GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of December 3, 2017

A DEEPER HOPE / John Ray

Key Text: Daniel 3:1-30 (NET)

 

 

 

 

THE SET-UP

The people of God have an ultimate hope that goes much deeper than personal comfort, convenience or even personal salvation. What is it?

 

THE BASICS

  • Read Daniel 1:1-7. When and how did King Nebuchadnezzar first encounter Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?

  • Read Daniel 1:8-16. When and how did Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego defy King Nebuchadnezzar’s orders the first time?

  • Read Daniel 1:17-20. What was the outcome?

MAP IT

Learn about the history of Babylon and its expansion under King Nebuchadnezzar, and see the land as it was in Daniel’s day here.

GRACE IN 3D

Several years ago, there was a popular game called “Would You Rather…?” As a quick-jump into this week’s discussion, ask everyone in your group to consider this question: Would you rather participate in an act of civil disobedience, or Would you rather be required to give bad news to someone who’s important?

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • In The Unnecessary Pastor, the brilliant author and theologian Marva Dawn says, “We need to become Southerners to read the Bible correctly, because to inhabit its world is to speak about our lives as ‘y’all’ (plural) not ‘you’ (singular). … If we could stop thinking about ourselves in individualistic terms and recognize that everything in faith is communal, contingent and corporate, we would find life and affliction and labor more bearable.” How does this idea fit in our do-it-yourself culture? Is this how you approach Scripture? If not, how would your understanding of the Bible and, specifically, God’s promises, change if you did? Bottom Line: Is it possible for our hope in God to grow deeper if we insist on being self-sufficient?

  • Read Genesis 12:1-3. What is the blessing that God is talking about here? Ultimately, what’s the reason God is blessing Abram? Is God’s promise for Abram alone? Just for the Jewish people? What does it mean for us? When you consider verse 3, and the idea of God’s reach extending to “all the families of the earth,” does God seem more powerful to you, or less? More or less intimate? Bottom Line: Can we truly place our hope in God if we believe He belongs only to us?

  • It’s been said that the official religions of our culture are optimism and denial. We continually think we will do better next time and conveniently forget about all the times we didn’t. That’s not how the Bible views things. Instead, it teaches us to be faithful in small things, to be steadfast and learn obedience, to walk by faith and not by sight. All these take time, practice, ruthless honesty and faith in something other than ourselves. There’s evidence in the book of Daniel that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego developed these disciplines; can you find it? What about in your own life: Do you expect to acquire the things of Christ quickly, or are you committed to the long haul? Bottom Line: Does hope grow deeper as the result of a spiritual sprint or a spiritual marathon?


REFLECTION

Much as we might hate to admit it, we have all justified behaviors or words that we knew were wrong by appealing to a greater good. We live in a world where the ends justify the means; the bigger and more important the end, the more justifiable the means. Yet our text this week will have none of it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have easily justified a few moments of bowed knees in order to maintain their positions “for the greater good.” What about us? Where do we bow our knees and then justify our actions with religious-sounding rationalizations? What does this tell us about where we truly place our hope?

 

 

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT 

Beginning Sunday, the Grace Church blog on gracechurchnwa.org will be updated with daily posts celebrating Advent 2017. Check in each day for devotional thoughts, encouragement and inspiration to supplement your personal study. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

LOOKING AHEAD

God demonstrates for Ezekiel the power of the breath of Life. Read about it in Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on Daniel 3:17-18. Each day, emphasize different words or phrases in these verses. Write down what the Holy Spirit teaches you, along with specific ways you can apply it in your life today.

Day 1:If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”

Day 2: “If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”

 

Day 3: “If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”

 

Day 4: “If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”


Day 5: “If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of December 10, 2017

BREATHING LIFE INTO A DRY LAND / Andrew Brewer

Key Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

The ultimate joy of God’s people is not dependent on instant gratification or the resolution of conflict. So what is it dependent on?

 

THE BASICS

  • John 15:11 says, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”  Look back a few verses to see what things might bring us joy.  

  • Read John 16:22-24. How can we have complete joy in the midst of sorrow?   

  • God is going to do something new for His people. Read Isaiah 43:14-21. How does your understanding of this passage change when you read it keeping in mind Jesus’ birth?

MAP IT

See Ezekiel’s place in the chronology of Israel’s prophets and kings here.

GRACE IN 3D

You know the expression, “I’m a glass-half-full kind of person?” Ask the folks in your group to quickly consider if, in general, they are:  

Joyful or Melancholy?

Patient or Impatient?

Hopeful or Pessimistic?

Fighter or Peacemaker?

Invite everyone to share their answers, if they’re comfortable. They can share either one at a time or as a group. Group-share would work like this: As you call out the pairs of choices, everyone would respond with one finger or two fingers to indicate which of the two best describes them. For instance, with the first set, those who consider themselves to be more joyful than melancholy would raise one finger; those who think they’re more melancholy would raise two fingers.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • What’s the difference between happiness and joy? If joy is a state of being in which we’re meant to exist, what happens when we find ourselves in a valley of dry bones? When we’re scared? Angry? Sick? Grieving? Alone? Begging God to resolve a conflict that’s completely out of our control, and feeling shut out because He doesn’t appear to be listening? Bottom Line: Is it possible to have joy in a season of upheaval?

  • When Ezekiel shared his vision, he recalled God’s promise to return the exiled Israelites to their homeland. This promise was part of the covenant God had made with Abraham hundreds of years before. Do you think it comforted the Israelites to be reminded of God’s faithfulness? Why or why not? What about you? Joy is meant to be rooted in God’s unchanging nature; can you name some specific promises God has kept to you? Does it give you confidence to reflect on how God has proved Himself to you personally? Bottom Line: Can we truly have joy if we don’t trust God?

  • In Ezekiel’s vision, God could have done all the bone-assembling and life-breathing Himself. Instead, He chose to give Ezekiel the opportunity to have a part in the miracle. Does God really need any of us to accomplish what He wants to do? Why do you think He invites us to join Him where He’s at work? What difference does it make in our lives whether or not we have a real relationship with Him? What difference does it make in the impact we might or might not have in the world? Bottom Line: How can we have joy outside relationship with God?


REFLECTION

What’s the source of your greatest joy? If you’re struggling to name it, or to find joy at all, ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you’re investing in relationships or in things that are draining you, that you can’t count on. If you’re in a valley of dry bones, pray for patience, encouragement, healing and a clear reminder of God’s love and faithfulness. Ask for help in knowing how to grow your relationship with God and to find the joy He promises. And write down what you hear when you pray.

 

 

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT 

To enhance your personal worship and study this season, check out the Grace Church blog where you’ll find daily Advent posts as well as printable PDFs for journaling. Today’s post is from John Ray, who impatiently received a reminder about the importance of waiting patiently. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Trusting in God’s rhythms and promises brings peace. Read about it in Isaiah 55:1-11 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on Ezekiel 37:14. Each day, emphasize different words or phrases in these verses. Write down what the Holy Spirit teaches you, along with specific ways you can apply it in your life today.

Day 1:I will place my breath in you and you will live; I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord—I have spoken and I will act,” declares the Lord.

Day 2: “I will place my breath in you and you will live; I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord—I have spoken and I will act,” declares the Lord.

 

Day 3: “I will place my breath in you and you will live; I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord—I have spoken and I will act,” declares the Lord.

Day 4: “I will place my breath in you and you will live; I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord—I have spoken and I will act,” declares the Lord.


Day 5: “I will place my breath in you and you will live; I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord—I have spoken and I will act,” declares the Lord.

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of December 17, 2017

SEEKING GOD, FINDING PEACE / John Ray

Key Text: Isaiah 55:1-13 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

We can never find true and lasting peace in the absence of God. But what if we seek and God can’t be found?

 

THE BASICS

  • Read 2 Samuel 7:8-17. What is the writer referring to when he mentions God’s promise to David in Isaiah 55:3?

  • Read Isaiah 9:6-7. What does the bible have to say about the coming Jesus?

  • Read John 14:27. What did Jesus have to say about peace?

MAP IT

See Isaiah's place in the chronology of Israel’s prophets and kings here.

GRACE IN 3D

As a quick conversation-starter over food or at the start of your gathering time, show a gift bag or wrapped package with a tag on it labeled Peace. What would each person put in that box that would establish or represent peace?

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • We often talk about peace in the individual sense. Do you think that is the only kind of peace the Gospel offers? What if we had our imaginations and practices, habits and hopes tuned to an expectation of a peace that was more than personal? How would that change the way you live? How would it change the way you understand and experience “personal” peace? Bottom Line: What difference does it make to us to have peace, personally? What difference does it make to our work in the Kingdom?

  • Personal peace does not come easily. For some, it seems an impossible dream or even a torturous mirage. But we are promised peace through the reality and presence of God. Our perception of God’s presence and the reality of it as promised through Word, Spirit and Church can seem at odds. Which one does your life indicate you believe more? Why? Can you name some things that might change the equation to bring our individual perceptions in line with Gospel reality?  Bottom Line: What’s the difference between perception and reality?

  • The reality proclaimed by Word, Spirit and Church is that God is near, seeking after us. But there is also a warning to seek God “while He makes Himself available; call to Him while He is nearby.” It’s clear that we should never take God’s presence for granted or put off seeking Him. So what stops us? Bottom Line: What are the things that keep us from seeking God, and why?


REFLECTION

Confession time: I am a rebel and rule-breaker. I hate doing things just because I am told to do them. Often, if it seems I am given no choice in a matter, I will resist, sabotage, and outright rebel. I want things my way, on my time table, at a cost that I think is fair. So being told to “seek God,” especially at Christmas, can come across as just another religious hoop through which to jump. What about you? Are you resisting the invitation this Advent? Are you dutifully doing what you are told, but cold in heart and effort? Where is your heart this Advent?

 

 

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT 

To enhance your personal worship and study this season, check out the Grace Church blog where you’ll find Advent posts as well as printable PDFs for journaling. Today’s entry is from Kelli Karnish, who has some insights into why it’s well worth the effort to slow down during this very hectic season. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The Word becomes flesh. Read about it in John 1:1-18 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on Isaiah 55:11. Each day, emphasize different words or phrases in these verses. Write down what the Holy Spirit teaches you, along with specific ways you can apply it in your life today.

Day 1: In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.

Day 2: In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.

 

Day 3: In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend..

Day 4: In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.


Day 5: In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of December 24, 2017

LIGHT CHANGES EVERYTHING / John Ray

Key Text: John 1:1-18; Luke 2:1-7 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

The birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus together create the ironic fulcrum of all history.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • Christmas shows us that our perception is much different than God’s reality. Read our passages for this week together: John 1:1-18 and Luke 2:1-7. How are they different? How are they alike? There’s so much going here; some of it we can’t begin to comprehend in the moment — maybe ever. What are some things about the story that challenge your understanding or imagination?

  • Christmas is also a great example of a time when God uses humble things to do incredible things. Again, comparing the passages, consider the magnitude of what God is doing as described in both. Seriously. This just ought to blow your mind. What stands out to you the most?

  • Man, God’s “glitz” is very different from our glitz. Angel choirs, the Light and Life of the universe coming as a human being … makes red carpets, inaugural festivities, Super Bowl halftime shows and DWTS all seem kinda lame, doesn’t it? Put yourself in the place of the shepherds who first got Jesus’ birth announcement. Can you imagine how you would have felt? What do you think it was like to be in that quiet field on the night  the angel appeared?


REFLECTION

 

Maybe the most worshipful, most meaningful, most valuable gift you can give this season is to stop and reflect on the light of God in your life. Think about what it shows you, what your life would be without it and what you can do, going forward, to make more room for its illumination.

 

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT 

To enhance your personal worship and study this season, check out the Grace Church blog where you’ll find Advent posts as well as printable PDFs for journaling. Today: John Ray invites us to celebrate the Light. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

LOOKING AHEAD

John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus to begin His public ministry. Read about it in John 1:19-34 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on John 1:1. Each day, emphasize different words or phrases in these verses. Write down what the Holy Spirit teaches you, along with specific ways you can apply it in your life today.

Day 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.

Day 2: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.

 

Day 3: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.

Day 4: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.


Day 5: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of December 31, 2017

POINTING TOWARD THE LIGHT / John Ray

Key Text: John 1:19-34 (NET)

(No Audio Available for this Day)

 

THE SET-UP

Knowing who we are, who Jesus is, and what that means is key to our life and to our witness.

 

THE BASICS

  • During Advent, we talked a lot about Old Testament prophecy that foretold Jesus’ coming. But Jesus isn’t the only one the prophets announced. Read Isaiah 40:3-5 and John 1:19-28. What do these passages tell you about the “voice” Isaiah refers to?

  • God sent the angel Gabriel to visit two parents-to-be: Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Zechariah, John’s father. Read Luke 1:13-17. What did Gabriel tell Zechariah about his son?

  • Was the concept of baptism new to the Jewish community? Watch this video, and write down what you learn.

 

 

MAP IT

Learn more of John’s backstory and find a map of his journeys here.

GRACE IN 3D

 

In our groups this week, let’s pray and ask for revelation for each person to know who God is, who they are in Christ and what it means to live and effectively witness to the these truths. If there is time left over, discuss how to cultivate the practice of prayer both as individuals and as a group in the coming year.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • Knowing who we are takes revelation, prayer and practice. Do you really know who you are in Christ?

  • Knowing who Jesus is takes revelation, prayer and practice. Do you really know who God is?

  • Living truly and witnessing effectively take revelation, prayer and practice. Do you have a clear vision and expectation for what it means to truly live and effectively witness to these truths?

 


REFLECTION

 

Our text this week challenges us to know God, to know our identity as an apprentice of Jesus and to choose every day to live out our witness to Him. What are some specific ways you meet that challenge with confidence? What are some specific ways you struggle to understand? To act? What do you need from the Holy Spirit? Write down a prayer, and be specific: Offer praise and thanksgiving; ask for forgiveness where something stands between you and God; and ask for the help you need.

 

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT 

During Advent, the Grace Church blog on gracechurchnwa.org featured posts relevant to the season. Catch up on any you missed; if there were some that particularly ministered to you, leave comments! Share them! Tweet them! Pin them! Post them!

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Epiphany begins with a look at the calling of Jesus’ disciples. Read about it in John 1:35-51 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on John 1:29. Each day, emphasize different words or phrases in these verses. Write down what the Holy Spirit teaches you, along with specific ways you can apply it in your life today.

Day 1: On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Day 2: On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

 

Day 3: On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Day 4: On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”


Day 5: On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.