Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Soli Deo Gloria (Romans 11:33-36)

Summary: In recognition of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, our Sola preaching series has considered the heart of the Gospel, as it was summarized by the Reformers: that we believe that Scripture alone announces the living God saves us by His grace alone, on the basis of Christ's finished work alone, which is received by faith alone, to the glory of God alone.

1> Ryan used the post-game interview as an example of de-mystifying and de-spiritualizing the idea of glorifying God in all of life. What is your reaction when you hear an athlete give glory to God after a game? Why do you respond that way?

2> Paul affirms that because all things are from, through, and to God, all things are potential doxological triggers. What are your doxological triggers (Ryan defined doxological triggers as those experiences in life that move us to give glory to another)? Share a story when some experience 'triggered' your worship of God.

3> The context of this passage suggests that nothing should trigger our worship of God like the wonders of our redemption through Christ Jesus. Do you find this to be true in your life? What are some practical steps you can take to meditate more deeply on your redemption by Jesus?

4> Fredrick Blechner defined vocation as the 'place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.' How does that definition help us understand our vocation as doxology? How might that shape your attitude toward your stations in life (in a family, in a neighborhood, in a profession)?

5> In your own words, what questions does Paul ask in verses 34 and 35? Why are these helpful questions to stoke our doxology? Has there been a time in your life when your questions -- or maybe even your disappointment -- fueled your worship? Share it with the group.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Christ Alone: Sermon Discussion Questions 11.12.17

Read Romans 8:1-4 (aka 'the best news you've ever heard!').

1. What is the difference between good advice and good news? Why do we need good news more than good advice when it comes to our guilt and our shame?

2. Why does Paul refer to God's moral Law as the 'law of sin and death' in verse 2? What does it mean that we have been 'set free' from the 'law of sin and death?' How have we been set free, according to verse 2?

3. Martin Luther claimed that the 'whole Gospel is outside of us!' What does that mean and why is that good news? How might Luther's quote help us understand verse 3?

4. What is the significance of Paul's explanation that God sent His own Son 'in the likeness of sinful flesh?' (Hint: What misunderstandings about Jesus might we believe if Paul had said 'in sinful flesh' or 'in the likeness of flesh'?)

5. God condemned sin in Jesus' flesh (v. 3) so that we might live without condemnation (v. 4). What are some practical ways this encourages our Christian walk?

6. If there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less, why motivation do we have to obey God? Use verse 4 to answer this question. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

11.5.17 Sermon discussion: Faith Alone

"Faith Alone" (Romans 3:21-28)
Dr. Ligon Duncan

1) What does Paul mean by 'the righteousness of God' in verse 21? Why is this good news?

2) Why is it easier for us to rely on our works-righteousness rather than Christ's righteousness received by faith? Share the specific 'works' you tend to rest on for your righteousness before God (maybe overtly spiritual works, like reading your Bible, or less so, like raising good kids or avoiding certain sins). Note: This can be a hard question for people to answer without much reflection, so here are some diagnostic questions that might help (from David Fairchild, "Gospel Diagnostics"):

  • What do I rely on to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult? 
  • I have hope because I'm _______.
  • I feel worthy because I'm _________. 
  • (In light of Romans 3:27): When I'm feeling insignificant in the eyes of others (or my own eyes), I boast about ______________. 
3) One Puritan pastor confessed that he needs to 'repent of his repentance.' In light of this passage, what do you think he means by that? 

4) Explain how God both the 'just and the justifier' for those who have faith in Jesus? (Romans 3:26). Why is that encouraging for you to ponder today? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sermon Discussion: Oct 29, 2017 SOLA SCRIPTURA

Sola Scriptura
2 Timothy 3:14-17
Oct. 29, 2017

Intro: The five 'solas' summarized the theological convictions that informed the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) claims that the Bible is the final, decisive authority on truth.

1) Ryan suggested that we might be Sola Scriptura in theory but Shallow Scriptura in practice. Do you agree? Why or why not? What are some symptoms of living as a Shallow Scriptura Christian?

2) Why is the Catholic Church opposed to Sola Scriptura, in principle? [Hint: in addition to Scripture, what else does the Catholic Church believe is authoritative?] Why is this problematic for Protestants?

3) One of the reasons Catholics give for opposing Sola Scriptura is the fact that there is sometimes interpretive anarchy within the Protestant ranks. In other words, Protestants come to very different conclusions from the same biblical passages. Is this a legitimate concern? Why or why not?

4) In what ways has your interpretation of the Bible been positively shaped by Christian community as well as Christian tradition? [Hint: define Christian tradition as historic creeds and confessions]

5) Brainstorm on some practical ways you can feast on the Word through public proclamation (preaching) and private meditation (devotions). What is your one take-away from this brainstorming session to help you maintain a healthy diet of the Bible in your life? 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sermon Discussion: Matthew 20:1-16 (Sept. 29, 2017)

Matthew 20:1-16
Sept. 29, 2017
"The Kingdom of Heaven is Bad Business"

1. Re-read Matthew 20:1-16. What details stand out to you?

2. Why do you think the vineyard owner makes five separate trips to the market to hire workers? What evidence from this story supports your answer?

3. Do you sympathize with the 12-hour workers' complaint in verse 12? Why?

4. What difference would it make to think of yourself as a 5:00 pm person, rather than a 6:00 am person? Why is this difficult to accomplish?

5. Ryan claimed that the Kingdom of heaven is only good news when we realize that it is bad business. What do you think he meant by that? Do you agree? 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sermon Discussion Questions (9/10/17): Matthew 13:31-33

Matthew 13:31-33
Too Small to Fail

1) Re-read the passage together (don't worry; it's short!). What details do you notice that perhaps you've never noticed before?

2) In his sermon, Ryan claimed that it's easy for us to reduce our sense of significance to our success, our popularity, or our social status. What is it in our culture that aids this "seductive reduction?" How do these parables combat these falsehoods?

3) Are there aspects of your life right now that make you feel particularly ordinary or small or hidden? (Maybe it's a challenging family relationship, a dull job, an aching body, or disappearing joy). How do Jesus' parables provide a different perspective this season of life?

4) Can you think of examples of God using something small to make an extraordinary difference in your own life, for the sake of the kingdom? (Perhaps someone's simple act of love or kindness, a parents' faithfulness, etc.)  Be specific. Share stories of God's sprouting kingdom.

5) What are specific ways God is calling you to ordinary faithfulness to Jesus? What challenges do you face in seeking to do so? Ask for prayer from the group for at least one of those challenges -- and then pray together before you close your time.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ezekiel 47:1-12: The River of Life

1. Reread the passage.

2. To understand the context, trace the visions regarding the Temple through the book of Ezekiel. What's happening in the temple early in the book? What significant thing happens in chapter 10? What happens in chapters 32-33? What surprising thing happens in chapter 43? Why is it surprising and what might it mean?

3. Describe the scene of chapter 47 in your own words, what's happening in the vision?

4. How might this vision of abundant life humiliate the exiles? How might this vision excite the exiles? Might we feel the same way at times?

5. What does this vision point back to and point forward to? Can you explain this using the "Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration" framework?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ezekiel 37:1-14: True Life

1. Reread the passage.

2. Restate the story in your own words paying close attention to the setting, the descriptive words (auditory and visual words), as well as the genre. In what state does Ezekiel find the bones?

3. How does the historical context speak directly to this miraculous story?

4. What restores the dry bones and what gives the renewed bodies life? (see also Gen. 1:3; Isa. 55:10-11; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Heb. 4:12-13)

5. Does the Word of God still have this kind of power? If so, what examples might you give? Were there dry places in your life that were renewed by the Word of God? Are there dry place in your life now that need to be brought back to life?

6. How can you breath in the life giving power of the Word of God more today than you did yesterday?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ezekiel 34: True Shepherds

1. Reread Ezekiel 34

2. What characterizes the bad shepherds in verses 1-10? How is Ezekiel condemning them?

3. What does self-centered leadership lead to? What are its effects and ramifications?

4. How is David coming back to serve the people? Connect some dots in the scripture between this good shepherd promise Jesus.

5. In what ways do you know Jesus as a good shepherd?

6. What are some new ways you can reflect the shepherding heart of Christ in specific actions?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ezekiel 27: True Sadness

1. Reread Ezekiel 27

2. Identify the context: how would you summarize the theme of chapters 1-32? What shifts in chapter 25 and continues to chapter 32?

3. How does Ezekiel deal with Tyre in chapter 26? Why does he deal with them in this way (Hint: 26:2)?

4. Why would Ezekiel waste his breath pronouncing a lamentation over Tyre when chapter 26 condemns them and chapter 28 judges them?

5. What is Ezekiel fascinated by in Tyre, seen in verses 1-25? What fascinates you about our world today?

6. Why does Tyre go down like a ship (verses 26-36)? Is this a tragedy for more than just the city of Tyre? Is it a tragedy for Ezekiel or for God?

7. Does sin make you weep? Are you seeing the tragic scenes around you or in you, or are you avoiding them? How can you break down the walls around you to really listen and see the tragic scenes of your friends, family, and neighbors?  

8. How has Christ grieved over the tragedy of sin and what has he done about it?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ezekiel 13: You're hearing voices

1. Reread Ezekiel 13

2. Explore the context of this passage: Why is God doing different signs and acts in chapter 12? What message does chapter 12 conclude with (v. 28)?

3. In chapter 13, what are the destructive/false voices saying? How are they harming the people of God (hint: three things)?

4. What false voices have harmed you? What false voices have you used or shared to harm others?

5. What is the true voice? How does the passage characterize the voice of truth (hint: two things)? Give verses and be specific.

6. Share specific stories of times where you clutched the voice of truth, which is found only in Jesus.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ezekiel 11:14-25 - Owner of a Lovely Heart

1. Reread the passage.

2. Name a few important notes on the context of this passage from previous sermons and from chapters 10-11. Why does it seem surprising that verses 14-25 appear here?

3. From the passage, where is God building a "new family"?

4. What is being redeemed by the "new family," both historically and spiritually?

5. What is the Hebrew concept of the heart, is it just the emotions of love and hate? What other passages in the Old Testament describe the need for a new heart?

6. Why do we need a new heart of flesh (v. 19)? Think in historical terms for both Israel and the church. Where are the needs of a new heart the same and different between Israel and the church?

7. How do we receive this new heart? Does this come in the time of Ezekiel, during Jesus' life, around the time of the early church, at the end of time, or all four?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ezekiel 6-10: Idolatry and the Broken Heart of God

Re-read chapters 6-10

1) Where are the visible (chapter 6) and invisible (chapter 8) idols in Israel?

2) From the passage, how does God approach the idolatry of Israel? Does he approach our idolatry in the same way?

3) Where have we fashioned substitutes for the God who loves us?

4) Why must the glory of the LORD leave the temple (chapter 10)?

5) What are a few of the replacements God is leading us towards? How have you experienced these?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ezekiel 4&5: Judgment

1) Like Ezekiel's exilic audience, we all tend to dismiss, or at least diminish, God's warnings about His righteous anger and judgment of sin. Do you agree? Why or why not?

2) Why do you think God would ask Ezekiel to communicate without the benefit of words? How do his theatrics amplify God's message?

3) If each act of Ezekiel's living parable begin with God's command to 'take', identify the three acts and explain what event each one represents.

4) In 5:5, God charges His people with not only moral failure but missional failure. What about 5:5 suggests they have failed in their mission to the world? Are there ways the Church today fails in similar ways?

5) Given the dire pronouncement in 5:8, what hope did God's people have that they might be spared from judgment? How can we be confident that we have been rescued from judgment? If we have been so rescued, how should we live accordingly? Be specific. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ezekiel 2:1–3:15: We are creatures first

Reread Ezekiel 2:1–3:15 and, if you are able, listen to the sermon again on the church website.

Describe the context of this vision as you move from chapter 1 into this passage. Who is the one calling the shots?

What are some of the ways the passage portrays Ezekiel as a character in the story of God?

What are some of the character traits we all share with Ezekiel? What are some character traits we do not share?

Whose message does Ezekiel carry and to whom does he carry it? How and where does the passage describe this?

How do we carry the message in the same way as Ezekiel? In what ways do we carry the message differently?

To whom do we carry the message of the gospel today?  

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ezekiel 1: Glory!

1. Ryan explained that the meaning of the vision is to show the LORD riding His royal chariot. What components of that scene do we find in this vision? Which ones were most compelling to you?

2. What is the message of this vision; in other words, what was God communicating to His people through it? Why was this an important message for them to grasp, given their circumstances?

3. How did Ezekiel respond to the vision? Why do you think he responded that way? Does his response teach us anything about our own?

4. In what ways does this vision encourage you?

5. In what ways does it challenge your view of God?