God, your God, is above all a compassionate God.
In the end he will not abandon you, he won't bring
you to ruin, he won't forget the covenant with
your ancestors which he swore to them. Ask questions.
Find out what has been going on all these
years before you were born.
the defining line
We start every lesson by asking you to do a sometimes-difficult thing: define
the core truths about the study topic as it relates to you right now. Use this
"beginning place" to set the foundation for the lesson. You can then build,
change, adjust, and otherwise redefine your life from here.
You can travel along a set of train tracks for a long time without knowing
much about the journey. You may be able to tell someone the place where you
started, and you can read the destination off your ticket stub. But there's no
guarantee that you'll be able to tell someone much about the train itself or the
wonder of travel.
How about your life journey? You know the beginning (it's likely
chronicled in embarrassing baby pictures), and the ending is the same
for everyone: death. But the wonder of it . do you know that? Can you
articulate the experience of this life path you're traveling? Do you know
what cities you'll pass through - where the tracks will take you before that
Think for a moment about why you're engaged in this study. What
compelled you to pick up this book? Why were you willing to join with other
spiritual pilgrims? Record your answers.
Now dig a little deeper. What motivates you to grow in your life and in
your faith? What compels you to go to work or class every day? What gets
you out of bed? Use the space below to describe what really drives you to
Consider sharing your responses with your group when you meet.
read The Buy-In
The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal GOD had made. He
spoke to the Woman: "Do I understand that God told you not to eat from
any tree in the garden?"
The Woman said to the serpent, "Not at all. We can eat from the trees in
the garden. It's only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said,
'Don't eat from it; don't even touch it or you'll die.'"
The serpent told the Woman, "You won't die. God knows that the
moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just
like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil."
Why do you think the serpent's words were so enticing to Eve?
Do you think they're still enticing today?
Would you be tempted to "see what's really going on"? Why or
What prompts people (include yourself here) to want to know
God's plans? Do you think you'd live life differently if you knew
God's plans for you? Or is the discovery of those plans part of
the plan itself ?
In what ways do you battle the desire to be like God?
read Building Purpose Apart from God
It so happened that as they moved out of the east, they came upon a plain in
the land of Shinar and settled down.
They said to one another, "Come, let's make bricks and fire them well."
They used brick for stone and tar for mortar.
Then they said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches
Heaven. Let's make ourselves famous so we won't be scattered here and there
across the Earth."
God came down to look over the city and the tower those people had
God took one look and said, "One people, one language; why, this is only
a first step. No telling what they'll come up with next - they'll stop at
Come, we'll go down and garble their speech so they won't understand each
other." Then GOD scattered them from there all over the world. And they had
to quit building the city.
What does this passage suggest happens when people try to find
their purpose apart from God?
Why do you think there is a tendency for humans to develop a
purpose that doesn't involve God? In what ways do you wrestle
with this tendency?
Where do you find your purpose most easily? Is this something
you'd like to change? Explain.
Why do you think it's so easy for people to find their purpose in
How do you separate your work from your value and purpose?
read Compelling Love
From "Finding Yourself in 'Love'" by Myles Werntz
Over the course of that year, I fell for a girl that was too hot for Texas itself.
I wrote short, pithy emails that waxed eloquently about my life and what I
was thinking and reading, and too little about things that made any difference.
I forgot my friends. I did a lot of dumb things that, four years later, I try to
remember with any sense of dignity.
Like falling in love
In retrospect, I wish I could say that I had listened to the still small
that was saying in no uncertain terms, "THIS IS A REALLY BAD IDEA."
Not bad on the level of putting our car into reverse in mid-traffic - more bad
along the lines of attaching my hungry little heart to situations I knew would
never answer my yearnings. Always obey these little impulses; they're more
than retrograde evolutionary leftovers - they are the pinprick of God, the
still small voice and the .re in the bush. Ignore them at your own risk.
As Augustine points out, we do a lot of things for love, stupid and
otherwise. But isn't it just like God, Augustine says, to use the one thing we
cherish, the one thing that burns us like terror, to draw us to God. We pursue
and are pursued by God, out of love. We do it for love.
In his Confessions, Augustine reveals something very simple about this
whole matter that levels my silliness about love: that, at the same time it is
readily available, it is also the hardest thing to come by in all creation. Above
all desires of the human heart, love renders us unable to speak about anything
and everything. It levels the male verbally illiterate, a sponge with legs. From
birth, we crawl towards it, toddle towards it, walk, run, stride, and hobble
towards the one force in the universe that God compels all creation to respond
But here's the trick: love, when it's real, is hot as summer asphalt. It makes
no promise to coddle or always reaffirm us. Rather, it makes the solemn oath
to never leave and to burn the hell out of us - to make us real, to leave us
without illusions about ourselves or the world.
In all their glory, all other forces in life are nothing more than the heat
without the fire. They are the reflection of the sun off of the windowpane,
inviting us to stick our dirty
paws up to the glass, warming
our hands, but come sundown,
leaving us cold and wanting. And
like dogs, we keep forgetting the
trick and coming back every
day, hoping that maybe this will
be the day that the glass will be
warmer, maybe warm enough
to hold onto the heat through
the night. But love, love burns
bright enough to compel us, but
hot enough to keep us humble,
drawn to it in awe, but humbled
by its magnitude. It makes no
offers of safety; in fact, it offers
to level us to the ground.
Respond to this quote: "Love burns bright enough to compel
us, but hot enough to keep us humble."
Why do people crave love? What do you think drives that craving?
What role does God have in this human craving for love?
List three crazy things love has compelled you to do. (Share at
least one with the group.)
How are loving and being loved tied into your purpose? How do
they shape your decisions?
read Love Actually
From You Didn't Complete Me: When "the One" Turns Out to Be Just
Someone by JoAnna Harris
Singles Bible studies are always the same it seems - full of sideways glances
and awkward introductions. Everyone acting as if they are there to study God's
Word, not to meet someone interesting. And maybe it's both. We were told to
cluster into groups of five and answer an age-old question: What drives you?
Lots of people jumped to say money, and I agreed. Some said power. Career.
Fame. After further discussion, we decided there's one main thing that drives
us. Acceptance. We want money to be rich to be accepted. We want power to
gain respect to gain acceptance. We want fame to be known to be accepted.
We want to be prettier or thinner to be accepted. To be loved. And maybe
that's the root of it all. We want to be loved.
When you have a boyfriend or a husband, strangers know that someone
loves you. You don't have to prove to anyone that you are lovable because
it's evident when you arrive at parties as part of a pair. Everyone knows. The
movie ticket seller knows. The
waiter knows. Your coworkers
know. Someone loves you. You
have been accepted. And if you
don't have some visible badge of
acceptance, people simply ask,
trying to figure out if you're okay.
How's your love life? Do you
have a girlfriend? Are you dating
anyone? Is there anyone special
in your life? If you say no, people
either feel sorry for you or look
you up and down wondering what
you should fix. And it doesn't
end if you are actually dating
someone. Then there's, When are
you getting engaged? When's the
wedding? When do you think he'll ask? Do you think she'll say yes? I don't
know about you, but these statements can tend to sound like, Does anyone
love you? Are you acceptable? Are you worth anything?
What drives you? Do you agree with Harris that acceptance is
the core issue, or do you think there is something more?
Whether or not you are married, consider this question: What
impact do you think marriage has on purpose? In what ways
does a person's purpose change in marriage? In what ways does
it stay the same? How does that affect how you're living now?
How does feeling accepted impact the decisions you make in
life? At work? Among friends? With family? With God?
Do you ever wrestle with God's acceptance of you? How so?
read A Purpose for Everything?
2 Corinthians 7:5-11
When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn't settle down. The fights
in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We
couldn't relax because we didn't know how it would turn out. Then the God
who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of
Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true reassurance came in what
he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how
concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!
I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the
time, I don't feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset
you, but only for a while. Now I'm glad - not that you were upset, but that
you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to
God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.
Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us
back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those
who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a
deathbed of regrets.
And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded
you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more
reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from
any angle, you've come out of this with purity of heart.
The passage says, "Distress that drives us to God does that. It
turns us around." In what ways has distress brought you closer
to God? In what ways has it taken you further away from Him?
Do you think everything has a purpose? Explain.
In your experience, what purpose does pain have? How can pain
have a redemptive purpose?
How does pain - or an aversion to pain - motivate you?
live The Redefining
Take a few moments to skim through the notes you've made in these readings.
What do they tell you about the things that compel you, that define
your purpose? Based on what you've read and discussed, is there anything
you want to change? Describe this below.
What, if anything, is stopping you from making this change?
Why is knowing your purpose so important? Where are you in the journey
of knowing your purpose? Is your purpose tangible? Is it something you're
still trying to discover? Do you find yourself wrestling with your purpose
indirectly through other circumstances and decisions? Explain.
In the space below, write a statement of your purpose as you understand
it. Remember that it's just a rough draft.
Talk with a close friend about all of the above. Brainstorm together about
what it might take to move toward God in this area of your life. Determine
what this looks like in a practical sense and then list any measurable goals
you want to shoot for here. Review these goals each week to see how you're