GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of July 31, 2016

THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE GOD'S PEOPLE / JOHN RAY

Key Text: Psalm 122 (MSG)

THE SET-UP

We are crazy people called to gather as a peaceful house to bless the world.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

What does it mean to live as God’s people?

What is the big deal about worship?

 

What does it mean to be about peace?

FAMILY FOCUS

This week, start a discussion at home about Sunday’s teaching. You might begin by posing a question: What is worship? What does it mean to be people who have to “wrestle” things out, to at the same time be at peace?

 

GRACE IN 3D

Worshiping God might be your very favorite activity. If it is, that’s awesome. But most of us, if we’re honest, would admit that worship is sometimes not our favorite activity. And sometimes it falls a little bit behind work, or shopping, or sports, or sleeping in, or trolling Facebook, or binging on Netflix, or writing Harry Potter fan fiction, or whatever’s next-to-last on our list of Favorite Things. As apprentices of Jesus Christ, worshiping Him is one of the very most important things we do to grow in our faith and in our relationship with Him. But sometimes we just don’t really want to. What then? How do you get yourself in the frame of mind to worship when you just don’t feel like it?

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • What do you think it means to be part of “God’s people”? What pictures come into your head when you think about that? Is it more about what you think or how you behave? The author of this week’s Psalm tells us that “being Israel” means to be moving toward God, together with God’s people, all the while worshiping. What do you think it means to always be moving toward God? Is it exciting to be moving toward God together with other believers? Why or why not? Is there anything about it that’s difficult? If so, what? Are there things about worship that are exciting? Difficult? Boring?

 

  • What’s the big deal about worship? Is it that God has a big ego, and we worship to make Him feel good about Himself? What’s in it for us? When you worship God, does it help you know what’s important in life? Does it help you want to be closer to God? Does it help you know God better? To think more like God thinks? If so, how?

 

  • Do you treat people differently or make decisions differently when you’re worshiping regularly? As Jesus’ apprentices, we’re promised that we can always have peace. But sometimes life just isn’t very peaceful. Does worship give you peace in spite of whatever’s going on in your life? If so, how would you describe it? Does your peace grow as you get to know God better? Verse 6 says that people who love God will prosper. In Hebrew, the word for “prosper” that’s used here is shalah. Do a little research on it (you could start here or here): How is it different from the way we usually think about prosperity?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

One of the most effective things we can do to spread is to invite people to join in the worship of God. So think about your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers: Who among them could you invite to worship with us at Grace Church?

DEEP CUTS 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Josie Lawson talks about what worship means to a kid on the worship team. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week, we’ll see that serving others begins with being a servant of God. Psalm 123 shows us how it works.

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of July 24, 2016
Who You Gonna Call? - John Ray
00:00 / 00:00
Key Text: Psalm 121 (MSG)

THE SET-UP

We all have to choose who we trust and where we look to find safety. Let’s recognize and commit to the only trustworthy decision.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

Where do you believe your strength comes from?

Is the God of Psalm 121 familiar to you?

 

What happens when it appears that

God is not the guardian we, at times,

desperately want God to be?

 

GRACE IN 3D

Psalm 121 is a fantastic example of the Bible passages we can easily misunderstand and misuse if we don’t dig beneath the surface to find their meaning. Have you ever been either encouraged or discouraged by a passage that held a deeper message than you realized at the time you first read it? How did you come to understand it more clearly? Did a clearer understanding challenge or reinforce what you believed to be true of God? How?

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • We’re hardwired to look upward when we need help. Maybe that’s why mountains, hills and “high places” have always held prominence in our religious imaginations and practices. But the author is clear in verse 2 that help comes “from God, the maker of the high places,” not from the various shrines, cults and altars that are built on them. What are your “high places”? Do you think that, as a church, we have high places — people, beliefs, traditions, circumstances —we’re tempted to look to for strength and salvation, instead of to our very present God? If so, what are they?

 

  • If everything you knew about God was based only on a surface reading of Psalm 121, what would you believe about God? About God’s protection? What would you believe about Christianity? Would it square with what you believe based on experience? If so, how? And if not, what’s the difference? Does the contrast cause you to wrestle with understanding which picture of God is more accurate?

 

  • Have there ever been times you felt like you were outside God’s protection, as if God was too busy to guard you or — worse —forgot all about you? If so, what happened? Did the experience challenge what you believe to be true of God? Does the Bible ever appear to contradict itself? For instance, it seems to promise that suffering is a given (Matthew 10:38 and Philippians 1:29) and that God protects us from suffering (Psalm 32:7 and  2 Thessalonians 3:3). Is it possible to acknowledge our suffering and believe at the same time that God is our Guardian? That God has done, is doing and will do what is promised in Psalm 121? Why or why not?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes, “The only serious mistake we can make when illness comes, when anxiety threatens, when conflict disturbs our relationships with others is to conclude that God has gotten bored looking after us and has shifted his attention to a more exciting Christian, or that God has become disgusted with our meandering obedience and decided to let us fend for ourselves for a while, or that God has gotten too busy fulfilling prophecy in the Middle East to take time now to sort out the complicated mess we have gotten ourselves into. That is the only serious mistake we can make.”


This week, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the things in your life that you’re trusting for peace, protection and security. Pray for conviction to let them go, and a deep desire to place your trust solely in Jesus Christ.

DEEP CUTS 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Martha Lester meets God over a lemon icebox pie. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

LOOKING AHEAD

David — a man after God’s own heart — threw himself into worship with great enthusiasm. Next week, we’ll look at a song he wrote that celebrates worship in Psalm 122.

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of July 17, 2016
Worst Camping Trip Ever - John Ray
00:00 / 00:00
Key Text: Psalm 120 (MSG)

THE SET-UP

Transformational discipleship starts with an honest look at where we are, and a commitment to resist being conformed to the world around us.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

Can we be satisfied in Christ

if we’re satisfied with the world?

What is “repentance” in this context?

 

What are the most destructive lies

we believe about our world?

 

GRACE IN 3D

Do you have favorite travel playlists? Specific songs you love to listen to on particular occasions? Bible scholars disagree about the origin of the Psalms of Ascent, but some think that, in a way, these specific psalms came together like a playlist for the Israelites when they traveled three times every year to attend the feasts in Jerusalem. Think about your spiritual journey: Are there specific verses or passages of Scripture that encourage you at particular times? Songs or hymns that you find yourself humming in particular places?  “Playlists” that you go to when you’re angry, discouraged, in pain, in need of direction? Would you share them with your Grace Group?

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson says, “A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way.” Based on your own experience, do you think he’s right? Have there been times in your life when hard circumstances drove you to apprentice Christ more closely? Do you think it’s possible to be satisfied in Jesus and satisfied with the world, at the same time? To be satisfied in Christ and live in a state of distraction? To pursue discipleship and also immediate gratification? Why or why not?

 

  • What is repentance? Do you think of it as a feeling or a decision? Most of us think about it only in terms of personal failure, but is there more to it? A community aspect? Peterson points out that it is “always and everywhere the first word in the Christian life.” (See how many times you can find it in the New Testament; you could start with Matthew 3:2 and 4:17, Luke 15:10 or Acts 2:38.) In Psalm 120, the writer seems to be waking up to the fact that the world is a mess and is asking God to intervene. Most people would probably say that our world is a hot mess, too. So why doesn’t true repentance come easily? What could we have in this life that’s worth sacrificing our apprenticeship with Jesus?

 

  • What are the most destructive lies we believe about our world? About ourselves? Relationships? God? The Church? How do these lies impact our relationship with Christ? Our priorities? What lies do we need to repent of believing? What is the truth we need to turn to? What do we need to let go of so we can grab hold of God, as individuals and as a community?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

Peterson describes repentance as “a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.” As you meditate on our Scripture this week, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any lies that you’re believing. Pray to have the desire to repent and to become a “pilgrim in the path of peace.”

DEEP CUTS 

  • The writer’s word for “distress” shows up 73 times in the Old Testament. Find the references, and see if you any of these hit home, in “Tsarah,” from Bible Tools.

  • To understand the metaphor for being doomed and cursed, take a look at “Living in Meshech and Kedar,” from Christian Worldview Journal.

  • Smith’s Bible Dictionary has some interesting background on the book of Psalms in context, at Bible Study Tools.

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Ike Peters offers some thoughts about what peace looks like in a hurting world. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

LOOKING AHEAD

So how do we walk that “path of peace”? Not — you’ll be relieved to know — in our own power. Read ahead about God’s providence and protection in Psalm 121.

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of July 10, 2016
A Long Obedience - John Ray
00:00 / 00:00
Key Text: Jeremiah 12:1-5 (MSG)

THE SET-UP


Maturity in Christ — true resurrection living — takes time, perspective and serious commitment. We need songs to help get us there.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

What is our response when we feel pressured

on every side and life seems unfair?

How do we keep a faithful, Biblical

and Spirit-led perspective?

 

What are the things primarily forming

our imagination?

 

GRACE IN 3D

Unless you live under a rock, you can’t escape hearing a lot about the turmoil in our world. When you learn about incidents fueled by hostility, inequality or fear, how do you feel? Do you ever wonder where God is in all of it? How do you filter out the noise of news and social media? Where do you find peace? Perspective? How should the Church respond? Would you share your thoughts with your group this week?

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • If you pay any attention to the news lately, you can quickly feel totally overwhelmed. We would be right in echoing the words of Jeremiah in verses 1-4 of this week’s text. It’s particularly easy to take offense when we feel like we are being faithful and things aren’t going well for us, especially when we look around and see others playing loose and fast with the “rules” and getting well-rewarded for it. It seems such an insult, so unfair. What is your response in these situations? How do you handle it when those who don’t try half as hard get twice as much? What about when your best attempts at making peace or trying to rally people to a good cause are met with apathy, derision or sabotage?

 

  • The response to the questions, honest questions, that are asked in verses 1-4 is unexpected. Instead of words of assurance or comfort, God’s reply is terse and challenging. How does this help us change our perspective? Do you think God is simply saying “shut up and try harder” or is there some deeper, more compassionate implication? How does this response strike you personally, emotionally? What does this say about focusing mostly on our own understanding of a situation compared to seeking to make God’s understanding our main perspective?

 

  • What are the things that are primarily forming our imagination? Unless you live in a cave (and if you did, you certainly wouldn’t be reading this), you are bombarded with information, images and opportunities. It’s relentless. The question becomes not are we going to be influenced by this torrent, but how and by which ones? It may seem impossible to control the flood, but we are called to use discernment, discipline and discretion in response. What are the ways you are intentionally cultivating the things that help you form an “active Gospel imagination”? What are the songs you’re learning and teaching others, the books you are reading and sharing, the movies and shows you are watching and talking about? What are the events and celebrations that form your calendar?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

This week you are going to be inundated with people’s opinions, political posturing and fear-motivated denouncements of “others.” Instead of jumping in the fray and adding to the noise, find ways to sit and listen, really listen, to those most directly affected by what is happening. Offer support, real tangible support, to those who are suffering the most. Find events or groups that allow for a proper and Biblical response of lament, repentance and peace-making.

DEEP CUTS 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Jane Ray talks about how grace helps us find a way through pain. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

LOOKING AHEAD

The first of the Psalms of Ascent offers some timely insight on how anger and grief over the condition of our world can be catalysts for us pursuing a life of peace in Jesus Christ. See what you can find in Psalm 120.

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of July 3, 2016
Running On Empty - John Farthing
00:00 / 00:00
Key Text: Philippians 2:1-11 (NET)

THE SET-UP

Paul instructs the church at Philippi in a great paradox of the Christian faith: Emptying ourselves is the way to fullness of joy. And some 2,000 years later, this teaching also holds true for us.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

What does it take for the church to have

the kind of unity Paul describes?

How do we pour ourselves out,

the way Jesus did?

 

What’s the upside of emptiness?

 

GRACE IN 3D

If you’re accomplished in the art of self-deprivation, then, way to go — because for most of us, it’s a total uphill climb. Especially when it comes to unplugging ourselves when we feel compelled to seek out distractions. In fact, a little practice might be in order. Choose a day this week to try to lean in to the discomfort of being alone with your thoughts. Silence your phone, stay off of social media, put down your earbuds, don’t watch TV or log onto your computer. When you’re jonesing for a connection, see how long you can make yourself sit and listen instead of giving in. What do you hear? What do you observe? How long can you make it? Is it easy or hard? Why? When your Grace Group meets, find out how your experience compares to everyone else’s.

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • Paul’s letter to the Philippians shows us, yet again, that the problems cropping up in the very first churches look a whole lot like the problems that surface in the Church today. In chapter 2, he challenges them to pursue unity: Based only on what you read here, do you think it’s possible for believers to have “encouragement in Christ” and “fellowship in the Spirit,” or koinonia, without it? According to Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Paul describes being “of the same mind” in verse 2 as “‘thinking the one thing,’ like clocks that strike at the same moment. Perfect intellectual telepathy.” Do you think we have that kind of unity in the Church today? At Grace Church? Why or why not? What about verses 3-4? Honestly, is it worth putting our own interests and needs aside in order to cultivate it?

 

  • What do you think it means that Jesus “emptied” Himself? Scripture is pretty clear about the fact that this was His own choice (do a little research, and see if you agree; you could start with Matthew 20:26-28 and 26:39). But that kind of selflessness rubs way against the grain for most of us. Why do you think we’re so driven to do exactly the opposite, to actively fill ourselves up and continually try to meet our own needs first? In a culture plagued with addiction, how do you think that’s working out for us? If Jesus was willing to let go of equality with God in order to pour Himself out for us, what could we possibly have that’s worth holding onto? When we fight so hard to resist emptying ourselves, what do you think it’s costing us in our personal relationship with Christ? What do you think it costs us a church?

 

  • The feelings we often associate with emptiness are fear, anxiety, restlessness and dread. But what about the upside of emptiness? What might Christ fill us with if we weren’t so busy trying to fill ourselves? How might He grow our church, and the Church, if we put our entire selves completely in His hands? Hard as it may be to do that — to change our own inclinations and behavior — by sheer force of will, here’s some good news: We can’t. At least not in a lasting, redemptive way. Read Genesis 1:1 and Psalm 51:10. When David asks God to create a pure heart within him, he’s talking about bara, the very same kind of creating that brought the world into being. Or as Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible explains, “causing something to exist where there was nothing before.” Can we trust God with that kind of change? If we give ourselves over to it, how do you think we might respond differently to the Gospel? What impact could that brand of selflessness have for the Kingdom?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

Is there room right now in your heart and mind for what Christ might want to pour in? If you try to avoid emptiness by filling yourself with anything other than Him, ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of it; to show you how you can empty yourself out, and invite Jesus in. You’ll very likely become aware of opportunities to serve that you might not have noticed before, so commit to respond in whatever way the Holy Spirit prompts you.

DEEP CUTS 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Teresa Cornett considers how God challenges us to grow up in our faith. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

LOOKING AHEAD

Next Sunday we begin an 8-week trek through seven of the Psalms of Ascents, which is kind of like a timeless pilgrim’s playlist. John Ray opens the study with an introduction based on Jeremiah 12:5 — a verse that challenges Jesus’ apprentices to build endurance for the long game.