GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 1st, 2018

Jesus Seeking, Ascending, and Sending / John Ray

Key Text: John 20: 1-23 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

Jesus comes to us, we see Him and He sends us out to others.

THE BASICS

  1. Read Psalm 49 for some background on life and death.  How does the psalmist expect God to ransom his life? 

  2. What do we know about Mary Magdalene, as the first of the followers to discover the empty tomb?  Look up Luke 8:1-3.  Combine this background information with this week’s scripture and list at least four adjectives to describe this follower based on what you’ve read.  

  3. Go back to reread Isaiah 6 for similar thoughts to this week’s scripture regarding ascension, forgiveness, and sending.  

MAP IT

Archaeologists and researchers are busy restoring The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the purported sites of the tomb of Christ.  Check out this exhibit at The National Geographic Museum if you are in the Washington, D.C. area before Jan. 2019.  This interesting video gives you an idea of what the exhibit is like.   

GRACE IN 3D

A lot of our walk through the book of John has compelled us to come and see. As an icebreaker, ask your group participants:  

  • What do you see that inspires you?  

  • What do you see that always tugs at your heartstrings?

  • What do you see that you would like to see changed?

 

Tell them ahead of time to not feel a need to give a religious answer; just things that you see that evoke a response. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

In our culture it’s easy to think that is it us who are seeking after God. Many Churches even have “seeker friendly” services. But while there is no doubt we are called to put serious effort in seeking after God, it would be impossible if God were not first seeking after us and well as calling to Himself. How does it affect our efforts to follow Jesus knowing we are first sought after? Does it change the way you think about God? What obstacles are there to experiencing God seeking after you?  Bottom Line: Jesus is relentlessly seeking to come to us.

 

Our culture romanticizes the conversion experience, the mountaintop revelation, blinding flash of insight, creativity or inspiration. But while those experiences do happen, they are fickle, few and far in-between. Rarely do any of us really “get it” in  a flash, or even the first few times. More often than not, it takes consistent repetition, regular application and just a good deal of time to really “get it.” Is this true in your experience? Even those powerful “aha!” moments are usually preceded by many mundane experiences leading up to them.  How does this idea help form your approach to discipleship and learning? Are you waiting for a blinding flash or putting in the reps? The Bottom Line: We rarely get it all at once, but it comes from an accumulation of experience.

 

Life is never one-dimensional;  for every action there is a reaction. We are seeking Jesus because He is first seeking us. We are constantly learning, but also unlearning and relearning as we grow and change. Jesus coming to us is similarly complex.  He comes for a variety of purposes:  to save us, for fellowship, for our freedom and revelation, but also that we would likewise go out in His name, seeking to give witness about Him to others and to proclaim Kingdom. Have you ever considered this as optional? Only for the super-spiritual or those “called” to evangelism? Does going to others in the way Jesus has come to us feel artificial or organic? What holds you back?  Bottom Line: In the same way that Jesus comes to us, we are to seek out others in His Name.

 


REFLECTION

This week in the Grace Blog, John Farthing writes about communion and how we “are what we eat.”  This week, take time to consider how likewise we are to seek who we are sought by, how we are to go in the manner that God comes to us. What does this mean for your life and imagination? How does this affect your priorities?
 

DEEP TRACKS

  • Jesus’ life before His death was not for Himself alone; nor is His risen life for Himself alone.  Read more here for commentary on this week’s scripture.  

  • Bob Deffinbaugh believes the Holy Spirit is “creative, life-giving, and life-sustaining” and shares many references from the Old and New Testaments in this article.  

  • How do you see the risen Lord?  As a banker, making a spiritual transaction with you?  As a conductor, punching your ticket for a trip to heaven?  Read more here as Brian Zahnd reflects upon our call to follow this resurrected Savior.  

THE MASH-UP

  • In this podcast, several pastors attempt to communicate more about the resurrected Christ without using “stained glass language.”  

  • But wait - does the term Easter come from pagan roots, and if so, what is a believer to do?!  

  • Jesus calls us to a life of devotion to influence a different world.  See this link for information on Summer in the Forest, a film about the Catholic author and philosopher Jean Vanier, co-founder of L’Arche, a community for people with disabilities.  

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blogpost, John Farthing reflects on the transformation that happens when we followers participate in holy communion.  
 

LOOKING AHEAD

 The loud proclamation of “He is risen!” on Easter is often followed by the doubt of Thomas. Let’s sit with that next week in John 20:24-31
 

JOURNAL

Monday:  Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”  And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

 

Tuesday:  Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”  And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

 

Wednesday:  Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

 

Thursday:  Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”  And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

 

Friday:  Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”  And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

 

Saturday:  Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

For a PDF of the learning guide, click here.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 8th, 2018

Honest to God / John Farthing

Key Text: John 20: 1-23 (NET)

For a PDF of the learning guide, click here.

 

THE SET-UP

Doubt can be an effective tool in building deep faith.

 THE BASICS 

1.    Who was Thomas?  Read John 11:12-16; John 14:1-7; Acts 1:12-14

2.    What is the language of peace that Jesus left with His followers in some of their last conversations?  Look up        John 14:27.

3.    This is not Jesus’ first conversation with someone asking to see some proof. See John 6:29-36.​

MAP IT

In this passage, Jesus’ followers are in a locked house in fear of the Jewish leaders. See this map for the layout of towns mentioned in encounters with the resurrected Christ. 

GRACE IN 3D

Why do we commonly refer to Thomas as “doubting Thomas,” instead of focusing on his realization and recognition of the resurrected Christ and thereby call him “proclaiming Thomas?!”  Think for a minute about your spiritual lows and highs. 

 

As a conversation starter, pair up people in your group to share at least two ways they could be described as a follower of Jesus.  Share out in the larger group as time and/or comfort allows.  

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Have you ever felt the ultimate goal of Christianity is to eradicate doubt? That to “grow in Christ” means the same thing as having it all figured out? Does that seem a correct way of thinking of things? Do you think asking honest questions has a place in our faith journey? Bottom line: faith includes room for honest doubt and sincere questions.

It’s easy to think of “heroes of the faith” as never having doubts or questions. Society readily prizes decisiveness and certainty. Asking questions or expressing doubts can be seen as weak or subversive. How has this narrative played out in your life? Have you ever felt “superior” to, or frustrated with, those who express doubts? Have you ever felt ashamed or weak for having them?  Bottom Line: no one should be smug about having an unexamined faith or inferior for being puzzled about important theological issues.

While the “experts” who write best sellers and make bold declarations in the media may get most of the attention, it’s a reasonable guess that most of us have more than a few questions and doubts. Do you think of questions as positive or negative? Are you comfortable with the role they play in building your faith? Do you even believe that you can have both at the same time? Bottom Line: if you are an honest questioner, you’re not alone and not condemned.


GSG NOTES:

Have you ever been in a situation where you are out of your comfort zone and need help figuring out what to do? Perhaps it’s a math problem that you are stuck on or a new sport or instrument that you want to learn. What do you do in these scenarios?

Normally, we ask someone who is more knowledgeable or skilled than we are to help us get better at the thing we’re trying to do. At the beginning, it will inevitably seem hard, but as we practice and ask more questions, the thing becomes easier. That sport you thought you’d never be good at becomes easier and the instrument you thought was impossible to play begins to feel natural. And it all came about because we were willing to open ourselves up and to ask questions.

In John 20, we have the story of Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples who was really struggling to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. How he handles his doubt, and how Jesus responds to it should be an encouragement to us. Rather than striking Thomas down for asking questions (as we sometimes think God is likely to do when we doubt him), Jesus hears his question and responds in kind. This week, we will  be taking a look at this interaction in detail together.

 

REFLECTION

There is no such thing as a healthy growing faith that has not been tested, taught by, even grown by asking questions and expressing doubts. We can fall into error on both extremes. On one side we see certainty as the goal and doubt as the enemy to be vanquished at all cost. On the other, we look for every reason to doubt and build an arsenal of questions that keep us from any serious attempt at faith. Which side do you tend to err on? Why do you think that is?


 

DEEP TRACKS

  •  “Believing is seeing, but seeing is not believing”

  • “The resurrection is among us, whether we see it or not.” Read more thoughts on this passage from Karoline Lewis of Luther Seminary

  • Five Truths About the Resurrection  

 

THE MASH-UP

  • “After Easter, the Universe is no longer a closed system bounded by Death,” Brian Zahnd writes in this blogpost, The World After Easter. 

  • On this week of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, you might be ruminating about death, causes, and future change.  Here’s one book you might be interested in reading. 

  • How should the resurrection impact our everyday lives?  This podcast based in Kentucky just happens to feature an NWA resident reflecting on the resurrection. 

BONUS TRACK

What does it mean to live in the world as the marked body of Christ?  This author looks at the gospel of John through the eyes of Thomas, and you might enjoy reading it. 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

Be watching for Grace Holt’s blog post that will be posted on our website by Sunday this weekend.
 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week we explore further interaction between the disciples and the resurrected Jesus in John 21.
 

 

JOURNAL

Monday: “Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Tuesday: “Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Wednesday: “Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thursday: “Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

Friday: “Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Saturday: “Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 15th, 2018

What Now? / John Ray

Key Text: John 21: 1-14 (NET)

For a PDF of the learning guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

The incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus inaugurates a new age that is not yet finished.
 

 THE BASICS 

  • Is it any surprise that Jesus provided the direction and the hot coals, and allowed the disciples to participate in the catch?  Read more here for echoes of the Lord’s provisional nature:  Philippians 4:6-19 

  • This isn’t these friends’ first experience fishing and pulling in a big haul after a disappointing night.  Read Luke 5:1-11. 

  • Are you discouraged by lack of progress in something with which you’re struggling?  Do you feel the weight of world-wide issues on your shoulders?  Read Psalm 46 for some good reassurance about God’s sovereignty.

MAP IT

Read the geographical descriptions of the Sea of Tiberias featured on this site.

 

GRACE IN 3D

​​Ask everyone to open their Bibles, and read chorally Psalm 139:7-18.  Let it wash over you as you begin your discussion together.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Soon after the ascension of Jesus, some churches faced a specific problem. People were quitting their jobs as they expected the imminent return of Jesus (Paul addresses this in his letters to the Thessalonians). On the other end of the spectrum were the majority who assumed that nothing had really changed and just returned to life as “normal”. What do you think the situation is for us today? What areas do we just give up on with a “It doesn’t matter Jesus is coming back” attitude? What areas do we just plug along as if Jesus never came in the first place? What do you think our attitude should be?  Bottom Line: The incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus finishes some things, but also starts others.

 

In any discussion like this, it’s easy to feel the intent of the text is to shout “get to work!” It’s easy to mistake insight and conviction about how we are currently living as a a the Spirit’s way of shaming us into working harder. How do you respond it these situations? How do you see Jesus handling the situation? If the answer is not just “work harder”, what is it? Bottom Line: Our fruitfulness is to be found in listening to and obeying Jesus.


So if giving up on one hand and simply working harder on the other are not the answers, what is? It’s difficult to live not opting out all together or feeling like a slave.  Look - no one is saying this life is going to be easy.  Some things we will just never understand or experience this side of heaven, but Jesus promises that we can find meaning, joy and a sense of God’s presence wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Does taking a “long view” help you? Does shifting where we get our sense of accomplishment and affirmation help change the way we consider our situations? Bottom Line: Following Jesus is a long obedience rooted in God’s grace and power towards us.


GSG NOTES

Have you ever wondered about how Jesus has claimed the ultimate victory over sin and death, yet we still live a world where bo

th of those things still exist? I mean, how many of you all have spent a perfect day at school where nobody makes mistakes, everyone is kind and loving 100% of the time, and nobody has any problems?

 

This week, we’re looking at a story that deals with this very question: how do we live in an age where Jesus has already saved us through his life, death, and resurrection, yet continue living in a broken world in hope of the day he’ll finally return as King and make all things right again?

 

 

REFLECTION

Have you taken advantage of the journal section of the learning guide? This week it offers a six day way to more deeply experience this our text. As your reflection this week, scroll down a bit and give it a try. 


 

DEEP TRACKS

  • “Perhaps emulating Jesus is simpler than we think. Offer grace. Pursue reconciliation. Forgive freely. Whenever possible, love others well by serving them. Pancakes optional,” a writer says in She Reads Truth.  

  • Was there any more symbolic meaning when Jesus tells the fishermen to cast their nets on the right side of the boat?  Enduring Word commentary says “The difference is not between right or left, but between working with and without Divine guidance!”

  • Surely God is with us!  Tune into a message from Priscilla Shirer that will remind you that Jesus sees, and descends to join us in our struggles.  

  • Are you still eager to learn more from the gospel of John?  Check out this resource list for a bounty of resources.

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

  • Do you see yourself as equipped to go out and do what the Lord has for you in ministry?  Read this blogpost about Holy Spirit empowerment.  

  • “Violence robs families of everything.  It seeks to drive us apart through fear.  Show up on the front lines of conflict and love anyway.”  Check out this blogpost and the website of Preemptive Love for more information about how to help with support in war-torn areas of the world.  

  • Jesus was pretty awesome at finding teachable moments, wasn’t He?!  As adults, how can we best pass on our faith to the next generation?

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

Check our blog section at the Grace Church NWA website for a post about coming to fish on the right side of the boat.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week, Bonnie Leonard will lead us in exploring more about feeding the sheep in John 21:15-25.
 

 

 

JOURNAL

Each week this morning take time to read through the main text.

On Monday, consider the story from the point of view of Jesus. What would you expect his emotions and reactions to be coming upon the disciples fishing? How are they different from what is recorded in the text?

On Tuesday, consider the perspective of the disciples in the boat.

On Wednesday, imagine what it must have been like to come to the shore and see Jesus already cooking fish and offering it to you. How would you respond?

On Thursday, consider the part where it says “they knew it was the Lord”. How do you think they knew this? How do we discern the Lord in our own lives?

On Friday read the text and then read Luke 5:1-11. As you consider both texts, they them spark your imagination for what is important to Jesus.

On Saturday, simply reread the text slowly and prayerfully and be open to whatever new insight you may have gained from the reflections this week.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 22nd, 2018

Love, Live, Serve / Bonnie Leonard

Key Text: John 21: 15-25 (NET)

For a PDF of the learning guide, click here.

THE SET-UP

Love is more than a word and more than a feeling, it requires action. Jesus tells us and models for us what it means to love Him and to love those that are His.

THE BASICS 

  1. What kind of shepherd is mentioned in the Old Testament in Isaiah 40:11?  

  2. What things does David’s shepherd do for him mentioned in Psalm 23:1-6?

  3. How did Peter pass on his lessons learned about feeding the sheep?  Look up 1 Peter 5:1-31.

  4. Now that we’re at the end of the gospel of John, return back and reread John 1:1-18.  How do you read this differently now than you would have several months ago?

 

MAP IT

Where do Peter’s journeys to feed the sheep take him?  See this site for a map and further information.

 

​GRACE IN 3D

​​When you think about a shepherd calling his sheep, a picture of very responsive sheep might come to mind.  To what calls do you find it easy to respond? Are you all in on the collective Woo Pig Sooie?!  Do your ears perk up when you hear about a great Black Friday sale?  This might be a bit of a thinking question, so give it a few minutes…to whose voice or call do you quickly respond?!  Let participants in your group ponder this a moment and share as they feel comfortable.

THE BOTTOM LINE

  • How do you feel God’s love? Do you feel God’s love? How do you see His love in your life or in the lives of others? How do you perceive the models Jesus provides? Do you read this text and interpret “feed” and “shepherd” literally or symbolically or both? Bottom Line: we are loved, restored, and given a job to do.

  • What gives your life purpose? What drives you to do the things that you do? If you strive to do good, why? What do you think it means to feed and look after His lambs and sheep? Bottom Line: all that we do for the Kingdom should be anchored in the love that Jesus models.

  • How do you feel when you know you need to do something and you don’t do it? Do you feel like a failure? What do you allow those feelings to accomplish in your life? We will fail, we’re human, but we are tasked with moving forward and continuing. Imagine the guilt and shame Peter must have felt after denying Jesus three times and then hearing the crow. Bottom Line: when we fail, we should not shame ourselves or dwell in guilt, but empower ourselves to keep trying and moving forward.


GSG NOTES

The word “love” has been hijacked by our culture. Just think about some of the ways we use that word:
 

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love ice cream.”

“I love to sing.”

“I’d love to hang out with you on Friday.”
 

So what does “love” really mean? Is it a feeling, a choice, an emotion, an action, all of the above, none of the above? This week, we’re looking at the final passage of the book of John and we’ll be exploring what love really is. Hope to see y’all on Wednesday at 6pm at 2828!

REFLECTION & JOURNAL

​What has love meant to you at different stages in your life?

Journal and reflect this week: 

Day 1:  What did love mean to you in the first years of your life?  

Day 2:  What did love mean to you as you were a growing child?  

Day 3:  What did love mean to you in your teenage years?  

Day 4:  What did love mean to you as a young adult?  

Day 5:  What did love mean to you as you approached your 40s?  (If you’re not there yet, spend some time speculating!)

Day 6:  What do you suppose love will look like to you as you approach the last decades of your life?  

 

DEEP TRACKS

 

THE MASH-UP

  • Brian Zahnd pens a poem about God’s never-ending love here

  • Check out this book review for Everybody Always-Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff.  

  • “The Little Free Pantry utilizes a familiar, compelling concept to pique local interest in and action against local food insecurity. The Little Free Pantry offers a place around which neighbors might coalesce to meet neighborhood needs, whether for food or for fun.”  Have you seen ours in front of 2828? What a great opportunity to show our love for Jesus!

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

Sorry, no blogpost this week!  Please email Teresa at tcornett@gracechurchnwa.org if you’d be interested in writing a future post.  

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week we’ll take to the woods with John Ray leading us in digging into the first chapter of 1 John.

 

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 29th, 2018

The Most Important Thing / John Ray

Key Text: 1 John 1:1-2 (NET)

For a PDF of the learning guide, click here.

To listen/view a video recording of the service, click here.

THE SET-UP

Don’t miss the obvious. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness. This is what motivates and allows true fellowship with others.

THE BOTTOM LINE AND REFLECTION 

When we talk about who we are at Grace Church, we talk about “Love, Live, Serve”. We put it on our tee shirts and in the things we print and send out. It’s short, simple and captures, as much as any three words can, what we try to be about.

 

This week, as you read the text and let the words work their way into your imagination and heart, see if you can discern how these ideas are reflected. How is the love of God described and practiced here? How do our affections and behaviors relate to our love of God? What does all that mean for how we are to relate to other human beings, other people also created in the image of God?

 

Chew on the words. Lay them over all your relationships and affections, the things you give time and attention to. What effect does that have on them?

 

CHECK IT OUT

  • “People do not want to admit wrongdoing in America, Mr. Stevenson said, because they expect only punishment.”  Read more about a humbling memorial opening this week in Montgomery, Alabama.  

  • What is the purpose of Spiritual Formation? Check this out from MaryKate Morse

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

The blog post this week is by Melissa Blair - "Stepping into the Light". Take a few minutes to read, leave a comment on your thoughts!  Please email Teresa at tcornett@gracechurchnwa.org if you’d be interested in writing a future post.  

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week we  draw closer to the end of the school year as we continue to learn from John in 1 John 2.