Making Space for Prayer (discussion questions)

Art of Prayer Series Gfx_App Square Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Making Space for Prayer,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the first of a three-part series, “The Art of Prayer,” looking at Jesus’ approach to the life of prayer from the Gospel of Luke. This week we looked at Luke 5:16; 6:12-13a; 9:18.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Answer one of these two questions:
    • What do you find most difficult about prayer?
    • What do you find most life-giving about prayer?
  2. At Eastbrook we are beginning a new series called “The Art of Prayer.” We are going to look at Jesus’ life of prayer in the Gospel of Luke as a way to learn about prayer ourselves. It’s good to begin a series on prayer in prayer! Take some time, whether on your own or with others, to asking God to teach you to pray before you begin this study.
  3. We are looking at three short, separate passages from Luke. Do the following for each of these passages: read them out loud, identify what is happening in the context of that passage, and then identify some key aspects of Jesus’ prayer life from the passage.
    • Luke 5:16
    • Luke 6:12a
    • Luke 9:18a
  1. In what ways do you think Jesus’ life of prayer is similar to our own life of prayer? In what ways is it different?
  2. What do you find to be the most significant lesson about prayer that you see from Jesus’ life and practice of prayer here?
  3. Make it real: What is one way you could put something you learned about prayer into practice in your daily life this week?

 

[Next week we continue this series by looking at one of Jesus’ major teachings on prayer in Luke 11:1-12. Read that passage ahead of time to prepare.]

Messy Ends (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Messy Ends” from Judges 17-21, which concluded our series, “Flawed Heroes,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Answer one of these two questions:
    • When have you seen something beautiful in the midst of brokenness?
    • Has a real-life hero let you down? What happened and how did you respond?
  2. This week, we conclude our series, “Flawed Heroes,” with the last five chapters of Judges (17-21). These chapters are often seen as an appendix, or concluding word, at the end of the book. This is particularly difficult but also important material to read. We will look at it in two sections. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you through His word, and then read Judges 17-18 aloud.
  3. This first story recounts deep failures in the religious and community life of the people of God. How would you describe the family life of Micah and his mother?
  4. Based on what you read about the Levite in chapters 17-18, what sort of person do you think he is? Why does this matter?
  5. The Danites steal the Levite and the idol away from Micah, causing conflict between the tribes of Israel. After that, they annihilate the people of Laish. Why is all of this shocking in light of what you know about God’s plans for His people (see Joshua 24:11-15)?
  6. What is one thing that you take away from this story about God, His work, or His people?
  7. Now begin the second story of this section by reading Judges 19:1-10. How would you describe the life and relationship of this Levite with his concubine and her family?
  8. Next read Judges 19:11-30. A core issue here is the role of hospitality. Why does the Levite avoid the land of the Jebusites (vss 11-12)? What does he find when he comes to the Benjamite town of Gibeah?
  9. In one or two words describe the behavior of each: the old man from Ephraim, the Levite, and the men of Gibeah.
  10. Background: While this may seem gruesome (and it is!), the cutting up of the concubine was a summons to war in response to horrific wrongs. Similar situations are attested in other ancient near-eastern literature and also in 1 Samuel 11:7.
  11. The remaining two chapters (20-21), describe a conflict that arises between the tribe of Benjamin and the remaining tribes of God’s people. There are three main sections of conflict (20:18-20; 20:21-25; 20:26-48) that form an ironic echo to Judges 1. What changes do you see in the majority tribes’ approach to warfare through this sequence?
  12. The end result of this conflict is the decimation of the tribe of Benjamin. Chapter 21 traces the tragic response of the tribes to their fear that Benjamin will disappear. How would you summarize that chapter?
  13. Notice that this entire section begins and ends with the same thought: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). What is one thing that God is speaking to you through this study today and through the book of Judges as a whole? If you are on your own, take a moment to write it down, pray about it, and then commit to sharing that with one person this week. If you are with a small group, share your answers together and then pray for each other.

In the Shadow of the Cloud: Jacob

Here’s an excerpt from my latest post on the life of Jacob at the Gospel Life blog, where I am a regular contributor.

1-3One of the most famous stories in the life of Jacob is the dream he has of angels ascending and descending a stairway or ladder between heaven and earth in Genesis 28. In the midst of this dream, God reaffirms to Jacob the same promises He made with Abraham and Isaac about making a great and blessed nation from Jacob and his descendants, as well as “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:14). What is ironic about this situation is that God is affirming His promises and mission for the world even as Jacob is running away from his family after stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing by deceiving his father.

If you read through Jacob’s story, you may begin to wonder whether Jacob really belongs in the roll call of faith heroes in Hebrews 11. He deceives his father, his brother, his uncle, and his neighbors. He seems bent on his own gain. He seems to avoid direct conflict even as he seems to leave conflict in his wake. He plays favorites with his wives and his children, causing great tensions between his own family members. In one sense, Jacob is a mess.

However, if we step back for perspective and get a little bit more honest, we realize that we are not that different from Jacob. Jacob’s particular sins and weaknesses may not be ours, yet we also have our particular sins and weaknesses. We may not always see them, but others probably do.

There is another story from Jacob’s life that most of us know found in Genesis 32…
[Read the rest of the post here.]

The Bramble King: Abimelek (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Bramble King,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This message continues our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges. This week we looked at the life and demise of Abimelek in Judges 9.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Answer one of these two questions:
    • Who would you describe as one of the greatest leaders of the last 100 years, and why?
    • Who is someone that you know personally that you respect as a leader, and why?
  2. This week, as we continue our “Flawed Heroes” series, we look at one of the lowest points of the book of Judges with the character of Abimelek in Judges 9. There is a lot to learn here, so take a moment to prepare your heart, asking God to speak to you through His word. After that, read the entire passage out loud.
  3. The story of Abimelek is connected to the story of Gideon (also known as Jerub-baal) in Judges 6-8. What do we know about Abimelek, the end of his father’s life, and the attitudes of the tribes of Israel at this time (see especially Judges 8:22-35)?
  4. What happens in Judges 9:1-5? What does this tell us about Abimelek’s character and the character of the leading citizens within Shechem? (Note: the word translated ‘citizens’ of Shechem in the NIV has the sense of ‘lords’ or ‘leaders’; see the ESV, NASB and NLT.)
  5. Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, survives the massacre of his siblings and offers a prophetic message against Abimelek couched in a parable in 9:7-21. When he describes Abimelek as a thornbush seeking to shade the other trees, why is this both ridiculous and foolish?
  6. Have you ever sought to find refugee or help from an untrustworthy person or source? What happened? How might Jotham’s words guide us here?
  7. The uprising against Abimelek is guided by God (9:22-24). What does this tell us about both the power and character of God?
  8. The rebellion by Gaal son of Ebed (9:25-41) is short-lived and ends poorly for all involved. Why do you think the people of Shechem were drawn to Gaal?
  9. As Abimelek’s wrath is poured out on Gaal and his army, then the people of Shechem, and the neighboring town of Thebez, we see an ironic answer to Abimelek’s promise in 9:2. What does this tell us about appearances and empty promises?
  10. Abimelek’s death is a dishonorable finish to a dishonorable life. Judges 9:56-57 serve as a commentary on the life and wickedness of Abimelek and Shechem. There’s a saying that people get the leaders they deserve. What does Abimelek’s story tell us about true leadership? What are the spiritual issues underlying the disasters of this chapter?
  11. What is one thing that God is speaking to you through this study today? If you are on your own, take a moment to write it down, pray about it, and then commit to sharing that with one person this week. If you are with a small group, share your answers together and then pray for each other.

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The Right Woman for the Job: Deborah (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Right Woman for the Job,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges. This week we looked at Judges 4-5.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever been thrust into service or responsibility in an unexpected way or at an unexpected time? How did you respond?
  2. As we continue our “Flawed Heroes” series at Eastbrook Church, we turn to Judges 4:1-5:31, which recounts the story of Deborah and Barak. Whether you are on your own or with a small group, begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you through His word, and then read the entire passage aloud.
  3. From Judges 4:1 and 5:6 we know this story happens after the time of Ehud and at the same time as Shamgar (3:31). According to 4:2-3 what challenging situation does Israel finds themselves in now?
  4. Deborah looms large in this portion of Scripture as easily one of the most respectable characters in the entire book of Judges. What is her role according to 4:4-7 and 5:6-7?
  5. Barak is from the northern areas of Canaan beyond the Sea of Galilee. Deborah sits as prophet in the central area between Ramah and Bethel. Why do you think Deborah summoned Barak?
  6. Why do you think Barak wanted Deborah with him? What repercussions did Deborah say this would have for Barak?
  7. Have you ever felt the need to know that God was with you in a particular season or situation? What did you do?
  8. The battle swiftly goes to Israel because of God’s power (4:11-15), but Sisera, the enemy general runs away. What happens to Sisera according to 4:16-21? What does this mean for Barak (4:22)?
  9. The summary description in 4:23-24 reminds us that God has been at work. How have you seen God at work in this story from start to finish?
  10. Judges 5:1-31 is a poetic expression of celebration for the victory related in Judges 4:1-24, similar to the expression in Exodus 14-15. Some scholars think this is one of the oldest portions of the Bible. Why would poetry and song be the appropriate response to the deliverance recounted in Judges 4?
  11. Throughout the story of Deborah and Barak we see that God is at work. How has God been at work in your life in significant ways? While most of us aren’t poets or song-writers, how might you write your own psalm of praise to celebrate what God is doing? This week, take some time to write something like that down. Share it with someone – maybe even your small group – as your public praise of God for His goodness.

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