DISCUSSION GUIDE: FORMED BY PRACTICE

DISCUSSION GUIDE: FORMED BY PRACTICE

For six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we are talking about the posture of rest and how that posture can transform us.

How do we change into who we are meant to be? It’s a question that has plagued people from the dawn of time. We can be so caught up in the habits and rhythms of our daily lives that sometimes it seems impossible to ever change. It always seems like too much work, as if we need superhuman willpower to ever get out of the rut. This week, we encounter Jesus as he calls us to bear fruit, to change to be like him. As it turns out, his path to change often looks a lot different than the ones we create.

 

Icebreaker

What is a bad/funny habit that you haven’t been able to kick?

 

Scripture Reading

John 15:1-17

 

Discussion Questions

Read John 15:1-17

  1. What do you think it means for a person’s life to “bear fruit?” What would that practically look like in today’s world
  2. How do most people go about trying to “bear fruit” in their lives?
  3. The word translated in this passage as “remain” is meno, a Greek verb which can be translated as to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy), to abide, to continue, to dwell, to endure, to be present, to remain, to stand, to tarry. What do you think Jesus means by “remain in me?” What would that practically look like on a day to day basis?
  4. In this passage, Jesus is saying that people cannot bear fruit unless they “remain” in him. How is this different than how we typically go about bearing fruit in our lives?
  5. Jesus ties together the idea of God’s love with this idea of remaining and bearing fruit. What is the connection between these different things?
  6. How/why do you think Jesus’ plan for life transformation might work when where other methods fail?
  7. What would it look for you to “remain in Christ” on a day to day basis? What practices would you embody? What ways of thinking would you live into

 

Diving Deeper: RULE OF LIFE

During the message this week, we discussed how remaining in Christ means inhabiting new rhythms and habits that help us learn to keep our minds and intentions on God. We are often so caught up in moving, working, striving, that we don’t always know how to slow down, to let go, and to just be with Christ. One of the tools Christians have long used to train themselves to slow down and to just be is called a “rule of life.” Read the following definition of a rule of life and discuss the following questions.

“A Rule of Life is an intentional pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. A Rule establishes a rhythm for life in which is helpful for being formed by the Spirit, a rhythm that reflects a love for God and respect for how he has made us. The disciplines which we build into our rhythm of life help us to shed the “old self” and allow our “new self” in Christ to be formed. Spiritual disciplines are means of grace by which God can nourish us.” – C.S. Lewis Institute

  1. Connect this concept of a rule with the discussion from above. How does a rule of life help you learn to remain in Christ?
  2. How is a Christian a rule different than just pledging to “do more?” Is it different?
  3. Are their habits and/or rhythms in your life that you do not feel are life giving? Why do you think you are still caught in them?
  4. What are some elements that you believe would be life giving to you as you learn to remain in Christ?
  5. What would a rule of life look like for you? What personal/communal dimensions would it have?

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES

 

 

 

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Shaped by God’s Story

Discussion Guide: Shaped by God’s Story

For the next six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we start with a core posture which relates to our identity: the posture of being shaped by God’s story.

Who was I? Who am I? Who will I be? Philosophers have pondered the nature of the human person for as long as they’ve been philosophizing. Understanding the enigma that is the self is not an easy undertaking. How do we reconcile our fears and our aspirations, our strengths and our weaknesses? Who are we when our jobs, our families, our stuff is taken away? Today, we’ll dive into Ephesians and 2 Corinthians to explore how we find answers to these questions (and more) through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

 

Icebreaker

What was something that you wore/owned as a kid that you thought made you cool? What was cool about it?

Scripture Reading

Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Corinthians 5:13-21

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you define “identity?” What is it and why is it important?
    CONVERSATION HELPER: Psychology Today says, “Identity is concerned largely with the question: “Who are you?” What does it mean to be who you are? Identity relates to our basic values that dictate the choices we make (e.g., relationships, career). These choices reflect who we are and what we value. For example, we can assume that investment banker values money, while the college professor values education and helping students. However, few people choose their identities. Instead, they simply internalize the values of their parents or the dominant cultures (e.g., pursuit of materialism, power, and appearance). Sadly, these values may not be aligned with one’s authentic self and create unfulfilling life. In contrast, fulfilled people are able to live a life true to their values and pursue meaningful goals. Lack of a coherent sense of identity will lead to uncertainty about what one wants to do in life.”

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

  1. How might verses 1-3 be translated into the modern day concept of “identity?” What claims is it making about human identity?
  2. What “desires” and “thoughts” do you think shape most people’s identities? What do most people say is important, and do they live up to those ideals?
  3. Verses 4-10 are eloquent and beautiful, but it is more verbose than is typical today. In your own words, what is the author saying in these verses?
  4. How is what God did through Christ relevant for your identity? Can what someone else does be important for your identity? Why?
  5. The NIV uses the word “handiwork” for the Greek word poiēma. This is where we get the modern day word for “poem,” and it tends to convey the idea of artistic creation.  In short, the verse is saying that your identity is  “God’s beautiful masterpiece.” Do you often feel that way? If yes, what reminds you of this truth? If not, what keeps you from living into this identity?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:13-21

  1. The author is connecting his identity in Christ to his actions in the world. What is the connection between identity and action? Are these two things always related?
  2. There are many descriptors that the author is using throughout this passage to describe what it means to be a “new creation” in Christ. What are they and how do they relate to our identity?
    CONVERSATION HELPER: Here are a few key phrases to think about – ambassadors for God (v20), controlled by Gods love (v14), ministers of reconciliation (v18), reconciled to God (v20), the righteousness of God (v21).
  3. This passage starts with personal identity and moves outward towards how we identify others. What identifiers does this passage suggest that we use towards other people? In other words, who are they?
  4. The “ministry of reconciliation” is an important concept in Scripture and can be applied to many different areas of our lives. How is this passage describing this ministry? How is reconciliation supposed to relate to our identities in Christ?

Diving Deeper: Identity Formation

  1. Read the following excerpt from Psychology Today. According to Sharahm Heshmat, the process of identity formation has three goals:“The first task is discovering and developing one’s personal potentials. These personal potentials refer to those things that the person can do better than other things. How the person to discover what those best potentials are? The answer is a process of trial-and-error. This requires exposure to a wide array of activities, some of which we become able to do relatively well. This is recognized by the feedback we receive from others and our own positive feelings about those activities. These activities simply “feel right” to us, and these feeling are useful clues. We are intrinsically motivated to do these activities. However, the development of skills and talent requires time, effort, and willingness to tolerate frustration when obstacles to improvement encountered. Second step is choosing one’s purposes in life. It is necessary to choose what we are seeking to accomplish in our lives. To achieve substantial success in fulfilling our purpose, the objectives must be compatible with our talent and skills (our authentic self). To choose a purpose not compatible with our capabilities is a recipe for frustration and failure. Finally, one is required to find opportunities for the implementation of those potentials and purpose. Open societies allow for role mobility and flexibility to implement identity-related choices. However, this is not the case in close and rigid societies. For some, this may lead to emigration.  Identity is never “final” and continues to develop through the lifespan.”
  2. The author outlines three stages to the identity formation process. How would our identity in Christ be a part of these stages?
  3. Though we are all made in God’s image and have a common identity in Christ, we also have distinctive personalities and identities. How do the unique parts of our identity relate to the communal, shared identity in Christ?
  4. How is the diversity of our individual identities also a reflection of God?

Helpful Resources

Who Am I? A New Way to Define Identity by Melissa Crutchfield (Cru)
Identity Theft (Book) by Melissa Kruger, et al.
The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Acts 15

Discussion Guide: Acts 15

How do you know God is speaking to you? How can you be sure? Often, our relationships with God feel so much like a one-to-one relationship that we forget that other people relate with God, too. The process of discernment isn’t just a me thing, sometimes (or perhaps most of the time) it is an us thing. In this final week of the Discernment series, we’re looking at the communal aspect of hearing and obeying God’s will.

Icebreaker

What is the worst advice you ever received? What was the best advice your ever received?

Scripture Reading

Acts 15:19-35

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you describe the process of discernment? What does it look like?

Read Acts 15:1-19.

  1. What is at stake in the disagreement between the two parties? Is this just a theological debate or would it have real-world consequences?
  2. How do the people of Antioch respond to this debate? Why do you think they deferred to others rather than decide themselves?
  3. What the the process of discernment look like for the council of people in Jerusalem? What steps did they take?
  4. What criteria did the council use as they tried to determine God’s will?
  5. In this story, how is community important for the process of discernment? Why sort of community makes this discernment possible?
  6. James is the leader of the church in Jerusalem, which at this time was the center of the Christian community. His pronouncement seems to be the final decision of the council, and everyone readily obeys. How do authority figures factor into the process of discernment?
  7. How does Acts’ process of communal discernment look different from more individual approaches to discernment? What steps and criteria should it include?
  8. Do you have people in your life who you value and trust enough to include in major decisions concerning life and faith? If yes, how do you include them? If no, what criteria would make people trustworthy enough?

Read Acts 15:19-35

  1. What else does the letter to the Gentile believers reveal about the discernment process and the criteria used for discernment?
  2. What is the result of the council’s process of discernment? How did it affect the people involved?
  3. After discerning, the council quickly acted by sending a letter to correct the situation. What could have kept them from acting on what they discerned?
  4. Have you been in a process of discernment before? Was it easy or hard to take the next step? Why?

Diving Deeper: The Body of DISCERNMENT

Read 1 CoRINTHIANS 2:12-30

  1. In our individualistic society, we tend to desire self-sufficiency. How does this passage relate to that desire?
  2. This passage speaks towards the apparent inequalities in organizational hierarchies. Some people in the community felt less than because they were not a leader or prominent individual. How does this passage address this tension?
  3. This passage specifically says that people have different gifts for the community. How does this affect how you go about engaging the faith community for discernment?

Helpful Resources

Guidelines for Communal Discernment by Victoria G. Curtiss (PCUSA Resource)
The Reunion Team

CENTERING  PRAYER

CENTERING PRAYER

You’re not good enough.

You don’t deserve love.

God is not good.

No one cares.

You’re a failure.

We all have these recurring tapes that play in our head. Like a highlight reel of our biggest failures or painful words that have been spoken to us. They shape our perception of ourselves and the relationships we have. Often we never stop to consider if they are even good or true songs

In our Mixtape series this weekend we invited you to take out the tape and replace it with a new tape. A mixtape of God’s story and God’s love for you. A mixtape is often comprised of the greatest hits. The songs that anchor you. The songs that grow you, encourage you and speak to your soul. The letters to the early church are like a good mixtape. They remind us of who we are, they grow us, they encourage us, they anchor us, and they remind us of the song of hope we find in Jesus.

One way we encouraged you to take out the old tape and replace it with the tape of Jesus was through the spiritual practice of Centering Prayer.

Centering Prayer has four very simple guidelines. The four guidelines, in their simplicity, are,

  1. Choose a sacred word as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

We choose a simple word, one or two syllables, that embodies that consent to say “yes,” in this moment. It shouldn’t be elaborate, Yes. Love. It could be a sacred word: Jesus. Abba. Home. Light. Peace. That little word holds all of our intentionality.

  1. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word.
  2. When engaged with thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.

When engaged with your thoughts, your emotions, your memory, your imagination, the noise next door, the noise inside, whatever is happening — let it be there.  Then ever so gently, return to that sacred word. This is really the essence of this prayer. We take whatever that is going on in our lives and just be present with God.

  1. At the end of the period of prayer, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

In an effort to help you put this prayer into practice we want to share this awesome app with you! It’s simply called “Centering Prayer”. Download it and give it a try! We hope this helps you switch the tape and live the song of hope we are all invited into!

Apple devices 

Google play

Chris Hall

Lead Pastor

GARDEN TO CITY – HOLY SPIRIT

GARDEN TO CITY – HOLY SPIRIT

Over the last few weeks we’ve been exploring the book of Acts, often referred to Acts of the Apostles but that really is a misnomer for the book – it should be called Acts of the Holy Spirit because while all the stories may be about the Apostles and how the early church operated and all the things they did the reality of it is none of it would have happened without the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts starts in the first chapter with Jesus telling his disciples,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

See this whole story of the early church starts because of the movement of God, the movement of the Holy Spirit and the people respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives and community and these radical stories come about. The book of Acts is just a recording of what the Holy Spirit did in and through them.

Author, pastor, theologian, AW Tozer, when reflecting on the book of acts and the early church once said,

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” 

As we read the book of Acts, as we study the early church, it is undeniable – the things we see happen, the kind of community we see created, to unity we see among the people, the sacrifice, the contrast community they become is only possible with the Holy Spirit.

But when we look at many of our lives and many of our churches  we have to wrestle with the fact that we may acknowledge the need for the Holy Spirit but we live and operate very much as if we can do it on our own. Through this series we hope that changes for us as individuals and as a church. 

 

The Reunion Team

Minor Prophets: Justice then and now

Minor Prophets: Justice then and now

It’s summer…I get it. It’s the season where everything is supposed to slow down but for some reason it all seems to speed up and before you know it your schedule is all out of whack. Between traveling/vacation, work, and trying to enjoy every second of the 3 months of sun and warmth we have – you’ve fallen behind on the Garden to City reading plan, right?

Well I wanna invite you to jump back in with us! This week we are exploring some of the Minor Prophets and some of the themes we discussed in our “Sacred/Secular” series about a month ago. We’re reading Amos this week and he has an incredibly important message for us as it relates to our culture and context today.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously quotes Amos in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. In honor of him and the current culture I’d like to invite you to read the whole letter here, alongside of reading Amos and as  you do – look for parallels between Amos’ culture and that of MLK, as well as things we are still wrestling with today. What would Justice look like today? What do Amos and MLK’s words mean for how we should live as a church?

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” – Amos 5:24

Chris Hall

Lead Pastor