Summary of the Lessons in Semester Two
EGP Semester 2 Lesson 1 How is Peace Possible?
January 21, 2009
Teacher: Verna McCrillis
Notes by Sonya Mounts
We were provided the materials for semester two and discussed some of the changes made to the curriculum. Previous editions have included a lot of Old Testament material which provided the basis for the Peace through Grace Journal section. This is “the wall” section and reminds us that we need the wall/protection of God’s character around our lives. It’s a place to list what you are learning about God from scripture in correspondence to struggles you face (our rubble). It was suggested that we look through the scriptures that we have recorded over time to identify themes of what God wants us to know. We began listing some of these on the white board.
Verna shared how when she first started reading the Bible looking for God, she saw that God was showing her about His sovereignty, how He’s in control and doesn’t need her help with that. One verse that has spoken to her recently is Psalm 10:14, “God has seen trouble and grief, observing it in order to take matters into His hands.” She shared some examples of her intervention (control) with her husband in order for things to be done right and how God has shown her that if she takes over and doesn’t give her husband the opportunity to fail, he doesn’t even have to go to God in a situation.
The question came up of what to do when there is a theme or cluster of struggles and no scriptural truth has really impacted your heart regarding that situation. Often, when we face a struggle and seek Godly counsel we are given a scripture, and while it may be good and right, it may not always speak to our hearts and give us the peace we seek. The Holy Spirit needs to minister through you to enlighten you with the scripture and minister to your heart. Two ways were suggested:
1) Search scripture, crying out to the Lord asking, “what do you want me to know?”
2) Theophostic prayer—have someone pray with you to find the root of the problem, get God’s light/truth on the situation, identify the deep wound or a vow/code—something you live by and have taken on with determination to help you get through. During this type of prayer, participants feel the feelings, connect with the memories, recognize unbelief and connect with God’s truth. Theophostic prayer is offered to our class on Friday mornings.
We began our lesson on how peace is possible. This was based on 2 Peter 1:1-4. We reviewed some vocabulary. Knowledge is from the word epignosis which means full, participatory knowledge through a relationship (spending time). Glory means correct estimation or opinion—and we are designed to give God glory and enjoy him. Excellence is superiority, fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed. Granted—like a gift.
In 2 Peter 1:1-4, it says that God wants grace and peace multiplied to us and this can happen through participating in a full relationship with Him. A question came up regarding difficulty believing verse 2 that his divine power has given everything pertaining to life and godliness. What is wrong when we aren’t exhibiting it? What is the blockage keeping the fruit of the Spirit from coming out? These will be discussed in later lessons, but include the flesh, pride, and unbelief that He has done a work in us. We looked again at the belief system schematic—that we can choose to walk according to the flesh or by the Spirit in any situation. We were reminded of the three main unbeliefs: in God’s love, his sovereignty, and forgiveness. Ask yourself what you’re not believing about God when caught in a sin pattern.
We read 2 Peter 1:5-7 and learned the definitions of the key words based on the original Greek. The scriptures on the surface talk about what we need to do, yet in their original language showed that it was really Christ doing the work and we are to participate in this process. The word apply means to contribute in addition to, for the phrase supply moral excellence, supply has the meaning of a participant in a choir where the conductor has provided all the expenses. Moral excellence has to do with fulfillment of purpose, to give correct estimation of God. Self control (egkrateia) means the controlling power of the will under the operation of the Spirit of God. We compared this with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 which show that the Spirit is doing the work and the fruit is coming out.
We briefly reviewed the belief system. A question asked was how you can know whether you were walking in humility/by the Spirit or by the flesh. The conundrum is that if you recognize that you were walking by the Spirit, you may give yourself the credit versus being thankful and acknowledging Christ in you. Sometimes we want to take credit for what God has done. Jesus used a child as an example for humility—children are dependent and recognize their need(s). Thankfulness is key. We’re to be at one with Him, but the purpose is not to do it to look back at it or get into a legalistic pattern of achievement.
We had a demonstration—three people are standing in a line (arrows represent the directions their facing). Person → ←Us ← God. In this example, we’re in the middle trying to deal with a situation with the person on the left, but in the process are blocking the person on left’s view of God. The point was that sometimes we need to get out of the way, so that God can deal with that person directly (and also not turn away from God to focus on another person).
EGP Semester 2, completion of lesson 1
January 28, 2009
notes by Katie Moorman
We started with praise and Verna presented us with a cool chart....and there is no way I can reproduce it for you on here, but it was a constant line with a big wave going up and down through it. The constant line is God's truth in our lives and the ups and downs were labeled with things like excitement, depression, comfortableness, and being alone. The idea is that we should be trying to match up to the "constant" in our life, which is God's truth. So, when we're excited, ask Him to turn that into joy, or when we feel alone, ask God to show us the truth about where he is that day--maybe he even will put someone on our mind to call. He understands relationships and knows that we need them in our lives.
We reviewed and finished chapter one. This included finishing 2 Peter 1. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, but the choice is ours to participate. If we choose to follow and grow, we will be useful and fruitful to God, not blind or short-sighted (forgetting our forgiveness), be sure of His calling and choice of us, we won’t stumble, and will have an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom.
Verna emphasized that our responsibility is to participate in a relationship with God, and that grace and peace will be multiplied to us through this relationship. She also emphasized that if the "fruit" is lacking in our lives, it is because we've forgotten we have been forgiven. This manifests itself in many ways (pride and its products=fear, anxiety, arrogance). We were reminded that we need to "preach the gospel to ourselves every day" as one good author put it. We also talked about how if we know and practice that God has called and chosen us, that our entrance into heaven will be abundantly secured (2 Pet 1:11). This verse almost seems like a works-based verse, however Verna showed us that even a shameful man can get to heaven (1 John 2:28), but those who are diligent about his calling will enter heaven confidently and joyfully.
She ended class with showing us a list she wants us to start working on (pg 133) entitled "Dealing with my expectations". (This is also available on the website.) We started listing together all the things that we expect of ourselves and fail to meet. She wanted us to this week take each of those things on the list, pray and ask God to cause us to desire only what He expects - growth, not perfection. Also, to see what God is doing in our lives, she wanted us to list how God has been growing us in the last 6 months or so and to thank him for each His work in our life. It's neat to write down the areas in your life where you have grown and to acknowledge his grace (his work).
She also painted a picture for us of God which was particularly helpful to me. She started out with the premise that God was pleased with our progress, however small or nonexistent it may be. Imagine you are the mom of a four year old boy playing soccer (she used her own son as an example). He doesn't know what he is doing out there. He's kicking the ball the wrong way, running around bumping into people (life). If he happens to make a goal, the mom will have a sense of pleasure swell up in her. But that doesn't mean that she was displeased when she was watching him the rest of the game. (pleasure is defined as an emotion that shows extra enjoyment.)
Meanwhile Mom (God) is on the sidelines cheering you on, thinking you are just the most beautiful thing ever created. She never scowls or says, "I can't believe you missed that goal!" She might, though run alongside you, giving you encouragement or is happy to help if you come running up to her and ask for direction. The whole time she thinks of you with joy, even when you mess up. That's exactly how God thinks of us when we mess up. He just admires his beautiful creation and is happy to coach, give advice or nudge in a different direction. He's not up there looking down from his mighty throne and displeased with us because we messed up again. He loves us deeply. And he understands our inabilities and weaknesses.
EGP Semester 2, Lesson 2 - This is A Test (Or it will be soon)
February 4, 2009
Notes by Sonya Mounts
Today’s lesson was about the testing of our faith. Faith isn’t faith until it is tested and proven. We reviewed many scriptures about how God tested his people throughout the Bible. Testing brings many question to the surface:
· Will I trust God’s forgiveness?
· Will I believe God?
· Will I listen to God?
· Will I embrace my circumstances as God’s gift of love for me?
· Will I trust God’s love?
· Will I run to God?
· Will I thank God?
· Will I obey God?
God is looking to teach something about our faith by testing us. Deuteronomy 8:1-3 says that when God tested the Israelites in the desert, he did it to humble them, see what is in their hearts, and whether they would obey. He wanted them to recognize their need to depend on Him. We discussed that God already knows how we will respond, so the test actually shows us where we are with our faith. There was some personal frustration voiced from member(s) who felt like they were facing the same test or trial repeatedly and still are not responding with faith or not growing from the trials. We were reminded that God is happy to see that we are growing/progressing/maturing in faith, while we often expect perfection of ourselves. Self focus is problematic (we should be focusing on God). Fear will regress vs. grow our faith.
We discussed two different responses to trials: coasting after God has gotten us through something or expecting another test and being on high alert (to prepare self for pain, not trusting His goodness, or that trials are a good thing for us).
Tests are really important—they can deepen our relationship with God, show us what we’re lacking, and areas of deception in our lives. When we’re in default flesh mode, God gives us the opportunity to recognize what we don’t believe about Him. This is the opportunity for the grace exchange—asking God to cause you to believe the truth, in his goodness, etc. We may think that this life and all of the problems in it are all about us, but they are another way God is drawing us to Him.
Our faith can waver based on whether we feel like God is answering our prayer (the way we want it answered!), but in cases like that our faith is in what we want the answer to be, not in God.
God wants you to know that he is with you, carrying you, powerful in you. Testing can lead to growth and maturity. We often look at temporal (non eternal) problems. Glory (correct estimation of God) will be revealed to us later. Per 1 Peter 5:10, after suffering, God will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish us.
During a trial, we often have a downward focus and go into control mode (as if what Christ did doesn’t count). This feels safe, but points out several unbeliefs about God or fears: that he’ll withhold something from us or that He is going to give us something bigger than we can handle, etc. These fears take us in the opposite direction of the truth.
Someone questioned what it looked like to share in Christ’s sufferings—it’s a big grace exchange—acknowledging what God is doing through this. 1 Peter 4:12-13 that talks about sharing in the sufferings also talks about rejoicing. The word rejoice as well as joy, thankfulness, and gratitude share the root charis (grace) reminding us to acknowledge God’s power.
Sometimes we respond to a trial in indignation that we don’t deserve this—but this is really an argument about our own goodness vs. God’s. God doesn’t always give us the consequences we deserve.
Sometimes we think that we got ourselves into it, and we need to get ourselves out of it. Someone asked whether trials could be of our own making and we are just reaping the consequences of our decisions. This often is the case, but when we blame ourselves, we don’t believe God as redeemer. Guilt can be a familiar/comfortable place to wallow instead of communing with God.
Are you looking forward to the test? God will use it to grow you, to recognize His eternal glory. It’s a chance to recognize what you believe about God, and opportunity to go to God quicker.
We ended with praise, to focus again on God’s truth.
EGP Semester 2, Lesson 3 - Identifying Pride (A Focus on Self)
February 11, 2009
Notes by Sonya Mounts
We started class by going around the room and everyone sharing how their time in the Word has been going for the last two weeks. It was an honest/transparent discussion of struggles and victories.
To begin the lesson on pride, we reviewed Old and New Testament definitions of the word. It had several definitions in the Old Testament including to seethe, to mount up and be majestic, to strut like a proud lion, to urge severely (control), and to twist in a way to enlarge/make wide (do everyone’s job for them). New Testament definitions for pride include to envelop like smoke or inflate, haughtiness or to appear over, boasting—taking credit for good things that are happening.
Opposite of pride, to be humble is to depress, abase self or submit self. Another definition is to bend the knee, humiliate, bring down or subdue.
We reviewed the Genesis account of the fall of man. We saw how Eve did not run to God for wisdom in regard to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Self focus and independence from God resulted in sin. We can learn from this account that pride and rebellion can be seen when we seek to meet our own needs, do not seek God, and are ashamed to go to God when we realize our error. Fear resulted (fear means what we hold in highest honor—instead of God). An example came up during this discussion. A classmate had recently heard gunshots at night, immediately feared since her husband was not there, and went to get her own gun. This pointed out that her hope was in her husband to protect her, and next in her own (or her gun’s) ability to protect herself. Fear occurs when we try to take responsibility for things instead of trusting God to do it—and doing it our own way is from pride.
We studied Revelation 3:17-18, where the people thought they were wealthy and not in need of anything. This is prideful—trusting in riches to provide, rather than trusting in God. A schematic showed two places our focus can be: God (which leads to peace) or self, circumstances and other people. This focus leads to despair, fear, worry, guilt, etc. Focus on God takes humility and gives him responsibility for the situation versus taking control. The self focus involves pride—taking responsibility for one self.
Other scriptures showed that focus on success, blessings and material possessions can lead to pride and forgetting what the LORD has done (Deut 8:11-14, 17). During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded listeners not to worry and to know that God will take care of their needs. Worry is a focus on self; pride.
All of the reminders of the pervasiveness of pride show that it is impossible to avoid pride in our own strength. Grace is God’s divine influence on our hearts and its reflection in our lives. Pride blocks this reflection—and pride produces its own reflection of worry, guilt, despair, anger, control, indifference, etc. Mercy is to be compassionate and extend help for the consequences of sin. We can be thankful that Jesus has paid for our sin. Christ is the example of humility (Philippians 2:1-13).
EGP Semester 2 lesson 4: Walking in Humility
February 18, 2009
We began with a review of last week’s lesson on pride. Pride is a focus on self. It could be considered the root of all sin. It has many faces and definitions include seething, strutting, and puffing up. Pride includes: feeling one can meet their own needs, putting their self before others, not giving God glory for gifts he has given, taking credit, and taking responsibility for others (control). It brings about fear. Fear and pride are interconnected.
Fear is a physical response. All emotions are God given. Fear can be an initial response, but then (as in all circumstances) we can follow the path of humility (asking God what to do) or pride (taking the responsibility)—which could be manifested by worrying. Fear is pride, trying to be in control. The common phrase in the Bible, “Do not fear” means to trust in God. Walking by faith sometimes goes against training and common sense.
One asked about chemical/clinical anxiety. Sometimes these fearful tendencies have been very ingrained and turned into a well worn path. Medical attention may be needed to get out of it. It’s not simply a faith deficiency; none of us has enough faith. One shared how she was on such medication for several years, and began asking God whether she still needed it and went through a process of re-training her mind. This class had been helpful to her in that regard.
We discussed the common perceptions of being humble including a self imposed position serving, downplaying things, deflecting praise, debasing self, and going to the end of a line. The Biblical concept is to bend the knee, submit to God, focus on God, to be humiliated or cast down. A lot (all?) service actions could look like humility, but could come from a heart of pride. We were reminded that it is God’s job to make us holy, it’s not something we can accomplish by our own actions. When we set up “rules”—if I do _____, I will be humble—we are doing works, not relying on God’s work.
We read several of Jesus’ parables on pride/humility as well as many other scriptures on the subject. Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, that although their actions looked honorable, their hearts didn’t! Jesus could see their hearts and how they viewed themselves as righteous and looked down at others. Isaiah saw the Lord in his holiness and became very aware of his sin and humbled (and God cleansed his sin).
Pride is opposed to agape love. There is no fear in love and fear prevents us from sensing God’s love. So many scriptures show that God gives grace to the humble and hates pride (and will punish it).
We reviewed more scriptures about what it looks like to walk in humility and it is a bit of a conundrum—if we figure out how to do it ourselves (make a rule about it), it can turn into pride. Living by such rules is legalism. Here’s an example, the scripture Romans 12:16 says to associate with people of low position. If we decide we’ll always talk to the unlovable person no one else is talking to, it is us doing it, not asking God what He wants in a situation. Another example given was going to the back of line, letting everyone go in front at a register. If one does this as their means to attain humility, this can also become a form of pride, being self-motivated and rules guided instead of God initiated. The same action/service could come from a heart of humility or of pride. It can become pride when we ask ourselves what we should do versus asking God.
Christ is the model of humility. Humility involves considering others before themselves. Pride tries to take responsibility; humility recognizes the need to trust in God’s control and provision. We are not to get caught up in riches which are temporary, but look to God as provider. Pride can cause people to forget God as the giver and provider (Deut 8:14-18). We are to cast (throw) our cares on Him instead of trying to handle everything ourselves.
One way we can know we are walking in pride is through negative emotions, unrest, victim mentality—a me focus. Pain brings pride to the surface. Pain exposes pride, pride doesn’t want pain in the picture; we try to avoid pain. Scripture says that after a short time, pain produces a harvest of righteousness. Sometimes during an act of service to others we can waver between humility and pride as our focus shifts from God to ourselves/others/circumstances.
Humility is manifested in a teachable spirit and justice. False humility is mentioned specifically in religious situations.
According to Hebrews 12:5, God can humble us and He scourges those He loves (since he knows that pride ends in destruction).
The grace exchange involves recognizing that we can’t live humbly in our own strength, we need to give God our pride, control issues, worries, etc. for his strength.
EGP Semester Two Lesson Five: How Does God Define Love?
February 25, 2009
We started by discussing what to write down on our wall section (Peace through Grace) in the journal. The illustration of rain on a mountain was given—the rainwater tend to flow together down the mountain in streams in the same locations after each storm. These well worn paths are where the flesh likes to take us, and can be recurring struggles of anxiety, depression, etc. When these fleshly patterns are identified, list them in this journal section and ask God for scriptural truth to exchange for wrong thinking. It is not just using “Christian Positive Thinking” to repeat these verses over and over or try to accomplish virtue in your own strength. It’s also not thinking that if you make yourself believe and obey then the feelings will follow. The object is to do a grace exchange—recognize it is not about yourself doing the work, but about Christ doing it in you; exchanging your own weakness for Christ’s power. When we ask God to take away our problems, we’re asking him to leave us empty.
We discussed obedience in one’s own strength. The actions could look righteous, but it is imitation godly behavior. Can acts of service be godly behavior if your attitude is wrong? It may look like it, but when you don’t feel like it and do the right thing anyway in your own strength, you are bypassing grace. With grace, you acknowledge you can’t do it by yourself, but you ask God to do it in you. Ask God to cause you to believe that Christ died for this (whatever he’s asking you to do and you don’t feel up to doing). Commune with God and thank Him. Acknowledge that He has abundantly supplied grace; this is the meaning of thankfulness. Obedience is not just actions, but a heart matter as well.
We were given a choice of markers and asked to personalize and decorate outlines of tea cups. After we finished coloring, we shared our unique designs. The tea cup was a visual depiction of each of us. God’s love is poured into us and overflows and spills out. If we are out of balance, tipped toward another person, we aren’t able to receive everything God offers or become fully filled from God. Pride can tip our tea cup—trying to get or give love from others to fill us.
We discussed the Greek words for love. Eros is romantic love, dependent on the object of love being attractive. This is not used in the New Testament. Storge is natural affection such as between a mother and child. It is conditional. Phileo is brotherly love, mutual attraction, friendship, and parental love. It is conditional and can fail. Agape love is used in scripture over 300 times. It is sacrificial, unconditional, unfailing love that seeks the highest good for the other person. It only comes from God or knowing God.
God’s love is sacrificial even to the point of giving life for another, His love has been poured out in us, it is demonstrated, and cannot be blocked. His nature is love. A consciousness of God’s agape love is necessary for one to be able to extend that sacrificial, unconditional love to others.
We discussed how to keep ourselves in God’s love (as scripture commands in Jude 21). Some suggestions were to stay in God’s Word, focus on who God is through his Word, fellowship with others, praying, praise, and seeing his expression in others to commune with Him and abide in Him.
We reviewed 1 Corinthians 13 and what it says about what love is (and how God is, since God is love). All sorts of good deeds can be done without love. We reviewed what we think patience is: not using words, not complaining, not showing emotion, not yelling. We learned that the Greek word for patience means to be long suffering with people, bearing with difficult people. We discussed how this could be like holding up a heavy weight and not buckling under it. God does use words and has emotions and long deadlines. When you’re being impatient with others, you don’t see God’s patience for yourself.
Kindness, also, doesn’t mean in scripture how we normally think of it. It’s not just being sweet or pleasant, it means showing oneself useful. It’s not passive.
EGP Semester 2 Lesson 6 Filling up With God’s Love
We shared what we’re learning about God and listed these truths on the board. Before reading the Bible (and writing down one thing a day we learn about God), we should pray about what God wants us to know and ask why He wants us to know that. Sometimes the answer doesn’t come right way.
We talked about feeling that we don’t deserve God’s love and whether believing we did deserve God’s love (since His nature is love) would help us truly believe it. If we say we don’t deserve God’s love, it may be because we feel like His love is contingent on our good behavior. We are created for His love; it is not dependent on our actions. His love is unconditional and sacrificial, but deep in us is a feeling of unworthiness. God thinks we deserve being loved, but sometimes we don’t agree with God in this. Could someone become overconfident of God’s love? If pride would come out, that is not God’s love.
There are three roots of unbelief—not believing God’s love, forgiveness or sovereignty. These can be manifested as hurt, anger, disappointment, guilt, and shame. Arrogance and selfishness can come out as hurt. An “I need” focus takes us off a focus on God.
If roots are in belief, the fruit is of the Spirit. Belief is accepting the truth, knowing it, and participating fully in it.
We went back and finished chapter five before starting on chapter six. This included reviewing definitions of some of the descriptions of love in I Corinthians 13. God is love, so these descriptions describe Him, too. Love (God) is not jealous—which means to be hot, to boil. It does not brag (is not vainglorious, arrogant, or puffed up). God is more interested in serving us than building himself up. Love (God) does not act unbecomingly (which is also translated as rude). Love (God) is not easily provoked (irritated or exasperated with us) and does not take into account wrongs suffered (doesn’t keep a record of wrongs). Many of us have this (erroneous) fear inducing image of God at Judgment with a very long list of all of our life’s sins. Those who are forgiven have been dissociated from our sins and those sins are paid for/covered.
Someone asked whether God’s call for us to serve is selfish. Scripture says that apart from Him we are nothing and that it is God at work within us and to work according to his purpose. So, it is not us working for God, but God in us and with us as we work.
We began the study of lesson six. It begins with a continuation of I Corinthians 13:6-8 and definitions of love (God). It rejoices with the truth. The word rejoice has the root from charis (grace) and means to be cheerfully or calmly well off. Truth is from a word that means not concealing. Love bears all things—bear means to cover [like a roof] with silence. Love believes—meaning to be fully persuaded. It hopes—expecting with confidence, anticipating with pleasure. God’s love never fails; he doesn’t give up on us.
Some discussed having difficulty to believe God’s love is unconditional and unfailing, especially coming from an Old Testament perspective when God’s love seemed conditional and his dealings seemed severe. We discussed how God’s dealings have changed, but his character has not—He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
We were encouraged to start a new page in our wall (peace through grace) section of the journal to prayerfully address our doubts about God’s love for us. As a group, we identified some of these thoughts such as thinking God’s love is dependent on us doing the right thing, we don’t deserve God’s love, not having confidence He will fill us to overflowing, believing His love will fail us, or that we can exasperate Him. The truth is that he has bestowed a great love on us and we are his children. Love is his nature and He will be our portion/reward/inheritance, perfect love casts out fear, His love never fails, and His love is poured out in our hearts. We tend to believe that God’s love is exhibited in the form of blessing, but this is not always the case.
We read several verses out of 1 John which talk about God’s love, how His love is demonstrated in us, and how it changes us. Some signs that God’s love is perfected in you include keeping His word and commandments and walking as Jesus walked. Love is to be manifested in believers in an active way. We may need to ask God to cause us to believe His love.
By believing God’s love, we should have no fear. Loving our brother is a natural overflow of God’s love.
Semester 2, Lesson 8 DEALING WITH FEAR, WORRY AND ANXIETY
Notes by Ingrid Bairstow
[NOTE: This chapter is being reworked and we skipped p. 79, 81. A new section was added to the lesson, "Dealing with Anger."]
We began the session reviewing lesson 7, "The Battle of the Mind," reminding us how to recognize worldly, ungodly thoughts and lies. Ungodly thoughts are any thoughts not based on Christ and godly ones must include Christ in them. (For example, even though many world religions expound on doing good, they do not include Christ as the way to good. This negates the fullness of God.)
As we began lesson 8, "Dealing with fear, worry and anxiety," Verna reviewed what strongholds are: any belief that is in opposition to God's truth. We looked at Matthew 6:25-34, a beautiful passage where Jesus says to us not to be worried in life. As a class we identified strongholds in the area of food and clothes -- exactly where Jesus tells us not to worry. We examined each stronghold, then looked at what God's truth is about the stronghold and learned that we are to break down the stronghold and replace it with God's protective wall.
Stronghold about food:
If I don't eat vegetables, I will die.
God gave us every blessing and a wide variety of food.
What are you to do?
Bring the lie to God, replace it with his truth and ask Him to replace your worry with peace.
We also looked at false peace versus true peace. False peace is when we live in our comfort zone and arrange our lives so stress and discomfort do not interrupt our peace. An example of this is keeping your house as neat as possible because you like it that way. However, when your house is not neat, and you have discomfort and anxiety, this reveals what is truly inside us and it is not God's true peace. If we have true peace, being in line with God, whether our house is neat or in a mess, we will not be moved when a crisis occurs.
PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION
The lesson also dealt with God's solution to anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer literally means to worship God and supplication means 'to petition or request.' Verna used the illustration of prayer as a sandwich: bread is praise and worship, the inside meat is our supplication or requests to God and the final piece of bread is thanksgiving ("acknowledging that grace has been poured out on us").
DEALING WITH ANGER
This part of the lesson showed us that our emotions are part of God's design for us and are normal -- but they are not to RULE our thoughts and actions. This applies particularly to anger, which has several meanings: 'to trouble, to grieve, rage or be indignant' (OT) and 'desire, excitement of the mind, to stretch oneself and reach out after.'
Feeling anger is natural, but ACTING in anger is always a sin. Instead, we are to take anger to God and give it to Him to replace it with love.
The last part of the lesson identified three different ways people deal with feelings:
1. BIG BLASTER-a person denies feelings for a while but eventually the trash can gets full and you need to blow to release pressure.
2. LEAKER-this person has holes in his trash can, so instead of erupting all at once, the stuffed emotions 'leak' in the form of little jabs or sarcastic remarks, what some may call 'passive-aggressive' behavior.
3. LITTLE BLASTER-this person blasts all the time, so the garbage can is a lot smaller. This person prides themselves on the honesty of expressing their feelings all the time, which is good for you, but not for those around you.
Each of us is one of these garbage cans or a combination of all three. The key to dealing with all these feelings is to admit feelings (taking them captive) and bring them to God. Don't stuff them. Take each incident and bring it to God's incinerator and ask Him to replace that feeling with love. We will have to do this many, many times (probably forever) to keep our trash can empty and our minds full with God.
EGP, Semester 2, Lesson 9 - Conflict, a Call to Intimacy with God
March 25, 2009
Jan Fleet, facilitator
We began by sharing what we have learned about God and prayed our praises. We also discussed the various parts of the journal and class members shared how they used various pages and sections.
We reviewed a bunch of illustrations of people in conflict in various situations and discussed what was happening in each.
There are four types of conflict. One is self against God. Another is against self. Another is against circumstances, and a fourth is against others. These conflicts are based on conflicts with God. We were trying to figure out what this really meant. Possibly, since God gives peace, if we are not having peace, we are in conflict apart from God. How we handle conflicts with others is directly related to our intimacy with God.
We reviewed passages from James about conflict (James 3:13-18 and 4). The wise and understanding demonstrate gentleness, peace, mercy and good fruit, without hypocrisy. The world’s wisdom is earthly, natural (unspiritual), and demonic, jealous, selfish, arrogant.
We have conflicts with others since we are seeking our own pleasure. The real issue is our wrong motives. The solution is humility—to submit to God. God is the purifier of our hearts as we draw near to Him. Even though it looks like we have conflicts with others, they are with God due to wrong motives.
Some in the class voiced questions on how all conflicts can actually be conflicts with God. Conflict is a lack of peace and God is the giver of peace. Jesus had people mad at him, yet he still had peace. Some mentioned pride as the interfering/sinful factor. It was mentioned that not reacting (numbness) is actually a lack of peace, too.
We reviewed the nine steps of dealing with conflict with others found on page 93. These include to acknowledge that God’s grace is abundantly available, telling God how you feel and let Him comfort you, recognize the full scope of the hurt you’ve experienced, acknowledge that the other person can’t pay (fix) the debt—take it to the cross. Forgive the sin, and surrender the person to God. Ask God if there is any sin on your part. As He shows your ungodliness, give Him those patterns. Ask God what he wants you to do next. Thank God that He is working in you.
EGP Semester Two, Review of lesson #9 on conflict
April 1, 2009
We began with praise and prayer requests.
In answer to some questions last week about definitions, we learned about The Complete Word Study New Testament (Strongs). It has a numbering system for words in Greek, and in the back the numbers are defined based on their original meaning. A Key Word Bible also is helpful in this way. A Concordance has some of the same information as the Strongs, but takes an added step. Commentaries are others’ opinions, but with inductive study one can first search out for meaning on one’s own, going back to the original language.
We reviewed last week’s lesson as there were many questions. All conflicts stem from our conflict with God. Example: Getting a parking ticket—is this a conflict with God? We discussed this by looking at the belief system schematic. The initial thoughts and emotions are not a conflict. However, the response could be. We can ask God about it (and then it would not be a conflict because peace would result). Otherwise, we go to the flesh and may begin rationalizing the emotion. The emotions are okay, but it is what we do with them. We can begin to justify ourselves when we think others think our feelings are invalid, and we may leave God out of it, thinking He will invalidate our emotion, too. He really cares about how we feel. We go our own way when we don’t think God cares about fairness or our frustration or our emotions. We can “grieve”—on our own or with God, and doing anything apart from God is sin. Jesus had conflict in life and the initial thoughts and emotions that come with any situation, but he went to God in these situations. We should learn to recognize our physical response to conflict (pit in the stomach, etc.) as the telephone ring of God calling us to bring it to Him. The Peace through Grace section of the journal is a tool to bring these triggers to our attention and remind us to bring it to God sooner. Conflicts are like trials—to pull us into intimacy with God.
We discussed the difference between grace and mercy. Grace is “the divine influence on our hearts and its reflection in our lives.” Mercy means “to extend help for the consequences of sin; to be compassionate. Mercy is a special and immediate regard to the misery which is the consequences of sin; extended to lift the load.” (Strong’s definitions) In James it says, “God gives grace to the humble”. This is quoted from the Old Testament. God’s grace is available to all, although it takes humility to receive it. The New Testament verse goes on to say “but He gives a greater grace.” Hebrews 4:15—we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weakness and he is able to deal gently with us.
One class member has a non Christian friend and she struggles with how to help her. Thoughts (codes) going through her mind include: keep pressure off by avoiding Christian subjects, don’t dare say anything especially if it has caused conflict in the past, I don’t ever know the full story, don’t ever say anything that will hurt. There can be fear of failing God—search for what beliefs are below that. These can become excuses to keep one from asking God. There is no formula on how to help others, Jesus did it in so many ways—keep asking God (pray every second).
With children, sometimes it helps to share your learning/growth and personal experience as you’ve dealt with the same struggle. It’s another opportunity to run to God and ask how to teach the truth to them. A lot of parenting books are what God has taught that person for their child, and sometimes the books can be used as a guide instead of going to God for your individual child.
We need to examine our coping mechanisms (well worn paths) that we default to in a situation. We need to acknowledge and agree that this is occurring and take every thought captive by His grace (power). God wants you to know the truth and to be set free by the truth.
EGP, Semester Two, Lesson Ten—The Roots of Unbelief
April 8, 2009
We prayed/praised through the Tabernacle reflecting on Christ and Easter.
In review of Psalm 1:1-3, the blessed man does not walk in the counsel of wicked or stand in path of sinners or sit in seat of scoffers. Basically, the blessed man doesn’t abide, participate, or connect with wicked. Scoffers show contempt by derisive language, are insulting and show disdain. The blessed man delights and meditates on God’s law day and night. He is like a tree which yields fruit in its season. Jeremiah 17:7-8, also describes a man who trusts in the Lord like a fruitful tree by a stream. He does not fear and will not be anxious and doesn’t cease to yield fruit.
We read other scriptures about fruit. Good fruit doesn’t land in the fire. Fruit is individualized—we are only responsible for our own fruit. Pruning of fruit causes more fruit to be produced. We can only bear fruit if we abide in Christ. Fruit needs to be good, it needs to be pruned to make better fruit, it needs to be part of the plant (we can’t do it alone). We were encouraged to view this passage in John 15 for ourselves (not to judge others). Christ is responsible to grow the fruit. The fruit glorifies the Father. There is fruit of the spirit. Discipline produces a harvest of righteousness.
There are three main roots of unbelief: God sovereignty (he’s in control), his forgiveness, and love. If someone doesn’t believe God’s love for them, their fruit could come out as criticalness, judgment, anxiety, bitterness, worthlessness, seeking love from others, and fear. Not believing God’s sovereignty could look like fear of the future, anger, self reliance, exhaustion, or martyr status. Not believing God’s total forgiveness can look like not forgiving others, living like a wild child, guilt-driven, regret, shame, disappointment, second guessing, and no hope. A fruit can be rationalization. When we recognize the “bad fruit” in our lives, we often try to cut it off, but then it gets bigger and pops up somewhere else. The solution is to take it back to its root and recognize what we’re not believing about God. Part of it is recognizing why this emotion is being stirred up and asking God what is behind it.
We reviewed John 21:1-23. It was when Jesus appeared to Simon Peter and other disciples after the resurrection and they were able to catch fish. Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved him (more than fishing) and told him to feed his lambs. Peter was struggling with whether he was forgiven and Jesus reassured him. Peter was judgmental—asking about another, but Jesus addressed this root of sovereignty—saying not to worry about the other person.
We also reviewed the Mary and Martha story. Martha’s fruits included self-reliance, distraction, busyness, serving, martyrdom, worry, bitterness, anger, and judging. She wasn’t recognizing love, not getting what she needed, felt like what she was doing wasn’t good enough, and may have felt she needed to prove she was good enough. For sovereignty, she didn’t believe the work would get done or in God’s ability to provide and felt she needed to follow the rules. The root of what she was thinking was pride—she asked, “Lord, do you not care?”
Start with the observing the fruit and ask the Lord, “what is truth is that you want me to believe about You?”
We were presented with a diagram of a tree with its roots and then the fruit, both of the flesh and of the Spirit. It had specific good fruit and bad fruit listed. We also were given a worksheet of a tree and its roots for us to complete with to examine the fruit in our lives and the roots of unbelief or belief from which it comes.
EGP Semester Two - Addendum to lesson 10, Dealing with Shame and Guilt
April 22, 2009
We searched our journals to look for themes of what God has been teaching us about himself over time and prayed our praises.
Our last lesson was about the three roots of unbelief—in His love, forgiveness, and sovereignty.
Forgiveness means to cause to stand away, release. God doesn’t release or throw us away, he releases our sin. Purification means to make clean.
We reviewed 2 Peter 1:5-11 which highlights a number of godly characteristics. Moral excellence means standing out as excellent; self control is being under the Spirit’s control. These qualities make you useful and fruitful. If you’re lacking these things it is because you’re forgetting your purification from former sins (v. 9).
Fear is forgetting truth. Forgetting can be from not being reminded of the truth. Our actions show what we really believe.
Yelling at someone could be a reminder that you’ve forgotten that you’re forgiven—since the fruit coming out is not that of the Spirit, it came from a root of unbelief. Think about the interaction and what triggered the raw emotion.
One asked, “What about the verse about the sins of the father being repeated in the children?” Scripture doesn’t contradict scripture, so if we come upon something that confuses us, consider all the other scriptures and the context. Old Testament scriptures were all looking forward to the cross and pointing toward what is to come, whereas after the resurrection, everything looks back to Christ.
Some tendencies could be passed through growing up in an environment with a certain pattern or genetic tendencies. However, Jesus died for all of our sin and we are not being punished for the sins of our ancestors. If we become fearful of our family’s sin we can go into fear and then with pride try to figure out how to fix the situation ourselves.
Sometimes we think we deserve ill treatment from our children since we have done the same thing to our parents. God doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it; it’s based on His mercy, not our goodness. Mercy means coming alongside for the consequences of sin.
Sin means to miss or go wrong or to miss the mark. James 4:17 says that not doing the right thing when you know you should is sin. Romans 14:23 says anything done without faith is sin. However, when we do sin, we have an advocate. Normally, with guilt, we think we owe, a punishment is due, there is sadness for not being good enough, there is a fear of consequences, there can be a shock and feeling stupid, and it can hover like a cloud. Guilt is internal; it is how we think of ourselves. Shame can look like embarrassment, not feeling worthy of being loved, shame is more outwardly reflected and is from considering what other people think.
We may have a tendency to try by our own will and thinking not to do this wrong thing again. We may think that we need to feel bad and wallow in the emotion to teach our self not to repeat the behavior. Some try to make themselves feel bad about their behavior and this can go into a downward spiral, which if left unchecked can end with such as self mutilation and suicide.
We may also want to compare our behavior with others’ to make ourselves look better, but that is self focus.
Romans 8:1-2 declares that there is now no condemnation (judgment against) those who are in Christ Jesus. We are declared not guilty. No one can bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33).
We are going to forgive others the way we believe God has forgiven us. Do we truly believe God forgets our sin?
We reviewed a chart to trace our fleshly fruit to the roots of unbelief.
1) List the things that show up (fruit) when not believing God’s complete forgiveness:
2) What thoughts and/or emotions come with each fruit?
3) What part of pride is this coming from? Self determination, self protection, manipulation, self degradation, self sufficiency, selfish ambition, self gratification, or self provision.
4) What are you not believing about God?
When we stay in a pattern (our mind keeps repeating something which triggers more emotions for us), it is because it is serving a purpose for us. An example would be re-visiting memories of things you regret doing in order to try to remind yourself not to ever do that again. This is an example of self sufficiency and also not believing in God’s love or forgiveness. In this case you can ask yourself, “what do I believe would happen if I would let this go?” I might . . . Then ask whether I can allow Christ to pay for that (and not keep beating myself up for it). Do I believe Christ will come alongside me if this would happen another time?
The “wall” –grace through peace section in the journal is a place to replace our wrong thinking with God’s truth so that we can be renewed.
We closed with Hebrews 4:11-16, which is a reminder of our great High Priest who sympathizes with us and comes alongside us in our weakness and who calls us to draw near to Him.
EGP Semester 2 Lesson 11- What is your purpose?
April 29, 2009
We shared prayer requests and prayed for each other then wrote down what we think is our purpose in life.
The word purpose comes from prothesis—setting forth like an intention or proposal. It also means being exposed before God like the show bread in the tabernacle or to propose or determine.
We read scriptures about purpose. Paul saw his purpose as declaring the purpose of God. Romans 8:28-29 explains that God causes all things to work together for good, to be conformed to the image of his Son. The purpose is God’s choice and doesn’t have to do with a person being good or bad and was set before birth. God has an eternal purpose of salvation, the gospel through Christ, which gives us boldness and confident access—to his riches and himself (Ephesians 3:11-12). His purpose is unchangeable and there are heirs of the promise (Hebrews 6:17). In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus was anointed to preach and fulfilled scripture which was part of why he had been sent. Christ had a purpose to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). God wants us to serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days, Luke 1:74-75. We can serve in the newness of the Spirit, no longer being bound by the Law (Romans 7:6).
We are ambassadors for Christ and reconcilers (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Verse 21 says that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. This righteousness is the reflection of what God has done and is doing and will continue to do in our hearts. It is a fruit of the Spirit that looks like Him. Some hadn’t looked at righteousness this way before—and had seen it more like a theoretical state or end point, not an active state from abiding in Christ and being made right from Him. When we acknowledge that Christ is the giver of our righteousness (it’s God, it’s grace) it comes back to gratitude and that keeps humility in check. Pride blocks the fruit and sends out its own fruit. To be righteous in our own eyes (which is a fruit of pride)—we have to make our own codes, laws, and rules. Jesus’ teaching on being holy (taking the lowest seat at a party, etc.) were for those who were being justified by the law (it’s before the cross) and Jesus took it to the next level by examining attitudes and motives, not just external behavior. They also didn’t have his Spirit inside of them. Sometimes a situation comes up and we don’t feel like we have time to ask God or wait for a response. Asking God can change our mind from trying to figure it out on our own. How do we know if we get an answer? Peace—having a mind in line with Him. The Spirit can also lead. We’re all going through this type of training to have our minds renewed to run to God and ask God in every situation.
f the phrase “asking God” is a hang-up, think about the term surrender—acknowledge God in the situation.
We are called according to his purpose, and this includes suffering.
Question: if your fear causes you to take control of your own circumstances—what does God need to do to bring you back to fulfilling His purpose for you? Some of this fear can be from the three roots of unbelief.
God’s purpose is the gospel, Christ. As we reflect Christ’s righteousness, we are reflecting the gospel.
We spent a little time reflecting on what changes we needed to make in response to the lesson.
Semester 2 Lesson 12: God’s Good Gifts
May 6, 2009
We began discussing the current sermon series on the Tabernacle. The world pollutes our mind, but according to Titus 3:5 we are cleaned/washed by the Word. According to I John 1:9, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. Per Romans 12:2, we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. Ephesians 5:26 says Christ has made us holy by cleansing us through the washing with water through the Word. This is part of the sanctification process. We prayed through the Tabernacle—thanking Jesus for fulfilling the purposes of it.
We reflected on what we learned from last week’s purpose lesson. One main lesson was that our purpose is not something we have to do or a series of tasks. We reviewed Acts 17:26, which states that God made every nation of men and determined the times set for them and the boundaries of where they should live—so we might seek him and reach out and find him. So, God has positioned us best to be able to find him. The question came up whether God appointed the sin in the world. God foreknew, before the foundation of the earth, all that was to come. He knew that man was going to choose evil/to be apart from him. In the fall, sin/death entered the world. God also planned redemption through his Son. Then man would be free to enjoy a relationship with God. We all have something (a deep pain) that causes us to question whether God loves us. The “gift” of being abused, ignored, harshly disciplined, comes along with the offer of Jesus’ redemption. A denial of accepting of the pain also can come with denial of Jesus’ forgiveness.
We reviewed Romans 8:26-30, God will work together for good for those who love him and have been called according to his purpose. Predestined means to determined or decreed beforehand (to be conformed to the image of His Son). God is calling everyone, but not everyone picks up. If God is for us, no one can be against us—God is for us and we feel defeated when we forget that. God offers his Son with every other gift. Jesus is the best gift we could have been given. We sometimes think the best gift we could have is no pain. We have time on earth to get to know God and be comfortable with him when we get to Heaven. Our purpose here on earth is to be conformed to the image of his Son and glorify God. Romans 8:32 says since God didn’t spare his own Son, he will also give us all good things. Our idea of good is not the same as God’s. God talks about good gifts for us like the gift of Jesus’ death—which was a very painful thing. No one can bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33). Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Circumstances are a result of the love of God—whether or not we like the circumstances. God is a fountain of love pouring down and he wants us to sit underneath the fountain and drink it in. When we tip to others for love, we’re indicating that God’s love is not enough for us. When we know we are loved by the God of the universe, what others think is not important. Sit and receive what Jesus did on the cross as enough—as all we need.
How do we accept bad things that happen as God’s gift? All the events that happen may cause you to believe something that is opposite of believing God (example, believing I have to take care of myself). Then, God brings specific circumstances into my life to reveal my thought/coping pattern. Sometimes these “gifts” can become a roadblock as we begin to live by a code. We need to go back and receive the gift of Christ in the circumstance. These gifts are ways God draws us into an intimate relationship with him. Reframe “bad” circumstances in your life into good gifts. With the cross, know Jesus is calling me into relationship with him. Christ learned obedience from suffering. Christ’s suffering was much more than any other we can go through.
In comparing suffering with others, that can come back to pride rather than asking God for his grace in our suffering (as small as it may seem comparatively).
Summary of Lessons in Semester One
EGP Lesson 1 - What is Peace?
September 10, 2008
Verna McCrillis, teacher
Notes by Sonya Mounts
Verna welcomed us to session one of semester one, Journey to Intimacy with God, in Establishing God’s Peace (EGP) class.
We discussed three kinds of peace 1) Stoic peace—ignoring unpleasant circumstances 2) Epicurean peace—escaping unpleasant circumstances (such as with fine food and pleasure) and 3) Eirene—God’s peace, being set at one with God, having my thinking like God’s.
We discussed salvation. There are three parts: 1) Justification (being declared not guilt, being “saved”)—it is through reconciliation—meaning restoring a relationship in which peace is disturbed. We are either one with God (justified) or apart (rebelling). 2) Sanctification—the lifelong growth process of becoming like Christ (God is doing the work, not us). Sanctification is a mind renovation process—where the mind is in agreement with the change that has occurred in one’s heart. 3) Glorification—being united with Christ (at death). We reviewed scriptures that explain that we receive peace with God through justification and how peace is a fruit of the Spirit, and Jesus gives it to us. 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to pursue peace.
Beliefs leading to peace
1) Knowing God’s word
2) Believing God’s Word
3) Acting on God’s Word
Verna introduced the belief system and how our peace is directly related to it. A belief system in line with God’s word results in peace. Negative thoughts, despair, anxiety, etc. reflect an unbelief about God and one should ask, “What is it I don’t believe about Him or His character?” if peace isn’t present. We examined the diagram of the belief system which shows two pathways our thoughts can follow when a situation (stress, negative emotion, even something good) occurs. With humility and by the Spirit we can remember the cross and follow God’s wisdom and God’s thinking for the situation which results in peace/Godly thoughts/Godly behavior OR (with pride and through the flesh) we can try to handle the situation our way and/or use the world’s wisdom. This may result in ungodly behavior or imitation Godly behavior. Using self-help type coping mechanisms, one may look holy, but God knows the heart. Essentially, we can choose to go with the Spirit OR the flesh in every situation.
Life has its share of unpleasant experiences, and initially feelings of stress and fear hit us, but then we can go to God and seek His wisdom and truth in the situation.
Praise is to boast, to speak the same. We were encouraged to look at scripture with a focus of getting to know God and His character and to use this to praise God in prayer. To focus on this, Verna recommends daily writing down one thing learned about God—by recording the essence of that scripture in your journal. We were also introduced to the practice of identifying references to the Godhead in scripture by putting a triangle over the reference to the Father, a cross over the reference to Jesus, and a dove over a reference to the Holy Spirit. This helps to focus us on God in the scriptures to reframe our thinking from, “what does scripture say about me” to “what can I learn about my God?”
EGP Semester One, Lesson 2 - What Are you Seeking?
September 17, 2008
Verna McCrillis, teacher
Notes by Sonya Mounts
We began by listing our praises on the board—scriptures that God has brought to our attention during the week as we have studied His word. We spent some time turning these scriptures into prayerful praise to God.
We reviewed that peace is when our belief system agrees with what God says.
We were reminded to be aware of negative inner thoughts masked by imitation godly behavior. Many have constructed coping mechanisms to deal with unpleasant situations, but this is not Eirene—God’s peace.
We discussed dependence on God (choosing to go with the Spirit) versus independence. Humankind’s natural default is going with the flesh. One Navy wife compared this to how decisions are easier when her husband is deployed; she can be more independent and not have to ask another opinion. However, God desires that we commune with Him over everything and that we are in relationship with Him.
Verna mentioned that belief/faith involves knowing, agreeing, and acting.
We reviewed many scriptures telling us to seek God. In the Old Testament, the word for seek means to search out. Its opposite is to forsake. In the New Testament, seek means to worship and find something hidden, its opposite means to plot against life. The Bible and prayer are ways we can seek to know God and to worship Him.
God searches our thoughts and hearts to see who is following and seeking Him. We were asked to reflect on whether we are seeking God and encouraged to get to know God through time in his Word.
EGP Semester One, Lesson 3 - Where is Your Hope?
September 24, 2008
Notes by Sonya Mounts
We began with a review of chapter two on what we seek. Christ doesn’t seek his own glory. Glory means a correct estimation. Christ is not worried about his own reputation. We’re not to seek signs and wonders (that indicates unbelief). We should not seek our own good, or the favor of men, or our own interest.
For lesson three, we discussed the definitions of hope. In the Old Testament, one word was qavah meaning a cord used as an attachment or to bind together (in scripture it is translated meaning to collect, gather, look patiently, tarry, and wait). Another word was yachal meaning to wait, be patient, and trusting. The New Testament word for hope is elpis which means desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it. Biblical hope is not wishful and unsure (like the word is often used in English).
We reviewed several scriptures explaining Biblical hope. Romans 8:24-25 explains that we have this hope that something good is coming.
Peace is connected with hope—hope in God brings peace. Hope in things other than God will not bring peace. Despair indicates hope is not in God. Psalm 43:5 says the solution to despair is to Hope in God and to praise him.
We expect to gain something in whatever or whomever we place our hope. If our hope is in our spouse, our own abilities, our children, etc. these things are like heavy attachments, pulling us down. We are to hope in God alone—and for God to do the work, not us or others.
We reviewed many scriptures describing false hope and true hope. Strength, riches, intelligence and idols will fail us, but true hope is found in God, his plans, his Word, Jesus, and our salvation.
We spent some time discussing the belief system and practical applications of it. Wallowing in guilt and shame make us feel like Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough—we’re trying to punish ourselves and help pay.
The question came up of, “what happens when we don’t feel like doing the right thing?” The gist of the conversation was that God wants us to do the right thing for the right reason—and if we don’t feel like doing the right thing is it pleasing to God to go through the motions even though we have a wrong attitude? Is there any point in doing the right thing, if our attitude is wrong the entire time? Is God glorified in that?
In these scenarios, ask God for strength that the result might be Godly behavior and not imitation Godly behavior (going through the motions in one’s own strength to look good).
When you don’t feel like it, and can’t do it in your weakness, but only in God’s strength, then you are walking by faith and His grace is being sufficient for you.
EGP Semester One, Lesson 4 - The Tabernacle
Notes by Sonya Mounts
We reviewed the hope lesson and then went over the definitions of the word tabernacle.
In the Old Testament, tabernacle was two different Hebrew words. Mishkan from shakan means permanency, to rest or reside, a dwelling. Another word, ohel, means a tent or covering clearly seen from a distance, and this comes from the word ahal, which means to shine. The New Testament word is skenes—a booth, hut, tabernacle, or covered place. Skenoo is the verb form, and skenos is the root form that includes residence as in a human body.
In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle was a visible, physical place where the High Priest could come into God’s presence (in the Holy of Holies) once a year after making many preparations. The priest could die if he had not perfectly fulfilled his duties. Later this was replaced by Solomon’s temple where God resided until His presence left that place. Then God came to earth in the form of Jesus and dwelt (tabernacle) with men. Still he was limited and just in one place at a time. After His death, resurrection, and ascension, He sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in all believers. Through Jesus, we each are now able to access the Father and enter into His presence.
We reviewed the layout of the Old Testament tabernacle and its furnishings including the bronze altar of sacrifice, laver for washing, table of bread, lamp stand, gold altar of incense, curtain separating the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, and ark with mercy seat. God established the tabernacle so he could dwell among his people. Hebrews 8:1-6 explains that the tabernacle is a shadow of heaven.
We next reviewed New Testament scriptures showing that Christ fulfilled the purpose of each element in the Tabernacle. He is the door, the lamb and the sacrifice, He cleanses/washes us with the word, He is the bread of life, the light of the world, our prayer intercessor. We reviewed a graphic of the tabernacle with these verses about Jesus corresponding to the elements of the Tabernacle. Each part represented Christ and he fulfilled it so that we can enter God’s presence unceasingly.
We were taught and practiced praying through the Tabernacle and thanking Jesus for fulfilling each aspect of the Tabernacle in order to draw us close to God. “Thank you, Jesus, that you are the only door by which we may reach the Father,” etc. Now, through Jesus’ sacrifice, we can approach God’s throne with confidence. Praying through the Tabernacle is a special way to focus and meditate on Christ.
EGP Semester One, Lesson 5 - Grace, the Great Exchange
Notes by Sonya Mounts We reviewed the Tabernacle lesson and praying through the Tabernacle to focus on Christ.
We went over the definitions of grace. In the Old Testament, it was the word chen which means graciousness, kindness, or favor.
In the New Testament, the word for grace is charis. This word is used almost 150x in the New Testament. Its definition according to Strong’s is: God’s divine influence on our heart and its reflection in our lives. Grace is all encompassing throughout the New Testament. It is the overlay that permeates all aspects.
The epistles often start and end with mention of grace—and God’s grace comes from Jesus. It is given to all who believe and received it with humility (in the dirt vs. pride). Jesus is full of it. It is realized through Jesus. Peace is often linked with grace in scripture. We reviewed many scripture verses about grace. Grace can be witnessed (Acts 11:23). We can testify to receiving it from Jesus (Acts 20:24). It builds up, it is a gift, we are justified by grace, it keeps me from thinking too highly of myself, it is measured out differently between individuals, it labors, it makes me what I am, it spreads, it shouldn’t be taken in vain, it is given to churches, makes us spiritually rich, it is an indescribable gift, it is sufficient, it empowers, we are saved by it through faith, etc.
We also reviewed scriptures showing what grace is not. It’s not something we deserve or can earn, it is not works, not fleshly wisdom, not of ourselves.
Grace is not a fruit of the Spirit. We can’t divinely offer it.
We discussed “reflection” items—those that flow out of the lives of believers in response to grace (such as gratitude, patience, and love). When our focus is on these outputs, but not on God, it is imitation godly behavior. The concept of a “gratitude journal” came up—with the reminder that gratitude is to be from God for the gifts, not just a focus on the gifts.
Verna brought up that self discipline is actually a form of self provision and independence, me saying, “I can do it!” In the area of quiet time to meet with God, ask God to cause you to desire to know him each day. If it’s God who does it, not me, it’s a response instead of a responsibility. Don’t make yourself do it, let God do it.
Some say that when faced with a dilemma, “God gave me a brain to use.” However, this is independence vs. reliance on God. The automatic thought pattern may be to do your best and then when you can’t figure it out, go to God. However, God desires to be involved in our lives and choices.
We discussed the gospel account of the faith of the centurion. The centurion totally trusted that Jesus could heal with a word. Our tendency can be to look at the world down here and worry instead of focusing on God’s world above and around us and how God is in control and is using everything to conform us to the image of his Son. The bigger truth is that God is at work.
The question was raised whether God listens to unbelievers when they are calling out to him. Yes, he is drawing all to himself.
EGP Lesson 6 - How are you justified by grace?
Notes by Sonya Mounts We began a second lesson on grace: God’s divine influence on our heart and its reflection in our life. Our response is gratitude/praise to God.
We went over the definitions of justified—to render just or innocent, and justification—acquittal. Forgiveness means to cause to stand away, to release one’s sins from the sinner. A timeline was written on the board. First is justification, being declared not guilty. Next is sanctification—the ongoing process of being made holy. Ultimately, we will be glorified, get our new bodies and be able to see God face to face.
The Holy Spirit reveals all truth and convicts the WORLD (not believers) of sin. To convict means to judge and we have already been justified. Jesus has already declared believers not guilty. Guilt is a red flag that we’re entering the flesh zone. God will not give you a sense of guilt (that is self focus). Recognition of our sin reminds us of our need for the cross and we can thank God for it. Pride is a focus on self. Humility recognizes a need for God.
The bottom line question of our lives: am I really loved, am I really worthy? We’re wondering and trying to assess this from everyone else’s perspective (what others think of us) instead of realizing from God’s perspective we are loved unconditionally. If we think we’re not worthy to be loved, we’re essentially saying that God made junk, our worth is based on our actions and Christ’s work wasn’t enough.
We reviewed a lot of scriptures regarding grace at the point of justification. We are saved through grace, as a gift, we are redeemed through his blood, and we are made alive in Christ at justification. We opened a box of gifts representing different aspects of grace: imperishable inheritance, eternal life, scripture to equip and correct us, forgiveness, justification, righteousness, love for the Word, fellowship in the body of Christ, redemption, rescue from the domain of darkness, everything we need for life and godliness, new creature, and the Holy Spirit. We were also provided ATM grace cards to physically remind us that grace is available just from asking. At salvation, we give our brokenness, our filthy rags, etc. and in exchange he gives us grace and salvation.
Some think that when you’re mature you need God less, but actually you need God more.
When we say that something is really hard, it implies using our own strength. Re-frame by saying it’s impossible for me, but possible for God.
EGP, Semester One, Lesson 7 - “What does Grace for Sanctification Involve?”
10/22/09 and 10/29/09
Notes by Sonya Mounts After praising God for what we learned about him over the last week and reviewing the meaning of justification (being declared not guilty) we went over definitions. Sanctification is the process of being set apart, being made holy. God is doing the work, but we participate. During the sanctification process, our mind isn’t always thinking like our hearts. Glorified means to render glorious and glorification occurs when we are ultimately united with Christ.
We read verses about grace for sanctification. It is able to build us up and give an inheritance, by grace we are given different gifts, we are given spiritual enablement to be a productive part of the body of Christ, we are made perfect in weakness, we are given everything we need to do His work. We receive grace: by acknowledging our weakness, through Christ, by drawing near with confidence because of Christ, in humility, in the knowledge of God. We can participate in God’s grace by continuing to fear God, by testifying on the grace of God, through speech seasoned with salt, by standing firm, by growing. Things we should not do with God’s grace: keep sinning, use it as an excuse, receive it in vain, try to be justified by law, or use it as a license to sin. Grace and peace are linked at least 17 times in the New Testament. Grace is given according to the working of His power and it brings peace. Grace is God’s power, strength, He’s doing the work.
The Christian life is a series of exchanges of our weakness for Christ’s power. At justification, we give our sin (our garbage), our need, control (our dog collar), and old man in exchange for God’s righteousness, forgiveness, peace, etc. During sanctification, our will, weakness, rights, needs, etc. are exchanged for God’s will, strength, power, love, etc. Jesus used the grace exchange, too. In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed that the cup be taken from him—he told God what he wanted, but said whatever God wanted would prevail. He was surrendering to God. God is calling us to be part of every part of our life. We can’t choose to obey apart from God. With the ATM grace card, the slot is low—down in the dirt—humility is involved.
We often don’t ask God for his grace until we really feel weak. He’s growing us into helping us recognize more quickly our need for him. In the sanctification process, I recognize my need for God sooner vs. needing him less. I run to him quicker and faster, recognizing it’s Him doing the work, not me.
Grace is God’s divine influence on our life, funneled through the gospel, administered through the Holy Spirit, and is the power of God at work within us.
We discussed our human coping mechanisms. Verna calls them well worn paths—places of comfort that we go to on automatic instead of to God (example—sugar when depressed). Communing with God brings us out of our ruts.
The devil’s only tool against us deception. He’s not omnipresent, but has forces with him. We spend a lot of time examining the counterfeit, but the only way to know the truth is in the Word. When we blame ourselves and say it’s our own fault with blame, we try to make it our own problem. Jesus died for all the sins, even little things.
Think about your worries—what does that tell you about what you don’t believe about God? For child raising worries, Philippians 1:6 says that He is faithful to complete what He starts. For financial concerns, scripture says God provides for all of our needs. We discussed these areas we do not believe/trust God and the Peace through Grace section of the journal which is a place to record these things and ask God to exchange these lies for His truth. There are three core unbeliefs: God’s unconditional love, sovereignty, and forgiveness.
Guilt can be an old friend—and it can be used as a productive and helpful force. Instead, guilt should take us to the cross. A) Acknowledge need for God. B) Ask God to cause you to Believe on God. C) Commune with God.
Verna shared that she has discovered that she sometimes uses disgust or competition to motivate herself—this is a mechanism of the flesh. Faith looks like asking God. Forgiveness is the grace and power to walk as he walks. Peace/grace/power are closely linked in scripture. Grace is his power at work. There is no disgust in God’s love.
How to know what God wants you to do. 1) Peace that surpasses understanding. 2) The plan is in concert with the Word of God. 3) Ask God what verse to record (daily during quiet time)—recognize God’s Spirit and listen. 4) Wait. God will use the experience to grow you.
EGP Semester One, Lesson 8 - What does God mean by Faith?
Led by Allison Stusse & Tori McCrillis
Notes by Sonya Mounts
We began our class by creating a “wall” on the white board. On the left, fears, unbelief, and struggles were recorded as class members mentioned them. Across the outline of a cross, a corresponding scripture truth was listed to combat this struggle. At times, class members were able to respond with a truth God had shown them that fit with unbelief or fear another was facing. A main theme of the discussion was a sense of world, political, and financial upheaval and fear that God is not in control, or God is not good. Many, many scriptures were provided to fill truth in place of the fear and doubt. These included Psalm 47:8; Ephesians 1:21; Jeremiah 27:5-7; Isaiah 55:8-10; Psalm 24:1, 6-8; and I Samuel 3:18. They were beautiful reminders that God is on his throne and the nations are under his control.
We discussed the definitions of faith which mean to be firmly persuaded, place confidence in, and believe (the verb form). There are three parts to faith—Know, agree, and action.
We reviewed scriptures about what God says about faith. God’s righteousness is revealed by faith, the righteous will live by faith, it can be tested, and faith comes from hearing the Word. We walk by faith and not by sight (and this contradicts conventional wisdom that seeing is believing).
God increases faith in us through hearing the Word, through the gospel, through the body (encouragement), and by the Holy Spirit.
We discussed temptation to sin in various and sometimes subtle ways (for example—telling a meat salesman you’re a vegetarian) and how this is linked to not believing God’s truth and not acting in faith. We were challenged to scrutinize these struggles and to identify the unbelief at the root. In not doing devotions—what do I not believe about God? It could be not believing that God wants an intimate relationship with me. Pray for a hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Our flesh will not change (the desire to sin/sinaholic nature), but the closer we grow to God the more we will realize our need for him. Give God our weakness and exchange it for His truth.
EGP Semester One, Lesson 9 - How Do you Live by Faith?
November 12, 2008
Notes by Sonya Mounts
Faith is belief with action. It is being fully persuaded and having follow through. Abraham believed the truth about God and acted accordingly and this was credited as righteousness. According to Hebrews 11:6, faith pleases God and you must believe that He is and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
There are two dimensions in our world. One is unseen, the higher power, where God is in control and it involves faith. The other is focusing on what is down below and on problems. We discussed the faith of the centurion—he had so much faith in Jesus’ power, he only needed Jesus to say the word and his servant would be healed. He was definitely focused up—on Christ’s power, not down—on his problems.
Everything is for His glory, not for our pleasure.
We discussed problems/obstacles with faith including rejecting it, living it out without family, not providing for family first (1 Tim 5:8—it is denying the faith), the love of money (1 Tim 6:10—it can cause one to wander from the faith), and how words can destroy others’ faith through false teaching.
In prayer, asking God to help me is akin to asking Him to give me a little nudge and do part of the work. Really, I should ask God to do this in me, fill me, to be my source of power. A glove analogy was used—we need God’s hand in the glove moving it, versus asking him to push around an empty glove. We can’t believe in our own strength and need to ask God to cause us to believe. Verna discussed reframing the thought, “it’s really hard” to “it’s impossible in my own strength.”
Is our focus of studying the Bible for knowledge and to learn facts OR to know God—a relationship that happens through experience?
We reviewed the scriptures 2 Peter 1:5-11 that discusses what happens if we forget we are forgiven. It’s a focus on self—shame, guilt, pride. This keeps us from growing in our faith. Verse nine is key, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”
Forgiveness means to release sin from a sinner—to cause it to stand away. A stick figure person was drawn on the white board and a separate pile of “sin” was drawn beside the person. That is how our sin is when we are forgiven—it is apart from us and God doesn’t see it attached to us. We are released and separated from it. At the cross, every sin on the earth ever committed and ever to be committed was paid for and those sins are forgiven for those who accept Christ’s gift. They should not still be weighing us down and holding us back in our Christian life.
One asked what she should be doing now that her sin is forgiven? The answer had to do with asking God for direction and let Him do the work (this can be done even in little things like asking God whether I should eat a cookie). Verna mentioned that even the definition of “self-control” is not a works thing, but means to have your will under the influence of the Spirit. This led to a brief rendition of the children’s Music Machine album song, “Self Control” and discourse on the theological errors with line “self control is just controlling yourself, it’s listening to your heart and doing what is smart.” Faith is choosing to do what God direct through His Word and His Spirit, and with His strength.
Semester One, Lesson 10—Are You Forgiven?
November 19, 2008
Notes by Sonya Mounts
Verna went over the wall section in the journal. The wall section of our prayer journals has two corresponding pieces of paper where there is space to write a struggle, sin, fear, disbelief about God on the left side and on the right use the matching box to write the scripture truth God provides. This tool is used during prayer to replace your present thinking with God’s truth.
We re-visited the question—Did you forget this week that you are forgiven? How was that manifested? How did that keep you down?
It really comes down to how God sees us versus how we see ourselves. In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, we are made alive with Christ, and we are not guilty. We are butterflies! However, our flesh returns us to old patterns of thinking and we can crawl like caterpillars instead of living in freedom. We discussed our reactions to our sin and our failings. We think we should feel genuinely sorry for our sin, feel guilty, unworthy, it can cause us to question our salvation, we feel like we deserve what we get, or ignore our sin altogether. Sometimes this manifests itself in feeling unloved, causes us to try to do extra work, we try to remember never to do it again, and we can re-live our failing and re-emote over it repetitively.
What is the solution to this? Remember the cross and thank Jesus that he has already paid for it and acknowledge that you were trying to do it in your own strength. Ask God to cause you to believe His truth. Believing is knowing, agreeing, and acting on it.
Sin is to miss the mark. Sin is also anything we don’t do in faith (Romans 14:23b) and not doing what you ought to do (James 4:17). In our own strength it is impossible not to sin. I John 2:12 tells us that if we do sin, Jesus is our advocate before the Father. Jesus is helping us to hit the target—in His strength. Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ.
Forgiveness—one of the definitions is Aphesis meaning to cause to stand away, to release one’s sins from the sinner. The word purification is also used—and its definition, Katharismos, means to make clean.
It was mentioned that how we deal with people who sin against us is the same way we think God deals with us.
Discipline is for setting us apart, growing us in holiness. It is painful. God does it because we are sons (daughters). Discipline is for our future good. Otherwise, it would be punishment.
We were asked to ponder whether God is disappointed by our (personal) sin.
EGP Semester One, Chapter 11- review of Confession of Christ
Notes by Sonya Mounts
This was the final lesson for the fall semester and Verna decided to review some of the main concepts from recent lessons.
We discussed the resultant feelings from sin in our lives including disappointment, sadness, regret, unfulfilled expectations, a feeling that something is missing, and frustration.
We discussed the theology that had thus far been taught to us on the subject of sin and its effect on our relationship with God.
Various members volunteered what they’d been taught about sin, including:
Breaks fellowship with God
He no longer hears my prayers
Causes separation from God
Sickness is deserved if one sins
Repentance is required before forgiveness
A sense that God has to be appeased for sin to be forgiven
If hands get dirty, they need to be washed (forgiveness requested)
We discussed a common interpretation by theologians that there are two types of forgiveness—justification forgiveness that paves the way for heaven, then after that there is a fellowship/relationship forgiveness needed for fellowship with God.
We reviewed 1 John 1:6-10 alongside 1 John 2:1-2. For the vast majority of the cases in the New Testament, confession is linked with Christ and not with our sin. Verna has come to see 1 John 1:9 (if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness) as a message to the unsaved. Those who claimed they have not sinned have not accepted Christ—they don’t see their need. I John 2:1 says that if we do sin, Jesus speaks to the Father in our defense.
As Christians, our confession is JESUS, not our sins. Continuing to confess sins is a downward focus, a focus on self, not a focus on Christ. We are not sinless, but we are blameless. That is how God sees us. Through this fall course, we have reviewed many, many scriptures about how God sees us forgiven ones—although many of us have struggled to see ourselves in this same light. He delights in us!
Verna pointed out that if we believe that after justification our sin continues to accumulate and we need to ask for forgiveness every time to wipe it clean, then we are in essence living like a Muslim wondering if we are good enough. Christ paid for all of our sin, past, present, and future.
We discussed how fear and guilt are often used to keep us on the “straight and narrow.”
Verna reminded us of the definition of grace—the influence of Christ on our hearts and its reflection in our lives.
Verna referenced her and Beth’s blog on Corinthians and discussed I Corinthians 13 with a God is love perspective. God is patient, God is kind, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs, etc. We have trouble believing that God is not disappointed with us when we sin.
One class member acted out a grace exchange—the old way of handling sin as being angry and trying to punish oneself transitioning to asking God to come alongside as an archer directing us to hit the target. What do we do with the sin (the arrow that has missed the target and fallen to the ground)? We thank Jesus that it has been paid for.
We went through the list at the beginning of the teachings about sin and found verses to accompany them to see the truth about how God sees our sin after we are justified (declared righteous). He cancelled all debts, nailing them to the cross; we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, etc.
One class member mentioned that this teaching goes against every prayer she has ever prayed! She was always taught that she needed to confess every sin before she could be heard by God. One scripture sometimes quoted for this is Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; --but we often don’t hear the next verses, v.19 but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. V.20 Praise be to God who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Class members have been fearful in the past for having to remember and confess all sins on an ongoing basis to be forgiven and right with God. We discussed the judgment and that Christians will go to Heaven and there will present their gifts to Christ—laying them at His feet. He will bring to light the motives of our hearts. Some of our works will be burned up and some will qualify for a prize/crowns. We also discussed the reality of free will and that some who have accepted Christ later reject Him (and this is a very intentional thing, not something that wavers back and forth).
One asked if our goal is to try to be like Christ? No?! It’s to be in relationship with Christ. “Trying” is doing something in my own strength. Pride is self focus. As soon as I think I can do it, it’s pride. Ask God. One mentioned how she was reading John 15 about abiding in Christ in a new light--so that Christ’s joy and our joy may be complete. Even to lift up prayer requests is being part of the process with God and is for our joy.
As many of us were re-thinking many long-held beliefs, Verna mentioned that to grow, we have to come to grips with our theology.
Toward the end, Verna gave everyone an opportunity to share what God has been teaching them this fall through the course. One mentioned a change in focus from herself to God. Another mentioned countering her feeling that she didn’t like God with a desire to understand Him better. One mentioned re-thinking a pattern passed down to her of punishing herself. Another mentioned a feeling of thankfulness, gratefulness, and freedom. One mentioned it had been like pulling a light bulb out of its fixture, examining it, and plugging it back into the source.
Our “homework” over the Christmas break is to get to know God. Verna encouraged us to read through the Bible in the next year and continue to record one thing daily that we learn about God’s character.
We ended the class praying/praising God. (As we are encouraged to record a scripture daily of what God is teaching us about himself, we prayed these aloud).
EGP Semester One, Lesson 12 - Saints and Sin
January 14, 2009
Notes by Sonya Mounts Verna reflected on last week’s review and clarified that the EGP approach is to first get to know God and make that the center of Bible Study.
The OT definition of sin is chata—to miss or go wrong.
The NT definition of sin is hamartano—to miss the mark, miss the target
We read and discussed several verses that tell Christians how to deal with sin: sin no more—calling the adulterous woman into holiness; flee sin; encourage others so that you won’t be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; set aside encumbrances/sin that entangles by focusing on Christ.
Christ dealt with sin by “entrusting himself to him who judges righteously.”
Verna talked about the WWJD bracelets popular in the early 90s –the point of which was to remind oneself to ask, “What would Jesus Do?” when confronted with a situation. The problem was that one would ask themselves, versus Jesus, what to do. Later, another bracelet with the letters FROG was distributed. That stood for “Fully Rely on God.”
In John 17:17-19 Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify them in truth, your word is truth—that is being immersed and renewed in truth (God’s Word).
God does the sanctifying—He is doing the work. We have a choice—to cooperate or not.
We discussed for a while whether one could live without sin and various theologies in which some of us were raised. The summary was that those who have been taught that one could live without sin used a different, stricter definition of sin than the Greek definition meaning to miss the mark.
We reviewed scriptures that our sins are nailed to the cross and He saved us by his mercy.
Verna demonstrated the flesh (the old man) by putting on an intertube ring. Our flesh wants to fulfill its desires. Guilt is part of the flesh. We can feed the flesh by giving in to pride, indulging in self pity, depending on oneself. By laying aside the flesh, we open our arms to God. The new man only wants to do what Jesus desires. Christ died so that we can drop the flesh. We can do this by taking a wrong thought and exchange it with truth. There are what Verna calls “well worn paths”—fleshly pattern we fall back into very easily.
Unfortunately, we won’t be separated from the flesh and its desires until we are glorified (united with Christ at time of death or His return). We discussed how some think that as they mature, they will not be bothered by the flesh (and in some sense need to rely on God less), however, as we grow closer to God, we will become more conscious of how much we need Him and go to Him more quickly in a situation.
Verna explained the Peace through Grace section in the Journal. It is a place to list our struggles and then put in God’s truth (scripture) corresponding to the struggle and use that truth to prayer over the struggle.