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Discussion Guide: Acts 15

Discussion Guide: Acts 15

How do you know God is speaking to you? How can you be sure? Often, our relationships with God feel so much like a one-to-one relationship that we forget that other people relate with God, too. The process of discernment isn’t just a me thing, sometimes (or perhaps most of the time) it is an us thing. In this final week of the Discernment series, we’re looking at the communal aspect of hearing and obeying God’s will.

Icebreaker

What is the worst advice you ever received? What was the best advice your ever received?

Scripture Reading

Acts 15:19-35

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you describe the process of discernment? What does it look like?

Read Acts 15:1-19.

  1. What is at stake in the disagreement between the two parties? Is this just a theological debate or would it have real-world consequences?
  2. How do the people of Antioch respond to this debate? Why do you think they deferred to others rather than decide themselves?
  3. What the the process of discernment look like for the council of people in Jerusalem? What steps did they take?
  4. What criteria did the council use as they tried to determine God’s will?
  5. In this story, how is community important for the process of discernment? Why sort of community makes this discernment possible?
  6. James is the leader of the church in Jerusalem, which at this time was the center of the Christian community. His pronouncement seems to be the final decision of the council, and everyone readily obeys. How do authority figures factor into the process of discernment?
  7. How does Acts’ process of communal discernment look different from more individual approaches to discernment? What steps and criteria should it include?
  8. Do you have people in your life who you value and trust enough to include in major decisions concerning life and faith? If yes, how do you include them? If no, what criteria would make people trustworthy enough?

Read Acts 15:19-35

  1. What else does the letter to the Gentile believers reveal about the discernment process and the criteria used for discernment?
  2. What is the result of the council’s process of discernment? How did it affect the people involved?
  3. After discerning, the council quickly acted by sending a letter to correct the situation. What could have kept them from acting on what they discerned?
  4. Have you been in a process of discernment before? Was it easy or hard to take the next step? Why?

Diving Deeper: The Body of DISCERNMENT

Read 1 CoRINTHIANS 2:12-30

  1. In our individualistic society, we tend to desire self-sufficiency. How does this passage relate to that desire?
  2. This passage speaks towards the apparent inequalities in organizational hierarchies. Some people in the community felt less than because they were not a leader or prominent individual. How does this passage address this tension?
  3. This passage specifically says that people have different gifts for the community. How does this affect how you go about engaging the faith community for discernment?

Helpful Resources

Guidelines for Communal Discernment by Victoria G. Curtiss (PCUSA Resource)
The Reunion Team

CENTERING  PRAYER

CENTERING PRAYER

You’re not good enough.

You don’t deserve love.

God is not good.

No one cares.

You’re a failure.

We all have these recurring tapes that play in our head. Like a highlight reel of our biggest failures or painful words that have been spoken to us. They shape our perception of ourselves and the relationships we have. Often we never stop to consider if they are even good or true songs

In our Mixtape series this weekend we invited you to take out the tape and replace it with a new tape. A mixtape of God’s story and God’s love for you. A mixtape is often comprised of the greatest hits. The songs that anchor you. The songs that grow you, encourage you and speak to your soul. The letters to the early church are like a good mixtape. They remind us of who we are, they grow us, they encourage us, they anchor us, and they remind us of the song of hope we find in Jesus.

One way we encouraged you to take out the old tape and replace it with the tape of Jesus was through the spiritual practice of Centering Prayer.

Centering Prayer has four very simple guidelines. The four guidelines, in their simplicity, are,

  1. Choose a sacred word as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

We choose a simple word, one or two syllables, that embodies that consent to say “yes,” in this moment. It shouldn’t be elaborate, Yes. Love. It could be a sacred word: Jesus. Abba. Home. Light. Peace. That little word holds all of our intentionality.

  1. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word.
  2. When engaged with thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.

When engaged with your thoughts, your emotions, your memory, your imagination, the noise next door, the noise inside, whatever is happening — let it be there.  Then ever so gently, return to that sacred word. This is really the essence of this prayer. We take whatever that is going on in our lives and just be present with God.

  1. At the end of the period of prayer, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

In an effort to help you put this prayer into practice we want to share this awesome app with you! It’s simply called “Centering Prayer”. Download it and give it a try! We hope this helps you switch the tape and live the song of hope we are all invited into!

Apple devices 

Google play

Chris Hall

Lead Pastor

GARDEN TO CITY – HOLY SPIRIT

GARDEN TO CITY – HOLY SPIRIT

Over the last few weeks we’ve been exploring the book of Acts, often referred to Acts of the Apostles but that really is a misnomer for the book – it should be called Acts of the Holy Spirit because while all the stories may be about the Apostles and how the early church operated and all the things they did the reality of it is none of it would have happened without the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts starts in the first chapter with Jesus telling his disciples,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

See this whole story of the early church starts because of the movement of God, the movement of the Holy Spirit and the people respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives and community and these radical stories come about. The book of Acts is just a recording of what the Holy Spirit did in and through them.

Author, pastor, theologian, AW Tozer, when reflecting on the book of acts and the early church once said,

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” 

As we read the book of Acts, as we study the early church, it is undeniable – the things we see happen, the kind of community we see created, to unity we see among the people, the sacrifice, the contrast community they become is only possible with the Holy Spirit.

But when we look at many of our lives and many of our churches  we have to wrestle with the fact that we may acknowledge the need for the Holy Spirit but we live and operate very much as if we can do it on our own. Through this series we hope that changes for us as individuals and as a church. 

 

The Reunion Team

Minor Prophets: Justice then and now

Minor Prophets: Justice then and now

It’s summer…I get it. It’s the season where everything is supposed to slow down but for some reason it all seems to speed up and before you know it your schedule is all out of whack. Between traveling/vacation, work, and trying to enjoy every second of the 3 months of sun and warmth we have – you’ve fallen behind on the Garden to City reading plan, right?

Well I wanna invite you to jump back in with us! This week we are exploring some of the Minor Prophets and some of the themes we discussed in our “Sacred/Secular” series about a month ago. We’re reading Amos this week and he has an incredibly important message for us as it relates to our culture and context today.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously quotes Amos in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. In honor of him and the current culture I’d like to invite you to read the whole letter here, alongside of reading Amos and as  you do – look for parallels between Amos’ culture and that of MLK, as well as things we are still wrestling with today. What would Justice look like today? What do Amos and MLK’s words mean for how we should live as a church?

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” – Amos 5:24

Chris Hall

Lead Pastor

Discussion Guide: Joel 2

Discussion Guide: Joel 2

Ever had your heart broken? What was it that did it? A boy, a girl, a television show being cancelled? Joel prophesied about the impending destruction of Jersalem sometime in the late 6th century BCE. His message was simple, “Repent! Break your hearts!” Israel hadn’t amounted to what it was meant to, and Joel wanted people to understand that. This week, we’ll struggle with the question: What is the value of a broken heart, and can it help us fix the mess we’re in?

 

Icebreaker

Did you ever have your heart broken as a kid? What happened?

 

Scripture Reading

Joel 2

 

Discussion Questions

Read Joel 2:1-11

  1. What is interesting/surprising to you about this section?
  2. What is the punishing army being prophesied about? Why would God punish Israel?
  3. Leader’s Note: Chapter 1 describes the army as a plague of locusts. God is threatening to bring famine into the land of Israel. Israel is being punished for its failures to live into the Covenant with God.
  4. Punishment is a constant theme in the prophetic books, and it is very prominent here. Why is punishment for misdeeds such a big theme? What value is their in it, if any?
    Leader’s Note: God’s Covenant with Israel spells out a series of blessings and cursings based upon their continued keeping of this Covenant. See Deuteronomy 28.
  5. What are some things you see in the world around you that seem to escape justice? How do you think God should deal with those things?

Read Joel 2:12-27.

  1. What is interesting/surprising to you about this section?
  2. Why does God desire people to “rend their hearts” and not just their clothes? What does that mean?
  3. What do the actions called for in verses 15-17 tell us about the process of repentance?
    Leader’s Note: The actions taken by the community are also restorative, they begin to heal the bonds of the community itself. These forms of repentance are also public, repentance is not just a individual thing.
  4. Another large theme in the prophets is GOd’s faithfulness to Israel. Despite their misdeeds, God is still committed to Israel. What sort of God does this section of the passage describe? How does this pciture of God relate to the other picture of God?
  5. Joel calles for public repentance on the part of Israel. What are some things that the Church today needs  to repent for? Thinking about this passage, what would that process look like?

Read Joel 2:28-32.

  1. What is interesting/surprising to you about this section?
  2. How does this day of the Lord contrast with the day of the Lord in the first section? What has change?
  3. This passage was verty important for early Christians. How do you see it being related to Jesus?
  4. What do you think the purpose of God pouring out his Spirit is? How does it relate to repentance and restoration of the community?
  5. Do you feel like the Spirit is poured out on you? What is the Spirit of God leading you to repent of or work to restore?

 

 

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

Wisdom Literature 101

Wisdom Literature 101

We started reading the book of Proverbs in our reading plan and in just a few weeks we will start a teaching series on Sunday morning exploring the Wisdom Literature books – so we figured it’s probably time for an intro. This video is a great overview!

The Reunion Team

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