MAY 10

10:15 I Facebook Live

Firestarters

The smoke descended on our house, blanketing the horizon and reducing the visibility to just across the street. Fortunately, we’d heard the message on the radio earlier, controlled fires in the forest south of town would be going on for a few days so don’t worry. Well, it’s one thing to be told “don’t worry,” it’s another thing to overcome our natural instinct to get nervous when we smell smoke. Well, people were more than nervous when Paul, Silas, and their crew came to town, they were downright riotous. See, this group of the first Christian missionaries was setting “fires” everywhere. They would roll into town and preach like lightning, and the Holy Spirit would inflame people's hearts and the people around them would smell smoke and jump up to find the source and extinguish the spark like their lives and livelihood depended on it. But no matter how many times this band of believers was run outta town, they had their matches ready for the next stand of wood. This week though, Paul finds a whole new type of wood to kindle. Let’s see what happens. 

 

Grace and peace, y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

 

Question of the Week

(type your response on the Grace Facebook Live page)

Has it ever felt dangerous to you to share your faith?

​Teaching: Find the passage Acts 17

 

The Big Idea:

The Gospel is like a fire that spreads wherever the Church goes.

 

Context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions for personal reflection: This week Paul takes the Gospel of Jesus into a place with little, if any, knowledge of the Judaic background from which it springs. It’s easy for us to say we are different, having grown up, many of us, in a “Christian” culture. But are there areas of our lives, our imagination, where Jesus has yet to penetrate? Where we keep an interior “Areopagus,” full of endless ideas and debates but little or no Jesus? Maybe the way we think about politics or economics or entertainment or… where? What would it look like for Jesus to be “preached” in these areas? Imagine this without shame or judgement or the desire to explain away your actions, just let it in.


Questions for small-group discussion: I know group discussions are tough or impossible in these times, but I want us to continue to think as a group about what it means to be a church on mission, the people of a God who is on mission. Spend some time reading and re-reading Paul’s preaching at Athens (it takes about two minutes to read). What would this look like on our “Mars Hill” (the U of A), our “Areopagus” (Walmart HQ), among our “Temples” (corner of Dickson and College)? As we emerge from the physical distancing, what will our focus be?

 

Communion/Reflection/Offering

  • During this time, those gathered in homes should use the elements they have with them as we take communion together. We believe communion is an open table, welcoming all who seek Jesus. Use the elements you have at home as we take communion together. 

    • The link for giving your offering is here.

    • Use this time to reflect and commit to ask on what God the Holy Spirit is showing you during this time.

 

 

Benediction

Today’s benediction comes from the letter Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica we read about today, He wrote this: “Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, sisters and brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies,  but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.  Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Amen.”

For the Kids

  • Color:  As we started talking about before Easter, it sure seemed as if Jesus was doing a new thing! He was telling the people that the presence of the living God was not trapped inside the temple made by human hands. Scroll to the bottom page for a printable color sheet that will remind you of the new church

  • Create:  If you’re up for a challenge, read through the Scripture of the week again with your family. Notice the responses and emotions mentioned in the story. For example, in verse 5, it says the people were jealous. Using a smartphone or other device, take some selfies or photos of others in your house responding in the ways that are mentioned in the story.  Compile the photos in a creative way and share them with us! Now, talk about it: How do you react when you’re listening to new ideas?

For the Parents

Our friend Havah shared recently an experience she had with encouraging her daughter to talk about her feelings. Especially in these times of altered schedules and life outside of the norm, you and your kiddos might feel like having a meltdown!

 

 

Here’s what Havah said: “We’ve been on the struggle bus here in the evenings the past few nights. Mostly normal, run of the mill, two-nager stuff, but momma hasn’t been at her stellar best in responding either. But we keep trying. To learn to identify our feelings, verbalize what we need, respond to each other in grace, lean into the hard things, and we try so so so hard to be grateful at the same time. Most of the time I feel woefully ill-equipped and like I fail more than I don’t.

 

 

And then there are glimmers in between that remind me that this hard and holy work we are all attempting as parents is SO WORTH IT. Tonight, baby girl was crying about ALL the things. Meltdown # I-lost-count was as we were getting out of the bathtub. I took a breath and pray-breathed deep while I was helping her out and pulled a bright pink towel out to wrap her in. I took a second to just stand there and hold her little cocooned body as she cried and she said “I’m sad! I miss my sissy!!!”  Ugggghhhhhh. I hugged her more and told her I heard her heart, I was so sorry she was sad, and that I loved her and she was safe. She took a deep breath and I whispered, “I love you baby girl.” She untangled her arms from the towel, wrapped them around my neck and said, “I love you too Mommy. Thank you for getting me the pink towel.”

 

You guys. She is two. She identified her feelings (sad), expressed them, let herself be comforted, and in the middle of it recognized one of her favorites (the towel) and WAS GRATEFUL. She’s going to change the world, I tell you. PS-we face timed with her sister before bed and that helped end the night PERFECTLY.”

 

For Further Reflection

Commentary here and here, and listen here

A deep dive into Paul’s preaching in Athens

Bonus

The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands.  

Acts 17:24

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MAY 28

10:15 I Facebook Live

Don't Sleep, There Are Wolves

Outspoken atheist, magician, and TV show host Penn Jillette uploaded a short video clip years ago in which he describes meeting a man backstage after a performance one night. The man was complimentary, said he was a big fan of the show, and then gave Jillette a copy of the New Testament with the Psalms, a pocket-sized version. The man said he wrote a little note in the front cover. Jillette was so moved by the man’s gesture that he had to record this video of the encounter. He reflected, “[the man] was kind, and nice, and sane, and looked me in the eyes, and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.” As a professing atheist, Jillette’s next thoughts were surprising: He said that he has no respect for believers who do not proselytize. If believers believe in a hell and a heaven but fail to tell people, it’s no better than watching an oncoming truck hit a pedestrian when you saw it coming and didn’t want to tackle them and make it awkward. But being given a Bible, he mused, was an act of love and respect. Likewise, a good shepherd rescues a sheep from the maw of a wolf rather than watching the wolf stalk the sheep from a distance, refusing to get involved. In Acts 20, we will see Paul’s travels and life among the disciples and the Mediterranean church as he prepares the flock for the wolves eyeing them. Paul hands out travel-sized New Testaments in spite of social awkwardness and commits his followers to the Good Shepherd.

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

 

Question of the Week

(type your response on the Grace Facebook Live page)

Who could use the encouragement that you have to offer through the Spirit?

​Teaching: Find the passage Acts 20

 

The Big Idea:

God the Spirit is the unifying factor among believers, orienting us towards Himself and to one another. Occasionally, we must rely on the Spirit to encourage one another, help one another, and prepare one another for the world we live in. 

 

Context

Questions for personal reflection:

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the day on the Church calendar we remember and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Reflect on where you have seen God the Holy Spirit in your life in the past. Where is God the Holy Spirit at work now? Where do you want to be more present to God the Holy Spirit in the future?
 


Questions for small-group discussion: These are trying times, y’all. Take some time to reach out to each other and encourage, listen, ask and receive. 

 

Communion/Reflection/Offering 

Take this time to contemplate the blood and the body of Christ as you reflect on the message and what it means in your own life. You can also bring forth your offering by visiting our giving page. 

Benediction

Grace Church, God is close.

As our lives seem distant and disjointed, we remember that God is always close and in this we are one no matter where we sit. 

We are living through a period of deep disruption, chaos and anxiety. The things and people we hold most dear have been separated from us and the normal order of life has been utterly upended.

God does not arrive in wind. God does not arrive in an earthquake. God does not arrive in a fire. The creator of all that is and was and is to come, is present in the gentle whisper.

Though the wind rages, the earth shakes and fire scorches all we see, God will be there, close enough to whisper peace to our weary hearts.

As we navigate this pandemic, may we remember the absolute tenderness and perpetual closeness of God. In all the chaos and fear, God is always close enough that we can hear the divine whisper in our hearts. 

God of silence and stillness, we trust you are with us in this time of noise and chaos. We pray for an end to this pandemic. Whisper your words of comfort, encouragement and hope to all who need them in these days of fear. Draw close to those who are sick and all those who risk illness, caring for them, protecting and uplifting them. In Your name, we pray. Amen.

For the Kids

In this long piece of Scripture, Luke is telling about how Paul encouraged the new believers and reminded them about grace. Especially when we’re spending a lot of time in the house together, it can be hard to show each other grace! Role-play these scenes by writing them down on slips of paper and drawing them out of a bowl. Let the person who draws the slip of paper decide who will play which role. 

  • Just as everyone is sitting down to eat dinner, you knock over a large glass of milk. How doeseveryone react? How can you show grace to others when they have accidents? 

  • You have made plans with a friend, and the day they’re supposed to get together with you, you find out they forgot all about you and your plans together. What do you say to them? 

  • You have been looking for a job, but can’t find one, and you have bills to pay. What will therest of the family say to you? How can you encourage them when they are feeling discouraged? 

 

Spend some time coloring - download this fun Holy Spirit Dove coloring page here.

For Further Reflection

Bonus

MAY 24

10:15 I Facebook Live

The Upsetting power of God

Growing up in Austin I had regular brushes with the political establishment.  We had many dignitaries eat at our restaurant, the Barn, on the north edge of town. Governors and Senators were on first name basis’s with my dad and the occasional back room bargain would be hammered out in one of our private dining areas. Then there were regular field trips to the Capitol and various opportunities to help with campaigns. As I got older it got kinda heady for me and I started to dream of maybe making foray deeper into politics. Thankfully God intervened. Now I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s the way it feels. As I contemplated fixing all the things that I felt were wrong with the world through politics, it seemed God stepped in and said, “the only real change comes from when people come to follow me.” I gotta tell you, it really set me back. What I didn’t understand at the time was this wasn’t God so much saying that trying to change things isn’t something Christians should do, but more true change happens inside and out. We see this demonstrated in our text this week. Let’s dig in and see what we can find, 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

 

Question of the Week

(type your response on the Grace Facebook Live page)

What is one big question you have for God right now?

​Teaching: Find the passage Acts 19

 

The Big Idea:

God the Holy Spirit is here to upset our ignorance, our apathy and our addictions.

 

Context

Questions for personal reflection:

Read chapter 18, and pay special attention to the interesting line about Paul cutting his hair because of a vow he made. Paul’s uncut hair would have been a powerful visible symbol of his allegiance, affection and association with the Jewish culture and people. What are the signs and symbols you use to signal your allegiances, affections, affections? What if those symbols suddenly didn’t reflect your beliefs anymore? What would it be like to take them down, pack them all up and give them away? How would that change the way you think about yourself and others? 


 Questions for small-group discussion: Read Ephesians 3:16-21. Now take time to pray this for yourself. Pray for those areas in your life where you need to experience the power and revelation of God.

 

Communion/Reflection/Offering

Building off the exercise above, maybe start a chat about where you are hoping to see God revealed in your life, in the life of our Church and the Church as a whole. Take time to pray for these things to happen.

 

Benediction

Grace Church may Christ dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

For the Kids

Watch this video about the scripture of the week. 

 

For the silversmith, the gospel of the kingdom of the one, true God was very threatening.  How was he supposed to make money if people didn’t want to buy his goddess statues?!

 

Play a game with your family and take turns going around in a circle naming things that the silversmith might make to sell instead of idols.  How many items did you think of?

 

Share a photo with us on our Grace social media letting us know how many you thought of!  

 

Need to move a bit?!  Try this Just-Dance-Style video to a song about the Spirit.

For Further Reflection

Some thoughts on our text and the power of words 

Ephesus was on happ’n place

Bonus

Could this be a time for renewal?

 

MAY 17

10:15 I Facebook Live

When Change Sets Us Apart

In a recent University of Toronto study, researchers took gray-scale pictures of 80 men and 80 women. The people in the photos came from different ethnic backgrounds and didn't have piercings or tattoos. Half made $60,000 a year or less, while the other half made $100,000 or more.

 

When undergraduate students looked at the photos, they could guess the economic status of the individuals in the picture 68 percent of the time. Afterwards the students couldn’t say why they chose the way they did, they just “felt it.”  But oftentimes we don’t want people to guess things about us, we want our identity and allegiances to be crystal clear.

 

Roland Bell wants there to be no doubt as to which professional football team he roots for. Josie Lawson is emphatic that you know she’s a Harry Potter fan. In our current political climate, lots of people want you to know exactly who they support and vote for in ways that go far beyond bumper stickers. These signs and symbols become incredibly important to us, sometimes sacred to us.

 

So what happens when our allegiances change? Usually the first things that go are the symbols. I think something like this is happening in our text this week with Paul. And while it’s easy to miss, it could indicate something profoundly important. 

 

Let’s dig in and see what we can find. 

 

Grace and peace, y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the Teaching Team

 

Question of the Week

(type your response on the Grace Facebook Live page)

What are you most grateful for in your life right now?

​Teaching: Find the passage Acts 18

 

The Big Idea:

Allegiance to God is a commitment to let go of every other allegiance, and this is a never-ending process.

 

Context

Questions for personal reflection:

Read chapter 18, and pay special attention to the interesting line about Paul cutting his hair because of a vow he made. Paul’s uncut hair would have been a powerful visible symbol of his allegiance, affection and association with the Jewish culture and people. What are the signs and symbols you use to signal your allegiances, affections, affections? What if those symbols suddenly didn’t reflect your beliefs anymore? What would it be like to take them down, pack them all up and give them away? How would that change the way you think about yourself and others? 


 Questions for small-group discussion: Encourage people in your group to watch the film A Hidden Life (not suitable for kids). Create a forum for talking about the message of the film.

 

Communion/Reflection/Offering

  • During this time, those gathered in homes should use the elements they have with them as we take communion together. We believe communion is an open table, welcoming all who seek Jesus. Use the elements you have at home as we take communion together. 

    • The link for giving your offering is here.

    • Use this time to reflect and commit to ask on what God the Holy Spirit is showing you during this time.

 

 

Benediction

Grace Church, go now to bear witness in all things our love for Jesus, our commitment to God’s Kingdom and our unity in God the Holy Spirit. Sacrificially lean in where it is life-giving and helpful, and respectfully make space where it allows for health and healing. Let kindness and grace mark all you do. Practice hospitality and live in shalom. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

For the Kids

We are studying the book of Acts together as a church family. This book tells us a lot about the early Church, and some of the challenges and celebrations they had as the Gospel about Jesus started spreading.

 

Did you know that the apostle Paul was a tentmaker?! It says in this chapter that he was in the tent-making business, just like his friends Aquila and Priscilla.  

 

Ask your family if you can make a tent inside your house. You might use some sheets over some chairs, or a blanket and some couch cushions. Now, take a smart device in your tent and watch this short video about Paul and his tentmaker friends. The passage and the video mention things that these friends did together to help support each other and spread the Good News.

 

Play a game of Fishbowl with your family using these words and any others you thought of:  working at tentmaking, teaching, leaving, sailing, strengthening, greeting,  explaining, demonstrating from Scriptures, writing letters 

 

Talk about it: How does your family help others and work together to spread the Good News?  If you’re not involved in any way right now, what would you like to do in the future?

For Further Reflection

Commentary on this week’s text here

Bonus

“Something About the Book of Romans that will Help You Really ‘Get’ It” 

“Beyond ‘Plandemic’: A Christian Response to Conspiracies”

MAY 3

10:15 I Facebook Live

When the Spirit Blocks the Way

March 1 of this year, just a little more than 60 days ago, the world looked very different. Different for me, for you, for all of us. On March 1, Jane and I had three major opportunities about to open up for us, projects we’d spent years envisioning and working towards. On top of that, The Abide Collective, the non-profit we head up, was geared for its busiest season ever. During the following couple of weeks all of that fell apart, just as plans, opportunities and expectations  have for so many others. Years of work and dreams, plans and projects, stalled, cancelled, evaporated. Just like that the future looked starkly different, radically altered.

 

To say it's been disorienting is a significant understatement. I often find myself muttering under my breath, “Just what in the holy… is going on?”

 

I bet I’m not alone in that. In fact, I count on it. No matter how isolated or alone we may feel, we are not alone. Not only is God with us, but we also have the testimony of so many who have gone before us and encountered the same kind of radical reorienting we are experiencing. What can we learn from them? This week we are going to hit the trail and find out.

 

Grace and peace, y’all,

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

 

Question of the Week

(type your response on the Grace Facebook Live page)

What question are you asking the Holy Spirit right now?

​Teaching: Find the passage Acts 16

 

The Big Idea:

The world and our lives are always being reoriented, often imperceptibly, sometimes catastrophically. But the Holy Spirit is a true guide to lead us if we can learn to follow. And the only way to learn to follow is by following. 

 

Context

Acts 16 offers us important clues about the economy of Macedonia in Paul’s day, as well as a dramatic example of what happened when the provocative Gospel message challenged the status quo. The economic factors at play give us a lot to think about; how might they shape the way we understand this passage, and what are take-aways for the 21st-century church? The Theology of Work Project has some ideas.

Questions for personal reflection: Learning to hear, discern and follow the Holy Spirit is something that takes a lifetime (eternity?) of practice. As you read the text from this week, where can you identify with some of the reactions to the situations you read about? Which ones seem unlike anything you have experienced? Most importantly, where are you discerning the Holy Spirit in your life right now?


Questions for small-group discussion: I’m really fascinated with the image of Paul, Silas, the other prisoners, and the jailer and his family all gathered in the jailer’s house (probably attached to the jail), sharing and talking through the night. What are the practices that you find life-giving while so many are in this time of confinement? What lessons and practices can we take from this story?

 

Communion/Reflection/Offering

  • During this time, those gathered in homes should use the elements they have with them as we take communion together. We believe communion is an open table, welcoming all who seek Jesus. Use the elements you have at home as we take communion together. 

    • The link for giving your offering is here.

    • Use this time to reflect and commit to ask on what God the Holy Spirit is showing you during this time.

 

 

Benediction

Grace Church, may now the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, our shepherd and King, and God the Holy Spirit, our ever present guide, equip you, me, all of us, with everything good that we may do God’s will, working in us all that is pleasing in God’s sight. That the life-giving power of God would be present in us, among and through us to the glory of God the Father, Jesus our Savior and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For the Kids

 

For Further Reflection

Watch this short and terrific introduction to the Book of Acts.

Commentary here and here  

What is “Central” to the Gospel? 

And what is “Gospel” anyway?

Bonus

Are we really at war with a virus?

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