GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of November 27, 2016

2016 ADVENT GUIDE

THE SET-UP

Christ is our Hope above all other hopes, the true King above all other kings.

 

 

SO, WHAT IS ADVENT? AND WHY DO WE PARTICIPATE IN IT AT GRACE?

Think about the difference between a store-bought strawberry in January and one that’s fresh off the vine in May. There’s simply no comparison. Even in our drive thru-loving world, there are some things we can’t have on demand, 24/7/365. Neither can we live our lives expecting to grow and change, to learn and serve, in a monotonous rhythm of sameness. We need seasonality and variety, regular cyclical emphases as reminders and ways to dwell deeply and practice faithfully.

 

The Christian seasons of Advent and Christmas help us do just this. Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for the following twelve days. Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas that reflects the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. Christians are reminded of how much we also need a Savior as we remember Jesus’ first coming and renew our longing for His next and final coming.

 

“Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” As we set aside and celebrate the season with this name, Christ-mas, we recognize and dwell deeply in both “advents” of Christ: the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come. Advent offers us an opportunity to faithfully embrace the three elements of Christian practices of time: eschatological, which means time is linear and moving in a specific direction with a specific purpose; cyclical (not that history repeats itself, but that as Mark Twain famously said, “it often rhymes”);  and seasonal.

 

As we reorient our expectations and affection, our actions and attitudes about Advent, the hope is to make more room, experience more peace, share more love and celebrate with deeper joy our risen and living Savior!

 

Grace and peace, y’all.

 

 

CALENDAR OF EVENTS

November 27

First Sunday of Advent: Hope

Grace Church worship, 10:15 a.m. @2828

Christ the King Anglican Church worship, 5 p.m. @2828

 

December 4

Second Sunday of Advent: Love

Grace Church worship, 10:15 a.m. @2828

Christ the King Anglican Church worship, 5 p.m. @2828

 

December 11

Third Sunday of Advent: Peace

Grace Church worship, 10:15 a.m. @2828

Christ the King Anglican Church worship, 5 p.m. @2828

 

December 18

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Joy

Grace Church worship, 10:15 a.m. @2828

Christ the King Anglican Church worship, 5 p.m. @2828

 

December 24

Christmas Eve

Christ the King Anglican Church worship, 5 p.m. @2828

December 25

Christmas Day

Grace Church worship, 11 a.m. @2828

 

THERE ARE PRACTICES THAT HELP US REORIENT OUR HEARTS TOWARD CHRIST AND EACH OTHER.

 

Having warm fuzzy feelings and good intentions will never be enough to withstand the onslaught of commercialism, the demands of our circumstances or the weakness of our own flesh as we seek to faithfully follow Jesus and be continually transformed into His image, especially at this time of year. It takes intentional, communal and Holy Spirit-infused practices such as these. Will you commit to make them part of your Advent and Christmas celebrations this year?

  • Repentance  Yeah, I know I sound like the Grinch, but Christmas isn’t only for celebration and revelry; we’ll get to that. It starts, like all legitimate expressions of thanksgiving, worship and celebration, with repentance. With remembering the reason why we need a savior in the first place, the reason why God chose to go to such extraordinary extremes to redeem and reconcile, to fulfill and make manifest His salvation. If we don’t get this, we miss the whole thing. Make time during Advent to sit with the reality of what our lives would be without God, of the mess we have made of this world that God yet redeems.

 

  • Rest  If suggesting repentance makes me sound like a Grinch, suggesting rest risks making me sound like a lunatic. Many things about this season may demand significant time and emotional energy, but we don’t do ourselves or anyone else any good by burning out. So practice your daily disciplines, your Sabbath rhythms. Resist the cultural call to Do More! Buy More! Go More! Fight back with purposeful times of rest. Imagine getting to the end of advent refreshed and recharged. 

  • Worship and Celebration  Two things go along with repentance and rest to help accomplish the goal of experiencing a life-giving Advent season: worship and celebration. If we are not intentional about making these the “reasons for the season,” we will spend much more time in the mall, shopping online or worrying over decorations and driving than actually worshipping the One who came and celebrating what His coming means. Make these times a priority, or something else will take their place.

  • Giving and Receiving  While this may seem contrary to everything written above, giving and receiving gifts can be profoundly spiritual acts when done in the right spirit. Giving helps us express appreciation and reflect on what others mean to us and how grateful we are for them. Humbly receiving reflects our need for others and helps make room for grace, so give and receive with humility, thoughtfulness and grace as part of your Advent practice.

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP: ADVENT EDITION

Listen

Reflect

Respond

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Norma Farthing shares some thoughts about hope, the best of things. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Our repentance makes way for an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That’s a pretty awesome trade-off. Read about it in Joel 2:12-13 and 28-29 (NET).

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of November 20, 2016
Key Text: Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-28; 31:29-34 (NET)

THE SET-UP

God is relentless in His effort to transform our hearts. We can either burn His word or let His words burn within us.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

What does it mean that

God’s love for us is relentless?

Why is it necessary for us to

sometimes wrestle with God?

 

How do we live into the responsibility

and possibility of that tension?

 

 

GRACE IN 3D

In our text this week, King Jehoiakim seems to think he can destroy God’s word just by burning up the scroll it was written on. That sounds pretty stupid. Except don’t we sometimes do kind of the same thing? What are some of the ways we try to water down or ignore God’s word, especially when it says something we wish it didn’t say? Have there been times when you personally disrespected or disregarded Scripture as it applied to something you were wrestling with? Something God was calling you to? Would you be willing to share your thoughts with your Grace Group?

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • For weeks now, we have read story after story of God’s repeated reaching out to us, seeking to regather, lead us, heal us and love us. God is relentlessly creative (arks, bushes that burn but don’t, stone tablets, angels with hot coals …) and yet maddeningly redundant in His love for us. Is this the basis for your relationship with God? Do you still try and work for instead of from God’s love?

 

  • But living with this near constant wrestling is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it is inherent in our name as “Israel”; ones who wrestle with God. Each of us will have to wrestle to know this love in a personal way. It is essential we don’t give up. Take a minute and make a list of the good things that have come in your life though “wrestling” or testing. While we all want it to be easy, the easy way rarely gives us good things. Do you think this is true? Why? 

  • There is a difference between stress and tension. Stress is essential in immediate emergency situations but deadly when experienced in the long term. A certain degree of tension, however, is necessary for us to grow and change, develop and learn. What are the ways you are embracing the tension while avoiding the stress? What practices are you adopting that facilitate growth and change, the ability to stay rooted during storms?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

As you reflect this week on our text, think about what true heart change would mean for you. If the Word of God is written on your heart, what are some specific ways you’ll live differently as a result of that truth?

 

DEEP CUTS 

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: John Ray reminds us that in the beginning — our beginning — it was good. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Whoever started the ugly rumor that if you obey God faithfully your life will be free of trouble, it certainly wasn’t the prophet Daniel. Read about what was possibly the longest and most dramatic night of his life in Daniel 6:6-27.

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of November 13, 2016

THE SET-UP

God is our Creator and sovereign Lord.  He certainly does not need us to fulfill his purposes in this broken world, and yet he calls us both collectively and individually to do just that.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

What does it mean to “encounter” God?

How are we changed when we do?

 

How should we respond to God, as a result?

 

 

GRACE IN 3D

When you think of the kind of person God would want to answer a call to serve, what picture comes to your head? Someone who’s Einstein-smart? Super-hero brave? Has tons of money? Doesn’t make mistakes? How bout this: Does the picture look at all like you? Would you be quick to say, “Send me”? Why or why not? Be prepared to share your thoughts with your Grace Group.

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • The scene Isaiah witnesses in verses 1-4 might cause us to think that God is a little bit in love with theatrics. No doubt here that Isaiah is square in the full-on presence of God. Do you think God reveals himself this way today? Why or why not? Can you know you’re in God’s presence if there’s no throne or XXXXXXL-size robe or smoke or bellowing angels? How? Does it make a difference whether or not we expect to encounter God? Why or why not? What do you find to be awe-inspiring about God?

 

  • Is it possible to come face-to-face with God and not be changed? How does this kind of revelation shape our understanding of God? Of others? Notice that Isaiah’s condition has nothing at all to do with whether or not he’s strong, smart, brave or eloquent; he’s unclean because he’s a sinner. And God doesn’t point out that Isaiah is unclean — there’s no need. Isaiah sees it himself, in light of this profound revelation of God: It’s a matter of who he is, not what he can do or what he has to offer. Does encountering God cause you to see or understand yourself differently? If so, how?

  • What are some specific things this passages tells you about God? Based on what you know to be true about Him, how do you respond when He calls you? Does this Old Testament God look to you like the New Testament Jesus? Why or why not? In verse 8, Isaiah answers God’s call. But the text doesn’t say that the call was necessarily addressed to Isaiah. Do we always get a personal, individual calling from God? Are we called every time to something big and brand new? Can you name some things we’re all called to, all the time? Are there any you especially struggle with? If so, what are they

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

As you meditate on our text this week, ask for an encounter that will give you a fresh understanding of God’s holiness. What is God calling you to right now? What are some specific ways you’ll respond to that calling?

 

DEEP CUTS 

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: John Ray reminds us that in the beginning — our beginning — it was good. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

God speaks, Jeremiah takes notes and a new covenant is born. Read about it in Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-28, then follow with 31:31-34.

Grace Church Teaching Guide / Week of November 6, 2016
Key Text: Jonah 1:1-17; 3:1-4:4 (NET)

THE SET-UP

The mercy of God knows no boundaries, but obedience to God sometimes overwhelms us.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

How are we to more deeply understand

the boundless mercy of God?

What does it mean to be humble

in our obedience to God?

 

How are Jonah and Jesus connected?

 

 

GRACE IN 3D

How would you define justice? How does your idea square with what Scripture teaches us about God’s definition of justice? Do you ever wish you could talk God into acting according to what you think is just, and do you ever get mad because you can’t? Give some thought to these questions, and be prepared to share with your Grace Group.

 

THE HEAD AND THE HEART

 

  • Most Americans live lives of incredible privilege, of truly historic wealth. While many of us would probably say this doesn’t feel like our individual experience, as a culture we can’t deny it’s our reality. And with this wealth and privilege comes the significant temptation to think we somehow deserve it because we are better, special; that God prefers us over others. This lie reduces God to a tribal deity who serves our national, cultural and personal interests; who very much shows us beaucoup favor while showering wrath on our enemies or showing them favor just to teach us a lesson or make us jealous. The profound and instructive story of Jonah shatters our preferential posturing and shows us God’s mercy is limitless, that God is the God of every nation and loves all people and creation without bounds. Even as much as he loves us. Does this understanding challenge or offend you? Why? How does a deeper understanding of this change the way you define and think of “others”?

 

  • Two very common mistakes are often made when it comes to discerning God’s will: assuming that if it’s of God, it’s always going to be super easy — all the doors will swing open and we’ll effortlessly accomplish whatever it is we feel God leading us to do; or that if God asks it, it’ll always be totally the opposite of what we’d choose and about as much fun as eating cold mashed peas. While both of these assumptions are to be rejected, we do have to recognize we obey God because of who God is, not primarily because we agree, or like it, or understand. And because we’re human and live in a messed up world, opportunities for obedience will often be profoundly uncomfortable and come at significant cost. So how do we keep this at the forefront of our responses to God? How do we live in such a way that says “yes” to God, regardless of how it makes us feel or what it costs us?

  • How are Jonah and Jesus connected? This is kind of an extra-credit question. The parallels between Jonah’s story and the life of Jesus are quite numerous. In some ways they are identical; other ways offer stark contrast to similar situations. How many can you find? Where do they match up? Where are they contrasted? How does a better understanding of Jonah’s story help you have a better understanding of Jesus?

 

 

THE OPPORTUNITY

 

As you reflect this week on our text, think about your own obstacles to obedience. Claim the promise in Philippians 2:12-13; when you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to give you clear understanding and boldness to obey, whenever God offers you an opportunity.

 

DEEP CUTS 

 

 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: John Ray reminds us that in the beginning — our beginning — it was good. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

If you’re abiding with God, you’re called to serve. How will you respond? Something to think about as you read our text for next week, Isaiah 6:1-8.