Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hot Potatoes #7

Hot Potatoes #7 “Is Jesus a Republican?”

Pastor Mark said that he has often heard this statement: “How could a Christian be a democrat?” When he pressed further on the subject, it is interesting to see how much we tend to assume that our political ideals and our American lifestyle represent what is should really mean to be a Christian.

Jesus was neither a Democrat nor Republican. He is not white, American, or middle class. He never promised that His provision for us would include universal healthcare, home ownership, an automobile, cell phones, or satellite TV for everyone. But isn’t it funny how quickly we assume that our way of life becomes something that we assume Jesus would approve of. If we aren’t careful, we begin to assume that our values reflect Jesus’ values because “we are Christians and we love Jesus and this is how we all live.”

We live in a time when most of us support lower taxes because it means that we get to spend more money on ourselves. We live with more luxuries than most cultures in history have ever dreamed of. Yet we are likely to give significant amounts of money to the church or other Christian causes only in those months when we have been sure that we were able to pay our mortgage, insurances, automobile & cell phone bills, and eaten out as often as we like. If Jesus took care of all of those things for us and provided beyond our monthly needs, wants and luxuries, then we might actually give to support Kingdom causes. And after we cover our time commitments to work, exercise, our kids’ sports schedules, and some personal time, if we have anything left we might actually serve in a ministry of the church…unless it’s a pretty day or home game for our favorite team. This has become the middle class American Christian experience today. And it bears no resemblance to Jesus or the movement He began in the 1st Century.

No, Jesus was not a republican, nor was He American or middle class. The time has come for us to stop defending our lifestyle of comfort and luxury and to start pursuing the things and people which matter so much to Jesus. The changes we need to make in America don’t begin in the White House. They start in my house and your house. I must live a life which embodies true Christian values, and I must teach my children to do the same. Whenever I do that, I cast the strongest vote possible for a stronger, better America! The leadership of our states and nation reflect the hearts of those being led. Let’s be a people who stand for Christian values rather than “modern American values,” and let’s teach our children to do the same.

Do most “Bible-Belt” Christians see republican leaders as representing the view of Christians more so than Democratic leaders?

What about the “republican agenda” and “democratic agenda” represents Christian values?

Where to you see both agendas falling short of Christian values?

How do you think God feels about our current President? …about our Congress?

Romans 13:1-7 “Submission to the Authorities”
 1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
This letter was written to the Christians living in Rome. The Roman government treated Christians very poorly and many were put to death because of their faith.

If you were being persecuted and heard this from Paul, what would be your reaction?

How does this apply to us?

How should we go about deciding whom we should vote for in the next Presidential election?

How can we best pray for our nation?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hot Potatoes #6

Hot Potatoes #6: Are Some People Born Gay?

We don’t know the answer to the question, “Are some people born gay?” The clinical evidence is inconclusive as to whether people are born with that sexual orientation or if it is an inclination created by circumstance and/or experience. In reality, the answer doesn’t matter. It’s a bit like being a crippled person and trying to figure out if your inability to walk was caused by a birth defect or as a result of an injury caused by being dropped to the ground as a toddler. If YOU are the crippled person, who cares what the answer is? What you want is either a cure or some help coping with the fact that you’re crippled.

“God would never create someone with the inclination towards homosexuality!” That is lousy theology. Do you feel a natural inclination to eat more than you should? Do you ever feel physically attracted to anyone other than your spouse? Do you ever naturally lose your temper? Do you ever enjoy taking part in gossip? You get the idea. You didn’t have to learn these behaviors. Sin is our human nature. Yes, God created us. But sin corrupted us from birth so that we naturally act out in self-destructive ways…including our sexual desires and/or behavior.

Do you agree/disagree that the answer to “Are some people born gay?” doesn’t really matter?

Romans 1:18-27
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
 24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
 26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

What Paul was saying:
Paul says here that the root of sexual perversion is rebellion against God’s authority. It is about failing to recognize and submit to God. Why is that a big deal? It is a big deal because when we fail to submit to God’s authority, we don’t just take control of our own lives we move out from under God’s protection and into the very presence and control of evil (inside and outside of us) which is greater than our human will-power to resist.

In verse 27, Paul says that this behavior will result in receiving “due penalty” for their error. What do you think this means?

Romans 1:28-32
28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

What issues/sins on this list surprise you most to see them listed right alongside sexual sins?

What is the final step in depravity that Paul describes in vs. 32? People not only participate in these sins, but they approve of others who do such….as if it were a good thing.

Why do Christians cry out so loudly against homosexuality, but say little about the other sins listed here?

Romans 2:1-4
1Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

What is it that leads us towards repentance? How does a harsh judgment against homosexuals stand in contrast to vs. 4?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hot Potatoes #5

Hot Potatoes #5 Why Doesn’t God Answer my Prayers?

Have you ever struggled with this question of unanswered prayer?  What was
that like?  Can you share an example?  Did you ever get an answer?

Matthew 7:7-11
7Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. 9Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

What is interesting about what Jesus said? Is there any question that Jesus wants us and expects us to believe that God always answers prayer?

Why did Jesus make the comparison in vs. 11 between us and God?

Why do sins disconnect us from God? (1 John 1:9)

It is important to examine your prayers, see James 4:3 about that.

Have you ever had the experience of asking for something in prayer only later to be glad God didn’t answer? What does that teach you?

It is important to examine your hearing. How noisy is your world right now? How can we listen better?

How can be more effective in our prayers?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hot Potatoes #4

Hot Potatoes #4: Is Hell Real?

The 5 Views of “what happens when you die” are:
·        Naturalism – “we don’t have a soul”
·        Universalism – “we are all going to heaven” “all religions lead to God”
·        Reincarnation – “there are multiple successions of living”
·        Annihilationists – “everyone dies (eventually)”
·        Purgatory – “as a believer, we’ll go to a holding place”

How does the Bible describe hell:
2 Thess. 1:9 – Separated from God
Matthew 25:30 – Outer Darkness, Weeping and Gnashing
Matthew 25:41 – Eternal Fire, Satan and Demons there
Luke 16:22-24 – Torment and Anguish

Having read these verses, how does that make you feel about the reality of hell? How does it make you feel to know that real people go there?

How does knowing about hell change the way you think about your friends and family? What about reaching the lost?

How would you answer the following objections to a belief in a literal place of punishment?
·        A loving God would not send billions of people to a horrible hell.
·        A loving God would be more tolerant.
·        Eternal judgment in hell is an unjust punishment for people who sin.

Our response to the message on hell:
·        Rejoice that because of Christ, we don’t have to go there.
·        Realize that the things we do to get out the Good News are the more important things we do in this life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hot Potatoes #3

Hot Potatoes #3 “Is Divorce Ever OK?”
Scripture References:
Genesis 2:20-25
Deuteronomy 24:1-4
Malachi 2:13-16
Matthew 5:31-32
** Matthew 19-3-10
** 1 Corinthians 7:1-17, 39-40

** denotes important verses for this lesson

Important Point:

God hates divorce primarily because of the terrible pain and hardship that it brings into the lives of His children. God does NOT hate divorced people. He has love and compassion for people who have been through, or are going through, this terrible experience.

Divorce is neither ideal nor God’s first plan for us. But divorce is not some unique or unforgivable sin. And God loves, blesses, and uses divorced people as greatly and as freely as He uses those who have never been divorced.


The 4 conditions for divorce or separation that Mark discussed on Sunday were Adultery, Abandonment, Abuse, and Addiction. What is your reaction to that summary? Do you agree or disagree?

Matthew 19:3-10
3And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?" 4He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said,'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." 7They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" 8He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."
 10The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry."

How would you sum up what Jesus had to say about marriage? Did Jesus negate the possibility of divorce?

Under what condition did Jesus say that divorce was permitted? (The Greek word used by Jesus in 19:9 for “marital unfaithfulness” was “porneia.” It is the root-word from which we get the word “pornography.” Porneia meant “to prostitute yourself or to be sexually unfaithful.”) Do you feel that “marital unfaithfulness” applies to:
·        People who have repeatedly used pornography for sexual gratification?
·        People who use sex chat calls for sexual gratification?
·        People who engage in sexually graphic text and email conversations with someone other than their spouse?
·        People who repeatedly or consistently withhold sex from their spouse?

1 Cor. 7:1-17
Principles for Marriage
 1Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman."2But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
 6Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
 8To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
 10To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
 12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Live as You Are Called
 17Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

In what ways would our obedience to the instructions in verses 3-6 decrease the likelihood of future divorce?
Note the instructions that Paul gives in verses 10-11, 12-16, and 39.

If a person has divorced and remarried under conditions which the scriptures would define as adultery, what would you counsel that person to do?

If you have a friend or one of your adult children who is being abused by his or her spouse, how would you counsel them?

What is your greatest unanswered question about divorce or remarriage at this point?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hot Potatoes #2

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Job 1
Job’s Character and Wealth
 1There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.
Satan Allowed to Test Job
 6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7The LORD said to Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." 8And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" 9Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? 10Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."12And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

How would you describe Job’s life so far? What surprises you about verses 6-12?

Satan Takes Job’s Property and Children
 13Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house,14and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." 16While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." 17While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." 18While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you."
 20Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

What did Satan do to Job? What does this tell you about the level of evil and cruelty that the kingdom of darkness would like to bring against you and your family?
Did God cause the death and destruction around Job? Does God ever cause tragedy or evil in our lives?

Job 2
Satan Attacks Job’s Health
 1Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2And the LORD said to Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." 3And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason." 4Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face." 6And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life."
 7So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
 9Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." 10But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

What did you learn from the exchange between God and Satan in these verses?
If you were in Job’s position would you be more likely to respond as Job did or his wife?

Job 42:10-12
The LORD Restores Job’s Fortunes
 10And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.
 12And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.
Job 42:15-16
15And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. 16And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.

How did things end up going for Job?
Think of the most painful experiences in your life. How did you respond initially to that situation?
How do you think God used, or will use, that situation or even in your life or in the lives of others?
What can you take away from Job’s story to encourage you whenever you or your loved ones are facing hardship or tragedy?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hot Potatoes #1

Is Jesus the only way to heaven?
What happens to people who never hear about Jesus?

Main Discussion Points:

We HAVE heard of Jesus.  And personal faith in Him is the only way for US to be saved.

We can trust that what God does what is right with people who never hear of Jesus.

We have no reason to conclude that the person who has never heard of Jesus “will just be OK since God is a loving being.”  The only confidence we can have that they will be saved is for them to hear the gospel message and place their faith in Jesus.

Group Discussion:

You have been asked the question, “Is Jesus the only way to heaven?” How would you answer this? (beyond yes or no)

If a person says, “Your view of God is very intolerant to other religions. Why would God send a devout    Muslim, Hindu, etc. to hell?” How would you respond?
See John 3:16-18

Has God revealed himself to everyone in the world?
               See Psalm 19:1-4, Colossians 1:21-23, Titus 2:11-12, Romans 1:16-21

On Sunday, Mark suggested that there is a way in which God’s judgment of us is tied to how much we know about Him and about His expectations for us. Do you agree or disagree?
               See Romans 2:12-16

Do you believe that God sometimes just “shows up” in our dreams (or otherwise) and reveals himself and a way of salvation for people who have never heard about Jesus?
See Acts 10:1-7: Cornelius had never before heard of Jesus. Did he already have a relationship with God?

What is necessary for a person to have a relationship with God and to go to heaven?
               See 1 Cor. 15:1-4: What is the “gospel”?

Read Romans 10:14-15. Does this passage have an impact in terms of how you view those who are lost?