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Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of June 2nd, 2019

One Heart, One Mind

Amy Buff & Ryan Jackson

key text / Act 4: 1-37  (The Message)


For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


When it came to giving as God’s people, how did things operate in the past? In each example, why are the people instructed to give?   

Dig in on your own to find more scripture that addresses what God wants from us, and what and how we should respond.  



Again, we find ourselves in Jerusalem for this week’s text. As stated previously, Jerusalem was (and still is) the cultural epicenter of Jewish life due to its history, primarily as the place where Solomon built the first Temple.


Within the first view verses in Acts, we saw that Jesus promised the disciples they would carry His message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all over the world. This section of Acts is the chronicle of the disciples taking the message to the city they’re in, Jerusalem. Take 5-10 minutes and research why Jerusalem is such an important city


When the Holy Spirit gets ahold of people and people choose to respond in obedience, harmony results.


Us asking Acts: What was it like to have such harmony?


Acts asking us: What keeps y’all from having it as well?



  • There have been a few times in the life of Grace Church when we were bound by an immediate, common purpose.  In those times, there was a palpable unity of direction in which many in our body were bound together and gave of our resources.  In this week’s commentary from Luther Seminary, Troy Troftgruben gives literary context and ideas for direction based on the gospel.  

  • What fueled the new believers’ unity?  Read more here about the new life and grace that might be found as we lean in together.

  • If the scripture about selling everything and donating it to the church makes you a little sweaty, read here for the perspective of David Jones, who notes that instead of focusing on economic equality, we should focus on biblical justice.  

  • Are you ever in a tough spot in which the law and your faith collide? Read here about a man whose acts of compassion have led to potential jail time.  

  • See the weekly Spotify playlist and commentary here



Next week, we learn of a couple’s fate who said they gave all the proceeds from a sale to the church, when in fact they held some money back for themselves. And then see the church continue to grow, and some of the disciples arrested and put in jail for speaking of Jesus. Read about it in Acts 5:1-42

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of June 9th, 2019

Are You Serious?

John Ray

key text / Act 5: 1-42  (The Message)


For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


God’s work through, in and among God’s Church is serious business.


Jesus has told his followers they will take His message to the whole world, but first to their city and region. But even before that, they must wait in Jerusalem until they have an experience with the Holy Spirit. And that experience happens at their Pentecost celebration, and they start to speak in languages they do not know but that are intelligible to witnesses.


Some of those witnesses say they must be drunk, but Peter takes the opportunity to proclaim the news of Christ crucified for the errors of man, but raised from the grave in proof that he is deity. And after this Holy Spirit experience, many join their fledgling movement of Christ-followers, and the group is unified and physical and spiritual needs are being met.


Peter and John then go into the Temple one afternoon and heal 38 year old beggar who had never walked. Peter uses this opportunity to again preach repentance in the name of Jesus.


Peter and John then get arrested for this act, as the Jewish leaders seek to put an end to this message. But Peter and John make clear they can’t deny what they’ve witnessed as friends of Jesus, and have no intention to not continue to spread his name. And again, this brings unity and abundance to this group, as additional people join the movement.


We are still in Jerusalem! As has been noted previously, Jesus told his disciples they would spread his message to Jerusalem, the epicenter of Jewish culture, before they spread it to the rest of the world.

Read why this city has so much history and controversy here from British newspaper The Guardian.


Us Asking Acts /  Did the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira seem too extreme?

Acts Asking Us /  How seriously do we take our own posture towards the Church?



  • Matthew 16:18 says, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Jack Wellman reflects on this ultimate power of Jesus and the church as he gives insight into this week’s scripture.  

  • Do you ever hear people pining for the “church like Acts?”  In this article, Brian Zahnd pops our fantasy bubble with a real look at a church made up of people with people problems!

  • Post-pentecostal ruminations by Debi Thomas


  • How do we understand God’s wrath and love?  Read more here for thoughts and research from Brad Jersak.  

  • Read this blogpost on Desiring God for some inspiration in keeping the momentum in the message of the church. 

  • Listen to this week’s spotify playlist by Amy Buff


Next week, we see something very common to groups and organizations of any size and across any culture: one subgroup that feels mistreated and unfavored. And we get to see what the response is. Read about it in Acts 6:1-7 





Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of June 16th, 2019

The Hardest People to Get Along With

John Ray

key text / Act 6: 1-7  (The Message)


For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


The Gospel heals the deepest of our divisions or what good is it?


Jesus has commissioned his disciples to spread his message. First they replace their twelfth disciple, Judas. Then they have an experience with the Holy Spirit as Jesus said they would, which happens during Pentecost celebration. The Jesus people are unified and meeting needs within their community.


They preach the message and do miracles, to the resistance to the Jewish religious leaders, and are put in jail for such things. But they refuse to stop.


Then a couple tells the church they have sold land and given the proceeds to the church, but they hold some money back, and when they are called on the carpet, they fall dead.


But the issue that is presented this week can be traced back to the time between the Old and New Testament, the 430 year period preceding Jesus that scripture doesn’t speak to. In the decades following Israel leaving exile and resettling Jerusalem, Alexander the Great conquers the known world. But he dies at 33 and his generals take over, and Greek culture, Hellenization, spreads throughout the entire region. And while Rome conquered Greece in the decades ahead of Jesus’ birth, Greek culture remains.


And then an evil, Greek Anti-Semite named Antiochus Epiphanes rules the much territory, including Jerusalem, and he outlaws much Jewish cultural and religious practices. At one point, he spread pig guts over the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple. And yet, because of Hellenization, there are Greek-speaking and Greek-influenced Jews. And some Jews revolted, successfully, to maintain their Jewish practice. And so by the time Jesus is born, you have the Jews who resisted Hellenization, who view themselves as the pure Jews, and Hellenized Jews, who in large part are Hellenized because that’s how they stayed alive since it was outlawed to practice Judaism.


So we enter this text experiencing the tension between the mainline Jews and the Hellenized Jews.


The Disciples are all still in Jerusalem.


Us asking Acts / “Why was it so difficult to get along?” “How did you get over it?”

Acts asking Us /  Where are hard feelings developing in our community? How would an active Gospel imagination change that?



  • Check out this nifty interactive resource. Type in the name of one of the men in this passage for a background on his life (as the Orthodox say, his sainthood). Histories are an important part of our ecumenical life and journey.

  • Three main things that we need to recognize in this week’s text from Eric Baretto at Working Preacher.

  • Matt Slick with CARM breaks down these seven verses one by one succinctly. Through discipleship, he notes, we expand the kingdom of God for His glory. Each of us has unique ways and means to carry on this ministry, just like the men in the story.

  • Engaging with and listening to differing biblical viewpoints makes a congregation strong, argues Jason Wellman in his reflection of Dr. Daniel Hawk’s book on canonical narratives. The way forward with one another, the way to allowing God to work through scripture, is through humility and dialogue.

  • Listen to this week’s spotify playlist by Amy Buff


Donny Epp leads us through the story of Stephen in Acts 6:8-7:60, the first martyr of the Church.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of June 23rd, 2019

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Donny Epp

key text / Act 6:8 - 7:60  (The Message)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


The stories we tell ourselves define our reality. What stories are we believing?


Let’s recap:

  • Jesus commissions His disciples to spread the gospel message

  • The disciples return to Jerusalem and replace Judas

  • Pentecost: The disciples receive the Holy Spirit

  • The early church picks up steam as the disciples teach and do miracles

  • Peter and John face questions and pressure from the Sanhedrin

  • Ananias and Sapphira drop dead after misrepresenting their church donations


Last week, we hit a critical inflection point in the history of the church. There is conflict inside this nascent church community where the “Hellenists”, Greek-speaking Jews are discriminated against in the distribution of food. The apostles make a radical decision to appoint the church’s first deacons exclusively from this Hellenist group.


One of these Greek-speaking proto-deacons, Stephen, is uniquely described in scripture as “a man full of grace and power”. In addition to his assigned role in food rationing duties as a part of the church’s outreach, Stephen begins to engage the local synagogue in gospel discourse. This week, we look at the final teaching of Stephen, which ultimately results in his death, marking him as the first Christian martyr. It will mark the beginning of the persecution of the early church and their subsequent scattering.


Although we are still in Jerusalem with this text, the first part of the actions shifts away from the Temple and Solomon’s Portico to the “Synagogue of the Freedmen”. You can read more about that here.


Acts Asking Us

  • What are you assuming is true about your story? What are our sacred cows?

  • In what ways have you white-washed your heritage to support your moral superiority?

  • Are you missing the deliverer because it doesn’t fit your construct?


Us Asking Acts

  • How do we know our suffering is productive?

  • Why is Stephen okay?




Next week we take time to hear how Acts is playing out among us as a community.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of June 30th, 2019

Can I Get a Witness?

Ryan Jackson

key text / Acts 1-7  (The Message)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


What Happens When the Holy Spirit Shows Up? Summer testimonies bring Acts to life.



At the beginning of the story of Acts, Jesus gives his disciples the prophetic word that the Holy Spirit will come on them, and when that happens, they will be His witnesses locally in Jerusalem, then regionally in Judea and Samaria, and then to the world. And then Jesus leaves. But his words come to fruition, and his disciples have their experience with the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem while celebrating one of their annual holidays. 


Bystanders question their experience with the Holy Spirit, and Peter uses this as an opportunity to spread the message that Jesus exists to reconcile people who have made mistakes to God. And that began the disciples’ witness in Jerusalem. And during this period of witness in Jerusalem, scripture tells us that people’s needs are being met in the community based on Christ, there is harmony among believers, and that people are joining this community in droves. 


While in Jerusalem, they spread their witness through healing sick, and having to make accounts to leaders and lay people for why they are doing what they are doing. They also have to wrestle through conflict in their body stemming from deception and ethnic tradition. 


And this grabs the attention of the people in power who are used to being able to control and maintain a certain way of life. And these people in power don’t like what they can’t control. And that culminates in the murder of one of the leaders of the Christ-based community. And this murder will markedly end the witness in Jerusalem, and take the Christ-followers to the broader region, where we will pick up next week.


In Acts 1, Jesus told his disciples that when the Holy Spirit came on them, they would spread his message in Jerusalem (where they were), Judea (the broader region), Samaria (where they despised the people), and the ends of the earth. Chapters 1-7 then show us the disciples as witnesses in in Jerusalem. 

As we move to chapter 8 next week, we see persecution take the disciples and their message to Judea. See a map of Judea here, noting the towns of the region and adjacent bodies of water. Stay tuned next week for more relevant information about this region.




As we read of the beginning of the first of the violent persecution with the stoning of Stephen, as you can imagine many Christ followers decided that Jerusalem was no longer a safe place to practice their faith. And so as the gospel has taken root in Jerusalem, this persecution will lead the disciples outward, to the surrounding region of Judea. This is as Jesus said it would be in his final words that we read in Acts 1. Read about the Christians leaving Jerusalem and the Spirit continuing its work in Acts 8:1-40

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