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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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This weekend was Foster Care Weekend! In our time together, we heard from Pastor Doug Sauder as we celebrated what God is doing in our community in the area of foster care and discovered how you can be part of the solution to provide hope, homes, and healing for children in foster care!
In this week’s group study, Calvary Chapel North Miami Pastor Darren Bennett invites us into a deeper conversation about God’s heart for the orphan!
Below, you’ll find some key questions to reflect on and consider in your group, with your family, or in your circle of friends, some action points fo the week, and a look ahead.
This Week’s Memory Verse: Ephesians 1:3–5 (NIV)
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love hepredestined us for adoption to sonshipthrough Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
Key Takeaway: God doesn’t leave us as orphans. We can ALL cling to Him as Father!
Getting the Conversation Going: Religion gets a bad rap, even amongst Christians. Whenever the word religion is used, it’s almost always negative. At church, you constantly hear that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. Many pastors and teachers have uttered the words, “You’re not joining a religion!” But what if we’re approaching this term with the skewed lens of overcorrection? What if religion isn’t the three-eyed monster or the tyrannical slave driver it’s constantly portrayed to be?
James 1:27 (BSB) says, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In this verse, James, the brother of Jesus, talks about religion, but instead of talking about how Christianity isn’t a religion, he tells us what pure, undefiled religion actually is. You see, the problem is religion has been defiled. It’s been smothered and stained in human selfishness, ambition, deceit, malice, idolatry, bigotry, in man’s lust for power, in self-righteousness, and in an overall misunderstanding of what true religion is.
At its heart, religion (Greek thréskeia) means “worship as expressed in action.” It’s faith at work; it’s internal devotion being made tangible through external living. Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship with Jesus that results in religion . . . the outpouring of our worship into work! And the purest, most undefiled, truest, most Christ-like form of worship worked out in our lives is “to care for orphans and widows in their distress,” to look after, stand in the gap for, protect, defend, take care of, and provide for the most vulnerable and needy, the marginalized, the outcast, the weary and burdened, the forgotten, the “least of these.”
The depth of our inward faith in Christ is evidenced by outwardly defending those who are distressed and downtrodden, the very people Jesus came for, the very people Jesus was always saving, healing, and helping. The Greek meaning for care is a command to take an active, helpful presence in the lives of those who are hurting. James is telling us that our calling card as Christians is compassionate, intentional care for the vulnerable.
Discussion Question 1: Why do you think James describes true religion the way He does? Why is the care for the vulnerable such a big part of God’s heart?
Discussion Question 2: Isaiah 1:17 (NIV) says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” What practical actions are required to live out this mandate right now?
True Religion: Our religion is to follow the example of Christ and step forward to actively relieve the suffering of those in need; of widows and orphans—precious children possessing the image of God who are infinitely valuable and cherished by God. The miracle of pure religion is seen when a child finds a home; when we set aside selfishness in order to provide sustenance and security to the helpless. He has blessed us beyond measure. Our mission is one of mercy as His benefactors in this broken world.
Do you want to walk in the real religion of our Savior and Lord? Carry Christ’s redemption to a child with no home!
Discussion Question 3: As a group, what are some ways we can help and bring hope to kids in crisis?
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”—Galatians 4:4–7 (NIV)
This Week: Purpose to show compassionate care to at least one person in your community who cannot repay you. Also, spend time praying about how you can care for the widows and orphans in your community. Ask God to show you practical steps you can take this week to help address this need.
Pray It Out: Share prayer requests in your group. Write down the requests of your group members, spend time praying over these requests, and keep praying individually over them throughout the week.
Read the Article
This weekend, we’ll resume our study through the Gospel of Mark as Pastor Doug teaches from Mark 8:22–38. In this message, we’ll see Jesus heal a blind man, explore the cost of following Jesus, and come face to face with the question of who Jesus truly is.
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Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.