LIFE GROUP LEADER GUIDE
For the week of April 17, 2022
This guide is designed to give helpful hints in preparing & leading your group in discussion.
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Discussion Reminder: As always, remember that the purpose of multiple questions in the homework is to offer a variety of discussion options (kind of like a smorgasbord), as groups often vary when it comes to where they would like to focus. Answering all the questions oftentimes means you’re not taking the time to hear from everyone, digging into the question or taking the time to catch up and hear how everyone is doing.
Looking back at your notes from this week’s teaching, was there anything you heard for the first time or something that caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
1. There are two types of people at Easter: those who eat marshmallow Peeps candy and those who don’t. Identify your position and then defend why your position is correct to the group.
Discussion Note: Not sure what a Peep is? Click here. This is intended to create fun discussion with your group. You could buy a package of Peeps or have people bring their favorite Easter candy to the meeting. Have fun! If you don’t want to talk about Peeps, feel free to use the additional questions below.
- What is your favorite Easter candy?
- What is your favorite Easter tradition?
- Reflecting on your childhood, how did you celebrate Easter?
2. This weekend Chris talked about religion being “dead.” When you hear the word “religion,” what comes to mind? What was your experience of “religion” growing up?
Discussion Note: This is a little more vulnerable of a question. You may want to set it up and share first as the discussion facilitator. Answers could vary. It could be a positive experience, or it could be a negative experience. Your experience could relate to church or not. Answers may be “not much” or “none” when it came to religion.
1. In the Easter message this weekend, we saw a history of people using God for their own glory and victory. While it may be easy to look at stories of people in the Bible and see their folly, sometimes we make the same mistake. With this past weekend being Easter, take a look at Luke 23:32-43 and write down any observations you make about the two criminals hanging next to Jesus on the cross and their responses.
Luke 23:32-43 New International Version (NIV)
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Discussion Note: Commentary – enduringword.com/bible-commentary/luke-23/ – This story is a great follow-up since this past weekend was Easter.
The two thieves can easily represent two responses we may have when going through tough times. One is to be angry with God because He isn’t protecting us and/or bailing us out. The other is trust and submission to God’s will. Can you think of a time in your life when you responded more like the first thief?
Discussion Note: It may be good here for the discussion facilitator and/or leader to go first in sharing their answer. The answers can vary. Our situation may be because of a bad/sinful/risky decision we personally made, we may have been affected by a bad/sinful/risky situation from someone else or it may be an unfortunate event that happened to us (i.e., cancer, job loss, death of a friend or family member). Regardless of the situation, this question is about how we responded to the tough time. We are all human and many of us have responded to a situation or event and, looking back, we would make a different choice and/or respond differently.
When someone you know is in a tough situation, what encouragement might you give to that person as they ask God for help?
Discussion Note: Many times, it is easier to think about how we would give advice to others versus what we would do ourselves. This question can help spark conversation around how we might encourage each other. Things like “God has a plan,” or “all things happen for a reason” are often not helpful forms of encouragement.
- What would be important to say? And to not say?
- Can you think of a helpful encouragement someone has given you in a difficult situation?
- Can you think of a time when someone tried to encourage you but said the wrong thing (no names here)? What can we learn from that situation to help us encourage others in the future?
We all struggle at times with how to surrender well like the second criminal. What would it look like to respond well to a tough situation?
Discussion Note: Answers could be from personal experience. Another way to ask the question would be for the group to make a list together.
- How might you encourage someone who is experiencing disappointment or frustration with God when He doesn’t come through like we hope?
- What are some practical ways we can approach God from a posture of surrender versus trying to control or use God for our victories?
2. This weekend Chris encouraged us to get right with God instead of getting religious. It is sometimes easy to focus on the good things we do and think that it is those things that get us right with God. Take a look at one of Jesus’ parables in Luke 18:10-14. You may remember this passage from last quarter, but this time we will look at it from a different angle. Make a note of any observations you have about how the Pharisee (religious leader) and the tax collector (often hated by many) looked upon themselves.
Discussion Note: We used this same passage in Winter 2022 – week 2. We went back and forth as a team on whether to reuse the passage, but we felt like it was such a great fit with Chris’ message, we went with it again this week and tried to come from a slightly different angle. If it feels like a redundant conversation, please feel free to use Digging Deeper #1.
Luke 18:10-14 New International Version (NIV)
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Discussion Note: Commentary – enduringword.com/bible-commentary/luke-18/ – There are elements of comparing ourselves to others to make us look/feel better and the reality that the humble will get lifted up. This story would have been a major shock to the audience at the time Jesus wrote it.
Additional Verses: Philippians 2:1-10
Just as the Pharisee reflected on the good things he has done out of obedience (i.e., fast and give a tenth), are there any good things you do that help bring you close to God? (i.e., serving others, showing kindness, reading your Bible, prayer, church/life group attendance, generosity, abstaining from a sinful behavior)
Discussion Note: This is in reference to the example of the ark of the covenant from Chris’ message. Israel used the ark to gain God’s favor while their hearts were hardened toward God. It was not that using the ark is bad, it was that their hearts were not in the right place. For the question above and for our lives today, it is not that we should stop reading the Bible (or any of the listed examples above), but it is how we approach those things. Are we in a posture of humility seeking God? That is what we are trying to discuss in this question and the next question.
The point of this parable is not to stop doing the good acts of obedience, but to approach them with a heart of humility. How might you know if you are approaching the things you listed above with a right heart or out of religion?
Discussion Note: This is more about why we are doing what we are doing. We also don’t always “feel” like doing these things, sometimes “emotion follows action” (if we move in that direction, our heart/feelings will follow). Feel free to reflect on the My Story Question #2 about religion here—you may even ask that question prior to this one. After everyone answers with their own personal experience with “religion,” it may be helpful to follow up with:
- Based on how you viewed religion growing up, what impact may that have on how you view these things?
Just as the Pharisee compared himself to the tax collector to make himself look or feel better, do you ever struggle with comparing yourself to others?
Discussion Note: This could be a vulnerable question here— as always, it may be helpful for the leader to go first in answering. Comparison may be in a variety of things in life (i.e., body image, success, faith, looking the part, “keeping up with the Jones”). You may try to focus this question on, “Do you ever compare yourself to others when it comes to your faith?”
When is comparison bad? Can you think of a time when comparing yourself to others may be helpful or motivating to you?
Discussion Note: An example may be a high-level friend who runs a marathon (or the way they treat their spouse/kids, the way they honor God in their dating relationship, someone’s devotion to God, a co-worker who goes out of their way to serve others, etc.). How they act may be an inspiration to me as long as their standard of fitness doesn’t become my level of judgment for my own personal health— it may inspire me to exercise more. As Pastor Larry always says, “It’s about the fruit, not the watering schedule.” This is part of the value of a Life Group – we can learn from others and be motivated.
Which point from this weekend’s message or Life Group study is most important for you to remember?