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Monday, April 18, 2011

STREAMS: THE STUDY GUIDE

STUDY GUIDE FOR STREAMS


PRELIMINARY: STREAMS has a short introduction and conclusion and five chapters, each chapter divided into seven sections. The seven sections are meant to allow people to read a chapter a week by finishing a section a day. A study can therefore be set up for 7 weeks or, if a group wishes to spend two weeks on each chapter, 12 weeks. The study guide can, of course, be modified to suit any pattern the leader and group want.


INTRODUCTION – THE PATH TO WATER

1) How important is water to our daily lives? How important is it for cleaning or cooking or drinking or growing things? Can a person go longer without water or longer without food? Can you recall the times you really have been thirsty and couldn’t quench your thirst for a long time? Have you ever made any spiritual connections with that experience?
2) Is water something that matters to you in terms of recreation? Do you spend much time on or by rivers, lakes, streams, ponds or the great oceans? Is water something that matters to you in terms of landscape? Is a mountain or forest or desert vista more meaningful that a stretch of ocean and beach or a lake with a shore of stones and pine trees? What does a water vista say to you about God?
3) What Biblical stories can you think of from the top of your head where water plays an important factor? Not just vast bodies of water but small amounts of water too, even water contained in cups or jars or the palm of the hand? What stories did Jesus tell or what teachings did he offer that had water in them?
4) Have you ever been in situations where water frightened you or threatened you? How did you deal with those situations? Did those experiences take away your enjoyment of water as something to play in or rest at or look at and be inspired by?


CHAPTER ONE – THE RED SEA

1) Have you ever experienced being trapped or blocked by water that formed an obstacle you could not easily get around? What did you do about it? What did you learn?
2) What sort of obstacles have you faced emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally that you could not easily see your way through or around?
3) When you are faced with virtually impassable barriers in your life do you pray first, try to figure a way over or around first, or do both simultaneously? What happens when the situation is not resolved quickly? Have you ever had the experience of facing an issue or problem that you could not solve by any human means or ingenuity whatsoever?
4) What do you do if you feel your prayers have not been answered and a Red Sea in your life has not been parted? Do you feel angry with God or disappointed? Have you ever come to the point of having to accept that God’s grace must be sufficient for you because the barrier is not being lifted or going anywhere soon, like Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
5) When your Red Seas do part, how many have been a combination of your effort along with prayer and how many have been resolutions you consider miraculous? How do you celebrate them?


CHAPTER TWO – THE RIVERS OF BABYLON

1) Have you had experiences in your life that have not simply been difficult obstacles, but actually gave you a feeling of being trapped or in a state of captivity?
2) How did you deal with those situations? How many of them were dealt with by a combination of prayer and human effort and how many simply by pure prayer? How many times did your release come quickly and how many times did it feel slow in coming?
3) If an answer or freedom from a situation that entraps you does not come swiftly do you feel frustrated or exasperated? How do you deal with your relationship with God under such circumstances? Are you able to tell him you are upset at his apparent lack of concern (if that is how you feel)? Are there any Biblical precedents for expressing your struggle and hurt to God in that way? (Such as in the Psalms?)
4) Have your times of darkness and great stress offered you any insights on God and his love for you that you never learned from your times of light and peace?
5) What do you think Job’s comforters did wrong when they came to him in his distress? How should they have handled it differently? How do you like comforters to speak to you when you are in distress? How do you think you should approach and assist others when they are in that state?


CHAPTER THREE – RIVERS IN THE DESERT

1) How many of you have traveled through the desert by car or by foot or by any other means with the exception of aircraft? How much water did you take with you? Was your experience pleasant? If you had run out of water how quickly would your experience have changed from pleasant to nasty?
2) How many times in your Christian life have you had periods of great dryness in your soul where prayer, worship and Bible reading were difficult? Did these periods last a long time or were they short in duration? How did you handle them?
3) Did you find others were generally patient and compassionate if you shared your struggle with a “desert experience” or were some people annoyed or impatient with your difficulties?
4) Have you found books that talked about Christians having bouts of spiritual dryness and were these books helpful to you? Or have you had a hard time finding Christian writers or pastors or teachers who were open and honest about such seasons in the Christian life?
5) Have you ever come out of the desert feeling more empowered like Jesus was after being tested by Satan? Or has your experience been the opposite? What made the breakthroughs happen that brought you from the desert to water and new life again? What did you learn in the desert that you had never learned anywhere else?


CHAPTER FOUR – THE JORDAN RIVER

1) What rivers (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) have you had to cross in your life that, once crossed, changed your life completely?
2) How many of these rivers were easily crossed and how many were difficult, even frightening? How did you manage to get up the courage to cross the hard rivers? How often did you feel God urging you to make certain crossings and promising that he would be with you?
3) What was your baptism experience like? Normal? Drab? Exciting? Do you feel the step made a big change in your life? Or do you feel nothing truly changed? Was it something that happened when you were so young – a newborn, an infant, a child – that you have no memory of it at all or whether it spiritually impacted you?
4) How important is water baptism on a scale of one to ten as far as you’re concerned? Is it a two or three (not such a big deal) or is it an eight or nine or ten? Do you think there is too much fuss over water baptism and not enough attention paid to other spiritual realities? Or do you feel baptism is treated as a given and not celebrated enough?
5) When you look at how the early Christians regarded baptism do you feel its vital significance may have been lost somewhere over the past 2000 years? Do you think it would be best to baptize immediately after salvation or wait? Do you think waiting makes baptism a pinnacle to be achieved instead of a grace, like salvation, to be received?


CHAPTER FIVE – THE SEA OF GALILEE

1) When you picture Christ’s ministry, do you often imagine him walking through the countryside or do you envision him also walking by the shores of the Sea of Galilee? Have you thought about how much of what he does or says happens on or near water? Or have you generally been focused on him moving on and through dry land or not?
2) How important is water symbolism to Jesus? Can you name a number of occasions in which he used it? Can you recall the various events that happened by the waters of the Sea of Galilee?
3) How many times and in what ways has God used water to speak to you or teach you something you had not learned by another means?
4) Have services by lakes or on beaches or by other sources of water been more meaningful to you than services indoors or even outside where water was not present? If the water services were more significant for you why do you think this is so? How does God use water to reach out to us?
5) Read the first verses of the first chapter of Genesis. Why does God make sure water is there before he carries on with the rest of creation? Why is water that important to him? Why has he made it so important to us?


CONCLUSION – TIDES

1) Do bodies of water, whether still or moving, help you to meditate on what God has done in your life? Do they help you to pray about the people and problems that concern you? Do they help you praise? Or does water make any difference?
2) What do waves tell you about God? Or rain? Or waterfalls? Why do we experience tears of joy or grief or pain? Why does the Bible make sure we know Jesus experienced tears of grief just as we do?
3) What storms in your life and in your heart have terrified you? How has God quelled them? Are there ones that keep recurring or never quite seem to fully disappear? Do you take those to the Christ as well? How does it all tie into Philippians 4:6&7 or Isaiah 26:3 or John 14:27 or Colossians 3:15?
4) In what ways do springs of living water flow out of those who follow and worship Jesus Christ?

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