DEEP – Distant – Group Study Questions

Warming up:

Have you ever had a sense that God was far away? What were the circumstances?

Read Psalm 63

Henry Nouwen writes: “I wonder if the Word of God can really be received in the center of our hearts if our constant chatter and noise and electronic interactions keep blocking the way of the heart.” 
  • What other things might be interfering with sense of close fellowship with God?
King David occupies a special place as a great leader of God’s people in the Old Testament. How might his experience of being distant from God be reflected in the modern days followers of God?
“Even if it feels God is far away, even when you feel you are far away form God, he is still with you.”
  • To what extent does this reflect the Bible’s teaching? What comfort or challenge does this present to you or your discussion group?
How can your church or Christian community bring the grace of God’s presence to greater expression
  • in your meetings
  • how you deal with one another
  • how you do mission in your world

Close

Spend time in prayer, asking God to bless your specific attempts to bring his presence to expression.

God Hates Injustice: Group Study Questions

Read Isaiah 1:10-20

  1. Discuss some of the things we typically say we hate. How many of those things are on the same level as injustice? What conclusions can you draw about this?
  2. Looking through this passage, what sort of actions and behaviour from God’s people lead to this strongly worded complaint to his people?
  3. Any worship anyone brings is only ever acceptable through the grace of God in Jesus. Can such grace overcome the situation outlined in Isaiah 1? If so, what explains Yahweh’s strong words to his people? Why doesn’t he just forgive and be done with it?
  4. “It is impossible to have orthodoxy without orthopraxis: impossible to have right doctrine in isolation from compassionate and just practice.” – Discuss
  5. Share a few stories of people who have seemed to get the balance right between great theology and compassionate practise
  6. Share your thoughts on the significance of Isaiah 53:4-6 and 1 John 3:1 for your pursuit of justice in your local context

 

These questions are relevant to “Time for Justice: God Hates Injustice” from Gateway Community Church, March 08, 2015

 

 

 

 

God’s Heart for the Victim – Group Study Questions

Read Jeremiah 22:1-16

Share a few examples of injustices you see in your local community or in your world. Are these affecting people known to you, or are they more situations that you are aware of but you don’t now the people concerned? If we are not particularly close to victims of injustice, how might this alter our perception of this issue?

To what extent do we regard injustice as a core factor in the decline of the Old Testament kingdoms of Israel and Judah?

The injustice of Jehioakim, Jehoiachin, Shallum and other rulers would one dat lead to exile and to Jerusalem’s destruction (see Jer 22:5, 8-9). It seems unthinkable that God would visit such terrible punishment on his own people. What does this tell us about God’s heart for victims of injustice?

“When God’s people allow injustice to thrive, they break the Covenant with the Lord” – Explain

Read Luke 4:18-19 and Mark 11:15-17. What do these passages tell us about Jesus’ views on injustice, and the place they occupy in his Kingdom mission? How do these words of Jesus reflect what we read in Jeremiah 22?

How does the death and resurrection of Jesus impact on what we think and do about injustice?

If it’s true that the things that matter to God should also matter to God’s people, what does this mean for

* how we do church

* what we do as church?

====================

These questions relate to “Time for Justice – God’s Heart for the Victim”. You can read the full text here.

How do I get off the treadmill? (Fathers Day 2014) – Group Questions

Discussion Questions:

Share together about the best models of fatherhood you have seen, and what it was that made them great.

Why do you think fathers (or men in general) find it so easy to focus on achievement? Do you think it’s any different for mothers (or women)?

How might these desires be driven by unresolved inner hunger?

Read: Phil 3:7-11

Paul talks about the sheer superiority of knowing Christ compared to anything else he had achieved. Is it that simple? How does what Jesus has done render everything else so powerless?

Jesus frees people from the treadmill of achievement to concentrate on things that really matter. What might ‘the things that really matter’ be for the members of your group?

“Our children will remember us more for our time and our love than our money or the things we might give.” What are the best examples of this you have seen? Where might this idea be reflected in God’s word?

How can we pass on the importance of faith to our children without it being ‘stuck on’ or ‘forced’?

What could we do as a church community to get fathers together and provide a context to bring Jesus’ new life to expression?

How do I get off the treadmill? (Fathers Day 2014)

FathersDay2014

Read: Phil 3:7-11

While becoming a father is pretty straightforward, being a father is a different matter.

Kids start as cute little bundles. We’re amazed to see them grow, thrilled as they respond to our voices, celebrating their first steps.

Then, in what seems like the blink of an eye, they are 14 years old, and we’re carting them from School to ballet to soccer to youth group to Nick’s place ‘coz he’s having a party, and ‘can I have $20 for Maccas after the party please Dad, yes, we are going to Maccas after the party because, well, parties are hard work, and we’ll get hungry and can you pick me up at 10 and also take Harry and Zac home – yes, because their Dads are too busy…’

Is there no end to this?

Add to that the pressure of what’s happening at work with the boss raising the bar, throwing more work our way, and wanting us to do all of that for the same money.

Then there are the mortgage payments. The car payments. Credit card payments.

Then groceries, health care, clothing, …where does all the money go?

It seems that more and more fathers are burning the candle at both ends.

“The way we live is emerging as a major cause of illness: stress either directly or indirectly contributes to heart disease, cancer, liver ailments, and accidents…
Gordon MacDonald

“Stress has changed the way we work, organise a family, child rearing, education and even welfare
Norman Swan, ABC Health Report

So fathers try all sorts of ways to manage their stress.

Alcohol: a couple of beers at the end of the day to unwind.

Eating: nothing like a good steak to help a guy de-stress.

Work out: Hit the Gym, cycle hard, Tough Mudder.

Get more stuff: Huge Flat screen, new boat, new muscle car, road bike (without pedals).

Work harder: impress the boss, get the promotion, nail the deal, make a killing.

No one needs a guilt trip, but in this stress filled lifestyle we need to take a step back and ask whether it’s helping us be better Dads, helping us connect with our kids, helping us reflect God’s Kingdom?

We need to ask: how do I know I am a good Dad?

Is it because I provide well for my family?

Is it because I’m successful at work?

Can I see it in my trophies? The house – in which suburb, and what street? Really? The car: which model was that? How fast?

Men, fathers, why are we so driven to achieve? Why do we grade our success with things and trophies?

Success is not necessarily a bad thing. It depends how it is defined. Our problem is that we are often so busy working for the next great thing that we miss what this does to us in the long run.

So, how is all this relevant to following Jesus?

The man who wrote the letter to the Philippian church, Paul, knows all about performance stress. He had worked hard all his life to excel at just about everything his culture demanded. He had a stack of credentials which in his day was every man’s dream:

“… If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Philippians 3:4–6, NIV)

Brilliant pedigree. Impressive education. Professional expertise. Intense religious devotion expressed in the zealous pursuit of a punishing regime of religious cleansing. No doubt about it: Paul had a killer attitude. He is there while a mob of religious fanatics lynch a man named Stephen because he had the gall to follow Jesus and encourage them to do the same.

Acts 7:57-58; 8:1-3

It was like Rambo, Schwarzeneggar and Al Mohler rolled into one package.

Why was Paul doing this?

What inner void was he trying to fill?

What was the hunger that could not be satisfied?

Whatever it was, this great man was brought to a point where he realised that while his performance gave him credibility with people, it was worthless before God.

Worthless.

That’s a disturbing question, isn’t it? What is the value of having reputation, material wealth, and its trophies if ultimately, in terms of real life, true life, it delivers nothing? What if all those things you strive for and stress over, what if they are never going to deliver? What if they are worthless?

What if all those things you strive for and stress over, what if they are never going to deliver?

Paul’s story tells us there is hope: there is a kind of life that does not come via financial independence, the things you can buy, or your career path.

This life does not come by what you do. It comes by what someone else has done. It comes by what Jesus has done.

For Paul, meeting Jesus was the start of a remarkable transformation: He went from being entirely focussed on his performance to focussing entirely on Jesus’ performance.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7, NIV)

It was not a easy start. Jesus had to knock him off his horse to get his attention. If your life revolves around your performance, and your security comes from achievement, what might Jesus have to do to you to get your undivided attention?

2012 06 23 A woman looks up at a human size jenga tower

If you’ve ever played Jenga, you know that the early stages of the game are easy. You can pull each piece out and place it on the top without too much trouble. As time goes on it gets harder. You can still extract a piece, but you really have to be careful. And then the inevitable happens. You have built this great tower, and all you want is one more piece, one more go, one more attempt. But it all comes crashing down. This is what it’s like trying to build a life around your own achievements and ignoring the life God has for you in Jesus. You might keep ignoring the obvious, but don’t be surprised when it comes crashing down. God did not intend for anyone to live that way.

Paul soon discovered that the life he hungered for would only came through Jesus:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Philippians 3:8–9, NIV)

Paul had been trying to create his own righteousness – his own acceptance with God – by his achievements. He had been striving for something he could never achieve. He was seeking to do what could never be done.

He came to see that everything he was seeking could come only through Jesus’ achievements. Given by grace. Characterised by forgiveness and love. Received in faith.
It changed his life totally.

Sure, he was still a very passionate man after he came to know Jesus, but his energy was directed to thanking God for his love, instead of trying to win it through achievement. The Gospel of Jesus changed his life completely.

Here’s the question: Is your hope in your achievements? Or in acceptance with the God of heaven and earth, his promise to live in you by His Spirit, his guarantee that your failure is dealt with through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the reality that life though Jesus can never be taken away?

Can you see the wider relevance of this to being a man, a father? Jesus frees you to down shift. To drop some revs. To get off the treadmill of achievement and approval.

When Jesus is your life and your hope, he frees you to back off. You don’t have to be so driven. You don’t have to perform to win his love. Everything that needed to be done to put your life back together and bring you into God’s family has been done through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, his cross, his resurrection.

And what remains is for you to ‘live up to’, or ‘live into’, or ‘live out’ what he has given. That’s what Paul became so passionate about.

“…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4, NIV)

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God…” (Colossians 3:1–2, NIV)

Paul put it in the language of attaining to the resurrection of the dead.

“I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11, NIV)

“Attaining to the resurrection” does not only mean ‘get raised up when Jesus returns’. It also means to live his new life now. To bring Jesus’ reality into your reality here. It means bringing his new life, his new creation, to expression today (see 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:1-4)

Fathers, Jesus says, “I have freed you from the treadmill. And I free you to concentrate on the things that really matter.”

Following Jesus always means a radically changed life. In the next chapter of this letter to the Philippian church, Paul shows how this impacts in a situation where two people have had a long standing disagreement. They are urged to be of one mind. The reason? When people come under Jesus’ rule, it impacts on their relationships. All aspects of their life, in fact.

We could say when a father comes under Jesus rule, he stops trying to earn affirmation and acceptance, from God and others, by his own achievements. He accepts what Jesus has achieved on the cross, and his resurrection impacts everything. That got to impact relationships, right?

What matters is you living Jesus’ life and showing Jesus’ love to your children.

In another letter, Ephesians, this is more pronounced. Following Jesus revolutionises husband and wife relationships. Children & parent relationships. Fathers and children. Slaves and masters, we might say employers and employees.

Fathers: our children will remember us more for our time and our love than our money or the things we might give. Social pedigree is not worth it. Abs are overrated. Toys are no big deal. What matters is you living Jesus’ life and showing Jesus’ love to your children.

Think of some key areas where Jesus’ transformation could be seen in your life and relationships.

Time: Why not plan some Dad’s dates with your daughter? Or a boy’s night with your son? It doesn’t really matter how old they are. I was speaking recently with a middle aged father who just recently took his adult daughter out for a date night and some one-on-one. His eyes lit up as he told be how great it was. It was so meaningful for his daughter that she cried a little while they were talking that evening.

Faith: Tell your children why Jesus matters to you. Tell them why you love his grace and forgiveness. Tell them about the difference he makes in your life. Remember: they’ll know the truth of your words by how you live. You can’t fake this stuff. So don’t only say it, show them that following Jesus is the most natural way to live.

Community: We have a lot of fathers here: why doesn’t someone start a Dad’s ministry? Something fathers can do with their children or their families? Get the 4WD out in the bush for a weekend, go camping together, sit around an open fire. Get some intentional discussion and sharing happening. Tell stories about what it was like growing up. There are some great ideas a The Fathering Project website.

Ask honest questions: Fathers, we know how easy it is to focus on our tasks and let meaningful relationships slide a little. So from time to time ask your spouse ‘How can I be a better father? What do I need to change? Am I working too hard?’ Ask them to tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. Then, ask God to help you make the changes you need to make in the power of his risen Son.

The day will come for all of us when we will look back over our lives and review the choices we have made. Very few fathers will say ‘boy, I was glad I bought that bigger boat’ or ‘I’m so happy I worked all that overtime’.

The most meaningful memories will be how we built lasting relationships with our children, and how we were able to show them something of a life transformed by the love and grace of Jesus.

Spend some time in prayer asking God to empower you to make decisions that will reflect the kingdom of Jesus. Ask him to help you off the treadmill. Ask him for the passion to value the affirmation of being loved and forgiven by Jesus more than the culturally defined acceptance based on wealth, status and material possessions.

[During the month of September we’re taking a break from The Relationship Challenge. A few local events, as well as Father’s Day, meant the teaching program would have suffered too many interruptions. We will come back to The Relationship Challenge in October – DG]

The Myth of Mr/Ms Right – The Relationship Challenge #2 (Group Questions)

Discussion Questions

Intro:

Did you/Do you ever dream of Mr/Ms Right? Describe this person to your group.

Lawrence Crabb describes the desire for someone to meet all my needs as parasitic. Do you agree with his assessment? Why/Why not?

Read:

Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2 and Ephesians 5:21-27

Ephesians 4:29 says our word should be directed to the needs of the other. In Philippians 2:3-4 we are called to value others above ourselves.

  • On what basis are these commands given?
  • To what extent is this call realistic for relationships?
  • If you are a Christian, how has this worked in your life and relationships?

Does Jesus really demand that you be prepared to do all the bending?

  • What responsibilities belong to other person then?
  • Is there a point where you say, “I’ll go this far, and no further”?
  • Tim Keller writes, “All Christians who really understand the Gospel undergo a radical change in the way they relate to people.”

  • What has enabled this change in your life?
  • What still needs to happen for this change to come to greater expression in your life?
  • How could your church community better support people seeking to make these changes in their relationships, marriages, and families?
  • Sex – The Relationship Challenge – Group Questions

    What do you think are the biggest challenges facing a healthy view of relationships today?

    What evidence have you observed that our culture is obsessed with sex?

    For the men in your group: how do you respond to the research that says frequent exposure to pornography actually makes changes to the way the brain functions?

    For the women in your group: how do you feel about the frequent sexualisation of women in advertising?

    Sex was part of God’s perfect creation (Gen 2:22-25). What do you think is expressed in the words “they felt no shame”? What would sexual relationships look like if they knew no shame today?

    Read Ephesians 5:1-20

    What do you think Paul means when he says ‘there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality’ named among God’s people?

    Is this saying that people in the church have a right to pass judgement on your behaviour? In what ways is your behaviour and attitudes subject to the leadership of your church, of other Christians? Find bible passages to support your answer.

    Christian author Tim Stafford argues that previous sexual partners come like ‘ghosts’ into one’s current relationship. What do you think about this? Is there any biblical justification for this understanding?

    Read 1 Thess 4:3-4, and discuss what ‘holy and honourable’ Christian sexuality might look like? You may wish to consult 1 Cor 6:18-20

    Given the discussion you have had, what changes might be needed in your view of relationships? What might the church need to do to help us express the ‘new creation’ of restored Christian sexuality?

    Restoration – Foundations #7 (Group Questions)

    Group discussion questions

    Opener: What is the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘heaven’?

    Read: Rev 21:1-8; Rev 22:1-5

    How does this biblical vision of the new heavens and the new earth challenge what people typically think about heaven?

    What are some of the factors that might make thinking about heaven difficult for us?

    Read Isaiah 60

    What impresses you most about Isaiah’s vision of God’s restored universe?

    How literally should we take the picture Isaiah presents?

    Does this comfort you or challenge you?

    How might the restoration Jesus will bring influence our church’s mission or their engagement with their local community?

    With your group: some time dreaming about this restoration, and asking God to impress his vision on your hearts.

    Mission (Foundations #6) – Group Questions

    Discussion Questions relevant to Foundations #6 – Mission

    Starters: What is the first thing you think about when you hear the word “mission”?

    Read: Isaiah 42:6, Matthew 28:16-20

    What do you think about the assertion that all efforts of every Church should serve the mission of God?

    “It is not the people of God who have a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a people in the world” [Martin Robinson]

    Read Exodus 19:3-6 and 1 Peter 2:9-12, and discuss “God has always been focussed on his mission.”

    The mission God has given to the church has two components: announce the good news, and anticipate the new good. Which component receives more attention in your church? Should this be corrected? If so, what would need to happen?

    What aspects of life in your local community would benefit most from Christians announcing God’s good news and anticipating God’s new good more effectively?

    What concrete steps can your group take to bring these things to expression?

    Repentance (Foundations #5) – How God brings change in his world – Group Questions

    Opening:

    What do you think the people of your local culture understand by the word “repent’?

    What do you think the people of your local church community understand by the word “repent’?

    What conclusion do you draw from any differences there might be?

    Read: Colossians 3:1-17

    If you were to choose one verse from this passage to illustrate repentance, which one would it be, and why?

    James I Packer defines repentance as “changing one’s mind so that one’s views, values, goals, and ways are changed and one’s whole life is lived differently”. How does this definition challenge the popular notion of repentance in your church community?

    Discuss together: who are the best models of healthy repentance you have observed? What is it about their example that impresses you?

    How would you help and encourage someone who was struggling with God’s call to change?

    What sort of personal daily disciplines would help us develop healthy expressions of repentance? Discuss together which of these behaviour you would like to try in the coming week.