Sunday, 27 January 2013

Extraordinary Life Week 3 - Blessed are the meek

Matthew 5:5

1. Who do you think is the most meek person in literature or cinema? Defend your answer. [ClarkKent is a possible answer]

2. Define meekness i. In the eyes of the world and ii. In the eyes of Christ. [From The Free Dictionary: 1. Showing patience and humility; gentle. 2. Easily imposed on; submissive. From Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: “Late twentieth-century Western culture does not hold meekness to be a virtue, in contrast to the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, which placed a high premium on it. This dramatic shift in values is problematic for contemporary biblical translation. Most modern versions replace the noun "meekness" by "gentleness" or "humility," largely as
a result of the pejorative overtones of weakness and effeminacy now associated with meekness. These connotations were not always predominant in the word, for ancient Near Eastern kings were not reluctant to describe themselves as meek in the same context in which they described themselves as mighty kings (Babylonian asru and sanaqu; Aramaic nh). What has prompted the discrepancy between the biblical and
contemporary attitudes toward this virtue? There are two essential components for this quality to come into play in the Bible: a conflict in which an individual is unable to control or influence circumstances [perhaps because it would be ungodly to do so]. Typical human responses in such circumstances include frustration, bitterness, or anger, but the one who is guided by God's Spirit accepts God's ability to direct
events ( Gal 5:23 ; Eph 4:2 ; Col 3:12 ; 1 Tim 6:11 ; Titus 3:2 ; James 1:21 ; 3:13 ). Meekness is therefore an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. Meekness is not a resignation to fate, a passive and reluctant submission to
events, for there is little virtue in such a response. Nevertheless, since the two responses (resignation and meekness) are externally often indistinguishable, it is easy to see how what was once perceived as a virtue has become a defect in contemporary society. The patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances identifies the person as externally vulnerable and weak but inwardly resilient and strong.
Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means "tame" when applied to wild animals. In other words, such animals have not lost their strength but have learned to control the destructive instincts that prevent them from living in harmony with others. Therefore, it is quite appropriate for all people, from the poor to ancient Near Eastern kings, to describe their submission to God by the term "meek" (Moses in Num 12:3 ). On the other hand, this quality by definition cannot be predicated of God, and therefore constitutes one of the attributes of creatures that they do not share with their Creator. Nevertheless, in the incarnation Jesus is freely described as meek, a concomitant of his submission to suffering and to the will of the Father (Matt 11:29 ; 21:5 ; 2 Cor 10:1 ). The single most frequently attested context in which the meek are mentioned in the Bible is one in which they are vindicated and rewarded for their patient endurance ( Psalm 22:26 ;25:9 ; 37:11 ; 76:9 ; 147:6 ; 149:4 ; Isa 11:4 ; 29:19 ; 61:1 ; Zeph 2:3 ; Matt 5:5 ).] Pastor Bill said that meekness was strength under control. How do you see this in the life of Christ? How do you see it in the life of Paul?

3. Share an example of a time you saw meekness in action [remember Pastor Bill’s story of the man trained in martial arts who refrained from fighting a man who challenged him].

4. In our world it is the confident, type-A personalities who often seem to get ahead. How does this week’s message sit with such a person?

5. Look through some of these passages and discuss what they say about meekness: Gal 6:1, 2 Tim 2:25, 1 Peter 3:4, 1 Peter 3:15, and James 1:21.

6. Pray that city counsellors and staff would see the value of churches and leave all areas of the city open for churches to inhabit.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Extraordinary Life Week 2 - Blessed are those who mourn

Matthew 5:4

1. Think of recent movies or television shows you have watched. What are some things that people

mourn over in these movies and programs? What things in our culture cause people the most sadness?
2. This may sound like a ridiculously simple question, but reflect on why people (generally) pursue joy and fun in life and not mourning and sadness.

3. Spend some time thinking about things God wants us to mourn over. Here are two things to get you started:

i.Spiritual Poverty. Our Western society has radically changed its opinion of sin and
of guilt. It disagrees with many biblical pronouncements of what is wrong and what
is right, it removes personal blame in many instances by blaming bad behaviour
on society, one’s upbringing and genetics and it has minimized the seriousness of
disobedience to God. Paul teaches that people approve of those who sin (read Romans 1:28-32). For God, however, sin is serious business. Sin has cut us off from a personal relationship with Him and this relationship could only be restored at great pain and cost to God Himself. Read James 4:4-10. How should we respond in the light of our own guilt and of God’s view of sin? Everyone should prayerfully consider this next question but only a couple need to answer aloud: What sins in your own life have you not taken as seriously as God would have you take them? What are you going to do about them now?

The Lost and the Broken. Read Luke 19:41-44. Jesus mourns for the city of Jerusalem. There is a story told of Dwight Moody: While speaking in London, evangelist D. L.Moody was approached by a British companion who wanted to know the secret of Moody's success in leading people to Christ. Moody directed the man to his hotel window and asked, "What do you see?" The man looked down on the square and reported a view of crowded streets. Moody suggested he look again. This time the man mentioned seeing people--men, women, and children. Moody then directed him to look a third time, and the man became frustrated that he was not seeing what Moody
wanted him to see. The great evangelist came to the window with watery eyes and
said, "I see people going to hell without Jesus. Until you see people like that, you will
not lead them to Christ." Over sixty years ago, Dr. Bob Pierce prayed: “Let my heart be
broken by the things that break the heart of God.” In 1947, as a war correspondent and
evangelist, he traveled to China with Youth for Christ, and his heart was broken by the
needs of one little girl. Pledging a monthly sponsorship for her, Dr. Bob Pierce began
World Vision to help children orphaned in the Korean War. Who are the people that
your heart breaks for? Pause and in twos spend time praying for one another that God
would give you the opportunity to minister to those who you hurt for and that God
would break your hearts with the things that break His.

What are some other things (from the sermon or your own biblical knowledge) that
God wants us to mourn over?

4. Mourning and sadness are not the end of the story. God promises that those who mourn will be comforted. Included in the fruit of the Spirit are joy and peace (see Galatians 5:22-23). The book of Revelation teaches us that a time is coming when mourning will cease (Read Revelation 21:1-4). How might this knowledge help one live through periods of mourning?

5. Share of a time when God’s comfort has met you in a time of pain.

6. Is there anyone in your group going through a period of mourning right now? Or do you know of any friends, co-workers, fellow students or family members who are mourning? End your session by praying that God would comfort and bless the hurting.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Extraordinary Life Week 1 - Blessed are the poor in spirit

Matthew 5:3

 In this week’s sermon we reflected on Matthew 5:3, which is the first of the ‘beatitudes’: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

As a refresher, try to remember some of the stories that Bill mentioned in the sermon [Help: 1) See Luke 11:5-8; 2) remember Bill’s loaded Esso Extra card?]

Without considering the ‘in spirit’ part of the beatitude, what are our honest attitudes toward poverty of wealth, wisdom, etc? Remember, poverty here is thought of as complete lack, so that those who are poor in regards to money are actually beggars. In other words, is poverty desirable and good, something to be sought after?

Whatever our personal attitude is, why is being poor or destitute generally looked down upon (i.e, not something we would wish for ourselves)? Why might a student cheat on a test because they are lacking in knowledge? Why might we tell others that we are doing fine when we might actually be quite sad? In other words, we might like to cover up our poverty, why?

While there are wealthy, knowledgeable, and talented people in the world, are there any without poverty when it comes to relationship with God? In other words, can we legitimately say to God that we deserve his love in any way? (See Romans 3:9-12, 5:6-11)

What evidence is there that we are all spiritually destitute, that none are deserving of eternal life with God? How do we know this is true in our own hearts and experience? [If help is needed: the verses just read tell us this; our own experience tells us this; the fact that we try to hide our sin and trouble from others tells us this; the fact that Christ had to die for all of us and that we are all somehow responsible for Christ’s death tell us that none are deserving.]

What is your reaction to hearing about your spiritual poverty? [comfort; denial; knowing it in our head but not in our heart; etc.?]

According to ‘worldly’ thinking, we should be ashamed of our poverty before God and we are encouraged to work harder or to do ‘religious’ deeds in order to make amends for our lack of relationship with God. But what does this approach really lead to? [To spiritual pride; despair; frustration; etc.] Have you ever tried this worldly approach to solving your personal struggles? How does this approach lead us to think about God? Open up and honestly share with the group.

Yet with acknowledgement of our poverty and acceptance of it comes a brokenness and dependence on God that leads to a state of tremendous blessing. As Bill has said, brokenness comes when we come face-to-face with God; it comes when we admit our powerlessness and dependence; it comes when we turn to God and yield our strengths and weaknesses to God. To be able to admit our own brokenness is a gift of God that comes by way of divine revelation; yet God does not reveal this poverty without also showing us his great love in Christ, which removes our sin. What is a good response to this double revelation from God? [Repentance; rejoicing; thankfulness; prayer for continued help; etc.]

In closing, spend some time reflecting on Luke 11:5-13. Bill had this to say: “Prayer is what is done by those who are poor in spirit. They know their dependence. ... We are called to be people who help out others, but we have nothing, so we have to go to the One that has. This is the one who lives by faith. ... We must come to grips with the fact that we have nothing. It is only here, when we come to God in dependence that we have everything.” Persistence in prayer and faith go together, because faith has to do with trusting God completely.

Spend some time sharing areas of lack where you are frustrated and would like healing or power from the Holy Spirit. Be transparent about these things and open up. Pray together.