GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 7, 2018

COME AND SEE! / John Ray

Key Text: John 1:35-51 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

Encountering Jesus, we are invited to seek and find, see and be seen, maybe even have our name changed along the way. But first we have to follow.

 

THE BASICS

MAP IT

The Synoptic Gospels give details that help us GPS where Jesus was at particular moments during His ministry. John’s style is different; he’s less focused on logistics and more on overall narrative. There’s no reliable indication of the specific setting for this week’s text, but together the synoptics provide these maps of Jesus’ ministry travels.

GRACE IN 3D

 

As a conversation-starter, ask everyone in your group to play a quick game of “Never Have I Ever.” When posed a question, members must decide between answers of “I have” or “I have never.” Here are some prompts to get you started; feel free to add your own ideas to the list. (If you’re feeling crafty, you can make response signs for everyone, or you can just have them show a thumbs-up or thumbs down.)

Have you ever seen ...

 

an animal being born?  

a shooting star?  

a full eclipse of the sun?  

a celebrity in close proximity?  

a baby being born?  

a tornado?  

a baptism?  

a World Series championship parade?  

someone find healing?  

something miraculous?

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • There is only so much that we can learn apart from experience. There is knowing, and there is knowing. One provides us with information, the other with experience. Jesus is definitely interested in the latter when He invites us to “come and see.” This is an invitation to an experience to which there is no alternative. How does that sit with you? Does it create anxiety? Excitement? Fear? Hope? What does it mean for your life? Is there any area to which Jesus has invited you to “come and see,” and you have resisted? Why? Bottom Line: What does it mean to “come and see”?

  • One of the most profound implications of Christianity is that we are seeking after a God who is seeking after us, which means God is close to us; that God is, in fact, motivating our own seeking after Him. This is staggering in its implications. What does it mean, then, to “find God”? What responsibility does it intend? What are we to learn, or become, in our seeking and finding? Bottom Line: How do we find what we are looking for?

  • This might be one of the most important questions we can ever consider: Following Jesus is something more than just receiving information and believing, in a passive sense, but how do we really follow someone we can’t see? Someone who doesn’t converse with us in the same way we converse with others? What are some of the ways have you found to follow? What are your questions about or frustrations with following? Bottom Line: What does it mean to follow Jesus?


REFLECTION

 

A critical question is asked of the two disciples who leave John the Baptist to follow Jesus: “What do you want?” This week, find a quiet place to meditate on this passage; start by imagining the scene. As you read the words, imagine that instead of turning to the disciples, Jesus turns to you, looks you in the eyes and asks, “What do you want?” How would you answer? Write down your response, as we will revisit this question soon.

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT 

In this week’s guest blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Author and activist Diana Oestreich considers how leaning into the darkness helps us see the Light. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Jesus performs His first public miracle. Read about it in John 2:1-11 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on the first part of John 1:38. 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: Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?”

Day 2: Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?”

 

Day 3: Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?”

Day 4: Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?”


Day 5: Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?”

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 14, 2018

WHAT MARY TEACHES US / John Ray

Key Text: John 2:1-11 (NET)

 

 

 

 

 

THE SET-UP

Jesus’ first miracle starts us on a treasure hunt that will lead us to a deeper-than-ever love and understanding of Jesus.

 

THE BASICS

The Gospels record lots of instances where Jesus performed miracles by Himself—here, here and here, for instance. But there were also times when, like in our text this week, He invited others to have a special part in His ministry. Read the following passages and write down the ways other people got to join Him where He was at work.

 

 

 

MAP IT

Read about Cana and find out on this map where it was in relation to other towns where Jesus traveled.

GRACE IN 3D

 

To get your conversation started, ask folks to consider if their moms (or any other adult from their childhood) encouraged them to pursue their giftings. Ask a few to share. Were the adults spot-on with their identification of talents, or did they have dreams for their children that seemed like a mismatch?  

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • John is clear in his purpose for what he writes about Jesus: that we might believe. But he does this in a number of really creative ways. For example, his book is laid out like a treasure hunt; when we think critically and imaginatively, we’ll discover things about Jesus on our own rather than simply believing something because we are told to believe it. Where do you see this demonstrated in our text this week? Does reading the text this way help you believe more deeply? If so, how? How does this method differ from just instructing us to believe? Bottom Line: How does John help us to know Jesus better?

  • John mentions Mary twice: here at the very start of Jesus’ public ministry, and again while Jesus is on the cross. She is the only person we know of who continually connected with Jesus through the span of His time on earth. By all accounts, she got who Jesus was before anyone else did. This makes her words at the wedding so important. How do you interpret them? What do they tell you about her understanding of Jesus? How does her relationship with Jesus change in this circumstance? Bottom Line: How does Mary help us follow Jesus?

  • Jason Hood writes in his book, Imitating God in Christ, “Unless Christians are taught that God’s work and human work are compatible, they often believe that in any given thought or action either God is at work or humans are, but never both. … The relationship between God’s work and human work is arguably the most misunderstood aspect of discipleship and sanctification.” Jesus could have made full glasses of wine appear in everyone’s hand without involving the servants. But here, as all through Scripture, God uses human effort to accomplish miraculous things. Why do you think that’s the case? As you read this text, notice how Jesus is responding to and working with the people in the story to show His glory. How is He doing that in your life now? Bottom Line: What do Jesus’ actions tell us about His heart toward us?


REFLECTION

 

This week, think about a specific instance when you could see God working through you for a divine purpose. Did you clearly understand what was happening at the time? Did it feel “normal” or “supernatural”? Write down your experience and reflect on it; let it inform how you approach even the most mundane situations and tasks. How do you think you might live differently as a result?

 

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Jesus has a righteous temper. Read about it in John 2:13-25 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on John 2:5. 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: His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Day 2: His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

 

Day 3: His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Day 4: His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”


Day 5: His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 21, 2018

ZEALOUS SIGNS / John Ray

Key Text: John 2:12-22 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

 

Jesus’ zeal for the temple teaches us where to place our own affections.

THE BASICS

John notes that when people saw Jesus clearing the courts, they remembered David’s words from the Old Testament, “Zeal for your house will devour me.” Read Psalm 69 for the background. Then read the following passages and answer these questions:

  • Read Exodus 12:14-28. Why did Jesus go to Jerusalem because the feast of Passover was near?   

  • Read Deuteronomy 14:22-26. Why were animals being sold in the temple courts?  

  • Read 1 Peter 2:4-5. What significance does this passage have if we, all together, are now the temple?

MAP IT

Click here to follow Jesus’ journey from Capernaum to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

GRACE IN 3D

 

As a conversation-starter, ask your group participants to look through a few of these images. Which ones stir up their passion, zeal, or sense of loyalty? If you’d like, you can print them off, or you could just display them on a laptop or smart TV.  

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • Central to the purpose of Israel was their call to be a witness to all nations on behalf of the One True God. Although their identity as God’s chosen people is unique, it was never intended to be exclusive. Even the design of the temple reflected this elementally, with its inclusion of a court for Gentiles. By the time of Jesus’ day, this place that had been reserved for non-Jewish believers and seekers to worship was reduced to a stockyard and market. Do you think this troubled Jesus? What other elements might have fueled Jesus’ reaction? What do these elements have in common? Bottom Line: Why did Jesus get so worked up about the situation he found in the temple?

  • For many, “righteous anger” is an oxymoron. We live in a highly-dualistic society which, on one hand, craves and applauds scorched-earth violence and on the other promotes tolerance-at-all-costs passivity. Jesus will have neither. Do you tend to gravitate toward one of these extremes? If so, which one, and why? How do Jesus’ actions speak to your own concepts of anger, righteous or otherwise? Of all the things Jesus got worked up about during His ministry, this is the first one John lists. Why do you think that is? Bottom Line: In sharing this story, what is John teaching us about Jesus?

  • It’s not news to anyone that the people’s general opinion of and allegiance to the Church isn’t what it used to be in our culture. The general perception of the Church can be quite negative in many circles. Engage in enough conversations with people who have been hurt/disillusioned/let down by the Church, and it would be easy enough to give up on it. But what happens when you see Jesus’ reaction in this text? How does it inform your own attitude and posture toward the Church? Bottom Line: How should this text shape the way we feel about the Church?


REFLECTION

 

It’s easy to catch the action of this week’s text and miss the heart behind it. We can often get caught up in doing right and miss the necessity of being right. Spend some time this week imagining the heart, the attitude, the understanding that Jesus had which produced His zeal. Does it make you uncomfortable? Is it something you share? If you were to ask a friend or family member to describe what you are zealous about, what do you think they would say? What do you want them to say?

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: There’s more to having true zeal than meets the eye. John Ray explains. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

LOOKING AHEAD

Jesus untangles a brain-teaser for Nicodemus, an earnest seeker. Read about it in John 3:1-21 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on John 2:17. 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: His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me.”

Day 2: His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me.”

Day 3: His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me.”

Day 4: His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me.”


Day 5: His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me.”

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 28, 2018

BORN AGAIN? / John Ray

Key Text: John 3:1-21 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

 

Faith is the way into our born-from-above identity. And that identity is the key to everything else.

THE BASICS

  • What was a Pharisee?  Read here for more information.

  • Read Numbers 21:4-9. What is Jesus talking about when he refers to Moses lifting up a serpent?

  • In this week’s text, Jesus tells Nicodemus about the kingdom of God. What does Luke 17:20-21 say about this same kingdom?

  • Some scholars think Jesus is referencing Ezekiel 36:25-27 when he speaks of the water and the Spirit.  What transforming work does the Lord promise?

    • pure water​

    • idol worship

    • heart of stone

MAP IT

On one of Jesus’ early travels to Jerusalem he was approached by Nicodemus, who was part of the Jewish ruling council there. Click here to see where Jerusalem was located in relation to the other towns Jesus visited.

\

GRACE IN 3D

 

Imagine that a new mayor has come to town, and (s)he is promoting changes that might alter your employment status, your heritage, and your lifelong family traditions. On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would be open to visiting with this mayor? Quickly go around your group and let each person respond. Segue into this week’s discussion about Nicodemus and his curiosity about this new Rabbi who’s come to town.  

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • If you have to prove your identity in really important matters, a driver’s license or student ID won’t do; a birth certificate is required. This paper defines us by our origin, by where and who we come from. But Jesus redefines our origin; He takes something we believe to be set in stone and offers an alternative story. How does He do it? Why do you think Jesus changes the very root of our identity, unwilling to settle for anything less? Consider specific ways this change affects our past, present and future: Why is this important? And how are we different?  Bottom Line: What does it mean for us to be “born from above,” and why is it so important to God?

  • We like to think we’ve earned what we have (at least the good stuff). It makes us feel good and gives us a way of measuring ourselves against others. It also blinds us to God’s reality. Scripture makes clear that our destiny is wrapped up in our being born from above, but how many of us have anything to do with our actual birth? Who among us chose to be born? Chose our parents, our gender or race? In the strangest of mysteries, however, we are invited to participate, by faith alone, in a second birth. Only through this rebirth do we attain everything we desire; none of it is earned. Why do you think God designed it this way? Wouldn’t a clear merit-based system work better? Be more fair? Bottom Line: How does this born-from-above identity qualify us for eternal life?

  • The idea of someone being disqualified, condemned even, is seriously troubling for most of us. It’s even worse when we think this condemnation is somehow unfair, unearned; an impersonal rejection on arbitrary grounds with dramatically serious consequences. But if we’re going to take Scripture seriously, we have to deal with this reality. Jesus says clearly that unless we are born from above, our condition is hopeless, no matter what the outward appearance or individual perception. It’s the inevitable consequence of our core identity. Think about how our identity determines our destiny: Does this trip you up? If so, why? What about it seems unfair? Bottom Line: How could lacking this identity lead to condemnation?


REFLECTION

 

In our lesson planning this week, Andrew Brewer commented, “Faith doesn’t do away with the mystery; it makes the mystery okay.” The table sat for a moment as the truth of this sank in. Listen friends, we are swimming in deep waters here with ideas that have serious, eternal consequences. Anyone who tells you they have it all figured out or shares some simplistic formula as a comprehensive explanation is deceived, or a fraud, or someone who just doesn’t understand the question. Faith gives us a way in and through the mystery, without solving it for us. It doesn’t always answer our questions—in fact, it often creates new ones—but it gives us space to consider them more deeply. This week, write down the places of mystery in your life that you have feared or avoided. Ask for the faith to open them up and to be okay in them, then write down the ways you see the Holy Spirit responding to your prayers.

 

DEEP TRACKS

THE MASH-UP

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: There’s more to having true zeal than meets the eye. John Ray explains. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

LOOKING AHEAD

Jesus finds a woman hiding in plain sight. Read about it in John 4:1-42 (NET).

JOURNAL

During your time alone with God this week, meditate on John 3:16. 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: For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Day 2: For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Day 3: For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Day 4: For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.


Day 5: For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.