Chapter OneHOW TO
This discussion guide is meant to be completed on your own and in a
small group. So before you begin, line up a discussion group. Perhaps
you already participate in a men's group. That works. Maybe you know
a few friends who could do coffee once a week. That works, too. Ask
around. You'll be surprised how many of your coworkers, team members,
and neighbors would be interested in a small-group study-especially a
study like this that doesn't require vast biblical knowledge. A group of
four to six is optimal-any bigger and one or more members will likely
be shut out of discussions. Your small group can also be two. Choose
a friend who isn't afraid to "tell it like it is." Make sure each person has
his own copy of the book.
1. Read the Scripture passages and other readings in each lesson
on your own. Let it all soak in. Then use the white space provided to
"think out loud on paper." Note content in the readings that troubles
you, inspires you, confuses you, or challenges you. Be honest. Be bold.
Don't shy away from the hard things. If you don't understand the passage,
say so. If you don't agree, say that, too. You may choose to go
over the material in one thirty- to forty-five-minute focused session. Or
perhaps you'll spend twenty minutes a day on the readings.
2. Think about what you read. Think about what you wrote.
Always ask, "What does this mean?" and "Why does this matter?" about
the readings. Compare different Bible translations. Respond to the questions
we've provided. You may have a lot to say on one topic, little on
another. That's okay. Come back to this when you're in your small
group. Allow the experience of others to broaden your wisdom. You'll
be stretched here-called upon to evaluate what you've discovered and
asked to make practical sense of it. In community, that stretching can
often be painful and sometimes even embarrassing. But your willingness
to be transparent-your openness to the possibility of personal growth-will
reap great rewards.
3. Pray as you go through the entire session: before you read a
word, in the middle of your thinking process, when you get stuck on a
concept or passage, and as you approach the time when you'll explore
these passages and thoughts together in a small group. Pause when you
need to ask God for inspiration or when you need to cry out in frustration.
Speak your prayers, be silent, or use the prayer starter we've
provided and write a prayer at the bottom of each page.
4. Live. (That's "live" as in "rhymes with give" as in "Give me something
I can really use in my life.") Before you meet with your small group,
complete as much of this section as you can (particularly the "What I
Want to Discuss" section). Then, in your small group, ask the hard questions
about what the lesson means to you. Dig deep for relevant,
reachable goals. Record your real-world plan in the book. Commit
to following through on these plans, and prepare to be held
5. Follow up. Don't let the life application drift away without
action. Be accountable to small-group members and refer to previous
"Live" as in "rhymes with give" sections often. Take time at the beginning
of each new study to review. See how you're doing.
6. Repeat as necessary.
After going through each week's study on your own, it's time to sit
down with others and go deeper. Here are a few thoughts on how to
make the most of your small-group discussion time.
Set ground rules. You don't need many. Here are two:
First, you'll want group members to make a commitment to the
entire eight-week study. A binding legal document with notarized signatures
and commitments written in blood probably isn't necessary, but
you know your friends best. Just remember this: Significant personal
growth happens when group members spend enough time together to
really get to know each other. Hit-and-miss attendance rarely allows
this to occur.
Second, agree together that everyone's story is important. Time is
a valuable commodity, so if you have an hour to spend together, do
your best to give each person ample time to express concerns, pass
along insights, and generally feel like a participating member of the
group. Small-group discussions are not monologues. However, a one-person-dominated
discussion isn't always a bad thing. Not only is your
role in a small group to explore and expand your own understanding,
it's also to support one another. If someone truly needs more of the
floor, give it to him. There will be times when the needs of the one
outweigh the needs of the many. Use good judgment and allow extra
space when needed. Your time might be next week.
Meet regularly. Choose a time and place, and stick to it. No one likes
showing up to Coffee Cupboard at 6:00 AM, only to discover the meeting
was moved to Breakfast Barn at seven. Consistency removes stress
that could otherwise frustrate discussion and subsequent personal
growth. It's only eight weeks. You can do this.
Talk openly. If you enter this study with shields up, you're probably
not alone. And you're not a "bad person" for your hesitation to unpack
your life in front of friends or strangers. Maybe you're skeptical about
the value of revealing the deepest parts of who you are to others.
Maybe you're simply too afraid of what might fall out of the suitcase.
You don't have to go to a place where you're uncomfortable. If you
want to sit and listen, offer a few thoughts, or even express a surface
level of your own pain, go ahead. But don't neglect what brings you
to this place-that longing for meaning. You can't ignore it away. Dip
your feet in the water of brutally honest discussion, and you may
choose to dive in. There is healing here.
Stay on task. Refrain from sharing material that falls into the "too
much information" category. Don't spill unnecessary stuff, such as your
wife's penchant for midnight bedroom belly dancing or your boss's
obsession with Jennifer Aniston. This is about discovering how you
can be a better person.
If structure isn't your group's strength, try a few minutes of general
comments about the study, and then take each "Live" question one
at a time and give everyone in the group a chance to respond. That
should get you into the meat of matters pretty quickly.
Hold each other accountable. That "Live" section is an important
gear in the growth machine. If you're really ready for positive
change-for spiritual growth-you'll want to take this section seriously.
Not only should you personally be thorough as you summarize
your discoveries, practical as you compose your goals, and realistic as
you determine the plan for accountability, you must hold everyone
else in the group accountable for doing these things. Be lovingly, brutally
honest as you examine each other's "Live" section. Don't hold
back-this is where the rubber meets the road. A lack of openness
here may send other group members skidding off that road.
"I'm stuck in a dead-end job,
not living the dream I once had."
THE BEGINNING PLACE
We start each lesson by asking you to do a sometimes-difficult thing:
determine the core truths about the study topic as it relates to you
today. Think about your job for a moment. Wait-don't lose that first
thought. Did you scowl? Groan? Let out an audible, exhausted sigh? Or
did you smile?
The plans we make for our future don't always (usually?) look like
the future we end up with. The career you were certain would be the
perfect fit feels like a too-small, three-armed sweater within a week. The
job you took so you could pay the bills is taking more from your spirit
than it is paying you in dollars. And that promotion you'd been promised?
It went instead to the cute blonde your boss has been ogling.
Are you where you thought you'd be when you first dreamed your
career future? Which list is longer, your likes or your dislikes about your
job? Dig around until you have a good starting place for this lesson. Be
honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly. And here's a rule you can
apply to every lesson in this series: Drop the word "fine" from your
vocabulary. It's far too easy to use this word in place of what's really
going on. "It's fine." "I'm fine, really." Are you? If you hate your job, say
so. If you're bored, lost, unhappy, disappointed-or thrilled, challenged,
hopeful-say that, too.
Use the space below to summarize your beginning place for this
lesson. Describe your workplace reality as well as your dreams. We'll
start here and then go deeper.
READ For the Sake of a Two-Week Vacation
From Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
BIFF: "I tell ya, Hap, I don't know what the future is. I don't
know-what I'm supposed to want."
HAPPY: "What do you mean?"
BIFF: "Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying
to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of
one kind or another. And it's a measly manner of existence.
To get on that subway on the hot mornings in
summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or
making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty
weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation,
when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your
In what ways are you just working "for the sake of a two-week
How does the reality of your job situation today compare
with the plans or dreams you had when you first entered the
What's the driving motivation for your work? How has that
changed over the years?
Lord, help me to see .
READ You Think Your Job Is Tough .
After that Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh. They said,
"God, the God of Israel, says, 'Free my people so that they can
hold a festival for me in the wilderness.'"
Pharaoh said, "And who is God that I should listen to him
and send Israel off? I know nothing of this so-called 'God' and
I'm certainly not going to send Israel off."
They said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us
take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can worship
our God lest he strike us with either disease or death."
But the king of Egypt said, "Why on earth, Moses and Aaron,
would you suggest the people be given a holiday? Back to
work!" Pharaoh went on, "Look, I've got all these people bumming
around, and now you want to reward them with time off?"
Pharaoh took immediate action. He sent down orders to the
slave-drivers and their underlings: "Don't provide straw for the
people for making bricks as you have been doing. Make them
get their own straw. And make them produce the same number
of bricks-no reduction in their daily quotas! They're getting
lazy. They're going around saying, 'Give us time off so we can
worship our God.' Crack down on them. That'll cure them of
their whining, their god-fantasies."
The slave-drivers and their underlings went out to the people
with their new instructions. "Pharaoh's orders: No more straw provided.
Get your own straw wherever you can find it. And not one
brick less in your daily work quota!" The people scattered all over
Egypt scrabbling for straw.
The slave-drivers were merciless, saying, "Complete your daily
quota of bricks-the same number as when you were given straw."
The Israelite foremen whom the slave-drivers had appointed
were beaten and badgered. "Why didn't you finish your quota of
bricks yesterday or the day before-and now again today!"
The Israelite foremen came to Pharaoh and cried out for
relief: "Why are you treating your servants like this? Nobody
gives us any straw and they tell us, 'Make bricks!' Look at us-we're
being beaten. And it's not our fault."
But Pharaoh said, "Lazy! That's what you are! Lazy! That's
why you whine, 'Let us go so we can worship God.' Well then,
go-go back to work. Nobody's going to give you straw, and at
the end of the day you better bring in your full quota of bricks."
The Israelite foremen saw that they were in a bad way, having
to go back and tell their workers, "Not one brick short in
your daily quota."
As they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to
meet them. The foremen said to them, "May God see what
you've done and judge you-you've made us stink before
Pharaoh and his servants! You've put a weapon in his hand that's
going to kill us!"
Moses went back to God and said, "My Master, why are you
treating this people so badly? And why did you ever send me?
From the moment I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name,
things have only gotten worse for this people. And rescue? Does
this look like rescue to you?"
God said to Moses, "Now you'll see what I'll do to Pharaoh:
With a strong hand he'll send them out free; with a strong hand
he'll drive them out of his land."
God continued speaking to Moses, reassuring him, "I am
God. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as The Strong
God, but by my name God (I-Am-Present) I was not known to
them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the
land of Canaan, the country in which they lived as sojourners.
But now I've heard the groanings of the Israelites whom the
Egyptians continue to enslave and I've remembered my
covenant. Therefore tell the Israelites:
"I am God. I will bring you out from under the cruel hard
labor of Egypt. I will rescue you from slavery. I will redeem you,
intervening with great acts of judgment. I'll take you as my own
people and I'll be God to you. You'll know that I am God, your
God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt.
I'll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. I AM God."
When in your work life have you felt like the Israelites in this
How do you respond when you're overwhelmed with work or
when work seems unfair?
If you feel oppressed by your work, what would "deliverance"
look like to you?
What might be packaged in the "groanings" you express to
God about work? What is it that you long for in the workplace?
What might God's purpose be for the difficulties you're
encountering at work today?
God, lead me to .