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Study Resources for July 27, 2014

The teacher for this session is Steve Booth. (email Steve)

A Listening Heart: 1 Kings 3:1-15

Opening Question: If you could ask God for any one thing, knowing God would give it… what would you wish for? Why?

Read 1 Kings 3:1-15.

A New King
• What do we learn about Solomon in the first verse?
• What important political decisions is this young king making?
• The writer notes that already, early in his reign, Solomon is not completely obedient to God (verse 3).
• In what ways was this also a political decision (see verse 2)?
• Why do you think God chose to come to Solomon in Gibeon, while Solomon was offering sacrifices on the high places there?
• What is strange about God’s appearance—what does God tell Solomon, and why is it unusual (verse 5)?

Read John 14:13-14. This is one of several similar promises by Jesus.
• In what ways do these verses sound similar to Solomon’s situation?
• How do they sound different?
• What reasons does Solomon give for the thing he requests (verses 6-8)?
• What is a listening heart (or an understanding mind)?
• In Hebrew culture, the heart is where you make decisions, so is a listening heart the best thing he could have asked for?
• Did God give Solomon more than he asked for?
• What was Solomon’s responsibility as a result of these wishes?

Watch the clip "Brains, Courage and Heart" from the movie The Wizard of Oz.

An Important Gift
• So what about Dorothy… or more importantly what about you?
• Do you see how sometimes we just need to examine what God has already placed within us?
• Are you like the lion who was wise enough to run away when needed but could stand for good if needed?
• Do you have great heart or great intelligence? What is the gift inside of you?
• How can we avoid the mistake(s) of Solomon and remember that our gifts are given to us by God for God’s Kingdom and not our personal gain?
• What does God give to Solomon beyond what he had requested—and why does God plan to do this (verses 11-12)?
• What else does God promise—and under what condition (verse 14)?

Many of us as children were taught that Solomon asked God for wisdom… but that’s not exactly true. Look at different translations for verse 9.
• What is Solomon asking for?
• How is it different from “wisdom” as we might traditionally define it?

Solomon essentially says, “God, you’ve given me a job. I’m asking you for what I need to do that job well.”
• How could we apply this reasoning to our personal requests to God?
• What “job” has God given to us as followers of Christ—and why might we also ask for the things Solomon requests?
• Why is it hard to have a listening heart and a discerning mind in today’s information-saturated world… and why is it all the more important?

Study Resources for July 20, 2014

The teacher for this session is Steve Booth. (email Steve)

Love God First: Isaiah 44:6-20

Idols
Watch the clip "Idol Worship" by The Skit Guys
• What do you think of the comparison made in this video?
• Do you think being a sports fan could be considered idol worship? Why or why not?
• What would it be like if God were worshipped with the same kind of passion expressed by fans in the clip?
• In what other areas in our modern world do you see great worship of idols?
• What is so wrong with worshipping those things?
• What is the difference between something being important to you and it being an idol?

Examination
• How much time is your TV at home on ESPN?

Watch the clip "'King James' returns, Cleveland rejoices" from CNN.
• What do you think of the Cleveland fans and their love/hate for "King James?"
• How do you feel about the owner’s son asking if he could wear the LeBron jersey again?
• How much love do you think the basketball fans in Cleveland have for "King James?"

Read Isaiah 44:6-8.
• What does is mean for Yahweh to be King of Israel?
• What does it mean for God to be first?
• How do we balance our daily lives and family—and still love God first?
• Can we place God in the center of our lives and let everything else revolve around God?
• Do we see God as a rock? (What does that mean?) Why or why not?
• Shouldn’t the stability of God versus the instability of idols, whether wooden or created by us today, be a factor that makes us confident in our faith?

Love
• What are some common mistakes that we make in our Christian walk? Why do we make these mistakes?
• What are some things that distract you most from God’s love?

Watch the clip "What if worship was like an NBA game" from BlueFishTV.com
• What do you think is the point of the clip?
• How would it look for people to tailgate before your worship service (especially drinking out of communion cups)?
• Given we serve a God who is much greater than any athlete, how would you compare our response to Him as opposed to our favorite athlete?
• How does the recognition that there is no one like our God, inspire and motivate you and your church to minister and serve in Christ’s name?

Study Resources for July 13, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (mail Kathy)

Let's jump in. As we study today, there are places in our nation and in our world that suffer from severe droughts. There are wildfires that have consumed property and have taken lives in this country. What they need is rain. At this time of year, people are beginning to harvest gardens. Without rain, however, there will be no garden. Our lesson this morning talks about rain... and snow. God makes the obvious connection that rain and snow are for the nurture and survival of life, and then takes it to another level.
• What does it mean that God's Word is like rain for the earth?

Watch the clip "Obi-Wan's Revelation" from the movie Return of the Jedi.
• Did Luke have a right to be angry with Obi-Wan for not telling him the whole truth? Why or why not?
• Do you think Obi-Wan lied to him? Why or why not?
• Why would he have held back this information?
• Is honesty always the best policy? Why or why not?
• Can you think of an example when it is okay to withhold the truth?
• Could the situation in "Star Wars" have played differently if Luke knew the truth from the start?
• Should we mean what we say, and say what we mean?

Commentators think that the chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah are addressing the exiles living in Babylon to return home. Cyrus had just issued an edict in 538 BC which gave the exiles permission to return home and rebuild Jerusalem. The Babylonians had allowed the Israelites a considerable amount of freedom to carry on their business and even to accumulate property. Very few of those who remained in Babylon remembered Jerusalem. They had jobs, families and property. The call to uproot and go to a land that had been trashed a generation before, really made no sense. Yet, here was a window of opportunity. They were free to return to their Promised Land. Would they do it?

Read Isaiah 55:1-13.
• What arguments was God making through Isaiah?
• How are these words valid for 21st century Christians?

Notice that God is calling not only the righteous, but also the "wicked." God urges them to return.
• What does this tell us about the character of God?

Notice the pile of imperative verbs in this test. Isaiah calls on the people to "come, buy, eat, listen carefully, delight yourselves, incline your ear, come to me, listen to see, to seek the Lord, and call upon him."
• What does the use of all of these verbs suggest about the need for human response in God's offer of redemption?

God seems to be pointing out that there is a purpose for rain and snow. It is for the nurture and thriving of life. The rain does not hit the ground and bounce right back to the clouds. It stays for a while, soaking into the ground, seeping into underground streams flowing into creeks, rivers, and oceans.
• What does it mean that God's Word is like rain for the earth?

In Hebrew, the words "deed" and "word" are the same term. God's words and deeds go together. When God speaks, things happen. Jesus' words had power. Jesus came with purpose. He did not come just to say nice words or just powerful words. He came, He spoke, and He acted.
• What does this say about our life of faith and the words we use?

Isaiah proclaimed a word of deliverance and restoration to Israel, but Israel had the responsibility of hearing and acting on it. God would not set Israel's people on a magic carpet and whisk them off to Jerusalem without their cooperation and consent. We see here that God's words and deeds are bound together—and our response is the next link in the chain.

Read Ecclesiastes 4:12.
• How have you seen that play out in your life?

Watch clip from the movie The Lion King.
• Since the original hearers of our text today were returning to a land ravaged similar to the “pride land” in the previous clip, do you think they expected things to turn out well?
• If the people are willing to leave Babylon, what will they experience?
• What is the promise to Isaiah’s hearers in verses 12-13?
• What kind of promise is being made to God’s people in general?
• Can you think of a time that you turned from one way of behaving or thinking that was not God's way and turned toward God's way for you?
• After that experience, did you experience joy and/or peace? Could you share that story?

Watch the clip "Time Machine" from the movie Pursuit of Happyness.
• How did Chris’ words help make his son’s situation more hopeful?
• Did you find this clip to show the actions of a loving father, or of a dishonest father? Why?
• How did this passage bring hope to the people who were facing a hopeless situation?
• Give some examples that would make it appear that our world is in a hopeless situation. How can we bring hope in those situations?
• Why is it so difficult to see the world how it "ought to be" rather than the way it actually is?
• Where do you need God's nourishing rain in your life?
• What word jumps out at you in this passage?

God means what God says. The Word engages the world through the language and the life of the prophets and the people of God again and again, then the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us.

Study Resources for July 6, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (mail Kathy)

See the session.

This week we are in Zechariah. We are only here for one week and then we will move onto another book. Let's dive in!
• If you were a prisoner, what is one thing you would miss from the "outside"?

Watch the clip "Check, Mate" from Journey Box Media
• If you were a prisoner of war, would you give up hope?
• How powerful was hope for these two gentlemen?
• Is there always a way out?
• What causes you to lose hope?
• Do you want to pass on hope to the future generations?

Inmates are locked up because they have been found guilty of a crime. But what happens when a society is "imprisoned?" That was the situation for the setting of today's scripture lesson. The people were not imprisoned by a foreign power, but by discouragement and a lack of vision for a future. So a prophet is sent by God to encourage the people.
• Who is the best leader you know?
• What characteristics make him/her a good leader?
• What are the most important characteristics you look for in a leader? Why?
• How important is it for a leader to have humility?
• What is the difference between a leader who is humble and one who is not?

Read Zechariah 9:9-13. The Gospel writers all quoted this passage.
• Do you remember what it was used to reference?
• How hard would it have been to be an exile returning to Jerusalem?
• What do you think it means that the king gets rid of the war horses after riding in on a colt?
• How far geographically does this king rule?
• What will happen as a result of the peace?
• What does it mean to be a "prisoner of hope?"
• What gave them hope?
• Does this also give us hope?
• What meaning do you think it has that Jesus appears to have chosen to follow the pattern of this text - to show how peace would come to God’s people?

Usually a victory calls for a party! Here we have a paradox. A victorious king enters the city with humility. There is no celebration of the Most Valuable, the regaling of the difficult times overcome, and there's no "trash talk" about the opponent. It is not what is expected!

When Bubba Watson won the Master's golf tournament for a second time, he took his family out to eat to celebrate this accomplishment. He took them to... the Waffle House! There were some people that were very upset that a champion would choose to go to the Waffle House. "Surely he deserved something more exciting and upscale!" Maybe this was a bit how the people felt watching Jesus ride a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. A victorious king should ride on a stallion or sit in a fancy chariot. But this idea came from Zechariah's prophecy.
• In verse 10, what happens to the weapons of war?

Zechariah had a limited view of the earth, but he declared that the king's peaceful rule would extend throughout the world.
• How did this prophecy give them hope?
• How does it give us hope?

He goes on to say that prisoners will be set free, released from "the waterless pit." It has been suggested that this could be in reference to the story of Joseph and his brothers.
• Who remembers that story?

Read Genesis 37:18-24.
• Why do you think Zechariah used this image when making this prophecy?

In verse 12, he calls the people of God "prisoners of hope" or "prisoners with hope."
• What do you think this means?
• How do you describe God's kind of hope?

It has been said that "hope" is not a matter of waiting for things outside us to get better. It is about getting better inside... it is about allowing ourselves to believe in the future we cannot see... about trusting in God.
• Is this a good definition of hope?

In verse 9, we have a triumphant, but humble king who will bring a reign of peace.
• How is God pictured in verse 13?
• How does that jive with verse 9?
• In Isaiah 9:6, how is Jesus described?
• What does Jesus say in Matthew 26:51-52 and Matthew 10:34-37?
• What do you hear in these verses?
• Is it a paradox? Is it a fuller picture of Jesus? Explain.
• What does this passage tell us about God?
• Are our lives a reflection of what we see Jesus doing here?

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt, He provides us with a code to live by; a code of peace rather than war, of restoration rather than destruction, of hope rather than the despair of the pit.

Zechariah's promise is in the plural here. It is for those who are imprisoned and for those who long for the prisoners' release. It is a promise of restoration and of wholeness. As children of God, we need to bind our hearts to the promise of such new life, and live for the new life in Him. In this life long faith journey with Christ, we learn that we are in the process of a sacred journey, that is not complete this side of heaven. We do not wait in hopeful expectation for resolution to our problems. Our hope is in faith... believing in a future we cannot see, trusting a God we cannot always understand, and believing in a hope and a promise of life everlasting.
• What brings you hope?
• Is it a memory of when you felt God close to you?
• Is it a song of praise or proclamation to God?

Watch the clip "My Little Songbird" from the movie Alone Yet Not Alone
• Can you think of a terrible time in your life that turned out positively? What kept you going?
• Can you relate to the hope that the people in Zechariah’s day must have needed?
• Do you remember the songs of your childhood? Do they bring you hope, discouragement, or neither?

Viktor Frankl was a prisoner of war during WWII. He spent time in the Nazi death camps including Auschwitz. Throughout his experience there, he was uniquely able to observe how death camps affected the guards and the prisoners, including himself. He came to the conclusion that if a person could maintain hope, they could live in any circumstance. If they could trust that their suffering had meaning and if they could believe that they were needed after this time of suffering, they could maintain enough hope to survive even a death camp. "A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the 'why' for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any 'how.'"
• What do you have to live for?

Study Resources for June 29, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (mail Kathy)

See the session.

We are in Jeremiah for one more week and then we will move on.
• What is your favorite television commercial? Why?
• What is the purpose behind a commercial?
• How does a commercial influence you to buy a product?
• Is the main goal to make you unhappy with what you already have?
• Has there ever been a product you couldn’t live without? Why or why not?
• How does advertising affect you? How do you know?
• What is the most unbelievable commercial you have ever heard/watched?

Watch this 1949 commercial from Camel cigarettes
• Well, what did you think of that?
• How would that commercial play today?
• Would we believe it? Why?
• Is Christianity selling you something? Why or why not?
• What untrue results do some preachers claim will result from your faith?
• Can you think of a good piece of advice that you have trouble following?
• As many churches, church organizations, denominations and independent ministries as there are, how can we be sure we are in the right "place"?
• How can we know for sure we are listening to "the word of God"?

Jeremiah was a prophet of God, called to be God's spokesman as a young person. He preached with conviction whatever God told him to preach. He preached words of warning for many years, but he was ignored. But, Jeremiah continued to preach. When the Babylonians threatened the region, Jeremiah saw that not only had God's judgment arrived, it was going to last a long time.
• Has God ever spoken to you? How did you know?
• How do you know when God is speaking to you?
• Has God ever asked you to do something you thought was odd?

Read Jeremiah 25:3-11. God speaks through Jeremiah to teach Israel a lesson.
• What does he ask Jeremiah to do?

Read Jeremiah 28:1-17. This passage describes a "prophetic showdown" between the prophets Jeremiah and Hananiah. At stake was nothing less than the future of Judah. The question is: should they revolt against the Babylonians as Hananiah proposes, or submit to their yoke, as Jeremiah urges?
• How do you know what to believe?

It seems that two prophets who are equally qualified wanted the king's ear. But Hananiah's message was in direct opposition to Jeremiah's message.
• What are the two conflicting messages?

So the question is, which prophet is right?
• Who has the true word from God?
• Is Jeremiah calling Hananiah a false prophet? Why or why not?
• Why did Jeremiah choose not to argue with Hananiah about his prophecy?
• What was Hananiah selling to the people?
• What problem did Jeremiah have with his message?
• Why would someone tell people what they wanted to hear—rather than tell them the truth? Share an example of this.
• Would you rather someone tell you what you want to hear—or be completely honest with you? Why?
• Can you give a personal example of someone who told you something you did not want to hear?
• Why would a prophet only tell people things they wanted to hear?
• Is it smart to trust in a "feel-good" prophecy?

Jeremiah knows all too well that the God who has called him to prophesy, despite his own protests, is a sovereign God. The God of the covenant is faithful, but this covenantal faithfulness is not an insurance policy that "kicks in" whenever we think we need deliverance.
• So, how do we discern God's will today?
• Can God's will look different today than from the way it looked yesterday?
• How do you discern between true prophets and false prophets?

Discerning truth is not an easy matter, especially since we are so prone to be influenced by what we already want or what we think will serve our interests. This passage invites us to become bold instruments of "radical truth-telling" and "radical hope," both of which are at the heart of God's radical dream for all of humanity.

Watch the clip "Karen Kingsbury: Finding Love" from The American Bible Challenge
• How often do we simply say that we believe something—but do not know why?
• Why is that such a bad way to live?
• What can we miss out on?
• How can we be more like Jeremiah and stand for God even when it is unpleasant in the short term?
• From your experience, what are the positive and negative results of people living their lives faithful to God?
• What is the point of living a faithful life?
• How should we respond when facing a world that tells us we do not have enough?
• How should we respond when religious people promise us "easy wealth" or happiness from following God?
• How does destruction come when we do not live faithful lives?
• How have you experienced fulfillment in your journey with God?

Like the people of Jeremiah's time, we too are often faced with the question, how do we choose between conflicting truth claims? For believers this question takes on a special urgency as we struggle to discern the will of God in our own lives, as well as our church, our nation, and our world. Jeremiah helps us to see that the quick and easy answer, the popular position, the position held by the charming prophet, is not necessarily the right one.

The historical moment in which these events take place can be described as a time of crisis in which God's people are called to discern the truth and act accordingly. Discerning truth today is as much of a mystery, at times, as it was in Jeremiah's day. It isn't always easy, especially since we are so prone to be influenced by what we already want or what we think will serve our interests. Many times we find ourselves standing in a place between "what is" and what "could" and "should be." This is not a fun place. We are called as children of God into relationship with Him and it is in that relationship that we find the truth and the grace that we need to stand on. It is in this place that we find His will and our purpose.

Study Resources for June 22, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We are in Jeremiah for a few weeks.

Watch theofficial Disney trailerfor the movie Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
• Have you ever had a really bad day? Explain.
• How do you usually handle it when your day does not work out the way you planned it?
• How did Alexander help his family deal with the bad days they were having?
• How did his experience with bad days change his perspective?
• Do you seem to have more bad days than good days? Explain.
• How is your relationship with God affected when you seem to experience more than your share of bad days?
• What are your prayers like during those bad days?

Jeremiah has the misfortune of living in a time of great social upheaval. His job is unpleasant at best. Jeremiah is expressing his grief and anger at having to do the job that he feels he has been called to do.

While Jeremiah preached in and about Jerusalem during the late 7th and early 6th centuries, the written collection of his prophecies would have first been read by people living in exile, far from Jerusalem. For Israel-in-exile, whether held captive in Babylon or having escaped to Egypt, the prophet's words would be a reminder that the words of God he had proclaimed—had been fulfilled. Judgment had come, but the prospect of hope remained. If they would turn back to following God, they might also sing praises once again.

Jeremiah was an unpopular guy, but his unpopularity was not due to his faults.
• Why do you think he was so unpopular?

We can only imagine how distorted the religious landscape was. The basic message of faith that Moses gave the people is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might."
• What were some things that Israel was doing that went against this commandment?

Then, God, through Jeremiah, threatens destruction of life, society and security. The problem is, Jeremiah has made such prophecies before—and nothing bad had happened.

ReadJeremiah 20:7-13
• What is going on within Jeremiah's soul?

We see that Jeremiah is on a spiritual roller coaster with some dramatic twists and turns. It seems that Jeremiah feels powerless before God's power and His calling. He has become an object of contempt and ridicule.
• Do you think that if God calls you to do something, could you anticipate God's presence to always be with you, God's power demonstrated, and God granting you success?

When Jeremiah decided to stop speaking, the word of God burns inside of him, and he has no peace either. To make matters worse, God seems absent.
• Have you ever felt that way?
• What does the story of Jeremiah teach us?
• Was Jeremiah a successful prophet?
• Why would God deliver this kind of message, but not act quickly to fulfill the threats?

God's love and patience can interfere with a preacher's popularity! If God had acted in judgment quickly, Jeremiah might have been given a wide berth and deep respect. Instead, God has Jeremiah preach what seems to be a foolish message accompanied by a melodramatic smashing of pots and a threatening ultimatum to the powers that be. Rather than respect and awe, Jeremiah is treated with contempt and violence.
• Have you ever cried out to God, complaining like Jeremiah does?
• How hard would it be to speak words “from God” that are unpopular?
• What would motivate you to speak with “a fire in your bones” even though you knew it would probably lead to trouble?
• Are you able to trust God even when it seems like God is nowhere to be found?
• How did Jeremiah start praising God in his time of complaining? Does that seem realistic?
• Are you able to be honest enough to complain and praise, almost in the same sentence?

Jeremiah's journey here could be seen as a journey of courage in the midst of conflict. "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." — Ambrose Redmoon
• What do think of this idea of courage?
• Have you ever witnessed this kind of courage?

Watch the CNN report,"Christian Woman Sentenced To Die In Sudan"
• If you were this lady, would you simply deny your faith to be released to see your family?
• Can you imagine the complaining that Christians do to God when they are facing death?
• Can you imagine the “fire in their bones” that keeps them going?
• What can we do to develop such "fire" in our faith?

Watch the clip "I Promised" from the movie Alone Yet Not Alone
• How would you feel if you were one of those young ladies captured and taken away from their family?
• Does love for your family motivate you to do courageous things?
• What is the scariest thing you can imagine facing as a follower of God?

The lament that Jeremiah expresses in this passage could be seen as an expression of faith. Lament and even anger at God, is not the opposite of faith. The prophet struggles with the realities of the life of faith. It seems that there is room for the struggle. Jeremiah shows us that the life of faith is not always serene. It is not simply quiet submission to God's will. It can be a life of struggle with God sometimes.
• Could this be where we get reassurance that God's grace is "all sufficient?"

Paul Tillich wrote that "grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness, when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life, when despair destroys all joy and courage."

Jeremiah's journey takes him to the edge of despair. He experiences the silence of God and the ridicule of his fellow Jews, even to the point of feeling betrayed by his own calling; but when he expresses his pain, he does it through the language of faith. His response to pain reminds us that there is room for "lament" in faith, and expressions of pain in our worship, because the grace of God is sufficient.

Study Resources for June 15, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We are in the Old Testament now. It is a very familiar story.
• Do you feel like God created you to be something?
• Should we show appreciation to God for our creation?
• How can we show appreciation to God for creating us in our 21st century world?

Watch the clip"Faith Moment"from Max Lucado, The American Bible Challenge
• Does the creation narrative remind you that we all have a “good” purpose?
• How can we listen to God’s Spirit more closely to find that purpose?

This week we begin a series on "words from God." This lesson is on God's first words, at least the first words we have from God as recorded in Genesis. In Genesis 1, God speaks Creation into being. In Genesis 2, God is much more "hands-on," saying very little, planting the garden, molding Adam and the animals from the mud, etc. In both chapters, God made it all happen.

ReadGenesis 1:1-13. The Bible is neither a history book or a scientific text. It is a document of faith and love, and it is full of stories that illustrate that faith and love.
• What was earth like in Genesis 1:1?

God's Spirit/wind/breath is present. In Hebrew this word is "ru'ah."
• What is the first thing God speaks into creation?
• Why light rather than the sun?
• When does the sun come on the scene? After the plants?

This makes no sense scientifically, but theologically, "by introducing plants before the sun the author attributes life's existence to God alone and moves the creation of celestial bodies further down the list as a subtle way of pointing out that in Israel's belief system, they were not gods." Israel's God is different.
• What are some characteristics that we might think all "gods" have in common?
• How is Israel's God different?

When God created the heavenly bodies, they were objects created for God's purpose. They were not divine. The Babylonians named them and worshipped them. ReadEphesians 1:9-10.
• What was the ultimate goal of Creation?

We have faith in this God that we cannot see, who creates things from nothing. ReadRomans 4:16-17.
• What does it mean to be created in God's image?

The word "image" is from the word "tselem," which carries the physical connotation of image, copy, or statue. The word "likeness" comes from the word "demut," which has a specific meaning; the word "likeness" qualifies the first word and shows that while we are made in God's image, we are not an exact copy.
• Does the text suggest that our physical appearance looks like God?

The Old Testament writers refer to God as "Spirit," but also frequently used anthropomorphic terminology to describe God's appearance.
• Can you think of any examples?

God was said to have delivered Israel with a "mighty outstretched arm" (Deut. 4:35). God would not allow Moses to see His face, only His back inExodus 33:23.

Hebrew thought was more holistic than ours. To be in God's image was not only to have a spirit, but also to be like God in some greater sense. One implication of this truth is that gender, race, cultural background, and social status are all meaningless in God's eyes. We all share equally in the divine image, and all are worthy of respect, honor and equal treatment. Paul affirmed this same truth for the Christian church inGal. 3:28. A second implication has to do with the decisions we make concerning our physical bodies.
• How well do we take care of our bodies?
• Do we bring glory to God with our bodies?
• When Paul was emphasizing the proper use of our bodies as the "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:19-20), what was he talking about and how can we apply that truth today?
• If we believe that we are made in the image of God, how do our lives reflect that concept?
• In what ways are we most like God?

To be made in the image of God is to be physical, spiritual, and relational. It is to be rational in our thinking, and responsible in our decision-making. To maximize God's image is to use all these capabilities for good, reflecting that image most clearly.

In Genesis 1, God speaks and commands creation into being. Each act or element of creation is generated by God's word. God speaks and actions occur, stuff happens. God's word is dynamic, because it expresses God's will. The creation is not accidental or random. It is intentional. We were created intentionally. Creation assumes significance not for just that it happened, but for order, for balance, for harmony between darkness and light and for unity within creation. The opening passage in Genesis is a theological affirmation that all of life, all aspects of order, and all possibilities within creation are dependent upon the creative act of God. It shows us the bond between Creator and creation. "In the beginning, God..."


Study Resources for June 8, 2014


The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

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We are finished with 1 Peter for now and moving on to 1 Corinthians. Thanks for your participation on Sunday! We are going to talk about working together as a team.

• What team sports have you played?
• What positions did you like to play?
• Do you ever find the people at your work annoying? What about at your local church?
• Do you ever just want to be left alone?
• If so, how long is "too long" to be separate from others to still be productive in your family, school, or work?

Watch the clip"Headache Commercial"
• What do you do when you want to be alone?
• Is it healthy or does it have bad side effects?
• Are you ever annoyed by the person who seems to have it all together? Why?

As members of our church, we are members of a "team." We have some things in common when it comes to basic beliefs about Jesus. Many of us have common histories as long-term members of this church. All of us pray. We all give God praise and bring our concerns to Him. However, as much as there is that unifies us, we are each unique in our walk with God.

This passage boldly declares that God remains present and active—in and through communities of faith. Christian community, worship, and ministry must manifest unified diversity. Diverse gifts and insights that proclaim Jesus and sustain His body are valuable. Paul sought to heal divisions and reestablish unity in the early church. His approach was radical in that he reminded the Corinthians that unity must spring from their common identity as people in Christ.

Read1 Corinthians 12:4-13
• Do you feel gifted? Do you think God has not blessed you with significant spiritual gifts?
• How do you understand the term “spiritual gifts?”
• Do you think they are important? Why?
• What are some other spiritual gifts that the New Testament writers mention, but are not included in our text today?
• What gifts do we perceive as more important today? Why?
• What do you think are your spiritual gifts? How can you tell?
• Do you think it is significant that the list starts with speaking with knowledge and wisdom and concludes with the gift of tongues?

When we talk about spiritual gifts, we are talking about how the Holy Spirit of God shines through us. It is not the same for each person.
• How is giftedness different from skills or talents?
• Can you share a recent experience of a time when you realized the Holy Spirit was shining through you or a fellow Christian?

Paul does not define how wisdom and knowledge differ.
• How would you make that distinction?

It takes faith to trust in Christ for salvation but in this context, as a specially offered spiritual gift, it means something different.
• What does faith mean in this context?

The gift of healing goes beyond medical training.
• Does anyone have a story you can share about the spiritual gift of healing?

A "miracle" is uncommon by definition, so it seems this would be a rare gift. The word is translated form the Greek word "dunameis" (like dynamite), so could also be translated "mighty works."
• Do you know anyone who has a gift of miracles or mighty works?

Prophecy is "the ability to declare the word of God for a given situation—not just to predict the future" as our common use of this word infers.
• When have you experienced God's message to you at just the right time?

There is no single defining list of spiritual gifts in the Bible. We have several lists:Romans 12,I Corinthians 12,Ephesians 4, and some misc. passages. These passages list about 28 different gifts and they do not share the same gifts.
• Why do you think God doesn't just give us the all-inclusive list?

Scripture tells us that these gifts are given to make us grow more into the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:15). They are to be seen as equally needed to strengthen the church (Romans 12:3-8). In1 Corinthians 12:7, they are to be used for the common good. God has given us these gifts so that we can build one another up.
• What are some benefits of "building up?"
• How can we discover our spiritual gifts? Is it an easy process?
• Why is it easier to see the gifts in others?

Watch the clip"General Braddock Insults Chiefs" from the movie Alone Yet Not Alone
• Why did the General reject the help from the “savages?”
• What were the costs of this mistake?
• Do we make similar mistakes by overlooking certain people and their gifts in our local churches?
• Do we really believe that we all bring something important to the Christian table?
• What gifts are overlooked in our church and in the overall Body of Christ?

Like the Corinthians, we all have gifts to offer for the common good and the praise of God. How we use them, however, determines their effectiveness. The Spirit gave us His gifts. May we use them wisely.

Study Resources for June 1, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Peter concludes his letter to the churches and he advises them to remain faithful in the face of persecution, to abstain from evil, and to act with integrity. Now he warns them to be on their guard against the power of evil.
• How would you describe "evil?"
• Do you think that there is an evil presence in our world? Explain.


Watch the clip"Increasingly Worried Man Hasn't Yet Come Across Any Guacamole In Burrito" from TheOnion.com
• What was humorous about this video?
• Tell of a time when you saw someone worried about something that seemed unimportant.
• Have you ever worried about something meaningless? Tell us about it.
• Why do we sometimes worry about insignificant things?
• How do you typically respond when you are worried about something?
• Do you think it is possible to not worry? Why or why not?
• What are the things you tend to worry about the most?

As with so much of the New Testament, the comfort that Peter pronounces is both comfort for the present and comfort the future.
• Can you think of some times when Jesus gave comfort for the present and for the future?

In the face of danger, Peter encourages the listeners to cling to the hope of God's promised good. They are to do this in three ways:
1. Act humbly, acknowledging the power and providence of God.
2. Act watchfully, disciplined enough not to doze off in the face of impending danger.
3. Act faithfully, resisting the evil one and those who follow in his entourage.

Read1 Peter 5:6-11
• When you think of the word "humble," what do you think of?
• If you were to hear a person described as being "humble," what would you assume that meant?
• What does "humbling yourselves" have to do with God taking care of your worry?
• How do you practically "cast your cares upon God?" How does God take care of them?
• Is there a comfort in knowing that other people are going through similar trials and difficulties?
• How does suffering help make you strong, firm, and steadfast?
• How important is it for you to have control over your life?
• How do you feel about giving up that control to God?
• How is "worry" really about staying in control of a situation?
• How would your life change if you were able to completely give up worry?
• What do you think about submission?
• What do you think Peter meant when he talked about "humbling ourselves before God?" How do you do that?

Scripture tells us that if we humble ourselves, God will exalt us.
• Can you think of a Bible story that would illustrate this?

How do you respond to the statement: "It is our worries we are to turn over to God - the things we can do nothing about - not our responsibilities."

One writer says, "we cannot expect God to make our apologies or pay our bills or improve our physical fitness, but we can look positively to God for hope
and help as we do these things, and need not waste energy worrying about them in the meantime."
• How can we really do this?

Imagine a lion is loose in your neighborhood.
• What would you do to protect yourself and your family?
• How does this relate to what Peter is saying about this "evil lion" on the loose?
• How does the strategy of humility aid us in resisting the devil?
• How does the strategy of casting our cares on God aid us in resisting the devil?

It is true that we often initiate our own crises through our choices based on our sinful nature. And, sometimes, bad things that cause us suffering are no fault
of our own - they just happen. However, Peter wants us to know that there is another cause for our suffering. The devil intends to harm us, to "devour"
God's children.
• How does that make you feel?
• What is the role of the devil in 1 Peter 5:8-9?

One commentator says, "Christians make two common mistakes in their thinking about the devil. One error is in taking demonic power too seriously... The other is in not taking evil seriously enough."
• Which way do you lean?
• What is the "perfect balance" between these two viewpoints?

Many of us remember the late comedian Flip Wilson. He was known for portraying a character named Geraldine Jones, who was famous for excusing her bad behavior by saying, "the devil made me do it." The notion that the "devil made me do it" may go back to Genesis 3.
• Does the devil make us do anything?
• Are there temptations we face as individuals and as a society imposed by an external source, or do they come from our own internal desires?
• Where does Peter put the ultimate responsibility for resisting temptations?

The roaring lion can take on many shapes and dimensions in our society.
• What shape does the lion take in our community: racism, unfair wages, inadequate housing, prejudice, greed, etc.?
• What can we do to resist this evil?
• What can our church do?
• How does evil distract us from God's will?

Watch the clip"Ice Cream Truck"from the movie Despicable Me 2
• Do you ever feel like a minion always falling for the latest trick of evil?
• What can we do to stop being sucked in?
• Can we learn from the mistakes and successes of others? Is that the point of 1 Peter 5:9-11?

Many of the phrases in this book are architectural in nature. To make you "perfect/complete" means in a complete joint - as the timbers of a building. "Establish" means make you firm in every part, adapt you strongly to one another, so that you may be mutual supportive. "Strengthen" means to crimp and bind every part, so there shall be no danger of warping, splitting or falling. "Settle" means to cause to rest evenly and firmly upon the best and surest foundation that we may grow together to a holy temple in the Lord.
• Why do we live in houses?
• How does this "house that is built by God" relate to the passage about the devil?

The primary comfort that the epistle provides for those who suffer is the comfort of God's presence, grace and eventual triumph. There is, however, also a secondary comfort. The "koinonia" (communion, community) that these believers share with Christ, is echoed in the koinonia they share with their fellow Christians, who also suffer. Peter calls upon the faithful to resist in part by reminding them that they are part of a resistance movement that extends far beyond their own communities and reaches all the world. The promise of God's triumph over the forces of evil moves from a description to a doxology: "to him be the power forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:11)

Study Resources for May 25, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

How would you complete this statement: A good thing someone did for me lately was...

Watch the clip"Plutonium Truck"from the movie The Amazing Spiderman
• Even in the comics, being a superhero seems really tough, right?
• Do Spiderman’s super powers make it easier to serve others?
• Are they a blessing, curse, or neither?
• If Spiderman is good then why does he suffer so much?

Peter is writing to a suffering Church. They are scattered in what we now call northern Turkey. We don't know if the persecution they are experiencing is from society or if it is sanctioned by the government. Either way, there is enough pain that Peter addresses it throughout his letter.

Read1 Peter 3:13-22. Peter begins by asking a question that should be answered with something like, "be nice to others and they'll be nice to you." Sometimes that works. But it was not working for these Christians. They were being punished for doing good. At a first glance, this text seems to be calling us to an unrealistic standard. "Do not be afraid of those who want to harm you." Really? "Do not be upset." Are you kidding me?
• Intellectually, we can understand this standard, but when push comes to shove, is this really livable?
• How does this text allow us to grow closer to living a life like Jesus, when it so easily can be perceived as setting an unreachable standard that only Jesus met?
• Why would God allow a good group of people to be persecuted?
• Does that happen today? Has it ever happened to you?

Peter insists that suffering leads to blessing. It puts a different spin on the parting wish that I have heard a lot in recent years. "Have a blessed day." If blessing comes through suffering, we may not be so eager to be blessed.
• Are we willing to be blessed by being persecuted?

Maybe we need to pay more attention to what we are wishing for people when we "bless" them!Matthew 5:10says that the persecuted were blessed. We would probably agree with the statement that we are blessed to live in a country where we are free to worship without fear of persecution.
• How does that compare to the statement, "Would that we were persecuted for our faith so we might be more like Christ and receive the kingdom of heaven"?

ReadJames 1:2-4. Difficult times can be times that try and strengthen our faith.
• Can you give an example of this?
• What should our attitude be when we are defending our beliefs or behavior? (1 Peter 3:16)
• Have you witnessed poor examples of responses by Christians?

In 1 Peter 3:18, Peter says that the suffering Christ experienced was for a reason.
• What was that reason?

Peter's concern throughout this letter is that our attitude and lifestyle should be such that whether life is peaceful or turbulent, our actions will bring people to God.
• How can we be reflect God's essence in the hard times?

The next part of this passage is a source of debate in the church. Many churches repeat the Apostle's Creed every Sunday.

Watch the clip"Apostle’s Creed"
• What do you make of 1 Peter 3:19-22?
• Do those words sound reassuring or scary to you? Do they make sense?
• How does it relate to suffering and our belief in God?

The phrase "he descended into hell", can be prickly to some people.
• Where did Jesus go and when did he go there? Why did he go there?

Frederick Buechner says, "He descended into hell," is the way the Apostle's Creed puts it. It has almost a blasphemous thud to it, sandwiched there between the muffled drums of "was crucified, dead, and buried" and the trumpet blast of "the third day he rose again from the dead." Christ of all people, in hell of all places! It strains the imagination to picture it, the Light of the World making his way through the terrible dark to save whatever ones he can. Yet in view of what he'd seen of the world during his last few days in the thick of it, maybe the transition wasn't as hard as you might think. The fancifulness of the picture gives way to what seems, the more you turn it over in your mind, the inevitability of it. Of course that is where he would have gone. Of course that is what he would have done. Christ is always descending and redescending into hell. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden" is spoken to all, whatever they've done or left undone, whichever side of the grave their hell happens to be on."
• How does that hit ya?

At this time the American Church is free from the type of persecution that the audience here was experiencing. We might argue whether that is a good thing for the Church or not. Persecution is a blessing no one wants. But all of us probably do face the fear of rejection if we choose to give a more visible witness. We don't want to be arrogant or obnoxious. We want to be sincere and do good works with integrity. If we follow Peter's teaching, we do so that we can show others God's love and grace. As we act, our attitude should be, "I do this because, were Jesus on earth today, He would do this."

In the text we read about those who had disobeyed God. The author is referring to those in Noah's day who angered God to the point of flooding the earth. The call to obey has existed for many, many years; it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, who did not obey God. Today, however, the word "obey" gets a bad rap! It can be seen as oppressive and insensitive.

The word obey in Hebrew means "to listen closely, to listen acutely." So, for example, when God told Adam and Eve to obey, God was not saying "do what I tell you or else." Instead God was saying, "listen closely to Me." The Greek word for "obedience" carries the same meaning: to listen closely. Jesus listened closely to God, which led Him to serve and to love humanity in radical and selfless ways.

The writer is not trying to threaten, but to awaken in us the desire to listen closely to God, to listen to God in a way that reveals our confidence in God. Our life story will be one of close listening, a story of trust and confidence in God, revealed most clearly in our actions toward others. Living like Jesus.

Study Resources for May 18, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Four Sundays after Easter, and the last bloom from the lily has dropped off. "Alleluia" has been tucked away for next year, and we are close to Pentecost and Ordinary Time. What better day to call for a refresher course about the impact of Easter Sunday? Though every Sunday is supposed to be a little Easter, we all know that the march through Ordinary Time can feel long and drawn out. All the Easter gladness we can come up with, must carry us across that long trek and sustain us, fully convicted and remembering the power of the resurrection.

Watch the clip"I'm Spartacus"from the movie Spartacus
• Why did those men claim to be Spartacus?
• Why was Spartacus so touched by their actions?
• Has anyone ever had your back like this? Explain.
• Have you ever felt that you were out there facing the world alone? Share your story.
• What was it like to feel so alone?
• How is this clip like the church is supposed to be?
• How can the church help others to know they don’t face the world by themselves?

In our passage today, Peter uses several metaphors to describe our life in Christ. He uses biological, architectural, and ecclesiastical images. Read1 Peter 2:1-10.
• Which one speaks to you?
• What are the images that Peter uses?
• How do you describe your life in Christ?
• When you think of all the times the Biblical writers mentioned stones or rocks, what or who do you think of most?
• Do you think the original hearers would have been offended by being called babies and told to put away the evil things that damage relationships?
• Does it help to remember that these were new Christians?
• What would have been pure spiritual milk for the early Christians? What about for us today?
• What does “living stone” sound like to you?
• What does Peter’s name mean? Was he a living and changing stone build on the true cornerstone?
• So what is a cornerstone?
• Are you uncomfortable thinking of yourself as a priest?
• Do you believe that as followers of Christ, we are supposed to speak for and to God?

Baptist love this text. It is the foundation for our belief in the "priesthood of all believers." It has been described like this: "Priests are to represent fellow humans before God and to represent God to their fellow humans. God has chosen all believers as priests, not just ordained clergy."
• How do you feel about this statement?
• How can we embrace the idea of priesthood of all believers?
• How is this reflected in our church?

Peter begins by saying to get rid of all wickedness, especially the sins that hurt the community. The words Peter uses are words that describe undressing, taking off filthy clothing. Becoming a Christian should cause a change in attitude and behavior. A major part of Peter's letter has to do with influencing others to follow Jesus.
• What does Peter mean in saying we are to live as priests who offer "spiritual sacrifices" to God? (Verse 5)
• Who has influenced you in your walk?
• What did they do that made such a difference?
• Who have you influenced?
• What happens to our relationships when we live as the passage describes?
• What does it mean to be the people of God?

Watch the clip"I Am Home"from the movie Freedom Writers
• What had this class become to this young man?
• Why did he need those relationships?
• What would it feel like to be a part of a group like this?
• Have you ever truly been a part of a community? What was it like?
• What is it like to be part of the “people of God”?
• How would it change you life to know that you were part of a group that was always there for you?
• How does this week’s passage help to get us to that point?
• What can you do to help those around you understand that they do not face the world alone?

Watch the clip"Let Go"from Journey Box Media
• When we hold onto the acts of evil done by others, are we missing something?
• When we hold onto our lives for only our benefit, are we failing to be living stones?
• When we keep the love of God to ourselves, are we failing to be priests to all nations?
• How can we overcome the struggles of life and still be genuine “rocking priests” for God?

God's own people live in the real world. The real world is in real peril. Included in our identity as Christians is the call to proclaim something of what we know about God to the world. This is no small calling. God's people are empowered through Christ. No stereotype can define us because we have been claimed by God. Peter celebrates the saving mercy of God and gives his audience their identity as God's people.

Study Resources for May 11, 2014

The teacher for this session is John Hamlett. (email John)

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Following our focus on holiness from last week, in this week’s passage Peter is writing to Jewish and Gentile Christians who are living in a society that was hostile to the life that their Christian faith called them to live. In this passage, he begins by addressing them as aliens and exiles—as people who do not belong. He goes on to encourage them to conduct themselves honorably no matter how difficult the suffering becomes and that they are to submit to every human institution—including the emperor and governors who may punish them.

The truth was that no matter the path they chose—to follow the laws and customs of this society, which were not in line with their way of living; or to stand up for what they believed—they would be suffering. Peter is writing this epistle to encourage them in their suffering by appealing to Christ's suffering. He tells them that when they suffer, they must remember that Christ also suffered—and they can take courage from that, trusting that their own suffering would not be in vain.

The passages in Chapter2:18-25and Chapter3:1-6, have been identified as the “Household Codes,” and are similar to other passages:Eph. 5:22-6:9 andCol 3:18-4:1. These Household Codes are directed to various members of the community and encourage them to endure the suffering of unjust treatment by others. It is important that we understand the context of these passages and how they might be applied to life today.

We do face our own kinds of suffering and ridicule. It may come in the form of a co-worker who is intent of making you look ridiculous in front of the boss or a boss who takes all of her frustrations out on you. Maybe it is a subtle racism that you face in your school setting or maybe you are bullied because you are an easy target. Many of us have found ourselves at the wrong end of some kind of ridicule or mistreatment that we could not easily escape—and because of that we faced a choice in how we would respond. Peter calls us to respond as Jesus did—with grace and without shame.

Read1 Peter 2:11-25
• What are your first impressions of our scripture passage?

It’s often said that “actions speak louder than words,” and St. Francis is famously quoted, “Preach the Gospel always; use words when necessary.”
• Do you agree that our actions are more important than words when we share our faith?
• Are actions enough by themselves?
• According to Peter (v. 12, 15), for what reason should we strive to live a godly life?
• Why do some people—particularly Americans—have problems with verses 13-14?
• Is it possible to live in submission to human authority, even when we don’t agree with that authority at times? How?
• Most of us value freedom of expression, but can we, as people of faith, always speak completely freely? Should we?
• How does verse 16 relate to this?
• Think of the non-violent protests during the Civil Rights era—how can a respectful response to violence speak even louder than the violence itself?
• Likewise, how could our inaction or silence in unjust situations speak even more loudly than either words or actions?
• What is Peter saying in verse 20?
• Does all our suffering relate to Jesus’ suffering?
• How could you use this passage – by itself, without its context or the rest of scripture—to justify things like slavery or abusive relationships?

Look through the whole passage again.
• How can you tell that Peter is speaking about Christian conduct rather than about the unjust systems themselves?
• Do you think Peter would make a distinction between how we react when we are mistreated, and how we respond when others are mistreated? Explain.

Both Peter and Paul spoke about powers and systems that are higher than individual human beings—spiritual sources of evil in the world. Sometimes we must remember that our battle is against them, and not against people.
• How does this passage speak to that reality?

The following is a brief clip from the movie 12 Years a Slave where the main character was responding to being placed into slavery after having been a free man.

Watch the clip"I want to live"from the movie 12 Years a Slave
• How do you think you would respond to being forced into slavery?
• What should be our model when suffering comes our way due to our beliefs?
• How can our suffering be redemptive?
• Are we being agents of redemption when we care for people without food and medicine whether stateside or overseas?
• What can we give up/suffer through to help others in God’s Kingdom?
• What types of suffering have you experienced because of your faith in Jesus Christ?
• Do you face situations currently that seem to be an attack on your faith?
• How do you respond at work, home, church, out in public when you believe you are being treated unjustly or unfairly?
• How do you respond when accused of an offense you know that you know you did not commit?
• Have you ever had to deal with some form of abuse? How did you respond?

Study Resources for May 4, 2014

The teacher for this session was John Hamlett. (email John)


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“Be Holy and Full of Love”

Read1 Peter 1:13-23

This week, we continue our look at 1 Peter with chapter 1 verses 13-23. You remember from last week that this letter was written to Christians who are facing persecution as they continue to learn how to live a life motivated by Christ's life, death, and resurrection in a culture that does not agree with such a way of life.

And this is where Peter begins. He appeals to the Old Testament's idea of being holy - which is to be set apart - to be different and to look different and to act different. When Moses was on Mount Sinai, God called the Israelites to be a holy nation - to look different than all the other nations around them - the idea was that people who belong to God live differently than others - not because they are superior or more righteous, but because they have learned that there is a different way that leads to a more abundant and full life.
• What is holiness?
• Why do you think we are called to be holy?
• What makes it difficult for us to be holy?

1 Peter 1:13
(NRSV) Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.
(The Message) So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives.
• Why does Peter urge us to prepare our minds and set our hope on the grace that Jesus will bring?

Peter thinks salvation is not yet complete – in verse 13 he speaks of a grace that hasn’t yet been revealed.
• Why is it important for us to remember that there is still more grace to be given and received?

1 Peter 1:14
(NRSV) Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance.
(The Message) Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.
• How can we be like an obedient child?

1 Peter 1:15-16
(NRSV) Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (Which references: Lev 19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.)
(The Message) God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”

The Old Testament idea of being “holy” is to be set apart to be different, for a different purpose.
• How does this meaning apply to what Peter is instructing here about putting away old practices (verses 14-16)?
• How does God’s holiness make us holy?

Additional passages related to holiness:

Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of Godwhat is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NRSV)
In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work.
• How do these passages convey the message of God’s call to holiness?

1 Peter 1:17
(NRSV) If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.
(The Message) You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.
• We often call out to God for help in times of trouble but sometimes relax when things are going well. What does it mean live in reverent fear?
• What does it mean to have a “deep consciousness of God?”

1 Peter 1:18
(NRSV) You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold.
(The Message) It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in.

1 Peter 1:19
(NRSV) but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.
(The Message) He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb.

1 Peter 1:20
(NRSV) He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.
(The Message) And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you.

1 Peter 1:21
(NRSV) Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
(The Message) It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

• What does Peter reveal about Jesus and God the Father in verses 19-21?

Though simple truths, they are profound.
• Why do these facts matter to people who were born practicing other religions?

Holiness means to be dedicated or consecrated to God, set apart, separate from evil, to belong to God, and to demonstrate morally pure behavior: "I will be your God, and you will be my people," says Yahweh (Lev. 26:12; Heb. 8:10). Thus, prior to any consideration of morality, biblical holiness describes a unique relationship that God has established and desires with his people. This relationship has moral ramifications, but it precedes moral behavior. Before we are ever called to be good, we are called to be holy. Unless we rightly understand and affirm the primacy of this relationship, we fall into the inevitable trap of reducing holiness to mere morality. Yet for the Christian, it takes on a slightly different form: we are to derive our holiness from Christ’s holiness. And so in this way, holiness becomes a slightly different goal.
• What does this statement mean to you?
• We have all heard the statement “Holier than thou.” What has given holiness such a negative meaning?
• How would you define holiness?
• Can you think of a person in your life who demonstrates holiness?
• How do they demonstrate holiness and love?

• Are you familiar with the Desert Fathers and Mothers?
• What are the things that they did in a quest for holiness?

Following the path of the Desert Fathers and Mothers may not be possible for us, but what changes can we make to our lifestyle in order to better pursue holiness?

1 Peter 1:22
(NRSV) Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.
(The Message) Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it.

Pursuing holiness or a right relationship with God yields the fruit of genuine love.

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And so, Peter reminds us that because of Jesus' great act on the cross, we are loved and we are called to love as he loved.

We're about to watch a clip from the movie Schindler’s List. Schindler’s List follows the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, who helps to save the lives of over 1,000 Jews in Nazi Germany by hiring them to work in his factory. He is a man with many flaws but a big heart. After the Jews had been freed, they presented Schindler with a gift. He struggles a bit to accept this gift and their outpouring of appreciation.

Watch the clip"He Who Saves One Life Saves the World Entire"from the movie Schindler’s List
In 1958, Mr. Oskar Schindler was declared a righteous person by the council of the Vad Yashem in Jerusalem, and invited to plant a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous.
• Why do you think he is sad?
• Is it guilt or is it true devotion with love for humanity?
• How do we tell the difference?
• If you were given the chance to save over 1000 people’s lives, would you feel excited, sad, or both?
• Why do you think the Jews wanted to give Schindler a ring?
• Does true love encourage gratitude and love in others?
• Did Jesus do that for us?
• Considering his former lifestyle would we have declared Schindler to be a righteous person?
• Have you ever felt unworthy to be a servant of God?

1 Peter 1:23
(NRSV) You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
(The Message) Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal seed; your new birth comes from God’s living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself!

You are born anew, freed from the past, meaningless way of living, now you are filled with God’s love and can live and love freely.
• Since Jesus is holy and God is holy, how is it possible for us to be holy?
• How are we to go about being holy?

Read and reflect on the poem, “With That Moon Language” by Hafiz
Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is
always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
What every other eye in
this world is
dying to
hear.

• In what ways can you relate to this poem?
• How does it relate to God’s call for us to live holy lives?

Study Resources for April 27, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

This week, we will begin a series that will come from the small book of 1 Peter.
• What was the hardest thing for you this winter?
• Did the wintry weather wear you down?
• Could you live somewhere with snow year-round?

Watch"Joggers get more than they bargained for"clip from KOIN 6
• Do you ever feel like you got this "Christian thing" down, and then the world makes you fall?
• What things makes it difficult for you to live a holy life (besides snow and ice)?
• What is the scariest thing that could happen to your personal faith?
• Does your faith ever make you feel like you do not "fit in?"
• Are you are an oddity as a jogger in the snow and ice?
• How would you describe your experience of coming to the faith: natural childbirth, a re-birth, adoption, etc.?
• What is hope?
• Where do you place your hope?
• What is living hope?

John McClanahan writes, "A living hope is hope which refuses to give up and die."
• Have you ever felt like just giving up?
• What kept you going?
• Is there a difference in just keeping on, and truly living?

It is Christ's life that gives life to our hope. This book is referred to as one of the "general epistles" because it was written to the Church in general, not to a specific church. From reading the letter, it is obvious that the Christians are undergoing some type of persecution.Read 1 Peter 1:3-9
• In verse 3, Peter begins with one character trait of God: what is it?
• What is the difference in grace and mercy?
• Can you share a time when you experienced mercy from someone?
• How does that mirror or differ from God's kind of mercy?

God's mercy is through a "new birth in a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus."
• How is Jesus' resurrection a new birth?

Peter rejoices that what God offers us through Jesus' resurrection, is a new birth. This new life births within us a "living hope."
• How does the resurrection of Jesus give us hope?

Peter says we will receive an inheritance.
• Have you ever received an inheritance?

The Bible makes more than 250 references to inheritance, a clear sign that everyday conversations about legacy took place in ancient times too.
• Can you think of some them?
• When do you normally receive an inheritance?
• How is God's inheritance different from the inheritances that we receive on earth?

To all the properties ever passed along to successor generations, to all earthly inheritances, one thing is common. They all lack permanence. Jesus left us an inheritance that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading." Jesus bequeaths two things to His disciples before departing: peace and joy. The first He breathed; the second He lived.
• How is our eternal life an inheritance?
• How does this relate to the "merciful" character of God?

Watch"A moment of silence"clip from Reuters Video
• Why did the workers stop for a moment of silence?
• What can we learn from that as we attempt to grow stronger in our faith?
• When we stand for our faith, do you think it makes it difference in the world around us?
• We do not know the Christian values of the rescue workers, but do you think it is significant that in a time of crisis that they needed to reflect for hope for themselves and others?

The church here was undergoing persecution. Even today in some areas of the world, Christians have to deal with persecution. In the United States, we may not suffer this type of intense persecution, but we may find that we face persecution in other ways.
• What kinds of persecution do we face today?
• Can you think of times that we may bring some persecution on ourselves?

Jesus instructed us to not be surprised at persecution and in response to the persecution to turn the other cheek and love our enemies.
• Why do you think it is hard for us to do what Jesus told us to do when it comes to attacks on us or our faith?

One commentator wrote, "Pain, whether it arises from persecution or misunderstanding or heartache, is not just to be endured; it can be tapped for self-growth, and increased maturity... Suffering is not required for faith, but it can strengthen it along the pathway to our ultimate salvation."
• Have you seen this demonstrated?
• How has pain been a resource for personal growth for you?
• How has pain strengthened your faith?

Peter uses language that encourages hope and faith in what is not seen. Not only do we trust in an inheritance we have not yet seen, we trust in the One who offers us such an inheritance.
• What are some things that we do not see, but we believe in?

Those who have a living hope don't just muddle through, continuing to breathe with no purpose or joy. When we have a living hope that is grounded in Christ's resurrection we can learn to find growth and strength even on difficult days. We can trust in God's good future for us. We can open our hearts to live fully in every moment of life, even the hard ones. That is a living hope.

We are living in the Easter season. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead, yet none of us were there as eyewitnesses. We trust in the words of those who loved Him and witnessed it all. This week, pay attention to the things you trust in, although you do not see them. As these things come to mind, say a prayer of thanksgiving to our God for all of His blessings: those seen and those unseen.

Study Resources for April 20, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

On two significant occasions in the life of Jesus, the words are announced by angels, 'DO NOT BE AFRAID."
• Do you remember what they are? (Jesus' birth and the empty tomb.)

As a child, we can be reassured with words like "There's nothing to be afraid of." As adults, the fears can be more complex and words of reassurance are harder to come by. We live with an increasing sense that death is greedy and life can be tough. In fact, we know enough about life and the way the world works, that if someone tells us not to be afraid, we can be suspicious.

But when the angels arrive with their "fear not" calling card, we know that it is not the assurance that nothing can go wrong, because often things do go wrong. It is not assurance that everything turns our for the best because sometimes it doesn't. Rather, it is assurance that, what ever may happen to us, whatever a day may hold, God has the power to strengthen us and uphold us; that what ever we may face, we do not face it alone; that nothing we encounter is stronger than God's love; that ultimately God gets the last word. And God's love is triumphant and good. Only God can offer that kind of assurance, and that is why in the end, only God or one of God's messengers can say. "Do not be afraid," and say it with authority.


Watch the clip"Giant Robot Dinosaur Scares Zach"
• What is something that makes you really scared?
• How do you respond when you are confronted with your fear?
• What makes you respond that way?
• What are some common fears in our world?
• What are some of the uncommon fears you have heard of?

Watch the clip"Phone Practice" from the movie Despicable Me 2
• Do we often build our fears up to be so scary that we shoot flames in terror at them?
• Do we need a few minion fireman to help us with our fears?

Describe the fear you experience when going through an unknown situation or losing someone you care about.
• How might God want you to respond to these types of fears?
• How can our fears either push us away from God or draw us toward God? Explain.
• What gives you a mixture of joy and fear?
• Do you have a funny illustration or story about something you fear?

When we think of Easter, we probably have positive feelings. The cold weather has finally moved on. Flowers are starting to appear. And, we have an extended weekend to enjoy with friends and family. Easter doesn't normally cause fear. For those who lived through the first Easter, there was both joy and fear. The day began in grief. Some women had seen Jesus crucified and had seen him placed in a tomb. (Matthew 27:55-61.) Women did not generally count in this culture, but in this passage, the women are named.
• What do you think it was about these women that impressed Matthew so much that he named them?

ReadMatthew 28:1-10.
• How did their fear cause them to react?
• Do we really understand the concept of fear?
• How would you define fear?
• Is fear the opposite of faith?
• What did the angel invite them to come and see?
• Why did “come and see,” come before “Go and tell”?
• Why was it important for these women to go and tell?
• What would have happened if they did not tell?
• How have you experienced God’s power in your own life?

In verse 7, the angel told the women to tell the disciples of Jesus' resurrection.
• Why is it important for you to go and tell?
• Why do so many Christians feel unable or unwilling to share what God has done in their own life?
• What happens if Christians do not go and tell?

Watch the YouTube clip"Bad Evangelism: A How Not To Guide"from AgathosEntertainment
• Even though this is a silly video, what truths did you see in how some Christians really share their faith?
• What are some other ways that Christians practice bad evangelism?
• What is wrong with guilt, shame, and manipulation in sharing your faith?
• How should we share our faith with others?
• What is the most effective form of evangelism you have experienced?
• When sharing our faith, how does “come and see” play itself out?
• How can this group help each other to go and tell what God has done in our lives?
• Why do you think we focus more on the cross than the empty tomb?

Jesus told His followers that he would be killed and then would be raised from the dead, most recently on Passover, eight days before this Sunday. (Matthew 26:26-32.)
• Why do you think the disciples could not or would not hear this resurrection prediction?
• What do we as 21st century Christians have difficulty believing about what Jesus told us?

Scripture tells us that the women left the tomb with great joy and with fear.
• How does the women's experience compare with our experiences with joy/fear?

The women left the tomb with fear and joy, but now seeing Jesus, they fall down in spontaneous worship. Then, they hear the first commandment of the resurrected Jesus, "Do not be afraid."
• When has worship strengthened your soul and eased your fears?

The ones who let these words of assurance steep deeply into their souls, end up singing praises and offering blessings. In this kind of worship you can almost hear the ancient benediction, as a promise fulfilled, "May you fear God so much, that you fear nothing else at all."

Study Resources for April 13, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

This is our last Sunday in Psalms. We will be in Matthew next week celebrating Easter!
• What does it mean to you to be blessed?

Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. If we are looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).
• How does Jesus' definition of blessing compare to the world's definition of blessing?
• What do we need victory from in our lives?
• What distracts you from your place in God’s will?

Watch the clipPope Francis Goes to Confession in Public
• How hard must it be for Pope Francis to change traditions in his sub-culture?
• How hard it is for you to change habits in your daily life?
• How easy is it for us to declare like the Psalmist, that “you are my God?”

ReadPsalm 118:1-4,19-25
• What are your favorite images or words in this psalm? Why?
• In what ways does this psalm describe God’s protection and blessings for God’s people?
• How often do you celebrate God?
• We don't usually have a celebratory attitude. Why not?

Watch "I Want to Live" from the movie 12 Years a Slave
• What were your impressions of this clip?
• How does it relate to our conversation so far?
• How would you describe living an abundant life?
• How is that different from merely surviving?
• How do your relationships influence an abundant life?
• Would you describe your life as an abundant life or just survival?
• In what areas of your life might you be missing an opportunity to fully live?
• How do those areas influence your walk with Christ?
• How would living an abundant life cause us to truly celebrate what God has done for us?
• How can we celebrate what God has done for each of us?
• What is the meaning behind verse 17?
• How is following Christ more about the way we live our lives, rather than just what happens to us after we die?

The scripture talks about a rejected stone that has become a cornerstone (in the foundation) or a capstone (holding an arch together). David has been given credit for this psalm.
• Can you recall any times that he was rejected?
• Can you think of a time that a rejected person or idea later became an important part of a success?
• What reasons does the psalmist give to be afraid in his world?
• What enemies do you face in your physical and spiritual battles?
• Who can enter through the gate to God?
• What must they do to enter through that gate?

David rejoices that God has answered him and has become his salvation. He goes on to say that "this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." In our modern context, this verse is generalized to mean any and every day. But for the psalmist, it refers to the day he realized that God was his salvation.
• Do you have a day, a moment in time when you realized that God is your salvation?

We might think the psalm could end here, but it doesn't. ReadPsalm 118:26-29andMatthew 21:1-11. The Hebrew word Hosanna, means "God save us."
• What parallels do you see in these two passages?

Psalm 118 is not a "last verse" of life. It looks forward to salvation, but the psalmist finds himself in an in-between time. He believes that God has provided salvation and that eventually all will be right.

Palm Sunday is a day of celebration. Next Sunday is Easter. Between the Hosanna of this day and next Sunday's "Christ has risen", there is a week of in-between time that included betrayal, rejection, and abandonment. Fear, pride and spiritual ignorance reign.
• Do you ever feel like you are in the in-between time?
• How do you deal with that?

We see in this psalm that God hasn't just done something, He has become something for His people (vs. 14b, 21b). When Jesus came into our world, he not only accomplished our salvation, He also is our salvation. A new community, a new family is being formed that will share life in Him forever. Jesus is that cornerstone, rejected on earth, which has become the foundation for that new family. The psalm concludes that only the Lord could do this. This is the new day of a new creation He is forming for us. We must rejoice!

Study Resources for April 6, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We have one more week in Psalms and then we will travel to the New Testament. These psalms have been a great way to journey toward Easter. I hope you have enjoyed them too.

Watch the clip"What keeps you awake at night"
• How much sleep do you need each day?
• What is the strangest thing that bothers your sleep?
• What most often interrupts your sleep?
• How does that make you feel the next day?

In today's scripture the psalmist cries out from the depths. He is not speaking literally, but figuratively, like we do when we say we feel "down" today or that we are "down in the dumps."
• How would you define "the depths"?

It has been said that the "depths" in this psalm could be "the state we cannot get out of by our own efforts."
• In a society that emphasizes self-help and independence, how easy is it to hear that help comes only from the Lord and that we are to wait eagerly for Him?

This psalm is called a psalm of ascents. As the psalmist climbs the hill toward God's home, he feels depressed. It seems that he is in the process of letting go.
• Do we ever hold on to our fears and failures?
• Do we ever hold on to our pain and sorrow stuck in the depths of an emotional quicksand?

It is at this point that the psalmist is reaching out to God and asks for help because he can't deal with the pain anymore.

Anne Lamott says in her book, Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers, "There's freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won't be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you've reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you're still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It's exhausting, crazy-making."
• What do you think? Has this been true for you?
• Are you closer to God in the mountains or in the valleys?

Read Psalm 130
• What is going on with the psalmist?
• What are the depths referred to in the first verse?

Watch clip of"The Survivors"from Star Trek: The Next Generation
• What did the man’s sin cause him to do?
• How do you know that he felt guilty about his sin?
• What punishment does his crime deserve?
• How do you typically respond when you feel guilty about something you have done?
• Have you ever had so much guilt that it ate away at you?
• Sometimes when we do something really wrong, we doubt God’s ability to forgive. Why?
• How do we know that God is always willing and able to forgive?
• Does he see God as a Holy Scorekeeper?
• Do we ever look at God this way? Why?

"Many believers hold to the view of a judgmental God who keeps meticulous records of wrongdoing. The psalmist understood, however, that God has better things to do than compile an individual encyclopedia of failures for every person on earth."
• Do you agree?
• Have you ever known people who acted like they were too far away from God to be forgiven?
• How easily can we fall into that trap also?
• How do we balance these images of God as judge and God as helper/forgiver?

The Bible consistently holds that God is forgiving, and forgiveness is the opposite of keeping score. (Read Isaiah 43:25.)

Jesus had a lot to say about forgiveness, and about the importance of forgiving others.
• How reassuring is it that God's love is steadfast and that God never gives up on us?

Some scholars believe that the pilgrims to Jerusalem sang the first six verses, then a priest sang these last verses. Theses are verses that encourage hope for those feeling like they are in a pit.
• How much does worry influence your daily life?
• Does your sense of personal sin and failure drag you down sometimes?
• Why is so difficult for us to cast our cares on God instead of worrying?
• So what do we put our hope in?

"We live on hope... The basis for such hope is found in the promises of a dependable, loving, and forgiving God... Hope is what keeps us going."

Watch"The First Ever 2014 Cadillac ELR: Poolside"Commercial from Cadillac
• So why do we work so hard?
• Are we just "a bunch of crazy hard-working believers" like the commercial says?
• Do we think that makes God happy?
• Do we really believe in God’s care for us?

• What would our lives look like if we truly embraced God’s care instead of trusting only in our own abilities?
• How did the psalmist deal with personal weaknesses? How can we?
• When you feel guilty for your failures, what do you turn to? Is it prayer, meditation, or Scripture? Or to the distractions of the world?
• How much must God love us to forgive us of our failures?

As we cry out to God, we can be assured that help is on the way and that with God there is steadfast love. There is a word for that place where we call out to God and where we speak and hear the promises of redemption. It is called "church." God's people are not merely waiting. We are watching. We watch and hope.
• What difference does this make?
• It is the difference Between resignation and resurrection?

Study Resources for March 30, 2014

The teacher for this session is Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy

See the session. 

This week we continue our journey in Psalms.

Where do you go when life gets crazy? Psalm 23 is the place we go for assurance and comfort. No psalm in scripture is better known than Psalm 23. These six short verses have been the source of encouragement for Christians and Jews throughout the centuries. The psalm is uttered from the point of view of a deliverance that is already evident.

In this psalm we can see the themes of provision, abundance, and restoration. The shepherd walks with us in the midst of our trials. When Middle Eastern shepherds take their sheep into the summer grazing land, they often go into the mountains, and there are no mountains without valleys, places that may be deep in shadow and frequented by wild animals or thieves. We will also walk in deep, dark valleys.
• Why are we always so surprised to find ourselves in the valley? (ReadI Kings 20:28and look for the "Lord of the hills" reference.)

The psalmist does not refer to God in abstract terms, but uses God's personal name because the psalm is about a personal relationship between the psalmist and God. Yahweh is my shepherd.

The darkness is not changed, but rather we are changed when we receive the gift of His presence. Usually in Lent we are challenged to greater faithfulness and repentance, but this psalm is showing us the sustaining power of our God. We can feel encouragement as we progress along the dark path that leads to Easter. Instead of being called to deal with our sinfulness and our mortality, here we are offered an outstretched hand from one who will walk with us and give us comfort, courage, and presence. This gift of presence is especially meaningful for modern people who find authentic presence with one another an increasingly scarce commodity.

ReadPsalm 23andPhilippians 4:7.Compare the peace.
• Have you seen people experience this kind of peace? Have you?

Sometimes we need that Shepherd's hook/club to protect us from evil. Sometimes we need that hook/club to give us direction. Sometimes we need that hook/club to (scratch behind our ears) show us affection.
• Have you experienced this in your life?
• In what ways are you completely dependent on God?

Sheep prefer to lie down in a shallow depression, because it is more comfortable. If a sheep is particularly heavy with wool, it may accidentally roll onto its wide back, and not be able to get up. Sheep in this situation are said to be "cast" and will die unless the shepherd finds them and returns them to an upright position.
• Does anybody need a little turning over this morning?
• How can we experience the restoration of God when we feel exhausted?
• It tells us that the shepherd directs the sheep to lie down in green pastures: is he talking about the importance of Sabbath rest?
• What would Sabbath rest look like to you?

Watch "That's All I Need" from the movie The Jerk
• Did he really need any of those things? Why or why not?
• Why did he take them?
• Aside from things needed to survive, if you could only have a few things that you want, what would they be? Why?
• How do we confuse what is a need and what is a want?
• Is it wrong to want things? Why or why not?
• When does wanting things become bad?

Watch "iBook" commercial for Apple iPhones
• What is the message behind this commercial?
• How is this like other commercials you have seen?
• Why do commercials focus on what you don’t have, rather than what you already have?
• How might this affect someone watching it?
• Do people today tend to focus on what they don’t have or are they grateful for what they already have? Explain.
• What happens if we are always focused on what we don’t have?
• How does focusing on what you don’t have affect decision making?
• What happens to someone who is consistently focused on what they do not have?
• How can faith be affected by this type of mentality?

Give an example of someone of faith not satisfied with what they have.
• What does the psalmist claim that God provides for us?
• What are your wants? (When the Lord is the shepherd our wants are different.)
• What does it mean to be in want?
• Is it possible to not be in want as the first line says?
• In what ways does God's presence meet our essential needs?
• How can we practically rely on God to meet our needs and be content?
• How can we begin to be grateful for what we have rather than just desire to gain more?

• What does the presence of God do for the psalmist?
• What did the phrase "anointing with oil" and "overflowing cup" mean to the psalmist?
• What should they mean for us today?
• Have you ever felt abandoned?
• What did you do?
• What does the presence of God for yesterday, today, and forever mean to you?
• Which part of Psalm 23 do you find most comforting? Why?
• How have you seen this psalm play out in your life?

Give an example of how God has blessed you in your life.
• Are you satisfied with God’s blessing? Why or why not?

This portrait of God as a shepherd finds its completion in the New Testament, where Jesus tells us that He is the good shepherd and He lays down His life for His sheep. This psalm is written from the perspective of a cooperative bunch of sheep.
• Can you think of why this kind of cooperation would be important?
• Where do you feel the closest to God, on the mountain or in the valley?

Because of God's kind of love, God does not give up on us. He pursues us gently with blessings of goodness, and His steadfast love. The Psalmist recognizes that this is not a brief experience, but a life-long relationship. As long as we live, wherever we go, God's goodness and steadfast love will be close behind, tirelessly leading us more deeply into the joys of divine hospitality.

When a small child trips and skins her knee, a simple kiss from a loving caregiver brings healing. Does the skinned knee go away? No, of course it does not. The physical pain remains, but the offering of love in the form of a kiss makes all the difference. In this same way, Psalm 23 is about finding life in it truest sense, which is union with the Lord, and discovering that it can bring healing to our lives. When we come to the Lord's table, we get a holy kiss that heals our places of hurt. We see the darkness around us lose its power in the midst of the Lord's presence, and we are restored.

Study Resources for March 23, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy) 

See the session.

We are continuing our study in Psalms. It has been a good one. I hope you have enjoyed it too. Today's psalm is Psalm 95.

Watch "88 Miles Per Hour" from the movie Back to the Future
• How would you have reacted in Marty’s shoes?
• Would you have moved out of the way? Why or why not?
• Why did Marty reluctantly choose to stand by Doc?
• How did his relationship with Doc make him more trusting?
• Is there anyone that you would trust no matter what? Explain.
• What about them has earned your trust?
• Why do we sometimes have difficulty trusting others?
• Why do we sometimes have difficulties trusting God?
• How do you know that God is trustworthy?

Today's psalm takes place in a corporate worship setting. This community has experienced invasion, destruction, deportation, and more. Their worship is not shallow or superficial. It is worship that is deep and meaningful. The first part of this psalm speaks of God's people, who stand in awe and worship before the Lord. The second part of the psalm speaks from the perspective of the Lord looking in disappointment on people who have had a history of failing to follow as they should.
• Have you ever done something against your better judgment and then realized that it was absolutely the wrong thing to do?

In verse seven, the psalm changes from eyes to witness and voices to sing to ears to listen and feet to follow. The first part of the psalm makes the second part all the more difficult.
• If God is so good and worthy of praise, and if we have seen God's glory and were nodding our heads during the first verses, why is it that we have so often failed to listen or to follow?
• Do our daily circumstances and problems ever cloud our ability to worship?

ReadPsalm 95:1-11.
• How wonderful does this sound?
• Why should we worship?
• What do you visualize when you hear “rock of my salvation?”
• How do you feel when you hear “King above all gods?”
• How should we worship our Creator?
• How can we listen to God’s voice?
• Does God love/appreciate/"loathe" our act of worship on Sunday morning? During the week?
• How should we understand the Psalmist's perspective using the term “loathing?”

The psalmist uses the word "come" 3 times in these verses. (v. 1, 2, 6)
• What are the phrases your Bible uses to translate the word "come?"

Commentaries note that each call to "come" uses a different verb. The verb suggests walking toward the sanctuary, coming into God's presence, and entering a sacred space. Now think about how we worship: the places, the rituals, the people involved.
• How would you describe our worship to someone who did not know what worship is?
• What images would you use?
• What image did the psalmist use in verse one? Why a rock?
• What is the image for God that is used in verse seven?

The psalmist invites us to worship our God who is a rock and a shepherd.
• How do those images make you feel?

Rock is a metaphor for God and is common in the Hebrew Bible. (Gen. 49:24; Deut.32:4,15,18,30,31; Isa. 44:8; and Hab. 1:12)

The word to try/test does not mean to set God up to prove something, but means to test God's patience.
• How do we test God's patience today?
• When we meet together for worship, are we meeting our needs or God's?
• What has been the most powerful worship you have ever experienced? What made it so powerful?

Watch "More Focus" from the movie The Karate Kid
• Do you agree that being still and doing nothing are two totally different things?
• Do you need focus like Dre?
• In terms of worship, what should be our focus?
• Are we like Dre and worry about other things instead of our true focus?
• What can we do to regain our worship focus?
• Will God have to make us see our reflection up close and personal first?

Think of a time when it was easy to worship God because of how great things were going for you.
• Have you ever been guilty of not trusting God with a struggle in your life?
• Why do we have a lack of trust, even though we have experienced God as trustworthy?
• Why is it tough to worship God when we are experiencing pain or suffering?
• What is the benefit of worshiping during difficult life circumstances?
• How does God provide for us during our times when we need God the most?
• How can we help ourselves become more sensitive to God working around us?
• What do you think God’s reaction is to a “cookie-cutter” style worship?
• What are some changes in corporate worship that our church has added in the last twenty years?
• What about our personal worship?

I think it is important to remember that God did not allow the Israelites to enter the promised land because of their sin, but He did not abandon them in the wilderness. The relationship continued. Maybe there is something important in noting that not trusting and honoring God might keep us from some of the wonderful things God has in mind for us. This is not to say that God abandons us. God will continue to bring good out of even our faltering and failing.

The beauty and the plenty of the promised land is still just around the corner and as we wait to enter it, God is with us. We are reminded that the proclamation of God's reign always calls for a response. The kingdom of God has come near and He challenges us to respond. This psalm teaches us that the recognition of God's sovereign claim on our lives and the world involves praise and an offering of our lives in faith and obedience.

Study Resources for March 16, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy) 

See the session.

This week we will look at one of the psalms in the category, "Psalms of Assent." There are 15 such psalms that pilgrims sang on their way "up" to Jerusalem.
• Do you have a favorite song that you associate with road trips, church, or a special time in your life?

Watch the clip "Blake's Death" from the movie Mr. Deeds
• What journey are you on?
• Do you ever feel your journey in life is ill-advised like Blake’s?
• Do you ever feel that your journey is a waste of time?
• Do we forget that we have a provider who will be there to guide our steps?
• Do we often strive to make it to the top of the mountain no matter what?
• How can we tell if our journey is misguided or blessed by God?
• What journey should our church be on?
• What can our group do to bless that journey?

Lent can be seen as a journey. Let's read this Psalm of Assent and begin our journey this week. Read Psalm 121.
• Do these verses seem positive to you or a little scary?
• What new adventures in your life can you celebrate today?
• Are there some difficult adventures in your life that you can celebrate with God's help and keeping?

Sometimes when we want to encourage someone, we might say, "keep your chin up" or "keep looking up." This "looking up and offering a prayer" implies a posture of hope.
• Can posture alone sometimes kick-start us on the path toward a better state of mind?
• How might looking up in a time of prayer make you feel different from "every eye closed and every head bowed?"

The psalmist here is looking up to the hills of Jerusalem, acknowledging that the Lord is the source of his help. Place is important. To the Jews, Jerusalem was the home of the Temple, the place God chose to dwell. As Baptists, we do not have a Holy City such as Jerusalem.
• Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Rather than look toward a Temple, Christians believe that Jesus came to "live among us." Jesus fulfilled the Temple's purpose.

Notice the word "keep" in this psalm. It is the word "shamar" and it is the same word used to describe a shepherd's keeping of the sheep. It suggests watching over, guiding, protecting, and being present with the flock. It has been translated as keep or keeping. This word is used six times in this short psalm.
• What is the difference in having and keeping?

I may have a pair of shoes. They are my possessions, I own them and when they wear out I will get rid of them. I keep my dog, Eli. I love him and he is dear to me. I protect him from harm and watch over him because if he suffers, it hurts me too. We provide for Eli, we care for him and we do this because we love him. That's like God. We are His beloved, we are important to Him. If we suffer, it hurts God too. This Psalm celebrates the fact that the Lord is our keeper.
• Is it hard for you to accept the fact that God is our keeper?

It is easier to accept the fact that God loves us. This psalm shows us that God loves and therefore God keeps us. God does not lose His grip on us. Having a keeper is a two-way street. For all that we gain we must first give ourselves to the one who offers the protection. We gain protection, but we lose a sense of total independence.
• How do you imagine these words shaped the people's image of God as they traveled to Jerusalem singing this psalm?

Jesus sang this psalm as He traveled with His parents to Jerusalem. These psalms were sung by exiles returning to Jerusalem from Babylon and captivity. The singing of these psalms gave the people of God hope.
• Have you ever lived in "exile?"
• What is it like to return home to a God who protects, loves, saves, graces and gives you hope for tomorrow?
• Have you found power in hope? How so?
• Does this Psalm sound like it is over-promising with perfect protection?
• Does the Psalmist promise if we are good then we will never face harm?
• So what is the promise here?
• Could it be a blessing or a prayer? Explain.
• How does the psalm resonate with your life?
• What comfort does this psalm give you?
• Does God always protect us and keep us from harm? Why or why not?
• How should we respond when we face harm?
• How do you sense God’s protection in your life?

This psalm begins at the point of departure. A destination is in sight, and it looks to the pilgrim as if God is calling for him, or he hopes to find God at that destination. The thing that turns these journeys into journeys of ascent is that a church or an individual perceives that to embark upon them is to respond to the God who calls us to leave one place for another.
• Have you heard a call from God? How did you respond?
• How can we feel/know that God is always with us?
• How long is the promise given for in this Psalm (v.8)?

It is comforting that during this season of Lent, we can celebrate the good news that even as we face evil, God is and always will be our keeper. God's watchful eye and creative hand never stop (John 10:28).
• How does that make you feel?

Jesus reminded His followers, and we remind ourselves during Lent, that the way of a follower leads to a cross (Mark 8:34). As we read Psalm 121, we can claim and celebrate the good news that even as we face the cross, God is and always will be our keeper.

Study Resources for March 9, 2014

See the session.


The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)
 

Have you ever really messed up? Have you ever done something so bad that you felt as if you could not tell anyone because of how you would be perceived or because you were afraid of getting punished or of breaking a relationship beyond repair? We have all, at one time or another, have probably felt that gut wrenching knot that comes when we know we have really mess up. Today's Psalm is about that experience and how we can respond to it.


Watch the clip "From Shame" from GodTube.

• Why are Christians so afraid to confess their sins?
• Why does running from them seem like a better solution?
• How do we run from their sin rather than taking responsibility for it?
• What is the definition of grace? Can you give examples of grace in our world today?
• How do you feel when you deserve to be punished but someone lets you off the hook?
• How do you feel when you have really messed up but no one knows about it? Why do you stay silent?

Happiness is high on most people's list of priorities. Hunger for happiness drives much of our lives. The ambitions we pursue, the relationships in which we engage, the professions we enter, the hobbies we love, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and even the way we observe Lent reflect individual beliefs about what brings fulfillment and happiness. The Dalai Lama observes, "Indeed, the more I see of the world, the clearer it becomes that no matter what our situation...rich or poor, educated or not, of one race, gender, religion or another, we all desire to be happy...It is in our nature...Our every intended action in a sense our whole life-how we choose to live it within the context of the limitations imposed by our circumstances-can be seen as our answer to the great question which confronts us all: "How am I to be Happy?"!

Read Psalm 32.

In Psalm 32, happiness comes from being forgiven.
• How do we receive forgiveness?
Sometimes we think we must do something instead of living in the wonder and awe at what God does in forgiving us.
• Have you ever truly forgiven someone?

Watch the clip Learn to Forgive from the movie The Messenger.

• How would you feel as Joan of Arc?
• Do you understand her desire to lash out at the world and then be with God now?
• Does it bother you that the priest says God always has a good reason?
• Have you ever experienced true forgiveness from another person?
• Have you truly felt forgiveness from God for your sin?
• How does the Christian season of Lent factor influence these ideas of forgiveness?


• Do we truly feel happy to be forgiven?
• What would life look like if we truly acted forgiven?
• Though we must show discernment, how helpful or necessary is it to our lives is it to publicly confess our sins to other Christians and our close family/friends?


Psalm 32 opens up a doorway to understanding forgiveness in a deeper way that while repentance may well be a precondition for receiving forgiveness, it is a process in which God is the primary "grace" agent. This Psalm is a view of confession and repentance from the far side of forgiveness, looking back on forgiveness instead of forward to the reception of forgiveness. It is a reflection on being granted forgiveness and all that goes with it, rather than an expression of the need for and the hope for forgiveness.

• Why do we need to confess our sins if God already knows what they are?
• Why do we try to hide and/or deny our sins and our sinfulness, given the repeated calls for repentance in scripture?
• Why do we persist in our spiritual blindness, failing to see that the forgiveness has been there all along?

The terms or words used in verses 1-2 are similar, but not exactly the same. The word translated as "transgression" is "pasha," which suggests rebellion or wrongdoing that could be directed against God, other nations, or individuals.

The general word for sin is "chata'a," which describes an offense against someone or turning away from the right path. Iniquity translates the word awon, which can also be rendered guilt. Deceit describes a more specific category or area of sin.

• In vs. 3-4, the psalmist gives an aching description of physical and emotional turmoil he endured. Is it possible to be sin sick? What would it look like to be sin sick?

In verse 10 the word translated as steadfast love," chesed," is often connected in the Bible with God's patience and grace toward a sinful people. Ex.34:6,"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness..."

Watch the clip Cardboard Testimonies on YouTube.
 
Play the Cardboard Testimony video.
• Have you ever witnessed someone who’s life as been changed through confession? Explain.
• Why would these people stand up and share their struggles and past mistakes with a group of people?
• How is it easier to share a struggle once it is over and you have learned from it?
• How much more difficult would it be to share a struggle you are still struggling with?
• How was grace shown to people holding the signs?
• If you were to share your burdens, how do you think it would be received? Why?
• Have you ever received grace from someone when you expected to receive judgment? What was it like?
• What happens to us when we deny ourselves the opportunity to receive grace from God and others?

• What does "I am only human" mean?
• What attitudes may accompany this saying?

• In the Psalm, the thought that "I am only human", is an acknowledgment that brings relief. How do you see that relief in these verses?

One commentator says, "The psalm does not trouble over the speculative question of a life free of transgression. It assumes transgression." The psalmist is not talking about forgiving another person, the psalmist is talking about accepting God's forgiveness.

• How can accepting forgiveness free you up to get on with living?
• Do you think that the spiritual life has an effect on the physical life? How so?
• Does it work the other way as well-does the physical life have an effect on the spiritual life of a person?
• What is the lesson for the forgiven person in the scripture passage?
• How would you describe the God of Psalm 32?

• God wants to relieve us by offering grace and forgiveness. The only way that can happen is if we go through the difficult process of confession. Sometimes that needs to happen with God alone and sometimes we need to confess and make amends with another person. Ultimately, when we choose to remain silent, we deny God and others the opportunity to show us grace and forgiveness and we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience the healing power of that kind of grace. Have you found this to be true?

• The Psalmist invites us to learn from his own arrogance, stubbornness, and long illness. "Avoid my suffering and my mistakes," he advises. He calls on us to intensify our prayer life and the confession and forgiveness will restore fellowship broken by sin. Therein lies the happiness and the joy that transcends circumstances. To rejoice is a choice, and joy is the gift. Could it be that Christian happiness could be best understood in terms of being in relationship with God and engaging in practices such as confession? Could it be that practicing this kind of confession provides the foundation on which fundamental friendship flourishes?

John 3:16 tells us that God loves the sinner and invites us to be free of the burdens and pains and penalties of sin. We have the choice to accept or reject this love. We can live in the past with guilt and regret or we can "get on with living" covered by God's grace and mercy.

Study Resources for March 2, 2014

The teacher for this session was John Hamlett. (email John)

See the session.

SERVING THE KING: Read Psalm 2.

Introduction to the Book of the Psalms:
• How would you describe the book of the Psalms?
• How were the Psalms originally used by the people of Israel?
• What are the different types of Psalms?
• How should we view the book of Psalms today?

Today our passage is about the inauguration of a king in Biblical times.

Introduction to Psalm 2 and Psalm 1:
• Why is it important to look at Psalm 1 even though our focus is on Psalm 2?
• How are Psalms 1 and 2 categorized?

Examination
Imagine you are part of a large assembly gathered for the coronation of the new king. Read Psalm 1 and 2.
• What sort of feelings might you experience as the words are read aloud?
• What do you think the writer’s purpose was with the different sections of Psalms 2?
• Does this Psalm sound like a hymn to you?
• What did this Psalm probably mean to the original hearers?
• How would they have viewed a king?
• What was to be the king’s relationship to God?
• How can we apply this Psalm to today since we do not have a king in the USA?
• Does the idea of the king being anointed as a “messiah” help us understand?
• How important is it for us to follow God as a servant?
• Since the early church saw these types of Psalms as leading to Jesus as the Messiah, can we see the basic idea as serving Jesus as similar to serving a Godly servant king?

Discussion Questions:
• If you were running for political office, what would you campaign for?
• What political leadership position would you like to hold?
• If you were elected, what laws would you write?
• What would motivate you to make decisions?

Belief
Watch "Believe in Her" from the movie The Messenger

• Is it good to serve your political leaders?
• Should we pray for our leaders even if we disagree with them?
• If you were the king, would you see Joan of Arc?
• As a leader, is it hard to believe in others?
• Do we ignore the ones who love us because we are too busy being a leader today?
• If God were to speak in that clip, what would God say to the people involved?

Courage
• How much courage was it going to take the king to see Joan of Arc?

Watch the clip "Natalie Grant: On Courage" from the American Bible Challenge
• Do you believe faith takes courage?
• Do we truly believe that we are leaders in this world?
• How much courage do we need? Where does that courage truly come from? What can we do to earn it?

Study Resources for February 23, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We continue our study in Corinthians. Today we are talking about building a church.
• When you have an argument, who usually wins? Why?

Often we argue about unimportant things.
• What are some of those things?
• Why do we allow unimportant things to cause disagreements?
• When you argue, are you trying to seek a good solution or win the argument? Why?
• Should Christians argue? Why or why not?
• What can arguing do to a church congregation? Is it ever a good thing?
• Are there any issues that are important enough for Christians to argue about? What makes them so important?
• Can this kind of arguing strengthen communities of faith?
• How does church fighting turn communities away from the Gospel?

The Christians in Corinth were building a church. Not a church building, but a community of Christian believers. Like a physical structure, a spiritual construction can be costly, time-consuming and rewarding hard work. Just as a solid-looking wall may hide some rotting beams, there can be surprising challenges, because there is a sinner inside every saint. Pride peeks out from around dark corners, cultural clashes happen, and expectations go unmet. There are unexpected delays and there are always some costs that were not anticipated. The Corinthians go back to Paul in hopes that he can guide them toward completion. Paul stresses the basics: a solid foundation and excellent building materials.

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-23.
• What was the church in Corinth arguing about? What was wrong with their arguments?
• What types of foundations do churches unfortunately build themselves on other than Christ?
• When that happens what is the result? Is it inevitable that they will fail? Why or why not?
• What does a church look like that is built on a foundation of Christ?
• What do our arguments say about our foundation?
• What does it mean that we are God's temple and no one should destroy it?
• How would we be changed if our only focus was building our lives (temple) on Jesus Christ?

When we consider the foundation of our faith, let's reflect on why we are Christians.
1. Some people are Christians because it is the cultural thing to do. We were raised in a Christian nation/community/culture, so we are Christian.
• Why would this be less than a solid foundation?
2. Everyone else around us was baptized, so we were baptized.
• Why would this be less than a solid foundation?
3. We were afraid of hell.
• Why would this be less than a solid foundation?
4. Can you think of any other shaky foundations of faith?

• Paul writes about his role and that of the other leaders, how would you describe his perspective?

Paul was not a stranger to conflict. He had conflict with many other leaders. (Acts 15:35-41)
• Are conflicts inevitable?

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists some "building supplies" that are necessary for building churches and relationships.
• What are some of those supplies?

Sometimes it may be easier for us to grasp the idea of God living and dwelling in a building rather than in each of us as a community. In verse 16, the "you" that Paul mentions is not a singular, private you. Paul says that God dwells in the temple of believers. Here Paul is referring not to an individual, but to the entire Christian church in Corinth. This was radical in the first century, because previously God was understood to dwell in the temple in Jerusalem. Paul extends the understanding of God's dwelling place in the temple to the community. Community is what we are called to build, knowing that the Holy Spirit dwells in the people of God.
• Do we struggle with this today?

Watch "Greater Things" from the movie Big Fish.
• Do we limit God like a goldfish in a small bowl with our petty divisions?
• The story of Edward is fictional, but do you like him believe God has greater things for you and the church?
• Are we willing to let God show us greater things?

People can have individual experiences with God, but God is not a private God.
• Is this is an accurate statement?

"At a time when individualized spirituality is prevalent and churchgoers struggle to fit worship into the other demands of children's sports games, homework, housework, jobs and family time, some are tempted to stop going to worship altogether. Paul's assertions that God dwells among the community of believers when it gathers together can serve as a reminder that worship within the context of a church community is essential for encountering God. The suggestion that God dwells among the gathered community lends a powerful reminder that God desires the wholeness and unity of God's people."

Maybe what Paul is trying to tell the church is that we need to look at the community we are building, and to see if God and the "fools" of the world are at home there. As early Christians struggled to understand the nature of the new faith communities it was creating, the contemporary church must continue the struggle too.
• Do you feel holy?
• Do we know that God wants us to feel strong in grace?
• What can we do to feel like the temple of God?
• Or is the problem that we are working instead of letting God do it?
• How have you seen God's Spirit living in our congregation?

Paul continues to argue that the Gospel is wise to the spiritual, but foolishness to the world. He emphasizes that all that we have, whether it is our spiritual leader or our spiritual life itself, is a gift from God. The understanding that we belong to Christ comes as a gift from God.

Churches are formed for several reasons: as a part of an intentional plan, from a painful split, or out of a small group Bible study.
• What is our church's birth story?
• How will we contribute to our church's story?

Study Resources for February 16, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We are still in Corinthians this week and I look forward to all that God has in store for us this week.
• How does it make you feel when someone calls you immature or babyish?
• Do you want to strike back with a biting comment of your own? Why or Why not?

Paul called the Corinthian church babies—let us learn about that. Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9.
• Do Paul's words seem harsh?
• How do you think the church at Corinth made Paul feel?
• What were the signs of carnal (baby-like) attitudes in the church?
• What competition do you sense in this passage was taking place in the church?
• What was the result of that competition?
• How are these evidence of immaturity?
• What would you consider "milk" and "solid food" in terms of spiritual teachings and activities?
• What does a mature Christian look like?
• In a similar vein, what would a mature church look like?
• How did Paul make sense of the roles each of their differences played in the church?

It has been suggested that we all carry a deep wound of loneliness that is not easily overcome, and that this wound is so much a part of our human condition that we cannot escape it. We want to belong in the worst way, so we join communities, but they always tend to disappoint us.

These wounds were very evident in the church Paul founded in Corinth. The people of the church wanted desperately to belong. They divided themselves into groups and claimed that they belonged to Paul, Apollos or some other charismatic leader. Paul felt that this was clearly a misunderstanding of the gospel. The strife and jealousy that pit the rival factions against one another in the Corinthian community are opposed to genuine fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Paul came preaching Christ and Him crucified—a God who alone can give a sense of who we are and whose we are, a beloved people of God.

I think Paul's experience with the church is familiar to us. We separate ourselves into camps within our denomination, certain of our own moral and theological superiority. Historically, we divided ourselves to define ourselves in terms of denominations, but now it seems our dividing lines have turned inward. We try to cling to our opinions over the authority of scripture, human sexuality, and what kind of music we consider "sacred."
• How can we apply Paul's words to our own situations today?
• Do you think Paul wanted to rescue the Corinthians from their failure?

We hear the saying, "making mountains out of molehills."
• What were the little things that the Corinthians were doing that lead to bigger problems?
• What would be your advice to the Corinthian Church to fix their problems?
• How can we focus on what is really important in being the church?
• Do you think God wants to rescue us from our failures?

Watch "Ray" from the movie I Need Help.
http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/ray/i-need-help
• Do we believe we have all the needed gifts to be in God’s will?
• Do you think that God just wants us to show success in a few little things before we are blessed with bigger things?
• How hard do you think that is on a loving God who wants the best for us?

While Paul was addressing a specific argument among certain people, his images and words can have a profound impact on the way we see and perform our role in God's kingdom.
• How should this understanding change the way we interact with one another—with our human leaders and fellow workers?
• How should this understanding change the way we approach our work in God's kingdom?
When we view God's work in this way, what new challenges also arise?

Watch this clip: "Egghunt"
• What mistakes did the first caveman make?
• Why did he see the second caveman as competition?
• What lesson did he learn?

Explain your level of competitiveness with the group.
• What good and bad qualities come from competitiveness?
• What would a world look like without competition?
• Is this a world you would enjoy? Why or why not?
• In what ways do you see competition in the church?
• What is the positive or negative outcome of that competition?

Think about the areas you serve at church.
• How would you feel if you had to accomplish those tasks on your own?
• What is it like to be a part of something that is using multiple people to accomplish something?
• How is our church ministry greater than just us?
• How does God use our efforts to make something grow?

Tell about the first person who ever told you about Jesus Christ. What about the person who helped lead you into a relationship with Jesus.
• Who is your life has helped to nurture your faith?
• How have all of those people joined together to carve out a role in your spiritual journey?

The problem with the Corinthians is not their desire to grow in divine wisdom. The problem is that they have been seeking the wrong kind of wisdom from the wrong sources!
• Do we ever do that?

Genuine insight into the plans and purposes of God is given only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore persons who are truly in touch with divine wisdom are recognized, not by their philosophical sophistication or their impressive speeches, but by signs of the Spirit's presence with them. Radical!
• What kinds of signs indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit?
• How can we make sure that we don't miss the signs?

Study Resources for February 9, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Watch this clip: "False Advertising - Hot Wheels"
• As a child, did you ever beg for the cool toy and then were disappointed by how it really worked?
• How did that make you feel as a child?
• Do you think people sometimes feel that way about their faith in God?
• Why does the excitement of faith sometimes dull after awhile?

The apostle Paul was a gifted thinker and writer and church starter. Public speaking did not seem to be his forte, however. Corinth was known for its gifted public speakers and persuaders. Paul's weakness in this area apparently caused some people to doubt his call and spiritual authority. The Corinthians were used to hearing Greek orators and philosophers speak with impressive deliveries. Paul refused to be judged by style or polish alone. Paul felt that the substance of his message was more important than the style of his delivery.
• Is it easy to be swayed by rhetoric and personal charm? Example.

In last week's text, Paul spoke of the "foolishness of the gospel." This week the messenger of the gospel is also considered to be foolish.
• Why do you think we feel we need something more than God's grace for our salvation?


Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.
• What ideas/products have you fallen for as an adult because of loud and persuasive arguments (even if you later realize the idea/product was no good)?

Commercials tempt us all the time. Remember some of the old ones? "Winston taste good like a cigarette should." "You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent."
• Did this happen to the Corinthians? Why?
• What kind of wisdom was Paul talking about in these verses?
• How did the church see wisdom as a source of gaining power?
• Can power be a dangerous ambition?
• How does Paul compare power to the humility of the cross?
• How does the desire for power make someone blind to the true wisdom of the cross?
• Have you ever heard a religious expert say they had a special secret knowledge?
• How did that make you feel?
• What value does logic and rational arguments have in terms of Christian faith?
• Does this section of scripture sound contradictory to the previous verses? How so?
• If you were Paul, would you have gotten frustrated with the Corinthian Church due to their disobedience?
• Do you ever desire secret knowledge in your Christian life?
• How would Paul feel about our desire for mysteries and secret knowledge today?


Paul expanded his emphasis on learning from the Spirit by insisting that persons who are unspiritual or self-centered (psuchikos) can neither understand nor receive the gifts of God's Spirit, because they are not in touch with the Spirit.
• How would you explain this to a nonbeliever?

On the other hand, those who are spiritual (pneumatikos) know the presence of God, and they know what God has revealed to them, and are not subject to the judgment of others (v.15)
• How would you explain this to a nonbeliever?


Paul tells us that the Spirit of God is still living and active, still revealing the mystery of God to the people of God.
• How is this true in your life today?

This emphasizes on the importance of remaining in touch with the Spirit, for Christian faith is not found in static rituals, but in a dynamic relationship.
• How do you remain in touch with the Spirit of God?
• How do you maintain a dynamic relationship with God?
• How do we determine if someone's teaching is true?
• How do we decide what is truth and what is lies?

There are 8 questions that I think we can ask to determine truth.
1. Is it Biblical?
2. Is it logical?
3. Is it beneficial?
4. Is it moral?
5. Is it loving?
6. Is it legal?
7. Does it enslave?
8. Is it Christ-like?
• Can you think of any other questions to ask?

How would you define the Spirit of Christ to someone else? Paul seems to indicate that the one who knows the Spirit of Christ also knows the mind of Christ, and it is this that matters-not human wisdom or religious secrets, but the Spirit of Christ.
• What is the mind of Christ?
• How much time should we spend searching the Scriptures and praying?

Watch this clip: "Anything But Silent"
• Why do we feel pressure to do more and know more as Christians?
• When does it become too much? Or does it?
• How do we know if we are trusting God or simply seeking “secret” wisdom searching for answers?
• What can we learn from the Corinthian Church to help us balance our relationship with God and keep that relationship from being just a quest for knowledge?
• What can we learn by focusing on the wisdom/foolishness of the cross?
• What do we risk by living our lives by faith?

"Why Do Fools Fall In Love?"
Why does my heart skip this crazy beat?
For I know, It will reach defeat
Tell me why, tell me why?
Why do fools fall in love?
Love is a losing game
Love can be a shame
I know of a fool you see, for that fool is me
Tell me why, tell me why?

In a sense, love makes no sense.
• Who was St. Valentine?

The Gospel story is a love story. It is foolish to those who scoff at love. It is foolish to those who believe they are unworthy of love. But it is life to those of us who believe. It may make us do foolish-seeming things, like make sacrifices for others and others' needs. A sacrificial love makes no sense, but it is actually the only sensible way to live.

Study Resources for February 2, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

In our time and culture, the image of the cross is fairly common. As a symbol of Christian faith we see it on church steeples and lawns, on bumper stickers and on business cards.
• Have we lost our sensitivity to the sight of the cross or are we lost in wonder when we see it and realize its meaning?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

In today's lesson, Paul wants the church to remember what the cross was about and to consider why a crucified God is a difficult concept for most people to grasp and understand.
• What is it that Paul says has the potential to "rob the cross of its power"?
• How do you think this could rob the cross of its power?

According to Paul, the cross divides the world in two groups: those who are perishing and those who are being saved.
• How do you feel about that statement?

These verses also give us a perspective about the process of salvation.
• What do you notice about the words/verbs that Paul uses?
• What insight can we gain from this image?
• Is salvation a moment in time or a process? Why?
• How have you experienced salvation?
• What kind of signs do you think Paul is talking about?
• Why do we want signs sometimes before we believe?
• What do you think Paul meant about wisdom?

Paul's readers, like many of us, lived in a sophisticated society that found pride in self-reliance and continual achievements.
• Is this an accurate assessment of our culture today?
• How does the need for self-reliance and continual achievements affect a person's faith?
• Can you think of some seemingly foolish things that happened in the Bible?
• Have you ever done anything foolish for God?

Watch "Moses Parts the Sea" from the Ten Commandments.
• From human perspective, how foolish was Moses as a leader taking the people to the sea?
• On the other hand, how did it show God’s wisdom and power?
• Do we limit God’s power/wisdom by doing things our way?
• Do we limit the chance to embrace the wisdom of God by forgetting how loving and powerful God truly is?
• Do we truly believe God can work out of what seems like foolishness today?

Paul's statement that "God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom" is almost common sense.
• Isn't God, by definition wiser than we are?

We need to remember that Paul is writing to people nurtured in Greek culture, including the stories of Greek gods. Paul was addressing 3 different groups of wise people in Corinth:
1. philosophers (mostly in the Greek tradition)
2. scribes (experts in the law)
3. popular rhetoricians who gained acclaim through public speeches (similar to today's syndicated columnists or TV commentators.)

All of these "wise people" could argue and debate issues of the day with great eloquence and convincing rhetoric, that impressed their listeners. Paul insisted that their dependence on human reasoning left them blind to the deepest truth of the gospel. A crucified savior may not make any sense to human ears, but even the foolishness of God far surpasses the best of human wisdom.

The Corinthians and others in the Roman Empire were surrounded with the "wisdom" of gods who were all out for themselves, who were so powerful they could do whatever they wanted to mere humans, and who despised any signs of weakness.

Paul tells us that God can use the weak, the ignorant and the common to teach the world great truths about God and God's ways.
• Can you share a story of how this has come true?

Dr. Raymond Bryan Brown commented that human wisdom is wisdom we can master, while God's wisdom is wisdom that masters us.
• Do you think this is accurate? Why?

How do human beings come to really know God?
• Does authentic spirituality follow the pattern of Babel with human beings constructing towers to heaven with their own understanding, insights and spiritual wisdom?
• Or does true religion mirror the pattern of Sinai, where knowledge of God results from God coming down from heaven to establish fellowship with humanity?

Paul tells us in this passage that fellowship with God is a product of God's decision to come down to us. He tells us that this can be seen through the cross.
• What kind of picture of God is presented by today's human wisdom?
• How does God work in your life in unexpected ways?

Watch this excerpt from preacher, Matt Chandler.
• What truths about Christianity would sound crazy to someone who has never heard it?
• How can we believe and live the gospel if it sounds so foolish?
• Should we defend or embrace the idea of a foolish gospel? Explain.
• What types of things does the world tell us to seek after?

Give an example of how someone would be perceived as foolish for not seeking those things.
• Is it easier to follow Christ or the world at your work and home? Explain.
• What makes someone willing to accept another’s perception of foolishness for the gospel?

Study Resources for January 26, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We are continuing our study in 1 Corinthians and this week we will be looking at how the early church struggled with different opinions.
Watch the video clip  "Reconciling with Dad" from the movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
• What are some things you dislike?
• What type of people do you dislike?
• If the world was ending (like in this movie clip), would it be easier to forgive others? Why does it matter?
• Why can't we all just get along?”

Today there are many distinct groups in the Christian faith.
• Were "denominations" inevitable?
• Are there some advantages to having multiple denominations? How about disadvantages?
• What can be the danger to the Christian witness?

Read today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.

• What is the church arguing about in this passage?
• What problems were those disagreements causing?
• How did Paul suggest they handle their disagreements?
• How does the division in the church rob the cross of its power, as Paul suggests?

Disagreements and quarrels persist in our churches today. Many churches struggle over doctrine, authority and interpretation of scripture, and vision. The words that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth have not succeeded in bringing total unity to the church today.
• Do Paul's words have relevance for the contemporary church? Why or why not?
• Why do you think God chose the church?

Chloe was apparently a leader in the Corinthian church. She sent people to Paul to make him aware of certain concerns that she had. The divisions in the church were more than mere opinions. There were quarrels that led to deep divisions. The Greek word in verse 10 for divisions is "schismata."  This is where we get our word "schism." Looking back over church history, we know that schisms have led to inquisitions, persecutions and executions. They were justified on the basis of theological correctness and moral purity.

Although we aren't exactly sure of everything in this particular church conflict, we can guess that the emphasis on individual freedom at the expense of the community and the disregard of the poor may be at the core of some of their problems. Paul will talk about this later on in his book.

Paul was upset. He spends the first 4 chapters of this book urging unity within the church.
Paul challenges the church to "say the same thing." In Greek literature this is a common phrase that means to live in political and social unity.
• How in the world can we do that?

One commentator expresses it this way, "We can seek to deal with the tragedy of our divisions as we focus not on the power struggles or on the wisdom that we have accumulated, but on the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, most fully expressed in His suffering death on the cross, which to us who are being saved is the power of God."
• How can we do this, really?

The New Baptist Covenant is a movement to bring various Baptists together in a community to work for the common good as a united witness for Christ. They have discovered that working on behalf of others is something that can unite different kinds of Christian believers. Stephen Reeves, the CBF associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy says, "Advocacy is putting your neighbor's needs ahead of your own needs, which comes in stark contrast to lobbying for your own self-interest. For churches, the first thing to think about is your community. It starts by looking outward and becoming a voice for the folks you see in your community."

• How can we do that here in Richmond?
• What are some ways we can partner with other denominations to bring the kingdom of God to Richmond?

Paul alludes to his weaknesses and the fact that he was a sinner and was not the most articulate spokesperson God could have called. He was not interested in becoming a celebrity Christian in the Corinthian church. He wanted to be a support and a guide toward unity.

• In a world that celebrates confrontation, glamorizes getting all we can in any situation, and sees winning as the ultimate priority, how can we be a humble, loving, unity seeking church that puts others first and seeks God's authority?

• What is the mission of our church?
• How hard are we working to bring about the purpose of our church?
• Do you sometimes feel like a warrior fighting a losing battle?

Watch "The Dark World" from Marvel's Thor.

• Overall, do you help or hinder God’s will?
• What is your purpose in being a part of your church?
• Are we truly fulfilling the purpose of Christ or do we pretend we have it under control with fires burning around us? Wouldn’t it be nice if God came down in a miraculous way, like Thor, to help us?
• If that happened, would we pretend we have it all under control anyway?

• What would unity look like in our church and community?
• What can we do to help God’s will for unity in our world?

Study Resources for January 19, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

This Sunday we are in 1 Corinthians. We will be in Corinthians for a couple of weeks so we can settle here and enjoy the visit.

Watch  "Show Us a Sign" from the movie The Messenger.
• What do you know about Joan of Arc?
• Does it seem silly to think about a teenager leading an army?
• Would you have believed her?
• Where did she find her strength to proclaim her beliefs and stand before the leaders to ask for an army?

Corinth facts:
It was an important stop on the trade route for the East.
It was the center of Roman government for the province of Achaia
It was an eclectic cosmopolitan city.
It was famous for immorality and depravity.
It was home to a variety of belief systems.
Rituals of their pagan neighbors had a strong influence on the church's worship.

One important dynamic in human relationships is the perceptions that we have of ourselves and others. We act and react to others out of the perceptions we have. As Paul begins his letter to the church at Corinth, he expresses both his perception of himself and his perception of the church. Both those perceptions make a strong impact on what Paul writes and how he deals with the people.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
• How does Paul see himself?
• How does Paul see the people of Corinth?

Paul has no illusions about the Corinthian Church. He has heard about their quarrels and divisions. Yet Paul begins his letter by affirming his understanding of who they are and reminding them of who they are called to be in Christ. When Paul calls attention their shortcomings, he does so because he is calling them to be who God has called them to be.

C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, letters from a devil named Screwtape to his nephew on earth named Wormwood. Wormwood is charged with keeping his patient in the clutches of the devil. In one of the letters, Screwtape rebukes Wormwood because his patient has become a Christian, but he tells Wormwood how to fix the situation:

"One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me, I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity. Fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbors whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbors. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like the body of Christ and the actual faces in the next pew."
• Does Satan still use these kinds of tactics in our today?
• How effective are they?

Paul begins his letter to the church with a clear perception of who these people are (v.2). The church can be called to be what God intends it to be only when we have a clear perception of who these people are and what grace has brought them to this place.
• What do you think?
• What does it mean for us to be "holy people?"

In spite of all the failures of the people of Corinth, Paul can see the gifts of God in that community. Paul sees them as having been enriched, receiving the ability for speech and having been given knowledge. And on top of all of that, they are not lacking in any spiritual gift. As we look at our own churches, our weaknesses and failures are often to obvious. Paul can teach us to be grateful for the gifts that God has given to our church.
• What are some gifts He has gifted to this church?

The church is rich in blessings, not because of the accomplishments of the people within the fellowship, but because of the grace of God that has enriched and sustained the people.
• If we really believe that, why do we try to take the credit?

One final perspective Paul has is that even though the church is not fulfilled in the present, it waits for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (v.7). The church seeks to minister in this day and to be faithful in this day looking with hope toward a future when the church will be perfected.
• Why do you think God chose the church?
• Did the Corinthian church have potential?
• What kind of potential do you see in our church?
• Why do you think God puts up with the church and all of its flaws?
• Why do you think the Corinthians needed to be reminded that God is faithful?

Watch the video clip  "Like Human Beings" from the movie Defiance.
• How would you feel as a refugee hunted by a powerful military?
• Would it have been easier to give up or keep going?
• Would it have been easier for the Corinthian church to give up instead of pressing on?
• What about your church?
• If you were Tuvia, where would you find strength to lead?
• Where should we find our strength?
• What does that really look like?
• For these refugees every day of freedom was an act of faith, so how do we live as an act of faith?
• Should we ask God for the strength to do that?
• How do we ask God?

If God has called us to live as human beings then God will provide the Spirit and strength, right? Paul uses the word "called" several times.
• What do you think it means to be called?
• Have you ever been called?
• What did that feel like?
• What did that mean for you?
• Do you think you have found God's calling in your life?
• How do you know?

If we look closely at the three times Paul uses the word called (v.1,2,and 9), is he talking about doing something or about being something?
• Is there a difference and if so, what is that difference?
• What comes first the doing or the being?
• How does what we do shape who we become?

Frederick Buechner says, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

It seems that there are two points that we can take from this scripture lesson to the world:
1. God is faithful
2. God's call for us is to become a community of faith and put into action all that we know about God and who we are in response to Him.

Show us our calling, and give us the grace to follow it.

Study Resources for January 12, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We are now in the book of Acts. The title of this lesson is "Who Converted Whom?" It is an powerful passage that is as powerful today as it was when it was in the early church. Let's dive in!

We grow up assuming that the customs we were raised with are "normal."
• Have you ever traveled to a foreign country?
• What custom differences did you notice?
• What American custom/tradition/law do you think would be the most surprising to someone visiting from another nation?

When we go into a different culture, we realize that, although many things may be basically the same, there is a "different normal" for people from different countries.
• When have you needed a different perspective?
• Did it take something like a vision from God for you to see the light?

Watch "The Raiders" from The Big Bang Theory
• Can you think of a time that an encounter with someone changed your view on life?”
• What do you know about the Biblical narrative of Peter and Cornelius?

In Acts 10:9-16, we see Peter having a vision about food. Peter went up on the roof to pray and became hungry. He had a vision of heaven opening up and down came a large sheet that contained all kinds of food that Jews were not supposed to eat and a voice told him to get up and eat. He was sure that he wasn't supposed to eat anything that was seen as impure or unclean. This happened three times and the sheet went back to heaven. Peter was puzzled and couldn't get this vision out of his mind.

Simon Peter grew up in a Jewish family with its religious rituals and rules. Some of these rules had to do with what someone may and may not eat. This is called "kosher." Even today, observant Jews are careful to only eat kosher foods. According to one rabbi, "The short answer to why Jews observe these laws is, because the Torah says so. The Torah does not specify any reason for these laws, and for a Torah-observant, traditional Jew, there is no need for any other reason."

We are all sensitive to the issues with which Peter was struggling when he encountered Cornelius. These issues are deeply rooted in the human experience. People isolate themselves from one another. People find identity within a group, and fear that they will lose that identity if they do not guard their separateness. We find it difficult to relate or to associate with someone who is different from us. We have a sense that we will lose our status within our own group if we dare to reach out to those on the outside. If the ways in which we deal with and relate to others are challenged, it is no simple matter to change our mind and to act in a different way. Prejudice runs deep.

Three men come to see Peter from Cornelius the Centurion. Cornelius wants Peter to come and talk with him. Peter invites the men into the house to be his guests and they left the next morning to see Cornelius.

In our country, we have had major transitions in what was considered "right."
• What are some cultural shifts you have seen in your lifetime?

For Peter, the release of restrictive rules about food was just the beginning. There were also people with whom Jews were not to associate. Cornelius and his friends were seen as unclean by the
Jews. Peter goes to Cornelius' house and finds that he is a devout man who fears God (vs.2).
• What do you think is the significance of God giving Peter this vision before he met Cornelius?

Now to our focal passage for today. It is here that we see the message of good news to the non-Jews.

Read Acts 10:34-43
Over night, Peter's perspective changed! Salvation was not only for the Jews, but also for all people, including Roman soldiers like Cornelius.

Watch a clip from the movie 12 Angry Men.
• What did you think of the way the other juror’s treated the man’s prejudice?
• How did it effect the prejudice man? How did this make you feel?
• How do you know if you are prejudice against something/someone?
• How do we face up to that?
• When we think we have God’s favor, who do we consider different enough to be left out of God’s favor?
• How do we as a church begin to embrace those who we have always seen as being left out?
• What will it take for the church to face its' prejudices and move past it?

Through his own process of discovery, Peter finds that his understanding and interpretation of some truths and laws were somewhat flawed. In verse 34, Peter restates an Old Testament principle found in Deut.10:17. It wasn't a new thought, but Peter discovers that God's impartiality extends to people. Peter's discovery indicates that the door is now open for the inclusion of all people into
the kingdom.

Watch a clip from the movie Undercover Boss.

• Who needed to change in this clip?
• Did the boss know everything?
• Did he need to listen to an employee?
• Do we need to listen to others even if they do not share our view or culture?
• If we are all created in God’s image, then do we all have equal value?
• Do we limit the spreading of the Gospel by forcing our culture/views on others?
• How can we overcome the prejudices of our work, family, church, and culture?

It is a difficult matter indeed for us to break through the limitations of how we see and deal with others. Our only hope is to be open to the Spirit and to seek an ever new understanding of the God who "shows no partiality."

 

Study Resources for January 5, 2014

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We are going to be in the first chapter of John this week, John 1:10-18. It is almost impossible to begin with the tenth verse. I encourage you to start with verse 1.
We will be talking this week about the Word. I began to think about words and how we all use them. I am always surprised at the some of the choices of words people use in their everyday vocabulary. I have read research that says that women use between 18,000-20,000 words a day and men use between 800 and 10,000. Now my question is who is sitting around counting all of that?! Words are extremely powerful and so many times we are very careless with our words. The Word is unlike any other! This Word heals, restores, graces, saves, pardons, and loves.

Read
John 1:1-18.
John's opening words are unlike other nativity stories. Instead of "a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger," John begins with words that reflect all the way back to creation.

Watch this brief Bible Text Animation.

• How many times have you heard this passage?
• Do you thoroughly understand it?
• How would you explain it to someone that had never heard it before?
• How miraculous is it that the Word (God) became flesh for us?
• When we use the word, "word," we might mean several different things. What are some ways we use "word" in our culture?
Our text this week focuses on this word, "word." In the first five verses, the Greek word for word is "logos." Like our "word," logos can have different meanings, depending on the speaker and the context.
Dr. William Hull said that "word" can be approached in three ways. "Word" - "as divine power to the Jews, as rational principle to the Greeks, and as redemptive proclamation to the early Christians."
How would you describe the word "logos?"
For us, Logos refers to the person of Jesus Christ.
Notice that John's Gospel begins like the first three words in our Bible. "In the beginning" John is using Genesis 1 as a template; John is saying that Jesus and God are one and the same.
Here, the light of the world is appearing in the dark world-darkened by sin and evil.
• How did the world react to Jesus?
• How does the world react to Jesus today?
One way to reject or to reduce the Light of the World is by recasting the Light, to put a lampshade over the Light.
• What are some ways the world puts a lampshade over the Light?
• In verse 12, John talks about believing in "His Name." What does that mean?

Dr. Hull says, "Grace without truth is easily seen as sentimentality while truth without grace can appear to be an inflexible rigidity." Verse 14 tells us that Jesus has both grace and truth.
• Why does He need both?
• Can we balance truth and grace in our world? How so?

Watch this clip from CBS Evening News On the Road.

• How does this video reflect the balance of grace and truth in the lives of these middle school boys?
• How can we incorporate a balance of grace and truth in our lives?
• Does having God who became one of us encourage us to help others?

Watch "Not One of Them" from the movie Superman Returns.

• How is the fictional character of Superman like Jesus?
• How is he not like Jesus?
• How does Superman deal with truth and grace?
• Do we live like people who have a Savior not just a comic book superhero?
Tony Cartlege says, "To put John's words in simplistic terms, Jesus left heaven and came to earth to engage with humans so that humans can leave earth and enjoy a heavenly relationship with God."
• Do you think this adequately describes John's words?
• If not what would you add?

In early Jewish writings, the most frequent terms used to indicate God's activity were terms that would be translated as "Word," "Presence," and "Glory." For example, in describing God's work, the rabbi would say, that the Word spoke, the Presence dwelt, and Glory appeared. There was a strict prohibition on using God's name in early writings—even the Hebrew versions of "God" and "Lord"—because it was thought to be presumptuous. The custom of avoiding any public use of God's name continues among observant Jews, who avoid either saying or writing "Yahweh," "God," or "Lord." Instead they are likely to refer to God as "the Holy One, blessed be He," or "the Name," (in Hebrew, HaShem).

• How did John reflect these thought in verse 14?

• In our culture, we appear to take the name of God very lightly. What happened?

• In verse 14, John uses 3 words to describe Jesus, "word, presence or dwelling, and glory." Why does he use these words to describe Jesus?
The purpose of Jesus coming to live among us is found at the end of this passage in verse 18: to make God known.
• What are some things you know about God because "the Word became flesh" in Jesus Christ?
It is here in these words that we see God revealing more of Himself to us through Jesus. It took creation-light and life. It took a human baby to show us what God looks like. It took the sharing of life—He "lived" among us and therefore, we can enter into a new relationship with Him; we were once no people but, now we are called "children of God."

In the Cotton Patch version of the New Testament, Clarence Jordan translates these verses like this, "The Word was made flesh and moved into the neighborhood. When the Word moved in, He had a kind of glory that we all could see-a one-of-a-kind glory like God We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish." Jesus was generous not for what He could get, but for what He could give. The Word did the right thing for the right reason because He was generous inside and out. The Word has integrity, honesty and wholeness. The Word has no break or impurity. The Word is true from beginning to end, from start to finish.

Some people are impressed by the power of the Almighty God that created all things. Others are impressed by the omniscience of God, the fact that God knows everything at the same time. I am most impressed with the love of God, because it is love that brings God to the neighborhood. As this kind of love moves into our neighborhoods again this new year, how can we celebrate it and share it in new ways with those that are in the most need?

Study Resources for December 22, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

What keeps you going? Fear or hope?

Watch "Christmas Is More" from the movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

• What did the Grinch think Christmas was about? What revelation did he have about Christmas?
• Do you think he still missed the point? Why or why not?
• Describe the Christmas traditions or patterns that take place in your home on Christmas.
• If an observer watched your family celebrate Christmas, what would they likely perceive that Christmas was all about? Why?
• What might your celebration look like if it were only focused on the birth of Christ? Why?

Today we are in Isaiah 7:10-17.

• Think for a moment about your deepest hopes. Is hope just a feeling, or does deep hope also urge us to action in some way? Explain.

Let's look a little at Ahaz in this passage. You can find out a lot about Ahaz in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. Ahaz is the king of the southern Kingdom (Judah). The Assyrian King, Tiglath Pileser III, is expanding his kingdom by taking over nations west of Assyria. The kings of Syria and the Northern Kingdom (Israel) have allied together and urged Ahaz to join them.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king and he reigned in Jerusalem for sixteen years. Ahaz ignored the prophet Isaiah's advice to put his trust in God rather than in military alliances. Turning to the Assyrian empire, he purchased aid with treasures from the temple and the king's palace. The strategy worked temporarily. But Ahaz opened the doors for an invasion by the Assyrians later. He made copies of foreign gods and set them up in Jerusalem. He went so far as to sacrifice his sons in fire, to mirror the practices of foreign nations. Scripture says that in every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the LORD. When he died, he was buried in the city of Jerusalem and not in the tombs of the kings of Israel.

Let's read Isaiah 7:10-17.

• Isaiah the prophet gives Ahaz a prophecy, telling Ahaz to "take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint" about these two kings. "If you do not stand firm in the faith, you will not stand at all." What do you think he means by this?

• What do you think Isaiah means by, asking for anything "as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven?"
• Can we ask God for anything as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven? Do we?
This text is a powerful witness to God's work in the world. Ahaz and his subjects are terrified at the impending attack from Assyria which threatens not only the survival of the nation, but also the promise that a descendant of David would always reign in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7:11-16). In this time of national terror, YHWH sends Isaiah to reassure Ahaz of divine protection. In Verse 10, YHWH speaks to Ahaz through Isaiah. It isn't clear how much time has elapsed since verses 1-9, but Ahaz apparently had not demonstrated the faith that Isaiah had demanded. The prophet offers Ahaz a sign to improve his confidence. Ahaz refuses and a frustrated Isaiah responds that YHWH will give him a sign anyway, the birth of a child.

• Why do you think Ahaz turned down this offer of a sign?

By giving the sign anyway, God shows Israel steadfast faithfulness and grace.
• How is God being faithful to us today?
• Where can God be seen and known?
• Where is God breaking into the world?
• Can you see God's gracious activity in our lives and in our world?
• Is God gracious and faithful to us sometimes despite our objections?
At first glance, it seem that Ahaz is piously following the law of God in Deuteronomy 6:16, but, as Isaiah makes clear, the king is missing the point of God's offer. Ahaz does not test God if he accepts God's free offer, rather God is testing Ahaz. When Ahaz refuses the sign, he is actually refusing to trust in the living God who is speaking to him.

• How does God meet you in unexpected ways, with unexpected grace?
• Can you think of answers that sound righteous but are actually refusals of God's grace?
• What is it like to trust in God's living presence in hard and sometimes frightening situations?
• Do you think we ever try the patience of God?
One commentator makes the statement that Ahaz reacted out of fear rather than faith.
• Do we ever do that? How effective is it?
• How would this child with this name be a sign for King Ahaz and the nation?

The sign God gives in Isaiah arouses hope. At the same time it opens up the gap between what the world is and what it ought to be. There is a sharp contrast between the world as it is and the world that God intended for it to be.

In Matthew 1:18-25 we read about the birth of God's gift to the world. Let's read Matthew 1:18-25 and see how God demonstrated His gracious love to us with the birth of Jesus.
• Is it reassuring that God continues in history to remind us that God is with us?
• What does Advent mean to you in your life?
• Do your thoughts of Advent include the idea of Jesus' second coming?
• Is judgment a part of your thought process when you think about Jesus coming again?
• Does the idea of Jesus' return give you hope?
• Do you think that the only thing stronger than fear is hope?
• Can you have too much hope?
• Can hope ever be dangerous?
• How can we avoid misplaced hope?
• How can we show our hope to the world?
• Does your hope lead you to feel that God is really "with us"?
• So, what is the real point of Advent?
• In the Isaiah passage, does it end (v.17) with a positive promise?
• We usually think of Emmanuel-God With Us- as a positive sign. How would Ahaz and Judah view it differently at this time?
• Why is God's presence-within us and among us- not always such a comfortable thing?
• Why is God's presence usually a blessing and a conviction?
• How can we make the blessing of Gods presence a reality in our life?

Watch "Working Christmas Eve" from the movie The Family Man. 

• What were the expectations versus reality that the businessmen had to deal with?
• What good news were they expecting?
If you have seen the movie, you know that Nicholas Cage's character changes as the movie concludes.
• From this clip, what appears to need changing?
• What are some events that happen in a person’s life that cause one to change?

• How did Jesus call people to change?
• How does remembering Advent cause us to rethink our lives?
• Dr. William Hull said, "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for and the most you can do is to live inside that hope; not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof."
• How would living in hope change you this Christmas?

• What areas of your life might God be trying to transform in you during this Advent season?
As we think about transformation, I am reminded of a young woman a long time ago that could trust God enough with her reputation, her future, her body-with everything. Her final words to the angel, "Let it be."
Oh that we could experience that kind of transforming power in our lives this Christmas season.
"Let it be."

Study Resources for December 22, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

What keeps you going? Fear or hope?

Watch "Christmas Is More" from the movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

• What did the Grinch think Christmas was about? What revelation did he have about Christmas?
• Do you think he still missed the point? Why or why not?
• Describe the Christmas traditions or patterns that take place in your home on Christmas.
• If an observer watched your family celebrate Christmas, what would they likely perceive that Christmas was all about? Why?
• What might your celebration look like if it were only focused on the birth of Christ? Why?

Today we are in Isaiah 7:10-17.

• Think for a moment about your deepest hopes. Is hope just a feeling, or does deep hope also urge us to action in some way? Explain.

Let's look a little at Ahaz in this passage. You can find out a lot about Ahaz in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. Ahaz is the king of the southern Kingdom (Judah). The Assyrian King, Tiglath Pileser III, is expanding his kingdom by taking over nations west of Assyria. The kings of Syria and the Northern Kingdom (Israel) have allied together and urged Ahaz to join them.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king and he reigned in Jerusalem for sixteen years. Ahaz ignored the prophet Isaiah's advice to put his trust in God rather than in military alliances. Turning to the Assyrian empire, he purchased aid with treasures from the temple and the king's palace. The strategy worked temporarily. But Ahaz opened the doors for an invasion by the Assyrians later. He made copies of foreign gods and set them up in Jerusalem. He went so far as to sacrifice his sons in fire, to mirror the practices of foreign nations. Scripture says that in every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the LORD. When he died, he was buried in the city of Jerusalem and not in the tombs of the kings of Israel.

Let's read Isaiah 7:10-17.

• Isaiah the prophet gives Ahaz a prophecy, telling Ahaz to "take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint" about these two kings. "If you do not stand firm in the faith, you will not stand at all." What do you think he means by this?

• What do you think Isaiah means by, asking for anything "as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven?"
• Can we ask God for anything as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven? Do we?
This text is a powerful witness to God's work in the world. Ahaz and his subjects are terrified at the impending attack from Assyria which threatens not only the survival of the nation, but also the promise that a descendant of David would always reign in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7:11-16). In this time of national terror, YHWH sends Isaiah to reassure Ahaz of divine protection. In Verse 10, YHWH speaks to Ahaz through Isaiah. It isn't clear how much time has elapsed since verses 1-9, but Ahaz apparently had not demonstrated the faith that Isaiah had demanded. The prophet offers Ahaz a sign to improve his confidence. Ahaz refuses and a frustrated Isaiah responds that YHWH will give him a sign anyway, the birth of a child.

• Why do you think Ahaz turned down this offer of a sign?

By giving the sign anyway, God shows Israel steadfast faithfulness and grace.
• How is God being faithful to us today?
• Where can God be seen and known?
• Where is God breaking into the world?
• Can you see God's gracious activity in our lives and in our world?
• Is God gracious and faithful to us sometimes despite our objections?
At first glance, it seem that Ahaz is piously following the law of God in Deuteronomy 6:16, but, as Isaiah makes clear, the king is missing the point of God's offer. Ahaz does not test God if he accepts God's free offer, rather God is testing Ahaz. When Ahaz refuses the sign, he is actually refusing to trust in the living God who is speaking to him.

• How does God meet you in unexpected ways, with unexpected grace?
• Can you think of answers that sound righteous but are actually refusals of God's grace?
• What is it like to trust in God's living presence in hard and sometimes frightening situations?
• Do you think we ever try the patience of God?
One commentator makes the statement that Ahaz reacted out of fear rather than faith.
• Do we ever do that? How effective is it?
• How would this child with this name be a sign for King Ahaz and the nation?

The sign God gives in Isaiah arouses hope. At the same time it opens up the gap between what the world is and what it ought to be. There is a sharp contrast between the world as it is and the world that God intended for it to be.

In Matthew 1:18-25 we read about the birth of God's gift to the world. Let's read Matthew 1:18-25 and see how God demonstrated His gracious love to us with the birth of Jesus.
• Is it reassuring that God continues in history to remind us that God is with us?
• What does Advent mean to you in your life?
• Do your thoughts of Advent include the idea of Jesus' second coming?
• Is judgment a part of your thought process when you think about Jesus coming again?
• Does the idea of Jesus' return give you hope?
• Do you think that the only thing stronger than fear is hope?
• Can you have too much hope?
• Can hope ever be dangerous?
• How can we avoid misplaced hope?
• How can we show our hope to the world?
• Does your hope lead you to feel that God is really "with us"?
• So, what is the real point of Advent?
• In the Isaiah passage, does it end (v.17) with a positive promise?
• We usually think of Emmanuel-God With Us- as a positive sign. How would Ahaz and Judah view it differently at this time?
• Why is God's presence-within us and among us- not always such a comfortable thing?
• Why is God's presence usually a blessing and a conviction?
• How can we make the blessing of Gods presence a reality in our life?

Watch "Working Christmas Eve" from the movie The Family Man. 

• What were the expectations versus reality that the businessmen had to deal with?
• What good news were they expecting?
If you have seen the movie, you know that Nicholas Cage's character changes as the movie concludes.
• From this clip, what appears to need changing?
• What are some events that happen in a person’s life that cause one to change?

• How did Jesus call people to change?
• How does remembering Advent cause us to rethink our lives?
• Dr. William Hull said, "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for and the most you can do is to live inside that hope; not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof."
• How would living in hope change you this Christmas?

• What areas of your life might God be trying to transform in you during this Advent season?
As we think about transformation, I am reminded of a young woman a long time ago that could trust God enough with her reputation, her future, her body-with everything. Her final words to the angel, "Let it be."
Oh that we could experience that kind of transforming power in our lives this Christmas season.
"Let it be."

Study Resources for December 15, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

• If you could change one thing about this world, what would it be? Why?
• What do you wish God would do to restore this world?

We are in Isaiah again this week and we have another passage on peace.
• How do you define peace? What does peace look like to you?
Last week we talked about Isaiah's hope for peace on earth and this week our passage not only talks about peace on earth, it even foresees peace in the animal kingdom. This passage contains the most complete descriptions of the personal characteristics of the Messianic King to be found in the Old Testament. As Christians we cannot help but look at this Old Testament scripture through the lens of Jesus. So, when we read this passage we recognize Jesus because this is a prophesy of the Messiah. But the original listeners, 600-800 years before Jesus' birth saw this passage as more about nationalism than eternal salvation.
Isn't it often true that we do not recognize God or God's Word and works until we take a backwards view?
During Advent, we read scriptures that, to us, obviously talk about Jesus. But to the people who lived and walked during the time that this book was written did not understand all that Isaiah was saying.

Let's look at some of the images that Isaiah uses.
First there is the shoot coming from the stump of Jesse. Isaiah was not the only prophet to speak of a coming king as a shoot or branch from the stump of Jesse.
Read
Jeremiah 23:5-6, Zechariah 3:8, 6:12. All three scriptures used the image of Israel as a great tree, especially when under David's leadership, that had been cut down. But from a stump that appeared lifeless and dead, the prophets saw a new shoot springing up, a branch that would grow strong with new life and bring renewed hope to God's people.
• What situations in our world today seem hopeless or dead?
• Do we really believe that God can restore and bring life out of relationships, situations, and lives that appear to be dead?
Jesse was the father of King David. David was Israel's greatest king, the king against which all other rulers were compared.
• What was a stump before it became a stump? Isaiah is mourning the loss of the Northern Kingdom/Israel to the Assyrians, and fears that Assyria may come and take the Southern Kingdom/Judah as well. Assyria took the brightest and the best, the strongest and the healthiest. They scattered these people of Israel throughout the Assyrian Empire. What was left was a shadow of what had been an nation.
• I think that the world tries to scatter us today. It tries to separate us from what is truly important and fragment us. Do you feel scattered today? How so?
Isaiah has a hope that new life will spring from this stump. This new ruler will have the Spirit of God resting on Him. Whenever in the Old Testament the Spirit of the Lord is given to men it is in order that they may be divinely equipped for some demanding task. Basically the Spirit of the Lord connotes power, and those upon whom the Spirit rests act with wisdom and strength that comes from God. This is one Spirit that rests upon him here. It is described in several ways, but one Spirit. The remainder of v. 2 is describing the working of the Spirit in His life. He will have wisdom.
• What is knowledge?
• What is wisdom?
Knowledge as the Hebrews understood it meant more than possessing certain information, it meant "understanding that could be gained only on the basis of a close personal relationship." To fear the Lord meant "to be reverent before Him." To know and to fear the Lord, therefore, was the essence of Old Testament faith. In this passage the knowledge of the Lord begins with the Messiah and ends as a gift to all of us (v.9).
• How can we know and fear the Lord today?

Watch "Fluffy Prize" from the movie Despicable Me.
• Is revenge ever a good option? Can we seek peace through revenge?
• Should we use force to accomplish what is right?
• What about if the evil is really annoying and harmful to those who are helpless?

Read Isaiah 11:1-10.
• What symbols of restoration are revealed in this passage?
• What do you think this passage meant to the original hearers?
• What characteristics of this ruler do you most admire?
• What leadership qualities would you add to the list?
• What do you think that a judge/ruler would look like and what kind of justice would he bring?
• Is justice easy to find?
• How does the world achieve peace?
• Does it differ from God's idea of peace?

• How possible or practical was this vision of a peaceable kingdom in Isaiah's day?
• Does it seem likely today?
• Do we need a vision or a goal to achieve greatness?
• How difficult is it for people to be peaceful in our city? What about in our church and family?

• Do you think Isaiah's imagery about the animals is realistic? Why or why not?
• What is the significance of this part of the passage?

Watch "Reconciliation and forgiveness start here" from the movie Invictus.

• How does this clip relate to this week’s text?
• Why was Mandela’s officer so reluctant to accept the men Mandela had appointed?
• Do you think it was easy for Mandela to put the past behind him? Why or why not?
• Why did he choose to forgive and reconcile?
• What would have happened if Mandela held on to his own bitterness?
• Who in our culture do you find yourself in disagreement with?
• If you are willing to share, whom would you consider to be an enemy?
• How does our bitterness and disunity affected our attitude and demeanor?
• How does the message in this week’s text from Isaiah speak to what you might be experiencing in relationships?
• How might our actions change in order to bring about peace? How does the notion of “peace starts here” apply to your life?
• What can we do on a regular basis to help bring peace? What would it take for us to truly pray for peace? Is our church willing to work toward peace this Advent?

Watch "No More Blood" from the movie The Messenger. 

• If we are bringing the kingdom of God to Richmond, what part does peace play in that process?

Study Resources for December 1, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. This is the season of expectation and anticipation. We begin the countdown to Christmas. It really is just around the corner! Today we are going to be talking about peace and hope.

• What do you really want for Christmas?
• If you could have a perfect Christmas, what would it look like?
• What does this world need this holiday season?
• How does our world define peace?
• How does our world define hope?
• Do these definitions differ from how God defines peace and hope?
During Advent, there is anticipation that something good is on the way. This is the season of hope.

Watch this clip from the movie Man of Steel.
• Do you have a personal symbol of hope?
• When you are going through tough times, what gives you hope?

• Is peace realistic?
• What would peace require?
• Are we willing to work for it?
Weapons and war are in our news all the time. It is hard to imagine life without them. According to the website www.InternationalRelations.com, there are 14 ongoing wars in the world today. In our own country, debates rage about the accessibility of guns and gun ownership/control. The Bible can be used to support any side of these discussions, but I think we all would probably agree that in an ideal world, people would get along with one another. In the US, 19% of our nation's budget is for the defense of our nation. Just imagine if we did not need to use all of that money for weapons and war. I do think that a world without war is just a dream, but it is "The" dream of God according to Isaiah.
• In what ways do war and weaponry become a thief of hope?
• How does reliance on violence to solve conflict affect our relationship with God?
• Have you ever had a "swords into plowshares" experience? (For example, a conflict that produced a creative solution or a new relationship?)

Watch "Fluffy Prize" from the movie Despicable Me. 
• Is revenge ever a good option?
• Should we use force to accomplish what is right?
• What about if the evil is really annoying and harmful to those who are helpless?
• Do we see weapons as power?
• Does that not make it tough to seek peace when we have a desire for power through armed forces?
• Are we willing to work for peace?
• Do we need peace in our individual lives before we get peace in our world?

Isaiah lived during a crucial time, midway between the founding of the kingdom under Saul and David and its eventual destruction. A civil war had split the Israelites into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom, and Isaiah lived in the Southern Kingdom. When Isaiah began his work, the nation seemed strong and wealthy, but Isaiah saw signs of danger. People were using their power to harass the poor and they weren't taking care of the widows and children. People were giving lip service to God and kept up the outward appearances of religion but had no deep relationship with God. The armies of neighboring countries were threatening Israel and huge empires were growing. Egypt and Assyria were very powerful. The Israelites were in the middle and needed to make a choice about where they would place their trust. Isaiah warned the people that relying on military power or wealth or any force other than God would lead them to disaster.

This week's lesson is from Isaiah 2:1-5.
The name Isaiah means "the Lord saves." His ministry lasted about 40 years. The word peace is used 26 times in this book and the word salvation is used 27 times.
• What would it be like to live in a world completely ruled by God's grace?
• In contrast, what difficulties did Israel face in this time?
• How would you feel living in those circumstances?
• What is Isaiah's dream for the people? For Jerusalem?
• How peaceful is Jerusalem today?
• How do we deal with that fact and this passage?
• Does Isaiah see a day that has already happened or one that is to come (or both)?

Watch "I'll do push-ups" from Coach Carter.
• How could the team have chosen to remain divided?
• Instead, how did their actions help them to grow closer as a team?
• How can we take the message of hope and peace into our world and create a little unity?

• Isaiah is speaking a message of hope to the Israelite people. Many of us live comfortable lives, but our world is certainly far from the peace that God calls us to. As Christians, how do we translate God's kind hope and peace into action?
• We ultimately have the same question given to us today that Isaiah was posing to the Israelites. Where do we place our trust? Our hope? Who is the source of our peace for today and for tomorrow?
One commentator writes, "Isaiah's words constitute a challenge to the modern concept that it is the nature of things to be at war. He would have rejected the notion that eternal conflict between nations and classes is inevitable. He also would have challenged the view that violent revolution is the only road to social and political justice. He saw a better solution to the world's problems. His view is that war is not an inevitable factor in human affairs but one that has developed from a body of acquired habits which could be replace by another set of habits better serving the interests of mankind." The words of this tremendous vision have appropriately been inscribed on the walls of the United Nations Plaza in New York: "The nations shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

Study Resources for November 24, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Jeremiah

Watch "Lead Them" from Braveheart.

• What hindered Robert the Bruce from being the best leader he could be?
• What did he have to do differently to lead the people to freedom?
• What characteristics make good leaders?
• How do people get hurt when leaders fail?
• Can you think of a time when a leader hurt others with bad decisions?

We are spending some time with the prophet Jeremiah today. Jeremiah shares with us some of the issues that can surround bad leadership. We can get a better understanding of Jeremiah 23 from looking at Jeremiah 21:11 - 22:30. It is in these verses about the house of David that Jeremiah names the failure of kings Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. Jeremiah blames these kings for Judah's ultimate downfall. He blames these kings for failing to execute justice. Their greed for power and prosperity has led them away from the justice they are called to provide for the people.

God is bringing people together that have been scattered over many places. Jeremiah tells them that they have been scattered because of poor leadership and the times that people followed that leadership rather than listening to God. These leaders had taken advantage of their positions and served their own narrow interests. Does that sound familiar?

Their role as leaders had a religious dimension since these leaders represented God (YHWH) to these people. These leaders were considered God's anointed ones, called to lead in God's name and on God's behalf.

Looking through Jeremiah we are able to see that there were expectations for a righteous king. The promise of God does not stop at the effort to bring home the scattered ones, and to put in place new leaders, but it goes beyond the present to another time. Jeremiah's word is that God will raise up for the people a true heir of David's lineage. This is clearly a word of restoration. Here is a word that looks forward to the future, a different kind of future, that belongs to God and does not limit itself to the things of the past.

The text takes us from judgment to promise, and from what humans have messed up to what God is still able and willing to accomplish. Now that's good news.

• This kind of leadership is fully realized in Jesus Christ. Jesus reached out beyond the people's expectations with a model of radical inclusivity. As we look to Christ as the model shepherd or king, what can we learn for living in and engaging the world? The reign of Christ is the reign of peace not exclusion. The question for the church is how do we live faithful under this reign?

Read Jeremiah 23:1-8.

• The leaders of Judah were seen as shepherds to the people.
  When you think about shepherds, what comes to mind?
  Why is a shepherd such a good image and prototype to use for a leader of government, as these kings were supposed to be?
  How had these shepherds done a poor job?
  Who will now be the Shepherd, and how will he set things right? (vs.3-6)
• Why is this prophecy a beautiful dream for us today?
• Do you know any leaders who have already exemplified this kind of leadership?
• Even though the people of Judah did not see a literal fulfillment of this promise in verses 5-6, how do we understand Jesus as its ultimate fulfillment?
• The Exodus from Egypt was a defining event for God's people.
  What will be their new defining event, according to verses 7-8?
  What will God's power accomplish?
  What will be God's intent?
  How will this unity set them apart from the other people in the world?

Watch "I'll do push-ups" from Coach Carter.

• How did their actions help them to grow closer as a team?
• How did their actions foster unity?
• How can we change our actions to foster unity and hope rather than division?
• How does our response to disunity reflect our faith to others?

• Aren't we all leaders or role models in some way?
• What can we do to be better role models/leaders in God's world this week?

Watch "Get back up?" from The Karate Kid.
• Win or lose, should we fight hard even if we might fail?
• What are some ways we can get back up after things do not go our way?
• Does confessing our gratitude and personal weaknesses, like Mr. Han did, aid our ability to be Godly role models?

• Why are leaders often criticized?
• What should we do with really bad leaders?
• Do some leaders just care for "their people" rather than everybody?
• In this passage, it says that God will gather a remnant? What does this remnant mean?
• What does it mean that God will raise up a branch?

As God continually calls us back into relationship, we are called to look to the righteous branch of David, manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and we are constantly to reorient our lives, proclaiming to all the love and grace in our God.

This passage speaks powerfully to what God will do the future and to what God is doing in the here and now. This word speaks to the possibilities of the present, as well as to the hopes of the future. God is able to do all of that under the same word of promise.

Study Resources for November 17, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Malachi

• Nothing much is known about this prophet except what can be learned from his writings. His name means "my messenger" or "my angel." Malachi tries to get the people reconnected to God. Their faith had faded and the Israelites did not see that God loved them and they felt that serving God brought no real reward. The people had become lukewarm. "Malachi's people had kept their religion, but they had lost contact with the God whom the religion was all about." Malachi was the last Old Testament voice. For 400 years, it appeared that God was silent. It was during this time that the Pharisees led the Jewish people back to keeping the law of Moses. These laws became rituals. They forgot though that the law was not the point. The law was supposed to be a way to honor God and worship Him. Faith grows weary when we are just going through the motions and bound by rules and regulations. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah had predicted that great times of blessing would result from the rebuilding of the temple, but the temple had been rebuilt and the anticipated age of prosperity had not come. It seemed like God was not fulfilling the promises. Have you ever felt like God wasn't being faithful to the promises He made to you? How do you react?
• In today's text, God is pictured as overhearing our conversations. Does God know our thoughts and does He listen in on our conversations?

Watch "Ray's Not Invited" from Field of Dreams. 
• When it comes to your faith, do you ever wonder what is in it for you?
• How do you feel when others get the "good" stuff?
• If you were Ray, how would you feel not being invited?

Read Malachi 3:13 - 4:3.
• What is the major complaint Judah had against God?
• Why did they think they should prosper rather than the evildoers?
• What is the Lord's response to their complaints?
• What does the distinction God makes between the righteous and the wicked look like?
God hears and sees those people that have spoken encouragement over others. He says He is going to put those names in a book.
• Can you think of someone whose conversations have shaped you toward faithfulness? Whose words have given you encouragement?
• Do you ever get excited to serve God, but then we lose interest? Why?
• Do you feel like you are God's treasured possession?

• If we truly felt special, why doesn't that translate into our everyday lives in the way we treat ourselves and others?
• What do you expect from God?
• Do you expect special privileges like protection from disease and pain?

Watch this clip from The Wizard of Oz.
• Was the Wizard bad?
• Why couldn't he fulfill his promises?
• Did he actually give them what they were looking for? Why or why not?
• Why were the characters happy with their gifts even though they were not what they thought they would be?
• Do you think the Wizard makes up for his lack of wizardry?
• How is this similar or different from the way God relates to us?
• Why do people expect wealth, health, or happiness from God?

• How do you feel when other people get rewards that you may feel faithful Christians actually deserve?
• How do you make sense when bad things happen to good people?
• Does this ever affect your faith?
• What reward are you looking for in your relationship with God?
• What happens if you don't get it?
• Do earthly rewards paint a picture of who in this world is righteous and who is evil? Why or why not?
• If we are not guaranteed earthly rewards, what is the point of worshipping and serving God?

• Though a quick reading of Malachi appears to focus on judgment rather than hope, a commentator argues that "the prophet's purpose was to insure his people that God still loved them and was keeping His covenant with them."
Do we ever confuse God's message?
Do we need to be reminded of God's love and His promises?
• God's timing is not our timing. We believe that God will fulfill HIs covenant and will keep His promises-but sometimes that takes a long time. In the process, some become disillusioned and impatient. We have the option of becoming cynical or faithful. Which one do you want to be?

• Do we need to renew our covenant with God reminding us that we depend on Gods grace and not our own efforts?
• Why should we be followers of Christ?
• What can we do to continue to remember why?

Study Resources for November 10, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We often tend to think of the past as a better and maybe more glorious time than the present. The Prophet Haggai and his contemporaries apparently believed this too. Haggai was one of the three postexilic prophets (Zachariah and Malachi were the other two) who arose in Judah after Persia became the dominant power in the ancient Near East, and the Jews had been permitted to return to their homeland.

The outcome of the work of restoring the temple in Jerusalem was quite disappointing and frustrating to the small nation of Judah. Back in their land after decades of exile in Babylon the people were trying hard to bring back the presumed glories of their past, but nothing had gone as expected with the restoration work.

• It wasn't just the temple that was the issue, God's reputation was at stake. He could not be properly honored so long as the house He called home was in ruins. The temple symbolized God's presence and Israel's priorities.
Do we often remember things better than they really were?
Do you think God is honored when we do things for divine purposes?
What does our spending say about our priorities? Priorities can often be found in our checkbooks.
Are you someone who always gives their best or someone who just gives enough to get by?
How do we spend most of our time? What does that say about our priorities?
What does it mean to give your absolute best for God?

• The people were worshipping, but not giving their best. This was evident because the Temple was not being rebuilt. Does worship look different when we give our best?
What priorities do Christians tend to put ahead of their worship of God?
How does an understanding of God's continuous presence change the way we worship?
How might an understanding of God's presence change the way you life your life?
The church cannot live on what was in the past. So what is the focus here? Is the actual building the focus of a congregation's expectation rather than to hear the call of God to be the church-the kingdom of God?

Read Haggai 1:15b — 2:9.

• The people have been back in Jerusalem now for about 18 years. What have they accomplished? What have they not accomplished?

• Why were some upset with the simplicity of the temple?
How did God respond to those complaints?
Do you think that the people in our text showed their genuine love for God by their upkeep and construction of the temple? Does that seem odd to you?
Why would it be important to God to have a house that is greater than the former glory of the old temple?
What is the significance of God granting peace to these specific people?
Does God really need a "house" to live in, and if not, what is this really about?
What does the temple signify for them?
What has been the people's priority, and how has that priority shown itself in their lives and spirits (1:5-6)?
How has the earth begun to show the effects of their upside-down priorities (1:10-11)?
Have you noticed this to be true in your own life as well-that when our priorities are mixed up, our spirits, our environment and our perception of the world changes?

• Some of the oldest members of the community might have remembered the previous beautiful temple before it was destroyed (2:3). In their current situation the people could not afford to build anything as large or as beautiful.
How might this be discouraging to the community as they tried to rebuild?
Why is God's presence (2:4-5) more important than the outward appearance of the temple?
Why do you think God reminded them that all the earth's treasures belong to God (2:8)?
What are God's promises to the people as they rebuild? What will become of this new temple-in appearance as well as its importance (2:6-9)?
Why is "shalom" the best gift that God can bestow on that place, no matter how it looks?
Does this mean, them that we should not worry about the appearances of our places of worship?
How would you describe your church building to someone who has never been here?

• So what does it really mean to put God first, and does this always entail a building? Are we called to provide a sanctuary or to discover a sustainable way of living our faith together?

• Do you ever feel discouraged like the people in Haggai's day?
Watch "How Will History Remember You?" from The Emperor's Club.
What would Haggai call us to do today?
What work are we being called to do without fear because God's Spirit is with us?
Do we need to be reminded that God is with us and calls us to make a lasting difference?

Watch "Sam's Speech" from The Two Towers.
• In the movie trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings", two powerless characters are asked t experience personal hardship for something larger than they are. They sacrifice to work against great evil.
What are some reasons to live "beyond" just our own concerns?

Read John 14:16-18.

• Here, Jesus uses the second-person-plural pronoun when He says "you." He is speaking not to one individual, but to the whole community of faith. The blessing of the church comes through God's joyous interaction with the people and their interaction with one another. God is truly present with the people, and the relationship between God and humanity is real. John tells of his vision of a new Jerusalem that will need no temple (Rev. 21:22-26). The promises of God are promises of His abundant love, grace and presence in the past, in the present, and in the future. The move into the future is not just a repeat of the past and a faint echo of former glory, but the Lord declares through His prophet Haggai the "the latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former" Now, how about that!?

Study Resources for November 3, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Habakkuk, is unlike any other Old Testament prophet. He was Israel's representative before God instead of being God's representative to Israel. He took up Israel's cause before God and sought His sympathy on her behalf. The other Old Testament prophets represented Yahweh to the people and served as God's spokesmen in calling them to repentance and righteousness.

Habakkuk lived during a very ominous period in the life of Judah. The Babylonians overthrew the Assyrians and expanded their kingdom westward toward Egypt. This meant that Judah had now been brought under the domination of Babylon in much the same way the Northern Kingdom had been made subject to the Assyrians just a century or so earlier. Not only was Judah struggling with forces on the outside, she was also struggling with many internal problems as well. It was a time that reflected a general deterioration of religion and religious principles in society. These were dark days for Judah. Habakkuk could not understand why God just stood by and did nothing to fix the situation. Habakkuk couldn't believe that God would permit injustice and wickedness to continue and to seemingly allow the wicked to prosper and flourish. It is here that we begin our journey with the people of Judah, Habakkuk, and God. It is here that we glimpse his inner struggle with the problems that he was dealing with in his life, with his God, and in his world. We see an attempt to comprehend what God is doing and what He is trying to say to His people through Habakkuk.

The book of Habakkuk isn't very long and its structure is pretty straight forward: complaint and response, complaint and response, complaint and response, the future of the wicked, and a celebration of God's faithfulness. Makes me tired.

• Would you call yourself a complainer? What is wrong with complaining? Should we complain to God?
Does God hear our complaints? Does God respond to complaints?

Read Habakkuk 1:1 — 2:4.
• The name Habakkuk means the "embracer" or the "wrestler." How is his name reflected in his relationship with God? How is it reflected in how he relates to his God?

• What emotions did you hear in this passage? Is it a sign of a weak faith? Can a person of deep faith also be a person of strong negative emotions? Habakkuk is quoted 3 times in the New Testament (Heb. 10:38,Gal. 3:11, and Rom.!:17), and in each passage, the emphasis is on living "by faith" rather than living "in faithfulness". What is the difference?

• The immediate context of this passage seems to be the armies that threaten and are threatening God's people. Habakkuk doesn't blame God for the invasions, but rather for the destruction and devastation that comes with the invasion (1:4). Calvin paraphrases this verse, "When all things are in disorder, when there is now no regard for equity and justice, and men abandon themselves as it were with loose reins, unto all kinds of wickedness, how long Lord, wilt thou take no notice?" Have you ever felt like this? Does it sometimes feel like the wicked are winning?

Watch "Shoot Her!" from Out of Africa.  

• Do we often think we understand everything going on in our world? Do we ever give bad advice because we do not understand the situation? Does this sometimes harm others? Do we believe God is always before us and with us? (Remember Romans 8?)

• Does 2:1 really mean that we should stand still until we get an answer? Do we get the word out when God tells us something?
What does it mean for us that the "righteous will live by their faith?" Is faithfulness easy in our world?

• Do you ever wonder where God is when life is falling apart? How can (and does) God work with us and in us in this world? How does a person of faith have hope when the world seems unjust? Do you ever wonder where God is in the violence and destruction that goes on in our world? How do you explain to a non-believer when they ask where is God?

• In his book, Night, Elie Wiesel wrote of a death camp inmate asking, "Where is God? when so many of their people were being tortured and hung. Jesus understands this question. When Jesus was on the cross He asked God why He had forsaken Him? Wiesel answered his friend by saying, "Where is God? He is here hanging on the gallows."

• John Calvin says, "This is a remarkable passage; for we are taught here that we are not to deal with God in too limited a manner, but room must be given for hope, for the Lord does not immediately execute what He declares by His mouth; but His purpose is to prove patience, and the obedience of our faith." God's response is live by faithfulness.
I think that Habakkuk in his boldness with God, believed that an answer would come because he kept asking. He placed himself in a position to offer his laments to God and he expected that not only was God listening but that He would answer. Otherwise, why would have Habakkuk been so persistent? Does this remind you of the lesson a couple of weeks ago about the persistent widow?

• What if we positioned ourselves to say to God, "Here I am, God. I will keep watch and see what you will say to me."?
What if we refused to turn away, and waited with determination for God's reply? Habakkuk is telling us that the vision will finally arrive. Habakkuk knew that God's response was not just for him, but for his whole community who were suffering. This is the promise that also comes for our reading this text together, in community. By our sharing of faith with one another, we stand on the mountain together, and we never have to cry out to God or wait for the promise of victory alone. Could it be that the fulfillment of a promise is something that we have to wait for and it is in the patient waiting that God does a miracle in us? Our waiting is not a hope that is wishing for a Savior, but a hope that lives in the knowledge and the anticipation of His arrival.

Study Resources for October 27, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

This week's lesson is about prayer, attitudes, judging, comparisons, and examinations. I don't know about you, but that is a pretty big list to cover. Let's dive in. We have a lot of rules that govern the way we live in our homes as well as in society. Some are written down and others are not. In Jesus' day, there were many rules to be kept in daily living. The persons who monitored these rules of commandments were the Pharisees. The word Pharisee is derived from the Hebrew word, which means, "those who are separate or set apart." What set them apart was their devotion to keeping the law in the belief that the Jews must work harder to keep the laws that set them apart from the other nations. It was in this "separateness" that the people of God were to maintain their cultural and religious identity. The Pharisees weren't necessarily poor, but more affiliated with common people.
There were different types of tax collectors, but the man here was probable a Jewish mercenary who was hired to collect duties from merchants who used the roads as well as ordinary citizens going about their business.

Two men: a tax collector and a Pharisee.
Jesus was not against tax collectors or Pharisees as people. He ate with them, visited with them, and chose them as followers.

• In what areas do you compare yourself to other people? What are the areas that make you feel as if you do not measure up? Do you ever believe you might be a little better than some? Do you think we should compare ourselves to others? When we compare ourselves to others, what standard do we use? When we approach God, what standard does God use?
Does God compare us to others? Why or why not?

• The following video is a little light moment. There's nothing theological here, but I just wonder...
Watch "Bernadette's New Voice" from The Big Bang Theory.
What do our prayers sound like to others? What do our prayers sound like to God?

Read Luke 18:9-14.
• In the KJV the last phrase is translated as "despised others". In the Greek the verb means to "take no account of" or to "despise utterly". The same verb in other places is defined as "set as nought." What is the definition of nought?
Jesus is talking about people who see others as nothing, less than, a zero. Do we do that in our culture? Do we see and treat others as nothings? How do we do that?

• I found a phrase this week called "passive contempt." Passive contempt is when we act as if the other person doesn't matter. It's that we don't see them as a fellow human being, at all. We don't see them as having concerns of their own, needs of their own, desires, feelings, or of being of any value at all, one way or the other. As far as our actions are concerned, they are a zero.
When I think about Jesus, I know that he saw everybody, all of them, individually, uniquely created and yet he treated each of them the same. He treats all of us as special loved children of God.
What would it mean for us to be aware of every person around us, connecting, loving, caring and really seeing them?

• What is your prayer style? Is there one right way to pray?
Who is Jesus talking to in this parable? How hard is it to see the Pharisee as a normal person?
Do we judge this Pharisee unfairly?
Do we sound prideful when we pray aloud at church?
Does it make you uncomfortable when people lead prayer in worship?
How do we pray aloud in worship without sounding arrogant?
What can we learn from the tax collector's prayer?
Why did the Pharisee pray the prayer that he did?
What was the problem with the Pharisee taking pride in his accomplishments?
Was there anything good about his prayer?
It has been said that, "when we go to God in prayer we must leave not only our sin at the door, but our virtue as well." How do we do that?

• Is the Pharisee praying to God or to himself?

• How could this be a story about God rather than a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector?
If God is the only one who can judge, how does this change our lives?
How should we live our lives in response to this?
Do we judge ourselves as righteous?
Is looking at others the best way to evaluate our spirituality?
What other people mentioned in the Bible struggled with pride?
Who are you in this parable?
How much time do we inadvertently spend focusing on other people instead of our personal relationship with God?
Does prayer help us to focus on something besides ourselves? How?
Is this why we pray without ceasing?

Listen to
Sanctus Real - Pray.
Have you ever been here? Does this clip change your attitude toward prayer? How so?

• One of the key words in the passage is "justified." (vs.14)
What is the definition of justification? What does it mean to you? Can justification be obtained by doing things?
The doctrine of justification asks the question of how we reach a status of righteousness in God's eyes. The Pharisee trusted in himself for his own righteousness, and the tax collector trusted in God for righteousness. He did nothing to earn or deserve God's mercy. God's mercy is freely given . Our justification, therefore," is the recognition of our guilt and shame, resulting in the confirmation of our forgiveness and our reception of God's righteousness". One of the hallmarks of the Protestant Reformation is that we are justified by God's grace alone. To suggest that we can be justified by any other means is to reject the free grace of God. Ephesians 2:8

• What does it mean to be prideful? Karl Barth identifies pride as "the chief sin of the religious person, because it is fundamentally idolatrous: it confuses Creator and creation Giver and gift." What do you think?

• Could it be that balance is the key here? We cannot trust in our ability to fulfill the law and find salvation. Yet we cannot abandon the law. We humble ourselves before a merciful God and are confident in the Lord's promises. All find a welcomed home in God's temple.

• What does it truly mean to be humble? How can we achieve humility?
Does prayer help us to focus on something besides ourselves? How?
Is that why we should pray without ceasing?

Study Resources for October 20, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Read Luke 18:1-8.
• In working on this passage, I remembered times of persistent prayer in my life. Have you ever felt like this widow?
How do you go about getting something you want from God?

• Is this parable about begging God for stuff? How careful should we be in our asking God for "stuff"?

• The judge was more than a judicial hired hand. He was actually supposed to represent Gods justice, but this judge rejects this role. His job description is in  2 Chronicles 19:6-7. What makes the judge evil?
• Scripture tells us that he did not fear God. What does it mean to you to "fear God"? Do we ever lack "the fear of God" in terms of justice for our world? What does it mean to pray for justice in our world? Should we ever be in a hurry for God to grant justice?

• Who are the widows, orphans, and the needy in our world? How does this lack of "the fear of God" in caring for the widow, the orphan and the immigrant play our in our own time? Is this something our church is paying attention to? If we are going to bring the kingdom of God to Richmond, how do we or how can we meet the needs of the "least of these"? Why do we not act when we know of an injustice?

The widow is powerless. She was someone who had no sponsors to care for her. This became such a common state that "widow" came to mean not simply a woman whose husband was dead, but also one who had no means of financial support and needed special protection.

• What method did the widow use to get what she wanted from the judge? Why did the judge finally cave in? Did you notice the internal conversation the judge has with himself? Luke describes other such internal conversations like the rich fool, the prodigal son, and the dishonest steward-all of them talk to themselves. How is God like and unlike the judge in this passage? Does the widow give us a good example of how we can get what we want? Why or why not?

• What if we stand this parable on its head and look at it another way. What if the widow is Jesus, standing at the door of our heart knocking and we are the judge? What if it is His persistence that causes us to change the way we treat the world, the helpless, and those who are looking for justice? Could it be that there is hope for all of us because we have a Savor who is relentless and continues to stand at the door of our hearts and knock?

This parable is an example of an argument that was used a lot in those days, called from the lesser to the greater. If a wicked judge will finally give in and hear the widow's case, how much more will our heavenly Father be willing listen and grace us?

I think that in order to get the full meaning of this passage, we must begin at the end!. "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" This question adds another dimension to the meaning of the parable, by shifting the focus from the judge back to the widow and her perseverance. Luke, makes perseverance in prayer and not losing heart elements of faith. I think Luke is trying to tell us that perseverance and courage are not just abstract qualities, but a part of our faith. Luke tells us in several places that we are to persevere in prayer. In Luke 11:5-8, Luke makes a similar point. Here the "friend" who asks for a loaf of bread at midnight is like the widow who seeks justice; the "friend who refuses to get up and give it to him is like the judge. Here too, the "lesson" of the parable is persistence. Luke also reminds us that, "Ask, and it will be given to you" saying (11:9-10).The widow becomes an example of this kind of prayerful faithfulness.

• Could it be that the persistence in prayer is not to change the mind of God, but to seek the changes such prayers can work in our own hearts and minds? Frederick Buechner said, "Persistence is a key, not because you have to beat a path to God's door before God will open it, but because until you beat the path, maybe there's not way of getting to your door." Could it be that Jesus was giving us this parable not only to call us to persistence in our prayer life as well as a reminder to the church of the importance of securing justice for the poor and the oppressed that surrounded them?

Watch "Powerful Inspirational true story...Don't give up!”
This is a powerful story and we could pick out several themes to discuss, but I want to know what was the most inspiring part of this video for you? What might have driven him to struggle through the pain in order to finish the race? How was his persistence rewarded? How was that reward different form the one he set our to receive? Why do many people choose to quit rather than be persistent?

We are reminded, once again, that once again that the life of faith is not only about telling God what is on our wish list, but constantly lifting up every joy and concern, every fear and doubt, every lament and plea to the One who hears and answers.

• I don't think that Jesus was trying to resolve the mystery of unanswered and answered prayer, but to teach the disciples the importance of persistence; of keeping on and never giving up. Can you think of examples in scripture of those followers that were persistent and never gave up? Jesus is trying to help us see that faith is actively seeking and eagerly anticipating the coming reign of God, never ceasing in our prayers for others, for the world, even for ourselves. How would this change your prayer life?

• What does this parable in Luke say about how God related to us? Does our persistence affect God's graciousness? What causes some people of faith to give up rather than to be persistent? How do we keep our faith strong while struggling with pain? How might the reward for persistence be different from what we expect? How can we be assured that God will bring about justice in the world?

• We live in an imperfect world. So, we pray for "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." We long for health, justice, and wisdom. We get frustrated with the fruit of sin - poverty, war, injustice, and hatred. How does this parable impact or change your prayer life?
He continues to knock. Who will answer the door today?

Watch "Bernadette's New Voice" from The Big Bang Theory.
• Do we need to pray for persistence? Do we sometimes need to be pushy like Bernadette's voice change? Where do we find that inner "voice" or strength to be a voice for justice? How does regular prayer help us be like the widow in terms of getting justice?

We do know that when there is an active faith at work, faith that is lived as we strive toward the coming reign of God, then hope remains alive and we can count on God to come down on the side of justice. We can count on God to hear the cries of those who have no voice, no influence and no power. We can count on God to hear those who have nowhere else to turn. And we can sing the hymn of faith that says, "O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home."

Study Resources for October 13, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

Our lesson in from Luke 17:11-19. A very familiar passage.

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem with His eyes on the cross. As Jesus and the Boys reach a village on the border between Samaria and Galilee, they encounter 10 men.


Read Luke 17:11-19.
• Did you notice how Luke refers to these ten men-not as "lepers" but as "men who had leprosy?" It may be a subtle shift in language, but it may be significant in our perception and understanding of others. Does one description feel differently to you? What difference does it make in perception? Do we ever casually speak of a "homeless woman" without thinking first that she is a real person who has no home? Do we think of others as just "alcoholics" as opposed to persons who suffer from an addiction? How successful are we in separating someone's condition from their person?

• What were persons with this skin disease to cry out when approaching others? What did these guys say?
Why do you think they said that instead of the other?

• What was Jesus' instruction to the ten men? This was in accordance with the Levitical law.
See Leviticus 13:45-46.
According to Leviticus 14, being clean is costly:
1. They had to submit to a head-to-toe exam by a local priest.
2. 2 clean birds were then purchased and one of them slaughtered over fresh water in a clay vessel.
3. The other bird, along with a piece of cedar, a sprig of hyssop and some crimson yarn, were to be dipped in the blood of the sacrificial bird and then shaken 7 times to sprinkle blood over the persons seeking to be declared clean.
4. The living bird was then released, and the healed were required to wash their clothes, bathe in water, and shave off all their hair.
5. They were allowed to enter the camp, but required to stay outside of their tent for 7 more days.
6. After 7 days, then had to shave again -every hair including the eyebrows-then bathe and wash their clothes another time before being declared clean.
But Wait There's More
7. On the 8th day after these rituals, the healed person had to bring to the priest at the tent of meeting, 2 male lambs and a ewe, plus a gallon of choice wheat flour mixed with olive oil, and 2/3 cup of olive oil to the priest.
8. They were to undergo another complex series of rituals involving sacrifices (most of which the priest kept)
9. The priest administered a dollop of both blood and oil to the right-side ear lobes, thumbs and big toes of the former lepers.

• At times Jesus healed people immediately. Why do you think Jesus does this healing differently?
Read Hebrews 11:1.
Do you think this passage in Hebrews had anything to do with it?
Jesus could have just reached out His holy hand and healed people but there seemed to be an emphasis on the importance of faith, obedience, and thanksgiving. Is gratitude an expression of faith? Is gratitude a result of our faith or is faith a result of our gratitude?
When Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well." was the faith He was referring to the leper' initial appeal for mercy or the man's cry of praise in response to what Jesus had done for him?
Alan Culpepper asks, "If gratitude reveals humility of spirit and a sensitivity to the grace of God in one's life, then is there any better measure of faith than wonder and thankfulness before what one perceives as unmerited expressions of love and kindness from God and from others?"

• In looking around do you see a correlation between gratitude and daily joy or health?
Could it be that gratitude recognizes that we are not self-sufficient or independent, but people who are blessed daily by God-and we rely on those blessings?

• What was Jesus' response to the Samaritan that returned? What do you think Jesus was trying to get at with all of these questions? This is not Biblical it's gospel according to Kathy, but do you think that Jesus was a little saddened and perplexed by His own peoples ingratitude? Could He have been thinking about the cross and how His people would react?

• The text reminds us about the importance of being thankful. Do you think how we react to miracles, large or small, says something about our faith and our relationship to Jesus?

• This passage has another twist to it too. What was the nationality of the grateful man? As a Samaritan, he was considered unclean anyway by the Jews, whether he was a leper or not. He would not be restored into Jewish society or ever seen as "clean". But, Jesus declared that this man is healed, save, cleaned, and restored. Leprosy had united these then men and now the disease is gone. They are free to go back to life as "usual". They are free to love, hate, unite, divide, and to remove or retain barriers of separation. So once Jesus blesses us, do we work to go back to our lives before our encounter with Him? Do we go back to life as we have always lived it with barriers and prejudices, judgmental natures that exclude rather than include, rationalizations that excuse our sin rather than confession and gratitude? Are we using our blessings to bless others?

• Alan Culpepper says that if gratitude is not synonymous with faith, neither response to God is separable from the other, Faith, like gratitude, is our response to the grace of God as we have experienced it. Can we identify ways in which faith and gratitude are both aspects of our encounters with God? Could there be a divine relationship between gratitude, thanksgiving and personal well-being? Is our praise or lack of it, a reflection of our understanding of God's redemptive and healing grace in our lives?

• C.S. Lewis observed particularly in the Psalms that there is a connection between gratitude and personal well-being. "I noticed how the humblest and at the same time most balanced minds praised most: while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible."

Watch singer, songwriter Jimmy Wayne: saying “thank you.”
Can you relate to anything that Jimmy Wayne said in the video?

My prayer for us is to have inner peace and healing this week, expressed in some praise and gratitude to our healer, Jesus.

Study Resources for October 6, 2013

The teacher for this session was Jay McNeal. (email Jay)

See the session.

As we hold our last class that connects with the Bible in 90 Days we will aim to cover as many of the following questions as possible.

• How has the role of women changed from the culture of the Bible to today?

• A major issue of debate in our time is immigration reform. What does the Bible say about "aliens," foreigners, immigrants?

• Are families supposed to look like they did in biblical times?

• Is equality a value that was esteemed or advocated for in the Bible?

• What does the Bible tell us about war, killing, and violence?

• What are the differences between kings and judges in the Bible? Should we have kings, judges or some other form of government today?

Watch the movie clip, "Maverick vs Viper" from Top Gun.

 

Study Resources for September 29, 2013

The teacher for this session was Jay McNeal.  (email Jay)

See the session.

GODISNOWHERE

We will discuss dividing the Word of God rightly in Sunday's WebClass. Did you see both ways of reading the capitalized words? Most of the time our eyes work together well with our minds to discern what is written, but sometimes we may come up with something very far from what was intended.

We will make extra time this week to allow for conversation with participants online and in the studio. So feel free to send questions to me, Jay McNeal, ahead of time or live on the webcast. See you Sunday at 10am!

Watch the movie clip, "Maverick vs Viper" from Top Gun.
Watch the movie clip, "There Is No Spoon" from The Matrix.

 

Study Resources for September 22, 2013

The teacher for this session was Jay McNeal.  (email Jay)

See the session.

Study Resources for September 15, 2013

The teacher for this session was Jay McNeal. (email Jay)

See the session.

Study Resources for September 1, 2013

The teacher for this session was Jay McNeal. (email Jay)

See the session.

Read the Bible in 90 Days

Genesis 2:1-7. compared to Genesis 1.

• Which is the best Bible?
• Why do some books make it into the Bible and some not?
• What would cause you to disregard the Bible entirely?
• How many books are in the OT? NT?

• These are canon questions. And what is a canon?

We will hear questions like this and look at the beginning of Genesis in anticipation of the Bible in 90 Days Challenge launching September 8th. We will also revisit two of my favorite movie clips, "Plant the Seed" from The Lorax and the final courtroom scene in A Few Good Men.


Study Resources for August 25, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

We are continuing our study in the book of Isaiah.
Read Isaiah 58:1-14.

• In the first three verses, Isaiah points out the irony of the people's religious observances. What do the people think about themselves?
• What, according to verses 3-5, is improper about their fasting?
• How is their behavior incompatible with their religious actions?
• What is a traditional fast—in practical terms (what do we do) and in spiritual terms (what it accomplishes)?
• What does Isaiah mention as "true fasting" in this passage? According to Isaiah, what will be the effect of this true fasting (verses 8-9)?
• How does true worship—fasting, Sabbath-keeping, singing, praying, studying—change us?
• Do you think that these kinds of unselfish actions change the way God behaves toward us, or do they change the way we view and understand God? Or both?
• Why is it important to continually turn our thoughts and actions toward God's desires, rather than our own?
• Why can it be dangerous to keep doing religious things that no longer confront us with God's desires for ourselves and the world?
• How effective are our devotional practices?
• How can we alter them so that they focus on what's important?
• How can we approach traditional "rituals" in a way that allows God to change us?


• What was God's complaint in our passage?
• Did the hearers of this passage really care for the poor?
• Can we be righteous without being religious?
• Can we be religious without being righteous?
• What fasts should we embrace?
• How easy is it to make the church building, our worship services, our programs, and our church business as ways to please God? Should we do these things differently?
• Do we ever act or feel like attending worship services keeps God happy?
• What is true worship?

• Will the poor always be with us?
• Do you think we can end extreme poverty in our world?
Watch "Fast Forward" from the movie 58: The Film.
• What would it be like to live on less than a $1.25/a day?
• Does God bless our worship when we let people suffer in poverty?
• What can we do to help?
How can we "loose the chains of injustice" in our community and the world?

• What actions do people in our communities see as being distinctly Christian?
• What are the typical religious traditions, ordinances, or practices in our church?
• When we participate in these things, how do they affect our relationship with God?
• How can doing a good thing for God become something meaningless to the person doing it? Explain.
• How had the actions of the people the prophet spoke to in this week's passage fallen into this trap?
• Do you think Christians, as a whole, are more interested in looking Christian or acting Christian?
• How does this passage speak to our community of faith?
• Who in our communities suffer while we practice our traditions that we think glorify God?
• What might happen to our faith if we truly cared for the needs of others rather than how we are comfortable worshipping God?


Watch "Cycle of Debt" from the movie 58: The Film.
• Do you think that it is important for us as a church to get involved with people's finances?
• How does our relationship to our money impact our relationship to God and His church?

Study Resources for August 18, 2013

See the session.

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson.
(email Kathy)

We are continuing our study in the book of Isaiah. If you read the text, you may have the same question that I had. "How on earth is this a "love song"? It begins under the banner of love, but goes in a sad direction in a short few verses. But it is under this banner of love that God declares His judgment. It is in this song of love that we see a God who chose, who cleared, who dug, who planted, who safeguarded and who loved "huge." We see how His people, then and now, are infinitely loved and assured.

This love from God comes with expectations. Three times we see: God expected...(verses 2,4,7). A vineyard is a ground for farming, working and investment. The gardener has to work it in order to reap fruit that refreshes, feeds, pleases, provides, and sustains a community. Rocks are cleared and holes dug, furors are plowed and hedges are built, and walls are put up in order to build watchtowers. The end result is unexpected because this vineyard does not feed. It does not refresh. It is not pleasing ,and it doesn't foster any sense of community.

God was looking for justice (mishpat), but they had shown Him bloodshed (mispach). He looked for righteousness (tsedakah), but they heard only a cry (tse'aqah). We are lavishly loved and expected to work. From the beginning in the garden we have jobs to do. If we are going to bring the kingdom of God to Richmond, Virginia, we are going to have to work. Of course God could wave His holy finger and make it happen, but we are to partner with Him on this earth. The fruit that is produced here will be eternal.

The good news is that He still sings, plows, plants, guards, and looks for good fruit. This harvest of love is justice and righteousness.

• When you hear the word "justice" what issues come to mind?
• What is a good definition of righteousness?
• As Christians and as churches, what kind of fruit does God expect from us?

Read Isaiah 5:1-7.

• What things did the vineyard owner do to make a perfect environment for his vineyard?
• From your knowledge of biblical history, how did God continually prepare His "people" to be a vineyard?
• These vines were not simply infertile...they produced bad fruit. What was their fruit, and why was it -in a way-worse than producing no fruit at all?
• When the grapes did not produce the desired fruit, what did the vineyard owner do in response? Was it fair?
• How does this correspond to what God allowed in Israel's situation?
• What fruit did God expect from His people? (verse 7)
• How has God prepared us to be his "vineyard"?
• Is the fruit that God expects from us different from the fruit He expected in Isaiah's time?
• Do you think God expects the same fruit from all of us, or does it differ according to different persons, different communities and different cultures?
• If God were to issue a warning to us today as we see here in Isaiah, what do you think God's warning would be?

• How does Isaiah's vineyard compare to Jesus' vineyard in John 15:1-6?

Watch "I Will Fight" from the movie First Knight.
• Do we looks away from the evil and injustice around us?
• Are we afraid to do anything about it?
• Does evil take advantage of that?
• King Arthur knows he cannot allow evil to spread. What evil is spreading in our culture?

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." —Elie Wiesel.

Watch "You Have My Resignation" from the movie Geronimo—An American Legend. 
• Should we protest evil even when we feel overwhelmed?
• Do you think making a stand of any type is at least a good place to start as good citizens of God's Kingdom?

• If we imagine our souls to be vineyards, we might imagine how God has prepared us to be fruit producers. How has God broken the ground, prepared the soil, and planted vines in your life?

Study Resources for August 11, 2013

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The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson.
(email Kathy)

How is our worship, both personal and in community, related to the way we behave and live the life of faith?
In today's passage, it seems that the Children of God, were not particularly interested in what their Father wanted of them.

Tony Campolo said, "In a survey of mothers, Japanese mothers want their children to be successful; American mothers want their children to be happy. In the ethnic Italian neighborhood in which he grew up, Campolo said that his father wanted him to be 'good' instead. This idea that somehow you're happy all the time has got to be challenged, he said. May God save us from the nation that has made the pursuit of happiness the reason for living."
Would you rather be happy or joyful?

Read Isaiah 1:1-20.
• What is being said about God's people in these verses?
• What has resulted from the people's disobedience, according to verses 5-6?
• How have they suffered and how does the land reflect their disobedience?
• What emotions do you detect here and how does God feel about what His people have done?
Isaiah pictures God here as a Heavenly Parent. This is the only place in the Old Testament that the image of God as Heavenly Parent is found. There are references, however, to God's people as children in the Old Testament. (see Exodus 4:22-23, Deuteronomy 32:5-6, 18-20, Psalm 103:13, Jeremiah 3:19 Hosea 1:10, and Hosea 11:1-4.)

• Jesus referred to God as Father and when He prayed, He called Him Abba (Daddy). We have a close, plugged in, and concerned God. How does that image of God, as opposed to a distant unconcerned deity, shape a person's faith?

• In this time period, there was economic prosperity. Does prosperity make it harder to please God?

Watch "Get People to Like You" from the movie The Hunger Games.

• What things do we do to get people to like us?
• Do the characters in this clip seem likeable?
• Do we ever try to trick God into liking us and seeking His approval for the decisions that we have already made?
• Do you think our worship makes God happy?

• The nation of Israel rebelled against God and placed themselves in such a way that they were a "hut in a field or a city under siege." We might say a "sitting duck." Before we are too hard of these folks, do we ever place ourselves in a position for temptation and sin to ruin our lives? If we know better, why don't we do better?

• The Jewish people thrived on religious traditions and observances.
What kind of effect do you think verses 11-15 might have on them?
Do you think God is really ignoring their prayers? Explain.
What have the people failed to do, and how does this relate to their worship observances?

• What can the people do to restore their relationship with God (verses 16-17)?
• What specific things does God mention, and why are each of these important to God?
• Red stains are hard to remove. What do you think God is saying, then, in verse 18?

• How scary is it to care for the vulnerable?
• Are we ever reluctant to show hospitality to the vulnerable, the oppressed, or the forgotten ones in society?
• How does God respond to our lack of hospitality and or selfishness?
• Why is this so important to God?

• How does our worship reflect our values?
• Do we value what God values—doing right, seeking justice?

Watch "Sentencing" from the movie A Few Good Men.

• What was the marine guilty of?
• Do we do this today? Explain

Watch "Come For You" from the movie 9.

• Is God calling you to do something scary?
• Can we help people who fall through the cracks? How?
• So what specifically can we do as acts of justice in our world as individuals and as a church?

Study Resources for August 4, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

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Once we become a Christian, how should our behavior change...and why?

Read Colossians 3:1-17.

• How does Paul explain what it means to "set your heart on things above"?
• Why is it essential for us to change our focus?
• How can we think like Christ?
• Do you think Paul's list of old behavior is supposed to be all-inclusive? Explain
• God decides to transform us slowly, rather than all-a-once. Why do you think He does it that way?( vv. 4, and 9-10)
• When will the transformation be completed?
• Why is Paul's image of "taking off" and "putting on" our new selves-like clothes-such a good illustration to use?
• What other illustrations can you think of to describe the process by which God transforms us into Christ's image?

Watch "Never leave the cave" trailer from the movie The Croods.
• Have you ever believed something and then realized that it was not correct?
• What would happen if we never grew in unity as Christians?

Verse 11 is frequently cited when talking about racism and discrimination of different kinds.
• How do we put aside our negative reactions as Christians?
• How do we replace our old nature's tendencies with something new? How easy is that?
• Do you ever struggle to show compassion for people who are different?
• How do you think the hearers of this passage responded to this line of thinking?
• Why would disregarding of differences be important to someone following Christ?
• This passage talks a lot about a Christian's actions. How does the acceptance of others impact our actions?
• Why do you think this passage focuses on actions?

Watch "Not Easily Broken" from the movie Human Race. 
• What are your thoughts on this vides clip?
• Why do some people choose to be afraid of and hate those who are different from themselves?
• What are the results of the walls that divide people today?
• How do those differences, and the fear and hatred caused by them, affect our journey with Christ?

• What is your favorite article of clothing?
• According to verse 12, what "new clothes" are we to put on?
• How much effort do we put into clothing ourselves anew?
• What does it mean to do something "in the name of the Lord Jesus?"
• How might this change the things we do and the way we do them if we are striving to do them in the name of the Lord Jesus?

Watch "Why Are You Doing This?" from the movie Fireproof.
• Do we reflect Christ so much that even our family can see it?
• Do we ever just go through the motions?
• How does that work for you?
• Do we ever have to stop showing God's love?

We all know the song, "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love".
• Is our love for our God and for others so transparent that the world can see it?

Study Resources for July 28, 2013

The teacher for this session was Steve Booth. (email Steve)

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Adjusting Our Reality
Text: Colossians 2:6-19

Read Colossians 2:6-19 to familiarize yourself with the passage.

In today's text, we continue our look at the letter to the Colossians in chapter 2 verses 6-19. As mentioned in the previous two sessions, while the city of Colossae had a large Jewish population, the majority of Christ followers in the city were likely Gentile. The followers of Christ were facing some false teachings or some kind of negative influence that the author of this letter is warning them about. In today's text, we learn a little more about what those may have been.

Examination
• If Christ is the fullness then do we need anything else? Does Christ’s fullness allow us direct access to God?
• How do we walk in Christ? What things distract you from your walk? Do you do anything that distracts others?
• What does the text say Christ’s death did for us? What purpose did we gain from Christ’s death? How can we walk in faith and still be rooted in Christ?
• How odd does it seem to you that a person possibly in prison is writing to the Colossians about avoiding captivity to false teachings?
• What rules do Christians need to follow?

Distractions
• Have different religious teachings ever confused you? Did they lead you down the wrong path?
• How painful is it to be distracted by false teachings or our own sinful desires?
• Is fasting attractive to you? If not, what religious rituals do you enjoy? Do they ever become more important to you than walking in Christ?
• Do your worship practices help you focus on Christ or something else? How can you be sure?

Rules
Watch the clip "You are Free" from the movie Les Miserables. How would you feel as Valjean?
• Valjean could not earn his freedom, are we like that in our faith? Have you ever been told that your faith was not enough? Did it make sense? Why or why not?
• Do you sometimes feel you need more than Christ to pay your spiritual debt?
• Are you tempted to create man-made rules versus remembering our freedom in grace?

Study Resources for July 21, 2013

The teacher for this session was Jay McNeal. (email Jay)

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With permission from Steve Booth and Jim Somerville we are going to deviate from our usual format at talk about the Microchurch Initiative at FBC. First, I will tell you about the concept of "Microchurch." Then I will ask you how you might, theoretically, do it, either in the context you truly exist in, or you can create a fictitious scenario.

There is a video on the Microchurch website. Watch the Microchurch video.

There is also a Microchurch Facebook page and a blog (2nd website) that you can click on links to from the church's webpage. If you are use to going to FBC's main webpage then you can just click on the "Microchurch" link at the bottom right corner of that home page. The video is a conversation between David Powers and Jim Somerville. We will not watch the video in class, but it may help you get a sense of Microchurch before you get my monologue.

Study Resources for July 14, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

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This week we begin a journey in Colossians.
There's nothing like getting a letter, especially a letter from home. This letter from Paul to Colossae is like a letter from home. Paul was in prison because of his missionary activities when he wrote this letter. It is amazing that Paul, having done nothing wrong, is sitting in prison and yet finds reason to be grateful and to be encouraging to a church facing hardships of its own.

In a book called God and the Art of Happiness, author Ellen Charry notes that "we have a natural tendency to base our sense of happiness on circumstances, and when conditions are bleak enough, our only hope of real joy gets pushed into an anticipation of heaven. True happiness now, even in the midst of trouble when we realize that the saving relationship we have with Christ is not only about a blissful eternity but also involves "growing into the wisdom of divine love and enjoying oneself in the process."

Read Colossians 1:1-14.

• What does Paul think about prayer? How often do we thank God for others' faith, hope, and love?
• Paul uses faith, hope, and love a lot in his writings. 1 Thes. 1:2-3, 1 Thes. 5:8, Gal. 5:5-6, and 1 Cor. 13:13. How do these verses compare with Colossians 1:3-5a?
• Theologian Henri Nouwen says that one problem with prayer is that many Christians view it largely as an intellectual exercise—an "activity of the mind that reduces prayer to simply speaking with God or thinking about God." How do you define prayer?
• If Paul were writing a letter to our church, what would he be pleased to see?

When Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, he had many things to say, but the main thing he wanted them to understand was this: "Jesus is enough."

• Do we live and pray like Jesus is really all we need? Do people you know wonder why you even bother attending church or praying? Can we be faithful and loving all on our own?

• In vs. 10, Paul gives us 3 areas of growth. What are they?
• What do you think Paul means by "living a life worthy of the Lord"? Can you think of an example of someone living a worthy life?
• This fruit bearing thing was important to Jesus. In John 15:1-5, He clearly expected His disciples to work on bearing fruit. What do you think Jesus and Paul meant by "bearing fruit"? What would be some examples of bearing fruit in our faith?
• What is the difference in growing in the knowledge of God and growing in the knowledge of the Bible, or knowledge of doctrine, or knowledge of spiritual heritage?
• How has the gospel produced good fruit in this culture? Is there genuine truth in our world? Who decides what is true in our culture?
• We are constantly bombarded with false messages, how do we discern what is really true?
• How would Paul answer that question? How can the fruit of the Spirit help us in discerning truth?

In Paul's mind, God's will is for the redemption of the world through Christ and for those who belong to Christ to "lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God."

Watch the video "Creation of Hope" from Granger Community Church.
• How does seeing everything God has created give you hope?
Paul views the Colossians as mature, but is concerned that they will be tempted by still small voices to follow false ideas.
• Do false ideas cause people to eventually lose hope?
• What is the writer's intention with the image of the light and the dark?
• What do you hold onto when you want to stay in the light?

For Paul, prayers of thanksgiving are a foundation for the church because these prayers communicate a certainty of Christ's salvation in this world and foster the love of Christ in our world. This gratitude is reflected through the church in tangible ways that produce Christ's kind of love for all of His creation.

Study Resources for July 7, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

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Read Psalm 30.

Being kind of nosey, I want to know the entire story. The psalmist here does not bother to give us the details of his problems but begins by praising YHWH for an act of deliverance described in the past tense.
So even though we don't know all of the events that inspired this psalm we can read the emotions that the psalmist experienced.
• What might have occurred here?
• What images does the psalmist use to describe it?
• How does he seem to feel?

Psalm 30 shows us how we can embrace our emotions to find comfort, peace, praise, sadness, mourning, and glory in God. The psalmist tells us that embracing our feelings, even the so-called negative feelings, and acknowledging those feelings before God is good and necessary in order to truly turn mourning into dancing.

• What do you do when you have strong emotions?
• How do you turn mourning into dancing?
• How does the psalmist draw inspiration and hope from his brokenness?
• What does the psalmist plan to do, and encourage others to do, in response to God's faithfulness and restoration?
• How can we truly sing God's praises even in the midst of trying circumstances?
• Should we rationalize our way through problems?
• Should we live as if they aren't happening?
• Why is it important to really experience these things?
• How can we grow through these experiences?

• Have you ever believed in something and then found out it was not really what you thought it was?
Watch the video clip "What Are You Going to Believe In?" from the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

• Do we sometimes spend too much time listening to the loud voices in the world?
• How hard is it to press on with life when we feel overwhelmed by sickness or stress?
• Do we want to blame God?
• What do you think happens next to Mr. Smith?
• What could happen next for us when we are facing adversity or tragedy?
One commentator suggested that the psalmist was initially living in "careless security, seemingly held in honor by Jehovah".
• Do we ever live in careless security?
• Do we take time to be connected and thankful in all things?
• I guess the question becomes, no matter what happens to us in life-good or bad- is God's love enough for us? Why or why not?

G.K. Chesterton has suggested that thanksgiving is a matter of celebrating one's dependence upon God. Dependence literally means "a hanging from." "An attitude of gratitude, thanksgiving for the invisible, but durable tread of God's dependable grace comes to mark the faithful community's response to God."
Theologian Karl Barth is reported to have declared that there is only one sin, suggesting that the "single sin from which every lesser sin emanates is the sin of ingratitude-the failure to comprehend the theological truth that human life in all its beauty, abundance, and possibility is a gift". No one has recognized the underlying truth beneath Barth's statement better than the psalmist: "O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever."

 

Study Resources for June 30, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

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If there were a Hall of Fame for prophets, Elijah would be in it. God spoke to him and he listened and obeyed. God used Elijah and accomplished mighty things. The Bible gives us an honest insight into the lives of our spiritual heroes. We see their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
Last week, we saw Elijah discouraged and drained physically and spiritually. And we saw our God minister to all of his needs.
In today's passage, we see Elijah still kinda cranky. But our God can even use the cranky to accomplish great things! For some of us that's good news!

Read 1 Kings 19:15-21.
• What were the jobs God gave Elijah to do?
• How many of these did Elijah do?
• Why do you think Elijah avoided doing the first two jobs?

• How many faithful people did God find?
• Why do you think Elijah thought he was alone among the faithful?
• Have you ever noticed that when we become despondent or spiritually dry, our tendency is to withdraw and feel sorry for ourselves, just like Elijah did? God's response reminds us that we need a larger community of faith to remind us that we are not alone. When we are surrounded by other believers on a regular basis, we draw strength from communal worship and shared hope. We also need faith friends like Elisha who are close to us, who know our stories, who are willing to challenge us and who put faces on the love of God.

• How would you describe Elijah's demeanor?
• This calling and anointing of Elisha was a little different than the anointing and blessings that we find in other places in the Old Testament. What might this say about Elijah's feelings? How does Elisha react to this anointment?
• What role is Elisha going to fulfill according to verse 21? Different translations use different words here. How does this role compare with the role of the disciples of Jesus? How does it compare with our role as followers of Jesus?

Watch the video clip "Titan Ronnie Bass."
• Have you ever had to take over for someone else on a team?
• What advise or instruction have you been given in order to take over for someone else?
• How do we empower others to lead?
• Why is the development of new leadership so important to any organization?
• How can insecurity get in the way of developing new leaders?
• How do you think Elijah might have felt about mentoring this younger prophet?
• Who have been your mentors?

• What has success taught you?
• What has failure taught you?
• What has helped you move on in life?
• What has God done for you?

Watch the video clip from Coach Carter: "Thank You Sir."
• What kind of impact did the coach's lessons have on those young people?
• Do you think that it is important to have a mentor?
• Who in your life would you consider to be one of the strongest mentors to you?
• How did that person share hope with you and lead you in the right direction?

 

Study Resources for June 23, 2013

The teacher for this session was Steve Booth. (email Steve)

What Are You Doing Here?

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1 Kings 19:1-15

Victory

Watch the video clip from Rudy: "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy."
• Why was Rudy so excited about being a part of such a great experience? How was Rudy treated by those around him, after this victory? What would that be like?
• Have you ever been a part of a great victory? How did you respond after that victory?
• How long did it take for you to come down from the thrill of victory?

Revealing

Read 1 Kings 19:1-15.

• What victory had Elijah just experienced before the events in this passage?
• Why would Elijah be afraid of anything after the events that had just transpired?
• How do you think Elijah felt as he ran away? Have you ever felt that way? Explain. Why would Elijah pray to die?
• How was God revealed to Elijah? Why would God choose to reveal God-self that way? What impact might that had on Elijah?
• How has God revealed himself to you in unusual ways? How can you recognize God speaking to you in an usual way?

Questions
• Why would God ask Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Has God ever asked you a question? Explain.
Watch the video clip from Ring the Bell: "This Is My Yankee Stadium."
• Why was it so hard for Rob to understand why Scooter did not want to play in the major leagues? What do you think of Scooter’s decision? Explain.
• What do you want to do with your life? How would you react if God had other plans for you? Would you rather do something that the world views as successful or be happy doing what God wants from you? Explain. Why does the world seem to promote worldly gain so much?
• How do we figure out what God wants us to do with our lives? How do we allow a place for God in determining our future? How can our community of faith help you to seek God your journey?

Study Resources for June 16, 2013

The teacher for this session was Steve Booth. (email Steve)

How Low Can You Go?

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Read 1 Kings 21:1-29.

• Why would Naboth not sell his land? Who really owns the land (Lev. 25:23)?
• Did Jezebel manipulate people? How?
• Could Ahab have stopped her?
• What is Ahab’s reaction to Elijah’s words? What do you think Jezebel did then?

Greed
• Did Ahab start out greedy? How could he and Jezebel be so evil to kill for land?
Watch the "Greed is Good" clip. Would Gordon Gekko agree with what Jezebel did? Why?
• Is individual greed good for a country, a church or you?
• When have you been party to greed directly or indirectly?
• How do we stand up against greed? Do we feel it is unimportant and/or impossible?

More Greed
• Do you feel cultural pressure to succeed and accumulate stuff?
Watch the video clip from "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
• Is greed legal now? What would Elijah say to Gordon Gekko? Would Gekko listen even after his prison time?
• What does it mean when Gekko is told “no matter how much money you make, you will never be rich?”
• Does our culture agree on what “being rich” is?
• What is our role in our economic system that exploits the poor and needy? How can we change the way we spend our money so that it does not exploit those less fortunate? What role should the church have in this area?

Study Resources for June 9, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

Unlikely Help

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The widow’s doubt, as well as her profession of faith, may be our own story today. It is easy to believe in death and evil powers, because that is what we witness in the world every day. It is much harder to imagine the power of love that conquers death. As we read this story may we be able to affirm God’s ultimate sovereignty and love that gives us victory over death itself.

Read 1 Kings 17:1-24.
• Why do bad things happen to good people?
There is no complete, satisfactory answer to this question.
Some people believe that bad things happen because:
  1. God is doing something bigger than what we have going on in our individual lives.
  2. Natural disasters affect all persons in a local area.
  3. Bad things happen and it is not a sign that God has forgotten or forsaken us.
• God provides for Elijah in a miraculous way. What does that tell us about our relationship with God?
• Zerephath is not a part of Israel. As a matter of fact, it was a pagan land and the homeland of King Ahab's wife, Jezebel.
Why did Elijah go there?
• Why do you think God would want Elijah to move to Zerephath?

• Why do you think Elijah asked the widow for food?
• Why did she gamble her life and her son' s life saying yes to Elijah?
• How does the widow minister to Elijah in this passage?
• Does it seem odd that an important man of God would have such an experience with a lowly widow? Why or why not?
• Who is helped most in this story, Elijah or the widow? Why?
• How do we compare this story to our understanding of God's grace?
• Can you think of other biblical stories when God's goodness and power have been questioned by those who have seen God's miracles?
• Why is it so hard for us to trust that God will take care of us "this time" even though we know God has taken care of us in the past?
• As we live among and serve the "widows and the orphans" or "those with the most need and least resources" in our world today, do we find that we are agents of God's grace-as well as recipients of God's grace? Explain.

• Why was Elijah angry with God?
• Why did God intervene in this situation?
• Does God act every time someone cries out to Him?

Watch "Run Forrest Run" from the movie Forrest Gump.
• Do you believe miracles happen today or are those just stories from the Bible?
• Can you think of some daily miracles around us we often ignore?
• Do we need something supernatural to help us believe? (v. 20 & 24) Why?
• Has God ever placed somebody in your life to help you when we least expect it? Explain.
• Can we often miss them if they look powerless, like the widow?

Watch "Could You Live Like This?" from the World Food Programme website.
• What would it be like to work day and night just to eat?
• What would it be like to know you were close to starvation?
• What would it be like to know that you cannot provide basic needs for your family and you might die of starvation?

Too many are like that widow or that child, literally or figuratively. There are too many in our world feeling lost, hopeless, hungry, and thirsty for something beyond the tangibles of daily living. They are searching for more than meager leftovers, scraps of food, love and justice this world has to offer. The good news is that God has a heart for the widows and orphans of this world. Our challenge is to partner with God to meet the needs of His world. God promises us that when we receive the stranger and the poor, we may be receiving angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:1-2 As we bring God's heaven to Richmond, we need to meet needs and minister in His name.
• How can we start doing that today?


Study Resources for June 2, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

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Culture Pressure
In today's passage from 1 Kings, we have God's people in a mess, the prophet Elijah, the wicked and weak King Ahab, and Queen Jezebel. The Israelites were not being faithful to their God. They were drawn to the worship of other gods by surrounding nations that were all polytheistic. Ahab was an Israelite and knew that the worship of any God, other than YHWH, was wrong, but he was married to a worshipper of Baal. Ahab did what Jezebel said to do.

The Israelites did not question the existence of other gods. Instead, they had to decide which god could really affect human existence. If Baal was the answer, they would have to practice the magic to survive. Then they could live the materialistic, self-centered life that comes form serving gods of their own making. If Yahweh, was the answer, then they would have to live by the high ethical and moral standards of the Law of Moses (Torah).
Elijah didn't try to argue them or convert them into belief. He led them to a place where they could decide. For the people to make no choice was to serve Baal. Not choosing for God is to choose against Him.

It has been said that as a modern day culture, "We frantically dance to appease powers that are not real; we try to ensure prosperity through things that cannot respond to us; we look for hope in things that cannot truly transform our lives. Seeking the Holy in profane places, we go limping through life with two different opinions as visible as the hopping prophets of Baal."
• Do you think this is accurate and why or why not?

For many today, God does not exist. Like the Israelites, most of us care little for questions about the existence of God. We are more concerned about the matters that directly affect our lives on a day to day basis. Our Western culture prides themselves on self-sufficiency. We do not worship Baal, but we have not chosen to completely worship God either. "Our idols are not wood and stone, we have made ourselves idols."

• What "idols" or other "gods" do we worship today?
• What things are we tempted to place as more important than God?
• Why are we tempted to mold God to our idea of what He should be rather than change ourselves to match God's standards?

Read 1 Kings 18:17-39.
• Considering that the Israelites were supposed to be monotheistic, what did their idolatry say to their neighbors about their faith and their God?
• What was the process that the prophets used to call on Baal? What did Elijah do the call on YHWH?
• What was different and what do these differences say about the two deities?
• Elijah had to repair the altar before he could use it (verses 30-32). What does this tell us?
• Elijah's sacrifice was a spectacle. Why do you think it had to be so spectacular to make the point to the people of Israel?
• It has been said that there is a fine line between bravery and foolishness. Was Elijah foolish, brave or maybe both taking on 450 prophets?
• Have you ever been in a situation where you had to challenge someone else about the sovereignty of God? How did it go?
• What is it like to be outnumbered as a Christian facing those who believe something differently?
• How should we handle a situation when faced with those who believe things different from us?
• What demonstrations of God's power can we use to share with those who have never experienced it?

Watch "Pray for Rain" from the movie Faith Like Potatoes.
• What kind of miracles does God do today to reveal Himself to people?
• If we do not see God doing "Red Sea" moments in our lives does that mean that He is not at work?
• Are we people that God can use to do miracles?

• In what ways has God asked us, as Christians, to live differently from the culture around us?
• How is this "difference" a witness to our God and to what God has done for us?
• What do you think it really means to worship only God and not these other things?
• Why is it important to strive toward worshipping only God, and what kind of witness does this present to others?
• Some people believe we must completely separate ourselves from our culture in order to live differently. Is this necessary? Is it even possible?
• Why is it more difficult to live within our culture, not separately, and to remain different?
• Have you ever felt all alone resisting the temptation to conform to this world?
• Was Elijah really alone? Are we?
• When faced with cultural pressures, is it easy to take a stand? Do we remember our victories? Our failures?
• How do these victories and mistakes strengthen our Christian walk?

• Are we as individuals and as a world thirsty for a God whose words can once again water the earth? (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Watch "New World" from the movie The Patriot.
• General Cornwallis sees that he has lost the war even though he had the stronger army, just like Ahab. How did Cornwallis see the world changing forever? How did the world change for Ahab?
• What can we do to stand for good in our world?
• Do others see us as people that God uses?

Elijah shows us that God is indeed among His people and He is alive and active. We do not have to fear abandonment by God. He is faithful.


Study Resources for May 26, 2013

See the session.

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

We are now in Romans 5:1-11. This is a favorite passage of mine. I love the visual of standing in grace. Let's stand in some of that grace together as we look at this passage!

• Do you think words can adequately explain what happens when God saves us? Why or why not?
• How do you define grace?

    God's
    Riches
    At
    Christ's
    Expense

"God's grace is more than unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath. Showing kindness to a stranger is "unmerited favor"; doing good to one's enemies is more the spirit of grace." Luke 6: 27-36.

Read Romans 5:1-11
Paul tells us that there are three things that we are to be proud of, to rejoice in, or to boast about. (v2. in our hope; v.3. in our suffering; v.11 in God.)
• In what sense is Paul using the word "boast"? Can you think of a situation that would show the difference between bragging and the boasting that Paul is talking about?
• "Our present life of fellowship with God through the Spirit is just a foretaste of the life that lies ahead for us." What is it in your present experience with God that you see as a foretaste of an eternal life with God?

Watch "That's My Mission" from the movie Saving Private Ryan.
• Think about: Would you consider Hanks' character a good man for risking his won life to save another?
• What is Paul's main point in verse 7-8? Do you believe most people are good and are worth saving?

Watch Master Yoda's famous quote to Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars.
• Do you follow the progression of this thought: fear-anger-hate-suffering?
• Can you come up with a particular issue that has in the past followed this scenario?
• Yoda's list is pretty bleak, but how does Paul's progression play out?
• What time did you suffer that eventually brought you character or hope?

GOD'S LOVE DEMONSTRATED
• Why is it important that we now stand "in grace," and why is that better than standing on something else-our own works for example?
• What is this hope that we boast of?
• What do you think Paul means when he says we can boast about our sufferings? How is that possible?
• How can suffering make us stronger?
• What does this passage say about the quality of God's love toward us?
• According to Paul, suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope. Why is hope the highest aspiration in this list?
• Are we willing to accept the challenges that we face as opportunities to grow spiritually?

Paul was not saying that God was in the business of sending suffering for the purpose of making believers stronger. We believe that God can work in us through the constant love that "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" and bring us our of the experience as stronger people. It is contrary to the nature of God to believe that He targets us for a learning exercise.

Watch the movie clip from The Wizard of Oz, "There's No Place Lke Home." 
• What are some things you miss when you are away from home?
• Are there times when even Christians can still feel that way?
• What can we do to help each other rest in peace and joy in God's grace?
• What can we do to help others find that same grace?

PEACE WITH GOD
• In verse 1, Paul says that our salvation allows us to "have peace" with God. What kind of peace is this?
• To "justify" someone or something does not have the same meaning today that it once did. To Paul it meant to declare and treat someone as free of guilt. How did Jesus death on the cross justify us in this way?
• To "reconcile" means the same thing today as it meant to Paul. What does it mean to reconcile a relationship?
• How did Jesus' death allow us to be reconciled to God?

In this passage, what did Paul say about...
• the timing of Jesus' death?
• our old and new relationship to God?
• the way we can view suffering?
• the reasons we have hope?

• Do these things explain what salvation is to us?
• How was salvation first presented to you?
• What does salvation mean to you?
• Is it OK that God's salvation can remain a mystery to us?
• How do our lives illustrate the transforming power of the resurrection?
• How does this passage give us a sense of present assurance for future possession?


Study Resources for May 19, 2013

The teacher for this session was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

See the session.

This Sunday is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church! Before we dive into Psalms, let's look in Acts 2:1-8, 37-41. This is the account of God's Spirit being poured out on His people.
In these verses we see how the disciples reacted to the Spirit of God.
• In what ways did those disciples see, hear, and feel the Spirit of God that day?

THE SPIRIT IN GOD'S WORLD
Let's look at Genesis 1:2
The Spirit was present even at the beginning.
• What do you think the Spirit's role might have been as the universe was created?

Read Psalm 104:24-35
• What does the Spirit do in the midst of God's creation-not just at the beginning, but each and every day?
• How is the Spirit's presence central to all the beautiful parts of nature we see in this Psalm?
• What passion for worship is described by the psalmist?
• Do you see that same passion in Christians today? Why or why not?
• What do you think the psalmist was really trying to express in this passage?
• What is the psalmist saying in verse 35, and how can this impact our own journey with God?
• Would removing the bad people create a perfect society?
• What can we do to create a more perfect world?

THE SPIRIT IN GOD'S PEOPLE
Read 1 Samuel 16:12-41
• How did the Spirit come to David?
• What kinds of things would David go on to accomplish?
• When the Spirit departed from Saul what happened to him?
• What happened at the day of Pentecost when the Spirit came?
• What was the effect on the Christians gathered there?
• What would be the effect on the people of Jerusalem that day?
• How is the Spirit's work within God's people similar to His work within God's world?
• How is it different?

GOD'S SPIRIT RENEW
• How does the Spirit renew creation?
• Have you ever felt renewed by God's Spirit?
• Do you think we will always "feel" renewed by the Spirit, or that we will notice his presence as the disciples did at Pentecost? Explain.
• How does the Spirit work in our church to renew the passion and the mission of our church?
• What kind of renewal do you think we need today as individuals, as a community of believers, as a nation, as a world?

Watch the Stranger than Fiction movie clip, "Part of a Story." 
• How would you have responded if someone told you this story?
• How do you respond when a Christian tells you they have heard the voice of God?
• Why are a lot of people skeptical of such claims?
• Have you ever felt God leading you to do something? Explain
• If you had to describe the Holy Spirit to someone else, what would you say?
• How would you describe the work of the Holy Spirit in your life?
• Are you skeptical of claims that the Holy Spirit leads and guides Christians? Why or why not?


Study Resources for May 12, 2013

The teacher for this session was Steve Booth.(email Steve)

See the session.

Come, Lord Jesus

Read Revelation 22:6-21

I'll Be Right Back
• Watch the "Tron: Legacy Trailer" and pay particular attention to any dialogue about time.
    o How long had the father been gone in this clip?
    o How do you think that would have affected the son in this clip?
• How has 2000 years of waiting for Jesus' return affected the church?
• Do you think the amount of time since Jesus said, "I'm coming soon" is a deterrent for potential believers? Why or why not?
• How do we reconcile the idea that Jesus hasn’t returned yet?

Can We Start Over Again?
• Watch the "Jumanji" clip. Warning: This clip is pretty loud. You may want to adjust the volume prior to listening. The movie is about a magical board game that brings the jungle to life, which generally wreaks havoc to anyone and everything around. This clip is the final move in the game.
• What was happening in this clip?
• Have you ever had moments you wish you could get a "do-over"?
• If the Tree of Life mentioned in the text refers to the same tree in the creation account found in Genesis, why do you suppose the vision rewinds all the way back there?
• Why is it important that ALL who are thirsty are welcome to drink?
• Is that a promise that ALL will be in heaven?

I Am Coming Soon
• Watch "A Father's Farewell" from Superman.
    o What was the core of the father's message to the baby boy?
    o What hope is the father trying to provide?
• How is that similar to the words Jesus has for us in this last chapter of Revelation?
• Obviously, Jesus wasn’t referring to historical time when he said "I am coming soon," so what other way is there to take it?
• How can we draw Christ closer to us as a church and a body?


Study Resources for May 5, 2013

The teacher for May is Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

See the session.

It is probably easy to recognize everything that is wrong in our world, especially in light of the violence in the past few weeks.
• Can we this week look for what might be happening that is right and good in the midst of all sorts of current events?
• What are some "tastes" or "moments" of heaven happening in this present time?
• Can you think of some example of something that happened that was good or right in the middle of current events?
• How about the emphasis our church has with bringing the kingdom of heaven to Richmond? What would the kingdom of heaven look like here in Richmond?
• Can you think of an example of an act that was in line with God's heart and the vision we find in the text?
• What kind of things would you like to be remembered for?
• What stops you from living life well?

Read Revelation 21:9-22:5
• What are the descriptions of heaven given in this passage?
• Why do you think there will be no night?
• How might these images give hope to those who heard it?
• Do you think it's harder, for those who live in relative plenty and safety, to appreciate John's vision?
• How does John's description of heaven give you hope today in the midst of your own challenges?
• How does this city connect the faith of the Old Testament with the faith of the New Testament (verses 12-14)?
• In what ways does this restore the earth to the way it was before Adam and Eve first sinned?
• Does this image of heaven seem like the image you have in your head? Why or why not?
• How is the image of heaven meant to be an image of hope for us?
• What or who is the source of all the things needed for life in this new city?
• Is this really and different from today?

• Do you think that the images of heaven that we see here in the text give us hope for today?
• Do we spend too much or too little time dwelling on heaven?

Watch the "Is This Heaven?" clip from the movie Field of Dreams.
• What do you think of the description of heaven in this film?
• Do you think heaven is about your dreams coming true? Why or why not?
• If you were asked to draw a picture of heaven, what would your picture look like and why?


Study Resources for April 28, 2013

The teacher for April was Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

See the session.

No More Tears

• What's the most beautiful place you have ever been?
• Could you adequately explain how beautiful it is?
• Why is so difficult to explain something that only you have experienced?

• What was the first question that God asked His people? It was "Where are you?" God wanted a continued relationship with us, but we continue to rebel. God continues to seek us out. Prophets were sent from God to warn God's people and to bring them back to Him. Isaiah 65:17-25.

Read Revelation 21:1-6

• What do you think of John's description of the new heaven and the new earth?
• Does anything surprise you about this brief description of things to come?
• Does anything comfort you? Frighten you?
• What are the characteristics of this new heaven and earth?
• Why was it important, to the people of John's time, that the sea had disappeared?
• If John were retelling the vision for people of our times, what might he say had disappeared?

• What direction are things moving–are people being taken up, or is God coming to the people (vs.2-3)? Does this matter?

Here in verses 3 and 4 we have the point of Heaven. The whole point is that, in the new age, God's swelling will be with His people. This is the mutual dwelling that God had in mind from the beginning–a place with no pain, sickness or death or any sorrow. A place where He walked and dwelled with His people.

• In verses 4-5, we learn that people and places are being re-made, NIV says "the old order of things has passed away." What other things are happening here?

• What is the significance of God now dwelling with humanity?
• How might this new heaven and new earth give hope to those who were told about this vision?
• Why doesn't God simply replace them rather than transform them into something new?

• Do you think that our focus on various interpretations of the book of Revelation has gotten us off track from the book's true meaning?

Watch the "Let it grow" clip from the movie The Lorax.

• This is a silly movie, but what dies it tell us about people's ability to change and grow?
• Why are people so hesitant to change?
• What usually has to take place in order for people to be willing to change?

Some say that people are unwilling to change until the pain of changing is outweighed by the change of staying the same.
• How have you found that to be true in your experience?
• Do you look forward to a day when all things are made new? Why or why not?
• What relationships or situations have you experienced that were transformed and made new by opening yourself up to God?
• How can we, as people who resist change, open ourselves up to being changed by God on a daily basis?


Study Resources for April 21, 2013

The teacher for April was Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

See the session. (note: This video begins several minutes into the class session.)

Revelation 7:9-17

Read Revelation 7:9-17.
Remember John's audience. They were being persecuted for their faith and the word is a word of assurance. God is in control and He is the one who has ultimate control. The image of hope continues and we are told that even though these people have suffered greatly, they will hunger and thirst no more. God will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Eugene Peterson says of the evils unleashed in chapter 6, "The world as we observe it is shot through with evil... War is social evil; famine violates and ravages God's bounty; sickness wastes God-given bodies; sins against society, sins against the land. Each of these evils is common, but each is also disguised so that we culturally accept its presence as something normal..."
• Have we become so used to evil that it seems "normal"?
When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we say, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
• What does that look like?
• What evils, that we may consider normal in this life, will we no longer need to deal with in heaven?


Our faith is a faith that sings. We are rooted in the Hebrew tradition of taking our concerns and our praises to God in song.
Read Psalm 23.
• What parallels do you see between this Psalm and the songs in Revelation 7?
• What importance is there in the diversity of the multitude?
• What does it say about God that His worshippers were so diverse?
• What is the significance of the white robes? The palm branches? The washing of their hands?
• How did the differences in the multitude bring them together?
• How might this passage have given encouragement to the ones who heard it?

Watch the video clip on Cultural Diversity.
• What are some of the problems caused by social diversity?
• How do our cultural differences separate us socially and spiritually?
• Do you think you live in a diverse community? Why or why not?
• How much interaction do you personally have with people who are different from you?
• Why do we tend to spend time with people similar to us rather than those who are culturally different from us?
• What can we gain by building diverse relationships?

• How does our church reach a diverse group of worshippers?
• Why do many churches have difficulties worshipping with those who are different from themselves?
• How can the differences among us draw us closer to each other and to God?
• What strategies can our churches implement to be come more diverse?

The multitudes experienced the presence of God in an extraordinary worship experience.
Read Isaiah 43:1-7.
• Can we experience the presence of God in our everyday lives? How?
• Why is it that we can experience His presence sometimes more clearly than at other times?

The text tells us that God will care for our physical needs, vs. 16, our spiritual needs, vs. 17, and our emotional needs, vs. 17.
• How might this comfort people who are living in persecution? How does this comfort you?
Revelation 7:16-17 and Isaiah 49:10. are similar. How are they alike and how are they different? How do they apply to us today?


Study Resources for April 14, 2013

The teacher for April was Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

See the session.

Revelation 5:1-14

We are in the 5th chapter of Revelation this week. The entire chapter! Revelation 5:1-14. I am so appreciative of your participation.
In this chapter, we will look at worth and worthiness.
• How do we measure worth and worthiness?
• How does society measure worth?
• How does God measure worthiness? Does it differ?
• Does honor go to the most deserving or the most powerful? Why?


Read Revelation 5:1-14.

Watch the video clip from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
• What are some of the characteristics of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia?
• Why was it bad to mess with him?
• How can Aslan be ferocious, yet gentle and kind at the same time?
• Do you think we can draw any parallels between Aslan's character and the character of Jesus? Why or why not?

• In the scripture lesson, why does John want to open the scroll so badly?
• Who does he expect will be able to open it?
• What is the symbolism behind the proclamation of a lion, but the vision of a slain lamb?
• What kind of King did the Jews expect Jesus to be especially considering their lands were occupied by the Roman Empire?
• Instead, what kind of King did Jesus come to be? Why might some have had a problem with that?

• In verse 8, the prayers of the saints are depicted as golden bowls full of incense in the Throne Room of God. What is the significance of the prayers of the saints?
• In verse 7, the angels sing about 7 gifts that the Lamb will receive. What do you think is the significance of each gift?

All of creation joins together in a hymn of praise in verses 12-13, bringing together what has been separated by the orders of creation, time, and geography. This is a reflection of the worship of the early church that brought together those who were otherwise separated in their world: slaves/free, Jews/Greeks, men/women, haves/have-nots, those with honor/those with culturally defined shame, pure/impure. A diverse, community came together to sing praise to the Lamb.
• How does all of this impact our vision of worthiness?
• Who is worthy in our world, in our eyes, in our experience?

• When you look at the problems in this world, what kind of actions do you expect from God to bring about healing or change?
• Do we ever have bitterness because God does not solve our problems the way we think God should? Why or why not?
• How do you think John might have responded in seeing a slain lamb rather than the lion he was expecting?
• How do we respond when God shows up in unexpected ways?


Study Resources for April 7, 2013

The teacher for April was Kathy Thompson.
(email Kathy)

See the session.

Revelation

• What comes to your mind when you think of the Book of Revelation? Why?
• Many view Revelation as an apocalyptic book. How do you think the world will likely end?
• Why do we seem to be intrigued by the mystery of this book?

I think that the verse that kinda sums up the book of
 Revelation is 17:14.
• How does this verse speak to you?

Our focus during this study will not be so much on the end times as it will focus on the end message.
John begins his message with God. So we will begin right there.

Read Revelation 1:1-3.
There are 7 blessings listed in Revelation. I will not have time to go into them, but I sure do like a promise of a blessing.
You can look them up
1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14, and 19:9.

Read Revelation 1:4-8.
"The revelation of Jesus Christ" - "Apocalypsis"- an unveiling, uncovering, disclosing.

• What does verse 4 tell us about God and time?

• Carl Jung had a saying hung above his door that said, "Bidden or unbidden, God is present."
Is that thought a comfort, or a threat, or both?

• According to this passage, what has Jesus already done?
• What is Jesus going to do?
• Why would this kind of information matter to people who are in the midst of persecution?

• What type of descriptions does John give about Jesus in the passage?
• Why are those significant?

• John calls Jesus the "ruler of the kings of the earth." This is a political statement and a phrase that was used in describing the Romans Caesars. A follower of Jesus is always dealing with politics, because the rulers of this world want to have our allegiance, just like they did in Jesus' day. How does giving our allegiance to Christ cause us to conflict with giving our allegiance to the present rulers of this world?

• What does this passage tell us about the return of Jesus Christ?
• Why will people mourn because of His return?
• To the people of John's time, who were being persecuted, how might this passage bring about hope?

• There are a lot of images and pictures of the return of Jesus. What do you think it will be like when Jesus returns?

• When Jesus returns, how do you think the world will respond? Why?
• How might Jesus respond to the church? Why?
• Do you ever face persecution for being Christian?

• Do you think that modern Christians and the church would really be excited about the idea of Jesus coming back?

Look again at verse 7.
Compare verse 7 with
Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 24:27-31, and Zechariah 14:3-9.

I continue to have more questions than answers. I look forward to our time together and all of the insights that you will bring!


Study Resources for March 31, 2013

The teacher for March was Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

See the session.

Amazing Experience

Read John 20:1-18.
• All 4 Gospels report that the women were the first to discover the resurrection. How were they (especially Mary) uniquely fitted for this experience?
• We have the advantage of knowing the outcome of this story, but John points out (verse 9) that those who first experienced it had no idea what was happening. What emotions might they have experienced at seeing the tomb disturbed and Jesus' body missing?
• Why do you think Jesus chose to appear first to Mary?
• What role do the angels play in this revelation? Why do you think the 2 disciples did not see the angels?
• What finally makes Mary realize she is talking to Jesus? Why is this significant?
• In looking at the resurrection story one more time, is there anything that is surprising to you?
• How do you think this event felt to each of those who appear in this story—Mary, Peter, and John?
• Who do you identify with today?
• Why is it important to continually revisit this story, even though we know it so well?

An interesting note, In John 13:16, Jesus calls His disciples "servants" and in John 15:15, He calls them "friends" now He calls them "brothers" (20:17). The resurrection creates a new kind of relationship between God and all of us. Brothers and sisters, how cool!

• Do you think that the story of the resurrection has lost some of its power for those of us who have heard it so many times? Why?

Watch the video clip from "Armistad" about Jesus' Illustrated story.
• What do you think it would be like to read this story for the first time?
• What do you think these men thought about this story?
• Why was it so powerful to them?
• How can a story have so much meaning without proof?
• Do you think the resurrection can be proven? Does it need to be?
• How is the resurrection meant to be experienced rather than proven?
• Who are we looking for this morning?
• How can the resurrection be something powerful to us this year?


Study Resources for March 24, 2013

The teacher for March was Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

See the session.

Think about:
• If Jesus were to come into our room, what kind of entrance would you expect? Why?
• We are comfortable with people cheering enthusiastically for their favorite sports team or celebrity. Are we comfortable with a loud, visible demonstration of worship of God? Why or why not?
• How have you experienced God's power?
• Where have you seen God's power at work in this world?
• What power of God have you seen in what some might consider to be "chance" of "coincidence"?
• What miracles have you experienced or seen in others?
• What can we celebrate about God's strength, ability and influence?
• What can we celebrate about God's greatness, beauty and goodness?

Read Luke 19:35-40.
• Where do I find myself in this story?
• Would I have joined the crowds who followed Jesus into the city, only to abandon him a short while later?
• Would I have stood apart and passed quick judgment, like the Pharisees?
• Would I have tended to my business and ignored the procession altogether? Or would I have been like those few disciples surrounding Jesus who stuck with him to the end and never gave up?

Watch the video clip from "Rudy."
Did you find yourself catching the excitement of the moment?
It was obviously important that Rudy was given the opportunity to play. Why might the head coach have not played Rudy earlier?
Why do you think the celebration for Jesus coming into Jerusalem was so elaborate and big?
Do you find it strange and scary how the crowd was for Jesus on this day, and in 6 days he would be executed?
Why do we get so depressed when our expectations do not match up with reality?
- What were the people expecting Jesus to do once He got to Jerusalem?
- How did Jesus disappoint them? Do we have any expectations of Jesus today? Explain.
- What does the church expect of Jesus today? Is there anything about our worship that is unexpected, or surprising?
   Why or why not?
- How can we take joy in the unexpected?


Study Resources for March 17, 2013

The teacher for March was Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

Extravagant Worship

Read John 12:1-8.

See the session.

• How would you define and explain extravagant worship?
• Do you prefer extravagant or a calmer form of worship? Explain.
• Do you think God cares if your worship is acceptable to others? Why or why not?

• What prevents us from being generous/extravagant/intimate in our worship?
• What prevents us from being generous/extravagant/intimate in our acts of love towards others?
• What risks do we take when we worship and when we serve others?

• What was Mary's act of worship in this passage?
• How was this act of worship viewed by those who witnessed it?
• How did Jesus show his acceptance of Mary's gift?
• How was Mary's gift an act of worship?
• How was Mary's gift a demonstration of servanthood?
• How can we demonstrate our love for God by serving others?
• Do you agree with Judas, even a little?

• Consider verse 8. Now that we no longer have Jesus with us, are these kinds of extravagant acts still necessary?

• Why do you think we sometimes struggle just loving God and loving others?
• What reputation has the church earned in the eyes of the world?
• What reputation has our church earned in the eyes of this community?

• How can we love God with the passion, intimacy, and extravagance that Mary showed in this passage?

• How can we love people with the passion, intimacy, and extravagance that Mary showed in this passage?
• How would the reputation of the church change if we could love like Mary?

 Watch the video "Love God, Love Neighbor."

• Mother Teresa of Calcutta explained that she served the poor because they were "Jesus in disguise." How can we express extravagant gratitude to Jesus by ministering to others?
• Mary demonstrated her love for her Lord through her actions. She was not only generous but extravagant. How can we be the same?


Study Resources for March 10, 2013

The teacher for March was Kathy Thompson.(email Kathy)

The Prodigal Son

Read Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

See the session.

Something to think about: In the 2 parables at the beginning of chapter 15, the things that were lost could not be blamed for their situation or their "lostness". The Prodigal made choices and decisions that caused him to be lost. He really did not deserve any help from his father.

Extravagant grace  How have you experienced extravagant grace? Are you someone who prefers grace or justice?

• Watch the "Back to God" clip from Les Miserables.
-
What did Jean Valjean deserve in this clip?
- Why do you think the Bishop decided to show him grace?
- How might this desplay of grace impact his life?
- How do you define grace in your life?
- How does God's grace change you?

- Why did the younger brother decide to go back to the father?
- What response did he deserve and how did it differ from what he got?
- Why did he have such a difficult time understanding the grace his father gave him?
- Why do we sometimes feel undeserving of God's forgiveness?
- What does this story teach us about God's grace?
- Why doesn't God just give up on us?

- Do you think the older brother was treated unfairly?
- Does he lose anything because of the grace that was shown to his brother?
- How would you have responded as the older brother?

- Who are some people in our society that might be considered unworthy of God's grace?
- How do we respond when we are confronted with God's grace and love for everyone?
- How does this parable jive with the understanding the world has of justice? How about your understanding?

• Watch the music video "Prodigal" by Casting Crowns.
- Reality is, neither son understood the father's grace. The younger son thought that he had to return home and become in some way "less than" he was when he left. The older son could not separate his own sense of fairness and justice to include anything or anyone else that didn't fit into his definition of right and wrong. When all was said and done, both sons were loved, graced, forgiven, and welcomed home.
- Do we have a rigid sense of who is worthy, who is valuable, and who is deserving?
- Could we be surprised by who God chooses to grace?
- Do we have spiritual blind spots when it comes to who is deserving of God's grace?


Study Resources for March 3, 2013

The teacher for March was Kathy Thompson. (email Kathy)

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Read Luke 13:1-9.

See the session.

• Begin to think about when bad things happen to good people. How do we make sense of those situations? Do people get what they deserve? Should they? How does the view of an unfair world affect out view of God? Or does it?

• What happened in the 2 events that Jesus refers to in the scripture lesson? How did the people try to make sense of these tragedies? Why do you think that Jesus did not give an explanation for the tragic events? Why do you think Jesus told this parable and how does it relate to the tragedies?

• What recent tragedies from the news catch you attention and where do you think God was during those events? Why does it sometimes take a tragedy to reflect, repent, and draw near to our God? How do we give thanks for the manure of life?

• Watch the "Braveheart" clip.

• What do you think William Wallace meant when he said, "every man dies, not every man really lives?" Is there a relationship between how we live and how we die? Is it important?

Kathy ThompsonA native of Virginia, Kathy is the daughter of a Baptist minister. She also married a Baptist minister! She and her husband, Robert, live in Ashland, Virginia where he recently retired as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ashland, where they served for twenty years. Kathy was active in the music department at First Baptist and taught Sunday School for many years. A first grade teacher at Hanover Academy, Kathy teaches music to preschoolers through the eighth grade. She is a graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. She and Robert are the parents of 2 sons: Matthew and his wife Jennifer, and Christopher and grandparents to Peyton Elizabeth. They also have a precious dog named Eli.

 

 

The teacher for February 24 was Jay McNeal. (email Jay)

Study Resources for February 24, 2013

See the session.

Changing Systems

Read Luke 13:31-35.

Empty Threat
• Watch the "Constructive Criticism" clip from Undercover Blues.
    Why does it seem like the couple didn't take this death threat seriously?
• Does Jesus take the threat of Herod seriously? Why or why not?
• How much credence do we give looming threats like environmental or economic ones?
• What challenges or warnings do you think the church is facing today?
• Do you think churches listen to warnings or tend to shrug them off?

Systemic Problem
• Watch the clip "The System" from The Matrix. Pay special attention to the lines rather than the visual.
• This scene is stolen by the woman in red, but what was the monologue talking about in this scene?
• Do you think systems or groups are corrupt because they're made of people, or are people corrupted
    by systems? If both, then which is more to blame?
• What parts of our society encourage sin, oppression, or corruption?
• As a group make a list of the top 5 societal problems in our society.
• What would have to change to begin solving those societal problems?

See You Real Soon
• Watch the "I'll Be Right Back" clip from Cast Away.
• What is Jesus' promise or foreshadowing at the end of this passage?
• Does God promise that there will be an end to all of the societal wrongs in the world?
• What does it do to us when we expect something to change or happen sooner than it does?
• So what does Jesus promise to return to Jerusalem mean to us who live on the other side
    of the world and the other side of an ocean of time?

 

The teacher for January - February 17 was Steve Booth. (email Steve)

Study Resources for February 17, 2013

Wilderness People

See the session.

Read Luke 4:1-13.

In the Desert
• “Why do you think God sometimes allows us to face difficult experiences, even though we may pray against them?”
• Have you ever had a (nonlethal) showdown with someone? Maybe a drag-out, knockdown argument or a contest of some sort?
• In real life, does the showdown usually mean the end of the issue? Why is that?
• Does the battle between Jesus and his Adversary end here?

Temptation
• Watch the clip "Ignorance is Bliss" from the Matrix .
    ◊ What things really tempt us?
    ◊ What was the difference between the focus of the tempted and the tempter in this clip?
• Many tend to think that the bread was a very elementary temptation. How tempting would bread be to you after 40 days?
• What do you think the point of Jesus' fasting was?
• Lent is starting this week; are you giving anything up?
• What would have changed if Jesus had just turned some stones into bread? Would the world have ended?

Holding Fast
• Watch the "Don't Rock the Boat" clip from How Do You Know? What did Jesus rely upon to get through his temptations?
• Did Jesus' temptations end here? Where else might Jesus have been tempted?
• What helps you resist temptations?
• Why might this story be important as we begin the season of Lent?


Steve BoothSteve serves Richmond's First Baptist Church as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation. He was ordained by the Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky. He came to First Baptist Church after having served churches in Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana. Steve is a native Mississippian with family roots in North Carolina. He is a graduate of Campbell University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He holds the Doctor of Ministry degree in supervised ministry from Andover Newton Theological School. He and his wife, Barbara, are parents of Jordan, Megan, and Meredith and grandparents to Jackson.  Jordan and his wife, Erin, are Jackson’s parents.  Megan, and her husband, Peter, live in Charleston, SC.

 

 

 

Study Resources for February 10, 2013

Shiny, Happy People

See the session.

Read Exodus 34:29-35.

You Seem Different
• Watch "Show Yourself" from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    ◊ When the three realized the white wizard was someone they knew, how did they react?
    ◊ What had happened to Gandalf to make him so different?
    ◊ How is that similar or different to Moses' change in appearance?
• What are some things we can assume about someone who appears drastically different?
• Do people change in a deep way? Explain why you think that.

Really Different
• Watch the Bible Background Video
• How do we tend to react when someone changes in a big way?
• Have you ever become suspicious or doubtful of someone who changes drastically? Can you share that?
• As a rule, would you say that we like it when people change or we don't like it when people change? Why?
• Why do you suppose Moses started wearing a veil?
• How do we expect people to change as they grow in their relationship with Jesus?

We Can All Be Different
• Watch the clip "Get Happy" clip shown during the Super Bowl.
    ◊ How does the "Jamaican" influence his workplace?
    ◊ What finally works in making his attitude spread?
• Do you think being around Moses had the ability to change people?
• If we want to impact our world in a positive way, how do we encourage someone to experience what we have?
• Has someone's experience of God ever had a ripple effect on you?
• Is there a Moses in your life that makes you think they've experienced something that no one else has?

 

Study Resources for February 3, 2013

When God Calls

See the session.

Read Jeremiah 1:4-10.

Calling
• Watch the Evan Almighty movie clip and consider these questions:
    ◊ How would you respond if God called you to do something like this? Why? How would your family respond if you told them God called you to do this?
    ◊ Do you think this movie clip expresses the way most people think a call from God will change their lives? Why or why not?
• What do you think a call from God would actually be like? Have you ever felt God calling you to do something? What was it like?
• How would you respond if God called you to do something you did not want to do or did not think you would be able to do?

Encounter
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10 and watch the FaithElement.com Bible Background Video.
• What excuses did Jeremiah make to avoid God's calling? What was God's response?
• Do you find it odd that God would call a child like this? Why or why not?
• What would it be like for God to touch your lips? What would it take for you to have an encounter with God that you were confident about?

God Calls Us
• Do you think God might have a role prepared for each of us before we are even born? Or is this only for certain kinds of people? Explain.
• Why is it helpful for us to understand this, even if we might not know what that role might be?
• Can we be certain that we are proclaiming God's message, and not our own? How? Why is this important?
• Consider a time when you felt you were being used by God:
     ◊ Did you recognize beforehand that God was calling you to do something?
     ◊ How did God uniquely prepare you for this task? What shortcomings did God overcome in you?

 

Study Resources for January 27, 2013

A Community Listens

See the session.

Read Nehemiah 8:1-10.

Dedication
• Watch the "Reading a Book" video by Julian Smith.
• What are the books that have made you borderline anti-social? Are there other hobbies that can do that to you?
• What's the difference between the ridiculous music video by Julian Smith and the reading in Nehemiah?
• How well do you think people today would do with listening to someone read for 6 hours on end?
• Do you think in general that we think of reading the Bible as private or communal? Why?

Explanation
• Watch the clip from Life is Beautiful called "Creative Translation." The clip is set in a German concentration camp and the translator's entire purpose is to keep this boy from understanding the horror of what they're living through.
• What do you suppose the other men in the room were thinking as the translator was speaking? What do you think the other prisoners said or did after the clip ends?
• What's the importance of good translation as it pertains to the Bible?
• Assuming we don't speak the original languages that the Bible is written in, what translators do we rely on? (Bible translation committees, teachers, pastors, commentaries)
• In what ways are we still translating even if we're reading in English?

Illustrated Story
• Watch the clip "Illustrated Story" from Amistad.
• How much of the Gospel message do these two men grasp even without the ability to read English?
• How might their understanding be deepened by knowing how to read the words between the pictures?
• In what ways are we as modern Americans much like the two men in the clip?
• How might we deepen our understanding of Scripture?
• What "Levites" do you regularly rely on? In other words, who do you trust as a teacher of Scripture?
• What effects can encountering the Bible have on us?
• How can we be better teachers for the next generation of listeners?

 

Study Resources for January 20, 2013

Advocates Wanted

See the session.

Read Isaiah 62:1-7.

Promises
• Read Isaiah 62:1-7.
• What promises does Isaiah give the people about God? Why might they need these promises at this point in time? What does it mean for them to be called priests and ministers of the Lord?
• Do you think they deserve all of these things that are promised to them after all the suffering they have experienced? Why or why not?
• Do you think we get the same treatment after our suffering? Why or why not?

Hope
• Watch the Charlotte's Web video clip.
• How does this video relate to this week's passage?
• How might Wilbur have felt when Templeton told him the truth about the farmer's plans for him? How did Israel feel hopeless and alone in this week's passage?
• Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt hopeless or alone?
• Where does Wilbur find reassurance that he is not alone? When you feel alone, where does your reassurance come from? How did God's promises bring hope to the Israelites? Do these promises have any hope for us as well? Why or why not?

Advocate
• Watch the I am Sorry video.
• What do you think of the apologies offered in this video? Do you think he is right about the way Christians treat other people badly? Why or why not?
• Why do you think some people do not feel welcomed at a church? Do you know people who would never step foot into a church because of the way they think they will be treated? Explain.
• How will the church ever welcome these people it has traditionally rejected? What role can you play in this change? What would happen if you spoke up for one of the rejected? What happens if you remain silent?
• How can our church change to be more welcoming and accepting of others?

 

Study Resources for January 13, 2013

God Has Not Forgotten

See the session.

Read Isaiah 47:1-7.

Today's discussion will be focused around the idea of assurance during troubled times.

Where Have All the Superheroes Gone?
•Watch "There is No Superman" from the movie Waiting for Superman.
•Do you remember ever having an epiphany (fresh insight) similar to the one in this clip: a feeling like there's no one powerful enough to save everyone?
•This clip comes from the movie "Waiting for Superman" which documents the sad state of education in much of our nation. What problems or troubles would you say that we're facing in this country?
•Do you feel hopeful about the future? Why or why not?
•Was Israel's exile in Babylon greater or lesser than our current situation? Explain.


A Little Premature
•Watch the clip entitled "None Like It Hot" from An Inconvenient Truth.
•Why is the "once and for all" solution a totally unsatisfying answer for the little girl? What are some of the premature or unsatisfying solutions we often use to cover over major issues?
•Does this Scripture seem at all helpful or pertinent to the problems we face?
•So if there are no easy fixes, what do we do? Do we wait, give up, try to fix things ourselves?


A Small Light in a Dark Room
•Watch the clip from Saving Private Ryan called "It Doesn't Make Any Sense" and be warned that there is one occurrence of harsh language.
•Why do you think Matt Damon had such a hard time believing that he was worth saving?
•Do you think that Israel questioned God's reassuring words that He still cared for them even in their pain?
•What might God be reassuring us of in the midst of the challenges we are facing?

 

Study Resources for January 6, 2013

Light of Hope

See the session.

Read Isaiah 60:1-9.
The prophet Isaiah's words in Isaiah 60:1-9 are words of hope to a hurting group of people. Their treasured past is in fragments, and there is little joy in the present. The home that they are returning to is nothing but rubble and rebuilding is full of backbreaking labor and painful memories. Although most of us today have not experienced anything like being displaced from our nation or losing everything, we are a people who are hurting – hurting for loved ones who are lost, memories that are just memories, homes to which we cannot return. Tragedy still abounds in the world today. As we have just celebrated Christmas and the New Year, a time in which we look towards the celebration of Christ's birth and a time in which we look forward to what the New Year brings. Hope is what sustains us and keeps us looking for the light even when darkness is threatening to swallow us.

Home, Sweet Home
• Watch the clip from the movie, E.T., entitled "Where are you from."
• What sorts of things can we guess just by knowing where someone comes from?
• Are you more of a product of your home or is your identity in spite of your home?
• What does today's Scripture tell us about those unable to go home?

There's No Place Like It
• Watch the clip entitled "Longing for Home" from the new Hobbit movie.
• You may have never read the book or know much about the dwarves in this clip, but what would you guess about their home judging from the song they share?br> • Do you ever wish to go back home? Why or why not?
• Thomas Wolfe said, "You Can’t Go Home Again." What do you think he meant?
• How was the memory of home a sort of deception to the exiled Israelites?

A Small Light in a Dark Room
• Watch the "You Are Heroes" clip from the movie Freedom Writers. The lady in the clip is supposed to be Miep Gies , a Dutch citizen who helped hide Anne Frank from the Nazis.
• What's the difference between being haunted by your history (like Isaiah) and being propelled by it (like Miep)?
• From our standpoint, we can see Jesus' coming in the Isaiah passage, but obviously the Israelites couldn't. How can we be hopeful for others even if we don’t know all the details?
• How can we be like that "small light in a dark room?"

 

The teacher for December, 2012 was Jay McNeal.  (email Jay)

Jay McNealJay graduated from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond May 25th. He has been a member at First Baptist Church for two years and he was ordained by First Baptist later the same day that he graduated. Jay worked closely beside Dr. Somerville this school year as his intern. While Jay continues to be employed at the seminary's library he has also come on staff at First Baptist. He is leading the Microchurch Initiative as the Microchurch Pastor. More information is available at www.fbcrichmond.org/micro.



Study Resources for December 30, 2012

Growing in Faith

See the session.

Read Luke 2:41-52.

Learning About Jesus

What do we learn about Jesus and his family, from the fact that they made this pilgrimage every year? What does this contribute to our understanding of Jesus’ later life and ministry?

How do you think they felt to see that Jesus was apparently unconcerned about their worries? How does it make you feel to see Jesus causing problems for his parents? How much remorse does Jesus feel for the aggravation he has caused his parents? Why? Why is it hard to think of Jesus growing, learning and causing heartache? Why is it important for us to think about these things? Is Jesus obedient?

Learning About Ourselves

Watch the Spiderman clip. “These are the years a man changes and becomes the man he’s going to be for the rest of his life ... with great power comes great responsibility” (Uncle Ben from Spiderman).

- In what ways does Luke say that Jesus grew (v. 52)?
- If Jesus – the perfect Son of God – had to grow and learn in these ways, what does it say about you and me?
- Much later, the events in this story probably made more sense to Mary (and possibly to Jesus!). Can you think of times in your faith journey that something happened that only made sense much later? Have you ever affirmed to others that “Everything happens for a reason”?
- In what ways are we called to grow responsibly?

Home Alone

Spiderman

 

Study Resources for December 16, 2012

See the session.

Read Luke 3:7-18.


Welcome and Prayer

Introduction

Read scripture and provide some biblical background. Identify three parts: Warning,
Instructions, and Messianic Expectation. We will be preparing our own way to the
Christmas miracle by looking closely at these three parts of John’s message.

Warning
- Watch clip. "The Wire" from The Great Escape.
- How many people got onto Steve McQueen's case about crossing the infamous wire?
- Did you find his character a bit too cocky or brazen?
- What is John warning the people about in verse 8?
- How might this warning apply to us today?
- What do we find ourselves resting on as sources of security?
- How might that be harmful to us spiritually?

Instructions
- Watch the "How to High-5" clip.
- What are some other social situations that you would love others to follow a rule
about? (Be alert from now until Sunday to find creative answers to this one!)
- How do John's instructions in verses 10-14 seem to you?
- Do we still have tax-collectors and soldiers today? What jobs might these values be
applied to today?
- How did you expect John to answer the soldiers' question?
- What do you think John the Baptist would say to you personally?

Messianic Expectation

- Finally, show the "One-Upsmanship" clip.
- How could you say that we live in a sort of "bigger & better" society?
- Is the iPhone 5 better than the 4? Why or why not?
- Since we really don’t see Jesus literally dunking people in a lake of fire or bundling
grains of any sort, what is John saying?
- If you didn’t have the rest of the Gospel story, would John's warnings make you
WANT the Messiah to come or be fearful of it?
- How does Jesus take John's message further in his ministry? 

Study Resources for December 9, 2012

See the session.

Title: A New Power in Town

Read Luke 3:1-6.

Welcome and Prayer

Introduction

Read aloud the short scripture passage.

Name Dropper
Reread Luke 3:1-2
Who are these people?
Watch the Geek Test clip from the newest Star Trek movie.  Watch it online.
Do you recognize the names "James Kirk" and "Leonard McCoy"?
If we're not familiar with the original Star Trek show, are these names really all that important?
What do these names in Luke tell us about Jesus' context?
What is a time that seemed fairly meaningless or coincidental that turned out to be really important in your life?

Confessions or Repentance
Reread Luke 3:3 and immediately watch the Repent clip.  Watch it online.
Did the confessor seem genuine in this clip?
What's the difference between "confession" and "repentance"?
Does it make a difference to your loved ones whether you confess a wrong or repent of it?

Level the Playing Field

Reread Luke 3:4-6 and then show the Natural State clip.  Watch it online.
Anthony Hopkins is arguing against the idea that putting one class, people, or race above another is natural. Do you agree or disagree with that claim? Note that we're not talking about whether slavery is right or wrong, but whether or not it is natural for humans to do that.
What inequalities do you see in our time? Who lives "on the mountain" and who live "in the valley"?
How might personal repentance lead to a more level community?
Can making a more level community lead people to personal repentance?

 

Study Resources for December 2, 2012

See the session.


Read Jeremiah 33:14-16.


Introduction
This is the first Sunday in Advent which focuses on Hope. After our opening prayer I am going to ask you to name something you each hope for this Christmas season.

Prayer

Read the brief passage and then watch Biblical Background video of Nikki Hardeman's. Watch it online.

Face the Darkness
- Watch the clip entitled "Nothing Will Stop Me."  Watch it online.
- Could the Lorax stop the man from cutting down all the trees?
- What are some of the dark things in our world that you feel like people just don’t often see or pay attention to?
- Why do you think it’s hard for us, as individuals and as a society, to face the darkness that’s before us?

Promise
- Watch the "Plant the Seed" clip. Watch it online.
- What’s being said here, in your own words?
- What was Jeremiah's promise in today's passage?
- What hope can we derive from this promise?
- As Christians, how does the promise of Jesus' coming (or second coming) provide hope in the darkness that we face?

Community of Hope
- Finally, watch the "Let it Grow" clip and close with these final questions. Watch it online.
- How does the hope of the seed grow in this clip (all puns intended)?
- What if no one else in the town had spoken up? Who do you think would have won? Would anything change?
- Is this an image of how the church should be?
- When is it right to tell others about the hope we find in Jesus?


The teacher for October 28 through November 25 is Steve Booth. (email Steve)

Study Resources for November 25, 2012: Power in Truth

See the session.


Read John 18:33-37.


Power
- Who holds the power in our society? Who seems to have the power in the Scripture passage?
- Watch the "Power?" clip from movie, The Fifth Element. Watch it online.
- What was the priest's point about that power meaning nothing?
- In what situations do we find power completely nullified?

Truth
- How would you answer Pilate's question: "What is truth?"
Watch the "Whole Truth" clip from the movie, Dave. Watch it online.

- What are the effects of the President telling the truth in this clip?
- What does the truth have to do with power?
- How can following truth empower you?
- Do you have a hard time discerning truth or is it easy for you to see? Explain.

REAL Power
Watch "THAT is Power" from Schindler's List. Watch it online.
- What are the two images of "power" in the clip?
- Have you seen earthly examples of the power of grace or mercy?
- How the idea of power through grace seem weak or idealistic to some?
- How did Jesus use grace to exhibit his ultimate power?
- How can we be agents of God’s grace in a way that is real to people?

 

Study Resources for November 18, 2012: Nothing Is Permanent

See the session.


Read Mark 13:1-8.


Apocalypse
- Watch the video clip from 2012. Watch it online.
- How do you feel when people begin discussing the end of the world?
- What are the ways some predict the end of the world will happen? What response do you have when you hear those predictions? Why?
- How should a Christian view the end of the world compared to those who do not yet know Christ?

End Times
- Read Mark 13:1-8.
- Why did Jesus turn a discussion about the temple into one about the end of the age?
- Why did the disciples want to know more? What signs did Jesus give? Have those signs already happened? When?
- Jesus was very vague with his response, how do you make sense of his answer?

Without Fear
- Why were the disciples so proud of the structure of the temple? How might they have felt when Jesus said it will be destroyed?
- Watch the Star Wars video clip. Watch it online.
- How did the officers feel about the Death Star they had created? How is this story similar to Jesus’ description of the temple?
- Make a list of the 5 most important things to you. How does each have value to you?
- Of all the things you value, which ones are permanent? Which ones are temporary? What happens if we place out trust in the things that are temporary?
- How is an experience with God something permanent? How does this passage and discussion help us to approach the future without fear?

 

Study Resources for November 11, 2012: Making Just Choices

See the session.


Read Mark 12:38-44.


Pride Comes Before…
- Watch the "Demonstration" clip from Iron Man. Watch it online. How do you experience Tony Stark in this clip? What do you think of people like Tony Stark? Do you want good or evil for them?
- Jesus’ first warning in our passage today talks about people who draw attention to themselves and, as a result, eventually reap negative consequences. Is that good news or bad news for us? Do the showoffs eventually get punished in some way?
- How do you think Christians are to respond when this punishment happens?


A Fall.
- How do you tend to react when someone proud or sure gets taken down a notch?
- Watch the clip entitled "Declined" from Not Easily Broken. Watch it online. How did it feel to watch the husband while his card was being run?
- Why do you think you didn’t want this couple to be embarrassed as much as you would like to see Tony Stark humbled a bit? Would you characterize the couple as proud?


The Way of Scribe or Widow?
- Watch the "First World Problems" video. Watch it online. For more insight, watch the video, "First World Problems explained". Watch it online.
     * First World Problems – frustration or complaint only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries
     * meme - an element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by some non-genetic means (esp. by imitation or via the internet).
- How does the whole First World Problems phenomenon relate to Jesus comparison of the scribes and the widow?
- Are we more like the scribes (religious scholars) or the widow? Why or why not?
- Why does Jesus praise the widow for what she gives?
- What are some reasons people stop giving to the church? Are any of those good reasons? Why or why not? What does the way you spend your money say about you?
- What would you say is the practical takeaway of this passage? In other words, what should we DO with the truth revealed in this story?

Study Resources for November 4, 2012: Love God, Love Neighbor

See the session.


Read Mark 12:28-34.


Questions
- Watch the One Question video Watch it online.
- What do you think of the questions asked in this video?
  Which of the questions have you ever wondered about?
  Do you think these questions are important? Why or why not?
- If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
- What question could you ask God that would transform your life? Explain.

Answers
- In Mark 12:28-34, why were these different groups asking Jesus questions?
  Do you think they were seeking answers, or just wanting to debate Jesus’ answers? Explain.
- How do both of Jesus’ answers fit together?
  Is it possible to keep one of the commandments without keeping the other? Why or why not?
- How might the answer to this question transform someone’s life?

Love
- Watch the Love God, Love Neighbor video. Watch it online.
- What evidence do you see in the world of Christians loving God and loving their neighbor?
- How has your church lived out Jesus’ command to love God and love your neighbor?
  How can your church improve upon becoming a community of people who love like Christ?
- How does this command impact your life?
  What areas of your life might you need to take Jesus’ instruction to heart?
  What areas can you be more loving to others?

Study Resources for October 28, 2012: No Answers, but Presence

See the session.


Read Job 42:1-7; 10-16.


Surrender to a Different View
- Watch "Frank’s Surrender" clip from movie, Catch Me If You Can. Watch it online. Watch it online.
- What did Frank come to believe before he surrendered to Carl?
- What did Job come to see as he made his own repentance?
- While the criminal in the movie clip was clearly guilty with his stacks of checks, was Job guilty of anything?
   Why might Job not be guilty after all?
- What are your thoughts about whether or not we have a right to question God?

Now We’re Even
- Watch the clip entitled "Repayment" from movie, The Usual Suspects. Watch it online.
- What motivates the criminals in the clip toward repayment? In Job’s story,
  GOD is the one doing the repaying by blessing Job with all that he had twice over. How is that idea revolutionary?
- If God is repaying Job, do you think that means that God recognizes that there was a wrong done to Job?

Life Continues
- Watch the "Happyness" clip from the movie, Pursuit of Happyness. Watch it online.
- The premise of the entire movie is that Will Smith’s character has been homeless and unable to find work
  for a good amount of time, but hasn’t let it compromise him. How is that similar to Job’s story?
- How do you think Job will look back on this time of his life?
- After a trial in your life has passed, how do you tend to look back on it?

The teacher for October 21 was Rev. Andrea Skeens. (email Andrea)

Rev. Andrea SkeensAndrea has been a part of FBC for about two years. She was recently ordained by FBC in April 2012. She grew up in the East end of Richmond and currently lives in Varina with her husband Brandon and two dogs. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and Union Presbyterian Seminary. Her focus in ministry is Christian education and pastoral care.

 

Scripture focus - Job 38:1-7, 34-41


The teacher for the four-session series on the Psalms is Lu Treadwell. (email Lu)

Lu Treadwell
Lu Treadwell's career has been spent in higher education and the church. She has taught world history to college freshmen, and served in Christian education at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, and at Waco's St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Upon her retirement from Baylor's Truett Seminary where she designed and directed the mentoring program, she became minister to senior adults at Seventh and James Baptist Church, and moved from Waco to Richmond last year.








Click here to download a reading list for the series.

The Five-Book Arrangement. As both the NIV and the NRSV suggest, the doxologies in Pss 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; and 106:48 have the effect of dividing the psalter into five books:

Book I Psalms 1-41
Book II Psalms 42-72
Book III Psalms 73-89
Book IV Psalms 90-106
Book V Psalms 107-150

The New Interpreter's Bible. Page 659

October 14, 2012: The Psalms

See the session.

October 7, 2012: The Psalms

See the session.

September 30, 2012: The Psalms

See the session.

September 23, 2012: The Psalms

See the session.


Study Resources for September 16, 2012: Woman Wisdom

The teacher was Steve Booth. (email Steve)

See the session.

Text: Proverbs 1:20-33.

The Warning
- Watch the Apocalypse clip from 2012. Watch it online. Beware of some colorful language said in humor.
- Why is the warning in this video easy to ignore?
- Is the warning in today's Scripture easy to ignore or does it feel truer?
- If you were "Woman Wisdom," how would you warn the people of Israel?

The Choice
- Watch "The Wrong Way" from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Watch it online.
- Why do you think it is so hard for some people to take advice?
- How can we sometimes be like the two men driving the wrong way?
- When do the men realize the truth of the warning?
- What does Woman Wisdom ultimately want us to choose?

The Consequence
- Play the Search for Bobby Fisher movie clip. Watch it online. How does this clip relate to this week's passage?
- Why did Josh's opponent not see the results of his actions? How did Josh eventually figure it out?
- Where did Josh's wisdom come from? How would Josh have seen the consequences without having someone to teach him?

- How does wisdom help us to see the consequences to our actions?
- Do you believe the consequences listed in today's passage?
- Speaking more generally, how might your life go in another direction if you didn’t listen to God's wisdom in your own life?
- Where are some different places we can turn to seek out God's truth and wisdom for how to live our lives?


Study Resources for September 9, 2012: Nuggets of Wisdom

The teacher was Steve Booth. (email Steve)

See the session.

Background Text: Proverbs 22.
Focal Text: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23.

Introduction
- Watch the Bible Background video of Proverbs 22 by Nikki Hardeman from FaithElement.com. Click here to view video.

God is the Maker of All
- Read Proverbs 22:1-2.
- Watch the "Natural State is Freedom" clip from the movie Amistad- Watch it online.
- In what ways are 21st century Americans living up to the declaration that "all men (and women) are created equal?"
Where are we not living up to our nation's founders' dreams of equality for all?

Sowing and Reaping
- Read Proverbs 22:8-9.
- Watch the Granny Games clip - Watch it online.
- How does the Granny Games clip illustrate the wisdom of the Scripture?

The Lord Pleads
- Read Proverbs 22:22-23
- Watch the "Back to God" clip from the movie Les Miserables - Watch it online.
- How do you think God sticks up for the “despoiled” (those deprived of something valuable by force) in the present day?


September 2, 2012: Song of Songs

See the session.

The teacher was Steve Booth. (email Steve)

Read Song of Solomon (Songs) 2:8-15 in several translations or paraphrase versions (i.e., New International, New Revised Standard Version, The Message, etc.). After reading, reflect on the following questions:

  • How does our culture define “love” and “intimacy?” Are these definitions (perspectives) accurate? NOTE: Viewing the first two video clips – “Time Stands Still” and “As You Wish” (see below) – might be helpful in reflecting on our culture’s definitions of love.

  • How might this passage reflect the love between God and God’s people?

  • What are some things that you think the writer of Song of Solomon (Songs) comprises a real and healthy loving relationship?

  • How can Christians model this kind of healthy love for the rest of the world?

Video Clip, “Time Stand Still” from the film Big Fish Watch it online.

Video Clip, from the film The Princess Bride "As You Wish."

Video Clip, from the film Crazy Stupid Love "Do You Like This Girl?" 


August 26, 2012 - Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)

The teacher was Andrea Skeens. (see bio) (email Andrea)

See the session.


The teacher for August 19 was Dr. Michael Harton. (email Mike)

Mike HartonDr. Harton is a popular speaker and well-known in Virginia as an outstanding educator. His professional background is varied and extensive, including formally serving as the Regional Coordinator for the Initiative for Ministerial Excellence with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Interim Dean of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, interim staff educator at various churches, Professor of Christian Education at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and as the Director of Bible Teaching and Discipleship for Virginia Baptists. He is the co-author of The Religious Education of Adults (Smyth & Helwys) and is contributing editor for The Church’s Ministry to Adults, and Handbook on Adult Religious Education. Dr. Harton and his wife, Raylene, are active members of Richmond's First Baptist Church.

Study Resources for August 19, 2012

  • See the session.
  •  Please re-read the scripture from August 12, Ephesians 4:25-5:2.  Read the scripture for this week, August 19, Ephesians 5:15-21,  and read Philippians 2:1-11. Come to class prepared to share your thoughts on what it means to be like Christ in light of these three scripture readings.

  • Resources used in this session:

    Video Clip, Mi Ha-Ish - Psalm 34 in Hebrew  Watch it online.

    Video Clip, Information Overload  Watch it online.

    Video Clip, Ray - Losing Everything  Watch it online.

    The hymn, "Come All Christians, Be Committed" words by Eva B. Lloyd 1966 Broadman Press

    Come, all Christians, be committed to the service of the Lord.
    Make your lives for Him more fitted, tune your hearts with one accord.
    Come into His courts with gladness, each your sacred vows renew,
    turn away from sin and sadness, be transformed with life anew.

    Give your time and talents daily, they are gifts from God above,
    to be used by Christians freely to proclaim His wondrous love.
    Come again to serve the Savior, tithes and offerings with you bring,
    In your work with Him find favor, and with joy His praises sing.

    God’s command to love each other is required of everyone.
    Showing mercy to another mirrors His redeeming Son.
    In compassion He has given of His love that is divine;
    on the cross sins were forgiven; joy and peace now fully thine.

    Come in praise and adoration, all who on Christ’s name believe.
    Worship Him with consecration, grace and love you will receive.
    For His grace give Him the glory, for the Spirit and the Word,
    and repeat the gospel story till the world His name has heard.


    The teacher for the following sessions was Rev. Andrea Skeens. (email Andrea)

    Rev. Andrea SkeensAndrea has been a part of FBC for about two years. She was recently ordained by FBC in April 2012. She grew up in the East end of Richmond and currently lives in Varina with her husband Brandon and two dogs. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and Union Presbyterian Seminary. Her focus in ministry is Christian education and pastoral care.

    Study Resources for August 12, 2012

    Study Resources for August 5, 2012

    Study Resources for July 29, 2012

    • See the session.

    • Read focal text 2 Samuel 11:1-27.

    • Lesson Outline and Questions for Discussion:

      • Choose one of the following characters from 2 Samuel 11:1-27: David, Bathsheba, Joab, or Uriah. Write a monologue – from the perspective of your chosen character – with regard to their struggle with loyalty. To whom did the character owe loyalty? How was the loyalty tested? What motivated their decisions? How was their community affected? How did they feel?


      • Consider if you would like to share a part of the monologue you wrote and either bring that with you to class if you attend in person or if you attend online, you can email what you would like to share to webclass@FBCRichmond.org.

      Resources used in this session:
      Video Clip, Joe Paterno's Legacy  Watch it online.

      Video Clip, from the film Gladiator  Watch it online.

       

    The teacher for the following sessions was Dr. Stephen “Steve” C. Booth. (email Steve)

    Steve BoothSteve serves Richmond's First Baptist Church as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation. He was ordained by the Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky. He came to First Baptist Church after having served churches in Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana. Steve is a native Mississippian with family roots in North Carolina. He is a graduate of Campbell University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He holds the Doctor of Ministry degree in supervised ministry from Andover Newton Theological School. He and his wife, Barbara, are parents of Jordan, Megan, and Meredith and grandparents to Jackson.  Jordan and his wife, Erin, are Jackson’s parents.  Megan, and her husband, Peter, live in Charleston, SC.

     

     

    Study Resources for July 22, 2012 - God Will Not Be Contained

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text 2 Samuel 7:1-16.
    • Lesson Outline and Questions for Discussion:

      Church
      • What is the biggest weakness the church has in reaching the world? Why? You might want to view the
         “Lost Me” video clip.
      • What traditions, procedures, actions, or expectations cause people to be turned off by the church?
         Explain.
      • How is church more like what we want rather than what God wants?


      Containment
      • Read 2 Samuel 7:1-16
      • Why did David want to build God a better house?
         What possible motivation might David have for wanting to build God a house?
      • How might Nathan have felt, as a prophet, when God disagreed with him? Why?
      • Why did God not want a house to be built?


      Control
      • Watch the Jurassic Park movie clip.
         What was Hammond’s motivation for building the park? Where did he go wrong?
         What is wrong with thinking he can control so much power?
      • Do you think modern churches try to contain God? Why or why not? Why do we try to contain God?
      • What happens to our churches when we try to contain God?
         What do we miss out on when God is contained in our churches?

      Resources used in this session:
      Video Clip, You Lost Me  Watch it online.

      Video Clip, from the film Jurassic Park  Watch it online.

     

    Study Resources for July 15, 2012 - All Good?

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text 2 Samuel 6:1-23.
    • Lesson Outline:

      Power
      • Watch the Spiderman movie clip - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5d6rTQcU2U&feature=related
      • What is your impression of Uncle Ben’s advice?
      • Why is responsibility necessary for those who have great power?
      • How much power do you have? Why or why not?
      • Do you think that power corrupts? Why or why not?
         Would you be able to handle power over other people?

      Punishments
      • Read 2 Samuel 6:1-12
      • Who is the most powerful person in this passage? Who is acting on his behalf?
      • What characters seem to receive punishment in this passage? What punishment do they receive and why?
         Do you think these punishments were fair? Why or why not?
         How do you make sense of these punishments?
      • Do you think David acted in any way that deserved punishment?
         Why was the most powerful decision maker not punished?

      Responsibility
      • Watch the Robin Hood movie clip.
      • What is your impression of the king in this clip?
         Do you think this attitude is common among those in power? Why or why not?
      • How do the powerful in our culture make decisions that harm the weak and poor?
         What happens when those in power are not responsible with their power?
      • Watch the Schindler’s List movie clip.
      • How do you think God wants us to use the power entrusted to us?

      Resources used in this session:
      Video Clip, from the film Spiderman – "Uncle Ben”  Watch it online.

      Video Clip, from the film Robin Hood – "Taxing the Poor”  Watch it online.

      Video Clip, from the film Schindler's List – "That is Power”  Watch it online.

     

    Our teacher for the following sessions was Rev. Andrea Skeens. (email Andrea)

    Rev. Andrea SkeensAndrea has been a part of FBC for about two years. She was recently ordained by FBC in April 2012. She grew up in the East end of Richmond and currently lives in Varina with her husband Brandon and two dogs. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and Union Presbyterian Seminary. Her focus in ministry is Christian education and pastoral care.

     

    Study Resources for July 8, 2012

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text 2 Samuel 5:1-10.

      Preparation for WebClass
      As you read this passage, please think of two types of comments/questions.

      First, think about any questions you have about the text itself. Is there anything that doesn't make sense to you? Is there anything you would like to discuss more related to the text?

      Next, think about why this story is important to us, people of faith. Can you think of ways this story would apply to you and your life? What about your community of faith? What might God be saying to you through this text?

    Study Resources for July 1, 2012

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text 2 Samuel 1:1-27.
    • Preparation for WebClass
      In the past few weeks, we have learned about Saul’s fall from God’s favor, David’s anointing as future king, and the complicated relationships between David, Saul, and Jonathan. In today’s text we see David’s genuine grief over Saul’s death despite their tumultuous relationship. For David and for us today, grieving is not a singular emotion but a process that is full of strong and sometimes conflicting emotions. Grief does not follow a prescribed set of steps nor it is the same for all people or all situations. Today’s Scripture teaches us that it is okay and important to grieve. We often talk about grief in relation to death, but we may also grieve loss of relationships, changing circumstances, and past experiences. Sometimes our feelings are even bittersweet. Like David, the next step may even bring us closer to God’s plan for our lives, but that doesn’t make the loss any easier.

      For the writers in our class:
      Think of a time either in your past when you experienced grief or something you may be currently grieving. This can be grief over any type of loss. Write a "goodbye letter" to whomever or whatever you are grieving. Finish your letter by describing what your life is like or will be like without that person, thing, circumstance, place, etc. in your life.

      For the artists in our class:
      Think of a time when you experienced grief, or something/someone you are currently grieving. Create a visual representation of what that person, place, thing, circumstance, etc. means to you and how your life is different or will be different without it.

      Chose a small portion of your letter or drawing to share with the class if you feel comfortable. For the members of the online community, your creations and letters can be sent to webclass@fbcrichmond.org and will be shared on Sunday. Please only send what you wish to share. For the members of the community that attend the class physically, please bring with you what you wish to share in class.

      Closing:
      Either light a candle in real life, or imagine lighting a candle. Pray to God by giving thanks and by admitting your struggles and asking for help. Close in silence.

      Resources used in this session:

    Study Resources for June 24, 2012

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text 1 Samuel 17:57-18:16.
    • Preparation for WebClass
      1. Read 1 Samuel 17:57-18:16
      2. For the writers out there:
          a. Make two lists, one with characteristics, behaviors, and emotions of David, and one list of Saul’s characteristics, behaviors, and emotions.
          b. In each of those lists, circle the words that connect most to your life.
          c. Spend some time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help you increase the positive words you circled and decrease the negative ones.
      3. For the artists out there:
          a. On one side of the paper, draw a picture (either realistic or abstract) that represents David’s inner self, on the other side of the paper draw Saul’s inner self.
          b. As you draw, contemplate how your inner self connects with David’s and Saul’s. Ask the Holy Spirit to help your inner self be more like Christ.
      4. Finish your time with a devotional reading of Psalm 4.
      5. Feel free to bring your papers and thoughts to class and share if you wish.

    • Resources used in this session:


    The teacher for the following sessions was Dr. Stephen “Steve” C. Booth. (email Steve)

    Steve BoothSteve serves Richmond's First Baptist Church as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation. He was ordained by the Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky. He came to First Baptist Church after having served churches in Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana. Steve is a native Mississippian with family roots in North Carolina. He is a graduate of Campbell University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He holds the Doctor of Ministry degree in supervised ministry from Andover Newton Theological School. He and his wife, Barbara, are parents of Jordan, Megan, and Meredith and grandparents to Jackson.  Jordan and his wife, Erin, are Jackson’s parents.  Megan, and her husband, Peter, live in Charleston, SC.

     

     

    Study Resources for June 17, 2012 - A Heart Like God’s

    In 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, today’s readers can hear the story of the ancient King David, the revered and rebellious ruler who is said to be a man after God’s own heart. In today’s lesson, we explore this biblical account and discuss what it means to be a person after God’s own heart.

    Lesson Outline:

    Outward Appearances

    • When Saul was first chosen king, he was noted as one of the strongest, tallest, and most handsome men among the Israelites. What might this tell us about the priest Samuel’s expectations of the person who would be the next king? Do you think our appearances matter?

    • Watch the What Not to Wear clip. Note what everyone says about the person based on the clothing or appearance.

    • What sorts of things do we assume about people using only their appearance as a basis?

    But...

     

    • What might God have been showing Jesse and David’s brothers through the process of selection, and the fact that Samuel anointed him in their presence (vs. 13)
    • Watch the Brief Shining Moment (Miss Congeniality) clip. What changed Gracie’s (Sandra Bullock’s character) so that she could see more deeply into the other pageant participants?
    • What was a time in your life that your initial impression was later changed by experience?
    • Other than spending time with someone, how else can we get past appearances? In the Bible passage, how did Samuel get past his own limited sight?

    The Lord sees to the Heart
    • God says that he can see David’s heart, but does not say specifically what he is looking for. Considering Saul’s failures, what kinds of things must God be looking for in Israel’s next king?
    • Watch the Authentic Speech (The Adjustment Bureau) clip.
         - Do you think anyone really running for office would ever make such a speech like this? Why or why not? How do you think people would actually react if someone did?
    • What do you think would happen if you were completely open and honest, letting everyone see to the heart of you?
    • What does it mean to you that God “sees to the heart?”
    • Even though David was still young, what special gift did God give him in preparation for his role (vs. 13)?
    • What lessons can we learn from this story about selecting leaders for God’s people? About being leaders of God’s people?

    Movie Clips:

    What Not to Wear – Watch it online.

    Brief Shining Moment (Miss Congeniality) - Watch it online.

    Authentic Speech (The Adjustment Bureau) -Watch it online.

    Return to main WebClass page...

    Study Resources for June 10, 2012 - God's Flexibility

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text 1 Samuel 8:4-20.
    • Lesson Outline:

      Change of Leadership
      • Do you think Samuel was more hurt by the people’s rejection of Samuel, Samuel’s sons, or God?
      Watch the Beowulf movie clip.
      • Why do you think it’s a constant temptation to rely on people for our leadership rather than on God?
      • What are some ways we reject God’s leadership personally, as a group, as a church?

      Like the Other Nations
      • Why do you think Israel wanted to be like the other nations? What were they afraid of?
      • What did God and Samuel want for Israel? Why would God give in to what Israel wanted?

      God Gives Room
      Watch The Adjustment Bureau movie clip.
      • How different might Israel’s history have been even though God knew it would be a harmful thing?
      • Why did God allow Israel to choose a king even though God knew it would be harmful?
      • Do you think God has a set plan that everyone follows or that God allows us to change things?
      • How might we tell the difference between God’s choice for leadership from our own choice?

    • Resources used in this session:

      Video Clip, from the film Beowulf “We Need a Hero”  Watch it online.
      Video Clip, from the film The Adjustment Bureau “Rewrite”  Watch it online.

    Return to main WebClass page...

     Study Resources for June 3, 2012 - God Speaks

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text Psalm 29:1-11.
    • Lesson Outline:

      A Holy God of Glory and Power
      • Many people tend to seek and find the presence of God in nature. What are some places, events, or times in which you sense God’s presence through creation?
      • Watch the “Creation Creator” clip. What might each image of creation (in clip) say about the Creator?
      • How does God’s holiness relate to what we see through the creation?

      The Lord Over the Storm
      • What characteristics of God do you draw from a storm?
      • Watch the “Forrest Gump” clip. To Forrest, the storm was God’s blessing. What might the other shrimpers, whose boats were destroyed have said about God?
      • Why might our view of God’s power over nature be different than the psalmist’s?

      The Voice of the Lord
      • Watch the “Patch Adams” clip. Like Patch, we usually don’t hear a voice from the sky. What are some ways that you hear God speaking to you?
      • If we look, as the psalmist did, at nature as being God’s “voice,” what things can we learn about God from what he is “saying” through
          - powerful events (like storms)
          - beautiful events (like sunsets)
          - intimate events (like the birth of a child)

    • Resources used in this session:

      Video Clip, “Creation Creator”: What does the creation say about the Creator?  Watch it online.
      Video Clip, from “Forrest Gump”: Pray for Shrimp (1994)  Watch it online.
      Video Clip, from “Patch Adams”: Challenging God (1998) Watch it online.

    Return to main WebClass page...

    Study Resources for May 27, 2012 - Pentecost
    Everyone’s Invited to the Party

    • See the session.
    • Read focal text Acts 2:1-21.
      Background text: Joel 2:28-32
    • Lesson Outline:

      • A Mighty Wind and Tongues of Fire (Acts 2:1-4)
        - What do you think the wind symbolized? What do you think the fire symbolized?
        - Why are wind and fire such powerful examples of God’s presence?
      • Bewildering Speech (Acts 2:5-13)
        - Do you remember the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)? How does the story of Pentecost relate to Babel?
        - The miracle of Pentecost was, above all, a “miracle of understanding.” We don’t know if the miracle was in the Christians’ ability to speak, or the people’s ability to hear. Which do you think it was? Does it matter?
        - “All were amazed and perplexed ... but others sneered ... “ Have you ever experienced anything like this? How can it be that God’s Spirit is so powerful and evident, yet doubted or scoffed at?
      • An Insightful Sermon (Acts 2:14-21)
        - For what purpose did God cause the “miracle of understanding” to happen at Pentecost? How might God employ a “miracle of understanding” today?
        - How might God be prompting us to expand the Gospel beyond our social and religious boundaries? What unexpected people might God be calling to do this work?

    • Resources used in this session:

      Video Clip, from "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000) – The Woods Watch it online.
      Video Clip, from "Chocolat" (2000) - The Gospel According to Chocolat Watch it online.

    Return to main WebClass page...

    Study Resources for May 20, 2012 - Waiting

    • See the session.

    • Read focal text Acts 1:1-8.

    • Lesson Outline:
      • Waiting for the Promise (vv. 1-8a)
          - Listen to the John Mayer “Waiting on the World” video clip. What is this song about?
              What do they have to wait to change the world?
          - Do you think God ever calls us to wait? Why? How frustrating is it to wait for God’s timing?
              What is your most difficult waiting situation.
      • Witnesses to the World (v. 8b)
          - Jesus says the Holy Spirit is going to bestow power on the disciples – what is the purpose of that gift?
          - What barriers did the disciples face as they contemplated the mission set before them?
          - What obstacles (external and internal) keep us from being faithful witnesses to God’s transforming love?
      • Present Through The Spirit (vv. 9-11)
          - The disciples continued to look into the sky after Jesus ascended into the sky.
              What might this reveal about their expectations?
          - When is waiting the most appropriate response?
          - How does our waiting on God contribute to our spiritual formation?
          - Is the Spirit of Christ present in your life? How do you know?

    • Resources used in this session:

      - Video Clip, "Waiting on the World" by John Mayer. Watch it online.
      - Video Clip, "A Return to the Light" from film The Legend of Bagger Vance. Watch it online.

    Return to main WebClass page...

    Study Resources for May 13, 2012 - Hindrances to God's Mission?

    • See the session.

    • Read focal text Acts 10:44-48.
      Background passage: Acts 9:32-11:18.

    • Lesson Outline:

      • Special Status - “By no means, Lord ...” (Acts 10:9-33)
          - Who do we exclude from the Kingdom?
          - In what ways are we hindrances to God’s mission in the world?
       

      • Who’s Judging Who – “God shows no partiality ...” (Acts 10:34-43)
          - In our culture, what group’s behaviors do we treat as if they do not deserve the Kingdom of God?
              Why?
          - How does your judgment of their behavior change when it comes to God’s calling?
          - What hard beliefs and ideas do we have that keep us from being able to be transformed?

      • Acceptance for the Unacceptable – “They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:44-48)
          - Can you think of any experiences in your life, when the Holy Spirit has drawn you closer to believers who are different from you? Explain.
          - What ways does God break down the barriers today between groups of Christian believers, or between believers and non-believers?

    • Resources used in this session:

      - Amazing Grace - an emotional video showing transformation through grace. Watch it online.
      - Gridiron Gang - Coaches persuade athletic director to play their team. Watch it online.
      - I Am (Nicole Nordeman), a music video.  Watch it online.

    Study Resources for May 6, 2012 - What Prevents Me?

    • See the session.

    • Read focal text Acts 8:26-40.
      Supplemental texts:
      Isaiah 53:1-8 (The text Philip helped the Ethopian eunuch understand.)
      Deuteronomy 23:1

    • Lesson Outline:
      • Hearing God’s Call (vv. 26-29)
      Most scholars agree that Philip was not the Apostle Philip (one of the 12) but one of the seven chosen to be a deacon in the early church. Read Acts 6:1-7 to discover characteristics of those chosen to be deacons. What might be the connection between Philip’s character and his ability to hear the voice of God’s messenger (8:26-29)?

      • Explaining God’s Message (vv. 30-38)
      What were some possible reasons for the eunuch’s confusion and inability to understand Isaiah’s prophecy about a “suffering servant of God”? When have you struggled with understanding a Biblical passage and had someone help you discern its meaning?

      • Living as God’s Example (vv. 39-40)
      The text demands that we ask ourselves if we are willing to reach out to anyone, of any color, of any background, without regard for whether we think they deserve it, or whether their presence makes us uncomfortable in some way. What prevents us from sharing the good news of grace that knows no limits?

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    Study Resources for April 29, 2012 - We Cannot Keep From Speaking...

    • See the session.

    • Read Acts 4:1-22.
      Outline:
      • A rude interruption (4:1-4)
      • A loaded question (4:5-7)
      • A compelling witness (4:13-22)

    • Resources used in this session:

      - Video Clip, "Why I hate religion but love Jesus/Spoken Word," a poem. Watch it online.
      - Excerpt from Martin Luther King’s last speech. Watch it online.

      - Questions to ponder:
          1. Peter said many starling things during his sermon (4:8-12) – including the accusation that the Jews and religious leaders had killed Jesus. But according to verse 2, what was it about Peter’s message that so disturbed the religious leaders? Why do you think this upset them more than the other things we said?
      What is clever about the council’s leading question in verse 7?
          2. What is clever about Peter’s response to the question?
          3. Luke tells us in verse 13 that Peter and John were common, uneducated men. Why would this be so surprising to these highly educated religious men?
          4. What had these men “seen and heard” that was so difficult to keep quiet? Have you ever had such an experience with Christ that you could not keep from speaking about what you had seen and heard?
          5. What obstacles keep us from sharing the Good News about God’s love through Jesus? What keeps us from being as bold as Peter? In what ways do we share our faith?

    Study Resources for April 15, 2012 - Holding All Things In Common

      • Resources used in this session:

        - Video Clip, "Waking Ned Devine," a town hall meeting scene. Watch it online.
        - Video Clip, "It’s A Wonderful Life" scene with "Hark the Herald" and "Auld Lang Syne." Watch it online.
        - Video Clip, "Border Song" by Elton John (performed May 1970). Watch it online.
        - Video Clip, "Get It Together" by The Youngbloods. Watch it online.

        - Questions to ponder:
            1. What do you think Luke, the author of Acts, was trying to communicate about the earliest Christians when he wrote, “those who believed were of one heart and soul”?
            2. On the surface, it might seem like the earliest Christians in Jerusalem were living communally in which everyone pooled their possessions and all lived from a common fund. This text has often been used to justify certain kinds of political and ideological stances. What do you think? And, if not making a political statement, what do you think Luke intended to communicate regarding the earliest days of the church following the resurrection?
            3. In verse 33, Luke says “with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” Can you share a story of how a personal faith experience gave power to a theoretical theological idea? (an idea such as “God is love” or “God provides” or “God’s way are deeper than our ways.”)
            4. “Great grace was upon them all.” (verse 33) What do you think this phrase means? How might it inform the early Christians generosity and service to each other?
            5. Looking past our focal passage, read Acts 5:1-11. What happened to the faith community’s “one heart and soul” attitude as a result of Ananias and Sapphira’s choices?
            6. How would our lives look like if we let go of our fears and viewed our material possessions through eyes of faith? How would our church look? Our communities?

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    Study Resources for April 8, 2012 - The Rest of the Story

      • See the session.

      • Read Acts 10:34-43.

      • Read Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24.

      • Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

      • Read Mark 16:1-8, 9-20.

      • Resources used in this session:

        - Video Clip, "What is Easter?" man on the street interviews by Joe Perez. Watch it online.
        - Video Clip, "Easter Song" by Keith Green. Watch it online.
        - Video Clip, "Easter is Coming" from WorkingPreacher - the Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary. Watch it online.
        - Video Clip, "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today" a hymn by Charles Wesley. Watch it online.

        - Questions to ponder:
                 1. Watch the video clip, “What Is Easter?” What do you think of the answers given in this video? What does it say about our culture’s perception of the Easter story?
                 2. Why do you think the Church seems to focus more on the defeating death of Jesus than on his victorious resurrection?
                 3. You may notice in your Bibles that there are footnotes about multiple endings for Mark’s gospel. Most Biblical scholars agree that Mark’s gospel originally ended at verse 8. Later, other scribes added verses 9-20. Read verse 8 again. If Mark did end his gospel here, what do you think he was hoping to get across to the reader?
                 4. When Jesus appeared to the disciples in Mark 16:14, “he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” Is it still hard for us to trust the testimony of persons who tell incredible stories of healings, miracles, and divine interventions? Why are we hesitant to believe?
                 5. Twenty-five or so years later, the apostle Paul would write. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18) How does God’s power in the Easter story shape the way you think and live?
                 6. Dr. Tony Cartledge in his commentary on this passage says, “We may desire to hold on to Easter as the bedrock of our faith, but Mark’s gospel won’t fill us with certainty and assurance. If we show up on Easter to get a booster shot of orderly and systematic religion, we won’t find it in Mark.” Does the messiness of the Easter story bother you?       

    Study Resources for April 1, 2012 - The Quest Requires... A Different Kind of Power

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    Our teacher April 22: Walter Morton. (email Walter)

    Walter MortonWalter Morton is a graduate student attending Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond for his Masters in Theology. A former church staff Media Minister in Texas and holder of a Masters in Media Studies from the University of South Florida, Walter has many years experience in leading Bible study as well as teaching media courses to university students. His approach to study is multi-disciplinary. Walter lives with his wife, Sandra, a practicing licensed Masters Social Worker. And their cat Molly.

     

     

     

    Study Resources for April 22, 2012 - A Healing in the Temple at Jerusalem


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    Our teacher for the first quarter of 2012 was Dr. Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants. (email Phyllis)

    Phyllis Rodgerson PleasantsAfter interesting and varied careers as high school history teacher, office manager/paralegal, registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and church history professor for twenty years at academic institutions both in the US and in Europe, Phyllis has launched out on her own as a consultant/educator for local congregations and businesses. Her focus is thinking historically in order to participate in creating the future. As one friend said, "she is a historian of the future -- neither trying to recreate the past nor idealize the past, but use the past to build on and point to the future." Phyllis's education include a BA at Mary Washington College, MEd at the University of Virginia, MDiv & PhD The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and external study with Bishop Kallistos (Timothy Ware) at Oxford University, England. Phyllis grew up in Bon Air Baptist Church where her father was the founding pastor. Her mother, Bernice Rodgerson, is a member of First Baptist Church.

     

    Study Resources for March 25, 2012 - Every Quest Requires Renewed Commitment to the Quest

    Study Resources for March 18, 2012 - Every Quest Requires a Symbol

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    Study Resources for March 11, 2012 - Every Quest Requires Rules/Guidelines

    Study Resources for March 4, 2012 - Every Quest Requires Participants: What is Required to be a Participant

      • See the session.

      • Class outline (pdf).

      • Read Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16.

      • Read Psalm 22:23-31.

      • Read Romans 4:13-25.

      • Read Mark 8:31-38.

      • Resources used in this session:
        - J.S. Bach: Mass B Minor 4. Gloria in Excelsis, 5. Et in Terra Pax / Eric Ericson Chamber Choir. Watch it online.
        - An example of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game - Watch it online.
        - Mozart: Gloria in excelsis Deo, Great mass in C minor. Watch it online.

      • Following this session, Jeannie Dortch, one of the class participants, passed along a link to a talk by John Hunter, inventor of the World Peace Game, along with this comment: "I was blown away with what I am sure are similarities between this game and the MMORPG that we have been discussing in class. There is no religious conversation involved and it is not real, but it is full of truth, love, compassion, and sacrifice. It brought tears to my eyes and a new sense of perspective in terms of what gamers learn in their quests. Could it be that God is so big that he sees ways of reaching others that even I could not imagine?" Watch the talk online.

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    Study Resources for February 26, 2012 - Quest for Easter: Entrance

    Study Resources for February 19, 2012 - The Kingdom of God:  It Takes a Community

      • See the session.

      • Class outline (pdf).

      • Read Isaiah 43:18-25.

      • Read Psalm 41.

      • Read 2 Corinthians 1:18-22.

      • Read Mark 2:1-12.

      • Resources used in this session:
        - A video clip showing the work of some seminary students in Charlotte, NC. Watch it online.
        - A video clip of Bruce Springsteen's song, "What Love Can Do." Watch it online.
        - "Oscar Romero, quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer, 2002, p. 329.
        - "Why Peasants Responded to Jesus," William R. Herzog II, in Christian Origins:  A People's History of Christianity, Vol. 1, Fortress Press, 2005
        - John Chrysostom,"Homilies on Matthew," XXIX, p. 195-198.
        - "An Experiment in Love" (1958), in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986, p. 16ff.
        - Spoken prayer from The Alternative Service Book 1980, Church of England.

         

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    Study Resources for February 12, 2012 - No one untouchable in the Kingdom of God

    Study Resources for February 5, 2012 - The Kingdom of God: Authority, Signs and Wonders - Is that all there is?

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    Study Resources for January 29, 2012 - Teaching with Authority

    Study Resources for January 22, 2012 - The Kingdom of God

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    Study Resources for January 15, 2012 - Calling

    Study Resources for January 8, 2012 - Baptism

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    Study Resources for January 1, 2012 - Epiphany

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    Email us.

    Our teacher for the 1 Thessalonians and Advent series is Dr. Michael Harton. (email Mike)

    Mike HartonDr. Harton is a popular speaker and well-known in Virginia as an outstanding educator. His professional background is varied and extensive, including formally serving as the Regional Coordinator for the Initiative for Ministerial Excellence with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Interim Dean of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, interim staff educator at various churches, Professor of Christian Education at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and as the Director of Bible Teaching and Discipleship for Virginia Baptists. He is the co-author of The Religious Education of Adults (Smyth & Helwys) and is contributing editor for The Church’s Ministry to Adults, and Handbook on Adult Religious Education. Dr. Harton and his wife, Raylene, are active members of Richmond's First Baptist Church.

    1 Thessalonians

    Introduction and overview (October 9, 2011)

    1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (October 16, 2011)

    1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (October 23, 2011)

    1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (October 30, 2011)

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (November 6, 2011)

    1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (November 13, 2011)


    Psalm 100 (November 20, 2011)

    We regret that, due to technical difficulties, we were unable to record this session and make it available here. But Dr. Harton has provided his class notes and outline so that you may study Psalm 100 on your own.


    Advent, 2011

    Mark 13:24-37 (November 27, 2011)

    Mark 1:1-8 (December 4, 2011)

    John 1:6-8, 19-28 (December 11, 2011)

    Luke 1:26-38 and John 1:1-14 (December 18, 2011)

    Email us.

    Return to main WebClass page...

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