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Discussion Guide: Faith & Hope

Discussion Guide: Faith & Hope

For the final three weeks of this semester, we’ll be starting a discussion on Christian virtues.  During these weeks, we’ll be asking questions like: What does it mean to be a virtuous person? How does being virtuous relate to following Christ? and How does virtue help me actually live in a modern world like today. This week, we’ll be looking at the second and third theological virtues: faith and hope. 

Icebreaker

What is a life goal that you have for the future? Why do you want that? (e.g. buy a house, go skydiving, learn a new language, etc.)

Scripture Reading

Hebrews 11

Discussion Questions

Read HEBREWS 11:1.

  1. This is a very dense theological sentence. In your own words, how would you define faith and hope as described in this verse?
  2. How are faith and hope related to each other?

Read HEBREWS 11:2-31

  1. How are the actions of these people a representation of faith?
  2. What challenges did these people face that made having faith in God a challenge?
  3. This weeks sermons talked about the temptation of despair. Do you think this is a common feeling for people? How do you think most people deal with the feeling of despair?
  4. What circumstances in your life or the world tempt you to despair? What would Christian faith and hope look like in the face of that despair?

Read HEBREWS 11:2-31

  1. The passage ends with saying none of the people “received what had been promised.” How does this connect faith to the concept of hope?
  2. This passage ends by saying that “God had planned something better for us,” and that this would perfect the faith of the people discussed earlier. What is this “better thing” and how can it help us live lives of faith and hope?

Diving Deeper: FAITH AND HOPE AS VIRTUES

Writing about the experience of hope among enslaved black Americans, James Cone wrote:
“In their encounter with Jesus Christ, black slaves received a “vision from on high” wherein they were given a new knowledge of their personhood, which enabled them to fight for the creation of a world defined by black affirmations. Their hope sprang from the actual presence of Jesus, breaking into their broken existence, and bestowing upon them a foretaste of God’s promised freedom. They could fight against slavery and not give up in despair, because they believed that their earthly struggle was a preparation for the time when they would “cross over Jordan” and “walk in Jerusalem just like John.” They were willing to “bear heavy burdens,” “climb high mountains,” and “stand hard trials,” because they were “trying to get home.” Home was the “not yet,” the other world that was not like this one. Jesus was the divine coming One who would take them to the “bright mansions above.”

    1. Cone talks about hope taking root through the presence of Jesus breaking into the lives of enslaved peoples, have you ever felt this in-breaking presence of Jesus? How did it affect you?
    2. Cone’s description of hope was not passive, but an active on that resisted oppression. How are hope and faith a source of energy for action?
    3. Virtues grow within us and gradually become part of our character. How do you imagine your life would be different if faith and hope were key aspects of your character?

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Charity

Discussion Guide: Charity

For the final three weeks of this semester, we’ll be starting a discussion on Christian virtues.  During these weeks, we’ll be asking questions like: What does it mean to be a virtuous person? How does being virtuous relate to following Christ? and How does virtue help me actually live in a modern world like today. This week, we’ll be looking at the first of the theological virtues: charity, also known as caritas, or Christian love.

Icebreaker

What is one of the craziest/silliest things you ever did for love? 

 

Scripture Reading

1 Corinthians 13; John 15:12-13

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What does it meant to love someone/something?

Read 1 Corinthians 13.

  1. In your own words, what is the main message of this passage?
  2. How is the definition of love laid out here different than how our culture often defines love?
  3. Do you see this sort of love exemplified in the Christian community? If yes, where? If no, what do you see instead? 

Read John 15:12-13.

  1. How does Christ’s definition of love relate to the one spelled out above? 
  2. Both of these passages use the Greco-Christian term agape as their word for love. This word was unique in the Greek world. This term was latter translated to Latin as caritas, and is translated into English as charity or Christian love. How is the concept of “Christian love” or “agape love” different from other types of love?
  3. Wow would you describe the relationship between love and actions in these passages? How are they related? How are they distinct?

Diving Deeper: Love As ThE FOUNT OF VIRTUE

Read the following quote by Lisa Fullam:
“Virtues are good habits of character that are conducive to human flourishing, individually and communally, and out of those good habits we tend by and large to do morally right actions, and thereby become better, more virtuous people overall. Vices, by contrast, are traits of character that are harmful to us and to our communities, and they tend to be manifested in wrong acts, by which our character gets worse overall. As we grow in virtue, doing right actions becomes easier and feels more natural to us, because the virtue has become more deeply rooted in our character.”

  1. How do you understand the concept of virtue and vice? Do you think this concept is a helpful way to approach the moral dilemmas of life?
  2. Christian theologians have long talked about love as the “fount” of the other virtues. Thinking back to the discussion of 1 Corinthians 13. Do you agree with this? Why/ why not?
  3. How would a “agape-first” approach to contemporary ethical issues change how we approach them?

Helpful Resources

Love, the Sum of All Virtue by Jonathan Edwards

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Addiction Must Fall

Discussion Guide: Addiction Must Fall

During the first part of the Easter season, we’ll be looking at the story of David and Goliath to understand the power of the resurrection in our lives. Rather than living in fear, complacency, anger, and rejection, God has opened up a new way for us to live in him. Through God, the “goliaths” of our lives no longer have the power over us. On this final week of the series, we’ll look at how God, through Christ, has set us free from addiction.

 

Icebreaker

What food can you not keep in your house because you’ll eat it too quickly?

 

Scripture Reading

1 Samuel 17:4-11; Romans 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Discussion Questions

Read 1 Samuel 17:4-11.

  1. Why is are the Israelites so afraid of Goliath? What do they know about him, and what do they believe about him?
  2. Addiction is often treated like a insurmountable giant in our culture. What do you know about addiction, and what do you believe about addiction?
    Leader’s Note: This is a good time to help work as a group to separate the facts of addiction from the beliefs about it. 
  3. What do you think are the things people are addicted to most in our culture? Why are these addicting?

Read Romans 7:21-25.

  1. How do you think Paul’s expression in these verses relates to the experience of addiction?
  2. If addiction is so common in our society, why are people so ashamed to talk about it? What drives people to stay in the feedback loop of addiction?
  3. What is Paul’s answer to the feedback loop of addiction? Do you really believe that Christ delivers us from the power of addiction?

Read 1 Corinthians 12:9-10.

  1. What does it mean for Christ’s grace to be “sufficient for [us]” in times of weakness? Have you ever experienced that reality?
  2. How is weakness a strength in the Christian life? How would we live differently if we actually “delight[ed] in weakness”?

Diving Deeper: OPENING UP

When David stepped on the battlefield to face Goliath, he did so without armor, a spear, or a sword. In short, David was vulnerable, but in that vulnerability he made way for God’s redeeming power.

Take some time as a group to share your own experiences with addiction by asking questions like:

  1. How have other people’s addictions affected your own life?
  2. Has addiction played a role in your life? How so?
  3. Have you seen people get free of addiction? How did they do it?

Helpful Resources

Types of Addiction by Addiction-Treatment.com
The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Anger Must Fall

Discussion Guide: Anger Must Fall

During the first part of the Easter season, we’ll be looking at the story of David and Goliath to understand the power of the resurrection in our lives. Rather than living in fear, complacency, anger, and rejection, God has opened up a new way for us to live in him. Through God, the “goliaths” of our lives no longer have the power over us. This week, we’ll look at how God, through Christ, has set us free from anger.

 

Icebreaker

 What is a pet peeve of yours? Why does it bother you?

 

Scripture Reading

1 Samuel 17:25-30; James 1:19; Mark 10:13-16

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do people get angry? While there might be different causes, what ties instances of anger together?

Read 1 SAMUEL 17:25-30

  1. Think about this story from the perspective of Eliab. Why would he get angry? Is he justified in his anger?
    Leader’s Note: If the group is not familiar with Eliab’s story it make by good to review 1 Samuel 16.
  2. Thinking back on previous week’s conversations, where else do you see anger in 1 Samuel 17, or where might you imagine it to be present? How do those forms of anger compare with Eliab’s anger?
  3. Can anger be “wrong”? What makes a particular instance of anger unjustifiable? What makes it justifiable?

Read James 1:19 & Mark 10:13-16

  1. Why do you think James cautions against anger? Can one control the speed at which they get angry? How?
    Leader’s Note: It may be a good chance to invite people to share their experiences of controlling or working with their anger. What strategies have people used to combat a quick temper?
  2. Is it okay for follower’s of Christ to become angry? Under what circumstances?
  3. How should anger be appropriately expressed as a follower of Christ? Have you ever seen examples of this done well?

Diving Deeper: Get Angry

Reflecting on the injustices of the black experience in the United States, Joshua L. Lazard, the C. Eric Lincoln Minister at Duke Chapel, writes  

A space must exist in the pulpits, with sermons that acknowledge anger and righteous indignation, as well as in the curricula of Christian education departments. And yes, even in the sacred spaces of a mid-week bible study.”

  1. What do you think of this sentiment? Why is it necessary to create spaces in Christian community which embrace righteous indignation?
  2. Take this time to talk about some things that make you righteously angry. How can you bring those feelings to God, and what outlets are available that can help you process and act productively on those feelings?

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Complacency Must Fall

Discussion Guide: Complacency Must Fall

During the first part of the Easter season, we’ll be looking at the story of David and Goliath to understand the power of the resurrection in our lives. Rather than living in fear, complacency, anger, and rejection, God has opened up a new way for us to live in him. Through God, the “goliaths” of our lives no longer have the power over us. This week, we’ll look at how God, through Christ, has set us free from complacency.

 

Icebreaker

If you could only have one what would you choose: a really comfortable life or a really meaningful life? Why?

Scripture Reading

1 Samuel 17:2-3 & 20-24; 1 Samuel 5

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you define a good life? How does comfort factor into that definition?

Read 1 Samuel 5.

Leader’s Note: The ark of the covenant was a large chest through which God would allow himself to be specially present. In the previous chapter, Israel brought the ark into battle thinking it would ensure victory, but they were defeated.

  1. Put yourself in the Philistine’s shoes, how would you perceive of the God of Israel based on these events?
  2. Why do you think God would do this to the Philistines? What does it say about God’s character and relationship with Israel?
    Leader’s Note: The ark was part of God’s special covenant with Israel. God’s covenant with them made it possible for his holy presence to exist among them, even when they strayed. The Philistines were not part of this covenant, did not obey God’s laws, and thus could not be found acceptable to God at that time.

Read 1 Samuel 17:2-3 & 17: 20-24.

  1. There is a month and a half between these two sets of verses. Put yourself in the Philistines’ shoes again, how would you perceive Israel in these verses, especially in light of 1 Samuel 5?
  2. Now put yourself in Israel’s shoes and think back on the stories of 1 Samuel 5. How would that make you perceive God? What would you be expecting of God as you sit on the battle lines?
  3. Considering expensive it was/is to maintain an army, why hasn’t Saul ordered the men to fight? Better yet, why hasn’t he ordered them to flee?
  4. While a battlefield might be far from comfortable in the traditional sense, how might the people of Israel be choosing their personal comfort over their purpose?
  5. What makes David’s attitude so different from the rest of Israel. How has his experience with God prepared him for this moment.
    Leader’s Note: It may be good to peruse 1 Samuel 16-17 as a group to understand why David refuses the status quo.


    Read the Following Quote.

“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” – Thomas Merton

  1. What do you think of this statement and how do you see it playing out in the story of Israel in 1 Samuel 17?
  2. Do you see the dynamic mentioned in the quote in your own life? In what way?
  3. This week’s message discussed the idea of letting go of complacency and choosing to open ourselves up to God’s call on our lives. What do you think of this idea? What excites you/scares you about it?
  4. Have you ever felt like you’ve heard God’s call in your life? What was happening at the time? What did God call you to do? Did you do it? What was it like?
  5. We all struggle to hear from God at different times in our lives but sometimes we grow complacent in that silence. What could you do this week to open yourself up to God’s voice and call in your life?

Diving Deeper: Losing Your Life

Read Luke 9:23-25

  1. How do you think most people try to “save” their lives? In other words, if they “lost everything,” what would they have lost?
  2. What do you think it means to “lose your life” for Jesus’ sake?
  3. In your own walk of faith, what areas have you found it difficult to lose control of (i.e. where is it hard to let “Jesus take the wheel” in your life? :p) Why is that?
  4. What might it look like to try to lose your life for Jesus this week? How might Jesus’ saving grace meet you anew in that moment?

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Rejection Must Fall

Discussion Guide: Rejection Must Fall

During the first part of the Easter season, we’ll be looking at the story of David and Goliath to understand the power of the resurrection in our lives. Rather than living in fear, complacency, anger, and rejection, God has opened up a new way for us to live in him. Through God, the “goliaths” of our lives no longer have the power over us. This week, we’ll look at how God, through Christ, has set us free from rejection.

 

Icebreaker

What is one of the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done? Why did you do it?

 

Scripture Reading

1 Samuel 17:20-53; Hebrews 13:1-81 Samuel 16:1-7; 17:26-31; 17:38-40,45-47: Hebrews 4:14-16

 

Discussion Questions

 

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-7 & 1 Samuel 17:26-31

  1. Think about these passages from the perspective of Eliab. How do you think his experience of rejection in Chapter 16 shaped his response to David in Chapter 17?
  2. Now, think about this passage from the perspective of David. How did he experience rejection?
  3. How do you think most people experience rejection? Is it through large traumatic experiences, or more mundane forms of rejection? What forms of rejection do you think are most common?
  4. This weeks sermon discussed the dynamic of “rejected people rejecting people” and creating cycles of rejection. Have you ever seen or experienced this in your own life?

Read 1 Samuel 17:32-37

  1. Saul initially rejects David based on his appearance and age. Do you see these forms of rejection alive and well in our culture? How so?
  2. How does David respond to Saul’s rejection? How has his relationship to God shaped his response?
  3. Where have you felt God’s acceptance of you? Why do you think it can be hard to experience this acceptance?

Read 1 Samuel 17:38-40, 45-47

  1. David’s speech to Goliath is rooted in his belief about who God is in relation to Israel. Who do you believe about God’s faithfulness, especially in relation to you and your community of faith?
  2. What truths about God’s acceptance do you see in this story? How does it relate to God’s acceptance of us through Christ?
  3. How might this story played differently if David allowed himself to succumb to rejection? Why is acceptance so powerful?
  4. What areas of your life do you feel rejected in? Why? How does the Good news of God in Jesus respond to those areas of rejection?

Diving Deeper: Christ Our High Priest

Read HEBREWS 4:14-16

The author of the book of Hebrews explores the idea of Jesus as our high priest. This idea is rooted in the dual concepts of Temple worship and ritual purity. During early expressions of Jewish worship, God’s holy presence was uniquely present in the Temple. As most people were sinful or impure, God could not accept or allow them to be in direct contact with him. As such, a high priest would serve as a ritually pure stand-in for the people of Israel. This person was ritually cleansed so God could allow them into His presence. Once their, the high priest could repent on behalf of the people and ritually absolve them in God’s presence.

  1. How does God’s acceptance of Jesus relate to God’s acceptance of you? Why does that even matter?
  2. Verse 15 discusses how Jesus empathizes with us in our struggles and knows our temptations. How is empathy important for helping cultivate our acceptance of others?
  3. The final verse talks about approaching God directly. In the analogy to the high priest, the author of Hebrews says that because of Jesus, we can now go directly to God ourselves and not fear his rejection. Is this a truth you feel like you live into? If this idea is hard to accept, why?

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Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

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