January 22, Alan Frow
“Community for the Sake of Mission”
Last week we talked about the day of Pentecost as the foundation of the Church that Jesus would build. We read about how the Spirit was poured out on the disciples as they waited, how the surrounding nations were amazed that they could hear God being worshipped in their own language through the enabling of the Spirit, how Peter preached Jesus in the sermon of sermons, and how 3000 people were saved and added to the church that day.
Today we read about how this new community, the church, began to live out it’s call to be a witness to the resurrected Christ. Remember, Luke kicked off the book saying, “I wrote about all the things that Jesus began to do and to teach.” Acts is the sequel where we see Jesus continuing all that He had began, by his disciples witnessing to the resurrection in the power of the Spirit. That’s the mission. But do you see that Jesus doesn’t continue the mission just by sending a preacher like Peter. He continues the mission by building a church – the very body of Christ. It is the Body of Christ worshipping, teaching, praying, sharing, eating, laughing, weeping, and witnessing that continues ‘doing and teaching’ just as Jesus began. The Tri-Une God is the perfect community, and we can only bear witness to Him by living in community ourselves.
1. The early disciples did not add church to their lives. They were added to the life of the church. How do you live out this picture of belonging and devotion?
2. The early church took care of those who had need, yet there was no sense of entitlement. Even those who were needy had a generous spirit. ‘They received their food with glad and generous hearts.’ How are these qualities in our church, and how can we develop them?
3. The description that ‘awe came on every soul’ is a call to live in reverence towards God and expectation for Him to move in power. Pray for that kind of atmosphere in our community.
January 15, Alan Frow
“When Jesus Builds His Church”
Last week we looked at the Jesus’ commission to the disciples and command to wait for the Spirit. They are sure of the resurrection and given So the stage is set for this week for Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit which was when Jesus began to build His church.
The infamous Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11 reveals the common error of the way we humans tend to build. “They said, Come let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top reaching to the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” At first glance, Babel Project seems quite noble – unifying diverse communities with a common mission, having an impressive religious structure that would leave an inspiring legacy – touching heaven itself. Who would meddle with something that will unite, inspire and even point people towards God? Well, God would. He destroyed the tower and scattered the people across the face of the earth. Why? In the ancient world, the thought was that if one could reach that high, the gods would be impressed , and fates could be brought under human control. If you can reach heaven, you can control your destiny and make your name great. Project Babel aims to make a name for itself and in doing so control what is uncontrollable. We climb ladders and build towers in order to be noticed, and somehow earn God’s blessing. Religion like this is powerful for a time, but is ultimately judged by God.
In the gospel, God does the exact opposite of Babel –he comes down to earth, because he knows man can never reach heaven himself. Instead of making his name great, he gives up his greatness, taking on the name and nature of a humble servant. He gathers a diverse team of people from different backgrounds and persuasions and forges them into a powerful team. He says to his team, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” He leaves the team with a commission to make disciples by building the church – the book of Acts is the building of the church – but we will see that it will be built very differently from the way the tower of Babel was built. Pentecost describes the beginnings of the building of the church – and it is a reversal of Babel. In the building of the Church, as the Spirit is poured out, Jesus takes the initiative, Jesus get the glory, and Jesus brings the growth.
1. Before Pentecost, Peter is proud, confused and self-reliant. After Pentecost, he is bold, humble, clear and reliant on the Spirit. Talk about how the Spirit has transformed your character over time.
2. What are the three different views of the baptism of the Spirit discussed in the sermon. How would you describe a moment in which you were filled with the Spirit. what are you fears about this idea.
December 11, Alan Frow
“The Hope of the Magi”
Only Matthew’s gospel contains the account of the Magi, most likely because Matthew’s gospel focuses on Jesus as King, and so he has a vested interest in looking at the responses of human authorities to the birth of Jesus the king. In this passage we see the hostility of King Herod, the indifference of the Scribes and Chief Priests and the worship of the Magi to Jesus. We learn from them what it is to be true seekers of God. Most of all though, we learn that God’s seeking and saving power is greater than our ability to seek Him out. His gospel extends to Gentile pagans in the darkest corners of the most distant lands, and if God can save the Magi, he can save anyone.
December 4, Alan Frow
What is Advent? Derived from the Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival.” It’s the season when we look back to Christ’s first coming, as a baby born in Bethlehem, and look forward to his second coming when he will return to renew and redeem every part of fallen creation. It’s the traditional celebration of the first advent of Jesus in humility and the anxious awaiting of His second advent in glory. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting. We will between the now and the not yet, between the first and second coming of Christ. Advent is the hopeful longing for Christ, who came and shone into the darkness of this world in humility, to come and shine again in full and final glory.At Advent, we again set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
This Advent, we are going to learn hope from the different characters around the manger at Christ’s birth. We begin by learning from the first human announcer’s of his birth, the shepherds.
November 13, Alan Frow
October 23, Ryan MacDonald
Matthew 6: 1-18
1. In what ways are you temped to live your life to please man instead of God?
2. What does it mean to live our life in such away that you receive a reward from your Father?
3. How does the Lords prayer help us focus on God?
4. What should the believers motivation be for giving, praying and fasting?
October 16, Alan Frow
Integrity & Hypocrisy in the Kingdom
Integrity is one of the great themes of Scripture. The Jewish people called it the Shema. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was in Mark 12 , what was his answer? He quoted Deuteronomy 6, saying, ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is one, and you shall love the lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. ‘ ‘The Lord your God is One’ – shows us two things – that the greatest command begins with hearing not doing – we can only love God if we hear first who he is and what he has done – the Lord your God is one – there is one God, God three in one, and God has redeemed the fragments of life into an integrated whole under his Lordship. We are in an integrity crisis in the nation, in the Church and in our individual lives. What’s the opposite of integrity? Hypocrisy. Living a double life. Living behind a mask. Living a lie. And in the sermon on the mount Jesus railed against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He talks about the need for integrity in our marriages, and integrity more broadly in our promises.
1. How does Jesus teaching on the covenant of marriage confront our cultures’ tendency to see marriage as a disposable contract? How do we uphold the sanctity of Biblical marriage while living with grace towards those who have experienced divorce?
2. How does Jesus teaching to ‘Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No’ challenge our tendency over promise and under deliver, tell white lies and break commitments we’ve made committed? Be specific about moments when speaking falsely have hurt you and others.
3. Contrast the integrity of Jesus and the hypocrisy of Peter at Jesus’ trial. How does Jesus’ death and presence empower us to live lives of integrity?
October 2, Matt Nethers & Joel Baker
After explaining the broad portions of the Beatitudes and an explanation of righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees, Jesus focuses on the first application of these principles when he speaks about anger and reconciliation. He proceeds to explain the 6th commandment, “do not murder”, by elevating it and causing us to examine our own hearts. He declares unrighteous anger a sin and then challenges us to reconcile quickly with others with anger or strife has separated us. God even tells us that He’s happy to wait to receive our worship while we work it out.
1. What have you learned about God and his kingdom while you have tried to deal with anger and reconciliation toward others?
2. How can you resolve conflict and love your neighbor, including with non-Christians, with the words you use in conversation or arguments? How can you avoid unnecessary conflict?
3. Talk about a moment when Jesus helped you to rid yourself of anger and conflict. Did it help in the long-term?
September 25, Alan Frow
“Grace-Based Righteousness” Matt 5:17 -20
Today we continue Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount on righteousness. He also tells his disciples that they should have a righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Righteousness is an interesting word for us who are under a covenant of grace not of law. But this is a key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount. If we are love Him we will obey His commands.
1. If living righteously doesn’t save us then why should we live righteously?
2. In what ways should our righteousness exceed the Pharisees?
3. Jesus righteousness works from the inside out. Talk about a moment in which Jesus changed the motives and attitudes of your heart, and how that in turn changed your actions.
September 18, Erik Santiago
The Sermon on the Mount is possibly Jesus’ most famous sermon and The Beatitudes are probably the most famous part of that most famous sermon. So we need to pay special attention the weight and gravity of these words! Quite simply, Jesus is describing here, the characteristics of a true Christian and, more to the point, the characteristics of himself. To be a Christian, to be like Christ and to, in fact, live in God’s kingdom is to become increasingly more and more like what he describes. Some of these come naturally to some people, but none of them come naturally to anybody. So Christ describes the impossible, inviting us to participate. Inviting us to evaluate ourselves against this extraordinary picture and then become it by the grace of God who works in us. As we increasingly match this picture by growth and maturity in Christ, however, we can count on the fact that it will be met with hostility or “reviling and persecution.” So Jesus warns us, but also encourages us because the lost and dying world is in need of us. And even though these characteristics come only by the miraculous power of God to transform us this way, we must apply ourselves to it. In fact, he warns us that not doing so will render our Christianity useless, to be “trampled under peoples’ feet.” We have the glorious privilege of being salt and light to a world in desperate in of us. Jesus ends this passing by imploring us to “let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
1. If the Beatitudes are a mirror, what do you see when you hold it up to yourself? What lines up with what’s there and what doesn’t?
2. Jesus tells us to “rejoice and be glad” when “others revile and persecute” us on his account. Have you ever been mocked for your faith? Was it because you demonstrated this passage in some way? How did you feel when it happened?
3. Jesus compares ineffective Christianity to ineffective salt, which he says should just be thrown away. These are confrontational words, but do they spur you to desire growth and maturity in these areas?
August 21, Alan Frow
“Fruitfulness and Spiritual Opposition” Isaiah 54:11-17
Today we look at a passage in which Isaiah describes a city being built in a fierce storm. It is a prophecy about the Jewish exiles returning to restore the temple and the walls in Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s history of the building project describes how it progressed under great opposition. Jesus spoke of the fulfillment of this picture in the New Covenant when he spoke of the spiritual opposition to the building of His Church. “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18) Satan is a defeated enemy, but he still uses subtle strategies to frustrate the building of Jesus’ Church as the agent of His Kingdom. We will explore the strategies of intimidation, illegal occupation, and distraction and how Jesus’ helps us overcome them.
1. Discuss CS Lewis’ description of Satan. “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.” Do you tend towards disbelief or unhealthy interest in him.
2. Which of the strategies of intimidation, illegal occupation or distraction are you most prone to, and why?
3. The Hymn, “Before the Throne” says, “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of my guilt within, upwards I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin. Because a sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me.”
Spend some time worshiping Jesus, our sinless Savior, and submitting to Him as our Victorious King.
August 14, Alan Frow
“Conditions for a Fruitful life”
Isaiah 54: 4-9
Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life, writes “It’s not about you.The purpose of you life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind or even your own happiness. Its far greater than your family, your career or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for his purpose… Many people use God for their own self-actualization, but that is a reversal of nature and is doomed to failure. You were made for God not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not using Him for your purposes.” This is a great summary of what it means to live fruitfully, and today we are looking at the conditionsfor a fruitful life.
1. Biblically, there at least 6 ways in which we can bear fruit. Godly offspring (Gen 1:27), Character Change (Gal 5:22), Good Works (Col 1:10),Financial Generosity (1 Cor 9), Praise (Heb 13:15), Disciplemaking (Matt 28:18), and Church Planting. (Col 1: 6). Right now, in what way is God most growing fruit in your life?
2. God doesn’t require us to be fertile to be fruitful, but He does require us to return to Him and abide in Him. Two of the ways in which we neglect this is by keeping our options open (FOMO) and nostalgia for a previous season. Which one are you tempted by more and why?
3. After Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers, God gave him and wife and two sons. He called the one son Ephraim, which meant “The Lord has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Talk about the conditions of your life that make you feel like you cannot be fruitful and pray for each other for God’s fruitfulness in spite of these conditions.
July 31, Alan Frow
“The Life, Labor and Legacy of a Fruitful Church”
Isaiah 53: 7 – 54:1
Today we begin a series from the book of Isaiah about what it means to be a fruitful church. The prophet Isaiah was writing to Israel during their exile in Babylon, reminding them that if they that turned from their foreign gods, and returned to the Lord as their husband, He would welcome them back and make them fruitful again. The question was, how could God do this when their repeated sin had led them to such captivity and barrenness? The preceding chapter provides the answer; God would send the Messiah, the suffering servant to die in order to give them new life. This is the message of the Cross of Christ, that He was cut off from the land of the living in order to give us both life and a spiritual legacy. However, no sooner does the woman rejoice in her new life, than she begins to cry out in labor pain. Jesus died to make us fruitful, but producing fruit requires some pain on our behalf.
1. How have we, like Israel, chased after other ‘lovers’ in the hope of life, only to find that they have left us desolate?
2. Fruitfulness, at it’s most basic, is the promise of a spiritual legacy, as we make disciples of Jesus. Paul described the process as being like labor pains. “My dear children for whom I am in the pangs of labor until Christ is formed in you.” Tell of a time when disciple making felt like labor and what it produced.
3. As a church we have ‘given birth’ 3 times in 3 years. This is both joyful and painful. Talk about the joy and pain you feel in being in a fruitful church, as well as the privilege of filling the gaps that others have left as they’ve gone.
July 24, Alan Frow
1. How does Jesus’ statement that “He has chosen and appointed us to bear fruit” give us confidence that he is committed to change us into his image?
2. When and how did you experience “pruning”?
3. How does abiding in Christ differ from activities and methods?
May 29, Brett McCracken
Often the people of God can feel like “exiles” in workplaces or communities that do not understand them or are actively hostile toward their beliefs. And in today’s rapidly changing culture, Bible-believing Christians will increasingly be marginalized and will feel like “exiles.” How should we respond to being in exile? Jeremiah wrote to the exiled Israelites in Babylon and encouraged them to thrive in exile and to work for the welfare of the city, even if that city hated them and persecuted them and sought their destruction. This countercultural posture–seeking the welfare of our captors and persecutors–expands on our work mandate in Genesis and is a key part of our witness as citizens not of an earthly city, but of the City of God.
1. In what ways do you feel like an exile in your job or as a Christian in today’s culture? What posture have you taken as an exile as you relate to the surrounding culture?
2. How are you seeking the welfare of your city through your work? Can you think of a time when you sought the flourishing of people or a community that was seeking your destruction?
3. What should a city look like if all of its Christian “exile” residents and churches were taking seriously the Jeremiah 29 call to seek the welfare of the city? What should our cities look like because of Southlands taking seriously this call?
May 22, Daniel Yu
We see in the Bible and throughout church history many examples of men and women who fulfill the mission and purposes of God by living holy, set apart lives in sacrificial obedience. Many, like Priscilla and Aquila, live out their lives and mission, not as professional ministers, but rather as marketplace business men and women.
1. As Christians, we are all called to be a royal priesthood, and yet, the vast majority of us will never be called to the vocation of priest or pastor or missionary. In what ways do you believe God has called you to be a priest or minister for Him in your life?
2. In trying to connect work and mission, some have a tendency to neglect God’s mission, focusing solely on work. Others view work as unsacred and therefore unimportant, neglecting their work life for the sake of mission. Yet others make the mistake of completely separating the two, having a work life and a church life that is completely separate from each other. What is your tendency? Why do you think you have that tendency?
3. What can we learn from the life of Jesus Christ that can inform and empower our lives as servant missionaries of His in our current work situations?
May 15, Alan Frow
“Nehemiah : Building Team Culture at Work”
Nehemiah serves as Cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes, around 450Bc. Most of the Jews are in exile in Persia, but word comes to Nehemiah from a remnant who have escaped exile and have stayed in Jerusalem, that the holy city’s walls are destroyed and gates are burned. The surrounding nations are taking advantage of Judah’s weakness, and threatening to conquer the city. The Persian king sends Nehemiah back to rebuild the wall with workers and building materials, and he becomes governor of Judah around 445BC.
Nehemiah was not just building a wall. He was building a team. We can reject all the cliché’s about ‘team work making the dream work’, but the truth is, that God has built into the human condition the principle of synergy. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. All of us work in a team of sports, whether in family, studies or in a paid job. Even though team is hard, Christians, as image bearers of the ultimate team – the tri-une God, ought to be the most skillful, self-aware, motivational and easy-going team players and builders on the planet. Today we will look at Nehemiah’s manifesto for building a team culture at work.
1. Nehemiah was such a cheerful worker that on the one day he was sad, the king noticed it as unusual. Would your boss and co-/workers typically assess your emotional state as mad, glad or sad? Explain.
2. Nehemiah’s response to much opposition was both practical and prayerful. What opposition do you face at work and how are you responding to it.
3. Nehemiah was able to station the workers at their point in the wall, and also rally them together to fight for the whole city. How can you being faithful with your specific job but also be mindful of the overall mission of your team at work?
May 1, Matt Nethers
Work is a difficult thing, regardless of what our job is. Daniel shows us that we can live distinctly by faith under extreme moral and time pressure at work. He demonstrates that we should expect our work to be difficult, stressful, and frustrating due to pressures from others as well as the pressure we put on our ourselves . This scripture shows how we are called to love and care for people in the workplace as a means of loving God and loving our neighbor. We are able to do this because Christ has given us an identity, purpose, and drive for work that has no correlation to the size of our paycheck, respect received, or role we have. Out of this, it gives us a willingness to take risks as Spirit-filled disciples who integrate our faith into our work. We have the opportunity to praise God through our work by sharing our faith and by improving the lives of the people we interact with in kindness. God wants us to be Spirit-filled disciples who take the church into the marketplace, so we need God’s empowerment and faith to do this well for the long term.
April 24, Erik Santiago
Money is a complicated subject in our society. Rampant materialism and idolatry shape so much of the world’s priorities and that has a danger of creeping into the church. What’s worse is that, in reaction to our culture’s unbiblical approach to money, Christians often cut a wide swath around money and fail to really understand how God’s economy works. The Bible says God, “takes pleasure in the prosperity of His people.” And let’s face it, most of us work primarily as a means to earn money…to live, to save and to afford what life requires. In Genesis 26 we find Isaac’s livelihood threatened by famine, so he does what any intelligent person would do and heads off to go to a place with greater resource for provision for he and his family. But God interrupts him on that journey and assures Isaac that He will provide for him in the land of famine. Isaac still tries to take the situation into his own hands, fearing for his life and livelihood where his wife is concerned. But God does what He said he would do and multiplies him “one hundredfold.” Isaac is a generous man, sowing in the land of famine, not just for his own survival, but for the sake of keeping peace and allowing others to enjoy the blessing of his prosperity. When we join God’s economy as Isaac did, we enjoy one of the most important aspect of our faith journey – money.
April 17, Alan Frow
1. Talk about a time when you tried to take things into your own hands at work. What happened?
2. Does your job feel like a prison? What could God be teaching you?
3. Do you ask “why is this happening to me” or “God, what are you doing in me”?
4. Talk about a time where you focused on your co-workers’ well being. What was the outcome?
April 10, Alan Frow
Genesis 2: 5-20
Work began as a beautiful thing meant to be a blessing to mankind and creation but it has been corrupted by the fall. One man (Adam) created death for all people (Rom 5:14) but a new adam (Jesus) brings the freedom to many. Every area of life is affected by his sacrifice. He mends the brokenness of work and elevates its value. We are able to worship through work when we know the purpose, embrace the brokenness, and celebrate the restoration of Work.
1. What makes work feel like toil to you?
2. In what ways are you cultivating people in your environment and bringing order out of chaos?
3. How God’s picture of work as satisfying in Genesis challenge your dreams of vacation and retirement.
March 20, Alan Frow
“Praying our Identities” Ephesians 6: 16-24
These parting words from the Apostle Paul are all about prayer. He entreats the saints in Ephesus to pray at all times, for prayer of all kinds, to pray with all perseverance and to pray for all the saints. We know that on two occasions in his letter Paul has described how he prays for them, giving thanks and making requests. ‘For this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you because I’ve heard of your faith and love for all the saints….kneel before the Father, I pray that he would strengthen you with power…’ But now he is turning the responsibility over to them. He wants them to see they are a vital link in the prayer chain. He refuses to be their prayer guru. Instead, he calls them, and us, to pray from their identities as soldiers in an army, as ambassadors in an embassy and as sons in a family.
1. What are the reasons you tend to outsource prayer to others?
2. which of these identities do you most need to understand in order to grow in your prayer life?
3. Talk about a moment in which you were a ‘bold ambassador to open your mouth about the gospel.
March 13, Matt Nethers
Ephesians 6: 10-17
Ephesians 6:10-17 is an order to be like the army of God because, as Christians, we are in a spiritual battle against sin and demonic forces. This is neither fun nor easy but the text invokes us to put on the armor of God, which is a posture of wartime urgency against drifting and apathy as much as against demonic oppression and suffering. We must fight these temptations in community and in faith so that we can fully walk in the identities we have in Christ.
1. How do you manage the tension of acknowledging spiritual warfare and oppression without getting overly interested and fixated on it?
2. How can you practically adopt a wartime posture individually and in community? How do you resist the temptation to drift over time into complacency and apathy?
3. How can spiritual warfare fought in community? What are some ways that we can do this better?
March 6, Alan Frow
“Jesus, our Undercover Boss”
In this passage, Paul begins to unpack our identity as servants of Jesus, our Master. The Greek word here is kryios, which means Lord or Boss.
When we are born of the Spirit, we are enabled to say, “Jesus is Lord.” (1 Cor 12:3) This is not just a theological statement. It is a statement of personal submission. The ongoing infilling of the Spirit empowers us to walk out our identity as servants of Jesus in our work and family relationships. Jesus is our ‘Undercover Boss’, who sees everything, will reward faithfulness, and punish injustice. Knowing this enables us to submit to and serve to flawed, human authority.
1. How does my identity as a bondservant of Jesus change the way I view flawed, human authority?
2. In what ways can I practically honor and forgive my parents? In what ways am I exasperating my child?
3. How does submission to Jesus change my view of work?
4. How does the knowledge that Jesus is my ‘Undercover Boss’ change the way I live in difficult family and work situations?
Feb. 28 Daniel & Marcia Yu
The world tells us that in order to be truly fulfilled and happy, we need to find our soulmates and live happily ever after. The problem is: there is nothing in the Bible that promises or prescribes that as a way to receive deep satisfaction and the joy that our hearts crave, and romantic love very often leads to pain and suffering rather than joy. Jesus, and He alone, can give us the “happily ever after” that we all so desperately want. Marriage was designed and instituted by God to be blessing to us and to glorify Himself. However, it was never intended to be a substitute for Him.
Whether we are married or single, we can allow our culture to impact our views on marriage. Whether it’s due to idolatry, self-interestedness, or a faulty understanding of the Bible’s view on gender, we struggle to accept God’s prescription for marriage found in Eph. 5:22-33, which is intended to be for our benefit. By rediscovering our identity in Christ, we can be empowered to live out the high callings of husband and wife in marriage and fully realize all of the benefits of marriage that God intended.
1. What do you find difficult and challenging about what Paul prescribes for marriage in the passage?
2. How might have culture, your own personal experiences, sin and/or idolatry influenced your ability to accept (and live out) the exhortations in the passages?
3. How do our identities as fully accepted, beloved sons and daughters of God empower us to be able to live out the seemingly impossible standards set for in the passage for husbands and wives?
Feb. 21 Erik Santiago
Ephesians 5: 15-20
In these five verses Paul calls the Ephesians to walk carefully, “…not as unwise, but as wise,” encouraging them to
make the most of the short time they have on earth. This discernment is important because, in light of all of the
temptations we face, we need constant reminders to apply ourselves to God’s plan and purpose. Paul punctuates a
string of warnings, cautions and encouragements in chapters four and five with a plea to be filled, not with
intoxicating wine, but the intoxicating Holy Spirit. He describes a picture of people singing to one another and to
God, as if they were drunk – bold and free of inhibition. This strange picture of life in the Spirit helps us recognize
that we tend to be more comfortable with cultural norms of drunkenness than the unusual nature of the culture of
heaven. We easily dismiss drunken behavior as such, but are quick to call out what’s uncomfortable in church.
Making the most of the time for Paul means not wasting it on foolish pursuits, but leveraging it to minister to God and
1) What are the inhibitions that people lose when drunk? Though it is distinctly different, how does that help inform
what inhibitions we might lose when filled with the Spirit?
2) Being “filled with the Spirit” can have a broad diversity of expression. Describe an experience you’ve had of being
filled with the Spirit? How has that been a benefit to others?
3) Some expressions of Spirit filling come naturally to certain people – boldness, humility gentleness, prayer,
prophecy, praise. What do you desire or feel God calling you into as an expression of Spirit-filled life?
Feb. 14 Alan Frow
“Sexual Ethics in the Kingdom Light”, Ephesians 5:1-14
Our culture longs for true love, but its strange and disastrous definitions often do more harm than good. Paul is writing to Christians in a city who worship sex as god, encouraging them to live distinctly, as children of light, worshipping God with their sexuality. He sees the root of the problem of sexual immorality as covetousness, and calls us to a deep satisfaction in Jesus that puts our sexuality into eternal perspective.
1. What are the practical differences between ‘self-giving’ versus ‘self-getting’ attitudes towards sex?
2. How does the reality of a future judgment inform my attitudes and actions towards sex?
3. How does Jesus deal with sexual covetousness in a Christian’s life? Pray for one another that we would be deeply satisfied in Christ.
Jan. 31 Alan Frow
“Integrating our Identity” Ephesians 4:25 -5:2.
As we can see from this passage, Paul keeps on reminding the Christians at Ephesus who they are because of what Christ has done. He reminds them that they are members of one another, that they are sealed for the day of redemption, that they are forgiven and that they are dearly loved children. These are our identities in Christ, too. But these identities, revealed in the first half of the letter, are to be integrated into daily life. Paul is basically saying, “Who you are, is to be walked out morally, relationally, vocationally, emotionally and ethically.” This is the call to Christian integrity.
1.Which of the Christian identities in Ephesians are most difficult for you to apply practically in your daily walk?
2. Discuss how the passage goes beyond behavior modification to profound transformation. In what area of your life, mentioned in the passage, have you experienced the most radical transformation? In which areas do you feel that you may have grieved the Spirit?
3. “Seldom do any of our habits or flaws disappear by a process of extinction through reasoning or “by the mere force of mental determination. Reason and willpower are not enough. But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed…The only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.” Thomas Chalmers
Discuss this quote and pray that the Spirit would give you ‘the expulsive power of a new affection.’
Jan. 24 Ryan MacDonald
Paul is writing to the Ephesians to instruct them on how put off their old way of life and put on their new identity in Christ. For those who have been taught in Christ to put off the old-self and renew their minds must not walk according to old sinful thoughts and deceitful desires, but rather live and act inline with the righteousness of God. However, the tension for the Christian is even though we have received this new life, we often still behave and act according to the patterns and behaviors of the world. Paul writes to encourage these Christians with the truth of the gospel and call them to a grace-driven effort to turn away from sin and live a life filled with righteousness and communion with God.
1. What is an example of a mirage that you have chased that has left you empty?
2. Who in your life do you see as an example of someone living out their identity in Christ?
3. What aspect of our identity in Christ do you find easy to put on? What aspect of your new identity do you find difficult to walk in and why?
Jan. 17 Alan Frow
“We are Maturing”
Last week we spoke about the church being a healthy body. We talked about Paul’s definition of health being a body that is united, activated, and co-ordinated. In this passage Paul extends the metaphor, but now talks more about how a body matures. He wants the church to ‘no longer be children,’ to grow up in every way. Maturing for Paul, is not just getting older or bigger. We know young people can be mature beyond their years, and old people can remain immature. When we say to someone, ‘grow up,’ we are not literally expecting them to get older or bigger immediately. We are expecting them to mature in their attitudes and actions. Paul wanted the church to grow up beyond spiritual infancy. Or even spiritual adolescence. Maturity for Paul is becoming more like Christ in attitude and action. ‘we grow up in every way into him who is the Head.’ To the measure of the full stature of the fullness of Christ. Paul describes mature body as doctrinally anchored, relationally risky, and practical responsibility. We can only be like this because Jesus was resolute, selfless and responsible.
1. What would a church full of ‘me’s’ look like?
2. To which ‘rip-tide’ of our culture am I most susceptible?
3. In which area of maturity have I grown most, and in which area do I still need to grow?
Jan. 10, Alan Frow
“We are Gifted”
The ascended Christ has given us all different gifts through the Holy Spirit to serve His body the Church. He has also given us gifted leaders to help us use our gifts, so that the church is strong, healthy and united. We tend to neglect our gifts or compare them to others, which leads to a lack of service. Also, we tend to expect more gifted people in the church to serve us, when essentially their job is to equip us to use our gifts to serve the church. This is the way that Christ builds his church to unity and maturity.
1. Has comparison, lack of clarity or indifference about your gift been more harmful in using it top serve the church? How?
2. Although gift discovery is not an exact science, talk about how serving the church has helped you to be more clear about how God has gifted you?
3. Talk of a time when you exercise your gift in a co-ordinated with others that resulted in the Body being built up.
Jan. 3, Erik Santiago
Ephesians 4: 1-6
Paul spends the first half of Ephesians providing a glorious picture of who Christians are in Christ, our position, the promises and the extraordinary new state we find ourselves in as children of the ruler of all creation. In Chapter Four, he begins to tell us what that means for how we live. ‘Walk worthy’ is his encouragement to consider this new life in Christ and act accordingly. By verse two Paul quickly applies this to how we treat one another in the church with love with Christ-like attributes that are a witness to the world. He explains that to demonstrate a picture of Christ as the church in unity is powerful to reflect His glory.
1) We often have a tendency to try to make ourselves righteous by doing righteous things. Discuss.
2) Unity in the body of Christ is a main priority for Paul in this passage. We can do this by avoiding disunity and prioritizing unity, which of these things is God calling you most to focus on in 2016?
3) The ‘bond of peace’ is the means by which Paul says we preserve unity. What does that look like practically in terms of our daily interactions with one another?
Dec. 20, Alan Frow
Matthew 1:1-7 & 2 Samuel 12
This week we look at the grace of God in the life of Bathseba who was included in the lineage of Christ. She was the wife of Uriah, one of King David’s top military commanders. David’s lust for Bathsheba moved him to have an affair with her and make her pregnant. He tried to cover up his actions through deception but when this would not work, he sent Uriah into the front lines of battle to be killed and took Bathseba as his wife. We will look at how God untangles the mess of David’s sexual sin through the bold message of the prophet Nathan. We will also look at how grace protects Bathseba as a victim of David’s lust and power. Though there would be severe consequences for this affair, grace has the final word through a child born to Bathseba called Solomon.
1. Nathan the prophet pointed out the underlying sin of discontentment in David’s affair with Bathseba. Tell of a time in which you have been convicted of a sinful attitude behind a sinful action.
2. Bathseba is a victim of David’s lust and power and yet God redeems her by giving her a son who would be the next king. Apply this hopeful story to your life at a time when you felt like the victim.
3. Sexual sin carries with it severe consequences. David and Bathseba’s first child died and Absalom rebelled against his father by trying to take the kingdom. However, grace has the last word. Thank God that through Jesus, even though our sin has consequences, he is able to redeem us completely and use our stories for his glory!
Dec. 13, Alan Frow
Rahab Josh 2:1-21
In our Advent series, we are looking at the stories of the women in the lineage of Jesus. This helps us understand the
grace of God, which includes women of suspect reputation from unlikely backgrounds as part of the Messiah’s royal
Rahab was a prostitute from the city of Jericho. By faith, she hid the Israelite spies and in turn was told to hide in her
house in the city wall with a scarlet chord tied to the window, when the Israelites attacked Jericho.
Rahab’s rescue shows us that the grace of God does not make us clean up our act before we are included in God’s
family. All it requires is faith in God’s promise of salvation.
1. God’s grace changed Rahab’s label from ‘prostitute’ to ‘mother of Kings’ . What label have you lived with that you
are trusting God to remove?
2. Rahab was a women of action, but faith meant that’s she was called to stay in her home even as the walls came
crashing down, trusting in God’s protection. This must have felt vulnerable and risky. What is God calling you to do
that feels vulnerable and risky in your journey of faith?
3. Each of us have a spiritual lineage made up of those people we are discipling as followers of Jesus. Pray for people
you are discipling.
Dec. 6, Matt Nethers
Matthew 1:1-17 & Genesis 38
Nov. 29 Alan Frow
“We are Expectant” Ephesians 3: 14 – 21
Last week we began to explore Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus to be strengthened with spiritual power. This week we look at the climax of his prayer, which is an ecstatic invitation for them to join him on a prayer journey themselves. He describes God as the One who hears prayer and answers it in delightfully unexpected ways. The passage encourages every Christian to be more expectant in prayer, but to expect the unexpected as we pray.
1. Tim Keller, in his book on prayer, describes prayer like being in a boat with oars and a sail. Either we are sailing, feeling near to God and having our prayers answered. Or we are rowing, experiencing prayer as more duty than delight, but doing it all the same. Or we are drifting, feeling all the conditions of rowing, but starting to resist the discipline of prayer, drifting into to self-reliance or self-indulgence. Or we may be sinking, with nub mess of heart becoming hardness of heart in the form of resentment or self-pity. You are tempted to abandon your faith altogether. How would you describe your prayer life if it were a boat?
2. This passage is a call, not just to pray, but to pray with great expectation. Tell of a moment when God helped you to pray a ‘God-sized’ prayer. How was it answered?
3. The great irony, and perhaps the great secret of this passage, is that Paul was praying from a Roman prison. God book him free from the Phillipian prison in Acts 16, but not from this one. Paul;s prayer do not focus around a change in his or the Ephesians’ circumstances. Rather, they are prayers for spiritual blessing in their current circumstances. What spiritual blessing are you needing in your current circumstances?
Nov. 22, Daniel Yu
“We have power in Christ’s love” Eph. 3:14-19
We arrive at place here in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he pauses to pray and give us a glimpse into his prayer life for the church. What he wants more than anything is that we would filled up with the fullness of God. And, in order to experience that fullness, we need to allow Jesus to “be at home” in us and to know and experience the full dimensions of Christ’s powerful love in the context of community. But, in order to be able to do those things, we first need to be strengthened in our “inner beings” with power from the Holy Spirit. That is the thing that Paul is on his knees praying for.
Nov. 15, Erik Santiago
As Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians, he begins to pray, but interrupts his train of thought with a twelve verse digression. He weaves in the nature of his calling and revelation of the mystery of God’s plan to save, not only Jews, but the entire world. At the time, this was a groundbreaking idea, that these mortal enemies would become members of the same family in Jesus Christ. Paul emphasizes the mysterious nature of what would seem illogical and unfair, but is glorious considering the love of God and “unsearchable riches of Christ.” He explains that this is God’s will in order to display His glory through thr Church. Paul concludes the passage by encouraging them not to lose heart in light of his imprisonment because it is actually for their honor, the glory of the church.
1) Paul recounts God’s providential revelation to Paul which also calls to mind his radical conversion on the road to Damascus. Keeping the revelation of what God has done for us fresh in mind seems vital to living out His plan and calling for our lives. How has sharing your conversion story played a part in your living out the Great Commission?
2) Paul was suffering in prison and yet focused on God’s great plan to send him to the Gentiles. What things stand in the way of you rememberingt he great need of others to know Christ?
3) Paul encourages the Ephesians not to lose heart in the midst of his suffering. When have obstacles or difficult circumstances caused you to lose heart and lean back in your faith?
Nov. 8, Alan Frow
We are the Church” Ephesians 2: 19-22
We continue looking at our communal identity as Christians, reconciled into one body, the Church. Although we are in Christ as individuals, this passage shows us that there are aspects of God and of ourselves that we will only understand as we engage the Church. Paul explores our role in the Church by using four metaphors. He tells us that engaging the church is like being citizens of a nation, members of a family, living stones in a building,
and ministers in a temple. The call to be committed and be built together, instead of robbing us of life and freedom as we might think, actually gives us
more life than we ever had before. God indwells the temple by His Spirit, and where His Spirit is there is freedom.
1.What metaphor of the Church in this passage do I lean towards, and lean away from?
2. How would I rate the quality of my membership in God’s family? Is it fear of of a loss of freedom, busyness, or past hurt that hinders me from being a faithful member of the family of God?
3. Talk of the benefits of being part of a committed local church. What has God taught you about Himself and yourself that you would not have learned in isolation?
Nov. 1, Alan Frow
“We are Reconciled” Eph 2:11-18
This passage drills down into the first communal identity in the book of Ephesians. The others have tended to be
personal identities, but Paul talks about the fact that the cross has reconciled us as individuals to God, but also as His
body to one another. The cross destroyed the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians, and
the resurrection created a new humanity out of the two. Today Christ’s cross is still destroying dividing walls of
nationalism, racism, classism, ageism, sexism and every other kind of hostile division. Christ’s cross is like a wrecking
ball that destroys walls between us, but we have to be willing to ‘walk through the rubble’ towards each other. We are
not simply reconciled. We are called to be reconcilers. (2 Corinthians 5)
1. Acts 21 says that Paul was arrested for taking Gentiles into the Jewish temple. He lived and paid a great price for
what he taught! Talk about what it means to take risks as a reconciler.
2. Paul does not say that the cross destroyed Jewish and Gentile culture. The Bible celebrates multiculturalism. He
says that the cross destroyed hostility. Discuss the difference between celebrating diversity and destroying hostility.
3. Talk about a Christian friend in your life with whom you have little in common other than Christ. What is God
teaching you through your friendship with someone who is different from you?
Oct. 25, Erik Santiago
Ephesians 2: 8-11″I am Saved by Grace”
In this passage, Paul admonishes the Ephesians to recognize that the work of salvation has nothing to do with their efforts. Being dead in sin, there was nothing they could have done to save themselves even if they wanted to. But it was even God who awakenes their hearts to the desire to be saved. So there is no room to boast about this elevated status they now have, it was solely the work of Jesus that gave them the gift of new life. The beauty of this is that they are the workmanship of God and He is attending to the details of their lives, both who they are and what they will do, in a way that should inspire them to act. In a culture that values the ‘self-made’ person, this is a great relief because God is capable of doing much more with these lives He has given us than we are.
1) What does it mean practically in daily life that salvation is a free gift? Is there evidence in your life that you do or don’t struggle with this truth?
2) Do you ever find yourself striving for a ‘self-made’ success? What does that look like?
3) If God has prepared good works for us in advance, what are the things He calls all believers to and what do you sense Him calling you to specifically?
Oct.18, Alan Frow
“I am Alive” Ephesians 2:1-6
Having talked about the ‘exceeding greatness of God’s power’ expressed in the resurrection of Christ, Paul now moves on to describe God’s greatness in the new birth. It is not just Christ who was raised from the dead. It is we who are made alive in Christ, raise with Christ and seated with Christ in heavenly places! Our identity as people who have been made alive should change the way we live. It gives us security, a healthy detachment form the world, authority and staying power in life-sapping situations.
1. What makes you feel alive?
2. Paul describes our pre-Christ condition as being like the ‘walking dead,’ enslaved to the world, the devil and to self. What area of your life still feels like the ‘walking dead’?
3. What area of your life requires Christ’s resurrection staying power?
Oct.11, Erik Santiago
Ephesians 1: 15-23
In this passage of Ephesians, Paul is commending the church for its faith and kindness, praising them for these Christ-like attributes. But then he moves on to a pray that they would continue to grow in faith by gaining greater understanding of the power of God for their lives. Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven by the same power He has made available for us today. Jesus is ruler over all and has deployed His church into the world to be an extension of Himself. Paul encourages them and prays for them to grow the revelation of these things as they continue to follow Christ.
1) What is a recent example of a time when you saw the power and authority of God at work?
2) Paul prays for the Ephesians because he sees a need for growth in the area of faith in the power of God. Describe an area where you have struggled or are struggling to trust that Jesus is ruler over all.
3) Jesus sends his church into the world to engage by the power of the Spirit. Where do you feel God calling you to engage your world, whether at work, your neighborhood, the city or other relationships in your life?
Oct. 4, Ryan MacDonald
“I have purpose”
Ephesians 1 lets us in on the mystery of God’s grand purpose for all things. That He has redeemed us for a purpose and is uniting (or better said “re-uniting”) all things under Christ Jesus, thing in heaven and things on earth. Many of us are asking what is my purpose in life? And the world has plenty of answers, but the most important question is God’s purpose for my life? The key to finding our purpose is to first understand God’s.
– Do you feel like your life has purpose? What gives you purpose in life?
– In what ways has God blessed you to partner with him to bring renewal?
– How do we glorify God throughout our week and in all we do?
Sept. 27, Alan Frow
Ephesians 1:1-6 “I am Adopted.”
Ephesus was a world class city, with its own powerful identity. Capital city of the Roman province of Asia with a massive harbor, it was home to many Greeks, Romans, and a large Jewish settlement . Ephesus was a bustling, multi-cultural city of trade and entertainment. There was a medical college, renowned doctors, and a large public library in Ephesus, as well as numerous shrines and statues, an underground sewer system, and an outdoor amphitheater which seated more people than the Hollywood Bowl seats today. Affluent homes in Ephesus boasted amazing opulence and split level construction, with floor space sometimes exceeding 10,000 square feet, and with beautiful and complex fountains, sculptures, mosaics and frescoes. Many ethnic and cultural backgrounds were represented, and religious pluralism was entrenched and embraced. Moral beliefs, like religious ones, were diverse, and considerable moral depravity was accepted, perhaps considerably more so than in our modern American culture. As in today’s American culture, there was a strong tendency to think of truth as nothing more than preferences, such that something could be “true for you” but not “true for me.
It should be noted that in Acts 19, a riot broke out in Ephesus against the Christians because they were burning the idols to the goddess Artemis which they had previously worshipped. The rioters shouted repeatedly, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” The Christians’ new identity threw them into conflict with the city.Little wonder then, that Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus about identity. Little wonder then, that Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus about identity.
The first identity he spoke about was adoption. What a wonder that God the judge does not only justify us, but takes off his robes as it were and invited us home, adopting us as his sons and daughters. In the words of JI Packer, “Adoption is the crown jewel of the Gospel.” However, we may realize that we have personally been adopted, but it is also a communal truth to be worked out with other sons and daughters, as brothers and sisters. In order to walk out our adoption in the family of God, we should examine ourselves and see if there is any evidence of an ‘orphan spirit’ that fights against our identity as adopted children.
1. Do I struggle to see God as Father and myself as his adopted child? What are the moments that have helped me to realize this truth?
2. Does my life display any traits of an ‘orphan spirit?’ Do I tend towards living as a performer, competitor or a survivor? If so, how?
3. In what ways’ does Jesus’ life give us an example of how to live as a beloved child?