This week we look at the posture of Hope, or as the say in hebrew, waiting קָוָה
How would you define the word hope to someone?
How do you distinguish between hopefulness and wishfulness? Is this an important distinction? What do you think of these common phrases and how the words ‘hope’ and ‘wish’ are used;
When buying a gift for someone, “I really hope they like this!”
When blowing out a birthday candle, “Make a wish!”
Did you agree with Pastor Brennan’s observation, that we can never create a scenario on our own in which we need to have hope? Why do you agree or disagree?
Look at Psalm 42 together. Read the whole thing. How is the word ‘hope’ used in verses 5 and 11? Is the author using it any differently than how we’re used to using it? Does it help your understanding of hope as it’s used in this context to know that the hebrew word is also translated as ‘wait’?
Hebrews 11:1 says this, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” What do you think, is ‘hope’ here used in the same way as in Psalm 42? How so? Or, how is it used differently?
Read Romans 5:1-11 together. The word ‘hope’ is used 3 times very close together in this passage. According to Paul, how is hope produced? What in fact, is the object of our hope… or the consummation of our hope?
Look at your own life. What is it that you hope for? What do you place your hope in? Many of us have ‘hopes and dreams’ for our children, our future, etc. Is this hope or wishfulness? How do these hopes and dreams measure up to what Paul describes as hope?
Today, do you need to tell your soul to not be downcast, but that it should again hope in the Lord? The biggest trial though is waiting, but waiting on the Lord and hoping are the same thing. And we can only do this when we are sure of the one who controls the future. Jesus will not be shaken or deterred, he is our sure and living hope.
Read Roman 5:1-11 again. This is divine perspective and such a blessing to be reminded of.
1. It seems as though there is an increased interest in true crime stories. Around half of new content coming out on Netflix is focused on this subject. Why do you think this is? Do you personally have an interest in these stories? Do you think that any of us, put into the right situation over time could be guilty of these types of crimes?
2. Have you ever asked why God allows this kind of evil to persist? What do you say to non Christians who use this as an argument - “If there was a good and loving God, he wouldn’t allow this kind of evil in the world to go on.”
3. The following verses speak to the depravity of the human heart. It is because of the fall that all mankind in inflicted with a sin nature. Read the following verses and discuss what thoughts come to your mind and heart.
Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Mark 7:21-23, Romans 3:9-12, Romans 5:12.
4. Thankfully for us, the story doesn’t end there. When we place our faith in Jesus, death becomes life. Read Colossians 2:13-15. What a gift of grace. To God alone be the glory!
5. Read Exodus 17:1-7. In this story, the children of Israel quarrel with the Lord, they don’t like the way He is managing their lives. Can you sympathize with the people or do you find their lack of trust unimaginable? How has this played out in your own life? Have you ever felt like God was not managing your life well? If so, what did you do with those questions or accusations?
6. In a surprising twist to the story, God puts himself on trial. He appears before Moses and the elders and the staff comes down and smashes the rock; water pours forth and the people are nourished. This event foreshadows the time when God’s own Son will come and bear the wrath coming against sinful mankind. All who look to Him are saved and nourished. We are now nourished in receiving the righteousness of Christ and we are nourished by the life giving Spirit that has been poured out to us. This is another theme that runs through Scripture. Read Psalm 1:1-3 and discuss ways in which we are able to live by these verses.
7. Back to question 2. The biblical reality is that sin and evil are not going to persist forever. If God were to wipe it out today, all evil would be wiped out and that would pretty much be the end of this world as we know it. God doesn’t just wipe out some evil, when the time comes, he will wipe out ALL evil. Before that happens, His heart is that more will come to repentance. Read 2 Peter 3:8-13. Though we as Christians long for this time to come, this period of history remains so that many more will come to know Him. Are we taking full advantage of these times?
In his sermon, Pastor Jeremy began with the acknowledgement that each of us (including him) are in need of the following truth...
We enjoy communion with God not because of our perfection but because of Jesus.
Do you believe this? What does this truth mean to you? What would your life, emotional health, relationships look like if the statement were put in the world’s terms, that they fail to enjoy communion with God (or whatever a person worships, because of their imperfection?
Holiness is what we’re called to, but it is absolutely unattainable on our own, because we don’t start as holy. In fact, we wouldn’t even know what true holiness is if we didn’t have God’s revelation of himself to us. If it seems like this topic comes up a lot in our conversations together, it’s because it is a main theme in scripture. The Lord providing for the sanctification of His people so they can be in relationship with Him.
Now, on the virtue of integrity, or the lack thereof, read the account of Peter’s promise to Jesus in Matthew 26:30-35, and subsequent denial of him in Matthew 26:69-75
What does it mean to live a life of integrity? What is the opposite of this?
Often the promises we break are relatively small. To say we’ll do something and then ‘forget’ or to make a commitment knowing full well we can’t follow through. Pastor Jeremy noted though that we should be a people of commitment. When we knowingly break a commitment we’ve made, what does that actually say about what we’re placing our hope in? Like we discussed last week, our actions say so much about who we believe we are, what God has done, and who He is. (Follow the chart from last week.)
So how was Peter restored? Maybe a better way to explore this is to ask what Jesus did to restore Peter (and us)? Because anytime we fail to trust the work of Jesus for our salvation in big and small ways, we break faith with Him just as Peter did.
Look at these passages and promises. Discuss the effect of each promise on your faith and life...
So it is clear, we have been saved from separation from God because of our sin nature, but we have also be saved FOR something spectacular… Mission!
Jesus said in John 14:15 and then effectively commanded and commissioned us all in Matt. 28:18-20.
So the demonstration of our integrity as Christians then is directly related to keeping our commitment to being missionaries each and every day! How can we live this out this very week in practical (proclaiming and serving) ways? Friends, neighbours, co-workers, our children? How can we hold each other accountable in this?
As our series on sin, the struggle, and the solution continues, Pastor Brennan spoke of the sin of greed.
As you begin to dive into your discussion this week, launch off with reading through the account of Jesus conversation with the rich young ruler from Matt. 19:16-30
Together, discuss this rich young ruler. Who do you think he was and what motivated him?
Why did he ask Jesus about “what good deed” he must do? And why did Jesus respond the way he did, by saying only God is good and that there is no such thing as a good deed the way the man implies? (Hint: Isaiah 64:6) Most importantly, what was the object of this young ruler’s greed?
This next question is written to test your conviction and condemnation of the rich young ruler (love of stuff above Jesus, and love of moral perfection over relationship with Jesus). This should not be a question we answer quickly. And certainly, freedom is found in confession and not denial.
In his sermon Pastor Brennan discussed the 2 sides to greed. First, accumulating. Second, hording.
What are you greedy with, and why?
This was the diagram Pastor Brennan talked about in the service. Our sin-broken hearts tell us that we are only worth what we do. Walk through this together and explore what your actions tell you about who you believe God is. Remember, sin tells us that we’re the centre, the origin point, and that we do in order to become. Then that requires God to act because of who we are. This then dictates who God in fact is.
The Bible however tells us a different story.
Scripture forces us to first consider who God is, and because of who he is, he does. It is what God has done that establishes who we are (before we were ever even created according to Eph. 1:3-4.
Now walk through this together.
The last thing to do now is compare what it is you say you believe about God to what you said about your area of greed (although you can apply this to any and all areas of life). While we say that God is sovereign, what do our actions reveal about our true beliefs?
One of the most difficult parts of the for established Christians is confessing our greed of time and comfort which is challenged by Jesus’ call to evangelize and make disciples. If God is holy and sovereign, and he sent Jesus to atone for us, and our identity is established as his children and disciples, then we are sent by the Holy Spirit to go and be missionaries for him!
Encourage each other in this!
Sin is a distortion and dislocation of our affection, which should be placed on God, but sin is when we put this on something else.
In light of this, how would you define pride?
Read the account of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Pastor Jeremy asked, could we possibly be as troubled as the king from this story? Daniel 4:19-27
From our perspective, it’s easy to see what the king was prideful about, and what he should do to avoid disaster, it’s right there in verse 27.
But what about us? How do you read yourself into this account of the fall caused by pride? Pastor Jeremy noted that we really are the product of our environment, genetics, circumstances, etc. That we didn’t choose any of these things, and can do very little to affect our own origin story. So is there an area where you feel you have enough control in your life to claim a position, victory, program, advantage, donation, relationship, etc. as the product of your personal exertion?
Read the next part of the story, verses 28-33
Was this fair? Did the king deserve this level of severity? Why to you think God chose to deal with Nebuchadnezzar like this? Do you think God would be justified in allowing you to walk this same course?
These are the two ugly sides of pride.
The one side says that we deserve what good we have, that it is us who has earned it.
The other side produces a victim mentality. That we don’t deserve the suffering we have, that we have earned only good things and that suffering is unjust.
Which side of pride do you find yourself most naturally and regularly feeling?
Now take some time to share the gospel with each other. The gospel is the one and only true antidote to pride. Our Sunday school walk through the TULIP acronym of Reformed theology is incredibly helpful to us in combating the sin of pride.
We are born Totally depraved. Deserving no good thing and capable of no good thing.
God Unconditionally elected us because of his free choice. There was nothing that we did do, will do, or can do to incline him toward ourselves. Therefore, there is nothing we can boast in. Remember, if we have free will and we chose God, then we can boast in that. The root of boasting is pride. This is why Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-10, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
How does this pride crushing good news deepen your love of God (heart, soul, strength, and mind) and your love of your neighbours?
In this, the first week of our series, “Sin, the Struggle, and the Solution”, spend some time talking about what your first reaction to the series title was. I was told that when the sign for this was going up outside the church last Tuesday, two boys from the highschool who were walking by read it and yelled that they are gay.
When you first heard this, what did you think and feel? (Were there some specific circumstances brought to mind, or a feeling of dread, or worry about being made to feel guilty?)
Pastor Jeremy said that our problem with sin is actually our denial of it. How do you understand this? Do you agree with the statement?
Read Jeremiah 2:1-13 together.
The main motivation behind sin is a denial of the awe of God. Where do you see this in the passage from Jeremiah? What two things did it lead the people of Israel to do? (v13) Why was this so bad that God would name these things individually?
How does Paul talk about this very same thing in Romans 1:18-23
What is the solution to all this? How can we reverse things such as broken denying the source of living water, making broken cisterns, and worshipping what is created?
How did Jesus accomplish this reversal? In other words, how is Jesus the hope we need?
How will you explain all this to your unbelieving neighbour who is struggling with the effects of sin in his or her life? How will you point them a path to hope and wholeness? Preach this to each other.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Do you have the Thanksgiving tradition, to converse around the dinner table and each say something you’re thankful for from the past year? Take some time to do this as a group. What is something you’re thankful for from the past year? How do you see that God was involved?
Our sign committee (Caroline Wiens, Gayle Frame, and Verna Guenther) put this message on the church sign last week… “Being thankful is not for a day, it’s a lifestyle.”
What do you think this means?
If it’s true that being thankful is not for a day but it’s a lifestyle… then the follow up question should be, “why”? Why should it be a lifestyle? On Thanksgiving Sunday, Pastor Jeremy talked about thanksgiving in the language of mission. Read Psalm 67 together, then get into answering the “why”.
Pastor Jeremy discussed 4 elements to this passage.
Walk through Psalm 67 with these in mind. How does the Psalm give body to each point? How do these together answer the question implied by our sign committee… WHY should thanksgiving not be just a day but a lifestyle for a Christian?
This week Pastor Matt opened God’s word to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 in order to turn our attention to the importance of intergenerational relationships in our church family. Read this together as you begin.
If you feel comfortable, share two brief stories with your group. First, what is something those older than you would say about you, or a story they would love to tell about you?
What is a story those younger than you would love to share about your life? These are better if they’re embarrassing!
In raising children who love the Lord, Pastor Matt called our attention to 4 things. He noted that these four things were listed as the major factors contributing to children continuing to walk with the Lord through their teen and young adult years.
These four elements were:
Take some time to talk through these four points from a different perspective though… not as parents of specific children, but as parents to those in God’s family who are children.
Pastor Matt suggested 7 ways to continue building intergenerational relationships. He called these “practical ideas for a sticky church”:
For each point, how could you pursue this better individually, and as a group?
Also, take some time to just list some of the intergenerational points of connection, service, and programing you are aware of at Ness. (Hint, Sundays count!)
What is the point of all this? A good passage to read to close your discussion is Psalm 145 in its entirety.
How does a healthy church community proclaim the good news of Jesus?
This Sunday was the final piece in our series on the high priestly prayer of Jesus from John 17.
Pastor Jeremy pointed our attention to the difference which often exists between what we desire, and what is good for us. We've all walked through this personally, and certainly with our children if we're parents.
Share an experience which highlights this from your own life.
When you consider heaven, what do you picture?
What did you picture of heaven when you were a kid?
What changed your expectations?
Are streets of gold and a mansion enough to change you actions here and now? What about perfect relational harmony? Perhaps
Pastor Jeremy paraphrased John Owen when he said “For a change to take place, what you love must change.” He suggested that it is in contemplating Christ that this change begins to happen in us. In what ways do you contemplate Christ? How have you been changed by him? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in this?
Read 2 Cor. 3:12-18 for a window into this process.
Here are 5 Truths about love.
How have you felt a longing toward each of these things?
How do you understand and feel Christ is the only one able to fulfill these longings? Keep in mind, understanding and feeling something are different. We understand with our mind, we feel with our emotions. Should we need to wait for heaven to be able to experience real change?
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