Series Resources

sermon-based study guide

This guide is designed to guide a group discussion around the weekend sermon. You can also use this as an individual, but we highly recommend finding a friend and inviting them to discuss with you. Menlo Church has Life Groups meeting in-person and online using these guides. We’d love to help you find a group.
What you will find in this guide: A discussion guide for groups and individuals. If you are using this as an individual be sure to engage with each question in a journal or simply in your mind as you prayerfully consider what you heard in the sermon and seek to discover what God is inviting you to know and do.

Smear Campaign | Faithfulness Fulfills

SPEAKER  Phil EuBank                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Well, good morning Menlo Church. Happy Father's Day. Welcome. So glad that you are here for the final weekend In our series Smear Campaign where we've been talking about the posture and approach of viewing our politics through the lens of our faith and how we show up well in contentious times that show no signs of subsiding any time soon. If you missed last week with Ashlee Eiland who was with us you can catch up online and it was really fun because she was here and did such a great job I was able to actually visit all of our campuses last weekend in Saratoga, Mountain View, San Mateo, here in Menlo Park. So welcome to those of you. It's so fun to see some familiar faces face to face and to meet some brand new people as well. That was really really cool. I also want to say we have a few kiddos in the room with us here in Menlo Park and if you're a parent with a little one that's wiggling, feel like feel totally comfortable. It's fine I grew up in a context where people would talk to me while I was preaching so I'll just process every child's sound as a baby saying amen. Okay? It's fine. It's not a big deal.
 
Now before we begin I want to recognize that today we honor and commemorate Juneteenth as a critical day for our nation. It doesn't point back to the day when slavery ended. It actually points to two and a half years after that in 1865 when the final group of slaves was freed. It's a day that holds so much symbolism for today as we celebrate our progress as a people. and we grieve the work that is still yet in front of us. So together before we begin, let's pray. Let's pray for the progress that lies ahead. Would you pray with me? 
 
Heavenly Father we are reminded on days like today how far short we fall collectively and individually to remember that all people are created in your image within infinite dignity, value and worth. We celebrate so many good things that have transpired in these years but we pray for greater equality across racial lines in our world, in our nation, in our church and in our own lives. God we know that without you this kind of progress is impossible but with you everything is possible. And so I pray that even now at an individual level as we open your scriptures that we would be shaped and molded by them. That the world in front of us might be informed by the word before us. It's in Jesus' name, Amen. 
 
When I was younger I played sports until early in high school. I blew out my knees twice because I'm a slow learner. And as I played sports there were really two pretty common types of coaches that your coach would get categorized into pretty quickly. The first one was the shouter. He was loud, in charge and his mood was always somewhat annoyed. Like the spectrum lived in that space. Even if you're not a sports person you've probably seen coaches like this before where even after a win, their best attempt at a positive facial expression looks like ambivalence. Like that's they're thrilled, like that's as good as it gets. I always wanted to perform well for those kinds of coaches but I didn't know how. They never got specific with you. And that's really what leads me to the second type of coach that came into play. My preferred kind. The second type of coach wasn't always the loudest, wasn't always the most gregarious, but they would actually be what I call a show-er. They would like get into the play with you. They would stand in the huddle with you at practice. They would stay after to help because their goal, it wasn't personal status, it was team success. I preferred those coaches. My guess is if you played sports you did too. 

Even as I describe those two kinds of coaches you're probably thinking about how many shouters we have in the world today. It's been said that we can make a point or we can make a difference but rarely both. And we have so many people who appear willing to surrender impact and influence for indignance, even maybe ourselves. In a recent opinion piece, Peggy Noonan voiced the concern that it appears we are beginning to enjoy hatred. She summarizes the regression this way, she said, “We talk in our country about political polarization and it’s real: We’re split into a thousand pieces within two big camps of left and right. We decry the harshness of our political discourse, particularly online, where outrageous and dehumanizing things are said. But what I’m seeing is that we don’t mind disliking each other now. We like it. That’s the new thing, that we’re enjoying the estrangement. Nobody’s trying to win anybody over.”
 
So, with our final message in the series, I want to talk about how we can practically show up and go beyond the simple choices of elephants, donkeys and ostriches that just bury our heads in the ground to reemerge in December and hope everything's okay. How can we move from shouters to show-ers over the course of the next few months and making a difference? In order to do that we're going to look at two different passages from the Bible that help us to see the truth that when we live faithfully it's hard to live hatefully. And as you feel yourself pulled towards greater and greater hate in the coming months that you might have a message like this sitting in the back of your mind to be reminded that actually it's this call to faithfulness that's most relevant to us today. 
 
The first way that we do that, it brings us back to the Shema in the Hebrew scriptures, this clarifying central call to God's people that we looked at a lot in week one. And this week we're going to do it through the voice of the prophet Micah. And he shows us that faithfulness is simpler and more demanding than you think. We over-complicate it and we under-emphasize it. 
 
Now I'm an early riser as a person and I became an even earlier riser when we had kids because it became such an important part of my day to begin with rhythms of peace and focus before the energy and inertia of the day started, especially with a five-year-old like our five-year-old. And because I get up early, there are some important habits that make that possible and sustainable for me. One of those habits is that I go to bed early. Now if I weren't married to a night owl I would probably go to bed about the same time as I put my five-year-old down for bed. Like that would be me. I would feel totally fine. You're like, you're going to miss out on so much. No I won't. It will be great. Now I'm generally in bed between 9:30 and 10 most nights, unless I'm not, unless life has gotten in the way. And the problem is sometimes that stacks up. You have a few days like that or maybe a month like that where it feels like you are just kind of burning the midnight oil over and over again. And I get more and more tired as a result. And that early riser part starts to really become taxing for me. And some of you are like, I have a clue, Phil. Just don't wakeup so early. I get it. My wife's given me that advice for about 20 years. So I understand. 
 
But some of you, while you can't relate to getting up really early, you have habits that have slipped over time for you also. Maybe for you, you haven't exercised the way that you'd hoped. Or you haven't eaten the way that you wanted to. Or you haven't gotten to sleep the way that you know best serves your body. You don't need new information. You need renewed inspiration. You need a fresh invitation to try again. And that’s not just true of those habits. 
 
See, it's the same with how we show up in faithfulness. During the time of Micah, God's people were divided into the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. And even though they knew better, they didn't live better, which was a pretty common thing for God's people. The glory days of Israel seemed to be in the rearview mirror, and they were doing whatever they wanted. And so Micah, he simultaneously declared judgment on God's people for their unfaithfulness, and he gave them a vision of a hope for what they could do to set themselves apart in a culture like this, even in the midst of painful and challenging times, something that I think we so clearly need today. As a matter of fact, in what many scholars have called the one-line law, and certainly compatible with the Shema that we studied in week one, we read this from Micah, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
 
See, Micah, he goes to great lengths to describe God's disapproval of the idolatry, the false gods, that they were settling for. And for us, it can be easy to hear the term idolatry and go, well, I don't have a golden calf in my house. I don't worship some other religion. We just have become more sophisticated, right? We have lots of things and pursuits in our life that are good things maybe, but we make them ultimate. And we try to have them share shelf space with God. We don't have enough time or money to be faithful to what God's calling us to do because we need to spend our time and money over here in this pursuit, in this area, in this interest. And I would just say the Bible calls all of those things. Idols.
 
See, they were worshiping things even thousands of years ago that they thought wereas important as God. But really what they were communicating with their life is that they were more important than God. And Micah was more than willing to call it out, but he didn't just call it out and criticize. He offered a vision. 
 
See, in the midst of so much upheaval all around him and the divided nature of God's people, he gives this incredible encapsulation that if we want to love God, we will do justice. Not just talk about justice. Not just post about justice. Not just vote about justice. Not just hope about justice. But actually be about doing justice at whatever area of influence and opportunity we are given. At aground-level opportunity, bringing the ways of God into the worries of our world. That rather than going, well, because I can't fix everything, I'm not going to do anything. No, no, Micah says, whatever you can do, just bring yourself and the vision of God’s kingdom to the worries of your day. 
 
Now, this is written first on the list on purpose. It's the one that makes the rest of the list possible. I wonder, are we personally living in light of God's kingdom and functioning with integrity? That's the call for each and every one of us. See, this is so important. 
 
Next is that we love kindness. Some translators say mercy, but the Hebrew word here from the original language is the word "hesed," which means "faithful covenant love." Covenant is about this agreement between God and mankind. It's unbreakable. It's the kind of love that God had for his people from the very beginning. It's the kind of love that God has for you. It's the kind of love that when we know Jesus as our Lord in our lives, that we actually express it to other people. It's the kind of love that doesn't return evil for evil. It's the kind of love that recognizes that he's the king of all kings, no matter what's happening around us. It's the kind of love that we model with our lives because it's been shown to us. 
 
What's so amazing? What's so amazing is that if we will snap into this vision thatMicah is calling us to, it demonstrates a love that doesn't make sense to people. It's not a reciprocal kind of love. You don't do it when he or she starts caring for you back. You don't do it when they apologize back to you. You don't do it when they deserve it. This kind of love is a love that we extend all the time. 
 
He's writing this as Yahweh, the covenant name for God. The God of Israel is actively demonstrating this kind of love towards Israel. They don't deserve it. They are rebelling against him. They are living as an adulterous generation, and God is loving them with a "hesed" kind of love. And he's saying, you should love people with that same kind of love. 
 
And finally, he says that we are, to walk humbly with God. But this word that we translate humble would probably be better translated from the original language"carefully." Being humble is a part of living carefully, but it has more to do with a careful self-examination of our lives and a commitment to daily focusing on Jesus as the core driver of all of our decisions, including our political decisions. I wonder for how many of us, we are not thinking about this carefully. We're thinking about it casually. We’re not thinking about this carefully because we're on cruise control. And we're letting other people and other systems, even political polarization, form and shape us rather than Jesus being the centerpiece of the decision-making framework for our lives. That's what Micah is calling us to. 
This should be sobering and encouraging for us. We are not the first people to wrestle with idolatry or even political idolatry. We are not the first people to hide behind tribalization and to separate faith from other parts of our lives out of convenience or expediency. We are in good company.
 
The same direction that God gave to Israel through Micah is relevant to us. Are we living in light of who we are living for? Now, if you're not a Christian, the good news is you don't have to do any of this. This is just a suggestion for you. And so if you don't choose to do any of it, here's what I bet is true for you. I bet you're hoping that some Christians in your life will live the way that I just described. I bet you're hoping that some Christians in your life, that aunt, that uncle, that parent, that friend, they'll post in light of this vision from Micah over the course of the next few months. 
 
A couple of weeks ago, we ran out of magnets that we were giving away with some listening tips on them. I think that probably says something about the appetite we have to maybe have some resources to help us walk through this faithfully. So today, we have more of those at all of our campuses. Feel free to grab one if this idea of personal integrity and loving illogically and walking carefully feels relevant to you. Because I think it's going to require some reminders every time you scroll, every time you switch something on, every time you walkup to the water cooler, this vision that we just got from Micah and there minders on that magnet will be counter-cultural. 

See, some of you, you've wanted to know when in this series we were going to get to the part where you could share your side. When you could really let people have it. And we'll talk a little bit more about that at the end, but the framework of faithfulness that we see at Micah is so much more fruitful than all of us becoming shouters with our political opinion. As a matter of fact, it's not just better for some other group. It's actually better for you too. Because when we live faithfully, it's hard to live hatefully. You just don't have much time. Your heart and your direction in life is aimed different. 
 
Hate is exhausting. Whether you have been the recipient of hate or you have been the broadcaster, the perpetuator of hate, you know the weight that hate puts on you. It's a weight that you aren't meant to carry. It's a weight that none of us are meant to carry. Because when we live faithfully in our lives, God's got a different vision for us in our relationships. With another week, we have had another set of cancellations and another set of hyper-partisan headlines that are not trying to listen well. Everybody on every side is just trying to shout the other side down. 
 
But Menlo Church, the good news is we can be different. Your world needs you to be different in this season. That's where James comes in. 
 
Now, James was the half-brother of Jesus who didn't believe that his brother Jesus was his Lord until Jesus died and came back from the dead. And if you have a brother, I have two, you probably understand the skepticism of what it would take for your brother to convince you that he was God, right? Like, oh, how about you die and come back from the dead? Like, did it, right? That was what it took for James and Jesus. 
 
And James, he writes this profound letter, and he gives us a really important idea at the core of it, that 'workless faith is worthless faith.' Now, before you think we changed religions, we have not. The gospel message is that we are saved from the judgment that we all deserve by grace, undeserved favor, through faith, trusting what I can't see, not as a result of our works, but a saving faith will result in works. You can't really follow Jesus without a faith that works. And James knew that firsthand. He had watched his brother Jesus embody this his whole life, and he had watched hypocritical leaders and politicians say one thing and live something different his entire life. James probably felt a level of personal regret and shame about his own inability to connect the dots of who Jesus was when they were growing up together. 
 
Now, I have a lot of grace for James. I don't put a lot of blame on him. Can you imagine having Jesus as your older brother, right? Like, oh, of course you're right, Jesus. You're so perfect, you know? He's like, yeah, it's true. You don't have to say that sarcastically, right? So on the other side of choosing to follow his brother as his Lord, he takes over the church in Jerusalem, and he writes this incredibly important letter. And in it, he writes these words, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
 
See, James is using a rhetorical question to make the statement that if our faith isn’t working, our faith isn't working. For James, this was a contrast that he saw every day. The early church was openly sharing with one another across social classes. But others, especially those with power, were doing the opposite. Culturally, in the Greco-Roman world, it was an easy justification to dismiss the needs of underserved communities, because in many religions of the day, it was thought that those who were suffering were actually paying the price for their sin or the sin of their family. And so for others, as long as the powerful weren't actually hurting them, it was considered kindness to say something and not do something so that the worked out stuff they needed to do for those past sins could be done. 
 
And before we judge them too harshly, how often are we guilty of the same thing? Maybe it's someone in your life and you look at the circumstances. And you just make the worst possible assumptions about how they must have ended up where they are. Or maybe it's you're driving by someone who has a sign up, and they're asking for help, and you're making those same assumptions about them. Maybe you just don't know how to help so you do nothing. And I know that it's complicated, that it's inefficient to offer somebody food, to stop and pray for them, to hear their story. But it's probably a lot more of what faithfulness looks like then we want to admit in walking in a world with need as we follow Jesus. 
 
Remember, I'm not advocating that we all have the same politics or that we have no politics. We should vote. We should get involved in a way that is informed by our faith rather than our faith being formed and informed by our politics. But it should go way beyond our politics. How are we actually serving people practically? 
 
If you're more interested in your political involvement than your practical serving involvement, you have flipped. You have flipped the paradigm of what Jesus calls each and every one of us to. Maybe this is a better question,"where have my stances outgrown my service?" Where am I more known for what I'm for or against? Where am I more known for what I think or believe than I am for how I care for people? And that's not a fun question for any of us to answer. 
 
But if you've been waiting for when you get to learn how to share your zingers on social media or at the dinner table, maybe you've been waiting for the wrong thing. So what do we do now? How can you get involved in the way that will really help without becoming someone with the workless faith that James is warning us all about?
 
I want to offer you six alternatives that are real options for any of us from this book, "The Party Crasher," that I mentioned earlier in the series. 
 
The first option that's given is what's called "The Local Option." And with this approach, you focus on what you maybe have as the greatest level of influence and knowledge in your life, which is your immediate context. This might look like getting involved at a school or with city council or maybe a nonprofit that serves locally trying to address something that God has given you a passion for. 
 
Now, not everyone can take all of these options, but if we all listen to God and take the option that he's calling us to step into, I think we can make a much bigger difference than just posting about it. 
 
The second one is called "The Daniel Option." This is not about a diet plan, so let me just alleviate your concerns. That was a deep cut if you grew up in church. Daniel is a prophet in the Hebrew scriptures who had profound influence in a culture that looked nothing like God's people ever were designed to live within. He was given tremendous access because he leveraged discernment and he exercised integrity. 

We have people hereat Menlo who need to regularly determine the best way to bring their Jesus-first way of life into hallways of power that most people in human history have never experienced right here as part of our church. You aren't selling out for being in the industry that you’re in or for holding the position that you have. You are a missionary who needs the same kind of discernment and integrity that we see in Daniel. Your involvement about God, how do I prayerfully prepare for that meeting, that conversation, show up as the best woman or man in my workplace, in my setting of authority and opportunity? How do I do this in a way that makes the greatest difference whereI am? How do I look for those pockets and opportunities to really see something happen? That’s the Daniel option. 
 
The third is "The Prophetic Option." And the more excited you are about this one, the less likely you should pursue it. This requires skill, precision, and persuasion to help people see something through the lens of God's kingdom that may feel completely foreign to their everyday life experience. That as our culture moves more and more post-church and post-Christian, I'm telling you, the ways of Jesus are going to look more and more strange. 
 
And if you carry the prophetic voice, not only are you willing to lovingly communicate with people what it means to follow Jesus, you understand that's not about taking a political side. It’s not even a debate. It’s not something you're aiming at winning. It's about a persistent witness for a different kingdom. You will often lose. You will often look weird. You will often be the strange one. Not because you're having to be weird, but because following the ways of Jesus are increasingly different than the ways of the world around us. That's a call very specifically for some of you to live out.
 
The fourth is "The Scuba Option." It is a little bit like "The Local Option," but instead of a single place, you focus on a single issue. You become an expert at it. Maybe God has called you to be passionate about a certain community or a specific topic. What would happen if you dove deeper into that community or that topic that God has given you a passion for? 
What kinds of progress could you advance? Or maybe even see action taken in at a level way bigger than a national election or something that you post on social media? Because you are focused and you are committed, not on every issue, but on this one thing that God's placed a burden in your life for, continuing your pursuit of God's best for that community or that topic. Some of you, even as I say that, God is bringing that thing to your mind right now. 
 
The fifth option is "The Monastic Option." This doesn't mean that we're burying our head in the sand and hoping that the world's still okay in December. This is about creating a better vision through living out a community of following Jesus like we see in the book of Acts. It's that you're going to live a counter-cultural life with other people who are trying to follow Jesus living a counter-cultural life. And it will look wild to people who do not follow Jesus. It may look wild to some people trying to follow Jesus, but doing it in cruise control. 

And for some of you, this kind of community, even as you invite others into it, is away that you could make a big difference. It may never have a societal shift that comes from it, but it can change your neighborhood. It can change your family. We never do this to the exclusion of others. We do this to the invitation of others, that they would walk and live in the way of Jesus too. 
 
And finally, we have "The Reform Option." This one is about more than parties. It's about fixing the systems that make the debates themselves seem impossible in our moment. Think term limits and force-ranked voting and unaccountable money in politics. Things that affect both parties and make progress on issues feel impossible. And if you pay attention, neither political extreme wants to fix these problems because they're leveraging these problems for their own political power. 
 
Now, this list of six, it’s not exhaustive, but I hope that maybe it gives you a few options to talk about, to carry with you from this series. Practical ways to live more faithfully and less hatefully. Because I’m telling you, it could make a huge difference, even if it's just within your sphere of influence. 
 
Some of you are going, well, I really want to make a big difference for all the world. I'm telling you, you have no idea what could happen if you would think about your world, the people that God has placed in your life to have an influence around. And I've said this before, I've never seen at the end of a hot-take-thing on social media, someone at the bottom of the comments feed going, this vitriolic, angry, pretty vindictive post and the terribly toxic comment thread underneath it really changed my mind about this. Thank you for posting it today. Like, it's not working. 
 
So, let me give you maybe one more suggestion to try this summer, especially if you've been saying, when can I share what I think? When can I share my perspective?There's a concept called "a Jefferson Dinner" that's modeled after Thomas Jefferson. And it really is inspired by quotes like this, when Thomas Jefferson said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
 
Can you imagine? With a Jefferson dinner, you take around eight people with one table and one topic. Not one take on one topic, one topic. You bring a group of people with different views, starting with a snapshot of each person's story and answering a common question about that topic. And then you let the conversation go from there. If you're the host, you bring a handful of questions to help the conversation along. There's great resources online about how to have these table or how to have these dinners. And at the end of the night, you go around and ask everyone to share something that will stick with them, a new idea that they’re going to learn or something that they plan to follow up on as a result of the discussion. 
 
If you're looking for where to share what you think, I think these kinds of discussions in a world that's so bite-sized, in a world that's so polarized, in a world that puts screens before substance, in a world where we don't see people, we just see problems, I think that it can make a really big difference.I think these kinds of discussions could be the most fruitful in your life and mine over the course of the next few months. 
 
Now, these last few weeks are not the only ones that we will address topics like these. But I hope that they've served for you as a way to set the tone for us, to give some tools to understand and to be understood more clearly in the coming months of increasingly polarized conversations. 

Next week, we will begin our summer series called "Beyond the Basics," and we will be working through chapter eight of the book of Romans. And we have some great stuff planned to help all of us to dig into what is often called 'the greatest chapter in the entire Bible.' You do not want to miss it.
 
One of the things that I think is so beautiful about our church is that we’ve often been described as a place where spiritual formation is extremely important, and I believe that, and I'm so thankful for that. But I think without realizing it, sometimes we get into this place where spiritual formation without a spiritual foundation can become spiritual manipulation. And so this summer we're going to dig into the text of God's Word. We're going to learn some great practices we can carry with us beyond it, about how we study God's Word, and how it can shape us. And so even if you're missing some of it in person, I'd encourage you to continue with us online throughout the series. I hope this is helpful. I hope God uses it in your life. I hope it makes a difference for friends and family, for co-workers and classmates. Can I pray for you? 
 
God, thank you so much. Thank you for the gift of a community that's willing to step into a conversation that can feel so heated, that can feel so polarized, and look for you in the middle of it. God, where we find ourselves divided and disappointed, God, where we find ourselves angry and isolated, God, would you flow your love into our lives? Would you help us, God, to have enough courage that as we see our politics through the lens of our faith, we could see how our side has fallen short. We could see, God, the things from the other side that we should be challenged by in thinking about you. God, help us to look beyond the deformation of our culture and news outlets and social media and algorithms that may take us into greater and greater extremes. Help us to pull the car ofour lives out of cruise control and once again center it on you. We love you. We pray all this in your name. Amen.