Everywhere God Study Guide Meeting God Again, for the Very First Time
Open: Who do you know that fits the chapters definition of religious? Who
fits spiritual? Why is there such a difference today?
Read: Matthew 5:1-12 The Beatitudes (The Message)
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were
apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down
and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
Youre blessed when youre at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
Youre blessed when you feel youve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
Youre blessed when youre content with just who you areno more, no less. Thats the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that cant be bought.
Youre blessed when youve worked up a good appetite for God. Hes food and drink in the best meal youll ever eat.
Youre blessed when you care. At the moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for.
Youre blessed when you get your inside worldyour mind and heartput right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
Youre blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. Thats when you discover who you really are, and your place in Gods family.
Youre blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into Gods kingdom.
Not only thatcount yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happensgive a cheer, even!for though they dont like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Ask: What does this passage have to tell us about Jesuss desires for us as either
spiritual or religious people?
Ask: How does this passage promote both?
Ask: What would it look like if our church were both spiritual and religious? What
might have to change in order to be both?
Pray together, perhaps listening, for Gods truth.
Divinity as Dynamic Movement
Open: When was the last time you played with a swing? What did it feel like to
push back and kick forward at the same time? Can you articulate the message
of this chapter for yourself?
Read: Matthew 5:17-20 (The Message)
Dont suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptureseither Gods Law or the Prophets. Im not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. Gods Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, Gods Law will be alive and working.
Trivialize even the smallest item in Gods Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you wont know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
Ask: What are some of Gods Laws that come to mind? Write them on a flip chart or white board.
Ask: How are Gods Laws more real and lasting than the stars in the sky for you? How do you live Gods Laws daily?
Ask: What would it look like if our congregation lived with a sense of God in the past, present and future? What would have to change in order for our church to be fruitful for the people in the future?
Pray for Gods guidance as these thoughts and ideas become real.
Open: When have you experienced a leading from God? Something you knew you had to do that was out of the ordinary for you? Were you able to act on this leading? What did it feel like? Did the leading have any unusual outcomes?
Read: Matthew 5:13-16 (The Message)
Let me tell you why you are here. Youre here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? Youve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
Heres another way to put it: Youre here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. Were going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you dont think Im going to hide you under a bucket, do you? Im putting you on a light stand. Now that Ive put you there on a hilltop, on a light standshine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, youll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Ask: What does it mean to you to be salt that brings out God flavors? Or light that brings out the God colors?
Ask: How do you flavor and color the world on a daily basis? Tell a story when you were salt or light when you opened up your relationship with God to others?
Ask: What would it look like for our congregation to live as salt and light? Who in our community most needs Gods flavor and color? What would we have to change in order to share God with them?
Pray, and perhaps listen, for Gods desires to be known and lived in your community.
Childlike, Playful God
Open: When did you encounter someone who was not
like you, in such a way that you were blessed by that
encounter? How did this change you?
Read: Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)
Youre familiar with the old written law, Love your friend, and its unwritten companion, Hate your enemy. Im challenging that. Im telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his bestthe sun to warm and the rain to nourishto everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what Im saying is, Grow up. Youre kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
Ask: What part of this passage makes you uncomfortable? Who are the enemies in your community sometimes they are people who are not like us?
Ask: How can you be a bridge-builder to the people in your community that always seem to be on the outside? Who have you befriended lately that is not like you?
Ask: What would it look like if your congregation grew up living generously and graciously toward others? What attitudes and behaviors might have to change in order for you to reflect the way God lives toward you?
Pray silently about your personal reactions to those who are different from you. Together pray for a greater openness toward others.
Open: Tell us about your last encounter with someone who is poor or lives at an economic disadvantage. How did this encounter impact your spiritual life?
Read: Matthew 6:1-4 (The Message)
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you dont make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you wont be applauding.
When you do something for someone else, dont call attention to yourself. Youve seen them in action, Im sureplay-actors I call themtreating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but thats all they get. When you help someone out, dont think about how it looks. Just do itquietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
Ask: What does this story about Bob teach us about Gods expectation that we dont make a performance out of helping others?
Ask: How do you practice when you help someone out, dont think about how it looks. Just do it.? Do you pray to be aware of opportunities to serve?
Ask: What would happen in our community if more of our congregation practices random acts of kindness as a spiritual practice (means of grace)? What kinds of attitudes would have to change in order to value this kind of Christian living?
Pray for a greater awareness of the poor and dis-advantaged around you.
Open: So often we are exposed to other peoples
theological understandings in general conversation. Are
you comfortable enough with your own views that you
can hear or explore other perspectives? Is your church
open to those who are exploring faithful living?
Read: Matthew 7:7-10 (The Message)
Dont bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isnt a
cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game were in. If your child asks for
bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his
plate? As bad as you are, you wouldnt think of such a thing. Youre at least decent to your own
children. So dont you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
Ask: On a scale of 1-5 (1 being very closed and 5 being very open) what is your level of openness to people who have a different theological perspective than you? Are you comfortable offering love and grace to those younger people who may have had a difficult experience with a church in their past?
Ask: How well does your congregation extend grace and love to younger people? Who in your congregation does this well? How could you help to partner folks with younger people to mentor them in healthy ways?
Ask: What would it look like if these thoughts could be brought to fruition within your congregation? Did you hear the true statement from Janice I would go to your church and bring a bunch of people with me? Will your congregation be prepared?
High Test High Priest
Open: Who do you know who lives a generous life, but is
not a church-goer or considered religious? Why do you
think they choose to life this way?
Read: Matthew 5:33-37 (The Message)
And dont say anything you dont mean. This counsel is embedded
deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay
down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, Ill pray for you, and
never doing it, or saying, God be with you, and not meaning it. You dont make your words
true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it
becomes less true. Just say yes and no. When you manipulate words to get your own way,
you go wrong.
Ask: This passage talks to us about our words and actions being in sync. The
story of Garys step-grandfather illustrates this point. What can we learn about
living this way through the passage and the story?
Ask: How do you practice yes and no in your daily life? Are you known for
your reputation of consistent behavior?
Ask: What areas of concern are there within your congregation about this issue
of reputation? What would have to change in order to live with integrity?
Pray for God to help you see yourself and your congregation more clearly. Ask
that God will make clear any areas of concern.
God of Sweet Failure
Open: What part of this story appeals most to you? Who is
the memorable person from your childhood?
Read: Matthew 6:25-34 (The Message)
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you dont fuss about whats on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashiondo you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowersmost of which are never even seendont you think hell attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What Im trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to Gods giving. People who dont know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Dont worry about missing out. Youll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and dont get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Ask: So much of the current success of the program church is a consumer
mentality I come here because I can get what I want. What part of this
statement is true for you?
Ask: How much of your behavior and attitudes would have to change in order
to be a person who can relax and stop the preoccupation with getting?
Ask: What one step can you take today that will move you away from
consumerism so that you can enjoy the little things in life something like a
soupy pan of fudge with a young neighbor? Who can you ask to hold you
accountable to taking that one step?
Pray that God will make obvious to you the ways in which you are thinking and
acting like a consumer and not as a faithful person.
God of Smoke Filled Basements
Open: In this story, Barrett had every right to be angry with
the world and himself, but he chose to work through his
anger to positive ends. When have you allowed anger to
get in the way of your relationships?
Read: Matthew 5:21-26 (The Message)
Youre familiar with the command to the ancients, Do not murder. Im telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother idiot! and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell stupid! at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
Or say youre out on the street and an old enemy ac...