(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)
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.
Joseph was one Bible personality who faced several life events that might have destroyed him and his faith in God. When Joseph was a young man, his father Jacob’s favoritism toward him, along with his cocky sharing of dreams that seemed to show he’d be superior to his brothers, alienated and infuriated them. They took a cruel vengeance on him (and his father) by selling him as a slave to traders going to Egypt.
Instead of letting his brothers’ betrayal crush him, Joseph worked honestly and well. A powerful Egyptian named Potiphar made him overseer of his entire household. But Joseph faced another cruel reversal. His very integrity in refusing sexual overtures from Potiphar’s wife led her to falsely accuse him of rape. It seemed as though his faithfulness had gotten him nothing more than an undeserved prison sentence.
Genesis 41:14-46, 45:1-15
Through all circumstances, Joseph held fast his trust in God. (In Genesis, unlike in Webber’s musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Joseph always said God, not him, interpreted dreams—cf. Genesis 41:16). His God-given ability allowed him to rise to second in command in Egypt! Joseph’s spiritual growth and victory was more lasting than his wealth and political power. Instead of taking revenge on the brothers who sold him, he saved them from famine, forgave them and reunited his family, allowing Jacob to die in peace.
Jesus met a Samaritan woman who came to Jacob’s Well at noon alone—circumstances that suggested pretty clearly that she was a social outcast. His offer of “living water” intrigued her. Then Jesus, refusing to get sidetracked into an abstract theological argument, described her messy life situation honestly. When she accepted his honesty and acknowledged the reality of what he said, she found God’s grace and a new life through him, the promised Messiah.
1 John 1:5-2:2
John wrote this letter to persuade believers to embrace the light of God’s truth and love. John encouraged his readers by pointing them to some of the solid foundations of faith as the basis for facing the reality of our brokenness and shortcomings. He taught a way different from our natural urge to hide our failures, to look better than we are. We find God’s mercy and power, John said, by telling our truth and becoming vulnerable.
Isaiah 52 spoke to Israelites living through tragedy and exile. Verses 1-6 reviewed the oppression they had faced at various times in their history, including recently. But those interruptions were not the whole story, the prophet wrote. God still ruled, still saw them as a part of God’s eternal purpose and mission, and was always at work to bring them peace, good news and salvation.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, you alone are our hope and our salvation. Rule over our lives, bringing your truth and light where darkness tries to engulf us. Heal our injuries and our diseased souls and bring us inner peace and strength. Calm our troubled minds and replace foolish or hurtful thoughts with your wisdom. Hold us tight, never letting us go. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
What were some of the thoughts that you have heard or read expressed by victims of the massive EF5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma? What would your thoughts have been if you heard and saw that kind of devastation around you? Would you have had thoughts of God? Would that have helped you in any way?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
- ReadGenesis 37:3-28. As it did for Joseph, life has a way of making unforeseen, negative things “just happen.” Has this ever happened to you? Did you learn anything from the experience? How can our faith in God help us get through these kinds of things? How does it feel to “lose control” over your own life? Do you feel the same way when you lose control by giving your life over to Christ? Joseph felt superior to his brothers. Was he? Was the problem with his behavior the “facts” or the attitude he took toward the rest of his family? Why does Christianity stress the value of humility?
- Read Genesis 39:1-20. After this second unexpected reversal, what might have been running through Joseph’s mind? Do you think God was working against Joseph? If we were in his place, might we think this way? What are common reactions to being falsely accused? In reading this, do you see any signs that Joseph might have grown spiritually? Under what kind of circumstances do we tend to grow spiritually? Is there any way we can prepare ourselves in advance for difficult times that surely will arise?
- Read Genesis 41:14-46, 45:1-15. How loyal was Joseph to his God, and to Pharaoh? In general, what was the result? What can we learn from this story? What was Joseph’s attitude toward the brothers who had sold him into slavery? Considering their treachery, could Joseph easily have seen his brothers as enemies? Which of Jesus’ lessons might be likened to Joseph’s attitude toward his brothers? Can you see the light of Christ being reflected even in this, the first book of the Old Testament? Do you suppose Joseph’s brothers learned anything from Joseph’s forgiving nature?
- Read John 4:13-26. What do you think Jesus meant when he offered his “living water”? Is this his promise of eternal life? In what ways might we, in this life, fill our cup and drink of this living water? Why wasn’t this woman bitter about her life? Do you think she might have realized that she had made choices that contributed to her troubles? Do you think her life became better after this brief encounter with Jesus? Why?
- Read 1 John 1:5-2:2. How would you describe “the light” that God brings into your life and into the world? What is the darkness in the world? Have you ever felt blanketed by the darkness? How are the words “good” and “evil” related to this discussion? Have Christians chosen to live in the light? Does anyone choose to live in the darkness? How so? What kind of people might choose to hide in the darkness? What might convince them to come into God’s light?
- Read Isaiah 52:1-10. The Hebrew people had been living in terrible times of oppression. They must have thought God had abandoned them. What did God say to that? Did God speak to them with a booming voice? Who spoke for God? Would everyone have believed that Isaiah was speaking God’s message to the people? Would some of the people become hopeful and some remain despondent? Why this divide? Where does our faith come into play? Do we tend to look toward the hope of God, or remain fearful of what terrible things might happen to us? Who or what threatens us and where is our salvation?
From last week: Did you begin each day with a prayer that started with a few words of praise to God, followed by giving thanks for your many blessings? Did you seek contentment throughout your days, regardless of the circumstances? What was this experience like for you?
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Karen Lampe’s sermon, May 26, 2013:
How we deal with our “Unfinished Business” in our lives has a huge bearing on the outcome of the journey that we take in life. It affects our relationships and how we daily make decisions. These events can hurt us or they can propel us into good things, making us better people….
I invite you to write down one most significant event of your life. It can be something you had no control over, perhaps your birth order or gender, something someone said to you, or an event or series of events that you could not have predicted. There are other times when we’ve experienced major situations that leave us with questions. Perhaps you went through or are going through a difficult illness, an abusive relationship; perhaps you survived or witnessed a tornado or car accident. There are times when we experience huge loss or death in our life. Maybe it’s the loss of a family member or dear friend, a bankruptcy, loss of a job. With all of these significant situations there can come “Unfinished Business.” We have questions of why and what if; “how could it be, Lord?” There are some events during when we think to ourselves at some point, “How are we going to get through this, Lord?”….
This week the loss of lives, homes, schools and whole neighborhoods in Oklahoma leaves us breathless. No matter what age we are, when these things happen we move through a grieving period, asking questions and trying to make sense of it. The personal stories of loss have been flooding us throughout the week. This will leave many of the parents, teachers and children who scrambled for cover with new perspectives, with memories and images that leave them with “unfinished business” about how to put their lives back together. For us as a church it gives us the question of “how can we help?”
On this Memorial Day weekend, we also think about how war affects those who have served and those family members who have felt the ripple effect of the pain of war.
I have here uniforms that my husband’s father Raymond Lampe wore. Ray was 18 when he enlisted in the Marines straight off the farm to serve in WWII. In his seven years of service he fought in the battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan. Ray saw his buddies and those who he led into battle die. He was severely injured in Saipan and was sent home. He was awarded two purple hearts. He rarely spoke about these years, yet his family knew it had affected him deeply. One night when his wife, Norma was very ill, we sat together while Les my husband sat vigil with his mom. That night Ray opened up to me of the pain he had seen. The tears fell and he recalled the memories. Ray carried unfinished business throughout his life.
This past week in our church family we lost a precious son, Tim Updike. Tim served two tours of duty in the Middle East, one in the Iraq War and the other during Enduring Freedom War. His mother Janice has served on our staff for 17 years. Father Alan and sister Laura have been members for 20 years. For years we prayed that Tim would make it home safe from Iraq. He did, but nothing could protect him from the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression that tormented him after he came home. This past Monday his journey ended when he couldn’t see clearly and took his own life. His heavenly father no doubt welcomed this precious son home, yet we wish so much that he could have made it through that unfinished business of war….
How do we deal with our unfinished business? What are the mechanisms? How do we make sense of all of this? How do we hold it together?
Knowing and naming our unfinished business, or helping someone else to name theirs, can be hugely significant….Sometimes before you can even begin to name or really understand what you are dealing with there may be a need to do what some authors call “Going to the balcony.” Margaret Wheatly who has written the book Adaptive Leadership details how important it is to step back from the busyness of life and ponder any unfinished business from a distance.
That same sort of instruction is modeled for us by Jesus. Jesus gave us a model of going to the mountain tops, to the seashore, to the desert and being still. Listen. Go to the balcony to get your bearings. The Psalmist who encourages us in the 46th Psalm says, “God is our refuge and very present strength in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change (through the challenge of lymphoma, a tornado, or war), though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved. The nations are in an uproar. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth.” Then finally, “Be still, be still and know that I am God.”
The next step is to take action to resolve your unfinished business. The idea here is to be intentional, and often we find that part of intentionality is to ask for help.
When we think about the effects of war, we may remember the German preacher Dietrich Bonhoeffer….The young pastor was imprisoned for an extended time and was executed just a month before Germany surrendered. This was a great tragedy, but while he was in prison he pondered and wrote. He went to the balcony hundreds of times. His brilliant writings that came out of that time have inspired multitudes of Christians. The obvious moral to Bonheoffer’s story is that sometimes what we think of as “Unfinished Business” does not end as we think it should. God will redeem whatever it is and make good of it. That is what we can count on…. In closing, let’s remember those things that are our unfinished business and then let’s review the ways we might find peace:
1. Be still – step back, go to the balcony
2. Be vulnerable—share your story with others
3. Be grateful- as soon as you can, thank God for the good that will spring up
4. Take action if you can –for yourself or on behalf of another
5. Be assured and have hope—God can and will take all of our unfinished business and with redeeming love, make good of it!
Joseph – Interpreter of Dreams
Joseph is one of the greatest Old Testament heroes, second perhaps only to Moses. What separated him from others was his absolute trust in God, regardless of what happened to him. He is a shining example of what can happen when a person surrenders to God and obeys completely.
In his youth, Joseph was proud, enjoying his status as his father’s favorite. Joseph bragged, giving no thought to how it hurt his brothers. They became so angry with him they threw him down a dry well, then sold him into slavery to a passing caravan.
Taken to Egypt, Joseph was sold again to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s household. Through hard work and humility, Joseph rose to the position of overseer of Potiphar’s entire estate. But Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph. When Joseph rejected her sinful advance, she lied and said Joseph tried to rape her. Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison.
Joseph must have wondered why he was being punished for doing the right thing. Even so, he worked hard again and was put in charge of all the prisoners. Two of Pharaoh’s servants were hauled in. Each told Joseph about their dreams.
God had given Joseph the gift of interpreting dreams. He told the cupbearer his dream meant he would be freed and returned to his former position. Joseph told the baker his dream meant he would be hanged. Both interpretations proved true.
Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream. Only then did the cupbearer remember Joseph. Joseph interpreted that dream, and his God-given wisdom was so great that Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all of Egypt. Joseph stored grain to avoid a terrible famine.
Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, and after many tests, Joseph revealed himself to them. He forgave them, then sent for their father, Jacob, and the rest of his people. They all came to Egypt and settled in land Pharaoh gave them. Out of much adversity, Joseph saved the 12 Tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people.
This week, begin each day with a prayer for the people of Moore, Oklahoma as they continue their grieving, clean-up and reconstruction process. Pray also for all the professionals and volunteers who have massed there to help in the process. If there is any way for you to help, consider doing so. Next week, share with the group any special insights you might have had.