Sunday, January 11, 2009

The mystery of God’s grace

1. “’ Well, I sort of feel obligated to go in and talk to him, uh, her.’ ‘Oh,’ now Jesus was serious. ‘Don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you any points around here. Go because it’s what you want to do.’” (pg. 89)

Q. Do you ever go to church, pray, give your tithe, or read your Bible out of a sense of duty or obligation? If we don’t genuinely want to do these things, should we just wait until our desire for God is real?

Q. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:21-22) Is your hesitance to meet with God ever a result of a guilty conscience? If so, what can you do to remove this barrier?

Q. Do you go to God to talk with him about your questions and problems? If so, could you share with the group an experience you’ve had of God responding to you?
2. “’Have you noticed that in your pain you assume the worst of me (Jesus)? I’ve been talking to you for a long time, but today was the first time you could hear it, and all those other times weren’t a waste either. Like little cracks in the wall, one at a time, but woven together they prepared you for today. You have to take the time to prepare the soil if you want it to embrace the seed.’
‘I’m not sure why we resist it, resist you so much,’ Mack mused. ‘It seems kind of stupid now.’
‘It’s all part of the timing of grace, Mack,’ Jesus continued. ‘If the universe contained only one human being, timing would be rather simple. But add just one more, and well, you know the story. Each choice ripples out through time and relationships, bouncing off of other choices. And out of what seems to be a huge mess, Papa weaves a magnificent tapestry. Only Papa can work all this out, and she does it with grace.’
‘So I guess all I can do is follow her,’ Mack concluded.
‘Yep, that’s the point. Now you’re beginning to understand what it means to be truly human.’” (pg. 176-177)

Q. When pain comes into our lives, why do we automatically assume the worst of God – that he allowed the situation, that he doesn’t care, won’t help, etc.? Why do we tend to push away the one who can help us most?

Q. Stephen accused the Jews, “You continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you're just like your ancestors.” (Acts 7:51, The Message) Do you think God is trying to get a message to you right now? What or who might he use? How can you prepare your heart to hear his voice?

Q. What do we learn about God by His persistence in trying to speak to us?

Q. How would you define ‘grace?’ How should we respond to it?

Q. Jesus tells Mack that God is able to take all of the good and bad choices we humans make and “weave them together in a magnificent tapestry” by his grace. Paul wrote, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) When we all see this “tapestry” of random events, what will our response be? (See Revelation 5)

3. “’Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.’” (pg. 185)

Q. Some Christians believe that God is ‘sovereign’ – that he rules over every circumstance. Nothing happens without his permission and plan (Daniel 4:35). Others believe he is behind the scenes working good out of bad situations (Romans 8:28) but allowing circumstances to happen but not causing them. Which do you think is taught by the Bible? Why? What are the implications of these two different viewpoints?

Q. If, like Mack, you lost a child or grandchild to a deranged murderer, how would you reconcile the tragedy with your belief in a loving God? (See Job 1:18-22)

Q. How have you discovered the ‘many facets and colors’ of God’s grace during your dark times?

Q. Sometimes we develop doubts and wrong ideas about God during our trials. What will keep us from ‘the great sadness’ that Mack was trapped in? (See James 1:2-4)


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