Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Empowered,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the third part of our series, “Activate,” where we are looking at what it means to be individual Christians and a local church set into motion by God’s power and presence for God’s work in the world.
- When have you really felt that God was at work through you in the lives of others? What happened?
- This weekend at Eastbrook we continue our “Activate” series by looking at Acts 2:1-13. Take some time to pray, asking God to speak to you as you read His word.
- As we look at Acts 2, it is important to remember exactly what God was doing in the life of the early church. Read Luke 24:45-49 and Acts 1:4-9 again. What was it that the disciples were to do in light of Jesus’ words?
- As the disciples are waiting and in prayer, a loud sound and startling sights appear as they are filled with the Holy Spirit. What would you say is the significance of these sights and sounds? Why are these connected with the filling of the Holy Spirit?
- Because of the festival of Pentecost, many Jews and God-fearing Gentiles from around the Mediterranean have gathered in Jerusalem. Why do you think that the disciples are gifted with language along with the gift of the Holy Spirit? What does this signify and how does it begin to fulfill Jesus’ commission in Acts 1:7-8?
- Background: Pentecost is the Greek name for the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, which occurs 50 days after the festival of Passover. The Feast of Weeks is described in Leviticus 23 in connection with the grain harvest and bringing the first fruits of the harvest to God as a thanksgiving offering. In later Jewish tradition, Pentecost is linked with the giving of the law to Moses and the people by God at Mount Sinai.
- Many biblical scholars also see a link between the Jewish festival of Pentecost as an offering of first fruits and the Holy Spirit’s empowerment for ministry. What do you think that connection might be?
- As the disciples move out from the upper room to speak to others, those gathered around them have a wide variety of responses. What are the responses? What sort of responses do you think we should expect when we step forward as witnesses of Jesus?
- How is God speaking to you about waiting for the Holy Spirit’s power in your life as a witness for Jesus? What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you? How might your life look different because of what you are considering with God? 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 continue the “Activate” series by looking at Acts 2:14-47. Prepare for next week by reaidng this passage ahead of time.]
Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Called,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the first part of our series, “Activate,” where we are looking at what it means to be individual Christians and a local church set into motion by God’s power and presence for God’s work in the world.
- When have you felt most energized in your life with God? What was going on and what lead you to that place?
- Following our exploration of Jesus as the way, truth, and life, we are beginning a new series this weekend at Eastbrook entitled “Activate” about the church energized for God’s mission. This week, we are looking at Acts 1:1-11. Take some time to pray, asking God to speak to you as you read His word.
- Background: The book of Acts is the second of two works that Luke, an early believer and a physician, wrote in the first century. The first of those books, the Gospel of Luke, focuses on the life of Jesus in Galilee and Jerusalem. The book of Acts picks up after the resurrection of Jesus, charting the life of the first followers of Jesus. Both books are addressed to Theophilus, whose name literally means ‘lover of God.’As Luke recounts the events after the resurrection, he tells of Jesus’ activities until the time He returns to the Father. What is Jesus doing and for how long is He doing these things (verses 1-3)?
- Looking at verses 4 and 5, what does Jesus ask of the disciples? Why do you think Jesus is making this sort of request of the disciples? What other options might they have considered?
- The Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God in the life of every person who reaches out to God through Jesus Christ by faith. What do you think it means for us to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit in our own lives?
- The disciples ask a question in verse 6 that Jesus redirects in verse 7. What was the disciples’ concern and what is Jesus’ teaching on this point?
- Acts 1:8 is a pivotal verse in this chapter and the history of God’s people. How would you outline what Jesus is calling these apostles to in this verse?
- The book of Acts traces the early believers as they live out what Jesus calls them to do here in Acts 1:8, witnessing to Him from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. This is a universal call for the good news about Jesus to go out to all people, high and low, rich and poor, near and far. If this is our calling, how are you living out this calling right now? What are some ways you think you could live the calling out more fully in your everyday life?
- What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you through this study about being called by God as His witnesses? How will that shape your life in the coming week? 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 continue the “Activate” series by exploring Acts 1:12-26, with special attention to the prayers of the early believers.]
Why does the church exist and what are we to be about?
This weekend at Eastbrook we begin a new series where we explore some of the basics of missional living for followers of Christ and the church community by looking at Acts 1 & 2. Specifically, we will explore Jesus’ call to be witnesses, the importance of prayer, the need for Holy Spirit empowerment, and the opportunity to actively engage with those around us. Let’s get activated!
May 2/3 – Called (Acts 1:1-11)
May 9/10 – Praying (Acts 1:12-26)
May 16/17 – Empowered (Acts 2:1-13)
May 23/24 – Engaged (Acts 2:14-47)
You can follow along with the series via our web-site, our Vimeo page, our Facebook page, or by downloading the Eastbrook Church app.
This weekend at Eastbrook Church was the kick-off of our ministry year and I took the opportunity to refocus us on Jesus and our vision as a church. Our vision statement is:
To proclaim and embody the love of Jesus Christ in the city and in the world.
Along with that, we are focusing on six priorities (see below) with two focus words for the year: deep and wide.
The outline and video file for the message is below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can also visit Eastbrook Church on Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Given my recent sermon, “Connecting Together,” on what it means to be the church, I wanted to share again some thoughts from one of my favorite thinkers on the church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. Here are 5 must-read statements on the Church from Bonhoeffer:
- “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
- “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” 
- “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” 
- “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” 
- “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]
[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]