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).