Part 1 (Sat)
Part 1 (Sat)
Throughout the Bible there is a repeated theme of exile. As early as Genesis 3, we see humans exiled for the first time, and in each exile there is a sense that we are far from home and far from God’s design. Biblical history shows people living in exile with a faithful God, who can help us make sense of our present moment here and now. Over the next seven weeks we will be looking at biblical examples of exile and gleaning wisdom about how we can engage with God whilst we are far from home.
Read Jeremiah 29:1-14
- What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘exile’?
- Exile can encompass more than a physical place; we can live in a state of exile. What are some current examples in our city, nation and the nations of people living in exile?
- Read Jeremiah 29:5-6. In your current context, what opportunities are you seeing to “build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Multiply and not decrease”?
- C. S. Lewis writes, “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers.” What does Lewis mean? How does this weave into our theme of return from exile?
- When you are facing challenges, how does being in touch with stories of God’s faithfulness in the past influence your response in the present moment?
- Read John 14:1-3. Despite knowing that we are living in exile here and now, we also know that there is hope for a brighter future in Jesus. Do you find hope in the promise of restoration and reconciliation in Jesus? How does that influence your day-to-day living?
Jeremiah 29:7 says, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” This week, pray to God on behalf of our city and our world. Ask God to use you as a person who can draw meaning out of this moment of exile in this city, the nation and the nations.
Part 1 (Sun)
Part 1 (Sun)
The Bible traces the history of God’s people through several periods of exile. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are exiled from the presence of God, out of the Garden of Eden. In Exodus, the Israelites are exiled in Egypt and wander in the wilderness for 40 years trying to reach Canaan, the promised land. In Daniel, we learn that many Israelites are captured and exiled in Babylon, waiting to go home to the land of Israel. In our generation, we may experience a form of exile as our relationship with God feels disconnected in some ways. We may feel that we are not good enough, longing to achieve more. We may feel like the Israelites travelling through the desert, not knowing where our home is. But God has promised a way home and a stairway back to His presence – the return from exile is through the door which is found in His son, Jesus.
Read Genesis 3:21-24
- What comes to mind and what are some initial feelings when you hear the word ‘exile’? What about the word ‘home’? What does it look like for you to be ‘home’?
- Exile has always been part of a believer’s life. Why do you think that is? Have you ever experienced the feeling of exile in your life?
- Read Exodus 4:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 12:9. Like Moses and Paul, we all have weaknesses in which God desires to partner with us. Have you ever felt inadequate or unable to meet the expectations for a role? Why is it challenging to face this insecurity?
- If we are complete and adequate, we will not need God. He has made us with our weaknesses so that in Him, through Jesus, we are made complete. In the light of this, why do we often try to make ourselves feel complete by chasing the world or by pursuing achievements?
- Pastor Heather mentioned that what is good in our eyes may not be good in the eyes of God. What could hinder us from using God’s perspective? What could be the challenges from knowing what is good in God’s perspective?
- Being exiled from God can create a feeling of incompleteness and emptiness in our heart. God has promised restoration, a way for us to return from exile and that He can fill the emptiness of our hearts. Is there something that is hindering you from allowing God to fill the emptiness of your heart? How can this group help and support you?
For this week, pray that you will allow the Holy Spirit to open your heart to God’s promise to receive His grace and renew your relationship with Him. What is one inadequacy that you can talk to Jesus about? Commit it to Him and let Him restore and complete His work in you.
Part 2 (Sun)
The Israelites spent 70 years of exile in Babylon and then returned to Jerusalem. God’s temple was in ruins, yet the people used their resources to build their own homes, neglecting the temple. The prophet Haggai implored them to give careful thought to their ways, reminding them that God’s purpose for their return from exile was to rebuild His temple.
During the days of our own (covid) exile in 2020, some of us slowed down and spent more time with God, cared for our neighbours and gave willingly to those in need. Now that we have returned from covid exile and are enjoying our freedoms again, we risk falling back into our old pursuit of material comfort at the expense of God’s calling. In this season, God is calling us to continue building His temple and to stay focused on the work and purposes He has planned for us today.
Read Haggai 1:1-9, Matthew 28:19-20
- We have been on a journey of “covid exile” in our own homes. What has the return from exile looked like for you in the past six months?
- Many of us found creative ways to fill our days in covid exile, such as DIY home renovations. What are some activities you undertook? Do you think you will continue to do them as we return to a new normal? Compared to last year, what has changed in your priorities with time and resources?
- Read Haggai 1:5-6. The prophet Haggai asked the Israelites to give careful thought to their ways as they were building their own homes instead of God’s temple after their return from exile. Do you think his message is relevant to our generation? What is a barrier for you at present that is preventing you from building God’s kingdom?
- Pastor Mark Purser mentioned that there is a scale of apathy, from modest to extreme. Do you agree that this exists? Which part of the scale are you on right now? What would you need to change to reset where you are at on the scale for God?
- We read in Haggai 2:5-9 God promises the Israelites that He will be with them, so they do not need to fear, and He will bring glory and peace. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives the same promise as we partner with Him in our daily walk. How does this promise make you feel? Is there anything hindering you from partnering with Jesus in making disciples?
- God’s purpose for us after our return from covid exile is to continue to use His gifts in our lives for His work. What are some of the gifts that God may have placed in your hands? How can you use them for God today?
This week, pray that the Holy Spirit will show you someone you can help to disciple, perhaps by reading the Bible with them. Is there one thing God has gifted you to use for His purpose? Commit this to the Lord and let Him re-align the resources He has placed in your hands for His purpose and plan. Commit to doing one thing this week for God, using the gifts and resources that He has given to you.
Daniel and his three friends were brought to Babylon during the invasion of Jerusalem and Judah when they were still teenagers. They had done nothing wrong, yet they had to go through many years of exile in an unfamiliar land. They were subjected to a new culture, new education, new food, new beliefs and even new names. However, Daniel sought not to be defiled but looked to God whenever he felt discouraged and needed to make a wise decision.
In this season of Covid exile, our journey may seem long, with a sense of fatigue and isolation beginning to creep in. Yet God is calling us to seek Him, deepen our relationship with Him, be willing to sacrifice for His sake, and surrender our lives to Him.
Read Daniel 1:1-21, James 1:2-4, Joshua 1:9
- As we Victorians are back in lockdown, there is a greater risk of feeling isolated. How has it been for you during these last few days? Is your routine similar to that of the previous lockdown?
- Read Daniel 1:1-9. We read about Daniel’s challenging journey in exile at Babylon where he was given a new name and had to learn many new things that were unfamiliar to him. However, he sought the Lord in the difficult situations, especially when he was offered certain food that could defile him. Discuss some situations where you need to make difficult decisions. What do you do to avoid falling into undesirable circumstances?
- Pastor Tim mentioned that we can ask God to help us live in a way that sets the tone for the world around us, rather than just being shaped by our circumstances. Are there any barriers that have prevented you from being open to God and asking Him for help in your circumstances?
- Read James 1:2-4. As we go through trials, we learn to persevere and grow towards maturity in Jesus. What are some of the challenges that you have been facing? Discuss one situation that seems difficult for you to persevere through.
- Pastor Tim mentioned the call to be willing to sacrifice and surrender to God. What are some of the things we could do in response to God’s call for a deeper relationship with Him? Is there someone you could connect and share your journey with?
- What are you being called to sacrifice? What do you need to surrender to God today?
This week, find one way that you are able to go deeper with God and dig into the spiritual depth that He offers you. Ask Him what He wants you to sacrifice and surrender to Him, and commit to ‘just do it.’
In the New Testament we see many of Jesus’ disciples disperse to different places and become exiles or foreigners in strange lands. Although they face all kinds of trials, Peter encourages them to remain strong. He tells them that they are being tested like fire tests and purifies gold. God is calling us not to be entrapped by the trials in this season nor try to escape into our comfort zones, but to engage with the broken world, embody God’s love and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ feet and hands.
Read 1 Peter 1:1-8, Ephesians 4:16
- How have you been during these two weeks of lockdown in Melbourne? Share with the group some things that have made you feel like being on a journey exiled in a strange land.
- Pastor Scott mentioned that we may feel entrapped in the chaos that we are facing, or we may be trying to escape into our comfort zone, refusing to engage with the world. To what extent does this apply to you? What are some barriers that may have discouraged you from engaging with the world?
- Read 1 Peter 1:6-8. God has promised that though we may face trials at this moment, the end result of our endurance will be joy, just as gold is purified by being tested by fire. How can this passage help you endure this season? Share with the group some experiences where God has lifted you.
- Pastor Scott mentioned that knowing our identity in Jesus can help us face the world with a sense of security so we can reach out to our community and journey with them. Is this challenging for you? What are some difficulties you face in sharing your journey with others?
- Many of us are feeling like exiles in a strange land but God has promised that we will return from exile to be refreshed and renewed for His work, just as Jesus was sent to the world after spending forty days praying and fasting in the wilderness. Discuss how your prayer journey with God has been and how you could deepen your relationship with Him.
- Read Ephesians 4:16. We are joined together by His love to form the body of Christ and we are held together to grow and build each other up in love, as each part does its work. Which areas do you think God has built up in you for His kingdom? Discuss one area in which you could do your part as Jesus’ hands and feet during this season.
This week, spend some quiet time with God and pray that He will open your heart and eyes to see the areas where you could be Jesus’ hands and feet. Think of one thing that you could do to reach out to those who may need your help or connect with someone you could journey with during this season. Commit to doing it.
In the Old Testament, we read that Nehemiah found favour with King Artaxerxes and gained approval to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple gates and city walls, together with the Israelites. Some criticised Nehemiah’s leadership, but he was confident that God would give them success. In this season, God is calling us to rebuild our lives and trust that He will enable us to overcome the distractions and discouragement that we face.
Read Nehemiah 1:1-4, Nehemiah 2:1-5
- As we have undergone lockdowns in recent times, what are some “exile” experiences you are facing? Share with the group some challenges you are going through.
- Read Nehemiah 2:4. Nehemiah understands that he needs God’s help to rebuild something as significant as the wall of Jerusalem – to the extent that he prayed to God even in the middle of a conversation with the king. How can we move towards having this this kind of faith? What might hinder you from doing so?
- Pastor Sam reminded us, “You can’t rebuild anything of significance without God’s help.” Is there any specific area in your life where you long for God’s help in order to make significant change?
- Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in our weakness. Share with the group some uplifting times where you have experienced God’s grace and power.
- Pastor Sam mentioned that we can focus on rebuilding our lives by making specific plans, remaining resilient when faced with discouragement, and celebrating success in small wins. What does it look like for you to apply this to your current reality? Share with the group some of the successes you have experienced.
- We can’t rebuild everything immediately and we can’t do nothing, but we can start rebuilding something today. Is there someone you can reach out to in your community, Life Group or workplace who may need your help in beginning the rebuilding process? What are some ways you could reach out to them?
This week, pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal to you one area that you can start rebuilding and trust that He will give you success. Ask God to help you reach out to someone you can journey with through this rebuilding process.
Jesus shares a parable about a younger son who regretted leaving home and wasting his inheritance. During a famine, the son came back and asked his father for forgiveness. Instead of punishing his wayward son, the father was filled with compassion and even celebrated his homecoming. In this season, God invites us to return from our exile to His home, where there is plenty of grace, mercy and love to share.
Read Luke 15:11-32, Romans 8:37-39
- How has it been for you this week since restrictions eased, permitting meetings with more friends and family members? Share with the group about celebrations you may have had.
- Read Luke 15:22-32. Discuss the three different figures in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. Who do you relate to most? Why did Jesus intentionally end the story in this way?
- Pastor Dale mentioned that some of us could be like the prodigal son, experiencing some form of exile away from home. What are some experiences that made you feel lost and isolated from your loved ones? What are some of the challenges that you may have?
- We may know someone who has journeyed away from us. Instead of judgment, God showed us His grace and mercy when we came back to Him after exile. Discuss some ways that you could reach out with love and compassion to those who are currently away from God.
- Pastor Dale reminded us that we may fall into the trap of being lost in religion. To what extent do you think this could be a reality in our generation? God promises His unconditional love for those who are willing to return to Him. Are there any barriers hindering you from accepting God’s love?
- Read Romans 8:37-39. In these verses, God promises that we are more than conquerors because of His love for us, and that nothing can separate us from His love. Share with the group some uplifting times when you have experienced God’s unconditional love. When have you experienced being a conqueror?
This week, pray that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind someone with whom you can share God’s unconditional love. Pray that God will enable you to show grace and compassion to someone who is wanting to return from exile. Is there a specific plan you can make in celebration of someone’s coming home? Commit to doing it.