This week @ RCC

Sun 16th Dec, 9:00am - 10:30am
Sunday service
Sun 16th Dec, 11:00am - 12:30pm
Sunday service
Thu 20th Dec, 9:30am - 11:00am
Mainly music
Sun 23rd Dec, 9:00am - 10:30am
Sunday service
Sun 23rd Dec, 11:00am - 12:30pm
Sunday service
Tue 25th Dec, 10:00am - 11:00am
Sunday service

Life Group Studies

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

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?

 

 

 

Jerry Field: Spend yourself on behalf of the poor

23 September, 2018

Read Isaiah 58

What is the link here between the sincerity of spirituality and the outworking of justice and mercy?

What cost were the people here willing to pay for their relationship with God, and where did they draw the line?

What is the promised outcome of genuinely engaging with other people’s need?

What are the ‘easy parts’ of modern Christian faith that we might take on?

What are the hard parts – the choices and boundaries that might cost us something in terms of time, money, emotional effort or social approval?

What is the promised outcome for us of living a life that is wholly committed to God?

 

 

 

Rachel McConnachie: When singing doesn’t make sense

16 September, 2018

Read 2 Corinthians 4-5

All through this passage, Paul seems to be arguing that a source of our worship and witness in the world is not how blessed we are outwardly, but how strong and hopeful we can be inwardly despite the challenges and difficulties we face.

  • What would you say to someone whose expectation of an easy and blessed life was not being met?
  • What are some of the challenging situations you have faced or are facing that God has helped you with?
  • How can you share that journey with someone so that following Jesus sounds attractive?
  • How does a hope of heaven enable you to engage with life’s challenges right now?

Some people disengage with making a difference either when times are tough, or if they are overly focused on heaven.

  • What would you say to them?
  • How do you worship when your life is difficult?

 

 

 

Phil Stedman: We are outward looking

9 September, 2018

Read Jeremiah 29:4-7, 10-14

Which is the most well-known passage from the chapter?

Why is it so encouraging?

In verses 4-7, which way does the ‘trickle-down’ of prosperity work – who gets it first?

  • How are the exiles from Jerusalem likely to feel about the city they have been exiled to?
  • Do you think they would want the city to prosper?
  • What might God be trying to teach them?

Read Colossians 1:15-20

Look at the use of ‘all things’ in this short paragraph. What is the extent of Jesus’ authority and the reconciliation that he brings?

If we are partners in the reconciliation that Jesus is bringing, how broad or narrow should our focus be?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-20

This passage explicitly pushes us outward.

  • What obstacles do we need to overcome as Christ’s love compels us?
  • Who in your lives is most in need to being seen not from a worldly point of view, but as a new creation?
  • How can we grow in seeing people that way, and how do we demonstrate that we do?

 

 

 

Alan Aitken: Decide now for the sake of the future

2 September, 2018

Read Joshua 24

This chapter reiterates a whole section of the history of what God had done for the Israelites; how He called them, delivered them, caused them to be blessed and brought them into the land He had promised them.

  • What parts of your story with God do you most often reflect on or talk about what people – how He called you, how He has brought freedom or blessing in different areas, how He has brought His promises to pass, or other things?
  • What do these things tell you about who God is?
  • How do you round out the picture you have of God so that it doesn’t just rest on your own experience?

After this great recitation of God’s goodness, He makes an unexpected offer – choose who you will follow (v.15)

  • Why would God offer this choice, especially to a people who were already prone to wander?
  • What benefit does an obvious, external, out-loud decision have over a vague sense that “this is what I am doing at the moment”? What are the pit-falls? (now might be a good time to mention baptism?)
  • Can one person make a decision on behalf of a whole family to follow the Lord? (some of this is cultural difference – we are far more individualistic than the Hebrews were). How much influence can one person have?

Joshua’s response in 19-20 is fascinating. The people choose to follow God, and then Joshua points out that they most likely won’t be able to live up to it. (This is borne out in Judges 6:6-19)

  • Why would he do that? What is he trying to provoke?
  • What advantage do we have over the Israelites in being able to follow Jesus?

In verse 22, the people agree to be witnesses against themselves if they fail to follow God’s commands.

  • Who are the witnesses of your faith?

 

 

Phil Stedman: Following God's leading

26 August, 2018

Read Judges 6-8

Compare verses 6:7-10 and 6:13 - what are the two different stories of why Israel is in the trouble it is in?

Gideon seems stuck in the default of God being distant or no help, rather than the expectation that listening to Him will make a difference.

  • Which is your natural default?
  • How we can encourage each other to trust that God is near, able to help, and ready to help when we listen to Him?

When God calls us to a particular task or role, how much of our effort is required? Whose strength brings success?

Gideon was told to do a series of things that didn't always make sense to him.

  • If what you think you are hearing from God runs counter to your wisdom or understanding, which do you tend to question - God's leading or your understanding?
  • How might you give God's way a chance?

God is very gracious to Gideon, in allowing him to test and check what he is hearing over and over.

Do you think this the norm or a special case, and why?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 we are encouraged not to hold prophecies with contempt but to test them - what do you think this looks like?

When was the last time someone shared a message from God with you that resonated with you as truth? If you are willing, share the message and its effect on you.

 

 

Phil Stedman: From empty to legacy

19 August, 2018

Read Ruth 3 & 4

Have you ever wanted anything so badly that you just went for it, and didn’t care what other people thought? What was it and how did it go?

What is the place of strong desires in a life of faith? What do we do with them?

  • Are we intended to ascetics (living a life of constant self-denial) or hedonists (denying ourselves nothing) or something in between?
  • What is the line?

Ruth and Naomi take the initiative in the relationship with Boaz, and push the boundaries a bit, but still show honour and kindness. Boaz also takes initiative, but makes room for the closer relative to have his chance to redeem the land.

  • How do we encourage people to make a decision without making the decision for them?
  • Have you ever prayed for a resolution to a situation and have it sorted, but not in the way you had imagined?
  • What is it like giving God room to work things out to his satisfaction, rather than yours?

How are you going at being a person of noble character?

How do you take the opportunities that you have to speak blessing to people in different situations?

 

 

 

Mark Wells – Fixing your focus

12 August, 2018

Read Ruth 1:22-2:23

The allowance for ‘gleaning’ as a form of provision for the poor appears a few times in the Old Testament, including Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:17-22. It requires a fair bit of effort from the recipients, but also the allowing of ‘margin’* from the land-owner – knowing that some of what you have produced is going to be lost to you, in order to benefit someone else.

  • What are some modern ways that we can allow for a bit of generosity in our everyday activities – that are not necessarily efficient for us, but benefit others? (ie spare change boxes and tip-jars?)

The bigger challenge of leaving margin can be in making margin in our time – having time to spare to help someone out. What parts of your day or week have enough margin to give someone 5 or 10 minutes that goes outside of your normal routine?

As a woman on her own in that time and culture, Ruth was extremely vulnerable. What did Boaz do to extend protection over her?

  • What might we need to do in our context in order to extend protection to the vulnerable?

Ruth is resigned to the fact that she will receive different kinds of attention and judgment because she is a foreigner (v. 10). What makes it more difficult to extend our kindness to people from other cultures?

  • How might we overcome these barriers? How might the way we seek to reduce barriers communicate something to people we are trying to reach?

*this is the same meaning as the margin on a page – the space around the edges which is deliberately left unused

 

 

Cath Stedman - Changing Direction

5 August, 2018

Read Ruth Chapter 1

In the first few verses of this story, everything goes wrong for Naomi. However, God is beginning to work on her behalf behind the scenes.

  • What is the temptation when everything goes wrong - whether or not we have contributed to it by our decisions?
  • What happens to our connection with God in hard times? Does it tend to strengthen it or weaken it? Why?
  • How does having people who are loyal to us, and devoted to God, help us? What happens if the people around us are only loyal to us, or only devoted to God, but not both?

It must have been a bit scary even for Naomi to go back to her hometown - since to some people, she and Elimelech had turned their back on it. Even more scary for Ruth going to a new place.

  • What would have helped them to make that journey and to begin to settle in?
  • How can we help people make their way and find a home when they come into a new place?

 

 

Phil Stedman: Celebrating the destination and the journey

29 July, 2018

Read Luke 10:17-22

Jesus focuses on relationship with Him and the Father as the most important thing twice in this short passage (v.20 and 22).

  • What distractions does he warn the disciples about?
  • Do you think He is saying to the disciples not to use the authority they have been given after all? Why or why not?
  • How might we make use of the authority that has been given us as children of God?
  • Do you have a story of stepping out in this authority personally?

Read Revelation 7:9-12

Imagine people from nations or cultures that are the worst enemies you can think of. Now try and picture some of them standing side by side in this crowd.

  • What could bring people of such diverse perspectives together? What would have to change?
  • How does this picture challenge your perspective in life?
  • How does bringing all these different people together add to your picture of the worship of God?

 

 

 

Bevan Burgess: Jonah Ch5- There are still big fish in the sea

22 July, 2018

Read Jonah (yes, the whole thing – it’s a rollicking good tale).

In Jonah 1:4-10, the sailors try calling out to their own gods, and when they see Jonah not praying (sleeping in fact), they demand that he does.

  • What are the ‘gods’ that people around us are leaning on, and trusting for their security and value?
  • How can we demonstrate that we don’t lean on the same sources of security?
  • How do we make clear that we are not just ‘asleep’ to the issues people around us face, but that we have a different source of security?
  • Jonah was running away from the very source of security that he claimed – what in our lives demonstrates that we Christians are not following Jesus well?

In 2:7-9, Jonah cries out from the belly of the fish and promises sacrifice, obedience, praise, and a clear communication of the saving nature of God – but when he gets to Nineveh, he is half-hearted at best.

  • Are there any areas where your commitments to God might be weak or wavering?
  • How can we support each other in stepping back up into the things we chose to do and offer to God? (read Philippians 3:12-16)
  • Where might you need to take a next step into greater relationship with and obedience to God?

 

 

 

Matt Meek: Fishing in a barrel

15 July, 2018

Read Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1-20

When I read that “…the people were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd…”, it seems like they have some ‘safety in numbers’, but have no-one with the authority and ability to change their situation. The sheep just tend to mill around so they are not exposed on the outside of the mob.

Does this sound like any of the situations you see in our society today?

What do people tend to flee away from into the relative safety of the crowd?

What is lost when this is the case?

Jesus instructs his disciples to ask for more workers, but then gives them authority to heal and sends them out (they are then referred to apostles – literally ‘sent ones’ or messengers).  

Are these instructions for us as well?;

  •          Are we all supposed for ask God to send more workers?
  •          Do we all have authority from God?
  •          Are we all sent out to share the message of the kingdom?

How do we balance the desire and need to flock together with the imperative to go out and give out what you have received?

Verses 19-20 make me nervous – I tend to like to know the answers before I begin a conversation. In the conversations we are likely to have, what is our responsibility (preparation?) and what do we rely on God for?

 

 

 

Alan Aitken – The impending storm

8 July 2018

Read Matthew 24:3 and 36-51

This passage is talking about the time when Jesus returns in order to judge the world and everyone in it, and to take all who belong to him into the new creation.

  • Look at verses 38-39 – how many people do you think will ‘know nothing about what would happen’ when Jesus is about to return? What can we do about that?

This passage is far less about when this will happen (in fact it says we can’t know) or exactly how it will happen, as it is about the certainty of Jesus return, and two aspects of our preparedness.

  • Verses 42-44 talk about the owner of a house being alert for a thief breaking in. Why would Jesus use this kind of language about his return? What does it remind us?
  • What does it look like to be ready?

Verses 45-51 talks about a servant who goes about the master’s will – feeding the other servants.

  • Is this about how we act towards other Christians, or do we have a responsibility to feed all sorts of people?
  • What might this feeding and caring for people look like?

It is interesting that the wicked servant is assigned a place with the hypocrites – he has been acting in the absence of his master in a way that he never would in his master’s presence.

  • What would your life look like if you remembered throughout each day that Jesus is ‘with us, even to the end of the age’ – present, and expecting us to act as he would want?

 

 

 

Steve Murray: Bearing burdens and breaking rules

1 July, 2018

Read Mark 2:1-12

Houses in Israel at this time often had flat roofs which were used as an extra room or space in good weather. So it was not unusual for people to go up on the roof, but it was extremely unusual for them to dig through the roof to enter the house!

  • Have you ever had to take someone to accident and emergency? What was it like getting them there, and then waiting and going through the process to have them seen?
  • Have you ever bent the rules in order to respond to the urgency of a situation? If so, what was the situation and what did you feel you had to do?
  • What evidence of faith did Jesus see in the friends who brought the paralysed man?
  • What evidence would people see of your faith, and of the genuineness of your concern for others?
  • What is your level of urgency like in terms of sharing your faith?

The man got up, took his mat, and walked out in full view of them all.”

  • What would it be like to see one of your friends, family, workmates/ classmates or neighbours going through the early steps of engaging in faith? What would be the most exciting things for you?

 

 

 

Mark Wells: My life is a wreck

24 June, 2018

Read 2 Corinthians 21b – 29

Paul has a pretty extreme list of things that he went through as an apostle of Christ (and this is just the early part of his ministry…)

  • What are you willing to face up to, to chase after the things that you really want? Long hours, pressure from work, study, juggling family commitments etc.? What have you had to suffer or sacrifice to reach your goals?
  • What is worth suffering for? What is it that you have pursued this way?
  • What did Paul go through all of these things to pursue or achieve?

Read Luke 5:29-32

Do you have room in your life to journey with someone whose ‘life is a wreck’?

If not, what would you need to do to make room for a relationship like this?

What do you have to offer someone who is suffering?

What are some of the barriers? How can you, as a group, help each other overcome these?

 

 

Phil Stedman: All hands on deck

17 June, 2018

Read Luke 5:1-11

This passage is the second in Luke which refers to the Jewish custom of standing to read the scriptures and sitting to teach/ give the interpretation (verses 1-3, see also Luke 4:16-20). It was a way of recognizing the authority of the Scriptures, and making very clear where our opinion begins.

  • How do we differentiate between the two when we are talking?
  • How might we as a group do this better?

Jesus first asks Simon to stop doing his work (washing the nets) in order to help him, and then tells him how to fish. As a rabbi, he had considerable authority, but Peter responds with a surprisingly good attitude.

  • How well do you cope with interruptions?
  • When you help someone, how do you set the boundaries in terms of how much help you give? Is your attitude more like, “whatever it takes”, “I’ve got this much time”, “I’ll get you started and then you are on your own…” or something different?
  • How do you respond to criticism or suggestions to do something that you know how to do a different way?

Peter responds to the catch of fish not with celebration, but fear, recognizing that when miracles happen, it shows the presence of a holy God.

  • When Jesus is present and leading what we do – anything is possible. How do you make room for this dynamic in your life?
  • How do you deal with the tension of God’s goodness and provision with God’s holiness and call to obedience?
  • How might you explain this to someone who is not yet a Christian?

 

 

 

Kevin Harney – Scatter

10 June, 2018

Read Luke 8:4-15

What image do you have of the farmer in the story (without jumping to the interpretation)?

  • Have you ever sown a crop? How did you go about it?
  • Does scattering seed willy-nilly seem like a good strategy? Why or why not?

“The seed is the word of God” (v.11).

  • Is the farmer scattering around the whole Bible? Or just parts of it? What part of the message do you think he is scattering?
  • Is Jesus blaming the soil or the environment, the heart or the spiritual and social influences, for why the seed doesn’t grow and bear fruit?
  • Doesn’t the farmer carry some responsibility? (see Ecclesiastes 11:3-6).

Where are you scattering seed right now?

What might you need to do so that scattering seed stays on your radar?

 

 

 

Mark Wells – I’ve got a better idea

3 June 2018

Read Matthew 7:13-29

Jesus’ point in verses 15-20 seems to be that while some people may seem harmless, what they believe and affirm will show through and potentially harm other people.

  • What are some of the keys facts of our faith that we need to understand and communicate well?
  • Where do we find these and how do we separate the main issues from the minor ones?
  • Just within the discussion you have had, have you noticed differences in people’s understanding or expression of these key points? What do we do with different perspectives on central doctrinal issues (the “things we should believe”)?
  • How does getting doctrinal issues wrong cause harm?

Verses 21-23 end with “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.” However this is spoken to people who thought they were doing all the right things.

  • What do you think is going on here?
  • If you couldn’t do any of the ‘actions’ that your faith inspires for some reason, what would remain of your faith to show the relationship side?
  • Does this need rebalancing?

Jesus challenges us to build our house on ‘these words of mine’ (v24 and 26).

  • What counts as ‘these words’ that we should build our house on? The sermon on the mount, the gospels, more?

Reflecting on the whole sermon on the mount series, where is your biggest challenge, and what are you doing about it?

 

 

 

Gordon Stewart: God’s Mission – bringing ‘shalom’

27 May, 2018

Read Isaiah 61:1-7

This passage in Isaiah has some of the same imagery and keywords as the Sermon on the Mount which we have been studying. Read through and find the similarities in the language and content.

  • What do you notice? What are some of the parallels and where is it different?

This passage in Isaiah is written to an exiled and suffering people, bringing them hope.

  • How does it speak to our quite different situations?

Isaiah's focus is on transformation - how God is working to change His people, and then how they are made into help for their world.

  • How is God working within your group to change you, and how is that enabling you to make an impact for Him?

Gordon talked about the Hebrew term “shalom”, variously defined as peace, completeness, wholeness, healing, welcome – essentially the world as God intended it to be.

  • How can we be involved in bringing shalom to the various areas of our lives and the spheres where we each have involvement and influence?

 

 

 

Phil Stedman: The call of the Father

20 May, 2018

Read Matthew 7:7-14

How specific are your prayers? If God answered your prayers, would you know?

How persistent are you in prayer? (In the Greek language, ask – seek – knock are all ongoing… “ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking”, is the real sense of it.) Do you give up too easily?

How much freedom do you give God to answer your challenges and needs in the way that He chooses? Has He ever given you a solution that was different to what you thought would help?

We have a God who is kind and generous, and the Gospel offers us salvation ‘for free’ – what is the narrow gate that Jesus is talking about? And how might we miss it?

 

 

 

Mark Wells: Do not judge

13 May, 2018

Read Matthew 7:1-6

Verses 1-2 read very much as a caution – “How would you feel if someone applied the same standard to you that you applied to other people?”

  • Is it possible for this to be a positive rather than a negative?
  • Who do you judge most harshly – yourself or others? Who gets the ‘benefit of the doubt”?
  • A useful quote is that “we just ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions.” Where have you seen this at work in your life or from others?
  • Where are you aware that you make negative or unhelpful judgments on situations or people?

Verses 3-5 warn against hypocrisy, but also challenge us to deal with it and do good.

  • What might the plank in our eye look like? What do we need to deal with before we bring our concern or challenge to others?
  • Why do you think that Jesus describes our problem as so much bigger than theirs?

What might be ways to make our concern palatable for people – rather than them being ‘pearls before pigs’?

 

 

 

Phil Stedman: Life Hacks - Freedom to focus

6 May, 2018

Read Matthew 6:19-34

The passage begins by focusing on the vulnerability of material wealth. We don’t tend to think about moths and vermin devouring our wealth – thieves possibly – but what makes our material wealth vulnerable?

According to this passage – does our wealth follow our heart or does our heart follow our wealth? What is your experience?

Verses 22-23 are difficult, but the Greek words here for healthy and unhealthy imply ‘generous’ and ‘stingy’ respectively.  So this is mostly a comment about our outlook/ perspective on sharing and giving. How does your perspective colour your attitude and motivation to share?

What do you think? Can you serve two masters (v. 24)?

Jesus says ‘do not worry’ (specifically in the context of material things).

  • How easy is this?
  • What makes this more difficult?
  • What might you do instead of worry?

How can you change your perspective and where your heart is?

 

 

 

Murray Robertson: Life Hacks – tips and tricks for life on earth

29 April, 2018

Read Matthew 6:1-18

Throughout this passage, Jesus makes clear that whoever you ‘practice your righteousness’ for is who you receive your reward from. If it is for people, you receive your reward from people; if it is for God, you receive your reward from Him.

Jesus picks out giving, praying and fasting as acts that people were doing publically for approval in their culture.

  • What might be ‘acts of righteousness’ in our culture that people do in order to gain approval from others? (this is often referred to as ‘virtue signalling’.)
  • Why is this approach not compatible with pleasing God?
  • Where might this people pleasing lead?
  • Why is it harder to do your acts of righteousness in secret?

Read through Matt. 6:9-13 again.

  • What does the Lord’s prayer emphasise?
  • What does it leave out that we might often pray for?

What is the connection between how we forgive and how we are forgiven?

 

 

 

 

Bevan Burgess – Life Hacks

22 April, 2018

Read Matthew 5:21-48

You have heard that it was said (to the people long ago)” seems like a funny way to approach the Old Testament commandments, especially when this passage includes two of the Ten Commandments. In other places, Jesus uses the much stronger “It is written…”

When people talk this way – that something was said a long time ago – what do you expect to follow? How does our culture treat values or stories that are ‘traditional’ or ‘old-fashioned’?

Are Jesus’ commands stricter or more permissive than the Old Testament commands? What is he doing here?

What connection does Jesus make between the heart attitude and the actions he talks about?

Jesus focuses on reconciliation, self-control and self-discipline, honesty, mercy and generosity, and love for even our enemies. Along the way, he freely refers to heaven and hell,  acts that are ‘from the devil’, and those that reveal we are God’s children.

  • Compare  Jesus’ commands with the Ten Commandments. What do notice about how they are phrased and communicated?
  • What are some modern day applications of each of these commands?
  • Would we communicate these commands in the same way – ‘fire and brimstone’, judgment and reward? Why or why not?

What do you make of verse 48 – “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”?

 

 

 

Dave Bosma: Life Hacks

15 April, 2018

Read Matthew 5:13-20

What does being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world first make you think of?

Look at this passage again in the context of the Beatitudes that we read last week – would that change your approach to what being salt and/or light might mean?

In your thoughts so far, which of these areas have been covered, and which might have been missed? What you believe, what you say or teach, how you live, what you choose, what your priorities are, how you treat people, how you present yourself to people, what church needs to be…

If any of these haven’t been covered by your discussion so far, consider what being salt and/or light might look like in those areas.

What is Jesus talking about in Matthew 5:17-20?

How do we deal with ‘the law’, and with being forgiven and in relationship with God, with this passage in mind?

What is the challenge for us in these passages?

 

 

 

Cath Stedman: The Beatitudes

8 April, 2018

Read Matthew 5: 1-12

Who does this list of blessing not mention? More specifically, who does our culture say is doing well that isn’t on this list?

What are some of the opposites of this list that we would expect people would be if they were blessed (or “#feelingblessed”)?

The word ‘blessed’(Greek: makarios) here can also mean ‘happy’, and several translations choose to use this translation – so they read, “Happy are the poor in spirit…” etc.

  • Does this change how you feel about the Beatitudes?  Would you say you would be happy to be in these situations?

Why do you think Jesus commends these things, or points out that people in these situations can be happy or blessed?

What might he be pushing back against?

What might we need to consider in our live and faith as we look at this challenging passage?

 

 

 

Phil Stedman: God’s love comes at a cost

25 March, 2018

Read Philippians 2:5-11, Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, Matthew 27:38-46 (which quotes Psalm 22)

Within these passages are three ways that the incarnation ‘cost’ Jesus – stepping down from heavenly power and authority into human flesh, the physical suffering of the crucifixion, and the pain of separation from the Father.

What do these passages say about;

  • the invitation given to us because of Jesus’ suffering?
  • what was won for us by Jesus’ suffering?
  • what example is commended to us by Jesus’ suffering?

David wrote about Psalm 22 in about 1000BC, and Isaiah was written in the 8th century BC – both passages fulfilled in Jesus. This suffering had been planned long before even this, and God knew what our response would be (see Isa. 53) – rejection and misunderstanding.

What do you think made it, or makes it, worthwhile from God’s perspective?

What does Christ’s love compel us to do?

 

 

Alan Aitken - God's love enables relationships

18 March, 2018

Read 1 John 1.

John makes a big issue about the truth he writes about being something that he saw and heard and touched.

  • Why does this matter?
  • What can you point to about your faith that you personally have seen and heard and touched?
  • In what things do you trust the words and experiences of others?

John points to common belief as the key part of fellowship, of belonging with, and to, each other.

  • What are other ways of establishing a sense of belonging?
  • How are they helpful, or not helpful, in a church setting where people are being added to God's family?

The chapter ends focusing on a train of logic:

"All of us sin. God has made a way for us to be forgiven and remain in relationship with Him. Our prioirity is to be honest and seek his forgiveness and cleansing."

  • In what ways can we get this wrong?
  • What might we need to do to do this better?
  • How can we help each other to walk in the light, and what does this require of us?

 

 

Lorraine Dierck – People of destiny

11 March, 2018

Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-15

Paul describes our ‘groaning’ as we wait to move on from our ‘earthly tent’ to an ‘eternal dwelling’ in heaven.

  • What are some of the sources of this groaning – things that we look forward to leaving behind in this life?
  • What purpose is Paul talking about in v.5 that we have been fashioned for?

This all sounds like a ‘wait-and-see’ for our rewards in the future, but what is the focus of verses 6-10?

  • What is the source of our confidence?
  • What does it mean to you to ‘live by faith, not by sight’? Can you give an example?

What are we to try and persuade people of in verses 11-15?

  • What does it say about the response we might encounter?
  • Can can we pray for one another to weather these different responses?

 

 

Mark Wells – Love that makes us better

4 March, 2018

Read 1 John 3:1-24

This passages moves smoothly through from our identity as children of God to purity in response to that love, then how this reveals our ‘family resemblance’ and then on into the ‘family business’ of loving other people.

John makes a point of reinforcing that we are not just called children of God, but we are in fact His children (v.1). Why does this point matter?

Even John, ‘the disciple Jesus loved’, admits that he doesn’t have a clear picture of what we will be like when Jesus returns – simply that we will be like Him.

  • What do we know about what will happen in the resurrection?
  • Do we need all the details? Why or why not?

How do you understand the statement “No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning” (1 John 3:6a), especially in the light of John’s previous statement in 1:8-10?

If individuals are willing, perhaps take some time to share where  Jesus has ‘destroyed the devil’s work’ – where the love of God and God’s people has helped to restore wounded areas in their lives.

How do we move from ‘loving in words and speech to loving with actions and in truth’ (3:18)? What are some small steps to start with?

What is the reassurance we are given in 3:19-24? When do you need to hear this?

 

 

 

Phil Stedman – Living Loved

25 February, 2018

Read 1 John 4:7-18

John makes clear in this passage (especially v. 7-10)  that if we want to understand love, we must start with who God is and work forward to love from there. Sometimes people start with what they think love is, and work back from there to what God is like in the light of that.

  • What difference does this make in our conception of what God is like and what love is like?
  • How can we get hung up if we approach this the wrong way?

In v.11-15, John identifies some ‘markers’ of people who are living in God’s love – what are these?

  • How do they work together to show God’s love to others?

Verses 16-18 talk a lot about relying on God’s love and having confidence in His love.

  • How can we grow in this reliance and confidence?
  • What difference would it make in our lives - internally (how we feel) and externally (how others perceive us)?
  • What is the relationship between confidence and risk-taking – which comes first?

 

 

Phil Stedman: Compelled by Love

18 February, 2018

Read 2 Corinthians 5:14 - 6:2

How does love compel you do change or to do things?

What is the difference between just believing in God and being ‘in Christ’?

What do you think of when you read that “the new creation has come”?

  • What is your experience of being ‘a new creation’?
  • Does it always feel like it?
  • What do you hold onto and remind yourself of?

What does reconciliation mean to you?

  • How do we receive it ourselves, and how do we participate in helping others be reconciled?

What do you think Paul is talking about when he warns people not to receive God’s grace in vain?

 

 

 

Steve Graham: The harvest

11 February, 2018

Read Mark 4:26-34

Where do you see that God is at work in your life at the moment?

Are there areas where you have ‘planted seed’ (done something in faith) and have so far seen nothing, that you hope God will be working?

[maybe it is worthwhile praying for these right now]

Are there any places where you are presently experiencing the harvest? Can you see how it got there, or is it more like this parable of planting a seed and not knowing how it worked?

What encouragement is it to see the mustard seed side of this equation – that the smallest beginnings can end up being the biggest plant in the garden?

  • Where do you need that encouragement?

Are you willing to allow God the freedom to explain ‘as much as you can understand’ (v.33) in the moment, without expecting to know everything?

  • What does this cost you?
  • How does this help?

 

 

 

Mark Wells – Becoming One People

4 February, 2018

Read Ephesians 2:11-22

Paul is writing to a mixed church of Jews and Gentiles, and makes a powerful point about how being the people of God transcends our cultural differences and makes us one, with new loyalties and priorities in common.

What do we gain from interacting with Christians from different cultures? What might they see that we have trouble seeing?

How might honouring another person’s culture give opportunities to share the Gospel with them?

Are you aware of features of another culture that open up ‘bridges’ for sharing the Gospel – cultural stories, practices or understandings that enable us to introduce what Jesus has done through concepts familiar to that culture? {see Acts 17:22-23 for an example)

What might we need to do to learn about these features in other cultures?

This will take some time, possibly hard work, and may cost some opportunities to do things. What motivation does Paul give in Ephesians 2:11-13 to encourage us that this is worth it?

Is there someone in your neighbourhood, workplace or social circle who comes from a different background that you can reach out to? Pray that God would lead you to someone that you can connect with and make a difference for.

 

 

 

Alan Aitken: Right, wrong and relating to those who disagree

28 January, 2018

Read Matthew 22:34-40; 2 Timothy 3:16- 4:5; 1 Peter 3:13-18

It is not uncommon for people to feel that there is a disconnect between loving God through obedience to the boundaries He commands, and loving people – being accepting, valuing the individual and providing encouragement.

Where do you think this sense of disconnect come from?

What are some of the assumptions in this perspective that we need to be aware of?

There are many voices in our culture that have a vested interest in undermining objective morality (the idea that some things are right or wrong regardless of context) – what do you think drives these voices?

What is ‘moral authority’ and how does a person or institution gain it or lose it?

How do you manage the tension of moving towards people in compassion and acceptance, without compromising what you believe to be true?

Are there any areas where you need to re-visit what God commands us and strengthen your commitment to obedience in that area – in terms of your own behavior and calling others towards it as well?