Monday, January 15, 2018

Designing Your Life

Chapter 1

1. Usually, we define our problem by what’s missing, but not always. And the bottom line is this: We’ve all got problems. Sometimes those problems relate to our job, sometimes to family, or health, or love, or money, or any combination of these things. Sometimes our problems can feel so overwhelming that we don’t even try to solve them. We just live with them - like an irritating roommate we constantly complain about but never get around to evicting. Our problems become our story, and we can all get stuck in our stories. Deciding which problems to work on may be one of the most important decisions you make, because people can lose years (or a lifetime) working on the wrong problem.

- How have you tended to define the problems in your life thus far?

2. These are all gravity problems, meaning they are not real problems. Why? Because in life design, if it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem. Let’s repeat that. If it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem. It’s a situation, a circumstance, a fact of life. It may be a drag, but, like gravity, it’s not a problem that can be solved.

- Give examples of what distinguish problems from situations.

3. The key is not to get stuck on something that you have effectively no chance of succeeding at.  The only response to a gravity problem is acceptance. And this is where all good designers begin. This is the “You Are Here” or “Accept” phase of design thinking. Acceptance. That’s why you start where you are. Not where you wish you were. Not where you hope you are. Not where you think you should be. But right where you are.

- Why is this such a difficult recognition for us? 
- What is required?

(For the remaining questions, please discuss in pairs.)

4. Your Health Gauge - As we said, healthy to us means being well in more than just your body; you might want to take into account your mind and spirit, too. The relative importance of each area is entirely up to you.

- Make a quick assessment of your health and then fill in your gauge. Are you a quarter full, half, three-quarters, or really full?

5. Your Work Gauge - Make a list of all the ways you “work,” and then “gauge” your working life as a whole. We are assuming that there are things on your list that you are getting paid to do. This will include your nine-to-five job, and your second job if the first isn’t enough, and any consulting or advising you do, etc. If you are a regular volunteer in any organization, figure that in, too. If you are a homemaker, like Debbie, make sure you remember that raising children, providing meals for your family, taking care of aging parents, and doing housework are all forms of “work.”

- Make a quick assessment of your health and then fill in your gauge. Are you a quarter full, half, three-quarters, or really full?

6. Your Play Gauge - Play is about activity that brings joy just for the pure sake of the doing of it. It can include organized activity or productive endeavors, but only if they are done for fun and not merit. We contend that all lives need some play, and that making sure there is some play in our day is a critical life design step.

- Make a quick list of how you play and then fill in your gauge.
Are you a quarter full, half, three-quarters, or really full?

7. Your Love Gauge - We do think that love makes the world go around, and when we don’t have any, our world isn’t as bright and alive as it could be. We also know that we have to pay attention to love, and that it arrives in a wide range of forms. Our primary relationship is where we go first for love, children typically come next, and then it’s a flood of people and pets and community and anything else that is an object of affection. And it is as critical to feel loved by others as it is to love— it has to go both ways.

- Where is the love flowing in your life, from you and from others? 
- Make a list. How full is your gauge?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 31-32

1. On pages 273-4, Bonhoeffer writes, “Hence, the ultimate purpose of God, which is to establish a holy community, is at last fulfilled in the Body of Christ.  God dwells in it with the Holy Spirit.  How does all this come to pass?  How does God create a community of saints out of sinful men and women?  The answer is that God justifies himself by appearing as his own advocate in defense of his own righteousness.  And it is in the cross of Christ that this supreme miracle happens.”

- Yes, we are wading into deep theological waters here.  How would you describe this miracle of redemption through the cross?

2. On pages 276-7, “The proclamation of the death of Christ for us is the preaching of justification.  The means whereby we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, that is, into his death and resurrection is baptism.  Just as Christ died once and for all, so we are baptized and justified once and for all.  Both events are in the strictest sense unrepeatable.  Only repeatable is the recollection of the event that happened for our sake once and for all, and it needs to be repeated daily.”

-  Explain how Jesus’s death & resurrection are directly linked to God’s gracious act of baptism on our behalf.  What do they share?

3. On page 279, “Sanctification means that the Christians have been judged already, and that they are being preserved until the coming of Christ and are ever advancing towards it.  All this has a threefold significance for the community of the saints.  First, their sanctification will be maintained by their being clearly separated from the world.  Secondly, it will be maintained thorough their walking in a way which is worthy of the holiness of God.  Thirdly, their sanctification will be hidden, and they must wait for the day of Jesus Christ.  Sanctification is therefore possible only within the visible Church.”

- How do you experience sanctification through acts of separation from the world, walking worthy, and waiting for Jesus’ return?

4. On page 287, “The community of the saints is not an ‘ideal’ community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance.  No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness (which has nothing to do with self-forgiveness).  It is a community of men and women who have genuinely encountered the precious grace of God, and who walk worthily of the gospel by not casting that grace recklessly away.”

- How has being a part of this grace community shaped your understanding and claiming of God’s forgiveness.

5. On page 296, “We cling in faith to Christ and his works alone.  For we have the promise that those who are in Christ Jesus will be enabled to do good works, which will testify for them in the day of judgement. They will be preserved and sanctified until the last day. All we can do is to believe in God’s Word, rely on his promise, and walk in the good works which he has prepared for us.”

- “Believe, rely, walk”… these are the good works that carry us forward in faith.  How do they define your “life journey” today?

6. On pages 302-3, “If we are confirmed to his image in his Incarnation and crucifixion, we shall also share the glory of his resurrection.  We shall be drawn into his image, and identified with his form, and become a reflection of him.  That reflection of his glory will shine forth in us even in this life, even as we share his agony and bear his cross.  Our life will then be a progress from knowledge to knowledge, from glory to glory, to an ever-closer conformity with the image of the son of God.”

- As you look at your life in its entirety, where has Christ’s reflection in you shone most brightly?
- Where are you experiencing “progress” toward conformity with Christ?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 30

1. On page 249, “The body of the exalted Lord is also a visible body in the shape of the Church.  How is this body made visible? In the first place, through the preaching of the word.”

- What effect has preaching had on your life, both in the present and in the past?  Give examples, please.

2. On page 250, “Furthermore, when this Word comes, the Holy Spirit comes, showing to Christian, both individually and corporately, the gifts of the incarnate Christ to man.  He produces faith in his hearers, that they may discern in the preaching the entry of Jesus Christ.  He opens their eyes to see Christ coming into their midst in the power of his Body to tell us that he has received us and will receive us again to-day.”

-  How is the Holy Trinity at work here?  
- What is the specific role of each part of the Trinity?

3. On page 251, “But preaching is not the only means whereby the Church takes visible form.  That is also done by the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both of which flow from the true humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Body of Christ becomes visible to the world in the congregation gathered round the Word and Sacrament.”

- How would you describe the role and value of each sacrament?

4. On page 254, “It is instructive to note that the fellowship is mentioned between Word & Sacrament.  This no accident, for fellowship always springs from the Word and finds its goal and completion in the Lord’s Supper.  The whole common life of the Christian fellowship oscillates between Word & Sacrament; it begins and ends in worship.  It looks forward in expectation to the final banquet in the kingdom of God.”

- How do you experience the truth of this fellowship in worship?
- How is this different from other fellowship events?

5. On page 258, “The member of the Body of Christ has been delivered from the world and called out of it.  He must give the world a visible proof of his calling, not only by sharing in the Church’s worship and discipline, but also through the new fellowship of brotherly living.”

- How might you describe the “visible proof of your calling?”
- How is that identity in Christ manifested in fellowship?

6. On page 264, “Let the Christian remain in the world…to engage in frontal assault on it, and let him live the life of his secular calling in order to show himself as a stranger in this world all the more.  But that is only possible if we are visible members of the Church.  The antithesis between the world and the Church must be borne out in the world.  That was the purpose of the incarnation.  That is why Christ died among his enemies.  That is the reason and the only reason why the slave must remain a slave and the Christian remain subject to the powers that be.”

- Where is this dual citizenship most realized in your life?

7. On page 267, “Such is the life of the Church in the world.  Christians live like other men; they get married, they mourn and rejoice, they buy their requirements and use the world for the purpose of day-to-day existence.  But they have everything through Christ alone, in him and for his sake.  Thus, they are not bound by it.  They have everything as though they had it not.  They do not set their heart on their possessions, but are inwardly free.  That is why they are able to make use of the world without withdrawing from it altogether.”

- How does this freedom inform & affect your daily choices?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 19-23

1. On page 193, “God will not ask us in that day whether we were good Protestants, but whether we have done his will.  We will be asked the same question as everybody else.  The Church is marked off from the world not by a special privilege, but by the gracious election and calling of God.”

- As it pertains to God’s will, what have we been elected and called to do on behalf of Jesus and his gospel?  Please be specific.

2. On page 195, “But Christ’s followers must ask by what ultimate criterion Jesus will accept or reject them.  Who will pass the test, and who will not?  The answer lies in the words of Jesus to the last of the rejected: ‘I have never known you.’ Here we are at last, here is the secret we have been waiting for since the Sermon on the Mount began.  Here is the crucial question – has Jesus known us or not?  There is nothing left for us to cling to, not even our confession or our obedience.  There is only his word: ‘I have known thee,’ which is his eternal word and call.  If we follow Christ, cling to his word, and let everything else go, it will see us through the day of judgement.  His word is his grace.”

-  How do you understand the “ultimate criterion” by which Jesus will accept or reject you?  What is your response to that?

3. On page 196, “Humanly speaking, we could understand and interpret the Sermon on the Mount in a thousand different ways.  Jesus knows only one possibility: simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it.  That is the only way to hear his word.  But again, he does not mean that it is to be discussed as an ideal, he really means us to get on with it.”

- What does “simple surrender & obedience” compel us to do?

4. On page 197, “There is only one other possibility, that of failing to do it.  It is impossible to want to do it and yet not do it.  To deal with the word of Jesus otherwise than by doing it is to give him the lie.  It is to deny the Sermon on the Mount and to say No to his word.  If we start asking questions, posing problems, and offering interpretations, we are not doing his word.  Once again, the shades of the rich young man and the lawyer of Luke 10 are raising their heads.”

- When are we most apt to respond is this fashion?  Why?

5. On page 203, There is now no time to lose: the work of harvest brooks no delay.  ‘But the laborers are few.’  Jesus is looking for help, for he cannot do the work alone.  Who will come forward to help him and work with him?  Only God knows, and he must give them to his Son.  No man dares presume to come forward and offer himself on his own initiative, not even the disciples themselves.  Their duty is to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers at the right moment, for the time is ripe.”

- Is this a model response for the Church today?

6. On page 205, “No power in the world could have united these men for a common task, save the call of Jesus.  But that call transcended all their previous divisions, and established a new and steadfast fellowship in Jesus.”

- Where have you witnessed this remarkable call of Jesus?
- What new fellowships emerged in response to that call?

7. On page 206, “In his very first word, Jesus lays down a limitation of their work, a circumstance which they must inevitably have found strange and difficult.  The choice of field for their labors does not depend on their own impulses or inclinations, but on where they are sent.  This makes it quite clear that it is not their own work they are doing, but God’s.”

- How do you discern where Jesus is sending you?

8. On page 211, “Vice and sin may be forgiven, according to the word of Jesus, but the man who rejects the word of salvation has thrown away his last chance.  To refuse to believe in the gospel is the worst sin imaginable, and if that happens the messengers can do nothing but leave the place.  They go because the Word cannot remain there.”

- How does this provide context and clarity for our work?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 16-18

1. On page 170, “The real difference in the believer who follows Christ and has mortified his will and died after the old man in Christ, is that he is more clearly aware than other men of the rebelliousness and perennial pride of the flesh, he is conscious of his sloth and self-indulgence and knows that his arrogance must be eradicated.  Hence there is a need for daily self-discipline.”

- Where do you seek to practice daily self-discipline?

2. On page 171, “When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the Spirit with every available weapon against the flesh. How is it possible to live the life of faith when we grow weary of prayer, when we lose our taste for reading the Bible, when sleep, food & sensuality deprive us of the joy of communion with God?”

-  Answer Bonhoeffer’s question here for yourself…

3. On page 175, “But where are we to draw the line between legitimate use and unlawful accumulation?  Our treasure may, of course, be small and inconspicuous, but its size is immaterial; it all depends on the heart, on ourselves.  And if we ask how we are to know where our hearts are, the answer is just as simple – everything which hinders us from loving God above all things and acts as a barrier between ourselves and our obedience to Jesus is our treasure, and the place where our heart is.”

- What do you truly treasure in your life, day to day?

4. On page 178, “Be not anxious!  Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety.  Yet all the time they are the very source of all anxiety.  If our hearts are set on them, our reward is an anxiety whose burden is intolerable.  Anxiety creates its own treasures and they in turn beget further care.  When we seek for security in possessions we are trying to drive out care with care, and the net result is the precise opposite of our anticipations.  The fetters which bind us to our possessions prove to be cares themselves.  If instead of receiving God’s gifts for today we worry about tomorrow, we find ourselves helpless victims of infinite anxiety.”

- Does this statement make you anxious? (Just kidding!)  So, what does?

5. On page 181, “After he has been following Christ for a long time, the disciple of Jesus will be asked, ‘Lacked ye anything?’ and he will answer, ‘Nothing, Lord.’  How could he, when he knows that despite hunger/nakedness, persecution/danger, the Lord is always at his side?”

- How does this example bring you genuine comfort and peace?

6. On page 183, “It is not an approved standard of righteous living that separates a follower of Christ from an unbeliever, but it is Christ who stands between them.  Christians always see other men as brethren to whom Christ comes; they meet them only by going to them with Jesus.  Disciple and non-disciple can never encounter each other as free men, directly exchanging their views and judging one another by objective criteria.  No, the disciple can meet the non-disciple only as a man to whom Jesus comes.  Here alone, Christ’s fight for the soul of the unbeliever, his call, his love, his grace and his judgment comes into its own.  Discipleship does not afford us a point of vantage from which to attack others; we come to them with an unconditional offer of fellowship, with the single-mindedness of the love of Jesus.”

- How does this speak to God’s truth, and why do we at times resist it?

7. On page 186, “Every attempt to impose the gospel by force, to run after people and proselytize them, to use our own resources to arrange the salvation of other people, is both futile and dangerous.  Our easy trafficking with the word of cheap grace simply bores the world to disgust, so that in the end it turns against those who try to force on it what it does not want.”

- Where have you witnessed or experienced this reality?

8. On page 187, “The difference between the disciples’ seeking and the Gentiles’ quest for God is that the disciples know what they are looking for.  We can only seek God when we know him already.  How can you look for something or find it if you do not know what you are looking for?  The disciples seek a God whom they have found in the promise they have received from Jesus.  Hence-forth, the disciple will look upon other men as forgiven sinners who owe their lives to the love of God.  ‘This is the law and the prophets’ – for this is none other than the supreme commandment: to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves.”

- What you are looking for and how is Jesus fulfilling his promise to you? 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 13-15

1. On page 147, Bonhoeffer writes, “The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.”  His behavior must be determined not by the way others treat him, but by the treatment he himself receives from Jesus; it has only one source, and that is the will of Jesus.”

- How does God’s will and God’s love defeat our enemies?

2. “How then does love conquer?  By asking not how the enemy treats her, but only how Jesus treated her.  The love for our enemies takes us along the way of the cross and into fellowship with the Crucified.  The more we are driven along this road, the more certain is the victory of love over the enemy’s hatred.  For then it is not the disciple’s own love, but the love of Jesus Christ alone, who for the sake of his enemies went to the cross and prayed for them as he hung there.”

-  How is it possible to love others as Jesus loved us on the cross?

3. On page 159, “All that the follower of Jesus has to do is to make sure that his obedience, following and love are entirely spontaneous and unpremeditated.  Christ’s virtue, the virtue of discipleship, can only be accomplished so long as you are entirely unconscious of what you are doing.  The genuine work of love is always a hidden work.”

- Give examples of such spontaneity and hidden love.

4. On page 163, “Only through Jesus Christ can we find the Father in prayer.  Christian prayer presupposes faith, that is, adherence to Christ.  He is the one and only Mediator of our prayers.  We pray at his command, and to that word Christian prayer is always bound.”

- Why is Jesus the dominant focus of our praying?

5. “It matters little what form of prayer we adopt or how many words we use.  What matters is the faith which lays hold on God and touches the heart of the Father who knew us long before we came to him.”

- How does this description of prayer compare with yours?

6. “Prayer does not aim at any direct effect on the world; it is addressed to God alone, and is therefore the perfect example of undemonstrative action.”

- Why is prayer relation-centered?  Why is it not about outcomes?

7. “Not being content to wait for God to answer our prayer and show us in his own time that he has heard us, we provide our own answer.  We take note that we have prayed suitably well, and this substitutes the satisfaction of answered prayer.  We have our reward.  Since we have heard ourselves, God will not hear us.  Having contrived our own reward of publicity, we cannot expect God to reward us any further.”

- Can you think of a time when this played out for you?

8. “True prayer does not depend either on the individual or the whole body of the faithful, but solely upon the knowledge that our heavenly Father knows our needs.  That makes God the sole object of our prayers, and frees us from a false confidence in our own prayerful efforts.”

- How does complete trust in God’s love transform our praying?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 9-12

1. “The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy.  A deliberate insult is even worse, for we are then openly disgracing our brother in the eyes of the world, and causing others to despise him.  With our hearts burning with hatred, we seek to annihilate his moral and material existence.  We are passing judgement on him, and that is murder.  And the murderer will himself be judged.”

- Since so much of our discourse today is anything but civil, how are we to respond to the proliferation of angry words spewed in politics, Facebook, talk radio, Twitter, and other media outlets?

2. “The Incarnation is the ultimate reason why the service of God cannot be divorced from the service of man.  He who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar.  There is therefore only one way of following Jesus and of worshiping God, and that is to be reconciled with our brethren.”

-  Is there an exception to this last statement?  Why or why not?

3. “The body of Jesus was crucified.  St. Paul, speaking of those who belong to Christ, says that they have crucified their body with its affections and lusts.  Here we have another instance of an Old Testament law finding its truest fulfilment in the crucified body of Jesus Christ.  As they contemplate this body which was given for them, and as they share in its life, the disciples receive strength for the chastity which Jesus requires.”

- How are we to understand such chastity today?

4. “What is an oath?  It is an appeal made to God in public, calling upon him to witness a statement made in connection with an event or fact, past, present or future.  By means of the oath, men invoke the omniscient deity to avenge the truth.  How can Jesus say that such an oath is ‘sin?’  The answer is to be sought in his concern for complete truthfulness.”  “The commandment of complete truthfulness is really only another name for the totality of discipleship.”

- Why have we relied on oaths?  Why does Jesus forbid them?

5. “The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for.  Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames.  But when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.  Of course, this can only happen when the last ounce of resistance is abandoned, and the renunciation of revenge is complete.  Then evil cannot find its mark, it can breed no further evil, and is left barren.”

- Where does this strategy prove true?  Where is it incomplete?

6. “Suffering willingly endured is stronger than evil, it spells death to evil.  The worse the evil, the readier must the Christian be to suffer; he must let the evil person fall into Jesus’ hands.”  “The cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil.  But it was just this participation in the cross which the disciples were granted when Jesus called them to him.  They are called blessed because of their visible participation in his cross.”

- How is Christian suffering stronger than evil?