TiO 45 – Alpha – Church: Welcome Home

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The Main Idea

What is the church? There are so many ideas about what the church is. This week Todd talks about some of those.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: What do you remember most about the home where you grew up?

Q2: If you had to choose between two houses that had the same square footage, would you choose one that was high or wide?

Q3: More land or more house? Explain your preference. 

Dig a Little Deeper

The identity of the church is complicated. The Bible uses a lot of different examples and metaphors to describe what the church is. It is a body, it is a bride, it is a gathered community, it is a community set apart. This week Todd talked about the church as a community of people and described some of the essential characteristics found in a healthy one.

Read Genesis 28:10-19

In this passage, Jacob has an encounter with God in a dream.

Q1: What does Jacob see and how does he interpret his dream?

Q2: We often say that the “church is not a building”. Does that mean buildings (places) are not significant in our encounters with God?

Q3: We often say that the “church is not an organization”. Does that mean that the organization of the church does not matter?

The primary way that we speak of the church is as a community. A group of people, more than the sum of its parts, who are all followers of Jesus. In fact, the word most often translated in the New Testament as church is ἐκκλησία (ecclesia) which means “a called-out assembly.”

Todd identified four characteristics of this community of people. The church is a community characterized by:

  • Unconditional love, grace, and acceptance

Q4: How do you deal with sin in such a place?

  • Holiness and right living

Q5: Why is being set apart and living right important in the life of the church?

  • Unity

Q6: Does unity mean no disagreements? If that is not what it means then how would you characterize unity in the church?

Q7: How important is unity with other groups of Jesus-followers? To what extent should we go to be unified with Christians with whom we do not agree?

  • Focus on a mission

Q8: What is the mission of the church?

Q9: Does the mission of each group of Jesus-followers need to look the same?


Next Steps

The church is the community of God: the place where God lives and the body through which he works. But how it actually looks depends on the vision of the people who gather. We must all see our responsibility to ensure that the church, in this case, the gathered community called Riverwood, displays the characteristics that Todd spoke about: acceptance, holiness, unity, and mission.

Q1: Which of the four characteristics do you have the most difficulty working out in the church community called Riverwood? What makes that difficult for you?

Q2: What part of the mission of the church are you most passionate about? What are you doing to see that mission realized?

Pray for Riverwood, that we would be able to show to the world acceptance, holiness, unity, and the mission of Jesus.

Pray for each other as you acknowledge the areas in which you are weak and where you need the strength of Jesus, through the church, to help you.

The Scriptures

In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.

These are the scriptures referenced in the sermon.

Genesis 28:10-19 (NRSV)

            Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Video Resources

Here is a link to the Alpha video from last week. It is about 30 minutes long and well worth watching as you prepare to study this Talk it Over together.

https://vimeo.com/215026615

TiO 15 – Alpha – Church: Welcome Home

DOWNLOAD PDF

The Main Idea

What is the church? There are so many ideas about what the church is. This week Todd talks about some of those.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: What do you remember most about the home where you grew up?

Q2: If you had to choose between two houses that had the same square footage, would you choose one that was high or wide?

Q3: More land or more house? Explain your preference. 

The Word

Read the scripture aloud: Genesis 28:16-17 

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

The church is the community of God: the place where God lives and the body through which he works. But how it actually looks depends on the vision of the people who gather. We must all see our responsibility to ensure that the church, in this case, the gathered community called Riverwood, displays the characteristics that Todd spoke about: acceptance, holiness, unity, and mission.

Q1: Which of the four characteristics do you have the most difficulty working out in the church community called Riverwood? What makes that difficult for you?

Q2: What part of the mission of the church are you most passionate about? What are you doing to see that mission realized?

Pray for Riverwood, that we would be able to show to the world acceptance, holiness, unity, and the mission of Jesus.

Pray for each other as you acknowledge the areas in which you are weak and where you need the strength of Jesus, through the church, to help you.

TiO 45 – Alpha – Does God Still Heal?

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The Main Idea

Does God still heal people today? Some say no. Some say that if we see miraculous healing it is just the random things that happen in the world. What does the Bible say about healing and does it still happen today? Todd talked about that in this week’s message.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: If you could get the formula (or recipe) for anything, what would it be?

Q2: What is the most unusual thing you have ever done in the name of being “healthy”?

Q3: When you are sick, what is your first course of action, eg., doctor, sleep, denial, etc.?

Dig a Little Deeper

Healing. Jesus healed people, the disciples healed people, the early church experienced healing.

Read Matthew 8:1-17

The passage that Todd preached from, Matthew 8:1-4 is part of a set of stories about healing told by Matthew in chapter 8. In verses 1-17 you can see three healings, each one quite different.

Q1: Compare and contrast the three healing stories in verses 1-7. How are they the same? How are they different? Pay close attention to the who, what, why, when, where, and how of the three healings.

Q2: From the stories in verses 1-17, is there a specific pattern or template that Jesus uses? If not, what does that tell us about healing in Jesus’ ministry?

Todd talked about four models of understanding of healing that people and churches hold to. Of course, these are big categories and so do not reflect exactly how any particular person understands healing, but they are a good starting point.

 

  • Classic Liberal view: supernatural things (miracles), like healing, never really happened, they are just metaphors for the power of God to help and change people.
  • Classic Cessationist view: supernatural things happened in the Bible but they stopped with the death of the last apostle and do not happen today.
  • Classic Pentecostal view: supernatural things, like healing, happen today and, in fact, they are the right of all believers and their results are guaranteed. Any time that miracles do not happen it is because of circumstance of sin and unbelief which blocks God’s power from operating.
  • Classic Charismatic view: supernatural things, like healing, still happen today but not all the time because they are up to God and not up to us. Lack of healing is purely because of the choice of God and not necessarily because of sin and unbelief.

The position of Riverwood’s elders and senior leaders is the Classic Charismatic view of healing and miracles.

So, sometimes God heals us and sometimes he does not.

Read Daniel 3:13-18

In this story, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, along with everyone else in Babylon were commanded to worship a statue on command. These three refused and the king threatened them with death if they did not comply. Verses 13-18 show us the king’s threat and their response.

The response of the three in verses 16-18 is one way in which we can approach miracles.

Q3: What did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego know about God?

Q4: What did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say would happen if God did not deliver them from the furnace?

Next Steps

Many of us have things that we say we believe about God which are different from the way that we live. For example, we say that God is everywhere but live as though he is only around when we are at church. This is the difference between stated belief and functional belief. Our functional belief system is how we really live, regardless of what we say we believe.

Q1: What is your stated belief about healing?

Q2: What is your functional belief about healing?

Q3: How important is it that your stated beliefs and your functional beliefs be the same?

Q4: What areas of your life do you need healing in? Share these with your group, if you are comfortable doing so.

Todd quoted from John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Church Movement:

“When we prayed for no one, no one was healed. Now we pray for lots of people and some are healed.” (Paraphrased)

Pray for the healing of each other. Some people find it meaningful to follow the New Testament pattern of anointing with oil as you pray. This can be done by having the prayer leader place a little vegetable oil on his or her finger and then draw a cross on the person’s forehead as prayer begins. It is also useful to make a record of the prayers so that you can talk to each other in future meetings about the results you are seeing from God.

The Scriptures

In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.

These are the scriptures referenced in the sermon.

Matthew 8:1-17 (NRSV)

            When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Daniel 3:13-18 (NRSV)

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Video Resources

Here is a link to the Alpha video from last week. It is about 30 minutes long and well worth watching as you prepare to study this Talk it Over together.

https://vimeo.com/215030719

 

TiO 15 – Alpha – Does God Still Heal?

DOWNLOAD PDF

The Main Idea

Does God still heal people today? Some say no. Some say that if we see miraculous healing it is just the random things that happen in the world. What does the Bible say about healing and does it still happen today? Todd talked about that in this week’s message.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: If you could get the formula (or recipe) for anything, what would it be?

Q2: What is the most unusual thing you have ever done in the name of being “healthy”?

Q3: When you are sick, what is your first course of action, eg., doctor, sleep, denial, etc.?

The Word

Read the scripture aloud: Daniel 3:16-18 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Many of us have things that we say we believe about God which are different from the way that we live. For example, we say that God is everywhere but live as though he is only around when we are at church. This is the difference between stated belief and functional belief. Our functional belief system is how we really live, regardless of what we say we believe.

Q1: How important is it that your stated beliefs and your functional beliefs be the same?

Q2: What areas of your life do you need healing in? Share these with your group, if you are comfortable doing so.

Todd paraphrased John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Church Movement: “When we prayed for no one, no one was healed. Now we pray for lots of people and some are healed.”

Pray for the healing of each other. Some people find it meaningful to follow the New Testament pattern of anointing with oil as you pray. This can be done by having the prayer leader place a little vegetable oil on his or her finger and then draw a cross on the person’s forehead as prayer begins. It is also useful to make a record of the prayers so that you can talk to each other in future meetings about the results you are seeing from God.

TiO 45 – Alpha – How and Why Should I Tell People?

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The Main Idea

Evangelism. From the time we first start going to church we are told that it is a good thing. No, it is not just good, it is an obligation to God, something we have to do. But it seems hard and often we end up just feeling guilty because we don’t do it enough or we don’t do it right. This weekend Dan Rutherford talked to us about they we should evangelize and gave us some tools to do it well.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: What good news have you heard lately?

Q2: Where (to whom) do you go to hear good news?

Q3: When was the last time you had good news to tell people? What was it? Who did you tell? How did you tell it?

Dig a Little Deeper

Evangelism. It is a word that comes to us from Greek. In Greek, it starts with a noun:

τος εὐαγγελίος

We would pronounce that tos ew-angel-ios and that means the good news.

From there we get a verb which we translate into English as evangelism: telling, spreading, proclaiming good news. And from there we get another noun, evangelist: someone who tells, spreads, or proclaims good news.

And we’re told that we are all supposed to be evangelists, people who tell others good news.

Read Luke 10:1-20 together.

Dan presented this section of Luke as a template for all of the followers of Jesus to use as a model.

Q1: According to 10:1-2, what are the reasons for sharing good news with people?

Q2: According to 10:16, what is the primary means by which the good news is spread?

Before moving on from the why to the how, take some time together to discuss the what.

What is the Good News?

In his book Simply Good News, writer and theologian N.T. Wright describes the good news of Jesus in this way.

“Something has happened; something therefore will happen. And the way things are right now is different as a result.”

Something has happened: Jesus died to fulfill the covenant of God and to break the power of Sin in the world.

Something will happen: we, the people of God, will be resurrected along with the world and we will live with God forever.

Things are different right now: we live in an in-between time, God has taken his rightful place in the world as King but the powers of evil, both unseen and spiritual, and seen and human continue to assert their right to be kings in the world.

Evangelism is sharing this good news, that we can be different people because of, and through the power given, through Jesus death. That we do not need to live as slaves to sin but can live as people of God.

Dan moved on from “why do I share good news?” to “how do I share good news?”

Read Luke 10:1-2

1. Prayer

Q3: According to Luke 10:1-2 what are we to pray for?

… and we are some of those workers.

Dan gave a helpful tool: make a list of three people who you know need to hear the good news of Jesus and pray regularly for them. This does two things: first, it asks God to act in the lives of those people we know; and second, it puts us in a place where we are attentive to the lives of other people and to the opportunities that the Holy Spirit provides for us to share good news with these people

Read Luke 10:3-6

2. Care

Q4: Why is caring such an important part of helping good news to be received well by people?

Dan gave some helpful questions to show people you care and to determine if they are ready to hear good news:

  1. Invite: “Come with me to church service/event and then let me take you for lunch/coffee afterwards.”
  2. Belief: “What do you think about spiritual things? God? Jesus?”
  3. Personal: “Can I tell you how Jesus changed my life?”
  4. Prayer: “I can see you’re having a hard time/circumstance, can I pray for you?”

Read Luke 10:8-12

3. Share

Q5: What were the disciples told to share?

Dan pointed out three characteristics of this sharing:

  1. It is about the Kingdom of God, not about a set of outward behaviours: Jesus changes us from the inside, it is counter-productive to ask people to change outward behaviour before God changes them on the outside.
  2. Be Persistent: Do not give up because it is hard or because you sense some resistance. Do not be irritating to people or continue to share once you have been told “no” but do continue to love and care for people even if they seem to reject the good news.
  3. Share the Message of Jesus: God loves, God gave, we believe, we receive. 
Next Steps

Our ability to share good news begins with our own experience of that good news.

“Something has happened; something therefore will happen. And the way things are right now is different as a result.” – N.T. Wright

Jesus came to die to change everything about the world, we look forward to a new life with him in eternity, and in the mean time everything is different.

That is true for the course of human existence but that is also true in our own lives. And that truth is what fuels our desire to share good news. If we do not see it as good news then we’re not going to be very effective evangelists.

Q1: How is your life different because of the death of Jesus? 

Q2: What good news do you have to share about what he has done in your life?

Q3: Who are the first three people on your list of people to begin to pray for?

Pray that you would fully embrace the good news of Jesus and that you would have opportunities to share it with others.

The Scriptures

In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.

These are the scriptures referenced in the sermon.

Luke 10:1-20 (NRSV)

            After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

And you, Capernaum,

will you be exalted to heaven?

No, you will be brought down to Hades.

“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Video Resources

Here is a link to the Alpha video from last week. It is about 30 minutes long and well worth watching as you prepare to study this Talk it Over together.

https://vimeo.com/215034576

Here is a video on evangelism that technology prevented Dan from showing in the message:

https://vimeo.com/221317219

TiO 15 – Alpha – How and Why Should I Tell People?

DOWNLOAD PDF

The Main Idea

Evangelism. From the time we first start going to church we are told that it is a good thing. No, it is not just good, it is an obligation to God, something we have to do. But it seems hard and often we end up just feeling guilty because we don’t do it enough or we don’t do it right. This weekend Dan Rutherford talked to us about they we should evangelize and gave us some tools to do it well.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: What good news have you heard lately?

Q2: Where (to whom) do you go to hear good news?

Q3: When was the last time you had good news to tell people? What was it? Who did you tell? How did you tell it?

The Word

Read the scripture aloud: Luke 10:1-2

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.

Our ability to share good news begins with our own experience of that good news.

“Something has happened; something therefore will happen. And the way things are right now is different as a result.” – N.T. Wright

Jesus came to die to change everything about the world, we look forward to a new life with him in eternity, and in the mean time everything is different.

That is true for the course of human existence but that is also true in our own lives. And that truth is what fuels our desire to share good news. If we do not see it as good news then we’re not going to be very effective evangelists.

Q1: How is your life different because of the death of Jesus?

Q2: What good news do you have to share about what he has done in your life?

Q3: Who are the first three people on your list of people to begin to pray for?

Pray that you would fully embrace the good news of Jesus and that you would have opportunities to share it with others.

TiO 45 – Alpha – How Does God Lead?

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The Main Idea

God leads us in many ways. Hearing the voice of God is important, but equally (or more) important is what areas of leading are most important to him, and to you.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Who do you go to for advice? If “it depends” then talk about some situations and who your go-to person is.

Q2: When you are decisions do you tend to plan or go on impulse and intuition? How successful does your decision-making method tend to be?

Q3: When making a decision, do you like a lot of options to choose from or only a few?

Dig a Little Deeper

God leads us. Most followers of Jesus would have an experience of his leading in some decision we have made. And, the Bible tells us that we can count on him to provide us with wisdom:

Read James 1:5-8 together.

Q1: What condition does God put on his dispensing of wisdom to us?

The weekend message began with a review of the 5 points from the Alpha video about the leading of God. If you have not already watched this video, perhaps this is a good time to follow the link at the end of this study and hear about the leading of God. Here are the 5 ways from the video:

  • Through Scripture: in the Bible we are told about the sin of people, the promises of God, and how Jesus came to allow us to have a restored relationship with him. In addition, the Bible give us guidelines for living like Jesus.
  • Through the Holy Spirit: in the book of Acts we read about how the Holy Spirit (God himself) was sent to the followers of Jesus to live in them and to guide them. This guidance was sometimes profound and visible but was often subtle.
  • Through the council of others: wisdom is found in other people.
  • Through common sense: there are actions and decisions that just make sense to us.
  • Through circumstance: sometimes our circumstance guides us in a specific direction.

Dennis pointed out that while all of these are important and valid Scripture most often speaks of guidance coming in community: in the context of other people. We are not to approach our lives in Jesus individualistically but, instead, as a community seeking the leading of God.

Q2: Review the five points above and discuss the importance of community in hearing these voices in your decision-making.

Having established that hearing God’s voice is important, Dennis moved on to talk about what areas in our lives God was interested in guiding us. He pointed out that ideas about God’s will, and guidance spanned a spectrum. On the one end the idea that God plans our lives and “orders our steps” and that every choice is essential to staying in the will of God. On the other end is the idea that God cares for us but does not plan our lives. On both ends, and everywhere in the middle, God cares most about us being like Jesus.

 Note about theology: When we make a statement which defines a characteristic of God we are talking about theology, what we know about God. Theology is generally not based on a specific verse in the Bible, instead it is a conclusion based on what we understand to be the evidence we find in Scripture. There are two risks in theology: 1) That we may miss (or ignore) specific evidence in the Bible because of our assumptions and experience; 2) That we might come to the wrong conclusion. That is why we often find that two followers of Jesus can have radically different understandings of specific characteristics of God. The question of his will and how much of our lives he controls or orders is one of those areas.

Q3: Discuss the various ideas in your group about what God “cares” about and which areas in life he might have a specific plan for you. Why doesn’t everyone have the same opinion about these things?

Read Philippians 2:1-8 together

Q4: How does God want followers of Jesus to live? What implication does this have for our lives and our choices?

Next Steps

Whether you believe that God has a specific plan for each area of your life or whether you believe that God only is concerned about whether our choices are sin, our primary obligation is to live our lives with a focus on being like Jesus.

Dennis pointed out three keys to a life lived to follow Jesus

  • Make every decision in the context of “how will this make me more like Jesus?”.
  • Learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
  • Cultivate contentment in your life.

All of these are to be done in the company of others: in the context of community.

Q1: How can asking “how will this make me more like Jesus?” Change the way that you make decisions and the quality of the answers that you get to those questions?

Q2: What does the Holy Spirit sound like? Can you think of a time when you heard his voice or sensed his leading?

Q3: What does it mean to be content? Are there certain areas of your life where contentment is more more difficult to find than others? Talk about one of those areas.

Pray together that you could move towards living your whole life focussed on being like Jesus.

The Scriptures

In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.

These are the scriptures referenced in the sermon.

James 1:5-8 (NRSV)

            If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; , for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Genesis 12:1-3 (NRSV)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Note: This is the “Abrahamic Covenant”. It is this covenant, and echoes of it that flow through the Old Testament and into the new. We (the followers of Jesus) are heirs to this covenant and have the rights and responsibility that come with it.

Philippians 2:1-8

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross. 

Note: I stopped at verse 8 because the rest, the authority that was placed on Jesus, is specific to him and not something that we can claim as a reward for our humility.

Philippians 4:10-14 (NRSV)

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. 

 

TiO 15 – Alpha – How Does God Lead?

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The Main Idea

God leads us in many ways. Hearing the voice of God is important, but equally (or more) important is what areas of leading are most important to him, and to you.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Who do you go to for advice? If “it depends” then talk about some situations and who your go-to person is.

Q2: When you are decisions do you tend to plan or go on impulse and intuition? How successful does your decision-making method tend to be?

Q3: When making a decision, do you like a lot of options to choose from or only a few?

The Word

Read the scripture aloud: Philippians 2:5-8

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

Whether you believe that God has a specific plan for each area of your life or whether you believe that God only is concerned about whether our choices are sin, our primary obligation is to live our lives with a focus on being like Jesus.

Dennis pointed out three keys to a life lived to follow Jesus

  • Make every decision in the context of “how will this make me more like Jesus?”.
  • Learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
  • Cultivate contentment in your life.

All of these are to be done in the company of others: in the context of community.

Q1: How can asking “how will this make me more like Jesus?” Change the way that you make decisions and the quality of the answers that you get to those questions?

Q2: What does the Holy Spirit sound like? Can you think of a time when you heard his voice or sensed his leading?

Q3: What does it mean to be content? Are there certain areas of your life where contentment is more more difficult to find than others? Talk about one of those areas.

Pray together that you could move towards living your whole life focussed on being like Jesus.

TiO 15 – Alpha – How and Why Should I Read the Bible?

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The Main Idea

The Bible is the single most popular, influential, and important book ever compiled. It contains the very words of God and points us to the very Word of God, Jesus.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Would you consider yourself a reader? What was the last book you read?

Q2: How many books do you read a year? What kinds of books do you read?

Q3: When you were a child, did your parents read to you?

The Word

Read the scripture aloud: Luke 22:39-42

 

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Bible is the most important book ever put into the hands of people. It tells us about God. It tells us about his will for us. It tells us about sin, it tells us about the consequence of sin, and it tells us about a renewed relationship that we can have with God through Jesus. It tells us our history, it speaks to our present, and it tells us of our future.

But we, too often, take it for granted. We seek the will of God but we fail to look in the most obvious place: the words that God has left for us.

Q1: Have you found successful ways to turn Bible reading into an enjoyable habit? Share those with the group.

Pray together that God would give you the desire to be refreshed and enlightened by regular reading of the Bible. And then make a plan and follow it.

TiO 45 – Alpha – How and Why Should I Read the Bible

DOWNLOAD PDF

 

The Main Idea

The Bible is the single most popular, influential, and important book ever compiled. It contains the very words of God and points us to the very Word of God, Jesus.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Would you consider yourself a reader? What was the last book you read?

Q2: How many books do you read a year? What kinds of books do you read? 

Q3: When you were a child, did your parents read to you?

 

Dig a Little Deeper

The Bible is described as being inspired and inerrant. Big words, for sure.

Inspired: God is responsible for moving people to write the words that he had for them and for the world.

 

Q1: What does the phrase “The Bible is inspired” mean to you or make you feel?

Inerrant. There are lots of ways in which inerrant is described. The word means “free from error”. But the best definition today is: “True in all that it claims to teach.”

Q2: What does the idea that the Bible is “free from error” mean to you?

Q3: If the Bible is “true in all that it claims to teach” what does that mean about what life situations it speaks into?

The Bible tells us the story of God and the relationship that he formed with human beings, the unfaithfulness of those humans, and the hundreds of years that it took to repair that relationship. And it tells us of the faithfulness of Jesus and how he made a way for human beings to be truly human again.

 

Read Luke 4:16-21

 

Q4: What does this story tell us about Jesus and his relationship to Scripture?

Q5: What does this story tell us about the truthfulness of Scripture and the reliability of the prophesies found in it?

 

Next Steps

The Bible is the most important book ever put into the hands of people. It tells us about God. It tells us about his will for us. It tells us about sin, it tells us about the consequence of sin, and it tells us about a renewed relationship that we can have with God through Jesus. It tells us our history, it speaks to our present, and it tells us of our future.

But we, too often, take it for granted. We seek the will of God but we fail to look in the most obvious place: the words that God has left for us.

Carolyn ended her sermon by talking about the need to read scripture. Like prayer, talk of our need to read scripture is surrounded by guilt and the sense that we are not good enough because we fail so often. But this is important that we need to try. Here are some points of advice that Carolyn gave:

  • Be intentional: find a place and a time where you can read
  • Choose a version that is readable: start with a version that you can understand, but graduate to one that is translated well and accurately. Talk to your small group leader or to a leader in the church about a version that he or she recommends
  • Pick a place to begin reading and then read: a gospel is a great place to start, Mark for example
  • Choose a reading plan: Don’t worry about reading through in a year or two or five. Like exercise, reading the Bible must start with something you are able to do and which is sustainable. You can think about reading more each day when you are reading something each day.
  • Ask God to give you insights as you read
  • Ask people you trust about passages that are hard to understand
  • Write down what you learn
  • Take time to memorize passages from the Bible.

Q1: Have you found successful ways to turn Bible reading into an enjoyable habit? Share those with the group.

Pray together that God would give you the desire to be refreshed and enlightened by regular reading of the Bible. And then make a plan and follow it.

The Scriptures

In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.

Luke 4:16-21 (NRSV)

            When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Video Resources

Here is a link to the Alpha video from last week. It is about 30 minutes long and well worth watching as you prepare to study this Talk it Over together.