GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 7th, 2018

Encountering Covenant: For the Sake of Others

John Ray

Key Text / Exodus 19:3-7, 20:1-17 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

THE SET-UP

The Ten Commandments are more than a set of rules: They are a concrete reflection of who God’s people are to be for the sake of the world.

REFLECT

Have you ever thought of your personal obedience to God’s rules as a way of blessing someone else? It’s easy to think of obedience to “thou shalt not murder” as necessary to other people’s well-being, but what about remembering the Sabbath or not taking God’s name in vain? It might help to consider how other people’s obedience blesses, or has blessed, you. This week, consider the concrete connection between obedience to God’s commands and how that obedience blesses others.

PRACTICE 

Saying something out loud often helps us believe it; it can also help us remember the “why.” When you actively choose to obey the Spirit this week, make a practice of repeating, “Jesus, I do this for the sake of others.” If you choose not to respond to someone in anger or not to click on a certain website, if you choose to bless those who take advantage of you or hurt you — whenever you make a choice that helps form you into the image of Christ, say, “Jesus, I do this for the sake of others.”

THE BRIDGE

After God swallowed up the best of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea behind them, the Israelites continued their journey to the Promised Land. Despite their questioning and complaining, God demonstrated supernatural follow-through on His promise to take care of them — delivering them from hunger and thirst, as well as from an attack by formidable Amalekite forces during which Joshua emerges as a strong military leader. Three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrive in the Sinai Desert; three days later, Moses has an appointment with God at the top of Mount Sinai.

MAP IT

Trace the Israelites’ 3-month journey from Egypt to Sinai, where Moses is believed to have received the Ten Commandments, here.

DISCUSS

  • If it’s not possible to earn God’s love, why do you think God’s promise in this text requires something of us? If our obedience doesn’t earn God’s love, what is it meant to accomplish?

  • God’s instructions in 19:5 are to keep God’s covenant, not God’s commandments. What’s the difference? Why is the distinction important?

  • If God’s words in 19:6 sound familiar, think back a few weeks to our Revelation study: Refresh your memory with a look at Revelation 1:6 and 20:6 (you’ll also find similar phraseology in I Peter 2:9.) What does the Mosaic covenant mean to apprentices of Jesus today? What does it mean to you, personally?

  • In 20:2, God reminds the Israelites that God secured their freedom from slavery — and immediately follows up by giving them a list of rules. Is it possible to truly live free outside God’s commands? What are some specific ways God’s commands in general, and the Ten Commandments in particular, offer us freedom?

  • In her blog post “Covenants: The Backbone of the Bible” at The Bible Project, writer Whitney Woollard suggests we think of God’s covenants as chosen relationships through which we “act as partners to help him spread goodness throughout the world.” How does observing the Ten Commandments make it possible for us to help God spread goodness in our world?

 

 

RESOURCES

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Joshua reminds the Israelites of God’s faithfulness to them, and utters the pledge that launched a thousand t-shirts, decorative pillows and wall hangings. Read about it in Joshua 24:1-15 (NET).

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 14th, 2018

Encountering Covenant: Our Covenant Choice

Donny Epp

Key Text / Joshua 19:1-15, 16-26 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

God makes the choice to establish and keep covenant with us. We have to choose whether or not to respond.

 

REFLECT

Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites is to act in the moment — “choose today whom you will serve.” Jesus’ call to discipleship asks somewhat the same thing of us: to take up our cross every day and follow Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer the following questions, and commit this week to journal your responses: In the day-to-day, what are some specific ways you choose to serve Christ? What are some specific ways you choose not to? How do you live differently because of these choices?  

PRACTICE 

The book of Joshua follows Deuteronomy, the last book of the Torah (the five books that record the revelation of God’s law to Israel). Deuteronomy gives us Moses’ final words to the Israelites before he dies and they enter the Promised Land. Basically, he challenges them to always listen to, love and obey God, and warns them about what will happen if they don’t. There’s a recurring theme in Deuteronomy: the importance of remembering and responding. Here, here and here, for instance. How much do you know about your family history? How can you see God in this shared history? If you have children, nieces or nephews, how can you share these stories with them?

THE BRIDGE

Picking up after Moses receives the Ten Commandments, the book of Exodus continues recounting God’s relationship with the Israelites, including their ups, downs, rebellion and wanderings, on the way to receiving the home God had promised them in Canaan.

 

The books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy come next. They’re often thought to be a collective snoozefest, which isn’t totally fair. For all their lists, rules, speeches and instructions, they give us a critically-important piece of God’s story. They show us God’s anger, compassion, holiness, faithfulness and love, detailing the exhaustive lengths to which God is willing to go in order to be close to His people and to keep His word. They also help us understand why we need Jesus. (If you don’t know what goes down in these three books, SparkNotes has a great summary here. Read it when you have a minute. No judgement.)

 

Joshua is Moses 2.0. He’s introduced in Exodus as a standout among the leaders of the twelve tribes because of his strong faith in God, his courage and his military savvy. After Moses dies, Joshua is chosen by God to take the Israelites into Canaan, where he leads them in the battles they have to fight to claim what God had given them.

 

When we encounter Joshua in our text this week, he’s an old man speaking to a generation of Israelites several years removed from the days in the desert. They’ve settled into a relatively peaceful, comfortable life, even though they still have land to claim. Joshua has weighty questions on his mind: In their comfort, will the Israelites remember what God has done for them? Will they remember their need for God? And will they choose to honor Him, or repeat the mistakes of the past?

MAP IT

 

Find Shechem on the map and learn a bit about its historical significance to the Biblical timeline here.

DISCUSS

  • Read verses 2-13. Notice that in recalling Israel’s history, God leaves out any mention of the multiple times they failed Him. What does this passage teach you about God’s covenant promises? Does it affirm or add to your understanding of covenant, based on what you’ve learned during our study? If so, how?

 

  • If you were asked to choose three times in your life when you’ve personally seen the greatest demonstration of God’s care and provision, what would they be? How do those experiences shape the relationship you have today with Jesus? Are you comfortable sharing them? Why or why not?

 

  • In verse 14, obedience and worship go hand-in-hand. What do you think our worship is meant to be? If the most simple definition of worship is to elevate and magnify God, what does that mean to you? How can we best elevate and magnify God every day? On Sunday? Individually? As a church?

 

  • Humans are hardwired for worship — a fact Joshua seems to be taking for granted in verse 15 when he challenges the Israelites to choose not whether they’ll worship, but whom. Whom or what do you choose to worship? What are some specific ways your choice is reflected in how you spend your time and your money? Where you live? What you wear, or drive, or eat?

 

  • Covenant reminds us that God has chosen us. All of us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done. We get to choose whether or not we respond, and how. Considering what you’ve learned about covenant during our study, what does it mean to you to be invited into God’s family? What do you believe God asks of you, personally, in return? What’s your response: Are you in or out?

 

 

RESOURCES

LOOKING AHEAD

 

A man after God’s own heart chooses sin and seeks restoration. What does David’s story teach us about God? As apprentices of Jesus, what’s the lesson for us? Read about it in 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-9; Psalm 51:1-9 (NET)

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 21st, 2018

The End of Forgiveness

John Ray

Key Text / 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-9; Psalm 51:1-9 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

 

 

THE SET-UP

We seek forgiveness not just for our own sake, but for the sake of others.

 

REFLECT

There are at least two ways we can really screw up our response to the realization or conviction that we have sinned. One is to deny it; to cover it up, rationalize or excuse it. The other is to hold on to it, let it totally overwhelm and define us. Both are toxic and destructive, not just to us, but those around us. Usually we default to one or the other. Which one is more tempting for you? Why?

PRACTICE 

When revelation or conviction come, we certainly don’t want to move too quickly through the process of repentance, reparations and restoration. These need time to do their work. But we also shouldn’t wallow in self-pity or condemnation and shame. Through all of it, we need to remember the end goal of forgiveness: that God gets glory, that we are restored and healed, and that others are blessed. While we’re often quick to agree with the first two ends, the third might be harder to understand. This week, consider how others are blessed when you walk in forgiveness, and how refusing to walk in forgiveness is toxic to those around you, especially those closest to you. Be honest; let the Holy Spirit give you insight and reveal any area in which you need to let God’s forgiveness become real for you

THE BRIDGE

After Joshua’s death, the book of Judges picks up with a recap of the conquest of Canaan and describes how the land is divided up among the twelve tribes. We see the Israelites throw themselves into a dysfunctional cycle of crisis-hopping and covenant-ignoring, and then begging God for God’s deliverance. The book is named for the group of people God calls out (one of whom is a woman, Deborah) to lead the Israelites and impose justice among them. But even some of the judges themselves are a hot mess (looking at you, Gideon and Samson). The book ends on a chilling note: “In those days, Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.”

 

Thing is, Israel does have a king: God’s covenant with Moses establishes that He is their King. Throughout Judges, God shows the Israelites that no human person can deliver them, but the lessons go over their heads. They continually beg for a flesh-and-blood king. Finally, God gives in and sends them one.


Before we meet him, though, the Bible gives us a beautiful story of redemption in the book of Ruth. 1 Samuel follows, named for the mighty prophet who is given to God from birth and grows up to be a legendary spiritual leader of God’s people, guiding them through years of Philistine oppression. Samuel knows that an “earthly” king is not God’s choice for Israel, and he’s clear with them about the trouble that’s ahead if they press the issue. Still, they press away. God sends Samuel to anoint Israel’s first king, Saul. Then before Samuel dies, God calls him out of retirement to anoint a king to take over from Saul. Israel’s next king will be possibly the unlikeliest candidate ever to ascend to the monarchy: David, a little shepherd boy with big potential.   

MAP IT

 

Read about David’s kingdom and find it on a map here.

DISCUSS

  • Our text this week indicates that a series of choices led David to a very dark place where he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—see the either the truth of his situation or the gravity of his sin. Is it possible to receive God’s forgiveness and be changed by it if we don’t see that we have anything to be sorry for? Forgiveness offers us a lot; what does it require of us?

  • However we respond to the realization that we’ve sinned—whether we deny it or let it overwhelm us—our response is usually somehow rooted in shame. Can we receive and be transformed by God’s forgiveness if we believe we don’t deserve it? It’s God’s covenant choice to forgive and restore us when we sin; does that make God’s forgiveness easier or harder to accept? Why?

  • Scripture calls David “a man after God’s own heart.” But at this point in David’s life, he’s far-enough removed from God that the truth of his situation is only brought into focus by Nathan’s story. Can you think of a time when God used someone close to you to help you see your need for repentance and forgiveness? If so, what happened? Were their words hard to hear? How did you respond?

 

 

RESOURCES

LOOKING AHEAD

 

God offers Solomon a choice, and Solomon chooses wisely. Read about it in 1 Kings 3:4-9, (10-15), 16-28 (NET).

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of October 28th, 2018

The World is Not Enough

John Ray

Key Text / 1 Kings 3:4-9, (10-15), 16-28 (NET)

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

Wisdom teaches us that there is more to this life than what we possess. 

 

REFLECT

Consider your prayers. Not how you want to pray, but how you actually pray. What is the main thing you find yourself asking for? What do you think that says about how you view prayer, God and yourself? That’s a big question, but it’s necessary to consider. What do you find? 

PRACTICE 

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Let that sink in: It’s a specific promise to a general audience with a universal application, and those are rare. So this week, practice it. Ask for wisdom as part of your prayer practice.
 

THE BRIDGE

Because of David’s sin, the son born to Bathsheba and him dies. But they have a second son together, and they name him Solomon. As for the rest of David’s children, they bring a mind-boggling degree of dysfunction to his life throughout the balance of his reign; you can find some of the gory details here. Wow, if you think your family is messed up …

 

At the beginning of 1 Kings, a bed-ridden David is old and his health is gone; his son Adonijah jumps on this opportunity to name himself the king. But Adonijah isn’t God’s choice.


With God’s blessing, David sends a band of religious leaders including his old friend Nathan (remember him?) to anoint Solomon the next king of Israel. Then before he dies, David gives Solomon some instructions, including a charge to love and honor God. Which Solomon does, after he cleans house and claims the throne. On one of his trips up to Gibeon to offer burnt offerings to God, Solomon dreams that God has an offer for him, too.

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MAP IT

 

Click here to learn about Gibeon and see an interactive map of the region surrounding it.

DISCUSS

  • What’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Why do you think God values wisdom? How do you think God’s wisdom is meant to shape your life in the Kingdom? Why?

  • What does it cost us to receive and exercise God’s wisdom? God doesn’t force wisdom on us; as apprentices of Jesus, we’re allowed free will. We’re allowed to have our way, even when it’s not the best thing for us. So what does it cost God to make wisdom available to us?

  • Speaking of free will, covenant is about relationship with God; it doesn’t force a response from us, nor does it erase the consequences of our poor choices. Based only on what we’ve learned in Scripture, how far will God go to let us have our own way? What are some specific things God will do and not do within the bounds of covenant?

 

 

RESOURCES

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Naaman learns that when God’s prophet tells you to do something weird in order to be healed, you should just go with it. Read about it in  2 Kings 5:1-15a (NET).