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Connections 9-24-17

Respond to God’s Grace             Psalm 145: 1-9; Philippians 1: 27-30

Focal Outline:           Psalm 145: 1-3                                   Great is the Lord

                                    Psalm 145: 4-9                                   The Lord is good

                                    Philippians 1: 27-30                         Worthy of the gospel

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. Our lesson guides us to consider our practice of offering (or not offering) thanks to God!
  2. We praise God for many reasons, including the things we do not understand about God. (mystery)
  3. Earlier generations have to tell later generations about God. We have to keep telling the story.
  4. We are to seek to be faithful. If suffering should come as a result of that faithfulness, that is part of the deal.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. How important a part of your own praise for God as a portion of your faith practice?
  2. What is your level of appreciation even for the more mysterious aspects of God?
  3. How might you be building a legacy of faith story that passes on to future generations?
  4. What is your reconciling of pain and suffering as a part of the faithful journey with God?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. (Ps 145: 5) With that word of commitment, we sample the Psalmist’s oath to worship in thanks to God. How big a part is “thanks” within your practice of faith? What are the types of things that cause you to stop, take stock, and lift even a short prayer in praise to God? If praise is the only way in which we worship, that is pretty imbalanced. There are multiple platforms across which we should interact with God. But for many of us, that is not the problem at all. Many of us, if we were confessing, might admit that we don’t voice thanks to God enough!

While we’re unpacking this, let’s acknowledge something: the word “praise” (another derivative of “thanks”) is a stumbling block to some of us. For this word (praise) has been co-opted in modern times as a style of music and/or worship. So attuned to that usage are we that we might not be completely comfortable with the word. Is that you? Or, is that not an issue for you at all? Thanks is really what we’re talking about.

Our lesson will take a turn that will feel a little odd to some. For in with this Psalm of praise or thanks, we also have this riff from the apostle Paul on suffering. Paul begins by admonishing us to live lives that are worthy of the gospel of Christ. Ponder the possible meanings of that, in light of this theme of “thanks,” and that might be a fruitful study in itself. But, Paul being Paul—he’s going to arrive at a place where he talks of even counting struggle and suffering as having been graciously granted us by God. Let that one sink in. Now, we have a whole different kind of study. Have fun!

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. What is the most memorable episode you can recall of someone being genuinely thankful—and going to effort to express that thanks?

 

  1. What don’t you understand, about the universe God has created, that leaves you awestruck? Discuss this with others in your study group. Listen and learn with each other!

 

  1. How is your generation telling later generations about who God is and what God does? Talk about this within your group, listening to each other’s observations.

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p24 of your Connections Teaching Guide. Do you think it’s harder to praise God during good times or during bad times?

 

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

Psalm 145: 1-3                                   Great is the Lord

In v1, what would be another word for “extol”? What about “bless”? What commitment comes in v2? (daily!) What affirmation in v3 leaps out at you? (unsearchable?!) What might this mean?

 

Psalm 145: 4-9                                   The Lord is good                              

What commitment is made in v4? What is your responsibility in light of this? What qualities of God will the psalms concentrate on in v5-7 List the qualities of God that are worthy of thanks in v8-9.

 

Philippians 1: 27-30                         Worthy of the gospel                                   

To Paul, what does a life of thanks look like in v27-28? How do v29-30 speak to thanks to God even in hardship? How might Paul’s words here influence your own life of thankfulness?

 

  1. On p30 (lrge. print) our lesson writer says, “One of the reasons Psalm 145 gives for praising God is that God’s ‘greatness is unsearchable’. In other words, we praise God because we cannot fully understand God.” What does this mean to you? If not because, how might you praise God despite what you cannot fully understand?

 

  1. How does Mt 20: 1-16 relate to our text? How about Mt 19: 23-30?

 

  1. On p34 our lesson writer says “God is great and good all the time…There are Christians around the world who suffer for their faithfulness to the Lord.” Our lives might not be in danger. But, how have you suffered?

 

  1. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour begins by describing at least 2 ways we can respond to God’s grace with a “thank-you” note. See p21 for help with 3 key words: extol, bless and praise. On p22, why does the psalmist believe God is worthy? See p23 for Paul’s description of what kind of “thank-you” note that believers could offer in thanks to God!

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions…

  1. Spend some time this week reading any one of our four gospels.
  2. As you pray this week, ask God to give you help seeing how to apply what you have learned to living!
  3. Paul says that it is by God’s grace that we have the privilege of believing in and suffering for Christ. Read Mt 19: 23-30. How do Jesus’ words help us to think about what it means to suffer for Jesus?

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p28 in the Uniform Teaching Guide. Recall a time when your life was going well. How did you experience God’s grace in that time?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!


Connections 10-1-17

Thinking Like Christ          Philippians 2: 1-13

Focal Outline:           Philippians 2: 1-4                 In humility

                                    Philippians 2: 5-11               The same mind

                                    Philippians 2: 12-13             God at work

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. Paul imparts the humble ways of Christ as necessary to a disciple’s life.
  2. Paul uses affirming language to encourage the Philippian believers (and us) to embrace a humble lifestyle.
  3. Paul encourages us to have the mind of Christ. This means we should be humble like Christ.
  4. We have been saved by grace through faith, and our life is a journey of living out that faith.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What does it mean to be servant-minded in an ego-driven world?
  2. How aware are you of the blessings God has given you that can help you grow in humility?
  3. What does it mean to “be humble like Christ?”
  4. Is your relationship with Christ leading you to put concern for others first? Why? Why not?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

We are about to cross the Charles Bridge. Enjoy the opportunity to browse for a moment. There are artists…and near artists. The year was 2003. Elizabeth and I were taking a guided, walking tour of Prague with a native of that great city. What he said washed over us, and we laughed heartily. Soon, though, we saw what he meant. Today, there are 2 pieces are beautiful art hanging framed in our living room from that city. But, we also saw a few near-artists whose work was not so good. Paul will implore us to have the humble mind of Christ. But, I’ve noticed that in Christianity, there is humility and near-humility.

Hard enough is to understand what Paul might have meant when he said we should have the mind of Christ. Our lesson writer will suggest, this week, that humility is at the center of that instruction. I think that’s a fascinating understanding. And, about as good an interpretation of Paul’s teaching as any. Still, we have to decide what it means to be humble. And, what being humble does not necessarily mean.

The more I get to know myself, the more humbled I am before God. That is a starting place. But, the more I know myself, the more I also see the need to be humbled before others. This is where we get lost in the complicated world of living out our faith. At times, it seems that everything in us—and around us—would lead us to look out for ourselves first. But, Paul is suggesting a transformation. A transformation where the central entity within us is Christ. And, that Christ is guiding us in new ways we never would have ourselves. How much access to your controls do you allow Jesus to have?

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. When have you felt the most humbled, so far, in your life? Was this through a good situation or a negative one? How did this make life different for you?

 

  1. Is your relationship with Christ leading you to put concern for others first? Why/why not? If you would say “not,” then how would you describe where your life with Christ is leading you right now?

 

  1. Paul will encourage us to “have the mind of Christ.” What do you think that might mean? Talk this over within your group, sharing specific ways that believers might have the mind of Christ.

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p31 of your Connections Teaching Guide. What is humility? What do some people confuse with humility that might not be?

 

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

Philippians 2: 1-4                 In humility

What has happened in ch1 that causes ch2 to begin “If then….”? In v1, what are the resources we can/should draw from our faith in Christ? In v2-4, list the actions/attitudes that will make Paul’s “…joy complete.”

 

Philippians 2: 5-11               The same mind                                

In v5-8, summarize what Paul seems to view as having “…the same mind” as Christ. List those qualities, or at least capture the essence. In v9-11, how does God the Father view Christ? Why is this important to us?

 

Philippians 2: 12-13             God at work                          

In v12, what is Paul truly instructing us to do? What does he mean to “work out” our own salvation? What does God meet that effort with, in v13?

 

  1. On p38 (lrge. print) our lesson writer says, “Because they are joined to Christ and to each other in perspective, love and purpose, the Philippian Christians can practice humility that leads them to ‘regard others as better than themselves.’” What made this so revolutionary then/there? How might this be received today?

 

  1. How does Mt 18: 1-5 relate to our text? How about Mrk 11: 27-33?

 

  1. On p42 our lesson writer says “We have been saved by grace through faith, and our life is a journey of living out that faith…he calls us to grow continually.” In what way might “working out our salvation” be akin to continued growth in the faith?

 

  1. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour gives a don’t-miss analogy by way of a quote from the movie, “A River Runs Through It.” On p26, consider with Harbour how substituting “if” for “because” might help with the message. Check out the middle of p27 for help with at least 3 key words Paul has used here. Later p27, two more key words (form, God) are explored. In v5-11, what are 3 movements built into the text?

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions…

  1. Jesus teaches us that God’s way is the way of giving ourselves up for God’s sake and for others.
  2. As you pray this week, ask God to help you live a humble life of service. Ask God to be specific!
  3. How aware are you of the blessings God has given you that can help you grow in humility? Spend time this week thinking about ways that you experience encouragement in Christ and consolation from love.

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p36 in the Uniform Teaching Guide. What are some specific ways we can develop the mind of Christ?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!