Term 3 & 4 2018
Contemporary Issues – Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly
God’s people are called to engage in the practical struggle to apply biblical principles in the day to day issues of Life. A simplistic “proof texting” approach to these complex issues will not cut it. We consider some of the “hot button” ethical questions and some of the big themes of the bible that should inform and shape our response.
A Time for War? Isaiah 9:1-7; Micah 4:1-5 11th November
- Read Deuteronomy 20:1-4. What particular circumstances stop us applying this “holy war” concept to Australian involvement in 21st Century conflicts?
- Read Isaiah 9:1-7 and Micah 4:1-5. What do these passages teach us about how human conflict will ultimately end?
- The Old Testament instructs God’s people BOTH to beat their swords into ploughshares and their ploughshares into swords (Joel 3:10). What does this tell us about the reality of life in a sin affected world? How do we know when it is a time for war or a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8)
- Some Christians read Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:38-48 as forbidding any involvement in armed conflict. How would you discuss this with a brother or sister who is a pacifist? What other options could they consider?
- What are the responsibilities of political leaders as they make decisions about war? What are the responsibilities of Christians as we speak to our leaders? How helpful are the “just war” principles outlined below?
WHAT IS ‘JUST WAR’?
1. Is the cause just? (The only just cause is to stop an unjust leader, or to defend against violent aggression.)
2. Is the intention to restore justice between friend and foe? (Some wars do irreparable and lasting damage to the prospect of just relationships.)
3. Is the action a last resort? (Every negotiation and other resort must have been properly tried and failed.)
4. Is action instigated by the highest governmental authority? (In our situation, this is the nation-state, not the UN; but the UN symbolises the greater rule that national rulers are under.)
5. Are the goals limited? (Leaders must clearly state what outcomes are required. This enables an enemy to comply, or an army to secure those outcomes. Otherwise, wars degenerate into a passion for inflicting harm, a cruel thirst for vengeance, a lust of power, etc.)
6. Is the action proportional to the offence? (The methods employed in open warfare must not exceed the initial problem.)
7. Will casualties be kept low, particularly among those who cannot or do not bear arms?
8. When contemplating an offensive war, is there a reasonable hope of success? (This prevents some wars of principle, where an attack is against hopeless odds. A seemingly ‘hopeless’ defensive action might still be ‘just’, though.)
Euthanasia Psalm 139 4th November
- How would you apply these ethical principles to the consideration of euthanasia
a. Walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8, Psalm 139:1-16)
b. Live to please God (Colossians 3:15-17, Psalm 139:17-18, 23-24)
c. Live in the light of Jesus’ return (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
d. Love your neighbour (Romans 12:9-16)
- If there was a referendum on euthanasia, how would you vote?
- What is the role of the church in supporting the terminally ill and their families?
- How could you please God nearing the end of your earthly life, in regard to what kind of medical care you would prefer to have or not have?
- Have you discussed with your family and friends, each other’s wishes for end-of-life care?
Social Media Deuteronomy 6:1-15; Matthew 5:1-12 28th October
- What is social media?
- Does social media matter to our church? Why/why not? See 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
- How do these passages help us think about our connections with others through social media and other means?
a. Matthew 10:16
b. Matthew 22:39
c. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
d. 1 Peter 3:13-17
- How do these passages help us think about our identity? How do they compare with other messages about our identity, including messages coming from social media?
a. Matthew 5:1-12
b. Ephesians 2:19-22
c. Romans 8:14-17
- Who is responsible for helping children and young people in our church to deal with the challenges of social media? See Colossians 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (again).
- Pray for children and young people in the age of social media. Pray that social media will assist people to come to Jesus and grow in him. Pray for Christians developing new ways of reaching people through social media. Pray for wisdom and discipline for users of social media.
Principle 4 – Living in the Light of Jesus’ Return 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11; 2 Peter 3:14-18; Acts 20:17-38 21st October
- How much teaching have you had on the return of Jesus?
- Does the return of Jesus feature in the Apostles’ Creed? Nicene Creed?
- How does the return of Jesus help us make ethical decisions? See 1 Thessalonians 5:5-11, 2 Peter 3:11-15, Matthew 25:14-30.
- Can we hasten the return of Jesus? See Revelation 22:20, 2 Peter 3:8-9, 11-12a, Hebrews 4:6-7.
- How important is it for Christians to seek to make the world a better place? How important is it for Christians to seek to make Jesus known? What is the relationship between these two themes?
- Pray in response to your thinking and discussion.
Domestic Abuse Ephesians 5:21-6:4 14th October
- Your daughter is planning to marry and wants a “church wedding”. She likes the “old fashioned” style and wants to promise to love and obey her husband. He will promise to love and cherish her. She asks for your opinion. What factors would you take into account as you discuss this with her? In particular, how do you think most of the guests at the wedding could perceive these promises?
- Read Ephesians 5:21-23. What practical ways do you think mutual submission (verse 21) works itself out in marriage? How does Paul say that Jesus is a model for husbands and a protection for wives in this passage?
- How would you support a Christian friend who is being emotionally abused by her husband and at times feels she and her children are in physical danger? She has been told by her church that she has to stay with him because of her marriage vows. What options does she have if she wants to remain faithful to Jesus?
- Research indicates that there is an association between family violence and unequal decision making power in marriages, with levels of violence higher for wives among husband-dominating patriarchal couples. Couples with a more egalitarian approach to role relationships appear to be less likely to experience abuse of the wife. In what practical ways can our church teach on marriage and prepare couples for marriage in the light of these results? How can we help older couples who say “That’s how its been for 40 years – he/she will never change.”
Love Your Neighbour Luke 10:25-37 23rd September
- Read Luke 10:25-37. Make a list of things you have never noticed in the parable before. Is there anything that surprises you? Discuss.
- How do we know that the teacher of the law wants to limit himself? Why do we so often struggle to love our neighbour? Why do we limit ourselves?
- How does where we live change who our neighbours are? How has our media changed who our neighbours are? Are our neighbours only people we see face to face?
- Skim through Luke and count how many times Jesus sees people differently from others. How does he see them? How do the Pharisees/disciples/crowds see them? How does Jesus treat them? In Mark 2:13-17 why has Jesus come? How does that change how he treats people?
- Create categories for people you interact with daily. From the people who you constantly see to the ones you might see just for a moment. How can you specifically show love to them?
The Issue Is Pornography Psalms 51; Philippians 4:4-9 16th September
- Should Christians care about pornography? Why/why not?
- Does anyone suffer because of pornography? If so, who?
- Why do men view pornography? Why do women?
- How does the presentation of our bodies and sexuality in pornography differ from God’s ideas? (See Genesis 2:19-25; 1 Corinthians 7:1-7.)
- How are we to treat a person who views pornography?
- How long has pornography been around? What difference has The Internet made to pornography? What difference have smartphones and mobile devices made?
- It’s impossible to escape suggestive images on billboards etc. What might be the effect of such images on young men? Young women? Boys? Girls?
- How can we make our church a place where it’s safe to talk about sensitive issues?
Principle 2: Living to please God 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; 1 Peter 4:1-11 9th September
- Imagine a young couple who have fallen in love. What kind of things might they do to please one another?
- Think of someone you love who has done something that pleased you. What was it?
- Think of something you have done for someone you love. What was it?
- What sorts of things do you NOT do, because they would displease someone you love?
- Imagine your own father was the best possible father. What would you want to do to please him? What would you avoid doing?
- How do questions 1-5 help you think about pleasing and displeasing God?
- Are you used to thinking about God in these terms? Why/why not? How does the idea of ‘living to please God’ fit with your view of God?
- What is the difference between following instructions out of duty, following instructions out of fear, and following instructions because you know that person loves you and wants what is best for you? See Exodus 20:1-2, 1 John 3:1-3, Deut 7:7-11.
- Reflect on Jesus’ desire to please His Father in these passages: John 6:38-40; John 6:51; John 14:28-31; John 17:1-5.
Principle 1: Obeying God Or Human Authorities? Romans 13:1-10; Luke 20:20-26 2nd September
- Read Romans 13:1-10. What options are open to use if we disagree with our government? How can we obey and still express our disagreement?
- What does Paul say is God’s given role of government? If a government exceeds this role or abrogates it, what options are open to us?
- Some Christians refuse to pay a proportion of their taxes equal to the proportion of government spending on armaments, and engagement in conflict. Is this a valid option? Read Luke 20:20-26.
- Other Christians choose the path of civil disobedience – disobeying an unjust law such as the (former) racially-motivated segregation laws in some US states or the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and accepting the legal penalty for their disobedience. How does this fit with Romans 13 and Luke 20?
- What principle can we apply from the events recorded in Acts 4:1-20?
Principle 1: Slavery 1Corinthians 7:21-24; James 5:1-6 26th August
(i) one who is the property of and wholly subject to another;
(ii) one who works for and is the prisoner of another;
(iii) one who works under duress and without payment …” Macquarie Concise Dictionary
1. How helpful is this definition of modern slavery? In what ways does modern slavery differ from ‘historic’ slavery? What features do they have in common?
2. To which parts of the Bible would you refer in order to help a friend see that it is important to support anti slavery campaigns like “Stop the Traffick”?
3. What attitudes do you think underlie and contribute to human trafficking and modern day slavery?
4. Discuss practical steps your group members can take to reduce modern day slavery in the fashion and chocolate “industries”.
5. Paul’s letter to Philemon was most probably written to a Christian slave owner (Philemon) requesting that the set free his slave (Onesimus) who has been helping Paul while he is in prison. Onesimus may have run away from his master, perhaps seeking Paul’s support. Read this letter and identify the reasons Paul gives to justify his request for Onesimus’ freedom. In particular, what two grounds does he give in verse 16b?
6. In what ways is slavery a denial of the status of a Christian believer? (See 1Corinthians 7:20-24 and Colossians 3:11)
7. How does Paul use the image of slavery in a positive way in Romans 6:15 – 23? What makes “slavery to God” a positive rather than a negative image/experience?
Principle 1: Walking with the Living God Micah 6:1-8 19th August
- Read Micah 6:1-8. Micah says “The Lord has a case against his people” (Micah 6:2)
- How has the Lord treated his people? (Micah 6:3-4) b. How are they treat ing each other? (Micah 6:9-12)
- Micah 6:9-12 describes social, corporate and personal injustice. To what extent is injustice in these areas true of Sydney, Your work place and of you?
- How does the first line of Micah 6:8 undercut the “religious desires” expressed in Micah 6:6-7. What does God think of the suggestion in verse 7b?
- How does Micah 6:8 express the faith/works and love God/love your neighbour balances of the New Testament?
- a. Ask each group member to make a list of their personal and social oblige tions to do what is right. Share the lists with the group.
- As a group list the big justice issues in Australia and overseas.
- Discuss what you can do individually or with others to play a role in ad dressing these personal and global issues you have identified.
- Read Matthew 23:23-28. Summarise in your own words the problem Jesus has identified here. Are we in danger of similar criticism? What could we do to avoid this danger?
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.
Press On – James 4:13-5:20 12 August
(Note – This is a long passage with multiple themes. Please choose from the following sections according to your group’s preferences)
- Your friend says to you that she has decided not to make any significant plans and simply “wait on God” to see what he brings. She claims that this is a more godly option. How would you respond? To what extent do her concerns align with this passage from James?
- Why do we find it hard to actually believe that our lives are “a mist that appears for a while and then vanishes.”? How would embracing this perspective help us practically? How would it make things more difficult? Read Psalm 90 together. How does this Psalm help us? In particular, what do you think the request of verse 12 means?
- A friend who runs a medium size business read this passage and asks “Is God against capitalism?” How would you answer him? Is James here against capitalism broadly or something else? What other Bible passages could you refer to?
- What links are there between this passage and Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:19-24) and the parable in Luke 16:19-31?
- Some have said that any fully participating Western materialist – Christian or otherwise – is in danger of being a wealthy oppressor of the Third World. Is there any truth in that? How so? What steps could you take to ensure this could never be said of you?”
- James uses the Old Testament prophets as an example of patience. What is it about their role that made patience a necessity? See what Peter says about them in 1Peter 1:10-12.
- James uses Job’s perseverance as an example for us to follow. What do you remember about how God rewarded his perseverance? How will God reward us if we persevere? How does the Lord display his compassion and mercy to us NOW!
- Apart from waiting patiently what are a Christian believer’s obligations as we wait for the return of Jesus? How does the clear teaching of the New Testament that Jesus will return to JUDGE all people effect how we live now?
- What do James’ instructions here tell us about the quality and depth of relationships in the churches to which he was writing? How do you think our relationships measure up?
2. Why do you think James tells his readers to ask the elders of their church to pray for them when they are sick? Most people see anointing with Oil as a reference to first century medical treatment (c.f. Luke 10:33-34). What would be the 21st century way of applying the instruction of verse 14?
Choose Sides – James 4:1-12 5th August
- Your group has been asked to function as a dispute resolution committee for St Anne’s. As a first step you decide to agree on some principles that will guide your ministry. What principles would you choose? What is the biblical basis for these? You could read 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 and Matthew 7:1-6 for some ideas.
- Read James 4:1-12 and place each verse or section of the passage on one side of the contrast between God and the World (verse 4). What are the characteristics of each side?
- James says that God “gives grace to the humble”. How would you define humility? What is James’ definition in this passage? How highly do Australians value humility? How highly do we value it?
- What do you think are legitimate grounds for Christian disagreement? How does this passage help us to “disagree well”?
Taming the Tongue – James 2:1-13 29th July
- Society expects its leaders to keep higher standards than others. Would you say the same is true of God (v1)? How has the church suffered when its leaders have not kept high standards? Is aspiring to be a leader or teacher a good thing?
- ‘We all stumble in many ways’ (v2). Is this a cop-out? Why does James say it?
- What is the point of the analogies of the bit (in the mouth of a horse), and the ship’s rudder, in v3-5?
- Without going into detail, have you had experience of a great ‘fire’ being set off by something someone said? (v5-6)
- If ‘no human being can tame the tongue’ (v7), is the situation hopeless? Why/why not?
- What is the paradox described in v9-12? How can you explain it? What can you do about it?
- What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom (v13)? Give an example of someone who is intelligent but not wise. Give an example of someone who is wise but not intelligent.
- What can be done about the envy and selfish ambition in our hearts (v14-16)?
- What emotions do you feel when you read v14-18? What do those emotions tell you? How can you grow in heavenly wisdom?
No Discrimination – James 2:1-13 8th July
- When have you faced discrimination or when has someone been favoured over you? How did you feel?
- The scenario pained in verses 2-3 is perhaps an exaggerated case. It what ways might people be discriminated against in churches today?
- 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?
- They are acting in a worldly way. What examples of discrimination do you see in the world?
- What does it mean that God has “chosen the poor” (2:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-27)?
- 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)?
- 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
- 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’?
- How do you manage conflict and anger? What warning do you hear from James in vv. 19-20?
- How would you go about encouraging people to do the Word and not just study it?
- 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?
- 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)?
- 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
- 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?
- What effect does the testing of our faith have on our character? How can we consider trials a joy?
- What is the promise of 1:12? What does it mean to persevere?
- What is the promise of 1:5? What sort of wisdom does God want to give us (see 3:13-17)?
- 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?
- Where do temptations come from – and not come from (1:13-15; see also 4:1-3)? How are we led into sin?
- What can we be sure of about God (1:16-18)? How does this help in times of suffering?
Term 2 2018
“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
- 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.
- 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)?
- 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?
- 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.
- How do these passages challenge our attitudes to people of other cultures?
- How do these passages challenge our attitudes to people of other sexualities?
- 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
- 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?
- How do you think the people of Jerusalem felt as they returned to their city?
- 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?
- What do these promises mean to you?
- 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)?
- 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?
- 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
- What is your concept or understanding of Grace?
- Is there a difference between “grace” and “works”? Can you think of a scripture with regards to “grace” and “works” in the New Testament?
- In today’s passage, Isaiah 55, how can we experience God’s grace?
- Having experienced God’s grace, what should we do next?
- How can we share or tell others about the grace of God?
- 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
- 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?
- 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?
- Read Isaiah 42:1-9. How does this fill out your understanding of the Servant of the Lord?
- 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?
- 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
- What is good and bad about the human governments of our world?
- What problems did Israel and Judah have with their kings?
- What is the basic cause of the world’s troubles (Genesis 3; Isaiah 1:2 cf. Isaiah 6:1-5)?
- How is the promised King described in Isaiah? How will he be different from the world’s rulers?
- Look at 9:6 & 11:1. What sort of King is this?
- 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?
- How is his justice described (11:3-5)? What does this mean to you?
- 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
- How do you feel when you come before God in prayer or worship? Are you aware of his presence?
- What does it mean that God is a holy God (He is called the Holy One of Israel 26X in Isaiah)?
- Imagine you are Isaiah having this vision of God. How do you feel? What is your response? Why?
- What is the significance of a coal taken from the altar?
- 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?
- What does it mean to you that you can come before an all Holy God?
- What part do your actions, and God’s action, play in making you fit to be accepted by him?
- 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
- What does the word ‘sovereign’ mean? How would you explain it to a child?
- List all the references you can find in these verses to God’s sovereignty.
- What does God’s sovereignty mean to you?
- Think about how the sovereign Lord speaks about fear to Isaiah and to Israel in these verses:
b- 41:8-10, 13, 14
d- 44:2, 8
e- 51:7, 12-13
- What is the link between God’s sovereignty and fear?
- How does this teaching help us when we face problems like illness, financial stress, relationship difficulties, increasing frailty?
- 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?
- Spend some time praising God for his sovereignty.