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discipleship department

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Psalms of Ascent – Read Psalm 122 aloud together

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Worship is not coerced from anyone. True worship is always voluntary. Our worship is somewhat akin to what we do when we have free time, or what we spend money on when we have extra. Worship happens when we want it to. Why do we do this? What does it do for us?

“In worship, though we have come from different places and out of various conditions, we are demonstrably after the same things – saying the same things, doing the same things.”

  • Eugene Peterson, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Group Questions:

What do you think of when you hear the word “Worship”?

In your experience, how has worship been tied to emotions or feelings?

On Sunday, Pastor Ben introduced some new words connected to Worship.

  1. Structure: Structure in worship allows us to know/be reminded of where we stand
  2. Nutrition: Worship nurtures our need for relationship with God
  3. Focus: Worship centers our attention on the decisions of God

Talk through each of these aspects of worship and how they resonate or challenge your experience.

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Pray for hearts, minds, and bodies attuned to what God is doing in our community.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: “Psalm of Ascents”: Read Psalm 120 aloud together.

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Repentance is the decision to admit that you’re wrong. That you’re wrong about your ability to be your own God and make it on your own. And it is deciding that God, through Jesus Christ, is telling you the truth. How do we make this turn to create a new life path?

“Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you – and what you want from God – are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things; thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.”

  • Eugene Peterson, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”

Group Questions:

What do you think of when you hear the word Repentance? What do you feel when you hear that word?

Why do you think Repentance is so resisted in our culture?

How have you experienced Repentance? Have you experienced offering repentance to someone you have wronged or receiving repentance from someone else. What did that experience do for your relationship with that person?

What does it mean that repentance is so deeply tied to following Jesus?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Take some time to sit with the Lord and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit into repentance. For anyone who acknowledges their need to repent, pray for the courage and grace of the Father to be with them.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: A selection of “Psalm of Ascents”: Psalm 121; 124; 127 – Read these psalms aloud together.

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Discipleship (mathētēs) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to the master, Jesus Christ. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. A disciple is a learner, but not in an academic setting of a schoolroom, rather at the work site of a craftsman. We do not acquire information about God but skills for faith.”

– Eugene Peterson, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Group Questions:

What are some themes that you hear when you read the Psalms of Ascent out loud? Take some time to re-read, if necessary, noticing the main-ideas the psalmist is sharing.

How do those themes of the psalmist reflect a life of discipleship to God?

Have you considered your life as a Jesus-follower to be that of an apprentice to a master? How does the word “apprentice” resonate with your current journey with Jesus? How does it seem foreign?

 Pastor Eugene Peterson says that the skills we acquire in our apprentice to Jesus are not academic, but rather “skills of faith”. Does this sound true of your experience following Jesus? Give some examples of ways you have grown in skills of faith. What are some areas you want to grow in faith in this current season of your discipleship?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Pray for a continued growing of intimacy with Jesus and for our “skills of faith” to be expanded and deepened.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Genesis 1:27; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-11

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

Read the scriptures above slowly and outload. Feel free to pause wherever you feel something in the scripture reading and give yourself time and space to unpack what those words mean to you.

Group Questions:

When have you felt significant in your life? What words or experiences made you feel significant?

When have you felt insignificant? What were the factors that shaped that experience?

After reading the scriptures above, ask yourself, “How deeply do I believe these words to be true about God’s love for me?”

If you don’t believe these words, ask yourself why that is.

If you do believe these words, discuss how that belief in God’s love for you shapes the way you exist in the world around you. How does God’s love move through you into your other relationships?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those who have not experienced God’s love for themselves, pray for the Holy Spirit to minister to them in grace and truth. For those who live in God’s love, pray for that loving outpour from God to be like living water on their relationships.

Enjoy the Christmas season with your community and loved ones. Community Group material will next be posted on Thursday, January 12th. In the meantime, please dive into the Advent resources provided by Westside Church and be sure to mark your calendars for Christmas Eve services.

Merry Christmas!

Advent – Wonderful Counselor

Isaiah 9: 2-7

Opening Prayer

Shine your light upon us, O God, as we seek to be enlightened. By your Spirit, open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts as we prepare for the coming of your Son. Amen

Wonderful Counselor

The prophet Isaiah gives the people of Israel some great news in the midst of their continual political, economic, and cultural devastation. Someone better is coming. Throughout the historical record of the kings of Israel, there are very few who brought peace, security, and holiness to this chosen people of God. Most kings were just like their pagan counterparts, and it led to Israel’s demise. But… a new king was announced, one that would be wise and faithful.

When the people of Israel heard the name “Wonderful Counselor” you can imagine their collective sigh of relief mixed with a gasp of hope. A counselor is one who plans and leads thoughtfully with wisdom. Imagine a great strategist who knows just when to go forward and when to hold back. One who is wise and measured in their leadership. One who knows his people and how to bring them into peace, prosperity, and fulfillment. This is the king that Israel has been longing to see on the throne.

However, this king will not only be wise and tactical, but this king will also be wonderful. Not wonderful as in “very good”, but wonderful as in full of signs and wonders. This will be a miracle working king who can do what seems impossible. You can imagine the hope and anticipation that would build for such a leader.

It is no wonder then, that when Jesus arrives on the scene as a baby born to an unwed teenage girl, in a feeding trough for barn animals, and is raised the son of a carpenter that the nation of Israel clearly would have missed his arrival. And as he begins his earthly ministry Jesus confounds the rulers of the time, as Walter Brueggemann writes, “[Jesus] teaching evidenced a kind of wisdom that was unusual. He is wise beyond explanation! For that reason, he constitutes an immense threat to conventional learning and conventional power. He is wonderful in his teaching because he opens up new possibilities that were thought to be impossible.”

 “Jesus’ arrival constitutes a new vocation. It is not only an acknowledgment of his new rule in the world but a recruitment for action congruent with the new regime. The “increase of his government” will not be by supernatural imposition or by royal fiat. Instead, it will come about through the daily intentional engagement of his subjects, who are so astonished by his wonder that they no longer subscribe to the old order of power and truth that turns out to be, in the long run, only debilitating fraudulence. It requires uncommon wisdom to interrupt the foolish practice of business as usual.” – Walter Brueggemann, Names of the Messiah

Group Questions:

Isaiah predicted a new regime of peace and well-being that would displace the older order of violence and extortion. Describe what you imagine that world would look like today.

Jesus opens the world to the impossible, and this offends the leaders of the day. Why are they offended?

How did Jesus lead a new way that threatened the established order? How should the Church threaten the established order today?

As a disciple of Christ, how do you carry on this task?

Closing Prayer

Wonderful Counselor, thank you for fulfilling Isaiah’s vision and showing us that a different life-giving order is possible. Make me an instrument and active part of your alternative realm on earth. Amen.

Advent Resources:

Westside Church Advent Guide:  https://westsidechurch.org/advent/

“Names of the Messiah”, Walter Brueggemann

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9: 2-7

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, as we reflect on the Prince of Peace, we remember all the places in the world and our lives where conflict and death reign. Be with all who work for justice and peace and guide us to be better peacemakers. Amen.

Prince of Peace

Peace is one of the few concepts that resonates in every tribe and nation on the planet. But what is peace, really? In our cultural context, peace is most associated with an absence of conflict and violence. That definition certainly sounds good; however, ancient Israel had a much richer definition for peace which went beyond nonviolence. Shalom is the word used in Hebrew.

Shalom is not only an absence of hostility, but also a reordering of our inner being and social system to promote welfare generally. A greeting of “Shalom” is a blessing, a prayer that your soul, body, home, relationships, and resources would all be living in harmony with the world around you as God intended.

When Isaiah declares the prophecy that the coming Messiah will be called “the Prince of Peace” it is far more than a political statement or a call to nonviolence. Isaiah was not declaring that once the promised King arrived on the scene that all peoples would instinctually get along. Instead, Isaiah foretold of one who would reorder what it means to be human. This reordering by the Prince of Peace would give us tools for peacekeeping in our world: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In the Christmas story, Jesus arrives on earth as the long-awaited Prince of Peace, and His life brings a reordering that changes human history going forward. More than a world absent of conflict, Jesus initiates an ordering of the world that restores and transforms through peacemaking:

“Peace requires the capacity to forgive. Peace requires a readiness to share generously. Peace requires the violation of strict class stratification in society. Peace requires attentiveness to the vulnerable and the unproductive. Peace requires humility in the face of exaltation, being last among those who insist on being first and denying self in the interest of neighbor. These are all practices that mark His presence in His society.” – Walter Brueggemann, Names of the Messiah

Group Questions:

How was Jesus unlike a prince in his time?

How is Jesus unlike the leaders of our time?

As a peacemaker resisting the way of this world and seeking the peace of our community, tell how you live into each of the following areas:

  • Forgiveness
  • Generosity
  • Breaking class stratification
  • Attending to the vulnerable and unproductive
  • Humility
  • Becoming last in a world chasing “first-ness”
  • Denying yourself for the sake of your neighbor

Closing Prayer

Prince of Peace, come again and organize our world to do things that make for peace. Until then, empower your church to live your values and preach your peaceful realm to the world. Amen

Advent Resources:

Westside Church Advent Guide:  westsidechurch.org/advent/

“Names of the Messiah”, Walter Brueggemann

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Genesis 12:1-4; Matthew 5: 1-12

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

What does it mean to be blessed? For our culture, “blessing” is synonymous with being “lucky” or to have divine advantage over others.  In some fringes of the Christian faith, blessing is the whole goal of following Jesus. For these folks God’s love is measured in the accumulation of stuff – cars, homes, power, influence, etc.

God gives us a different perspective of blessing, and maybe more importantly, how His people are to respond to His blessing.

In Genesis 12, God introduces himself to a man, Abram (later to be called Abraham) and this is where blessing begins. God’s blessing starts with relationship. God makes Himself known to humanity through Abram.  Then God calls Abram to follow Him to a new land. He doesn’t mention where the land is, but God does instruct Abram to leave everything: his family, his culture, his possessions, his future and to trust God for what is next. And Abram obeys God. If relationship is the beginning of blessing, then obedience is at the heart of God’s blessing. And this is why blessing is so different than getting stuff from God.

God declares that through his relationship with Abraham the whole world will be blessed. God doesn’t bless Abraham to make him rich or powerful. God blesses Abraham to make a whole new kind of people in the world. People who live out God’s character to the world. Jesus picks up this thread in Matthew 5 where He describes who are the blessed people world. They are not the rich or powerful, but those who follow Jesus’ way of being in the world and extend to others the love, grace, forgiveness and generosity of God.

Group Questions:

How do you think of God’s blessing?

Put yourself in the shoes of Abraham. What would you do if God called you to leave everything and follow Him? What would stop you from saying “yes”? What would compel you to say “yes”?

Read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) out load in your group. What stands out to you about the blessedness Jesus is describing? How is it different than the way “blessing” is considered in our culture?

Staying Curious:

When people outside the church hear the world “Christian” is it most associated with “those who bless others”? If so, why is that? If not, what needs to change in you to make that possible?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. Pray for God’s Spirit of generosity, hope, forgiveness, grace, and love to be so abundant in yourself and in our church that it would naturally spill over to bless our city.

Pray: To open your time together.

Read: Ephesians 2:8-9; Matthew 18:23-35

Consider: Some thoughts for your group

 In his letter to the church in Ephesis, Paul gives one of his clearest articulations of the Christian faith, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul makes clear that grace is purely an outflow of God’s love for us as part of God’s divine nature. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace and there is nothing we can do to separate us from God’s love. Our role in this relationship is to receive God’s grace through faith that what God says is true is truly true and what God has done for us through Jesus is truly enough. No addition. No subtraction. Only faith.

Jesus shares a parable with his disciples about God’s capacity to forgive, and in response to his forgiveness, God’s expectation of our capacity to forgive others. Read Matthew 18: 23-35 out load together. There are three main characters in this story: the master, the man with the great debt, and the man with the small debt. Consider the story from each of their perspective. See the questions below for some ideas of how to process this story.  

Perhaps the most difficult part of this parable is how the story ends. Jesus is clear that unforgiveness will not be tolerated in His kingdom. While the intensity of the master’s anger toward the man with a great debt can steal the focus of the story, we must remember the purpose and context in which Jesus is teaching. Just before telling this parable (see Matthew 18:15-21), Jesus and the disciples are discussing how to deal with sin in the church, and Peter asks the obvious question, “How many times must I forgive someone who sins against me? Is seven times enough?” Jesus replies, “not seven, but seventy-seven”. The grace God offers us, and in turn, expects from us is an extravagant grace. No wonder He treats it with such intensity when it is cheapened and abused by those He has forgiven.

Groups:

Do you think of grace as a gift from God? When you consider God’s gift of grace for you what effect does that have on the way you see God, yourself, and the world around you?

As you read Jesus’ story from Matthew 18:

What does the king experience in the story?

What does the man with great debt experience in the story?

What does the man with small debt experience in the story?

What is the point Jesus in making in the story?

What does the story tell you about God’s character?

Staying Curious:

How have you embodied each of these characters from the story at different times in your life?

Closing Prayer:

Spend some time praying for one another. For those who need to repent of the way they have cheapened God’s grace, make time and space for confession and repentance. Be sure to remind one another of God’s extravagant grace for this moment.

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