For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a Bible study discussion guide series for my local church following the weekend message series called “Brave.” Since I haven’t been able to update much here, I thought I’d copy the discussion guides here for you to read. Links to the original sermon messages for wax week’s discussion are given, as well as follow up tips to help in applying the message to your daily practices.
Link to that weekend’s message: http://vineyardchristian.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Be_Brave_wk_5.mp3
Opening Question/Food for thought (as applicable, matching the theme of the message)
Who was the shortest person in the Bible?
In all seriousness, we learned this weekend the story of Nehemiah, a man who was lead by God to step out in faith to help the people who lived in Jerusalem and were vulnerable to attack by helping to lead them in rebuilding the city and its walls for defense.
Icebreaker: Has there ever been a time when you learned of a struggle someone was dealing with and you felt lead to help them? How did it turn out?
Worship suggestion: https://youtu.be/lt1u81dQf2U
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, open our hearts to the pain of others. Give us sensitivity and compassion to those in need. Let our guiding light be your love and your mercy always. In your name we pray, Amen.
Discussion/Bible Verses/Activities (writing, acting, or prayer)
Nehemiah was the cupbearer of the king, Artaxerxes of the Medio-Persian Empire. This meant that he lived in a position of power and luxury in the ancient world. While living this life, he’s visited by his brother Hanani, who tells him about the troubles being faced by the people of Jerusalem. Nehemiah is deeply troubled and begins to pray.
Discussion Question: Read Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:5-11. What things jump out to you in this prayer? (leader:suggested answers, Nehemiah acknowledged and repented of Israel’s past sins. He also reminds God of the things he’s done for Israel in the past)
After his prayer, Nehemiah is given an opportunity to speak with the king and make a request. In that moment, Nehemiah again prays to God, then asks the king for permission to travel to Jerusalem so he can do something to help his people.
Discussion Question: How important was it that Nehemiah prayed while he was speaking with the king? Have you prayed during a conversation before? What effect do you think it had? What’s an effective prayer to be ready to use in conversations? (suggestions: praying for patience, praying to help you listen to what the person is trying to communicate, prayer for a loving thing to say)
When he arrives in Jerusalem, Nehemiah and the Israelites are surrounded by people who want to stop them from succeeding in their mission. We may not have to live our lives surrounded by physical danger, but we will almost certainly face opposition when we attempt to do the things God calls us out to. Let’s consider a story told by Jesus that’s similar [as a group read Mark 4:2-8, then 13-20]
Discussion Question: What do you think the connection is between the story of Nehemiah and the parable Jesus tells? When have you tried to step out following God and faced opposition because of it? What did you do in reaction? How does this story help describe that kind of situation?
One thing that sets Nehemiah apart from some of the other bravery stories we’ve looked at in this series is that he stepped into a more long term expression of bravery. Rather than just an action taken in a moment or something that happened in one personal relationship, Nehemiah had to set out a plan to follow through on the audacious building project God called him to. As a cupbearer to the king, he likely would have been well prepared for this, receiving education and refinement living in the king’s household. A verse from another Biblical story could have just as easily been said to him, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)
Discussion Question: What preparation do you feel God is providing in your life to bring you to a moment of bravery? How do you think Nehemiah’s practice of prayer and compassion played a part in his long term planning and bravery?
It’s worth not overlooking that Nehemiah’s heart was sensitive to the news of the struggles of Jerusalem. He filtered the things he heard through a spirit that was tuned to God’s compassion and sense of justice. In our world today with a flood of news available, able to hear and know about the plight of many who suffer both in our own country and around the world, it can be a struggle to find the heart of God and be sensitive to where he is calling us to act. Prayer lives like Nehemiah’s are crucial in helping us to guide through those uncertain waters.
Discussion Question: What suffering do you see around you that you feel you should be taking action on?
In closing, let’s consider this comment by Marc from this weekend
“If you’re not exercising much bravery these days you’re not engaging in enough scary work”
Discussion Question: by this measure, are you engaging in enough scary work? If you are, what helped you get there? If you aren’t, what can you do this week to fix that?
Let’s take time this week to look for ways to open our hearts in compassion like Nehemiah:
- Look through your Facebook feed or pay close attention to conversations with friends or coworkers this week. Make a note to check in with people and ask how they’re doing. Make sure to be open to more than just “Oh, I’m alright.” Silently in your mind be praying for God to show you how to show love to them.
- Read the news. In each story, before you come to your own opinion, pray for a moment and ask God to show you where His compassion is leading in that particular story. Be cautious about things like anger or judgment, again take prayer to look for God’s heart in the story.
Ending Prayer: Holy Spirit, we ask you for strength to stand up for those that need it. We ask for compassion to love those other people would want to ignore. We ask for your conviction to keep us from being too comfortable to be willing to act. Amen
- The Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park (a FREE art museum in town!) has an exhibit of Medio-Persian artwork, including a wine cup similar to what Nehemiah would have used (it actually looks like a large brass bowl) Definitely worth checking out!
The book Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephen Bauman, Matthew Sorens, and Dr Issam Smeir with a foreword by Bill and Lynne Hybels is an overview of the worldwide refugee crisis (just one of many issues the spirit may stir you about) and what the Bible has to say about it