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Call On The LORD – 09.14.14

Joel 2:1-2, 10-14, 18, 26-32 (ESV)

Listen to the sermon here.

Friendship:

On any given Saturday you may have been at a soccer match and witnessed a winning goal. At that moment, simultaneously, what are the two responses that are always noticeable?

A DIVISIVE DAY

Read 2 Peter 3:3-11 & Joel 2:1-2, 11 & 18. Who do you know that doubts that the Day of the LORD will really happen? And who do you know that doubts that they’re in any kind of trouble on that day even though they have no faith in Jesus?

Read Proverbs 10:29. If the Day of the LORD is undeniable, or unavoidable, how is it at the same time good news and terrifying? How have you lived as if you’ll never be accountable? Or how have you thought of yourself as “better?” Confess your pride and unbelief to Jesus, asking Him to rescue you from the judgment you justly deserve.

HEART REPENTANCE

Read Joel 2:12-14. How does a radical sense of your brokenness lead you to a deeper heart repentance? The LORD calls for His people to tear their hearts, not just their clothes – so what does that make you think of?

Read Matthew 15:7-20. So how deep within us does Jesus say our problem is? In Joel 2:12-14 several times the term “turn” or “return” is used. This is the Hebrew term for “repent.” How have you found it difficult to go on record against yourself? How is turning from sin a significant step beyond just confessing your sin? In James 4:8a, what does God promise you if you will turn to Him? God has never turned toward us more profoundly than at the Cross.

TRUSTING THE LORD & HIS SPIRIT

Read Joel 2:18 & 26-32. When have you attempted to fix your household problem only to end up calling a professional? Why is that not only often necessary but good for you? What would happen if you would refuse to call for help? How have you refused to call on the LORD? What have you experienced from repenting and calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ?

Joel’s prophecy is also a picture of God being extravagantly generous (by pouring out His Spirit). How does this also reveal God’s pattern of working with all kinds of people? Read Romans 1:16-17. As a hurricane can reshape the landscape, how have you seen God’s power to transform, to save anybody?

Read again Joel 2:26-27. Ask the Holy Spirit for insight into what it means that by Jesus’ death, resurrection and the outpouring of His Spirit that He is in your midst; dealing wondrously with you… and that there is none else. How could this drive fear out of your life and build within you hope and joy?

Prayer:

  1. Worship the LORD for His willingness to answer all who call upon Him in truth. Praise Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit that He can be trusted to save us utterly from the doom we rightfully earned by our sin.
  2. How have you lived as if you’ll never be accountable? Or how have you thought of yourself as “better?” Confess your pride and unbelief to Jesus, asking Him to rescue you from the judgment you justly deserve.
  3. Give thanks to Jesus for His grace to turn toward you in your sin and to meet you if you turn to Him. Thank Him for making a way of escape for us by His willingness to not escape – and die where we deserved to.
  4. Who do you know that needs to turn back to the Lord? Pray for them, asking the Lord to open their eyes to their spiritual need and to His beauty and worth.
  5. Read Joel 2:26-27. Ask the Holy Spirit for insight into what it means that by Jesus’ death, resurrection and the outpouring of His Spirit that He is in your midst; dealing wondrously with you… and that there is none else.

Amazing Love – 09.07.14

Hosea 4:1-2, 6; 11:8-9; 14:4-8 (ESV)

Listen to the sermon here.

Friendship:

What is the most difficult assignment you’ve ever been given? What makes Hosea’s assignment from the LORD so difficult (Hosea 1:2; 3:1)?

In the message he is sent to deliver (found in chapters 4-14), Hosea explains that his  excruciatingly painful home life was meant to be an enacted parable of God’s love for His wayward people.

Confession/Repentance:

When God delivers covenant charges against Israel (4:1-2, 6), he points out what is at the heart of their transgression. He says that His people are “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (v. 6). In other words, the transgressions of the people were rooted in a lack of understanding and regard for the LORD. Does this surprise you? Why or why not?

What does it mean to know the LORD? What means has God given you so that you can truly know Him? How do you know when you have a genuine knowledge of God?

How have you lived as one who doesn’t know God? Where are you most convicted of sin as you read God’s covenant lawsuit (4:1-2, 6)?

Faith:

After announcing the judgment that Israel could expect as a result of their covenant infidelity, God assures them that His character has not changed. Read Hosea 11:8-9. God remains compassionate and loving towards His people. Since God is determined to draw them to Himself and work for their spiritual good, they can rest assured that God’s judgment will be tempered with mercy. He will not fully destroy them. Rather, he will dwell with them without wrath. How is this possible? God—like Hosea with Gomer—moves toward the mess of our corruption and pays the cost of our redemption from it. Read Romans 5:6-8 to see how God has loved us in Christ.

In what situations do you doubt or forget God’s love for you? How could it help you to depend on Him to remember that God’s love is rooted in His faithful character?

Focus:

God’s saving work involves more than forgiveness and acceptance—as wonderful and important as those blessings are. Read Hosea 14:4-8. God promises to heal them of their apostasy—the very corruption of heart which led them away from God and into barren, sinful lives. God’s healing work is compared to the dew that causes plants and trees and flowers to grow. Like them, Israel will receive the refreshing presence of the LORD and will blossom with good fruit. That is, they will reflect in their own lives the character of God Himself.

In what aspects of God’s character do you want to grow? Do you long to become more trustworthy? More loyal in your love for others? More willing to bear the cost of loving those who cannot repay you? How can it help your pursuit of godliness to know that God is at work in you for that very purpose?

Prayer:

  1. Praise God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for His unrelenting faithfulness. Worship Him that He is unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
  2. How have you lived denying God’s true worth? Ask God to forgive you for your lack of faithfulness and love. Pray that He would heal you and work His character within you.
  3. Give thanks to Jesus for willingly taking on the work of rescuing you from your sin and misery—a work that came at a high cost to Him! Praise Him both for His work of atonement on the cross and His work to transform you into His image by the Spirit.
  4. Who do you know that struggles to believe that God would love them? Ask God to open their eyes to Hosea’s message that God is unfailingly committed to the good of His people.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to bear in you the fruit of truly knowing God. Use Hosea 14:1-9, Ephesians 1:15-23, and Philippians 1:9-11 as a guide for your prayers.

In & Not Of The World – 08.31.14

Nehemiah 4:1-6, 8:1-10 (ESV)

Listen to the sermon here.

Friendship:

What is it to build what is good? In the midst of opposition?

WE ARE NOT OF THIS WORLD

What unifies our efforts in a climate of competing allegiances? What makes us distinct is God’s Word. Read Nehemiah 8:1-3 & Matthew 7:24-27. The Bible clearly teaches us that we were created at God’s Word, we’re defined and ultimately redeemed by His Word (Jesus) made flesh. So how have you experienced someone’s amazement that you would believe God’s Word?

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” By contrast Jesus boldly and clearly called us to build on Him and His Word in Matthew 7. How have you seen both sides of Jesus’ promise – that He is solid in storms and that what is built on sand easily washes away? We build into people the necessity of God’s rule (vs. self-rule)! Rebuilding our city, church, and culture, we need to re-learn God’s Word, but what shapes cultural values if not the gospel?

YET WE ARE IN THIS WORLD

Read Romans 8:5 & John 15:18-19. What has helped to persuade you that this is a fallen, hostile world? How have you been caught off guard or surprised by the world’s hatred of Jesus and His people? Read Nehemiah 4:1-5. What was Nehemiah facing as he sought to obey the LORD? Read Nehemiah 8:3, 7-9 and then Nehemiah 1:2-4. How can we experience turmoil and even grief as we come to terms with our own sin and guilt?

Our culture is very self-oriented. How have you lived more committed to your own self-rule than to God’s rule over you and the entire world? Confess your treasonous spirit to Jesus, asking Him to forgive you and give you a truly loyal heart.

THE INTERPRETIVE KEY

Read 1 John 4:4 & Nehemiah 8:10b. How does being centered on the Gospel help you to find your joy in the LORD? Read Nehemiah 8:9. Notice how many people were involved in helping people rightly understand God’s Word. Why do you think that growing in Gospel wisdom and faithfulness is a community project? How many different people can you name that have truly helped you to better understand God’s Word? Name at least 10!

Read Philippians 2:8-11 & 3:1, 4-12. All the stars visible at night are still there at sunrise, but you can no longer see them because something so much brighter has risen and literally overshadowed them. How do you need Jesus to do that with the things that have dazzled your eyes?

Jesus was crucified, raised & glorified for me in my failure! There is no higher joy! Essentially repentance is working to abandon any and every way that I seek to find joy in something or someone other than God. Read 2 Corinthians 9:8. Joy in Christ Jesus is living persuaded of His sufficiency. What would help you to see that your highest good and greatest pleasure is in Him?

Prayer:

  1. Worship the LORD for His goodness and sufficiency. Praise Him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for how He is surpassingly worthy and faithful to sustain us even in the midst of opposition in this world.
  2. How have you lived more committed to your own self-rule than to God’s rule over you and the entire world? Confess your treasonous spirit to Jesus, asking Him to forgive you and give you a truly loyal heart.
  3. Give thanks to Jesus for bearing the fury of all antagonism of all evil and yet conquering it! Thank Him that with His surpassing worth He was willing to be despised in our place and that by His resurrection He assures us that His victory is our victory.
  4. Who do you know that struggles with remaining hopeful even in the face of opposition to faith in Jesus? Pray for them, asking the Lord to sustain them by His sufficiency and encourage them to remain faithful.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight into what it means to be in this world and yet not of it. Pray for the Lord would help you to be more defined by Him and Mission than by anything else.

Rebuild the Ruins – 08.24.14

Ezra 1:1-5 (ESV)

Listen to the sermon here.

Friendship:

When have you ever been asked to rebuild what had been ruined? What was that like?

GOD TURNS THE HEART

So God calls us into the work of rebuilding what is ruined. If we believe that the LORD can overcome our spiritual deadness how can this help us make sense of God’s call when people are unwilling to obey and join into this work?

Read Ezra 1:1-5. What hints are there in this passage that God is sovereign in keeping His Word? Read Ephesians 1:3-5 & 11, & 2:1-5. How is God’s work to redeem sinners a work of turning the hearts of people toward His will? How is that a work of rebuilding what was ruined? How have you lived more defined by your weakness or disobedience than by Jesus’ love and grace? Confess your unbelief and lack of vision to Jesus, asking Him to forgive you and to open your eyes to His purposes for His world.

HE PROVIDES FOR HIS CALL

How can we understand God’s call to rebuild what is ruined when we have so little? He has all power and resources! Read Ezra 1:4, Exodus 12:33-36 & Proverbs 21:1. How deeply do you believe that God can move people to give what they possess to fund His work?

Being accountable but not resourced is exasperating! And our condition in the Fall is that we’re cut off by our own doing. But read 2 Corinthians 9:8 & 1 Thessalonians 5:24. If God provides all that is necessary for all of His work, then how does that make sense of God’s call that we rebuild what is ruined?

DO WHAT IS AUDACIOUS

Read Genesis 1:28 & Matthew 28:18-20. Clearly God calls us to a great work from the Creation Mandate to the Great Commission. So what kinds of barriers keep us from taking up a work that is so daunting? Read Ezekiel 36:33-36. God’s call for His people to go back to Jerusalem was to rebuild ruins. (Imagine God calling all Cubans now living in Miami – most of whom were born there – to return to Havana now in order to rebuild it! How do you think they would feel or respond?)

If it is anything, Jesus’ work to redeem IS a work of rebuilding what is ruined. What’s amazing is He did it by being ruined and restored Himself! Read John 2:19. How does Jesus’ power over the ultimate form of ruin – death itself – make sense of God’s call for His people to rebuild what is ruined? Where have you excused yourself from God’s call to a great work – from subduing the earth? From the Great Commission? Or from loving the unlovely? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you envision the greatness of what God intends to do in His mission to redeem sinners like us. Pray that the Spirit would give you hope in His work wherever or however sinners are broken.

Prayer:

  1. Worship the LORD for His commitment to establish all that is good and conquer all that is evil. Praise Him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that He is the sovereign God – King of all existence.
  2. How have you lived more defined by your weakness or disobedience than by Jesus’ love and grace? Confess your unbelief and lack of vision to Jesus, asking Him to forgive you and to open your eyes to His purposes for His world.
  3. Give thanks to Jesus for His victory over evil. Thank Him for the beauty of His work to rebuild what is ruined in us by being ruined (His death on the Cross) and being restored Himself (His resurrection).
  4. Who do you know that takes no risks or attempts nothing of any worth? Pray for them, asking the Lord to open their eyes to the great work God has done in recovering ruined sinners like us and His heart to use even us to recover still others.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you envision the greatness of what God intends to do in His mission to redeem sinners like us. Pray that the Spirit would give you hope in His work wherever or however sinners are broken.

Esther and God’s Providence – 08.17.14

Esther 4:1-16 (ESV)

Listen to the sermon here.

Friendship:

Do you sometimes feel like God is silent or absent in your life and circumstances? Where are you looking and what are you looking for to find evidence that God is present? Are you missing what’s He’s doing right in front of you?

THE PROBLEM OF GOD’S SILENCE

Read the book of Esther. Considering it’s a book of the Bible, what stands out most as you read through the book? Notice God’s apparent absence or silence. Early in the book of Esther we see two problems: 1) Circumstances look very bad. All of the Jews are going to be killed. 2) God seems to be absent or silent. Can you relate to the feeling of life circumstances being bad with no way out and no one to rescue? How does that affect your relationship to God? Do you begin to question God’s goodness and whether he is actually in control? Do the things that have been brought into your life result in anger or despair towards God?

The absence of God in the book is actually a literary device used by the author. He is tell us: In spite of the way things look, God is not absent or silent. He is right in front of us, in control, and working all things out to accomplish his purposes.

THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE

A number of things in Esther seem to just “happen”, along with many reversals of events. The reality is that although God is not mentioned in the book, the author is trying to get us to see that God is behind every move! The book of Esther teaches us that even when God seems most hidden and silent, He is still present and working for His people in all things. It also teaches us that God works in the ordinary. Do you see God in the things of everyday life or are you looking elsewhere?

Read Ephesians 1:11. What does this teach us about the doctrine of God’s providence? It’s one thing for God to be in control of everything, governing all things, and have the power to do that. But we need more than a God who is powerful; we need a God who means to do us good in all things. Where do we find that promise?

THE GUARANTEE OF GOD’S GOODNESS

Read Esther 4:14-16. Esther was raised up “for such a time as this” and saved her people. The Bible tells us that, like the Jews in the story of Esther, we too are under a decree of judgment and in need of a Savior. But we need a Savior who can approach God, not a sinful, earthly king. Apart from the Savior that God provides, we, as his enemies, have every reason to worry about life, death, and judgment.

But the good news of the gospel is that God has provided a Savior in his Son, Jesus, who was raised up at the right time (See Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4) and underwent the ultimate silence from God on the cross in order to save sinners. By repenting of our sin and putting our faith in Jesus, we are reconciled to God and receive his promises.

Read Romans 8:28. This is the promise that because of the gospel, God is working all things out for the good of His children, even if we can’t understand them yet. We can trust him in all things because He gave his only Son for us (Romans 8:32). How does this promise change the way you view your life circumstances?

Spend some time in prayer reflecting on what God providentially has done in the past, and apply the truths of his good character and promises guaranteed in the gospel to your present circumstances.

Prayer:

  1. Worship the LORD for His power, goodness, and wisdom in governing and preserving all things. Praise Him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for working all things for the good of his children.
  2. Where have you overlooked God’s hand in your life? Do you struggle with anger and bitterness towards God over things He’s brought into your life? Ask God to forgive you for your pride.
  3. Give thanks to Jesus that He died on the cross to atone for all your sins and that God’s smile now shines upon you. Praise Him for all things that He’s brought into your life, the good and the bad, and trust Him with them, including the things you can’t understand. (see Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:28).
  4. Who do you know that holds a worldview that doesn’t truly satisfy or bring peace to them? Ask God to open their eyes to their need for God’s power and goodness that can only be found in the work of Jesus.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to develop in you the ability to see God in the ordinary things of life, and to come alongside others to point them to what God is doing in their lives. Repent for consistently overlooking His grace towards you in the things you take for granted.

Jesus, Our Exalted King – 08.10.14

Daniel 7:9-14 (ESV)

Listen to the sermon here.

Friendship:

What are some of the most outrageous interpretations of Bible prophecy that you’ve ever heard? Why do you think it’s so easy to misapply biblical prophecies?

THE SON OF MAN

Read the sermon passage, Daniel 7:9-14. If the LORD is the exalted King how does that establish that the rights of judgment belong to Him alone? What are some markers or details in this passage that show it is a scene of divine judgment? At the end of God’s work to judge, what will be the end results for God and for all who oppose Him?

Knowing what you do of the rest of the Bible, what are some of the most basic causes for judgment? How is pride or unbelief a form of self-enthronement? The sting of adultery for the spouse who is betrayed is in being found insufficient by the spouse who cheats. The adulterer says in effect, “You are not enough for me! I need another lover.” How have you defied the LORD’s rule over you or doubted His sufficiency as if you really need something or someone else to make your life whole? Confess your pride and unbelief to Jesus, asking Him to forgive and heal you.

DYING & COMING AGAIN

Read the sermon passage again thinking of the Son of Man as Jesus. Read also Luke 9:18-27. What really was so astounding – given that the Son of Man was exalted as Divine Judge – was that Jesus associated the title “Son of Man” with His crucifixion and resurrection. Why is it significant that Jesus said that He had to die? How does “what has to be done” reveal the depth of damage?

Read Luke 21:25-27 & 22:63-69. In light of what He had to do, what was He willing to do? As the Most High took the lowest place to atone, how does that lead you to hope in His work?

HUMBLES & SECURES HIS PEOPLE

Search through the sermon passage for indicators of how the people in the passage (the thousands and thousands) act – what are they said to do? How does trusting Jesus, the Son of Man who saves, lead you to be full of awe (humble worship)? And how does trusting Jesus lead you to be secure (able to approach the Ancient of Days in Christ)?

Read Daniel 7:18 & Ephesians 1:3-7, 13-14. While the world refuses to serve Jesus, how do they still crave the security that only He can offer? In Christ we possess nothing less than Him, both now & forever! Read Luke 12:31-32. Because it is the Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom what did Jesus imply about our security? Because it is nothing you can earn or achieve, how does this breed humility? Read Hebrews 4:16. Now, obey it! Approach the Lord’s throne with boldness and confidence as you pray for one another.

Prayer:

  1. Worship the LORD that He is exalted above all others and that as the King of all existence, He has all ultimate authority. Praise Him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that He is good and just.
  2. How have you defied His rule over you or doubted His sufficiency as if you really need something or someone else to make your life whole? Confess your pride and unbelief to Jesus, asking Him to forgive and heal you.
  3. Give thanks to Jesus for His compassion to leave the place of ultimate authority and privilege to take the place of deepest shame and misery on the Cross to save sinners! Thank Him for all that He willingly did.
  4. Who do you know that (along with you) struggles with pride or insecurity? Pray for them, asking the Lord to work His Gospel deep into their heart to humble them and also to secure them.
  5. Read Luke 12:31-32. Ask the Holy Spirit to calm your insecurities by His rule over all things and circumstances; and to humble your arrogance by the truth that His Kingdom is not anything we have done or earned, but that it is only a gift.

Daniel & the Lion’s Den – 08.03.14

Daniel 6:3-5, 7, 10-11, 13-27 (ESV)

Listen to the sermon here.

Friendship:

What is the closest you’ve come to a conflict with a teacher, boss, or official over your faith? How do we wisely understand and respond to earthly kings when their desires clash with God’s Word?

THE COSTS OF FAITHFULNESS

Read Daniel 6:3-7. God is worthy of our faithfulness even when, in a fallen world, forces of evil conspire against us. So how do you determine when you can disobey earthly authorities? When must you disobey them? Clearly Daniel’s faithfulness affected the other satraps and governors. How can you imagine that someone’s faithfulness has undesirable affects on others?

How can your refusal to let go of something be your undoing (e.g. Darius’ inability to let go of a silly, even malicious law was his; holding onto your material goods or a pleasurable experience may be yours, etc.). When have you given ultimate loyalty to creaturely causes? Where have you been confounded by the opposition of evil?

THE POWER OF SPIRITUAL DARKNESS

Read Daniel 6:4-20. How are forces of spiritual darkness often menacing? And how are they undeniably more powerful than you are? Consider the schemes Daniel faced – he was trapped by very real plots by very powerful people. And then there were also the lions…

Nevertheless, by vv. 10, 16 & 20, what did Daniel do (which was an established habit or how else would they have been able to conspire against him)? How have you lived (unlike Daniel) with ultimate loyalties to things and people other than Jesus? Confess your rebellion and lack of integrity to Jesus, asking Him to forgive you but also to work His loyalty into your heart by His Spirit.

THE REDEEMING VICTORY OF GOD

What would swallow us up in death and condemnation the LORD conquers – what is insurmountable to us is no obstacle to Jesus. Read Daniel 6:19-27. In Daniel’s deliverance what did King Darius expect? Yet what actually did God do? And by contrast, what happened to Daniel’s opponents?

If being unharmed is tied to being blameless, how can you hope to be unharmed before God’s holy judgment? Only by trusting Jesus… Jesus was blameless, v. 22 but condemned in our place. He trusted the Father yet suffered to save us, v. 23. Jesus will be praised by all nations, v. 25, as THE Living God whose kingdom shall never be destroyed, v. 26. And working the ultimate wonder, enclosed in a stone covered chamber of death, sealed at the King’s command… who expects anyone to come out alive?! Crucified and raised from the dead, Jesus rescues, working wonders, ultimately delivering His people from all threats.

So how do you need to repent of your pride and unbelief? How have you assumed you can conquer opponents in your own power? Or how have the powers of spiritual darkness locked you up in fear? What hope does Jesus offer you as He alone conquers what no one else can?

Prayer:

  1. Worship the LORD that He is God Most High. Praise Him Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that no one and no thing is greater than He is and that He is faithful to defend His people.
  2. How have you lived (unlike Daniel) with ultimate loyalties to things and people other than Jesus? Confess your rebellion and lack of integrity to Jesus, asking Him to forgive you but also to work His loyalty into your heart by His Spirit.
  3. Give thanks to Jesus for the glory of His work to redeem all who trust in Him. Read Daniel 6:22-27 and thank Him for being blameless, v. 22 but condemned in our place; for trusting the Father yet suffering to save us, v. 23.
  4. Who do you know that lives with great faithfulness to Jesus but faces opposition? Pray for them, asking the Lord to strengthen and sustain them in their loyalty, and to give them influence with others.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to work within you the fruit of love and faithfulness. Pray for God’s surpassing worth and power to have greater sway in your life than the fleeting powers or kingdoms of this world.