Archive for the ‘Life Group’ Category

11
Apr

2018-04-10 Life Group Observations

   Posted by: John

The theme for this week’s sermon and discussion is

One Anothering: Jack Frost Nipping At Your ???

Click here to watch the sermon for this week

2018-04-10 Life Group questions

2018-04-10 Life Group questions

Things learned and observed from this Life Group session:

Virtues, Quirkiness and Trust

Colossians 3:12-13:  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Bible

Bible

The term ‘bear with each other’ is the basis for this week’s sermon and discussion.  Reading the verse, there are a number of virtues (or perhaps qualifiers) that precede the counsel to ‘bear with’.  These are human traits that are not always natural, such as patience.  Some people are naturally patient, others are not and have to work on developing that trait.

Steve Moore’s sermon had a lot to do with the quirks or idiosyncrasies that everyone has.  For example (and I mentioned this at the group), Laura is very particular about how the laundry is folded and put away.  I used to have a drawer that I just tossed socks and underwear in.  I was perfectly good with that arrangement but she was not.  Now my sock and underwear drawer is organized, neat, and color coded.  Every now and again we will be folding laundry and I will throw a pair of socks across the room and into the drawer…and I get the laundry look of death from her.  What I don’t say often enough to her is that the time she takes to make sure that such a mundane and unimportant thing as the organization of my underwear is so much appreciated.  It is important to her and I don’t have the need or right to make her feel bad or put her down over it.  This is an example of a quirk that is 100% harmless unless someone CHOOSES to make it a problem.

It was interesting to listen to people discuss some of the quirks they or their spouses have.  A couple thoughts came to mind.

  • In my opinion, quirks would be defined as things that we say or do that are generally not harmful or hurtful. That isn’t saying that they CAN’T be harmful or hurtful.  A lot is determined by delivery, expression, timing and emotion.  An absolute truth delivered in the wrong way can be more damaging than a blatant falsehood or a casual dig.  And really, what is the point of digging on someone if their quirk is unintentional or harmless.
  • I believe that most people are unaware that they have more than a few little things that are annoying to their spouse. I know I have my own quirks but I am hard pressed to identify more than a few, although after this sermon and discussion I know I have many more that will be far more evident to Laura than me.
  • I am sure that everyone in the group has used their partner’s quirks against them at some time. In my experience, people will exploit another person’s weakness or habit for a variety of reasons.  These would include fun, joking, anger, retribution and sometime plain meanness.  Having a little fun with someone is fine until it becomes hurtful.  Hurt someone too many times and trust begins to break.  Repairing broken trust is painful, time consuming and doesn’t always work. Isn’t it better to just not go there?

Speaking of trust, one of the most important things in all relationships is trust.  Trust includes knowing that you aren’t going to be hurt or trashed for your quirks.  Expecting a continual negative response for a habit or annoyance every time it comes up results in trust breaking resentment and anger.  As mentioned above, regaining that trust is difficult.  In the sermon, Steve mentioned several times that there are plenty of idiosyncrasies that we should be overlooking, or ‘bearing with’.  I would bet that some of those things are actually strengths, much like the underwear drawer example.

I thought about an instance where one of my quirks and what someone did with it resulted in a big trust issue.  I have never liked large bodies of water, such as a swimming pool.  This probably stems from nearly drowning in a pool when I was two years old.  I do not remember it but it’s got to be stuck in my head somewhere.  I can swim because my Mother sent me to swimming lessons (and I hated every last miserable second of it).  My choice is to just not get in a pool.  Period.  Years ago, I tried to set that preference aside.  My ex-wife knew why I didn’t like being in a pool and ridiculed me for it until she finally badgered me into one.  I got in and one of the first things she did was kick my feet out from under me.  I have not been in a pool since.  That event ruined a lot of trust that was never regained, largely due to never receiving an apology and being ridiculed worse than before, often in front of other people.

 

On treating others better than you treat the ones closest to you…

That leads to something else Steve mentioned in his sermon, that people sometimes treat strangers or others they work with better than they treat the ones they are closest to.  I have pondered this principle often over the years, and a couple things come to mind.

The Brick Wall

The Brick Wall

Referring again to my previous relationship, I spent a number of years watching my ex-wife be absolutely charming, witty, happy and outright fun with other people.  But the minute those people were no longer around, that happiness immediately changed to an uncaring, unsupportive and sometimes mean person.  When that happened, my thoughts were “Why are you so rotten to the person you profess to love”.  Granted, I was not perfect either, but I do not believe that I was that cold, not at first anyway.  Over the years I built a pretty impressive brick wall to protect myself from the constant barrage.  It has required a lot of time to take it down.  Even now, several years later, when I have to interact with that person I find that I am an amazing fast mental bricklayer because the digs and meanness are still part of her behavior.  I have vowed to not let her hurt me anymore.  More important, I have vowed to never do to Laura what was done to me.

MaryEllen brought up an interesting point regarding where her ‘bar’ is set, or in other words, her standard regarding various people.  The bar she referred to is the one that she, in her mind, uses to measure others.  MaryEllen works with a group of people who are where they are because they have issues and problems.  Because of that she does not have high expectations of them.  Sometimes when she arrives home she will be upset at her husband and daughter for things that are minor compared to what she deals with at work.  In other words, someone she works with may do the same thing her husband does, but that someone gets a pass because her expectation is not the same.  She felt like it had to do with where she sets the bar…low for the people she works with, but high for her family.

I believe that having the bar set high does not give anyone the need or right to treat those closest to them badly, to disrespect or vilify them over things that are unintentional or otherwise harmless.  Abusing our loved ones over quirks goes directly to Paul’s advice in regards to ‘bear with’.  Our kids are going to have as many quirks as we have.  We need to learn to ‘bear with’ the ones that don’t matter, and address the ones that do, keeping in mind that we should always approach corrective action properly, with love and patience.  For the times that anger is warranted, we need to keep ourselves in check and make sure that anger does not spill over into driving that close person away.

 

Forgiveness

In the verse above, Paul advises to ‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you’.  This can be difficult depending on the type, duration and quantity of the problem.  I find it fairly easy to forgive for most things.  That does not always mean immediately, but as a rule, I feel I have compassion for those who ask my forgiveness.  My wife and I are not perfect and we get sideways a bit at times.  But once it’s over, we ask forgiveness from each other and I am able to give it without condition or reservation.

Forgive

Forgive

Jesus has said that he requires us to forgive.  I don’t think that always means forget.  I don’t think Jesus expects us to forgive someone and place ourselves in a position to be hurt again.  There are a few people and things I have not been able to forgive.  That’s a function of time and growth, but I am finding I am more prone to forgiving than I used to be.  There are a few factors that contribute to that change.

  • My wife, who loves and accepts me for the person that I am including my quirks, flaws and occasional brokenness. I love her with all my heart.
  • My church, particularly Steve Moore and how he gives his sermons. I have learned more in the past 6 months about how I should live and be.
  • My Savior, who I have come to know loves me regardless of anything else. Without Him, there would be no point to life at all.

In the end, people are individuals, with personalities, likes, dislikes, moods, talents and issues.  Paul tries to help us know how to work with those things, find the strengths, overlook the idiosyncrasies and keep our relationships strong.

5
Apr

2018-04-03 Life Group Observations

   Posted by: John

The theme for this week’s sermon and discussion is

Resurrection Sunday: I Am With You Always

Click here to watch the sermon for this week

2018-04-03 Life Group questions

2018-04-03 Life Group questions

Things learned and observed from this Life Group session:

Loneliness

The sermon for Easter Sunday had a lot to do with how Jesus’ Resurrection had the power to help overcome loneliness.  There were several examples that Pastor Steve Moore gave as reasons people become lonely, namely Grief, Mistakes, Suffering and Uncertainty.

Loneliness

Loneliness

Some of the Life Group questions listed those four specific items and asked if there were some examples where we experienced loneliness and what we had done to overcome them.

I mentioned ‘indifference’ as a cause of loneliness.  The definition of indifference is ‘a lack of interest or concern’.  When asked to expound on what I meant, I talked about how so many people in various places in my life had been indifferent towards me.  These included my previous spouse, people at my previous church, people at my previous job.  There is crossover from some of the items that Steve had mentioned, but the general feeling was indifference.  It didn’t matter that I was there, or not, at least not until someone wanted something.  Essentially, what I had to do to overcome it was marry a person who loved and cared for me, find a church that was not filled with cliques and hypocrites and accept a job where I am appreciated for what I can do.

A comment was made that not all people respond or react the same to any of the loneliness causes.  This is true.  Some people are able to disconnect themselves and be able to function, and may even consider it normal (Normal being a relative term as it relates to a person’s perception and character).  However, most people, being social creatures, need to have positive interactions with other people.

There are some other contributing factors.  Laura and I talked about stress.  Earlier in the day, her doctor talked about stress and how it can relate to a specific thing (such as work) and bleed over into other parts of a person’s life (such as family).  One can be stressed at work but not at home.  Sometimes the work stress can and will show up at home and cause problems there.  A potential result is that a person may feel loneliness in a place where it does not truly exist.

Barbara mentioned that even though she has experienced isolation and loneliness in regards to her work, she has never truly felt alone because she has always been a believer in Jesus and has felt Him with her.  And that leads to…

 

How Jesus can always be with us

Steve Moore mentioned briefly in his sermon that Jesus had promised the Apostles (as well as his followers) that He would always be with them.  And that question was also a point of discussion at Life Group.

Always with us

Always with us

Jesus, being a man during his ministry, told his disciples that he would not always be physically present.  Matthew 26:11 says “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me”.  This same message is also given in Mark 14:7 and John 12:8.  Jesus meant that they would not always have him physically with them.  As a man, he was only able to be in one place at a time just like any other man.

However, after his resurrection, Jesus was no longer just a man, and his message in relation to being with his disciples changed to match.  Matthew 28:18-20 says “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  In other words, He was able to provide His influence and power to them without being physically present.

Another component of this message has to do with the Holy Spirit.  We know early on in Acts that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers.  The Holy Spirit’s job is to teach and testify and guide.  I believe that Jesus meant that He and the Holy Spirit would take the place of His physical presence and do so in a way that was even more powerful because it comes from a direct Godly source.  I believe that’s one of the reasons why the Apostles (who at times in Jesus’ physical presence showed great weakness and fear) became holy, confident and very stalwart men.

There is no question of Jesus and the Holy Spirit always being with us.  The question becomes us.  Are we always with them?  If we strive to be, their influence will help us overcome the loneliness discussed above.

 

The stone at the grave

Jesus was laid in the tomb just prior to the Sabbath. The Jewish rules regarding the Sabbath were very strict and the leadership harshly punished those who broke the rules.  Therefore, Jesus’ body was put in the tomb and any embalming or other ‘preparation’ set aside until after the Sabbath.  They closed the tomb by putting the stone in place.

Empty tomb

Empty tomb

After the Sabbath, the women went with spices to dress the body.  The Angel had moved the stone, greeted the women and told them that Jesus was risen.  The tomb was open for all to see that it was indeed empty.  There was some discussion about the events with the women and the angel.  The guards who had been placed at the tomb were overcome with fear and lying as if dead on the ground.  The angel told the women to tell the disciples that Jesus was risen and would be seen by them and others in Galilee and other locations.

One of the questions asks to share thoughts about Peter Marshall’s observation: “The stone was rolled away from the door of Jesus’ tomb, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in”.

We didn’t get to stay for the entire session, but I have thought about this for a couple days now.  Jesus will not force someone to follow Him but we have the ability to choose to follow Him.  His grace is always open to us.  Like the tomb, laid open for the disciples to enter, we enter His grace.  The empty tomb is a physical result of His resurrection and a reminder that the grave is not the final answer of this life.

3
Apr

2018-03-27 Life Group Observations

   Posted by: John

The theme for this week’s sermon and discussion is

Crucifixion Sunday: Jesus Died, So What?

Click here to watch the sermon for this week

2018-03-27 Life Group questions

2018-03-27 Life Group questions

Things learned and observed from this Life Group session:

Jesus’ Crucifixion

Mormon theology states that Jesus, being part god, had the power to voluntarily give up his life whenever he was ready to.  The question was asked if that stance was correct, and if not, what is.

Golgotha

Golgotha

The answer, given by Pastor Steve Moore, is that he thought Jesus’ body had reached the end of its ability to live, having endured the Garden of Gethsemane, travels between there, the palace where Pontius Pilate was, and the temple where Caiaphas (the priest) was. Along the way he was beaten, scourged, tortured and hit. He was made to wear the crown of thorns and likely bled a considerable amount from all of the above.  Then he was made to carry his cross (as far as he could), then nailed to it and crucified.  Crucifixion is a rather tortuous form of execution as it forces the body to endure a very unnatural stance and painfully causes death from blood loss and asphyxiation over the period of some hours.

The question of why the thieves lasted longer than Jesus arises, but it seems that Jesus endured far more physical abuse prior to the actual crucifixion than they did, and they did not have the physical exhaustion of the Garden of Gethsemane events to begin with.

Jesus’ body had reached the end of its ability to live.

Timing, of course, is crucial. God being God, He knew what the timing would be. The crucifixion prophesies were fulfilled in that no bone in Jesus’ body would be broken.  When the Roman centurion came to accelerate the process of death by breaking legs, Jesus was already dead, so instead the centurion checked by spearing his side. Already dead, no reason to break his legs.

So, the answer appears to be that Jesus died as a normal person would have done.

 

Rise of atheism

One of the things that has been on the rise (and has been addressed in church service as well as the life group) is atheism.  Atheism, at its definition, is the disbelief of a God or supreme being.  Or in other words, not believing in a God.

Atheism

Atheism

Steve Moore mentioned that recent studies were showing that atheism is one of the fastest growing forms of ‘religion’ in the past few years.  It is difficult to imagine atheism as a religion, but the adherents to it show just as much fervor as people who are firm in the belief of God.  While I have often thought that the rabid environmental movement is very much a form of religion, I had never thought of atheism in that same way.  The argument can be made that any worship of a God, or in this case no God, is a form of religion.

Steve also made the observation that the higher education levels of people tend to lead towards atheism, and people of lesser education are more prone to believe in God.  Again, this is something I have thought from time to time.  Academia has always seemed to push towards the atheistic point of view.  The term ‘knowledge is power’ comes to mind.  Human achievement in the past two centuries is astounding.  Some give credit to God for the advancement of human race. More seem to credit man’s ingenuity and discount that God may have a hand in it.

The fact that a highly educated person tends to reject God intrigues me in some ways.  Reliability on one’s own self is desirable as a life skill.  We should not be dependent on others to provide for our necessities, and certainly not for our excesses.  To that end, education is a near requirement in order to adequately provide.  That responsibility increases with the additions of a spouse and family.

 

Churches teaching that there is not a hell (goes along with the ‘emergent church’)

There seems to be a new movement in which some churches are starting to preach that there is no Hell, or at least, Hell as it has been taught and viewed for many centuries, does not exist.

Again, going back to Mormon theology (as it is what I am most familiar with), Hell is a detour on the path to a ‘degree of glory’, albeit the lowest of the degrees.  People who gain the highest go straight there, people who go to the lowest will spend a thousand years in Hell prior to being relieved and going to their ‘degree of glory’.  Thus, in Mormon theology, Hell is a limited duration.  Note however, that Mormons also believe in an ‘outer darkness’ where Lucifer, his minions who are currently with him, and a handful of people who have lived on Earth will be sent at the end of the thousand years.  In that context, the everlasting ‘outer darkness’ might be considered everlasting Hell.

Steve Moore indicated that Hell was in fact a place that does exist as it states in the scripture.  If Heaven is an everlasting and eternal place, in my mind it makes sense that Hell must be as well.  In my mind, you can’t have one without the other.

It seems to me that removing Hell from religious belief goes hand in hand with the liberalization of people over the past couple generations. Participation trophies, ‘everyone wins’, blurring of genders and roles, no consequences for action (or inaction), etc…these are the things that cause people to not have values, morals, ambition or goals.  If there is no stigma in failure there is no pride in success.  Personally, I would view a successful life as one that got a person back to God. In order to do that, one must follow Christ, be responsible for themselves and their family, as well as the other things that are given to them in this life. And you must have the belief that the reward is worth it, otherwise what’s the point.  If there is no God, no Heaven and no Hell, there is no real point to even try to do things right.

Like so many things related to God, some of it is a mystery.  What we have is what we have, largely because we are not able to see things from God’s view.  What we need to be doing is focusing on our relationship with God and Jesus, our families and our responsibilities, in that order.  The rest will take care of itself.