Thursday, March 29, 2012

Generosity [Nehemiah 5]

Sermon Discussion Questions
  • Ever since Adam and Eve's fall in the garden of Eden, we have been a people with a sin-sick tendency to be takers.  What things do you see around you (in our culture or otherwise) that reinforce our tendency to take?  These can be silly (Hungry, Hungry, Hippos!) or not.  Which ones in particular seem to be a temptation?
  • There were clearly systems in place during the time of Nehemiah that contributed to a huge disparity of wealth (to the point of the poor being taken advantage of) amongst God's people and the world at large.  Where do we see these in the text?  What kinds of systems can we identify today in our own context? Brainstorm what it may look like to engage these broken systems as followers of Christ.
  • Ryan pointed out how, "the one community that should be different is the one that has received great generosity." [paraphrase]  What passage did Ryan reference in talking about the reason for showing compassion to others?  Can you think of other passages in scripture that point to God's grace and compassion as the motivation to show generosity and compassion to others?  Why is this concept so important for us to understand?  Why does it seem that we have to keep re-learning this throughout our lives?
  • When was the last time you turned down a perk?  Are there things in your life that you could sacrifice for the sake of others?  As a group, brainstorm what sacrifices could be made as an individual or as a family.
  • What does it mean to leave someone in debt, from a relational perspective?  Have you seen yourself doing this?  Is there anyone with whom you are currently doing this?  
  • It seems that part of being generous means using your God-given gifts for the sake of others.  What God-given gifts do you have?  What does it look like for you to use your gifts, as ones who are called to serve as living sign-posts of the coming kingdom?

Monday, March 19, 2012

It Takes Courage [Nehemiah 4]

Sermon Discussion Questions
  • Every sphere of our life where we are called to live and to be compelling witnesses of God to the world is fraught with conflict.  As a group, discuss where you all feel and experience this conflict most pointedly.  What spheres are the hardest (Ryan used the word "soul-crushing") and why?
  • In the face of this conflict, do you stand or run away?  Even if you do stand, are you engaged?  In other words, what is your tendency towards dealing with conflict?  Fight?  Flight?  Passive aggressive?  All of the above?
  • Is it right for us to be angry when we or someone else experiences mockery?  What does it mean to you for God to take the mockery of his children very personally?  
  • How have you engaged in mockery of others?  Ryan mentioned that mockery flows from a sense of deep insecurity.  What might you be afraid of that leads you to mock or use unkind language towards others?
  • Verse 20 says "Our God will fight for us."  Verse 14 calls on us to "fight for [our] brothers, [our] sons, etc."  So which is it: God fights or we fight?  What does this say the way we should approach conflict and discouragement?  What sorts of actions accompany a call to "life by faith" in the midst of conflict?
  • To what (or rather, to whom) were we encouraged to look back to for courage?  Why is this so important as we face discouragement and conflict in our lives?  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Paul's Strategy for World Missions [2 Corinthians 5:17-21]

Sermon Discussion Questions
  • Jesus was crucified for crimes and sins that he didn't commit.   The God-man was put to death an innocent man.  Does this shock you?  Does it leave you dumbfounded?  Why/why not?  How can we cultivate a sense of holy awe and wonder at this reality?
  • John Piper [see quote on p.3 of bulletin] said, "You can't commend what you don't cherish!"  Why is cultivating holy awe and and wonder of the Gospel important in God's mission?  How might growth in cherishing Christ change the way you think about participating in God's mission?
  • How has God gifted you?  How do you sense the Lord has called you to use those gifts in participating in his mission?  Do you have gifts that you aren't using?  Brainstorm ways in which you can more faithfully utilize given to you by God's grace.
  • Read Greg Thompson's quote in the bulletin [again, page 3].  What's your initial reaction?  Greg describes tendencies of churches to be places of Fortification, Accommodation, or Domination.    What do you think these mean?  Personally, which of these might be your tendency?  Why?  What about our church?  Why?  What does/would it look like for us to be an "Incarnational Church", both as individuals and as the corporate body?   

Monday, March 5, 2012

All Hands on Deck [Nehemiah 3]

Sermon Discussion Questions
  • What did Penny say comes to mind for most of us when we think about leadership?  Brainstorm ways our society affirms the model of hero leadership.    
  • The list of names in Nehemiah 3 indicates God's concern in valuing all sorts and kinds of people.  What sorts of people are undervalued in our society?  In our families?  In our churches?  Who in your life might you be currently struggling to value?
  • What's really going on when we undervalue people?  In what way are we objectifying people rather than treating them as image bearers?
  • Penny noted how even a perfume maker made it to the work site of rebuilding the wall!  What does this communicate about the way in which God uses his people?  Why is working together and valuing each other's gifts so difficult, even in the church?
  • For whom are we ultimately working?  Where do we find this in Nehemiah 3?  How should the Israelite's example in this passage change the way that we go about our work?  What steps could you implement to make that happen?