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Digging Deeper "Why The Bible?" 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 October 14, 2019

  1. Do you have a life verse, or favorite passage or story in the Bible? How has that scripture influenced your life, brought peace to you during troubling times or encouraged you when your faith wavered?

  2. Do you “take your spiritual pulse” by the regularity of your Bible reading? In what ways might this be good and/ or bad?

  3. How might your experience of reading the Bible be different if you’re trying to make a meal of it instead of reading it for helpful or inspiring bits?

  4. To say that the Bible is “inspired” is to say that it is “God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16) What does that mean to you as your read your Bible? How does that impact how you read the Bible and live by what the Bible teaches?

  5. Do you believe that the biblical authors were inspired by God as they wrote? If so, what does that mean? For example, does it mean that they were incapable of making mistakes about history or science?

  6. The problem of an imperfect text is greatest for those who claim that the Bible is “inerrant”, that is entirely without errors. Do you hold to this view? If so, how do you account for the Bible’s many textual variants, however insignificant?

  7. What is a modern example of a statement that might easily be misunderstood if one did not know the original context? Can you think of a similar example from the Bible?

  8. Pastor Heidi talked about the Bible as a signpost that points us to God, as a lens that helps us see God, as the Lord’s Supper where we experience the presence of God and as light that shows us God even in the darkness of our life experience. Which one of those images speaks to how you understand the Bible? Is there another image that speaks more strongly to you of the power of the Bible to transform your life?

  9. Consider Paul’s word to Timothy in 2:14. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it. “ In this letter, Paul reminds Timothy not only what he has learned, but here he also notes whom Timothy has learned it from.

Who is someone who has taught you how to live out the truths found in the Bible in your own life? This week, consider writing a letter to one person that helped raise you up in faith. Or write to someone who has recently helped teach you new things in the scriptures you never would have learned on your own.

Prayer

O God, I ask you to meet me in the pages of your Word. Teach me to understand and live by your Word. Instruct me that I might act as living participant in your ongoing story. - Amen

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Going Deeper - "Putting It All Together" 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 October 6, 2019

  1. Is there a story or teaching from the Bible that has deep meaning for your life? What is it about that story or teaching that resonates with you? How has your life changed because of it?

  2. Peter says in vs. 23 that God’s Word is “living and enduring”. How do you see that reflected in your own life of faith? How would you respond to someone who says the Bible is “old and dusty” and has nothing to say to us today?

  3. Has there been a particular issue or challenge in your life where The Bible has spoken to you providing lasting truth and comfort? How has that changed how you read the whole of Scripture?

  4. Peter speaks of the God’s Word as milk that nourishes us. Do you “crave pure spiritual milk” as Peter talks about? What might need to change in your life so that you are nourished each and every day by God’s spiritual milk that is The Bible?

  5. How has your regular reading of Scripture drawn you into a deeper relationship with God? Has reading The Bible influenced your relationships with others so that you “have a sincere love for each other, love one another deeply from the heart” (1:22)? What would that kind of love look like in as you live it out everyday?

  6. What is the larger truth that Peter is trying to communicate to his readers in these verses? What power in God’s word is Peter highlighting, especially to those being persecuted and suffering for their faith?

  7. As you consider your own spiritual life, how might you deepen your practice of digging into God’s word? Are you spiritually healthy or malnourished when it comes to “eating” God’s Word? Do you have a well balanced diet of reading, hearing, studying, memorizing and meditatting on God’s Word? What needs to change so that is true?

Additional Scripture

Psalm 119

Matthew 7:24-27

John 1: 1-18

2 Timothy 3:16-17

James 1: 19-27

Prayer

Prayer of St. Patrick, a reminder that immersing ourselves in God’s Word is like immersing ourselves in Christ.

Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

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Going Deeper - "Grace and Second Chances" John 21: 15-19 September 29, 2019

  1. Can you think of a tie when you felt you had failed in your relationship with a friend, loved one or God? How did you feel? What did you need to do to restore those relationships?

  2. Did you ever think you had done something that didn’t deserve a second chance?

  3. As Peter stands before Jesus it is reasonable to presume that he is all too aware of his failure in regards to his denials of knowing Jesus. When Jesus meets with Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus focuses on his capacity to love, not on his failure. He does not condemn Peter for his betrayals. Instead Peter is reinstated, and given a great responsibility to care for the early Christian community.

    Is this an issue for me? Do I focus on my failures instead of accepting that Jesus loves me as I am?

  4. Jesus’ question, asked three times, echoes the three times Peter denied Christ. It may be hard to forgive, but can be harder to accept forgiveness. The ability to believe we are forgiven is crucial to our spiritual growth. This was the defining difference between Peter and Judas. Vacillating Peter went from the shame of his threefold denial of Christ to become the rock on which Christ’s church was founded. Judas could not contemplate the possibility of forgiveness. He, who had heard Christ say that one must forgive seventy times seven, could not bring himself to ask Christ to forgive him. Instead, he died in despair.

  5. Have there been times in your life, when you felt like Peter, finding it hard to forgive yourself for disappointing Jesus? Have you ever felt like Judas, that you had done something that there was no coming back from?

  6. What did you do? What can you do, to receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers? Peter, despite his failings, is chosen to continue the ministry of Jesus by humble service to others. Jesus gives you a ministry of service also. Are you aware of what Jesus is calling you to do? Do you carry it out even if it means pain?

  7. If Jesus were to ask me, ‘Do you love me? ‘ how would I respond? Many women and men, down through the ages, have given their lives for Christ. How would I feel if I were asked to do the same? At the very least, how am I doing as a follower of Jesus in this time and in this place?

    Reflection

    To be a disciple of Jesus, is to be asked the question often - “do you love me?” It is not that Jesus doubts us, but He wants us to recognize how we express that love. Guided by St. Ignatius, ask yourself this week. .. “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?

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Going Deeper "Amazing Grace" Ephesians 2: 1-10 September 22, 2019

  1. Describe a time in your life when you felt God’s great mercy, God’s powerful love and God’s amazing grace. How did that realization change how you looked at life?

  2. Ephesians 2:1-10, how does Paul contrast those people who are now in Christ with those who have yet to know Christ?

  3. We live in a world where human beings left to themselves, not only choose the wrong direction, but remain cheerfully confident that it is in fact the right direction. What forces lure or compel us to go in the wrong direction spiritually? (1-2) What according to Paul characterizes people who are going the wrong direction? (3)

  4. Paul says that we have been made alive in Christ. (2:5) What does that mean and how does Paul contrast that with being dead to sin?

  5. What reasons does Paul give for why God has “made us alive with Christ?”

  6. What is it about God’s grace that makes it so amazing?

  7. What do these verses tell us about God? Is Paul telling you something new? Or are his words familiar and foundational for your life of faith?

  8. What in us did God see as worth saving?

  9. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about grace. It gives life to the dead. It is God’s love in action. It is God’s free undeserved gift. But people think they can earn God’s grace by doing good works. Do you ever feel that you need to earn God’s favor? If so, why do you think it is hard to accept God’s grace as a free gift?

Reflection - written by Jan L Richardson, as posted on The Painted Prayer - http://paintedprayerbook.com

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which God loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. (Eph. 2:4-5)

Even when we were dead, Paul writes.

Even when we turned away from the One who had created us.

Even when we lived in the grip of what drew our gaze from God.

Even when we were oblivious.

Even when we followed a path fashioned of nothing but our own desires.

Even when we wandered far and willfully away.

Even when we forgot to look past our own feet and see the wonders not of our making.

Even when we failed to stand in awe, to breathe thanks, to lean into the love that had waited long fro us.

Even when,Paul writes.

Even when, even then: Grace.

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Going Deeper - "Why Hope? Grace!" 2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17 September 15, 2019

  1. Is there a challenge, struggle or circumstance that is part of your life right now? How are you dealing with it? Do you feel like you have a hold on things? Or do you feel as if things are spinning out of control?

  2. Have you seen people who were strengthened in their faith through challenges and struggles. while others faith was weakened? What was the difference? Where is your faith today?

  3. If you are going through a tough time right now, what words from others have been helpful? Hurtful? Where in scripture are you finding peace in the midst of your storm?

  4. How helpful is it to you to know that God has loved you since the beginning of time? How does that knowledge give you strength?

  5. Do you ever wrestle with discouragement in your faith? How can Paul’s words encourage you?

  6. In good times and bad, what gives you courage and hope?

  7. How does knowing that God is ultimately in control and that we have been chosen for salvation ( 2 Thess. 2:13) give us comfort and keep us from gibing into fear?

  8. Thinking of your own situation today, write out Paul’s prayer for the church at Thessalonica, vs: 2:16-17 in your own words.

  9. How might God use you to say or do something that will encourage someone who is going through a difficult time right now?

  10. What can you do to encourage and strengthen yourself to “always do and say what is good” (2 Thess. 2:17)

Prayer

Eternally righteous God,

Merciful Judge of all the living,

In Your love, You called us to share the Glory of Christ. Strengthen our hearts, in every good work and word, that we may be steadfast in Your ways and always believe Your truth. Amen

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Comment

Digging Deeper "The Story and the Task" James 1:22-25 August 25th, 2019

  1. What advice would you give someone who is just beginning to study the Bible?

  2. What tools (Commentary, concordance, online tools) have you found most helpful in biblical study? What steps have you taken over the years to energize your own Bible study?

  3. James 1:22 is the central point of the Book of James. Even though this verse is direct and self-explanatory, how would you rephrase it? What does James want us to learn about the Bible from this verse?

  4. Read Hebrews 4:12-13 What does it mean that the Word is “living and active?” What makes the Bible fundamentally different from every other messages we hear? Why do we need it to teach us who we are?

  5. God’s Word always requires a response. How did James illustrate this point for us? Why should we never walk away from time in God’s Word without finding at least one way to apply it to our lives?

  6. What does James mean when he uses the analogy about the mirror in vs. 23-24?

  7. What is the relationship between someone who is “a hearer of the word and not a doer” and the one who looks into the mirror and yet quickly forgets how his face looks? What truth does James want us to know?

  8. Do you think it’s really worthless to hear God’s Word without doing it? Why or why not?

  9. N.T. Wright says in Simply Christian, that the Bible is “an unfinished novel beckoning us to become, in our own right, characters in its closing episodes” How do you fit into God’s story today?

  10. Differing approaches to the Bible can yield nearly opposite conclusions, especially concerning perplexing moral issues. What factors shape your understanding of the Bible? Might 2 people of equal integrity and faith come to very different conclusions about the application of the Bible to a particular issue? Why?

  11. Is one’s interpretation of the Bible as good as another? Why controls ought to govern our interpretation of scripture?

    Lectio Divina - Psalm 1

    What word/phrase did God speak to you?

    What captured your imagination in God’s words?

    What does God want you to do with your word/phrase as you leave today?

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Digging Deeper " The Book God Breathed" 2 TImothy 3: 14-17 August 18th, 2019

  1. Do you have a life verse, or a favorite passage or story in the Bible? How has that piece of scripture influenced your life, brought peace to you during troubling times or encouraged you when your faith wavered?

  2. When you approach the Bible, do you see it as an instruction manual, a storybook, an ethics manual or something else?

  3. Why do Christians fight about the Bible, disagreeing on what certain parts of the Bible mean for us today? Do such disagreements keep people from believing the Bible has anything relevant to say to us today? What ideas about the Bible do you reject?

  4. To Say that the Bible is “inspired” is to say that it is “God Breathed” (2 Tim 3:16) What does that mean to you as you read your Bible? How does that impact how you read the Bible and live by what the Bible teaches?

  5. Do you believe that the biblical authors were inspired by God as they wrote? If so, what does that mean? For example, does it mean that they were incapable of making mistakes about history or science?

  6. The problem of an imperfect text is greatest for those who claim that the Bible is “inerrant” that is entirely without errors. Do you hold to this view? If so, how do you account for the Bible’s many textual variants, however insignificant?

  7. What is a modern example of a statement that might easily be misunderstood if one did not know the original context? Can you think of a similar example from the Bible?

  8. What is Biblical authority? How is it helpful as you read the Bible? How might it be problematic?

  9. Is interpretation of the Bible necessary, or can you simply read the Bible and take it at face value? How does the backround, culture, and experience of the biblical author impact what they wrote?

  10. What do you think the Bible is meant to do in our lives, in our Church, in our world?

  11. N.T. Wright says that the Bible is an “unfinished novel beconking us to become, in our own right, characters in its closing chapters” Do you agree with that? If so, how have you become part of God’s ongoing story?

Prayer

O God, I ask You to meet me in the pages of your Word - Teach me to understand and live by Your Word. Instruct me that i might act as living participant in your ongoing story.

Amen

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Comment

Digging Deeper "Worship" Revelations 4-5 August 4th, 2019

  1. What comes to mind when you hear the word “worship”? Describe a time in worship when you felt like you had entered the throne room of God?

  2. At its best, worship is a public activity in which God is encountered, and the congregation is filled with wonder, love, and praise. What happens when you catch a glimpse of the glory of Almighty God in worship?

    How is your life transformed by the experience of joining the angels in praise and worship of our Creator God?

  3. When we sing a hymn or song it is one way we worship God. Worship comes from an old Anglo-Saxton word, “Weorthschip” which literally means, “to ascribe worth” The test of a great worship music is not whether it “does anything” for us, but whether it leads us to praise God.

    What hymn or praise song moves you to lift up your heart to God? What is it about that song/hymn that is meaningful to you and enhances your worship experience?

  4. As you read Revelations 4-5, what do you notice about John’s description of the throne room of God?

  5. N.T. Wright says in Simple Christian, that there are two golden rules at the heart of worship. 1 - You become like what you worship, and 2 - worship makes you more truly human. Do you agree with him?

  6. Pastor Heidi quoted St. Augustine in her sermon, he wrote, “God thirsts to be thirsted after.” Do you agree with Augustine’s words? How do you thirst after God?

  7. How does standing before God in worship, gazing in love and gratitude at the one who made you and gives you life, help you be more human?

  8. Describe how worship has been transformational in your Christian life? What signs are evident in your life that you are listening to God in worship and responding to Gods voice?

Prayer

Focus this week on the three hymns of praise in Revelations 4-5.

Revelations 4: 8, 11

Revelations 5:9-10, 12-13

Use the words of these praise hymns to shape your life this week.

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Comment

Going Deeper - "Living by the Spirit" Romans 8:7-17, Galatians 5:22-23 July 28, 2019

  1. Holiness is a common biblical ideal, but it seems to have fallen out of favor in today’s church. Why do you think that is? Does holiness still matter?

  2. Why does God focus so much on holiness? Doesn’t God want us to have fun and enjoy life? It seems like being holy is about limiting all the “good” things in life. What do you think it means when the Bible says, “Be holy as I am holy? “ (1 Peter 1: 15-16)

  3. As you think about holiness as Paul talks about it in Romans 8, as a life where the Spirit is living in you and where you are being led by the Spirit, what does that look like in your life? How are you making progress toward living a holy life? What might need to change to make that possible? Who or what could help you become more holy in your living?

  4. How does using your spiritual gifts and bearing the fruit of the Spirit connect to living holy lives?

    What Spiritual gifts do you have? (see the list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11, Ephesians 4:3-13, 1 Peter 4: 7-11) How are your gifts being used at Hope or more widely in our community? If you don’t know what your spiritual gifts are, see Pastor Heidi, Pastor Sally, or Pastor Rod.

    As you look at how you are living your life right now, what fruit of the Spirit is evident in your life? How might you live more intentionally so that you might bear more spiritual fruit?

  5. In Romans 8: 5-8, Paul divides all of humanity into 2 categories - those who live according to the sinful nature, and those who live according to the Spirit. In your own words, what are the characteristics of each group?

  6. Paul, in Romans 8: 12-14 says that we have an “obligation” (8:12) What does Paul mean when he uses that word in connection to living by the Spirit? What are the negative and positive aspects of that obligation?

  7. Do you pray regularly for the Spirit to come into your life? If so, how? if not, why?

    Use the following prayer as a first step to praying for the Spirit to come into your life so that you can reorient yourself to the work the Spirit of God wants to do in your life.

Prayer

Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire and lighten with celestial fire. The blessed unction from above is comfort, life and fire of love. Anoint and cheer our soiled face with the abundance of Thy grace. Keep far our foes. Give peace at home. Where Thou Art guide, no ill can come. Teach us to know the Father - Son - and Thee, of both to be but One, that through the ages all along, this may be our endless song. Praise to thine eternal merit, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

  • Bishop John Cosin, 15-94-1672

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Going Deeper "Jesus - Rescue and Renewal" Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12

  1. What one question about Jesus would you like answered?

  2. What characteristics of Jesus, as Messiah, do you see in the gospels as they tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry?

  3. In N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian, and in Pastor Heidi’s sermons, it is mentioned that as human beings we have longings for justice, spirituality, and relationships and beauty. As you think about stories in the gospels about Jesus and reflect on Jesus’ teachings, where do you see these themes playing out?

    What does this tell you about being a follower of Jesus Christ?

  4. How does the story of Jesus continue the Old Testament theme of going away and coming back, of exile and restoration?

  5. Why was Jesus willing to go to His death? What did he think it would accomplish?

  6. How can thinking of evil as having been defeated by the cross change the way we respond to evil in our world?

  7. N.T. Wright says “The death of Jesus of Nazareth as the King of the Jews, the bearer of Israel’s destiny, the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people of old, is either the most stupid, senseless waste of misunderstanding the world has ever seen, or it is the fulcrum around which world history turns. Christianity is based on the belief that it was and is the latter.” Do you believe this? How would you respond to someone who believed that Jesus’ death on the cross was a “stupid, senseless waste….”?

  8. Why does the resurrection Jesus matter? What difference does it make in your life of faith? What do you believe happens after death?

  9. Most Christian theologians have maintained that Jesus was both human and divine, but for many, Jesus veers to one side or the other. Is this true in your own thinking? Why?

  10. What does it mean to be “Christ-like” ? What work needs to be done in your life or what work are you doing to move yourself in that direction?

    Prayer

    Lord of such amazing surprises, as put a catch in our breath and wings in our hearts; we praise You for this joy, too great for words. For this world unleashed in us, and us in it, with no dead ends to growing; for this resurrection wonder, which is wiser than we are and in which we see how great You are, how full of grace, Alleluia!

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Going Deeper "Jesus and the Coming Kingdom" Mark 1: 14-15 July 7th, 2019

  1. What things about Jesus’ life would you like to know more about?

  2. What is your favorite story about Jesus? What is it about that story that has helped you deepen your relationship with Jesus or helped you understand the person and the work of Jesus in a deeper way?

  3. Why does Jesus continue to exercise so much influence on culture today? What is it about Jesus that people want to connect with?

  4. How is Jesus portrayed in popular media? Where is Christianity reinforced, where is it in conflict with modern perceptions of Jesus?

  5. If someone asked you “What is Christianity all about?” How would you answer? What would you emphasize? What does Christianity mean to you?

  6. What is your understanding of the Kingdom Of God? What do you think Jesus meant by the “Kingdom of God?” How was the Kingdom revealed in His actions?

  7. In what ways is the Kingdom of God present in our world today? In what ways is it still a future reality?

  8. Why does Jesus make His announcement about the coming of God’s Kingdom in Galilee? Why not Jerusalem, the center of Jewish religious life?

  9. The Kingdom of God is a primary theme in Mark’s gospel. What do you learn about the nature of timing of the Kingdom of God from these verses?

  10. Think of a time when you tried to turn over a new leaf in regards to your lifestyle or outlook. Or think of the time when you made a decision for Jesus and accepted Him into your life. What changed in your life because of those decisions? What things stayed the same? How did you deal with times when the “old way” seemed to reassert itself again?

  11. Pastor Heidi said that the Greek word for “repentance” is “Metanoia” This word is made up 2 smaller words, “meta” which means change as in metamorphosis - “noia” which means “mind” how does that help your understanding of “repentance?” What new direction, or what new alteration needs to happen in your life for you to have a “changed mind”?

  12. What challenges do 21st century non-believers face in understanding the ideas of repentance and faith? Are these challenges different from other times in history?

Prayer

Messiah of Israel, be at the center of our lives, just as you are the center of human history. Allow us to play a role in the drama of salvation, just as you are its central actor.

Equip us to bear the Gospel to the world, just as you entered the world to bear witness to God’s reign. Amen

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Comment

Going Deeper "Israel" Genesis 12, Isaiah 55 & 65 June 30, 2019

  1. What images, stories or verses come to mind when you think of Israel? Why do these stand out?

  2. What are the key features of God’s Covenant with Abraham and Sarah? What was its purpose? Can you think of any current examples of covenants? Are any of those examples helpful in understanding God’s covenant with humanity?

  3. N.T. Wright says in Simply Christian that the history of Israel is the “story of going away and coming back home again - of slavery and exodus, and exile and restoration” As you look at the Old Testament, what examples of “slavery and exodus, of exile and restoration” can you think of?

    What examples of “slavery and exodus, of exile and restoration” are part of your own experience?

  4. Read Genesis 12: 1-3, Genesis 15 - what are the promises that God makes to Abraham? What is Abraham’s responsibility to the Covenant? What does that tell you about the nature of the Covenant God makes with His people? Read Jeremiah 31: 31-34 - how is the New Covenant God makes with His exiled people different than the one God made with Abraham?

  5. “Election” is the idea that God chose a specific person (such as Abraham or Jacob) or a people (the Jews themselves) for a particular purpose. What do you think of the idea of election? Does God choose - and much more challenging, chose against - certain people? How is being God’s chosen people both a gift and a burden?

  6. How do each of the following elements fit into the story of Israel? What is their importance to that story?

    King

    Temple

    Torah

    New Creation

    How will each of these going to be transformed to bring hope to the Jews for a more glorious future?

  7. What is at stake in locating Jesus firmly in the context of 1st Century Judaism? How many things can you think of that were Jewish about Jesus? How does knowing the history and story about Israel help you in understanding Jesus and His ministry?

  8. N.T. Wright in Simply Christian says that “what happened in Jesus of Nazareth was the very climax of the long story of Israel” Do you agree? Is the story of Israel finished when Jesus arrives on the scene?

  9. What parts of the Old Testament do you need to dig deeper into to get a fuller understanding of God’s plan not just for Israel. but for the whole world?

Additional Scripture

Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6, 17:1-8

Messiah: 2 Samuel 7:8-17, Isaiah 9: 1-7, 11:1-12, Micah 5:2

Suffering Servant: Isaiah 42: 1-9, 52:13-15, 53:1-12

Fate of Israel: Romans 11:25-36

Prayer

God of Abraham, we are people with a story to tell to the nations. Help us understand that it is only when we celebrate the Jewish heritage of that story that it we tell it rightly. As we enter into the story ourselves, may we, like Abraham and Sarah, be willing to be led in new directions so that our lives might become a source of blessings for all humanity.

Amen

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Comment

Going Deeper "God" Exodus 3:1-15 June 23, 2019

  1. Give yourself about three minutes - Complete the statement .. .” God is….. “ Looking at your list, do you see a pattern in your answers?

  2. How do you picture God? Where did this picture come from? How has that picture of God been meaningful to you over the years? How has it changed?

  3. What things might “belief in God” help you to “see clearly?

  4. Is there proof that God exists? How would you explain God’s existence to someone who does not believe in God? Read Ecclesiastes 5:2 and Psalm 115:16. What do these two texts tell you about where God “lives or dwells”? Can God be tied to time and space as we understand it?

  5. N.T. Wright in his book “Simply Christian” says that Heaven is God’s “space” rather than God’s location within our space - time universe. Do you find this way of thinking about God is helpful to you?

  6. What Bible stories illustrate the idea that God is different from, yet active in, creation? Can you think of any exceptions?

  7. Are there special places where you think that God and creation “interlock?” What is it that makes a particular place ‘Holy”?

  8. How have you experienced God ‘s holiness. faithfulness, compassion and eternal presence?

  9. How is God not just the “echo of voice” that we talked about last week, but the voice that leads us to justice, relationships, spirituality and beauty?

  10. Spend some time this week reflecting on your own life experience by answering these three questions - journal, draw, sing your responses

    • Where is God found?

    • When is God found?

    • How is God found?

    Prayer

    Holy One, You are who you are and You will be who You will be. Teach me to relate my life to you in humility, praise, and gratitude. Empower me to be who You have created me to be, and do in this World what You have chosen for me to do. Amen

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Going Deeper "A World Out of Joint" Micah 6:6-8 June 16, 2019

  1. Do you think the world is basically good or evil? Which is “winning” today? Why?

  2. What is the purpose of religion?

  3. What beliefs do you regard as essential to Christian faith? Which of these beliefs do you find hardest to understand or to accept?

  4. What behaviors do you regard as essential to a Christian life?

  5. Do people really want justice? Why or why not? Judaism and Christianity teach that religion and morality are inseparable, a connection not made by all religious systems. Is belief in God and a desire for justice related? What happens when they are unconnected?

  6. What is “spirituality?” Is it different from religion? What are the benefits and perils of a personal spiritual quest?

  7. What do you think we are looking for when we yearn for relationship? Does being “ made in the image of God” (Genesis 1: 26) include being hard-wired for relationships? What does your answer imply about the purpose of religion?

  8. Have encounters with beauty made you feel more alive? Closer to God? In what ways might our desire for beauty be an expression of our longing for God?

  9. Are knowing about God and knowing God different things? If so, which is easier? Many people today consider truth to be a relative based on a person’s experience and perception. Is it possible to have absolute truth about anything? How are knowledge and faith related?

  10. What is the difference between simple and simplistic Christianity?

  11. Imagine that you have been asked to explain Christianity briefly to someone who knows almost nothing about it. For example, the conversation could start: “I understand that you are a Christian… I really don’t understand Christianity, and would like to know more about it. What does it mean to be a Christian?” How would you respond? In other words, what is your own account of “simple Christianity” ?

    Prayer

    O God, we come to our faith with our own particular mixture of opinion, doubt, awareness, certainty and ignorance. We come to You humbly, not sure of what we ought to learn, but also expectantly, trusting that You will teach us what we need to know.

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Going Further "Catch the Wind" Acts 2: 1-21 June 9th, 2019

  1. Why is Pentecost described as the birthday of the church? What would the church be like if the Holy Spirit did not exist?

  2. How do you think the disciples felt in the days between the Ascension and Pentecost as they waited for the coming of the Spirit? How do you think you would have felt if you were in their situation?

  3. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Disciples were transformed from withdrawn and scared men and women into brave and proclaiming witnesses. What does this tell us about the power of the Holy Spirit? What is the implication for your own situation and prayers? How have you seen people changed by the power of the Spirit?

  4. The Holy Spirit is associated with “rushing wind” and “fire” We don’t often see God working in these kinds of ways, but even when we don’t, the Spirit is definitely at work. How have you seen the Spirit of God move powerfully in your life and community?

  5. Look up Genesis 11: 1-9 - What are the correlations between the text and Acts 2? What was the motivation for each event? Can unity be achieved without God’s Spirit? Is there a difference between “human centered” and ‘God centered” unity?

  6. If you were to talk to a non-Christian about the Holy Spirit, how would you explain the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? Is your perspective grounded in personal experience, scripture or something else?

  7. What gifts has God given you? and how are they benefiting your life, our church, and the world as you use them to proclaim the Kingdom?

  8. As we celebrate Pentecost, take some time to reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life. How do you see the Holy Spirit at work in and through you? Have you ever thought about what it actually means to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

  9. How can our Church be more open to the Holy Spirit working in our lives? Is there anything holding us back from catching the wind of the Spirit?

    Additional Scriptures:

    Genesis 11: 1-9

    Psalms 139

    Isaiah 44: 1-5

    John 3: 5-8

    Romans 8: 1-17

    Prayer

    Come Spirit like rain, refresh, renew, revitalize.

    Come Spirit like fire, embolden, enlighten, enable.

    Come Spirit like a mighty wind, move, challenge, en-kindle.

    Come Spirit like a wave, move, tear down lift up.

    Come Spirit, come breathe, draw us close, make song, bring intimacy.

    Come Spirit, come love, make one, make justice, make peace.

    Come Spirit, come Kingdom, come love.

    Amen

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Going Deeper "Practicing Easter: Praying Together Acts 2:42 May 19, 2019

  1. Describe your daily conversations with God. What types of things do you regularly pray for?

  2. Jesus teaches His Disciples how to pray in Matthew 6: 9-13 using something Pastor Heidi talked about, the Lord’s Prayer, Did you grow up knowing the Lord’s Prayer? Was it something you simply recited out of memory or did it have meaning for you? Is the Lord’s Prayer part of your prayer life today?

  3. Jesus prays The Lord’s Prayer - “ Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…..” Why do we tend to put our priorities over God’s when we pray? What are some ways you can make your priorities more in line with God’s?

  4. We also ask God for our “daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer. Do you ever ask God to supply your daily needs? Why do you think God is interested in supplying our daily needs? What things might you ask God to supply for you? Are there daily needs you don’t ask God to supply for you? Why?

  5. Describe how God’s forgiveness has changed how you live.

  6. Devoting ourselves to prayer means taking intentional time out of our day to refocus our minds and hearts on God. How can you devote yourself to prayer? If you have a difficult time doing that, how might you begin to make a change in that area of your life?

  7. What do you think would happen in your life and your Church if we devoted ourselves to prayer?

  8. Describe a time when you asked God for something and God answered your prayer. Describe a time when even though you asked God for something, you didn’t get an answer.. Why do you think that was?

  9. Why do some Christians treat prayer like a vending machine or think God is like a Bellhop, being available for us to get what we want when we want it? Why is such a God appealing to some people? How appealing is it to seek God’s will? Which requires more faith, to get what you want or to serve God?

  10. If you could have whatever you wanted, and God gave it to you, what impact would that have on your life and or faith?

    Additional Scriptures:

    1 Chronicles 16:7-36

    Luke 11: 5-13; 18: 1-8

    Jeremiah 29: 10-14

    James 5: 13-16

Prayer

God, help us to learn persistence in prayer - and to be serious about what we ask of You. Forgive us for wimpy, wispy prayers that we forget soon after praying them.

Teach us instead to be intentional when we pray, to ask, to seek and to knock continually. Amen

Try praying The Lords Prayer everyday this week. Be intentional. Do not just recite the prayer - but pray it with real meaning.

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"Practicing Easter: Eating Together" Acts 2:42, 46 May 12, 2019

  1. Did you have a “family” meal in your house growing up? What was it and why was it a special meal? What stories or memories of that meal influence your family’s life today? Is that family meal something you continue to share with the next generation?

  2. Think about a great meal you have had recently. What made the meal so memorable? Who did you share it with?

  3. Sometimes what keeps us from “eating together” is that we think it takes too much work. What needs to change in your life so that you can be “devoted” to hospitality and eating together?

  4. How can you slow down your meals so you can catch up with one another, enjoy the food that has been made, and have good conversations with family and friends? How can you share meals and be filled with “great joy and generosity?”

  5. How can you celebrate God’s presence and blessing when you eat together with your family or when friends join you for a meal?

  6. Does it make sense that you get a taste of the Kingdom of God when you eat with your family or with friends and when you come to the Lord’s Table at church? How can eating a meal help you anticipate whet is to come when we get to heaven?

  7. Here are some potluck rules for eating together:

    • We all eat from the same table, all comers are welcome - Is everyone welcome at your table?

    • Potluck is a buffet. you don’t get to order what you eat. How can a laid back approach to entertaining help you welcome more people at your table?

    • All distinctions between guest and host are gone. We are both neither, we need more than we give, and receive more than we can give. How can you become a better host and guest?

  8. Find new ways to practice eating together

    • Invite someone to eat lunch after church

    • Have a group over for potluck dinner

    • Invite your neighbors for a BBQ

    • Take someone you don’t know very well to coffee with you

Additional Scripture:

Nehemiah 8: 1-12

Isaiah 25: 6-9

Matthew 25: 31-46

Luke 14: 15-23

1 Timothy 4: 4-5

Prayer - Jewish Table Blessing

Blessed are You LORD our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth - who creates various kinds of sustenance - who creates the fruit of the vine - who creates the fruit of the tree - who creates the fruit of the Earth - and by whose word all things came to be. Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten. Whose goodness is our lives. Praised be God and praised be God’s name!

Amen

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"Practicing Easter: Sharing Life" Acts 2: 41-47 April 28, 2019

  1. What are some of the upsides of being part of a church community? What are some of the risks?

  2. As you read Acts 2, what do you think the connection is between the first 41 verses of the chapter and these last six verses? How did what happened in the first part contribute to what happened in this last part of the chapter?

  3. Why did the church grow so fast in the days after Pentecost? What made the post-Pentecost church so appealing to others?

  4. Read the following passages: John 13:35, Ephesians 4: 1-6, Philippians 4: 2, Galatians 6:10 - As you think of our church, do you experience the unity described in these passages? Why or why not? What is missing from you or from your church?

  5. The word “devoted” is used in verse 42 and means “to give your constant attention to, an ongoing activity” What activities did the early Christians “devote themselves to” in these verses?

    Why did Luke write down these specific activities?

    How devoted are you to each of these things? What needs to change in your life to help you continually devote yourself to those things?

  6. Fellowship or “koinonia” as Pastor Heidi talked about, includes entering into other people’s pain, suffering, and hardship to help shoulder their burdens. Koinonia is also about sharing others joy and celebration as well. How is that understanding of koinonia different than our normal use and expectation of the word fellowship?

  7. How has Jesus made it possible for us to experience “koinonia” community with God? Each other?

  8. Putting together the idea of devotion and koinonia, what does it mean to be devoted to fellowship? What ideas do you have that would help deepen our devotion to the fellowship of believers here at Hope Community Covenant?

  9. What impact would a growing sense of community and koinonia here at Hope have both on us as a church and more broadly on Strathmore?

  10. Is God stirring anything in your heart about how to enter more fully into community life here at Hope in a way you haven’t done before?

    Prayer

    God of community, we pray for our own congregation. May we be a source of hope for our neighborhood.

    Help us to discern needs and work to fulfill them. Strengthen and unify our congregation and show us how we can be the disciples you envision us to be. Return the sick to health and well-being and relieve the suffering of those who have lost loved ones, are unable to find meaningful employment and fear the challenges of old age.

    Guide us, Great Shepard, into your paths of right relationships.

    In Jesus Name we pray, Amen

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Spiritual Discipline of Starting Over - John 20: 1-29 April 21, 2019

  1. What does it mean to start over? Think of a time when you had to start over. A job, a relationship, your life with Jesus? What are some positive aspects of starting over? What was the downside?

  2. Who does Mary see when she comes to the Garden? What are some possible reasons that Mary does not recognize Jesus when she first sees him? What does Jesus say to Mary that helps her recognize him? What is significant about the word that Jesus speaks to Mary?

  3. How does the truth of the resurrection overcome the Disciple’s fear and Mary’s grief? How do these truths help you use the truth of the resurrection to minister to those who are fearful or grieving?

  4. Why are the Disciples behind locked doors? (vs. 19) Who are they afraid of? How has their fear kept them from doing what they know Jesus would want them to do? Have you ever experienced fear that keeps you from accomplishing God’s will in your life?

  5. Jesus breathes his divine breath on the Disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit. (vs. 21-23) The Spirit of God was present from the beginning (Genesis 1) and was given to specific people for specific tasks. Here is was given to the Disciples, but what was their task? How do you think this relates to the giving of the Spirit in Acts 2? Is there a difference?

  6. What is your response to the resurrection today? What difference does it make that Jesus has risen from the dead? How does it affect your life?

  7. We talked this morning about how the resurrection is tied to starting over. Where do you need to start over this week?

    Heal a broken relationship

    Change your life’s direction

    See a new way to live

    Do you feel that Jesus resurrection power strengthens you to do these acts of starting over? How?

    Additional Scripture

    Isaiah 43: 16-19

    Lamentations 3: 22-24

    2 Corinthians 5: 16-21

    Revelations 21:3-5

    Prayer

    Living Lord, our Savior Jesus, we praise You - for You are raised by the power of God and in You there is newness of life, and by your grace, we are in it! Alleluia! Amen

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"Spiritual Discipline of Waking Up to God" Genesis 28: 10-16 John 12: 12-36 April 14, 2019

  1. Where have you encountered God in the world?

    Describe the situation, the physical attributes of your sacred place, and explain the emotions, if any, the experience evoked in you?

  2. Do you think God is more present in some places than in other places? If so, What do you think accounts for the difference?

  3. Can you think of a time in your life when you, like Jacob, have “woken up to God” (4)? Where were you? How have you marked or remembered those times and places?

  4. Why is it easy to put God in a box, to confine God to a particular Space in our lives? Barbara Brown Taylor in her book “An Altar in the World” asks “ Do we build God a house in lieu of having God stay at ours"?” is it easier to make God manageable when we say that we only encounter God in Church?

  5. How were the cheering crowds eyes closed to the reality of Jesus’ Identity as the Messiah? What did they miss because they were not awake to God?

  6. Following the events of Palm Sunday, Jesus speaks to the crowds in the Temple. What are some repeated words or phrases Jesus uses in John 12: 20-36? What are the importance of those words?

  7. Why is it important for John to include the Greeks who come to see Jesus? (vs: 20-23) How were the Greeks eyes open to Jesus? What did they want from Him?

  8. What does it mean that Jesus needs to be “lifted up” (vs: 32-33) - Numbers 21:4-9, John 3: 14-16)

  9. The New Testament apostles explain what Jesus’ death accomplished. Read 2 Corinthians 5: 20-21, Galatians 2:20 and write down how those passages impact you.

  10. What helps you to, or hinders you, from being awake to God’s presence in your life? What can you do to be more awake to God?

    Prayer

    Gracious God, as we stand at the gates of the city, give us grace to recognize the King we proclaim - and courage to be a part of Your Kingdom. Even when it goes against our ways and the ways of the world, even when it leads us where we do not want to go.

    Empower us to free ourselves from the tempting alternatives of power and wealth and status. Embolden us to live lives of thanksgiving and praise.

    Peace in Heaven - and glory in the highest Heaven!

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