Week 9 Small Group Discussion Questions- Forrest Deviney
- On page 208, Psalm 42 opens by saying “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God”. It’s a beautiful description of how deeply the author needs to be in the presence of God. Have you ever felt that way? If so, what caused you to feel that need? If you haven’t, what do you think would have to happen to cause you to feel that way?
- In Mark 9:24 on page 211, the father of a boy possessed by an unclean spirit cries out to Jesus “I believe; help my unbelief!” That phrase has been used as a prayer by Christians for centuries now. What do you think the father in Mark meant when he said that? Why do so many Christians use it as a prayer?
- On Page 221, God tells the Israelites in Leviticus 26 that if they follow His laws and behave themselves He’ll bless them. They’ll have peace and prosperity, there will never be a shortage of food and all their enemies will be terrified of them. But, if they don’t follow His laws, the opposite will happen. Their enemies will eat their food, they’ll be struck with disease and war and God will “break the pride of [their] power”. Do you think this chapter applies to us today? Why or why not?
- As you read through Leviticus, where have you seen God’s compassion and mercy in that book?
- What’s something that you read this week that you never knew was in the Bible?
Week 8 Small Group Discussion Questions- Forrest Deviney
- Leviticus gets a little gruesome at times. There’s a lot of talk about the blood and the fat and the kidneys and the entrails of the animals being sacrificed. God seems especially interested in blood and fat. He wants the blood poured out on the altar and the fat burned on the altar, but he usually wants the meat to be given to the priests for them to eat, or to be burned outside the Tabernacle. Why is God so much more interested in blood and fat than in the other parts of the animal?
- On page 185 Jesus tells the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32). What’s the message of that parable? What is Jesus trying to tell his audience about the Kingdom of Heaven?
- One pages 187-188 God lists the animals that are unclean- the Israelites are commanded not to eat them or even touch them, and no reason is given for this except that God wants his people to be holy. “Holy” means “set apart”. God wants his people to be different. Why is it so important to God for his people to be different from the rest of the world?
- On page 189 Jesus heals a little girl- in fact he brings her back to life after she’s died. Then, he tells her parents not to tell anybody what happened (which would be difficult, since there was a large crowd of people outside who knew the girl had died and who saw Jesus go in the house with the parents). Why didn’t Jesus want everyone to know what he’d done?
- On page 197 Mark tells his version of the story of the loaves and fishes and Jesus walking on the water. Go back to page 79 and read the version of that story that’s told by Matthew. What are the differences and similarities between the two stories?
Week 7 Small Group Discussion Questions- Forrest Deviney
- On pages 156-157, in Matthew 27, the governor (Pilate), seems confused by the Jew’s desire to crucify Jesus. He asks them why he should kill Jesus when he’s done nothing wrong, and then, when they continue demanding that Jesus be crucified, he symbolically washes his hands to show his innocence- he’s telling the Jews that he can’t see any reason to crucify Jesus, and the only reason he’s doing it is because they’re demanding it. He’s shifting the blame for Jesus’ death from himself onto the Jews. Do you think this makes Pilate a good man? Is he actually innocent?
- On Page 158, in Exodus 35, Moses calls out to every skilled craftsman and every skilled woman to contribute to the construction of the tabernacle. What happens next is that every man and woman contributes- not just a few elite people with unique skills. There are people weaving curtains and melting down metal and forging tools and carving wood and a hundred other things but everybody Everybody in the community has some sort of skill that is useful in building the tabernacle. What about you? What skill do you have that you can use to benefit your church?
- On page 160, in Matthew 27, verse 54, something shocking happens. A roman Centurion- not just a soldier, but a high-ranking officer in the Roman military- proclaims that this man, Jesus, must be the Son of God. A Roman officer is one of the very first people to realize who Jesus is. Why do you think he could realize this when even Jesus’ disciples don’t believe it?
- The Gospel of Mark begins on page 167. Flip ahead to page 267 and look at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. Now, go back to page 4 and look at the second chapter of Matthew. These three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are called the Synoptic Gospels. They’re very similar to each other, but they have some significant differences as well. What are the differences you’ve noticed in the opening chapters of these three books?
- All four Gospels tell the same story, but they all tell it differently. Why do you think that they tell the story so differently? Why is important for us to have all four versions of the story in our Bible?
- In Exodus 24:6 Moses has two giant basins filled with blood from the animals sacrificed at the altar, and he pours out half of the blood all over the altar. It’s a pretty gruesome scene, and it’s also a common one in the Old Testament. You’ve already read that during the Passover in Egypt the Israelites protected themselves by smearing the blood of lambs all over the doorframes of their homes. To us, it’s a little disturbing, maybe even barbaric. Yet, the use of blood in religious rituals is important in the Old Testament. Why do you think blood is such an important religious symbol?
- In Matthew 25:29, Jesus says “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will have in abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” What do you think he means?
- Exodus 28:2-4 and Matthew 26:7-10 have a similar theme. In both passages, something extravagant is being done for God. In Exodus, God is commanding Moses to have special garments made for the priests using the most expensive materials available. In Matthew, a woman anoints Jesus with expensive ointment. In Exodus, God says the garments are “for glory and for beauty.” In Matthew, Jesus says the woman has “done a beautiful thing for me.” Why should we do beautiful things for God? Why should we spend our time, energy and even money on beautiful things for God (ex. Stained glass windows, church buildings, music, etc)?
- In Matthew 26:50, Jesus calls Judas “friend”. This is the moment of his betrayal- Judas is turning him over to the authorities to be put on trial and Jesus knows exactly how that will end, and still he calls Judas “friend”. Do you think he’s already forgiven Judas? Or, is he using that word to show how deeply Judas is betraying him? If you think he’s already forgiven him, do you think you’d be able to forgive somebody like that?
- In Matthew 26:70-75, Peter denies that he knows Jesus three times. Jesus told him he would do this, and Peter didn’t believe him. In fact, when Jesus first predicts this, it really doesn’t seem possible. Peter is Jesus’ right-hand man, he’s incredibly loyal, and Jesus tells him at one point that he’s the rock on which the church will be built- in fact, his name is the Greek word for rock! How could somebody so stubbornly loyal betray Jesus like that?
- Exodus 7:25-9:35 tells the story of several plagues that God used to try and convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go. Each plague is harsher than the last, but each time God gives Pharaoh a chance to do the right thing. Each time, Pharaoh “hardens” his heart. A good way to think about this is that Pharaoh is stubborn and prideful- he wants to get his way, and each time God demonstrates that he is more powerful than Pharaoh, Pharaoh digs his feet in further, and refuses to submit to God’s will. You probably aren’t enslaving and oppressing an entire nation of people, but are you doing anything else that God might not want you to do? How have you hardened your own heart?
- Towards the end of Exodus 9, Pharaoh actually repents. He says “I have sinned, I’m in the wrong, and the Lord is in the right.” He begs Moses to get God to stop the plagues, and promises to let the Israelites go. As soon as the plagues stop, however, he changes his mind, and prevents the Israelites from leaving. You might be wondering how he could make such an irrational choice, but in fact we all do this. We often make deals with God (for example: “God if you do x, I promise to read my bible more”) and then once we get what we want, we don’t hold up our end of the bargain. Have you tried to make that kind of a deal with God recently? Have you been upholding your end of the deal? (no need to go into specifics here)
- In Matthew 21:23-46 Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants, comparing the Pharisees to the tenants who beat and kill their landlord’s servants and his son. In Matthew 22, he tells another parable about a king who prepares a wedding feast for his son, and none of the people he invites come. What is Jesus trying to tell people with these two parables?
- Jesus says in Matthew 22 that the two greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love you your neighbor as yourself.” Why are these two commandments the most important ones?
- Did you notice any connections or similarities between the Old and New Testament readings this week?
Week 4 Discussion Questions
- Jacob’s son Joseph is sold into slavery by his older brothers. It’s an incredibly cruel act, and we’d expect Joseph to be bitter and angry towards them, even years later. Genesis 45:5, however, paints a different picture. Here we learn that God has taken an act of evil and cruelty and redeemed it- meaning he took something that was intended for evil, and created something good out of it. How have you seen God’s redeeming work in your own life?
- Most people are familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. However, most people aren’t familiar with a similar story that takes place shortly afterward, in which he feeds another crowd- 4,000 people this time- with seven loaves of bread and an unspecified number of fish. It’s no less miraculous, but we simply pay less attention to that story. Think about all the Biblical stories you’ve read so far this year- which ones had you never heard or read before?
- There’s a weird moment in Matthew 15:22-28. A Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and asks for him to heal her daughter, and he ignores her! She follows him begging, and Jesus, clearly annoyed, tells her that he won’t help her because she isn’t an Israelite. Eventually, she convinces him to heal her daughter. Why did it matter to Jesus that she wasn’t an Israelite?
- In Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks God what His name is, God responds by saying “I am who I am”. Why do you think God describes himself this way?
- In Matthew 18:1-5, Jesus tells his disciples that unless they become like children, they will never enter the kingdom of heaven, but he never describes what he means when he tells them to become like children. What do you think he meant?
Small Group Questions Week 3
- Monday’s Old Testament reading (Genesis 32:13-34:31) tells the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob’s wrestling is portrayed as a literal, physical struggle, but it’s clear he’s also struggling to follow God’s instruction to return to his homeland, where he’ll have to deal with his estranged brother. Not many of us have the luxury of getting to work out our problems with God in a physical wrestling match. When you find yourself struggling to do what God wants you to do, how do you work that struggle out? Do you pray, read scripture, seek advice from friends or spiritual leaders, etc?
- In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Yet, in other places, he tells people that following him is difficult (Matthew 10:22, 16:24). History is full of stories of persecuted and executed Christians. Today, many Christians can tell you that following Christ faithfully is incredibly hard and, at times, painful. So then, what do you think Jesus meant when he said “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”?
- Genesis 35 tells the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his older brothers after he obnoxiously tells them of his dreams, which involve images of the older brothers bowing down to him. Ironically, selling him into slavery kicks off a chain of events that leads to Joseph’s dreams coming true, but it certainly didn’t happen the way he expected it to. A common theme throughout the Old Testament is that God always takes us where we need to go, but the journey is rarely what we expect it to be (just wait until Exodus!). Where do you think God is leading you now, and how has the journey been unexpected?
- By now, you’ve read a lot of the book of Genesis. There are some disturbing and hard to understand stories in this book- like much of the Old Testament, God sometimes seems unfair and angry in Genesis. Where have you seen God’s grace, compassion, and love in Genesis so far?
- In Matthew 13:24-46 Jesus tells several parables about the kingdom of Heaven. Two of those parables are simple, straightforward stories comparing the kingdom of heaven to a great treasure, something worth more than anything else we could possibly have. One of them, however, is a story about righteous and unrighteous people, and how God will deal with the unrighteous vs how He will deal with the righteous. What do you think about that parable? Is it disturbing or concerning to you? Where do you see the grace of God in that story?
Small Group Questions Week 2
- In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him to God. Why do you think God tells Abraham to do this?
- Isaac wasn’t just Abraham’s only son- he was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the “father of a multitude of nations”. Isaac represented everything good that God has promised to give Abraham if Abraham kept his covenant with God. What’s your “Isaac”? What, or who, in your life represents a special gift from God? What would happen if God asked you to sacrifice that?
- The Old Testament readings this week tell the story of Abraham, his children, and his grandchildren. It’s the story of the beginning of the Jewish people- the beginning of God’s people. The Gospel readings begin in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6), and continue with Jesus performing miracles and teaching and preaching things that often contradict the common religious wisdom of the day. What connections did you notice between the Old Testament and gospel readings for this week?
- In Matthew 8:1-17 (Tuesday’s reading), Jesus acts very strangely. First, he heals a leper, but then he tells the leper not to tell anyone about what happened, and tells him to go and present himself to the priests at the Temple.
- Why did Jesus tell the leper not to talk to anybody about how Jesus healed him?
- The laws of the Jewish people required any leper who believed they’d been healed of their disease to show themselves to the priests, who would then inspect them to make sure they were truly healed, and allow them back into the community. Jesus knew for a fact that the leper was healed- why did he still command him to show himself to the priests?
- Matthew 8:18-34 (Wednesday’s reading) contains another strange story about Jesus. Jesus is sleeping peacefully when his disciples frantically wake him and ask for him to save them from the storm. After he calms the storm, he says “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Most of us would think that the disciples had just demonstrated their faith in Jesus by immediately turning to him to save them. Why do you think Jesus accused the disciples of lacking faith?
- Is there anything from this week’s readings that you still have questions about?