Prayer as the Pathway to Unity (discussion questions)

EM07262015 16x9 TitleHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Prayer as the Pathway to Unity” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the fourth part of our series, “One Church.” This week we looked at John 17:20-26.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think are the greatest hindrances to unity, no matter the setting?
  1. This weekend in our series, “One Church,” we are exploring John 17, with specific attention on verses 20-26. Take some time to pray, asking God to clearly speak to you; then read John 17 aloud.
  1. John 17 is sometimes called Jesus’ high priestly prayer. This is because we find Jesus directly talking with His Father in prayer about the heart of His ministry right before going to the sacrifice upon the Cross. What are some of the main things Jesus prays about in John 17?
  1. There are three major sections in Jesus’ prayer here: 1) Jesus’ prayer for true glory; 2) Jesus’ prayer for His disciples; and 3) Jesus’ prayer for future believers. When you consider Jesus’ prayer for the believers in the future – which includes us today – what does this make you think about or feel?
  1. Themes of unity abound in these few sentences of prayer. In verses 21 and 23 what would you say is the fundamental unity Jesus says is the basis for unity amongst believers? Why is this significant?
  1. What do you think Jesus means by saying, “I have given them the glory that you gave me” (17:22)? What sort of glory do we receive as disciples of Jesus?
  1. In verses 21 and 23, what Jesus says there will be certain results – or aftereffects – of believers entering into the unity Jesus prays about. What are those results?
  1. Have you ever experienced disunity in God’s people? Have you seen it impact the effectiveness or fruitfulness of God’s mission in the world? What happened? If applicable, how was this disunity resolved?
  1. What is one way in which you feel specifically impressed to pray for unity in your own life or the life of the church? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray about these things together. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone.

Singing the Songs of God’s Salvation (discussion questions)

TTGITT Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Singing the Songs of God’s Salvation,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the fifth and final part of our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” from the book of Habakkuk. This week we looked at Habakkuk 3:1-19.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What sorts of things have lifted your spirits when you have gone through troubling times? Why?
  2. This weekend we conclude our series from the book of Habakkuk, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” by studying Habakkuk 3:1-19. This closing prayer to God full of rich imagery and declarations of faith. Before you read the passage aloud, ask God to clearly speak to you.
  3. Verses 1-2 show a change of tone in Habakkuk from the previous two chapters. How would you describe Habakkuk’s tone in prayer before God in chapters 1 and 2 as compared with these first two verses of chapter 3?
  4. With verses 3-15, we see Habakkuk mingling together reflections on what God has done in the past and what He will do in the days to come. There are many references to the exodus of Israel from Egypt during Moses’ time in these verses. Take a moment to search out references to the Exodus that are found here, particularly in verses 3-7.
  5. Why do you think the Exodus imagery was important for Habakkuk in his day and time? What could it convey?
  6. Beginning in verse 8, Habakkuk depicts God as a warrior. What descriptors of God show His might and power as a warrior here in verses 8-15? Given the pending judgment God outlined in chapters 1 and 2, why might this picture of God speak powerfully to Habakkuk and his hearers?
  7. In the midst of these words about God’s past and future deliverance, Habakkuk mentions the ‘anointed one’ (Hebrew: messiah) in verse 13. Often the Messiah was a reference to a king or ruler. This is one of the clearest references to the Messiah as a person who will bring deliverance and will be delivered by God. Why would Habakkuk be looking for a Messiah in the circumstances of his day?
  8. With verse 16, we read Habakkuk’s final words in this psalm to God. The Hebrew word for ‘trembling’ appears twice in this verse (NIV: ‘my heart pounded’ and ‘my legs trembled’). Why do you think Habakkuk is trembling, even as he waits patiently?
  9. The last three verses (17-19) reveal a deep faith in troubling times. The fig tree, grapes, and olives are luxuries of the land, while the fields, sheep, and cattle are essentials for life in the land. What sort of faith declaration is Habakkuk making in light of what we read here?
  10. Have you endured a time of great trouble? How have you learned to rejoice and trust God in the midst of that season of life like Habakkuk?
  11. As we draw this series to a close, take a moment to reflect on some of the ways God has been speaking to you through Habakkuk’s message. If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

[Next week we begin a series, “One Church,” focused on the unity we have in Jesus Christ. Prepare for next weeek by reading Ephesians 4.]

Faithfulness in a Confusing World (discussion questions)

TTGITT Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Faithfulness in a Confusing World,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the fourth part of our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” from the book of Habakkuk. This week we looked at Habakkuk 2:2-20.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you seen someone get what they deserved for doing something wrong? Did it make you feel good or bad? Why?
  2. This weekend in our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” we look at Habakkuk 2:2-20, where God replies to Habakkuk’s second prayer. Take some time to pray, asking God to clearly speak to you, before reading the passage aloud.
  3. Habakkuk 2:2-20 has two major sections: 1) an announcement of a vision, or revelation, from God (2:2-5), and 2) five illustrations of that vision. In verse 2 what does God tell Habakkuk to do with the vision and in verse 3 what does God say about the timing of the vision? Why is this important given the troubles around Habakkuk and his people?
  4. In verses 4-5, we face a strong contrast between the way of living against God and for God. How would you summarize what God is saying through Habakkuk here about these two ways of life?
  5. What do you think it means for us to live out the phrase: “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (2:4b)?
  6. Background: Habakkuk 2:4 is one of the most important Old Testament verses quoted within the New Testament. The Apostle Paul references this verse as a central part of his teaching on justification by faith alone (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). The writer of Hebrews draws upon it to encourage pressured believers to persevere (Hebrews 10:36-39). Later, you may want read those passages as you reflect on how Habakkuk’s message shapes our understanding of faith as followers of Jesus.
  7. Beginning in verse 6, we encounter five illustrations of the pending judgment upon those who disobey God. Each of these illustrations is highlighted by a Hebrew word usually translated as ‘woe’. Take a moment to see where the word ‘woe’ occurs in verses 6-20 in order to get a sense of the structure of this passage.
  8. Based on what you just did, summarize each ‘woe’ found in verses 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, and 18-20. Answer questions like: what is the main issue being addressed by God?; what wrongs are part of this?; what is the end result?
  9. According to verse 20, how does Habakkuk seem to resolve his complaint-prayers before God?
  10. Psalm 73 echoes much of what is found in Habakkuk. Read Psalm 73 aloud, and then do one of two things: 1) consider how these words help you step into the message of Habakkuk personally, or 2) pray parts of Psalm 73 back to God as your own declaration of faith.
  11. How is God speaking to you about living with and for Him through Habakkuk 2:2-20? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

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Talking with God When Pain Looms Large (discussion questions)

TTGITT Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Talking with God When Pain Looms Large,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the third part of our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” from the book of Habakkuk. This week we looked at Habakkuk 1:12-2:1.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever experienced a season of prolonged waiting, perhaps for a job, for a relationship, for healing, or something else? What happened and what was your experience in the waiting?
  1. As we continue with the book of Habakkuk in our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” this weekend we look at Habakkuk’s second complaint to God from Habakkuk 1:12-2:1. Take some time to pray, asking God to clearly speak to you, and then read that passage aloud.
  1. Habakkuk begins his complaint in verses 12 and 13 by remembering who God is in the midst of the circumstances around him. What does Habakkuk declare about God and why do you think this is important for him?
  1. Verse 13 contains the first of two strong questions that Habakkuk is wrestling with before God in this passage. What is that question (it is repeated twice) in your own words?
  1. Background: Habakkuk responds with a complaint to God’s word that the Babylonians will overrun Judah. The Babylonian Empire steamrolled the Assyrians and Egyptians on their way toward total domination of the region from 612-539 B.C. The Babylonians, like the Assyrians before them, were known for brutal treatment of their enemies, including driving a hook through the lower lip of their prisoners and stringing them together in a line.
  1. Habakkuk uses fishing imagery in 1:14-15. What does this specifically convey about Habakkuk’s people in Judah and the Babylonians’ power?
  1. What is the result of the Babylonians’ brutal victories according to Habakkuk in 1:16?
  1. With verse 17, we encounter the second of Habakkuk’s strong questions of God. What is the question that Habakkuk raises here and why is this important in light of 1:13-16?
  1. Many times we find ourselves struggling with the apparent success of evil people in contrast to the struggles of good people. How have you wrestled with this in your own life? How do you make sense of this in light of God’s presence and power?
  1. Habakkuk resolves his complaint by waiting on God, like a sentinel on duty in 2:1. What does he say about waiting on God? Why do you think he expects a potential rebuke?
  1. How is God speaking to you through Habakkuk 1:12-2:1? How does this shape your life of prayer? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

[Next week: Our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” continues with God’s second response to Habakkuk in chapter 2:2-20. Prepare for next week by reading this passage ahead of time.

Suffering and the Surprising Plans of God (discussion questions)

TTGITT Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Suffering and the Surprising Plan of God,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the second part of our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” from the book of Habakkuk. This week we looked at Habakkuk 1:5-11.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever had a season of life where one thing seemed to go wrong after another? What happened and how did you deal with it?
  1. We continue our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” from the book of Habakkuk this weekend at Eastbrook. This study takes us into Habakkuk 1:5-11, where God responds to Habakkuk’s complaint in 1:1-4. Take some time to pray, asking God to speak to you as you, and then read Habakkuk 1:1-11 aloud.
  1. Background: Habakkuk is most likely prophesying during the time of 609-598 B.C. By 612 B.C., the Babylonians had overrun all three capitals of the Assyrian Empire: Assur, Nimrod, and Nineveh. Thus, the great threat to Judah posed by the Assyrians was driven away and replaced by the rising threat of the Babylonian Empire. In 597 B.C., the Babylonians came against Jerusalem, deporting some its leading citizens, and in 587 B.C., the Babylonians completely conquered Jerusalem. The word ‘Chaldean’ is another term for ‘Babylonian’ during this time.
  1. In 1:5, God says He will act in response to Habakkuk’s sense that God is not listening. Why would this be an encouragement to Habakkuk and his listeners?
  1. Habakkuk’s first complaint to God (1:1-4) centers on the violence and wrongdoing within the kingdom of Judah in which he lives. Based on what you read in 1:5-6, why is God’s response something that will utterly amaze Habakkuk and his hearers?
  1. Looking through verses 6-11, the character and ways of the Babylonians are described in vivid detail. Take some time to consider these different characteristics. Why would these words send terror into Habakkuk’s hearers?
  1. What situations in your own life, our nation, or the world are shocking or utterly amazing in a negative way right now? Why is that your response?
  1. A major theme of Habakkuk is the sovereignty of God in the face of human threats. Why do you think it is significant that God is shown as the one doing something amazing by raising up the Babylonians (1:5-6), even if this is not Habakkuk’s hope in response to his prayer (1:1-4)? What does this tell us about who God is?
  1. It is important to see that God calls out the actions of the Babylonians as wrong; they are “guilty people” (1:11). From what comes later, in Habakkuk 2:2-20, we know that God will deal with them, too. Why do you think God would use “guilty people” to work His purposes out in the world? Have you ever seen this happen?
  1. How is God speaking to you through God’s words in Habakkuk 1:5-11? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

[Next week: Our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” leads us into the second complaint of Habakkuk in chapter 1:12-2:1. Prepare for next week by reading this passage ahead of time.]