This week @ RCC

Tue 20th Aug, 10:00am - 11:30am
Funtime Playgroup
Wed 21st Aug, 7:30am - 11:30am
Food Together
Wed 21st Aug, 10:00am - 11:30am
My Time @ 10
Thu 22nd Aug, 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Unleashed
Thu 22nd Aug, 5:30pm - 7:00pm
Unleashed
Fri 23rd Aug, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Centrestage
Sun 25th Aug, 9:00am - 10:30am
Sunday service
Sun 25th Aug, 11:00am - 12:30pm
Sunday service

Life Group Studies

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

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?