Our small groups are meeting on all different topics this year. Read below and enjoy some of what they are discussing:
Christianity, Cults & Religion: Our small group discussed the 12 essential Christian Doctrines. Some are easier or harder to accept than others. We felt that the Christian message is about being a wonderful, uplifting guide as how to treat others, more than just the doctrines. It’s about how to love one another. Jesus gave us a plan. Grace is a gift from God that you receive no matter what you do or don’t do. God’s grace is hard for people in other religions and cults to accept. Cults say you have to do or give something to receive Grace. Grace is defined as unconditional love from our maker; unmerited favor.Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. No other major religions have the Resurrection. Other religions deny Jesus’ resurrection. Lately with all the natural disasters out there, it’s like God is shaking us and saying, “Go out and live your Faith!” It is our responsibility; our privilege to declare the truths with joy and confidence.
Our study and discussion on Thursday was over the religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses. After learning about the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses through the DVD presentation our discussion centered around salvation. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are saved through taking in the knowledge of their religion, obeying God’s laws, belonging to and serving in Jehovah’s one true organization, and being loyal to Jehovah’s organization.
However, as Christian’s, we believe in God’s grace. Christianity has a specific plan that depends on God; not on us. Jesus came to Earth to forgive our sins and we accept that gift of Grace. We do not have to “earn” it or work for it. As Christians we have hope. God has a personal plan for every one of us. If we are in a position when we can talk to someone who is a JW, we can say, “the biggest difference between you and me, is that I have hope. I have God’s Grace.”
It’s not too late to join our small group. We will be studying a different religion each week. Contact Brian Wuerch if you would like to join and he will purchase a book for you.
From Phiilip Yancey’s “Where is God When It Hurts”, Sept. 11 we considered the terrible evil and great suffering of the Holocaust. Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl learned through his own imprisonment that “everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” During the 1970’s, a man did a study of the effect of living in a concentration camp on a person’s belief on God. 11% said they had rejected all belief in God. But about 5 % actually changed from atheists to believers! Elie Wiesel, author of “Night”, which I’ve read, says his belief in God died in a concentration camp. But Corrie Ten Boom, Dutch Christian whose family went to a concentration camp because they sheltered Jews, wrote in “The Hiding Place”, “However deep the pit, God’s love is deeper still.” Philip Yancey concludes “God did not even keep himself from human suffering. He too hung on a gallows, at Calvary, and that alone is what keeps me believing in a God of love.”
The Measure of Spiritual Maturity: Before we began discussion of our subject, we talked about our small group experience the past two years, and how this year would be different – if for no other reason than the format of the materials presented is changed. Session I – “Renewing Your Church” In this session we learned that faith, hope and love – these three – but especially love – are the true measures of a church. Paul makes this abundantly clear in his writings to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians.
- People replace love in today’s world by doing many things – working too hard, relying on money, relying on personal skills, drugs, indulging in love-less relationships, etc.
- Love is so important as God has commanded us to love.
- Love is about people, about serving, about helping.
- Love cannot be taken or demanded, it can only be freely given.
- A person can never run out of love. It is self-replenishing.
- To be active, love must be expressed, and this can transpire in many ways; Touches, hugs, assisting, volunteering, contributing one’s efforts and/or skills, sharing, listening, and the list goes on.
- Love is not judgmental. Judgement is better left to God.
- Love is accepting. This is the old, “love the sinner, hate the sin”.
In closing, we discussed the value and importance of FPC’s upcoming workshop on the “12 Keys” and how we think the workshop will benefit from knowledge gained by all small group participants, and the many ways in which participants will benefit and be able to actively participate in mapping the future direction of FPC.
“Renewing Your Love: Love is the greatest directive of the Christian life. There are three dimensions of Christian love;
- Agape – The most self-sacrificing love there is. Jesus demonstrated Agape love when He gave His life on the cross so that we all may live.
- Phileo – The type that friends have for each other. It is a love that is not passionate like that between a husband and wife. It is most associated with a deep abiding friendship, but can also be the love shared between siblings, relatives. It is the love church members should have towards each other.
- Eros – This is a love that is about sex. There is nothing wrong with Eros as long as it is within the confines of marriage. It is the love that occurs between a man and a woman.
What is love like in our modern culture? Today love is often confused with sexual feelings, or an intense desire for objects, recognition, or rewards. Of, love can be defined as that which is required at any one moment to “fit in” with the environment/discussion so as to avoid negativity and to be accepted. Biblical love passages:
- The best way to demonstrate love is through our actions rather than our words. John 3:18
- Let everything that you do be done with love. Corinthians 16:14
- Love your enemies. Matthew 5:44
- Love one another as Christ has loved. John 13:34
Thoughts for consideration: Why is it so hard to love the unloved? How can we help our church demonstrate love in our community?
The Dynamic Jerusalem Model: The title of this section does little to describe the actual study material. However, upon completion of the lesson the use of the title becomes clearer. For a church to be dynamic, three vital components are required: 1. Learn through Scripture. 2. Have Fellowship with one another. 3. Witness to a lost world. (Our group included the term “mission” within this requirement.)
Based on these requirements, there are at least three different types of churches: 1. Bible Teaching. 2. Fellowship. 3. Evangelism/Mission. We decided that our church, FPC, is a blend of all three types at present.
Following a wonderful discussion, our group agreed that FPC could/should strengthen its response to these three requirements. We did not evaluate. We “brought to the surface”. We also listed some options presently available at FPC that support each requirement.
Learn through Scripture: Sermons based on Scripture, as opposed to being based (or influenced by) on agendas that are “politically correct” or are political in general. Small groups are a relatively new-found strength that should be promoted and encouraged to continue in various formats that fit the scheduling availability of congregation members. This also is a strength in opportunities for Fellowship with one another.
Have Fellowship With One Another: Recognizing the strength of Fellowship time following church service. Re-energize “dinners for eight” as a key portion of congregation fellowship. Recognize and promote Mission/Witness that overlaps with Fellowship.
Witness to a lost world – Mission/Outreach: FPC has many fine mission programs that are like ripples going into the world. Promote more involvement in local mission projects that also build opportunities for Fellowship. Promote interest and provide opportunities for congregation members to assist Salvation Army in “bell ringing” at various collection points around town. Have distinguishing FPC apparel etc. for the volunteers to wear. Consider special personal invitations to assisted living, retirement, and nursing homes to bring residents to special services (Veteran’s day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Maundy Thursday, Community Good Friday, Easter, etc.) Consider bold efforts to bring interested FPC members who are in nursing homes, etc. to special services.