Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

Real Freedom

1 Peter 2:13-17

 

1 Peter 2:16 (ESV)

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

 

1.     What difference does it make that you, as a believer, are free from:

a.     The devil?  How much do you think about the devil?  How much do you fear him?  Should you fear him at all even though he is a roaring lion seeking to devour you?  What passages teach this freedom?

b.     Sin?  If you are no longer a slave to sin, then how hopeful do you feel about getting victory over lifelong sinful habits? What passages teach this freedom?

c.      Death? What has God turned death into for the believer?  How is it possible to sorrow and still not fear death?  What passages teach this freedom?

2.     What difference does it make that you as a believer are free to:

a.     Love God?  Why could you never do anything out of love for God before you were free to live “for the Lord’s sake”?  What is the difference in your fear of God now that you are a believer compared to when you were an unbeliever?

b.     Respond properly to God-ordained civil authority?  Do you find it harder to have a godly attitude toward Obama or Trump? (Please don’t let this issue take the majority of your small group discussion time!)

c.      Serve everybody?  What difference does it make to you that your worst human enemy is made in God’s image?  How do you reconcile this with the biblical concept of capital punishment?

3.     What is the biggest lesson you learned about your freedom from this passage?

Psalm for Prayer - August 21, 2017

Psalm 124 (ESV)

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side— let Israel now say—

2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us,

3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

5 then over us would have gone the raging waters.

6 Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

1. Why is it important for Christians to be prepared to give an answer to an atheist or a pluralist or an evolutionist who asks, “How do you know that the Bible is God’s Word?”

[an answer]: B/c God commands us to be prepared (in 1 Pet. 3:15), & b/c people need to hear the qualitative answers that the Bible gives.

2. Why is it important for Christians to be able to answer for themselves / himself – that the Bible is God’s Word?

[an answer]: B/c when we’re experiencing difficulties, we’re tempted to doubt that God is working all things together for good (Rom. 8:28).

3. What do you think David Wells meant by, “Revelation is not a matter of human discovery but of divine self-disclosure?”

[an answer]: We can’t figure out the Gospel on our own. We’re dependent upon God to reveal the truth to us.

4. In John 10:4 Jesus said, “…the sheep follow him, for THEY KNOW HIS [i.e., self-authenticating] VOICE.”

I frequently argue: Just b/c you don’t know my (earthly) father’s voice doesn’t mean that I don’t. Similarly, just b/c you don’t know [fill in the blank]

[answer]: … Jesus’ voice doesn’t mean that I don’t.

5. What do you think about the lyrics, “You ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart.”

[an answer]: Altho that’s not an exhaustive answer, I think it’s a good answer.

6. 1 Thes. 2:13 “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, WHICH IS AT WORK IN YOU believers. 

Can you give examples of when the Word of God worked in your life & thereby undergirded that the Bible is the Word of God?

7. 1 John 5:10 “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony IN HIMSELF.” Why did I choose “classic cars” to illustrate this verse?

[answer]: Even tho people can’t put their love for classic cars in a test tube, many people nonetheless have classic cars in their hearts. Similarly, even tho the Son of God can’t be put in a test tube, Christians nonetheless have Him in their hearts.

8. If a non-Christians complains, “It’s not fair that God reveals & opens some peoples’ minds, but He hasn’t opened my mind,” how would you reply?

[an answer]: Ask Jesus to give you an u/standing. God may oblige. After all, Jesus didn’t die on the cross to play hide ’n’ seek.

9. I gave 2 illustrations: 1) about a mom that couldn’t convince a skeptic that she had experienced pain in child bearing; 2) about me proving to a skeptic that Nancy married me. What was my point?

[answer] Even tho I can’t convince the skeptic, I know that I said “I do” to Jesus - & I’m living like a married person (spiritually speaking).

10. What do you think about the lyrics, “I need no other argument; I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died & that He died for me.”

[an answer]: When God reveals / opens our minds, etc. – we need no other argument. But, thankfully, God has given us many evidences that corroborate that the Bible is God’s Word.

11. Muslims argue experientially, “Allah revealed to me that the Koran is God’s word;” Mormons argue experientially, “I have ‘a burning in the bosom’ that the Book of Mormon is God’s Word.” How can we Christians respond?

[an answer]: Those are internal, subjective arguments. Do you have any external, objective evidences that undergird your claim? We Christians have many evidences that the Bible is God’s Word: Prophecies, history, science, literary artistry, practicality, etc.

12. God gives us more than internal / experiential reasons to believe; He also gives us external / evidential reasons to believe. Why is this helpful?

[an answer]: Evidences can nudge a person to take baby steps toward God. Evidences illustrate that we Christians aren’t trying to get the non-Christian to take an irrational, blind leap of fate into the dark but a supra-rational step of faithinto the light!

13. What prophetical or historical or scientific evidences do you like (whether for yourself or other Christians or non-Christians) to confirm that the Bible is God’s Word? 

[some evidences]: Solomon’s chariots at Megiddo; the remains of the Hittites; the 5 Porticos near the pool (John)….

14. What are life’s sine qua non questions - & how would you briefly answer them?

[my answers]: Where did I come from? God!

Why am I here?  - to love God & neighbor.

Where am I going? We either perish or have everlasting life (John 3:16)

Who am I? I’m a person who God created in His image.

Why is there evil in the world? B/c Adam & Eve sinned & b/c everyone sins.

15. [Re. “Changed lives”] Are you prepared to briefly share your testimony?

[me] When I was 5, I received Jesus into my life. 

16. List some examples of how the Bible is all about Jesus:

[some examples]: animal sacrifices … Jesus is the lamb. “a prophet like [Moses]” (Deut. 18:18) … Jesus is that prophet (Acts 3:22; 7:34). Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14 (“cornerstone”) … 1 Pet. 2.

Psalm for Prayer - August 14, 2017

Psalm 133 (ESV)

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

A Man Ahead

Psalm 105:1–5 (ESV)

1Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

2Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!

3Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

4Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

5Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,

 

When you look at your life, do you have reason to do what this psalm is encouraging us to do? Give thanks! Call on God’s name! Talk about him! Sing to him! Glory in him! Seek him continually as you remember what he’s done for you!

 

God is doing big things. Amazing things.  He’s got an incredible plan for me. I know this.  But he’s also got an incredible plan for his people, and I know that his plan for ME and his plan for US intersect. In fact, they are inseparable even though they are distinct.

 

In our psalm for prayer this week, we have an overview of the history of the early years of the nation of Israel. It begins with the promises made to the patriarchs (v.9ff).  Everything God does always begins with him.  He initiates a relationship with us, and he does it by making promises to us.  These are “exceeding great and precious promises,” as Peter says. 

 

What God has promised to us, his children, is astounding.  Our eyes have never seen such majesty?  Our ears have never heard such beauty.  Our minds are not capable of conceiving such glory.  The promises of God are amazing!

 

But then he begins to keep them.

 

As God keeps his promises, our experience often isn’t so great and precious.  There is this dichotomy between the promises and the way God keeps them.  There is this “in the meantime” between promises made and promises fully kept.  Frankly, sometimes the process is just downright abysmal.

 

What’s going on?

 

This is where the ME and the US intersect. God’s work in my life is not only God keeping his promises to ME; it is also God keeping his promises to US.

 

Take Joseph as an example. The psalmist talks about him in vs.16-22.  After the first five verses that exhort us to be exuberant in our praise for our promise making God, we read of Joseph that he endured a famine, slavery, iron fetters on his feet and an iron collar on his neck.  All this is part of God keeping his promises.  In the plan of God, it was necessary for God to take Joseph through some excruciating times in order for God to fulfill his promises to the people.  This is how the psalmist explains it:

 

Psalm 105:16–17 (ESV)

16When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread,

17he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

 

Joseph was the man sent ahead of the bigger group to help prepare the way.  It meant Joseph had to go through a time of dark and deep struggle, but it was God’s way of bringing his people in the promised land.

 

During Joseph’s period of despair, I’m sure he had no idea that he was playing such a key role in the bigger, grand plan of God.  It wasn’t until much later that he was able to look at his brothers, the earthly source and cause of his trails, and say “God meant your evil actions against me for the good of the whole.”  But Joseph’s redeeming truth was indeed that: God took HIM through trials in order that God might keep his promises to THEM.

 

Has not Christ done this for us as well?  Was this not what kept Christ faithful unto death?  Are not the sufferings of Christ also the source of my great blessing?  Did he not endure the cross for the good of his people?

 

God does this. And he may just be doing this in your life. Your trials, as challenging as they may be, are not just YOUR trials.  They are also part of the bigger plan of God for US.  In the end, you will see this.  If you happen to be playing the role of “a man ahead” sent by God for a greater purpose than just yourself, please know that your bruises will one day when you look back, show a large and effectual impact on the bigger story.

 

You will see God used YOU to be a blessing to US. And at that time WE will thank YOU as well.

Thoughtful Action: Discussion from Sunday's Sermon

Scripture Memory and the Young Mind

Psalm 119:11

 

1.     We want out young people to have a true relationship with God throughout their lives. Scripture memory is a great tool in the toolbox of Christian growth that will help our young people honestly walk with the living God.

a.     Why is sin so devastating? 

b.     What proof has God given about his utter hatred of sin?

c.      Why is it so important for God’s Word to be stored up in the “heart”? 

2.     How can Scripture memory help a young person make good choices even before their physical brains are fully developed acc. to Psa.119:9?

3.     Based on Prov.1:1-7 (esp. v.4), do you see any particular value in getting young people to memorize Proverbs?

4.     What reasons can you see in Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:13 for young people to memorize Scripture? 

5.     Lamentations 3: 27 says it is important for young people to bear significant responsibility in order that they might learn the key quality of patience. 

a.     In what ways have you needed to exercise patience as an adult?

b.     How can you use your story to encourage young people to be patient?

6.     We all long to pass a true faith in the living God down to our children and grand children.

a.     What indications do we have in 2 Timothy 1:5-13 as well as 3:14-17 that Timothy was encouraged by his mother and grandmother to store God’s words up in his heart?

b.     What was the main point of the Scriptures that Timothy was taught?

c.      In what ways do those Scriptures further help somebody acc. to 3:17?

7.     Adults must set the example for our children in this discipline?

a.     What is your present Scripture memory plan?

b.     What efforts have you put into scripture memory in your past?

c.      How has memorized Scripture served you well throughout your life?

Psalm for Prayer - August 7, 2017

Psalm 105:1–6 (ESV)

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!

3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,

6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

 

16 When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread,

17 he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18 His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron;

19 until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.

20 The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free;

21 he made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions,

22 to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom.

45b Praise the Lord!