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Abide in Me // John 15:1-17

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1. Read John 15:1-17 out loud 2-3 times. Consider reading from a different translation each time. In between readings, pause for 2-3 minutes and meditate on the passage in silence. What particular words or phrases stuck out to you? How do you sense the Holy Spirit speaking to you personally through this text? Share your reflections with one another.

2. Jesus declares that we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in him and that we can do nothing apart from him (John 15:4-5). Reflect on a time in your life when you tried to bear fruit on your own without abiding in Jesus. What was his experience like? What emotions did it surface and what results did it produce? What would it be like to approach the same situation while abiding in Jesus? What would this look like in practice? How might the results be different?

3. On Sunday, we learned that the relationship that Jesus calls us into is one of oneness and union with him. Read Romans 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:1-4. How do these passages describe the nature of our union with Christ?

4. Read John 15:9-11. Among the ways we can continue to abide in Jesus are remaining in his love and obeying his commandments. What is the relationship between love and obedience in the journey of discipleship? In what ways does obedience keep us in the love of Jesus?

5. Read the following reflection from Gordon Cosby, the Co-Founder of Church of the Saviour. Why is abiding in Jesus both a personal and corporate reality? Why might people be interested in a personal relationship with Jesus but not a relationship with other followers of Jesus? What does Jesus think about this (see John 15:12-17 and John 17:20-23)?

“The central reality of church is a group of people called to an ever-deepening personal belonging of friendship with Jesus of Nazareth. The command is to abide, to dwell in him as he dwelt in the Father. You have an image that Jesus used of total intimacy. But Jesus doesn’t give us a deeper relationship with him apart from his Body. Jesus does not come alone. He can’t because Jesus already has a people, he has a family. And when Jesus comes to us he always bring his family with him. Then we say, ‘No, I want just you. What I’ve heard about you is fairly good but what I’ve heard about your family is not so good.’ And Jesus says, ‘We come together.’”

For personal reflection at home:

A. Read Ephesians 1:3-14 and make a list of all the blessings we receive “in Christ.” Reflect on which of these is particularly meaningful to you in this season of your life and take some time to express gratitude to God for giving you this gift in Jesus.

Grace for Life // Colossians 2:6-7, 12-13

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1. How might we use Colossians 2:6-7 to define the concept of "sanctification"?

2. Scripture teaches that those who have trusted in Jesus have received a righteousness identity (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21) even though we still wrestle against the sinful desires and tendencies of "the flesh" (see Galatians 5:16-26). If you have trusted in Jesus, are you more likely to see yourself as a sinful person who occasionally does righteous things, or a righteous person who occasionally sins? What difference does a conscious awareness of our righteous identity make for the journey of discipleship?

3. In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul exhorts the  disciples in Philippi to continue in the process of sanctification (though he does not use this word). What phrases does Paul use to describe sanctification in these verses? In what ways does Paul describes the process of sanctification as a partnership between God's activity and our efforts? 

4. We tend to think of "grace" primarily as God's willingness to forgive our sins, but on Sunday were challenged to consider that grace refers more broadly to God's ongoing activity in our lives. With that in mind, in what ways does Philippians 2:12-13 speak of God's grace?

5. Read John 16:12-14, Galatians 5:16-25, Romans 8:1-11. Discuss how these verses describe the role of the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification. How might you describe the difference between being Spirit-empowered and self-empowered in the journey of discipleship?

Discipleship in Context // Mark 1:14-17

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1. Jesus’ final words to his followers in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 28:18-20) is often referred to as “The Great Commission.” Read these words and discuss the central command within this commission. Is it possible to build church services, programs, and other activities but not “make disciples”? How can we ensure that “making disciples” remains our focus as a local church?

2. The word “disciple” in the Greek New Testament is mathētēs and comes from the verb manthanō meaning “to learn.” In other words, a disciple is someone who learns––a student or an apprentice. How might thinking of ourselves as apprentices of Jesus influence our understanding and practice of what it means to be a Christian?

3. Jesus’ call to Simon and Andrew in Mark 1:17 leads us to a definition of discipleship as: “The journey of following Jesus together to become more like him and participate in his everyday mission.” Which part of this definition of discipleship stands out to you most?

4. The word “gospel” literally means “good announcement” or “good news.” What “good news” does Jesus proclaim in Mark 1:15? Why does he begin this announcement by saying, “The time is fulfilled…”?

5. Why is it important to hear Jesus’ call to discipleship (Mark 1:17) in the context of the gospel (Mark 1:14)? What difference does this make for our understanding and practice of discipleship?

6. How did Jesus call his hearers to respond to the royal proclamation that God’s kingdom was arriving in our world through him (Mark 1:15)? In what ways does the phrase “repent and believe” involve more than confessing sin and receiving forgiveness?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Reflect on how the gospel has transformed lives, among your family, friends, and neighbours, and in your own life. How would your life be different if you had never heard the “good news?”

B. Use a concordance to study what the term “gospel” or “good news” meant to the early church according to the book of Acts, where it is used by Luke fifteen times.

Covenant Community // Colossians 3:1-17

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1. Verses 1 to 4 build on the resurrection theme before us recently: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ.” Read these verses and give some examples of the “things above” that we should set our minds on, rather than the “earthly things.” Compare this with Philippians 4:8.

2. Verses 5 to 9 give us a lengthy list of things belonging to our “earthly nature” that we are told to put to death or rid ourselves of. Why does the apostle Paul conclude this list by saying “you have taken off your old self … and put on the new self?” When did this happen?

3. Verses 10 and 11 focus on our new identity. We have been “renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator” … in a community where “Christ is all and is in all.” How does the identity we have of ourselves shape our behaviour? Why is this given a collective context (verse 11), when in our culture so much emphasis is placed on the individual?

4. (Optional) Romans 5:12-21 contrasts two identities. The first is our identity with the first man, Adam, who through his disobedience brought sin and death into the world. The second is our identity with the other “one man,” Jesus Christ, who through his obedience brought justification for all men. Paul argues that if Adam’s sin affected so many, “much more” will God’s grace through Christ. Share how we can mold our identity on Christ and not on Adam.

5. Verses 12 to 15 contain eight to ten virtues that form part of our new identity as risen with Christ. Discuss how these are practiced not so much in our lives as individuals, but in our interaction with other believers in community.

6. Think about our role in Capstone Community Bible Church, as a local expression of the “one body” that Paul refers to in verse 15. Discuss the statement made Sunday morning, “The body of Christ needs to move together.” What would this mean for Capstone? How does the Lord’s command to his disciples in John 13:35 relate to this? (See also John 17:23.)

For personal reflection at home:

A. Reflect on how well you personally reflect the seven virtues of verses 12-15, in your relationship with others in the body of Christ, both in your local church and with other believers in your family, neighbourhood, and work environment.

B. Study other Scriptures that emphasize the reality of the resurrection of Christ, and our being raised with him (e.g. Romans 6:5-11; Galatians 2:20: Ephesians 2:4-10; Philippians 3:10-11; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 John 3:1-3). Why is this emphasized so much in the New Testament?

Jesus Is Alive and With Us // John 21

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1. An important resurrection saying among believers is “Christ is risen!” To which, the appropriate response is “He is risen indeed!” Share together the many different things that this phrase (and the truth it represents) might mean for you individually and collectively, both for the future, and also for the present right now.

2. One of the things that this means is that Jesus is with us in the ordinary things of everyday life. Peter and the other disciples experienced this when they returned to their everyday occupations of fishing, in John 21:1-14, when Jesus helped them in their work and prepared a meal for them. How have you personally experienced the Lord’s presence with you some the ordinary things of your life? Or perhaps even in some tragedy?

3. In John 21:15-17, Jesus’ discussion with Peter about whether he really loved him reminds us of Peter’s great failure and denial of Christ at the cross, described in a previous chapter (John 18:15-27). This teaches us that Jesus is also with us in our failures, and invites us to love him despite our brokenness. Discuss what it means to love the Lord when we have failed. Why would he still ask us (or ask Peter) to do so? How should we respond?

4. After Peter had responded several times that he did indeed love Jesus, what did Jesus ask him to do? (John 21:15-17). What does this teach us about the Lord’s purpose for us, even after we have failed him, perhaps even greatly, such as Peter.

5. Jesus’ final words to Peter, in John 21:18-20, teach us that Jesus is also with us in our weakness. This could refer to Peter’s final captivity and death, but it also describes what happens to most of us in our final years, when we are clothed and taken where we might not want to go. If you are approaching or in the senior years, what might it mean to feel the Lord’s presence with you in your final years. If you are younger, think of what it might mean for Jesus to be present with you at a time of serious illness and weakness.

6l Discuss why the apostle John added several final words of this gospel, John 21:24-25. What did he want everyone to understand and believe? Compare, also, with the last two verses of the previous chapter (John 20:30-31).

For personal reflection at home:

A. Make a list of the ordinary things you do in a day or a week. Then, try to picture the risen Christ being alongside of you in each of these things. How might that change your perspective throughout the day or week?

B. Before we move on from John’s Gospel to another topic, study how Jesus interacted with various of his followers – both men and women – throughout the gospel. Think, for example, of Peter, introduced in chapter 1, and left to ponder his future in chapter 21. Or of his mother Mary, at the wedding with him in chapter 2, Mary of Bethany in chapters 11-12, and Mary Magdalene (whether the same or different as Mary of Bethany) in chapter 20.  What are some of the things that always characterize the way the Lord interacted with individuals?

Gospel of Hope // John 20:1-18

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1. Discuss Mary’s commitment to Jesus in view of John 20:1. Think about today’s culture, where people are taught to keep an open mind rather than commit to something. What would someone with Mary’s characteristics look like today? What would others think about them?

2. Peter and John show up after Mary tells them about the open tomb (John 20:2-10).  But when they leave, Mary stays. What “rollercoaster of emotions” do you think Mary went through that Easter weekend? Why might she had stayed at the tomb, when others had left?

3. G. K. Chesterton said, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Why is it important not only to keep your mind open sometimes, but also to know when to shut it on truths you can pin your total life on, such as the resurrection?

4. Think about how often you reflect on Jesus’ loving life and sacrificial death in your daily devotions throughout the year. How often do you reflect on Jesus’ resurrection, the fact that you serve a risen Lord? How do they balance out? Why is the gospel incomplete, if we minimize the resurrection? How does the resurrection give hope to our lives today?

5. Mary was rewarded by being the first witness of Jesus’ resurrection. But when she went to tell the disciples, she said “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:2, 13, 18). Why did Mary refer to Jesus as the Lord? Why should we think about Jesus not just as the humbled Son of Man, but as the risen Lord? (Hint: see Romans 10:9 and many other New Testament verses).

6. In his letter to believers in Greece, who had never seen Jesus in person, Paul teaches that every Christian, in a certain sense, has “seen” the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:6). Discuss what Paul means.

For personal reflection at home:

A. Look up and reflect on the lyrics of some of the hymns sung at the service: Jerusalem (CityAlight), Our God (Chris Tomlin), My Jesus, My Savior (Darlene Zschech), Another in the Fire (Hillsong United), Take My Life (Francis Ridley Havergal), What A Friend (Joseph M Scriven). How do the words encourage you in your life?

B. The apostle Paul’s life was changed when the risen Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9). Do a concordance study of the way in which Paul refers to Jesus in his letters written after his conversion. Does he mostly call him Jesus? Christ? Lord? Or some combination? Do you think Paul used these names randomly or with purpose? What might it have been?

Belief In the Resurrected Jesus // John 20:1-18

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1. How would your life be different if Jesus had never risen from the dead––your activities,  planning,  relationships, or purpose in life?

2. Share the various ways in which “all the Old Testament flows into the Resurrection and all the New Testament flows out of it.”

3. Verses 1-9 describe what Mary, Peter, and John (“the other disciple”) saw when they went to the tomb after Jesus rose from the dead. This was different from Lazarus’s resurrection (John 11:38-44) in several important details, such as the open tomb, the grave clothes, the folded head cloth, etc. What did this signify about Jesus’ resurrection compared to Lazarus'? What do you think Peter and John now believed (v. 8)? (Verse 9 says they didn’t yet understand the Old Testament’s teaching that the Messiah must rise from the dead).

4. Why is belief in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ  necessary for a person to be truly converted? Are there other necessary criteria (e.g. other things to believe)?

5. Verses 10-18 describe Mary’s encounter with Jesus in the garden, whom she initially thought was the gardener. What finally caused her to recognize the resurrected Jesus (see John 10:3-4)? What caused the disciples on the road to Emmaus to recognize the resurrected Jesus (Luke 24:30-32)? What about the apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-6)? In your own experience, how did you first come to recognize the resurrected Jesus?

For personal reflection at home:

A.Think about the impact that coming to believe in the resurrected Christ would have in the life of one of your nearby neighbours (i.e., someone from another faith background, or a completely irreligious person). What difference would this make in their life and their future?

B. It was mentioned Sunday that Jesus entrusted Mary with a new covenantal formula to tell the disciples: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (verse 18). Express this in your own words. Do some research on the covenantal formula, starting with God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:8), and continuing down through Exodus, the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament, right to the end of the Bible (Revelation 21:3). Fill in some of the Biblical references. Why does God make covenants with his people? Are there conditions to the covenants? What hope and security does this provide you with today?

Testify!  // John 12:12-19

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1. On Sunday, we heard about the Youth Unlimited Young Mom’s program. Take time to discuss this and other ministries of Capstone in our local community, both ministries that are currently running and new ministries that we should perhaps look into. How can we better support them?

2. In verses 12-15, the crowd meets Jesus with palm branches (used in previous centuries to honour the Jewish Maccabee leaders), the cry of "Hosanna" (meaning, “Please save us!”), and quotations from Psalm 118:25-26 and Zechariah 9:9. What might these various greetings imply?

3. In verse 16, the disciples did not understand “all this” until after Jesus was glorified (i.e., after he ascended to heaven to sit at God’s right hand). What didn’t they understand? Why didn’t they understand this? Why did they finally understand these things after Jesus was glorified? What does this new understanding teach us in our calling to serve God today?

4. According to verses 17 and 18, why was the crowd so keen to see Jesus? In John 20:30-31, the author of the gospel states that he had written about the signs Jesus did so that people would believe in Jesus. Do you think most of the people in that crowd believed? What signs or evidence can we cite today when sharing the gospel? How effective are they?

5. In the rest of John 12, Jesus describes what was really happening, from His perspective. Reflect on your own life in the light of verses 24-26. What have you lost and what have you gained by following Christ? Have you had any regrets? Why or why not?

A. When facing his imminent death on the cross, Jesus wanted his Father’s name to be glorified (verses 27-28). The Father responds that he had already glorified it and would do so again. How was God the Father glorified by what Jesus had done? How can we best glorify God today?

B. Reflect on the response of “the crowd” to Jesus’ signs and teachings at various times in his life (e.g. John 6:2; 7:20, etc.) and death (e.g. Mark 15:8-15; Luke 23:18). Contrast this with the response of individuals to Jesus. What conclusions might you draw?

Drawn to Jesus // John 12:1-11

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Before we look at the dinner party in John 12, and the devotion of Mary, we’ll first look at the reaction of people to the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead at the end of John 11.

1. Many people believed in Jesus, but the Jewish leaders tried to take control of the situation in John 11:45-53. What were they afraid of? What was the result? Are there times in your life when you try to take control of events out of fear of something? What is the result?

2. Verses 1-3 of John 12 tells what happened at the dinner given in Jesus’ honour after Lazarus’s resurrection. What did Mary do and how did it affect the entire dinner party? What was she really doing, according to verses 7-8 and Mark 14:8, although she may not have known it?

3. What we can do today that might not be as dramatic as Mary’s action but would be in the same spirit? In the next chapter, Jesus himself washes the disciples’ feet. This is looking ahead, but what is Jesus teaching his disciples by this? (See John 13:14-17)

4. Verses 4-6 of John 12 reveal the motivation behind Judas’s criticism of Mary pouring the expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet. Discuss a little the importance of motivation behind our religious acts, such as giving to the poor, as Judas argued, or giving to the Lord, like Mary. (Hint: Psalm 139:23-24 or 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 might help here.)

5. Verses 9-11 say that a large crowd believed because of Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. But when a similar thing happened in John 2:23-25, after Jesus’ first miracles, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” How can we tell the difference between a true spiritual revival and an enthusiastic crowd impressed with spectacles?

6. Discuss the comment, “we don’t follow Jesus from a position of power and leadership but from humility and kneeling at his feet.” How does communion (celebrated on Sunday) remind us of this? How is it both a remembrance of Jesus giving himself for us and our giving ourselves for him?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Reflect on your attitude towards Jesus and towards the poor. Is one related to the other? Should they be related? (See Galatians 2:10; 1 John 3:16-18). How can we go in the opposite direction than that of Judas, in our motivation for service and our consideration for the poor?

B. Compare the story about Mary, Martha, and Jesus in Luke 10:38-42 with the one in John 12:1-3. What was Martha’s main role in the household? How was Mary’s different? Are both important?

Where Were You Jesus?  // John 11:17-44

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1. Why did Jesus delay His coming until after Lazarus had died? Has Jesus ever arrived “late” in your life? How did you handle it?

2. Look at Martha’s three responses to Jesus’ words, in verses 21, 24, and 27. What did Martha believe? Do you think she understood why Jesus had arrived late?

3. Discuss the various truths in verse 25: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” When has this been an encouragement to you? How? When did your questioning, and wrestling with suffering and tragedy, still go unanswered?

4. When Mary met Jesus, she made the same statement to Him as Martha had (compare v. 32 with v. 21). But Jesus’ response, in verses 33 to 35, was quite different. Can you explain this? What are the different ways we can encourage others when they are going through pain and loss, and how do we know which way we should respond? What has encouraged you the most in times of suffering and loss?

5. Verse 35, “Jesus wept,” is well known as the shortest verse in the Bible. It is also very profound. Verse 38 says, “Jesus was deeply moved.” Why did Jesus weep and why was he deeply moved, when he knew that Lazarus would soon be alive again? How does the reality that we serve a God who weeps influence our experience of suffering?

6. Even though Lazarus was raised from the dead, an event that caused many to believe in Jesus (verse 42b, 45; John 20:30-31), he eventually died again, without coming back to life. Suffering and death still remain our great enemy.Jesus was “the man of sorrows,” and died to address this great enemy, as Hebrews 2:9-15 describe. While we believe in hope of our future blessing, what helps us put up with suffering and death at the present time, in our circle of families, friends, and our own life?

Extra: Why do you think Lazarus is not recorded as saying anything himself in John 11?

A. Reflect on some of the hymns that were sung on Sunday, by looking up the lyrics or the song on YouTube: Phil Wickham’s This Is Amazing Grace, Hillsong’s King of Kings and What A Beautiful Name, Getty and Townsend’s In Christ Alone, or Phil Wickham’s Living Hope. (You could also look up Wilburn’s Four Days Late, sung by Karen Peck.)

B. The verb “believe” is significant in John’s Gospel, including in this chapter. How many times does it appear? What are its various meanings in John 11, and throughout the Gospel? What various roles does it play in your life?

For Your Belief // John 11:1-16

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1. In the Gospels, as we approach the cross and resurrection, we see many people coming to Jesus for various reasons. Share the reasons why you first came to Jesus. Don’t hesitate to tell your story, even if it sounds quite different from others.

2. Verses 1-5 introduce Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, whom Jesus loved, for the first time in John’s Gospel. Do you think they would have expected Jesus to come immediately when he heard that Lazarus was sick and they were in deep distress? Why did Jesus wait two more days before going?

3. In verses 6-10, Jesus surprised his disciples by planning to return to Judea where the leaders were waiting to kill him, and to travel by day when everyone could see. How does Jesus answer them in verses 9 and 10? What are the implications of light in this passage? How does this compare with Jesus’ statement in John 9:3-5, after healing the blind man?

4. The world is full of dark places and hidden secrets, but Jesus is the light and pulls thing out of darkness into light, as he says in John 3:19-21 (see also 1 John 1:5-7.) The sermon mentioned that we’re living in a “light movement” that holds people accountable. How does the light of Jesus hold you responsible in your personal Christian life? What helps? Feel free to share this.

5. In verse 15, Jesus tells his disciples plainly that Lazarus had died. Why was Jesus glad that He wasn’t there at the time? What was the ultimate purpose for Lazarus’ death? If you were a disciple, what would you have thought? Share a time in your life, in the church, or in the world at large when God did not answer your prayer in the way you thought He would. Did you see later why this might have happened?

6. Discuss together the different reasons God allows suffering in our lives. What have you learned from your suffering (see Romans 5:3-5)? Do you think Thomas understood this (see verse 16)?

Pray together for those who are suffering. Also pray about any “hard to understand” things that are happening in your life and the world right now.

For personal reflection at home:

A. The disciples didn’t understand why certain things were happening (in our chapter this week). Reflect on some times in your life when things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would or should turn out. How did you feel at the time? Looking back at these things now, how do you feel?

B. “Light” is a little word with a big meaning in John’s Gospel and First Epistle: God is light, Jesus is the light of the world, we should walk in light, etc. It often occurs in contrast to “darkness” and “night,” as we see in John 1:5; 3:19-20; 8:12; 11:9-10; 12:35-36; 12:46; and 1 John 1:5-7; 2:8-10. Review these Scriptures, and think about why this theme is so important. How does it inform our perspective on our purpose, life goals, activities, and plans?

Your Are Not Your Own  // 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

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1. Our world is full of people who practice the vices of verses 9 and 10. On Sunday, however, we were reminded that these verses are a conversation for the family table, not for the world at large. What did he mean by that? (See, also, the last verse of chapter 5.) Why is “covenant faithfulness” for the believer so important, whether in singleness or in marriage?

2. Verse 11, in contrast to verses 9 and 10, defines our new identity. What three components of it are listed in this verse? What do these mean? How does our new identity inform our practice?

3. The early Gnostic heresy taught that only the spirit mattered; the body wasn’t important. And so, some Corinthians may have felt that they had the liberty to do anything they wanted with their bodies (verses 12 and 13). But Paul counters this argument in two ways, first in verse 13 and then in verse 14. What are they?

4. Corinth was an important trade centre and prostitution was rampant there. So Paul gets specific in verses 15, 16, and 17. Summarize his argument in terms of our bodies and our relationship with Christ? Does Paul’s argument still hold good in our modern society, when online sex is so prevalent?

5. In verses 18, 19, and 20, the apostle offers three further reasons why the believer should run from all forms of sexual immorality and honour God with his or her body. What are these? (You might summarize all the reasons Paul gives in this entire section, from verse 9 to verse 20.)

6. Paul recognizes that the Corinthians had a history of defiling their bodies in one way or another, when he says “that is what some of you were” (verse 11). Likewise, most of us also have a history of unclean acts and thoughts with our body. But these don’t define us, they aren’t our identity as Christians. Discuss how celebrating communion, as we did on Sunday, helps us hold our identity close to us and thus distances our inclination to sin with our bodies.

For personal reflection at home:

A. Make a list of healthy personal practices for your body, as a temple of the Holy Spirit and useful for the Lord’s service.  Reflect on this along with the lyrics to one of these hymns sung on Sunday: I Surrender (Hillsong Worship) or I Surrender All (Judson W. Van De Venter)

B. The Holy Spirit is mentioned both in verses 11 and 19, in connection with our bodies. Look at some other verses that relate to how the Holy Spirit enables us to honour God with our bodies (Rom. 8:5; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 9:14; Peter 1:2; etc.)

A Time of Prayer // 1 Kings 19:1-18

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In light of the international crisis in Ukraine, problems in our own country, and divisions in the church, we dedicated Sunday morning to a time of prayer guided by the story of Elijah in 1 Kings19. Discuss the questions in less time than usual, so that there is plenty of time for prayer at the end.

1. 1 Kings 18 describes the great victory of the prophet Elijah over the prophets of Baal. But in 1 Kings 19:1-9, Elijah runs away, afraid of Queen Jezebel. He went from a great victory to a cowardly failure. Has this ever happened to you? A personal victory in your life was followed by a defeat? Was God finished with Elijah? Was He finished with you?

2. Even as Elijah ran away, the Lord sustained him on his journey to Horeb, the mountain of God (verses 5b to 8). In a similar way, the Lord sustains us as He always has further work for us to do, in particular, the work of prayer. Can you give some personal examples of this?

3. At Mount Horeb, the Lord told Elijah to stand in God’s presence while three things passed by: a tremendous wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But the Lord was not in any of these (verses 11-12). What happened after that, which enabled Elijah to hear God’s voice and talk with him (verses 12b to 14). What was Elijah’s complaint? Have you ever made a similar complaint?

4. Why did the Lord sent Elijah back on the very same pathway that he had just run away on? What three things did the Lord want Elijah to do, in verses 15 and 16? How do they represent international concerns, national concerns, and godly succession among the people of God?

5. Our three prayer times related to the three things Elijah did. (a) First, we prayed for the international situation (Ukraine, Russia, political leaders). Share some specific things we can pray for regarding this current crisis.  (b) Second, we prayed for our own country, including Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford. Make a list of things we can pray for them. (c) Finally, we prayed for unity in the church and that there would be a nurturing atmosphere for the next generation to be able to replace us. How can we pray for this? Now, spend 5 or 10 minutes in prayer for each of these three areas of concern.

For personal reflection at home:

A. Write your own list of prayer requests for the international, national, and church challenges and use it throughout the week.

B. 1 Kings 18 and 19 give us Elijah’s great triumph, failure, and final work. 2 Kings 18, 19, and 20 give us King Hezekiah’s great crisis, triumph, and failure. Read these chapters to compare Hezekiah and Elijah’s stories. How might Hezekiah’s crisis apply to our current world situation?

A Better Way  // 1 Corinthians 5:12-6:8

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1. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, what was the particular problem that the apostle Paul is addressing? Do we have the same problem in the church today, or a similar one? Explain.

2. What was Paul’s argument in verses 2-6 as to why believers shouldn’t go to civil court against other believers with problems like this? How then should they be resolved? Have you ever seen this happen?

3. In Philippians 4:2, Paul refers to a conflict between two leading women in the church in that city. What does he ask his “true companion” to do about it, in verse 3? Why was this important to Paul, keeping in mind how attached Paul was to the church in Philippi?

4. Applying this to the present, what are some ways of resolving conflict between believers if (a) if they attend the same local church or (b) if they attend different local churches but live in the same city? Can you give an example of this?

5. In verses 7 and 8, Paul makes another suggestion on how to resolve conflicts that is in tune with the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. What does Paul suggest we should do? What does the Lord teach in Matthew 5:38-42? Doesn’t this let the other person off the hook?

6. In Matthew 27:27-31, the Lord lets himself be wronged, even though he had the power to completely reverse the situation. When is this appropriate for us to do as Christians (see Hebrews 10:32-34)? When is it appropriate to mention our rights, as the apostle Paul did in Acts 22:22-27, when he mentioned his Roman citizenship to avoid being beaten?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Choose a hymn that you were not familiar with, out of the five that were sung on Sunday. Look up the lyrics and meditate on the words. The five hymns are below:

Praise to the Lord the Almighty, by Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music
Only a Holy God, by CityAlight
Holy Is The Lord, by Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio
Jesus at the Centre, by Darlene Zschech
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (chorus), by Helen H. Lemmel

B. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul argues that since we will judge the world (verse 2), and even angels (verse 3), we should certainly be competent enough to judge “trivial” cases like the one discussed here. Use a concordance, or an online commentary, to find out if there are any Bible verses about believers judging the world or angels, either in the present or the future.

Live Like It's New  // 1 Corinthians 5

Watch the service here.

1. Compare family discipline with church discipline. Why is it important for parents to have discipline in their family? How should it be conducted? What are some similarities between family discipline and church discipline? What are some differences?

2. In verses 1-2, what was the particular issue in the Corinthian church that Paul was addressing? Why do you think the Corinthian church was proud of this, rather than being grieved? When a person sins outwardly today, is the first reaction of people usually grief?

3. In verses 3-5, Paul passes judgment on the erring person, and says the church should do it also. Yet, previously, Paul said it is the Lord who judges, and we should judge nothing before the appointed time (1 Corinthians 4:3-5). Also, Jesus said, “do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2). How do you reconcile these verses?

4. In verses 6-8, Paul teaches why church discipline is necessary in cases such as the one at Corinth. What are the reasons? How should love be involved in all discipline, both love for the individual being confronted and love for the congregation? (Paul later devotes a whole chapter to love, in 1 Corinthians 13.)

5. In verses 9-11, what other examples of bad behaviour might give cause for church discipline? What would be an example of each in today’s culture? Why should we differentiate between discipline in the church and discipline at our place of work?

6. Verses 12-13 conclude with a clear exhortation to discipline bad behaviour within the church. In Matthew 7:3-5, however, Jesus lays out the criteria we must satisfy before we are ready to confront or judge others. How should this work in practice?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Reflect on times in your upbringing when your parents disciplined you (or a sibling). Was it good in the long run? If not, how might you do it differently as a parent with your own children? If you have been in a church situation where discipline was applied, was it done well or could it have been done better?

B. Use a concordance to look up other places in the New Testament where the Lord or his apostles talk about judging others. Make a list of (1) the way it shouldn’t be done, and (2) the way it should be done. (You could start with these: Luke 19:22; John 5:30; 7:24; Acts 17:31; 23:3; Rom. 2:1; 14:3; 1 Cor. 6:5; James 4:11; 5:9.)

Becoming Fools  // 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Watch the service here.

1. Corinth is near Athens, where philosophers such as Socrates lived in previous centuries. No wonder the Corinthians valued wisdom highly. In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul contrasts God’s wisdom with this world’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21-25; 2:4-7; 3:19). Share examples of how the world’s wisdom today opposes God’s wisdom.

2. Paul was no doubt familiar with Socrates’ teaching and perhaps even alluded to it in his rebuke of the Corinthian adoration of wisdom. Share examples of where the wisdom of scientists and other scholars today does not oppose God’s wisdom but compliments it, when used correctly.

3. In verses 18-23, Paul is particularly addressing the Corinthian worldly attitude of boasting about different leaders. How should we as Christians view our leaders? What does Paul mean when he says, “all things are yours … and you are Christ’s” in verses 21-23? How does this negate the idea of following celebrity pastors? How can we build on this?

4. In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Paul focuses on the roles and responsibilities of the Christian pastor or teacher. How should they see their role (verses 1- 2)? How can the congregation support them in carrying out their call?

5. Who are Christian leaders ultimately accountable to (verses 3-4)? How does this work in practice? Does this mean they aren’t accountable to their congregation or board of elders?

6. In verse 5, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the ultimate goal that all Christians are looking forward to: the second coming of Christ. How will this be a great “leveller” of all people, including celebrity leaders? In the meantime, how should we live in view of this?  (Hint: Philippians 2:1-8 was read at the close of the sermon).

For personal reflection at home:

A. Reflect on your personal relationship with wisdom. How have you benefited from it? (The book of Proverbs has many verses about wisdom.) How has your faith in Christ given you wisdom? How has the world’s wisdom distracted you at times? What does it mean for you to “know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2)?

B. Research the importance that the apostle Paul and the other apostles placed on “the Day” of Christ’s second coming. How did it affect them? Consider watching this video on "The Day of the Lord" from Bible Project and reviewing the following passages: Rom. 2:16; 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Eph. 4:30; Phil. 1:6; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 1:10; 2:2, 3; 2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8; Heb. 10:25; 1 Pet. 2:12; 2 Pet. 1:19; 3:10; 1 John 4:17.

Built to Last  // 1 Corinthians 3:1-17

Watch the service here.

1. Before discussing negative aspects of how local churches function, as seen in verses 1-4, take time to share what you appreciate about the local church. What significance does the fact that you belong to a church built on Jesus Christ (v.11) bring to your life? (Hint: the worship hymns sung on Sunday celebrated some of this.)

2. In previous church generations, being worldly often meant having a television, going to movies, shopping on Sunday, etc. In verses 1-4, the apostle Paul uses the phrase “worldly” three times. What was he referring to by this term? How are these things “worldly”?

3. In verses 5-9, Paul is talking about the role and place of workers and leaders in the church. What should be their relationship to (a) God, (b) each other, and (c) the church members that they serve?

4. Verses 10-15 discuss the important task of building the church––a people, not a physical building. Each of us contributes to building the church. How do we make sure its foundation is Jesus Christ? How do we build with gold and not straw? What are some ways we can help build a local church, or contribute to world-wide church growth?

5. Verses 16-17 refer to the local church (the people collectively) as God’s temple, with the Spirit indwelling them (see also Ephesians 2:19-20). What does this mean practically? How does it make you feel to be part of a temple in which the Holy Spirit lives?

6. Rob gave an example of a local church that contributed to the growth of other churches––rather than competing with them––by praying for their pastors. Take turns to share something positive about about another church you know of (e.g. its pastors, outreach, etc.). Pray for these local churches as you close your house church gathering.

For personal reflection at home:

A. Reflect on what you are doing personally to build our local church and/or the church universal. Are you contributing to competition or are you  working to deflate competition? Is your focus Christ or a human leader? Are you building with gold, silver, and costly stones or wood, hay, and straw? Pray about this.

B. This chapter refers to the church as a building (verses 10-12) and as a temple (v. 16-17). What do these metaphors or images imply about a local church? What other metaphors does the New Testament use for the church, and what do those represent or teach us? (There are at least five others.)

Of One Mind  // 1 Corinthians 2

Watch the service here.

1. In his introduction, Rob said we should view our differences not as things that divide us, but rather as things that give us strength within our unity, using marriage as an example. Give examples of how differences within a unified church can contribute to its strength.

2. Rob also mentioned how that many Canadian churches are struggling at present with tensions and divisions not based on deep theological beliefs but difference in preferences. What are some examples of this? How can we face these appropriately to bring unity?

3. In verses 1-5, how does Paul describe his approach to building the church in Corinth initially? What was the key thing that contributed most to its success? How do we build our outreach on that today? Be specific.

4. In verses 6-9, Paul appeals to the mature Christians among the Corinthians to hold on to God’s wisdom rather than that of the world’s rulers. Based on the Scriptures, what does God’s wisdom emphasize or focus on?  How does this help us navigate our lives through a complex and challenging world? Give some examples.

5. Verses 10-16 present four steps, starting with the thoughts of God (vv. 10-11) and ending with the mind of Christ (v. 16). What are the key links between these, in verses 11-15? (i.e., what key word is mentioned frequently in these verses? Hint: see John 14:25-26). How has this worked out in your life?

6. Rob emphasized that “If we know the thoughts of God, then we have the mind of Christ.” How does this work in practice? How can you learn God’s thoughts practically in your life?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Read the well-known verses in Philippians 2:1-11 and reflect on how well you practice the mind of Christ in your interaction with your local Christian community.

B. What does 1 Corinthians 2 teach about the verbal inspiration of Scripture (i.e., Paul’s letters in particular)? Where else does the New Testament teach us about its inspiration?

I Don't Want to Brag, But...  // 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Watch the service here.

1. Why is the salvation God offers through Jesus so difficult for ‘wise’ people to accept (verses 19-25, 27-29)? Do you think it’s more difficult for people to be saved today than it was 100 years ago before the information age?

2. Why is the message of the cross so powerful (verses 17, 18, 24; Romans 1:16-17), even though it may seem weak and foolish to the ‘strong’ and ‘wise’ of our world? What is this message powerful to do? 

3. How might you respond to a friend who says, “Show me evidence for God and I’ll believe”? (See also Romans 1:20 and Matthew 12:38-40).

4. Rob pointed out that, even though God reveals himself through creation and the Scriptures, and even though there may be great preaching and worship in a church, there’s only one thing that can really change the heart. What (or who) is that?

5. What different things is Christ to us, according to verse 30? (See also Ephesians 1:7, 2 Corinthians 5:21). What do these things mean practically?

6. What things does Paul boast about in verse 31 (see also Galatians 6:14)? How can we do the same?

For personal reflection at home:

A. When you reflect back on your life, what are some things you’ve been tempted to boast about, though perhaps not in obvious ways? What have you learned from this passage about what you should boast about? How might you do this in the coming months?

B. How does 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 compare with what Paul preached to the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17:24-31, just a few years previously?

I'm Begging You!  // 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Watch the service here.

1. Although verse 3 is a standard greeting of the Apostle Paul, in verse 2 Paul emphasizes some truths that he felt the Corinthian church in particular needed to hear. What might these be? Do we also need to “hear” these truths, in our church today?

2. In his sermon, Rob pointed out that there were many problems in the Corinthian church, as there are in most churches today. Nevertheless, in verses 4-9 the apostle Paul doesn’t begin by l these problems, but with thanksgiving to God for the many good things in the Corinthian church. Why does he do this? What can you thank God for when you think of Capstone?

3. Verses 10-12 talk about the divisions in the Corinthian church. Paul expresses his concern that the believers were each choosing a different leader to follow, rather than showing true unity as the one body of Christ. What things are  you’re aware of that are causing divisions in Christian churches today? What can leaders do to avoid this happening in a local church? What can members of the congregation do?

4. In verses 13-16, Paul says he avoided baptizing most of them so they would not have an excuse to consider him their leader. Earlier in his travels, when people began to worship Paul for a miracle he did, how did he respond (see Acts 14:8-15)? Like Paul, when we’re successful,  we are sometimes tempts us to “pat ourselves on the back” or receive the praise of other people. How can we avoid this?

5. With reference to verse 17, Rob made the comment that, as a congregation, “we will only be truly unified by the power of the cross,” not by a celebrity speaker or worship leader. How does the power of the cross contribute to true unity? How is the cross of Christ “emptied of its power” (verse 17), as Paul put it, by things that happen in the church?

6. After the sermon last Sunday, we celebrated communion together, as we each partook of the bread and wine, whether in person or in front of our screens. How does our mutual participation in the Lord’s Supper contribute to church unity?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Reflect on your experience in the church––perhaps in different churches in your life as a believer. Have you experienced any divisions in a church? Any undercurrents of disunity that perhaps didn’t come out in the open? How do you think how these might have been avoided?

B. In verses 13-17, Paul refers to the “cross of Christ” and to the fact that Jesus, and no one else, had been “crucified” for us. Use a concordance to see how often Paul refers to these key words in the other letters that he wrote. How important was this truth to him?

The Cornerstone  // Isaiah 28:14-22

Watch the service here.

On Sunday, Capstone’s youth intern, Ethan, preached from Isaiah chapter 28. He pointed out that in verses 1-13, Isaiah addresses the rulers of the northern kingdom of Israel, called Ephraim in verse 1. Isaiah rebukes them for relying on their own materialism and silly rules. He calls them “religious drunkards” (verses 3, 7) and warns that Assyria will come and conquer them (verse 11). In verses 14-22, Isaiah turns his attention to the rulers of the southern kingdom, centred on Jerusalem (verse 14). He warns them about their “covenant of death” (verse 15), i.e. with Egypt, which they made to protect themselves from Assyria. They were trusting in human help and not in God.

1. At New Years, we often think about new goals that bring renewed significance to our life, We may also be downcast, recalling how we failed to meet past goals. In both cases, we are tempted to trust in ourselves to give us meaning, when we know that our relationship with God is what matters most. Share how you view this coming year, any goals you have made, and what disappointments you had in the past year.

2. In verses 17-20, the Lord gets out his measuring tape (verse 17) to bring judgment on Israel (verses 18-19). Trying to fit into a bed that is too small for us (verse 20) is like building our life on a foundation that doesn’t fit. Why does God have to judge his people when they displace him with things that become idols in their lives (verses 21-22)? Why can’t he leave them alone? Hint: Exodus 34:6-7 and Hebrews 12:5-11 might help.

3. Verse 16 is the key to this section: only in the Lord do we have a sure foundation. How has the Lord provided a sure foundation for your life in Himself and not just in good things such as a family, a job, a place to live, etc?

4. When things go wrong in your life, how is the promise of verse 16 still true: “the one who trusts/believes will never be dismayed/disappointed/put to shame”? Peter quotes this verse in the letter he wrote to a church that was suffering (1 Peter 2:6). Why can you rely on Christ as your foundation even if 2022 brings bad news for you?

5. Ethan pointed out that grace and mercy are at the heart of what God does (see Exodus 34:6-7) while judgment is his “strange work … his alien task” (Isaiah 28:21b). When we come to the New Testament, we see that God’s strange work of judgment falls on Christ, while his mercy and love are poured out on us. This is why Christ is a precious cornerstone to us (verse 16; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Discuss the use of this metaphor.

For personal reflection at home:

A. While judgment is God’s “strange work” (Isaiah 28:21), mercy and love lie more at the “core of his being,” according to Exodus 34:6-7. Make a list of places in the Old Testament where Exodus 34:6 is referred to. Why is this central to who God is?

B. The service ended with “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus” and “Christ alone, cornerstone.” Both reflect on Isaiah 28:16. Look up the lyrics and reflect on them.

A Sign is Given  // Isaiah 7:1-17

Watch the service here.

On Sunday, we read about Ahaz the King of Judah. He was threatened by two neighbours, Rezin king of Aram (Syria) and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel. This passage includes the well-known verse 14, “The virgin will be with child and shall give birth to a son and will call his name Immanuel,” which Matthew applied to Christ centuries later (Matthew 1:23). Rob explained the two main functions of Old Testament prophecy: forthtelling and foretelling.

1. When Ahaz heard about the threat he faced, he went to Assyria for help rather than trust the sign the Lord wanted to give him (Isaiah 7:10-12; 2 Kings 16:5-7). But Ahaz had to give the King of Assyria gold from the temple (2 Kings 16:8). Have you every been faced with a crisis in which you were tempted to do the same thing as Ahaz––trust in some human method, rather than in God?

2. The Lord’s message to Ahaz in Isaiah 7 included this warning: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (verse 9b). What does it mean to stand firm in faith? Read Paul’s similar encouragement to the Christians in Philippi, facing opposition (Philippians 1:27; 4:1). What challenges are we facing today and how should we stand firm?

Rob gave us two rules about Old Testament prophecy:
A. Prophecy was always spoken to God’s people then and must have had a meaning for them at that time (“them, then”).
B. Prophecy can often be traced through the person of Jesus Christ – his  life, death, and resurrection – to offer a fuller meaning to later generations ("us, now").

3. Apply Rule A to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14-16, “A virgin (or young woman) will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (“God with us”) … before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.” How was this fulfilled in Isaiah’s time (see Isaiah 8:1-14)?

4. Apply Rule B to the same prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 “A virgin will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”. How was this fulfilled in Christ’s birth (see Matthew 1:20-23)?

5. Why was the incarnation of Christ (God becoming man) so foundational to the Christian faith? What does it mean to you?

6. After the Lord’s Supper, several people shared about a recent experience that had given them peace, or a difficult/unsettling experience
in which they were able to have peace.  Continue this sharing in your house church meeting.

For personal reflection at home:

A. Use a concordance to find other verses in the Bible that talk about standing firm in faith––there are quite a few!

B. Read about King Ahaz’s reign in Judah in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. Despite having such a godly prophet like Isaiah to guide him, what went wrong in Ahaz's life? What about his son, who followed him as king? 

Sunday Service  // December 5, 2021

Watch the service here.

On Sunday, our youth minister, Ethan, shared a story from Isaiah 7:1-17 about the prophet Isaiah and Ahaz, the King of Judah. When faced with two enemy nations (3-4 and 9b -11), King Ahaz refused to trust in the Lord and ask for a sign of God’s protection. In response, God gave Ahaz a sign anyways: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (verse 14). The meaning in Hebrew of Immanuel is “God is with us.”

1. When faced with overwhelming obstacles and dangers, as King Ahaz was, why is our first reaction often to plan out an escape rather than trust in the Lord? Why is it so important in these situations to realize that “God is with us”? (See also the last line of Matthew’s Gospel.)

2. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the story of Jesus’ birth. In Matthew 1:22-23, Matthew says that Christ’s birth took place to fulfill this sign of Immanuel, “God with us.” Why call Jesus Immanuel? Why is the Christmas story––the incarnation event of God becoming human in Christ––unique in the history of humanity and foundational to our faith in Christ?

Before celebrating Communion, Ethan read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and said that “The Lord’s Supper is  a time for looking back and for looking forward.”

3. What do we look back to when taking the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper? Why is this important for us?

4. What do we look forward to when participating in the Lord’s Supper (see verse 26)? How does this encourage us?

We also lit the advent candles of Peace and read Isaiah 9:6, the well-known Christmas verse.

5. Discuss the four or five different attributes that characterize “the Son who is given,” according to Isaiah 9:6. Why do you think “Prince of Peace” is the last one mentioned?

6. After the Lord’s Supper, several people shared about a recent experience that had given them peace, or a difficult/unsettling experience
in which they were able to have peace.  Continue this sharing in your house church meeting.

For personal reflection at home:

A. The theme of peace, prominent in many Christmas carols, connects with the recent sermon Rob gave from Philippians 4. Read verses 4-9 of that chapter, and reflect on the fact that “the peace of God” in verse 7 becomes “the God of peace” in verse 9. (This inversion is also present in the original Greek).

B. Use a concordance to research some of the different meanings of peace in the Bible. Who is the peace with? How is it attained? How does it transform our lives?

How to Pray, Petition, and Request // Philippians 4:4-9

Watch the sermon here.

1. This paragraph begins with “Rejoice … Rejoice!” (verse 4). Where else is “rejoice” or “joy” mentioned in Philippians? How can Paul say “rejoice” when he is chained in a prison (see 1:7, 13, 14) and the Philippian church to whom he is writing is also suffering (see verse 1:29)? 

2. In his sermon, Rob mentioned that a second theme of Philippians, after joy, is internal conflict and disunity among Christians (see 2:1-3 and 4:2-3). How does this explain Paul’s command “do not be anxious about anything” in verse 6 of our passage? Share together how conflict in a family or church can lead to anxiety.

3. “Our relationship with one another impacts our prayer life.” In discussing this, Rob referred us back to the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, especially verses 11-15 of that chapter. Matthew 7:9-12 is also about prayer and also ends by addressing our relationship with others. What four aspects of prayer are mentioned in Philippians 4:6b? How can the daily practice of these reduce anxiety and relational conflicts? (A phrase to remember, “God is in control, and we are not!”)

4. If we carry out verse 6, we can enjoy the peace of verse 7. Discuss the three things Rob pointed out about this peace: (1) it is not circumstantial but supernatural (thus Paul could rejoice in prison), (2) it will be beyond our understanding, and (3) it will guard and defends us. How does each of these work in practice?

5. As a review of these seven studies on prayer, each member choose one of them, read to yourself the verses, and be prepared to share with the group one thought that stood out for you.

  • Oct 17 How to Pray (Matthew 6:9-13)

  • Oct 24 How to Keep Praying (Luke 18:1-8)

  • Oct. 31 How to Pray on Mission (Acts 4:24-31)

  • Nov. 7 How to Pray with the Persecuted (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

  • Nov. 14 The Gifts of Prayer (Matthew 7:7-12)

  • Nov. 21 How to pray and overcome temptation (Hebrews 2:14-18)

  • Nov. 28 How to Pray, Petition, and Request (Philippians 4:4-7)

For personal reflection at home:


A. Reflect on some of the conflicts you have experienced in your life consider how more focused prayer might have influenced your experience and/or the outcome.


B. There are many passages in the Old Testament that connect practical peace with trust and prayer in God’s presence. Search out some of these and reflect on what they teach. (For a start, you could look at Psalm 4:6-8; Psalm 122:6-9; Isaiah 26:3-4.)


C. On the Capstone website, scan the house church questions on prayer that we have been discussing these past two months, and focus on one or two that stood out for you.

How to Pray and Overcome Temptation  // Hebrews 2:14-18

Watch the service here.

1. Read again Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:15-16, and discuss why these two sections fit so well together despite being separated by a couple of chapters. What words and ideas are common to both?

2. Hebrews 2:18 teaches that Christ can help us when tempted, because He was tempted like we are. When Christ was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4 & Luke 4), how did these temptations cause him to suffer? When else did He suffer by not giving in to temptation?

3. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that Christ suffered when tempted, although He never sinned. Then the very next verse (Hebrews 4:16), tells us what we can do when we are tempted. What is that? Why is it effective?

4. 1 Corinthians 10 also teaches about temptation. Verse 13 reminds us that we will all be tempted. Knowing that, what does verse 12 warn us about? What does the second part of verse 13 assure us about? Share your experiences with these truths.

5. Ken warned us of the foolishness of walking around the edge of a deep pit, when we don’t intend to fall in. Martin Luther once said, “You can’t help birds flying above your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” Based on these two common sense examples, and the verses in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians, share some common strategies you can use to avoid giving into temptations.

For personal reflection at home:

A. Look up some other verses in the New Testament that address the question of temptation for the believer (e.g. Mark 14:38; 1 Corinthians 7:5; Galatians 6:1; 1 Timothy 6:9; James 1:13-14). What do these verses add about temptation?

B. Reflect on the various things that tempt you to sin in your life. Have you learned anything helpful from the sermon and the scriptures that might help you persevere?

C. When a believer gives in to temptation and is caught in a sin, those in the church who are more mature spiritually should help restore them according to Galatians 6:1. If this is your situation, feel free to contact someone in church leadership who can meet with you to help you.

The Gifts of Prayer // Matthew 7:7-12

Watch the sermon here.

1. Verses 7 and 8 appear to say we will get everything we ask for––all we think we need––if we just pray for it. But Rob pointed out that the context of these verses, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, is important. How does Matthew 6:10, which we looked at in a previous study, help us understand Matthew 7:7-8?

2. Read James 4:13-15 and discuss the importance of taking God’s will into account in our prayers and plans.

3. What aspects of God’s will have already been clearly revealed to us? How should our prayers take these into account?

4. Read verses 9 to 11 and have each person share one or more good gifts that your Heavenly Father has given them.

5. Verse 12 concludes this teaching by reminding us of one thing we all know with certainty is God’s will ––the golden rule. How should this “rule” affect our prayer life and what we ask and seek for, referring back to verses 7 and 8?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Study how the apostle Paul took God’s will into account in his prayers and plans by doing a concordance search through his letters and the book of Acts.

B. Reflect on the way God gives good things, beginning with James 1:17 and using other parts of Scripture. How does this affect your prayer life–– both what you give thanks for and what you ask and seek for?

How to Pray With the Persecuted  // 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Watch the service here.

Sunday was the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church. It has been estimated that 340 million Christians are living in areas of high persecution. Lucas shared this video with the congregation and led us through three cycles of short stories from persecuted believers, relevant Scriptures about suffering and persecution, and a time of silent prayer by everyone present. You can view the slides from the service here.

1. The persecution of Christians is nothing new. In fact, the New Testament talks about suffering of this kind in many places. Let each member of your house church select a verse to read from the following list: Matthew 5:11-12, John 15:18-19, Acts 8:1, Romans 8:17-18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Philippians 1:29, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:5-6; 1 Peter 4:12-13.

2. Take 5-10 minutes to pray for Christians suffering persecution. It might help to look at the
World Watch List which ranks the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to follow Jesus. Where relevant, refer to the verse you read from question #1 when you pray.

3. Rev. Marcus Abana is from the north of Nigeria, where believers have endured severe persecution from the terrorist group, Boko Haram. When reflecting on this experience he said “We do not pray that God will take away the hardship, but that God would give us the grace to be able to stand.” Below are three ways to pray for the persecuted church that likewise “prioritize kingdom over comfort.”  Take time to read each prayer carefully and the scripture referred to, then ask for three different participants to pray one of the prayers on behalf of the group. Feel free to leave room for additional prayers.

a. Pray that persecuted Christians will find peace and strength to remain faithful in the sufficiency of God’s grace, even in their weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9).

b. Pray that God would use persecution to advance his kingdom and build his church (Matt. 16:18)

c. Pray that God would empower persecuted Christians to love their enemies in supernatural ways that point them to the truth about Jesus (Matt. 5:43-45).

4. The great example of persecution is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. His sufferings are described in many places in both the Old and New Testaments. Read the following three sections and reflect together on the significance of Christ’s sufferings: Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:18.

For personal reflection at home:

A. Visit one of the following three websites: Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, or International Day of Prayer, to read and reflect on some of the stories of persecution there.

B. Consider setting aside one day each week in the coming year to pray for the persecuted church. If you pray for one of the 50 countries listed in the World Watch List each week, you will have prayed through the entire list by the end of the year! To help you remain consistent in this rhythm of prayer, it’s probably best to choose the same day each week (e.g., Saturday) to pray for the persecuted church

C. To remain updated on the latest stories and prayer needs among the persecuted church, consider downloading the
Open Doors Prayer App.

How to Pray on Mission // Acts 4:23-31

Watch the sermon here.

As soon as Peter and John were released from their captivity (incurred because of their bold preaching), they met with the other believers to share what had happened. Immediately, the church prayed (vv. 23-24). This is an example of prayer by a church “on mission.” In his sermon, Lucas pointed out five principles that we learn from this prayer.

1. In verse 24, their prayer began with worship to the Sovereign Lord who made the heavens and the earth. While not every prayer in the Bible starts with worship, discuss the significance of the believer’s prayer beginning with worship here, especially when faced with opposition to their mission.

2. In verses 25 and 26, the congregation grounded their prayer in Scripture, by quoting Psalm 2. As Lucas mentioned in his sermon, “Scripture gives us a language for prayer.” Discuss how this works. Did Jesus ever quote Scripture in his prayers?

3. In verse 27 and 28, their prayer
reviewed God’s sovereign actions in detail, especially with respect to the crucifixion of Christ, the anointed one, which God’s will had decided ahead of time. Discuss why it is sometimes helpful to recount past actions of God in our prayers and requests for mission advancement.

4. In verse 29, we see that their prayer
prioritized the advance of the kingdom of God over their own comfort.  While God certainly intends us to bring our every need to him in prayer (as the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 teaches us), why is it significant here in Acts 4 that their request is more focused on the advance of God’s mission?

5. Finally, verse 30 shows that their prayer
called upon God’s divine and supernatural power to advance their mission. Can we still do that today? Or was it something unique to the early days of the church? If so, can you give some examples of this?

6. Verse 31 shows the three-fold result of their prayer––the building was shaken, the Holy Spirit filled them, and they continued to proclaim God’s Word with boldness. Do you think the believers would have experienced these things if they did not pray? Why or why not? What does this tell us about the importance of prayer as we live on mission?

For personal reflection at home:

A. At the end of his sermon, Lucas shared a prayer that he had written out, based on the five principles he found in the prayer in  Acts 4 (these are bolded in the questions above). Use these same five principles to compose a personal prayer for the advance of the kingdom in area related to your own life or perspective.

B. Prayer is mentioned, in one form or another, 32 times in the book of Acts. Look up some of the other mentions of prayer in Acts to see what you can learn from them.

C. Psalm 2 is quoted 6 or 7 times in the New Testament, including Acts 4. Why do you think this Psalm was so important to the early Christians? What did it assure them of?

How to Keep Praying // Luke 18:1-8

Watch the sermon here.

1. What did Jesus mean when he said that we “should always pray”? Should we pray every day? Every hour? Something else? Share how you understand this with one another.

2. “And not lose heart/give up.” Is there something you’ve prayed about for a long time and feel like giving up on whether in your personal life, family, or community? What do you need to keep on praying and not lose heart?

3. Lucas mentioned three things about the widow in verse 3 that might apply to us today, even though we may be far removed from her in time and place: (1) she had an adversary, (2) she had no power to obtain her request herself, and (3) she persisted in crying out that the judge would give her justice.  Discuss how these might apply to us today in our prayers.

4. There are also three things about the judge, in verses 2, 4, and 5. He had (1) no respect for God, (2) no care for people, (3) and couldn’t put up with more bother. Discuss how each of these three characteristics contrasts with God our Father, to whom we pray.

5. Lucas gave two examples of unanswered prayer in Scripture: Jesus in Gethsemane asking for his Father to remove the cup of suffering he was about to endure (Luke 22:42), and Paul asking three times for the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Why were these prayer requests denied? What might a reason be for our unanswered prayers?

For personal reflection at home:

A. Which comes first in you life––do you lose heart and then stop praying, or do you stop praying and then grow discouraged?

B. Examine some of the other Scriptures Lucas quoted, with reference to our present sufferings and hardship while we wait for our prayers to be answered, and ultimately while we wait for Christ to return: John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12-16.

C. The context of this parable is Luke 17:20-36. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” After telling the Pharisees the kingdom had, in one sense, already arrive in His person, Jesus tells his disciples that the kingdom has not yet to come in its fullness. He then describes the coming of kingdom on “the day when Son of Man will be revealed” (Luke 17:30). When Jesus describes this day elsewhere in the gospels (see Luke 21, Mark 13, and Matthew 24), he seems to be describing both the fall of Jerusalem (which took place in 70AD) and his second coming. By referring to himself as “the son of man” Jesus identifies as the individual in Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7. Read this passage and consider how the hope of the Christ’s return should affect our attitude and endurance in prayer? For further reflections on “the son of man” theme in Scripture, watch this short video from BibleProject.

How to Pray // Matthew 6:9-15

Watch the sermon here.

1. In his sermon, Rob pointed out that every word in the Lord’s Prayer is significant. For example, in the opening phrase “Our Father,” the word “our” implies community. Share several things that you have in common with the other believers when you pray together, which make group prayer so special.

2. The location that our prayer is directed to is also important: “Our Father in heaven.” Read Psalm 11:4 together, and discuss the importance of our prayer being directed to heaven, as it is the place where sovereign decisions are made.

3. Verse 10 then brings the prayer down to earth: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As Rob described, this refers to the “here and now,” not just “your kingdom come” in the future. Share some things that are of concern to you right now and that you would like your house church to bring to God in prayer.

4. How does verse 11, “Give us today our daily bread,” apply today? What is our responsibility in answering the prayers of those who lack (see 1 John 3:17; Galatians 6:10; James 2:14-17)? Share  some practical ways you have helped answer the prayers of others in this way, on a local or global level.

5. Our biggest challenge may be verse 12b, “Forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Forgiving others sometimes comes at a great cost to us. Why is that? Why then should we forgive (Ephesians 4:32)? How is Christ our example in forgiveness (Luke 23:34)?

For personal reflection at home:

A. How often do the apostles Paul and James refer to “God our Father” in their letters to the churches? What do you think their purpose was in doing this?

B. Most of us don’t need to be convinced that a stronger prayer life would significantly change us for the better. Why, then, are we so slow to embrace this? Reflect on this.

C. The final hymn last Sunday was “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Each verse in this hymn ends by reminding us that we should take  “everything to God in prayer.” Consider memorizing this hymn and singing it to yourself several times this week (see Ephesians 5:18b-19).

How Not to Pray // Matthew 6:5-8

Watch the sermon here.

1. As we begin our new series 'Teach Us to Pray,' take a few moments to share with one another what comes to mind when you think about prayer. How would you describe your prayer life in this season? What about prayer do you find compelling and life-giving? What about it is challenging or overwhelming?

2. In contrast a hypocritical and self-focused practice of prayer, Jesus invites his disciples into an experience of prayer as genuine communion with God as their Heavenly Father (see verses 5-6) . What might it look like to relate to God as our Father when we pray? How does understanding our identity as children of God change the way that we pray?

3. Lucas described the way that prayer is an opportunity to "rehearse the gospel." In what ways is this true? How would you explain this to someone else?

4. In verses 7-8, Jesus explains that his followers need not try to manipulate God into hearing them through mindless repetition and empty religious words because "your Father knows what you need before your ask him." Why is this significant? What does this tell us about prayer?

5. Read James 4:2. How often are you aware of the reality that prayer causes things to happen that would not otherwise happen? How would truly believing this impact the way we pray? Consider the reflection below from E.M. Bounds, a 19th century Methodist pastor:

“Few Christians have anything but a vague idea of the power of prayer; fewer still have any experience of that power. The Church seems almost wholly unaware of the power God puts into her hand; this spiritual carte blanche on the infinite resources of God’s wisdom and power is rarely, if ever, used—never used to the full measure of honouring God.”

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