(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)
Pa Kent, Alfred, and Uncle Ben
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.
Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 2:13-21
The Father’s Day we just celebrated reminds us that many dads who look pretty ordinary are actually superheroes for their families. So it was when Jesus came as a human baby. God did not call a great general, prominent politician or well-known priest to be his earthly father. Instead, Joseph, a humble village craftsman, guarded the baby Jesus and his mother. He never became famous or influential, but he played a great role in God’s plan of salvation.
Sarai, Abram’s wife, tired of waiting for the child God promised. Like other well-off women in her day, she had her slave girl, Hagar, conceive a child with Abram, planning to make the child her own. But Hagar’s insolence angered her, and her mistreatment drove her servant into the desert. Sarai’s God saw Hagar as a person, not just a rude slave, and rescued her. This Egyptian girl was the first person in the Bible to call God a personal name—and tellingly, she used the name El Roi, “God who sees.”
In Jesus’ day, many looked down on the sick (especially those with long-term conditions), and saw them as suffering for sins they had committed. Even worse, this woman’s disease made her ceremonially unclean. But through her trust in Jesus, she received healing and acceptance that changed her forever. This woman trusted Jesus enough to reach beyond the shame of people’s judgment—and his power gave her back her life.
God’s superheroes, living in God’s strength, often do not look the way we’d expect those who wield great power to look. Nowhere was that more true than in God himself in the flesh, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ enemies ridiculed him as he hung on a cross: “Look—he can’t even save himself!” Yet, while they scoffed, through that seemingly helpless man on the cross God’s power was extending salvation to the whole world.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Jesus is God, the Creator-King of the universe (cf. Hebrews 1:1-3). So it would follow that, as Paul said in today’s passage, “the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” The good news? God shares his eternal power with his people. The catch? It doesn’t always come in the ways we’d expect. Paul knew the often ridiculed and hated message of Jesus had the power to transform lives wherever he preached it.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Some false teachers in Corinth claimed that they were a cut above the apostle Paul, that he was weak and unimpressive (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:10-12). With pained irony, Paul called them the “super-apostles” (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:5). He knew he could claim imposing human credentials and accomplishments (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:22-27). In the end, he wrote, his right to lead rested on a greater power—God’s power, at work through the very things humans might see as weaknesses.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, create new life in us. Fill us with wisdom, serenity and courage. Send your healing power into us; strengthen our faith. Allow us to see ourselves and others as you see us and cover us with your love, making us heroes of your will. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
What “superpower” would you most like to have and why? Which of the action heroes of the movies are your favorites? What is it about them that make you admire them?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 2:13-21. Do you think Joseph might have had to give up some of his dreams in order to obey God and become a good father to Jesus? Does every good father have to do that to some degree? Have you ever had to give up some aspect of your life because it was incompatible with your perception of God’s will for your life? Joseph had a dream which he believed was direction from God and Joseph acted on that dream. Have you ever felt those kinds of “inner nudges”? How do you discern between mere fleeting thoughts and God’s nudges?
Read Genesis 16:1-15. God saw Hagar as a person, rather than as a mere slave. He gave her the strength to persevere even during a very troubling time of her life. Can you think of times in which God has done that for you? As a slave, Hagar was almost invisible to other people, but God saw her as someone special. Do you see yourself as pretty much an “average person” who is rather invisible to society as a whole? Do you understand that you are truly special to God? Does this understanding help you navigate through life? Even the most spiritual person, like Abram and Sarai, makes mistakes. How does God help you to see your mistakes, learn from them and keep on going?
Read Luke 8:41-48. Is God as powerful today as in Bible times? What makes you think so? Do miracles occur today? Why do you think miracles are so invisible to most of us today? Jesus felt power go out from him when the woman was healed. Have you ever had the sense that you could actually feel God’s power in your life? If so, was that miraculous? Have medical science’s incredible advances been what you would call miraculous? Have the death-reversing effects of CPR been a miraculous gift from God? Has your growing understanding of the Bible and the faith been miraculous?
Read Matthew 27:35-44. As we read this story, who seems powerful and who seems weak? Where did the real power lie? What do you think God did for you, personally, that day on the cross? Do you think you fully understand all that was happening that mysterious day? Do you think we tend to better understand it as our faith grows and becomes stronger? As we now understand the story, did humans do something to God, or did God do something powerful to and for humans? Should our focus today be on the horrible thing we did to God or on what God did for us?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Don’t most people tend to live their day-to-day lives by relying on their own power, wisdom and intellect? What is the source of our strength, wisdom and intellect? Do some people seem to have more or less of one or the other of these gifts? How does our strength, wisdom and intellect compare to God’s? As we go through each day, how often do we tend to think to ask God for his outlook on whatever we are doing? Would we be better off if we thought of this more often? How do we go about doing just that?
Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. God said to Paul, “…my power is made perfect in weakness.” so Paul said, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” What did God mean? What did Paul mean? Paul said that his right to leadership was not a result of his personal strengths and gifts, but rather a result of God’s incredible power and will. Could that be true for you, too? Have you ever observed God’s power working through someone’s weakness? How do we go about giving up our very self in favor of God acting in and through us? If we were to do so, would we become, in effect, super-human? Is that God’s will for each of us? Why do you think so?
From last week: Did you put on your mirror, desk, monitor, or other spot where you would see it every day, the list of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)? Did you, each day, re-read the list to see which of the items needed to be cultivated in your life, and then do your best to exercise those items throughout your day-to-day life? What was your experience in doing this?
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 16, 2013:
The faith of our fathers or ‘father figure’ is vital when we look at what it takes to become a superhero. One ingredient that makes Superman, Batman, Ironman, Spiderman and all the other comic book superheroes who they are is that each one had someone, some sort of “father figure” leading the way, encouraging them, supporting them, even inspiring them. I say ‘father figure’ because it seemed that almost every one of the big superheroes didn’t actually have fathers, but they had someone who chose to love them the way a father should love his children, unconditionally, sacrificially, with everything they had and all they were….
The same can also be said for Jesus. Jesus relied heavily on the presence and power of his parents. Though we know a lot about Jesus and his mother Mary, we don’t really ever hear that much about Joseph, Jesus’ other parent. So I’d like to spend some time talking about him today….
We read: “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18-19)…This is crazy! This can’t be true, can it? That’s what we read. Mary this young unwed woman was engaged to marry Joseph, this righteous man, from a long line of righteous people. But she is already pregnant with child. All that was right has gone horribly wrong. Mary is pregnant with child before she is able to marry Joseph. What next? What does Joseph do now?
I know this story is of old and I know that we hear the Christmas story over and over again…but every time I read it, I think to myself, what would I have done, if I were Joseph? What would you do?…
This Joseph falls asleep and begins to hear the whisper of God’s voice. God begins by reminding Joseph where he comes from. God says: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
In his moment of darkness and confusion, God meets Joseph. He speaks to him and helps him to remember. He addresses Joseph as the son of David. “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David. Remember that you aren’t just any man. You come from David, the one who, though small and outnumbered, was able to overcome giants, to slay Goliath. You come from the generations, from a whole line of heroes and promise keepers who have all overcome and harbored my promises of greater things yet to come and still to be done. Joseph, Son of David, have no fear.”
From that point forward, Joseph becomes this ordinary hero. He accepts this child, adopts him as his own. After Jesus’ birth, Joseph receives another vision and courageously leads his family to Egypt in order to escape Herod who was looking to slaughter Jesus. A few years later, Joseph led his family back to Israel, but fled once more for fear of death to Galilee, Nazareth specifically. The whole time he was loving, leading, raising and modeling for this holy infant what it looks like to possess a power that allows us to do abundantly far more than you could ever ask for or imagine…to do amazing things even in the midst of trying circumstances.
Joseph, in choosing to support Jesus, modeled for Jesus how to take risks, even if those risks would cause others to look down on you, persecute you and judge you. Joseph modeled what it looked like to take risks, so that Jesus might learn to do the same, because he would one day be tempted not to take them.
He would teach Jesus how to withstand the disapproval of others when making tough decisions, for Jesus would have to one day withstand the disapproval of a whole bunch of people. Joseph taught Jesus how to act in the midst of moments when all hope seems lost and only pain remains, in the same way he waited and trusted in the Lord’s whisper, when he faced a no-win situation in what seemed like the darkest hour.
Joseph modeled for Jesus how to make the long hard journey to Bethlehem with Mary so that Jesus wouldn’t be alone as he eventually will have to make that long hard climb to Calvary.
When we consider the making of a superhero we have to think about Joseph and the role of ordinary heroes in our lives. One question I would ask you today is, who is your ordinary hero? Who chose to love you, invest in you, form you, shape you, care for you, and lead you? As you remember them, give thanks for them. Live in ways that honor them…and do not be afraid.
Secondly, I would like for you to consider, who you are choosing to love sacrificially? Who are you pouring into, investing in, leading and loving as though they are your own?
The Power…of God’s Word
I believe that knowledge of the Bible without a college education is more valuable than a college education without the Bible. – William Lyon Phelps, Former professor at Yale University
Lila and her husband were expecting their fourth child and looking forward to the new baby’s arrival with eager anticipation. Then, unexpectedly, their dreams were shattered by a miscarriage.
Not only was Lila grieved by the loss of the child, it soon became apparent that her life was in grave danger. Serious complications suddenly became evident, and she was rushed by ambulance to the hospital.
Lila was vaguely aware of her surroundings as she slipped in and out of consciousness. Her family was at her side encouraging her, and many friends and loved ones were praying fervently.
During the crisis, she found it nearly impossible to focus her mind on anything except for one clear impression that persisted in her mind. “I can endure…I can survive…I can withstand…all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Somehow, in spite of the loss of blood and the close proximity of death, she was aware that she was not remembering the words just right. Yet, intuitively she understood that God was promising to see her through.
Two weeks later, she returned home weakened but alive. While reading her Bible, she suddenly remembered the exact Scripture. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
How she praised God for His Word, which had penetrated the fog of unconsciousness with a powerful promise of strength and provision! The Epistle to the Hebrews records: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (4:12)
God’s holy inspired Word has several characteristics that guarantee powerful results. First, it is infused with the power of the Holy Spirit. It has been said that a Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to a person who isn’t. That is because God’s Word is energetic and active, speaking to today’s world and our own personal needs and circumstances.
Second, God’s word is truth. It awakens our conscience. With the power to reach into the private corners of our hearts, the Word bares our motives and secret feelings and reveals our hidden longings.
Third, God’s Word discerns our true character. It exposes the weakness in our attitudes and conduct, enabling us to correct ourselves by the power of His Holy Spirit.
I urge you to begin hiding the Word of God in your heart, drawing upon its wisdom for your life. Remember that God’s Word will never return to Him void, but will most certainly accomplish what it was sent to do. Share the Word with a friend, bearing witness to the faithfulness of our wonderful Lord and the power and authority of His Holy Spirit.
This week, consider Paul’s statement, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” Reflect upon and acknowledge your weaknesses, and open yourself to the power of God in your daily life. Try to do all things in Christ’s name. Next week, share with the group any accomplishments or situations that you believe came about from God’s mighty power.