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Connections Uniform 7-24-16

Not without Hope                Romans 5: 1-11

Focal Outline:       Romans 5: 1-4                       Peace with God
                                    Romans 5: 5-8                       God proves love
                                    Romans 5: 9-11                     Much more

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

  1. People of faith for most any length of time know what it is to experience a broken relationship with God.
  2. A restored relationship with God doesn’t eliminate pain and suffering.
  3. Our place in Gods’ family is based on God’s love as demonstrated in Christ’s saving actions.
  4. If we are to boast at all, it is in God who gives us hope.

 

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

  1. What has been your toughest time with God? What helped you through that, if you indeed got through yet?
  2. What place do pain and suffering have in my understanding of a loving God?
  3. How is God’s love active and at work in my understanding of salvation?
  4. Where does your hope come from in God’s creation drama?

 

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!]

It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up. Those words are attributed to one of my childhood baseball idols, pitcher Nolan Ryan. Seems I have had a love-hate relationship with those words since I first heard them. On the one hand, Ryan wasn’t really a big braggart and he certainly could deliver the goods when he pitched. I’ve never heard the context, and for all I know he might have been challenging someone else who was prone to bragging by observing that they’d better be able to do more than talk.

On the other hand, accomplished or not, most of us truly find boasting to be distasteful. Paul will speak here of “boasting.” I’m not sure most of us have the cultural and linguistic context to set Paul’s use of this word free. For instance, is there a different or better (read: more accurate) word we could translate in English that might capture the essence of Paul’s boasting? That might be a point of emphasis for study this week. Boasting in our conventional sense might distract us and cause us to miss the deeper point Paul tries to make. So, what IS Paul’s point here? That also might be a fruitful point of emphasis as we study this week.

Hope. Strength. Confidence. These seem to be what Paul derives from his faith in what God has done. Celebration. That’s another essence I hear as I try to understand where Paul is headed. Maybe Paul really did mean “boast” as our 21st century ears hear. If so, we’ve got to figure out how to do that and not be more obnoxious Christians than some of us already are. One thing remains: I simply cannot read Paul’s words without hearing him cast the spotlight on God rather than himself. After all, Paul’s larger topic here is God restoring a broken relationship with humanity. Right? That message hits home powerfully. Relieved might be another word we could use here, if the notion of boasting didn’t have us so distracted.

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

  1. Most of us have experienced a broken relationship with another person. (p97) What is the most distance between you and God that you have lived through? What do you believe caused this? What got you through?

 

  1. What accomplishments do we value over others? Why do we value them? What’s the difference in celebrating our accomplishments and boasting in them? Why might Paul talk of “boasting” in his faith?

 

  1. How can we be confident in the present and hopeful about the future?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p87 of your Connections Uniform Teaching Guide. How do you show your pride? Are there proper ways to be prideful? What might those 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…

 

           Romans 5: 1-4                       Peace with God

What is the essence of justified as Paul uses that here? In v1, what is his reaction to God’s provision? (peace) In v1-4, how would you summarize what Paul seems to be feeling? Why so? Where do pain and suffering fit into what God has provided?

 

Romans 5: 5-8                       God proves love

In v5-6, what gifts has God given to us? What are we to understand about how “love” has done this? What is this “right time”?   How do v7-8 add strength to Paul’s case of all that God’s love has done?

 

Romans 5: 9-11                     Much more

In v9, being “justified” is different from being “saved” according to Paul. How do you understand these two words? In v10, he introduces “reconciliation” to this. Where does that fit in with justification and salvation?

 

  1. On p101 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “God upends our expectations by welcoming the unworthy and loving the undeserving. We are unacceptable, but God accepts us anyway.” How does this relate to what Paul has said in our text?

 

  1. How does Ro 3: 27 relate to our text? How about Ro 1: 18?

 

  1. On p103 our lesson writer says “Sometimes we think of salvation as something that happens at one point in time. But for Paul, salvation is a process that began in the past, continues in the present and grows and comes to completion in the future.” How do you react to that summation? How does this fit with our text?

 

  1. In the Connections Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour compares and contrasts hope as both a comforting presence and a source of angst. On p66-67, follow as he applies 3 key words: justification, peace and hope. On p67, he explores Paul’s odd juxtaposition of hope and suffering. On p69, see 3 types of theories as applied to Paul’s sense of hope.

 

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. Read Romans 5: 9-11 again. Reflect on your life in the past and in the present.
  2. Give thanks to God for what God has done in years gone by. Give thanks for what God is doing now!
  3. Spend time in prayer, giving thanks to God for the peace, grace, hope and character that you acquire in God’s saving acts in Christ. Then, pray that you will move toward a restored relationship with God.

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p91 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. What results mean the most to you, and why so?

 

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


Connections Uniform 7-31-16

Death Becomes Life           Romans 6: 1-4, 12-14, 20-23

Focal Outline:           Romans 6: 1-4                       Baptized into His death?

                                    Romans 6: 12-14                   Present yourselves to God

                                    Romans 6: 20-23                   The end of those things

 

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

  1. The good news is that because of Christ, we are freed from slavery to sin and freed for service to God.
  2. When we’re baptized into Christ’s death, we die to sin and can’t continue to live in it.
  3. Paul speaks directly to us, warning that sin must not continue to control our lives.
  4. We are under obligation to do what is right because we are no longer slaves of sin, but of righteousness.

 

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

  1. How does that simple clarity help you with your living? Is this too simplistic, or does this work for you?
  2. What did Paul mean by us being “baptized into Christ’s death?” Why does this matter?
  3. If Paul really is speaking to me, then what sins is he most concerned with? What is controlling me?
  4. What could being a slave to righteousness mean specifically?

 

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!]

When we’re baptized into Christ’s death, we die to sin and can’t continue to live in it. I so wish this were true. I have to be careful what I say here, because my mother’s study group uses this material and someone might tell her what I said. But, I think we all know that this speaks to the “ought-to” of our spiritual lives. But, by no means suggests that we can’t continue to sin. Because I have noticed that I am still quite able to sin. No veil dropped in front of my eyes the day I rose up out of the baptismal waters. I still can see evil!

So, if we all have noticed that we do still sin—what is Paul’s point? What can we take away from today’s text that might transform our living? What can we really do with this? Our baptisms were not intended to be mere moments in time. Instead, Paul says, we are raised to walk in newness of life. Some of us may tend to treat baptism instead like a watery admission ticket. As if we submit to baptism to gain entry into our church’s membership and into the larger kingdom of heaven. When that is the case, baptism’s real power can fade with time. When we dry off with a towel, has anything truly changed? Paul says our lives should!

Why does this matter? Why should I care? What do I do with this? I remind you from time to time that these are among the questions that adult learners bring to any study or sermon. These questions might be a good filter for you as you prepare for the group study. When we ask these questions of ourselves, we are likelier to focus our insights. We are likely to seek ways we can apply something from the text. And, best of all—we are likely to leave the group time still pondering something that we connected with. If those things happen, then our time has been well-spent. Don’t you think?

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

  1. Has passion or interest ever consumed you? Or have the demands of a job or other responsibility ever seemed to take over your life? Have you ever felt completely under someone else’s authority? (p105) If you said “yes” to any of these, then you know what it is like to be controlled by someone or something.

 

  1. Reflect on your experience of Baptism. What do you remember? Why might that stand out? How have you experienced newness of life since then? How has this changed your behavior?

 

  1. Where do you see growth happening in your life? Where do you see spiritual growth in your life?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p94 of your Connections Uniform Teaching Guide. How might someone mistake what Paul is saying here for an excuse to sin more?

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…

 

           Romans 6: 1-4                       Baptized into His death?

What has led Paul, in ch5, to begin here as ch6 unfolds? In v1, how does Paul summarize the issue at hand?  In v2, how does he support his own answer? What should this mean for our behavior? What does v4 add to support this transformation?

 

Romans 6: 12-14                   Present yourselves to God

In v12-13, how does Paul reinforce his earlier points from v1-4? How does v13 speak to a very specific difference in our allegiances? How should leaving behind the Law affect our free living?

 

Romans 6: 20-23                   The end of those things

How does Paul really tighten the screws in v20? How would you sum up v21? (I hear “So, where did your sin really get you?”) What does it mean that “the end of those things is death?” What is “sanctification?”

 

  1. On p108 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “Paul wants his readers to understand that they must choose to grow in the new life that God has made possible in Christ.”   Being truthful, has “growth” in your faith felt optional compared with salvation itself? How are the two tied together? Why does this matter?

 

  1. How does 1 Cor 15: 12-19 relate to our text? How about Phi 1: 20-26?

 

  1. On p109 our lesson writer says “Once again, this conclusion seems to make people think that Paul is encouraging us to sin. He continues to deny that, insisting that we live under the power of grace.” Why wouldn’t grace work that way? (More sin = more grace)

 

  1. In the Connections Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour reminds us of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings on cheap grace vs. costly grace. (p71) On p72, why wasn’t Paul advocating more sin as a means of receiving still more grace? See p72-3 for more on key words: justified, transformation, dominion and sanctification. On p74, why are the wages of sin “death”?

 

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. Read Col 3: 2-3. In what areas do you still struggle with sin?
  2. Are there patterns, people or places you should avoid in order to lessen your temptation?
  3. Give thanks to God for the congregation that first welcomed you into God’s family. Pray that God will deepen your awareness of how your baptism marks you as a part of God’s family.

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p98 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. How does your congregation affirm a member’s growth in the faith after baptism?

 

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