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Loving God Pt. 1
Sermon discussion

This week we tabbed over to 1st John to continue our "Simple Faith" study with Pastor Ryan. this week the Apostle John wanted us to simply love our brother. Speaking of brothers and sisters...

What sort of things come to mind as "sisterhoods" or "brotherhoods" in our culture?

Let's read the passage and then discuss our thoughts:

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, becausefn the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

- 1 John 2:7-11

Was there anything from the passage you liked? Had questions about? Disliked?

It's an interesting reality that we are now actual brothers and sisters with all other believers. Our friends at The Resolved, the strangers at the Resolved we promise ourselves we'll talk to one day, members of churches down the street and across the world. All your brothers and sisters. Family.

John says God has clearly laid our responsibility to these select people in the world, to love them. Pastor Ryan led us through 2 points regarding this command:

Theology of Love
Practice of Love


John starts this gentle rebuke with the word "Beloved". He wants the readers secure in his love before he broaches this important topic.

How do you start hard conversations? How do you decide it's time to have a hard "rebuke-ish" type conversation with someone?

There's an interesting cause and effect John is highlighting here - If someone loves God they will love other believers.

How could this cause and effect be true? What are some of the ramifications of this in our life?

The language used in this passage is light and dark, there's no gray area with light and dark, there is no darkness in light on in the complete absence of light. Pastor Ryan pointed out that with this language you either love your brother, or you hate your brother, there's no "I nothing my brother" option.

What are some of the implications of John's use of "light and dark"? What are the implications in your life of seeing your relationships as loving or hating with no gray area?

Pastor Ryan pointed out that there's a priority given to loving other believers, John's commandment here isn't a carte blanche love to the entire world. It's specific to other followeres of Christ (John 13:34-35, Gal 6:10)

How might this priority of love be challenging? Why do you think John and Jesus make loving the brothers a priority?


We're told to love our fellow believers and Pastor Ryan gave us three practical ways to do that.

We can do it through our speech. In Ephesians 4:29 we're told to not let any corrupting talk come out of our mouths.

What opportunities do you have to love through speech?

Pastor Ryan also introduced the idea of the "Rule of T.E.N." Before speaking, especially in critical situations ask yourself is this True? Is this Edifying? Is this Necessary?

How would your life change if you only spoke things that followed the rule of ten?

We can also do it through our service. Jesus set an unmistakable example of service for us throughout His life on earth.

What opportunities do you have to love through service?

Another Apostle, Paul, frequently described himself as "your servant, for Jesus sake". (2 Cor 4:5)

What does it mean to be a servant for Jesus sake?

Finally we can love through our sacrifice.

What opportunities do you have to love through sacrifice?

All things are God's and yet He sacrificed His most precious Son for us, showing us nothing is untouchable or off the table in our relationship.

What things do you shy away from bringing to the table to sacrifice? Your money? Job? Stuff? Time? Habits or proclivities?


Pray as a group, that we continue to dwell on and experience God's love for us spilling over into our love for our fellow believers.

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A Jesus Who is More
Sermon Discussion
[Luke 9:28-43]

-We are made for more. If there was one thing you could have more of in life, what would it be? Why?

I. Ghosts
-Recap the scene on top of the mountain with Jesus and His disciples. What do you notice about Jesus in this scene? His disciples?
-In the 2nd century there was a heretical movement called Docetism, which claimed that Jesus was like a ghost; that He did not have a real, physical body or really suffer.What makes this such a dangerous belief? How might our culture have a similar false belief about Jesus?
-The cross is where we see the glory of Christ most clearly. How?
-Peter, James and John did not want to see the cross and the suffering of Jesus, but instead wanted to build the Divine Castle here and now. How might we be similar in our doubts or desires as the disciples?

II. Gods
-Luke lives in a culture that venerated the worship of many different gods. So non-Jews living during this time would have naturally read this story and saw many gods in it. How might our culture be more similar to the 1st century time with the worship of many different gods?
-Jesus challenges us to believe that He is more than we think. He is not just a god, but The God! There is no wiggle room for unbelief. Why don't we like to hear that? What is it about hearing there is only one way that is difficult for us?
-God the Father loves and delights in His Son! This love and delight is given to us that we might experience this in relationship with us. Do you believe this? How might this relational focus change how we live out our faith?

III. Glory
-How would you define glory? How does our culture define glory?
1. glory is the ultimate in the Bible. It is all of Gods infinite, vast and great aspects in one word.
-The disciples saw the unseen glory of God in the face of Jesus. If you were to see this glory today, how do you think you would respond? Why?
-What in our culture tempts us to believe in a false glory? What glories does our culture preach today? How is Jesus more glorious that any of those?
-Like the little boy in the story, where do we need the healing of Jesus? How might seeing His glory in the cross heal us today?

IV. Pray for one another!

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Our City Mission

San Diego is the eighth largest city in the country. We’re an urban city. Yet, with over 130 different neighborhoods we often live and function with a suburban mentality. Pastor Ross Lester, of a sister Acts 29 church in Johannesburg South Africa gives some keen insights into how we can live on mission in a city like ours. - Pastor Duane


Why don’t we talk more freely about living in the suburbs?

The suburbs are a bit embarrassing it seems, and yet statistically, most of us here probably live and minister in a suburban context. Over 53% of the US population lives in the burbs, and though it might not seem like it, it is the fastest growing population migration in the West, with low-density suburbs growing the fastest by far. I know it looks like lots of people are moving back into the city, with their ironic mustaches and alarmingly tight trousers, but the re-inhabiting of urban spaces is a complex and costly exercise and isn’t keeping track with people just trying to get to the suburbs for some peace and quiet.

And we do have a verse for that desire in 1 Thess 4:11, which says, “Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, minding your own business, and scooping up after your dog…”, (that last bit has the translators perplexed, because actually tells us to work with our hands, but we have no idea how to translate that into a suburban context.) But while we do have a verse that seems to justify suburban retreat, we actually know that suburban living is kind of structurally set up as anti-gospel.

Jared Wilson said, “I think the spirit at work in the suburbs tends to smother the Christian spirit. The message of the suburbs, in a nutshell, is self-empowerment. Self-enhancement. Self-fulfillment. Self is at the center, and all things serve the self. The primary values of suburbia are convenience, abundance, and comfort. In suburbia you can have it all – and you can get it made to order in a super-sized cup with an insulated sleeve.”

And so, for quite a long time I partially resented having to minister into a suburban context. Longing for something a little more missionally credible. A little more street.

But, God opened my eyes. Behind the barriers of immaculate lawns and white picket fences, (or in our context of high walls and electric fence perimeters), hides real people. People full of fear, full of anxiety, full of stress, full of idolatry, full of sin and full of almost endless potential for gospel advance if we would engage them well. My mind and my heart reflected on Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler. I know that not everyone in the suburbs is rich, but I think most people in the suburbs wrestle like that young man with having a split priority heart. Mark’s gospel tells us that as the young ruler is spitting out self-justification, and just before Jesus is going to pull the rug out from under him, that Jesus looks at him and loves him. We are called to do the same. To love and serve spilt-priority people.

So, here are just a few things we have learned in growing to love our suburban setting. They are subjective and incomplete, but maybe they may spark something in one or two of you.

You have to fight hard for genuine community in places that revolve around the cult of the stand-alone nuclear family unit
Man, this is one of the biggest struggles in suburban environments. They are expensive, which means people tend to work crazy hours, they are filled with crazy schedules for kids, so time after work is full to the brim, and they are designed – even spatially – around suspicion of other, and so getting genuine community happening is very difficult.

Sociologists have noted that in the US at least, the design of houses has changed in the suburbs. Houses used to be near the front of the lots, with the front porch as the central point. Now they are built with the living areas all facing the back of the lot, with the private back patio being the focal point.

It’s tough work getting suburban people into biblical community. It’s pushing water up hill, it’s pushing camels through eyes of needles, but if we believe that the gospel creates the sorts of the communities we really believe it does, well then don’t stop pushing the water…or the camels.

In addition, we should model this for our people, and not be guilty of asking them to live in levels of community that we ourselves don’t see as necessary or good for our families and lives.

You have to strive to model and teach the value of diversity in spaces built around homogeny
I know South Africa has this amplified, because segregated spatial planning was official government policy as recently as 23 years ago. But even as a South African, I find suburban spaces in other parts of the world hugely homogenous.

Churches have to break the mold on this. If there is an area in the world where we can actually be trendsetters, it is this one. Gosh but it takes boldness, humility, repentance and the willingness to fail, but we must strive. The price of suburban churches simply accepting the standards of their own geographical homogeny is high. It says the opposite of the all that we believe. It values comfort over compassion, and it creates safe spaces for ongoing prejudice, bigotry and racism to hide and fester, never having to blow its cover.

You have to continually highlight God’s desire for justice in spaces designed to remove people from feeling and experiencing injustice
The suburbs are wonderful. I really like living in them. The schools are good, the parks are good, the areas are safer. Thus, they can have a numbing impact on people, so that when they see other people experiencing injustice, their response becomes one where their own experience with lack of injustice towards them allows them to negate the injustice experienced by others.

Brothers and sisters, I know we are cautious of a liberal social gospel. But truth be told, us reformed cats have the big view of a sovereign God, and we are told again and again that that God hates injustice. We hold to the high truths of the Scripture and those Scriptures tell us again and again that the people of God are called to be a just and merciful people in the midst of an unjust and unmerciful world.

Suburban churches should be regularly disquieted by their prophetic pastors, who draw attention to the ills in the world, and especially the ones that our suburban existences create and exacerbate.

Our schools are good, because there is inequitable spending on schools in other areas.

Our neighborhoods are safe for us, because they aren’t safe for people who don’t look like us. Our products are cheap and varied, because people down the supply chain have been squeezed to below livable wages to get them to us.

Our suburban life of comfort comes at a great cost to others.

You have to remind people of God’s great mission and their place in it, in the midst of routines, school-runs, commutes and survival
Suburban life can seem like and endless routine of school-runs, latte stops, long commutes, soccer matches and weekends that are too short. Radiohead summarized it well albeit somewhat fatalistically when they sang, “I’ll take the quiet life, a handshake of carbon monoxide. With no alarms and no surprises.”

But the Grand Narrative of Scripture doesn’t exclude people from participation in God’s great mission of bringing all things under his rule and reign. And suburban people can and must play their part.

Remind them that their homes are mission stations

Outposts of hospitality, kindness and grace in increasingly hostile and post-Christian contexts. Orchards in which the fruits of the Spirit can be grown and shared.

Remind them that their jobs are missionary assignments

Their cubicle or corner office or school commute is a place that you as a paid Christian can’t get. In that way, they are going everyday into spaces you cannot reach. Send them as missionaries, with purpose, into those spaces.

Remind them that their money is mission ammunition

Money feels like something you don’t want to give away especially with the high cost of living in the suburbs. But if you tell them and show them how their money can blow big holes in the gates of hell, then they are more compelled.

You have to make big calls of sacrifice in the midst of surroundings designed around comfort
We continually think that the way to engage suburban people is to give in to their zeitgeist and to make following Jesus as easy and non-sacrificial as possible.

Two problems with that. One is the bible. And the second is that it doesn’t work.

Call your people to sacrifice, to serve, to risk, to resist, to be foreigners and aliens and freaks of holiness and humility.

You have to promote and celebrate advance in spaces designed for retreat
The world of the suburbs is small. Local schools, local stores. It’s great.

But the world of the gospel is large, and while people worry about its retreat at their local High School, they need to know that it is advancing in Nairobi, and Lilongwe and Lagos, and Seoul and Sydney and Singapore, and London and Loughborough and Lyon.

You have to preach and believe the scandalous gospel of grace in environments designed around performance and self-help
Like the rich young ruler, most of our people will want to justify themselves through achievement. And that is subsequently how most of us as pastors will want to measure our success in ministry too. Continue to disarm your people an yourselves through the marvelous message of grace.


The suburbs are essentially an attempt to create an alternate Kingdom. A place of peace and security here on earth. As such, it is a noble endeavor, but it does it through exclusion and not through the power of God’s grace and truth.

Breathe Kingdom of God grace and Spirit of God power repeatedly into your suburban people. They can change the world. But they will need to enlargen their worldview in order to do that. That’s why God sent you to teach them.

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A Jesus for One
Sermon Discussion

After talking the last couple weeks about "a Jesus is for Everywhere" and "A Jesus for Many" this week Pastor Duane read about Jesus having a private conversation with His disciples to discuss if they really knew Him yet, and share with them His secret plan.

The disciples were Jesus closest friends, if anyone knew who he was, really knew, it would be one of them. Who would you say really knows who you are?

Let's read the passage and hear about Jesus plan for His friends:

18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" 19 And they answered, "John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen." 20 Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." 21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." 23 And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." [Luk 9:18-27 ESV]

Duane wanted to emphasize 3 clues from this passage that all point to one undeniable message: You matter to Jesus. The 3 clues were:

The Christ
The Cross
The Cost


Jesus after this huge event teaching and feeding approximately 12,000 people, turns to His disciples and asks what Duane has called "The single most important question you can ask in your life: "Who do you say Jesus is?"

How do you think your friends, coworker, or neighbors answer this question? Why is this question so important?

the disciples answer Jesus by saying the crowds have some mixed ideas about who they believe He is. Jesus then directly asks His disciples "who do you say I am" and Peter jumps right in with the answer of "The Christ, the Savior from God." And Jesus is thrilled! (Matt 16:16)

Why do you think Jesus was so happy to hear Peter's answer? What do we learn about Jesus and God from Jesus' reaction?


Jesus goes on to elaborate on what being The Christ will really mean. In Verse 22 we see Jesus tell them the future, His plan for coming to earth. The plan, it turns out is a lot of suffering for Him and His followers.

What do you think the disciples were hoping the plan would be? Why do you think they continued following after hearing that?

In verse 24 we see Jesus tell the disciples "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. " It's a really hard statement.

What could this statement mean? How would you explain it to a friend?

Duane pointed out that there was no mistake in Jesus being sent to earth right when the Cross was becoming the en vogue means of capital punishment. It's widely considered the most painful and cruel ways to be put to death. Showing there is nothing Jesus wouldn't do for you.

What is the worst thing you've endured for a friend or family member? What insights does that give you about how Jesus felt about going to the cross for us?


Jesus does indeed suffer just for us, but He also calls on us to suffer a cost also (v 23). Duane pointed out that as life goes on, we tend to create and wear many false selves that weigh us down and hide us. God wants us to give all those up. Stop trying to save our own life with those selves.

How do you recognize a false self? How can you put to death a false self?

Jesus said we'd have to do this everyday. Everyday we're going to want to get back to being our own savior through our false self.

What things do you find yourself battling with everyday? What are somethings you can do every day to experience the "Expulsive power of a new affection" Jesus offers?

Our lives are not our own, our friends, our jobs, our homes and money. Jesus tells us to give all of that to Him and He'll do work through it.

Friendship, job, home, money did any of these strike you during the sermon and bring an idea about how God may be asking you to give them over to Him?


Pray with your group, thanking God for thinking so much of us to suffer the cross for us and give us courage to deny ourselves daily and pick up our crosses in response.

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 Food is Fuel for Mission

When Jesus fed the 5,000 He was able to minister to the hearts, minds, and lives of the people. We may not be able to perform some miracle where we magically make a bunch of food, but we can use food as a tool to engage the people in our city. Take a minute and read this excerpt from Tim Chester on "party evangelism."
- Pastor Duane

Much is said of engaging with culture—much that’s right and helpful. But we must never let engaging culture eclipse engaging with people. People are infinitely variable and rarely susceptible to our sociological categories. If you want to understand a person’s worldview, don’t read a book. Talk to them, hang out with them, eat with them. 

People often complain that they lack time for mission. But we all have to eat. Three meals a day, seven days a week. That’s twenty-one opportunities for mission and community without adding anything to your schedule. You could meet up with another Christian for breakfast on the way to work—read the Bible together, offer accountability, pray for one another. You could meet up with colleagues at lunchtime. Put down this book and chat to the person across the table from you in the cafeteria. You could invite your neighbors over for a meal. Better still, invite them over with another family from church. That way you get to do mission and community at the same time; plus your unbelieving neighbors will get to see the way the gospel impacts our relationships as Christians (John 13:34–35; 17:20–21). You could invite someone who lives alone to share your family meal and follow it with board games, giving your children an opportunity to serve others through their welcome.

Francis Schaeffer says:

Don’t start with a big program. Don’t suddenly think you can add to your church budget and begin. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Do what I am going to suggest. Begin by opening your home for community. . . . You don’t need a big program. You don’t have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home.

Join in with the cultural events in your neighborhood. The chances are food will be involved somewhere, because food is such a powerful bond. Look for opportunities to reinterpret what is happening in biblical categories. In Acts 14 Paul addresses the people of Lystra. They want to worship him and Barnabas as gods because the two healed a crippled man. Paul calls on them to turn from idolatry, and then says that God “did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). How many evangelistic messages have you heard along these lines? “[God] provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (NIV). So let’s give thanks to him rather than worshiping “vain things” (v. 15). We should engage in party evangelism.


This is an excerpt from Tim Chester's A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table.

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A Jesus for Many [Luke 9:10-17]
Sermon Discussion

-Read the passage.
-This is the only miracle that is recorded in all 4 gospel accounts! Why do you think that is?
-What kinds of miracles has Jesus done so far in Luke?

I. Desolate Places
-Jesus takes the disciples out to a desolate place to rest and be with Him. Jesus purposefully brings them into a desolate place. Why might Jesus have done this?
-Jesus had compassion on the crowd who had followed them.
-The disciples were tired, hungry and frustrated at the crowd.
-Jesus, instead of being frustrated, has deep compassion on them and seeks to help meet their need.
-When you find yourself in a desolate place in your life, how do you tend to respond to those around you? To God?
-Jesus has compassion on us when we find ourselves in a desolate place. How have you experienced the compassion of Christ in those places?
-Why does God bring us into desolate places in our lives? What do we learn about ourselves and God in those times?

II. Divine Graces
-What does Jesus do for the people?
-What is the state of the disciples emotions at this point? Can you relate with them?
-Jesus turns His attention, and the peoples', to God the Father asking His blessing on the food. What does this show us about the relationship between the Father and Son?
-We see so many instances when God uses food as the occasion to move His story along and to reveal truths about Himself. How do we see this with the miracle of the multiplication of the food? What are some other ways in Scripture that God uses food to move the story of redemption and Gods character?
-In this scene with Jesus we see that God provides us all things! There is nothing that we live and experience which is not provided by God. Why is this difficult to remember and believe at times?
-How would we live our lives differently when we remember that God faithfully provides all things for us all the time?

III. Delighted Faces
-Why does Luke mention the 12 baskets left over? What does this teach us about God?
-The people ate and were satisfied. Jesus provided fully and completely for their satisfaction. Do you find your soul being satisfied in Jesus? Why or why not?

IV. Pray for one another!

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The Organic Witness of the Gospel 
Sermon Discussion
Acts 1:8

Peyton Jones stopped by this week so we took a short break from our study of Luke's Gospel to look at Luke's 2nd book, the book of Acts and learn about being witnesses. Peyton is a trainer of church planters and author currently living with us in Southern California. His latest book is called "Reaching the Unreached - Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art" takes a deep look at Acts 1:8, the passage he came to preach about this week. Before we get to that though let's check in a bit.

If you wrote a book about your summer so far, what would the title be?

Let's read through the passage and back up for some context, starting in verse 6:

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go inteaven."

-- Act 1:6-11

Let's jump right into it

Was there anything about that passage the you really liked? Or wonder about?

Jesus here spends His last moments with his disciples preparing them for the Holy Spirit who will come to continue His work. Peyton mentioned that in the past when he's begun to discuss the spirit, he's noticed people can get a little weird.

What are some words that come to mind when thinking about the Holy Spirit? Do you think we as a church discuss him too often? too little?

Jesus disciples know that He's asking them to go and tell His story and their anxious to do it, so anxious that Jesus makes a point of telling them to wait, wait for the Spirit who will soon be upon them.

Have you ever been so excited about something that you can't wait to tell others about it? What was it?

Why do you think Jesus asked the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit instead of just giving them the Spirit immediately or letting them go out on their own?

3 years Jesus had been living, eating, walking, and working with these guys. Pouring His life and knowledge into them, getting them ready for this day.

What do you think it's like to have been discipled by Jesus?
Have you ever been discipled by someone? What was that like? How would you know when it was time to start applying what you were learning?

Peyton shared from His own experience working in churches around the country, how frustrated he was that the more he seemed to be involved with church, the less he seemed to be spreading the gospel. It's something that many people in ministry and involved with church can feel.

How have you noticed that being really involved with a church can be a hindrance to spreading the gospel? Why do you think that is? What do you think could be missing?

Spreading the Gospel story is a core value of the Resolved Church family, and hopefully it's a core value of your family also. It can feel like such a large and scary thing though, to be out there in the deep end. Peyton made the point that it's similar to being in deep water, full of the unknown, but that's were all the really amazing stuff can happen.

How do you feel about sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors? Is it easy? hard? non existant?

One of the ideas that Peyton kept coming back to in this passage is that we have to depend on God for everything. Jesus tells his disciples to wait for the Spirit possibly to highlight how they should be dependent on Him. The story of the Gospel only spreads because of the Holy Spirit, no matter if you've lived with Jesus for many years or just met Him today.

Does that change how you feel about sharing the Gospel? How can you remind yourself to be dependent on God when opportunities to share the Gospel come up

Finally, even though most people would say this passage is calling us all to get out there and become evangelists, Peyton made a fine distinction and pointed out that it's actually telling us to go out and be witnesses

What could be some differences between an evangelist and a witness?

Witnessing could look a little different for different people. All the disciples ended up having diverse yet fruitful ministries

How do you think your witnessing might be different? Who has God sent you out to?


Pray as a group that you'd allow yourself to be dependent on God, and clearly see who and where you're being sent to.

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The Mall & Our Religious Need

This week Pastor Duane talked about how we all have a "universal need" that is ultimately met by Jesus. Here is an excerpt from James K.A. Smith’s Desiring The Kingdom where he paints a beautiful picture of our need as humans and how it plays out in our everyday lives. 


I would like to invite you for a tour of one of the most important religious sites in our metropolitan area. As you approach…you notice the sheer popularity of the site as indicated by the colorful sea of parking that surrounds the building. The site is throbbing with pilgrims every day of the week as thousands and thousands make the pilgrimage.`

As you make your way toward the building — a dazzling array of glass and concretes, the architecture of the building has a recognizable code that makes us feel at home. The large glass atriums at the entrances are framed by banners and flags; familiar texts and symbols on the exterior walls help foreign faithful to quickly and easily identify what’s inside.

As we enter the space, we are ushered into a narthex of sorts intended for receiving, orienting, and channeling new seekers as well as providing a bit of a decompression space for the regular faithful to “enter in” to the spirit of the space. For the seeker, there is a large map— a kind of worship aid— to give the novice an orientation to the location of various spiritual offerings and provide direction into the labyrinth that organizes and channels the ritual observance of the pilgrims.

The pilgrim is also invited to escape from mundane ticking and counting of clock time and to inhabit a space governed by a different time, one almost timeless. However, while daily clock time is suspended, the worship space is very much governed by a kind of liturgical, festal calendar, variously draped in the colors, symbols, and images of an unending litany of holidays and festivals— to which new ones are regularly added, since the establishment of each new festival translates into greater numbers of pilgrims joining the processions to the sanctuary and engaging in worship.

Unlike the flattened depictions of saints one might find in stained-glass windows, here is an array embodied pictures of the redeemed that invite us to imagine ourselves in their shoes— to imagine ourselves otherwise, (to look like and become like them).

As we pause to reflect on some of the icons on the outside of one of the chapels, we are thereby invited to consider what’s happening within the chapel— invited to enter into the act of worship more properly, invited to taste and see. We are greeted by a welcoming acolyte who offers to shepherd us through the experience, but also has the wisdom to allow us to explore on our own terms.

Having a sense of our need, we come looking, not sure what for, but expectant, knowing that what we need must be here. After time spent focused and searching in what the faithful call “the racks,” with our newfound holy object in hand, we proceed to the altar, which is the consummation of worship. While acolytes and other worship assistants have helped us navigate our experience, behind the altar is the priest who presides over the consummating transaction.

And this is a religion of transaction, of exchange and communion. When invited to worship here, we are not only invited to give; we are also invited to take. We don’t leave this transformative experience with just good feelings or pious generalities, but rather with something concrete and tangible, with newly minted relics, as it were, that are themselves the means to the good life. And so we make our sacrifice, leave our donation, but in return receive something with solidity that is wrapped in the colors and symbols of the saints and the season. Released by the priest with a benediction, we make our way out of the chapel in a kind of denouement— not necessarily to leave, but rather to continue contemplation and be invited into another chapel. Who could resist the tangible realities of the good life so abundantly and invitingly offered?

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Stories of Thanksgiving
Sermon Discussion
Psalm 107

We took a break this week from out study of Luke to check out Psalm 107. Pastor Ryan led us through a beautiful passage of poetry, shedding light on the power of God's love to redeem and our thanks that occurs as a response.

One of the things Ryan said he loves about the Psalms is that they give us a vocabulary to talk about God and models on how to talk to God. The right words can be key to understanding complex ideas in our lives

What is your favorite "impressive" word to try and use in conversation, that possibly obscure word you learned and love that expresses a complex idea perfectly?

Let's read the passage and discuss some of the Psalmists ideas and words.


In the Psalm there are 4 examples or scenes, highly relatable stories that show how God works in the lives of those He loves. He guides, protects, heals, and comforts with such power that the psalmist feels it demands a proper thank you to God. Ryan pulled out the 4 scenes to discuss at length:

The Wanderers
The Prisoners
The Sick
The Fearful


First the Psalmists tells of those in desert wastes, finding no way and no city to dwell in. In our culture we often idolize and promote an idea of wandering, where you explore and go wherever the wind takes you, because "not all who wander are lost". This is not that wandering. These people are lost. The Psalm describes them as "hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them."

What does it mean to have your soul faint within you? have you ever experienced that? How were you wandering?

Ryan went on to point out that in the Bible God often brought the people He loved out to the wilderness to wander. Abraham, Moses, the Israelites, and even King David wandered lost without a city for a time.

Why do you think God caused these people to wander? What can God accomplish by having us wander? How can we be lead by God and wandering at the same time?

The Psalmist also gives us a promise here in verse 6 "Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress." If we cry to the Lord, He will come and rescue us.

What does it mean to "cry to the Lord?" Does this mean if we cry to the Lord He will give us whatever we want?


The Psalmist then describes someone who is darkness, sitting in the shadow of death. A rebel, not in the cool "rebel without a cause", pirate with their own ship or star wars way. But in the hopeless career criminal on death row kind of way. The one who knows their actions aren't good for themselves, for society, for the world, but does them anyway and knows they will soon have to pay the ultimate price.

Ryan described the prisoners as people chained to sin, it's a habit they can't quit.

Have you ever been able to stop a bad habit? Why did you stop it? How did you do it?

The prisoners have rejected God's law, which is rejecting God. Ryan pointed out that the law is not an objective cosmic agreement that God is tasked with policing, it actually describes God and His attributes, and when we don't follow it we separate ourselves from God.

Has someone ever rebelled against you? a coworker, friend, roommate, family member? How did you respond? How does God respond?

When we reject someone we put ourselves in conflict that person. In many cases the relationship is so broken terror and dread builds and we may go out of our way to avoid them or avoid the conflict. It can feel like we're in a sort of prison. The psalmist proclaims that God breaks down the door and snaps the bars holding us in that prison. It's a powerful jailbreak where our crimes remain committed and yet we don't have to pay the price.

Have you ever had a conflict where you went out of your way to avoid that person, or they went out of their way to avoid you? how would you describe your feeling during that time? How was the conflict resolved?

THE SICK (v 17-22)

The third group the Psalmist describes are the sick. An illness that is the consequence of sin. Ryan pointed out that at times in history and in the Bible it was common for people to try and assign all illness to a correlating sin. in John 9 Jesus disciple upon encountering a blind man ask Jesus if it was the man or his parents who sinned and caused this malady. It's a lie for us to believe that sickness and affliction is always a punishment, but it is often a consequence.

What is the difference between a punishment and a consequence?

The psalmist goes on saying that often the afflicted are so sick they hate the sight or even the idea of the cure.

Have you even been afflicted and hated the remedy?

We all have sinned and all are sick meaning we the remedy of Jesus.

What does it look like for us to despise the cure of Jesus in our lives?

That same promise again appears in the Psalm, that we can cry to God and He will heal us. Not just make us more comfortable, or treat the symptoms, but truly heal us. A work that can only be replied to with thanks.

Has God healed you of a sickness or consequence lately? Is there a consequence or sickness we can all take to God with you, and cry out to Him that we might see His work and rejoice?

THE FEARFUL (v 23-32)

The last group is described as sailors who find themselves in the midst of a storm, fearing for their lives. It's unique among the stories as the people in this scene did not sin, rebel, or wander. They were going about normal business and yet now find their lives in danger.

Why would God allow us to be put in positions of danger leading to this fear?

The Psalmist says they were at their "wit's end" and Ryan went on to describe this as "their wisdom was swallowed up". Their lives were out of control and there was no idea, plan, scheme, or strategy that would save them.

Where do you turn to for wisdom in your life? How can you ensure it's a wisdom that will not be swallowed up?

Again the Psalmist shares the promise that we can cry to God and be saved from our distress. In the story God comes and stills the water, hushes the sea.

We often feel out of control and panic, we feel in danger. Yet the answer does not seem to be regain control.

Why do you think that is? How can you go about giving over control in your life to God? How would that help you with your fear?


Pray with your group that He would make us quick to cry to our Lord that we might be guided, freed, healed and encouraged. Thank God for His work in our lives that has been shared in the discussion tonight.

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What we learn here is that theology matters, that much of our addiction to power and control is due to false conceptions of God. Gods of our own making may allow us to be “masters of our fate” Sociologist Christian Smith gave the name “moralistic, therapeutic deism” to the dominant understanding of God he discovered among younger Americans. In his book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, he describes this set of beliefs. God blesses and takes to heaven those who try to live good and decent lives (the “moralistic” belief) The central goal of life is not to sacrifice, or to deny oneself, but to be happy and feel good about yourself ( the “therapeutic” belief). Though God exists and created the world, he does not need to be particularly involved in our lives except when there is a problem (that is “deism”).

This view of God literally makes you master of your fate and captain of your soul. Salvation and happiness are up to you. Some have pointed out that “moralistic therapeutic deism” could only develop in a comfortable, prosperous society among privileged people. People “at the top” are eager to attribute their position to their own intellect, savvy, and hard work. The reality is much more complicated. Personal connections, family environment, and what appears to be plain luck determine how successful a person is. We are the product of three things – genetics, environment, and our personal choices. – but two of these three factors we have no power over. We are not nearly as responsible for our success as our popular view of God and reality lead us to think.

Popular culture often tells young people, “you can be anything you set your mind to.” But it is cruel to say that to a five-foot-four-inch eighteen-year-old boy who yearns, more than anything else, to be an NFL linebacker. To use an extreme example, if you had been born in a yurt in Outer Mongolia, instead of where you were, it wouldn’t have mattered how hard you worked or used your talents – you would have ended up poor and powerless. To come closer to home, think of the impact of your family background on you. You may spend your younger years telling yourself that you will not be like your parents, you will be your own person. However, somewhere in the middle of your life, it will become clearer how indelibly your family has shaped you.

This was an excerpt from Timothy Keller's book Counterfeit Gods