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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.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Romans 12:2; Isaiah 64:8; Luke 15: 11-31

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

It is important to come to terms with the idea that we are all being shaped by forces outside ourselves. Anyone who thinks they live and think independently of influence is fooling themselves. From the media we digest to our family history, we’ve all have been and are continuing to be formed.

Spiritual Formation is simply the process we decide to enter when we want Jesus to be that ultimate shaping influence. Romans teaches us not to conform to the patterns of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. When something is conformed it is passively allowing itself to be shaped by outside forces. But when something is transformed there is intention and trajectory to its path. For us to be transformed into Christlikeness we must decide to move in the direct of Jesus and be led by the Holy Spirit. Dallas Willard says the intention to be formed in our thinking means invited God’s presence into our thought life.

For our minds to be transformed to the point of renewal, we must rewire much of the way we think about God, ourselves, and the world around us. The best way to do this is to meditation on what God tells us about all these topics. But we can’t just flippantly read these words and move on. We have to do what Eugene Peterson describes as “chewing on scripture”. Like a dog with a bone, we need to sink our teeth into God’s words for us and let it form in us a new way of thinking.

Group Questions:

  • What are a few things that most shape the way you see God, yourself, and the world? How does that influence reflect or distract from what God says about these areas?
  • Isaiah 64:8 says that God is the potter, and we are the clay. But we’re not a passive lump on the table like clay. Because we are free living beings, we must decide to relent our way of thinking to be shaped as God intends or spend our life fighting against that shaping. Which is truer of your life? What are the barriers to submitting yourself to be formed by God? If you have been fighting God’s formation, ask yourself why.
  • Luke 15:11-31 gives us a picture of God’s character in His own words. Read the story outload together. What stands out most to you? What does this story tell us about God as a Father?

Staying Curious:

Many of us get rattled by the story of the prodigal son. On the one hand the father seems generous and kind. On the other it seems the father is naive and overly gracious. Some might think the second brother is self-righteous and cold-hearted. Others might think he’s justified in his anger and that the father is foolish. Wherever you fall on these thoughts, consider what this story might be stirring in you and why.

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those who have a hard history with the idea of God as a father because of their own lived experiences, pray for comfort and peace. For those who have resisted being shaped by God, pray for His presence to be near to them. For all of us, pray for our minds to be set on God as a good, patient, forgiving, and gracious Father. 

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Proverbs 4:23; Galatians 4:19

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Today we launch a new teaching series on Spiritual Formation. You might not be familiar with this term, Spiritual Formation, but if you have journeyed for long with Jesus, you have already experienced Spiritual Formation in some way. Scripture reading, prayer, gathering in a community of believers, walks in nature, all of these (and many more)  play a part in forming our spiritual self.

Let’s be honest… our world can be quite chaotic. Wars, droughts, politics, the latest tik tok dance trend… it’s exhausting. And if we are not careful many other things will form the way we see the world and ourselves. So, we must look to the way of Jesus continually to form us in Christlikeness.

Jesus says in John 4:14, “Those who drink of the water I will give them will never again be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Jesus offers us a way of being that is different in this world. A way of rest, of unburdening, a way of full life and love.

Because this way of Jesus is so often at odds with the natural state of the world around us, we must commit ourselves to continual renewal in Jesus. To learn how to “be” with God before we try to “do” for God.

 This Sunday, Pastor Bo referenced the author Dallas Willard who wrote that Spiritual Formation happens when the character and way of Jesus is formed inside of us. When our whole being is oriented toward the love of God rather than toward self or public approval or success or a great work ethic, etc. Its when we orient around the love of God that everything in our life begins to become what He always intended it to become.

Group Questions:

  • When you hear the term “Spiritual Formation” what comes to mind? If you are unfamiliar with the term, take a moment and sit with it and then respond.
  • What are some practices or routines that you use to stay connected to the love of God?
  • What is the ultimate goal of following Jesus? How is this ultimate goal being accomplished in your everyday life?

Staying Curious:

In Luke 10, Jesus says that to inherit (notice it is not “earn”, but “inherit) the kingdom of God we must “Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, all your Soul, with all your Strength, and all your Mind; and love you neighbor as yourself.” Think about those different aspects of our Self – Heart, Soul, Strength, Mind. What is unique about each of these aspects in our relationship to God and our neighbors?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those feeling disconnected from God’s love, pause for a few minutes and ask the Holy Spirit to be present to those people. Pray for encouragement and moments this week that will more deeply connect us all to Christlikeness.

No Community Group Questions this week. IT’S EASTER SUNDAY! Rejoice and be with your group and loved ones. Read the resurrection account aloud together in Mark 16: 1-8 and remind one another of the hope of Christ the Risen King!

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Mark 11:1-11

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

The process of the disciples seeing Jesus for who He is comes to a climax in Mark 11. Once Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah (Mark 8) Jesus began to speak plainly with them about what He must do and how it would happen. Jesus didn’t hide the fact that He would die in this process and when Peter tried to rebuke Jesus saying this would not happen Peter earned the unique privilege of being called “Satan” by Jesus.

So, we should not be surprised that Jesus’ journey has finally led him to the gates of Jerusalem. He’s been telling his disciples this for a while now. But what should surprise us is how the people receive Him. Jesus is treated like a King! He rides, not walks, into the great city. People throw cloaks and branches on the ground before him and shout praises. “Hosanna!” “Blessed be he who come in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

Pause for a moment. Close your eyes. And imagine you are there with these people. Smell the dirt and sweat around you. Feel the sun beating down. It’s been so long since you hoped that life could be different that perhaps you stopped hoping. But now this man, Jesus, has entered your city. He is a healer. He is a provider. Thousands follow him. He speaks wisdom and is kind even to the leper. He’s come to set you free!

Jesus is celebrated and honored as a King upon His entry to Jerusalem. What did the people think they were getting in Jesus? A revolutionary? A deliverer? He is all that and more, but also so different.

Imagine now what Jesus must be feeling upon this entry. He knows what is about to happen. He knows the physical pain he must endure. But perhaps more painful than that He know that these same voices yelling “Hosanna!” today will soon be yelling “Crucify Him!”

Group Questions:

  • As you put yourself in the place of a member of the crowd watching Jesus enter Jerusalem, what do you think about Jesus? What do you feel about Jesus?
  • What must the disciples be thinking during Jesus triumphal entry? They assumed all along that Jesus would be some kind of King. Did they imagine that their dream was all coming together? How much more would this deepen the sting of disappointment later?
  • Jesus knows that the praise of the crowd will soon turn to jeers against him, but He rides into Jerusalem anyway and He doesn’t stop the cheers or rebuke the crowd for their adulation. What must Jesus be experiencing in that moment? How deep is His love for these people (and us) to know he will be betrayed, but to move toward them in love anyway?

Staying Curious:

God is mysterious. Even for the twelve disciples who spent every waking moment with Jesus for several years, they had no idea what would happen in Jerusalem. But even in the darkness that enters the story of holy week there is the hope of Easter Sunday. What is God walking you through right now that might require hope in the midst of darkness?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Disappointment with God is a real experience so make space for people who might identify with the crowd or disciples who have so much hope in this moment with Jesus, but fear being disappointed. Pray for faith to strengthen your group. Pray for grace to cover each person and peace to rest upon your group.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Mark 8: 1-38

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

One of the things that makes the gospel according to Mark so special is his storytelling ability. Chapter 8 is a masterful example of Mark’s ability to not only pass along the good news of Jesus, but to do it in a way that draws us into the story. In this chapter we learn about Jesus’ work to cure blindness, both physically and spiritually.

Jesus has already fed the 5000, but at the start of this chapter we see that Jesus is at it again. He miraculously provides bread for 4000 more people who are hungry and again there is an abundance left over. Even so, the religious leaders approach him and demand a sign from heaven to legitimize himself. Mark gives us a hint about Jesus’ feelings in this moment saying, “He sighed deeply…”. How tired Jesus must have felt to continually be asked to prove himself. The Pharisees did not see Jesus for who He was. Jesus replies, “No sign will be given.” 

This is a theme in chapter 8. People, even Jesus’ disciples don’t see Jesus for who He is. When the disciples are concerned about not having bread (of all things!) Jesus asks them, “Do you not see? Do you have eyes, but not see?”.

Mark then immediately takes us to the story of the blind man. The blind man encounters Jesus, but at first can only see partially. Jesus lays hands again on the man and Mark tells us “His eyes were open, his sight was restored, he saw everything clearly.” With this story of healing blindness ang giving clear sight at the forefront of our mind, Mark takes us back to the disciples.

Jesus asks “Who do people say I am?” The answer is muddled, like the blindman’s unclear eyes. “Some say Elijah? Some say John the Baptist?” They see partially, but not clearly. Just as Jesus leaned into the blindman’s healing, He leans into the disciple’s spiritual blindness. “Who do you say I am?” Peter then saw everything clearly, “You are the Messiah.”

Group Questions:

  1. Why do you think Jesus “sighed deeply” at the Pharisees test? What does it tell us about the state of the Pharisees inability to “see Jesus” even after the miracle he just performed? How might we be missing what Jesus is doing around us right now?
  • Do you think it was a coincidence that Jesus rebuked the disciple’s spiritual blindness just before he healed a blind man? What are the parallels that you see in Jesus’ interactions with his disciples and the healing story of the blind man?
  • As you read this entire chapter together take a moment to ask each person in your group what stands out to them. What does Mark want us to take away from this portion of Jesus’ story.

Staying Curious:

Often, we miss God at work in the present because we forget the good work God has done in the past. Take a moment to share memories of what God has done in your life. How has God shown up in your story in the past? How might your past have prepared you for what God is doing today?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Praise God and celebrate what He has done in the past. Remember that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. With that in mind, bring Him your fears, hopes, and petitions for the present.   

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Mark 4:1-34

Group Questions:

  1. In verses 1-8, Jesus teaches that a farmer seems to be scattering his seed indiscriminately. Some on the path, some on the rocks, some among thorns. Finally, the farmer does hit his target on good soil, which produces a crop.

What is the significance of the farmer in this story?

What does the seed represent and what is the significance that it is so widely spread, even if not taking root?

How do we know if we are “the good soil” or not? What can we do to tend to our heart so they might be good soil for the Word?

  • In verse 9-13, Jesus makes a distinction between “insiders” and “outsiders”. Ironically, according to Jesus, the outsiders are the religious people who think they are the insiders, and the insiders (Jesus’ followers) are those who are considered outsiders by the culture around them.

What does Jesus’ distinction between these two groups of people (insiders and outsiders) tell us about what matters to Jesus?

Jesus puts a particular emphasis on skill of “hearing” (v. 9). Don’t we all have ears to hear? Not spiritually, it would seem. How do we develop ears to hear what God is saying and doing?

  • In verse 14-20, Jesus graciously explains the parable to his disciples. Read through each of the scenarios Jesus describes and humbly ask yourself: Where does my heart reside in this story? All these scenarios are temptations and challenges we experience as humans. What is Jesus’ calling us to? How will that require faith in Him and His work on the cross?

Staying Curious:

This parable centers around a farmer who is generously spreading seed on all types of soil. What might this tell us about the generosity of God toward us?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. If the soil of our hearts has grown hard, pray for a softening through the Holy Spirit. Pray for each person in your group to have a heart that is ready to receive what God has for them that we all might produce a good crop in this world.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Mark 1

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Who is Jesus? While this question is not new to us in our modern times, we view the question from a comfortable distance from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Some today say Jesus is a moral teacher, or a spiritual guru, or maybe just a really misunderstood homeless man. Humans search for Jesus’ true identity goes on today, but one author sought out to clear up any confusion from the very beginning. His name was Mark.

For generations, the Hebrew people read, studied, and even memorized the Old Testament scriptures (particularly the five books of Moses, called the Torah). Part of this practice was to connect the people to their history. Another part was to become familiar with the laws that would keep them holy. But perhaps the most significant importance of the scriptures were the prophecies (in Isaiah and Malachi) about a Savior who was coming to rescue Israel from their oppressors and once and for all stand as king over all kingdoms.

So, when Mark introduces his gospel by saying, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” he is not mincing words. He is declaring that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Now remember, the people reading Mark’s gospel know this about Jesus: He lived among them, did some cool stuff, said some cool things… and then was publicly tortured to death by Rome. Doesn’t sound like much of a revolutionary king, right?

That’s exactly Mark’s point. Israel was expecting a king like they had seen before. A charismatic leader with an army. Jesus is the Messiah, and everyone missed it. So, Mark lays out the story, full of dramatic encounters, intriguing dialog, and history changing events for everyone to see the truth about Jesus.  

Group Questions:

  1. Who is Jesus? In your own words talk about how you have engaged the idea of Jesus.
  • As you read Mark chapter 1, what stands out to you in this introduction to Jesus?
  • John was an important and influential leader for his community, but he testified that “After me will come one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worth to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” What does John’s humility teach us about being leaders in the church? Does this attitude seem evident in your faith community? How can your life prepare the way for others to see and know Jesus?

Staying Curious:

The people of Israel were very dedicated to knowing scripture and preparing themselves for the Messiah, and yet they missed Him when He arrived in their midst. This should give us pause and evoke in us a humility about what God might be up to in our world.

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those who might not know Jesus, give an invitation to receive His love and forgiveness. For those who have been walking with Jesus for some time, pray for a renewed hope and wonder in Jesus’ life.  

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