Term 3 2018

The Letter of James – Introduction

The author identifies himself as James (1:1). He was probably the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15). He addresses the letter to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (1:1) by which he means mainly Jewish Christians living outside Judea. It is possible that they are those who have been scattered following Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1; 11:19). The fact that they are scattered among the nations accounts for the trials and oppression they face. It is a practical letter about Christian behaviour.

No Discrimination – James 2:1-13

  1. When have you faced discrimination or when has someone been favoured over you? How did you feel?
  2. The scenario pained in verses 2-3 is perhaps an exaggerated case. It what ways might people be discriminated against in churches today?
  3. Why does James say they have become “judges” (2:4) by acting in this way? What “evil thoughts” are involved? How can we avoid these attitudes?
  4. They are acting in a worldly way. What examples of discrimination do you see in the world?
  5. What does it mean that God has “chosen the poor” (2:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-27)?
  6. How does favouritism break the law of love (2:8-9)? What is involved in keeping the law to love our neighbour (cf. Luke 10:25-37)?
  7. How can we move from talking about love to really doing it? How should we speak and act (2:12)?
Managing Conflict – James 19-27   July 1
  1. What do you think the ‘word of truth’ refers to in verses 18, 21, 22, 23? Why do you think James describes this word as ‘the perfect law that gives freedom’?
  2. How do you manage conflict and anger? What warning do you hear from James in vv. 19-20?
  3. How would you go about encouraging people to do the Word and not just study it?
  4. One night during his connect group Gary announces in an agitated way that the group would serve God better by spending time serving at the local soup kitchen not sitting around reading and praying. Sonia disagrees strongly pointing out that numerous charities have been set up to do these sorts of things. She insists the group’s task is to know God better. How would you graciously respond to both Gary and Sonia?
  5. In what way does caring for the poor and avoiding worldly pollution make our ‘religion’ (i.e. the outworking of our faith) pure and faultless (v. 27)?
  6. Who are the widows and orphans in your community? What might you (individually or as a group) be able to do help relieve their suffering?

When the going gets tough – James 1:1-18  June 24

  1. Talk about trials you have you faced in life. How do people tend to react to difficulties? How do people tend to react towards God and those around them?
  2. What effect does the testing of our faith have on our character? How can we consider trials a joy?
  3. What is the promise of 1:12? What does it mean to persevere?
  4. What is the promise of 1:5? What sort of wisdom does God want to give us (see 3:13-17)?
  5. Those who doubt are called “double-minded” (1:7). How does 4:4-8) describe “double-minded” people? Does this explain what James means by “doubt” in 1:6-8? What is the warning of 1:6-8?
  6. Where do temptations come from – and not come from (1:13-15; see also 4:1-3)? How are we led into sin?
  7. What can we be sure of about God (1:16-18)? How does this help in times of suffering?

 

Term 2 2018

Isaiah’s Vision

“Without a vision, the people perish.” We need a fresh and ever-expanding vision of God and his purposes if we are to make an impact for God’s kingdom. God’s prophet Isaiah shares his vision with us and God uses him to point us to Jesus.

A Vision for All People  Isaiah 56.1-8, 60.1-9  Jun 17

  1. Isaiah’s vision was about Judah and Jerusalem (Isa 1:1). Why is Isaiah concerned about foreigners in today’s passages? Why is God concerned about foreigners? Look at Genesis 12:1-3.
  2. What is a eunuch? Eunuchs had a prominent role in the societies surrounding Judah, but not so in Judah and Israel. What does Deuteronomy 23:1 say about eunuchs? How then can eunuchs be allowed into the temple (Isaiah 56:5)?
  3. Foreigners and eunuchs could find acceptance by God and enter his temple as equals with the descendants of Abraham. Foreigners could even be appointed as priests and Levites (Isa 66:21).  How hard would it have been for the people of Judah to accept this?
  4. How hard was it in the New Testament era for the early Christians to accept that non-Jews could be welcomed into the family of Christian believers? Read Acts 10.
  5. How do these passages challenge our attitudes to people of other cultures?
  6. How do these passages challenge our attitudes to people of other sexualities?
  7. How do these passages challenge our attitudes to people who are different in other ways (e.g. appearance, income, occupation)?

A Vision of God’s Justice   Isaiah 66:10-24   3rd June

  1. Imagine being a refugee from a Syrian city, and you are able to return to your devastated city? What sight meets you? How do you feel? What is the prospect of rebuilding a beautiful city?
  2. How do you think the people of Jerusalem felt as they returned to their city?
  3. Look at the promises God has made them: Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:6-9; 25:7-8; 65:17-19; 66:10-13. How would this be fulfilled? What city is he talking about?
  4. What do these promises mean to you?
  5. God promises to send His King to re-establish His kingdom (9:2-7; 11:1-9) and to send Jesus to die so that we can be cleansed from sin (53:4-9). What other step must God take to fulfill His promises to establish perfect peace, harmony and honour to His name (66:15-16, 24)?
  6. How do you react to the idea of God’s judgment? Do you think it is necessary for God to judge all people? What questions does it raise in your mind?
  7. How ready do you feel to stand before a truly Holy God (6:1-7)?

A Vision of God’s Grace   Isaiah 55:1-13   27th May

  1. What is your concept or understanding of Grace?
  2. Is there a difference between “grace” and “works”? Can you think of a scripture with regards to “grace” and “works” in the New Testament?
  3. In today’s passage, Isaiah 55, how can we experience God’s grace?
  4. Having experienced God’s grace, what should we do next?
  5. How can we share or tell others about the grace of God?
  6. Have you personally experienced God’s grace in your life? If not, do you want to?

A Vision of God’s Salvation    Isaiah 52:13-53:12   20th May

  1. This passage is about someone called ‘the Servant’. What qualities or experiences put him into the category of ‘servant’? What other qualities or experiences are unlike a servant?
  2. The core of this passage is v4-6, the central stanza or section of the five stanzas.
    • What is the relationship between he/him/his and we/us/our in these verses?
    • Often sin is thought of as ‘doing something wrong.’ How different is that idea from what we see in v6?
    • How hard is it for a person to believe that he or she has ‘gone astray’ and stands in need of  God’s forgiveness?
    • Are these verses important to you? Why/why not?
  3. Read Isaiah 42:1-9. How does this fill out your understanding of the Servant of the Lord?
  4. Before Easter we were reflecting on the last days of Jesus’ life according to Matthew. What correspondences can you find between this passage and St Matthew’s passion story?
  5. Read Mark 9:36 in context. How important is servanthood in the Christian life? What stops us taking an attitude of servanthood? How can we re-invigorate servanthood in our age when a sense of entitlement is so dominant?

A Vision of God’s King   Isaiah 9:1-7 and 11:1-9   13th May

  1. What is good and bad about the human governments of our world?
  2. What problems did Israel and Judah have with their kings?
  3. What is the basic cause of the world’s troubles (Genesis 3; Isaiah 1:2 cf. Isaiah 6:1-5)?
  4. How is the promised King described in Isaiah? How will he be different from the world’s rulers?
  5. Look at 9:6 & 11:1. What sort of King is this?
  6. Look at how the King’s reign will achieve Isaiah’s vision. (9.5 cf. 2:4; 11:6-9 cf. 65:17 & 25). How will he achieve this peace and harmony?
  7. How is his justice described (11:3-5)? What does this mean to you?
  8. If Jesus is God’s promised King (Messiah, Christ) what should be our response to him?

A Vision of God – Holy   Isaiah 6:1-8   6th May

  1. How do you feel when you come before God in prayer or worship? Are you aware of his presence?
  2. What does it mean that God is a holy God (He is called the Holy One of Israel 26X in Isaiah)?
  3. Imagine you are Isaiah having this vision of God. How do you feel? What is your response? Why?
  4. What is the significance of a coal taken from the altar?
  5. What does it mean to you that “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for”? Do you really believe you are completely forgiven?
  6. What does it mean to you that you can come before an all Holy God?
  7. What part do your actions, and God’s action, play in making you fit to be accepted by him?
  8. Isaiah was purified, which gave him hope that Israel could be purified. What hope does this give us that the nations can be saved?

A Vision of God – Sovereign   Isaiah 6:1-4 & 40:9-31   29th April

  1. What does the word ‘sovereign’ mean? How would you explain it to a child?
  2. List all the references you can find in these verses to God’s sovereignty.
  3. What does God’s sovereignty mean to you?
  4. Think about how the sovereign Lord speaks about fear to Isaiah and to Israel in these verses:

a- 40:9
b- 41:8-10, 13, 14
c- 43:1-7
d- 44:2, 8
e- 51:7, 12-13

  1. What is the link between God’s sovereignty and fear?
  2. How does this teaching help us when we face problems like illness, financial stress, relationship difficulties, increasing frailty?
  3. How has this teaching been misused in a way that harms people? How can we avoid the misuse of this teaching and care pastorally and biblically for people who are afraid?
  4. Spend some time praising God for his sovereignty.