Jul 1, 2018
Hebrews 4:1-13 “Sabbath Rest”
I remember when I was young, we could only play in the backyard on Sundays  My brother and I could only hope that neighbor kids came over looking for us; we couldn’t go looking for them.  I also remember a family down the street who didn’t let their kids do anything on Sundays, and their neighbors across the street who made their kids play in the front yard, just to stick it to everyone else. This sort of Sabbath observance, one in which strict adherence for the sake of image, is exactly what the Jewish people faced.  Forced by the Pharisees’ law, they were forced to not do most things so as to not accidentally “work” on the sabbath. The point, however, that the Sabbath observance was originally intended to make was one that ultimately pointed toward the ultimate, eternal rest that we are granted through faith in Jesus Christ, a gift from God and not something we can build for ourselves by any work, or lack thereof. Questions to take home:
  1. Do you have a funny memory about Sunday practices from your youth?  What did you learn from that? How does it differ from what you feel or believe now?  What changed?
  2. Why do you think God instituted the Sabbath when He was done creating the universe?  What purpose did it serve? What purpose does it serve now?
  3. Ultimately, the Sabbath observance points forward to Jesus and the eternal rest we have because of His work, grace, and salvation.  Do you think that observance of the/a Sabbath is still something we ought to follow? Why or why not? How does your answer impact the way you live your life?
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  • Jul 1, 2018Hebrews 4:1-13 “Sabbath Rest”
    Jul 1, 2018
    Hebrews 4:1-13 “Sabbath Rest”
    I remember when I was young, we could only play in the backyard on Sundays  My brother and I could only hope that neighbor kids came over looking for us; we couldn’t go looking for them.  I also remember a family down the street who didn’t let their kids do anything on Sundays, and their neighbors across the street who made their kids play in the front yard, just to stick it to everyone else. This sort of Sabbath observance, one in which strict adherence for the sake of image, is exactly what the Jewish people faced.  Forced by the Pharisees’ law, they were forced to not do most things so as to not accidentally “work” on the sabbath. The point, however, that the Sabbath observance was originally intended to make was one that ultimately pointed toward the ultimate, eternal rest that we are granted through faith in Jesus Christ, a gift from God and not something we can build for ourselves by any work, or lack thereof. Questions to take home:
    1. Do you have a funny memory about Sunday practices from your youth?  What did you learn from that? How does it differ from what you feel or believe now?  What changed?
    2. Why do you think God instituted the Sabbath when He was done creating the universe?  What purpose did it serve? What purpose does it serve now?
    3. Ultimately, the Sabbath observance points forward to Jesus and the eternal rest we have because of His work, grace, and salvation.  Do you think that observance of the/a Sabbath is still something we ought to follow? Why or why not? How does your answer impact the way you live your life?
  • Jun 17, 2018Hebrews 2:5-18 “Incarnational Impact”
    Jun 17, 2018
    Hebrews 2:5-18 “Incarnational Impact”
    Have you ever heard the saying “before you judge a person, walk a mile in their shoes”?  This expression is an encouragement to consider, and possibly even enter into a person’s experience before you judge their actions, choices, or lifestyle.  The musical Les Miserables carries this theme, amongst others, as it follows the life and impact of a once poor, but now wealthy man vs. the man of the law.  One’s actions are feared while the other’s changes lives. Jesus is God; yet He literally put on human flesh and shared completely in our humanity.  The creator of the universe stood on the sod He created looking up at stars He had set in place and felt… everything.  He experienced our life, our temptations, and our sufferings and as such, He can help us in those same experiences in our own lives.  Jesus also took on sin and death, conquering them so that we who are also human would no longer be subject to them! Questions to take home:
    1. Have you ever had someone offer you advice for a situation to which they had no context, experience, or understanding?  How did that make you feel? Did you follow it? What aspects of their advice were helpful or harmful?
    2. Has anyone ever told you (or maybe have you told someone) “I know exactly how you feel?”  What is trying to be conveyed in a statement like this? What do we mean when we say something like this and what would be a better way to communicate it?
    3. Jesus experienced humanity in its fullness yet far too often we tend to minimize Jesus’ humanity for the sake of His divinity.  Why do you think this is? What benefit is it to us to remember that Jesus is also fully human?
  • Jun 10, 2018Hebrews 1:1-2:4 “Hebrews: The Book of Better Things”
    Jun 10, 2018
    Hebrews 1:1-2:4 “Hebrews: The Book of Better Things”
    Our culture seems to always be on the hunt for the best.  We crave it, demand it, and will, in some cases, even pay exorbitant amounts of money for it.  Whether it’s the T.V. competition shows like The Voice or America’s Got Talent or technology, with it’s newest, latest, and greatest, our culture never settles for anything less than the best. Throughout Scripture, God continually reveals to His people His plan for their salvation.  Where there were once great positions like prophets, priests, and kings, Jesus came. The deep truth of those offices is that they pointed to Christ.  He is the best; there is no better. Jesus is the better thing, the best thing. In spite of all we look for to fulfill us, Jesus is there offering true fullness, life, and salvation! Questions to take home:
    1. What is the “best” thing that you own?  What about that thing makes it so great?  How do you treat that thing differently than other things that are yours?
    2. Do you find yourself looking for new things all the time?  Maybe those are necessities, or “toys” of some sort? Why do you think North American culture is so obsessed with newness and has such disregard for old things?
    3. The book of Hebrews opens with a profound statement of the supremacy of Jesus over and above all things, the fulfillment of everything that Scripture says, and the living embodiment of God.  With that said, does He take that supreme place in our daily lives? How do we (or don’t we) live this out on a daily basis?
  • Jun 3, 2018Revelation 3:14-22 “Hot and Cold”
    Jun 3, 2018
    Revelation 3:14-22 “Hot and Cold”
    A glass of ice water on a hot summer day is so refreshing; maybe you’ve experienced this in the last week.  In a different season, however, there is nothing better than a hot beverage on a cold winter’s day. Both have their place, are useful and enjoyable in the right environment.  What isn’t enjoyable? An expectation shattering, disappointing, room-temperature beverage when you were expecting something else. The church in Laodicea knew all about lukewarm water.  The city was fed by aqueducts that spanned many miles bringing once hot or cold water to the city lukewarm.  What the church didn’t realize, however, is that this had also happened to them spiritually. Years of complacency had left them blind to their lackluster pursuit of God.  In His place were worldly things that made the city great, but were (and are) simply shadows and dust compared to Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. Jesus’ introduction in this letter is related to Colossians 1:15-20.  Do you see similarities between these two passages? What characteristics of Jesus are present here?  What can we learn from them and apply to our own lives?
    2. The church in North America has been described as “lukewarm.”  Do you think that is generally true? If so, what do you think has led us to this?  How do we avoid complacency in the life of Hopkins Community Church?
    3. Jesus relates rebuke (reprimand) and disciple with the image of Him standing at the door and knocking.  How have you experienced this combination of things in your own life? Are there things, right now, that God is challenging in your life that are getting in the way of you letting Jesus in?
  • May 27, 2018Revelation 3:7-13 “Open Door”
    May 27, 2018
    Revelation 3:7-13 “Open Door”
    Every now and then I get some sort of weird motivation to clean literally everything I see.  You’d probably never guess it if you saw my office desk during the week. When that feeling hits, though, there is practically nothing that can stop me and anything (or anyone) that tries is met with staunch resistance. Jesus’ words to the church in Philadelphia reflect the perseverance that the church had shown.  Through trials and persecution, they held fast to their faith and now opportunities were before them to advance the Kingdom and spread the Gospel.  Unlike my cleaning rampage, though, this door was not open because of their hard work or strength of character, but rather because of the Holy Spirit’s work in and through the church and their obedience to the Gospel. Questions to take home:
    1. Of all the letters at the beginning of Revelation, this one might be voted “most likely to be written to Hopkins.”  How has this church experiences past issues that have shaped who we are now? Do you feel we have done a good job “patiently enduring?”  How and why?
    2. Jesus says in verse 10, “I will keep you from the hour of trial…”  This phrase can also be translated “I will keep you through the hour of trial…”  What do you think the difference is between these two statements?  Both are true; how does this truth impact your life?
    3. Jesus is the one who holds the keys to the Kingdom of God, opening doors that no one can shut.  Where has He opened doors in your life to spread the Gospel? What do you think He is opening doors in Hopkins for us to share God’s love?
  • May 13, 2018Revelation 2:18-29 “Tolerating Jezebel”
    May 13, 2018
    Revelation 2:18-29 “Tolerating Jezebel”
    Queen Jezebel is one of the more reviled characters in the Old Testament narratives.  She was a foreign princess that married King Ahab who was renowned for doing “more evil than anyone before him.”  Scripture records that Ahab considered it “trivial to commit sins” and that his marriage to Jezebel encouraged the worship of Baal and Asherah, idols and gods of other nations, leading God’s people astray. It can easy to dismiss an Old Testament story like this as both past and irrelevant.  Yet there are many things in our culture today that seek to draw us away from God. The question of conformity is one that Jesus poses once again to the Church in His letter to Thyatira.  In our lives, are we transforming into the image of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit? Or are we conforming to what the world has to offer us? Questions to take home:
    1. Do you have a Jezebel in your life?  Perhaps it is not a specific person, maybe it is a hobby or passion, a desire that is out of order?  How does this person/thing impact your life?
    2. Read 1 Corinthians 8.  What clarity does this add to Jesus’ words to the church in Thyatira?  Are there times when we participate in worldly things that may cause others in our lives to go astray?  What might those things be in your life?
    3. God's words here are like a parent trying to protect His children against those trying to negatively influence them.  Can you relate? What things do you try to protect your loved ones from? What things do you think God is trying to protect you from?
  • May 6, 2018Revelation 2:12-17 “Speaking of Sin”
    May 6, 2018
    Revelation 2:12-17 “Speaking of Sin”
    No one really likes to talk about sin.  It’s uncomfortable on just about every level.  When we hear about the things that we do that are contrary to God’s desires for us, we see in ourselves the things that we don’t like.  Whether it was small compromises that led to large cycles of sin in our lives or the everyday failings that we experience, it’s never pleasant to see ourselves in that mirror. Jesus has no problem addressing sin head on though.  He was quick to call out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, quick to call out many of the churches in the book of Revelation, and more importantly, quick to give His life as a sacrifice for our sin too.  This truth of God’s grace and mercy, seen in Jesus Christ, is the place from which sin is called out, and repentance called for, and forgiveness is freely extended. He is the righteous judge and the loving God who graciously invites and makes possible for His children to experience new and renewed life. Questions to take home:
    1. Sin is a very unpopular topic, even in church, in today’s culture.  Why do you think this is? How comfortable are you when it comes to talking about sins you struggle with?
    2. Repentance is another topic that doesn’t often get talked about.  Why do we avoid this topic so much too? Do you think there is a link between our avoidance of these subjects?  If so, what do you think that link is?
    3. Balaam is the Biblical poster-child for enticing God’s people to sin.  The enemy is always at work, trying to draw us into sin, often in subtle and seemingly insignificant ways.  How has the enemy been at work in your life like this? What does repentance look like in that situation?
  • Apr 29, 2018Revelation 2:8-11 “When All Else Fails”
    Apr 29, 2018
    Revelation 2:8-11 “When All Else Fails”
    The city of Smyrna was known widely as the “crown of Asia.”  Seated on top of a giant hill, boarding the sea, it’s fortifications looked like a crown from a distance; the city layout and lifestyle reflected this title quite readily as well.  They prided themselves on their opulence and on their loyalty to the Roman empire. The letter to the church in Smyrna, by contrast, reveals a church that is under duress, experiencing pressure, persecution, and poverty.  Interestingly, though, the word “Smyrna” comes from the Hebrew word for Myrrh, a plant that is not so great looking on the outside. However, when pressed and crushed, it releases a wonderful scent and oil that is known for its healing properties. Questions to take home:
    1. The United States is known for its worldly wealth and advancement.  Do you think that we, the Church, sometimes leans more the riches of our country than we do the riches of Christ?  How?
    2. Jesus’ words to the persecuted church are not ones that promise comfort, but instead promise victory.  How do you think that we sometimes trade “victory” for “comfort” in the midst of struggles in our lives?  Do you think we do this in church too?
    3. Ultimately, Jesus encouragement to the church of Smyrna is to be faithful.  What do you think this looks like for them? What pressure or persecution does our church face?  What does faithfulness look like for us?
  • Apr 22, 2018Revelation 2:1-7 “First Love”
    Apr 22, 2018
    Revelation 2:1-7 “First Love”
    Do you remember your first car?  First relationship? First house?  First childhood friend? There are so many emotions that are attached to the details about the “firsts” of our lives, even the ones we would consider more negative.  But what about now? Do you think about your car or your house now the way you did you did at first? Life can take on a rather mundane feel to it after a while.  Creating a space to live and call your own disintegrates into chores and upkeep.  Your first vehicle, the physical symbol of freedom and adulthood, crumbles into oil changes and maintenance.  Jesus, speaking to the church in Ephesus, points out that the life faith can also just become an exercise of “going through the motions.”  Do you remember what it was like, when you first met Jesus? Questions to take home:
    1. What is one “first” in your life that you can remember really well?  What things can you remember about it? Why do you think it was so exciting?  How do you feel about it now?
    2. Do you remember when you first met Jesus as your Savior?  What did it feel like? What are two or three words you would use to describe it?  What about now?
    3. John’s letters are to churches; how do you think a church can lose it’s “first love”?  What things get in the way? How do you think we might struggle with this at HCC?
  • Apr 1, 2018John 20 “Paradigm Shift”
    Apr 1, 2018
    John 20 “Paradigm Shift”
    Series: #makethemost
    It’s hard to imagine the thoughts and emotions that must have been going through the heads and hearts of Jesus followers between the time he died on Good Friday and Easter Morning when they first saw and heard the news that He was alive.  They went from having their whole world shattered to having to comprehend that something seemingly impossible had happened. Easter literally changes everything.  How we view the world, how we live out our faith, how we approach death; nothing is the same.  No longer does sin mark the paradigm of our existence and death have the final say over our lives.  No longer do we need to wonder or worry about things present of things future, because we have a marked assurance that God has laid all things at Jesus’ feet and every one of God’s promises find their “Yes” in Him. Questions to take home:
    1. John presents the image of Jesus walking in the garden, speaking to Mary.  Contrast this with the last time we saw God walking in a garden with His children (Genesis 3).  What has changed? How does this change impact the you/us?
    2. Thomas often gets a bad wrap in the Easter narrative, not being present at Jesus’ first appearance and doubting until he sees the Lord.  Sometimes we are like Thomas, though, too. Have there been times in your life when you doubted God? What were they and what did it take for you to believe?
    3. Easter seems to come and go in our lives much like every other holiday, with times of celebration and extra busyness, but no real impact on our everyday lives.  If Easter indeed changes everything for us, what is one practical impact it will have on your life this week?
  • Mar 25, 2018Jonah; Luke 19:28-44 “Absurd Opportunities: Jonah”
    Mar 25, 2018
    Jonah; Luke 19:28-44 “Absurd Opportunities: Jonah”
    Series: #makethemost
    Jonah’s call to Nineveh must have seemed pretty absurd to him at that time.  Nineveh was the capital of Israel’s enemy, a city of outsiders that were not only outside of God’s promises to His people, but didn’t want to know God either.  In fact, they were downright hostile and the reality for Jonah is that God’s call was both crazy and dangerous. Today is Palm Sunday, the day we remember that God called another to go to a people who had rejected Him.  This mission would also be a dangerous one that would ultimately cost Him His life but, in doing so, would also open the way for repentance, salvation, and transformation for any that would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Questions to take home:
    1. Has God ever called you to do something that felt uncomfortable?  What was it? How did you react at first? How did you ultimately respond to that call?
    2. Have you ever found yourself questioning the person or thing that God is calling you to?  What led to those questions? Where did you go to seek answers? What were they?
    3. What is one thing that God is calling you to right now?  How are you responding to that call? Does the story of Jonah or Jesus change the way you think about this?  How? What will you do about it?
  • Mar 18, 20181 John 2:3-11; Daniel 6 “Live Like Jesus”
    Mar 18, 2018
    1 John 2:3-11; Daniel 6 “Live Like Jesus”
    Series: #makethemost
    There has been an increasing push in our culture today toward “sameness” and conformity.  While some of the intended results are good, like equality across gender and racial lines, others have been somewhat less helpful or encouraging.  Especially in Christian circles, the push toward being relevant to today’s culture has left many worried and wondering what that looks like and, perhaps, what actually distinguishes the Church from the things around it. While responses to this cultural push have differed from church to church and denomination to denomination, Scripture offers us some clarity as to the sort of “counter-cultural” life we are called to.  This call pushes past arguments about style, direction, looks, and other surface-level things and gets to the heart of the issue: claiming life in Christ means living as Jesus lived. Questions to take home:
    1. In what ways do you see culture pushing Christians away from the teachings of the Bible?  What are some cultural movements that have helped to advance the Gospel in the world?
    2. How does “living as Jesus lived” look different than every day live in America?  How does this transform the way you look at your own life and the impact it has on those around you?
    3. Are there things in your life that have been distractions to living like Jesus lived for you?  What are they? What is one step you can take this week toward living a more Christ-like life and putting those distractions behind you?
  • Feb 12, 2018Judges 6-7 “Absurd Opportunities: Gideon”
    Feb 12, 2018
    Judges 6-7 “Absurd Opportunities: Gideon”
    Series: #makethemost
    The narrative of Gideon opens with God’s people wandering away from Him.  This is part of what is known as the “Judges cycle.”  God’s people wander, enemies oppress Israel, God’s people cry out, God sends a judge, and the judge helps to rescue them and lead them back to God.  In the book of Judges, this happens repeatedly. It’s easy to look at these stories and wonder at the foolishness of God’s people.  Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, their story is ours more often than we want to admit.  No matter what, though, God never leaves His people.  When they call out to Him, God always answers.  This truth is carried forward in Jesus Christ as well, the ultimate answer of God to His people’s cry for help in the midst of oppression.  Jesus came to set us free that we too might live for God! Questions to take home:
    1. Have you ever woken up and felt like you were lost, just wandering through life?  What was going on in your life at the time?  Did something change that caused you to wander away from God?
    2. God shows up to Gideon and calls him to lead His people, and yet Gideon questions and even tests God.  Have you ever experienced a calling that you questioned?  Do you feel like you have ever tested God?  What were the answers and how did you get them?
    3. Sometimes we are the leaders, other times we those who need to be led.  Is there a “Gideon” in your life that has helped to lead you back to God?  Has God called you to be a “Gideon” to someone in your life?  Who was that person?  Share this with someone!
  • Feb 4, 2018Numbers 13:26-33 “Absurd Opportunities: Israel”
    Feb 4, 2018
    Numbers 13:26-33 “Absurd Opportunities: Israel”
    Series: #makethemost
    Throughout our lives, we face big decisions, difficult situations, and struggles that seem overwhelming.  Sometimes these are giant things like changing jobs or moving, other times they might the immense prospect of just getting through a day, a week, or a season of life.  It can be easy for the promises of God to be clouded by doubts and fears. The people of Israel, after experiencing God’s presence and love at Mount Sinai, come to the edge of the land promised to them by God and look at the monumental task that is before them.  They too feel uncertain, fearful of what could happen if they fail.  Only a few look at the opportunity for both trust and faithfulness as lean on God’s promises and strength. Questions to take home: When has there been a time in your life where you faced a seemingly monumental decision?  How did you approach that moment?  What did you decide to do? Are there promises of God that you often find yourself turning to for strength and assurance?  What are they?  How do they impact your life from day to day? As a church, sometimes it feels like we are like the Israelites on the edge of the promised land.  Are there things that you see in our future that you are excited for?  That concern you?  What are they?  Which promises that God has for us give us strength and assurance to trust and be faithful to His vision and calling for us as a church?
  • Jan 28, 2018Exodus 2:1-10 “Absurd Opportunities: Moses”
    Jan 28, 2018
    Exodus 2:1-10 “Absurd Opportunities: Moses”
    Series: #makethemost
    All throughout Scripture water is symbolic of change.  It was out of water that God created all of creation and it was with water that he “started over” in the flood.  Moses was drawn from the water, giving him a new chance at life and the people of Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan river, each representing a fundamental change in their identity. This morning, as we celebrate the sacrament of baptism, we recognize that we who are in Christ, have also passed through the waters.  Baptism is a symbol for us that there is something different about who we are, a fundamental change in our identity.  We are God’s people, called to new life in Jesus Christ, by faith, through grace.  While baptism itself does not save us, it reminds us once again that God’s salvation is for us! Questions to take home:
    1. When Moses was drawn out of the water, the whole trajectory of his life changed.  Have you ever experienced a moment in your life when you knew your future was changing?  What was that moment?  How did things change?  What impact did that have on you?
    2. God always equips us for the calling that He has for us.  Can you think of a time when you went through something that you didn’t understand but that came back to be helpful later on?  Would it change your perspective if we looked at every experience as a possible opportunity for being equipped?  How?
    3. Moses’ faithfulness to God’s call meant two things: confronting powers in the world and leading God’s people to freedom.  Are there things in your life that God is calling you to confront?  Are there people in your life that God is calling you to lead to freedom in Jesus Christ?  What and/or who are they?  What do you need to do to move toward it?