Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 4, 2018
AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH / Felley Lawson
Key Text: John 4:1-42 (NET)
We’re great at erecting barriers among ourselves. But Jesus came to obliterate barriers, no matter how high, low, deep or wide they may be. He’ll make barrier-busters out of His apprentices, too, if we let Him.
Who were the Samaritans? (Find some help here.)
Read Genesis 16:1-14. Another woman had an encounter with God and called Him “the God who sees me.” What’s her story?
Read Proverbs 15:3. Is the one true God just keeping His eyes on those who believe in Him?
Follow Jesus and His disciples on their journey from Judea to Galilee, right through the heart of Samaria, here.
GRACE IN 3D
Can you think of a time when you were in need, and felt you were seen? It could have been a time you were in physical need, but maybe in mental or emotional need. Let everyone in your group share quickly, or maybe print the question on card stock and set it up on the tables if your group is eating together.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Our text this week tells us about a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. History tells us that in first-century Palestine, only divine providence could have brought it about. Jews and Samaritans hated one another. Men and women would never talk openly together in public. And no one would engage a woman who they considered to have questionable strength of moral fiber. So why do you think Jesus connected with this woman? Are you surprised that He did? Do you think He was concerned about the consequences of His actions? Why or why not? Bottom line: What do we learn here about what Jesus thinks of barriers?
How do you imagine the woman felt when Jesus asked her to find her husband and bring him to the well? How do you think she felt when she realized how much Jesus knew about her situation? Put yourself in her shoes: How would you have felt? The Bible teaches us that there’s nothing we can hide from God. Do you find that hard to believe? If you believe it, does your relationship with Jesus reflect that? If so, how would you describe that freedom? If not, why? Bottom Line: How might we live differently if we believe that Jesus really sees us?
When Jesus talks to His disciples about “fields that are already ripe for harvest,” He’s using a word-picture to describe missions, which is introducing others to Him. In this particular case, the “fields” are Samaritans whom the disciples have been brought up, their whole lives, to hate. That’s a big barrier to cross. But Jesus called them to field-harvesting and barrier-breaking, and He calls us to the same. How are we to know when the time or situation is right to be witnesses for Christ? Is the Holy Spirit prompting you to share Christ with someone, or a group of someones, right now? How do you know? What’s your answer? Bottom Line: Where are our “fields already ripe for harvest”?
Are there places in your life where God wants you to trust Him more fully for grace and forgiveness? What’s holding you back? Do you want to be obedient when you’re prompted to share Christ, but you’re struggling to break through barriers of some kind? Pray for healing this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you strength and discernment; to help you put aside your fears, prejudice and will, and to submit to Jesus’ leadership. Write down how the Spirit responds to your prayers.
“Conversation with a Samaritan Woman” with NET notes from Lumina, Bible.org
“Samaria,” Encyclopaedia Britannica
“The Marginalized Voices of the #MeToo Movement,” The Washington Post
“Do Not Be Served, Instead Be At Service,” National Catholic Reporter
“Is Neighborly Love Enough in The Good Place?” Christ and Pop Culture
Jesus heals a blind man and infuriates blind Pharisees. Read about it in John 9:1-41 (NET).
During your time alone with God this week, meditate on John 4:24. 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: God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Day 2: God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Day 3: God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Day 4: God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Day 5: God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.
Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 11, 2018
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT / Bonnie Leonard
Key Text: John 9:1-41 (NET)
It’s one of the great paradoxes of the Gospel: In Christ, the blind can see what those who claim to have sight cannot.
LIFE AT GRACE
John Ray recently remarked that not only are we being transformed individually, we are also transformed as a group. Recent efforts to minister to families with disabilities have become realities and opportunities as we’ve started our own rEcreo site, and continue to support the work of 99 Balloons by offering our building for their use several times each month. This isn’t just work to hire out, however. In love-live-serve style, we need to all jump in to walk with these folks. No separate special-needs Grace Groups or separate classrooms ... it should be our privilege and opportunity to see with Jesus’ yes as we serve and break down barriers to be family to one another.
Read Exodus 15:26. Is healing from above just a New Testament reality?
How is the Old Testament story of Naaman’s healing in 2 Kings 5 similar to the story of the man born blind in John 9?
Read a commentary on John 9 here; pay special attention to what it says about verse 22. What would being “thrown out of the synagogue” mean to this man and his family?
Bonus Track: For more context, read John 12:35-42.
Click here to see where the Pool of Siloam was located in relation to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
GRACE IN 3D
When confronted about his healing, the man born blind said, “I know this—I was born blind, but now I see"Your testimony is yours! Does anyone in your roup have something they can speak confidently about that God has done for them? Ask volunteers to quickly share if they’d like.
THE BOTTOM LINE
• We’ve seen Jesus the Revolutionary give new meaning to origin and identity, as well as to what it is that sustains us. What does he redefine in John 9? Compare the story of the man born blind to that of the Samaritan woman at the well: What do these stories tell us about the people Jesus sought out? About the things Jesus thinks are important? How were the man born blind and the Samaritan woman different after their encounters with Jesus? What do these things tell us about Jesus? Bottom Line: What is Jesus revealing about Himself?
• On its face, verse 39 sounds like hot nonsense. So let’s think about it a little more deeply: Was Jesus speaking only about physical blindness? When we believe we’re right, how easily are we convinced to see things from a different point of view? Are there people in the story who were blind to Jesus’ identity and authority? What were the causes of their “blindness”? Can you name some causes of spiritual blindness that exist today? Bottom Line: What prevents us from seeing God’s glory?
• Based only on what you read in this passage and what we’ve learned about Jesus in ur study of John, what do you think Jesus saw when he looked at the man born blind? What did the man’s parents see? What did the Pharisee leaders see? Again, based only on what we read and learn about Jesus in the Gospels, how do you think He sees people with physical and emotional disabilities? How do you think He sees refugees? The poor? Convicted felons? Addicts? People who are deeply racist and prejudiced? How do we, as a church, reflect Him in our outreach? What about you personally? Bottom Line: What does it take to see others as Jesus sees them?
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you places in your life where blindness is preventing you from knowing Jesus more fully or from seeing where He is at work. Write down what’s revealed to you, as well as your thoughts about it. How will you live differently as a result?
• “Commentary on John 9:1-41” with “The Man Born Blind” narrative podcast, Working Preacher
• “Healing a Man Born Blind” with NET notes from Lumina, Bible.org
• “Healing as Recreating,” Fr. Ted’s Blog
• “Did Scribes Faithfully Transmit Old Testament Manuscripts?” Josh McDowell Ministry
• “Light of Knowledge, Glory,” Art & Theology
• “Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker and Other Evangelical Leaders Are Publishing a Letter Urging Trump, Congress to Act on Immigration,” The Washington Post
Jesus employs a strong, beautiful metaphor to help us understand the way He loves us.
Read about it in John 10:1-18 (NET).
During your time alone with God this week, meditate on John 9:25. Each day, emphasize different words or phrases in this verse. Write down what the Holy Spirit teaches you, along with specific ways you can apply it in your life today.
Day 1: He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing—that although I was blind, now I can see.”
Day 2: He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing—that although I was blind, now I can see.”
Day 3: He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing—that although I was blind, now I can see.”
Day 4: He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing—that although I was blind, now I can see.”
Day 5: He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing—that although I was blind, now I can see.”
Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 25, 2018
THE DRESS REHEARSAL / John Farthing
Key Text: John 11:1-44 (NET)
In John 11, Jesus drops the most startling of his I AM claims: “I AM the
Resurrection and the Life.” What does this mean? And “Do you believe
1. When Jesus says, “I am the resurrection,” what is He echoing from
2. Our cry for hope and life has been long-suffering. Look up Job 14:14-16
3. What are the limits for Christ’s presence with us? Read Romans 8:38-39
GRACE IN 3D
As a quick conversation starter, ask everyone in your group to “popcorn out” things
that make them feel alive. They shouldn’t feel compelled to find a religious
answer...just activities or experiences that remind them of life. (i.e. running, seeing
green shoots coming up in the spring, etc.)
THE BOTTOM LINE
In her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Warren encourages us to “remember our
baptism.” How does remembering our baptism every day impact our living? Does
it just set our hope and eyes on the heavenly realms, or does it outfit us for life here
on Earth? How do we proclaim, along with Martha, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you
are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.” How do we
mourn with those who mourn? Do we deeply feel the losses of others, or are we
able to put those feelings on a shelf? Are we quick to offer easy fixes to their pain
when we should be sitting in the pain with them?
How is God calling us to live in light of our belief? What words and actions come
forth from us if we are willing to mourn with those who are mourning? Where do
you see Christ’s power over life and death, and how does that impact you?
• Read here for more detailed commentary about this passage.
• A confession of faith in the midst of mourning: Martha’s declaration
• "He is the resurrection, and when we believe in him, we are guaranteed
everlasting life, but not just later -- now.” (click here)
Jesus confirms He is the I Am seven times in the gospel of John. Read more here
about how His presence compels us.
• How do we put legs to our prayers in the midst of mourning? Consider your
call. Pen a sincere prayer of your own.
• In Him Was Life by John Piper
Mourning the Passing of Rev. Billy Graham: Six Things He Believed
GRACE IN THE MOMENT
Jay Lefforge just celebrated his 50th birthday. Read here for more about his
reflections on living as a follower of Jesus.
I had a birthday this week. A big one, according to most folks. It made me think a
little, which is about as much as I ever seem to think- but that’s another story and
only slightly related. What I was thinking about is time. Time marches on. Time
waits for no man. It gets a little heavy, TBH. I’m not one to dwell on my own
mortality, but at a certain age, it seems prudent to take stock of your life. This is
particularly important when you consider the way God moves in our lives. Though
we hear about them more, the times God makes dramatic “road to Damascus”
changes in our lives are far outweighed by the small, incremental changes He
effects through daily life. How do we know we are headed in the right direction
when the day-to-day changes are small? I let my thoughts drift to the eulogy test.
In my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to know a few folks well enough to be asked
to speak at their funerals. It’s not something I enjoy, to be honest, but it does give
you a chance to reflect on a person’s life, their qualities, and impact. Like anyone
would in that situation, I let my thoughts wander to my own funeral- what will those
who have to speak be able to say? Would I be proud of the impact I had on their
lives? Am I doing my best to make their job easy- to fill the lives of those around me
with positive experiences and love? In short- am I spending my time wisely?
One thing everyone agrees on- once you’ve spent time, you don’t get to redo. The
past “is what it is.” The future is worth considering, though. With an everdecreasing
number of hours remaining to us- how should we allocate them?
I’m sorry to say I didn’t come up with the silver-bullet golden rule answer, but I think
I did make some progress. In general, from my own experience and my
observations of those I admire- I came up with the following aspiration for my next
Helping those in need
Building Up people struggling to do the right thing
Developing deeper relationships with those I love
Celebrating victories in life- even the small ones)
Criticizing those who don’t get it right (as I see it)
Harboring resentment with those I’ve felt wronged by
Replaying setbacks repeatedly in my head
Complaining about imperfection
The truth is it’s very easy for me to do the things on the right, and they never leave
me feeling better. I may feel justified or superior for a moment, but I never wake up
thinking- the world’s a better place because I succinctly and persuasively
summarized my position on (insert issue here) on social media yesterday. Further,
the people I admire devote considerable energy on the left and very little on the
right. I don’t expect I’ll get it perfect (or even close) but I hope my efforts will be
evident to those around me.
With that in mind- I want to say a few things:
To those I’ve spent time complaining to recently: Thank you for listening, I’m sorry if
I left you feeling worse than when I started complaining. I want you to know that I
realize my complaints are trivial compared to the many blessings I’ve been given.
I’m thankful for your ears, and I hope to fill them with gratitude and perspective that
lifts you up rather than pulls you down.
To those I’ve neglected recently: I’m sorry I’ve allowed my priorities to become
warped. Like each of you, I feel stretched thin at times, but you are important to
me. I’ll try to make the most of whatever time we have together.
To those of you I’ve disagreed with, I want you to know that I’m capable of seeing
the good in you even when we disagree. We’re made so complex that I’m sure I
disagree with everyone on some things. I’m sorry I have been tempted to adopt a
binary worldview that leaves inadequate room for relationships in the grey areas.
To those I’ve felt wronged by: I’m sorry I focused so intently on a small part of your
humanity. I’m excited for the potential you have as one of God’s creatures, and my
prayer will be that He works through you to accomplish great things.
To each and every one of you: I’m just a man, flawed like each of us, but redeemed
by a desire to positively impact those around me. I commit to do my best to lift you
through our relationship. Maybe someday you’ll speak kindly of me at a funeral?
Living life as a follower of Jesus isn’t all glamour. Next week, we’ll reflect on the
challenge Peter faced. John 18:12-27
Read the passage each day with emphasis on the bolded text. Meditate and
respond on the unique thoughts the emphases bring to your spirit and life in Christ.
Monday: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe
in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will
never die. Do you believe this?”
Tuesday: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Wednesday: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Thursday: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Friday: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Saturday: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
To print the learning guide, click the PDF icon
Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 18, 2018
LISTENING TO HIS VOICE / John Ray
Key Text: John 10:1-18 (NET)
Hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd is essential for us to find true life.
Read Ezekiel 34:1-6 as the prophet relayed a message for the priests, Levites, great Sanhedrin, or whomever was leading Israel. What five things were these shepherds doing incorrectly?
What seven things were these shepherds not doing?
GRACE IN 3D
Give everyone an index card or small piece of paper and a pen. Tell them to number it one through five. Do they think they know the Shepherd’s voice? Tell them you will read five statements, and they have to decide if the words are from Jesus or someone else.
1. God helps those who help themselves.
2. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3. Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth.
4. In this world you will have trouble.
5. Everything happens for a reason.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s a question we all ask, and are maybe asked by others; How do I hear God’s voice? Countless books, teachings and materials have been devoted to answering the question as well. What has been your experience? Is this something you have asked? Is it something you are comfortable with or frustrated by? The Bottom Line is we learn the voice and the language of the Shepherd by following Him and practicing what he says to do. There are no shortcuts or secrets to it.
There is a very common misconception that as we “mature” we will need less and less help from others, that we will become more “independent”. While it is true we are to become more and more secure in our identity in Christ and deeper in our faith, mature followers of Jesus are marked by their love for and participation with other believers at an ever deepening level. Where are you in this process? Is gathering with other believers for worship, prayer, service and study “optional”? Where does it fit in your priorities? The bottom line is listening to the Shepherd brings us into ever deepening community and Christlike identity.
Jesus gives us a clear paradigm for what “Good Shepherd” leadership looks like; it gives sacrificially and loves in a life giving way. Contrast that with the selfish and contractual nature of “hired hand” leadership and the objectives of the one who comes to “steal, kill and destroy”. While no human leadership will ever be perfect, can you name friends and leaders who have been “Good Shepherds”? What qualities did they have? What about friends and leaders who weren’t so good? Who are you listening to the most right now? Where are they leading you? The bottom line is there are very clear contrasts between Good Shepherd leadership, the hired hands and the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy.
It takes serious commitment in our society to stop and listen, to really pay attention. Eugene Peterson calls it a “long obedience in the same direction”. We are all listening to someone, being formed by something. The Good Shepherd is the only one who is ultimately worthy of being listened to and formed by. Take some time, not just this week, but as a regular, growing practice to stop and consider the voices and forming influences in your life. What are leading to life? What are in for the money? Which ones are working for your destruction?
(links to resources such as blogs, articles, videos or podcasts that offer weightier material related to the teaching):
>More on the parable of The Good Shepherd from The Working Preacher
>Did The Good Shepherd really say that?! Listen to this podcast about one mom’s thoughts as she has completed seminary and battled stage 4 cancer
Some people can hear Jesus voice even when they are dead. Let’s meet Lazarus next week in John 11:1-44
Monday: “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Tuesday: “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Wednesday: “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Thursday: “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Friday: “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Saturday: “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”