Birth of the Forerunner; Luke1; December 7/8

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Jimmy’s Main Points

  • The Story Resumes
  • Never too old, never too good
  • Celebration with perspective

Three questions to start your smallGroup discussion

  • Do you misinterpret God’s silence? In other words, how do you respond to God’s silence in the good and bad times in life?
  • How does Zechariah song of praise surprise you? Confront your object of worship?
  • Does the desire to coast resonate with you?
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Visions of Hope; Daniel 7-9, October 5/6

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This week, we shift from the narrative chapters of Daniel to the Apocalyptic.  Chapters 7-9 are some of the foundational texts of Apocalyptic speculation about the future.  But contrary to popular opinion, the Apocalyptic genre is meant to be vague.  Metaphors and symbolic numbers are intentionally used not to give us a clear timeline of things, but rather to show us the broad brushstrokes of the movement of the world.  At the end of the day, Apocalyptic literature is meant to give hope to those who are struggling with the reality of life in a broken world.  In the end, God wins.
Sometimes we get so caught up in these crazy apocalyptic visions that we miss the forest among the trees.  There is a beautiful moment in chapter 9 where Daniel prays a prayer of confession for his sin and the sin of his people.  There is no minimizing, no blame shifting, no rationalization.  Daniel takes responsibility for the full weight of his rebellion.  But he also calls on God to act – the same God who acted once before when he saved his people from their captivity in Egypt (9:15).  And Daniel is calling on the God of redemption to do it again – to step in and save.  God’s answer to Daniel is another apocalyptic vision.  In essence, God says that he will not only deliver them from their captivity in Babylon, but also from their captivity to life in a broken world.  The day is coming when God will “finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy” (9:24) – things that point well beyond mere rescue from Babylon.  In the end, God will win the cosmic battle.  And he will do it through his Anointed One who will be “cut off” (9:26, pointing to the death of Jesus) and who will “come on the clouds of heaven” to establish his eternal kingdom (7:13, pointing to the Second Coming).
Dave’s Main Points
  • Bizarre Visions
  • Thriving Through Repentance
  • When Despair Gives Way to Hope

Thoughts/Questions/Suggestions

  • Do you trend towards apocalyptic obsession or apocalyptic avoidance?  Spend some time discussing the tendency and dangers of each.
  • Is this statement enough for you? “In the end, God wins.”  Why or why not?
  • Spend some time meditating on this statement:  Prayer & confession has a way of re-centering the world.  It reminds us who God is and who we are.
  • What are the values of the Kingdom of God?
  • “You’ve done it before, do it again.”  Great prayer, when you pray it do you underestimate God?  Discuss this statement and question and then spend some time as a group reading through God’s promises to Daniel in 9:24 (six-fold).
  • Meditate on this statement this week:  God answers the greatest need, not our current crisis.

The Handwriting is on the Wall; Daniel 5, September 21/22

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We move along to Daniel 5 this weekend and we are introduced to a new king but the story echoes themes we have already seen. A king filled with incredible arrogance and the reality that in spite of appearances God is in control. It is easy to deflect onto Babylon for all their dishonoring of God but if we are not careful we will ignore our own ways we dishonor the God we love. The result is instead of thriving we become hypocritical.

Jimmy’s Main Points

  • Defeated & Unaware
  • Danger of Doubting a Sovereign God
  • Deflecting onto Babylon

Thoughts/Ideas/Suggestions/Questions

  • Jimmy stated that the difference between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar was Daniel.  Discuss what he meant by that statement.
  • How do you live in the tension of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility?  Why does this tension cause so much division in churches?
  • What do you consider blasphemy?  How did this sermon expand or challenge your understanding of blasphemy?
  • How does your understanding that everything is holy change your understanding of blasphemy?
  • In what areas of your life, or ways are ‘deflecting to Babylon?’

The Subtle Kingdom; Daniel 4, September 14/15

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Ken’s Main Points

  • The Shocking Change
  • Your Own Little Kingdom
  • The Humbled King; The Humble King

Thoughts/Questions/Suggestions

  • Ken referred to this final story of Nebuchadnezzar as a story of kings and kingdoms (not a King and a Kingdom) at war.  Spend some discussing what he meant by that and how it is applicable to you?
  • What comes to mind when you think of the Kingdom of God?  Have your thoughts changed at all?
  • When you look at Nebuchadnezzar, do you see yourself? If so, in what ways?
  • What thoughts come to your mind when you think of Bin Ladin, Assad or the boss who fired you for no reason?  How do the categories of compassion, truthfulness and hope fit into the way you think about and interact with them?
  • Does the distinction between dominion (given authority) and rebellious kingship (assumed authority) help?  What difference does it make in the little and big details of your life?
  • What are some of the ‘kingdoms’ that are warring in your heart?  What would your spouse or kids say if this question was asked of them about you?
  • Spend some time reflecting on Philippians 2:5-11, the Great Parabola of Scripture.

Even If He Doesn’t; Daniel 3, September 7/8

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This weekend we look at the familiar story of the fiery furnace. It gives us a picture of three young men and how they handled the temptation of worshipping an idol. Idol worship maybe easy to spot when it is 90 feet tall and made of gold but the problem is one that exists in all of our hearts and many times is much more subtle.  God shows his power in a miraculous way but these three understand that there are no guarantees. Would we worship and trust him – even if?

Jimmy’s Main Points

  • “Factory of Idols
  • No Matter What
  • God With Us

Thoughts/Questions/Suggestions

  • Jimmy made the statement that it is easy to recognize an idol if it is 90 feet tall and gold.  Spend some time discussing this statement and exploring the flip-side.  What is hard about recognizing your idols?
  • The temptation in the Christian life is to worship gods for our own advancement.  What are some areas of advancement that lend themselves to the worshipping of an idol?
  • John Calvin calls our mind a “factory of idols.”  Spend some time thinking and discussing what this means and how this is lived out in your life.
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all quietly disobeyed Nebuchadnezzar’s edict and calmly testified to their trust in God.  Spend some time citing biblical and contemporary examples of this mindset and activity.  What is the alternative, what does it look like?
  • This text speaks of the sufficiency of the presence of God for the believer.  What are some examples of times when you need the comfort of God’s presence?  Talk about times when you didn’t sense it?  How did you cope?  How do you ‘get’ the comfort of God’s presence when you don’t feel it?
  • Read Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

Not Afraid To Succeed; Daniel 1 & 2, August 31/September 1

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This weekend we begin the series “Thriving in Babylon”. We will seek to set the tone for the series by looking at Daniel and his ability to succeed while living in exile. It goes way beyond his diet. Behind all the stories is the reality that like all the other books of the Bible – this is really a story about a sovereign God who is a work in all situations.

Jimmy’s Main Points

  • Linking God’s Plan
  • Flexible & Firm
  • Success is Good, Really It Is

Thoughts/Questions/Ideas

  • Jimmy described the spiritual exile of Christians today as, ‘A community centered on God living in a community centered on self.’  Spend some time discussing community in general and community through a Christian lens.  Is there a difference?
  • Do you find yourself expecting Babylon to live like Jerusalem?  If so, what are the most typical issues or situation in which you find yourself expecting unbelievers to act like believers?  How does this impact the way you think about or treat them?
  • Which biblical characters are most easily demonized or made out to be heroes for you?  How do you help your kids get beyond a Veggie Tales understanding (moralizing) of the biblical stories and characters?
  • In your opinion, which is the better description of Christians today?  Why did you choose this description?
  1. They are full of wisdom and tact.
  2. They are scared.
  3. They are angry.
  4. They are hopeless
  • How do you handle the worldly and material success of others?  Other believers?
  • Hyper-individualized spirituality was described by Jimmy as taking a valid spiritual passion and feeling like everyone else should have the same level of passion towards this as you.  This is also called spiritual gift projection.  Spend some time searching your heart and share some areas which you trend toward spiritual gift projection.
  • We are spending seven weeks on the book of Daniel.  Commit to reading Daniel once a week for the next seven weeks.
  • Some helpful resources for Daniel include:  NIVAC Commentary by Tremper Longman III; The Bible Speaks Today Commentary by Dale Ralph Davis

The God Who Judges; Joel, July 13/14

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This week we’re looking at the book of Joel.  A locust swarm has ravaged the land, devastating Israel both agriculturally and economically.  This was a harsh blow for the people who were just getting resettled into their homeland after the exile.  Joel tells the people who the locusts are God’s judgment against them for their sin.  The dominant theme in the book of Joel is God’s judgment, which is summed up by the phrase “The Day of the Lord.”  On this day, God will step in to human history, judge everything that is wrong with the world, and set everything right once again.  It is a day of both condemnation and restoration.  The only problem is, we are all guilty.  We are all deserving of judgment.   The only way out is to see our sin for what it really is and return to God through repentance; to trust in the one who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  We’ll end with a focus on Jesus as the one who stepped into human history, absorbed the judgment of God, and provided a way to be restored.

Dave’s Main Points

  • When Disaster Strikes
  • The Day of the Lord
  • Rend and Return

Thoughts/Questions/Suggestions

  • Do an inventory on the depth of your souls.  In other words, think deeply about what you think about who you are in the very core of your being.  Where does sin enter into the conversation in this area?
  • Read The Valley of Vision.  Great book of Puritan prayers compiled a few decades ago. Great compass for our souls.
  • Dave shared three elements of The Day of the Lord.  I have them listed below.  Spend some time discussing each of the elements.  Are these representative of what you think of when you hear the biblical phrase “The Day of the Lord?”
  1. God will intervene in human history
  2. God will way war against all evil and sin
  3. God will bring restoration: he will make it right
  • Dave asked the questions, “Are you embarrassed by God’s judgment?”  Are you?  In other words, do you try to explain away God’s judgement?
  • On the flip side, do you delight in God’s judgment of other people?

The God Who Makes Himself Known; Ezekiel 36 & 37, June 29/30

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This week, we’re looking at perhaps the most famous text in the book of Ezekiel, chapters 36-37.  The people are in exile in Babylon, and God has made it clear that he will once again step in and rescue his people.  But Ezekiel 36:19-23 tells us about God’s motive.  In other rescue stories, God has been motivated by his love and compassion for his people.  But in this text, God’s motive is his own reputation among the nations.  The thing that Israel (and we) often forgot was that God’s story isn’t ultimately about us. We are not the center of the story; we are not the main character.  God is.  And so God acts to save his people in order that the world might know exactly who God is.  And the way he will do it is by giving the people a change of heart; by putting his spirit within them so that they live out God’s creation design.  Then the nations will know who God is (36:36).  Then, what God has said in the abstract is fleshed out (sorry… I had to) in the vision of the valley of dry bones, where God does a remarkable work of resurrection.  Salvation is always a work of resurrection and renewal by the spirit, a point made abundantly clear by Jesus both in his teaching (John 3) and in his own life (John 20).

Dave’s Main Points

  • An Important Reminder
  • A Change of Heart
  • A New Life

Thoughts/Suggestions/Questions

  • Dave spoke of God choosing to make himself known through his people.  What goes through your mind when you think of this truth?
  • How do God’s people ‘say something’ about God?  How are you doing?  How do you know?
  • Speak of some of the ways in which you make yourself the center of your world.
  • Spend a significant amount of your time telling your story in the context of God giving you a new heart and new spirit.

Finding Hope In Catastrophe; Ezekiel 34, June 22/23

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We begin the first of two looks at the Book of Ezekiel this weekend. Ezekiel was a priest-prophet who was one of the 10,000 taken in 593 BC and led captive to Babylon. He is a contemporary (yet younger) of Jeremiah. However he prophecies from Babylon. By the time we get to ch. 34 the fall of Jerusalem has taken place (586 BC) and his message begin to include elements of hope.
Despite the failures of God’s leaders, God has not abandoned his people and he is on the move.
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.” (34:11)
This is ultimately seen in Christ – the good shepherd caring for his sheep. The chapter also gives us a picture of the final redemptive work of the cross, when all things are restored.
Jimmy’s Main Points
  • Failure
  • Divine Intervention
  • Good Shepherd

Thoughts/Suggestions/Questions

  • How do you generally handle catastrophes (life-altering events)?  Do you minimize them?  Are you moved to despair?
  • Was it helpful to think of judgment in comparison to the illustration of a parent disciplining their children?
  • How does the job of shepherd translate into your context?
  • Ezekiel 34:11ff are words of hope to God’s people who are desperately in need of hope.  Share with one another some words of hope in your past and present.  What are the most hope-filled words you cling to for your future?
  • Ezekiel 34 contrasted good and bad shepherds.  List some of the ways in which Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  How do these actions/characteristics impact you?