The Surprising Kingdom (Luke 18:1 – 33)


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SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON

In this week’s sermon, Pastor Rich spoke about 4 ways Jesus’ Kingdom surprises us. Using 4 stories from Luke 18, each vignette revealed something new. In the story of the widow, we’re surprised by – who gets heard by God. She’s weak, un-influential, unimportant, and poor, but God hears her prayers. In the story of the Pharisee and tax collector, we’re surprised by – who is accepted by God. We think it’s the religious person, but Jesus says it’s the humble person. In the story of the little children, we’re surprised by – who matters to God. We may think the successful, the strong, the rich matter to God, but Jesus shows God’s heart for children. In the story of the rich young ruler, we’re surprised by – who experiences the life of God. Wealth can rob us of basic joys and satisfaction in life, and reduce our experience of the abundant life.

GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
1.Can you describe a time when you chose to stand up to a power (i.e. boss or teacher) greater than yourself? Please describe the scenario. What was that like for you psychologically (before, during, after)?
2.Have you ever been persecuted for your faith? What was the circumstance? How did God reveal himself to you? Please explain.
3.Please share a story where God surprised you. What was the result, good or bad? Please share briefly.

INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
1. In 5 minutes or less. Briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.

2.Read Daniel 6:10-23:

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

•Read Daniel 6:1-10 and share the context of this Scripture with your group.
•What is Daniel’s response to the decree that was issued by the king (v.10)? Why do you think he responded in such a way? Have you ever found yourself in a position in which you had to challenge the status quo because of your beliefs? Briefly share
•Why do you think Daniel chose to pray with his windows open instead of hiding behind closed doors? What does this tell you of his knowledge of God’s kingdom and of his relationship with God? Do you feel you know God well enough to stand up to a king / president / boss / friend because of him?
•According to the law of the Medes and the Persians, a decree issued by the king cannot be changed (v.12), therefore even though Daniel was a friend of the king, the king had no choice but to throw him into the lion’s den. He had the whole weight of their legal system against him! Have you ever been in a difficult or trying situation in which there is no apparent way out? Briefly share. What do Daniel’s actions tell us of how we should respond to those situations?
•The king knows there is nothing he can do to save Daniel, yet he knows of Daniel’s God. How do you think the king knew about God? Do you think it was easy for Daniel to walk out a Christian life in the midst of the Persian Empire? Remember that this was a time in which the king was considered a god, and as such, not only did they have total authority over people’s lives, but they also demanded complete obedience, praise and worship from their people.
•Even though Daniel knew the king, the most powerful person in the Persian Empire and the known world, he did not beg for his help, instead, he places his trust solely on God. He knows that even though the most powerful kingdom on earth is against him, the Persian Empire at it’s best is no comparison to God’s kingdom. Ask your group to enter a conversation about their thoughts and knowledge on God’s kingdom. What does it look like? How big is it? How powerful is it? How does it compare to earthly kingdoms? Etc.
•In verse 20, what is the question the king shouts into the lion’s den? Why do you think he specifically mentions Daniel’s God? Why does the king call God the “living God”? If a pagan king believed that Daniel’s God was the only one that could save him, how much more should this truth be embedded in our lives as followers of Christ? Do our lives reflect such a belief in God and his power? What would it look like if it did? Briefly share.
•Read verse 23. Why was no wound found on Daniel? Can we have the same trust in God? How many times has God already lifted us out of the “lion’s den”? Can we always trust God? Briefly share.

3.Please leave room at the end of your group to wait on the Holy Spirit and invite Him to speak to and for each person. This week’s message challenged us by revealing the kind of character God requires – pray about specific ways you might miss God’s heart for his people.

Additional ministry areas below:
•This week’s message challenged us by revealing the kind of character God requires and responds to – pray about specific ways you might miss God’s heart for his disciples.
•Is anyone experiencing a situation where they need a breakthrough? Perhaps someone is experiencing challenges at work or in their marriage and they really need God to intervene. Please share with someone and invite God’s power.
•If anyone is struggling with Faith – to press-on, to get-through, to break an addiction, etc. – invite God into that situation and pray for words of encouragement and evidence of our father’s abiding love.

Small Group Leaders, We Need Your Help!!!

We still need 9 people for the 9:00 service, and 5 people for the 11:30 service.

For Lent this year, we are doing a sermon series entitled, “40 Days of Drawing Near to Jesus” where we will be studying the various spiritual disciplines found in the book of Luke, which we hope will help all of us draw near to Jesus. And for Easter weekend, we wanted to do something really special and have live cardboard testimonies as part of our worship time during our services.

If you don’t know what a cardboard testimony is, please click on this link to see an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvDDc5RB6FQ

Here is where we need your help. We are looking for about 100 people from our congregation who would be willing to share a cardboard testimony during our worship time in one of our Easter weekend services (25 people at each of our 4 services). We would like to ask if you would consider having your whole small group (or even just a few people) participate in this together. This would be a great opportunity for your small group to serve together in our church. And it would also be a chance to share the amazing Jesus stories of the people in your small group with our church.

We would like to encourage you to pray about this and talk with your small group and see if this is something that you might want to do together.

Here is one thing you can try: For worship time during your small group, show the video that I referenced above. And then you can ask people to share their own testimonies (just on a sheet of paper) during worship time. And if this is something that was meaningful for the group, you might ask if this is something that your whole group would do together on Easter (in front of 3000 people) to celebrate together what Jesus has done in our midst.

If your group is willing and able to help out in this way, can you please respond back to us at your earliest convenience and let us know how many people from your group will share a cardboard testimony on Easter? As noted above, we are looking for about 100 people.

We still need 9 people for the 9:00 service, and 5 people for the 11:30 service.

To respond, please contact Miriam Gray at 614-259-5235 or Miriam.Gray@vineyardcolumbus.org.