January 24, 2016
DISTINCT: LIVING ABOVE THE NORM
SESSION 1: DISTINCT IN MY CHARACTER
The Point: Choose actions and attitudes that are blessed by God.
Leader Extra: Get Into the Study
Consider showing the following video as an icebreaker for this session, and for the “Distinct” study as a whole. The video features Joanna Gaines, who stars in the HGTV show Fixer Upper. Joanna shares some of the moments from her story that have helped her be distinct as a follower of Christ, while at the same time reaching for her dreams.
Consider using the following discussion questions to help group members unpack the video before moving into the Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5:
- What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Joanna Gaines’ testimony?
- What are some of the ways God often chooses to bless his children?
- How does this concept fit into your life right now? Is there an area where you’re still waiting for the blessing to come?
Ashley Emmert wrote this Leader Extra. She is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her sweet Southern husband and their small scrappy dogs. Find her at ashleygraceemmert.com or on Twitter @ashgemmert.
Leader Extra: Study the Bible
Use this idea to supplement the study of Matthew 5:10-12.
Say: With the freedoms we enjoy in the United States, it is sometimes a challenge for us to fully grasp the religious persecution that Christians living in some parts of the world experience.
Then share this news story:
The U.S. State Department released its latest International Religious Freedom report in October 2015. This report detailed the status of religious freedom in almost 200 countries across the globe. The report confirmed that terrorism is the biggest threat to minority Christian communities, especially in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. In releasing the report, Secretary of State John Kerry named international terrorist groups like ISIS, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram, who have been “guilty of vicious acts of unprovoked violence” against Christians and other religious minorities.
Examples named in the State Department report include:
- Iraq and Syria where ISIS terrorists have conducted mass executions (including the beheading of a Christian journalist) and kidnapped/enslaved/raped thousands of women and children.
- Nigeria where Boko Haram terrorists have conducted fatal attacks on churches, killing worshipers during and after religious services.
- Eastern Africa where al-Shabaab terrorists from Somalia attacked Christians at a college in Kenya, killing 150 people.
- China’s Zehjiang province where the local government has destroyed church buildings and removed more than 400 crosses. The government has also arrested a lawyer who was working to defend the churches under attack.
Information for this post was gleaned from:
Donna McKinney has recently retired from a career with the federal government of the United States. She is a veteran Bible study group leader living in Apex, North Carolina.
If you had to choose, would you rather be blessed or happy? Why?
How would you describe a blessed person?
What has brought you happiness this week?
Matthew 5: 1-6
In a culture that values independence, how can we seek dependence on God?
Which areas of life are you most tempted to handle yourself instead of depending on God?
According to these verses, what is the difference between being happy and being blessed?
Why is dependence on God (regardless of our circumstances) essential for a blessed life?
Matthew 5: 7-9
According to these verses, how might our personal relationships be affected by our relationship with God?
Which of these qualities do you find hardest to live out?
Matthew 5: 10-12
What’s your first reaction to Jesus’ promises in these verses?
Standing strong against pressure isn’t easy. How can we increase our courage?
What are some ways Christians experience persecution in today’s world?
How have you experienced blessing after choosing to go against the flow?
In these verses, Jesus calls us to act and live in ways that are sometimes opposite of how we want to act. What does this teach us about the true source of happiness?
Share the following with your group members as either a devotional before the group study or as a follow-up devotional: