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Based on the five biblical purposes that form the bedrock of Saddleback Church, Doing Life Together will help your group discover what God created you for and how you can turn this dream into an everyday reality. Experience the transformation firsthand as you begin Connecting, Growing, Developing, Sharing, and Surrendering your life together for him.
GOD'S HEART FOR PEOPLE
Have you ever longed for one of your friends to come to know God but you didn't know how to help? I know a young man who claims to be uninterested in God. At age nineteen he told me, "I don't believe in God. I don't need to. I don't want to." His life is just fine, thank you. He's smart and looking for a career that will let him express his creativity and buy him life's pleasures.
When I offered him the gospel, he slammed the door in my face. My first reaction was to feel hurt and back away. But he's an important person in my life. I keep seeing his face in my prayers. Underneath his talent and bravado, I sense a thirsty heart. I'm convinced that God aches to embrace him, and I suspect that God has a long-range plan to pursue his heart. When I feel God ache for my friend, my own heart melts.
God's plan may take years to unfold. I may have only the tiniest role in it. But when I let myself share God's heart for my friend, I know I can't give up on him. -Karen
CONNECTING WITH GOD'S FAMILY 10 min.
Few people decide to follow Jesus on their own. For most of us, one ormore people are influential in our decision. They may be friends, relatives, even writers of books. They may be people we know well or people we admire at a distance.
Please share your answer to question 1 below. Try to limit your story to about a minute so we'll have plenty of time for the rest of the study.
1. When you decided to follow Jesus, who was one person who influenced your decision? How did he or she influence you?
2. It's important for every group to agree on a set of shared values. If your group doesn't already have an agreement (sometimes called a covenant), turn to page 67. Even if you've been-together for some time and your values are clear, the Purpose-Driven Group Agreement can help your group achieve greater health and balance. We recommend that you especially consider rotating group leadership, setting up spiritual partners, and introducing purpose teams into the group. Simply go over the values and expectations listed in the agreement to be sure everyone in the group understands and accepts them. Make any necessary decisions about such issues as refreshments and child care.
GROWING TO BE LIKE CHRIST 20 min.
Just as someone helped you begin your journey with Jesus, our Lord offers you a unique opportunity to play this same role in the lives of others around you. The first step is to see people as Jesus saw them-distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd. We tend to see people as they appear on the outside, unaware of the needs that lie below the surface. We need to look deeper and develop a heart for people in need of a savior.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." -Matthew 9:35-38
3. What did Jesus see and feel as he visited the cities and villages around him?
4. Read the definition of compassion in the study notes on page 21. Why do you think Jesus had compassion on the people?
Why wouldn't they have been fine with a little rest, food, and direction?
5. Jesus said that these people ultimately needed a "shepherd." What do you think he meant by that?
6. What did Jesus mean by his statement that "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few"?
7. Whom do you know who seems like a sheep without a shepherd? How does this person's situation make you feel?
8. Think of someone you know who doesn't believe in God and yet doesn't appear to be "harassed and helpless." Why do you think Jesus feels compassion for this person?
9. Jesus is the shepherd people need (John 10:11). Why do we sometimes neglect people's deepest needs?
Sometimes the tyranny of the urgent robs us from the real work that God wants each of us to take part in. The German poet Goethe wrote, "The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least."
SHARING YOUR LIFE MISSION EVERY DAY 20 min.
Compassion doesn't come naturally for everyone. Jesus wants you to develop the kind of compassion for people that he has.
10. Who are the sheep without a shepherd in your life, the people who need to meet Jesus? The following "Circles of Life" will help you think of people in various areas of your life. Prayerfully write down at least three or four names in the circles.
11. Share one or two names with the group. Together write down a Top Ten list-the names of the ten unbelievers your group will pray for during the next six weeks.
Top Ten List
SURRENDERING YOUR LIFE FOR GOD'S PLEASURE 15-30 min.
Compassion flows out of your intimate connection with Jesus, your shepherd. If you're harassed and helpless yourself, you're hardly likely to be thinking about the needs of other sheep. Here are some ways you can strengthen your connection with Jesus.
12. On page 81 you'll find a list of brief passages for daily devotions-five per week for the six weeks of this study. If you've never spent daily time with God, this is an easy way to begin. Would you consider taking on this habit for the duration of this study? See page 84 for a sample journal page that you can use as a guide for your daily devotions.
If you're already consistent in daily devotions, consider acquiring the habit of Scripture memory. Six memory verses are provided on page 80-one verse per week. Would you consider accepting the challenge to memorize one verse per week and hide God's Word in your heart? We urge you to pair up with another person for encouragement and accountability.
13. Allow everyone to answer this question: "How can we pray for you this week?"
Take some time to pray for these requests. Pray also for the people on your Top Ten list. Ask God to prepare their hearts for the gospel and to develop in you a heart of compassion for them. Ask God to give you a desire to reach out to these people with his love, both in word and action.
Anyone who isn't used to praying aloud should feel free to offer prayers in silence. Or, if you're new to prayer and you're feeling brave, try praying just one sentence: "God, please draw __________________________________________________to yourself."
Had compassion. To feel sympathy or pity from the depth of one's gut. Compare James 5:11; Psalm 103:13. This kind of compassion moves one to action.
Harassed. Physically exhausted and troubled. "Distressed" (NASB) or stressed. Often when we are most tired, we are also emotionally spent.
Helpless. Literally, "thrown down." NASB translates this word as "downcast." The image is of a sheep that has slipped and fallen onto its back and is unable to turn over and stand up. The sheep exhausts itself in the struggle to stand. A downcast sheep can die if the shepherd doesn't find and rescue it.
Harvest. Jesus uses the picture of a harvest to describe the gathering of people into the kingdom of God. The crops are people ready to believe in Jesus. When we see people as they truly are, we feel Jesus' compassion for their plight and are motivated to go into the field (world) for harvest.
For Further Study on this topic, read Luke 13:34; 23:28-43.
Weekly Memory Verse: John 3:16
The Purpose-Driven Life Reading Plan: Day 36
Excerpted from SHARING YOUR LIFE MISSION EVERY DAY by BRETT and DEE EASTMAN TODD and DENISE WENDORFF KAREN LEE-THORP Copyright © 2002 by Brett and Deanna Eastman, Todd and Denise Wendorff, and Karen Lee-Thorp
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.