Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Isaiah 9:1-7. Grace for the Gloomy.

Discussion Question - Isaiah 9:1-7. Grace for the Gloomy.

1. Isaiah 9 presents a very gloomy world. It is not only a world in darkness (v. 2), but also a world where there is visible oppression (v. 4) and violence (v. 5). Is our world different? Why or why not?

2. Isaiah gives us permission to see that things are not the way they are supposed to be. However, there can be pressure to hide our brokenness and shy away from the gloom in the world. What are some of the ways that you have done this? 

3. Read Isaiah 9:2. What does Isaiah tell us will happen to this world in gloom? Who are the recipients of these promises?

4. Estonian artist Mati Karmin’s specialty is known for making unique furniture out of recycled naval mines. One of his pieces is a naval mine that has been recycled into a baby carriage. What are the connections between what Karmin has done and what Isaiah tells us will happen in the end of verses 4 and 5? Compare with Isaiah 2:4.

5. Isaiah envisions the day where there will be no more darkness, oppression, and violence. Instead there will be light, freedom, and peace. How does the season of Advent remind you of this?

6. Jesus is pushing through the world of gloom. He has planted the Garden of His Kingdom in this gloomy world and it has already begun to bloom. As we celebrate Advent, what hope does that give you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Discussion Questions -- 3 John: Truth and Love

1. John is writing to a friend, Gaius, who is stuck in the middle of a church conflict led by Diotrephes, who doesn't respect John's authority. When you have found yourself stuck in similar situations, what has encouraged you the most? How does John encourage Gauis? [Hint: see verses 2 and 3]

2. Why are truth AND love both important to be a good encourager? 

3. Max DePree who said that  “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you.” How do we see John doing this? What are some practical ways you can become a better encourager in the same way?

4. In verse 9, John tells us that Diotrephes 'likes to put himself first.' Why is this such a destructive attitude? 

5. John Stott wrote about Diotrephes that "self-love vitiates all relationships." Do you agree? Why or why not? How can we overcome self-love to build each other up?

6. What is John's strategy for confronting Diotrephes? What do you notice him doing? 

7. John certainly remembered Jesus saying things like: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In what ways do you hear these teachings echoed in John's own thoughts in verse 11? Are the specific situations right now that you need to apply that same teaching? 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

John 21:15-25: Restoring Peter

John 21:15-25
Nov. 11, 2018

1. The context of Jesus' conversation with Peter is a meal (see verse 12 and 15). What is the significance of Jesus eating with Peter? How might this perspective inform our own meals with one another?

2. What is the significance of Jesus asking Peter (essentially) the same question three times, as well as charging him three times?

3. We often plan extensively for the future. What are the pros and cons of planning for the future? How does Jesus' command in verse 19 help us plan faithfully?

4. Jesus demonstrates that He pursues us relentlessly to restore us, not to reject us or lecture us. Why is this sometimes difficult for us to accept? What are the implications for our relationships with others? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

John 21:1-14. A Touch of Wildness. 11/4/18 Discussion Questions

1. In 1940, Evelyn Underhill advised C.S. Lewis, "Perhaps what it all comes to us this, that I feel your concept of God would be improved by just a touch of wildness." Do you think this is true of all of us? Why or why not?

2. Read Luke 5:1-10 and compare that account with this one. What is the same? What is different? Why might Jesus have echoed that original call at this moment in His disciples' lives?

3. What caused Peter to jump in the water? How does that challenge our own response to Jesus?

4. What might be some reasons the disciples are questioning Jesus' identity now?

5. What did you learn about Jesus in this passage? What did you learn about following Jesus? What is one practical take-away from your discussion? 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Peace of the Resurrection (John 20:19-31) 10/28/18

Discussion Questions
Peace of the Resurrection
John 20:19-31

1. What does verse 19 tell you about the disciples' state of mind that first Easter evening? Are there fears, anxieties and worries that you are presently struggling with yourself? To put it another way, are there circumstances in your life that have you longing for peace?

2. It is significant that Jesus declares, "Peace be to you" three times in this passage and, in every case, delivers that message in the flesh -- the resurrected flesh, as it were. What are the reasons Jesus insisted on the disciples inspecting Jesus's Body? [Some possible answers: (1) to verify it was really Him (2) to demonstrate the resurrection really happened (not just in their heads) and (3) to display the fruits of His shared victory (over sin and death).

3. Perhaps Jesus picks an odd time to commission His disciples (verse 21-22). But what does His commissioning say about our own purpose in life? How does understanding ourselves as Spirit-sent followers of Jesus make a difference in how we approach our daily schedules?

4. If your group is interested in watching the Forrest Gump opening scene, here it is: What questions do you think the director is raising with this opening sequence with the feather on the wind? How does Jesus answer that question in verses 21-23?

5. Thomas' interaction with Jesus often focuses on Thomas' doubts. But we could also focus on Jesus' kindness and grace to take up Thomas' questions and answer them definitively. How does this whole passage (24-31) encourage you with your own doubts and questions about Jesus? 

Friday, October 26, 2018

John 20:1-18: In the Garden: The Sequel

1. What are the ways that Jesus’s followers respond when they find that Jesus is not in the tomb?

2. The first one at the empty tomb is Mary Magdalene? What is so significant about her being the first witness to the empty tomb and the resurrection?

3. Mary, Peter, & John all bring their curiosity, their fear, their confusion, maybe even their doubt to the tomb, and they investigate, they look into the empty tomb. They examine the evidence, they take everything into the tomb to confront the linen cloths, the face cloth, the emptiness of the tomb. What fears, confusions, doubts do you wrestle with? Have you brought those doubts to the empty tomb and to the resurrected Jesus?

4. The disciples returned home, but Mary stood weeping at the tomb. She brings her disappointment, her hopelessness, her tears to the tomb as well. Frederick Buechner says this about tears:

“You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. Almost any movie made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.

They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.”

Mary brings her tears to the tomb. What disappointments, dashed hopes, and tears plague you? Have you kept them to yourself or brought those things to the empty tomb and to the resurrected Lord?

5. What causes Mary to finally recognize Jesus? What does this tell us about who Jesus is and who Mary is in light of John 10:1-18?

6. Finally, Jesus gives marching orders at the empty tomb, a miniature great commission in 20:17b, and Mary obeys. What are the elements of Jesus’s marching orders to Mary? How are those marching orders the same for you as a follower of Christ? How are they different?

7. Remembering that the creation story and the fall take place in the context of a garden, what is John hinting at as he points out that Jesus is resurrected in a garden. On what day of the week is Jesus resurrected?

John 19:31-42: Death, Truth, and the Meaning of it All

1.The scriptures are clear that Jesus came in the flesh (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-4) and that he died a real death. What makes his real death certain to the soldiers and all who were there? (vv. 32-34)

2. That Jesus suffered and died a real human death is something that John (“He who saw it”in verse 35) wants to make sure that we know. What comfort do you find in knowing that Jesus died a real death?

3. John not only wants us to know that these things actually happened, but he also wants us to know the significance of why they happened. He says that “these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled.” How do the two passages he quotes—the first one from Exodus 12:46/Numbers 9:12/Psalm 34:20, and the second one—from Zechariah 12:10, including the section up through Zechariah 13:1) shed light on the significance of the death of Jesus? What is John saying the crucifixion of Jesus means? (vv. 35-37)

4. Joseph and Nicodemus both exhibit fear and are somewhat secretive about identifying with Jesus (for Nicodemus see also John 3:1ff, and John 7:50). Is it a challenge for you to publicly identify with Jesus? If so, what makes it challenging? Have you also been fearful to identify with Jesus? In what ways are your fears similar to Joseph & Nicodemus’s fears, and in what ways are they quite different from your fears? (vv. 38-39)

5. Nicodemus brings spices - myrrh and aloes - to anoint the body of Jesus for burial. Myrrh reminds us of one of the gift brought to Jesus when he was a baby, a gift from the magi that was fit for a king. Likewise the amount of myrrh and aloes (75 lbs) was suggestive of the kingly character of Jesus. Look at the following three references to myrrh and aloes: Ps. 45:8; Prov. 7:17; Song 4:14. Is there any other possible hint about the significance of anointing the body of Jesus with myrrh and aloes?

6. Is there anything significant about the fact that the tomb of Jesus is in a garden? (vv 41-42)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

John 19:28-30: It Is Finished

1. As you read these verses, what stands out to you?

2. Jesus says, "I thirst" in verse 28. What are the implications of that statement? Regarding his humanity? His determination to do His Father's will?

3. All of us live with regret because we fail to do everything God has commanded us to do. How do Jesus' words, "It is finished" comfort us in our regret?

4. Charles Hodge said of Jesus' words, "It is finished": “This is why the believer, when arrayed in this righteousness, need fear neither death nor hell. This is the reason why Paul challenges the universe to lay anything to the charge of God's elect.” Discuss this statement. 

5. Ryan mentioned that hyssop (v. 29) is often used in the Old Testament to symbolize cleansing. See Psalm 51:7 and Exodus 12:22. What significance, then, does the hyssop branch have here in the Gospel of John? 

6. What clues does John give us in these verses that, on the cross, Jesus conquered His enemies and won a great victory? Why is that important for us to remember? How does that inform how we live our lives? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

John 19:1-16 :: The Trouble with Being Switzerland

1. Why do we insist on keeping our options open? In relationships? In religious convictions?

2. List the ways Pilate tried to keep his options open when it came to Jesus? Why didn't it work? If Pilate believed Jesus was innocent (see 18:38, 19:4, 19:6), why didn't he release Him?

3. Pilate invites us to "Behold the man!" What were his intentions with this statement? What hidden significance might John see in it (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-26)?

4. Look up the painting "What is Truth?" by Nikolai ( and discuss how the artist interprets Jesus' silence. In other words, what is Jesus saying with His silence in verse 9? How does it relate to Isaiah 53:7ff?

5. Was Jesus truly a threat to the Roman Empire (v. 12)? How? Is He a threat to the authorities of our own day? How? How does your answer inform your Christian life? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

John 12:27-50: A Final Appeal (Discussion Questions)

John 12:27-50: A Final Appeal
preached June 12, 2018

Discussion Questions

1) What do you think of the term "people of faith," as it is used by media outlets? Is it helpful? Why or why not?

2) The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines faith in Jesus as "a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the gospel." What stands out to you in this definition? How does it help us grasp what Jesus means in this passage by His call for us to "believe in Him?"

3) What is the difference between having faith in our faith and having faith in Jesus?

4) What evidence do we have in this passage that God must open our eyes to believe? Put another way, what are the crowds NOT able to see?

5) Bertrand Russell famous said that he would have to say to God, on Judgment Day, "I'm sorry but you haven't given us enough evidence." How is the response of the crowd similar to this comment? What does that say about the nature of unbelief?

6) How does this passage challenge us to live by faith in Jesus? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fit for a King :: John 12:12-26 :: June 10, 2018

John 12:26-26 -- Discussion Questions

1) Jesus displays Himself as a King by accepting the praises of the people outside Jerusalem. What is the significance of the palms? And the songs? Why is it so incredible that Jesus does not shut down this parade?

2) At the same time, Jesus corrects the peoples' misunderstandings about His Kingship. Discuss what the following decisions say about Jesus' Kingship:

  • Jesus' decision to ride a donkey
  • Jesus' reception of the Greek Gentiles 
  • Jesus' discussion of His death (24)
3) Jesus spells out how our lives should reflect the sort of King we serve, instructing us in verse 25 to live a life of self-denial. What's the difference between hating yourself and humbling yourself? Between self-loathing and self-denial? How do we live this out in our daily lives? Give some specific examples.

4) Jesus also promises that He bestows true honor to those who follow Him: verse 26. Compare and contrast the honor that we try to "grasp" with the honor that can only be "given." Why is the Father's honor so much better? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

John 12:1-11 :: Worth It All :: Discussion Questions

1. Consider each person mentioned as attending this party: Martha, Lazarus, Judas, and Mary. Who do you identify with? Why?

2. What is your prized possession? How much is it worth to you? Can you sympathize with Judas, who rebuked Mary for spending her prized possession on Jesus?

3. Name some of the things that made Mary undignified at the party: what did she do that broke cultural barriers and protocols? Speculate on why did it (the text only gives us clues but no direct answers to that question).

4. Judas says that the perfume was worth 1 years wage -- that's beaucoup bucks! Are there times you are faced with a similar decision about how to invest your money for the kingdom? How does Mary's example help you make that decision?

5. Should Christians care about the poor? Does Jesus contradict or confirm your answer when he insists that "the poor will always be with you?"

6. Ryan said that before we can answer the question, "What is Jesus worth to you?" we must answer the question, "What are you worth to Him?" How does Mary help us answer that second question? Why does that answer help us answer the first? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

John 10: Discussion Questions (5/13/18)

John 10: Discussion Questions (5/13/18)

Begin by re-reading John 10. Then read Psalm 23. What similarities do you see between the two expressions of God as our Shepherd? What differences?

1) In verse 3, Jesus insists that a good shepherd knows his sheep 'by name.' How does this comfort or encourage you today -- knowing that Jesus knows you by name?

2) Jesus says in verse 12 that He protects us from harm: what harm is He talking about? What 'wolves' does He protect us from? How?

3) Jesus is encouraging us to continue to run to Him for protection. One way to do that is to follow the example of Martin Luther, who once said, "So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!'” In what way is this line of thinking 'running to Jesus for protection?" Protection from what? What are some ways we try to protect ourselves? 

4) In verse 16, Jesus declares that He has "other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also." Who is He talking about? Why does that matter? (Romans 11:25-36 might be a helpful cross-reference). 

5) As you close in prayer, share with each other if there are particular matters you need the Lord to shepherd you through. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

John 9: Staying Awake

John 9 Discussion Questions
May 6, 2018

Thanks for discussing (or simply meditating on) the sermon.

1) Start by reading John 9.

  • If you want to view a wonderful dramatic reading of John 8 and 9, see this one by Bruce Kuhn (by the way, I was a 20-year college student in the audience at Urbana '93 and I still remember seeing this for the first time):
  • What words or phrases impressed you when you read or heard this passage again? 
2) Ryan said that only Jesus can wake us up to the most important things in life by opening our eyes so that we can see. When was the first time you "saw" Jesus? How did that happen? What difference did that make in your life?

3) What is the significance of verse 1: "Jesus saw a man..." What does that suggest about how we ought to see one another? What are the challenges to seeing others like Jesus?

4) John Newton is partially responsible for making verse 25 famous as shorthand for every one of our testimonies. What makes it such a wonderful way to describe what Jesus does for each of us? Is there someone you need to share your testimony with in the same way: clearly and courageously? Who is it? If you have time, pray for that person or those persons right now -- that God would open their spiritual eyes to Jesus. 

5) What lesson do we learn about Jesus from verse 1 and verse 35? Is that comforting to you today? Why?

6) Spend some time thanking God for opening your eyes, mouth, and heart. And ask Him to help you see and share Jesus more faithfully, according to His grace. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

John 8:31-59: True Freedom

True Freedom
John 8:31-59
April 29, 2018

1. In his book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah argues that freedom is the most deeply held, most resonant American value -- but it is a freedom that can be defined as "leave me alone!" Do you agree with Bellah? Are there ways that common misconception of freedom shapes our own understanding of true freedom?

2. In 8:31-32, Jesus insists that true freedom is only possible for those who make Him their Master. Why was this so offensive to the crowds? Why is it difficult to accept as well?

3. In 8:34-36, Jesus tells us that He sets us free from the slavery of sin. How is sin a form of slavery? What does it mean that Jesus, the Son of God, has freed us from our sin?

4. In what ways do the Jews in the crowd insult Jesus?

5. What has Jesus saved us for? Why is this such an essential ingredient of true freedom?

6. Are you 'hearing the words of God' (v. 47)? Are you giving them your full attention? What about when those words clash with your desires, and your dreams, and even your expectations? Like when God’s words about generosity challenge your selfish spending habits? And when God’s words about envy shine a spotlight on your jealously over our friend’s success? And when God’s words about sex condemn your lust or His words about marriage interrogate your relationship with a non-Christian?

7. Why were the Jews so infuriated by what Jesus says in verse 58? What is Jesus saying with these words? How should we respond? 

8. What is one take-away for you from this passage? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

John 5:19-29: Honor the Son

John 5:19-29  Honor the Son” (courtesy Jeff Klinger)

1.     Review from last week:  Why were the Jews “upset” after Jesus healed the man who was lying by the pool of Bethesda?
2.     What part of Jesus’ teaching particularly impressed Leo Tolstoy?  What action did Tolstoy take to honor Jesus’ teaching?  What evidence did Ryan give that made him think that Tolstoy honored Jesus’ teaching but did not honor Jesus, the Person?
3.     Is it possible that you as an evangelical Reformed Christian live by a coherent world view and moral framework to live and raise your children but do not honor Jesus, the Person?  What can you do about it?
4.     In what two ways do we see Jesus joining and enjoying his relationship with the Father?
5.     Ryan used his imagination to flesh out how Jesus might have reminisced about growing up with his “earthly father” Joseph.  Where did they work and what might have that been like?
6.     Jesus love for the Father drew him into the family business, Kingdom business.  What ultimately did that mean for Jesus?
7.     Where in the first chapter of John does it say that you become part of God’s family?
8.     Trivia.  Hopkins says that Christ plays in _________ (how many places)?
9.     From this passage Ryan said that Jesus receives two things from his role from the Father:  what are they?
      The Jews of Jesus’ day were correct in their understanding that there would be a final judgment, but they had one important thing wrong! What was it?
      What claim does Jesus make about himself in John 5: 21, 25 -26?

      What title from Daniel 7:9 does Jesus use for himself when confronting the Jews?  What can be understood from that title?

      Jesus will be the judge. You will receive life or judgment.  Is there a third option?

      What two kinds of people will come out of the tombs when they hear Jesus’ voice? Verse 29

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

John 5:1-18: Hanging Around Betheda

1. Re-read John 5:1-18. Is there one detail that jumps out as significant? Why?

2. When Ryan suggested we are 'all hanging around Bethesda,' what did he mean? What 'pools' in our society promise healing that fail to deliver on the promise? Are there specific ones you often run to when you need to find healing?

3. Jesus tells us that our biggest problem is sin (verse 14). Are there problems in our lives that often seem much bigger? More threatening? Why is it comforting to remember that Jesus has taken care of our biggest problem ?

4. Why were the Jews furious at Jesus? What did He say and do that offended them?

5. The Irish poet, Thomas Moore, suffered from a multitude of problems throughout his life: he lost his fortune through mismanagement; he lost all five of his children to disease; and he lost his physical and mental abilities due to a stroke late in life.  His best-known hymn contains these words:

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel:
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish:
Earth has no sorrows that heav’n cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, in mercy saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.”

How do these words shed light on the meaning of this passage? 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

John 4:1-26: A Master Class on Grace (February 19, 2018) -- discussion questions

John 4:1-26
Discussion Questions

1. What do we learn from Jesus about grace in this passage?

2. How does God's grace lead us to refuse the recognition we believe we deserve? Give an example of how grace might compel us to refuse the rights we believe we deserve? Within a marriage? In the workplace? 

3. What cultural lines does Jesus cross in this encounter? Are there similar lines in our own culture (even our Christian sub-culture) that we should cross for the sake of grace? 

4. Why is it so difficult to cross lines for the sake of grace and, at the same, draw lines for the sake of moral clarity? Can both be done for the good of the person we are talking to? How? 

5. Francis Schaeffer once wrote: “We should not be surprised when someone demonstrates he is a sinner because, after all, we know that all of us are sinners.  When someone sits down to talk with me, I should convey to him (even if I do not express it in words) the attitude that he and I are both sinners. And immediately, when I communicate this perception, a door swings open for dialogue.  Nothing will help you as much in meeting people, no matter how far out they are or how caught they are in the modern awfulness, than for them to perceive in you the attitude “we are both sinners.”  This does not mean that we minimize sin, but we can still exhibit that we understand him because we stand in the same place.  We can say “us” rather than just “you,” To project shock as though we are better slams the door shut.  Each of us does not need to look beyond himself to know that men and women are sinners.”

What do you think of this statement? How does it relate to this passage? 

6. What obstacles keep us from longing for grace? Or learning grace from Jesus? 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rescue: John 3:16-21 // Feb. 11, 2018

Rescue (John 3:16-21): Discussion Questions

1. Do you remember watching the Baby Jessica rescue on TV? If you need a refresher, here's a grainy video: Why was that such an emotional moment for so many? What does it teach us about the power of rescue? 

2. Commenting on John 3:16, theologian B.B. Warfield wrote, "[It’s not so much] that the world is so big that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it all, but that the world is so bad that it takes a great kind of love to love it at all." How does this help you see God as the great rescuer? 

3. Why are we often so ignorant of the grave danger we are in without Jesus? What does this passage say about our dire situation? 

4. How does Jesus' promise to give you 'eternal life' encourage you today? 

5. In verse 21, Jesus says that those who live in line with the truth of the Gospel enter the light. Why are they able to do so, when others hide in the darkness? What is it about our identity in Christ that liberates us to 'live in the light,' as it were? 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Happy Birthday to You :: John 3:1-8 :: 2/4/18

1. Re-read John 3:1-8. What stands out to you in this passage? What challenges you? What questions does it raise?

2. Why don't we celebrate our spiritual birthdays as extravagantly and joyfully as our natural birthdays? What difference would it make if we did? 

3. Jesus' response to Nicodemus in verse 3 reminds us that every other major religion will tell you that salvation depends on something you do for God. Like following the rules. Or obeying the Law. Or fulfilling your duty. But Jesus insists salvation depends entirely on something God for you AND to you, specifically giving you a new birth, through Jesus. Why is this such a revolutionary idea for Nicodemus? For you? 

4. The late R.C. Sproul once wrote: “To be regenerated does not mean that we are changed from a human being into a divine being. It does mean that we are changed from spiritually dead human beings into spiritually alive human beings.” Is this a new idea for you? If so, how does it challenge your idea about salvation? If not, how does it increase your gratitude to God for your salvation? 

5. In your own words, what is Jesus saying about God the Holy Spirit in verse 8 and following? How does this metaphor explain spiritual birth? 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Will the Real Temple Please Stand Up? John 2:13-22 1/28/18

1. When Jesus clears out the Temple, He removes the things that were distracting God's people from real worship of God. What were those things, according to John (verses 14 and 15)? Why were those activities distracting? Share your personal "worship-distracters" with each other. What is one practical step you can take to remove that distraction from your worship life.

2. Jesus is also removing the divisions that exist because of the supermarket in the Temple. In Mark's Gospel account of Jesus' second temple cleansing, Mark tells us that Jesus quoted Isaiah 56 to those selling the marketplace. Read Isaiah 56:1-8. What does this passage tell us about God's purpose for the Temple? Who was meant to be included? How were these people excluded by the selling and exchanging the Outer Court (or Court of the Gentiles)? Are there ways that we, as individuals or as a church, exclude certain kinds of people, either intentionally or unintentionally?

3. Is there someone you know who you believe would not feel welcome at Covenant? Why? Is that a valid barrier or one that needs to be removed? How can you help remove it?

4. John tells us that Jesus is zealous to see His Father's house honored by His people, namely by giving their unhindered devotion and worship to the Lord. Therefore, He is clearing out the Temple to wipe out any rival suitors for their affections. Why would Jesus do that? Read Exodus 34:11-16. What does that say about God's commitment to having your complete allegiance, devotion, and worship?

5. How have you experienced Jesus wiping out rivals in your own heart? How has He topple your idols?

6. Jesus ultimately does more than clear the Temple; He replaces it. Re-read John 2:18-22 and brainstorm together how Jesus, as your Savior, fulfills everything that Temple provided God's people. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Follow Jesus: John 1:35-51 (Jan. 14 2018)

Follow Jesus: John 1:35-51 (Jan. 14 2018)
Discussion Questions

1) What do you think it means to follow Jesus?

2) Take some time to discuss the various titles that are bestowed on Jesus in this passage: What does it mean? What about it makes you grateful?

  • Verse 36: Lamb of God
  • Verse 41 & 45: Messiah
  • Verse 49: Son of God
3) Why is Jesus' question in verse 38 significant? 

4) Compare John 1:42 with Revelation 2:17 and 3:5. What do these passage tell us about Jesus' authority over us and His affection for us? 

5) Have you ever asked the question Nathanael asks in verse 47, "Lord, how do you know me?" Does the answer to that question move your heart to worship Jesus? What about Jesus' response in v. 48? 

6) Ryan suggested two practical applications of this passage: Seek Jesus! and Share Jesus! Both occur in this passage. Which is a greater challenge for you? Why? What is one step you can take to either seek or share Jesus? 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Who Are You? John 1:19-28//January 7, 2018

Who Are You?
John 1:19-28
Discussion Questions
January 7, 2018

1. Ryan said that Jesus came not only to introduce us to God but to introduce us to ourselves. In what ways has your relationship with Jesus shaped your identity?

2. Look at 1:20. There, John the Baptist refuses to conform to the expectations of the Levites and priests (as Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet). Whose expectations are most influential in your life? How do you resist allowing these expectations to rule your life? What alternative does Jesus give us?

3. We live in a culture that insists that we are defined by our productivity, achievement, and legacy. In contrast, John is content to live as God's voice in the wilderness (1:23), preparing the way for Jesus. How does his example challenge you? Encourage you? Are there ways your life can point people to the Jesus and His Kingdom?

4. Ryan argued that John's attitude in verse 29 does not reflect his self-loathing or self-hatred. If that's true, how could John arrive at such a radically humble view of himself? Is his view healthy?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Knowing God (John 1:15-18)

The prologue to John's gospel (1:1-18), though familiar to many, expands our understanding of who Jesus is. One preacher says, "The serious student of John will find that each time he returns to the Gospel, Christ will be a little bigger--something like Lucy's experience with the lion Aslan (the Christ symbol in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia) as she again, gazed into his large, wise face.

"Welcome, child," he said.
"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.
"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

John's prologue tells us right up front who Jesus is, which demonstrates to us that God is not hiding from us, but rather has revealed himself, made himself known in the clearest possible way. In verses 15-18

God has provided an abundant witness (1:15 & 1:17) through John the baptist and the law of Moses.
God has given us an experience of his overflowing grace (1:16)
God has shown himself to be a Self-Disclosing God. (1:18)

1. How does John the baptist provide an abundant witness to who Jesus is? Compare 1:15 with 1:1-2

2. How does the law of Moses provide an abundant witness to who Jesus is?

3. Verse 16 says that "we have all received grace upon grace", how have you experienced God's grace in your life and what has that shown you about who God is.

4. According to John 1:18 if we want to know what God is like, where should we look? As you see Jesus interacting with people in the gospels do you find your view of God challenged, expanded, corrected?

5. What do you find encouraging when you consider that Jesus has "made God known"?

6. It is often the case that when someone is interested in the Christian faith, we often point that person to the gospels as a good place to start. Given what John says in John 1:18 is that a good idea? Why?

7. For the believer it's a good idea to return to the gospels again and again. Why would John 1:18 suggest that's a good idea?