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Message Discussion Questions

From December 6, 2020

Getting Started

  • What is one thing you are thankful for this week and what is one thing we can pray for you this week?

  • Remind each other of our simple expectations for meeting together

  • How would you rate the year 2020?  0 stars to 4 stars?  Why?

Quick Reactions

  • How would you summarize/paraphrase the message in your own words?

  • What point/idea resonated most with you?  Why?

  • Did you disagree with something said, or what do you think should have been added or expanded on?

Questions from the Message

Before we begin, consider that Isaiah wrote chapter 9 with the awareness that Israel would be soon invaded by the powerful Assyrian kingdom.  This would force the nation, and families into exile and separate them from all that is comfortable, familiar and separate them from their land and livelihood.

Read Chapter 8:19-20—What is Isaiah concerned about?  Why?  In what ways is it tempting to turn to other sources of comfort and wisdom when things are hard, difficult or even dreadful?

Although we ought not compare ourselves with the exact same hardships and darkness that Israel was about to face, how have things like the corona virus, social unrest, difficult election season etc… disrupted the things we normally find “comfort”, “security”, “balance” in? Is this good, or bad?  

In Isaiah 9, “God’s answer to what terrorizes us is a child”!  In what way does God’s answer seem like the most unlikely of solutions to our problems?  Why does it make sense?

In what way do you need a “Wonderful Counselor”?

Explore the passage [Isaiah 9:1-7]

Although Isaiah had been preaching God’s judgment (particularly on the kingdom of Israel), what total reversal did Isaiah foresee in the future? (9:1) 

What contrasting images did Isaiah use to set the scene of his prophecy? (9:2) 

To what situations did Isaiah compare the joy that will be Israel’s? (9:3) 

What did Isaiah predict God would do for Israel, causing her to rejoice? (9:4-5) 

How does Isaiah describe the Ruler who will be provided by God for His people? (9:6-7) 

Questions that helps us understand the significance of the text:

  • What attributes of God are apparent in this passage? 

  • How is God’s promise of the coming child an answer to the real problems we face as human beings, and nations?  What are common ways we explain humanities problems that have nothing to do with our spiritual needs?

  • How would you explain the Light that came into your darkness?

  • Why might it be dangerous to downplay the seriousness of our situation whenever we encounter hardship? 

  • How much of the injustice Isaiah condemned in his time do you see in our own time?

  • As our “Wonderful Counselor”, Jesus is miraculously born to us to become an amazing advisor who marvelously works in all things for God’s purposes, for our good, that will result in victory!  

  • What victory?

  • In what way can Jesus be our true guide, anchor and north star this Christmas season?

  • How can seeing Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor shape my prayers?

Application

  1. What do we learn about God and about ourselves in this passage

  2. What may God be asking you to change, do differently, repent of, pray about, as a result of engaging with this passage?

  3. How can we pray for each other?

Message Discussion Questions

From November 29, 2020

Getting Started

  • What is one thing you are thankful for this week and what is one thing we can pray for you this week?
  • Remind each other of our simple expectations for meeting together
  • As Americans, how do we tend to define fulfillment in life?  How or why do these definitions fall short, or leave us unsatisfied?

Quick Reactions

  • How would you summarize/paraphrase the message in your own words?
  • What point/idea resonated most with you?  Why?
  • Did you disagree with something said, or what do you think should have been added or expanded on?

Questions from the Message

Joseph, endured the humiliation of being sold into slavery by his brothers and the suffering of being falsely imprisoned for 16 years. The last 9 chapters of Genesis reveals another test, perhaps his greatest test. How will he handle the power he has as governor of Egypt?  

Why, considering all the tests that Joseph has endured, do you think this may be his greatest test?  

In what ways do you have power and influence in the lives of others?  

Dave said, that the fulfillment stage of faith (a mature faith) is one in which God’s dream for your life will;

  1. Send you to places that serves others and
  2. Use your power for the benefit of others.
  3. In what ways do you see this most clearly in the life of Joseph?  How does this parallel the life of Jesus?
  4. What specific thing may God be calling you to do to serve others and use your ‘power’ for others?

Explore the passage [Genesis 50:14-21]

What worried Joseph’s brothers after their father died, and what did they do about it? (50:15-18) 

There are a lot of emotions swirling around in verses 16-18; fear, potential revenge, appealing to the guilt Joseph may have over his dead fathers last words, appealing to God, acknowledgment of their wrongdoing, begging/groveling, forgiveness, Joseph weeping.  They throw the “kitchen sink” at Joseph.  

  • What “from your point of view” is going on here?  Is this sincere, insincere, a little bit of both?
  • What is Joseph’s response? (50:19-21)  
  • In what way would say his response is not what his brothers may have expected?

Questions that helps us understand the significance of the text:

  • Joseph seems to cry easily…why is that?  How may honest emotions be connected to a maturing faith?
  • What makes forgiving someone who has wronged us so difficult?
  • How can God bring good out of evil? 
  • How does verse 50 shed any light on Romans 8:28 when the apostle Paul writes…

    And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 

Application

  1. What do we learn about God and about ourselves in this passage
  2. What may God be asking you to change, do differently, repent of, pray about, as a result of engaging with this passage?
  3. How can we pray for each other to live this out?

Message Discussion Questions

From November 22, 2020

Getting Started

  • What is one thing you are thankful for this week and what is one thing we can pray for you this week?

  • Remind each other of our simple expectations for meeting together.

Open

Henri Nouen wrote, “To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

In what way has this been easier said than done in your life?  Why?

How have you felt overlooked, forgotten, rejected or abandoned?  How did you deal with those emotions?

Quick Reactions

  • How would you summarize/paraphrase the message in your own words?

  • What point/idea resonated most with you?  Why?

  • Did you disagree with something said, or what do you think should have been added or expanded on?

Questions from the Message

Dave made the point that Joseph’s experience of being forgotten forces us to consider another perspective about God’s unfolding plans in our lives.  That being forgotten can be a gift (a severe mercy) guiding us away from spiritual dead ends.  God is guiding Joseph away from the dead end that defines security and influence only in terms of status, fame, privilege, or position.  God is guiding Joseph away from the dead end of pride that imagines how others will bow down to him, and instead God is leading him towards self-lessness that will save the lives of many.  

How do you react to the idea that hardships (like being forgotten) can be a severe mercy?  

Looking back at your life. What can you pinpoint as something that was a severe mercy?  Severe because it was real, it was painful, it hurt, and you would never want to endure anything like that again. But it is merciful in that God used it to form in you something important and enduring?

As a group consider some things we wrongly assume will bring us life, peace, fulfillment and prosperity, but are spiritual dead ends.  How can we encourage and pray for each other, our children, friends etc… from taking those paths?

Explore the Passage [Genesis 40:1-23]

  • Why were the cupbearer and chief baker imprisoned? (40:1)

  • What did Joseph ask Pharaoh’s officials, and what was their answer? (40:7-8) 

  • What did Joseph say about dreams? (40:8) 

  • What did the chief cupbearer dream, and what did Joseph say about it? (40:9-15) 

  • What did the chief baker dream, and what did Joseph say about it? (40:16-19) 

  • What happened at Pharaoh’s birthday party? (40:20-22) 

  • What did the chief cupbearer do? (40:23) 

Questions that help us understand the significance of the text to us?
  1. Joseph helps interpret the dreams of these new inmates when he had already been falsely imprisoned for years.  What does this tell us about the kind of person Joseph was?

    The reason, a cupbearer, whose only job is to pour and serve drinks in the royal court is so important is because kings lived in constant fear of plots to kill them (such as poisoning).  Therefore, a cupbearer or baker must be the kind of person that the King had complete confidence in.

  2. Considering the cupbearers role, in what way can you see how God is preparing to elevate Joseph to essentially the senior advisor to the Pharaoh, even though he is unaware of it?

    In Genesis 40, the Hebrew word for dream comes from the word chalom.  It is different than dreams we have in our sleep, or a dream that we may have that leads to accomplishing a goal.  In this case it has a prophetic meaning and was considered the lowest class of prophecy (foretelling). 

  3. How ought we look at the significance of dreams?  What is distinct here with these dreams and the fact that Joseph accurately interprets the dreams?  Was there any “risk” to Joseph interpreting the dreams?  How ought this inform us in taking a risk with others?

  4.  What may be the significance of the cupbearer forgetting Joseph?  Was this intentional, unintentional, does it matter?

Application

  1. What attitudes may God be working on in us, preparing in us, when we face being forgotten, overlooked, rejected or abandoned?  How may we redefine what God is doing in us when we feel forgotten?

  2. What do we learn about God and about ourselves in this passage?

  3. What may God be asking you to change, do differently, repent of, pray about, as a result of engaging with this passage?

  4. How can we pray for each other?

Message Discussion Questions

From November 15, 2020

Getting Started

  • What is one thing you are thankful for this week and what is one thing we can pray for you this week?
  • As you take a look in the rear-view mirror of how your life has unfolded.  What is one thing you look back on and say, “I used to think that was a really big deal, insurmountable problem, or temptation, but now I see how God was using that to test my character?”
  • Remind each other of our simple expectations for meeting together

Quick Reactions

  • How would you summarize/paraphrase the message in your own words?
  • What point/idea resonated most with you? Why?
  • Did you disagree with something said, or what do you think should have been added or expanded on?

Questions from the Message

Dave made the point that “God’s dreams/plans often have more to do with what they make of us, than where they take us”.

  1. In what ways does this stand out in the story of Joseph?
  2. In what ways has that been a struggle for you?
  3. If we are honest with ourselves, the character-building stage of faith may be the one we have the most difficulty with. Why is that?  (e.g. it’s painful, you don’t see the results quickly etc.…)
  4. God often tests (or allows) tests of character in our life through our temptations and our problems… In what ways can we be more “welcoming” to character building in our life? In what ways can we resist it?

Explore the Passage [Genesis 39:1-23]

  • Who were the main people in these events, and what kind of people were they? (39) What did Potiphar’s wife ask Joseph to do, and what was his response? (39:7-12) How did Potiphar respond to his wife’s story? (39:19-20)
  • What happened to Joseph in prison? (39:21-23)
  • How did Potiphar’s wife react when Joseph refused her? (39:13-18)
  • What did Potiphar observe about Joseph, and what did he do as a result? (39:2-6)
Questions that help us understand the significance of the text to us?
  • How do you generally respond when you do “the right thing”, but reap none of the reward?How did Joseph make the most of the bad situations in which he found himself? How should you respond the next time someone mistreats you?
  • How ought the story of Joseph shape how we look at our temptations and problems?  How can redefining our problems/temptations as God deepening and developing our character for His purposes give us new hope?
  • What value is there in resisting temptations when it may be a lot easier just to give in?
  • Why is it difficult to trust God when our tests of character do not seem to be rewarded?

Application

  • What do we learn about God and about ourselves in this passage
  • How can we pray for each other?
  • What may God be asking you to change, do differently, repent of, pray about, as a result of engaging with this passage?

Message Discussion Questions

From November 8, 2020

Getting Started

  • What is one thing you are thankful for this week and what is one thing we can pray for you this week?
  • Remind each other of our simple expectations for meeting together
  • What in your life do you have such conviction about (a hobby, a product, an interest, a sports team, a child/family, a cause) that you could “sell” us on it today? Why is that?

Quick Reactions

  • How would you summarize/paraphrase the message in your own words?
  • What point/idea resonated most with you? Why?
  • Did you disagree with something said, or what do you think should have been added or expanded on?

Questions from the Message

Steve walked us through the starting point for Joseph in Genesis 37. The journey for Joseph started with 2 different dreams God gave him. Joseph had no way of knowing what would come of the dreams God had given him and how they would ultimately be fulfilled. God’s will exists on the top floor where to us it appears out of sight, while we live our lives on the bottom floor—with all its complexities, joys and sorrows.

 

  1. What was your starting point? Take time to share the starting point of faith for each person in the small group. For many, the seeds of faith were planted through a parent, friend, pastor, camp, Sunday school teacher, etc…
  2. In what specific ways have you seen the hand of God guide, direct and protect you throughout your life?

Explore the Passage [Genesis 37:1-28]

  • What was the nature of the bad report Joseph gave to Jacob regarding his brothers? (37:2)
  • Why did Jacob love Joseph more than his other sons? (37:3)
  • What was the significance of the coat with many colors?
  • Why is the detail of a man giving Joseph directions included in this story? (37:15-17)
  • What was the brothers first response to seeing Joseph from afar traveling to meet them? (37:18-20)
  • How many symptoms of family disfunction can you see in Genesis 37? (37:3-5, 11, 18-19, 27-28)
  • What was the significance of the brothers tending the flock near Shechem? (33:18-34)
Questions that help us understand the significance of the text to us?
  • Why did God choose to reveal to Joseph what he would someday become at an early and immature age?
  • How have you seen jealousy, favoritism, and anger destroy family and friendships in your life?
  • How is Joseph a shadow of or a picture of Jesus in the Old Testament?

Application

  • What do we learn about God and about ourselves in this passage?
  • What may God be asking you to change, do differently, repent of, pray about, as a result of engaging with this passage?
  • How can we pray for each other?

Message Discussion Questions

From November 1, 2020

Getting Started

  • What is one thing you are thankful for this week and what is one thing we can pray for you this week?
  • Remind each other of our simple expectations for meeting together
  • What in your life do you have such conviction about (a hobby, a product, an interest, a sports team, a child/family, a cause) that you could “sell” us on it today? Why is that?

Quick Reactions

  • How would you summarize/paraphrase the message in your own words?
  • What point/idea resonated most with you? Why?
  • Did you disagree with something said, or what do you think should have been added or expanded on?

Questions from the Message

Dave walked us through chapters 21-28 by highlighting Paul’s confrontations with those who had the power to sentence him to death or set him free. At every turn, Paul holds fast to the message that he received about the Kingdom of God and the person of Jesus, regardless of the cost. At the heart of his long, painful road to Rome is a conflict over two Kingdoms, between those who hold power in our world, and the eternal Kingdom of God, where Jesus is Supreme.

 

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how “unsettled” are you about what may happen as a result of this upcoming election? Why? Do our reactions and responses matter? Why or why not?
  2. Why is it that Paul zeroed in on communicating to everyone about the Kingdom of God and persuading them about Jesus?
  3. In what ways do we struggle with confusing others about where our allegiance and trust really lies? (By our words, actions, our passions, convictions and causes?) In what way would God call us to use the things we already love, like our passions, convictions and causes to advance the good news about Jesus?

Explore the Passage [Acts 27:17-21]

  • With whom did Paul first speak in Rome? (28:17)
  • In his presentation to the Jewish leaders, what significant points did Paul make? (28:17-20) What did Paul mean by “the hope of Israel”? (28:20)
  • What kind of response did Paul get from the leaders? (28:21-22)
  • How did the Jewish leaders in Rome show increasing interest in the apostle and his message? (28:23-24)
  • What did Paul do all day long while meeting with the Jewish leaders? (28:23)
  • How did the Jews in Rome respond to Paul’s teaching? (28:24-25)
  • To whom did Paul ascribe Isaiah’s words? (28:25)
  • How did Paul apply the words of Isaiah to his audience? (28:26-27)
  • What prediction did Paul make about the future? (28:28)
  • Though the Jews had turned away from Christ, what group had God promised will receive it? (28:28)
  • What did Paul do for two years in Rome? (28:30-31)
Questions that help us understand the significance of the text to us?
  • Why is it important to understand that Jesus is trying to persuade a Jewish audience, rather than a Gentile audience? Read, Acts 17:22-31 to see how Paul persuades a different audience? How ought this inform our conversations with others?
  • Why do you think Paul’s teaching was hard for some followers of Judaism to accept?
  • What could you imagine was Paul’s intention in quoting from Isaiah and letting the Jewish leaders know before they left that the Gentiles would accept this good news?
  • Why do many people dismiss the message of God’s Kingdom and the good news of Jesus?
  • In what ways can we become hardened to God? How can we guard against hard-heartedness?

Application

  • What do we learn about God and about ourselves in this passage?
  • What may God be asking you to change, do differently, repent of, pray about, as a result of engaging with this passage?
  • How can we pray for each other?

Message Discussion Questions

From October 25, 2020

Reaction to the message…

  • What particularly struck you from Sunday’s message?

Read together Acts 10:1-23

Questions that explore what happened and help us understand the meaning of the text

  • What do you learn about Cornelius at the beginning of this chapter? (10:1-8)
  • Notice the detail Luke gives the reader about the times when Cornelius had his vision and when Peter had his? What does this tell you about how God works? (10:3,9)
  • Describe the ethnic, political, and social status barriers that would have existed between Cornelius and Peter.
  • Peter had been living his life respectful of Jewish dietary laws. (You could take a look at Leviticus 11 for background on this if you have a lot of extra time.) But Peter had already been challenged by Jesus about how to understand these “laws”. Read Mark 7:13-23 and consider what Peter may be struggling internally with in this vision.
  • What might be the significance of Peter having this vision “three times”? (10:16)
  • How does Peter’s vision challenge his opinions about what is or isn’t appropriate to do as a follower of Jesus? (10:15)
  • Notice that Peter’s praying left him perplexed and puzzled. What does this teach you about the way God sometimes uses prayer to shape us? (10:17,19)
  • What does this passage reveal about the personhood of the Holy Spirit? (10:19-20) What does this whole chapter reveal about what the Holy Spirit intends to accomplish in our lives? (See also Acts 1:8, 8:29)

Read together Acts 10:24-48

Questions that explore what happened and help us understand the meaning of the text

  • First, Peter invited Cornelius’ servants and attendant to spend the night where he was staying (at Simon the Tanner’s home), then Peter enters Cornelius’ home the next day (and stays with him for several days). What does it say to invite someone to stay with you in your home like this? (See 10:23, 25, 27, 48)
  • What had Peter learned about dignity and equality from this experience? (10:25-28, 47-48) Why does it take a dramatic push from the Holy Spirit to spur this kind of reconciliation?
  • Put on your theological hats and unpack the layers of Peter’s declaration: “This is the message of the Good News—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” (10:36)
  • Finish this sentence: “Because Jesus Christ is Lord of all, _____________________.”
  • Notice in Peter’s message to Cornelius, he mentions that Jesus ate and drank with him (and several others). With this in mind, how did Jesus role model what he intended his followers to do? (10:34-41)
  • In 10:39, Peter refers to himself (and the other apostles) as “witnesses”. First, what did he “witness”? Second, what have you seen the Lord do that you could testify about?
  • What other elements of this chapter stand out to you and help you 1) understand God better or 2) understand how to treat others better?
  • How does Jesus shape our approach to others during this complicated 2020 year?
  • For follow-up later this week on your own, you could choose to keep reading and studying in Acts 11:1-18.

APPLY

Because Jesus Christ is Lord of all, what attitudes or tendencies may God be calling you to surrender this week?