May 29 – “An Open Invitation” (Luke 14:12-24)
Please read the parable of the Great Banquet together (Luke 14:12-24)
- In verses 12-14, Jesus, as He usually does, meddles with the status quo of his audience, specifically when it comes to hospitality. In essence, He says “Don’t invite the usual suspects; invite the needy and the outsiders”. Are there any areas in your life where you’ve fallen into the trap of only being hospitable to your “usual suspects” (family, friends, those who think and look like you, etc.)? What would those life areas look like if you allowed Jesus to meddle with them?
- The man in the parable was understandably angry about being brushed by those he had invited to his banquet. But instead of responding with retaliation, he responds with greater hospitality, extending his invitation locally to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”, and additionally to foreigners outside of the city. Is there any way that comes to mind that you could extend this type of hospitality to someone (or to an organization), individually and/or as a group?
- As you consider the open invitation that God has given to humanity, it may be good to take some time now to share and pray together about people you know who you can share the gospel with, and also how you as a group can be better imitators of God “as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1) when it comes to your hospitality.
May 22 – “The Lamp” (Luke 8:16-18)
- Read Luke 8:9-18 together. Jesus tells the disciples the “secrets of the kingdom of God,” but then in vv.16-18 tells them that secrets are meant to be shared. It’s been said that the gospel is an “open secret”. Who shared with you this secret?
- Read Matthew 5:14-16 together. What dark corners of your world do you feel God is calling you to shine into with the good news of the kingdom? What are some of the present obstacles to that good work for you?
- Read 2 Peter 1:16-19. We can only shine if we ourselves have God’s light shining within us. How do you keep the light of God’s Word kindled in your heart? Or, to use Luke’s language, how do you “hold it fast in an honest and good heart” (8:15)?
May 15 – “The Hidden Treasure” (Matthew 13:44-46)
- Read Matthew 13:44. Why do you think the kingdom of heaven is described as “hidden in a field”? How is it hidden … both then and now?
- Read Matthew 13:45-46. Would you describe your encounter with the kingdom of God as a matter of “dumb luck”, so to speak, like the man stumbling upon treasure buried in a field (v.44), or more the fruit of a deliberate search, like the merchant’s (vv.45-46)? Either way, how has encountering the kingdom surprised you?
- Read Matthew 6:321-33. What attachments in your life are cluttering or complicating your pursuit of the kingdom of God? How is Jesus calling you to respond to those attachments/concerns?
May 8 – “Hearing Secrets” (Matthew 13:1-9)
Please read the parable of the sower together (Matthew 13:1-9)
- Parables are vivid stories & metaphors for instruction, but sometimes also confusing “riddles”. Why do you think Jesus taught in parables? (note 13:10-17)
- Reading Jesus’ interpretation of the parable (13:18-23), which soil do you most identify with – or most worry about?
- What does it look like for us to “attend to the Word” implanted within us (James 1:21)? How can we help each other do this?
Apr 17 – “The Last Great Sign” (John 2:13-22)
- Why is Jesus so upset about the merchants’ servicing worshippers in the temple complex? What might Jesus upend within our churches?
- Jesus’ answer to the Jewish leadership is cryptic (even to the disciples at the time). Why do you think he answers this way?
- How has your faith in the resurrected Christ been strengthened through your reflections on Scripture?
Apr 10 – “Blessings of the Blessed” (Psalm 134)
- Why do you think the congregation is calling the Levites (“servants of the Lord who stand by night in the house of the Lord,” v.1) to worship? Why do we all need “a call to worship” from others?
- The pilgrims summon the Levites and priests to “raise your hands toward the holy place” (v.2). How do you honestly feel about engaging your body in worship? Why is it important and/or challenging for us?
- The priests in turn declare the Lord’s blessing over the pilgrims/congregation before they depart (v.3). In what ways can we speak God’s benediction / bless one another now as the people of God?
Apr 3 – “Our Mystic Sweet Communion” (Psalm 133)
- David describes harmonious community with the luxurious and sensuous imagery of perfumed oil and refreshing mountain dew (no, not the Pepsi product) – richly and abundantly poured out! When you think back on times of deep fellowship and rich unity with other believers, what images come to your mind?
- Do you agree with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement in Life Together about the dangers of our “idealizing” community: “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial”? Why/why not?
- The glory of the Christian life is our deep union with Jesus and one another – which is to say, eternal life together in Christ. Read John 17 out loud together. How is Jesus’ prayer already answered in his death, resurrection and ascension? How is not yet fulfilled? How is it being answered right now in our group?
Mar 27 – “God’s Dwelling Place” (Psalm 132)
- Read Psalm 132:1-5. David’s resolve to build God a house is not tainted with selfish motives, but comes from a genuine desire to honor God. What are some examples of leaders (local or global) that you’ve seen who appear to be doing good things but with selfish motives? How do they compare with David?
- The Lord lovingly overrode David’s desire to build Him a house, and then covenanted with David instead to build him a house (a ruling dynasty). Have you ever experienced God override a desire or ambition of yours? Was there a greater good that He brought about as a result?
- The resolve of the Lord in His covenant with David was driven by His love for David and for His people; “You will be my people, and I will be your God”. Ultimately, as it states in Revelation 21:3, God’s dwelling place is with man, and this is fully realized through the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. How does this reality encourage you in your walk with the Lord?
Mar 20 – “Weaning Ourselves…Off Ourselves” (Psalm 131)
- Read Psalm 131:1. Discuss Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s quote: “It has always been my aim, and it is prayer, to have no plan as regards myself; well assured as I am that the place where the Savior sees proper to place me must ever be the best place for me.” Do you agree or disagree?
- Read Psalm 131:2. David says he has weaned himself off of self-seeking, and is now in repose within himself (or literally, “my soul is like a weaned child upon me”). He is self-contained within God’s grasp – at peace. Have you experienced this? Would you describe yourself presently as contented and at rest in God?
- Read Philippians 4:11-13 together. What do you think the “secret” of contentment in Christ involves or looks like? What are our barriers to this contentment?
Mar 13 – “Hoping In The Dark” (Psalm 130)
- Psalm 130 famously begins with a cry “from the depths” (compare Ps.69:1-2, 14-15). What does that image evoke for you?
- Hope seems impossible when we’re in “the depths” of anxiety, sorrow, pain, fear, guilt, or shame. How does this Psalm address these barriers to hope directly?
- Our hope is ultimately grounded in the character and commitment of God to us (see 130:7-8). How does God’s “steadfast love” toward us, supremely revealed in Christ, comfort or encourage you now?
Mar 6 – “Afflicted, But Victorious” (Psalm 129)
- Derek Kidner writes that “most nations tend to look back on what they have achieved, Israel reflects here on what she has survived.” Looking back, can you think of some things in your life that God has graced you to survive (grief, trauma, etc.)?
- The affliction referred to in the first two verses of Psalm 129 is likely pointing to the oppression that early Israel experienced at the hands of Egypt. Think of and discuss times where you yourself (or others that you know) have experienced unjust suffering at the hands of other people. This may be a good opportunity to pray for those suffering in Ukraine (as well as other suffering people groups such as the Uyghur people).
- In the midst of recalling this intense suffering, the psalmist declares that “The Lord is righteous”, faithful to preserve His people, and that He has “cut the cords of the wicked”, rendering them powerless. In a similar fashion, Jesus, through His work on the cross, broke the power of sin and death over us who believe! How does this reality give you hope in the midst of your suffering (current or future)?
Feb 27 – “#Blessed” (Psalm 128)
- “Fear of the Lord” is a constant refrain throughout the Bible, summarizing our whole duty (head, heart and hands) before God. How would you describe this fear, and why is it so vital to blessing?
- How does the “physicality” of Psalm 128 (and note Ps.112:3) strike you? How has the “prosperity gospel” twisted our understanding – both in falling for it and in over-reacting against it?
- Jesus calls us to actual obedience, and to teach others to obey “everything I have commanded.” Gospel blessing comes through the obedience of faith. What are some areas you are convicted to grow in obedience/surrender to Jesus? (Perhaps discuss the upcoming Lent fast with your SG here?)
Feb 20 – “I Was Here!” (Psalm 127)
- Read Psalm 127 together. Identify some of the repeated words and ideas in the psalm. What do you think the main message of this song is?
- Solomon reminds us that only the Lord can make our endeavors successful, that is, of any lasting importance and meaning. What current endeavors do you want to ask the group to pray the Lord’s blessing over?
- God’s blessing is evident in the gift of children – both literal and spiritual. If you’re a parent, what are 1-2 current praises or prayers for them you might share with the group? If you’re a disciple of Christ, how has God blessed you recently within his family? How do you hope to be a blessing in building up his household with others (at Riverside or City of Refuge in particular)?
Feb 13 – “We Are Glad” (Psalm 126)
- The first verse of Psalm 126 gives such a striking picture of God’s restoration. When He restored Zion, the people were “like those who dream”. It was as if a far off dream had come true for them. Have you ever experienced God’s restoration in a way that felt like a dream had come true?
- The laughter and joy mentioned in verse 2 are not superficial; there is history behind them! They were evidences of God’s healing in the lives of His people. Can you recall painful moments in your life that you can look back on now with some joy? How is this evidence of God’s healing?
- Do you need God to restore you now? Are there things (relationships, physical/mental/emotional wellbeing, etc.) in your life that need His restoration? How can you as a group pray for each other in this?
Feb 7 – “Perfect Peace For The Imperfect” (Psalm 125)
- Consider the imagery of vv.1-2. What does it make you think/feel? Compare with Psalm 46:1-7. What terms would you use to translate it into modern terms?
- Jerusalem/Zion is used here as a symbol of God’s safe and protective presence. But of course, Jerusalem itself wasn’t always safe or secure – despite being the place God chose for “his name to dwell.” Now replace “Jerusalem” with “the church” for his people today. What does God’s safety and protection mean here for us?
- Read Philippians 4:6-7. What does this text look like in practice? How have you experienced God’s peace “which surpasses all understanding” guarding your heart?
Jan 30 – “Maybe I’m Amazed” (Psalm 124)
- What stands out to you? What stands out to you or raises questions for you?
- Do you recall a time that God seemed to have dramatically intervened in your life, protecting you in a dire situation or saving you from a negative possible outcome? Maybe a few people can share their stories.
- The greatest wonder of God’s being “for us” (Rom.8:31-34) is displayed in our eternal salvation. How would you describe what God has saved you from in Christ? What does this mean to you? What has God saved you to?
Jan 23 – “The Waiting” (Psalm 123)
- How does looking up to the heavens, that is, God’s glorious throne, redirect our hearts when we feel contempt or shame (v.1)?
- Re-read v.2. What is the difference between “waiting for” and “waiting on” God for mercy?
- How would you define contempt? Where in your life are you experience contempt?
Jan 16 – “For The Good of God’s House” (Psalm 122)
- The psalmist begins Psalms 122 with a tone of eagerness and anticipation as he thinks about being in the house of the Lord with his fellow worshippers. Have you felt this kind of anticipation regarding corporate worship in recent memory? If so, can you pinpoint what’s given you excitement about it?
- Jerusalem was chosen by God to be a beacon of unity, true worship, and justice (verses 3-5). There were moments where it lived up to this, but historically, it often failed to embody these three characteristics. The same can be said of the church at large, unfortunately. Has the reality of the church’s failures and imperfections discouraged you from engaging in corporate worship or community in any way?
- The psalmist exhorts his readers to pray for the peace and security of Jerusalem, and to actively seek its good. In light of Jesus being the cornerstone of the church, and despite it’s many failings, we are called to seek the good of God’s house, praying that those of us who are a part of it will continue to be built up into the likeness of Christ. How can we actively seek the good of God’s house (more specifically, each other)?
Nov 14 – Jude 17-23 “[Re]Member Jerusalem”
1) Jude calls us to two commands here as part and parcel of the call to contend (v.3). The first is to remember the predictions of the apostles regarding “scoffers” in the last days. Read Paul’s prediction in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 and discuss where you’ve seen this in the church today. Which tendencies do you see in yourself?
2) Re-read vv.20-21. The second command is to keep ourselves in God’s love. Jude imagines we will do this by 1) building up one another, 2) praying in the Spirit, and 3) waiting for mercy. How might we more intentionally build one another up in this small group? What would you like to see happen? How about prayer? Are there ways we would like to see our group grow in praying together?
3) Those who wait for mercy are much more prone to give it to others. Discuss vv.22-23 together. Do you need mercy in any of these areas? Have you shared that? Who in your circle of influence might need this mercy, and how can you show it?
Nov 7 – Jude 8-16 “A Tract for the Times”
1) Jude quotes from two ancient Jewish books (v.9, v.14-15) not found in the Old Testament. Is that a problem for believers who hold to a high view of Scripture? Where else in the New Testament do biblical authors quote from non-biblical sources as stating truth? Why do you think they do this?
2) In vv.8-16, Jude spills a good amount of ink on slanderous talk and boasting (including both loud-mouthed and humble-bragging) when describing “these people” who “have crept in unnoticed,” (v.4). What do you think this kind of speech reveals about someone?
3) Re-read v.16. Why is grumbling and consistent discontentment such a glaring problem for a disciple of Jesus? Where do you honestly tend to grumble?
Oct 31 – Jude 5-7 “Divine Judgment and Redemptive Power”
1) Jude calls us to contend for our faith, especially in the midst of those who reject God’s authority and twist the boundaries that he has given. How can you contend for the faith and help others, or yourself, stay within the bounds that God has given?
2) Jude uses the examples from the Old Testament as a means of shedding light on the way the false teachers were failing to live out their proclamation of faith in order to pursue their own desires. How are you tempted to pursue your own desires?
3) The three examples from the Old Testament that Jude uses shows how God is faithful to judge those who rebel against both him and the boundaries that he has given. How does God’s faithful judgement encourage you? How does his faithful judgement challenge you?
Oct 24 – Jude 1-4 “Contend”
1) Jude, brother to the famous James (Galatians 2:7-10; James 1:1), and half-brother to the even more well-known Jesus, writes to a church troubled by “certain people who have crept in unnoticed…[and] pervert the grace of our God into sensuality…” (v.4). They also make arrogant claims about authority to manipulate and exercise power over others for their own benefit (see v.6, 8-11, 16). In what ways are our churches at present troubled by these sorts of influencers and leaders? How does this distort the gospel?
2) Read the whole letter of Jude out loud together (it’s only 25 verses). In light of the bookends (1:3-4, 20-23), what do you think “contend for the faith” looks like? What ought it NOT look like?
3) Earlier we asked how the gospel is being distorted by influencers and leaders who twist grace into license, and “spiritual authority” into self-promotion. How are we ourselves liable to the same errors?