GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of November 4th, 2018

Surprising Saints

John Ray

Key Text / 2 Kings 5 : 1-15 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

THE SET-UP

“Sainthood” is not comprised of flashy miracles, but humble obedience and selfless concern for others. 

 

REFLECT

This week’s text takes on some essential things central of faithful following of Jesus; being willing to humbly serve, giving up any thought of bargaining/buying things from God and letting God “set the rules” of what it means to be obedient. Not very sexy, but essential. As you read the text, meditate on who the “heroes” in the story really are. What’s their situation? Then consider those with “power”, what are their hang ups and blind spots? What does this say to your attitude and approach to your own situation?  

PRACTICE 

When we think of “spiritual disciplines” what comes to mind? Fasting? Prayer? Giving time and money? Sure, those are central, but what about driving carpool? Cleaning bathrooms? Mowing the lawn? Paul exhorts us “whatever you do, do it to the glory of God”. This week, when you encounter something that is taxing, or boring, or distasteful, remind yourself even this can be done for the glory of God.

THE BRIDGE

God delivers on His promise and Solomon experiences wisdom and wealth on an unprecedented scale. Solomon fulfills the scripture and his dad’s dream and builds Israel’s first temple. This is to be a place for Israel to worship in the presence of the living God.  

From there things take a hard left and Solomon begins to do exactly what the Torah in Deuteronomy had instructed kings not to do: take wives from the daughters of other kings for political gain, adopting their gods and introducing the worship of said gods to Israel, among other offenses. Solomon’s son Rehoboam succeeds him, and like his father, is corrupted by power. His corruption leads to the Israel’s northern tribes seceding and thus creates a divided kingdom: Israel in the north and Judah in the south of the promised land.

As the story then traces the kings that followed in both Israel and Judah, we see the vast majority of the kings did not lead the people in the obedience of Covenant with God. It is into this landscape that God sends prophets (including Elijah and his disciple Elisha in the Northern Kingdom) to call the kings and people of both kingdoms to repent and submit to their Covenant to God, for the sake of their own spiritual freedom.

MAP IT

 

Learn and see the divided kingdoms that were once the nation of Israel here. Read through the section titled “Map of the Regional Powers”.  Note that Syria and Aram are used interchangeably.

 

Take into account the following locations in relation to one another:

  • Damascus, Syria (Aram): Naaman’s home

  • Samaria, Israel: the capital of Northern Kingdom Israel

  • The Jordan River, flowing between the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south: where Naaman dipped seven times to be healed.

DISCUSS

  •  In this text, we see God was very specific about what it was going to take for Naaman to be healed, and Naaman shows resistance to the methodology despite his need.Does it surprise you when God seems to act in random ways? In what ways do you reflect the resistant nature of Naaman? In what ways do you reflect Naaman’s grudging acquiescence? What did Naaman have to lose, and what do we?

  • In the story we see two references to children. The first is a slave girl speaking up to her master so that Naaman could be healed. The second says the skin on Naaman’s healed body was “smooth as a young child’s.” How do these instances confirm and contribute to what other parts of scripture say about children? Examine Mark 10:13-16. What does Jesus’ teaching about Children tell us about the nature of God? What does it teach us about ourselves?

  • Naaman comes to Israel’s king ready to pay for his medical care, but finds his money no good. Now examine Psalm 51:16-17 and the story of Acts 8:18-21 Simon the sorcerer. With these texts in mind, what do we learn about our ability to transact with God? What are ways we try to pay God? What do these texts tell us about how to receive the gifts God has for his children?

  • God uses Elisha and a slave girl, and Naaman’s own slaves to bring healing to him. What traits do these individuals exhibit that allow them to be used for God’s purposes? How can we model those traits this week?

 

 

RESOURCES

LOOKING AHEAD

 

In faithfulness to His Covenant in light of Israel’s continued rebellion, God calls his people back to one of their main purposes: to be counter-cultural agents of justice, mercy, and humility. As people of God, how do we as individuals that make up Christ’s body continue in this obedience today in our own cultural moment? Read about it in Micah 1:3-5; 5:2-5a; 6:6-8.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of November 11th, 2018

What is Good

Emily Linn

Key Text / Micah 1:3-5, 5:2-5a, 6:6-8 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

God is not impressed by our religious deeds or sacrifices alone, but seeks a heart that desires to see his nature of justice reflected in the world.

REFLECT

There’s a saying that goes “everyone likes to be thought of as a servant, but no one likes to be treated like one”. I thought of this but with a twist as I read our text this week. The instruction is summed up as “carry out justice, love faithfulness, and to live obediently before your God.” I wonder how many of us like to be thought of as doing this, think our lives line up with it, but don’t want to be asked to really do it. Think about it. Each of these things can be incredibly costly, uncomfortable, requiring sacrifice. These are things that require action. We can’t substitute some nebulous “willingness” to do them for actually doing them. Consider where in your own life there is a disconnect between how you think about your obedience and what you are really doing.  

PRACTICE 

Micah tells us in chapter 6 of this week’s passage that our temptation is to bring our offerings to God in order to buy his blessing and forgiveness. He moves into hyperbole when he asks “Will the Lord accept a thousand rams or ten thousand streams of olive oil? Should I give him my firstborn child as payment for my rebellion, my offspring – my own flesh and blood – for my sin?”. It’s as if he’s asking, “Will God forgive my offenses if I drop $1 million in the offering plate?” And the point is that no amount of our own resources will ever be enough to buy the gift of God. Take some time this week to consider one or two ways you have attempted to offer your resources to God in exchange for his gifts. Confess these things to God, acknowledging that this act is a sign of the humility God seeks according to this scripture.

THE BRIDGE

Two weeks ago we examined the wisdom of King Solomon of Israel. Shortly after Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam succeeded him, and his wickedness led to revolt by part of Israel, thereby dividing Israel into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Kings ruled in the northern and southern kingdoms, and God began to send prophets to both kingdoms. Which brought us to last week’s teaching, of a Syrian war general named Naaman who found healing of his leprosy in Israel by dipping in the Jordan River seven times at the behest of the prophet Elisha. This week’s text takes place in the era of kings as well, as God sends the prophet Micah to the southern kingdom of Judah. As Judah struggles with leadership and identity crises, Micah implores the people to repent to and obey their God. Note that last week’s text as it relates to the prophet Elisha is outlined in 2nd kings which is a book of history, whereas this week’s text comes from the book of Micah, a prophetic book containing no history but simply the words of the prophet Micah to Judah.

MAP IT

 

See here for a map of the divided kingdom boundaries around Micah’s time. See here, reading the paragraph titled “Assyrian Captivity and the Fall of Northern Israel” and following the purple lines of Israel’s captivity in Assyria. Note that during Micah’s time as a prophet, the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive in Assyria, and Micah warns the southern kingdom of Judah that their rebellion will have the same consequences if they don’t reverse course.

DISCUSS

  • All of us are drawn toward different injustices in our world. What is an issue or issues of justice that have weighed heavy on you? What prompted the strong emotional response?

  • Have you ever changed your mind on a stance regarding what was just and what wasn’t? What was the issue? What persuaded you from your previously held position?

  • Micah 6:8 instructs us to “carry out justice”, but it doesn’t put the responsibility on us to make the whole world a just place. What are ways we can keep from being overwhelmed at the vast injustice we see in our world? Think of someone you’ve come across that you admire for the way they’ve carried out justice in their life. What about their approach do you think has made them effective?

  • Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is “the representation of [God’s] essence”, so we can find out what justice is to God by looking at Jesus. The stories of Jesus’ life show us he railed against the injustices of people withholding from others a gift they’d been given, be it forgiveness, material resources, or power. How can we root out those same tendencies in our own hearts with what we’ve been given? What are appropriate responses and actions when we see those same occurrences in our world?   

 

 

RESOURCES

LOOKING AHEAD

 

In next week’s text, we read about the neighboring king of Assyria sending a message of intimidation to the people of Judah: God will never be able to bring them security and contentment like he can. We too, can easily be enticed by promises of quick routes to security and comfort, especially when fear is a motivator. So how do practice holy stability in the midst of false promises we encounter? By taking the long view. Read about it in Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20, 37:1-7, then 2:1-4 

 

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of November 18th, 2018

When Assyria Comes Calling

John Ray

Key Text / Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20, 37:1-7, 2:1-4 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

All of us are threatened by people and powers stronger than we are. How do we respond?

REFLECT

Few of us like to think of ourselves as violent, yet violence permeates every part of our society and imagination; internal and external, individual and corporate. It’s not just out and out war that defines violent conflict, but a whole array of ways of acting with aggression (both active and passive) against others and against ourselves. Take time this week to consider where you may be acting out against others or against yourself. If there are places this is happening, take time to ask the Holy Spirit for help discerning the root. Also ask for help in forming a new imagination that rests in God’s desire for all creation: shalom.

PRACTICE 

What if violence was off the table as a response to a problem? What if we could imagine a way to respond to the threats and pressures of the world without even considering resorting to “fighting fire with fire”? This week, make a decision not to respond to any pressure with violence, no matter how justified it might seem.

THE BRIDGE

Like the prophet Micah from last week’s text, Isaiah is a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah prior to its exile in Babylon. They communicate similar themes by confronting injustice, corruption, and blatant disobedience to their Covenant with God, and appeal to Judah to change or be exiled like the northern Kingdom of Israel.

King Hezekiah is Judah’s 13th king and likely reigned from 715-686 BCE. Scripture tells us he’s a righteous king, because he chose obedience to God and enacted sweeping reforms requiring the sole worship of Yahweh and prohibited worshiping other gods in the Temple. He is one of the most prominent kings in Israel’s history, as his reign is well documented both in scripture (see 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32) as well as extra-biblical sources.

MAP IT

 

Since Micah and Isaiah are contemporaries, last week’s map will remain unchanged: See here for a map of the divided kingdom boundaries around Micah’s time. See here, reading the paragraph titled “Assyrian Captivity and the Fall of Northern Israel” and following the purple lines of Israel’s captivity in Assyria. Note that during Hezekiah’s reign of southern Kingdom of Judah, the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive in Assyria, and Isaiah warns the southern kingdom of Judah that their rebellion will have the same consequences if they don’t reverse course.

However, see video here for a map and explanation of “Hezekiah’s Tunnel”, mentioned in our text this week (Isaiah 36:2; the “conduit of the upper pool” is where the tunnel starts). This aqueduct, which still carries water and can be visited today, was constructed under Hezekiah’s reign and brought Jerusalem’s fresh water source inside the city walls. Hezekiah knew it was a matter of time before Assyria’s army came to conquer Jerusalem, and did not want to give the city’s fresh water source away to the invaders. This may have been a factor in Assyria’s delay in attacking Jerusalem, as well as forced them to camp further outside the city, where the angel of the Lord struck down their infantry, ending their impending siege.

DISCUSS

 

1. In the midst of conflict, Isaiah imagines a future where warfare and violence are not in the picture. What great and lofty things capture your imagination? How has the practice of obedience and faith opened and sharpened that imagination?

2. This text shows us a present threat conquered by an everlasting God who will

defeat evil and violence. In what ways does meditating on God’s infinite strength and benevolence inspire hope, courage, freedom in your life?

3. We see King Sennacherib of Assyria send a message to Judah that if they will

pledge allegiance to him, their contentment will be imminent. This rings of the serpent’s promise to Adam and Eve in Eden. We also can be tempted to seek instant gratification believing it will give us long term freedom. What are keys to identifying those deceitful offers? How does an eternal view help provide perspective to these short-term gratifications?

4. Hezekiah faced a threat of existence to the kingdom he ruled. While we may

not face the exact same type of threat, we frequently face threats to our Christian identity and spiritual well-being. We are told if we will just go along with the “way things are”, things will be much better for us. Think about how you tend to respond to those threats. What can we emulate from Hezekiah’s response?

5. What are the kings of this world that threaten your stable foundation of faith, and cause you to react in anguish like Hezekiah? Who and what are the Isaiahs, that help stabilize and reinforce your faith in those times of anguish? Are you in a place where you need to rely on those Isaiahs? What about being an Isaiah for someone else?

 

 

RESOURCES

Commentary on Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20, 37:1-7; then 2:1-4 with "Swords into Plowshares" Narrative Lectionary podcast, Working Preacher


The Bible Project: Isaiah 1-39, youtube


• For the other Biblical accounts of King Hezekiah’s reign, see 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32 New English Translation, biblegateway.com


Greatest Might Have Been, book review/blog post examining the significance to human history of Sennacherib’s Assyrian army not conquering Jerusalem, by Catholic scholar Patrick T. Reardon


Peace in Our Time, blog post by Gregory Rawn, Spirit and Truth Publishing


How to Give Thanks in Every Situation; blog post by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, Plough

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Next week we hear from the prophet Jeremiah, who like Micah and Isaiah, is a mouthpiece on God’s behalf to the southern kingdom of Judah before their exile to Babylon. We learn of God’s purpose for Jeremiah, Jeremiah’s doubts in the midst of that purpose, and the message God proclaims to Judah through Jeremiah that they would reflect His character, and that it would go well with them. Read about it in Jeremiah 1:4-10 and 7:1-11.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of November 25th, 2018

Jeremiah and the Approaching Firestorm

John Ray

Key Text / Jeremiah 1:4-10, 7:1-11 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

God uses everything at God’s disposal to protect the covenant, even redemptive judgement.
 

REFLECT

Take time this week to consider where you have encountered “the fire”, the times of personal loss and exile. The times that feel like judgement, great and small. What was the end effect? What did it teach you about yourself and your affections? What did it teach you about God?
 

PRACTICE 

This week’s discipline is easy, thankfulness. Sure, we just spent last week celebrating Thanksgiving, but this week let’s practice being grateful for the unasked for blessings, the trials and challenges, losses and sufferings that have served to turn our hearts towards God. 

THE BRIDGE

Jeremiah is the sixth and final prophet sent to the southern Kingdom of Judah prior to their capture and exile by the Babylonian empire (587-586 BC). He lives after Isaiah and Micah, who we’ve studied in recent weeks. He predicts and then witnesses the capture and exile, and his weeping in response becomes the book of Lamentations. He’s also credited with authoring 1st and 2nd Kings, which tell the historical accounts of many of the events also contained in the books of prophecy.

MAP IT

 

While Jeremiah comes after Isaiah and Micah who we studied the last two weeks, the geographic references stay the same with the exception that during Jeremiah’s lifetime, Judah (Southern Kingdom) is finally exiled into Babylon: See map here, reading the paragraph titled “Babylonian Captivity and the Fall of the Kingdom of Judah” and following the lines of both the northern and southern kingdoms captivity into foreign lands.

DISCUSS

 

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a parable of a slave who was forgiven of a large debt, but then turned around and threw a man into prison who owed him a debt much smaller. Similarly, we catch Israel in a place where they have been blessed and forgiven throughout their history, and yet turn around and oppress the weak and the foreigner.

 

  • What does this show us about the hearts of the people of Israel?

  • What does God’s response to Israel, namely their capture and exile, show us about God?

  • How do we see the goodness of God in the face of Israel’s capture and exile into Babylon?

  • What makes this extreme and traumatic response by God redemptive? How does it show God upholding his side of the covenant?

 

 

RESOURCES

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Next week we examine text from yet another prophet to Judah before their exile to Babylon. But Habakkuk is different. Instead of speaking to Judah on God’s behalf, he converses with God, questioning how he is supposed to remain faithful and optimistic in a world where injustice and evil seem to reign. So he’s a man for our time, and all time. Read his all too relatable anguish and our faithful God’s response in Habbakuk 1:1-4, 2:2-4, 3:[3b-6] 17-19