GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of May 29, 2016

"CHURCH" IS A VERB / JOHN RAY

Key Text: Ephesians 1:3-14 (NET)

THE SET-UP
 

Church, as Eugene Peterson says, is not what we do; it’s what God does, and we get to participate in it. A letter written in the first century to Jesus’ followers at Ephesus shows us how.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

Why did Paul write to Jesus’ followers in Ephesus?

How is God at work in the Church?

 

What does that mean for us?

 

 

 

GRACE IN 3D


As we read through letters written to the first churches, it’s easy to see that they had their share of confusion, dysfunction and trouble. Every letter addresses specific problems in these faith communities, except for Ephesians; instead, it gives us a big-picture view of how God is at work in the Church throughout time. So imagine that Peter, Paul or Timothy were writing to Grace Church: What do you think they’d say to us, specifically? Would we be encouraged? Corrected? How? What do you think they’d want to teach or remind us about God’s heart for the Church and how He works in it?

 

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • Ephesians is the only New Testament letter not written in an attempt to fix something that had gone off the rails in the first-century Church. This week, our focus is on the first few verses. But take a minute to read Ephesians in one sitting. Surely the church at Ephesus had issues. Based only on the text, what do you see in this letter that’s more valuable or important than one-on-one problem-solving? Remember, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul was figuring all of this out himself. Do you think the letter was provocative? In your own words, how would you summarize Paul’s message?

 

  • In his book Practicing Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ, Eugene Peterson says that Ephesians gives us “an accurate account of what God is doing and the way the Spirit is working at the heart of every congregation. As such, it is a great gift of revelation.” Let’s focus on seven action words and phrases in our text: “blessed is God … who has blessed us,” “chose,” “predestining,” “bestowed,” “lavished,” “revealed” and “head up.” Taken together, what do they reveal about God’s activity? What do you think the result of His activity is intended to be?

 

  • What does any of this action have to do with the Church? Does it tell you anything about the Church’s purpose? The main action words and phrases in the passage refer to God’s work; they’re not up to us. So what is our part? Do you think it’s easy to see evidence of God at work in the Church today? In Grace Church, specifically? Why or why not?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

Peterson also writes in Practicing Resurrection, “(A)longside this staggering revelation that God is actively involved within and overall … we are told in no uncertain terms that each of us is generously included in every aspect (all seven verbs!) of God’s activity. Not a single verb leaves us outside the action. We are not spectators to a grand cosmic show. We are in the show. But we are not running it. All the conditions that make it possible for us to grow up to maturity, to the stature of Jesus Christ, are in place, even from ‘before the foundation of the world.’ … God in Christ is actively doing for and in us everything involved in the practice of resurrection. So what is there left for us to do? Receive.”


You’re the direct beneficiary of all that God is up to in the Church. Are you receiving what He offers you? How, specifically, are you living differently as a result?

 

 

DEEP CUTS

Dig in to learn more about Ephesus and the culture that shaped the church there.

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

 

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Change is brewing in the Church, and John Ray has some thoughts about how we can respond. Read it! Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week, our friend and guest teacher Ron Harris of A Level Up will give us a look at what might have been Paul’s very first letter: a powerful and transparent testimony found in the book of Galatians.​

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of May 22, 2016

 

Key Text: Colossians 2:1-23 (NIV)

 

 

 

THE SET-UP


To work out their faith in Jesus Christ, first-century Colossians had to resist being distracted by sacred traditions, cultural expectations, popular philosophies and judgmental voices. Twenty-first century believers can relate. So, good thing Paul offered the church at Colossae some timeless truth to combat deception.

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

What, besides Jesus, do we really need?

How do we tell the difference

between God’s wisdom and man’s?

 

Why does it matter whether or not we’re “united in love”?

 

 

 

GRACE IN 3D


It’s exciting to live in a culture where information is so easily and readily available. It’s also overwhelming, and sometimes anxiety-inducing. For the next few days, pay close attention to the voices that are speaking into your life: friends, family, co-workers, bloggers, pundits, religious leaders, authors, celebrities, self-help gurus. Keep track of what you watch, read and listen to: TV, internet, social media, books, magazines, podcasts, e-newsletters. Make some notes. How much of what you take in reinforces the truth of God’s love? How many voices do you hear that contradict it? That contradict each other? Which do you pay attention to most? Where are you most influenced in your spiritual life? Why?

 

 

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • Based on Paul’s greeting to the Colossian church, the believers there understand, accept and walk in the truth of the Gospel. So they’re off to a good start. But they’re being distracted by deceptive voices and practices, and Paul is really torn up about that; he seems especially concerned about the influence of gnosticism. When he says he’s struggling for the Colossians, he uses a form of the word agon; same root as “agony.” That’s a pretty intense feeling to have on behalf of people he’s never met in a city he’s never visited. Sounds like the stakes are high. What does that mean for us? We say that Jesus is everything. Period. But do we always live that? How does our culture influence us to accept a “Jesus and …” approach to faith? Are there ideas, practices or traditions we hold onto that don’t have anything at all to do with Jesus Christ? If so, what?

  • Jesus never, ever got tired of inviting people to the table, either physically or metaphorically. Because of His example, our communion table at Grace Church is inclusive, open to everyone. But do you think there are also things we do that make the Church seem exclusive? If so, what are they, and why do you think we do them? Are they our ideas, or God’s? On the other hand, are there times when we’re justified, out of reverence, in setting guidelines for participation? Times when inclusion comes at the expense of the Gospel? Again — our ideas, or God’s? How do we know the difference?

  • Throughout his 14 letters, Paul mentions agape nearly 90 times. Interesting transition for a guy whose favorite pastime used to be helping to execute Christians. The phrase he chooses here — “knit together” in love — comes from a Greek word for boarding a ship; “to grasp a truth by intertwining ideas needed to ‘get on board,’” according to Helps Word-Studies. Paul’s telling us that being united in true, solid Christian love and friendship is the way to fully understand who Jesus is and who we are in Him. He’s talking about community. Based only on what Scripture tells you, is it possible to fully grasp and be transformed by the love of Christ outside of community? Without the love and support of other believers? How does that line up with your experience? The church at Laodicea from verse 1 pops up again in Revelation 3:14-18; how do you think agape, or a lack of it, factored into their fate?

 

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

If you were to unplug from some of the noise competing for your attention, what difference would it make? Why don’t you try it, and see what happens? Look over the notes you made during our “3D” experiment, and identify the voices that contradict what you know to be true about your identity in Christ, and about His sufficiency. Just for this week, commit to giving up the time you’d usually invest in those outlets and replace it with quiet time with God, listening and praying. Write down any changes that come about in your mind and heart as a result. What will you keep listening to? What will you stop listening to? Is there anything you’ll add? If so, what?

 

 

 

DEEP CUTS

Dig in to learn more about Colossae and the culture that shaped the church there.

 

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

 

Now on the Grace Church blog: Paul teaches that grace is opposed to earning, but not effort. Read it! Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

From beginning to end, Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus is a crash course in understanding and training our focus on God’s glory. Get a jump on next week’s message by reading Ephesians.

Smooth Rhetoric and the New Moon - Chris Lawson
00:00 / 00:00
Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of May 15, 2016
Pentecost Sunday - AJ Swoboda
00:00 / 00:00

THE SET-UP

 

The first churches received the Holy Spirit when it came at Pentecost, and they were empowered. Two thousand years later, it empowers us, too. How can we live differently as a result?

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

What happened at Pentecost?

 

What’s the purpose of the Holy Spirit?

 

What difference should it make

in the way we walk out the Kingdom?

 

 

 

GRACE IN 3D

 

Remember a few weeks ago when we began our series on the first churches? We talked about how we seem to have a pretty clear understanding of God the Father and God the Son, but we’re a bit fuzzy on God the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is pretty much the star of Pentecost, let’s revisit that conversation: Have you ever had misconceptions about the Holy Spirit because of what you’ve heard or been taught in church? If so, what were they? How were they resolved? Do you understand the Holy Spirit differently at all based only on what we’ve read about the churches at Thessalonica and Corinth? If so, how? Would you share your thoughts with your Grace Group?

 

 

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • Eugene Peterson writes in Practice Resurrection, "God gave us the miracle of the congregation the same way he gave us the miracle of Jesus, by the Descent of the Dove. The Holy Spirit descended into the womb of Mary in the Galilean village of Nazareth. Thirty years later the same Holy Spirit descended into the collective spiritual womb of men and women, which included Mary, who had been followers of Jesus. It happened as they were at worship on the Jewish feast of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. The first conception gave us Jesus; the second conception gave us Church." How does the parallel understanding of Jesus’ birth and the birth of the Church affect your understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit?

 

  • We live in an age of amazing technology and scientifically-facilitated progress. We have libraries full of books about God, and the testimony of two thousand years of the Church. We have seminars, programs and studies galore. It’s easy to assume that we have less need of the Holy Spirit than previous generations did. Think about how we believers operate, as individuals and as a church: What does that tell you about our relationship with the Holy Spirit? Why?

 

  • So, we have the Holy Spirit — what difference should that make in the way we walk out the Kingdom? Probably few of us would say we don’t need the Holy Spirit in order for God’s will and work to be accomplished through us. But do we really live in a way that demonstrates our need? What does it mean to depend on the Holy Spirit to work in us, among us and through us? What happens when we ignore, sideline or overrule the Spirit?  

 

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

It’s much easier to say we need to depend more on the Holy Spirit than to actually do it. There’s no magic pill or fast fix for this: It takes time, discipline and endurance. In fact, it might seem the opposite of anything “spiritual.” It may feel isolating and a lot like work. But we all have to start somewhere. Pentecost gives us a perfect place to be more intentional about the disciplines and practices, attitudes and opportunities that cultivate our awareness and welcoming of the Holy Spirit. So this week, find ways to make each of these — disciplines, practices, attitudes and opportunities — a part of your regular routine.

 

 

 

DEEP CUTS

 

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

 

Now on the Grace Church blog: J. Ray reviews the latest book from his friend and seminary professor, A.J. Swoboda, in a post titled “The Dusty Ones.” Read it! Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

 

If there was any doubt in Colossae about who Jesus was and how his followers should live, Paul cleared it right on up for them. Next Sunday, we’ll see what he had to say to the believers there; for a preview, read through all four chapters of Colossians.​

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of May 8, 2016
Practice Resurrrection - John Ray
00:00 / 00:00
Key Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 56-58 (NET)

THE SET-UP


What we believe about the “hereafter” affects everything about the “here and now.” We have to constantly “practice” resurrection to fully be formed by it.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

What does Jesus’ resurrection mean to the Gospel message?

Why is it sometimes hard for us to understand,

embrace and practice resurrection?

 

How do we develop an active Gospel imagination for

resurrection and the practices that nurture it?

 

 

 

GRACE IN 3D

 

If you were to share the Gospel in thirty seconds or less, what would you say? How do you decide what’s most important to include? Write down your thoughts, and notice the particular parts of the story you emphasize. Would you pay closer attention to Jesus’ crucifixion, or resurrection? Be prepared to share your thoughts with your group.

 

 

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • Paul makes it clear that we need to to embrace the resurrection as central to the Gospel. In fact, he’s emphatic that if there was no resurrection, the message he preaches is a lie and our faith is useless. Do you agree? If it’s true, do you think we give it enough emphasis? Is it central to your own understanding of the Gospel? Do you believe it’s an essential piece of the story to include when you the Good News? Why or why not?

 

  • In our culture, we’re terrified to think of someone coming back after they’ve died (thank you, Walking Dead). Paul obviously thinks differently and deeply about resurrection. And while we might say we understand and believe in the idea of heaven, most of us would be hard-pressed to accurately describe what we think about it. Why? What are the things that keep us from believing in, or even thinking about, resurrected life?

 

  • Even when we can name the things that keep us from fully practicing resurrection, sometimes we still struggle to develop an active Gospel imagination about it, and to grow in our ability to walk it out. So how do we move forward? What are the specific, tangible practices you’re going to incorporate in your life to see this reality flourish?  

 

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

Give some thought this week to how your relationship with Jesus is defined by His life, His crucifixion and His resurrection. Be specific. Read verses 20-22 again: Can you embrace the truth of what Paul says here, that you’ve been made alive in Christ? What are some ways you’ll walk out the Kingdom differently as a result?

 

 

 

DEEP CUTS

 

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

 

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org, J. Ray reviews the latest book from his friend and seminary professor, A.J. Swoboda, titled “The Dusty Ones.” Read it! Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it! By the way — guess who’s speaking at Grace Church next Sunday ...

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

 

A.J. Swododa! He’ll lead us in a look at the miracle that occurred at Pentecost; you can read up on it in Acts 2:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-3. And remember: Pentecost Par-tay at 2828, next Sunday, May 15, at 6 p.m.!​

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of May 1, 2016
A More Excellent Way - Lucien-Nahum Isaac
00:00 / 00:00
Key Text: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 (NET)

THE SET-UP

The unifying love of Jesus Christ will overcome anything that threatens to divide His church.

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

For disciples of Jesus Christ, is love a behavior or an identity?

Without the Holy Spirit, is it possible for us to love as Jesus would?

 

How does love create unity in the Church?

 

 

 

GRACE IN 3D

 

In our culture, we use one word — love — to describe so many different kinds of feelings. Obviously, we don’t “love” Twinkies or Star Wars the way we love our siblings or our spouse or our children. So how many different ways can you think of that we use the word “love”? Do you understand love differently now than you did when you were, say, five years old? How? Would you share your thoughts with your group?

 

 

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • In our text this week, Paul defines love by using words that are experiential, like “patient,” “kind” and “rejoices in truth.” Does this sound to you like a to-do list? A checklist of behaviors that shows whether or not you measure up to God’s standard? Based only on Scripture, consider what you know to be true about who you are in Christ (you could start with Romans 6:6, 1 Corinthians 6:17 or Colossians 2:9-10). Do you read our text differently if you think of love as your identity in Him instead of behavior you’re supposed to live up to? If so, how?

 

  • Is it even possible for us to love each other this way on our own? What are the potential pitfalls when we try? Think back to the very earliest lessons about love that you learned as a child: How do they inform your belief today? And how do these stories compare to the new story that Christ has given you? Read Philippians 2:12-13; how do we recognize when we’re operating in the Holy Spirit’s power as opposed to our own? If we’re to be instruments of Christ’s love, how do we go about making ourselves available to Him?

 

  • In some respects, church families are very much like the families we’re born into. Look back at our text from last week, Acts 18:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Based on what you read, as well as on your own experience, name three or four specific ways we cause division in the Church — by either the things we do, or things we neglect to do. How, specifically, is unity fostered when we love each other as Jesus does? What’s our incentive to love that way when it seems too difficult? When it doesn’t feel good? When it seems there’s nothing tangible in it for us? When we just don’t want to?  

 

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

If you feel like you’re on your own or under obligation to demonstrate Christ’s love, pray this week for a clearer understanding of the power available to you through the Holy Spirit. Ask for the grace to lean into it and grow in it every day, and to be an instrument of the peace and love of Jesus Christ in every facet of your life.

 

 

 

DEEP CUTS

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Paul lays out a clear explanation of what Jesus’ resurrection means for us. Find it in our text next week, 1 Corinthians 15:1-26 and 51-58.