(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
Come Dream With Us
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
Israel had faced a ruinous locust plague. The prophet Joel saw that as God’s judgment on a nation that had lost its moral compass (cf. Joel 2:1-2). But, like most of the Old Testament prophets, he did not believe that judgment was God’s final word. He promised that God would restore the land with good crops. Even more important, he said God would energize and renew them with an outpouring of spiritual vision on old and young alike.
Fleeing his angry brother Esau (cf. Genesis 27:41), Jacob stopped at what the text just calls “a certain place” to sleep. Alone in the wild, with only a stone for a pillow, he had a dream that gave him an awed sense of God’s life-changing presence. When he awoke, he worshipped, and then named the place Beth El (Hebrew “God’s house”).
Today’s reading reports an incident that took place during the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey. On his first journey, he had planted churches in Asia Minor, and now planned to visit them. But God had a different idea. Paul’s vision of a man calling “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” changed his direction and expanded the early church’s reach by sending him into Greece to preach the gospel in Europe.
As an apostle and church planter, Paul committed himself to spreading the message of Christ no matter the costs (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 for a list of the hardships Paul faced). As a prisoner, Paul showed the same resolve and commitment. He told King Agrippa and the Roman governor Festus about meeting Jesus on the Damascus road. He had not been (and would not be) disobedient to that vision, he declared, regardless of the cost.
Ezekiel 40:1-4, 43:1-7, 47:6-12, 48:35
The prophet Ezekiel lived in exile in Babylon along with many other Israelites. In that time, which must have felt hopeless, he had a series of visions of hope. In Ezekiel 37, he recorded the famous vision of God bringing a valley of dry bones back to life. Today’s reading gives portions of a lengthy vision, which showed God restoring Israel’s temple and people. The key to restoration came at the very end: “The name of the city is ‘The Lord Is There.’”
Revelation 21:1-6, 22:1-5
Placed at the end of the Bible’s sweeping story, the book of Revelation combined disturbing images of the wickedness of the Roman Empire with glorious pictures of the wholeness and beauty God plans for humans. In the book’s concluding chapters, Christians find our ultimate vision and life destination: “God’s dwelling is here with humankind.”
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
God of all creation, make us useful in your redemptive work in this world and use us to help your will be done, so that your Kingdom might come soon. Give us charity toward others and the grace to be merciful. Fill us with the insight, faith and courage to see and obey your vision for our lives and our world, so that we might become treads in your stairway to heaven. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Do you know or know of visionaries who seem to have achieved things others would never have dreamed possible? Can even small achievements be described as visionary? What are the characteristics of visionaries?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.
Read Joel 2:23-28. The prophet Joel viewed the plague of locusts that hit Israel as a punishment God sent because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. How would you go about deciding if a bad thing that happened to you is a punishment, or just one of the bad things that happen in a broken world? From your personal experience, which seems more prevalent, God’s punishments or blessings? Do you believe that, for you personally, God provides more blessings or more punishments? In what ways does the vision and teachings of your church home affect your vision of how God is involved in your life?
Read Genesis 28:10-21. Jacob felt God’s presence and named the place Beth El (Hebrew “God’s house”). Did he mean that the rocks and sand at that place were different from other rocky, sandy areas? What makes a place holy? What makes us sense God’s presence in that place? Has God provided a holy place for you, a place where you worship and feel God’s presence? What role, if any, does the appearance of the place play in our feeling of oneness with God? What kinds of settings draw you closer to God? Does worshiping with others heighten your sense of a place’s holiness?
Read Acts 16:6-15. Paul felt called by God to go to certain places. Have you ever had an experience like that? Have you ever felt called by God to attend church services when you might have wanted to do something else? Do you think your local church is standing on ground God intended it to be on, or is its location merely chance? What kinds of ripple effects can a church’s location have on the rest of the community? Lydia offered her own home for ministry. What can you offer, large or small, for furthering God’s work in your community?
Read Acts 26:9-20. Clearly Paul experienced a major change in his life. What changes has God brought about in your life? Do you think that it was easy for Paul to change directions? Is it easy for you to make and adjust to Godly changes in your life? God presented Paul with a vision, and Paul was absolutely committed to it. Do you feel God has given you a sense of his vision for your life? Do you feel committed to God’s vision? Why? Can you think of any reasons why some of us might want to avoid seeing God’s vision for our life? What can you do to invite God to clarify his vision for you?
Read Ezekiel 40:1-4, 43:1-7, 47:6-12, 48:35. The Hebrew people felt despair, living in exile in Babylon, their temple in Jerusalem destroyed. Ezekiel then received a vision from God offering hope, promising a new temple and a restored way of life. When have you faced feelings of hopelessness, regret or despair? What helped you to move beyond those feelings and find renewed hope and courage? The vision of the river was a symbolic picture of God’s life-giving power. What has fed your vision of what God’s power can do in and through your life?
Read Revelation 21:1-6, 22:1-5. The Bible ends with a vision of God’s complete restoration of everything we have come to know. Have you ever been involved in restoring or reviving something—a piece of furniture, a building, a plant or animal? What was that experience like? What images come to your mind when you think of restoration and wholeness? Have you ever offered the “water of life” or been the “presence of God” to ease pain, bring healing or make things right? What was that like?
From last week: Did you prayerfully consider how you could live your life more like Jesus? Did you search for Bible verses that describe his nature, his attitudes and his words? Did you do your best to think and act more like him? Please share with the group whatever you experienced and whether anyone seemed to notice this change in you, without you having said anything about it.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, February 9, 2014:
I’d like us to think together about the power and importance of having and following visions and dreams. I’ve titled this sermon, “Come Dream With Us!” This was our invitation for the first thirteen years as a church. This theme was not just a marketing slogan. It represents what we believe happens when the Holy Spirit begins working in our lives, and it was an invitation for us to dream together about how we might be the church.
Our scripture today takes place seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples are in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish feast of Pentecost or, as it is called in Hebrew, Shavuot (shah-voo-oat)—the celebration of the giving of the Law and the spring harvest. There were 120 followers of Jesus praying together in the Upper Room where Jesus had, just 8 weeks earlier, shared the Last Supper. While they were praying there was a sound of a violent wind, and then what appeared to be flames of fire around the room. Soon these 120 were all filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in languages they had not hitherto known. They were filled with power, courage and boldness. They began spilling out into the streets preaching and “declaring the wonders of God.”
Soon a crowd gathered, and Peter began to preach. For his scripture text he read Joel 2:28, a prophetic word he said was fulfilled that very day: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Peter noted that this was precisely what was happening on that day. The Spirit was poured out, and men and women were moved by the Spirit to declare the wonders of God, and to have dreams and visions. The words, dreams and visions, in the scripture had to do with God-revealed plans and purposes.
I want us to ponder for a moment this idea of visions and dreams from God. Some people are by nature visionaries and dreamers. They can see in their mind’s eye things that don’t yet exist, things others can’t see. They are energized by dreaming about the future, finding ways to solve problems and meet needs. Others don’t have those gifts. A friend told me recently, “I don’t feel like I often have dreams or visions, but when I hear someone else sharing a dream or vision of what God wants to do I find myself excited and energized as I give myself to accomplish it.” This is how it works for most of us at times. Someone else might see God’s vision or dream God’s dreams, but they share that with you and you find yourself excited.
I believe churches should be places where, as on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is giving visions and dreams. I like the idea of the church as a “dream factory,” a place that encourages dreams and visions, where the Spirit is at work in people’s hearts, and that rallies people around God-sized visions and dreams. I believe that happens here all the time….
This place is a dream factory. It is a place where we meet Christ, where the center of our lives changes. Where the Holy Spirit is speaking each week and sparking dreams, and when people have dreams others say, “Yes! I want to do that!” I want to ask you, are you paying attention? This is a place where the Holy Spirit is at work, where God gives visions and dreams! Our souls need vision, like we need air to breathe. Visions give us something to live for, hope and meaning, purpose and joy….
Twenty-three years ago next month 90 people became charter members of the Church of the Resurrection. We were meeting in a funeral home chapel with no buildings, one pastor and a part time music leader. We had nothing but dreams and visions. Our vision was that God would use us to reach people other churches were not reaching, to help them become followers of Jesus Christ and to call, equip and inspire these people—you—to take their faith to the streets, to serve the poor, to life a life of mercy and compassion. And, as ridiculous as it seemed back in 1991 when we had only 90 members, we believed God was going to use us to work for the renewal of the United Methodist Church….
In 1993, when we broke ground on the building that is today the Wesley Chapel, we had 250 households. In the twenty years since, we grew to 7,100 households—20,000 adults and children, 13,000 of whom were not actively involved in church before coming here. Twenty years ago, no one had heard of Church of the Resurrection. In the twenty years since you became the largest church in our denomination and you’ve been named the most influential mainline church in America, with thousands of churches using your ideas and resources. In 1993 you gave $49,000 to missions. Last year alone you gave away $4.7 million to missions and ministries outside the walls of the church, and you are the largest source of blood, canned goods, school supplies and volunteers in mission in the Kansas City area. What role did having the right buildings play in that?
Here’s where we are today: We have a campus that is not complete….
This building project is not about building a nice building for us, but about having the right tools for generations to come, tools that will help us change lives, transform communities and renew churches….These new and renovated buildings will be our Upper Room. It is where we, and future generations, will meet together to pray and seek God, and where the Spirit works so powerfully in classrooms, nurseries, narthex, missions spaces and worship spaces, so that our young men and women prophecy, our young people have visions and our older adults have dreams.
For more detailed information about Resurrection’s 10,000 Reasons campaign, please visit future.cor.org. To view Pastor Hamilton’s sermon in its entirety, including much detailed information we do not have space for here, visit http://www.cor.org/sermons.
What does “a revelation of God” really mean?
1. A surprising and previously unknown fact, esp. one that is made known in a dramatic way.
2. The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world.
The content and process of God’s making Himself known to people. All knowledge of God comes by way of revelation. Human knowledge of God is revealed knowledge since God, and he alone, gives it. He bridges the gap between himself and his creatures, disclosing himself and his will to them. By God alone can God be known.
Modern thought often questions the possibility and/or reality of revelation. Biblical faith affirms revelation is real because the personal Creator God has chosen to let his human creatures know him. The question remains, “How can a person know God?” The Bible appears to distinguish two ways of knowing God, general and special revelation.
Biblical emphasis points to Jesus Christ as God’s final revelation. God has provided ongoing generations of believers a source of knowledge about himself and his Son. That source is the Bible.
The word revelation means an uncovering, a removal of the veil, a disclosure of what was previously unknown. Revelation of God is God’s manifestation of himself to humankind in such a way that men and women can know and fellowship with him.
General Revelation: Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. We can rephrase these observations to say that all that can be known about God in a natural sense has been revealed in nature. This is what we call natural or general revelation. General revelation is universal in the sense that it is God’s self-disclosure of Himself in a general way to all people at all times in all places. General revelation occurs through (1) nature, (2) in our experience and in our conscience, and (3) in history.
Special Revelation: In contrast to God’s general revelation which is available to all people, God’s special revelation is available to specific people at specific times in specific places. He chooses to whom and through whom He will make Himself known. God manifests himself in a particular manner to his people so they will be a channel of blessing to all others. Through calling people, miracles, the Exodus, covenant making, and ultimately through Jesus Christ, God has revealed Himself in history.
Much more at the source: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T5333 (Holman Bible Dictionary)
This week reflect prayerfully on how you can discern and embrace God’s vision for your life and your church community. Do something to live out God’s plan (e.g. serving others, praying for those in need, telling others what Christ means to you, offering a special donation to God’s work, being especially thoughtful and kind, etc.) Next week, share your experiences with the group.