Community Group Questions 6/9/13

God-Out-Loud-AD copy [vimeo 67988593 w=500 h=281]

Announcements:

  • New Women’s Ministry Study

    • This Wednesday, June 12, our Women’s Ministry is starting a new 6-week study!

    • The study will be Wednesday nights from 7-9PM as we study "Jonah - Navigating a Life Interrupted" by Priscilla Shirer.

    • Study guides will be available for $15 each at the study.

    • If you have any further questions please write Women's Ministry on the back of your Connection Card, or just show up Wednesday night at 7.

    • Guys - great opportunity to encourage the women in your life to come and not only learn, but also get connected to other women here at West Pines.

  • Flanathon

    • Last week we let you know that something big is coming on Saturday, June 29th. And I want to tell you about it. It’s Flanathon.

    • So what is Flanathon? It’s the world’s most amazing Flan and Pie Baking Competition ever! On Saturday, June 29th, from 10am - 2pm, we’re holding 2 major baking competitions: one for Flan, one for Pie. We’re assembling a team of highly qualified judges, and there will be an opportunity for you to apply to that team as well.

    • Here’s what you need to know:

      • Flanathon is on Saturday, June 29th from 10am - 2pm at Sheridan House Family Ministries’ main campus, on Flamingo Road.

      • Admission will be $5 a person or $20 for a family.

      • You’re all personally invited to come and tailgate at Flanathon. That’s right, tailgate. Bring your pop-up tent, lawn chairs, blanket, whatever you’d like, and join us.

      • There will also be basketball, handball, sand volleyball, and a giant kickball game as well.

      • We’ll have yard games for kids and families too.

      • We’re providing the main course and drinks. We’d encourage you to bring a side or two.

      • To enter the baking competitions, there will be a form to fill out the day of the event and all entries will need to be there by 11AM.

      • Also, if you need to try out some flan recipes in the weeks leading up to the competition, our office is open to taste testing all week.

    • If you’d like to help at the Flanathon event, to volunteer, just write “flanathon” on the back of your Connection Card and we’ll get you all of the info for that.

Sermon Title:God Out Loud, Part 1: God and My Fairytale

Main Text: Esther 9:23-28,1:1-15,1:16-22

REMINDER: Groups are taking a break this summer. Plan a few parties for your group to stay connected over the summer and we will relaunch Community Groups in the fall.

Topics:

  • The story of Esther is an amazing adventure story. It is a fairytale with everything in it: conspiracy, revenge, loyalty, lust, power, love, battle. It is incredibly entertaining. And there is a lot at stake. There is a villain that tries to wipe out all of the Jewish people. But don’t worry, good wins out in the end.
  • The most unique thing about the book of Esther is that there is no mention of God or the supernatural. There are no prayers or worship. It is conspicuously absent. And it is on purpose... It is to make the reader think.
  • To understand the overall theme of Esther, it is helpful to begin with the end. At the end the story of Esther explains how a Jewish feast called “Purim” came about. It is a random part of the end of the story. There is a tremendous climactic end to the story, and then it takes a hard turn and essentially says, “and that’s why we have the feast of Purim...” It seems like a weird anticlimactic end to the book. But it is on purpose... It makes us think...
  • The end explains that this feast is to remember the story of Esther and how all of the Jewish people were saved from annihilation. And it explains why the feast is called Purim. There is one tiny part of the story where the villain casts lots to determine what day to attack the Jews. Casting lots is like rolling dice. So at the end of this entire incredible story, it summarizes the story with a feast essentially called “a role of the dice.”
  • As you go through the story you will see that is HIGHLY ironic. The story if full of amazing timing and coincidences. So it makes you think. How did all of these things fall into place so the Jewish people could be saved? Was it luck? What makes this question especially potent is that there is no mention of God or any interaction with God. Not a single prayer. It is conspicuously absent. So who is behind all of these incredible moments. It is left for the reader to ponder.
  • Obviously what we know is that God is always behind circumstances. Even when it seems like He is silent, the reality is, it is not luck it is God. That is the major point of the story of Esther. As we go through this story we will learn howcrank up the volume when it seems like God is silent.God may seem silent but we can learn to experienceGod Out Loud.
  • The context for this story is the palace of the Persian King Ahasuerus. He rules with absolute authority the most powerful, most widespread kingdom in the world. He is without question the most powerful man in the world. He is extremely wealthy and we quickly learn that he lives opulently. Historically we believe this is king is the man we know by the name Xerxes. Xerxes is the Persian King that sent his troops through Greece, and had some trouble with 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. This is most likely the same man, just a different translation of his name.
  • When we enter the story we find him at the beginning of his reign, probably right before his raid through Greece. He is holding a massive lavish feast. It is showing off his power and wealth. There is heavy drinking. The theme of the party is: “when it comes to drinking, anything goes.” We can imagine how this is going to turn out.
  • The Queen’s name is Vashti. The King is partying with his nobles, and the Queen was holding her own feast with the women. One day we learn that the King got drunk. And he got an idea. He’s showing off all he has, why not show off his wife.
  • He commands the eunuchs to bring in his wife wearing her crown. The language is vague here, and I think it is using discretion but prompting us to use our imagination. Do you imagine that a bunch of men sitting together drinking are interested in the intricate gold filagree and jewel cut in her crown? Most groups of guys don’t get drunk and turn on the Home Shopping Network to discuss jewelery. Many scholars believe the command was essentially, “bring in Vashti, wearingonlyher crown.” He was bringing in his wife to display her. Either way, the idea was to gawk at her.
  • This is when the conflict of the story begins. Vashti refuses...
  • The King is enraged. He has very possibly never been told no before. His advisors tell him to banish the queen. And that is what he does. And throughout the story, we never hear from Vashti again.
  • The King is now without a queen, and that’s where we will leave the story for now. Who do you think is going to fill that vacancy?
  • This is the way it is with fairytales, right? It always starts with a tension. Something that has to be resolved in the end. Think about it:
    • Peter Pan has many battles to fight yet with Captain Hook, before everything is peaceful in Never Never Land.
    • Cinderella starts out hopelessly oppressed by her evil stepsisters, before she’s becomes a princess.
    • Sleeping Beauty is put under a spell before the Prince comes.
    • Robin Hood has to put up with Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham before King Richard returns.
  • But unlike those stories, in Esther we know who is in control. All of the elements of the story are designed by God to bring about His outcome.
  • There are a couple things we can learn from Vashti’s character.
  • 1) Don’t turn off the Fairytale before it’s over.
    • If we turned off Robin Hood early, it would seem like the Sheriff of Nottingham wins. Or the Wicked Witch get’s her way.
    • In our lives, we will face disappointments, but we have to believe they are not random. They are not the end of the story. In fact they are designed by God and work to a greater purpose.
  • 2) Surrender your happy ending.
    • Fairytales typically end with, “and they all lived happily ever after.” Which in it’s own right is pretty unrealistic. Really? There was never any more conflict. EVERYONE lived happy for the rest of their days?? But the question for us is, how do we define our own personally, “happily ever after.”
    • In this story Vashti took a stand for her own dignity and it did not go well for her. But it was all part of a plan, with a happy ending. But it is GOD’s plan and it is bigger than Vashti.
    • Our problem is that we are often only willing to go through hard times if it will lead us to our OWN “happily ever after” that is on our OWN terms.
    • But we must surrender to God’s “happily ever after” for our lives.
  • Here is the bottom line: we may do the right thing and lose. That is only bad if we are still trying to determine the end of our story. If we surrender it to God then it is always, “happily ever after.” If we try to force our own ending, we will be disappointed.
  • We sometimes interpret disappointments as a sign that God
    • has forgotten about us
    • has neglected us
    • is far away
    • is not listening
    • is just silently watching
  • But God is always there. In fact He is acting on your behalf through that situation. Disappointments are often moments where we can hearGod Out Loud.
  • The world’s response is to believe in fairytales until something bad happens. Then the world gets jaded, negative, pessimistic, and fatalistic. People say “there are no fairytales.” Their view of the world is that it is just a cruel and brutal place. It is random and just hope you get a bit of luck.
  • But the Biblical perspective is that it is always God who is planning things. And with God, it is always a happy ending. In the meantime we surrender our happy endings. And wait for God’s!

Key Questions:

  1. What was the highest point and lowest point of your week?
  2. What was your favorite fairytale or adventure story as a child?
  3. How do you think those stories create an expectation of fairytales as an adult?
  4. Read Esther 1:1-9. What stands out to you the most about the King’s wealth and opulence?
  5. Read Esther 1:10-12. What do we learn about the King’s character in this passage?
  6. Read Esther 1:13-22
  7. Vashti did the right thing, and lost.Have you ever had a time when you did the right thing and lost?
  8. Why is it tempting to view disappointing circumstances as moments when God is silent or far away?
  9. Think back to your favorite fairytale or adventure story that you shared. What would your favorite fairytale or adventure story look like if you turned it off in the middle and never saw the ending?
  10. How do we help ourselves see our disappointments from God’s perspective?
  11. What is a sincere and helpful way to help a friend gain this bigger perspective when they are disappointed? When are good and bad moments to do that?
  12. What happens when we try to force God to stick to OUR “happily ever after” ending, rather than surrendering to His ending?
  13. What can we do to release the rights to our story to God?

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