This week @ RCC

Sun 26th Jan, 9:00am - 10:30am
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Sun 26th Jan, 11:00am - 12:30pm
Sunday service
Sun 2nd Feb, 9:00am - 10:30am
Sunday service
Sun 2nd Feb, 11:00am - 12:30pm
Sunday service

Life Group Studies

Feel free to alter the questions to for your own group!

Dave Bosma - a prayer for the year

26 January, 2020

This is Dave's prayer for those who are interested:

With hands raised

God in heaven, we worship you

You who are beyond all knowledge, all speech, all human comprehension and limitation

Yet who comes to us as a father, tender and close

We worship you with the very little we have

We whose lives are so small and short, whose actions are so flawed and feeble

Whose best and brightest moments are but scratchings in the dust compared with your glory

We worship you

You who spoke the stars into existence

You who cradle creation in the palm of your hand

Yet, o God, you come to us as Immanuel, “God with us,”

You promise to be Jehovah Jireh, “God who provides,”

You reveal yourself in and through Jesus Christ, “God who saves.”

God in heaven and on earth, we worship you.

With arms extend out to the walls, in the direction of your community, workplace, or school

God our King, we ask that you extend your kingdom on this earth

That your priorities become our priorities

That we pursue your actions with even greater energy than we do our own

That your reign and rule be established in our homes, workplaces, and communities.

May people all across this world treat one another with justice and kindness

May they treat the earth with wisdom and responsibility

May they achieve and maintain true mental health

May they acknowledge you as the giver of all good things.

Help us in the church to love those who look different to us

Those who speak differently, those who act differently, those who worship differently,

For you do not love them any differently,

And we want to participate in your love.

God our King, extend your kingdom here on earth.

With hands out, palms pointing up

God of all creation, we ask that you would give us enough for today

That we would accept whatever comes from your hand

And when we find that we have more than we need

We would joyfully share what is left with those who have less.

May we refuse to believe the lies of a consumer culture

That tells us there is fulfillment to be found in possessing more

And instead remember the truth that is found in Jesus Christ

Who did not love his own life even unto death.

May we not covet after things you have given to others

Or things you have told us we are better without

Instead Lord, let us take joy in all that is before us

All that you have given us to do and to care for

God of all creation, give us today that which we need for today

With hands crossed over your heart

God who knows us and loves us, may our hearts be submitted to you

May we not store up thoughts of resentment, revenge, and rage against others

But instead surrender those and choose to forgive

May we who are recipients of your grace

Also be channels of grace to others.

In a world that tells us we have a right to be offended

May we instead love others even as they wound us

And in so doing become more like Christ.

May we not be tempted by the many lies of today,

Those who tell us it is OK to hate, OK to put yourself first, OK to treat others as objects

And instead may we walk in the truth that is Christ,

Who loves all and died on behalf of all.

God who knows us and loves us, may our hearts be truly yours

Amen.

Mark Wells - God with us

8 December 2019

Read Hebrews 2:10-18

The Greek word translated 'perfect' in v.10 can mean 'complete', 'mature' or 'whole'. How does the rest of this passage explain the way(s) the morally perfect Son of God might need to be made mature or complete?

It is easy to forget that Jesus' expereince of growing up was affected by relative poverty, social disapproval, being displaced (some would call Mary, Joseph and Jesus refugees), grief (losing Joseph in his teens), family tension and rejection.

Why does it matter that God understands us through experience? Have you been on the receiving end of someone's concern where they clearly don't understand what is going on?

When life is hard, how does the knowledge that Jesus also suffered help?

How might this affect the way that we offer support? Does not having had the same experience disqualify us from offering sincere assistance to others?

How might that change the way that you pray?

Would it change the way you communicate the story of God's goodness to others?

 

 

Alan Aitken – Illuminate your world

1 December, 2019

Read Matthew 22:34-40, 1 John 5:1-5

What is one decision in your life that demonstrates that you love God first?

Would you read the verse (Mt. 22:37) about “all your heart, all your soul and all your mind” as three separate strands to the way we love, or as a more general ‘love God with all parts of your life’? How is the way you interpret it helpful to you in the way you obey?

What does ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ require of you?

There is a strong link between loving God and obeying Him. We can love others without obeying them – why is God different?

1 John 5:3-4 points out that God’s commands are not burdensome (other translations: not difficult, not hard to follow, not too hard for us). What is your experience of this?

The verse continues to point out that being born of God enables us to overcome the world. Rather having to do everything in our own ability, we are reminded that God has given us new life, new resources (like the Holy Spirit) and new strength as we trust God.

How are you going at relying on God’s strength in order to help you to obey His commands?

How are you going at relying on God’s strength in order to help you to love God and love others?

 

 

Lorraine Dierck – Call to mission

24 November, 2019

Read Luke 2:25-38

Simeon was waiting specifically for the ‘consolation of Israel’ – for them to be saved or restored. However, when the promised Messiah is revealed to Simeon, he praises God first for revealing Himself to the nations even before he focuses on the glory of Israel.

Why is it important to have a firm grasp of what God wants to do in and for us? How do passages like Ephesians 2:10 help to balance our picture of our place in God's purposes?

In verses 34-35, it appears that this ‘good ‘news’ will not be welcomed by everyone in Israel. How is this a challenge and warning to us, even within communities of faith?

God was also revealing Himself to people who didn’t know Him. How do we keep our focus on God’s mission into the world around us, as well as to us, especially in this Christmas season?

What does Christmas reveal to people about God?

How will they hear, if not through us? How can we create opportunities for this to happen?

Simeon met Mary and Joseph in the temple courts – quite a public space, where anyone could see what they were doing and hear what they were talking about. What does our faith look like in public? What do we do in public settings that demonstrates the difference that Christ makes?

The prophet Anna joined in and spoke about the child to everyone who was hoping for ‘the redemption of Jerusalem’. Just as Simeon’s encouragement was important to Mary and Joseph, Anna’s testimony was important to those throughout the community. How can we share the encouragement and hope of Christmas not just with our own families but with all those who want our communities, cities, country or world to be a better place?

 

 

Mark Wells - To let a promise die

17 November, 2019

Read Genesis 22

After God had told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham got up 'early the next morning'.

What is your response to difficult instructions or situations - to procrastinate or avoid, to get started straight away, or something else?

What drives that response - what do you hope to achieve?

There is a fair bit of resonance between this story and Genesis 12 - in both, God asks Abraham to go to a place He will show him, and the first thing Abraham does when he gets there is build an altar.

How might these similarities have helped Abraham to deal with a challenging situation?

What are some of the practices you use or situations you remember to help you to trust God when things change?

The ram appears to have been there all along, but it is not until Abraham looked up that he saw it.

Who helps you in the midst of trouble to look up, and how does that help you?

What are some of the practices you use to help you to be aware not just of the situation, but what might be happening around you (God's provision, or others that need help)?

Does the shock value of this story help put the sacrifice of Jesus into context for you?

 

 

Dave Bosma - Living on promises

10 November, 2019

Dave referred back to the events of Genesis 17 in his message - this study focuses on that 'missing' chapter. Please process the challenge from Dave's message - of God hearing us in our pain and shame, but us journeying together while we wait for his resolution - first, if this is most appropriate.

Read Genesis 17

This is 13 years later - Abram and Sarai have been waiting for this promised son for another 13 years.

How would you keep each other going for that length of time? What practices would you need to have in your life?

Abram falls facedown (v.3) - this is a demonstration of worship, of honour and humility, and recognising relative power (often people in Old Testament times would do this to kings and high officials - see Genesis 43:26).

What do you think he is honouring God for at this point?

God changes Abram's name to Abraham (from 'exalted father' to 'father of many'.) Names communicated important things about people - either their character, their past or their future.

How have you been 'mis-named' in the past by people, and what names does God want you to take up and live from?

God is very clear that Ishmael can live under His blessing, but not be part of His covenant people. In Matthew 5:43-48, God sets this as a standard for how He wants us to love others - blessing them, even when they are not living the way they should.

Who in your life do you need to bless, who is an 'enemy' or outside of God's promises?

How do we avoid confusing the experience of feeling blessed with our sense of security in being God's people? (this helps us understand when bad things happen to God's people, but also when we are curising in our faith, and god things continue to happen to us).

 

Phil Stedman – Going it alone

27 October, 2019

Read Genesis 16

v. 2 “The Lord has kept me from…” “perhaps I can…”

 Sarai shifts her reliance from God to her own plan and things within her own power.

What can lead us to decide to take things into our own hands?

What do we produce when we do take things into our own hands?

Hagar’s pregnancy creates conflict. How is this conflict handled?

What is your first response when faced with conflict?

How do you deal with that first response and move towards resolution?

Hagar discovers something about God (he sees me!) in the midst of a difficult situation.

What have you discovered about God through your seasons of struggle and hardship, that you might not have found any other way?

Pray for one another that you can have faith and patience as you wait for God’s promises.

 

 

Bevan Burgess - Questions and Covenants

20 October, 2019

Read Genesis 15

In verses 2-4, Abram not only doesn't seem very grateful for God's assurance, but is very challenging in his response - "there's nothing good you can give me if you don't give me a son".

Is this a good model for prayer for us to follow? Why or why not?

What is the 'back-story' of this interaction that might explain Abram's attitude?

Is it OK to be that honest with God? What happens when we tell God exactly what we are feeling?

"Abram believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness." What does this mean?

What might you need to trust God at His word for in your context right now?

How does trusting what God says (evidence or not) put us into 'right relationship' with Him?

Verses 12-16 don't sound like great news... Would you want God to be that honest with you in response to your prayers?

How might you as a group make your individual and corporate prayer more bold and honest, like Abram's?

 

 

Phil Stedman – Living on Promises

13 October, 2019

Read Genesis 13

What steps do you go through to work out how Abram’s story (a nomadic herder from 4000 years ago) might have something to speak into your own?

In the Old Testament, wealth is often presented as a sign of blessing, but the New Testament tends to view wealth as a source of temptation. How does our culture view wealth?

How can we live as ‘the light of the world’ in the financial situation we find ourselves?

Abram, as the senior family member, had every right to take first choice of the land that he wanted. What does this show about Abram?

There is no sign that Abram and Lot were in conflict, but Abram takes initiative to avoid further dispute. What makes it easier or harder to have hard conversations early in situations?

When might we need to change the kinds of relationships we have with people in order to make room for what God has called us to?

How is your life group preparing for the opportunity to grow and plant a new life group in the future?

 

 

 

Mark Wells – Living on promises

6 October 2019

Read Genesis 11:27-12:9, and Hebrews 11:8-10

Abram believed God’s promises with very little track record to go on.

What are some of the key ways or events that we can use to remind ourselves collectively of God’s track record of faithfulness?

What are some of the situations in your life that you can look back to personally where you have seen God come through?

How does this prepare you for the next time God asks you to step out in faith?

What gets in the way of you stepping out in faith?

How might we help each other to get past these other obstacles?

Are there any things that you are considering today that you need help to trust God in while you are living on promises?

 

 

 

Matt Meek – A beautiful life

29 September, 2019

Read Psalm 19

How have you seen creation displaying the glory of God? How do you connect with God through nature/ the outdoors/ the way He has made things?

How have the ways that David describes the Bible in verses 7-13 been your experience – or not?

  • What might help you to have more positive experiences of God’s word?
  • How would you help a beginner to begin to have positive experiences in reading the Bible?
  • What have you changed this year (even this month or this week) based on what you have seen in God’s word? How has that made a difference in your life?

In verse 14, David focuses in on the things that he says, but also the things that he meditates on (turning something over and over in his heart), and asks that God would help him to make those things pleasing to God.

  • What do you say or focus on internally that might not be pleasing to God?
  • How might you address this to change it?

 

 

Phil Stedman – Light where you need it

22 September, 2019

Read Proverbs 4

From what you have read in this passage and your own experience;

What is wisdom?

Which of these are synonyms and which refer to something different? – prudent, sensible, safe, good, morally right, logical, socially approved, under budget?

How do you get wisdom?

What do you do with it?

How can you tell that you are living by wisdom (or not)?

How does wisdom fit with living a life of faith (trusting God and not our own understanding)?

If the Bible teaches us to both have faith and live by wisdom, and there is an apparent conflict, do you think this is an issue with the Bible or our definitions of faith and wisdom?

Where in your life do you personally need more wisdom?

 

 

Seek me out - Phil Stedman

15 September, 2019

Read Psalm 119

"I have strayed ... I have not forgotten your commandments..."

Do you relate to David's plea here? In what areas do you know what you should do, but struggle to do it consistently?

How can we help each other with the places in our lives that are resistant to change?

What do we sometimes do that isn't helpful?

Is your expectation when you are struggling that God will seek you out, or withdraw from you?

How does that expectation shape your responses and behaviour when you are struggling?

[see the questions on Psalm 119 for 1 September for more inspiration (there's lots...)]

 

 

When trouble comes – Mark Wells

8 September, 2019

Read Psalm 27

David has some real enemies and threats in his life, but chooses carefully what he will focus on.

What are some of the key fears that we can have in our lives?

What practices do you have in your life at the moment that help you focus on the goodness of God?

What answer does the Word of God have to the fears that you have?

Considering the things that you fear, if they were to become real, what is the worst that could happen? How bad would that be?

How can trouble become an invitation to praise? What can you praise God for even when things in your life go haywire?

Sometimes we can default to a hope of heaven when we are experiencing ongoing trouble here, but David says that he is confident “that he will see the goodness of God in the land of the living” (v.13) What do we need to do when we are in the trouble in order to see God’s goodness around us?

Pray for one another and take the opportunity to pray verse 14 over each other.

 

 

 

Phil Stedman – Light where you need it

1 September, 2019

Read Psalm 119 [yes – all 176 verses…]

Choose a few questions that are helpful and encouraging to your group.

Aleph (v.1-8): What are some of the ways that others ‘walk in the way of the Lord’ that you aspire to imitate?

Beth (v.9-16): What words have you ‘hidden in your heart’ so that you can ‘rejoice in following [God’s] statutes’?

Gimel (v.17-24): What wonderful thing have you found in God’s law that helps you to withstand others’ negative attitudes?

Daleth (v.25-32): When you are weary with sorrow, what do you focus on to remind yourself of what is good?

He (v.33-40): What is a promise that God has fulfilled in your life?

Waw (v.41-48): In what ways does following Jesus bring you freedom?

Zayin (v.49-56): What would be in the song that describes your experience of life with God?

Heth (v.57-64): How can you be ‘a friend to all who fear [God]’?

Teth (v.65-72): How have you experienced the truth that ‘it was good for me to be afflicted, so I might learn your decrees’?

Yodh (v.73-80): What can you thank God for in the way that He made you, and what has that taught you about Him?

Kaph (v.81-88): What is a trustworthy word from God you hold on to?

Lamedh (v.89-96): There is a tension here between God’s commands preserving our life and our need for Him to save us even when we follow His commands. What do you make of this?

Mem (v.97-104): When the Psalmist says that he is wiser than others, what do you think he is getting at? Is he just a know-it-all, or is there something else going on?

Nun (v.105-112): what would taking your life in your hands for the Gospel look like for you?

Samekh (v.113-120) This section seems really black and white, even harsh. What context do we need around passages like this?

Ayin (v.121-128): What is a current issue where you want to call God to act?

Pe (v.129-136): what can we do together to help each other so that we are not ruled over by sins or by other people (peer pressure, judgment etc.)?

Tsadhe (v.137-144): Do you tend to allow your trust in God to lead or follow your understanding of His word or what He is doing? Which trumps which?

Qoph (v.145-152): What is something that you really care about that you might need to shake up your routine in order to devote time to fervent prayer?

Resh (v.153-160): How do we stay on track in maintaining the tension between compassion for people and hating what is wrong or harmful?

Sin and Shin (v.161-168): What routine or practices do you have for staying connected with God throughout your day? What makes this harder?

Taw (v.169-176): What can you praise God for this week?

 

Worship is love expressed - Jasmine Robb

25 August, 2019

Read Matthew 22:37-38

How do you express love to God in each of these aspects - (in the different Gospel accounts, including; heart, mind, soul and strength)?

Which aspect is the biggest challenge for you to express (or even know how to express) love to God?

In which of these aspects is your strength - the most natural way to express love?

Do you think God measures us all against the same standard in each aspect, or in relation to our ability and current freedom, when He receives the gift we are offering Him?

What types of corporate worship (think broadly here; not just singing, but service, giving, communion, prayer and praise, engaging with God's word etc.) engage your heart, mind, soul and/or strength?

What other things attract your worship?

What practices help you to re-order your priorities so that God comes back to the top?

 

 

God’s great surprises – Murray Robertson

18 August, 2019

Read Acts 10:1 -11:3

Peter and the other disciples had the words and example of Jesus that looked to offer salvation beyond the Jews, but they still really struggled with the mindset that the Gentiles were still in the ‘too-hard’ basket.

I know that the ‘right’ answer is that no one is in the ‘too-hard’ basket… but who do you think of as ‘too hard’ in your life?

Who are some people that you have made part of your life and are actively praying for and looking to invite towards relationship with God?

What do you do in order to open the door to spiritual conversations with these people? How might you connect with, love and serve them?

What would happen if you extended that same sort of invitation, prayer, care and attention to people who seem ‘too hard’?

How can we pray (and keep praying) for the relationships that you have now, and that we need to have in the future in order to invite those that seem too hard right now?

 

 

 

Light that lasts – Mark Wells

11 August, 2019

Read Proverbs 13

Proverbs is challenging to read because often the verses following one after another have two completely different topics. It forces us to slow down and consider them, otherwise they can just become a blur.

  • Can you share a proverb that has been helpful or significant to you?
  • What makes the proverbs in the Bible different from other sayings and whakataukī that we may hear or use from time to time? How are they the same?

Reflect on this chapter of Proverbs:

  • How can this wisdom be helpful for you right now in your life?
  • What seems relevant to our culture and contemporary life – how we use relate to one another, the influence of social media, and our patterns around work, wealth and discipline?
  • What does this relevance of a text that is at least 2,500 years old tell us about people and wisdom?

How does the wisdom of Proverbs intersect with the good news of Jesus? In other words, how do we understand the importance of living both as forgiven people, but also “Be[ing] very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise…” (Eph. 5:15).

What one change might you need to make to your life this week to live with greater wisdom?

 

 

Faith at work - Bob Whittaker

4 August, 2019

Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, 1:18-2:2

From reading through these passages, what does Paul identify as the things he is giving thanks for among the people he writes to?

What is the source of these traits or gifts – are these characteristics of the people themselves?

What do the people contribute?

Why do you think Paul approaches the Corinthians this way? What is helpful about this approach, and what is unhelpful?

What do we tend to assess our usefulness to God by – what He provides or what we bring to the table? How does this affect our willingness to do things?

What might God be calling you to do or begin that relies more on His ability than yours? How can we as a group to encourage you and help remind you of God’s generous provision to help you do it?

Pray for one another

 

 

 

Faith Family – Alan Aitken

28 July, 2019

Read Matthew 5:14-16

This passage comes strongly from the perspective that light will show up unless it is hidden or obscured.

What are some ways that people can hide or obscure their faith from others?

What might be some reasons that people do this?

What do we need to practise to make our faith more real and concrete in our own life/ family?

What can we do once we have a consistent faith to allow that light to shine in other places?

How can family be a venue for teaching and expressing Christian faith and values?

How can families become a place for sharing faith and values with others?

What is one thing that you could do to allow the light of your family’s faith to shine unimpeded?

 

 

 

Asking the Why question - Carey Ewing

21 July, 2019

Read Luke 15:11-32

From one perspective, the younger son just had a bad run. He wanted to be independent and take responsibility for himself, but gets in with the wrong crowd, and then there is a crisis in the local economy, which isn’t his fault, but he ends up at rock bottom. The son doesn’t blame his circumstances however – he acknowledges that he has ‘sinned against heaven and [his father]’.

How easy do you find it to admit your mistakes and failures? Does it make a difference if you have made a big deal of what you are doing in the first place?

Do you tend to attribute your successes or failures to circumstances, your choices or a bit of both? How do you assess other people’s successes or failures?

What is different about the approach of the father in this story? What is his chief concern?

How does the older brother respond?

What does it look like for us to ‘celebrate and be glad’ when people from all sorts of backgrounds come to faith? What does that require of us?

How do we extend the message to people in ‘pig pens’ of choice or circumstance that the father has room in his heart for them?

 

 

Living in the overlap - Mark Wells

14 July, 2019

 

Read Ephesians 6:10-24

Several times in this passage, Paul reminds us to stand, keep standing and stand some more.

  • What difference does it make when we are able to stand firm in a certain area of life?
  • What are some of the key areas in which you see people getting pushed against in our culture?
  • What are the practices that we can use to remind ourselves of what is right and enable ourselves to stand firm in these areas?
  • What do you do to stand firm in trusting that God is present and active in our world?

Paul seems to draw much of the framework for this spiritual armour from Isaiah (59:17, 52:7, 11:4-5) as well as elements of what people were used to seeing in the Roman world – legionnaires.

  • What does thinking and reading through the spiritual armour make you think of or remind you?

In verses 17 and 18, the Spirit not only brings God’s word to us, but is also involved in getting our words to God.

  • How might you invite the Spirit more into the times when you pray?
  • What would help you pray more for one another?

 

 

 

Chosen for better things - Phil and Cath Stedman

7 July, 2019

Read Ephesians 5:21-6:9

What do you think it looks like to ‘submit to one another out of reverence to Christ’?

Where have you seen examples of this kind of submission?

What kind of statement does this make?

What are some of the benefits of having mutual submission?

In the examples of submission that Paul gives through the rest of this passage, what do you see as the ‘checks and balances’ between the people submitting and those being submitted to?

What do you do when this relationship of submission is only one way?

We often roughly translate the commands to slaves and masters into our context of employers and employees. On that basis, what is the challenge for you in this passage?

 

Living in wisdom - Ps. Amy Page-Whiting

30 June 2019

 

Read Ephesians 5:3 – 5:20

Paul focuses on the misuse of good things in verses 3-7, of sexuality and purity, money, and speech, and compares this to idolatry.

How is this misuse idolatry – (idolatry usually means placing other things above God in our priorities)?

What other things might we let creep into idolatry?

How do we expose the things that we see having too large a hold on us?

What does Paul say is the effect of bringing things into the light?

Often it is difficult or impossible to completely separate ourselves from these potential idols (except temporarily). How might you need to transform an area or areas of your life so that they can become something that pleases God, rather than an obstacle to living as His child?

Paul finishes with an encouragement to worship God together. How might you do this together as a life group?

Why don’t you take some time to do that now?

 

 

What are you looking for? – Jairus Robb

23 June 2019

Read Acts 10:44-48, 13:1-4, 16:6-10,

The book of Acts is very open about the role of the Holy Spirit working through the apostles – leading them, influencing decisions, creating opportunities and connections.

What are some of the situations where you have been conscious of the Spirit leading you or working through you?

What questions do stories like these, and the events in Acts, raise for you?

What is your understanding of what the Holy Spirit does (including these things, but more broadly as well)?

Which of these things would you like the Holy Spirit to do more in your life?

Maybe you could pray for these things?

 

 

Dave Bosma - A Community of Sacrificial Love

16 June 2019

 

Read Ephesians 4:17-5:2

You might want to break down into smaller groups to discuss some of these questions:

Where in your life is it easy and tempting to just put on the ‘church face’ and pretend things are fine, when there is a struggle going on inside you?

How much of an issue is anger for you in any of its guises; resentment, bitterness, frustration, road rage, sarcasm and criticism? What feeling is behind that?

What might sacrificial love look like in some of these situations?

Who might you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from, and who might you need to be kinder to and more patient with?

You could come back together here.

Read verses 17-18. Paul is not presenting a self-help programme, or a list of expectations we must meet ourselves. How might connecting more with the life of God enable you to confront and overcome these areas of weakness, temptation and sin?

What does the process or practice of putting off the old self and putting on the new self look like? What would you actually do on a day-to-day basis to change your habits and actions?

 

 

Mark Wells - This can be better

9 June 2019

 

Read Ephesians 4:1-16

What is the general ‘calling’ that we receive as God’s children?

Do you have a specific sense of calling for what you are supposed to do as an individual?

What things have you put in place to help you live up into the calling you have received?

Paul reminds us of our unity in verses 2-6 and our diversity in 7-13. He points out that people who are different to us are a gift from God to help us mature. And his commands encourage us to hang in there when people who are different make us uncomfortable.

Paul focuses for a start on what makes us the same – the same Father, the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same family, the same faith, the same baptism… and one of the places where the rubber hits the road is around baptism. What are some of the arguments for getting baptized, and what are some of the barriers to making this choice?

Has everyone in your life group been baptized, and if not, how might we help deal with some of the barriers? [please let Auriole know who in your group has, and has not, been baptized].

Are you more often tempted to look down on others with different gifts or callings, or to be intimidated by others? What beliefs might be behind both of these attitudes?

Where does the discomfort around differently gifted people come from?

How does overcoming the discomfort and receiving people as a gift to us play a part in our discipleship?

How can you and I through our own gifts and calling be more of a gift to others – what changes to our attitude might this require?

What does speaking the truth in love look like?

 

Mark Wells - A love big enough

2 June 2019

 

Read Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul prays that we would be strengthened and that Christ can ‘dwell in our hearts through faith’.

Why isn’t this the easiest or most natural thing in the world?

What kind of power or strength or help do we need to have, and continue to have, Christ living in us and making a difference?

What do you think being ‘rooted and established in love’ practically looks like? How would you know that you were?

Where do you need to see and understand God’s love more, for yourself and for others?

Whose example or approach challenges you about the reach and breadth of God’s love for other people?

Does having Paul tell us that God’s love is beyond understanding spur you towards, or discourage you from, exploring it? Why?

Which tends to be bigger in your life; your imagination of what things could happen or the things that you pray for? How could you cultivate both your imagination and your prayer life, so that you are praying for things that you can just barely imagine happening?

 

 

Phil Stedman - 

26 May 2019

 

Read Ephesians 3:1 – 13

Paul – or Saul of Tarsus as we first encounter him in the Acts narrative – was an over-achieving Pharisee. The Pharisees were the ‘separated ones’, keeping themselves pure by rules-keeping and distancing themselves from anyone they considered to be sinners. Their attitude is summed up in a parable in Luke 18:9-12. Paul’s revelation described in this passage also required a huge act of repentance – a complete changing of his mind in attitude, belief and conscience.

  • Where have you been challenged into one of these complete changes of mind in your relationship with God? Share your story.
  • Are you currently being challenged about how you think about a particular issue and what might need to change?

Paul clearly understands the depth of his ‘wrongness’ - the self-righteousness, arrogance and violence of his former life (as described in many of his letters) – but also seems to be able to accept God’s forgiveness freely.

  • Why do you think that Paul is so free from his past wrongdoing?
  • What might you need to forgive yourself for, and what might you need to know to accept God’s forgiveness?
  • Are there people or groups of people that you struggle to see as potential recipients of God’s kindness and grace? Take this time to pray for an extra serving of God’s grace so that you can be a channel of this grace to others.

 

 

Bevan Burgess - No Outsiders

19 May 2019

 

Read Ephesians 2:11-22

In our context, who would be the ‘Gentiles’ – those who are foreigners to the promises, ‘without hope and without God’?

Christ’s blood has ‘brought them near’ but what are the obstacles to integrating into church for someone from an unchurched background?

Jews and Gentiles had quite a hostile relationship ordinarily, and this could cause tension or suspicion in the church as well.

  • What is are the potential barriers between people from a church background and those who are not that could cause tension or discomfort that we need to be aware of?
  • What does Paul remind us of in verses 18-22 to help us to overcome these barriers?
  • How might our comfort zones of relationships affect our ability to make a difference for people who are different to us? What might god be asking us to do through this passage?

 

 

Phil Stedman - Chosen for better things

12 May 2019

 

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

This passage starts with a big statement – ALL of us were disobedient and spiritually dead until God’s kindness got involved. However, it is easy to think that we were doing all right or were ‘nice Christian kids’ that just needed to invite Jesus into our hearts.

  • How do you respond to this blunt presentation of our spiritual need?
  • Does it change how you think about your salvation?
  • How would you explain this to someone who does not yet believe?

The passage continues focusing on God’s mercy and kindness, His grace (undeserved favour) and the way that He lifts us up from death to eternal and glorious life.

  • What is really helpful about focusing on a relationship with God that is based simply on trusting in His kindness?
  • What aspect(s) of faith does focusing only on this idea miss? (see verse 10 for one)
  • How do you reconcile the apparent mismatch between verse 8-9 (not by works) and verse 10 (to do good works)?
  • Which part of this tension do you need to lean into more – God’s kindness or His works prepared for us?

 

 

Matt Meek - When the light comes on

5 May 2019

Read Ephesians 1:15-23

When was the last time you had a lightbulb moment - that something stood out to you;

  • something that you read in the Bible or heard in a message
  • a theme you noticed in your circumstances
  • something that you saw that created a strong response in you
  • something that you noticed in your reaction to what was happening to you?

Reflecting on what you noticed, what might be something that God might want you to understand?

What might you do to respond to that - what might be a plan you can put in place so that you can grow forward from that new understanding? (It's ok to ask others for suggestions)

Who would you like to follow up with you to encourage you and help you stick to the plan?

Pray for one another that you would have more lightbulb moments and would be able to reflect on them, discuss them with others, make a plan and have someone to keep you accountable.

 

Alan Aitken - Chosen to be Jesus People

28 April, 2019

Read Ephesians 1:1-1:14

Paul states that he is 'an apostle by the will of God'.

  • What kinds of vocations and occupations do you think we can take up 'by the will of God'? In other words, what do you think counts as a calling or God's purpose for us - does it have to be in a Christian environment?

 

Some of the themes that appear frequently in this passage are God's will, His pleasure and love, and our being chosen.

  • What is God's will for us, what does He take pleasure in doing, and who does He love? What are we chosen for?

Verses 4-7 outline that God chose us before we had ever done anything good or bad, and intends us for holiness and being blameless into our future.

  • What is our part in all of this - what do we do in response?

This whole passage is focussed on praising God, and how what He has done is bringing Him praise.

  • What are some of the praise-worthy things that God has done - both in this passage, but also in your own experience? Take some time to praise God!

 

 

Phil Stedman - Darkness Illuminated

14 April, 2019

Read John 8:12-20

How do you understand what Jesus is saying about being 'the light of the world'? What might this mean?

This is an exclusive claim - not A light, the THE light. Why can Jesus make this claim, and what does it say about other ways?

What response does Jesus ask of us in 8:12?

The Pharisees' response - like many people today - is skeptical; we can't just believe what you say about yourself. What does Jesus rely on to validate his claims?

What convinces you that Jesus is worth listening to?

How might you explain that to someone who doesn't yet believe?

 

Richard Black - Deep hope in dark times

7 April, 2019

 

Extra sensitivity required: this may be a sensitive topic for people in your group, and I think it is worthwhile reminding group members that while they may have opinions around the issue of suicide, please take time to think about what they are saying and how it might affect someone who has been directly affected by it.

While suicide is a significant current issue in our society, it is by no means a new phenomenon. There are at least 6 suicides recorded in the Bible narrative, and that is just among people considered important enough to be mentioned. You don’t need to read through each of these – this is more of a summary!

Judges 9:50-55 - Abimelek, a war leader over a portion of Israel, (Mortally wounded in battle, he did it to avoid shame (“so no one could say that a woman killed him”.))

Judges 16:25-30 - Samson, one of Israel’s judges; Captured and blinded, he could see no future/ this was his last chance

1 Samuel 31:1-6 - Saul, king of Israel; He was wounded, the battle was lost, and he didn’t want to be captured (consequences)

2 Samuel 17:23 - Ahithophel , an advisor to King David; His advice was ignored

1 Kings 16:15-20 - Zimri, would-be king of Israel; His bid to rule failed

Matthew 27:1-5 - Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples; He felt guilty of betraying Jesus

 

[Remember that the Bible records what did happen, not necessarily what should have happened, so this cannot be read as condoning suicide – it simply demonstrates that it is not a new thing.]

Each of them had their reasons why they chose to end their life. Some we can understand, and others seem bizarre or extreme to us.

What are some of the helpful and unhelpful messages about suicide in our culture?

What are some of the helpful and unhelpful messages about suicide in Christian circles?

Watch the video “Deep hope in dark times”.

Make time to use your Feelings and Needs cards here, and pray for one another.

 

 

 

Mark Wells - Defeating Depression, reclaiming joy

24 March, 2019

 

Read Psalm 22

This is a psalm that ends up ‘framing’ some of the events around Jesus’ crucifixion, but it is also a passionate outpouring of David’s feelings and thoughts in a particular part of his life.

Read through just verses 1-2, 6-8, 12-18 – what story does just this part of the psalm tell?

How easy is it for you to just listen to the negative voices in your life and miss the positive things that are happening?  

Watch the video “Defeating Depression”. (You will be asked to use your Feelings and Needs Cards so have them handy!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNGhTlCA9dg

 

 

 

Phil Stedman - Living beyond Grief (week two)

17 March, 2019

Read Lamentations 1:1-11

Within this poetic passage, Jeremiah describes many different kinds of loss that Jerusalem (personified as a woman) has experienced.

What kinds of loss can you see referred to in this passage?

Loss can be multi-faceted, can show in a whole range of different ways.

  • When you have experienced loss, or journeyed with someone who has, what did you notice about grief that surprised you?
  • What was the direct loss, and what were indirect losses (if any) that came with it?
  • Did the loss of someone or something you valued change the way you thought about yourself?
  • What happened to the grief over time?
  • What did other people do that helped you to grieve?
  • What is the end point of the grieving process? How do you know that you have finished, and what will the process have achieved?

The Bible describes God as grieving over particular situations and Jesus as a ‘man of sorrows, familiar with suffering”.

  • How can knowing that Jesus understands our grief help us?
  • How might it change our prayers?
  • Do you think that God would miraculously ‘take away’ our grief about a situation – why or why not?

What has been helpful from the ‘Good Grief’ Soul Talk video and messages?

Make time to use your Feelings and Needs cards here, and pray for one another.

 

 

Alan Aitken - Living beyond Grief

10 March, 2019

Read Ecclesiastes 7:1-5

1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
3 Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
5 It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that loss and hardship are universal experiences even though our culture tends to avoid thinking or talking about this.

  • What kinds of loss can we all expect to experience?
  • What kind of life do we tend to see on TV and/or social media, and how is this unhelpful?

Watch the video “Good Grief”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsHalIVuo6I  (You will be asked to use your Feelings and Needs Cards so have them handy!)

 

Mark Wells - Conquering Anxiety

3 March, 2019

 

Read Psalm 11

Make time to use your Feelings and Needs cards here, and pray for one another.

For this study, perhaps consider breaking down into smaller groups to discuss some of these questions.

In Psalm 11, David refers to people who are warning him of ambushes or assassination attempts.

  • What kind of fears or worries are ‘promoted’ in our culture?
  • What frightens you? What do you tend to shy away from because the consequences make you feel worried and uncomfortable?
  • What is the worst that could happen if your fears are realised?
  • Will this harm your relationship with God? How do you know?
  • What other truth from God’s word can you remind yourself of as you approach things you are fearful of?
  • What was helpful from the Soul Talk video ‘Fighting Fear’ that you could use?
  • How can we help each other to stand firm against fear?

 

 

Richard Black - Conquering Anxiety

24 February, 2019

Read 2 Timothy 1:6-7 & 12

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

  •   What kind of transformation is Paul talking about happening in Timothy’s life?
  •   What does Paul imply that Timothy would be missing out on if he gives in to fear?
  •   What is the source of Paul’s confidence?

Watch the video “Fighting Fear”. This can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77pZ-ZQTY4k

(You will be asked to use your Feelings and Needs Cards so have them handy!)

 

Cath Stedman - Beating Burnout

17 February, 2019

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5

2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

  •  When you consider your regular rhythm of life, how many of the things you do are inspired by your faith, love and hope, and how many are things that just need to be done?
  • What is one thing that you know inspires and encourages you that you haven’t done in the last month?

Watch the video “Beating Burnout”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s_2_WI2U14 (You will be asked to use your Feelings and Needs Cards so have them handy!)

Consider doing the assessment of your draining and energising activities and reporting back to someone in your life group.

 

Steve Graham: Hope

10 February, 2019

Read Psalm 23

Steve pointed out that there is no request in Psalm 23 - it is more a statement of confidence that God is already doing these things.

Which of the parts of Psalm 23 speak most to your situation? What do you need to hear the most?

Which parts are you most sure of - that you would be able to say confidently and consistently?

"It is a different kind of faith to believe that God will come through for you, than it is to believe that God is already doing what you need, even if you can't see it." 

How would you respond to this quote?

 

Where would you place yourself in the context of Psalm 23 - green pastures, the valley of the shadow of death etc. - and how can we as a life group pray for you?

 

 

 

Phil Stedman: Light of the World

9 December, 2018

Read John 1:1-18

Jesus is referred to in this passage as the Word (or communication, or reason), the light, and the Son.

  • What do these terms tell us or imply about him and what He is doing in the world?
  • What does this short passage say about His mission and how He was received?
  • What parts of this story particularly encourage you or speak to your situation?

The Gospel of John talks about John the Baptist and his role as ‘a witness to the light’.

  • What does John do in order to share this witness?
  • What might you do in order to be a witness to the light you have seen?

Later in the Gospel accounts, John is arrested for challenging the behavior of Herod, and executed.

  • Why do people tend to resist the witness of the light into their lives?
  • If this is the reality, why would you do this?
  • How could you approach this in a way that enables people to be more open and less defensive?

 

 

 

Tony Plews: The Mission of God’s People in the 21st Century

2 December, 2018

Read Matthew 28:18-20

What do you think of, and how do you feel, when you read this passage?

Read verse 17 – how do you think the disciples are feeling?

We can assume that Jesus is answering the doubts of the disciples – what reassurance is he giving, and what doubts might that address?

What do you personally need to be convinced of, in order to have the courage and confidence to ‘go and make and teach’?

Why do we baptize? When is the right time? Is there anyone in this group has hasn’t, and what might be standing in the way?

Who are some people in the places that you already go that you can pray for, and plan to look for opportunities to share your faith, so that they have the invitation to become disciples?

What opportunities are there for you as a life group to support someone to go further afield, or to support someone who has already gone?

 

 

 

Matt Meek: Do you ‘get’ grace?

25 November, 2018

Read Colossians 1:3-14

What does Paul say is the source for faith in Jesus and the love that we have for others?

Where do our hopes tend to be focused?

Paul says that a growing knowledge of God’s will enabled by the Spirit will produce;

  • A life that is worthy of God and pleasing to Him
  • Fruitfulness in good works
  • Growth in our knowledge of God (relational rather than informational)
  • Increased strength to have patience and endurance
  • Joyful thanksgiving

How does this line up with what our culture defines as success?

Where do these two lists directly conflict?

In verses 12 -14, Paul comments that God qualifies us to share in the inheritance of His holy people – what ‘qualification’ achieves this? [if you are not sure, read through the passage again].

Once this qualification is in place, what does God want for and from us?

What makes God’s will for our lives exciting and inspiring, rather than tough and burdensome?

 

 

 

Phil Stedman: Love that never gives up

18 November, 2018

Read 2 Kings 21:1-17 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20

Here we have two accounts of the reign of Manasseh; one focused on the wrong that he did, and one focused on the consequences of his actions, and his changed life once he begins listening to God.

  • Do you find it easier to focus on your faults (or the faults of others), or on what can be done to make things right, or on the potential of people and situations if they can get on track?
  • How does this default tend to form the way you see people?
  • How do you think that God sees us?

How does God’s forgiveness for our wrongdoing interact with the consequences of that wrongdoing? How do you explain that to someone who doesn’t understand?

Especially from the 2 Kings passage, Manasseh just looks too bad to change.

  • Do you have a mental picture or line of how bad is too bad for people to have a relationship with God? Why or why not? If so, where does that line sit?
  • How would you explain grace to someone who insists that there should be that kind of line?
  • How would you feel sitting beside someone at church who you know pushed that line of being ‘too bad’ pretty hard? How do we manage those relationships?

Pray that we can communicate grace to the people we meet in all sorts of situations.

 

Richard Black: Compelled

11 November, 2018

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Verse 15 is interesting. Across major translations, there are a bunch of different words used to describe the response to Christ dying for us:

  • should/ shall - this is directive "I am supposed to"
  • might/ may - this is permission "I am allowed to"
  • would/ will - this is choosing to "I have decided to"
  • could/ can - this is ability or possibility "I am able to do this"

Which of these ways of understanding our response do you identify with, and what is helpful or unhelpful about each?

The difference in translation is because the should/ might/ would word isn't necessary in the Greek sentence, but a good English sentence requires it, so the translators have put in the one they thought fit best.

  • What motivates you to follow Christ? How would you explain that to someone who doesn't follow Jesus?
  • What is the difference between being forgiven and being reconciled?
  • What might it look like to be part of reconciling someone else to God, "not counting their sins against them"?
  • What would an ongoing journey of being reconciled (brought together) with God look like?
  • How can you help each other to maintain your motivation and focus on Christ?

 

 

Bevan Burgess: Hope in Dark Times

28 October 2018

Read 2 Kings 20:1 – 21:1

Hezekiah became king when he was 25 and he reigned for 29 years (2K. 18:2). This means that he was “ill and at the point of death” at 39 years old, and then received an additional 15 years.

Hezekiah believes God – whatever the word that Isaiah brings, Hezekiah seems to respond to it as the absolute truth straight away each time.

  • What is the difference between believing in God, and believing God?
  • How might that show up in a person’s life?
  • What is an area where you struggle to believe God?

Hezekiah had no problem asking God to do difficult things (v. 10) – because he believed in God’s power and willingness.

  • Are there things that you hesitate to ask God for?
  • If so, what are they and why do they seem too difficult to ask for?

In verses 2-3, Hezekiah prays and reminds God of his own faithfulness.

  • Is this a good way to start a prayer? What sort of attitude does it imply?

Hezekiah seems quite complacent in the later life, and this is what his son Manasseh sees.

  • What would you like your children to see in your faith?
  • What might you need to do to enable that to happen?

 

 

 

Nicky Ewing and Mark Wells: Stand and Fight

21 October, 2018

Read 2 Kings 18:13-37 and 19:1-37

The king of Assyria made the assumption that Hezekiah was leaning on the king of Egypt for support, and then, as a second thought, suggested that he might be leaning on God (2K. 18:20-22).

  • How would you respond to someone who said that having faith was a ‘crutch’ for the weak?
  • What are other things that people lean on, and what is the outcome of leaning on them?
  • What is the balance in a life of faith between leaning and standing firm? What might that look like?

The messenger of the king of Assyria tells the people not to let Hezekiah deceive them, nor to persuade them, not to listen to him (twice) or to let him mislead them. This is quite an assault on his influence with his people.

  • What ways are used to undermine the truth and reliability of the Bible?
  • What are areas where you need some more information or context in order to withstand this undermining?

In verses 31-32, the king of Assyria uses a lot of the same language and makes similar promises that the Israelites have previously heard from God – he is offering to replace God.

  • What sources in our context offer the same kind of promises that we receive from God?
  • Can they deliver?

In what areas can we better support one another when we enter into struggles over our faith and confidence in God?

 

 

 

Dave Bosma: Hope in Dark Times

14 October, 2018

Read 2 Chronicles 30

There is an allowance in the Old Testament law for people who were unclean at the regular time for Passover to celebrate it a month later (Numbers 9:4-13). In this case, the whole nation follows this exception.

  • What were the Israelites celebrating at Passover?
  • What are some of the opportunities we have to invite people to the significant dates in the Christian calendar where the core stories of faith are told?
  • Would you aim for a similar tone to Hezekiah’s letter, or if not, how might you phrase this kind of invitation?

In verses 10-12, we see a range of responses to this invitation, from scorn and ridicule to humble acceptance. What helps us to take courage to give this a go, knowing that the response is a little unpredictable?

The people in Jerusalem have to provide for the people they invited, and make allowances and adjustments to the practices of Passover in order to accommodate them.

  • As we see more people from non-church backgrounds come into church, what adjustments might we need to make to our services and/or our expectations?
  • Which of these would be most challenging for you?
  • What are some of the celebrations we can have when people come into a relationship with God and into our church community, and what might we need to do to participate in, and honour, these?

 

 

 

Mark Wells – First things first

7 October, 2018

Read 2 Chronicles 29

Hezekiah begins preparing the temple to be used for its intended purpose (worshipping God and providing a focus for the devotion of the community) from the very first day of his reign.

  • What holds you back from obedience to God (either His general call to us as His people, or the specific things you feel God is leading you towards)?
  • Is there a sense of urgency in changing things that you realise you need to change? Why or why not?

The Levites had to both remove the distractions from the temple and install all the articles that were needed.

  • Are you better at stopping the things that you shouldn’t do [sins and distractions], or doing the things that you should [spiritual disciplines], and why?
  • How could you help one another in this area?

Through the passage, more and more people get involved – Hezekiah invites first the Levites, then the city leaders and influencers, and then others join in, worshipping, sacrificing, thanking God.

  • How can you use the influence you have to inspire the people around you to pursue God?
  • How might you invite people who don’t know God to come a step closer?

In the parallel passage in 2 Kings 18, it says that Hezekiah ‘did right in God’s eyes as his father David did’ and that he trusted the Lord.

  • What step of obedience or trust might you need to take today in order to show this kind of heart for God?

 

 

 

Carey Ewing – Encounters with Jesus

30th September, 2018

Read Matthew 14:1-21

Jesus is in mourning for his cousin John the Baptist, and tries to get away from the crowds, but they follow him.

  • What space do you head towards when you need to process what you are feeling? Do you do it alone, or with others?
  • What happens when your ‘me time’ is interrupted by others? What are your options, and what is your default?

Some of Jesus’ compassion, and the healing that he provides, flows out of his own experience of pain.

  • What has your experience prepared you to be able to share? Where can you share the comfort you have received with others? (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
  • How much distance do you need from your own pain before you can extend comfort?
  • How might you offer that?

The way we tend to approach this story usually focuses on Jesus miraculously meeting the basic physical needs of the people.  

  • What are some of the other approaches to this story that enable us to follow Jesus’ example?
  • Can we expect miracles when we step out in compassion? Why or why not?