January 28 | Acceptance

Text: Romans 15.7

It’s okay if not everyone in your small group is alike. Jesus’ disciples certainly weren’t: they had different backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. The only thing they had in common was believing in Jesus and accepting his call. Jesus’ goal wasn’t to make them buddies, but to change and equip them to partner with him in his mission.

Maybe not everyone in your small group is like you. That’s okay: being different allows us to “sharpen” each other spiritually (Proverbs 27.17). This “sharpening” allows us to live in harmony and “accept one another” (Romans 15.7). It probably won’t come naturally, which is why we need to learn to be like Christ and love unconditionally. Jesus doesn’t say, “change and then I’ll love you.” He accepts us, loves us, and then changes us.

Smooth sailing doesn’t make a good sailor, but learning how to navigate the waves does. We can experience these “waves” when we have someone in our circle who’s different from us.

Today, as you open your hands to receive from God, pray about those “waves” you need help navigating and ask God to help you accept them as they are, and to be like Christ toward that person.

 

January 27 | Love and Serve

Text: Romans 12.10-12

Because “life happens,” we need the love of our small group to help carry us through. We can’t carry ourselves. Like the childhood game “Red Rover,” we need to link arms to deflect the things in life running at us. We’re stronger in the bad times and the good times when we use our God-given gifts to link arms with each other.

God uses our love and devotion for one another to change us—and those we’re loving—to be like the Christ. Small groups are designed to be a safe place to rejoice over God’s blessings, mourn over loss, and help each other in times of need. When they are, we’re “devoted to one another in love” (Romans 12.10). The Greek word used here for love is” philadelphia,” or brotherly love. Small group members are to extend the kind of love seen in a healthy family unit.

Today, pray for everyone in your group and ask God to show you someone in one of your circles who has a need you can meet perhaps by: sending a note of encouragement, offering friendship by doing an activity, or even praying together. Be creative as you love and serve someone in your small group family.

 

January 26 | One Anothers

Text: John 13.34-35

“The Circle,” a smaller community of Christians with the goal of helping each other become like the Christ, is what we at Ada Bible Church call “small groups.” By loving, serving, accepting, and instructing each other, the members of a small group help move one another toward Christ-likeness.

Because Jesus and his disciples taught very specifically what it means to live a one another-focused life, we don’t have to guess. There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament teachings. All fall under the central theme of loving each other to be “like the Christ.”

Today, as you welcome Jesus into your day, read John 13.34-35 and then look at the 59 “one another” verses in light of yourself and your small group.

The One Big Question to discuss with your circle is . . . How well does your small group (or other circle) do the “one anothers,” and what does your group need to work on?

January 23 | Anything

Text: Galatians 6.2

When we “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6.2), we step into each other’s lives in some incredibly challenging situations: job loss, death of a loved one, marital strife, and financial struggles. We move alongside someone and “bear with the failings of the weak” (Romans 15.1) in the same way they do for us when we are in need.

When we’re not quite sure what to do, we can say, “If you need anything, call me.” As Senior Teaching Pastor Jeff Manion writes, “With these truly heartfelt words, I have just offered everything but not yet done anything. I have now handed my friend a blank check, but it is neither dated nor signed” (Satisfied, p.128).

Pastor Manion reminds us “that doing something is often better than promising everything.” Today memorize Galatians 6.2 and use it as motivation to do something rather than promise everything.

January 22 | Challenges

Text: Ephesians 4.2

Helping each other become like the Christ, in the relational environment of a small group, will be difficult. Those in our group will present challenges in the same way we present challenges to them. As Pastor Jeff Manion said, “People are annoying.”

Perhaps this is why Paul, in writing to Jesus-followers in Ephesians 4.2, reminded them of four important interpersonal characteristics: humility (seeing ourselves as we really are), gentleness (self-control), patient (long-tempered), and forebearing love (continuous and unconditional).

All four of these Spirit-empowered characteristics will be necessary as God uses each of us in our movement to be like the Christ.

As you open your hands and welcome Jesus into your day, remind yourself of these characteristics by listening to Matt Maher’s “Hold Us Together.” When you pray, offer again to God your gifts, talents, and abilities as he uses you in the lives of those in your circles.

January 21 | Better

Text: Philippians 1.3-11

The Circle of an Ada Bible Church small group provides a great opportunity for two things to happen: for you to be like Jesus to those in your group and for them to be like Jesus to you. Often this happens when we, and those in our group, experience crises and challenges. While these experiences provide opportunities for group members to demonstrate friendship and help physically, which is certainly needed, the goal needs to be “discipleship” (like the Christ) rather than just friendship.

We help people through difficult times and we help them become like Jesus in the process.

It’s in a small group where we can ask better questions and pray better prayers. Rather than just “How are you doing?” we can ask, “How are you seeing God work?” Instead of just praying for someone who’s suffering, we need to pray for how God wants us to help (and then do it!).

Today, use Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1.3-11 as a model for how to view, and use, life’s circumstances to make us, and those in our group, more like Jesus.

January 20 | Traveling Partners

Text: Ecclesiastes 4.9-12

A small group at Ada Bible Church is just one of several “circles” in our life. Other circles include friends, work teams, sports teams, classes we attend, our neighborhood, and people with whom we volunteer. Each circle has the potential to influence us in one of two directions: toward or away from living like the Christ. No circle is neutral in this respect; each one moves us one way or the other.

This makes The Circle of the Ada Bible Church small group especially important. It may be the only one in your life with the specific goal of helping you to become more like Jesus. Because of the challenges we face along the road (Ecclesiastes 4.9-12), it’s critical we “travel” with others who not only help, but move us toward Jesus in the midst of the challenges. It’s also important we build relationships before we need others and others need us.

Today, as you welcome God into your day, evaluate your circles and their role in moving you toward or away from being like the Christ. This might require you to step out of one circle and move into another. If you’re not currently in The Circle of an ABC small group, tomorrow is your last chance to signup for Group Launch on Sunday, January 25. Register here by noon for the event at your campus.

January 19 | Relational Discipleship

Text: Luke 6.12-13

Jesus’ strategy to teach the world what it means to be “like the Christ” began with his selection of 12 men (Luke 6.12-13). For the next three years these men would see him, hear him, be taught by him, and be encouraged and rebuked by him, all in a deliberate effort to prepare them to carry out his command to “make disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” (Matthew 28.19-20).

Within this highly relational environment, Jesus was preparing his disciples to do exactly what he did.

It was “community with a purpose,” the purpose being to be like the Christ. It’s the reason we’re so passionate about small groups at Ada Bible Church. While we can make friends and enjoy common experiences in a variety of ways—sports teams, civic groups, book clubs, and hobbies—only a small group has the goal to help each other become more like the Christ. In an Ada Bible Church small group, you partner with 8-10 others who desire to grow in their walk with Jesus.

This leads to this week’s One Big Question . . . When did another Christian help you grow in your faith? Discuss this question in your small group or with a trusted friend, possibly the one who helped you grow spiritually!

January 16 | Rock

Text: Luke 6.46-49

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor is in vain (Psalm 127.1).

Jesus says not everyone who wants to follow him will become a true disciple. He compares discipleship to two men in the process of building houses. Noticing the comparison of the two men, we can identify the key element Jesus is looking for is rock. The construction of his house built on rock is solid and unshakable—able to weather the storms.

The rock Jesus is referring to is a mixture of hearing God’s Word and putting it into practice (Matthew 7.24). We can begin building our house on rock when we hear God’s Word in The Row. But we must also be willing to do what the Lord asks of us. The power of God transforms us as we obey. Only then will the Lord build the house, as we build the house, and give us the ability to withstand the storms of life.

By returning to The Row for the purpose of life transformation, remembering God’s truth and avoiding self-deception, we begin the labor to build our spiritual house on a firm foundation. However, real transformation happens when we leave The Row and do what God tells us.

As you welcome God into your day, write out Matthew 7.24 and list two ways you can labor with God today as you build on a firm foundation.

January 15 | Self-Deception

Text: Matthew 13.1-23

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1.22).

Jesus compares his words to seeds and our hearts to types of soil. Just like seeds need to be received and endure a process in the ground to grow and produce fruit, so our spiritual teaching from The Row needs to be received and endure a process in our hearts. Otherwise, as James says, we deceive ourselves when we hear the message but do nothing with it.

We can’t stop at just “head knowledge” and neglect the appropriate time our heart needs to process and reflect on the truth we’ve heard. Further, we can’t stop after processing the truth lest we deceive ourselves by never taking action. We must be willing to listen and receive, but more importantly, “do what it says.”

The seeds of God’s Word must be planted in fertile soil and received with an open heart. The key to making the most of a weekend experience is to take the appropriate action to live out the truth communicated. This leads to this week’s One Big Question . . . When have you immediately put what you heard from a weekend sermon into action? Discuss this question with your small group or a trusted friend.