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Connections 7-30-17

God Permits               Genesis 29:15-28

Focal Outline:           Genesis 29: 15-20                 I will serve you

                                    Genesis 29: 21-26                 What have you done!?

                                    Genesis 29: 27-28                 Another seven years

 

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

  1. Life is easiest when events go as predicted. Struggle comes when events occur that seem out of order.
  2. The Bible does not teach that we are protected from unforeseen circumstances just because of our faith.
  3. Laban’s conniving to get both daughters married worked. But, he lost his family in the process.
  4. Jacob was right to be outraged at Laban’s deceit. But, he stayed focused on the larger vision and purpose.

 

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

  1. Why do we get so stressed when life throws us a curve? What have you learned from life gone wrong?
  2. What makes me think that I am entitled because I am a person of faith? How does life keep me humble?
  3. What is the heaviest price I have ever paid for trying to control my own life? What should I learn from this?
  4. How is Jacob’s example of focus on the larger vision and persistence to that instructive for my own living?

 

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!]

     Jacob loved Rachel. Just how much Jacob loved Rachel is at the heart of this tremendous story. But, as much as that could catch our eyes—there is more waiting for us. How do you react to Laban’s deception? Why would he have done such a thing? And, what does Jacob’s persistence really have to teach us? All this and more is our opportunity in the text. Here we learn not just about Jacob and Laban but about ourselves!

As always, we will also have to figure out what to do with the cultural practices and disconnection they create for us as we read scripture. We don’t readily understand the dynamics of the servitude or the prolonged wedding festivities. Delve into that as much as you have time and energy. But, at the heart of this all is a story that should leave an impression on us. Study for the lessons, and see how you can apply them in your life this week. Apply this story to your own life, perhaps as a mirror, to see and hear what the Spirit might be saying.

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

  1. Can you recall an occasion when you planned for something good to happen, only to see events unfold differently from your plan? What ended up being the consequences? How did you react? What did you learn? What were the “blessings” from “things gone wrong?”

 

  1. When have you been deceived, manipulated or betrayed by someone? How did you feel in the immediate aftermath? Have you moved beyond bitterness and anger at this manipulation? How did you do so? If not, how can you move beyond your anger? How has this affected relationships that have happened since? How can you keep one bad experience from infecting all of your experiences.

 

  1. What are some characteristics of a long-lasting relationship? Have someone record responses either on the board or on paper as the group responds. What makes a relationship worth fighting for in hardship?

What qualities characterize marriages that last a long time? How do this differ (or do they?) from good work relationships or good friendships that last? Who are a couple of healthy, long-term marriages that inspire you? Perhaps a note of thanks and prayer to these would be in order this week.

 

  1. What makes staying focused on the larger vision most challenging?
  2. My impatience to get on with life. b. My inability to keep the main vision in mind.
  3. The ease at which I am so easily distracted by life. d. Competing visions of others in my life.

What is the lesson for you here? What needs to change? How?

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…

 

           Genesis 29: 15-20                 I will serve you

What in ch29 has led to this action now in 15? Describe the deal worked out between Laban and Jacob in v15-19? What is driving Jacob? What is driving Laban? (He is responsible for marrying all his daughters well!) What more do we learn about Rachel and Jacob in v20?

 

Genesis 29: 21-26                 What have you done!?

What is Jacob’s request in v21? (Rachel’s hand in marriage) In v23, why did Laban make the switch that he did? How does v24 relate to Leah’s part in all this? How could this happen…do you think Jacob could not have recognized the differences? NOTE: All OUR questions are merely speculation. But have fun thinking.

 

Genesis 29: 27-28                 Another seven years

What is Laban’s explanation in v26 to the question Jacob asked in v25? What 2 things does Laban require of Jacob in v27? How much time do we skip forward in v28? (7 years) How happy an ending does this seem?

NOTE: Many details are omitted in this story. Details that we want answers for! Isn’t that just like us!! As people of faith, we need to understand that God permits life to happen and then weaves all of these together for good on the longer arc of history. I often say to people, “I don’t know how God works; I just know THAT God works! And, that is enough!”

 

  1. If you agree that God permits life to happen, do you also agree that God’s grace and our faith help us persevere? If, as Christians, we expect a carefree life, we will be disappointed. So, what kinds of benefits or privileges do you catch yourself expecting as a Christian? What should we expect?

 

  1. How does Gn 28:15-22 relate to this passage? How about 1Tim 1:12-17?

 

  1. What are some key words describing Rachel and Leah’s appearance. What do these mean? (Perhaps, we are offered this to note that Rachel and Leah were both beautiful. That there were no definitive differences between the two.) What we do know is that Rachel held Jacob’s heart!

Love makes us do strange and wonderful things! Anybody got a story???

Why can’t Jacob back out of the union with Leah? What is the underlying of “birth order” in this passage? Do you think Jacob noticed the irony? Do we? (See the Teaching Guide on p96 for more.)

 

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 Proverbs 12:19-26. Can you see characteristics of Laban and Jacob in these verses?
  2. What character traits will help you persevere in challenging times, and help you find fulfillment?
  3. Pray that God will give you purpose and focus…as individuals and as a congregation.

 

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


Connections 8-6-17

Come with Honesty             Matthew 14: 13-21

Focal Outline:           Matthew 14: 13-14                            He went away

                                    Matthew 14: 15-17                            We have nothing

                                    Matthew 14: 18-21                            What was left over

 

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

  1. As this episode unfolds, Jesus has just heard about John the Baptist’s murder.
  2. Jesus wanted to take His pain and grief to God. But seeing needy people, He turned his energy to them.
  3. Jesus call to the Disciples in this story pushed them beyond what they thought their limitations were.
  4. As Christians, we want to be faithful to God. There are so many needs, and often too few resources.

 

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

  1. How did John the Baptist’s execution connect with this story?
  2. When the Bible refers to Christ “humbling” Himself, what does that mean?
  3. What are we supposed to learn from Jesus’ instructions to them? What lesson is in His provision?
  4. What can we do when a sense of call doesn’t seem to match up with resources?

 

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!]

Does it ever seem like the problems in your community or in the world are so overwhelming that there’s no solution? We hear that in the Introduction to our lesson. (p100, Connections Teaching Guide) In this week’s lesson text, we’ll find Jesus giving His disciples a tall assignment. His compassion on those gathered leads Him to want to meet a practical need. But, the disciples rightly point out that they have few, if any, resources. That is, until God acts in their midst. How could they have known?

We begin a new unit of study with this lesson. Come to Jesus is our unit theme, with scripture texts this month leading us to self-evaluation in light of Christ’s presence. We’ll learn the value of honest confession and dialogue in God’s presence with this study. Some texts can simply lead us to go away feeling worse about ourselves, and our faith. That is, if we simply hear them pointing out our inadequacy or our own unfaithfulness. However, the challenges in stories also point us toward new ways of seeing God, and new avenues of faith.

As always, one of the big theological questions for each of us is to ask, “How much do I trust God?” That dynamic is in play here. The disciples would be forced to trust in what they could not yet see—if they were going to respond faithfully to Jesus’ instructions. Such a story can make us feel badly about our own trust. Or, we can simply be entertained or “inspired” by the splendor of Jesus’ might in such a story. A third way, a beneficial way, might be to consider what we are to learn from such a story? Learning pushes us past guilt or entertainment, and toward being something different from this day forward!

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

  1. Some of the more compelling stories of the Christ seem to include Jesus seeking time to Himself and with God. What are some you can recall? What are we to learn from Jesus’ efforts to pull away occasionally?

 

  1. Our lesson writer says, “Growing in faith is a struggle.” She points out that the Disciples struggled to understand what Jesus asked them to do in today’s text. Looking back, what have you struggled to understand about God?

 

  1. When have you perceived a call by God to do something you felt ill-equipped to do, or that you lacked the necessary resources to do? What happened as this unfolded? What did you learn?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p100 of your Connections Teaching Guide. What are some of the biggest crises that your community faces? Where does the Church fit in this need?

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…

 

Matthew 14: 13-14                            He went away

What has Jesus just heard in v13? Why was this important to His own ministry? Why, in v13, did Jesus seek solitude? How does Jesus’ reaction to the crowd that followed Him instruct you? Challenge you?

 

Matthew 14: 15-17                            We have nothing

That night, what problem did the Disciples see in v15? Why did Jesus respond as He did in v16? In v17, how were the Disciples right? How were they wrong?

 

Matthew 14: 18-21                            What was left over

In v18-19, how many different actions did Jesus take? Talk this over and list them as a group. What does the bounty of v20-21 teach us? How are we to relate to this within our own lives? That is, what’s here for us?

 

  1. On p107 (lrge. print) our lesson writer says, “If Jesus needed to spend time alone with the Father, surely we do too.” How might this be true for you? What are the issues for you with this part of the story?

 

  1. How does Gn 32: 22-31 relate to our text? How about Phi 4: 10-15?

 

  1. On p110 our lesson writer says “It’s nerve wracking to be expected to do the impossible…in overwhelming situations, when needs are great and our resources are small, we should trust God to provide.” In what ways have you found trusting God to be fairly comfortable? In what ways do you find your trust limited?

 

  1. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour points out that, other than the resurrection of Christ, this is the only miracle recorded in all 4 gospels. (p69) What are 2 dynamics in this story of provision? (p69) Also on p69, why might John the Baptist have been killed? On p71, why does Jesus instruct the Disciples as He does? See p72 for at least 2 amazing consequences that follow Jesus’ miracle here.

 

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 Phi 4: 1-15 again. Paul is in jail, but is giving thanks for the Philippian generosity.
  2. As you pray, ask God to place a call upon you. Who needs what you have to give?
  3. Spend time alone with God this week. (p108) Given the distractions we face, we have to work at this. Jesus prioritized being alone with God the Father. What is one adjustment you could make in doing this?

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p104 in the Uniform Teaching Guide. What problem do you wish you could solve that would help others? What do you lack?

 

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