For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a Bible study discussion guide series for my local church following the weekend message series called “Brave.” Since I haven’t been able to update much here, I thought I’d copy the discussion guides here for you to read. Links to the original sermon messages for wax week’s discussion are given, as well as follow up tips to help in applying the message to your daily practices.
Link to that weekend’s message: http://vineyardchristian.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/marc_ladouceur_1-22-2017.mp3
Opening Question/Food for thought (as applicable, matching the theme of the message)
British author Douglas Adams once told a story about how he rode a commuter train one day. Before getting on the train, he’d purchased a bag of chips and a newspaper. After boarding, he set his things down on the table at his seat and began to relax as another commuter sat down across from him. As the trip went on, Adams reached down to open the bag of chips sitting on the table between them and ate a chip. A few seconds later, the passenger across from him reached over, and without asking, took out a chip and ate it. In Adams’ words, as a British person he was not able to directly confront the other man about the theft of a chip, so decided to handle the matter in “classic British fashion.” He looked the man directly in the eyes, reached forward and took a chip himself, considering the matter settled. However, the other man gave him an equal stare, leaned forward, and took another chip himself. So it continued until the bag of chips was gone. The other man got off at the next stop. Adams rode on for a bit and then disembarked. However, when he got up, he picked up his newspaper, looked down, and realized his own bag of chips was still there, unopened. He’d been eating the other man’s chips the whole time! Adams then lamented that somewhere out there was another person with the exact same story, but they were missing the punchline!
This week, we’ll be talking about how we sometimes miss the “punchline.” We see the world around us, but we are unaware of the forces of God working on our behalf. Gaining this knowledge is a crucial step that allows us to be…Brave.
Icebreaker: Can you think of a time when you had an embarrassing social situation that only changed in your mind later after you gained some new piece of knowledge like the story above?
Worship suggestion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdbxSpJn1yQ
Opening Prayer: God, we ask tonight that you open our eyes and our minds to what you are doing around us. Break us of our expectations and our preconceived notions, allow us to see you with open awe and childlike faith. Amen.
Discussion/Bible Verses/Activities (writing, acting, or prayer)
This weekend, we learned about the story of Elisha, a prophet of God who was targeted by the king of Aram. Elisha’s servant was with him and was terrified when he saw an army coming after them. Let’s take a quick review of the story together. [Read II Kings 6:15-18 together]
Discussion questions: How do you think it felt as the servant to see the armies of heaven?
Is there a time in your life that at the moment you felt discouraged or scared, but looking back you now see what God was doing?
It’s hard sometimes to keep our eyes open to what’s truly going on around us, especially when we are in times of trouble. In the Jewish tradition that makes up the Bible, there’s a type of writing that addresses these times called “apocalypsis.” We often think of an apocalypse as the end times, but apocolypsis literature is actually referring to the unveiling of reality, to see what’s
“really” going behind the scenes. (based on the Greek word “apokalypsis,” meaning “unveiling” or “revelation”) This type of writing is found in several places in the Bible like Daniel or Isaiah, but probably one of the most well known examples is the book of Revelation. Early Christians were living in a world of fear, with a Roman government that was known to arrest their leaders and their neighbors would sometimes lead direct persecution of them. This letter was written to assure them that God was in charge. Besides passages that talk about the end of time, there’s also passages that show “behind the scenes” of what’s happening in God’s presence. Let’s look at an example of that together where John describes what’s happening around God’s throne. [Read Revelation 4:6-11]
Discussion Question: Knowing the persecution the early Christians faced, how do you think it reassured them to read this description of heaven? How does this apply to your feelings in our world today?
In closing, we’re going to learn a prayer practice that has been used for centuries by some members of the Church. Called the Examen, this is a prayer practice most well taught by St Ignatius of Loyala, the founder of the Society of Jesus (or the Jesuits). The examen is simply a prayer where we ask God to show us where he was and what he was doing in our lives as we review our day. We take a few moments to silently pray through everything we did today, from waking up to going to bed. We can also ask God to show us where we could have done better, but for right now let’s just focus on looking for what God might have been up to in our day. Let’s take a few moments in silent prayer while we do this
Discussion: Did you notice anything in your prayer? How does it change the way you view your day when you review it specifically asking God to show you what he was doing? How do you think this might help if you’ve had a particularly bad day?
Homework: Try the examen prayer one day this week before going to bed.
Ending Prayer: Father, we need you. In a world that doesn’t always make sense, in a life that doesn’t always go the way we might hope, we ask you to show us where you are. Open our eyes to see what you are doing in our lives, and guide us to better participate in that. In Jesus name, amen.
Additional Resources: For more information on the Examen, see the book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by Fr James Martin, S.J.
If you’re struggling with the idea of God being in charge because of bad things that have happened or are happening in your life, a great study is the book Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? By Harold Kushner