I Am Who I Am, Part 1: An Unknown God (05.11.20)
A Study & Practice Guide on the Biblical Names & Characteristics of God
During shelter in place, we’re continuing to meet online as CGs, and our church is discovering new values for:
- More study of the timeless truths of the Bible
- Less focus on our current pandemic moment
- More embodied and physical practices
- Less screen time
This guide is designed to take approximately 90 minutes to complete with sections that are “video optional” or “video encouraged” (in order to care for some people’s screen fatigue). At your group’s discretion, any time beyond 90 minutes can be used for informal check-ins, prayer, socializing, or continuing conversations which this guide opens.
Welcome & Opening Prayer
After the group welcomes one another, take 5-10 minutes of group prayer time, thanking God for who He is and His presence with us. (E.g., “Thank you for your goodness, Jesus.”) Optionally, people in your group might choose to turn off video and go “audio only” for this part—or possibly choose to stretch or move.
Set a timer for 1 minute per person to check in:
- What aspect of God’s character are you most grateful for right now
- Why that characteristic today?
Introducing “I Am Who I Am” Practice Guide Series
After surveying people in our church, we found that many would like to focus group time on studying and applying Biblical truths. Therefore, we’ve designed a new series called “I Am Who I Am,” in which groups can examine Scriptures that describe aspects of God’s character.
Why study what the Bible says about God’s character right now?
When the present moment feels unstable, many are looking for timeless truths to hold onto. As Christians, this means looking to the Bible as our source of truth and being connected to our eternal God. This is not meant to prompt avoidance of our current moment, but instead to reenergize and refocus us to embrace this moment by anchoring us in the Lord God, “who is, who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8).
How will we study together?
Week to week, we will study by:
- Reading Scripture aloud.
- Considering the passage in cultural/historical context.
- Making observations about the text.
- Identifying the scripture’s message.
We’ll apply what we study by:
- Identifying what we might need to unlearn or repent from in order to embrace Biblical truth.
- Praying for one another and our world.
What will we be studying?
Here’s where it gets fun! We have a few weeks set of characteristics of God to study (God is Love, Holy, Just, Gracious, Merciful, etc.), but we also want to learn what you’d like to study. After group time, you can fill out this form to let us know which characteristics of God you’d like to explore (as well as any lingering questions you have at the end of each group meeting).
Why do this study instead of practice guides following up on each Sunday teaching?
In normal times, we make practice guides in line with the Sunday teaching. But due to the quickly-evolving sermons that are more pastoral for our constantly-changing moment, we’ve seen it best to create a practice guide series that stands alone. If you’d like to spend your group time responding to the sermons, you can find a simple guide used on Sundays here.
Okay, that’s a lot of setup! Let’s get into it!
Read Scripture Aloud
Have one or more people in your group read Acts 17:16-34. We highly encourage following along in a physical Bible. As you listen and follow along, silently observe anything that stands out to you.
Cultural & Historical Context at a Glance
Read through these few simple insights happening in and around this time:
- Paul (formerly Saul) is a radical convert to Christianity who comes from a Hellenistic (Greek-thought-infused) Jewish background.
- Greek thought in Athens was diverse in that it was richly philosophical with several schools of thought, like the two mentioned in this passage: Stoicism, which encouraged endurance of hardship without complaint; and Epicureanism, which saw hedonistic pleasure as the highest good of humans. (Admittedly, a very brief summary of these philosophies!)
- The Greeks also worshipped idols in a pantheon of multiple gods and goddesses.
- The Areopagus is named after the Greek god of war, Ares.
- In the time that Paul was in Athens, it was a colony of the Roman Empire.
Before interpreting the message for how it applies to us today, take 15-20 minutes to make some simple observations of the text in light of the cultural/historical insights above or other things you know.
- What is happening?
- Who are the main people involved, and what do we know about them?
- Where and when is this taking place?
- What are some distinct words in the passage that stand out to you?
- What other verses in the Bible does this passage echo?
Interpreting the Message
In light of your observations, discuss the message of Acts 17:16-34 for 20-30 minutes.
- What message do you believe the early church would have received from this text?
- What does Paul have to say about who God is and who He is not in this passage?
Applying Biblical Truth
After interpreting the message of the text together and what it reveals about God, consider the implications of this truth for your life. Share with one another for 15-20 minutes:
- In what way has your understanding of God been deepened, expanded, challenged, or refined?
- What would it look like to apply the message of this text to your life?
Pray for your group, our church, our city, and our world.
Do you have any lingering questions or thoughts about this practice guide series? You can offer them on this form here.