GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 3rd, 2019

This is How You Should Pray

Donny Epp

Key Text / Matthew 6:7-21, 25-34 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

THE SET-UP

Jesus continues to cast his vision for a subversive, reality-upending movement and gives us an important tool for aligning our hearts and minds with the Kingdom of God.
 

REFLECT

Take some time this week to reflect on the most memorable prayers that have been answered in the totality of your life, as well as the prayers that weren’t answered that turned out to be gifts.

PRACTICE 

Pray the Lord’s prayer each day this week, focusing and meditating on a different word or phrase in the prayer. Let it lead you to specific themes in prayer each day as you commune with God.

THE BRIDGE

Last week in Matthew 5, Jesus told us what ultimate reality is: life in the Kingdom of God. And specifically, there are no VIP members of this Kingdom; everyone has as much privilege to experience this reality as the next person. This reality is opposite of the reality of nearly every culture in all of time, which rewards and ranks people based on perceived value.

 

This week, Jesus continues this same discourse commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount”, given to his disciples and heard by the masses near the town of Capernaum on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. And on the heels of Jesus showing us who has access to the kingdom (everyone), Jesus begins to show us what intimacy with the King looks like for those who have chosen to be citizens of Kingdom.

MAP IT

As Jesus continues in his discourse, his location remains, thus this will be the same as the previous week:


Read here about context on the location of the Sermon on the Mount, clicking on the Lake of Gennesaret hyperlink in the text.

DISCUSS

  • Last week, we were told to “let our light shine before men, so that they would see our good works,” and now this week, we’re told to do our good works in secret.  How do we make sense of what to do with these seemingly contradictory statements? 

  • What has been your experience/opinion of the Lord’s prayer. Based on your experience, what aspects of the prayer do you like or dislike? Why?

  • Which word, section, or phrase in the Lord’s prayer jumps out at you the most? Why?

  • Jesus tells us in this text to “ accumulate for yourselves treasure in heaven...for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What does this mean, and what does it actually look like to do this?

  • The last section of Matthew 6 gives us a text for not worrying or being anxious, but trusting in God for his provision. How do we live in to that, or what are ways we can practice that?

RESOURCES

BONUS RESOURCE

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Next week, we will wrap up Jesus’ longest discourse in the Bible. He’ll speak of how we relate in a healthy way to each other, how we relate in a healthy way to God the father, and how we feed our souls by choosing obedience. Read about it in Matthew 7:1-14 and 24-29

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 10th, 2019

Jesus's Most Audacious Claim

John Ray

Key Text / Matthew 7:1-14, 24-29 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

Jesus makes the audacious claim to be the ultimate authority of all truth and defines our relationship to the ultimate source of all provision.
 

REFLECT

Our society puts a premium on leadership. There aren’t many top sellers about being a great follower. Most of us like to think of ourselves as leaders, or if we aren’t, as least think of what great leaders we would be if we just had the chance.  But in our text this week Jesus is claiming to be the ultimate leader and that means that even if we are providing leadership in some way (which most of us are) our primary role is that of follower. Any leading we do must be formed by first following. This week consider how that plays out in your life and how you view yourself. Do you consider yourself primarily as a leader or as a follower? If a follower, of whom?

PRACTICE 

Being a follower is defined by one thing: submission. Submission can be a scary word because of how it’s been misused and twisted, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore or reject it. In God’s Kingdom we are to be both submitted to King Jesus and to each other. This is one of the primary ways we are set apart from the world. This week, practice your “followership” by praying for and practicing ways to more fully submit to Jesus and other members of Christ’s Body you are in community with. Practice asking yourself if your actions and attitudes, your affections and allegiances reflect this principle of submission.

THE BRIDGE

Matthew’s gospel gives us this teaching from Jesus called the Sermon on the Mount, presented as a monologue, and held by many to be one of the great discourses in all of history. And the reason is because Jesus communicates ideas that turn the prevailing worldview not just of that day and time, buf of the human heart, on its head.

We learned in chapter 5 that the Beatitudes tell us what reality is: the Kingdom of God. And also that those who are blessed in this kingdom reality are simply those who seek it. There are no other prerequisites, social status is disregarded. So much of the rest of chapter 5 communicates that true morality is based less on action, and more on intention. The person who intends to commit evil has the same heart as the one who actually does, even if the person never follows through with the intended action. This is not the reward system that is ingrained in our hearts nor is reinforced by experience in the world, and yet Jesus says this is what is real.

 

Chapter 6 shows us the essence of humility: in our expression of faith toward God (pray and fast in secret), in prayer to God (our father who is in Heaven), what humility leads us to pursue with our resources (treasure in heaven), and the ultimate and paradoxical byproduct of humility: faith-filled confidence (do not worry). This too, is not the way of humanity.

 

This week, as this section of scripture comes to a close, Jesus will confront us with the realities of our own misperceptions of life and God. And he leaves us with the idea that obedience to God is life to our own soul, making our lives a house with a foundation that cannot be shaken.

MAP IT

As Jesus continues in his discourse, his location remains, thus this will be the same as the previous week:


Read here about context on the location of the Sermon on the Mount, clicking on the Lake of Gennesaret hyperlink in the text.

DISCUSS

Jesus makes the audacious claim to be the ultimate authority of all truth and defines our relationship to the ultimate source of all provision.

Jesus claims authority for Himself that supersedes Moses, the Torah, and the Pharisees.

Jesus assures us of the Father’s desire, capacity and intent to provide for us.

Jesus challenges us to reorient our affections, actions, and intentions according to these truths.

  • In verse 14 of this week’s text, Jesus says there are few who enter through the life-giving but difficult “narrow gate”. What are indicators that someone has found this narrow gate? What makes it both life-giving and difficult?

  • Verse 29 says that the crowds looked at Jesus as one teaching with authority, not like their experts in the law. If Jesus were teaching us in person today, how would it differ from those we look at as Bible experts?

  • Verses 7-12 show us that God desires to give his children good things, even more so than earthly parents. Have you ever felt like this was not your experience with God? If so, how? Were you able to see what you were given as a good gift in due time, or not yet?

  • This week’s passage shows us that in the measure that we judge others, God will judge us. And yet we all have perceptions of the things and people around us. What does it look like to perceive with mercy and charity toward others? How can we do that with a spirit of first examining ourselves? In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen Jesus and prophets judge harshly, so how do we know if and when it’s appropriate for us to do the same?

  • .Jesus gives us “the Golden Rule” it on the heel of talking about God giving good gifts to us. It seems almost unrelated to the preceding few verses--why does Jesus put this statement where he does? And what does that tell us about this Golden rule?

RESOURCES

BONUS RESOURCE

LOOKING AHEAD

 

After Jesus’ sermon on the mount, we skip over Jesus’ second major teaching section to his third, where he speaks in metaphors that illustrate truths about His life and human life in a universe created by a loving God. Read about it in Matthew 13:24-43.

 

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 17th, 2019

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

John Ray

Key Text / Matthew 13:24-43 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

THE SET-UP

The kingdom of God is here because Jesus is here. His Kingdom is directly opposed to all other Kingdoms.
 

REFLECT

This week we’ll talk about what the Kingdom of God is like and how it works. Few of us go through our days conscious of how our choices; our attitudes, actions and affections communicate our concept of God and God’s Kingdom. But they do. Everything communicates all the time. So take time this week to reflect and consider how your affections, attitudes and actions reflect on what you think about the Kingdom of God and your place in it.

PRACTICE 

Submission is a dirty word in our culture. It’s been abused and misused, ignored and maligned. But if there’s a Kingdom there’s a King. And we aren’t it. That means we’re either in submission to the King or we are rebelling against Him and His Kingdom. That can sound harsh, especially in a culture that values “freedom” above all else. But it doesn’t make it less true. The incredible thing is our King is the God of the universe and the Good Shepherd. Our submission is also our salvation. This week consider where you may not be fully submitted to the King and take concrete steps to move more and more towards that loving submission that Jesus deserves. Seriously, write it down. Share your intention with others. Walk it out.  

THE BRIDGE

Last week, we wrapped up Jesus’ first of five major sections of teaching in Matthew, called the sermon on the mount. This section of teaching announces the Kingdom of God and how to live in this kingdom, where all social and societal credibility is disregarded and only humility is rewarded.

 

After this teaching on the kingdom, Jesus brings the kingdom, by expressing his dominion over the decay of the world by healing physical ailments and commanding a storm to turn into tranquil skies. And in chapter 10, he communicates the second major block of teaching, instructing his disciples how to bring the kingdom as He does.

 

Leading up to this week’s text, Matthew records people’s response to Jesus. And of course as one of the more polarizing characters in world history, those responses run the gamut. Which leads us to our text this week, Jesus’ third major block of teaching, where he tells metaphorical stories often called “parables” to illustrate truths of the realities of the world and life on earth. These stories strike a chord in the culture they are presented in, and they speak to the specific ways that people have responded to Jesus in the preceding chapters.

MAP IT

In the preceding chapters, Jesus has primarily gone about his business in the villages surrounding the sea of Galilee. Read here for context around the locations of this chapter in scripture, including the parables spoken.

DISCUSS

  • We all live in one kingdom or another. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God and invites us to live in it.  What’s your resident status like this week?!  Are you a tourist, a new citizen, an activated sower, a seed, or something else?  

  • The kingdom of God doesn’t work like other kingdoms, and it takes effort to understand it.  What are you learning about the kingdom of God?  What would you like to learn?

  • We understand the kingdom primarily through understanding Jesus and lovingly submitting to Him.  What does this scripture tell you about the attributes of Jesus? 

  • In this scripture, the disciples ask for Jesus to explain the meaning of the parable, and he clarifies, with a closing warning for them to have “ears to listen.”  Are there any things that are keeping you from being able to hear Jesus’ message about the kingdom of heaven? 

RESOURCES

  • Check out Working Preacher’s Commentary on Matthew 13:24-43 and Parables of the Kingdom Podcast

  • “Like the parable of the sower, the parable of the wheat and weeds offers a perspective on opposition to Jesus, and also speaks more generally to the persistence of evil in the world,” writes Elisabeth Johnson in this commentary on the scripture of the week.  

  • Check out the video or audio teaching by Jen Wilkin on the Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew.  

  • “I hand my daughter another green seed, and with it, I silently offer her participation in a larger story...,” writes Jenna Brack, in this issue of Fathom.  

  • Brian Zahnd writes, “Seed” seems to be Jesus’ favorite metaphor in His parables about the Kingdom. Nothing about the seed process is instantaneous....” Read more here in his blogpost about waiting.  

  • Give a listen to the weekly spotify playlist here, with commentary here, from our own Amy Rowe

LOOKING AHEAD

 

As Jesus moves on to his next major block of teaching, he removes himself from the large crowds and focuses on just his closest mates, his disciples. And he tells them what it takes to live in fullness and be his follower. Then he takes just a few of his closest mates to a mountaintop and they have a mysterious experience that is difficult to explain. Read about it in Matthew 16:24-17:8

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of February 26th, 2019

Activist Leader Feeds Crowd, Walks On Water;

Raises Questions About Identity

Donny Epp

Key Text / Matthew 14:13-33 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

THE SET-UP

As the kingdom unfolds, keeping our eye on the king is critical to understanding the radical abundance of this upside down reality. If we miss the king, we miss the headline.
 

REFLECT

One question we’re asking this week is “What am I doing in my life that wouldn’t be possible without God?” Now of course the “Sunday School” answer is “nothing.”  But come on, do we really live that way? Do we really consider all of our actions, all of our accomplishments, all of activities as dependent on God? What do you think would change about how you live if you were to be increasingly mindful of God’s presence in your life? Consider where you are aware of God’s presence and where you aren’t. Why?

PRACTICE 

Brother Lawrence called it “practicing the presence of God”. Other saints, mystics and well-seasoned followers of Jesus have given the discipline of cultivating an awareness of God’s presence other names. This isn’t something only for monks and mystics though, it’s for all of us. But it’s a discipline, it takes practice, it doesn’t come natural to any of us. This is much more than a discipline to be practiced one week and then discarded, this is one that should last a lifetime. But there’s no better time to start than right now. Start with the simple prayer “Abba, I want to be more and more aware of your presence in my life.”   Pray it, even out loud, and then wait. Take a few breaths. If you mind wanders, it’s okay; pray it again. Keep your eyes, ears and heart opens for what you see and give thanks as your awareness develops through your practice.

THE BRIDGE

Last week, we examined Jesus teaching in the form of metaphorical stories called parables, that showed us submission to Jesus is the path to true freedom and fullness of life. And this was Jesus third of five major sections of teaching in the book of Matthew, specifically speaking to what it looks like to respond appropriately to the person of Jesus.

 

This week, we find ourselves between that block of teaching and the next, which will speak to the nature of God’s kingdom that operates exactly the way kingdoms on Earth don’t--from a place of humility and servitude. And in this section, we see Jesus withdraw from the crowds who sought him after learning of the execution of his cousin and predecessor in ministry John the Baptist. But like a modern day paparazzi, the masses follow, not for a picture or sound bite, but to experience the essence of this compelling man. And he gives them much to be compelled about.

 

MAP IT

 Check out this video explaining the Sea of Galilee region and the likely spot where Jesus fed the 5,000.

INDEPENDENT STUDY DIG-IN

  • Look back at Matthew 14:1-12 and note the differences between Herod, the current king of the Jews’ banquet, and the banquet described in 13-20 hosted by the coming King of the Jews.  It might be helpful to draw a T-chart organizer in your notes to help you compare and contrast.  

  • When Jesus speaks to the disciples in verse 27, he tells them, “Don’t be afraid...I am.”  What Old Testament scripture is Jesus referencing to let His followers know of His divinity?  (hint:  see Exodus)

  • How do Jesus’ actions in Matthew 14:13-36 portray the new kingdom of God that John the Baptist predicted in Matthew 3:2?  How are his actions different from those of a traditional, earthly king? 

 

DISCUSS

  • In this week’s text, Jesus feeds 5,000 people, and also spends time alone. Do you think Jesus is more introverted or extroverted? For you personality test geeks (Myers-Briggs, Enneagram etc.), what personality types would you ascribe to Jesus?

  • The section of scripture prior to where our passage picks up this week tells us that Jesus’ predecessor, cousin, and in some ways mentor John the Baptist has been murdered. Where our text does pick up, Jesus has entered his grieving process. What interesting things do you notice about Jesus’ grieving? What parts of his grieving would you want to emulate?

  • Herod the Tetrarch (also called Antipas) is ruling the land at this time, and he is the son of Herod “the Great”, the one who was ruling at the time of Jesus’ birth and ordered all boys under age 2 killed. What similarities do you see between Herod the Tetrarch and his father? What differences do you see between the kingdoms of the Herods and the Kingdom of Jesus? What does this tell us about the kingdom Jesus is ushering in?

  • Why do you think Jesus sent the disciples away and dismissed the crowds himself after the feeding of the 5,000? 

  • When Jesus came to the disciples on the water, why do you think Peter thought it would be a good idea to get out of the boat? Is Peter’s action a display of faith? Self-promotion? Both?

RESOURCES

  • Commentary on Matthew 14:13-33 with Feeding 5,000 podcast, from Working Preacher’s Narrative Lectionary

  • In this blog post by Richard Swanson from provokingthegospel, the question is asked and reflected upon, Why does Peter think it’s a good idea to get out of the boat? In this post, Swanson discusses the fascinating realities of the disciples feeding the 5,000.

  • This past week was the one-year anniversary of Billy Graham’s death, arguably the most influential American Christian of the 20th century. And in a time when our culture tends to define most notorious individuals by their worst attributes and misdeeds (albeit some of it justified), Graham had shockingly few critics when he passed. While he has immense content to choose from, check out 14 of his quotes, and his TED talk from 1998.

  • Check out our weekly spotify playlist here, curated by our own Amy Rowe, with commentary here

LOOKING AHEAD

 

As Jesus moves on to his next major block of teaching, he removes himself from the large crowds and focuses on just his closest mates, his disciples. And he tells them what it takes to live in fullness and be his follower. Then he takes just a few of his closest mates to a mountaintop and they have a mysterious experience that is difficult to explain. Read about it in Matthew 16:24-17:8.

It also bears noting that at Grace, our current teaching schedule is based on the Narrative Lectionary, which assigns a section of scripture each week that coincides with the Liturgical year observed by many Christian traditions. The Lectionary gives us one gospel account each year, in which we follow the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as we are doing in Matthew this year.

 

As such, we are approaching the season of Lent, which in the Liturgical calendar starts on Ash Wednesday, and ends on Easter Sunday (3/6-4/18). The purpose of Lent is to prepare our bodies, hearts, and minds for the observance of the resurrection of Christ at Easter. Stay tuned for ways to practice as we get closer to Lent.