Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 6th, 2019

Recalculating Route

Bonnie Leonard

Key Text / Matthew 2:1-23 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

THE SET-UP

God promised the world Jesus. Choosing to follow and to obey Him comes with joy, sacrifice, pain, and peace (to name a few).
 

REFLECT

Do you know/believe that God is guiding you and protecting you? If so, how do you know? Do you feel God, do you see God in the landscape? Do you see God in dreams? Do you hear God through the voices/words of others you trust? Do you read God? When you feel/see/hear/read God telling you to do something different than you might have planned for yourself do you obey, or do you question it so much that you end up ignoring Him? What has that looked like in your life? 

PRACTICE 

In this text, the angels of the Lord say to Joseph to “get up,” to relocate his family, and Joseph gets up and obeys. We don’t know much about the inner thoughts/feelings of Joseph, but the point here is the result, the obedience. He may have been terrified, he may have been frustrated or anxious, but he obeyed. This week, challenge yourself to become more aware of ways God is guiding you and listen more closely. And then obey. 

THE BRIDGE

The world Jesus is born into is much different than where the Bible leaves off in the Old Testament. The last thing we read in the Old Testament is that Israel has returned to Jerusalem from exile and rebuilds the Temple. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Rome is the ruling empire. A few generations before, Greek rule outlawed Jewish worship practices. A faction of Israel revolted with violence successfully, called the Maccabean Revolt. (Hannukah commemorates the rededication of Jerusalem’s second Temple that accompanied the successful Maccabean Revolt).

 

Rome takes over the land of Israel in 63 BC, whom the Jewish populace resents because of their paganism. In 40 BC, the Roman Senate names Herod the king of Judea. Herod is Jewish, but he’s also an Idumean, a descendant of Jacob’s brother Esau, spoken of in Genesis. While he wanted to gain Jewish loyalty, he never did so, largely because of his connection to Rome and his Idumean heritage. Quirinius, the Roman Governor in neighboring Syria, organized the census spoken of in Matthew chapter 1, illegal under Jewish law, which also contributed to Jewish resentment of Rome.

MAP IT

See here for the map and commentary of Jesus’ parents journey from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem for the mandatory census, where Jesus will be born.


See here for their path to Egypt with commentary, where Mary and Joseph must flee due to Herod’s order of infanticide.

DISCUSS

  • How many of us can think of a time where “___” wouldn’t have happened if plans hadn’t changed or an alternate route wasn’t taken, it’s not always for the good, but in this case it is for the good, for the greater good. What is an example of this fill in the blank for you in your life, good or bad?

  • Where is God right now in your life? Is He off to the side or the focal point? If He’s not at the center, what is?

  • Why Jesus? If you choose to believe in Jesus, why? Here is a project where this question is being asked.

  • In Jesus’ infancy, some of the first to worship him were not Jews, and certainly not Christians, as “Christianity” wouldn’t exist for another 30 years. What does this tell us about God and his action with people outside our practice of faith?

  • Both Joseph and the Magi in this text are shrouded in vagueness. Yet, they are examples of obedience and worship. Based on what the text does say about them from them?

RESOURCES

BONUS RESOURCE

  • My Deliverer, Song by Rich Mullins, youtube

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Next week, we look at the first prophet from God since over 400 years prior, his name is John the Baptist. His message is to preach God’s grace, preparing the hearts of Israel for the future teachings of Jesus. And something wild happens, that even he’s surprised by: he baptizes Jesus. Read about it in Matthew 3:1-17.

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 13th, 2019

God's Delight

John Ray

Key Text / Matthew 3:1-17 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

THE SET-UP

The baptism of Jesus by John changes everything for us.
 

REFLECT

Do you remember your baptism? Maybe you were young and it’s just a hazy memory like an old photograph. Maybe it was recent and still vivid in your imagination. While our memories of the event will vary, what was done doesn’t change. We were publicly identified with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We were connected by our baptism to the One in whom God delights, and by extension, are also delighted in. It was a sign and symbol we were officially and forever “adopted” into an inheritance sharing relationship with Jesus. Take time to consider this monumental event. Something so simple and quick yet so deep and eternal in its consequences. 

PRACTICE 

In our reflection above, we talked about how in our baptism we are identified with Jesus and by extension receive a measure of the same delight that God proclaimed for Him.  That’s not always an easy thing to live into, to experience in a meaningful way. It may sound silly, but being loved and delighted in takes practice. This week, take time to hone this practice. Make a habit of meditating on God’s love and delight for you. Find passages like 1 John 3:1 or Galatians 2:20 and memorize them. Repeat them as a prayer throughout your day. Let them soak into your consciousness and imagination.  

THE BRIDGE

In Matthew 2, we learned of Jesus and his family during his infancy. Within months or a couple years of Jesus’s birth, educated men from east of Israel came bearing gifts and worshipped Jesus because of the celestial patterns they observed in the stars. As Herod, the king of the land, found out about this, he felt threatened by the coming of “The King of the Jews”, and ordered all infants under 2 years of age murdered. This forced Jesus’ father Joseph to flee with his wife and baby to Egypt, saving Jesus’ life. They were able to return to Israel after the death of Herod.

 

Matthew tells us nothing of Jesus’ life between infancy and age 30. But before Jesus will begin to publicly teach and heal, a prophet named John the Baptist, who happens to be his cousin, will come to announce that the savior Israel has heard about and longed for is soon to appear. And to John’s surprise, he’ll baptize Jesus, a common ritual practice of ceremonial cleansing. This will be consistent with historical prophecy, and John the Baptist will be the first (recorded) prophet sent from God to Israel in over 400 years.

MAP IT

Read here about where John the Baptist first began proclaiming the coming of Jesus, the Wilderness of Judea.


See here for some possible explanations of the site of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.

DISCUSS

  • Our teaching this week states that a way of understanding repentance is a reconsidering of everything in light of who Jesus us. How would you have previously understood repentance? How does this differ from that understanding? Are there any areas you need to take action on in light of this?

  • Our text this week tells us that one of the ways John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus to come was by imploring anyone who would listen to repent, for the “kingdom of heaven is near.”  Why do you think John the Baptist taught that repentance was the appropriate action due to the nearness of the kingdom of heaven? If someone asked you today if the kingdom of heaven was near, what would your answer be? How would you describe or define the kingdom of heaven?

  • We also learned in our teaching this week that baptism is a reordering of everything in light of who Jesus is. And yet generally, it’s a one-time event for us as individuals that professes and affirms our allegiance to Jesus. Whether you’ve been baptized or not, what are ways you’ve practiced ongoing and continuous allegiance to Jesus? What are practices you’ve seen others exercise that inspire your ongoing allegiance to Jesus?

  • The final theme we’ve explored this week is that obedience is a redirecting of everything in light of what God says. What is one step of redirection you can take in your life in the coming days and weeks that would more closely align you with God’s character and allow you to experience more liberty in your faith?

  • Repentance is a reconsidering of everything in light of who Jesus is.

  • Baptism is a reordering of everything in light of what Jesus has done.

  • Obedience is a redirecting of everything in light of what God says.

RESOURCES

BONUS RESOURCE

  • The Nutritional Value of Locusts, blog post from LiveStrong

LOOKING AHEAD

 

After baptism, the next thing Matthew takes us to is a defining moment of Jesus’ life: Satan’s attempt to get Jesus to give in to any desire for sin he may have in his human soul. From there, we’ll begin to see Jesus teach, recruit, and heal. Read about it in Matthew 4:1-17.

 

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 20th, 2019

Formula, Highlight Reel, or Something Else?

John Ray

Key Text / Matthew 4:1-17 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

See facebook live of this service here.

 

THE SET-UP

Jesus goes toe to toe with the Devil in the Wilderness. How we approach this story determines how we understand it.
 

REFLECT

Are there questions that the "tempter" is asking you that are challenging your faith or trying to undermine your obedience to God? Why is this a powerful message that tempts you? What is the truth that undermines the power of the temptation?

PRACTICE 

There are a number of factors necessary for a growing and mature faith. Teachers, pastors, mentors, counselors, friends and spiritual directors all have a role to play, but unless we discipline ourselves to make the teachings of Jesus our own, we miss a critical part. This week, make space to ask what it is you really believe, consider how it is reflected in the way you live;  the choices you make.

THE BRIDGE

All we read in Matthew’s gospel is that after Jesus was baptized in chapter 3, he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, chapter 4. While we can read the account of Jesus’ temptation in a matter of minutes, we don’t know how long the dialogue between Jesus and Satan was. It also begs another question: how did Matthew and the other gospel writers know this happened? It makes it clear they weren’t at the scene. While we’re left to conjecture, it was likely that Jesus relayed many of his life’s key events to his disciples as they spent time together in typical social settings.

MAP IT

This section of Matthew’s teaching gives three different locations for the three questions Satan tempted Jesus with: wilderness, a mountain, and the Temple.

 

While Matthew doesn’t give us a precise location for the wilderness, last week we learned about John the Baptist’s teaching in the wilderness of Judea, which is here.

 

We also don’t know the precise location of the mountain, but it is attributed to a mountain near Jericho, and a visual of the mountain can be found here.


Finally, we know the Temple was in Jerusalem. See the map of Israel with Jericho and Jerusalem here.

DISCUSS

  • The temptations Jesus faced below are the same for us. What are the ways in which you’ve seen God take care of these needs in your life? What are ways you’re still growing in learning to delay gratification for your long term benefit?

    • How are you going to provide?

    • Who are you going to trust?

    • What are you willing to risk?

 

  • In the text we see Jesus both led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, and angels ministering to him after the temptation. What are your general thoughts about God and his agents at work in both these ways? Does it make you uncomfortable at all? If so, how? What about encouraged?


 

  • Our text last week stated the Jesus was God’s son, in whom God was well-pleased. In light of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are adopted into God’s family, and become children of God, in whom God is well-pleased. Then this week we see Jesus’ nearness to God, being led by the spirit and ministered to by angels. If we are children of God like Jesus was, what is your experience and outlook on having this kind of nearness to God that Jesus shows in this text?

 

  • Jesus gives us a model for receiving supernatural power from God. What does it mean to repent in light of being able to do things we’ve convinced ourselves were impossible?

RESOURCES

  • In this commentary, Jeannine K. Brown makes an interesting correlation between the wilderness experiences of Jesus and Israel.  The Working Preacher podcast also adds depth and insights into this redemptive experience.  

  • How do we follow Jesus in becoming more reliant and obedient?   Be challenged as you read some thoughts from Richard J. Foster.  

 

  • Richard Swanson gives us some thought-provoking commentary on this text in regards to temptation and testing, and the specific ways that Satan wanted to see Jesus fall.

 

BONUS RESOURCE

 

  • As we enter in the new year, this is a very informative interview with Scott McKnight on the “inspiration and innerancy” of our Bible.

LOOKING AHEAD

 

While we didn’t speak on it directly in our previous teaching, after Jesus resisted Satan’s temptation, Matthew tells us He handpicked some of his disciples, and afterward went about teaching, preaching, and healing. His action amassed a following from all over the region, and it is at that time that he begins a hillside teaching often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. And Matthew’s first section of that sermon is frequently titled the “Beatitudes”. And that word means the feeling of great joy or blessedness. Read about it in Matthew 5:1-20.

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of January 27th, 2019

What Reality Looks Like

John Ray

Key Text / Matthew 5:1-20 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

THE SET-UP

The Kingdom of God is the ultimate expression of reality, a reality Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount.
 

REFLECT

In verses 3-12, Jesus essentially redefines what it means to be “blessed” (happy). In what ways would you redefine this in your own life today? Take time to redefine what our culture defines as “cursed” in light of your understanding of the Kingdom. As an example, you might write “Blessed are the elderly, for they don’t have to worry about losing their value.” or “Blessed are the differently-abled, for their worth is not in what they earn”. Can you come up with five?  

PRACTICE 

“Alternative facts” and “fake news” aren’t anything new. We’ve been duped into living a false narrative since the garden and effects have been devastating. So you’d think when Jesus comes along and turns things right side up, clears away all the smoke and shows us what is really real, we’d be all in. But truth is we are often so accustomed to “the way things are” the truth makes no sense, or it scares us. This week, take time to consider if there is any area of your life you are resistant to the reality of the Kingdom changing “the way things are”. Why do you think you are resistant?

THE BRIDGE

After Jesus was tempted by Satan, he recruited four men to join him in preaching his message of repentance. First he picked Simon, called Peter and his brother Andrew, who were fisherman. He told them he would make them fishers of men. Then he chose two others, sons of Zebedee named James and John, also fishermen. From there Matthew tells us Jesus went throughout this region of the east Mediterranean teaching, preaching, and healing. As a result people came from all over to experience these gifts. And so we enter this week’s text with Jesus and his at least four disciples having withdrawn from the crowds on a hillside, where Jesus communicates what we now refer to as the “beatitudes”, a word meaning “supreme blessedness”.

MAP IT

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

DISCUSS

Life apart from the Kingdom is darkness, bondage and death. All of those are the result of living apart from reality.

Life in the Kingdom redefines how we see, understand and experience everything.

To follow Jesus is to boldly bear witness to the reality revealed in the Kingdom.

  • Reflect on ways you experienced something that was not welcome or you were quite sure was not a gift, but turned out to be a blessing. If you’re in a Grace Group, write this down on a card/paper/in your phone in the form of a beatitude, and read aloud to the group.

    • I.e. “I was blessed when I was unemployed, because it gave me compassion for others in the same situation.”

  • In our text this week, Jesus tells us that people in situations that most consider poor circumstances still have as much access to the reality of the kingdom of God as anyone else. What are ways you’ve lived based on what you thought was reality, but turned out to not be the reality of God’s kingdom?

  • Are there parts of scripture, like our text this week or otherwise, that challenge your understanding of what reality is? What parts of scripture, and what assumption(s) of reality do they challenge?

  • What qualities of people that Jesus names in the beatitudes are you most comfortable with? Most uncomfortable? Why?

  • If the types of people listed in the Beatitudes have as much access to the reality of God’s kingdom as anyone else, what assumptions of yours does this challenge? What assumptions of our culture does this challenge?

RESOURCES

BONUS RESOURCE

Dallas Willard on the Beatitudes youtube video teaching

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Jesus and the at least 4 disciples are still on the hillside, and Jesus just keeps talking. And he talks about what humility according to God looks like as it relates to giving, prayer, and spiritual discipline. And he goes on to speak of faith and trust in God and what that looks like in real life practice. Read about it in Matthew 6:1-34, while our text next week will be focused on verses 7-21.

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