Session 1: Study Guide

“God freely created us so that we might know, love, and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever.
–St. Ignatius of Loyola,

“[Jesus] matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weaknesses he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.”
–Dallas Willard
Trevor Hudson Part 4 of 14

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Table of contents

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Welcome

Welcome to Session 1 of Another Kind of Life DVD Experience. Each of the six sessions in this study is designed for completion in 60 to 90 minutes, with additional activities that can be done at home.

This session accompanies chapter 1 of Another Kind of Life (pages xx–xx). Watch the video, discuss the questions, and complete the key activity as a group as time allows.

Consider whether you think the group needs an icebreaker of sorts, such as sharing names, motivation for participating in this group, feelings about the journey ahead.

Note: If you and your group have not watched Trevor’s Introduction to the book, we highly recommend it before beginning the video for session 1.

Video Notes

This Another Kind of Life Participant’s Guide is intended to accompany the Another Kind of Life Session DVD Experience and the Another Kind of Life book. Each session of this curriculum is intended to last sixty to ninety minutes. In order to get the most out of this study, we recommend that you have the following materials present at your meetings:

  • One copy of Another Kind of Life DVD Experience for the group.
  • A copy of Another Kind of Life book and this participant’s guide for each person.
  • A DVD player and TV or a computer to watch the video component of each session
  • A clock to monitor time
  • A pen or pencil for each person to take notes during the video and for use in each session’s key activity
  • A Bible for each person

Leader Tip

As you watch the video, use the space below to take notes. We’ve included some key points to get you started.

  • “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
  • God is offering invitation, hope, possibility, and potential.
  • We do not have to live lives that are filled with destructive habits, fear, false attachments, or false definitions of who we are. Something new, beautiful, and good can be born.
  • A vision of the life God wants us to begin seeking.
  • Three descriptions of the life that Jesus brings:
    • A life of intimate friendship with the Trinity
    • A life in which we begin to experience real friendship and connection with other human beings
    • A life of authentic spiritual transformatio
    • [Note: In the accompanying chapter Trevor discusses two additional features of this new life. It is a powerful life and an indestructible life.
  • Story from the life of Ignatius about the beginning of his journey of transformation during his recovery time in Pamplona.

Question for Trevor’s Small Group: “Which one of these three threads do you most long for: intimate friendship with the Trinity, a shared life with other people, a life in which you are gradually and deeply transformed from the inside out?”

Discussion Questions

For each of the six sessions, we encourage your group to listen to both Trevor’s talk and the interviews with the participants in his small group. We want you to feel that you are in the room with Trevor, an extended part of the group you are watching. At the end of the DVD session, invite your group into a time of silence (at least a minute or two) to engage with the following reflection:

Reflect on those five threads of the life God gives us. [Note: Three threads are presented in the video and two more added in the chapter of the book.)] Which one gets your attention and evokes within you a sense of desire, longing, and attraction? Perhaps it is the one about: (1) deepening greater intimacy with God, (2) having a stronger connection with God’s family in which you can explore your own personal calling or (3) experiencing a deeper transformation of your character. Or from the book, perhaps you were drawn to (4) receiving God’s power to help you overcome a specific temptation and to act for the common good or (5) growing your confidence in God’s never-ending and personal love as you face your mortality. Whatever you are seeking, talk with the Lord about it.

  1. Share with the Group: To which of these descriptions of a new kind of life, were you most drawn?
  2. What are any barriers you may have to experiencing greater intimacy with God, deeper friendships with others, or more authentic transformation?
  3. Was there a reflection by a member of Trevor’s group that inspired you? If yes, say more.
  4. How does the statement, “It doesn’t have to be this way,” connect with where you are right now? Take a moment to think about any challenges in your life, in relationships, in habitual patterns of behavior, your friendship with God, etc.
  5. How would you write a headline describing the good news Jesus announced? Is your description big enough to represent another kind of life, here and now? How does God’s good news look in the nitty-gritty of your daily life?
  6. In the chapter, Trevor says, “After forty years of working as a pastor, and getting close to people, I am convinced that this zoe [as opposed to bios] is our heart’s deepest desire.” What do you think he means by that? The following quote from C. S. Lewis may help you ponder.

But what [humanity], in [its] natural condition, has not got, is Spiritual life—the higher and different sort of life that exists in God. We use the same word life for both: but if you thought that both must therefore be the same sort of thing, that would be like thinking that the ‘greatness’ of space and the ‘greatness’ of God were the same sort of greatness. In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which comes to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to rundown and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc., is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe, is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real [human].

And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.1

Key Activity

Personal Pamplona Moments

For Ignatius, Pamplona was a place both of great pain and new vision. It also opened the door to his experience of another kind of life. The cannonball that shattered his legs also put fractures in his egoic operating system. And during his painful time of recuperation, it was more than his legs that began to heal. As he lay in bed and read the only two books available, he slowly began to pay attention to his deepest longings. Rather than chasing fame and romance, what he most deeply wanted was a transforming friendship with the Trinity.

Dallas Willard, our other luminary, was no stranger to Pamplona moments—encounters with pain that can bring life-changing results and a willingness to follow another kind of life.2 He lost his mother before any permanent images of her could be painted across his young mind; he had a difficult transition to college. He had experiences of deep self-doubt concerning his academic and interpersonal abilities. But on his deathbed, his last two words were, “Thank you.” His gratitude seemed to be spoken to a presence in the room that only he could see.

What about your Pamplona moments? Have you had any experiences where current plans for your life were shattered and/or have you glimpsed a new vision for your own life? What was the result for you? Were you able to reach out for another kind of life?

Use the following outline to help you look for the times when God spoke to you from the painful places of life. Don’t worry about having to share things with the group that are uncomfortable for you. Just use the following timeline to allow painful times in your life which were redeemed by God to be captured on paper.

Preschool Years:

Elementary and Junior High School Years:

High School Years:

College and Young Adult Years:

Relationship with Spouse:

Relationship with Children:

Career Experiences:

Church Experiences:

Note to Leader: For the group discussion invite anyone who feels comfortable doing so to share about anytime in which painful experiences were redeemed by God.

Homework: Recognize and Respond

Trevor taught beautifully around the theme “It really doesn’t have to be this way.” We don’t have to go through life with a sense of lack. Another kind of life is available to each of us.

At the beginning of Trevor’s talk he referenced a friend who struggled with alcoholism but realized his life did not have to be that way. Dallas Willard often said that he would not trust any program of spiritual formation that did not show significant resemblance to the 12 Steps of AA. Dallas gave a series of lectures, which later became a book, which was published posthumously, Life Without Lack. The talks and the book are an exposition of the 23rd Psalm.

Any addiction from alcoholism to workaholism is a form of what Ignatius would call a false or disordered attachment. And these false fixes, or “idols,” if you wish, have at their roots attachment to solutions that are more bios than zoe answers.

Below you will find two classic descriptions of pathways to another kind of life—the 12 Steps of AA and the 23rd Psalm. You are invited this week to take some time to slowly read the following table. In the left column is a more explicitly Christian version of each step of the 12-Step program of AA. The column to the right provides corresponding verse(s) from the 23rd Psalm. You will see that it is a beautiful picture of the life God gives us.

After reading the table in a quiet place, allow a little time for the words to sink in more deeply.

[Note: If you would like to do this reading while music is playing in the background, depending on your musical tastes, we recommend either, Restore my Soul, by Sherri Youngward, or Shepherd Me Oh God, by Marty Haugen. After completing the exercise you may also want to take a few minutes to breathe the phrase. “Shepherd me, Oh God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”

12 Steps to Spiritual Formation in the 23rd Psalm

12 StepsPsalm 23
Step 1. I admit that I am powerless over sin and that my life has become unmanageable.Verse 1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Step 2. I believe that God—through his actions and those of his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit—can restore me to sanity.Verse 2–3a. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
Step 3. I will turn my will and my entire life over to the care of God.Verse 3b. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Step 4. I will make a searching and fearless inventory of my life to discover all the ways I have engaged in self-worship (by being in control instead of living surrendered to the will of God).

Step 5. I will admit to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
Verse 4a. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Step 6. I am entirely ready to have God remove all the defects in my character and replace them—through his presence—with the thoughts, emotions, will, behavior, and relationship patterns of Christ.Verfse 4b. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Step 7. I humbly ask God to help me become willing to deny myself—and the desire to live life on my terms—and to remove my shortcomings.Verse 5a. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Step 8. I will make a list of all the people I have harmed and become willing to make amends.

Step 9. I will make direct amends to all I have injured.
Step 10. I will continue to take personal inventory, and when I wrong someone, I will promptly admit it.Verse 5b. You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Step 11. I will, through prayer, meditation, and the practice of other Christian disciplines, attempt to improve my conscious contact with God.Verse 6a. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
Step 12. Having experienced some measure of authentic transformation as a result of surrendering all aspects of myself to the power and presence of Christ, I will carry this message to others and continue to practice these principles in all my affairs.Verse 6b. and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Private Reflection after your Reading: Please ponder the following reflection questions:

  1. What do the 12 Steps and the 23rd Psalm say to you about the opportunity for a different kind of life?
  2. Were there steps or verses that seemed like an invitation to another kind of life: A life of intimate friendship with the Trinity? A life in which we begin to experience real friendship and connection with other human beings? A life of authentic spiritual transformation?

Scripture Reflection

The following passages of Scripture were either referenced by Trevor in his talk or suggested by Dallas Willard to help us focus on some aspect of God’s offer of another kind of life. As your read each passage this week, notice if there is a word, or phrase, or sentence that connects deeply with you.

 

Jesus Announces the Good News (Mark 1:14–15)

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 

Jesus Wants to Lead Us into the Fullness of Life. (John 10:1–6 10)

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. . . . The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 

Eternal Life is a Gift (1 John 5:11–12)

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

 

Another Kind of Life Requires Engagement with Jesus (John 1:35–39)

 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

 

Another Kind of Life Requires Seeking (Jeremiah 29:13)

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

 

Another Kind of Life Involves Being with the Trinity (Matthew 28:20)

[Teach] them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Another Kind of Life is Freedom from Fear (Hebrews 13:5–6)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Footnotes
  1. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 1952), 159.
  2. See Gary Moon, Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2018).
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

All Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

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