Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Games People Play

Sermon for New Years – It All Starts by Stopping - Hosea 6

1.      What is your all time favorite game?  Why do you think you like it so much?

2.       A song popular in the 70’s was called ‘The Games People Play.’  One of the lines went:  “Oh the games people play now, every night and every day now, never meaning what they say, now, never saying what they mean.”  What do you think the lyric writer meant?  Contrast this meaning of “games” with the kind of “games” mentioned in question number 1.  

3.       Read Hosea 6.  Starting in verse 4, God was addressing the nation of Israel and their tendency to “play games” with Him.  What are some common “games” people play with God?

4.       At the heart of the issue was a sense of loyalty.  God stayed completely loyal to His people and continually tried to draw them to Himself.  Sometimes He did this by giving times of blessing.  Other times when they strayed He would discipline them in order to bring them to their senses and cause them to return to Him.  Compare God’s relationship to the people of Israel with His relationship to you.  When do you purposely seek God more – in seasons of blessing or times of trouble?

5.       How has God used trouble in your life to draw you to Himself for restoration and spiritual healing?

6.       What does it mean to ‘just get by’ in your relationship to the Lord?  Describe what bare minimum Christianity looks like in your own words.

7.       Read Psalm 62:7-8.  Human beings tend to have mixed motives in one’s relationship to God.  The purity of wanting to please the Lord out of a sense of gratefulness for His sacrifice tends to get tainted by our own human desires.  Stop and think back to a time when your heart was in the best place that you can remember.  What was it that preceded that time of love and commitment to the Lord?  What did you read in these verses that helps you in your relationship with the Lord right now?

8.        Read I Samuel 7:3-6.  The prophet Samuel was addressing the nation of Israel and instructing them what to do if they were really serious about returning to the Lord.  He talked about giving up things that had become more important to God than God Himself, obeying the Lord, praying, fasting and confessing their sins.  For group discussion, consider how engaging in some of these “spiritual disciplines” is quite different than a simple “New Year’s Resolution.”   In the quietness of your heart determine in what area God is speaking to you and what your response will be at this time.

9.       How would you describe someone whom you respect (without naming names) that is totally devoted and loyal to God?  What commitment would it take on your part to become more like that person?   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6b
Feeling Thankful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warts and All

Joseph and Judah
Sermon:  Surprised by Grace

1. What is the first word you can think of when you hear the phrase “soap opera?”

2. No soap opera in the world can compare with the real life drama of the Bible. The Bible shows human beings in the full gamut – “the good, the bad, the ugly” – “warts and all”. Yet, God loves us. Although you may have heard the verse John 3:16 a million times, turn to it now and read each world slowly and consider the ramifications of this truth. When did you first realize that God loved you, “warts and all.”

3. Meet the family. Read Genesis 35:22b-26. How would you describe this family and from this description alone, point out what kinds of problems you could foresee?

4. Read Genesis 29:9-30. Jacob, the father of both Joseph and Judah was very partial to both his wife Rachel (over his wife Leah) and to his son born of Rachel, Joseph (over his ten older brothers). Obviously the family dynamics of having more than one wife has serious and bad consequences. But putting that aside, how did Jacob’s obvious partiality impact his family?

5. Read James 2:1-9. How does God view favoritism?

6. If you had the opportunity to sit down with Jacob when you saw him acting with obvious partiality, what would you tell him?

7. Read Genesis 37:3-8. Do you think Joseph knew how his brothers felt about him? If you were an uncle or aunt of family friend listening in on this scene, what would you say to Joseph?

8. The story of Judah and Tamar is in Genesis 38, and you heard it Sunday in the sermon. By the end of the chapter we don’t like Judah much. Yet, by the time Judah acknowledges his grievous sinful lifestyle (in Genesis 44:16) and begs Joseph to let Benjamin free and volunteers himself to be a slave in Benjamin’s place, we start to see his humanness. What is it about a broken and repentant person that softens our hearts towards that person?

9. Read Genesis 50:15-21 about the account of Joseph’s forgiveness toward his brothers. How is Joseph’s forgiveness a picture of God’s grace toward us?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Messes

Sermon: Genealogy of Grace

1. Do you have siblings or are you an only child? If you have siblings, how many – and where are you in the “line up?” Do you like your placement in “the birth order” in your family? Would you trade if you had the opportunity?

2. As a child, what is the biggest “mess” you ever made and had to clean up?

3. Read Genesis 12:1-3. We are introduced to Abram and we read that God calls him and then gives Abram some specific instructions. After that God makes Abram some fantastic promises! What does God tell Abram to do?

4. What does God promise Abram?

5. Read Genesis 21:1-7. What did the Lord do?

6. As we heard in Sunday’s sermon, Abraham was very human. He made some big mistakes and more than that he did some things that were downright sinful. What does Romans 3:10-12 say about all human beings?

7. Yet, God was faithful to His promise to Abraham. Read Genesis 15:5-6. What was Abram’s response to God’s promise to him?

8. Faith is more than intellectual belief. It is defined as more of a complete trust. In believing in the One in whom we have faith, we act upon that trust. Our lives are different because of that faith. How important is our faith to God?

9. Read Ephesians 2:8-9. By what are we saved? And what is our response to be?

10. Read I John 1:9. Whom does our forgiveness depend upon? According to this verse, what is our part of the equation?

11. Read Acts 3:25-26. We continue to be blessed today by God’s goodness because of the promises He made to Abraham. These promises were not because of anything Abraham did, or any other human being’s goodness, but soley because of God’s grace. Grace is undeserved favor. Can you share some ways in which God’s grace (undeserved blessings and undeserved pardon) has been given to you?