Small Group Questions 2018-05-03T09:13:33+00:00

WEEK 1

April 1, 2018

Easter is Unfair

1. What is the most unfair thing you have witnessed against someone (including yourself)?

2. What is the most unfair thing that has happened in your favor?

3. Do you agree that human society runs by ‘ungrace’: ranking people, holding people accountable, insisting on reciprocity and fairness?

4. The actions and words of God communicate that God’s society runs by grace. Not that ‘it should’, but that it actually does.  Do you believe (don’t be afraid to tell the truth) that Jesus dying on the cross is the greatest act of unfairness, the largest grace bomb ever detonated in the history of the universe? Explain.

5. The Bible says that, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“- Romans 5:8.  What does it mean to be a ‘sinner’?  Why does that matter? Don’t give the answers you’re supposed to give.  Instead, respond in the way your brain and heart would.  Doesn’t mean our thoughts and emotions are correct, but let’s be honest.

6.  This series that we are going through for the next few weeks is title ‘Unfair’ because we are looking more closely at the grace of God and what that means.  The writer that inspired this series by pointing to Jesus’ grace is Phillip Yancey.  The primary book that will be used is “What’s so Amazing about Grace?” Consider as a group if you want to read this together during this series.

WEEK 2

April 8

  • If someone were to text you and ask the question, “What are you like?”…what would be your two sentence or less response?  Please text that now.  If you feel comfortable, please share with the group what you wrote.
  • If someone were to text you and ask the question, “What is God like?”…what would be your response?  Don’t share what others have told you or what they have experienced, just share from your own experience.  If you don’t have one, that’s perfectly normal.
  • If the proverb ‘You can know a person by the company he keeps’ what do we learn about the truth that Jesus ate dinner with Simon the Leper?  Jesus accepted 8 dinner invitations that we know of.  3 of them were common social events.  But, the other 5 Jesus broke serious social expectations by ‘the company he kept.’  Read Mark 14:1-11 together and see what Jesus is like.
  • Read Genesis 1:26 says we were created in the ‘likeness’ of God.  If we have His likeness, why does it seem difficult to break social expectations or even our own convenience by keeping company with people that are outside of our social circles or comfortability?
  • Have you experienced that you are more yourself when you act more like Jesus would then when you don’t, especially as it involves being with people like Simon the Leper and the rejeted woman who broke the perfume over Jesus?
  • Boog shared the Branches statement (below) on Sunday.  What are your thoughts?
  • “We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, and ‘yo no habla Ingles.’ We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.We welcome you if you can sing like Adele or , like most of our elders…can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Mikey’s Baptism.We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, millenials trying to figure it out, and to teenagers who don’t want to be here. We welcome soccer moms, Hipster dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegans, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted.
  • If we are created in the likeness of God, how can embrace our true nature by embracing those inside and outside of Branches like Jesus would?We welcome you if you’re having problems or if you are the problem. If you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.If you blew all your offering money in fantasy football, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town you had to go to church.We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. And if you’re uncomfortable coming to a church and being around anyone on this list…you’re welcome too. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!”

WEEK 3

April 15

  • In the parable we studied on Sunday, a woman throws a party because what was lost is now found.  When was the last time you threw a party to celebrate.
  • Read Luke 15:1.  Does any of this feel familiar to you in today’s context?  Which group of people can you relate with the most?(MESSAGE) Luke 15:1   By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. 2 The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” 3 Their grumbling triggered this story.
  • Remembering the circumstances that led Jesus to share the parable is tantamount to us understanding the parable. The purpose of the parable was to address the attitude of the leaders towards Jesus spending time with so many people of ‘doubtful’ reputation. Read Luke 15:8.  As a group discuss the connection between the parable and the circumstances shared in Luke 15:1-2. Remember the background information shared on Sunday regarding the significance of the coins in the time and place Jesus is speaking.Luke 15:8-10
    “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’  Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”
  • Jesus is telling the people, both the religious leaders and the notorious sinners, that those who are not near God are valuable enough that God Himself will go and search for them.  Have you seen this to be true in your own life?  Do you believe you are valuable?  Do you believe that others are valuable?  No, really, do you?
  • In this parable, who are you?
    • Are you the one, like the Pharisees, who holds power and morality for those around you and are indignant when someone that hasn’t committed themselves to, in your opinion, living the right way?
    • Are you like the scholar or scribe wrestling with whether by accepting outsiders you are ‘condoning’ their behavior, in your opinion, as notorious sinners?
    • Or, do you see yourselves as those who are trying to draw near to Jesus, but you feel that there are eyes burning a hole through the back of your head because ‘you don’t belong’ next to Jesus.  Look at what I’ve done…what am I thinking seeking Him and being next to these other people who have their act together?
  • Today many religious leaders move towards separation from non-religious people because it would mean they are condoning the behavior of those who are outside of the Christian faith.  Is there any evidence in the life or teachings of Jesus that give guidance on whether or not we have a role in ‘condoning’ the behavior of others? How should we live?
  • After reading the Branches statement below, who this week will you ‘extend a special welcome to’?
    Branches would like to extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, single parents, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, or “yo no habla Ingles.”We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, scream at their children, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.  We welcome you if you can sing like Adele or, like most of our elders…can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope or haven’t been in a church since little Mikey’s Baptism.We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 and still immature, millenials trying to figure it out, and to any teenagers who don’t want to be here. We welcome soccer moms, Hipster dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, skaters, latte-sippers, vegans, surfers, junk-food eaters, and bikers. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. 

    We welcome you if you’re having problems or if you are the problem. If you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

    We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town you had to go to church.

     

    We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. And if you’re uncomfortable coming to a church and being around anyone on this list…you’re welcome too.

     

    We extend a special welcome to the angry, arrogant, confused, unsure.  We invite those who have given up, the vulnerable, the broken, and those so ordinary they don’t feel they fit in a category.  We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters,… and you!”

WEEK 4

April 22

  1. Share an incident when you were extremely upset with a sibling?  Why is our frustration with a sibling greater than with friends?
  2. Why do you think it is that we want our parents to like us better?  What have you done in your life to try to earn their approval?
  3. Read Luke 15:25-32. Jesus shared the parable of the prodigal son (not it’s real title) to address the thinking of the Pharisees.  In the parable, the pharisees and scribes are represented by the older brother.  Was the older brother doing everything the father asked to please the father?
  4. If the older brothers desire was to please his father, why did he not enter the party? Even if he didn’t love or like his brother, why would he not enter the party when he knew (before his dad came out) that it would please him to support his dad with all of the community there?
  5. Did the father just come out to meet the younger brother? Why is this significant?
  6. Why does the parable end without us knowing if the older brother came into the party at the father’s request?
  7. Who are you in this parable?

WEEK 5

April 29

1.  Take Turns reading the “party” parables in Luke.  This may take some time, but in the end the reading of scripture is very beneficial
–  Luke 14:7-11
–  Luke 14:12-14
–  Luke 14:15-24
–  Luke 15:3-7
–  Luke 15:8-10
–  Luke 15:11-32
2.  As you reflect on all these parables and the parties that are thrown in each of them.  Do any of the people, sheep, coins in these parties seem to deserve or earn their place at the party?
3.  Who do you notice is not at the party in some of the parables?
4.  What qualifies anyone or anything to receive a party?
5.  Have you experienced the joy of being found or invited to the party?  How does that experience of joy, celebration and grace motivate you to follow the way of Jesus?

WEEK 6

May 6

  1. What was it like with your grandparents growing up?  Did they spoil you or was it tough love?
  2. Do you think that God expects us to change before we enter into a relationship with Him?  Is it a mandate that we turn to Him?
  3. Read Luke 15:11-21 and try to answer question #2 with the content of the story of the younger son.
  4. Now Read Luke 15: 25-32 and try to answer question #2.  Does God expect us to change before we enter into a relationship with Him?  Does he expect us to change after we turn to Him?
  5. Is this change a process or a one time event?  Let 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Matthew 16-18-23 be a guide.
  6. What do you think about Boog’s statement on Sunday, using Peter as an example, that God calls us by the name of our becoming?

Week 1 (October 15)

How to live:

Sermon on the Mount

  • During these next 6 weeks what can I or someone else in this group do to irritate you?
  • What can I or someone else in the group do during these next 6 weeks that would energize you? 
  • What do you know or think you know about Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 5-7?
  • What do we want as our primary goal for the group during these next 6 weeks?
  • What are you hoping will happen in your life during these next 6 weeks focusing on these passages? How can we help you in those goals?
  • For next week, have everyone in the group plan on reading Matthew 5-7 and outline it the best way you know how.  Please bring those outlines next week and we can see how we see the entire teaching.  If you have any other research or study please bring that also.
  • During the Sermons beginning Oct 22, plan on taking notes on your phone, on the notes page included on your chair on Sundays, or underlining and making notes in your personal Bible.  We will share those as a group also when we meet.
  • Pray for the person on your right as you close.

Week 2 (October 22)

How to live:

Sermon on the Mount

  • What can we do as a group other than just meeting in this house during this series?  Let’s get some ideas from reading Acts 2:42.
  • Have you ever had a DTR?  Are you willing to describe that moment?
  • What is your definition of a ‘fan’?  What people or things are you a fan of and why?

FAN

1 :an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator

2 :an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit)

  • The sermon on the mount is for followers, not fans.  However, in Matthew 5:1 the crowd is made up of fans and those seeking to be disciples or who have already decided.  What is the difference between a fan and a follower?
  • All disciples must start out as a fan.  Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
  • A possible definition of a follower could have been given by Morpheus in the movie The Matrix, “Sooner or later you’re going to realize just as I did, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” What do you think about this definition as it relates to the life as a follower of Jesus.
  • To a crowd, Jesus defines a follower in John 6 (Amplified Bible), “28 They then said, What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God? [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?] 29 Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].
  • Imagine that Jesus is sitting you down right now attempting to have a DTR.  At this point in your faith journey are you a ‘fan’ or a ‘follower’?  How can we be patient with each other in our differences as a mixture of fans and followers?
  • This week read Matthew 5-7 and take notes.  It’s go time!

Week 3 (October 29)

How to live:

Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 6:19-33

  • Name a time you were greedy?
  • Synonyms for greed are hungry, grasping, close fisted, insatiable
  • Read Matthew 6:19-24.  Jesus is telling us to beware of greed as it relates to possessions.  But, what else other than money or material things do we seek that could be taken from us or that we close our fists around?
  • In light of this greed/grasping, Jesus says (Matthew 6:25 Amplified Translation) we need to “stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about life.”  Does seeking these ‘other things’ other than God’s Kingdom do that to you?
  • The Sermon in Matthew 5-7 is meant for those seeking to be a Christians.  Can you be saved but not be a Christian?  This will mean defining these terms.
  • If the antidote to greed is generosity, how do we obey Jesus in this on a daily basis?  What is God tugging on your heart and mind to ‘let go of’ that you’re grasping and close fisted about?

Week 4 (November 5)

How to live:

Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:21-24

  • How would you describe what it feels like when someone is angry with you?
  • What is the definition of anger in Matthew 5:21-22
  • By that definition, when is a significant time you were angry with someone?
  • In light of Matthew 5:21-22, what does that anger do to you?  To the person you are angry with?
  • With the interpretation that ‘the fires of hell’ is not referring to ‘hell’ itself, have you felt those fires when you were careless?
  • When we insult someone, as described in Matt 5:23-24,  it infers that we treat them as less than a person.  They are of no value. Is that what we think at the moment we are angry (remember, anger can be words or the lack of words.)
  • Should Matthew 5:23-24 be taken literally?  If literal, what does that look like in real life?  Is there any downside to taking it literally?
  • Take a 10 minute break and give each other the space to contact someone right now that they need to reconcile with.  Remember, you can’t be responsible for their desire to reconcile.  We can only own our own intent of the heart.  To say and mean the 9 words, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

Week 5 (November 12)

Marriage:

Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:27-37

  • Who are your role models for what marriage should look like?
  • What have you been taught or modeled are good reasons for divorce?
  • What are good reasons for getting married?
  • Before reading the scriptures consider that Boog said on Sunday that Jesus never forbids divorce.  Now, let’s read two main passages from Jesus’ teaching.
  • Read Matthew 5:31-32.  Not ‘what’ but ‘why’ is Jesus teaching this to these people at this time in history? (This context was discussed on Sunday in detail.)
  • Read Matthew 19:1-12 and think of these questions before doing so: 1) Why did the Pharisees ask the question of divorce?  2) Knowing that the Jewish leaders over the years had made it much easier and accepted to divorce a woman (women had very little say or rights in the matter comparatively) how is Jesus’ response significant?
  • Focus now on the disciples response in Matthew 19:10.  Is there incredulity due to the idea of divorce or marriage?
  • Jesus response in Matthew 19:11-12 is for all of us as it regards the hard work involved in marriage.  What is Jesus teaching about marriage?  Should everyone get married based on these passages?
  • How is your view of marriage changed or confirmed by this study and discussion?

Week 6 (November 19)

How to live:

Sermon on the Mount

Scripture

  • 1st point/question
  • 2nd point/question

Week 1 (April 23)

It’s Not About Me

  • When was the last time you took a ‘selfie’?
  • Like Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:1-5,  what 3 reasons can you give to God for why He should let you live another 15 years?
  • In the light of the statement “It’s not about you”, read Luke 9:21-25.  What is Jesus trying to teach us from this passage?
  • What will your life look like if you attempt to ‘lose your life’ in attempt to love/give your life for God and others?
  • What was the biggest thing you took away from the message on Sunday?  From the book, What on Earth Am I Here For?  From your own personal study and prayer?
  • Who are 3 friends you could ask to join this group for the 5 weeks that are remaining?
  • Who is hosting next week, who is facilitating, and who is bringing some epic treats to share?
  • Who is going to help clean up the mess that was just created at this house?

Week 2 (April 30)

What Drives Your Life?

  • How would you explain to someone who is unfamiliar with the ocean, what it’s like to be caught in a rip current and pulled out to sea?
  • If we define Drive as what controls, motivates, guides, or directs you, what do you think your family or friends would say ‘Drives’ you?
  • Of these 5, which has had the greatest pull or push in your life: Fear, Guilt, Materialism, Anger, Pleasing others?
  • Read Galatians 1:10-12 out loud and together.  Some believe that verse 10 is an introduction for what is to follow.  With this assumption, what circumstances is Paul addressing from some of the people in Galatia?
  • Paul says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Can you “belong” to both people and Christ?  Can you be directed by people and Christ?
  • Do you agree that you cannot be guided, directed, and controlled by both God and other ‘currents’?
  • After arriving in 1901, Marie Monsen, a single 23 yr old female Norwegian missionary to China said, “You proclaim Christ with your lips but your hearts are far from Him!” If she arrived on our shore, what would she say to us?  To you?
  • What does tomorrow look like with you deciding to live as a full-time servant of Jesus, letting him direct, control, and guide you?

Week 3 (May 7)

You Are Not an Accident

  • Do you know if you were a surprise to your parents?
  • Have you ever encountered God in unexpected places?  When? Where?
  • Do you ever feel like the world is a cold, hard, dead place?  Do you feel like death may have the last word?
  • Have you ever been in despair?  Wondering what you are doing here and whether your life has a purpose?
  • Have you ever resented God for the way in which you were formed; for the parents you were/weren’t given; for the body you were given/not given; for the limitations that you have?
  • What does it mean to you that the creator God of the scriptures has an intimate knowledge of you, and that God’s disposition toward you is unconditional love?
  • Have you experienced this love of God, or is it still something that you have only been told about?  In other words, is the fact that God loves you unconditionally simply a statement you agree with, or is it a reality you have experienced?
  • To be made in the image of God is different than to be made in the image of what our culture tells us are gods and goddesses.  Are there ways in which you are currently striving to be made in the image of a cultural god/goddess (in other words: working toward a particular body-type, career, power, financial status, etc)?
  • Confess one way in which you’re striving to be made in man’s image of a god and then have someone in your group say a prayer that you would be released from that striving.

Week 4 (May 14)

This is Not Your Home

  • If you could do over Mother’s Day, what would you do different to honor the Mama’s in your life?
  • Go around the group having people read one verse each, out loud, until you finish the passage:
    • 1Pet. 2:11   Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul.  12 Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. 1Pet. 2:13   Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level;  14 they are God’s emissaries for keeping order.  15 It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society.  16 Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules.  17 Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.
  • The bible describes us as ‘foreigners, strangers, or aliens’ on earth.  Do you believe that?  More importantly, are you living that way?  What would it look like to live that way.
    • Heb. 11:13        All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 
  • Read together Phil 3:20-21 in different translations if you have them.  What does it mean to live knowing this is not home and that you are a citizen of somewhere else?  Can you make the mental leap, the changing of thinking to see yourself as not of this world, but you are on a temporary Visa and you are here with a job to do?
    • Phillipians 3:20-21, But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
  • Are you trying to fit in or are you being your true self?  Why are you living the way you are living?

Week 5 (May 21)

Building Life from God’s View

  • What is it that you have built with your own hands that you are most proud of?  What have you built that you are most embarrassed of?
  • Life is described as a ‘puzzle’, ‘a game’, ‘a dance’, a ‘journey’.  What metaphors have you used or heard described from others as a view of life?
  • Boog shared the quote below on Sunday?  Can you relate with this or not? Explain.
    •  “There have been many times in New York City that I have seen people make professions of faith that seemed quite heart-felt, but when faced with serious consequences if they maintained their identification with Christ (e.g. missing the opportunity for a new sexual partner or some major professional setback) they bailed on their Christian commitment. The probable reason was that they had not undergone deeper ‘world-view change’. They had fitted Christ to their individualistic world-view rather than fitting their world-view to Christ. They professed faith simply because Christianity worked for them, and not because they grasped it as true whether it is ‘working’ for them this year or not! They had not experienced a ‘power-encounter’ between the gospel and their individualistic world-view.”  Tim Keller
  • Read Romans 12:2 together.  What does it look like when we ‘conform to the patterns of this world’?  Have you experienced or not experienced what it looks like to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may know His will.  His good, perfect and pleasing will.”
  • If someone were to ask you how they can be transformed can you give them personal experience?  If so, what would you tell them to do to have this ‘transformed’ mind – or view of life.

Week 6 (May 28)

Begin in the Beginning

  • Read Genesis chapters 1 & 2 (or at least Genesis 1:26-31)
  • When you read these chapters do you get the sense that God originally intended for humankind to be somewhere other than here on earth?
  • Read Revelation 21 & 22 (or at least Revelation 21:1-7)
  • When you read Genesis & Revelation do you get the sense that the writers are talking about physical participation or disembodied evacuation (in other words, going somewhere non-physical)?
  • Do you see the world and your place in it from the very beginning; from the point of view of Genesis 1 & 2?  Or do you tend to the world and you place in it primarily from the point of view of Genesis 3?  Explain.
  • Can you see why it is important to begin the story in Genesis one which is grounded in peace and shalom?
  • Share some of the things that you love about life; things that bring you joy.
  • When you think about heaven, what do you picture it to be like?  Do you think of enjoying things that are physical or material; things that you have experienced here on earth?
  • One person put it this way, “We should not be surprised when grace beauty, meaning, order, compassion, truth, and love show up in all sorts of unexpected people and places because it always has been God’s world, it is God’s world, and it always will be God’s world.” – Rob Bell.  Where have you seen these things show up in unexpected places or people?
  • As you reflect on this series, do you feel that you have grown in your journey of answering the question, “What on earth are you here for?”