7.6.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Lord and His Prayer

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

Hosea 11:1-4; Isaiah 49:14-16

There were powerful assumptions about the nature of life in our world behind Jesus’ opening phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. Speaking of “Our Father” reminded us that, beyond all of our surface differences, we humans are all part of the same family. And, as today’s readings show, the Hebrew Scriptures ascribed the very best parental qualities (father AND mother) to God.

TUESDAY
Matthew 4:17-23,
1 Peter 2:9-10

Jesus launched his public ministry, Matthew said, by announcing “the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23). The “present tense” character of Jesus’ message is important for those of us who’ve tended to think of God’s Kingdom solely in future terms. To pray for the coming of the Kingdom is not just a wispy, wistful dream of an idealized future. It is a claim of our true citizenship here and now, and a way of bowing to God as our true king.

WEDNESDAY
Isaiah 55:1-7;
Matthew 5:6

Jesus faced the temptation to turn stones into bread, to meet his immediate physical want no matter the spiritual cost. In answer, he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, which was about Israel’s wilderness experience with manna (cf. Exodus 16:14-21): “People don’t live on bread alone. No, they live based on whatever the Lord says.” That story clearly lay behind this part of the Lord’s Prayer. We do not ask for a lifetime supply of bread—just what we need for this day.

 

THURSDAY
Luke 7:36-50, Colossians 3:12-14

Jesus told people that God forgave them, that they could really find a fresh start in life. Sadly, that outraged the religious leaders of his day. For Jesus, forgiveness was a fundamental Kingdom reality. If God did not forgive, no fallible human could have hope. But Jesus also knew that it’s really not credible to claim God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we aren’t willing to forgive others.

FRIDAY
John 10:2-5, 11-15; Romans 8:12-14

The Lord’s Prayer is a chance for us to look at who God is, and an invitation to follow Him. The phrase “Lead us not into temptation” may seem as if we’re asking God to not take us to where trouble dwells, to keep us away from the messes of life. But God wouldn’t lead us into temptation (cf. James 1:13). This phrase serves as a promise that God will continually have our best interest in mind, and a reminder to always let God lead us

SATURDAY
Luke 11:1-4, Matthew 6:7-15

The fact that Luke and Matthew gave different settings for the Lord’s Prayer suggests that Jesus taught this prayer to his followers often, not just on one dramatic occasion. (Many scholars believe that was the case with most of the material that we call “The Sermon on the Mount.”) Jesus didn’t mean the Lord’s Prayer to be a museum piece, framed and placed on a mantel or in a display case. It was a prayer for God’s people to weave into their lives. That makes it most fitting that at Resurrection we pray this prayer every week in worship.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord God, to your will and your kingdom (not ours), we ascribe power and glory forever. Adjust our values; shepherd us throughout our lives. Thank you for your daily bread and your loving forgiveness, for filling our hearts and our minds with your kingdom. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

What one or two things are most important in helping you decide what is right and wrong in your particular circumstances?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Hosea 11:1-4; Isaiah 49:14-16. Do you feel that God is with you as you go through your daily life? How do you picture where God’s is located—in the air, inside you or somewhere else? Do you feel as if you are part of God’s family? Who is included in God’s family? How have you felt support from other members of God’s family? How have these kinds of questions shaped or held back your spiritual life and growth?

 Read Matthew 4:17-23, 1 Peter 2:9-10. Jesus personally called his disciples. Have you felt called by Christ and if so, how were you called? When we say, “Thy kingdom come”, what do you believe we are calling for? Is God’s kingdom something in the future, or is it in the here and how? Are you confident that you are a citizen of that kingdom? How did you gain that citizenship? Do you feel as if you are part of a “royal priesthood”? If so, how were you “trained” for this position? In what ways have you served as an ambassador of that kingdom?

 Read Isaiah 55:1-7; Matthew 5:6. Have you ever bought things it seemed as if you couldn’t live without, and then found that they were unsatisfying? Why is that so often true? What kinds of things are ultimately more satisfying? How does our prayer for our daily bread differ from praying for financial independence? If you have plenty of money, does that mean you do not need to turn to God daily for sustenance? Why or why not? Do you “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? What does this mean? What drives this hunger?

 Read Luke 7:36-50, Colossians 3:12-14. Do you see yourself as a sinner, and therefore in need of asking God for forgiveness? Do you see Christ’s point when he said, “The one who is forgiven little loves little”? Do you see God as mainly angry about sins, as indifferent and indulgent in excusing sins, or as compassionate and forgiving when we miss the mark? What difference do you see between “excusing” and “forgiving”? Think of someone you need to forgive, even if you cannot contact them. How can we move ourselves toward forgiveness, even when we still feel hurt or angry?

 Read John 10:2-5, 11-15; Romans 8:12-14. What is the point of the metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep? Is Jesus saying that we are all merely sheep? What might the wolf represent? What might the hired hand represent? Would our shepherd lead us into temptation? If not, why is this phrase part of his prayer? If in the prayer, we pause briefly after the words, “Lead us…” how might that change the meaning of the line? In Romans, what is the significance of Paul calling us “brothers and sisters”? Where has God been leading you lately?

 Read Luke 11:1-4, Matthew 6:7-15. How meaningful is the Lord’s Prayer to you? What kind of impact should that prayer have on our daily lives as Christians? What steps can we and will we take to detach our lives and affections from this seen but temporary world, and to not only pray but live out Jesus’ prayer as citizens of God’s Kingdom?

From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider your answer to the five questions Pastor Hamilton asked at the end of his sermon? Did anything change in your life as a result of answering those questions? Please consider sharing your answers while finding ways you can support one another as a group in making those changes.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Jeff Kirby’s sermon, July 6, 2014:
The Lord’s Prayer is found two times in the Gospels, once in Luke 11 and the other, the text we will use for today’s lesson, in Matthew 6, right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. The settings are a bit different, and the words vary slightly, but the two are essentially the same prayer. Luke’s version is a little shorter. Matthew’s was adjusted for use in public worship. You will notice that the phrase “For thine is the Kingdom and power and glory” is not in either gospel record of the prayer. That phrase was attached later to help it flow in the worship service and is lifted from I Chronicles 29:11.
There are two ways we can use the Lord’s Prayer. One is to recite it just as it was given. We have historical evidence of this practice all the way back to the second century where a manuscript known as the Didache instructs the early Christians to pray this prayer three times every day. The other is to see the Lord’s Prayer as a model, a template for our prayers….
The prayer is in two main sections. Notice the first petitions focus on the word “Your” as in “Your name” and “your Kingdom” while the final three highlight the word “us.” The first portion of the prayer helps us focus on God, His name, His kingdom, His will. The second is the prayers for our needs, for daily bread/provisions, forgiveness and our need for protection. This already helps us to learn how to pray, placing God’s agenda at the forefront of our prayers, then following with presenting our needs before Him….
1. Adoration: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
It is only because Jesus Christ, the unique, one and only Son of God invites us into a deepening personal relationship with God through himself that we dare address God as Father. Jesus said: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27) We can begin our prayer by addressing God as Father only because we have been invited into a relationship with God through His Son. Because we are joined to Christ by faith we have been given the incomprehensible privilege of calling God “Our Father.” Jesus includes us in his own intimate, familial approach to God. And so with deep humility and respect we address God as “Father.”…
The second phrase, “Hallowed be thy name,” requires a clarifying note. For the Hebrew people, and for the Christian, God’s name is very sacred. The third of the Ten Commandments reads: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7)
Hallowed is not a word heard today, unless it is in this context. To “Hallow” means to “honor as holy, to greatly revere or respect.” God’s name is indicative of His character and person and is to be held in honor. I don’t want to go on a rant here, but please be careful in how you use God’s name. Jewish people still revere the name of God. When reading on a Jewish web site this week I noticed this exhortation: “This page contains the name of God. If you print this page please treat that paper with great respect.” You get the idea. I hear too many people, whether on the golf course or the church conference room says, “Oh God,” and not in a prayerful way….
“Who art in heaven.” Heaven, in this context, is not some far off place. It is right there, the place where God is close by. Heaven is where God is in full control, where everything is going God’s way. Don’t think geographic distance, think dimension of existence.
2. Petition: May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Lord’s Prayer is a very Jewish prayer in its form and essential content. The first petitions concerning the Hallowing of God’s name and the prayer for the Kingdom to come to earth parallel the Jewish prayers known as the Kaddish almost exactly. The Kaddish is a hymn of praise to God found in the Jewish prayer service. The central theme is the magnification and sanctification of God’s name. This prayer later became what Jewish people would pray for their loved ones after their deaths. It reads:
“Magnified and hallowed be his great name in the world which he created according to his will, and may he make his kingship sovereign in your lifetime and in your days.” This is also the prayer that concluded the synagogue worship service….
Jesus began his ministry with the words, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) When he taught he said, “The kingdom of God is like…” When he healed the sick and cast out demons he said it was evidence that the kingdom of God had come. Everything that Jesus said and did was focused on this essential topic of the kingdom of God. So it should not be a surprise that he also instructed us to pray, “May your kingdom come and your will be done.”
3. Intercession: “Give us today our daily bread.”
Praying for our daily bread seems almost silly. As any first grader can tell you, our bread doesn’t come from God, it comes from the Hen House or the Price Chopper. For some, the very idea that we would bother God at all bringing to His attention our desire for bread seems not very spiritual….But Jesus did not depreciate our need for physical “stuff.” His ministry of healing the sick and feeding the multitudes illustrates that God cares about these things too. That we can call God “Our Father” reminds us that, like earthly fathers, God cares that we have what we need to negotiate life. This part of the prayer comes out of the Book of Proverbs: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches, But give me only my daily bread.” Proverbs 30:8
4. Forgiveness: “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.”
I remember when some of my Presbyterian friends learned I was joining the staff of this church, they were very concerned for my salvation. One sweet elderly lady pulled me aside and warned me that “they say trespasses over there in the Lord’s Prayer” as if that might put at risk my eternal salvation….
Why do some traditions use “debts” and others “trespasses?” Because the Bible does!…The idea of “debts” was an Aramaic use of the word “debts” in a moral sense. This is not an issue either way! It is a prayer for forgiveness. Whether you confess your “debts”, “trespasses” or “sins” the reality is we all need forgiveness.
5. Resistance: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
This petition is a request for protection. Again this has a near exact parallel in the Jewish Talmud: “Bring me not into sin, or into iniquity, or into temptation. And may the good inclination have sway over me and let not the evil inclination have sway over me.”
The original word used here is the Greek is not a religious word and could be translated “testing.” This can get a little confusing. We read at times that God was “testing” certain people and yet we read in James, “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt any person…” (James 1:13) There appears to be a fine line between “tempting” and “testing.” There may be times when God tests our hearts, our love, but it would not be good to think of God as tempting us, certainly never with evil.

Reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer has shaped the lives of Jesus’ followers ever since he first taught it to his disciples. Rooted in Jesus’ relationship to the Father, the prayer encompasses the whole of life, inviting us to pray for God’s presence and power to change the world and to change us.
The Lord’s Prayer is found in two versions in the New Testament (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). In Matthew’s Gospel, it sits alongside Jesus’ teaching on giving and fasting, while in Luke’s Gospel, it is followed by Jesus’ teaching on the importance of persistence and faith in prayer. Although Luke’s shorter version may be closer to Jesus’ original prayer, Matthew’s longer version fills out the details and is closest to that used in churches today.
For those familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, it is easy to rush through the words without always grasping what they mean. This short guide, then, briefly explores its meaning and offers prompts for praying with each clause.
The prayer begins where it started – by turning our eyes on the God whom we address, and so orienting our lives around that reality. The acknowledgement that the “kingdom, the power, and the glory” belong to God puts things in perspective. Although it is a mystery why some prayers are answered and others seem not to be, God is ultimately in control. God can be trusted.
Far More at the source: http://www.methodist.org.uk/media/751363/dd-explore-devotion-the-lords-prayer-0113.pdf

Final application:
During this next week, begin each day by praying the Lord’s Prayer and reflect on the meaning of each phrase. Prayerfully consider how you might alter your life so as to more closely follow the guidance the prayer offers. Next week, please share with the group how this process affected you.

 

 

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6.29.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Principles, Practices and Christ’s Mission

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Acts 1:1-8,
Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus, raised from the dead, was preparing to leave earth. Before ascending, he spent about forty days (cf. Acts 1:3) preparing his followers to carry on his work. Though his “marching orders” were clear, they must have sounded breathtaking and daunting to the little company of disciples. They’re still our orders, and still breathtaking: “make disciples of all nations….to the end of the earth.”

TUESDAY
Luke 4:16-21,
Luke 19:1-10

At the end of Jesus’ three years of public ministry, the outcome might have seemed like a real letdown to human eyes. He had only 120 or so followers, and determined hostility from the religious leaders of his nation. Yet from our vantage point, we can see that those three years of ministry changed the world forever. And a key to Jesus’ ability to do that was his crystal-clear, resolute sense of what his mission was, what he was here to do.

WEDNESDAY
Romans 6:15-23

Commentators aren’t sure if Paul was mainly concerned about libertines who really thought God’s grace meant they could do whatever they pleased, or legalists who made fun of his teaching about grace. Perhaps the Christian community in Rome had both types of people in it! Regardless, Paul insisted that accepting Jesus as Savior changes your life for the better. Being a disciple means giving control of your life to the Lord who can give you life.

THURSDAY
Hebrews 10:19-25

It was tough to be a Christian in the first-century Roman Empire, as it was for John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, and the early Methodists. The early Christians needed each other’s support and strength to stay spiritually on track. And Wesley echoed Hebrews in stressing the importance of living our faith in community—we are to encourage one another, “sparking love and good deeds.”

FRIDAY
John 4:19-35

It was a long, well-established reality: Jews and Samaritans didn’t talk to one another. Jews and Samaritans shunned one another (cf. John 4:9). But the argument that “We don’t do things that way” didn’t deter Jesus. He saw a woman, and a city, ready to respond to his kingdom message of love. He was willing to change whatever he needed to change, if it meant reaching people who were “ripe for the harvest.”

SATURDAY
Matthew 22:34-40

One of the most visible features of Resurrection is the congregation’s size. But our mission statement is not to “be big,” but to be a place where people are becoming deeply committed Christians. As Jesus said when a legal expert asked him about the Greatest Commandment, loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind leads us to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we love our neighbors as ourselves, we show the love of Christ to those around us. Love is contagious and God wants us to show it to all we know. So our hope and prayer is that our church has grown numerically because of the way God ignites our hearts by His love.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord Jesus, give me a heart open to your Spirit’s power, and a willingness to answer your call, wherever you and your mission may take me. Thank you for giving us to each other as a community of believers who can encourage and support each other as we draw near to you together. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

What would you say are the one or two principles or practices that are totally non-negotiable in shaping your daily life?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Acts 1:1-8, Matthew 28:18-20. In what ways did Jesus’ marching orders make it clear that, in the end, his mission for us as individuals and as a church are all about reaching people, not about structures or organizations? And God’s primary way of carrying out the mission was also about people: “You will be my witnesses.” What factors made it more effective for God to use people as witnesses? In what ways have you been able to live out Jesus’ commission for you to be one of his witnesses?

 Read Luke 4:16-21, Luke 19:1-10. The words Jesus quoted (and adapted) from Isaiah 61:1-3—“To preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”—have a nice poetic ring. What can we do each day to live into the meaning of those words in the gritty, unpoetic, day-to-day realities of life? How did Luke 19:10 express Jesus’ unswerving sense of his mission? Are there other worthy missions that could distract us from Jesus’ central mission?

 Read Romans 6:15-23. Pastor Stuart Briscoe wrote that being free from sin means “[Christians do] not have to go on sinning, and treating righteous living as something that is good if you can get around to it.” In what ways has your loyalty to Christ given you the freedom to change your life for the better? What hurtful or destructive actions, feelings or thoughts have, at some point in your life, made you their slave? How did (or will) Jesus’ love free you from those things?

 Read Hebrews 10:19-25. We all need encouragement to keep us going at times. That’s what the writer to the Hebrews had in mind: “let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds” (verse 24). When have you needed someone you trust to give you a boost in your life of faith? When have you done that for someone else? In what ways do you as members of this group do that for one another? In what ways can you deepen your commitment to one another, so as to do an even better job of “sparking love and good deeds”?

 Read John 4:19-35. “The woman” (verses 27-29) was the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well—she’d had five husbands and was thirsty for “living water.” The disciples were surprised Jesus talked to her at all; so was she, at first. But Jesus saw a different potential in her, and she became the first “preacher” of the good news in the gospel of John. Is there someone you see in a negative light who might be worth a fresh look through Jesus’ eyes? When Jesus saw Samaritans coming toward him, he said to the disciples, “Open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest.” Are there any “harvests” (people groups, parts of town, etc.) you might be in danger of overlooking because they aren’t as familiar or comfortable for you?

 Read Matthew 22:34-40. God calls us to love others as God loves us—unconditionally. Loving our neighbors as ourselves means showing unwarranted love with no hesitation. Are there times when that is hard, even within your group? What stopped you from loving someone relentlessly today? How can you love them unconditionally tomorrow?

From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider whether you are being sucked into the daily grind at work, unable to focus on what’s most important to your faith life? Did you find ways to escape the never-ending emails, text messages and phone calls, even for a few minutes at a time? Share with your group any ways God helped you achieve greater balance to your life and to make your life at work more meaningful for him.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, June 29, 2014:

What I’d like to do today is share with you one small portion of one of the talks I’ve been giving across the country this last month on spiritual leadership. As I returned from the last of the conferences I felt these were things that would be important for our congregation to know and to practice…. Here are the key ideas, in a nutshell

Vital Christianity is
1. Clear about its mission
2. Focused on people
3. Willing to do what is difficult

The first of the principles of effective people, churches and organizations is being clear about the mission. A mission answers the question, “Why are we here?” This is as important for a Sunday School class as for a large corporation. It is important for a soldier on a battlefield and for a Christian who seeks to live for Christ each day.…
Our mission comes from Jesus whom we follow as our Lord. There are three different passages in the gospels that might capture our mission as his followers, both individually and as churches.

The first we might call the Great Invitation: As Jesus called the fishermen to be his disciples he used these words: “Come and follow me and I’ll make you fish for people.” We might say from these words of our Master that: The mission of a Christian is to follow Jesus and to draw others to him.

Jesus also gave us the two Great Commandments, which he said summarized the entirety of scripture: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” When he was 85, John Wesley preached a sermon called, “What is Man” in which he noted that the aim of every human being “is to know, love, and serve his great Creator.” At our Leawood Campus this appears in 20 inch letters in the narthex—we call it our journey: “Our Journey: To know, love and serve God.”

Then there is Great Commission. In Matthew 28 we read about the last time the disciples saw Jesus: “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.’” Luke mentions these final words of Jesus slightly differently: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So, having come to faith in Christ, become his followers, and seeking to know, love and serve God and to love our neighbors, we are sent forth to tell others about Christ and to teach the world the things he taught. Which takes us back to the idea of fishing for people.

We’ve articulated our mission here at Resurrection as a statement of purpose. OUR PURPOSE IS TO BUILD A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WHERE NON-RELIGIOUS AND NOMINALLY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE BECOMING DEEPLY COMMITTED CHRISTIANS. This shapes and guides everything that we do. It embraces the Great Invitation, Commandments and Commission.
That leads to a second leadership principle: Nearly all dynamic, healthy and vital organizations and individuals are focused on caring for, developing relationships with, and helping people. This is precisely what Jesus was talking about in the second great command, that we’re to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It is what we find in John when Jesus said, GRAPHIC: “By this the world will know that you are my disciples: that you love one another.”

The second principle is that fulfilling your mission as a Christian is largely about your willingness to care for and be in relationship with people. Most people come to faith in Christ not as a result of your superior theological ideas, as important as it is to be able to express your theology in compelling ways. Most people come to faith in Christ because a Christian they trust or respect expressed love to them in tangible ways and then invited them….

In the end this emphasis on people and relationships is why our parking lot ministry matters, and the greeters, and the ushers, and those who answer the phones and the Congregational Care Ministers, and every other volunteer and servant minister here. It is why we deliver coffee mugs to first time visitors. It is why it matters that those of you who attend the picnic this weekend at the Leawood campus, or any other fellowship events at any other campus realize that this is both something you do for fellowship and fun, but you are always “on”—you are always meant to be looking to include the persons who are sitting alone, or looking for the stranger. We’ve got to be able to make a case for our faith. But Jesus spent very little time making the case for the existence of God, or explaining theology. He spent a lot of time showing people God and then calling them to follow him….

The last of the principles that I’d like to mention today is that vital Christianity, in Christians and in churches, is a faith that is willing to do what is difficult and inconvenient—to do whatever it takes. I often call this “discernment by nausea,” because we’ll often find ourselves at a fork in the road, and one path is easy, comfortable, convenient and requires little of us. The other path is hard, difficult, scary and inconvenient and will require sacrifice. Which of those two paths is most likely God’s path?

In 1992 we had outgrown the McGilley Chapel Funeral Home where we began. We had to move. We had two options. One was to move to Leawood Elementary School. The school would require that we get to the church at 6:30 a.m. to set up. We’d have to stay until 1:30 to take everything down. But the school was on the main road and the gym seated 350 people. The other alternative was a little church whose congregation was moving and they were selling their building. It was nestled in a neighborhood where few people would find it. It only seated 250 people. But it was a church building, with pews, stained glass, and we would have no set-up or take down and for a congregation meeting in a funeral home the idea of having a building was very compelling. The church building felt great, comfortable, convenient, easy, and convenient. The school felt the opposite. But as we wrestled with which of these will help us fulfill our mission, we knew we needed to rent the school. We immediately grew from 250 a weekend to 350 and then to 500 over two years.
What would have happened to Resurrection had we chosen the convenient path, bought the church building and landed there? My hunch is that we would be a church of 300 per weekend in worship. There’s nothing wrong with 300 per weekend, but think of all the ministry that never would have happened had we done what was most convenient….

Being a Disciple of Jesus requires taking the more difficult path. I remember Dick Cray, I think it was, who bought me the Franklin Time Management Course back in 1992. I don’t remember anything else from it but this one phrase. It said: “The successful business person is willing to do the things an unsuccessful business person is unwilling to do.” We hope and pray for blessings, but those blessings come when we give ourselves away and seek to serve. Jesus said the same thing this way: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The narrow way isn’t narrow to keep people out. The narrow way is narrow because it is inconvenient and many are unwilling to travel that way….

I want to ask you these questions:
1. Are you clear about your mission from Christ – to follow him and fish for people?
2. Are you looking for ways to bear witness to your faith both with your actions and with your words?
3. Who will you invite to church, and who will you encourage to get back to church in the next week or two?
4. Are you willing to give of yourself, to sacrifice your time and talents and resources, to pursue Christ’s mission – to take the
road less travelled?

And I’ll get very specific: if you are not currently volunteering anywhere in the life of the church, would you commit to looking for a place to volunteer and to serve?

Final application:

During this next week, prayerfully consider your answer to the five questions Pastor Hamilton asked at the end of his sermon above. Will anything change in your life as a result of answering those questions? Next week, share your answers, and find ways that you can support one another as a group in making those changes.

6.22.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Getting Out of the Office

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Proverbs 16:3, 8-9, 11

The Hebrew sages who compiled Proverbs wrote down general truths about how life works much of the time. (Other books, like Job, were the counterpoint, reminders that life doesn’t always work as neatly as we’d like.) “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” had to be qualified a bit. Verse 8 showed that some plans (e.g. making profits unrighteously) just couldn’t be “committed to the Lord.” It was important to define “succeed” on God’s terms: “Better a little with righteousness than great profits without justice.”

TUESDAY
Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-4

Most Israelites saw Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, as an undesirable town where their worst enemies lived. When God first called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah resisted. He “fled from the presence of the Lord” toward Tarshish, in Spain, as far from Nineveh as he could get. Though Jonah denied his calling, God remained persistent. When He called Jonah, for the second time, to travel to Nineveh, the prophet obeyed. He left his comfort zone to pursue God’s plans for him.

WEDNESDAY
Jonah 3:5, 9-10, 4:1-5, 10-11

When Jonah grudgingly went to Nineveh, he still had hopes. His entire message was, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). He wanted to see Nineveh flattened! The Hebrew Scriptures preserved this story, not to endorse Jonah’s spirit, but rather, through God’s challenge to the sulking prophet at the end, to show that God’s love truly extends to the whole world.

THURSDAY
Acts 16:13-15, 23-34

A dealer in purple cloth (a rare and royal item in New Testament times) would have been a wealthy merchant. A jailer, on the other hand, was not much in the social order—he was probably paid the minimum Rome could get away with, and seen as a contaminated person who dealt with “social scum.” But God’s love reached out to both people—and changed not just one individual, but that person’s entire household.

FRIDAY
Colossians 1:3-10

God’s work, God’s mission, has always been global in its scope. But God’s wisdom has always gone about this global work in local, personal ways. The letter to the Colossian Christians said God’s grace was “bearing fruit and growing in the whole world,” and then immediately shifted gears to say, “You learned it from Epaphras” (a seldom-named associate of the apostle Paul). God’s “secret:” bearing fruit in the whole world, one person at a time.

SATURDAY
Psalm 90:13-17

Psalm 90 was a poem that reflected on how fragile and temporary our human life seems (cf. Psalm 90:3-6). In and of itself, that can be a deeply depressing reality, making life and work seem pointless. But the perspective of this hopeful Israelite hymn stretched well beyond the boundaries of this life. Its final prayer focused on our eternal God, and asked God to make our work have such positive impact that it would last, not just for a few years but for eternity.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Almighty God, you built us to work. Guide us, individually and together, to the work of greatest significance you are calling us to do. And, Lord God, by your power at work through us, make the work of our hands last. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

How do you hope you will be remembered after your death? What are your hopes for the next life?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Proverbs 16:3, 8-9, 11. Without putting your own “spin” on it, how would you say success is usually measured in America today? From a Christian perspective, how are we to measure our “success” in life? In your workplace experience, has the general perspective on this question conflicted with the Christian perspective? How have you been made to feel conflicted on this question? Have you ever felt that God has intervened during times of this kind of conflict?

 Read Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-4. God demanded that Jonah leave his “comfort zone” and travel to Nineveh, the unfamiliar city of his peoples’ greatest enemy. How would you define your work-related comfort zone? What makes this seem so comfortable? What might make getting out of our comfort zones a positive thing to do? Why might God ask us to face our fears of the unknown and leave our comfort zones? How might confronting new situations become real opportunities and enhance our lives?

 Read Jonah 3:5, 9-10, 4:1-5, 10-11. Jonah successfully preached God’s message. Did Jonah believe that message? Do we, as Christians, always believe in the messages we preach? What causes us to – sometimes – fail to really believe? Considering the peoples of this world whom we consider to be our greatest enemies (e.g. North Koreans, Chinese, or extremist Muslims) would you be happy to be sent by God to preach his message to them, knowing that, as a result, God truly might bless them and restore their countries and their lives? How can we become more in step with God’s love for the entire world? Would you even want to?

 Read Acts 16:13-15, 23-34. What is the common link between these two passages? What is the striking difference between the passages? Would Lydia and the jailer be seen as friends or enemies of the disciples? Why were their entire households affected by the messages of God? Were those godly messages delivered in the same way and in the same form? Did the members of your household play any role in your journey to faith in Jesus? When the jailer asked “How can I get out of this mess” the answer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” Why is that simple answer so utterly complete? Why isn’t a more “complete” theology a better answer?

 Read Colossians 1:3-10. How does the phrase, “Think globally, act locally” seem to be reflected the spread of Christianity? In what ways does the faith of individual Christians “bear fruit”? How can the fruit of an ordinary, lone Christian affect the entire world? How have you seen your faith bear Christian fruit (you aren’t being prideful by encouraging others with this kind of testimony!)? Does your faith seem to be growing? Do you have faith partners who are growing right along with you?

 Read Psalm 90:13-17. What aspects of your own life will last beyond your years? How might those aspects be picked up by others and carried even further? As you consider this, how important is the time you spend here on earth – to you and to God? How could this kind of perspective give far more meaning to those people who don’t know Christ? How long will edifices like Trump Tower last? How many of the seven wonders of the ancient world still exist? Ultimately, how can we make our individual lives important and worth living?

From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider whether you are serving God in all the ways God is calling you to? Did you find some opportunity to do something that offered something of yourself to others as a “living sacrifice”? Please share with your group how this turned out.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 22, 2014:

Nigel Marsh, business leader, speaker and author of several books on the matters of work and life shares that “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” A great majority of us are stuck at work, living these lives of quiet screaming desperation…which is exactly how the man sitting outside the pool of Bethesda felt.

He might not have been shackled by his work, but he certainly was stuck. Everything was passing him by, people, opportunities, life. In John 5 we read: Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew, Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these [porticoes] lay many invalids – blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. (John 5:2-9)

The first thing to notice about this story is that the verse does not specify this man’s illness. The root of this man’s suffering was not known. All we know is that he has been stuck or has felt stuck in the same place for “Thirty-eight years.” Many biblical scholars look at this number and think about it as an indication of permanence. Whatever affliction this man was suffering from felt permanent, meaning this man felt helpless, if not permanently hopeless.
Every time I read about this story, I can’t get past this number. I think what must it be like to feel stuck for 38 years. I mean this is longer than I have been alive and kicking on this earth. I can’t remember what happened thirty-eight years ago. And yet, for 38 years, this man felt like he couldn’t move. He was stuck.

But no matter how stuck he felt, this story reminds us that Jesus meets us in our darkest moments. He meets us with his life and hope and peace. Longing to heal this man, Jesus walks right up to him…and asks him, “Do you want to be made well?”
Do you want to be made well? Rather than offering a simple ‘Yes,’ this man gets defensive. Every time I try to get up to do great things or to go great places, other people cut in front of me. I don’t have anybody to help me, nobody loves me. Instead of answering Jesus’ question, he bemoans his predicament. He cries out, I’m stuck here.

Jesus takes a moment, looks at this man, and responds to his complaint with three direct imperatives. He calls him out of death and calls in into life, saying, Rise. Take up your mat. Walk. Through these words, Jesus offers him life, he sets him free and equips him to become the person he was created to be, to do the things that God does, to reflect God’s image everywhere he goes. “Rise. Take up your mat, and Walk,” he says. Immediately, this man does as Jesus commands and for the first time in 38 years begins to live fully into the future without fear….

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I spent time speaking with a group of entrepreneurs turned CEO’s.…one place they all came together was in the area of life and risk. They said, life is too short to wait it out. Life is too short to not take any risks, or not stand up, pick up your mat and walk. Don’t wait for life to happen, but make changes now, take risks now, step out now. One of the things they shared with me was that our faith sets us free to get up and get going, and to run with perseverance the race set before us keeping our eyes on the one who gives us the ability to do the things he did, even greater things. So take risks, trusting in Jesus, who meets us in our paralysis. Start working.

I thought that was great advice, but I wanted to clarify. What does that look like? Does that look like quitting your stable job, to pursue your dreams, as crazy as they might seem? They said, “No, that means you to take time to find life outside of work.” Develop and discover your passions. Take risks and live beyond your job in a way that offers you an outlet toward the life that really is life. Get active and dive into the world around you.

So I asked them, where do you find life, where are you the most energized? Not one of them offered up the phrase ‘at work.’ None of them mentioned their companies. Though they couldn’t imagine life without their work, when they thought about where they felt most alive, they all mentioned things outside of their work, things like their children, their family, their friends, they mentioned those moments in coffee shops where they wrote down all of the thoughts and dreams. They talked about the times when they built zombie forts in the woods with all the neighborhood kids, they talked about pouring energy into their friends as they journeyed through life, or watching baseball…well, that was mine….

I have found that this looks different for everyone of us, because God gifts us and equips us….

Dive into the world around you, don’t wait, but live into the world around you in a way that glorifies God by the work you do…you could blog about your life, shine shoes, switch careers, or simply serve in the church, just get going…start serving. Get up, take up your mat, and walk.

It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you are doing something. Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)

How do you “get away from the office”?

The daily grind of work can cause us to forget what’s really important in our walk of faith. How can we, even for a few moments, get away from the office and regain some perspective? This article, excerpted from Everyday Health just might be the prescription:
6 Ways to Take a Mental Vacation Note – try these things without allowing distractions like mobile phones nearby!

Read a book in bed. This is a great escape and can leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to face whatever is outside your bedroom door. Your bed is warm, cozy, comfortable, and a peaceful place for you. It feels luxurious, and getting lost in a good book is a perfect way to forget, then refocus, your own thoughts.

Visualize relaxation. Steal a few quiet moments to close your eyes and think of an image that relaxes you — such as the warm sun on your skin and the sound of the ocean, a big country field sprinkled with flowers, or a trickling stream. Think back to a time when you felt peaceful and relaxed, and focus on releasing the tension from your toes to your head.

Look at pictures from a happy time. Pull out snapshots from a photo album of a family vacation or a fun dinner with friends. Reflect on your memories of that occasion, and what made it so enjoyable. Spend a few quiet moments reminiscing, and you’ll find yourself more relaxed.

Look out a window. Distract yourself by focusing on something other than what’s stressing you. Grab a steaming cup of coffee or tea, close the door, and take a mental break. Do a little people watching, appreciate any birds within view, or enjoy some fluffy clouds rolling by.

Allow yourself to daydream for a few minutes.

Listen to a relaxation CD. Invest in a couple of these CDs for a short daily escape. You may like to hear chirping birds, rolling waves, or gentle rain — whatever your choice, closing your eyes and listening to these soothing sounds while doing some deep breathing can help you relax and de-stress.

Take a walk. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress because it’s a great escape for your mind. Head out for a quiet early morning walk or lace up your sneakers on your lunch break. Walking along a trail, waterfront, or other peaceful place when possible may offer even more relaxation.

Treat yourself to a 5-, 10-, or 20-minute mental vacation each day and train your body to relax and reduce stress — you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after taking just a few luxurious moments all to yourself.

Source: http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/take-a-mental-vacation.aspx
For a similar article see the July issue of Real Simple magazine.

Final application:

During this next week, prayerfully consider whether you are allowing yourself to be sucked into the vortex of the daily grind at work, unable to focus on what’s more important to your faith life. Find ways to excape the never-ending emails, text messages and phone calls, even for a few minutes at a time. Ask God to help you achieve greater balance to your life and to make your life at work more meaningful for him. Next week, share with your group how this turned out.

6.15.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Interview

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Romans 12:1-2

The apostle Paul set a high standard for the way Christians go about our daily lives. Our “appropriate service” to God, he wrote to the Christians in Rome, is to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice.” It was true in his day, as in ours, that that approach to life was not a part of the culture’s “common sense.” To live it out would take inner transformation, not conformity to the world’s values and practices.

TUESDAY
Romans 12:3-8

When we think, sometimes wistfully, about discerning God’s “good and pleasing and mature” will for our life (cf. Romans 12:2), we may think in terms of visions or dramatic, “out of the blue” messages. Paul believed realistic self-assessment could direct God’s people to God’s will. God’s will, he seemed to say, is that you primarily do what you’re gifted to do: “If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching.”

WEDNESDAY
2 Chronicles 15:1-8

Leadership is always hard work, but it’s particularly demanding if the leader needs to lead people to change directions. In the history of Israel’s up-and-down walk with God, King Asa was a leader who the writer of Chronicles said produced an “up” period. It was hard work, involving a lot of finding and removing of shrines to foreign idols (read on to 2 Chronicles 15:9-12), but the prophet Azariah assured him that it was worthwhile.

THURSDAY
Acts 20:17-35

Paul was travelling to Jerusalem. He and his companions carried an offering from the Gentile Christians of Greece, eager to help their impoverished companions in the faith in Jerusalem. But Paul was also sure that arrest and prison awaited him in Jerusalem. Saying farewell to the elders in Ephesus, he carefully recounted how he had done the work God called him to do, and sketched the tasks he trusted them to carry on when he was gone.

FRIDAY
Ephesians 6:5-9

This passage (and its close parallel in Colossians 3:22-4:1) make us very ill at ease. Paul did not “endorse” slavery, but he did take it as a fact in the Roman Empire. Unlike most ancient writers, he said masters must serve God, too, even in how they treated their slaves. (To see this even more clearly, study the little letter to Philemon.) But most slaves did not have the option of freeing themselves, and Paul said even slaves, in their awful work situation, could work “as though you were serving the Lord.”

SATURDAY
Matthew 28:16-20

Our study of work, as God designed and assigns it, moves back and forth from the personal and particular to the divine and the global. As members of God’s diverse, far-flung family, each of us makes a unique personal contribution to the work of carrying out God’s mission—no one else can do exactly what we do in exactly the way we do it. And yet, as Jesus laid it out for his disciples, the overarching mission, God’s divine commission that directs all of the work we do, is clear. We are, all of us in our unique ways, to make disciples.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord Jesus, we willingly “sign up” to work at carrying out your commission, but we know we can only be effective if you walk with us. Fill us with your spirit when we face challenges as we go about our work for you. We offer ourselves to you and we commit to being “living sacrifices” offered to you. Amen

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Which job, paid or unpaid, has been the most fulfilling to you? What have you learned from that experience?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Romans 12:1-2. In general, is America a “conforming“ society? Within your church, do you imagine that the congregation is generally a “conforming” society? In what ways can you and other Christians become less “conforming” and more “transforming”? If we transform ourselves, what are the possible effects upon those around us? How can we become more like the “living sacrifices” Paul was talking about?

 Read Romans 12:3-8. Do you feel as if you know what gifts God has given to you? What tools have you used, in school, church, your workplace, or from other sources to help you with realistic self-assessment? Is it okay for us to feel good about our gifts? Is it possible for us to expand our gifts? What did Paul mean when he said, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think”? How do you use your gifts to express God’s love for others?

 Read 2 Chronicles 15:1-8. The ways of the world took their toll on God’s people, and it took a lot of work to repair the damage done. How does the world of today take a similar toll on faith? What kind of work is required to repair that damage? King Asa’s leadership was critical to the work of that time. How important is leadership today? Who provides leadership within the church? What forms does this leadership take? At the time of King Asa, the people weren’t seeking God. Are we seeking God earnestly, or do we tend to stroll through life without thinking much about him? How can we keep him foremost in our thoughts and lives?

 Read Acts 20:17-35. Paul called each of us to “shepherd God’s church.” How do you interpret this? In what ways are we to “protect our flock”? Do Paul’s warnings apply mostly to the church of that time, or do they still apply today? Are you a spiritual shepherd to anyone? How do you go about this task? Is your shepherding welcome and well received? In what ways is giving more blessed than receiving? How can this adage be shown to be true in marriage, family and work?

 Read Ephesians 6:5-9. This is one of the more controversial sections of the Bible, but, beyond the issue of slavery, it has an important message for each of us. Some of us find ourselves in a job that makes us feel a bit like slaves, often due to the attitudes of the people we work for. Some of us are in managerial positions that could make us feel a little like masters over others. If we feel like slaves, how can Paul’s guidance be applied to our work life? How could it affect our life and the lives of others? If we are in managerial positions, how can Paul’s guidance be applied to our work life? How could it affect our life and the lives of others?

 Read Matthew 28:16-20. Do you feel that you, like the eleven disciples, are called by Jesus himself to go out and make disciples, or is this strictly a job for ordained ministers? Does this task seem a bit overwhelming to you? What have you ever done, even in a small way, to carry out this mission? Did you feel that, as Jesus promised, he was there with you in that work? Did it make you feel a bit more fulfilled?

From last week: This last week, did you jot down the main force or forces that led you to choose the kind of work (paid or unpaid) you currently do? Did you compare how your current work meets both requirements a) and b) in Buechner’s quote about vocation?
Please share with the group whatever you discovered.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 15, 2014:

We started this series two weeks ago establishing that work is a gift given to us from the beginning of time. In Genesis we were created in God’s image. God formed us and shaped us and then he blessed us with the task of bearing that image by going to work. God says, “Be fruitful.”

In the Gospels Jesus told his disciples the same sort of thing. He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you, to bear fruit, fruit that will last!” And then he shows us the way: “Those who believe in me will also do the works that I do and in fact, will do greater woks than these.” (John 14:12)

In Matthew, Jesus takes it a step further saying, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Our work is the primary way we can become the people God created us to be, as God’s craftsmanship. Our work is to do the things that God does through our jobs and occupations as doctors, lawyers, pastors or clerks, but really everywhere we go.
In that way, work is also the primary way for us to change the world by drawing others to the perfect love of God by shining our light. When we work, people should hopefully meet God, or at least see the light of Christ, in us. In that way, our work necessarily involves other people. And so last week, we spent time focusing on the way we view the people around us, our coworkers, our employees, even our bosses. We asked the question, “How are you making the people around you better?”

Work is central to our ability to live as the people God created us to be and it’s the primary way to live out our faith by drawing others toward a deeper understanding of who God is…
But what if you are out of work? What if you’re searching for work?…
I shared with you earlier that I had a chance to connect with Elizabeth Allen. She leads a job seekers prayer and support group because God has called her to this kind of work, but she has also experienced job loss and shattered dreams before. As she was living into what she felt like was her entrepreneurial dream, there was this moment when everything came crashing down around her. This was a time filled with grief, despair, and personal mourning. One of the most difficult seasons of her life she said, and yet she also described it as a time of quietness, testing and trust. It gave God an opportunity to do his best work. It was a time for her to remember who God is and who God was calling her to be. In that moment she started praying, throwing her life into God’s hands. If you’re stuck in the darkness, feeling hopeless, go to God in prayer.

Once she started praying she began doing the things that God does, serving others, loving others, volunteering, as painful and as scary as that was. If you’re walking through darkness, get out and begin doing the things that God does, go and serve, volunteer, connect, love others in sacrificial kinds of ways.

Then of course, Elizabeth started sharing her experience with others. She began speaking and sharing her story, and then leading and coaching others to do the same. She started leading seminars as to how she approaches employment and the search for it based on her experiences. She was going through it, putting one foot in front of the next, praying, sharing, serving and loving others….

The idea of work takes on a whole new meaning when you know who you serve and how all things are possible through him, because of him.
Looking for work is difficult, being stuck in these places of darkness, or loneliness, or frustration can be difficult, but in the middle of this struggle is where God does his best work. This is where we experience the fullness of God’s life and love….
in order to experience the fullness of those promises we have to be willing to go through it, to endure, to persevere…to keep moving. For these are the things that Christ does for us…he loves us and never leaves us. Christ remains steadfast, even when we turned away and had forsaken him, he reached out his everlasting arms toward us…When we’re looking for work, meaning or purpose…we must persevere in the same way. We must run the same race. We must go through it. The author of Hebrews reminds us saying, “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

In order to live into the promise of a future filled hope. In order to find the work you are looking for, you must depend upon God. Remember, knowing that through Christ Jesus we are able to do all things.

How do you define a “good job”?

Too many people focus on salary as the sole definition of a good job. A great income opens many doors if used properly – savings for the future, a higher standard of living, an opportunity for giving and so on.But what good is that higher standard of living and savings for the future if you’re living a significant chunk of your adult life in a state of unhappiness?

Given the experience of many, it can be argued the following factors are some of the important ones:
– Sufficient pay: This means enough to meet all my family’s needs and a little extra for giving, saving and playing.
– The work itself: If you’re going to spend eight hours (at least) per weekday engaged in an activity, one’s personal happiness is going to hinge significantly on how personally enjoyable the work is. Monotony is a killer.
– Flexibility of time: The more flexible the hours, the better. Every time you miss something important with your family, it’s an opportunity that never comes back and it’s a trust that can never be recovered.
– Peers: Are you respected by your coworkers? Do you have a good relationship with them? Can anyone argue that this isn’t important to having a good job?
-Management: Being respected, appreciated and receiving some autonomy in how the work is done can be very rewarding.
-Ongoing education/Advancement: Opportunities to learn new skills help reassure you that you are growing and improving yourself. Couple that with opportunties for advancement and you are on the right path.
-Good Benefits: Good health coverage can be a big plus when a family member gets sick.
-Decent environment: To some, this is more important than to others.

In the end, ask yourself this simple question: how much sustained misery is an extra dollar worth to you? Perhaps such misery isn’t worth it, particularly when you consider the multitude of methods a person can use to shave their spending without really altering their lifestyle.

Maybe you’d rather live frugally without a miserable job than have a few nicer things and spend all of your time loathing your work. Something suggests that when people step back and take a serious look at their lives, many people will feel the same way. Unfortunately, part of the human condition is focusing on what we don’t have, rather than on the blessings we do have.

Source: multiple

Final application:

During this next week, prayerfully consider whether you are serving God in all of the ways God is calling you to. Try to find some opportunity to do something that will offer something of yourself to others as a “living sacrifice”. Next week, share with your group how this turned out.

6.8.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Holy Spirit, the Priesthood of All Believers and One Million Cups…

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

The culture of the Greek seaport city of Corinth (like that of Rome, the empire’s capital—and like ours) urged people to fight their way to the “top spot,” and to trample anyone who got in their way. Humanly, we tend to see relationships like a pyramid, with the most important place and person on the point at the top. But the apostle Paul said the church was NOT like a pyramid. Instead, he said, every member of the church was important in doing God’s work.

TUESDAY
1 Corinthians 12:12-21

Drawing on a fact we live with daily—the interdependence of all the varied parts of our physical body—Paul created a new image to describe God’s intention for the church. We are, he said, “the body of Christ.” The image is now so familiar that we don’t often think about what it actually means. Paul was saying our varied gifts relate to one another in the same way all the different parts of our body interact. Wholeness depends on each part doing what God designed it to do.

WEDNESDAY
1 Corinthians 12:26-13:3

Your gifts, Paul told the Corinthians, are unique and wonderful. What’s more, it is important to develop your gifts and use them. But Paul also reminded his readers that their gifts were not tools to outdo others in a quest for human power or glory. Be who God made you to be, and work together for God in heaven’s spirit of love.

THURSDAY
Ephesians 4:1-7

T Scholar John Dickson wrote, “’humility’ (humilitas in Latin; tapeinos in Greek) was not a virtue in Graeco Roman ethics….In its place was philotimia, “the love of honour.” Aristotle had insisted that “honour” and “reputation” are among the pleasantest things one could contemplate and attain for oneself.” In that setting, it was striking that Ephesians said “humility, gentleness, and patience” are among God’s key qualities for building a healthy spiritual body.

FRIDAY
Ephesians 4:11-16

Of all the New Testament lists of God-given gifts, this one (“apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers”) may be the one that the most Christians would recognize. Problem is, far fewer Christians see themselves in the list. But Ephesians did not say God gives only these gifts. Rather, God meant these gifts to equip all of God’s people for the divine work of serving and building up the body of Christ.

SATURDAY
1 Corinthians 3:4-9

The apostle Paul taught that God gives every believer gifts to use in doing God’s work. We are all different, and God needs each person’s individuality, shaped by our God-given gifts, to accomplish God’s purposes. Today we read Paul “walking his talk” about the value of each Christian’s gifts. He wrote that, although he and another teacher named Apollos had played differing parts in building up the church in Corinth, neither of them (or their followers) could or should claim that one was superior to the other. Both served God, and in the end, any glory for what they had done went to God.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Dear God, we love you, and want to honor you. Help us keep learning how to honor you by drawing people together rather than driving wedges. Keep alive in our hearts the sense of what an honor it is to serve you, and help us to extend the same honor to all of those who, like us, are working for you. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Which job, paid or unpaid, did you try to do that was the worst “fit” for your abilities and interests? What did you learn from it?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Paul introduced this subject by writing, “Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts.” Why not? What’s the downside to the church of having many of its members not serving in any way, or serving in ways that God hasn’t gifted them to serve? What’s the downside for the people involved? How many of you in your group can identify your main spiritual gifts? If you’d like to learn more about your spiritual gifts, visit http://www.cor.org/spiritual gifts (there are two classes this summer), or contact Melanie Hill (melanie.hill@cor.org) to ask about scheduling an experienced spiritual gifts teacher to meet with your group (schedule to be arranged).

 Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-21. Paul addressed two challenges in today’s passage. The first is our human tendency to think, “Everyone else should be like me.” How hard or easy do you find it to value people whose gifts are very different from yours? The second challenge Paul spoke to is our tendency to envy other people’s gifts, to want to be like them. Have you ever wished you had the same gifts as someone you greatly admire? What has helped you learn to value and use your own gifts, rather than trying to imitate someone else with different gifts?

 Read 1 Corinthians 12:26-13:3. In the first part of this passage, Paul asked in various ways, “Are we all gifted in the exact same ways?” In Greek, all of the questions assumed the answer, “No.” What are some of the interests, talents, and passions that make you unique? Paul went on to teach clearly that nothing matters in God’s eyes (not even faith!) if you don’t have love. God means you to use your gifts based on love, not on selfish interests. Is love the main driving force in how you use your gifts? If not, what other motivations sometimes intrude?

 Read Ephesians 4:1-7. As in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul also wrote to the Ephesians that our diversity of gifts is most useful when we do our varied tasks in a spirit of unity, as one body. In what ways have you seen differences in gifts and passions strain the body’s unity? Have those differences ever strained your group’s unity? What practical steps help to maintain unity among people with very different gifts? Paul also wrote, “I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God” (verse 1). What helps you to extend that sense of high calling to even routine tasks?

 Read Ephesians 4:11-16. What do you think spiritual maturity looks like? 10 years of regular worship attendance, taking part in 5 in-depth Bible studies, tithing, three mission trips under your belt, regular group attendance? Well, maybe. In verse 13, Paul described it this way: “to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.” Identify two areas where, as a group, you are happy with your growth toward spiritual maturity, and one or two in which you seriously want God to help you grow during the rest of 2014.

 Read 1 Corinthians 3:4-9. Scholar William Barclay wrote of this passage, “This is extremely significant because it means that you can tell what a man’s relations with God are by looking at his relations with his fellow men. If he is at variance with his fellow men, if he is a quarrelsome, argumentative, trouble-making creature, he may be a diligent church attender, he may even be a church office-bearer, but he is not a man of God.” Who do you know who shines at drawing people together, rather than driving wedges between them? By the standard Barclay draws from this passage, how are your relations with God doing?

From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider whatever jobs you have and the work you do? Did you find a way, no matter how small, to improve it, following God’s guidance? Share with your group some of your most surprising results.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 8, 2014:
Work becomes a four-letter word, or it becomes a necessary evil when we begin to view the people around us as competition as opposed to companions, teammates, or people filled with potential for collaboration.

A few weeks back I had a chance to sit down and drink coffee with a group of entrepreneurs turned CEO’s of some pretty significant businesses in the Kansas City area. I wanted to gain some insight as to how they approach the work they do.

These people were from a variety of industries and possessed a wealth of experience, and our conversation was so life giving, and we went in several different directions and yet there was one thing upon which everyone seemed to agree, regardless of industry or experience.
They each mentioned that, though they weren’t all in the service industry, they each got to where they are by viewing every single interaction they had as though they were in the service industry.

They shared how their primary job as leader, or as CEO, was to serve. We must serve our employees, but it’s not just that, we also need to provide excellent service to our customers. We serve our potential clients, our families, our friends, the community and the church. We are always seeking to serve people around us. We are always focusing on the interests of others before our own. Pouring into others always and everywhere. They saw the world around them and the people in it, not as competition, but as companions, as potential team members, filled with God’s possibility. We find life at work, work becomes more than just another four letter word, when we seek to view and serve others in this kind of way. What is crazy is that when we do, things happen that you couldn’t ever imagine or ask for.

One of the CEO’s I met with mentioned how he views everyone he meets as though they are another opportunity for a new collaboration. Everyone he meets has something to teach him, a way for him to grow, and the potential for collaboration.

Clayton Christensen, the professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, echoes this idea. He writes that the only way that we can or should measure our life at work is not through individual measurements of payables or receivables, hierarchical advancement or vertical growth, but rather we should measure our life by our ability to make the people around us better than they would be had we not been there. We measure our success in life, not by thinking about, talking about, reflecting about our achievement or advancement, but rather by reflecting over the individual people whose lives you’ve impacted and blessed.

How are you making the people around you better? Are you bringing out their potential? Are you encouraging, supporting, investing in the people around you? Are you looking for opportunities to learn from others, grow through others?…

This is what Jesus modeled in the way that he poured into and served his disciples…and following Jesus’ death and resurrection this became the church’s story as well. In the beginning of Acts, there was this team of disciples who didn’t know where to go, or didn’t know what to do, they weren’t sure of what their future held and they didn’t know what would have become of them. Rather than running away, scattering, or pursuing individual accolade, they defaulted to what they knew best. They came together, supported each other, served one another. At the feast of Pentecost, they were gathered together in one place, and as they were, Luke records it this way: “They were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Rather than scattering, they stuck together, cared for each other and somehow, something amazing happened. They were filled with the spirit of creativity and new life. They experienced something they couldn’t have ever imagined or even asked for and then they discovered by the power of the Holy Spirit they were able to live into the gifts they’d been given in powerful kinds of ways, and they began to go and do likewise, working together to change the world.

This is what the church is. It’s a collection of co-workers, of disciples who are known for the work we do, and every week we gather together that we might be filled with a similar kind of spirit, new life, excitement, and then we are to go forth from this place, the same way they did at Pentecost to change the world by sharing our unique talents and gifts. And throughout the week we should celebrate each other’s successes. We should pour into each other as we gather together, to encourage and support and equip each other to go forth from this place to employ the gifts that we’ve been given not so that we could become better than others, but so that we could become better at reflecting God’s image to those around us by making the people around us out in the world wherever we go better. We should look around this world and everything in it with eyes fit for collaboration, for unwrapping limitless possibilities for building community by serving those people around us.

Frederick Buechner on “Vocation”
Vocation: It comes from the Latin “vocare,” to call, and means the work a man is called to by God.

There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.

By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to isthe kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done.

If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
Source: Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, by Frederick Buechner

Final application:

Jot down for yourself, and prepare to share with your group as much as you’re comfortablewith, what were the main force or forces that led you to choose the kind of work (paid or unpaid) you currently do. To what extent does your current work meet both requirements a) and b) in Buechner’s quote about vocation?

6.1.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Apprentice, Shark Tank, and Dirty Jobs…

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Genesis 2:1-3, 15, 3:17-19

The archetypal stories in Genesis set many of the basic Biblical assumptions about life. Among those is the principle of work. Work was always a part of God’s original, “good” creation, rather than being any kind of punishment. The simple reality is that both God and humans work, creating and maintaining life. (Note: the idea of “work” includes, but is much broader than, a formal job description and a paycheck. God has work, paid or unpaid, for every person at every stage of life.)

TUESDAY
Exodus 20:8-11

Usually when we think about the Sabbath commandment, we focus on the idea of rest. But rest is only one part of the life rhythm that the commandment envisioned. If there is no work, rest becomes nothing more than pointless self-indulgence. And if there is no rest, work becomes an intolerable, destructive burden. Life becomes full and meaningful in the alternating rhythm of “six days” and “Sabbath.”

WEDNESDAY
John 15:9-17

Jesus challenged ways of thinking common in his day and ours. We tend to think “producing” is just about goals and results, with no place for “soft” values like love. But Jesus told his disciples he had called them to “go and produce fruit,” and linked their ability to do that with living in God’s love and loving one another. Acts said it worked. The disciples did “produce fruit, so much that a mob in Thessalonica said they’d been “disturbing the peace throughout the empire” (or, in the King James Bible’s superb phrase, that they had “turned the world upside down”—Acts 17:6).

THURSDAY
John 5:1-17

The Pharisees were so busy enforcing their understanding of the Sabbath command as forbidding even trivial “work” like carrying a mat, they missed a much larger point. Jesus, who said, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), told them that godly acts of blessing and healing were fully compatible with the Sabbath rest. God’s healing, sustaining work goes on full-time.

FRIDAY
John 17:1-7

Because Jesus stood aloof from the conventional economic expectations of his day, there is some truth in modern descriptions of him as an “unemployed” person. If that leads us to think he was an idler, however, we’ve missed a key reality. He had a profound personal mission, and worked steadily to carry it out. In his prayer the night before the crucifixion, he told the Father that he had done his God-given work by making God known to our world.

SATURDAY
Galatians 6:4-10

Our culture’s tendency to treat work as a competition, with title, paycheck and office location as the scoreboard, often makes work a tiresome burden. If we buy into that view, Paul’s counsel to his converts to “be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others” sounds hopelessly naïve. But Paul knew (we’ll study this next week) that each of us is uniquely gifted, and called to be who we are made to be (not a clone of anyone else). If we grasp and accept that truth, the pointlessness of comparison begins to appear, and God frees us to “work for the good of all,” rather than trying to elbow our way ahead of one another.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

God of all creation, Jesus modeled for us a life that consistently focused on working for the good of all. Guide us as we seek to become more and more like Jesus in our own work. Help us to find and value the work you have given each of us to do. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

If 1 is “worst” and 10 is “greatest”, how would you rate your job(s), paid or unpaid? Very briefly, why did you give this answer?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Genesis 2:1-3, 15, 3:17-19. Based on these verses, is work itself a punishment from God, or is it part of God’s creation plan? How do you feel about work—more positively or negatively? Why did work seem to become more difficult after sin entered the picture? How can our day-to-day sins make our work more difficult?

 Read Exodus 20:8-11. These verses make it sound like God offered relief for work on one day – the Sabbath – by making it holy. When you honor the Sabbath by attending church, do you feel relief? Why might we feel such relief? Does God work, too? How would you feel if you had to work constantly without meaningful breaks? How would you feel about yourself if you did almost no work at all? Considering we seem to live in an ever-busier world, do you tend to allow work to enter into your every moment, or do you make sure you provide for some solid “down time”? Re-read verse 10. How might that apply to ethical choices that involve our expectations about the work of others and other workplace issues?

 Read John 15:9-17. Ewing M. Kauffman, a famous local entrepreneur, refused to allow people in his organizations to be called “employees.” Instead, he insisted that they be called (and thought of as!) “associates.” How do these verses seem to reflect that way of thinking and operating? How would you imagine this philosophy affected his organizations? How do you feel about this kind of thinking? In what ways can you apply that philosophy in your own organization or family even if “upper management” doesn’t seem to buy in? Can we really affect change in our little corner of the global workplace? Is Jesus Christ really your ultimate boss in life, or not?

 Read John 5:1-17. If we do the kind of work that benefits others who need help, are we violating the concept of resting on the Sabbath? How do we feel after doing this kind of work? Is it beneficial and restorative for us? Note the similarity between the words “rest” and “restored.” The Sabbath is holy. Is this kind of work holy? Does the world run itself? Is God still at work, instilling his creative work in the world? When you read about disturbing things going on, do you have hope and faith that God’s work in still able to make a difference? What (or who) does God use as his work tools?

 Read John 17:1-7. During his years of ministry, Jesus was an “unemployed” person. Was he an idler? What work did he do? Do you have a sense of the work God has given you to do? If so, how does that shape your priorities in how you spend your time and energy? If not, how can you, and perhaps the members of your group, discover the work God’s given you? Jesus said, “I have revealed your name.” What did he mean? Is work with spiritual results “real” work, or do you consider it a more insubstantial activity?

 Read Galatians 6:4-10. Some people might read these verses and feel as if God is shaking his finger at them and telling them to get off their duff and get to work. Do you feel that way? Others might read it and be filled with great hope and joy. What can our divergent reactions to some of the words of the Bible teach us about ourselves? Our culture constantly teaches us to compare ourselves and our work with others. What did Paul say? How do we resist the world’s temptation for us to compare ourselves against some kind of worldly scorecard? Note the word “only” in verse 8. Is it wrong for us to work for our own benefit? How do we go about working, not only for ourselves, but also for the “good of all”?

From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider Christ’s words that we not be afraid? Did you find ways to incorporate these much repeated words into your daily life (e.g. put Jesus’ words on your bathroom mirror, dashboard, desk or computer screen, or use them as a breath prayer)? Please share with the group whatever you discovered.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 1, 2014:
In the beginning of time, when life was perfect, when God spoke all things into being, he also formed and shaped us. On the sixth day he created us in his image. We read earlier, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

God creates us, forms us, builds and crafts us in His own image, which means at our most basic level, we are bearers of God’s image. We can reflect God’s image of light and life to the rest of the world. How cool is that? God creates us in a way that people will have the opportunity to see a reflection of God’s image in us, but the question is, how? What must we do to live this out fully? The Scripture continues: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living things that moves upon the earth’” (Genesis 1:28). After God creates us in his image, he blesses us with a purpose, he gives us work to do. He blesses us with work.

In other words, God blesses us and invites us to reflect his image to the rest of the world by tending to the garden and bringing forth from it, fruit, abundant fruit. God blesses us with the work of keeping order in the garden, stewarding paradise in a way that breeds new life and light. In Genesis, God calls us to the work of ordering creation, to do the same work God did at first. In the same way that God brought order out of chaos, God created us, as image bearers to do the same work. We are to become co-creators, bearing fruit that will last. This is what Jesus commands us to do as well. In John 15, Jesus instructs us and reminds us, saying: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16, 16).

This is what we were created to do. God blesses us, speaks to us, equips us and calls us to do the things that he does so that we could grow to become the people we were created to be, reflections of God’s image. In that way, work can’t just be another four-letter word. It is the four-letter word that leads toward another four-letter word, L.I.F.E. Work is the pathway toward life. It’s the pathway toward becoming reflections of God’s image to the world around us.

It marked Jesus’ pathway to the cross. After a life of ministry rooted in compassion, generosity and grace, Jesus pauses to pray before leaving his disciples to enter into death. As he prays, he offers us insight as to why and how he lived and worked the way he did. Jesus cries out to God, saying, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do…” (John 17: 4).

Jesus’ life’s work was to glorify God, to lift peoples’ eyes to the light and life of God’s perfect love. He lived, breathed, worked and died hoping always to draw people to their knees in worship that we might become one with God, one with each other, that we might return to paradise. He lived with a sacrificial love that always sought to the do the merciful thing, to love and serve others first, even if that meant a resulting death. This is the pathway toward life he says, loving others the way I have loved you. Serving others the way I have served you. He calls and invites us to do the same thing. He says, “Those who believe in me will also do the works that I do and in fact, will do greater woks than these” (John 14:12).

As people created in God’s image, who seek to follow Christ…we are called to work like this. We are called to serve one another, and love one another the same way that Christ loves us. It doesn’t matter whether it is volunteer work, ordinary work, the work we find in retirement, the work we find wearing a blue collar or a white collar, God calls us regardless of our occupation to work, to love others the way that God first loved us, or to serve those around us the same way that Christ served us. When we do this, we will find the life that really is life, we will experience meaning and value and worth that far surpasses anything you could ask for or imagine…and so will those around you, because that kind of work is what reflects God’s image to the world around us.

As we begin this sermon series on W*RK, it is important to establish that we are more than our occupations. Before we are doctors, or lawyers, pastors or bankers, we are created. God created us in his image, which means we are image bearers. We are God’s craftsmanship, uniquely blessed to do the things that God does, to work, to bear fruit, to lead people to the life that really is life. When it comes to the question of work, and what should I be doing with my life, I think we’ve gotten it wrong. The question we should be asking isn’t, “What should I be doing with my life?” It is, “How am I glorifying God, through my work?”…

One of my favorite shows these days is a show called Dirty Jobs. Its host Mike Rowe ventures into these horrible occupations by the world’s standards. He goes on the job with Road kill collectors, Catfish Noodlers, and Septic Tank Technicians. These are the jobs that should be avoided at all costs, and he goes into these jobs and does the things they do. There are two rules for the show. One is that everything is done in one take, no second takes. And two, he must do the things they do. So he goes and has to do these unthinkable things, like inseminate camels, pick up road kill. One would think these people would be miserable, yet as you watch this show, you find that these people are happy and full of life. They enjoy what they do, not because of what they do, but because of how they can see it meeting needs, contributing to the whole, changing the world. They are living sacrificially and working in a way that makes it possible for others to live fully.

Mike Rowe has discovered something in the midst of life’s dirtiest jobs. He discovered joy and peace and life. Through his occupational tourism, he’s discovered that if you produce something that makes people’s lives better, even if it is boring, routine, monotonous or little, then you are doing God’s work and that brings life. Work isn’t about our needs, it’s about God, and doing the same things God does. When we do these things, we find life.

Work – what others have said:

– Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius
– Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all. – Sam Ewing
– All happiness depends on courage and work. – Honoré de Balzac
– Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work. – Gustave Flaubert
– In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you. – Leo Tolstoy
– Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
– A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. – Leo Tolstoy
– We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work – Thomas Edison
– Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade? – Benjamin Franklin
– Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. – William James
– When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED. – Dr. Seuss
– A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labor and there is invisible labor. – Victor Hugo
– Work without love is slavery. – Mother Teresa
– This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it
work, realize it is play. – Alan Wilson Watts
– Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. – Aristotle
– If you care about what you do and work hard at it, there isn’t anything you can’t do if you want to. – Jim Henson
– If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. – Michelangelo
– It is hard work and great art to make life not so serious. – John Irving
– The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. – Jimmy Johnson
– In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own. –Madeleine L’Engle

Final application:

During the week, prayerfully consider whatever jobs you have and the work you do. Ask God to show you how to improve both. During the week find a way, no matter how small, to follow God’s guidance. Next week share with your group some of your most surprising results.

5.25.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Brace Yourself for Impact

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Matthew 17:1-6

In this story, it’s as though God gave the three disciples to whom Jesus was closest a “peek behind the curtain.” Usually, Jesus looked like just another person—but on this occasion, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.” Luke 9:31 added that Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus “about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem.” God meant this dramatic meeting, not as a random light show, but to prepare Jesus and the disciples for the cross that lay just ahead.

TUESDAY
Matthew 17:7-13

“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said to his disciples. They’d just seen him talking to Moses and Elijah, and heard God’s voice—and unusual events like that can trigger fear. Then Jesus told them that what had happened to John the Baptist (John had been executed—cf. Matthew 14:1-12) would happen to him, too. “Don’t be afraid” was as much a preface to that frightening statement as it was comfort after the supernatural event on the mountain.

WEDNESDAY
2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18

Paul had to “brace for impact” throughout his ministry. He was beaten, stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked and he faced hunger, sickness, and nights without shelter (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:16-33). Yet, in verses 8-10, Paul claimed the kind of resilience we see in cartoon characters—but he was totally serious. He led a very tough life, but testified that it is possible to live beyond fear thanks to God’s awesome power within us.

THURSDAY
Psalm 118:1-8, Hebrews 13:5-8

“God’s faithful love lasts forever,” repeated the psalmist’s refrain. Psalm 118 became one of the hymns the Hebrew people sang every Passover. Jesus almost certainly sang it with his disciples the night before his crucifixion (cf. Mark 14:26). Hebrews quoted it, and added “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” Trusting in God’s unfailing love, the psalmist, Jesus and the early Christians all asked, “What can anyone do to me?”

FRIDAY
Hebrews 2:14-18

From the ancient Roman Empire to terrorists and tyrants today, the “ultimate” human threat is, “I will kill you.” That threat leads people to break promises, expend vast resources, and behave in ways they would never consider without it. Roman historians, however, puzzled over how little effect it seemed to have on the followers of Jesus. They could not grasp that Jesus, who died and rose again, set us free from all fear—even the fear of death.

SATURDAY
Matthew 28:1-10

On Resurrection Sunday, the women who went to Jesus’ tomb twice heard the words we’ve read several times this week. First the angel at the tomb, and then Jesus himself, told them, “Don’t be afraid.” Mind you, the same people who put Jesus to death on Friday were still in power on Sunday. The same Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross were patrolling the streets of Jerusalem that day. And yet everything had changed, and they did not need to be afraid. Jesus was alive—and his followers were safe forever.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord Jesus, over and over you said, “Don’t be afraid.” Help us to hear your words more clearly, and to live them out more fully—and fearlessly. You experienced suffering first hand and braced for the unimaginable impact of death on a cross, yet you did not lose faith. Help us rely on your strength as we brace for impact in our lives. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

When have you been most afraid in your life? Will you ever be able to forget it? Would you like to forget it, or does the memory somehow give you strength to face tomorrow?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Matthew 17:1-6. Why might Jesus have wanted the disciples to see this event? What would the fact that Moses and Elijah were there talking to Jesus have meant to the disciples? If you had been there, what effect might it have had on the rest of your life? Would God’s own voice have had an additional effect upon you and your life? Would the disciples have wished for this event to have lasted longer? Are there times, in worship or perhaps on a visit to a beautiful site, when you wish you could just stay there? What are the forces that lead you back into the “real world”?

 Read Matthew 17:7-13. If you had been there, would you have been afraid as the disciples were? Does God want us to be afraid? How do you know? God’s voice said, “Listen to him.” What is one teaching of Jesus you need to listen to because it challenges our world’s “wisdom”? What aspect of your church best shows God’s glory to others? What role do our own lives play in revealing God’s glory?

 Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18. In verse 7, how would you define the “treasure” and what are the “clay pots”? How would Paul say that God’s power within us compared to the many struggles we have to face in our lives? In what ways has God been with you to help in the midst of adversity? What steps can you take to build the same confidence Paul had in the midst of his hardships? How can we be “renewed every day”? What kind of “things that can be seen” tend to draw us away from our inner, God-fueled strength? Do we seem to grow more from good times or hard times? Why?

 Read Psalm 118:1-8, Hebrews 13:5-8. Re-read Psalm 118:6. What do you make of that verse? What bad things has God’s presence helped you to survive, or even turned to a good purpose? How does that affect your ability to trust God as you move forward? When we try to help and support others who are going through difficulties, will these verses help them, or will they look at us like we are naive? What if we preface the verses by saying something like, “when I struggled, these verses seemed to help me”?

 Read Hebrews 2:14-18. How does the fear of death affect the choices and decisions Americans make today? How can Jesus’ death and resurrection set you free from that fear? Does this mean that, as Christians, we should not have regular doctor checkups, fasten our seat belts and take other common sense safeguards? If you or your family was threatened with violent death, how do you think you would react? Is this reaction consistent with your understanding of Christion teaching?

 Read Matthew 28:1-10. We read the words “don’t be afraid” over and over in the New Testament. What do you make of these words? Do they affect your attitudes and actions on a day-to-day basis? How is this admonition of benefit to you? Could these words be of help to others you know? Is this merely an “easier said than done” issue, or is there real substance in it for the committed Christian?

From last week: This last week, did you consider your role to extend peace and hope in your day-to-day world? Were you able to find one specific thing you could do, no matter how small? Please share with the group what you discovered.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Karen Lampe’s sermon, May 25, 2014:

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 attempts to really begin to perfect something. That kind of intentional discipline is what we need to fully develop our faith, so that we can absolutely count on it when the impact comes. And it will come. We will all find ourselves in moment when there is a dramatic shift, a sudden change and a need to Brace for Impact.

Now those words “Brace for Impact” can be scary. They are frequently associated with an emergency of some kind. For those who fly a lot, those are the words spoken over an intercom when a plane might be in trouble. Words you don’t really want to hear.
Those words signify that something is about ready to be changed or dramatically shifted. A friend recently reminded me that author Anne Graham, daughter of Billy Graham, often spoke of the “And Suddenly” times in our lives: when we think everything in our world is falling apart but, in actuality, it is falling into place. That same friend gave me a plaque that says, “And Suddenly” not long after her son, Aaron, was diagnosed with brain tumors. These moments can be good (like graduating), or challenging such as receiving a difficult diagnosis. Our spiritual life is no different. In the gospels, over and over and again, we hear of “And Suddenly” events, and we also hear the words, “Then Immediately” and see how God speaks into the situation. Jesus’ followers and disciples are repeatedly being coached during such events as God or Jesus speaks as the coach into a situation when everything changes.
Let’s begin with the scripture text we just heard, which is known as “The Transfiguration Story.” Transfiguration means Transformation. Now we often think of it as the transformation that happened to Jesus that day, but there is also a major theme about the transformation the disciples were experiencing. That was a transformation that was equipping them with a greater capacity to serve and experience the life that is life….

The word “transformation” or “transfiguration,” comes from the word “transfigured” the Greek word “Metamorphosis,” which means a “profound change in form.” Jesus was changing, yes, but the commentaries remind us that the bigger transformation was happening as the disciples saw the vision of Jesus being so close to heaven, as if he had one foot in heaven and one foot in this reality. At this moment, the disciples were seeing something from their teacher or coach they had never experienced before.

Peter has a normal human response: he responds by “doing” something. He suggests that he will build three booths, or tabernacles, or tents, as if to commemorate the vision before them by building shrines. Yet the primary function of Peter’s statement is to exhibit that humans cannot comprehend the scene without divine help….In this experience Jesus’ ragamuffin friends were rapidly being formed into disciples.

It’s like when we first start handling a ball or taking piano lessons, we can’t possibly imagine our potential to master the craft. We can’t imagine that deep down inside of us lies the capacity to achieve excellence or greatness. But often, our teachers and coaches recognize gifts we are unable to see.

We read on in the scripture to another out of the ordinary moment when suddenly the great coach, God, speaks. In verse five we read: “While Peter was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!’” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.” For the disciples at this very surreal moment, for them to see Jesus in this heavenly form, must have been a very frightening experience, and one that only had value if they were willing to “Listen to him.” Just as, when our coaches/mentors/ teachers speak, we have to be willing to listen….

When faced with scary, challenging “And Suddenly” moments, humans instinctively react with a fight or flight response (and I would add, for many a “fright or flight” response). Even the disciples in their experience with Jesus on the mountain that day responded with fright first, yet the story does not end there. Let’s read what the scriptures tell us about how the story unfolded. Verse seven says that, as the disciples had their faces downward: “Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid’ and when they looked up they saw no one but Jesus.”

Jesus was speaking to them at this point, saying over and over, Do Not Be Afraid. He is coaching them to rely on their faith instead of responding with fear or fighting….
So the question here is how can we grow in our capacity to deal with even the toughest of life experiences? Two ways:

First: Learn to Listen for God.

Go up to the mountain, embrace the highest level of spiritual experiences that you possibly can. Draw closer to God (think of God as your best coach or teacher) through prayer and scripture that you might begin to discern and distinguish God’s voice. Listen for the voice of God, even on what seems to be an ordinary day. Listen that your path might be directed. Each morning I take 20 minutes to pray. How do we hear God?
o Read the scriptures o Attend worship regularly

Second: Learn to be Courageous with Love.

Jesus has said calmly over and over “Do Not Be Afraid.” He spoke these words that day up on the mountain top. He spoke those words as he was urging Peter tried to walk on water. He said those words in the upper room when he knew that he knew he had been betrayed. He modeled those words when Peter slashed off the ear of the Roman soldier. He kept saying this over and over to all of them. That’s why we practice praying and singing, “Let there be peace on earth”.

How do we develop the capacity to not be instinctually fearful? We need to challenge ourselves with moments that will take increasingly more courage.

The transfiguration

Biblical coverage: The transfiguration of our Lord on a “high mountain apart,” is described by each of the three evangelists (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). The fullest account is given by Luke, who, no doubt, was informed by Peter, who was present on the occasion. What these evangelists record was an absolute historical reality, and not a mere vision. The concurrence between them in all the circumstances of the incident is exact. John seems to allude to it also (John 1:14). Forty years after the event Peter distinctly makes mention of it (2 Peter 1:16-18). In describing the sanctification of believers, Paul also seems to allude to this majestic and glorious appearance of our Lord on the “holy mount” (Romans 12:2; 2 Co 3:18).

Source: http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ebd/view.cgi?n=3713 (Easton Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

The Place: The traditional site is Mount Tabor in lower Galilee, but it is not a high mountain (only 1,850 feet) and was probably fortified and inaccessible in Jesus’ day. Much more likely is Mount Hermon (9,100 feet) to the north of Caesarea Philippi.

Meaning: A mountain in the Bible is often a place of revelation. Moses and Elijah represented the law and the prophets respectively, which testify to but must give way to Jesus. (The latter is the reason why Peter’s suggestion was improper.) Moses and Elijah themselves were heralds of the Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:15; Malachi 4:5-6). The three booths suggest the Feast of the Tabernacles which symbolizes a new situation, a new age. Clouds represent divine presence. The close connection of the transfiguration with the confession and passion prediction is significant. The Messiah must suffer; but glorification and enthronement, not suffering, is His ultimate fate. These involve resurrection, ascension, and return in glory. The disciples needed the reassurance of the transfiguration as they contemplated Jesus’ death and their future sufferings.

Source: http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?w=transfiguration%2C+the (Holman Bible Dictionary)

Final application:

During the week, prayerfully consider Christ’s words that we not be afraid. Find ways to incorporate these much repeated words into our daily life (e.g. put Jesus’ words on your bathroom mirror, dashboard, desk or computer screen, or use them as a breath prayer). Next week, share with the group whatever you discovered.