Suggestions for Personal Reflection, Group Discussion, and Taking Action for the book: WHAT ON EARTH? Considering the Social Implications of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

Chapter 1 – What’s the BIG IDEA?

  • What do you think E. Stanley Jones meant by calling the Sermon “A working philosophy of life.”
  • I claim that “the typical gospel of the contemporary evangelical narrative is predominantly individualistic.” It tells us only how to be forgiven and be more spiritual, yet leaves out the component of improving the world we live in. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • Which approach is the better one when challenging someone to follow Jesus: “Come to Jesus and when you die he will take you to a better world” or “Come to Jesus and you’ll come alive. And when you do, come help us make this a better world!”

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapters 2 & 3: What on Earth Is This “Heavenly Kingdom” About? & A Kingdom Needs a Constitution

  • It’s my conviction that, “When Jesus sets up his headquarters inside us, relationships, households, economies, governments, and every feature of culture begin to lean toward heaven’s standards.” Agree or disagree? Why?
  • “Just as a good movie’s preview makes you want to go see the rest of it, we are tasked with imagining and demonstrating the reign of God in hopes that people will accept the invitation to come for the rest of the show and partner with us to make a better preview for all the world to see.”  How do we get people to stay for the rest of the show?
  • Write down the name of one person you are praying for to come with you to make the make the world a better place (and share it with your group or with one other person to pray with you).
  • Write 2 or 3 additions to my “I believe in…” list in keeping with the teaching in the Sermon: Example: “I believe in truth-telling no matter what.”

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 4: An Upside-Down Kingdom

  • The kingdom is “so contrary to human nature and our faulty logic that it appears upside down to us.” Give an example of this.
  • Elaborate on one of Craig Greenfield’s comparisons between empire and the kingdom.
  • Give an example in your own life of your tendency to “become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 5: An Inside Out Kingdom

  • What do you think we mean by “outwardism”?
  • Why would downplaying the role of our human spirit lead to a “sweaty” kind of Christianity?
  • What are your “hookable” places (John 14:30)?

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 6: Changed Hearts Change the World

  • Unpack this quote: “Jesus calls us to holiness and justice. Holiness involves dealing with the spark, the poisoned well, the root in our own hearts. Justice involves dealing with the wildfires, the raging rivers, the wicked trees in our world.”
  • Unpack MLK’s famous quote about the Church being “the conscience of the state … the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”
  • “Although the Bible is not a manual on social policy, it does offer us principles that structure our moral reasoning, which in turn affects the way we view such things.” Give an example of this.

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 7: The Inconvenient Politics of Jesus

  • Give an example when Jesus communicated with authority
  • Give an example when he comported himself politically
  • Give an example when he confronted power fearlessly

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 8: Utterly Upside-Down Attitudes

  • We contend that there is an “intentional sequence” of Beatitudes. Do you agree?  
  • In which of the Beatitudes do you see “vulnerability”?
  • “Since most of their legislative decisions have moral implications, we must, in good conscience, support those candidates whose values are most aligned with Christ’s and whose policies benefit the common good and not just our own personal agendas.” Agree or disagree and why?

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 9: Blessed are the Broken

  • Merton says, “humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible.” How does that work?
  • “To a social order that worships strength and decries weakness, where the rich and famous loom over the poor and obscure, this notion of spiritual poverty is utterly nonsensical.” Give an example of this in our culture today.
  • What does this mean to you? “Until we recognize our common moral disease, the chasm between classes, races, parties, and nations will only widen.”

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 10: The Groan of the Godly

  • Explain how the first Beatitude leads to the second.
  • We contend that tears shed in grief, uncertainty, confusion, and fear can be “good tears.” Agree or disagree? Why?
  • Where else in the Bible do you find “lament” practiced or advocated?

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 11: The Collective “Ouch!”

  • gave no opportunity to grieve with your fellow worshippers?
  • “Is it possible that people are looking for a community that knows how to grieve its forfeitures and how to bring their sorrows to Someone bigger than themselves for comfort… longing for a place where people engage in the pains of the world rather than hide their heads in the sham of spiritual sand while claiming their diamond-studded destiny?” Well, is possible? If so, how would affect our presentation of the gospel?
  • In the world today, what causes you to mourn most?

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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Chapter 12: The “Ouchless” Church

  • What do you think of the statement by Brene´ Brown? “I wanted faith to work like an epidural; to numb the pain of vulnerability.  As it turned out, my faith ended up being more like a midwife – a nurturing partner who leans into the discomfort with me and whispers ‘push’ and ‘breathe.’”
  • What is your opinion about the often-repeated claim that “Everything that happens is sovereignly ordained by God”?
  • “He turns our mourning into dancing.” Cite an example when he did this in your own life.

Don’t forget to look for the 5-Minute Meditations on the Sermon on the Mount video for the next chapter in WHAT ON EARTH?

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More to come!

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