Three Familiar Stories
I. Quick LESSON in ENGAGING the text. (v.1-32)
A. Put YOURSELF in the CONTEXT. (v.1-2)
B. LISTEN closely for REPETITION. (v.3,8,11; 6,9,22-24; 7,10,32)
C. Watch for SIMILARITIES and DIFFERENCES. (v.3-7,8-10,11-32)
I like the term “engaging” better than the term “reading” when it comes to the Biblical text. Reading is something that we can do from a distance. But to “engage” means we interact with it, we live in relationship with it, letting it impact us on more than a cognitive level. There are a few things I found that help me when I’m trying to engage with the Bible.
1. Kid’s question: What’s your favourite story from the Bible? Why is it your favourite?
2. How do you approach your own Bible reading? Is there a method you use to help you move past reading to deeper engagement?
II. The LOVE of God for LOST things. (v.1-32)
A. It’s a LOVE that RISKS. (v.4,12)
B. A love that SEARCHES for what it VALUES. (v.4,8)
C. Love that WAITS and WELCOMES. (v.20-24)
D. A love rooted in the LOVER not the LOVED. (v.4,8,28-32)
After engaging with the text, we begin to see the themes emerge. We see threads that flow through all three stories and that helps us to see why these stories were told at the time and place that they were. The overall theme is that God loves what is His, and He will go to great lengths to regain that which is lost.
3. God’s love, as portrayed in these three stories, seems risky and extravagant. How might that look in our world today? What are the things that hold us back from loving those outside the church in this way?
4. What makes people valuable to you? How can we grow toward valuing people for the same reasons that God does? What challenges does/will this present?
5. What does it mean to you personally that the love of God is “rooted in the lover and not the loved”? How does that truth change your day to day life?
III. After we ENGAGE, we RESPOND to this text. (James 1:22-25)
A. CLARIFYING the ROOTS of our IDENTITY. (v.1-2, 29-32; Col. 2:9-10,13-15)
B. JOINING God on MISSION. (v.1-32; Jn 5:17; Lk. 19:10)
C. Finding JOY in the LOVE of God. (v.6-7,9-10,23-24; Mt. 20:15; Ps. 90:14)
Engaging with the Bible pushes us to respond. We can read, then put down the book and walk away. But engaging calls us deeper. As we look at this text today, teasing out the themes and feeling the impact of the moment these stories were shared, what are the responses that God may be calling us to make?
6. Take a moment to reflect on what you base your identity (your value, your sense of meaning and purpose) on? What fruit does that bear in your own life? Why do we struggle in letting our identity be rooted solely in the love of God?
7. What would you say is your own mission that God has called and gifted you for? How does that play out in your life?
8. On a scale of 1-10, how easy is it for you take joy in God’s love for the whole world, even the people who are difficult for you to love? How can you move that score closer to a 10? How does Ps. 90:14 speak to this?