1. What is something that you find yourself continually complaining about? Can you uncover or see any source of pride that might lead to that complaint?
2. What is something that you can rejoice in right now that God is doing in your life or the lives of people around you?
3. How do you see the people in your life pouring themselves out for the sake of the gospel? What are you going to do to pour yourself out for the faith of others?
1. What is it that most striking thing to you about Jesus’ humility and the incredible gift of him leaving glory to pursue us with grace?
2. Is unity something that you really value? Do we believe that there is joy in unity?
3. What would it look like for you to grow as someone who is marked by humility? What are some practical ways you can move towards preferring others over yourself?
1. What have you been delivered from you that you can rejoice in now?
2. What are the things that you tend to glory in more than Jesus?
3. Reflect on what it is to be the embodied people of God, united and encouraging one another to persevere.
1. How have bad and challenging circumstances in this season catalyzed Gospel advance in your life?
2. Who are the people that you are speaking the Gospel to? Who do you need to start speaking the Gospel to?
3. Where is comparison raising its head in your life?______________________________________________________________________________________
1. What has been removed from you that has taken away your joy? What is the thing that you have realized that you found joy in that you are not able to now?
2. What aspect of God’s work in life, church, and the world does God seem to be asleep in?
3. What aspect of Gospel partnership is God calling you to renew at this time?______________________________________________________________________________________
1. The church in Antioch allowed the gospel to heal them of racism and the hand of the Lord was with them, while other Christians only preached to their own race. Racism sometimes shows itself in outright brutality, but sometimes it is more subtle, showing up in the form of indifference, ignorance, or preference. How is the gospel redeeming these attitudes in your heart right now?
2. The multi-ethnic city of Antioch could not find an ethnic category for the diverse church in Antioch, so they called them “Christians” (Little Christ’s). How can we honor different ethnicities within our church, and yet make sure our deepest identity is found in Christ together?
3. The Antioch Church was radically generous with its financial and human resources, especially as the Spirit directed them. How is the Spirit directing you to be radically generous at the time?______________________________________________________________________________________
1. How have you benefited from a united community?
2. During these last few months, how have you seen people obey Jesus in costly ways?
3. How is Jesus calling you to guard against disunity in the community at this time?______________________________________________________________________________________
1. Where are you needing hope in the Gospel to build your confidence at this time?
2. What aspect of goodness in yourself do you see?
3. What is a holy ambition at this time?
1. What is the hope that you have built upon that has disappointed you in this season?
2. What are some of the preferences that you have that Jesus is calling you to lay aside for the good of your neighbor?
3. Where are you needing God to encourage you and help you endure in this season?______________________________________________________________________________________
1. What is the relationship in your life that currently feels like a marathon? Where do you need endurance?
2. Do you need to hear “do not make a habit of sinning” or do you need to be reminded that you have an advocate?
3. What are the idols in your life right now? What good things have become the ultimate things to you?______________________________________________________________________________________
1. What are the hotly contested “disputable matters” in your life right now?
2. Do you tend to be someone who has a weak conscience or someone who has a strong conscience on disputable matters?
3. What freedoms that you enjoy might God be calling to you put aside for the well being of those around you?
1. What would it mean to submit to the government and obey them while being a citizen of the kingdom of God?
2. What does it mean to love your neighbor in this time of crisis?
3. What does it mean to put off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light right now?
1. What are some of the things you have put your hope in that have disappointed you in the last season?
2. What does it mean to you to have your identity come from what Jesus has done for you rather than by what you have done for yourself? How does that bring you hope?
3. How has the hope of the resurrection caused you to think differently about death?
4. How have these recent trials refined your faith? How do you think Jesus is praying for you right now in your trial?
1. The Psalmist gives three descriptions of God’s protection to those who trust in Him – the shadow, the fortress and the mother bird sheltering her chicks. Encourage each other with any experiences you have had of God’s physical protection in your life. Pray for continued protection, physically, relationally and financially.
2. It is alarming that Satan used this very Psalm to tempt Jesus in the wilderness in Luke 4. He was trying to convince Jesus that he would not need to suffer in order to obey God. If such great good came to so many from Jesus’ willingness to suffer on the cross, surely God is able to bring great good out of our suffering? What good do you see God doing in this situation?
3. The Psalmist seems to have had some experiences of being protected from trouble but others where God has been with Him in trouble. v 15 God does not always protect us from trouble but promises always to be with us in trouble. Thank God for how God He is showing himself to you in new ways in the midst of trouble. Pray for those you know who are sick, have lost jobs, that God would help them and be with them in trouble.
1. How has Jesus cared for and pursed you with an unstoppable love? Answer both practically and theologically.
2. What evil is God calling you to hate and what good is the Spirit inviting you to hold (remember) at this time of crisis (Rom 12:9)?
3. Spend a minute brainstorming ways you can be creative about showing “brotherly affection” and “encouragement” to others in the midst of social distancing (Rom 12:10). Then through the week act on them.
4. How is God asking you to show the unstoppable love Jesus has poured out on your life to others?
5. The Bible commands us to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom 12:13). In this season of economic hardship, what can you sell and what can you give to help those in need (Acts 2:42-45)?
Note: if you are not highly vulnerable to COVID-19 and would like to learn about ways you can help, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Southlands has started a fund for those in our community who have and will lose jobs. If you would like to contribute email email@example.com.
1. Share about what this unprecedented time has taught you most about yourself so day?
2. Living in view of God’s unchanging grace enables us to worship God even when everything else seems to have changed. Share what makes it hard to worship right now and also how worship may have helped you to find grace this past week.
3. Grace renews our minds and empowers us to live with discernment in the world without being conformed to it. What discernment are you asking God for right now as you face uncertainty?
4. Being a healthy member of Christ’s body means being connected and actively serving others with the gifts God has given you. Talk about practical ways in which we can be adaptable to make sure we are both connected and serving Christ’s body at this time.
1. Romans 10:13 tells us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Who in your life are you wanting to see call on the name of the Lord?
2) Does your life look like you are a “sent one” into your family, workplace, and neighborhood? How might God be leading you to change the way you are living to be more intentional in living as a “sent one”?
1. If you are trying to “prove yourself” to anyone, who would it be and how do you do it? (Jon said that “righteous” in our scriptural passage was a synonym for justified or proven right in God’s sight.)
2) How did the “Gentiles” receive God’s righteousness/justification/
1. Did you resonate with JD’s comments about our relationship with God’s word? Do you find that you want to hold at arms length the parts that are difficult or hard to understand? Are you more prone to stand over God’s word as opposed to fully submitting yourself to it?
2. How do you feel about the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and election? Do you find that they are easy for you to accept? Why or why not?
3. How can God’s sovereignty and election give us great confidence and security? In Romans 9:1-18 how does God’s sovereignty highlight his mercy? What do you think about this quote from Tim Keller?
“Nobody has any claim upon God’s mercy (if they did, it would no longer be mercy). Since “the wages of sin is death” (6:23), the shock is not that God does not extend his compassion to everyone, but that he extends it to anyone.” Tim Keller (Romans for You, Kindle Location: 883)
4. If God is sovereign in electing people for salvation why should we be motivated for mission and evangelism? Isn’t God going save who he wants anyways? What can we learn from Paul and the other Apostles in this regard?
1. How do you feel when the topic of suffering comes up?
1. We often, wish that Jesus was still here in the flesh with us, but the good news of Romans 8 is that God has sent the Holy Spirit as the presence of Christ dwelling in each of us. Why is that better than having Jesus dwell with us? (John 16:7)
2. One of the signs of the indwelling Spirit is that we are empowered to put to death the flesh. What does that mean to you? What aspect of your flesh is the hardest to put to death?
3. The Spirit also enables us to encounter God as our own loving Father, securing our identity as His adopted children. Tell about how hard or easy it has been for you to ‘cry out to Abba’. Pray for one another that the Spirit of adoption would enable you to do this.
1. How does the image of someone standing before the judge, hearing the words “Not Guilty!” help us understand Paul’s statement in Romans 8:1 that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus?”
2. How have you experienced freedom from the power (control) of sin in your life?
3. What are indications (or symptoms) that you are walking in the flesh (your own strength)?
4. How do we walk according to the Spirit (in God’s strength) in your efforts to love God and others?
1. This passage is about the war between the flesh and the Spirit. How, according to Paul, does this war change when you become a Christian?
2. What does it mean to call yourself wretched? Is this a slight against dignity? What does this teach us about true repentance?
3. How does the Holy Spirit help you to live in the victory that Christ has won over sin?
4. What does it mean to be a church that is grace-filled but sees holiness as a win?
1. Put yourself into the story… Are you more prone to be a Simon (Pharisee/religious) or the Woman (sinful/irreligious)? In what ways are you both? Can someone summarize the difference between Simon and the Call Girl’s response to Jesus?
2. PJ used the illustration of a pig being completely transformed into an eagle to explain what God does to us through the gospel. Did this illustration grow/clarify your understanding of the gospel in any ways? How? In what ways do you still tend to see yourself as pig when you relate to God? What would change if you really understood yourself to be an eagle?
3. What do we learn about Jesus through looking at his response to the “weeping, wiping, call girl”? Do you struggle to believe that Jesus will respond to you in this same way when you come to him out of a slip into the mud?
4. PJ said that if we appropriately understand the double barrel power of the gospel through holding both Romans 8: 1 and 8:33-34 together we will be a people who act by:
1. Making much of Christ
2. Making much of Outsiders
3. Having a love affair with Christ
What are some practical steps that our Life Group can take in these three areas?
October 27, Alan Frow (Romans 4: 13-25)
1. What does it mean to you that “the object of our faith is more important than the quality of our faith”? Tell of a time when you have experienced the faithfulness of God even though your faith was weak.
2. Abraham was not only justified by faith, but he also received a promise that God would give him and Sarah a global family by faith. We are part of this global family of faith. Talk about the importance of that and how we can experience that over this coming week at our Advance Regional conference and your international speakers on the next two Sundays.
3. Abraham strengthened his faith by trusting in the God who “brought life from death and called into existence what did not exist.” What situation in your life requires this kind of faith in the God of creation and resurrection?
1. Romans describes the universal verdict that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In what specific ways are you aware that you have missed the mark of God’s righteousness?
2. God’s righteousness given as a gift of grace to us is described in the passage in three big words: justification, redemption, and propitiation. Try and define these words and speak about how they are causing you to experience the gospel in new ways.
3. Receiving the gospel by grace means that we stop boasting in our own strength, wisdom and wealth and begin boasting in the cross. What does this mean practically to you and how does it apply to evangelism?
1. The Apostle prays for the church in Rome without ceasing for them and longs to be with them in order to preach the gospel to them. (v 8) How does understanding the Gospel of the Son (V 9) deepen our understanding of the church as a family, and believers as ‘brothers’? What does it mean to be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith when you gather?
2. Paul makes three statements about evangelism, “I am obligated,” “I am eager,” and “I am unashamed” (v 13-17). Which of these best describes you if any? Or do you have other adjectives that describe your attitude towards evangelism? How does the knowledge that “the gospel is powerful in and of itself, so we don’t have to be powerful, just faithful,” help you in evangelism?
3. The gospel reveals a righteousness that is from God and not from us. This gift of righteousness is received by faith not achieved by works. Where have you been trying to strive for your own righteousness (‘Enoughness’ in David Zahl’s words) and where is Jesus calling you to rest in His ‘enoughness?’
1. In John 4 Jesus speaks of evangelism as both a fulfilling and fruitful activity. “My food is to do the will of my Father.” “Lift up your eyes the fields are white for harvest.” Why is it that we often do not find evangelism fulfilling or fruitful?
2. Jesus was willing to cross boundaries of culture and comfort to dwell in a common space with a Samaritan woman. What boundaries is Jesus calling you to cross to reach out to those around you with the gospel?
3. Jesus’ ability to draw out the deep issues of this woman’s heart with tenderness and skill is something we all need in evangelism. Ask the Spirit for wisdom and boldness to speak the gospel into the places of people’s greatest need.
We tend to our souls by:
3. What steps (spiritual disciplines) are you going to engage to “Tend Your Soul Well” in this Season?
1. How do we enjoy God’s material blessing without putting our trust in it in unhealthy ways?
2. Tell of a time when Jesus’ invaded your margins of money or material possessions which was costly to you but caused you to glimpse God’s provision others.
3. When Jesus calls himself the bread of life he is saying that he satisfies our spiritual hunger in a way that nothing else can. In what ways have you found that to be true?
1. We began by speaking about taking back a Biblical meaning of blessing. What has led to its hi-jacking and what in short, is the essence of Biblical blessing? (hint Gal 3:13)
2. How does the New Covenant described in Hebrews 6:13-19 lead to blessed assurance as opposed to the Old Covenant which left people uncertain of God’s blessing?
3. What does it mean to you for God to ‘make you a blessing’ to others? Talk about the disruption you’ve experienced or resisted that comes with God’s call to blessed multiplication.
4. Abraham was an impatient man who learned patience. 6:15 God anchored him in times of temptation. Speak of a time when you experienced Jesus’ anchoring when the currents of temptation were pulling you away from His will.
1. The people of God call for the word of God to be read in the midst of their civil new year. How can I improve my prioritization of gathered worship during this season of vacation?
2. What is the importance of joy in gathered worship? How are we doing in reflecting joy as a community as we gather?
3. How does a culture of joy affect a culture of obedience to God?
1. What have been the unexpected obstacles that you have had to overcome in your life and how has God helped you do that?
2. Most of us have been hurt by harsh biblical correction. Talk about a time that someone has lovingly corrected you and how did that go?
3. What areas of disunity do you see in the church that God has called you to address and bring unity?
4. How can we grow in hospitality towards strangers this Summer?
1. The Christian life is often described as a battle. (Ephesians 6:10-20) How does this chapter on Nehemiah in which the builders face opposition, give you an insight into the opposition you may be experiencing as a Christ follower?
2. Nehemiah leads the builders through mocking, discouragement, and nostalgia, with different responses on each occasion to help them overcome. As you seek to build God’s kingdom in opposition, which response is most helpful to you?
3. How does the call to ’Rally to your brothers, and fight for your brothers, for the Lord will fight for you,’ help us to understand the importance of gathering as the people of God? What does it mean to fight for one another?
1. What are some of God’s loving-promises that you may of have forgotten?
2. Is there an area/aspect of our community (Southlands) or our city that needs attention that you are asking God to break your heart for?
3. Nehemiah risked his life to request from the king permission to leave and go rebuild Jerusalem. If you were to ask of Jesus (the King of Kings) one audacious kingdom request, even if it cost you, what would it be?
4. How do we live in such a way, that like William Carey, we grow to expect great things from God and attempt great things for him?
1. What are some take-aways for you in regards to this God and Sex sermon series?
2. What does the Bible say about how we grow in holiness as disciples of Jesus?
3. How does Jesus’ interaction with the women at the well in John 4 deal with her shame?
4. How have you been personally challenged throughout this series?
1. The culture of the day said that this woman was guilty and deserving of punishment. Jesus has grace for this woman and protects her from her accusers. Who do you most struggle to have grace for in regards to sexual sin?
2. Jesus managed to protect this woman from her accusers, extend grace to her and told her to go and sin no more. How have you/we as Christians failed to be Jesus to people in the midst of their sexual disorientation?
3. How do we as Christians move towards protecting and extending hospitality to those who have differing sexual ethics?
4. What does it look like for you to be a wounded healer? How do we continue to be honest and vulnerable about our own brokenness while still being a redemptive community?
1. What was your experience of journeying through the Stations of the Cross? What station resonated with you most deeply?
2. In Matthew 28 there are three statements that the angel makes to the women at the tomb, “Do not fear”, “Come and see”, “Go and tell”. Which statement do you most need to hear?
3. Wayne and Jane’s story is a powerful example of how God can bring glory out of suffering. How did this encourage you in the hardship you are facing?
1. In the triumphal entry, Jesus foretold a permanent peace that would come from his victory over sin and death and Satan at the cross. What does it mean to you to seek the permanent peace that Christ spoke of rather than the temporary, external peace we so often seek for?
2. Jesus is the only king who can control us without crushing us. We see this in the obedience of the disciples, the owner of the colt and the colt itself. How can we respond to the King’s direction with immediate obedience like that and how does that lead to peace?
3. The whole city was stirred up at the sight of Jesus but they missed his true identity. What aspect of Jesus’ true identity do you need to reflect on this passion week?
1. Jesus, in answering the expert in the law, summarizes all of the law in two commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Why are these commandments great?
2. We tend to love God well with either our heart (emotion and motive), soul (personality and wiring) or mind (intellect and truth). Which of these do you love God well in and which of these are you weak in?
3. Speak about a neighbor that is difficult to love. What attribute of God do you need to love this person?
1. Do you struggle to accept Christ’s righteousness as the only garment that qualifies you for entering God’s kingdom?
2. What does the Parable of the Wedding Feast tell us about the nature of God’s kingdom?
3. In our evangelism and engagement with culture, how can we make sure we are not making the invitation into God’s kingdom narrower than he does?
1. This passage is a parable about prayer. Talk about how the gospel of adoption can help us to pray with greater confidence.
2. If the land is a picture of Jesus’ commands and the water is a picture of the Spirit’s power, what commands of Jesus over the last few weeks (forgiveness, marriage and singleness, generosity, service) have you felt powerless to obey?
3. The land can also speak of people or places we are trying to reach with the gospel. Who are you reaching and what power do you need to reach them?
1. The disciples didn’t understand that Jesus’ kingdom would come through service and suffering. Their hearts were revealed to be more about self-promotion and self-protection. Which do you lean towards?
2. The other ten disciples were indignant at James and John. Our internal battle with servanthood can result in an external relational battle of rivalry, envy or resentment. (James 4:1) Tell of a time when one of these emotions cause relational friction. How did you resolve it?
3. Describe a community that really believed the first shall be last and the last shall be first? Who is God calling you to serve in a way that will cost you?
1. Storms tend to disorientate us and frighten us, whether they are physical, relational, emotional or financial. But Jesus, who is Lord over every storm, is able to use them to grow us our faith, anchoring us in the truth that He is sovereign over us, He is praying for us and He is present with us.
Tell of a storm that you are currently facing, or have faced and how a knowledge of Christ has anchored you during this time.
2. Peter is famous in this passage as the one who tries to walk on water but then starts to sink in unbelief. This negates the fact that he was the only disciple to take a risk by getting out of the boat and walking towards Jesus. While his faith did falter momentarily, the passage shows us that Jesus walked back to the boat with Peter. It was a momentous step of faith in Peter’s life and speaks of Jesus ability to grow us in ‘navigating faith’ not merely ‘anchoring faith.’ When last did you respond to Jesus in a way that required you to ‘get out of the boat.’
3. At the end of Matthew, Jesus commissions his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, promising that he would be with them even though they would face a storm of persecution. In Acts 4 following 5000 people getting saved, a storm of persecution does break out upon the disciples, as Jesus had said, but his presence was powerful with them. Pray that we would be bold as disciple-makers to weather the storms of opposition to the gospel by trusting in the presence of Jesus. Pray for the persecuted Church, that Jesus would be powerfully present with them.
1. The parable of the wheat and the weeds essentially tells us that though life is complex and confusing, there are ultimately two kingdoms in conflict with one another. What are those two kingdoms and what does it mean to you to grow in Jesus’ kingdom with opposition from satan’s kingdom?
2. The parable of the yeast speaks of the gradual permeating of the kingdom into every area of life, bringing Jesus’ life and flavor. What kingdom culture do you want to permeate into which context, this year?
3. The parable of the mustard seed speaks of a people who exercise faith for dramatic kingdom impact. What are you trusting God for and what are you doing about it?
December 9, Alan Frow
1. Jesus does not simply remove us from our suffering but enters into our suffering with us to bring us peace. Share about a time that you have encountered the peace that Jesus offers in the midst of suffering.
2. The peace of God allows the wolf to dwell with the lamb and the cow to graze with the bear. What is the relationship in your life that seems irreconcilable without the peace of God?
November 18, Alan Frow
1. In this passage we see Jesus’ authority over disease, death demons and storms. Which aspect of his authority have you seen and which aspect do you long to see.
2. Contrast the Centurion’s non-negotiable relationship to Jesus’ authority with the negotiable response of the scribes and disciples (v20-22)
Where do you tend to negotiate with Jesus?
3. Jesus’ commissions his disciples in chapter 10:1 to go and heal the sick. He is calling them to go in faith in his healing authority, even though healing is not a water-tight formula. How are you responding to this commission as a disciple?
October 14, Alan Frow
1. While the Bible teaches us that while Satan tempts us for harm, God tests us for good. Jesus returned from the wilderness ‘in the power of the Spirit.’ Talk about how God has strengthened you during a time of testing.
2. Scripture teaches us to confess our sins to one another, but also shows us a pattern of living authentically with trusted people who know our weaknesses and can help us to resist sin in times of temptation. (Acts 2:42-46) Speak about who that person is in your life and how they have helped you to resist temptation.
3. The three major types of temptation that Jesus overcame in the wilderness were self-gratification, self-protection and self-exaltation. Talk about which type you feel most vulnerable in, and pray for each other to walk in the victory that Christ has won of Satan and temptation.
October 7, Rynelle Frow
1. What does it mean to ‘bear fruit in keeping with repentance’?
August 26, Alan Frow
1. How would you respond if God told you He would give you all His promises without His presence?
2. Israel found this idea disastrous. They mourned and stripped themselves of their jewelry. What is the ‘jewelry’ that you may need to strip in order to feel a need for God’s presence again.
3. The people stood from afar while Moses talked with God as a friend in the tent of meeting. Who do you tend to outsource prayer to as your Moses? How can we learn to access God ourselves more meaningfully in prayer.
August 19, Joel Baker
Idols of Our Hearts- Exodus 32
August 12, Alan Frow
August 5, Alan Frow
1. How does 19:1 and 20:1 show us that with God grace precedes the law and that relationship precedes regulation? Read Romans 12:1 and see if you can find a pattern.
2. We love a God who redeems and rescues us but we struggle with a God who sets us limits.(19:12-13) Talk about which which limits of the Ten Commandments do you struggle with the most and how can you embrace these limits for His glory and your flourishing?
3. Jesus distilled the Law down to two commandments. Love God and Love your Neighbor. The last six commandments are about loving our neighbor and were guidelines of living in community. Rich Villas speaks about the three phases of community a. Idealism. b. Let Down. 3 Covenant. Speak about how God is helping you to move from ‘Let-Down’ to ‘Covenant’ in community.
April 15, Alan Frow
Stewards of God’s Varied Grace 1 Peter 4:9-19
The big idea of this passage is that God’s grace is available to each one of us to serve and to suffer for God’s glory.
We often see grace only in terms of salvation, but it is deeper, wider and more varied than we can imagine.
God’s grace not only saves us, it also empowers us to serve one another and suffer well.This grace is available to us.
When we steward this grace faithfully rather than squander it, it results in a deeper intimacy with Christ,
a refining of our faith and ultimately results in glorifying God.
1. We can tend to think that it is only ‘spiritual service’ that requires God’s strength, but Peter insists that proc itch service must be done in the strength that God provides. Tell of a time when you have felt ‘burnt out’ or exhausted in serving others. Did you pull back or did you find more strength from God to keep going? How can we be sure we are serving in God’s strength not ours?
2. God’s grace enables us to suffer ‘fiery trials’ with a ‘spirit of glory.’ The Christian has access to Jesus’ grace when suffering for his name and suffering deepens our fellowship with him. v 13. Tell of a hard trial in your life that deepened your relationship with Jesus and caused others to recognize a change in you.
3. Sometimes we suffer needlessly, because of sin or foolishness. (v 15) Tell of a time when you brought hardship on yourself through disobedience or foolishness. How did you realize this and how did God help you to respond?
March 25, Erik Santiago & Brett McCracken
1. Christ’s humanity comes through in unique ways as he is subject to incredible punishment and weakens under the weight of the situation. What about his suffering for us in this passage struck you most upon hearing it again?
2. Do you tend to seek help to quickly or neglect to looks to others for help in carrying what God has called you to? Do you tend toward independence or co-dependence?
3. How does the work of Jesus in carrying the cross most parallel your own life and the cross God has called you to bear?
March 18, Alan Frow
1. How does your understanding of what Jesus experienced in the Garden prepare you as we look to Easter.
2. What are your expectations of community in the context of making costly decisions?
3. Have you even been in a “Garden of Gethsemane” decision moment? What was it about? what was the outcome?
4. What has been a helpful/harmful process when people are making costly decisions?
March 4, Joel Baker
1 Peter 3:8-17
1. Peter calls the Christians to be like Christ in the way that they endure in the face of suffering and bless those around them. How is God calling you to bless people around you?
2. As we covered on Sunday, we can expect to encounter opposition for what we believe. Has there been a time that you have been mistreated for doing the right thing or for following Christ’s example?
3. Peter reminds us that our appeal to God for a good conscience is through the victory of Jesus on the cross. In what ways have you been seeking to earn a good conscience before God rather than trusting in the finished work of Jesus?
January 28, Alan Frow
1 Peter 1:22-2:3
1. Isaiah 40 promises that the everlasting God who never grows weary will strengthen us as we wait upon Him. Tell of a moment when you have experienced the empowering of God in a situation that was beyond your human strength to cope with.
2. Waiting in this passage is not passive. It is a posture of hopeful expectation, and restful trusting in prayer as we exchange our weariness for his strength. What is hardest for you about this posture? What are you doing to learn to wait?
3. In this passage God promises to strengthen us in a. Biblical devotion b. Bold evangelism c. Pastoral care and d. Reverent worship. This forms our vision for the year as a church. Which area most needs strengthening in your life and what steps are you taking to move towards strength?
January 21, Ryan MacDonald
Hope, Holiness and Fear: Three Marks of a Christian Sojourner
1 Peter 1:13-21
1. When you are going through hardship and loss, what do you tend to find hope in?
2. In the midst to suffering and trails, who or what do you tend to blame for your bad circumstances? And how do you see God working through the trail for his glory and our good?
3. What is it to live with a holy fear of neglecting our great salvation?
January 14, Alan Frow
Suffering and the Joy of Salvation
1 Peter 1:8-12
1. Talk about how a greater understanding of salvation has enabled you to face trials with hope and joy.
2. We sometimes think of God as angry in the Old Testament and happy in the New Testament, yet 1 Peter 1:10 says that the Old Testament prophets prophesied about the grace that was to be ours. Give an example of how you understand God’s grace more richly through the Old Testament.
3. Peter was an eye-witness of Jesus, and yet he remarked that these Christians loved Jesus even though they hadn’t seen him. This is possible through the Holy Spirit. Talk about how the Holy Spirit has made Jesus more real to you, and pray for each other for more boldness to proclaim this great salvation to others.
November 12, Alan Frow
Managing Money Wisely
1. Proverbs tells us that we’ll probably acquire more money if we work hard and are full of wisdom. However it also cautions that if all we care about is getting more money then we are foolish. How do you live out this tension in your life?
2. In what ways are you tempted to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’?
3. Taking care of the poor is a massive theme in Proverbs. It tells us that if we mock the poor, then we mock God, and if we close our ears to the poor God will close his ears to our cry. Why do you think the poor are such a priority to God and how do we respond?
4. Proverbs is full of encouragement to be generous: “One gives freely yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he has bit only suffers want” Proverbs 11:24. We cannot out give God. Tell if a time you were sacrificially generous and saw his hand of provision.
October 29, Alan Frow
1. Proverbs says that we will eat a yield from the fruit of our mouths, either good fruit or bad fruit. Tell of a time when you realized you were ‘eating the fruit of your words.’
2. Words are powerful. They have power to hurt or heal. Speak about words that have either healed or hurt you.
3. Our words problem is actually a heart problem. God wants to heal our hearts so that he can heal our words. How does Jesus’ work on the cross and the gift of the Spirit heal our hearts so that our words bring life?
October 22, Erik Santiago
1. If you had to describe what you are building with your work, what would it be?
2. What are the weaknesses that God is strengthening in you through your work? Describe or even confess these things as a means to “prosper and find mercy” as it says in Proverbs 28:13.
3. We don’t think of ourselves as “sluggards,” but what are the things that are keeping us from working as effectively and holistically as we can unto the Lord? When are we tempted to “fold our hands” in more subtle ways?
October 15, Alan Frow
1. When was the last time you invited the community into your decision making process? What was the outcome?
2. Do your decisions and process reveal your loves?
3. Talk about a bad decision you have made. What have you learned from this?
October 8, Alan Frow
1. What is your definition of the good life?
2. What is the difference between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom?
3. Have you made decisions that have gone “against the grain”? What happened and what did you learn?
October 1, Erik Santiago
1 Thes. 1
1. Recall a time when you felt powerfully “on mission”. What stands out to you?
2. What is your greatest obstacle to being on mission?
3. What are some practical ways to remain on mission?
July 2, Erik Santiago
As we continue to study the life of David we find him again demonstrating unique aspects of his remarkable life. In this passage the ark, which contains the very presence of God, is being transported back to the city as an effort to re-orient the Israelites toward the presence of God. Where Saul ignored the importance of the ark, signaling his own disposition toward God’s presence, David wanted to make it central. But it wasn’t quite that simple. In the process, Uzzah was killed for what appeared to be an innocent mistake, but gives us insight as to what it means to host the presence of God. David was angry and momentarily deterred by this sobering moment, but recognized the blessing that came with hosting the ark, so persevered.
June 11, Ryan MacDonald
“David and Humility”
1. How do you tend to handle other people’s success? With humility like Jonathan, or with pride like Saul?
2. In what ways do you see pride in your own life?
3. What would Southlands look like if we truly believed that our success as a church was bound together?
4. How is learning to serve others a key to living a life of humility?
5. How do we help one-another live a life marked by humility?
May 28, Alan Frow
“The Formation of a Beautiful Heart”
1 Samuel 16:6-23
“For the Lord does not see as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Today we begin our series on David who was called a man after God’s own heart. We find that although David was handsome, he lacked the external qualities of beauty that his culture esteemed – height and stature – which caused him to be overlooked by his father as a potential king. But we also find that his internal qualities of being a man of worship, courage, wisdom and anointing, were what counted to God. God’s angle on beauty is different than ours. God is concerned with forming internal beauty in order for us to flourish in His kingdom.
May 21, Alan Frow
“Marks of a Missionary”
We land our series in the book of Acts with Paul’s approximately 1200 mile voyage by ship from Jerusalem to Rome as a prisoner on trial. Jesus had promised Paul in Acts 23 that he would be His witness in Rome. In Acts 26 Paul takes action on that promise by appealing to Caesar for trial as a Roman citizen, embracing the chains of a prisoner for the sake of the gospel. During his voyage the ship encounters a 14 day storm and is shipwrecked off the island of Malta. Our major series theme of being a church of missionaries continuing the work that Jesus began, is highlighted in Paul’s life on the ship. The term missionary comes from the word ‘apostolos’ which simply means ‘ sent one.’ Paul was an apostle, but we are all missionaries – sent ones. Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father sent me so I am sending you.”(John 20:21) This command is for all disciples. We are all missionaries in this sense and we see some powerful marks of a missionary that are applicable for all of us.
April 30, Alan Frow
“Elements of a Disciple”
Acts 19: 1-20
1. On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you with feeling prepared to share your knowledge of the gospel and why you are a Christian? If below 5, what are ways you feel you need to grow?
2. On a scale of 1-10, how enthusiastic are you in your faith? Why?
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?