Discussions

Sermon Discussion Questions—Ephesians 2:19-22 Part 2

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV)
Exposed – Have you ever been ‘exposed’ to your sin as Eric spoke of by the church? Were you grateful or angry? Is there any reason to be grateful?
One foundation – Who, according to these verses, is the church centered on?  What are the implications of that? What does it mean that Christ himself is present?
Building the temple – Are you comfortable with God building the temple(i.e. adding people to our community) who are different than you? How has he built it in the past? How can he build it in the future?

Sermon Discussion Questions—Ephesians 2:19-22 (The Church)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

1.  The Church – What are your first thoughts as you consider the church?  What has your experience been of the church?  Is “the household of God centered on Christ filled with the Holy Spirit” a way that you would describe it?  Or do other things jump out to you?

2.  The Cost – What has it cost you to be a part of the church?  What did it cost God to make it?  What does that say about God’s love for the church?

3.  Loving – How can you love the church?  What application does this passage have on you?

4.  Members – What do you think about Eric’s exhortations to grow in:

– diversity (variety of membership to reflect God’s beauty),

– congregational responsibility (of all members for the whole church – Gal 3, Rev 3&4 – expressed in hospitality and concern for corporate decisions),

– and immensity (seeing the church for all of its beauty and glory as the expression of Christ’s ongoing work in the world)?

Are those things important to you?  Why are they important to our church?  How can you grow in these areas?

Sermon Discussion Questions—Luke 13:10-17 (Mercy)

Broken
In what ways are we like the woman in the story – mentally, physically, or spiritually? Chris explained how these stories in the Gospel are representational of cosmic realities that are at play. In that sense, what does this broken woman tell us about our world?
Barriers
In what ways are we like the ruler of the synagogue in the story? Do ‘fear’ and ‘busyness’ resonate with you as reasons so withhold mercy? What other reasons have you found it to be difficult to show mercy to people in need?
Mercy
Do you feel the sense of wonder at the mercy shown to us? In what ways is Christ’s mercy to us like his mercy to the lady in the synagogue? What does Christ’s mercy give us? How does that help us to show mercy?

Sermon Discussion Questions—Ephesians 2:1-7 (Grace Works)

Ephesians 2:1-7 – Grace Works

Dead

Does v.1-3 seem offensive to you?  What comes to mind when you hear the word sin?  Do you agree that sin is anti-relational, illegal, and comprehensive?  Does Paul seem over-dramatic when he says ‘dead?’  What is the significance of Paul including himself in this sweeping indictment?

Effects of Grace

According to v. 4-7 what has God done?  Why did he do it?  What does this mean for us?

Life in the inheritance

What would it look like to live a life on earth – after having died, been resurrected, and lived with Christ in heaven (as v. 5-7 indicate) – and then to come back?  How would your values change?  Your treasures?

Smiling King

Are you able to see Christ as the smiling king who welcomes you in?  How different can this be from our view of God when we feel guilty?  Does a fresh look at his grace change the way you approach him?

Ephesians 2:1-7

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Francis Schaeffer – True Spirituality (book with the excerpts that Eric read from – $10 on Amazon if you are inclined – http://www.amazon.com/True-Spirituality-Francis-Schaeffer/dp/0842373519/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385433683&sr=1-1&keywords=true+spirituality )

Love Lustres at Calvary (poem that Eric shared)

My Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,

open my lips,

supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,

made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of thy justice smote the man,

thy fellow;

There thy infinite attributes were magnified,

and infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

and infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

cast off that I might be brought in,

trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,

surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best,

stripped that I might be clothed,

wounded that I might be healed,

athirst that I might drink,

tormented that I might be comforted,

made a shame that I might inherit glory,

entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

groaned that I might have endless song,

endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

expired that I might for ever live.

Sermon Discussion Questions—Ephesians 1:11-14 (God Always Keeps His Promises)

Past: What has God done in the past to secure our trust? Does Abraham’s story relate to us? How so?
Future: Why is it sometimes difficult to trust God with the future? Why can it seem easier to trust the promises of power, sex, success, or money? What are the ‘ends’ of either path?
Guarantee: What does the guarantee of the Spirit mean to us? What peace does being ‘sealed’ give to us?
Earthly vs. Spiritual: Have you ever been upset with God for withholding earthly blessing from you? What are the spiritual blessings promised here? What causes this tension between our desires for certain things and his promises of others?
God keeps his promises, past and future, and what he offers is far more satisfying.
CS Lewis from The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Sermon Discussion Questions—Ephesians 1:7-10 (He Gave All He Had to Restore All That He Made)

God’s Generosity – Would Eric have been wise to give awayALL of his possessions (401K, etc)?  Do you have similar thoughts toward God’s lavish generosity?  Why or why not?

Debt – Do you view your debt as a tresspass (offense against God)?  Do you agree that sin is anti-relational, illegal (against God’s laws), and idolatrous?  Does it change your perspective of sin if you try to view it from God’s view vs. your own?

Payment  Is the idea of a substitution something that you are familiar with?  Have you ever considered the bargaining of Genesis 18?  What about the experience of Barabbas?  What do those events teach us about substitution?

Guilt – How do you respond to the guilt of your sin?  Can you detect a tendency toward purity, piety, or purgatory? What does it look like to receive truly receive Christ’s payment?  (Preferably discuss this question using further alliterations)

Restoration – Is the concept of the Gospel having both personal and corporate application a new one for you?  What about a cosmic dimension?  Does that change your view of the Gospel?  How so?  Genesis 1 and Romans 8 are starting points for exploring the cosmic dimension.

Encouragement – The King is restoring, redeeming, and freeing as we follow Him in his gospel movement.  Remember that God gave all he had to restore all that he made as you face the brokenness of the world this week.

Administrative – I apologize for these coming out later than I would have liked.  If you are disappointed by this and would like to assist with writing these please reach out to Jacques Villarreal.

-Andrew

Sermon Discussion Questions—Ephesians 1:5-6 (Before You Ever Knew God, He Purposed To Be Your Father)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Questions:

1) What does the craving of acceptance look like in your life? Do you feel any of the pressures or tensions caused by it? What is this “currency of acceptance” that we demand from each other? How does our adoption change that?

2) Have you ever felt hung up by the doctrine of predestination? How does its place within the context of personal adoption change the discussion? What work went into God’s adoption of you?

3) Why is praise the appropriate response? What are the effects of this adoption? How does our view of God’s disposition toward us (happy and loving vs. angry and disappointed) effect our walk following him?

Quotes/Hard to copy-down parts (for the enthusiastic note-taker):

“Thou hast created us for thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.” – St. Augustine

The acceptance you long for is found in Jesus and the Father he introduces you to. It is not found in the body you are willing to starve yourself for. It is not found in another zero at the end of your bank balance. It is not found in the arms of another person who is not your spouse. It is not found in a gift you have or a business you have built. It is not found even in the acceptance of your church…. It is found in God the Father who is smiling over you right now! (from Eric’s sermon)

Dan and Sena Roger’s story of what is involved in adoption:

The process of adoption is arduous and expensive. There are three main components: the home study, the dossier, and application that must be approved through customs and immigration.

The home study requires employing a local social worker to interview you, review your financials, and visit your home. This step is supposed to validate your motives and your ability to provide and care for the adopted child/children.

The dossier is basically an authenticity form to validate that you are who you say you are. It requires birth certificates and our marriage license to be authenticated by a public notary, who is authenticated by the State to validate their license, who then is authenticated by the US State Department. Every document ends up with at least 3 layers of authentication. You’ve seen the old war movies with the statement from authorities, “Show me your papers.” This is the adoption version.

The application is the culmination of the home study, dossier, essays, and other pertinent items submitted to the adoption agency to prepare for the application to Customs and Immigration. Additionally, classes are required to prepare you to actually bring the children home.

For Sena and I, the process began in August of 2010. We first applied to an adoption agency—Gladney, in our case. After walking us through what the process would entail, we were told to begin the paperwork. This paperwork was often overlapping and confusing. For example, medical forms had to be completed for the application, the home study, and the dossier. Yet these were different forms and the only people integrating the paperwork is the applying family.

Over the course of the Fall, we gathered our paperwork. Our home study was approved in February 2011. Our application was final by the end of that month and submitted to USCIS. They approved us in May 2011 and delivered our dossier to Ethiopia in June 2011. At this point, we were placed on a waiting list. Since then, we have had to remain current in our paperwork as the documents expire at seemingly random intervals. We are only allowed 1 renewal at 18 months, and after 3 years, you have to begin the entire process again from scratch. Sena and I will be starting over in October given how long we’ve been waiting.

Because we are adopting siblings and don’t know the children, we simply prepare and then wait for them to come into the system. The process is different (though no less complex) if you know the child/children you are adopting.

And the groundwork is only the beginning. Once the adoption is finalized, the relationship truly starts. Amazingly, the adopted child often never fully realizes the extent of the preparation required.

Sermon Discussion Questions—Ephesians 1:3-4

Hello, here are some questions or topics to consider and discuss together from this past sermon on Ephesians 1:3-4 – that God chose to bless us in Christ with every spiritual blessing before we chose to trust him.  Eric explained the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in an effort to show us the blessings that we have been given in Christ.  Sorry this post is a bit long, I went ahead and included some quotes and lists that were mentioned in the sermon.

A Blessing to Rejoice In
What were your thoughts coming in to this topic? What experiences or teachings have shaped you in this area? Have those been helpful or harmful as you try to understand this tension? Have you ever been caught up in the debate of this topic and missed the blessing that Paul is describing to us?
Two Pillars
Eric said that God’s sovereignty and men’s responsibility are two pillars without which we can’t understand the Bible, and he used the illustration of the tension in a band. That we are secure in the middle, but as we drift too far to either end, we have issues. Do you tend to drift toward either end? Have you noticed any effects of that, positive or negative? Do you agree with Eric that we need both to have the gospel? Discuss together how that works out.
Tensions in the Bible
Eric gave the following list of tensions in Paul and the Bible:
1. The already and the Not yet (the kingdom has been inaugurated, but we are waiting for it to be consummated).
2. The Father knows the future, but he asks us to pray
3. We are justified and yet sinful
4. Holy in his sight, yet we are to pursue holiness
5. God is Sovereign—Man is responsible.
Are some of these easier or more difficult to hold on to the tension in? These areas might be helpful just to talk through and encourage each other in.
Eric gave a few passages in Acts that help us to work through this as homework:
Acts 27: 21-26 and 30-32. (See if you see both as equally true and equally necessary.)
Acts 2:22-24, this one is more critical to our faith.
Every Spiritual Blessing
The blessing – God chose to bless us with EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ even before we chose to trust him. What are some of the blessings that includes? Which are the most precious to you?
Eric spoke about how this shows God’s generosity. But that this is tough for us at times because of how our values of earthly blessings over spiritual ones. Have you had any cases of this? How does this play out in our lives? What can we do to shift our values?
This blessing frees is from the good day/bad day treadmill – our position in Christ is fixed. We are held firmly in his hands. How do we move from mentally assenting to this truth to living in light of it? Have you found ways to remind yourself of this in the day to day? Eric shared the following quote from Jerry Bridges to remind us of this:
“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” (Jerry Bridges)

This truth also gives us hope when we fail to walk in our King’s gospel movement. Were you surprised at the idea of our thoughts that ‘we will never change’ as arrogance? What does that statement say about Christ’s sacrifice or the King’s war?

Eric encouraged us to stop working at start believing in the power at work in us – the same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the heavenly places. Stop trying to earn what has already been given to you freely. You are holy and blameless and that is fixed and held by Christ himself.
Now go learn to live in this new identity and position.

Spurgeon Quotes
Also here are the two Spurgeon quotes if you missed them or want to read them in their entirety:
C.H. Spurgeon was once asked if he could reconcile these two truths [God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility] to each other.
“I wouldn’t try,” he replied; “I never reconcile friends.” Friends? – yes, friends. This is the point that we have to grasp. In the Bible, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not enemies. They are not uneasy neighbors; they are not in an endless state of cold war with each other. They are friends, and they work together.
I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have chosen me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.

Sermon Discussion Questions — Ephesians 1:1-2 (Grace and Peace)

In this sermon, Eric went over verses 1-2 of Ephesians chapter 1. He introduced us to Paul and the Ephesians and then gave us the lenses of grace and peace as a way to view the rest of the letter.
Eric talked about how people have many different views of Paul – some positive and some negative.  What opinions have you heard about him? What is your opinion?
Paul declares himself as an ambassador, have you ever thought about yourself as one? What does that mean in Arlington?
In listing out the ways that Paul had been tortured or beaten, Eric made the point that Paul was not just pontificating about abstractions, but that he was in the middle of trial and these words were very real and important to him. Does that change how you read this letter?
How do you ‘obey grace’ as Eric mentioned? How does that work out in your life?
Eric said, “The King looks with absolute acceptance and favor on you right now, that favor is very powerful…. Grace moves you.” How does this truth change you?
“Grace will move you toward the brokenss of the world and broken people.  Jesus came to heal a broken world of broken people, and he asks you to follow him, grace will give you power to do this.” How does grace empower you for this?
How do you bring peace to your communities? What does peace mean in that context?
(I am helping out Jacques with writing these, give me feedback if you have any.  Thanks! – Andrew Heile)

The Government Shutdown and God’s Promises

Due to the government shutdown, I know that many of you are facing a period of uncertainty (unless you are “essential”, whatever that means). As you go through this difficult time, I just wanted to offer a quick encouragement and also remind everyone else of what we can do for our brothers and sisters.

Trusting in the Lord can so often be directly tied to whether or not we can see where God is going, can’t it? If I can see his goodness and his plan, then I trust. But if I can’t trace his hand, or I don’t understand why something has happened, I find it much more difficult. So often, God’s goodness is based upon my definition of goodness.

Before I became a pastor, I worked in the car industry for six years in a 100% commission job, in which there were no contracts with the dealerships I worked with. In other words, nothing was guaranteed! One of the things that God taught me (and still is) during this time was that God’s goodness can’t be dependent on my ability to see it.

God’s promises are massive in Scripture. He promises that, “He works all things for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28) He says that, “He will never leave you or forsake you.” (Heb 13:5). He promises that he is, “Our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1) But do you know what he doesn’t promise? He doesn’t promise to tell us why things are happening. But here’s the great news. If you truly believe in his promises, you don’t need him to. For those who believe they have an infinite, almighty God in heaven whose every action towards us is love and grace, we don’t need to know why. We just need to know who he is.

So as you go through this time of uncertainty, look to the God who holds you in his hand. Look to his promises, and know that he is working in a million ways that we could never grasp, all working for our good and his glory.

For those of us who have not been affected, let’s remember to do two things. First, pray that God would provide for their every need. Pray that God would help them to trust in his promises. Second, look for opportunities to help them. Ask those furloughed how they are doing, and if they need anything. Let’s be a church family that takes care of one another having experienced the lavish love of God.

If you are in the situation where you have particular needs during this time, financially or otherwise, please let myself or one of the elders know. We would count it a joy to support you.

Jordan

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