GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 1, 2017

WHAT'S GRACE GOT TO DO WITH IT? / John Farthing

Key Text: Ephesians 1:3-14 and 2:1-10 (CEB)

 

THE SET-UP

Only the One who created us can recreate, or redeem, us. Grace alone is an antidote to hubris, the original sin: the determination to substitute ego for God at the center of our lives.

 

WHY STUDY THE REFORMATION?

 

This history is important, for without it we are at the mercy of whims ... If we are going to live adequately and maturely as the people of God, we need more data to work from than our own experience can give us.

... The only person [most Christians today] consult is themselves, and the only experience they evaluate is the most recent ten minutes. But we need other experiences, the community of experience of brothers and sisters in the church ...

A Christian with a defective memory has to start everything from scratch and spends far too much of his or her time backtracking, repairing, starting over. A Christian with a good memory avoids repeating old sins, knows the easiest way through complex situations, and instead of starting over each day continues what was begun in Adam.

—Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society

October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant Reformation. Churches around the world will celebrate all that we can learn from the vision embodied in the work of the Reformers, especially Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and their closest associates. Grace Church will take part in the celebration.

Why study the Reformers? Isn’t this all about a bunch of dead white males from a long bygone world? What could Luther and Calvin possibly have to say that’s relevant to the vastly different world that has emerged in the five centuries since the Reformation began? Why even ask that question? Well, because ...

  • We believe in the communion of the saints—a fellowship of the faithful, in space and in time. Our communion with the Reformers is stronger than death: Luther, Calvin, and the others are still speaking (Hebrews 11:4) across the centuries, and we need to hear what they are saying to us. The point is not to accumulate a list of interesting factoids about hang-ups from way back. The point is to listen to voices that can help us be as responsive to God’s call in our time and place as the Reformers were in theirs.

  • We don’t have to reinvent the wheel! The crises facing the 21st-century Church are not exactly the same as those confronting Christianity in the 16th century, but they are not entirely dissimilar either. At a number of critical points, the insights of the Reformers can help us to find a greater clarity about questions we are wrestling with today. That’s why we can’t afford to ignore the wisdom of voices that speak to us out of the past.

  • It’s hard to know how to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) if we shut our ears to what God’s people from previous generations are saying to us. Most Americans are too preoccupied with the present and future to take the past seriously. Ours is an Age of Amnesia. We tend to assume that Christianity is all about getting right with God (in the present) so that we can go to heaven (in the future). We want to be The Church of What’s Happening Now, and what does something that happened five centuries ago have to do with that? But what if it turns out that our unwillingness to learn from the past—and to be cross- examined by voices speaking from a historical context quite different from our own— helps to explain why we’re so often unsure about how to deal with the issues facing us today?

  • We need to pay attention to the Reformers because they help us learn not just how to hear God’s Word in its relevance for our times—but also how we can learn from their mistakes, so that we won’t simply repeat them. Engagement with the Reformers is not just a Protestant pep rally! The Reformers got many things right, but they got a lot of things wrong. We can learn from the Reformers, but it may be that the most important thing we need to know is what mistakes they made (and why) —mistakes that we need not make again. As Christians, we believe that time and history have a purpose, a trajectory. We aren’t caught in an endless, purposeless loop. Our choices and actions have consequences that allow us to learn, grow and move closer to our destiny in Christ.

During the next six weeks, we will look at a number of Reformation themes and their relevance for a faithful witness in today’s world:

  • Grace Alone (Sola Gratia)

  • Faith Alone (Sola Fide)

  • Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura)

  • Christ Alone (Solus Christus)

  • Glory to God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria)

  • The Church ALWAYS Needs to Be Reformed (Semper Reformanda)

Five centuries after the birth of Protestantism, the Reformers still offer a fresh set of eyes for seeing God, the world, and ourselves in ways that can revitalize our witness to the transformative impact of the Gospel. Take a look through those eyes, because we need all the help we can get—and the Reformers of the 16th century are still speaking to us, still available, still helping us learn how to bear faithful witness to God’s healing, redemptive Word in a world like ours.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

—George Santayana (1863-1952)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, )the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

—Hebrews 12:1

 

 

 

MAP IT

Where was the Reformation born? Have a look here.

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • How do we learn to fully trust God instead of trusting only in our own abilities?

  • If we truly understand that God offers us redemption through grace alone, how would we live differently because of it?

  • How are the other five themes of the Reformation each grounded in the truth of “sola gratia”?

 

JUST FOR KIDS

 

Kids’ Creation Connection: Did you know there’s hope for vegetable scraps you’ve been putting in the trash?! See this cool site on National Geographic Kids for information on how you can watch God’s creation: the plant design, the soil, the sun, air and some water, reform and revive some throwaways into growing, green plants!

Sunday Car Talk: Ask your kids if they’ve noticed the sign outside 2828 N. Crossover, where we meet. What does it say? Does anyone know what it means? We could have put “Church of NWA” and the street address on that sign, but didn’t! Why? If you’d like a clue, learn this song together and sing it on the way to worship.


 

RESOURCES 

 

THE RESTORATION MASH-UP

 

 

 

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

In this week’s blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Much as we think we know it, we all need to be reminded of who we are in Christ.. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

LOOKING AHEAD

We’re saved by sola fide, faith in Jesus Christ alone. Read about it in Romans 1:16-17 and Galatians 3:1-14.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 8, 2017

RUBY SLIPPERS OR DUSTY SANDALS? / John Ray

Key Text: Romans 1:16-17 and Galatians 3:1-14 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

Faith alone doesn’t separate the Christian faith into mere philosophy or mental assent, but instead roots it in the right message, doing things the right way, for the right reason and towards the right end.

 

THE BASICS

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which is why we’re taking six weeks to learn about it. But back in Galatians—Paul’s first letter—he was already encouraging reformation, even though the Church was brand new! What could have been up with the Church so early? And why was Paul so concerned? Read Galatians 1 and fill in the blanks:

 

  • I am astonished that you are so quickly _______________ the one who called you by the _______________of _______________ and are following a _______________  _______________ —  not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ.

  • But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be _______________ to _______________!

  • Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of _______________  _______________. For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a _______________ of _______________  _______________.

 

MAP IT

Explore this interactive map to find Rome and Galatia, as well as the city of Corinth, where Paul was staying when he wrote his letter to the Roman believers.

 

GRACE IN 3D

Many scholars say faith is all about trust. As a quick conversation-starter, ask people in your group to volunteer something or someone they trust well, and something that is hard in which to place their trust. For example, I might say, “It’s easy for me to trust the leaders at our local public library, because I have worked with them and know their hearts and work ethic. It’s difficult for me to trust carnival rides. And clowns. I don’t trust clowns.”

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • In A Community Called Atonement, author Scot McKnight defines an Eikon as “God-oriented, self-oriented, other-oriented, and cosmos-oriented ... a missional being – one designed to love God, self, and others and to represent God by participating in God’s rule in this world.” He goes on to say, “I have defined the Gospel...as the work of God to restore cracked Eikons in the context of a community of union with God and communion with other for the good of others and the world.” Is this an accurate reflection of your faith? Why does it matter where your faith is, as long as you have it? Bottom line: Does it really matter where we place our faith?

  • The Reformers were unanimous in their assertion that true faith would always and without exception be accompanied by good works. In fact, they argued that “works” could only be “good” if done in faith! But our society seems to accept that while faith might be essential, good works are optional. On the other hand, some folks believe that good works can earn us a relationship with God. What do you think? Bottom line: Which comes first—works, or faith? Or are they inseparable?

  • Building off the definition offered above, the goal of the Gospel is a four-fold restoration: of our relationship to God, to ourselves, to others and to creation. We are called to be “re-creators” with God. How does this differ from the message that we should pray a prayer asking Jesus into our hearts so that we’ll meet our goal of going to heaven when we die? What difference does the Gospel make in the way we live our lives here and now? Bottom line: When we place our faith in Jesus, what’s our end goal?

 

REFLECTION

In Galatians, Paul’s very first known letter to the fledgling Church, he has to remind them of the Gospel they first believed in and admonish them to return to it! Just shows how quickly we forget and how strongly we can be influenced by the voices and opinions of others, the culture that surrounds us and even the deception of the enemy. Take time this week to really dig into what is it you are placing your faith in. How has it changed and grown since you first believed? What changes are good and true, and what changes are not?

 

JUST FOR KIDS

 

Kids’ Creation Connection: The Bible teaches us that having faith means we know what God says is true, believe it with our whole heart and mind, and behave accordingly. Spend some time outside this week with your kids; how many things do you see that remind you why we can have faith in God? For instance: As big as they sky is, God’s faithfulness is even bigger! Or, just like we can count on the sun to rise each morning and set every evening, we can count on God to keep His promises!

Sunday Car Talk: Have you ever heard the sports cheer, “We have spirit, yes we do, we have spirit; how ‘bout you?” Try your own version, offering up instead, “I have faith, yes I do, I believe God … ” and fill in the blank. It doesn’t have to rhyme, but if you make it rhyme, you get an extra pretend car point! For example, you might say, “I have faith, yes I do, I believe God made me and you.”


 

DEEP CUTS 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week: Martin Luther strongly believed that Scripture alone is the Word of God. And his conviction provided powerful fuel to the Reformation. Plenty of verses back him up; 2 Timothy 3:16-17, for example.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 15, 2017

THE GREAT CONVERSATION / John Ray

Key Text: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

Sola Scriptura is the freeing of Scripture to have its full effect in our hearts, minds, lives and communities.

 

THE BASICS

Read the following passages, then fill in the blanks.

Your word is a _______________________________ and a __________________________. I have vowed and solemnly sworn to _____________________________________. I am suffering terribly. O Lord, __________________________________________________!

 

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who foretold the grace that would come to you  ____________________________________________.

 

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," is the One who shined  ____________________ to give us the light of the ________________ in the ___________________________.

 

MAP IT

Read up here on the context of Paul’s second letter to Timothy; explore this interactive map to find Rome, where Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter.

 

GRACE IN 3D

Pose this question to your group, and give everyone a chance to answer: If you gave a new title to the Bible based on how you read it, what you believe about it and what it means to you, what would that title be? Why?

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • The Reformers were part of a culture where Scripture had been buried under centuries of Church doctrine held as having equal or more authority to it and was thoroughly encrusted in the Imperial tradition of the time. Most people’s exposure to Scripture was limited to Psalms they sang in mass and lessons they read from a Latin text. You can imagine the results. How much of your own understanding of Scripture is rooted in our cultural context and in the tradition you grew up in? What does it take for us to let Scripture be free to really say what all it has to say? Is that even possible? Bottom Line: How can we better understand Scripture for what it truly is?

  • We often loudly declare that we need only our Bibles in order to figure things out, thankyouverymuch. But our practice is to treat the Bible like a Magic 8 Ball, divine roadmap or spiritual medicine chest. We distort it and blow it out of proportion; we ignore the major themes and give tons of attention to minutiae. Maybe worst of all, we put it in a place of honor on our shelves and treat it like an idol to be venerated, but engaged with as little as possible. How do we keep from treating Scripture this way? What difference do you think it would make to humbly engage with it in the context of community, under the instruction of the Holy Spirit? Is this how we free Scripture to have its full effect in our hearts, minds, lives and communities? Bottom line: How can we better free Scripture to understand what it’s not?

  • The Reformers had to fight to free Scripture from the dense bureaucracy of the Church and traditions of the culture; in our own context, we often think of “Bible study” as an individual task. We have romanticized the “me and Jesus” idea of Spirituality. The healthy way involves both individual effort and group engagement and discernment. How does this play out in your own life? Which one is easier for you? Bottom line: How do healthy relationships and conversations free Scripture for us to better understand it?

 

REFLECTION

If asked about your “status” with Scripture, what would it be? Is it alive and active, growing and life-giving? Is it stale or stand-offish? Confusing or frustrating? Maybe it’s on life support. Maybe the plug has already been pulled. Whatever it is, confess it. Mourn and repent where necessary, praise and give thanks as well. Just be honest, and work from there. Pray for a new, or greater, or better understanding and relationship as the situation merits.

 

JUST FOR KIDS

 

Kids’ Creation Connection: Beautiful fall weather presents perfect conditions for a Scripture scavenger hunt. So round up your family sometime this week, grab a Bible and head outside with a copy of this list of clues. You could also keep a conversation going with your kids all week around Psalm 19:1; look for God’s artwork in the sunrises, sunsets, cloud formations, or crisp blue skies this week and give praise to the Creator of those gifts that are different every single day.

Sunday Car Talk: Ask the folks riding in your car if they have heard the song, “The B-I-B-L-E.” Find a version on your phone, digital playlist or other source, and sing it together. Tell the kids that today at church we’re going to learn more about what followers of Christ use as the source of knowing what’s true, and what’s fake.


 

DEEP CUTS 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week: Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior and King. Read about it in Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV) and Acts 4:11-12 (NET).

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 22, 2017

THE ONE, THE ONLY / Norma Farthing

Key Text: Colossians 1:15-20, 2:8-15 (NIV); Acts 4:11-12 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

A biblical understanding of Jesus—based on the doctrine of sola scriptura— is absolutely essential to the faith by which we are saved, in which we live, and in which we are willing to die. Indeed, virtually every council with its subsequent creed or affirmation of faith was focused on this one critical question: Who is Jesus?

 

THE BASICS

Read Psalm 118. When we say, “The Lord has done great things,” this passage gives us several important clues to some of the great things He has done.

 

  • Verse 5: In my distress, I cried out to the Lord. The Lord ________________________. 

  • Verse 6: The Lord is on my side, _____________________________________________.

  • Verse 14: The Lord gives me strength and protects me; ________________________.  

  • Verse 22: The stone which the builders discarded _____________________________.  

 

Read Matthew 21:42-46. Why did Jesus refer back to Psalm 118:22?

 

MAP IT

The book of Colossians is actually a letter Paul wrote to the church at Colossae. Find Colossae, in relation to the other cities of Asia Minor, here.

 

GRACE IN 3D

For a quick discussion-starter this week, ask each person to consider the many names for Christ. One might think of Redeemer, King of Kings, Lord. Give people a minute to settle and think, and then ask them to “popcorn” out their names. If you have a new person in your group, you might give them a heads-up about this exercise, and point them to Isaiah 9:6-7 for some background. Depending on the ages of children in your group, this might be a fun activity in which to include them.

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • John Calvin stirred up a tremendous amount of Reformation drama by preaching that our hope for salvation and redemption rests exclusively with Jesus Christ. We preach that message in the Church today, but do we really walk the walk? Do you place your faith only with Jesus, without supplements or back-ups or a Plan B? Do you know enough about Him to trust Him that far? (If not, take a look at this.) Bottom Line: Do salvation and redemption truly come by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?

  • Calvin introduced provocative ideas about who God is and how we can know Him. For instance, he vigorously asserted the truth of the Trinity: that Jesus embodied the Gospel, that He was fully God and fully a man. What do you believe to be true about God, and about Jesus? Are they the same in your mind? Do you relate to them the same way? What about the Bible? Do you read it beginning to end with, as Calvin taught, “the aim of finding Christ in (it)”? Bottom Line: How did John Calvin shape the way we think about Jesus?

  • Jesus was always very clear about the Gospel message, but over the course of several centuries, religious leaders added to His teaching a bunch of rules and traditions they made up to advance their own ideas, agendas and misunderstandings. The Reformers worked to bring the Church back to the truth of Scripture: God offers salvation to us as a gift we can’t earn, because it’s available to us only by grace through faith in Jesus, and God ordained the Church to be salt and light and to point the world to Him. How closely do we walk in that truth today at Grace Church? Are there things we should be doing differently? If so, what? And what about the “big C” Church? Bottom Line: Are we grounded in the reality of God’s gift of salvation and in His purpose for the Church?

 

REFLECTION

In your quiet time alone with God this week, praise Him for His power, mercy and grace that make our redemption possible. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you’re placing your faith anywhere other than in Jesus Christ. If you are, confess it and thank Him for His sufficiency, for being the perfect mediator. How might you live differently when your faith rests only in Him?

 

JUST FOR KIDS

 

Kids’ Creation Connection: This week we’re learning about making Christ the cornerstone. Go on a hike and find a smooth rock for each person in your family.  Take it home and using paint pens or slim paintbrushes, write the words Jesus, Christ, Emmanuel, Redeemer, or another name for Christ on the rock. Embellish it with dots or other features as space and interest allow. Let them dry, and then spray them with a protective coating and place at a corner on the exterior of your home to remind you that Christ is the cornerstone of your family’s faith.

Sunday Car Talk: What do you know about rocks? Go around the car, letting each person name one thing they know about rocks. For example, responses might be, “Hard. Colorful. Sharp. Smooth. Solid.” Tell your children that at church today, we’re going to learn more about what it means in the Bible when it says Jesus is our rock.


 

DEEP CUTS 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

 

In this week’s guest blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Lesley Green reflects on how heart renovation can help us prepare for Kingdom work. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week: We live for the glory of God alone. Read about it in 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1.

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.  

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 29, 2017

This Heaven-Soaked, Glory-Filled World / John Ray

Key Text: 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (NET)

 

THE SET-UP

We live in a Heaven-soaked, glory-filled world. Let’s do everything for God’s glory.

 

THE BASICS

Have you ever wondered what Scripture is talking about when it refers to God’s glory? Read these verses and write down what they tell you about it.

 

MAP IT

See Paul’s missionary journeys, including his stop in Corinth, mapped out here.

 

GRACE IN 3D

Giving glory to God is about praising Him for who He is and for the big-picture things He’s done, not just the one-on-one things He’s done for us personally. As we’ll discover in our teaching this week, we become better at it when we practice, and when we encourage each other. So, let’s practice! See if you can come up with an alphabetical list of 26 attributes of God for which we can praise Him. For instance, you might start with “Almighty,” “Alpha” or “amazing.” Then “beautiful,” “before all things” or “boundless.” You could go around the circle taking turns, or call out answers spontaneously. Those who’d like to might give a personal example of how they’ve seen God demonstrate these qualities in their own lives.

 

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

  • Life moves at such a relentless pace that it’s difficult to see past the job demands we must meet, the constant decision-making we must do, and the to-do lists and consistent compromises we have to make. But finding beauty and seeing God’s glory cannot be optional; living blind to them is utter tragedy. So where do you find this beauty? How do you experience this glory? What habits and practices do you cultivate that open your eyes and heart to it? Is there an alternative? A compromise? Bottom Line: Is there any reasonable way for us to respond to who God is other than to give God glory?

  • Of all the habits we can cultivate to find beauty and see God’s glory, making time to stop, breathe, observe is critical. Do you keep a journal? Make scrapbooks? How do you take notice and give thanks for what God has done, is doing and promises to do? This takes practice. What are you practicing now? What things do you need to start practicing? Bottom Line: How do we learn to be aware of what God has done, is doing and will do?

  • Being mindful and aware isn’t about obligation, or pressure to conform. It’s the Holy Spirit working in each of us that allows us to develop the habits that help us find beauty, see glory and live in such a way that gives all the glory back to God. That’s God’s good and perfect will for us. And God is willing, capable and present to lead us into it. Do you ever feel like you have to work up these practices on your own? Where do you see evidence of God working in your life to help you grow? Can you name some ways that we as a faith community teach and encourage each other to find beauty and see God’s glory? Bottom Line: Can we learn on our own to glorify God?

 

REFLECTION

Learning to live a life giving glory to God is not something we can put off until we have enough time or energy or information. What is keeping you from pursuing this? Make a list; name the things that are in your way. This is critical to overcoming them and to start moving.

 

JUST FOR KIDS

 

Kids’ Creation Connection: Have you noticed the beautiful sunrises and sunsets the last few weeks? Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Think about it: Our Creator is able to take the vapor in the atmosphere, the position of the sun, and the tilt of the Earth to create a different piece of art in the skies every day! Get some watercolors and paper, and paint a sunrise or sunset together. Cut out either animals, birds, or buildings out of black paper, and glue those over your painting. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God, and give Him glory for His handiwork.

Sunday Car Talk: Tell the people in your vehicle that today at church we’ll be learning about how we’re to give glory only to God. What does glory mean?  Have they ever seen a glow stick? It has a brightness in the dark. Glory is like that: it’s fame, brightness, splendor, magnificence, a majesty of outward appearance. When we give God glory, it’s like pointing a glowing stick in the dark to Him to show people that He is magnificent.


 

DEEP CUTS 

 

THE MASH-UP

 

GRACE IN THE MOMENT

 

In this week’s guest blog post on gracechurchnwa.org: Lesley Green reflects on how heart renovation can help us prepare for Kingdom work. Leave comments! Share it! Tweet it! Pin it! Post it!

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Next week: The reformed Church is a work in progress. Read about it in 1 Peter 4:1-17 (NET).

 

To print the learning guide, download a PDF here.