? Or perhaps there’s a better question – what is it that you have said yes to? Because you can’t say no until you’ve said yes to something else.” – What is your life about? How could answering that question help you to be more focused?

Ephesians 5:15-17 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity (chronos: God moments), because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Jesus says throughout the Gospels:

“Seek first the Kingdom of God” (the way of heaven, Gods will).

  • How are the invitations in these passages reflected in your life? In your actual schedule?
  • How might you move toward the pursuit of a simple, disciplined, focused life in which you pursue the few things God has for you?

BENEDICTION: May you pursue the few things God has for you. And may you be like Jesus, able to say no, because you’ve already said yes.

——

EXTRA NOTES AND QUESTIONS IF YOU’RE GETTING INTO IT

  • I heard this guy recently say that he’s drowning in good. See the enemy of the best isn’t always the worst. Sometimes the enemy of the best is the good. It’s when we become so busy doing all these good things that we have no energy left to will the one thing.
  • QUESTIONS: Who or what is suffering in your life because you’re busy doing so many good things?
  • The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said that a saint is the person who can will the one thing. He was talking about the kind of person who knows exactly what their life is about.”
  • QUESTIONS: What does it mean to you to “will the one thing”? Do your choices drive you toward the “one thing” in your life?
  • Jesus has just been surrounded by this crowd that has all these expectations of him. There’s all of these people and they have very strong opinions about what he should be doing and who he should be doing it for. So Jesus retreats; he withdraws to check himself, to listen to God, to make sure that all these voices haven’t pulled him off track. You never see Jesus doing anything out of obligation. You never hear him saying, ‘Oh, I guess I should because I’m supposed to.
  • QUESTIONS: How can we avoid letting the expectations of others dictate what we do? When was the last time you were able to retreat?

4/9/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

note: I recommend pairing UPWARD with OUTWARD Path A (first guide) this week.

Luke 19:28-41 | Palm Sunday 

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

Notes

  • I unpacked the stark contrast between how Jesus entered Jerusalem and how Rome (Pilate) entered and what it says about what Jesus’ kingdom looks like.
  • the story of jesus entering jerusalem is an object lesson in the mismatch between our expectations and God’s answer
  • Palm Sunday, in part is about missing the true way of God – when it’s right in front of you. The followers in this scene projected onto Jesus who they wanted him to be – a military savior rather than a humble servant. A warrior rather than a sacrificial lover/savior.

Questions / Conversation Prompts

  • Our temptation when we read these stories is to say… I would
  • There are two ways to enter a city from the east and from the west and the writers of these gospels are confronting us with the way of Pilate and the way of Jesus. Which way?
    • There are two ways to enter into a conversation, treat employees, deal with conflict in marriage, deal with pain, run your house, and treat people.
    • We are confronted with two ways and Jesus pushes us which way? My way or the way you’ve seen? Horses or donkeys? My way or the way of Rome and the world?
    • Two ways to enter the city, from the east or from the west?
      • SO… how is the way of Jesus (the Kingdom) confronting or compelling you in this season?

4/2/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Colossians 1:7 | Take time to read through and absorb the text.

7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant (slave), who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,

Notes

  • to say Jesus is Lord is to say, “You have the right to tell me how to live”
  • one way to think about being a slave to christ: being a Christian where Jesus is lord/king/master is simply to say that I believe Jesus’ way is the best possible way.
  • this raises questions about trust. do i trust that the Jesus’s way is the best most true way.
  • Acknowledging Jesus as king doesn’t simply mean “I do what He wants, not what I want,” but rather “as He teaches me and shows me more of Himself, what I want conforms to what He wants” — which is infinitely more good, true, and beautiful. It’s how I become fully human and fully alive.
  • SO FOR PAUL TO SAY – I’m A SLAVE TO CHRIST…
    • The picture is not someone who is reluctantly serving the master, or bound to a demanding guilting, shaming, overbearing father…
    • Paul someone whose will is, over time and repeated exposure to that Master, lovingly and happily conformed to the Master’s will. Alexander Maclaren called it “the blending and absorption of my own will in His will.” So it is not just, “I do what He wants, not what I want,” but, “As He teaches me and shows me more of Himself, what I want conforms to what He wants.”

Questions

  • what area of my life do i need to submit to jesus’s lordship?
  • where HAVE i trusted Jesus and seen blessing?
  • what does conforming my will to Jesus’ look like.
  • how can i trust who the king says i am (dearly loved)?


3/26/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Psalm 19:7-14 | Take time to read through and absorb the text.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Notes

  • We started with Colossians 3:16a:  Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives.
  • ““Because we approach the gospel with preconceived notions of what it should say rather than what it does say, the Word no longer falls like rain on the parched ground of our souls. It no longer sweeps like a wild storm into the corners of our comfortable piety. It no longer vibrates like sharp lightning in the dark recesses of our nonhistoric orthodoxy. The gospel becomes, in the words of Gertrude Stein, … a pattering of pious platitudes spoken by a Jewish carpenter in the distant past.” + Brennan Manning
  • Prioritize spending time in the Word:

tyson margin time

Questions

  • What jumps out to you personally about the way the writer talks about the Word? / What moves/convicts you?
  • What habits/practices/rhythms/disciplines do you have or need in studying the scriptures? Share together
  • How can the word dwell richly among us?

3/19/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Colossians 3:15-16 | Take time to read through and absorb the text.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 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.

Notes

  • When entitlement is high, gratitude is low. When gratitude is high, entitlement is low. Gratitude begins where our sense of entitlement ends.
  • Gratitude / giving thanks – is so central to the life that God has made for us. Until we can center ourselves on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith – on the reality of who we are now because of him, on all that what we do have, on the life we do get to live, we’ll constantly be looking for another life as someone dominated by entitlement.
  • The word REMEMBER occurs again and again in the Bible. God commands his people to remember who they are, and where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, what’s been done for them. (leave a corner)
  • Giving Thanks will always take you back to what matters.
  • I highlighted one section in Col 2 where the writer Paul points out what Jesus has accomplished. There is more in Col 1 – and the rest of the Bible :)
    • Colossians 2:13-15 | When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross

Questions

  • What did you take away from Sunday?
  • How do we as individuals and a community remain thankful?
  • It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what we do. How can you practice thankfulness for who God is and what he has done?

2/19/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Colossians 1:19| Take time to read through and absorb the text.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus)…

Notes

  • There is a lot happening in Colossians 1:15-20. There is a cross section of themes all pointing to the supreme place of Jesus. One transliteration of this passage reads “15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
  • In my sermon I zeroed in on the fact that because of all of this – Jesus can be trusted. That Jesus is worth centering your life around.
    • I then took us to the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus (remember, the fullness of God) shows us that we can…
      • entrust our stuff to God / Matthew 6:19-24 (be aware of what is fleeting)
      • entrust your self to God / Matthew 6:25-34  (do not worry)
      • entrust others to God / Matthew 7:1-6  (don’t try and control people)
    • Don’t just be a fan or an onlooker – someone who buys into a philosophy of Jesus and not the person. When it’s Always. Only. Jesus. He stays first, you stay second. There is an amazing freedom in that. It sets you free to work for the right reasons to get concerned about the right things. God’s presence, God’s commands, his love is always better than your desire, worries, your stuff – always.

Questions

  1. How can you begin to / or go further in entrusting these areas to God.
  2. How does knowing who Jesus is and what he has done – help us entrust our ____ to God.
  3. If in Jesus we see the fullness of all that God is… how can grow this week in the knowledge of God? What practices can you lean into? How can you become more centered on Jesus?

2/12/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Colossians 1:9-12 | Take time to read through and absorb the text.

 NIV / 9 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, 10 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, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 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. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

MSG / Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

Notes

  • Whether you’re a new Christian yourself, needing to grow in the faith, or a Christian leader, wanting to nurture those in your care, Paul’s prayer for the new church in Colossae provides a wonderful pattern
  • The foundation of what the Apostle Paul prays for here is that the Christian instinct may become firmly implanted in them, and thus bear good fruit – that they would be Jesus-centered.
  • When people become Christians, God implants into them a new sense of his presence and love, his guiding and strengthening. This sense needs nurturing and developing.
  • A SUMMARY WORD ABOUT ALL OF COLOSSIANS:  When people become Christians, God implants into them a new sense of his presence and love, his guiding and strengthening. This sense needs nurturing and developing. New Christians need to understand what’s happening to them, and how they must cooperate with the divine life that’s gently begun to work in them.
  • We will see over the course of this series that Paul is calling this Church to recognize where true maturity comes from – where the life is – whats at the center of it all – where true wisdom resides.

Questions

  1. Look over Paul’s prayer in verses 9-12. What would it mean for someone to pray these things for you? Think of specific areas where you need those prayers
  2. Why is understanding God’s will important for spiritual growth?
  3. The climax of Paul’s prayer is that these Christians will learn the art of thanksgiving. What Paul most wants to see growing in the church, as a sign of healthy Christian life on the way to maturity, is gratitude to God for the extraordinary things he’s done in Jesus and the remarkable things he is continuing to do in the world and in their lives. Spontaneous gratitude of this kind is a sign that they are coming to know and love the true God.When, why and how do you most frequently thank God?

Pray 

Pray that what Paul heard about the Colossians will also be said of you and your Homegroup. Pray that you will be marked by wisdom, love, faith, hope and a spirit of thanksgiving.


2/7/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Psalm 63:1-8 | Take time to read through and absorb the text.

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Notes

  • To praise God is to call attention to his glory – to ascribe greatness – to give thanks.
  • I spoke on the 7 words for praise in the Old Testament and how they help us engage different aspects of praising God. (See your notes)

  • We want to see the manifest presence of God in our church Lets be a church that praises God. That is more enthusiastic about God than anything else.

Questions

  1. How do you think your day to day would change  if  you threaded your days with praise (thanksgiving). What disciplines could you start?
  2. What stirs in your heart when you read Psalm 63
  3. It was a powerful service. Were there ways you encountered God, things that you heard or felt?

1/22/17: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

COLOSSIANS 3:2 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Notes

  • Church Kids should be so heavenly minded that they are of immense earthly good.

  • Are we developing radar for the God who is present in the everyday and mundane. Remember, God doesn’t show up – we show up.

  • Remaining aware of Godʼs presence moment-by-moment canʼt help but revolutionize how we actually live. Surrendering to Godʼs will takes us out of our self-focused flesh-mind-set and empowers us to see what God sees, love as God loves, and sacrifice for others the way God has sacrificed for us. Nothing could be as socially impacting as this.

Questions

  1. How can belief in another world (the reality of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God/heaven) change the way I respond to the experiences of everyday life.
    1. money, hardship, death, moral failure.
  2. Do your values  reflect earthly or heavenly ones?
  3. How can we I become the kind of people that see dimension and depth to things that others miss?

A Prayer

We know that you are ever with us, yet far too often we seem to be alone.

Our vision is dulled by our stubborn insistence that you come to us as we expect,

Help us now to seek only you,

and not the image of you which we have made,

Shake the scales of blindness from our eyes

that we may see you and your healing power and recognize the touch of your hand

May we know and believe that you, our God, are in our midst today

And every day, forever and ever. Amen.

Let us sing a new song.

Your song of love, peace, and restoration


1/8/17: Sarah Cowan Johnson

UPWARD / Practice Together

MATTHEW 2:1-12  

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:

‘“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.”’ 

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Notes

  • God wants to be known/found. He put a star in the sky to get the attention of Gentile astrologers who otherwise might not have heard about them. He initiates with humanity in ways they can understand, because he wants to be known.

  • Our intentionality matters / God responds to our desire to know him. God initiated, but the Magi needed to respond. They began a costly, 2-year journey of seeking, not knowing exactly what they would find. God initiates with humanity, but he doesn’t force us to seek him. That is our choice. The more we seek, the more we find. The more we want him, the more of himself he gives. The thing that often keeps us from seeking and wanting more of God is the fact that we are so content with what we already have and know of him. Spiritual contentment is a dressed up version of spiritual apathy: both lead to inaction.

Questions

  1. In what ways are you “content” with your current level of knowledge/intimacy with God? What places in your relationship with him are “just fine” – places where you have stopped seeking more of him? What keeps you from wanting God to come closer, from wanting more of Him?
  2. There is so much more to God – more love, more joy, more intimacy, more power, more hope, more freedom – than what any of us knows today. How badly do we want this, and what are we going to do to get it? What can you do specifically these next two weeks (First Seek, Jan 8-22) to be intentional about seeking more of God?

1/1/17: Greg Johnson

UPWARD / Practice Together

MATTHEW 4:1-4  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Notes

  • If Jesus needed to fast and pray to see a breakthrough in his status quo, we should try fasting and prayer if we want to see a breakthrough in our status quo.

    Fasting does not transform us but it positions us for God to transform us.

    There are some breakthroughs in our lives, church, and city that will only come through prayer and fasting

Questions

  1. What thoughts come to your mind when you think about fasting?

  2. What is an area in your life or the world around where you would like to see a change in the status quo?

  3. As a church community we are preparing to set aside two weeks, from Jan 8-22, for an intentional time of prayer and fasting. Click here for a full explanation, including daily prayer prompts and suggestions for various types of fasts. We encourage you to participate with us in some way – exactly how you decide to participate is up to you. It may be helpful to process the following with your triad:
    • What kind of fast might God be calling you to?
    • What do you want to fast for?
    • What do you want to fast from?
    • How will you set aside time to pray during this time?

12/11/16: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

HEBREWS 2 He was made fully human in every way / he suffered so he can help those who suffer and those who are tempted.

HEBREWS 4 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are

Notes

  • The writers are saying: there is a power to help and comfort that comes from going through it. This is what God has done.
  • Jesus / Emmanuel, who has suffered where we have suffered – now has infinite power to comfort.
  • Christmas shows us a God unlike the god of any other faith. It shows us a different way to see the world: have you been betrayed, have you been lonely, have you faced death… so has GOD

  •  The Christmas story reminds us that God has been all the places you have been. He has been in the darkness you are in now – so you can trust him, you can rely on him, because he knows and has the power to strengthen and comfort.
  • Not just solidarity – but the POWER to bring you through

Questions

  1. How/does this help you know the COMFORT of God
  2. What came up for you in the Practice/question time?
  3. How does this inform how you serve those around you

12/04/16: Andrew Mook

UPWARD / Practice Together

Matthew 1:1-17 / This week I read the genealogy of Jesus and shared some of the hidden meaning and beauty found in it.

Notes

  • On the genealogy of Jesus:It’s as if everyone who would be excluded by one group or another is being brought together in God’s family. We learn something about who God is, and what God is up to. We learn this Advent season to
    • Rest, for God has forgiven you and welcomed you home.
    • Rest, for God is faithful.
    • Rest, for God is making all things new.

Questions

  1. Do any of these truths speak to you in a particular way this season?
    1. Rest, for God has forgiven you and welcomed you home.
    2. Rest, for God is faithful.
    3. Rest, for God is making all things new.
  2. What practices might help you take hold of the deep and abiding rest God brings?

An Alternative “UP” practice

We ended with a practice of reflecting on a piece of art and writing. Did God use this in some way? How?

eve-and-mary
O Eve!
My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Forever
Life without end.
– Sr Columba Guare


The painting is by Sister Grace Remington, OCSO
Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa.