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Pray: To open your time together.  

Read: Psalm 13:1-4 

Consider: Some thoughts for your group  

He is Enough 

A life spent following Jesus is full of ups and downs; victories and disappointments. Scripture isn’t afraid to show both sides of this reality. In all of scripture it’s not uncommon for miracles to sit down next to death. New life regularly follows destruction. Hope and pain. Success and failure. 

The writer of Hebrews (chapter 11) famously gives us a list of people faithful to the faith adding, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.” 

The through-line of all of this is a present faith. It’s tempting to believe that our feelings or situations are the greatest measure of our faith, but “Faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1) – faith is the substance, and it’s how we believe without seeing. Faith is meant to remain with us during our greatest wins and losses. 

Group Questions: 

  1. How can we maintain faith without white-washing real disappointment and sorrow? 
  1. What’s it like for you to “believe without seeing”? 
  1. What do you believe are God’s reminders to you that he’s patient and constantly working on your behalf? 
  1. What do you do with “unresolved” issues in your life? Has prayer been helpful? 

Staying Curious: 

As you read Psalm 13, what resonates most with you? Can you empathize with the author? What is a situation from your life that you think it reflected in this scripture? 

Closing Prayer:  

Spend some time praying for one another. You may feel like faith is such a difficult thing to wrap your mind and soul around. Pray for perspective and understanding that the journey is far from over. Pray for those in the room that have suffered through loss of family and close relationships. 

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Matthew 7:24-27

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Metaphors help us make complicated and mysterious concepts in this world more accessible. When describing an Olympic sprinters speed to someone who hasn’t seen the athlete in person we might say, “This athlete was so fast, they ran like the wind”. Without using much processing power, we immediately understand what this phrase means. We know the wind. We can understand that this sprinter is greater than the average runner.

Scripture uses the device of metaphors to help us understand what God is like. These metaphors describe different pieces of God’s character. God fights for justice, like a warrior or army. God pursues his children, like a shepherd pursues a lost sheep. God is a safe place for us to find rest and peace, like a shelter in a storm.

At times we can overuse one metaphor and by doing so, limit our understanding of who God is. For several decades, the army metaphor has been a favorite of the church, and for good reason. God cares for justice and God is not passive when setting things right that have gone wrong. But perhaps it is time to also be reminded of God as a shelter to us. His grace and care are abundant, and they bring healing and renewal to the world. And perhaps it’s also time for the church to embody the character of shelter to our world so that we might be agents of peace and renewal to our community.

Group Questions:

What type of metaphors of the church resonate with you and why?

After reading the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-10), What metaphors come to mind that describe the type of community and people Jesus envisioned?

Isaiah wrote a lot about God being a shelter from the storm (Is 4:2-6; 25:1-5; 32:1-2). After reading those passages what do they tell you about God?

If Jesus’ teaching is the rock that shelters are built upon, what are some examples of the storms people face and how does Jesus’ teaching provide shelter and hope?

How can you and your community group be a shelter for the hurting and hopeless in your neighborhood, workplace, and city?

Staying Curious:

How has God been a shelter to you? What was the storm you found yourself in when you sought shelter in God?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those in the midst of a storm in their life, pray for that shelter of God to be real and present.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Matthew 4:1-11

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

“In going to the cross, Jesus was not being practical; he was being faithful. Jesus didn’t take a pragmatic approach to the problem of evil; Jesus took the aesthetic approach to the problem of evil. Jesus chose to absorb the ugliness of evil and turn it into something beautiful – the beauty of forgiveness.” – Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save The World

“The ends justify the means” is a refrain we hear often in our cultural climate. Doing whatever it takes to “win” is not only accepted, but often encouraged. The life lived under this moto leads us into a race to the bottom where we lose sight of the meaning and beauty in our lives in exchange for practical outcomes. But in the life of Jesus, we see someone who rejects the pragmatic, short-term gains because of the greater glory set before Him, and in choosing the long game, ignites a revolution of beautiful redemption in the world.

In our scripture reading today we see the opportunity offered to Jesus to rule all the kingdoms of earth in an instant, just by kneeling and worshiping the enemy. There surely would be some, at the time, who would’ve said that Jesus missed a great opportunity for such a small thing as kneeling. As in so many other examples, Jesus turns the world upside down by abandoning immediate outcomes and choosing a life of faith through love that sacrifices, beauty that transforms, and forgiveness that redeems.

Group Questions:

  • What would it mean to “abandon outcomes” in our lives? How would it be possible to live our life immersed in faithful process instead of a preoccupation with outcomes?
  • What are some places in your faith life in which you were convinced the distorted painting was the genuine article — only to discover a greater truth. Can you describe your emotions at that time of discovery?
  • As we read about Jesus being tempted to abandon His calling for the trappings of this world, think about the ways you and I are tempted to trade away what God has for us.

Staying Curious:

As you read the story of Jesus in the desert, what most resonates with you about Jesus’ experience?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Some in the group may feel like they are in their own “desert” season. Pray that God would be near to them and attend to their needs, just as Jesus was attended to in His struggle. Some may be in a circumstance that is tempting them to abandon God’s plan in exchange for immediate fulfillment. Pray for courage, wisdom, and faith to hold onto God and His promises for every area of our life.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Jeremiah 29:1-14

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

While the idea of exile is, for our modern ears, a narrative theme in the Bible, it was a lived experience for the people of Israel. After several generations had lived in hope of the kingdom of God that was promised to Father Abraham in Genesis 12, the dream had finally come true. Israel had a king of its own in Saul, and then David, and then Solomon. And with each king the nation grew in political power, military strength, and economic security. It seemed that the promise had been fulfilled.

But the book of Judges gives us a brutal and disheartening account of the failure of Israel’s leaders to become that promised blessing to the world. From the founding of its kingdom each generation of Israel seemed to become less like the God who had established them.  And so, God gives his beloved over to Babylon and Israel is conquered and taken into exile far from their promised land.

Try to imagine the heartbreak of losing your home. The sadness of forcibly being taken away from all that you know, mixed with the anger toward your captors. It is important for us to remember to humanize the experience that we read about in the bible. These were people like us. Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters. Everyone lost someone and/or something precious to them in this process.

With that context, re-read Jeremiah 29:1-14. How scandalous of God to command His people to become a blessing to their captors. God seems to be shifting the mindset of Israel away from a place (the promised land) and into a purpose. The hope of God’s promise to Abraham, to make a people group who live differently in the world that the world might see them and know God, is still very much alive in this exiled people.

Group Questions:

  • Have you ever put yourself in the place of the exile? Take a moment to consider their experience and put yourself in their shoes.
  • Why did God command Israel to settle into the community of Babylon? How should this instruction from God inform how we think about participating and blessing our community today?
  • Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. Does the context of Israel’s story change your perspective of this section of scripture?

Staying Curious:

For many generations, the people of Israel held onto the hope that God would restore them and bring them back to the land they had lost. Much of the Christian faith is learning to live in hope when circumstances seem bleak. What is the hope you are holding onto in this season? What is the hope God has called us to live into, despite our current circumstances?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Pray for the renewal of our collective hope and purpose as God’s people. Pray that the community around us would be drawn to Jesus through our living testimony.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Hebrews 11: 13-16

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Why do we love stories so much? From the time we are small children our imaginations are ignited by stories. The more fantastic the better. There is a unique characteristic of humans that never grows tired of wonderous tales of faraway places. We live in a time of an explosion of stories being shared throughout humanity. Netflix, Amazon, Instagram, Tik Tok… more and more of our social engagement resides in the sharing of stories between people all over the world. We never get tired of a good story.

While each story is unique, the themes are consistent: a character has lost something special and goes on a quest to retrieve it, having to journey through trials and setbacks to find resolution. The Wizard of Oz is a great example of this theme. Our main character, Dorothy, has been kidnapped by a tornado and deposited in a foreign and magical land. Dorothy’s quest to return the people and place that she loves is encapsulated in her magical mantra: “There is no place like home.”

Scripture teaches us that Dorothy’s longing is our longing too. We all are on a quest to return to that place where we now can only dream. The city of God where we were created to reside for eternity. Today we can only catch small glimpses of this divine homeland through experiences of beauty, love, and worship, but God’s promise is that the kingdom of God has entered our foreign land, and one day heaven and earth will be reunited. “Let it be on earth as it is in heaven” is what Jesus proclaims in the Lord’s prayer.

Until that great re-uniting, we wait as foreigners exiled in a place not our home, but still a place God has positioned us. And while we reside here, we are to be the conduits of love, grace, and renewal that God intends to live on in eternity. Like Dorothy, we continually need to remind ourselves that there is no place like our heavenly home, while also earnestly praying that this land would be more like heaven because we, God’s people, are present in it.  

Group Questions:

  • Have you ever considered the exile theme in the bible? Why do God’s people so often exist as “foreigners” here on earth?
  • There is an old Christians phrase that says Jesus-followers are to be “in this world, but not of it”. How can we exist as exiles here on earth while advancing heavenly ways of living?
  • Every people group on earth has customs, languages, and icons that represent and identify them. What are some of the characteristics of heavenly citizens? How do those characteristics align with your life right now?

Staying Curious:

This Sunday, Pastor Evan said that our modern existence more closely resembles Babylon than Israel. Power, money, comfort, and pleasure are literally at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day. Could it be that God has exiled us from our modern times because He loves us and intends to form us into something very different?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort and inspire us to live as holy people in our modern context. Pray for faith to carry us when we feel overwhelmed by life.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Isaiah 9:1-7

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Hope is different than optimism. When we find ourselves optimistic about a situation, we are making a rational decision based on data or facts that lead us to believe we can rely on a positive outcome. You might be optimistic that your favorite football team will beat their rival. Or that the rain might let up for your day at the beach. Those would be (mostly) rational decision based on information.

But hope is an altogether different thing than optimism. The Christian tradition of hope often flies in the face of rational thinking. For most of scripture, followers of God have been people with very little rational optimism. Think of the Israelites trapped as slaves for hundreds of years in Eygpt; or Paul thrown into a Roman prison; or the disciples on the day after Christ’s crucifixion. All rational thinking would compel these people to lose hope, however their stories (and many more like them) are the centerpiece of our faith.

This should compel us, in our present time, to live as people whose hope is found in something far greater than optimism. The hope of Christ-followers is that God’s character is good and true. God is not a man that He should lie. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is our hope in all circumstances.

Group Questions:

  • Are you a glass is half-full or half-empty kind of person? Why is that? How is hope different from optimism in your life and faith?
  • Our faith can be shaken if our hope is rooted in something other than Christ. What are some things that compete for your hope? How do you re-center your focus on God’s character?
  • We stand on the shoulder of fathers and mothers in the faith who have gone before us and shared the stories of God’s faithfulness in their lives. Who has inspired your hope? What story can you share of God’s faithfulness that might encourage others to hope?

Staying Curious:

Often the worst circumstances can be the rich soil of hope. Consider this paradox that there is no circumstance that is too great for God to overcome. What might God be asking you to hope for in this season that makes no rational sense?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those feeling short of hope, pray for reminders of God’s greatness and faithfulness to be a comfort to them. For those full of hope, pray for courage to share this hope with those around them.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: 3 John 2; Matthew 11: 28-29; 16: 24-26

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Scripture teaches us that Jesus cares for every part of us. The work of Christ on the cross confronts every space of brokenness in our world. Christ confronts sickness and disease. Christ confronts injustice and oppression. Christ confronts sinfulness and pride. And Christ confronts the weary and despondent soul of humanity.

Much of our world neglects our internal self. Our bodies and our minds are fed to overflowing in our culture, but our souls are often left untended and exhausted. Jesus sees and cares for this part of us, even though we may not fully understand the soul itself.

Jesus promises that as we come to Him and transfer the burdens of our heart in faith to Him, He will give rest to our souls. To care for our soul is similar to caring for our body or mind, we must create time and space to tend to it well.   

Group Questions:

  • How much attention have you given to the care of your soul? How familiar are you with the idea of your inner self?
  • Why is it that we give so much attention to our physical bodies or our mental health, but not to our soul? What habits in your life help care for your soul? What habits drain your soul?
  • Read Matthew 16:24-26 aloud in your group and ask yourselves the questions presented to us: What good is it for anyone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? What can anyone gain in exchange for their soul?

Staying Curious:

What might it look like to make time this week to pay attention and give rest to your soul? If that idea seems foreign or unnecessary, take some time to sit with the scriptures we highlighted at the top of this page.

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Ask Jesus to meet each of us in our soul-care time this week, that we might transfer the weight of our burdens in exchange for the promised peace of Christ.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Philippians 2:1-8

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Although we use a lot of individual language when we talk about being a Christian, phrases such as “my personal faith” or having Jesus “in my heart”, the truth is that there is no context for a faith in Jesus outside of relationship with Him AND others. When we enter our faith journey, we join a family of God that will influence and shape our spiritual lives forever.

The relationships are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, most of us can point to a few key relationships that have been the source of growth and depth in our faith – mentors, family members, faithful friends. On the other hand, perhaps the deepest wounds come from the relationships in our faith community. There is no way around the complexity of relationships and yet God clearly calls us to lean into our love for one another, just as He has loved us.

There can be a temptation to react to broken relationships by engaging in fight or flight responses. When hurt we may want to run away or attack those that hurt us. But Jesus points us to a different way of being in relationship. The one that He modeled for us. As Pastor Bo reminded us on Sunday, the way of Jesus is Kindness, Wisdom, Sacrificial Love, Humility, and Forgiveness. We are fully loved by God and that is why we can love others fully as well.

Group Questions:

  • Up to this point we have discussed Spiritual Formation in strictly individual terms – mind, will, body, etc. How do you think about your Spiritual Formation as a community experience?
  • What are some ways you have been spiritually formed by other people? Tell your group about one or two people who have really influenced your relationship with God.
  • Who are the people you have shaped in their relationship with God? Have you ever prayed for God to show you one or two people to pour into for a season of life? If not, what would keep you from doing that now?

Staying Curious:

For reasons we will never understand, God uses broken people like you and me to shape the world around us. Community is God’s great strategy for spreading the good news of Jesus all over the world. Often, we can make a mess of this strategy, but God’s grace continues to move it forward. In the end, this is a work of faith. What might it look like to surrender more of your life to this work?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those who have been hurt by their relationship in the Church or by other Jesus-followers, pray for peace and forgiveness to be present to them. For those who have wrestled with how or when to enter into deeper relationships in the church, pray for God to speak clearly to them about what He is calling them to in this season.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

In the garden of gethsemane, Jesus was preparing himself for the cross. He knew the road ahead was going to be painful, so he went away to pray with his closest disciples. But when he came to them, they were sleeping instead of praying. Jesus said to them, “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus told his disciples, and us, that the process of Spiritual Formation is as relevant to our physical bodies as it is to our soul.

Our bodies matter to God. The physical expression of our humanity is connected to our Spirit. In much of our secular culture the body is treat as a god unto itself that constantly needs satisfying. Our hunger, lust, thirst, and every other physical desire is given priority over nearly everything other part of us. But an undisciplined feeding of our physical passions is not honoring to our bodies and leads to de-formation or the breakdown of healthy living.

Conversely, the church often treats the body as evil, vile, and weak. We are taught that pleasure is wrong and should be repressed or even hated. But this extreme view is also dishonoring to the body God has made and also leads to de-formation of our soul. What God made is good and it is made to live in the right order in which it was designed.  

Our bodies are good and wonderous. Paul writes that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We revere holy temples and honor them as sacred spaces. Such is our physical body. You are a living sacred space and God has created your physical self as wonderful, beautiful, and good.

Group Questions:

  • Talk about your relationship with your physical body. How do you think about and live into the sacred space of your physical presence?
  • What are some ways you honor your body as holy? Rest? Exercise? Fasting? Enjoying a celebration feast?
  •  Paul says, “You body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6). Chew on that idea a moment. How can we honor and celebrate our bodies the way we do temples and cathedrals? What makes are bodies similar to those spiritual spaces? What makes them different?

Staying Curious:

For most people, the relationship to our bodies is complicated. Perhaps you have struggled with your body. The way it looks or the way it works (or doesn’t work). When we are young, we want our bodies to hurry up and grow. As we age our bodies breakdown, and we want them to work like they use to work. At each stage, there are things we can learn about our own soul that is revealed in the way we think about and treat our bodies. What are you learning right now?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those who are experiencing physical hardship, pray for healing and the peace that comes with God’s presence. For those who have had a hard struggle with their bodies, pray for God’s vision of their beauty and wonder to fill their imagination about themselves. If helpful, meditate together on Psalm 139:14 – “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Matthew 6: 9-13

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

What is it we want of this life? It is a question worth pondering. Each day when we get out of bed, we set a course for somewhere. We are building something each day of our lives. Most of us get through our days without necessarily giving much thought to where we are going and what we are accomplishing. Lots of life can feel more like surviving than living. Whether we recognize it or not, in our work, in our relationships, even in our presence, we are creating something in this world.

Jesus calls us to something more than simply surviving each day. Our lives are given over to a vision for this world that looks more like heaven because of the way we live. In Matthew 6, Jesus gives us an example of how to pray and maps out for us a life that – when submitted to God’s vision and will – literally brings heaven to earth.

This is a world where relationship with God our Father is central life itself. Where we don’t hold our mistakes over one another. Where we forgive freely and are forgiven freely. Where evil is kept at bay. All because this is the way God has planned it and directed us to follow suit. Do we want this kind of life? If we do, God has invited us into it with Him. On earth as it is in heaven.  

Group Questions:

  • What do you want of this life? When you get up in the morning what is the North Star that is directing your decisions for the day? Be honest with yourself and your group.
  • When you read the Lord’s prayer what stands out to you? Take your time and chew on Jesus words in Matthew 6. Have you experienced anything like what is being described in these words? Tell your group about that experience.
  • What keeps us from giving our life over to this kind of living? What are your greatest fears in following God’s will for your life as described in the Lord’s prayer?

Staying Curious:

Often, we live life on autopilot. This is a very normal experience for all humans. And yet, there is so much good around us all the time that does not come from our own doing. What does it say about the character of God that “the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous” as described in Matthew 5:45?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Take a moment to do an inventory of your own heart and repent for the places you know you are living separate from God’s will for humanity. If necessary, confess those things aloud to your group knowing you are safe to be forgiven and shown grace by God and your brothers and sisters. Pray for a resolve of submission to God’s best for you as a person and for the life you give to this world each day.

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