SERMON AUDIO & DISCUSSION GUIDES

Weekly sermon-based discussion guide updates will be added Sunday evenings starting September 11th. 

Purpose: These group discussion guides are intended to help us as a community learn what it means to know and follow Jesus together in the midst of every day life.  

Method: We use a sermon and scripture based approach. Group members are encouraged to draw from scripture and the weekly sermon as much as possible (versus outside sources) during group discussion. Discussion questions are based on an inductive methodology. This means questions follow into one of three categories: what does it say? (observation); what does it mean? (interpretation), how can I respond? (application).  The goal is not to work through all of the questions, but to use questions to facilitate honest, meaningful engagement with one another and the Bible. 

Weekly prep: Prior to gathering, each group member is encouraged to read the passage, listen to the sermon, consider the discussion questions, and pray. While this is ideal, it is not always possible, so even if you haven't prepared at all, still come to CG and be part of the discussion! 

 E100 Challenge: The E100 challenges works with our current series "God's Story" by challenging you to read 100 verses in 100 days. These passages will help you discover God's story of salvation from Genesis to Revelation. The plan includes short daily readings that can be completed in about 10 minutes and includes optional devotionals. This is a great way for you and your group to grow in your relationships with God and one another!

 

GOD'S STORY WEEK Seventeen: The Way of Love

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

Read 1 Corinthians 13

Starter Question:  Have you ever heard 1 Corinthians 13 ("The Love Chapter") read at a wedding?  How does that context that shape the way you think about these words?

  1. Based on its place in the letter of 1 Corinthians, this passage isn’t to not meant to inspire us but to convict us. How would that change the way you read and understand chapter 13?
  2. The prophet Hosea was called by God to marry Gomer, an unrepentant prostitute. Hosea remains faithful and loves Gomer at great social and personal cost to himself.  How are we like Gomer towards God? How is God like Hosea to us? How does the love in v4-7 help us understand God’s love for us?
  3. What are some of the ways we use the term “love”?  How does the love described here differ from other ways we tend to define love? 
  4. In his sermon, Pete said, “Earthly love is finite. It will end. Which means love in this life is a zero sum game. There is only so much love in the world and in order for me to have it, I have to take it. In a world like that when I rise you must fall, or for me to have you must lose. Or if you have then I must be losing. In this world, the only way for me to be truly safe is to keep you out.  That’s how adulterous people see themselves and the world around them. They are people of fear not love and they can’t seem to get themselves out of the devastating, self destructive spiral of fear.   How is fear the opposite of love? How do you see patterns of fear at work in your own life?
  5. How does the love Jesus demonstrated on the cross have the power to rescue us from a life dominated by fear?
  6. Have someone read 1 John 4:7-11, 18-19 Why does God love you?  What makes it possible for you to love God?
  7. How does believing that you are loved by God free you and empower you to love others who are very different from you?  
  8. What is one way you could demonstrate love this week to someone in your life who is very different from you?

GOD'S STORY WEEK Sixteen: WALKING IN A NEW WAY

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

Starter Question:  Have you ever felt like your life was off track? What caused it and how did it feel?

The church of Christ is called to walk a narrow path of unexpected beauty and extraordinary wonder by living faithfully in light of the Scriptures.  But as we do we are buffeted by winds that would knock us from our feet and blow us off the path.  Tonight let's consider why and how the Bible can help keep us from getting off track in our lives.

Read 2 Timothy 3:15, 10-17; 4:1-5

  1. Do you believe the Bible is true?  What gives you confidence that the Bible is true?  What causes you to doubt or question the Bible?
  2. Have you experienced “soft persecution” for your faith? (see examples in sermon quotes) What makes this kind of persecution so toxic to our faith?
  3. Scholar Bart Ehrman equates trusting the Bible with subscribing to a faith that is in inherently intolerant and oppressive because “history is written by those in power.” How does 2 Timothy 3:14-16 challenge Ehrman’s argument?
  4. In his sermon, John Yates asserted that, “The Bible is authoritative because God inspired it.  And the New Testament stands up to criticism and suspicion because it was compiled according to good old-fashioned common-sense: consistent, eye-witness testimony, broadly accepted by a diverse group of contemporaries.”  Do you find this argument compelling? Why or why not?
  5. John Yates said, “The only satisfying explanation of human nature that I have ever heard is found in Scripture.  The only story that has ever made sense of who I am – good and bad – is the story told in Scripture.  The only hope that I have ever been given that my story has a point is the hope given to me by the Story of Jesus in Scripture.”  What makes the Bible, and specifically the Gospel accounts, compelling for you personally? How has it helped make sense of who you are and given you hope?
  6. As a group, watch the Alfa Romeo Super Bowl ad here: https://youtu.be/ySBY1OpvNrY  (or read the text included in sermon quotes). What story about who you are is this ad telling?  How is it compelling? How is it problematic? How is it incompatible with God’s story? 
  7. How does the story of God offer a compelling alternative to the story our culture is telling? What are ways you can you share this story with those in your life that don’t know Christ?


Key Sermon Quotes

The church of Christ is called to walk a narrow path of unexpected beauty and extraordinary wonder by living faithfully in light of the Scriptures.  But as we do we are buffeted by winds that would knock us from our feet and blow us off the path. The two winds that Paul warns Timothy about are more forceful than just about any other.  They are the winds of persecution and deception.

Unlike Paul, however, who suffered violent persecution for his faith, most of the persecution we face is social and psychological.  And in an increasingly post-Christian culture it is growing. In comparison with the violent persecution experienced by Christian people in places like Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, what we experience is minor.  It is real, however, and it has a significant impact on us.  We want to be liked.  We want to be respected.  We don’t want to be excluded.  Each one of these little gusts of persecution erodes our confidence.

Here are a few ways you might be experiencing what I think of as “soft persecution.”
    •    You’ve been told that your faith is judgmental, intolerant, narrow-minded, bigoted, extreme, or “old fashioned.”  
    •    Your non-christian family has two text-messaging threads: one that includes you and one that doesn’t.
    •    The only neighborhood gatherings you get invited to are the ones you host.  
    •    You were accused of being “hateful” when you showed disapproval at the sexual behavior of a friend.
    •    You’ve heard the following line, “How could someone with your level of education could believe that?!”
    •    You discovered that the reason your 8 year-old’s best friend is never “available” to come over for a play-date is because his parents think you’ll force your faith on him.  

Over time persecution weakens our resolve – making us vulnerable to the deception of false teaching.

Regardless of the form, deception seeks to draw us away from the love of God in Jesus Christ by pushing us to rely on ourselves or things other than Christ for our salvation and fulfillment.

We tend to think of bad doctrine or false teaching as mistaken and regrettable, but we often fail to acknowledge what it actually does to people.  It promises truth, but by delivering falsehood it drives people to death and separation from God.  That’s why Paul uses words like “abusive” and “brutal” to describe those who mislead others.  False teaching isn’t just wrong, it’s deadly.

One of the hallmarks of postmodern thought is the belief that truth-claims are really just power-grabs.  According to this way of thinking, to claim that one text is authoritative and another not is to exercise power through the oppression of a different point of view.  

A canon of literature is not a tool of oppression by virtue of its existence.  Those texts that became known as scripture were authoritative long before they were considered canonical because they were written by verifiable eye-witnesses.  

We are incomprehensibly glorious and indescribably ugly.  How do you explain that?  We are extraordinarily self-sufficient and yet nearly every human culture in history has practiced a religion proclaiming dependence on a god of some sort.  How do you explain that?  The only satisfying explanation of human nature that I have ever heard is found in Scripture.  The only story that has ever made sense of who I am – good and bad – is the story told in Scripture.  The only hope that I have ever been given that my story has a point is the hope given to me by the Story of Jesus in Scripture.  The Bible explains who we are and why we are.  It shows us what we can become in Jesus.  It tells a better and more satisfying story than anyone else, because it makes the most sense of our lives and the world around us.

If “the ability to reinvent ourselves is the most human trait of all” then you can’t “stay true to who you are,” because there is no “you” when you peel back all the layers.  There is just an endless sequence of dreamed-of, longed-for “yous” always hiding over the next horizon.  

Having abandoned God’s story our culture promises us that we can tell our own stories.  The truth is your story only makes sense as part of God’s story.  Your life will only ultimately have meaning as part of God’s story.  We learn that story and live that story as we dive into Scripture.   

GOD'S STORY WEEK FIfteen: HEARTS SET FREE

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

Starter Question:  If a friend were to ask how Jesus Christ has changed you, what would you say?

Read Romans 8:1-17

  1. Romans 8 begins by reminding us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What does it mean to be “in Christ Jesus”?  According to v2-4, why is there no condemnation for those in Christ?
  2. In his sermon, John said, “Freedom in the Holy Spirit means that you are no longer defined by your darkest secrets.  You are free from condemnation and do not need to live in shame.”  How does our secret sin have the power to define us? How does the Holy Spirit free us from the power of our secret sin and shame? 
  3. If the Holy Spirit frees us from the power of sin, why do we still disobey God?
  4. What is the difference between setting our minds on the flesh and setting our minds on the Spirit (v5-8)? How can we practice this in our everyday lives?
  5. Discuss the following quote from John’s sermon in light of Romans 8: “The tragedy of modern life is that we think living according to our own will and desire is the essence of freedom.  We equate freedom with autonomy – the ability to act without constraint of any kind.  The problem with this way of thinking is that we were not created to be autonomous.  We were created to be relational and dependent co-laborers with God in his perfect world.  By choosing autonomy and cutting ourselves free from all constraints we choose not freedom but slavery – slavery to our desires and to our own deeply fallible sense of judgment.  When we live according to the flesh we become warped and twisted versions of our true selves. How do you see this at work in our culture? How do you see this in your own life?
  6. There are two basic types of fear.  The first is fear of what we know.  We might call this dread.  The second is fear of what we don’t know.  We might call this anxiety. What are the main sources of fear in your life?  How does Romans 8:26-30 help us move from fear to faith?
  7. Read v14-17. How do you then to think of and relate to God?  Is it difficult for you to see God as Father or to think of yourself as his beloved son or daughter? Why or why not.
  8. How does this kind of intimate, personal way of relating to God as Father have the power to help us become more like Jesus?

Key Sermon Quotes

The Holy Spirit gives us freedom: freedom from condemnation, freedom from slavery to sin, and freedom from fear.  The Holy Spirit also gives us a new and glorious intimacy with God. 

Because of our sin we are condemned, and the shame of our condemnation is part and parcel of our identity as human beings. 

When you put your trust in Jesus your sins are forgiven.  Your record is scrubbed clean.  All those images of your humiliation are destroyed forever.  The Holy Spirit now dwells within you as the source and center of your new identity.

Freedom in the Holy Spirit means that you are no longer defined by your darkest secrets.  You are free from condemnation and do not need to live in shame.  

We tend to think of sin as the bad things that we do: a lustful look, a prideful thought, a harsh word.  But according to Scripture sin is much more than individual thoughts, actions and words.  Sin isn’t just what we do, it’s who we are.  It is a power that rules over us.  Sin is the triumph of our will over the will of God.

The only way out of this native slavery of ours is by the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit.

Sin no longer rules over us as an enslaving power, but we still sin because the well-worn ruts of our sinful ways take time to smooth over with new patterns of being. 

When the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us the Spirit frees us from both kinds of fear.  We no longer have to fear the certainty of death because we know that resurrection will come.  We no longer have to fear the uncertainties of life, because we know with certainty that God has claimed us and cares for us as his own. 

Most of us still wrestle with dread and anxiety.  But fear is now no longer necessary.  It is no longer native to our souls.  It is foreign, and with time it will become more foreign as the Spirit of God trains us in hope and confidence.

The Spirit does not make us perfect here and now, but the Spirit does make us more like Christ.  This is true intimacy. 

Followers of Jesus are wonderful contradictions.  On the one hand we are much like everyone else: prone to selfishness, vulnerable to sickness, destined for death.  On the other hand, the Spirit of the risen Christ lives within us.  We have been set free and assured of our resurrection from the dead and given the right to call the God of the universe Abba/Father.  


GOD'S STORY WEEK Fourteen: THE QUESTION THAT MATTERS 

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

Starter Question: How has seeing the Bible as one story changed the way you think about the Bible? God?

Read Acts 9:1-9, 17

  1. How does Saul’s Damascus road experience resonate with your own spiritual experience? how is it different?
  2. John Stott observes that “The very fanaticism of Saul’s perscution of Jesus’ followers betrays his own growing inner uneasiness, “because as Carl Jung deduced fanaticism is only found in individuals who are compensating for secret doubts.”  How might this change the way you think about and pray for your friends who seem adamantly opposed to faith in Jesus? 
  3. Why would someone be willing to know about God but unwilling to know God? 
  4. What did Saul have to come to terms with before he could really know Jesus? Why is this an essential part of anyone’s conversion experience?  
  5. Saul had a dramatic conversion experience, but God had been pursuing him. Do you believe God is pursuing you? How have you experienced the pursuit of God in your life?
  6. How does Saul’s blindness and the restoration of his sight illustrate his spiritual condition? 
  7. Saul was changed by his encounter with Jesus. Have you had a life-changing encounter with Jesus? How has it changed you?
  8. Have you ever felt like you were beyond God’s power to save? What does Saul’s story teach us about Jesus heart for people and the reach of grace? 
  9. Who is someone in your life who seems beyond God's power to save? How can Saul's story help you pray for that person this week.

Key Sermon Quotes

It’s one thing to know the Bible and all it has to say about God.  But it’s something completely different to know God and it’s possible you could come to the end of this series and know God’s Story but not know the God of the story.

The only way to know the God of the story is to have a personal, life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, the one at the heart of the story. 

Saul knew God’s word inside and out and yet he was dead wrong because he was dead wrong about Jesus.

There is a paradox at work here - those who resist the gospel most stridently are often doing so out of a deep insecurity or doubt that what they oppose might actually be true.

So when you look at Saul’s life you have to trust that despite what you could see on the outside, that God was at work on this inside.

Saul conversion was the remarkable but it was the climax to a process. It was the gradual, patient extension of grace from God who had been pursuing Saul. 

C.S. Lewis described his own conversion like this: “I became aware I was holding something at bay or shutting something out. Or that I was wearing some stiff clothing, or even a suit of armor…I felt myself being, there and then, given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut…”

We can be passionate, committed, well-meaning people. We can go to church, call ourselves Christians, and do good things and be good people.  And yet we can actually be against God, not for him, people who never allow Jesus to be our Lord and savior.

To have a personal, life-changing encounter with Jesus is to realize just how blind you’ve been.  Blind to your own attempts to earn God’s favor. Blind to the depths of your own selfishness and pride. Blind to the consequences of living life your way without God. Blind to the fact that apart from Jesus we are spiritually dead. Blind to the extent of our fear and doubt. Blind to the depths of our guilt and shame.

If we have encountered Jesus, we like Saul have been brought to our knees, cut to the heart, we have come face to face the despair of life as enemies of God.

Saul would later chose to go by his Roman name of Paul. The name Saul means “prayed for or desired.” while the name Paul means “small”  What a powerful picture of what Jesus had done in his life. God had pursued him, desired him, had never given up on him and by grace he saved him. And while Saul became a great leader and powerful witness for Jesus, he knew exactly who he was in Christ.  He knew he was a sinner saved by grace. He was a small man indebted to a great God. He was changed. 

This story about Saul is scandalous.  Saul was murdering followers of Jesus one minute and being baptized the next. How is it possible? Only through Jesus.  And God’s grace is scandalous for us all. None of us deserve to be pursued by him. None of us deserve his love and forgiveness. And yet he gives it. 

Let this be the moment where you acknowledge the God who has been pursuing you. Ask him to help you see how blind you’ve been to your sin. Ask him to forgive you and receive his forgivness. And then know that you have been washed clean. You are dead to sin and alive in Christ. Know that through Jesus your life has been forever changed.  Amen.

 

GOD'S STORY WEEK THIRTEEN: THE CHURCH AND THE SPIRIT (JAN. 22) 

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

Starter Question: What do you know about the Holy Spirit? What questions do you have? How would you describe your relationship with this member of the Trinity?

Read Acts 2:1-21

  1. On Sunday, John observed that, “The Spirit is a person.  The Spirit is not a force or a power.  The Spirit is …. God himself living with us, drawing us into the new creation, bringing order and purpose to our lives, and empowering us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”  Why is this important and how might it change the way you think about the Holy Spirit?
  2. What happens in Acts 2:1-13 and what does it teach us about the Holy Spirit? What does it real about the nature, purpose and work of the Holy Spirit?
  3. What is the significance of what happens at Pentecost in the overall story of scripture (God's Story)? Why is this important to understand?
  4. Why is it so remarkable that Peter is the one who speaks to the crowd in vv14-21? What does this reveal about what God has done in his life?  How does this encourage/challenge your own faith and what God can do in your life? in the lives of others?
  5. John Yates said, “Have you given in to feeling small, vulnerable, weak and dispensable?  Have you allowed yourself to be intimidated and shamed into silence?  Have you forgotten who dwells within you?  Do you not know that the Spirit of life and new creation, the Spirit of power and authority, the Spirit of comfort and blessing lives within you?  Dear friends, we are nothing but empty shells when we neglect the Spirit who lives within us.”    What keeps you from sharing about Jesus with your friends who don’t have a relationship with him?
  6. Based on Acts 2, how can the person of the Holy Spirit help you take steps to more lovingly and boldly share Jesus with your friends? 

Prayer

Think of a specific group of people with whom your community group could share Christ (apartment building next to our campus, Peace U. students, your coworkers, young families in your neighborhood, a local school, etc.). Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a heart for that group and begin to pray and discuss specific opportunities to share Christ with them.  Be bold and be intentional! 

Key Sermon Quotes

The word for Spirit can also be translated as “breath” or “wind.” In the Psalms and book of Job the Spirit is the life-giver who animates God’s creation.  In the prophets the Spirit is the power behind prophetic speech.  In the historical books, it is the Spirit who indwells kings, filling them with wisdom and authority to rule.  

The Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is diverse: sometimes quiet, sometimes spectacular.  But there is a consistency in that work.  The Spirit manifests God’s power by giving life, revealing himself to his people, and establishing order with purpose.  

Life-giving, revealing, empowering – this is the work of the Spirit of God.  
When the disciples pour out onto the street proclaiming the good news about Jesus in countless languages the Holy Spirit is rolling back the curse of Babel and beginning the work of reordering creation.  The same Spirit who hovered over the waters of creation in Genesis 1 is now present and active within God’s people. 

But here is the amazing thing about Pentecost….The power behind a thousand supernovas lives with you and in you and watches over you.  

You and I are tiny, insignificant people, marred by imperfections, weak, vulnerable and dispensable.  And yet we have been given the Holy Spirit of the almighty God who is presently at work renewing His creation through us and within us. 

Why go on proclaiming the gospel?  Because this is how the Holy Spirit begins the work of restoring God’s good creation to its intended purpose and order.  Because the gospel is life-giving to the death-bound.  We must proclaim it – social awkwardness be damned!

Have you given in to feeling small, vulnerable, weak and dispensable?  Have you allowed yourself to be intimidated and shamed into silence?  Have you forgotten who dwells within you?  Do you not know that the Spirit of life and new creation, the Spirit of power and authority, the Spirit of comfort and blessing lives within you?  Dear friends, we are nothing but empty shells when we neglect the Spirit who lives within us.

Throughout this sermon I have been very careful never to refer to the Spirit as “it.”  That is because the Spirit is a person.  The Spirit is not a force or a power.  The Spirit is the person of God who dwells with us.  The Spirit has no body and no gender – we cannot rightly refer to the Spirit as “he” or “she.”  But the Spirit is a person – God himself living with us, drawing us into the new creation, bringing order and purpose to our lives, and empowering us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  


GOD'S STORY WEEK TWELVE: KING OF THE CROSS (JAN. 15) 

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

Read John 18:28-40

  1. Who has brought Jesus to Pilate and why? 
  2. What is Pilate’s main concern regarding Jesus (see v33, 37)? How does Jesus respond to Pilate’s question about his kingship and what does it reveal about Jesus (v34, 36)?
  3. Jesus says tells Pilate that his kingdom is “not of the world” three times. What does Jesus mean and why is it so important to understand?
  4. What do Jesus’ words in verse 37 reveal about his mission on earth?  How does Jesus’ life, teachings, death and resurrection undermine earthly understandings of the relationship between power and truth?
  5. John said one of the implications of Jesus words in John 18 are that as followers of Jesus, “Our loyalty lies with Jesus and with it our hope and our trust.”
  6. “The Bible has more power on a single page than the whole mass of policy makers and optioning shapers that will gather around it (at the inauguration) because it is the true and living word of God.”  Do you believe this is true? If so, how? If not, why?
  7. How does the belief that Jesus is the one true king over this world affect the way we relate to political power and leaders? 
  8. Jesus says there is a truth that is beyond our “versions of the truth,”; it is a truth that holds for all people in all times in all places. How does this cut against the grain of our culture? How might this aspect of the good news of Jesus be freeing and empowering to people?
  9. John Yates said, “True freedom is obeying God not acting like a God.”  How can this understanding of freedom help us remain faithful in a culture that challenges our faith?
  10. During the recent election cycle, how were you tempted to trust in or fear the power and truth of this world? How can you learn to trust in the truth and power of Christ and his kingdom?  

Key Sermon Quotes

Pilate is really only concerned with one thing - is Jesus a threat to his power and position. He wants to know if Jesus is the kind of man who could challenge his authority.

Jesus never directly affirms or denies his kingship. What he does do is speak and act like a king. There is power and authority in Jesus’ responses to Pilate. 

Pilate wonders, “How could a man bent on ruling not rely on the power of the sword?”

Jesus power and authority are absolute. They are not dependent on anything earthly. He can’t simply be removed, only obeyed or disobeyed. Followed or rejected. 
Jesus has come to speak truth to anyone who will listen. This is not the typical job description of a king. 

[From the world’s perspective] Truth is simply the application of power. 

“What is truth?” These are not the word of a humble philosopher. These are the words of a man with blood on his hands and fear in his heart. A man who knows you only establish and keep prayer by one’s own willpower. 

Jesus is different. He is a king with clean hands. He is a man without fear. He doesn’t resort to force to establish order. He bears witness to truth in his words and by his actions. It is disemployed in all it fullness in his being. 

Even though Jesus is God himself, he is not God alone. He is one part of the Godhead. He is the way, the truth and the life but only by virtue of his being part of the three-person God and submitting to the will of his father.  Jesus testifies to the reality of the truth that stands apart from and over all creation: that God is God alone and only in him and through him and with him to we find life and truth. 

By dying and rising Jesus establishes a truth that is new to humanity. That there is a power greater than death. That there is a love so great that it wills to die for the life of the beloved. 

Our loyalty lies with Jesus and with it our hope and our trust.

As Amercian citizens we submit to the authority of the office of our president. We do humbly, willingly and gratefully. But we do so as citizens of another kingdom and as servants of a greater king. 

We are called to be holy in this world but were serve a king who is not of this world. This gives us courage to stand up for the truth and to stand apart from everyone else and love with abandon like our king. We need to remember this when we are tempted to put our hope or be ruled by our fear of political power. 

The truth is that God became man; the creator took on the flesh of his creation and stood against the falsehood and power lust of a world that thought it could determined truth for itself. 

When we turn to Jesus and trust him and seek to obey him, we aren’t choosing a religion, we are embracing the truth.  We are pressing ourselves into the mold of true humanity, becoming more like the God who made us and the creatures he made us to be. 

True freedom means obeying God not acting like a God. 

Jesus demonstrates that truly absolute power loves absolutely. It dies willingly and conquers all enemies, even death. 


GOD'S STORY WEEK Eleven: Living the Kingdom (Jan. 8) 

Sermon Audio

Starter Question

What was your favorite Christmas gift this year? 

Introduction

In this series of sermons our goal has been to show how the Bible tells a single story: God’s Story.  We have seen how this story makes sense of the world in which we live and also how it makes sense of our own stories. One of the themes that emerged in our walk through the Old Testament was God’s promise to his people that he would one day send a king to rescue them and reign over them.  That king has come and shattered the expectations of God’s people by inviting them to join him not in a political kingdom with limited territory, but in a whole new way of life that breaks the bonds of death and extends to every corner of the earth.

Discussion Questions

Read together: Luke 9:1-6, 10-17

  1. What does Jesus instruct the disciples to do in v1-6? What does he give them for their task? What does he not give them? Why is this important and what is Jesus teaching them?
  2. Read Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. What does Jesus give in these verses and to whom has does he give it?  
  3. Based on Luke 9:2, what are Jesus’ followers to do with these gifts of power and authority? 
  4. John Yates said in his sermon, “The gospel is something that has to be explained, understood and accepted. Proclaiming the kingdom is about more than going to church and being a good person. It’s an invitation to trust in Jesus as Lord of all things and believe he is the only one who can make us right with God.”  How is believing in God and trying to live as a good person an inadequate view of the Gospel?  
  5. How are your life and words explaining and helping others in your life to understand who Jesus is and what he has done for them? Why might you be reluctant to talk about Jesus with others?  How might the gifts Jesus has given you encourage you to be more intentional about sharing him in word and deed?
  6. In feeding the crowd, Jesus models how hospitality can powerfully demonstrate the good news of Jesus. Meeting basic needs helped open their hearts to the invitation of the Gospel.  What opened your heart to trusting your life to Jesus? If you haven’t yet done so, what would it take?
  7. Who in your life is “spiritually hungry” for Jesus? How are you personally welcoming people with their needs and meeting them where they are? How can your CG do this together?  
  8. How do our own needs present opportunities that build bridges to share the Gospel with others? How does “looking like we have it all together” actually build walls and hinder our ability to share the Gospel?
  9. Can you think of a time when you were skeptical about sharing about Jesus with a friend only to witness God use your meager efforts in a powerful way? Or a time when you begrudgingly served only to experience unexpected blessing through the experience? 

Key Sermon Quotes

When Jesus sent out the disciples he gave them the power to do what was needed and the authority to do it.  Not only did he give them the right to act in his name, he gave them the ability or the means to do so effectively. But instead of giving them bread and a bag and an extra tunic, he tells them to leave these things behind.  They are to take nothing – only the promise of his power at work within them.  

The power of a disciple is not the power of sword or shield.  It is a spiritual power, in this particular case over demons and disease. We don’t see exorcisms and miraculous healings every day.  But the Church, under the Holy Spirit is still given power over these things.

We don’t, however, control the application of this power.  God chooses when to heal, when to destroy evil, and when to stay his hand.  But he instructs us to ask him to use this power.  He tells us to pray for healing, and to lay hands on each other.  He makes clear that there are spiritual forces out there that can be resisted and destroyed by our prayers.  

esus gives us power, but we do not possess that power.  We have access to it as we depend on him.

The gospel is something that has to be explained, understood and accepted.  But there are some folks who believe that all you need to do to become a Christian is go to church and be a good person.

The invitation to come into the kingdom is an invitation to trust Jesus as the Lord of all things, and to put your faith in him as the only one who can make you right with God.  In order to put your trust in Jesus and submit to him in this way you have to know who he is, why he died, that he rose, and promises to come again.  

he gospel isn’t merely information that must be accepted.  When we share the gospel we are inviting our friends and family to be healed. Healing in the eyes of Scripture is much bigger than this.  It means healing from the curse of death and receiving the gift of eternal life.  It means being forgiven and reconciled to God.  It means being healed from your brokenness and becoming a whole person.  It means experiencing life as you were created to experience it. 

If our friends and family are going to put their trust in Jesus they need to see him at work, not just be told about him.  The gospel needs to be explained; it also needs to be demonstrated.

The best way to communicate the gospel and demonstrate its power is to welcome people with their needs and humbly meet them where they are.  The need may be friendship or a listening ear.  The need may be a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on, or as simple as a warm meal.  Whatever the need may be, when we are aware and responsive instead of overwhelmed and resentful, we point the way to the kingdom of God.

 I think that Jesus used the neediness of the disciples as a way of building bridges to connect to the spiritual needs of those they went to.    

Just because we know Jesus and have been reconciled to God doesn’t mean that we have it all together.  We still have needs.  We still have weaknesses.  We still depend on other people.  Sometimes, in our desire to look good, we make it seem like we have it all together.  When we do this we end up building walls around us rather than building bridges.

One of the best ways to build a bridge into the life of another needy person is to be honest about your own needs, to share the story of your own healing, to be open and vulnerable yourself!

Jesus used their hands as instruments of his power to meet the needs of others.  When those needs were met the disciples were given an abundance of their own. 


GOD'S STORY DUring Advent: Nov. 27-Dec 18

During Advent we encourage you to "press pause" on the E100 as we slow down in God's Story to consider the arrival of Jesus, the main point and center of God's Story. To help us do this, we will be using alternative readings. If your CG is meeting during Advent, take the time to discuss 1) how each reading connects with the rest of God's Story; 2) what each reading reveals about the identity and mission of Jesus; and 3) how why this matters to us.

Weekly Sermon Discussion Questions will resume January 8th. 

If you have any questions, please email David Cumbie.


GOD'S STORY WEEK TEN: HOLDING ON TO HOPE (NOV. 20) 

Sermon Audio

Starter Question

What makes a person ugly? What makes a person beautiful?

Discussion Questions

Read Isaiah 52:1-10

  1. What might you deduce from these verses about Israel’s circumstances as a nation and spiritual condition? What parallels do you see between Israel’s condition and our own spiritual condition?
  2. In his sermon, John said, “There is nothing beautiful about the picture of God’s people lying in the dust of Jerusalem and carried into exile.  They are slaves.  They have no dignity.  They traded God’s love for false comfort and idols.  They deserve what they’ve gotten and they know it.”  How do guilt and shame about sin in your life impact your relationship with God?
  3. What does God promise to do for his people? What does this reveal about how God sees his people?
  4. In his sermon, John said, “This metaphor of clothing doesn’t refer to a need to cover up who they are, but to shed their rags and dress appropriately as the chosen one’s of God.  They are his people, and it is his love for them that makes them beautiful.” How do you define beauty? What makes someone beautiful? What makes someone beautiful to God?
  5. Isaiah 52 is prophecy, meaning it has not happened yet.  What do v.3-6 reveal about God and why might this give his people confidence in his promises?
  6. What other things are we tempted to base our confidence on and how can this erode our faith in God? Why is God’s character the only source of true confidence for us?
  7. Read Isaiah 53:3-6. These verses point ahead to Jesus. What does this prophecy about Jesus, reveal to us about the character of God?
  8. John said, “You all look good this morning.  You always look good.  But I know that there is ugliness beneath those freshly unpacked winter clothes.  I know it because I look in the mirror every morning too.  There is ugliness in each of us – the ugliness of selfishness, rebellion against God, neglect of those around us.  Sometimes the ugliness bothers us, sometimes we don’t even care. Alongside the ugliness you may feel unworthy.   You may feel enslaved to a certain sin or pattern of life.  You may wonder whether you have any dignity left.  We all wear shame like rags, carrying our insecurities and uncertainties like heavy baggage.”   How does Jesus respond to the ugliness within us? Why is this so hard for us to accept? 
  9. In what areas of your life have you seen God transform ugliness (sin, selfishness, shame, insecurity) into something beautiful?

Key Sermon Quotes

"So many times the people of Jerusalem have waited on the walls, watching for news.  So many times messengers have shuffled back in dust and ashes, to report the loss of battle and the exile of Jerusalem’s sons.  But now the watchmen on the city-walls catch sight of something different.  A man whose feet are flying with joy – barely touching the ground as he comes – a messenger crying out “Peace! Joy! Salvation!  Your God reigns, Jerusalem!”  With these words the city stands in amazement.  God has not forgotten them.  Nor has he forsaken them.  He comes with salvation and bids them stand.  It is a wonderful picture of salvation.  But it is also a picture of deep contrasts.  There is the dark reality of the people’s rebellion against God, their slavery and dust-covered depression standing strangely alongside the promise of happiness and the invitation to don beautiful clothes."

"Do you ever feel ugly?  Not just bad-hair-day ugly, but the kind of ugly that emanates from within?  The kind of ugliness that might not show on your face, but you can see it in your eyes when you catch yourself in the mirror.  I think we all feel this way at times.  Sometimes it’s warranted – we can be ugly in our sin and selfishness.  Sometimes it’s not warranted – it’s just our insecurities giving birth to self-condemnation.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell where it comes from.  Into this reality God speaks and he says, “Get up!  Put on your best outfit because I have come for you.”  God bids us rise, not because there is something fundamentally good or beautiful about us, but because he loves us.  And his love changes us.  It makes us beautiful."

"God’s name is a revelation of his character.  His character is seen in his actions.  He is the God who rescues and redeems.  He keeps his promises from generation to generation."

"The perfect God who is faithful and true became ugly in order to make us beautiful.  He says, “Give me your shame.  Give me your insecurities.  Give me your lack of dignity.  And I will take them to the grave.  In their place I will clothe you anew and make you beautiful.”

"Our redemption isn’t complete this side of the resurrection.  We will still dig around in the dirt trying to put on the old rags of our sin and rebellion.  But like God’s people who sat in the dust of Jerusalem we can be confident that the great I Am will lift us up when we fall. Because God loves us we are beautiful.  Because of God’s character we can be confident.   He came for us and he promises to come again."


GOD'S STORY WEEK NINE: A Royal Letdown (NOV. 13) 

Sermon Audio

Starter Question

What are the characteristics of a self-absorbed person? How would you know if you were a self-absorbed person?

Discussion Questions

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27

  1. What decisions by David precede his adulterous affair with Bathsheba? How are they related and what might this teach us about the nature of temptation in our own lives?

Read 2 Samuel 12:1-10

  1. How does Nathan confront David about his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah? Why do you think he does it this way? 
  2. Do you have a Nathan in your life? Someone who can speak truth to you even when it is difficult? Are you a Nathan to anyone else?  
  3. What happens when we don’t have people in our life who confront us with the truth about our sin?  How have people abused this responsibly in the church and how do guard against misusing it in each others lives? (See Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1-5; James 5:19-20)

Read Psalm 51:1-11

  1. How does David respond to being confronted about his sin with Bathsheba? 
  2. What does David’s prayer reveal about God’s character?
  3. What does David deserve for his sin? Why is this important for David to acknowledge?
  4. What is the difference between acknowledging your sins and acknowledging that you are a sinful person (I did something bad vs I am bad)?   Why do we need both washed and to receive “a clean heart”?
  5. Compare David’s focus in Psalm 51:3 to his focus in v15.  What has changed for David? How might this help us in our own practice of repentance?
  6. In Psalm 51, David describes repentance as the process of being made new. How does Jesus Christ make it possible for us to be made new?  
  7. Are you in the habit of personal repentance for your own sins?  How might cultivating that practice later your self-perception? your relationship with the Lord? with others?


Key Sermon Quotes

When we step away from our God-given responsibilities we step into the path of temptation.  What begins with a dereliction of duty can spiral out of control moving from boredom to lust, to adultery, to envy, to murder, to cover-up – all in a flash.  

Protection from God’s just punishment isn’t enough, because sin leaves a stain.  It makes us feel dirty because it is dirty.  David needs God to wash him clean so as to have his shame taken away. 

Because forgiveness depends on God’s character and not our moral improvement or some compensatory sacrifice, then any sin can be forgiven, any sinner can come before God. 

God’s power to forgive is greater than any sin that we can throw at him.

In our culture, it is one thing to say “my bad,” and to take responsibility for an action.  It is another thing altogether to say, “I’m bad.”  But that is what David has done.  It’s not just that his actions are wrong his nature is corrupt, and he knows it.

Confession is not just the recognition of sin, it is the renunciation of sinfulness. 

What God wants is our heart and spirit, broken open before him, because a broken heart is an open heart, open to God’s salvation and love.  

Confronted by God he confessed his sin and sinfulness, and asked to be made new.  God was gracious, and made him new by pouring out his Spirit on him.  This is how a man like David can be redeemed.  This is how we can be redeemed.  This is where our stories intersect with God’s Story.  God has come to us in Jesus Christ, paid for our sins on the cross and invited us to come to him, to confess and to be made new by the outpouring of his Spirit.  


GOD'S STORY WEEK EIGHT: The need for a king (Nov. 6) 

Invite group members to share their experience of God’s Story and the E100 so far (something they’ve learned or a way God has ministered to them through the experience).

 

Sermon Audio

Read this excerpt from John Yates' sermon together:

On December 20th, 1998, through an unexpected set of circumstances, I found myself face-to-face with President Clinton.  The day before he had been impeached by congress.  Ours was a brief introduction – a handshake, a photograph, a few words – but it made a lasting impression on me. The thing that stood out most about him, even at the lowest point of his presidency, was the power that emanated from him.  It poured off of him in waves, catching everyone in its ripples.  I was mesmerized and disturbed. 

The impact of President Clinton’s power led in one of two directions.  For some it led to worship; for others it led to revulsion and fear.  Both are signs of idolatry.  It’s easy to see how the first is a sign of idolatry.  Many of his followers looked to President Clinton as their savior.  They thought that “the man from Hope” could unlock the American dream and usher in a new era of prosperity and freedom.  They looked to him, quite literally, for national salvation.   

But what about revulsion and fear, how are these signs of idolatry?  An idol is not just something you love more than God; an idol can also be something you fear more than God.  When you fear someone or something more than God that thing supplants God at the top of your perceived hierarchy of power.  God is no longer in control.  At this point your fear becomes – quite literally – irrational and idolatrous.  

I am afraid that in this country our leaders have become like idols, vested with a power they cannot carry that leads the people to worship or to fear.  This tendency is particularly felt in times of political crisis, when we are anxious for the future of our nation.  We look to our potential leaders as needed saviors or as feared destroyers.  And as we do we slide into idolatry.

Discussion Questions

  1. John urged the church to “confess our own sin and complicity in the sins of our nation.” How has the church (not the culture) been complicit in the sins of our nation?  
  2. In what ways have you been tempted to idolize political leaders (as saviors or as destroyers)  during this election cycle? 
  3. How can you personally guard against this kind of idolatry? 

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13

  1. Who is it that actually chooses the king? Why is this so important and what does it tell us about power and authority in the world? (You might refer to Romans 13:1) How does this effect the way we see and relate to our leaders in government and in the church?
  2. 1 Peter 2:17 urges us to “Fear God. Honor the emperor.”  Bear in mind that Christian citizens of the Roman empire were under the absolute authority of a pagan rulers hostile to their faith. As participants of a democracy, how do we apply Peter’s words even when we don’t believe our leaders are “good”?

Read John 18:33-19:3

  1. How does Jesus respond when brought before Pilate? What does this reveal about how Jesus saw the powers of this earth? 
  2. How can Jesus words and attitude here serve as a model for us as his followers in a world even in turbulent political times?
  3. How is worship a political act?

Key quotes:

When leaders become idols everyone suffers.

We have become a nation of hand-wringers, worrying that Wednesday, November 10th will be the dawn of the apocalypse if one candidate or the other is elected.  This is the behavior of idolaters who have forgotten that there is a God in heaven who reigns over all.
God is in charge even in troubled times.  Earthly power is always delegated power, and the powerful are always under God’s authority.

God allows and establishes human leaders – even incredibly bad leaders.  But he never surrenders his authority.

Pilate is the Roman Governor of Judea, the regional embodiment of the most powerful man in the world: Caesar.  Face to face we find the absolute power of Caesar thrown up against the cosmic reign of the Son of God.

It is a coronation unlike any other: the king of kings and lord of lords covered with a crown of thorns and nailed on a cross to die.  

Though we vest our leaders with great power they are merely players in a cosmic drama unfolding outside of their control, one that rests in the hands of Jesus Christ.

When we worship the king of kings we are engaged in a political act, reminding ourselves and those around us that God is in charge, even in troubled times.  Through worship we fight the temptation to treat our leaders like idols, and the tumult of our troubled times is placed in proper perspective.  

 


GOD'S STORY WEEK SEVEN: LAWBREAKERS (OCT. 30) 

Invite group members to share their experience of God’s Story and the E100 so far (something they’ve learned or a way God has ministered to them through the experience).

Read Judges 2:6-19

Sermon Audio

Starter Question

Were your parents followers of Jesus? How did that impact your faith (positively or negatively)?

Discussion Questions

  1. Joshua had been a great leader whom God used to bring his people into the land he had promised. According to verse 10 what happened after Joshua and his generation died? Based on this passage and what we know of the story so far, why did this happen (if you aren't sure refer to Deuteronomy 11:19)?
  2. What were the consequences of the failure of one generation to pass on knowledge of God to the next generation (v11-15)? 

  3. On Sunday, John said, “It’s not like one day, all of a sudden, they decided to walk away from him.  It was almost certainly an incremental descent into practical atheism.  And it was their silence that killed them. They stopped speaking to God and stopped speaking to each other about him.  So they forgot him, and their children never knew him.”  How do you see this "incremental descent" at work in today’s church? in your family?  What are some spiritual habits or practices you can implement now as a family to protect against it?

  4. On Sunday, John warned: “Parents: don’t let silence kill your family.  Your kids need to hear you speak about God.  And when you do, don’t just teach them Bible stories, tell them how God has been good to you.  Tell them the story of your conversion.  Describe God’s faithfulness to you in times of trouble.  And then lead them to worship.  This is how kids get drawn into God’s story and make it their own.”  What does this kind of parenting this assume about your own relationship with God?  What is the responsibly of other adults in our community for the spiritual well-being of our children? 

  5. What is being described in v12-13? What leads us to flirt with other gods?  We don’t bow down to Baals or the Ashtaroth, but what kinds of things “compete for our affection” for God? What are consequences of these misplaced affections (also refer to Romans 1:21-25). How have you have witnessed this in your own life and family ?

  6. What do v16-17 reveal about the ability and limitations of godly leadership? 

  7. John Yates said, “Thankfully, the solution to society’s ills does not lie in our leaders.  It is not found in presidential politics, legislative wrangling or judicial appointments.  We can’t fix our society simply by getting good people into office, as important as that is.  That is because we do not need a leader so much as we need a savior.”   How are we tempted to see our leaders as saviors? How does the knowledge of our own need for a savior help us better navigate political and cultural challenges?  

  8. Which of the three “warnings” that John highlighted in Judges 2 (silence kills, idolatry destroys, leaders cannot save you) speaks to you the most? What is something you can do this week in response?  How can you encourage and hold one another one another as a community group in these areas?

Key Sermon Quotes:

Within the canon of Scripture this book is set down as a warning.  It is an often graphic, occasionally eloquent depiction of what happens to God’s people when they turn away from him and turn to the gods of their neighbors.  It holds important lessons for us today.

It’s not like one day, all of a sudden, they decided to walk away from him.  It was almost certainly an incremental descent into practical atheism.  And it was their silence that killed them.  They stopped speaking to God and stopped speaking to each other about him.  So they forgot him, and their children never knew him.  

Parents: don’t let silence kill your family.  Your kids need to hear you speak about God.  And when you do, don’t just teach them Bible stories, tell them how God has been good to you.  Tell them the story of your conversion.  Describe God’s faithfulness to you in times of trouble.  And then lead them to worship.  This is how kids get drawn into God’s story and make it their own.

An idol is anything in our lives that claims our affection or holds our trust before God.  It can be another person.  It can be an ambition.  It can be an inanimate object.  These idols ultimately destroy us, because they lure us away from the God who made us.  Idolatry isn’t just wrong.  It is destructive.

The most disturbing line in that paragraph is, “God gave them up.”  When we set our affections elsewhere, when we give our loyalty to other things, God lets us go.  He gives us freedom, and we dig our own graves.

God’s people abandon him, so God removes his hand of blessing.  This leads to vulnerability and outside oppression, at which point God shows mercy and sends a judge to rescue them.  But when that judge dies the people rebel and the pattern repeats.

The sad truth is that the candidates put forward by our major parties are a reflection of the character of our country.  No matter who wins we are about to get the kind of leader we deserve.  That’s bad news.

Thankfully, the solution to society’s ills does not lie in our leaders.  It is not found in presidential politics, legislative wrangling or judicial appointments.  We can’t fix our society simply by getting good people into office, as important as that is.  That is because we do not need a leader so much as we need a savior.

The mission of the Church in a time such as this is to proclaim this simple truth.  Our primary vocation is to sing God’s praise and share God’s story. 

Only Jesus can save us.  Only by his cross can our sins be forgiven.  Only by his resurrection can we hope for life after death.  Only because he reigns in heaven do we have the courage to speak when silence is so tempting, the faith to trust when idols beckon, and the humility to know we need a savior. 


GOD'S STORY WEEK SIX: A LAw for Life (OCT. 23) 

Invite group members to share their experience of God’s Story and the E100 so far (something they’ve learned or a way God has ministered to them through the experience).

Read Exodus 19:1-6; 20:1-21

Sermon Audio

Starter Question

What are some of the rules you have in your own family? or What family rules do you remember from your childhood? Why do/did you have them? 

Discussion Questions

  1. How is the physical landscape described in the passage? Why might this be important to our understanding of this part of the story?
  2. How are we living in a spiritual wilderness? Why is this important to understanding our own stories?
  3. What does God instruct Moses to tell the people in v3-6?  Why is this important?
  4. How does God describe himself in 19:4 and 20:2?  Why do you think this is repeated? What is God trying to teach Israel?
  5. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was a key part of their story as well as their view of God and themselves. How has God delivered you and how has it shaped you and your understanding of God? How would you complete this sentence in your own life: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of ______."
  6. What is the purpose of the ten commandments? How might Jesus’ own summary of the law in Matthew 22:37-40 help us answer the purpose?
  7. If the ten commandments are more about relationship than rules, what do they reveal about the kind of relationship God wants with us?
  8. How are the first four commandments foundational for the final six? Why is this so important?
  9. Reflect on John Yates comment that, “Idolatry is a matter of the heart..it is the practice of misplacing our trust.” What are some of the idols we struggle with? How can good things become idols in our lives?
  10. John Yates said, “The Sabbath functions as a sign to Israel. It is a weekly, physical reminder of who God is.” What is the Sabbath and how is it a reminder of God? Why would a lack of true rest make it difficult to worship God?
  11. How do the ten commandments challenge us? How do they humble us?
  12. If a friend said the ten commandments are proof that Christianity is really all about following the rules, how would you respond? How could the ten commandments be a starting point to talk with them about God’s goodness? our sin? Jesus and grace?

GOD'S STORY WEEK Five: Rescue (OCT. 16) 

Check in on folks progress with the E100 Challenge. If you haven't yet, establish a creative way to celebrate folks who completed the challenge (e.g. some kind of prize or recognition each time you gather.)

Read Exodus 3:1-15

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

  1. If you had to briefly explain the story of the Bible so far to a friend that isn’t familiar with the Bible, what would you say?

  2. Earlier in Exodus, we learn that God’s people are being oppressed and experiencing great suffering. As God’s chosen people it would have been easy to imagine God had forgotten them. Have you ever felt that way? How did it effect your relationship with God? 

  3. What stands out to you about Moses encounter with God? What does it reveal about God’s character? 
  4. God invites Moses to come to him and yet warns him not to come too close. How might the tension between God’s holiness and his love offer us a helpful paradigm for worship? How might thinking this way change the way you approach corporate worship?
  5. Have you ever felt like you were on holy ground? 
  6. Why does God say he has “come down”?  How does this connect with the promises God has made earlier in Genesis?  Why is this so important?
  7. What does God’s name reveal about him?
  8. Can you remember any promises you clung to in the face of suffering and pain? How did God fulfill those promises in your life?
  9. Have you ever felt enslaved by sin? What would it be like to be rescued from the habitual sin  in your life?
  10. How does the story of Moses and the Exodus foreshadow the coming of Jesus? Why is Jesus the only one who can rescue us from sin and death?
  11. Is it most difficult for you to see God as loving or as holy? How might your tendency to think of God as loving make it difficult to respond to his holiness and vice versa?
  12. The Psalms are full of cries for rescue. Have you ever cried out for God to rescue you?  If so, what happened? If not, why do think that is?

Key Sermon Quotes:

"God’s people are suffering and we are left asking, where is God in the story?"

"So God says come close, but not too close. God's appearance to Moses reveals two important truths about God, the author and main character of our story: First that he is loving and second that he holy. There is this beautiful tension in the nature of God. He is Loving (come near) and he is holy (not too close)."

"God reveals his name which is a personal, intimate, loving act. But his name is also strangely other, because he is not like us, He is who he is, he will be who he will be. God can be known by us, but God is not like us. He is Yahweh."

"For the Hebrews it meant that God had not abandoned them. He was faithful to his promises. It meant that he had seen their suffering and was moved to rescue them. It confirmed that their God was holy and loving. But if we step back see this in the context of God's story, the whole story it reveals that God has not abandoned humanity, that he sees our suffering, broken existence and is moved to rescue us."

"And just as God did with his people in Egypt, God sees our affliction and he choosesto “come down and deliver us out of sin and death.”  Just as he sent Moses, he has sent us a deliverer, a rescuer - he sent is own son Jesus."

"In other words, the burning bush isn’t just some strange appearance of God on an obscure mountain side in the middle east, it is the inauguration of the salvation of humanity. It is the launch of the greatest rescue mission in all of human history!"

"We know that we are in a desperate situation. If nothing else, this story [the Bible] confirms what we know in our own hearts, that you and I are drowning in a sea of our own sin and suffering. We need to be rescued."

If you need to be rescued you need someone that not only cares about you, but someone with the power to rescue. If they love you but don’t have any power, they’ll want to save you, but won’t be able - you will die. If they have the power but don’t love you, they’ll have the ability but won’t choose to - you will die. But it they love and they have the power to do rescue you - then there is hope. Hope of a rescue.

"The bar of sin is so great that attempting to cross it, attempting to rescues humanity a suicide mission. But God out of his great love for us sent his own son Jesus Christ on a suicide mission to rescue us. He come down to us, he died for us on the cross and he rose again. He came through the barrier of death to the other side in order to rescue you and me from certain death."


GOD'S STORY WEEK FOUR: BETRAYED (Oct. 9) 

Check in on folks progress with the E100 Challenge. If you haven't yet, establish a creative way to celebrate folks who completed the challenge (e.g. some kind of prize or recognition each time you gather.)

Read Genesis 37:1-8; 12-13, 18-36

Sermon Audio

Discussion Questions

  1. What stands out to you about the story and why? 
  2. Think about where we are in God’s Story. How does this story connect with the bigger story (think in terms of themes, plot development, characters, etc.)? 
  3. What do you make of God’s conspicuous “absence” in the story of Joseph? How might this actually encourage you in your own story of faith?
  4. Based on Genesis 37, what would you say is the basis of Joseph’s brothers identity and worth? On what are we tempted to base our identity and worth? 
  5. What is the source of envy? What might envy in our lives reveal about what we really believe about ourselves? Can you see any connection between your deepest insecurities and your battles with envy?
  6. Rebecca DeYoung writes in her book Glittering Vices, “To love is to seek others’ good and rejoice when they have it. To envy is to seek to destroy others’s good when they have it.”  How do we see this in Genesis 37?  
  7. Think about your own experiences of envy (we all have them!). What kinds of things cause you to envy? How does envy impact your relationships with others? with God?
  8. What are the impacts of envy on the various members of this family? Where does it begin? Where does it lead? What might this story reveal about the dangerous consequences of sin in our own families (parents, spouses, siblings, children)? 
  9. John said in his sermon, “Envy is the opposite of love. Love is the concern for another at the cost of one’s self.” How does Jesus exemplify this kind of love? How does this offer us hope in our own battles with envy?
  10. Despite the ominous events of Genesis 37, God protects and provides for Joseph. Eventually the dream he had in Genesis 37 comes true and he is placed in a position of great authority. Read Genesis 45:7-8 and 50:20. What do these verses reveal about God? How do they offer us encouragement when faced with the temptation of envy?
  11. What are some specific promises of God or truths about who you are that you may not really believe? What are some specific steps you can take to overcome these doubts?

Key Sermon Quotes:

"Favoritism fuels arrogance in the one who is favored and resentment in the ones disdained."

“Envy is different from jealousy. Jealousy says, “I want on of those, too.” Envy says, “I want yours.”  Envy is not content to emulate, it must posses, solely. This is why in our story envy leads to hatred and the plotting of murder.”

“Envy is the result of believing a story about ourselves and the world around us that is fundamentally at odds with God’s story. This false narrative roots our identity in beauty, talent, brains and ability. It feeds on success and acclaim and the admiration of others. But it is insecure. There will always be someone more beautiful, more talented and smarter than you…”

“Envy eventually leads to destruction - of the one who is envied and the one who envies.”

“Envy is rooted in insecurity. It is the natural result of looking to other people to tell us we are valuable instead of looking to God.”

“Envy is what happens when you decide not to trust God with who you are, when you reject his love in search of another’s”

“[To overcome envy] we need a vertical relationship with the God who created us, loves us, who declares we are worthy of his love, in spite of our broken and insecurity. Only this vertical relationship can give strength and structure to our horizontal relationships.”

"The incarnation of the Son of God is built on the truth that you and I were worth dying for. Out of the abundance of his love, Jesus chose to become a man and die in our place in order to save us. This means God counts us as worthy regardless of our beauty, talents or ability.”

"Envy says you are unworthy because someone else is better or has something you don’t. The gospel says you are of inestimable worth to God. Envy is based on a lie — the ultimate lie that you are unlovable because you are not good enough. The gospel is based on love — the ultimate love of God who made us and loves us as his own.”

“If envy is concern for one’s self at the cost of another, it is the opposite of love. Love is concern for another at the cost of one’s self. That is the story of Jesus Christ. That is the story that gives us hope and value.”


GOD'S STORY WEEK THREE: TRUST THE AUTHOR (OCt. 2)

Check in on folks progress with the E100 Challenge. If you haven't yet, establish a creative way to celebrate folks who completed the challenge (e.g. some kind of prize or recognition each time you gather.)

Read Genesis 12:1-9

Sermon Audio

Starter Question

How would you define faith?  How do you know if you have faith in something?

Discussion Questions

Reminder: Select a few of these questions to help prompt discussion. You should not attempt to discuss all of them during your time together. You could ask which questions group members find most interesting and let those prompt discussion.

  1. If a friend asked you to quickly explain what has happened in "God's Story" so far, how would you answer them? 
  2. What do these verses tell us about Abram? What do they tell us about God?
  3. We tend to think of religion as our pursuit of God, but what does Genesis 12 suggest? Why is this so important to realized and how does it impact the way we relate to God? How have you witnessed God’s pursuit of you? of others in your life?
  4. C.S. Lewis once said of his own decision to place his faith in God, “The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own two feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brooch in kicking, struggling, resentful and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? …The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”  Is this the way you tend to talk/think about coming to faith in God? How do you respond to Lewis’ description? Can you relate to it? How would you describe your own decision to put your faith in Jesus or why you haven't?
  5. In his sermon, John said, “Religion is all about us making promises to God. ‘I’ll never do X again!’ or ‘I will always be Y’ or ‘I promise to give you Z!’  These promises lead invariably into a spiral of failure, shame and regret, leading to exhaustion and disillusionment. No wonder people walk away from religion!”   How does making these kinds of promises to God lead to a “spiral of failure”?  How have you seen this pattern in your own life?
  6. What does God promise to give Sarai and Abram? How do these promises bless them? others?
  7. John observed that, “By tending to their sadness, he also begins to heal his broken world.”  What might this reveal about how God works to bring hope into the sadness of our lives? How have you experienced this in your life?
  8. Just as God made promises to Abraham, God has made promises to us in Jesus. Try to think of some explicit promises in scripture that God has made to us as followers of Jesus. How can remembering these promises give us hope in difficult times?
  9. John said, “God’s promises are generous and they are global, but they meet with opposition because they are exclusive.”  Exclusivity is generally seen as a negative concept in our culture.  How are God’s promises exclusive and why is this a good thing?
  10. What opposition does Abram face - external and internal (ref. second half of Gen. 12)?  What lessons, both positive and negative, can his response teach us about dealing with opposition?
  11. Abram built altars in the new land God had given to him as physical signs of God’s faithfulness. Think about your own story and ways God has shown himself to be faithful in your life. How can you memorialize these moments from your life?
  12. In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me.”  What do Abram and these disciples have in common? What does this tell us about Jesus? How does it help us to understand what it means to have faith in Jesus?

Key Sermon Quotes:

“We tend to think of religion as the search for meaning or as the pursuit of God. We frame it as a human endeavor, with God, or enlightenment or happiness as the end goal. But according to God’s story this is wrong. It’s not about us pursuing God, it’s about God pursuing us and inviting us to respond.”

“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” (C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy)

“Why does God pursue us, even when we have no interest in him? Because he loves his creation. He is unwilling to write off the people he made. He is not content to let us wallow in sinful rebellion or succumb to the deep sadness of a broken world.”

“By tending to their sadness he also begins to heal his broken world.”

“This isn’t how religion is supposed to working according to our western civilized ways. Religion is meant to be private and internal. It is mean to be tolerant and inclusive….God’s promises are generous and global, but they meet with opposition because they are exclusive.”

“Opposition is not just external, it comes from within those he loves….But God’s promises are more powerful than our weakness. They are more powerful than our sin. They prevail even when we fail.”


    GOD'S STORY WEEK TWO: THINGS FALL APART (SEPT. 25)

    Check in on folks progress with the E100 Challenge. If you haven't yet, establish a creative way to celebrate folks who completed the challenge (e.g. some kind of prize or recognition each time you gather.)

    Bible Passage: Genesis 3

    Sermon Audio

    Starter Question

    If someone made a movie about your life, what genre of movie would it be and who would play the main character?

    Discussion Questions

    1. What happened in the story last week and how would you briefly summarize what happens this week (think in terms of the main characters, setting, action, dialogue, etc.)?
    2. What makes the serpent’s question so clever (3:1)? What does it accomplish? Think about your own battles with temptation. How can Genesis 3 help us understand the nature of temptation and how to resist it?
    3. The word “knowing” in v 5 is not about Adam and Eve’s discovering that good and evil exist, but about their desire to determine for themselves (to know) what is good and evil. What is the immediate result of Adam and Eve eating from the tree (3:7)? How does this contrast with Genesis 2:25 and what does it tell us about their relationship with God and the nature of sin?
    4. In the sermon, John said that in Genesis 3 Adam and Even are given the choice between a God-centered or self-centered views of life (you might have someone explain the heliocentric/geocentric analogy). How does this help us understand the “trap” being set in Genesis 3? Think back to the question about the movie of your life. How would it change the movie if God was the main character of your life instead of you?
    5. What is the difference between freedom and autonomy? How did God give freedom? How did Adam and Eve choose autonomy? 
    6. According to Genesis 3, what are the consequences of the fall?  How does Genesis 3 help us better understand how we see ourselves, one another and the world apart from God? How might that help you relate to and share the good news of Jesus with those in your life that don’t yet know Christ?
    7. Imagine you don’t know anything more of the story beyond Genesis 3. Where does Genesis 3 leave the human race? Can you find anything in Genesis 3 that offers the human race hope?  
    8. How is the story of Adam and Eve your story? Can you think of specific parallels in your faith journey or in how you relate to God? 

    Key Sermon Quotes:

    “We want to know who is this serpent and where did he come fromt? But the story of Genesis doesn’t tell us about the origin of evil. It is simply there and we are invited to live with the tension as the story moves forward.”

    “The serpent’s question takes Eve’s eyes off of God’s abundant provision and places them on his single prohibition. Suddenly the God who has given his people every good thing is the God who might be keeping something from them.”

    “The word knowledge is a more intimate term than ours. Think of the phrase, “Adam knew Eve and she gave birth to a son.” It implies not just conceptual awareness but action and intent, experience and intimacy…The tree bestows the ability to determine right from wrong. The knowledge described here is that of independent moral judgment.”

    “Freedom means the ability to act within the gracious constraints of created order. Autonomy means, quite literally, “a law to one’s self.” What we want is to make our own rules, to set our own stage, to populate our now story from beginning to end.”

    “When we choose a self-centered universe over a God-centered universe, not only is our relationship with God broken, our relationship with ourselves is broken because we have fundamentally misunderstood our place in the world and assumed a position we cannot hold.”

    “The ultimate consequence is death. By choosing autonomy we have chosen independence from God - independence from the very source of all life.”

    “Jesus came to search out and save those who have rejected him. He came to restore our broken relationship with God, ourselves, and each other and the world. He came to give us the glorious freedom of the children of God.”


    GOD'S STORY WEEK ONE: MEET THE AUTHOR (SEPT. 18)

    This week we start the E100 Challenge. Take a few minutes to check-in on your progress with the E100 challenge. Think of a creative ways to celebrate folks who completed the challenge (You might have folks raise their hands if they missed 3 days in the past 2 weeks, 2 days, one day, no days and have a fun way to recognize that person.) 

    Bible Passage: Genesis 1:1-8, 26-2:3, 2:18-25

    Sermon Audio

    Starter Question

    What is the key difference between a history and a memoir?  (hint: think about the author). Which one is the Bible more like and why?

    Discussion Questions

    1. What do the first few words of Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created…” tell us about the kind of story the Bible is telling? How is this different from the story that our modern culture is telling?
    2. What does the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 tell us about God? about the world?  Which day of creation do you find most interesting and why?
    3. What does the Bible not tell us about creation? Why is this important?
    4. Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Eat, Pray, Love, “Somewhere within us all there exists a supreme self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine.” How do Genesis 1 and 2 challenge this view?  If a friend shared this understanding of God and self, how might you share the Bible’s view in a winsome way?
    5. John pointed out that creation isn’t just a past event, it is the ongoing activity of God in the world. What in Genesis 1 and 2 would support this idea? Why does this matter and how might it change the way you think about how God works in your life?
    6. Albert Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” How does this run counter to the popular cultural view that the world is chaotic and random? Why is this so important to the way we live on a daily basis as followers of Jesus?
    7. Read Genesis 1:26. What does it mean that we are made in the likeness of God? What does it not mean?  How is our likeness related to our vocation as human beings?
    8. In Genesis 2:4 we learn God’s name - Yahweh Elohim (Lord God).  Why is the fact that we know God’s name significant? (You might consider the general significance of names.)
    9. Read Colossians 1:15-20 individually and then have someone read it aloud.  What do these verses reveal about the God who created us? about Jesus?
    10. How might understanding God’s story in Genesis 1 and 2 help you counsel a friend who was struggling with their self-worth or dealing with intense suffering? 

    Key Sermon Quotes:

    “Nothing exists apart from God…God depends on no one and nothing in order to create. He is not taking up raw materials that existed apart from him. All things come into being at the sound of his voice. He is the creator.”

    “God is creator, we are created, completely distinct from God while absolutely dependent on him. Of course we see evidence of God’s goodness everywhere, but God himself is not found in created things.”

    “We are radically different from God and we are entirely dependent on God.”

    “To be made in the image of God is to resemble God in every facet of our being. We are to be a reflection of the character and glory of God in creation. And this likeness extends beyond character to vocation. We were created to steward God’s creation.”

    “There is a very real sense in which creation depends on human cultivation to reach its God-given potential.”

    “God our king has established us as his regents on earth. We are his representatives, and he has delegated to us the crucial work of bringing creation into beautiful order.”

    “If we want to understand our own stories, our purpose in life and what it means to be fulfilled, then we need to understand God’s story. We need to know God if we want to know ourselves.”

    “God does not merely stand over us as all-powerful creator, he walks with us in creation. He desire to have a relationship with his people.”

    “Do you want your life to make sense? Do you want life to be fulfilling Do you want to have purpose and meaning? If so, then we need to age a relationship with the God who made us.”

    "The powerful, transcendent God of Genesis 1 has come down in shrouded glory as one of us in Jesus Christ. We do not have to dig back into time before time to find God. We have only to turn to the gospels. Here the creator God reveals himself in his son and invites us to join our stories to his. He invites us to follow him to walk in light and to leave our darkness behind.”

     


    GOD'S STORY INTRODUCTION (Sept. 11)

    Bible Passage: Luke 4:14-22

    Sermon Audio

    Starter QuestionS

    If a non-Christian friend were to ask you, "What is the Bible really about?" how would you answer?

    Discussion Questions

    1. How would you describe what is happening in Luke 4:14-22?
    2. How does this passage highlight Jesus' story, Israel's story, and the cosmic story? Why are each of these important?
    3. Why is the idea of "looking inside yourself" to discover/determine your story enticing? dangerous? 
    4. In his sermon, John Yates said, "The choose-your-own-adventure invitation to personal fulfillment is strikingly at odds with the invitation we receive from Jesus.  His invitation is not to choose your own adventure, but to join the great adventure..." What is the great adventure Jesus is inviting us into?
    5. Why is understanding the story of the Bible so important to understanding our own story? In thinking about the story of your life, what are some of the defining moments in that story? If you are a follower of Jesus, how has understanding of God's larger story changed the way you understand your story?
    6. What is one thing you hope to gain from participating in the E100 Challenge/God's Story series? ("I want to better understand the story of the Bible so that I  ________.")

    Prayer

    As we begin this year, ask God to 1) help you better know him through the story of the Bible; and 2) help you develop the habit of daily Bible reading; and 3) give you the name of one person in your life who desperately needs to hear and know Christ and the story of God. 

    Further Reading

    Here is a great article on the importance of story entitled "How the World Lost Its Story" by theologian Robert Jenson.