XRCONNECT WEEK Two
Men, ladies, and couples groups: to download and print questions, click here.
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Best and Worst Food Memory: Ask everyone to think of their best and worst food memory or experience.
Ask any “new” attendees that didn’t make it to week one to kick it off by introducing themselves, sharing if this is their first connect group, then answering the icebreaker question.
SAY: Last week we talked about the art and beauty behind sitting across the table from a friend, sharing a meal, and discovering how we can demonstrate the heart of our God through the context of relationships. We can be most like Jesus, not just inside the church walls, but when we are sharing good food, through great conversation.
ASK: What opportunity or conversation were you able to steer toward the inspiration of God, that could have, otherwise, lay dormant or spurred negativity? How did you speak encouragement to those in your circle since we met, last week?
Topic One: “Come and have breakfast.”
“You are here… but after what?” – Pastor Derick
READ: “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee... Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So, Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” - John 21:1-14
SAY: The bible illustrates many times when Peter messes up. Arguably the most infamous account was his denying Jesus, but his “afterward” could also apply to many other scenarios -- after he let himself and the other disciples down, after he went back on a promise, after he cut a man's ear off, and after he doubted Jesus and began to sink in the water. Biblically speaking, Peter was not the only “hot mess” from time to time – Pastor Derick reminded us of Esau, David, Jonah and Moses as individuals that all heard from God, but whose actions reflected the reverse of God’s direction. So, why does the Bible point out all of these examples? Pastor explained that Peter's failures are not highlighted for the sake of our entertainment or self-esteem, but rather for our spiritual engagement.
ASK: Have you ever been doing something so well but, suddenly, derailed? Perhaps things were going really well at your job, but circumstances shifted abruptly, and you didn't see eye to eye with your boss or a colleague?
SAY / TRANSITION: Like Peter, we're prone to messing up because we're imperfect people living in a sinful world. This can lead to discouragement and disappointment, but getting around the table with the right people is the first step. Remember, during seasons when you keep "going offsides," give your discouragement to Jesus, first.
Topic Two: Discouragement: Division in our courage.
“Pick it up! If your energy is waning in your relationship with God, be careful.” - Pastor Derick
READ: ”Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” - Hebrews 12:12-13
SAY: The writer of Hebrews tells us that activity (knees) and strength (hands) walk hand in hand. Our goal is to live level lives, so discouragement creeps in when we observe low energy towards God and our “levels” become unbalanced. Low energy towards God can leave us with a myriad of different feelings, but at the root, can probably funnel up to an overarching sense of discouragement or division in our courage.
ASK: Which one of these “D” words do you experience most often that manifests into discouragement? When discouragement makes its way into your spirit, what “partner-in-crime” does it bring along with it or disguise itself as, for you, personally? For example, I’ll go first…
Leaders, now you give YOUR example. Use one of the words shaded in gray to describe what emotion usually couples with your discouragement. Like: “’When I feel discouraged, it’s usually through dysfunction. I am a control freak, and when things are out of whack or off-routine, I feel out of balance and then end up discouraged.’ Or ‘When I feel deflation, I get discouraged. I struggle when my expectations are not met or someone of significance in my life lets me down.’ So, what’s your “D” word?” You may have these words on a small card or piece of paper, or board for reference if you need to pass it around the table.
SAY: So many times, when we feel discouragement, we tend to “stress eat” or crave refined sugars or fats. On a physical level, a craving for sugary things relates to the cells of the body not getting enough energy. Sweetness, as an emotional experience, is often craved when we are unable to process sadness; when we’re hoping to temporarily cover up our low points with a little burst of sugar high. Unfortunately, this cover-up process is often replicated in the spiritual realm. If we consume a substance or look to a means of reinvigoration – be it sugar, relationships, alcohol, possessions, or anything else – to fill emotional emptiness, it ends up compounding itself and leaving us feeling still deprived and, most often, accompanied by heaping burdens of guilt afterwards.
ASK: Is there something you turn to when you have low energy toward God? Does it result in a similar high, then subsequent crash like that of a “sugar rush?” If you can name the discouragement at the root, how can you invoke a spirit of thanksgiving to transform it into enthusiasm and praise? How else can you communicate to your soul that you are “winning” in the area that may be colored by discouragement?
SAY / TRANSITION: Great feedback, all, and thank you for your vulnerability. I appreciate the bravery it took to share a personal struggle – we may never be able to adequately measure the benefit others around this table have gained from your wisdom. God honors that courage and may all of us continue to learn the intricate language between the body, brain, and spirit to replenish our souls through the wholeness, joy, and satisfaction that only Jesus can provide.
Topic Three: Give it to Jesus. Look to Jesus. Consider Jesus.
”Remember, the focal point in disappointment is that He is still going to work all things together for your good.” - Pastor Derick
READ: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” - Hebrews 12:1-3
SAY: Discouragement, disappointment and depression can rise to crushing levels that consume our hearts, minds and spirits. That is not God’s plan for you - that is the work of the enemy. If the devil can’t have your soul, he will fight for your spirit, make you ineffective, and destroy your ministry. Pastor Derick challenges us to be FIT for the fight. Like in Bible it says:
READ: “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
ASK: The “F” in FIT calls for us to “Fix your eyes on Jesus,” and redirect our focus off of ourselves, looking to Him who is able and holds the brighter perspective. How can you make this perspective shift and lay aside the weight of your sin?
READ: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
ASK: When we are fit for the fight, we can use the “I” in FIT to remind us to, “Identify the real enemy.” The enemy is not your weakness, your failures or your mistakes. Face the enemy head-on and let him know that you know he is a liar. How are you looking to Jesus instead of buying into the false truths of the enemy?
READ: Hebrews 12:28 says “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
SAY / TRANSITION: Finally, the “T” in FIT, reminds us to, “Thank God for every opportunity,” even the difficult situations. Let’s take this time to consider Him, and what He has done through and for us, which brings us to our last topic, “Thank Jesus.”
Topic Four: Thank Jesus.
”If it didn’t kill me, I get to use it.” - Pastor Derick
READ: “I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” - Psalm 118:19-24
SAY: Thankfulness produces enthusiasm. “En theos” is an awareness of God’s presence. It is when we are aware of his closeness, that we observe a posture of thankfulness.
Discouragement is a distorted perspective of distance = God is far.
Thankfulness provides clarity of proximity = God is near.
SAY: Some of us experience moments in our life of really high highlights and really low lowlights. When we're “all heart, all the time,” the dramatic swing in our mood can impact us in unsavory ways. Pastor Derick suggests we remember to thank God, not just for the big and spectacular, but for all things - even in our moments in the valley, or, as he put it, "Thank Him through the discouragement."
ASK: What does level living look like? How can we avoid being “hype for Jesus” on the weekends, yet subject to depression come Monday morning? What are some techniques you use to maintain balance in your life?
ASK: What steps can we take to change our mindset to “consider it pure joy when we face trails/discouragement of many kinds”? How can we let thankfulness build our courage and bat away the arrow of discouragement? What will it take to remain consistent in our faith for the cloud of witnesses that are surrounding us?
SAY: We need to acknowledge that He is working in the wait. Recall the illustration Pastor described about the archer. The archer, who was struck in the arm with an arrow, musters the strength to pull the arrow from his flesh and reload it into his own bow to fire back at his enemy saying, “If it didn’t kill me, I am going to use it.”
ASK: How can we be more mindful in “thanking God through it?” How are you able to praise God while you’re in the “middle” of a tough season and can’t see the miracle, quite yet?
Wrap up: Let’s just “table it.”
SAY: Hebrews is teaching us to "table it,” by setting our discouragements aside and giving them to Jesus. And while we are at it, we get to experience clarity in our minds, by looking to Him considering the faithfulness and blessings of Him. When we consider Him and look to Him, it will produce a spirit of Thanksgiving, which in turn, produces enthusiasm, the antidote and spiritual medicine for discouragement. So, no matter what disappointment, dysfunction or disheartenment you have been wrestling with, in this season, the time is right now to surrender it to the mighty hand of God that is for you, praising Him through it and thanking Him in spite of it.
PRAY: Father, we recognize that enthusiasm is an exciting awareness of Your presence and Your activity. Lord, we pray that you would deliver us from any distorted perspective of distance from you. God, fill us with abundant thankfulness and gratitude, providing the clarity of Your proximity. You are so near to us! So Father, we commit to “tabling” the issues of discouragement in our lives and pivoting our energy to THINK OF You and THANK You, for everything that You have done for us, be it seen or unseen. May we be mindful of the doors You have opened and be grateful for the doors You kept closed. Father, we rest in Your promises in the weeks and months to come, acknowledging that You know us far better than we know ourselves, and You are working every detail in our lives together for good. In Jesus name, amen.