Monday, January 30, 2012

Lesson 11 - Remembering to Forget

Philippians 3:13 - …forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I was reading this lesson and thinking as the author was talking about never attending her high school reunions, that I too, have never attended one of my reunions.  I chuckled as I read her account of how people report on who looks the same, who has gone bald, or gotten larger, who has succeeded in life and who have failed. 

My 20 year class reunion is coming up and it has been all the talk among my “friends” on Facebook who I graduated with; so much so that I started deleting a lot of my friends.  I was appalled at how some would ridicule our classmates on their appearance or life struggles such as divorce or alcoholism or drug use.  The final straw with me was when they started making fun of a young man in particular that didn’t graduate with us but was and still is kind of a icon in our town.  He is know as the mentally challenged young man who walks Main Street daily listening to his Walkman and playing air guitar. 

My class set up a Facebook page dedicated to our class reunion. I noticed that all everyone could talk about was how great the music was during that time or how much fun they had with particular groups of people or reminiscing about certain places that are no longer there.

I admit some of the reminiscing is fun; however, there are a lot of memories that I would rather leave in the past. 

The past makes us who we are.  It also teaches us lessons about God, about life, and about ourselves. 

We must then take those lessons and move forward. 

Paul teaches us this in Philippians 3:13-14. 

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul tells us how to pursue Christlikeness by using three actions to help us continue to progress toward spiritual maturity:  Forget, reach forward, and press on.

Forgetting those things which are behind and
Reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I
Press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Let’s look at the broader story here.  Read Philippians 3:1-12.  Even though Paul could have gloried in his past (verse 5-6), how did he choose to view it…

          …in verse 7?  Why did he desire to reject the past (verse 7)?
The gains were little when compared to his interest in Christ and his expectations from him

          …in verse 8? He was ambitious of and reached after knowledge of Christ Jesus

What did Paul desire to gain instead in…

          …verse 9 - to win Christ his Lord and his Savior.

          …verse 10 - know him or believe in him; to know the power of Christ’s death and resurrection killing sin in him, and raising him up to newness of life and conforming unto Christ.

          …verse 11 - he hoped to attain this resurrection and be with Christ upon his departure of this life.

Read Philippians 3:12-14.  Paul is saying, in effect, “I have not yet arrived at spiritual maturity and Christlikeness, bu while I am on the way, I am conducting the journey by…” (verses 13-14)




Forgetting the Past

This isn’t always easy to do. Whether we are referring to some previous success that has never been repeated or some failure we haven’t let go of, the past can take hold of our minds and our hearts.

Things like remembering a rejection from a boyfriend, recalling a cruel remark, being passed over after a job interview, or reliving the days and events reflecting on leading up to a significant event is counterproductive and you will find yourself sinking into darkness and despair.  This will not produce hope or answers or solutions.

Paul’s goal was to press on.  Look again at Philippians 3:13-14.  What first step must you take in order to press on?

n     Forgetting completely - dwelling on the past can cause a slackening of pace in our Christian walk.  “Looking back is sure to end in going back.”

*Christian growth - the process of moving forward - requires looking to the future rather than to the past.

*     Take Paul’s advice - When those thoughts creep into your mind…banish them from your thoughts.  This will be a constant, deliberate discarding of any thoughts of the past.

*     Move forward in faith - not always easy; we must keep on forgetting.  Don’t let this step hold you back.  Forget whatever it is that could keep you from moving forward in faith and in your spiritual growth. 

Share one success you have enjoyed in the past.  What is Paul’s advice to you, and why do you think remembering past achievements can be a detriment to pressing on for the prize?

By contrast, can you point to any past failure or flop that may be hampering your forward progress?

As you consider your answers to these questions, what changes do you need to make?

Forgetting the Bad
Read Acts 7:54-60.  What part did Saul (Paul) play in the death of Stephen?
Before Paul came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, he was known as Saul, the persecutor of Christians.  The death of the first martyr of the Christian church, Stephen, may have been at the involvement of Paul through the sentencing and approval of his murder.

Read Acts 8:1-3 and Acts 22:4-5.  What additional information do you learn about Paul’s past?  Saul was pleased with Stephen’s death and hoped that it would put a stop to the growth of Christianity.  Saul did all he could to lay the church to waste and ruin.  He wanted to cut off the gospel.  Saul broke into homes where he new Christians were or were meeting.  He dragged them out of these homes and down the streets to commit them to prison in order to be tried and put to death regardless of their sex or physical condition unless they would renounce Christ.  He was ruthless, heartless, and cruel.

In spite of a “bad” past, Paul moved forward in faith.  How does his example encourage you as you look back at your past?

What comfort concerning your past do you find in the following scriptures?

*     Psalm 103:12 - The sins of believers shall be remembered no more, shall not be mentioned unto them; they shall be sought for, and not found. If we thoroughly forsake them, God will thoroughly forgive them.

*     Isaiah 1:18 - Those, and those only, that break off their association with sin, will be welcome into promise and spiritual union with God.

*     Romans 8:2 - It is the unspeakable privilege and comfort of all those that are in Christ Jesus that there is now no condemnation to them.  They may be chastened of the Lord, but not condemned with the world.

*     2 Corinthians 5:17 - Regenerating grace creates a new world in the soul; all things are new. The renewed being acts from new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. - Isaiah 55:8

Loving God…Even More

Read this section in your book again.  As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…
          …to press for the prize?

           …to remember to forget?
          …to love God with all your mind?
With the goal in view, I press on.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lesson 10 - Living Out of God’s Grace

Lesson 10 - Living Out of God’s Grace

What meant the most to you from this chapter or helped you think more accurately about God’s character and the truth of His Word?

What offered you the greatest challenge or blessing, and why?

Learning More about Managing Emotions

Have you ever felt like you wanted to quit, or felt angry, or felt like you could fall down in a heap and cry?

1.     Think on the truth - focus your mind on God and the truth in His Word.

2.     Proceed ahead - God does not want you to face a crisis in this manner.  You have to proceed and press on with your duties and responsibilities and go on living. 

In times of emotional stress, strength does come from routine and responsibility.  This is another reason it is important to have a plan for the day.  Other’s depend on you.

3.     Follow the formula - Endeavor to take one day at a time.  Prepare, plan, pray, and proceed.  Live each day as it comes.  Forego your selfish desires to withdraw and give-up.  Praise God as you proceed ahead with His ever-so-adequate provision and mercy!

Read these verses and describe some of the apostle Paul’s emotions and physical challenges.

1 Corinthians 2:3 - And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

2 Corinthians 1:8 - For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 - We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 7:5 - For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.

Managing Affliction

Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, and list some of Paul’s physical afflictions induced by others.

He had been beaten, stoned, suffered shipwreck three times, and locked up as a prisoner.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.  What was Paul’s personal affliction in verse 7?
The apostle was pained with a thorn in the flesh, and buffeted with a messenger of Satan.  We are much in the dark what this was, whether some great trouble or some great temptation. Some think it was an acute bodily pain or sickness; others think it was the indignities done him by the false apostles, and the opposition he met with from them, particularly on the account of his speech, which was contemptible.

          What was its purpose?
Temptations to sin are most terrible thorns; they are messengers of Satan, to beat us. Indeed it is a great grievance to a good man to be so much as tempted to sin.

          What did Paul ask God to do about it?
          The apostle prayed earnestly to God for the removal of this sore grievance.

          What was God’s response?
          We have an account of the answer given to the apostle's prayer, that, although the trouble was not removed, yet an equivalent should be granted: My grace is sufficient for thee. When God does not remove our troubles and temptations, yet, if he gives us grace sufficient for us, we have no reason to complain, nor to say that he deals ill by us. It is a great comfort to us, whatever thorns in the flesh we are pained with, that God's grace is sufficient for us.

Grace signifies two things: -

[1.] The good-will of God towards us, and this is sufficient to strengthen and comfort us, to support our souls and cheer up our spirits, in all afflictions and distresses.

[2.] The good work of God in us, the grace we receive from the fullness that is in Christ our head; and from him there shall be communicated that which is suitable and seasonable, and sufficient for his members. Christ Jesus understands our case, and knows our need, and will proportion the remedy to our trouble, and not only strengthen us, but glorify himself.

          What are some of the afflictions listed in verse 10 that Paul was prepared to endure?
His afflictions, his reproaches, necessities, persecutions, and distresses for Christ's sake.

          What was Paul’s response?
He gloried in his infirmities (vs.9), and took pleasure in them, (vs. 10). He does not mean his sinful infirmities (those we have reason to be ashamed of and grieved at), but he means his afflictions, his reproaches, necessities, persecutions, and distresses for Christ's sake, (vs. 10). And the reason of his glory and joy on account of these things was this - they were fair opportunities for Christ to manifest the power and sufficiency of his grace resting upon him, by which he had so much experience of the strength of divine grace that he could say, When I am weak, then am I strong.  When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we see ourselves weak in ourselves, then we go out of ourselves to Christ, and are qualified to receive strength from him, and experience most of the supplies of divine strength and grace.

Like emotional stress, physical suffering calls us to follow the principles of Matt. 6:34 and focus on one day at a time.

1.     Preparing - Armed with spiritual truth, prepare for your physical trial.  Special needs, a home, support system, etc.  Mrs. Schaeffer talked about preparing a home where her husband would be receiving treatment for his cancer.  She eloquently explained that home is important to a person to help them get well, as well as being important for family times together if someone is terminal.  Familiar surroundings have an effect on the physical, psychological, and even spiritual state.

2.     Planning - Marking time is never the way to wait.  Creative ideas need to begin to take place in one’s imagination…even in times of shock; waiting can be something more than sitting in utter fear.

3.     Praying - During this waiting time; pray.  Ask for time and strength to show God’s strength and power to the next generation as Mrs. Schaeffer demonstrated in the trial she faced with her husband’s cancer.

4.     Proceeding - Now that you have prepared, planned, and prayed move forward with the action to follow through on all that preparation.  There is more to life than being “comfortable and happy”; there is growth going on.

5.     Tasting God’s provision - God provides as you proceed.  Day-to-day and moment-to-moment you rely on God.  You prepare, plan, pray and proceed with your duties and responsibilities and will experience God’s provision for you.  Even when you face enormous emotional and physical challenges…live out of God’s grace each and every day.

What physical challenges do you face, and how does 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 encourage you?

Look again at Matthew 6:34.  What is Christ’s command and the reason for it? 
It is the counsel and command of the Lord Jesus, that we take no thought about the things of this world.  Worry and anxiety disturbs our joy in God, and is a damp upon our hope in him; which breaks the sleep, and hinders our enjoyment of ourselves, of our friends, and of what God has given us.

How can the command of Matthew 6:34 help you deal with…

          …emotional stress and worry?

          …concern about physical problems?

Read 2 Corinthians 10:5.  Now, read the promises below.  How can each assurance help you bring your anxious thoughts into obedience to Christ…even in the midst of emotional and physical stress?

          Joshua 1:9 - Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

          1 Corinthians 10:13 - There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

          2 Corinthians 12:9 - And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

          James 1:5 - If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

          2 Peter 1:3 - According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Loving God…Even More

Read this section in your book again.  As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…

          …to focus on each day?

          …to win over worry?

          …to love God with all your mind?

Do not worry about tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lesson 9 - Living One Day At A Time

What meant the most to you from this chapter or helped you think more accurately about God’s character and the truth of His Word?

What offered you the greatest challenge or blessing, and why?

Read Matthew 6:25-34.

What one word defines what this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is about?

What basic needs in life does Jesus address, and what is His message and advice?

What did Jesus say about a person who worries (verse 30)?

Matthew 6:34 tells us not to worry or be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.

How is an anxious-free person of faith to live their life?

What does that mean to you?

Reviewing a Slice of History
You may be involved in an issue right now. Or you may know someone who is going through a tough time. In a sentence or two, review the difficult time here.

Look up these verses and describe the steps Jesus took on His difficult journey to the cross:

Mark 14:12-16
Mark 14:22-25
Mark 14:32-39
Mark 14:40-42

Managing Emotions
What is your present area of difficulty?

Now, work your way through the following steps, remembering how Jesus walked through His hour of difficulty. In a few words share how each step helps you manage the emotions life’s difficulties can generate.

Step 1 - Preparing

Step 2 - Planning

Step 3 - Praying

Step 4 - Proceeding

Step 5 - Trusting God

Loving God…Even More

Read this section in your book again. As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…

…to focus on each day?
…to win over worry?
…to love God with all your mind?

Do not worry about tomorrow.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lesson 8 - Scaling the Mountain of Today

Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Do you tend to worry about getting through the work, handling the responsibilities, and meeting head-on the challenges that seem to arrive with each new day?

Set a goal to memorize Matthew 6:34.

This is part of Christ’s famous Sermon on the Mount. This verse is His calling of Christians away from worrying about tomorrow, which is the key cause of tension.

We must think on this verse and put it to use on a daily basis.

We must not worry about tomorrow and instead tend to first things first.

Guideline 1 is preparing for each new day. We do this the night before and in prayer first thing in the morning.

Guideline 2 is the preparation phase and is a two-stage process.

Long-range planning:
 Breaking large projects into day-sized bits and pieces
     o Birthday, anniversary celebrations
     o Weddings
     o Reunions
     o Parties
     o Vacations
     o Business or pleasure trips
     o Presentations, papers, articles, and dissertations
     o Redecorating, remodeling, building construction projects
     o Buying or selling property
     o Retirement or a job or family change

 Reduces the waste of time and energy on worry, fear, panic, or dread.
 With planning, we are more likely to meet life’s challenges head-on and reach our life goals.

Short-term planning:
 Pieces of the long-term plan
 Day-to-day items that are part of keeping a busy life going.
     o Filing
     o Cleaning
     o Organizing
     o Paying bills, ironing, washing clothes, etc.

Guideline 3 is praying for guidance for the day.

 Give God everything.

 Say it out loud: Lord, today I give myself anew to you.
     o Give God the things in my life
          My home
          My possessions
          My time
          My body
          My mind
     o Give God the people in my life
          husband, children, their spouses, Grandchildren, other family members

 Give God my Plan A for the day
     o My schedule for the day -- His day!
     o Means laying before Him the projects I want to get done and think I must get done.
     o Committing our plans to God will help us fight against impulsiveness and laziness.
     o Also helps us to follow Him if He leads us in a new direction.

 Give God Plan B for the day
     o Commit day, goals time and energies to Him
     o Will be ready, willing, and available if/when He moves us to do something different -- Plan B

Jesus commanded us to focus on today in Matt. 6:34 and prayer helps us to do just that. 1 Peter 5:7

Guideline 4 is to proceed with the day. When you prepare, plan, pray, and proceed with a heart that’s open to God’s plan, you’ll find yourself walking with God…with no worries about tomorrow.

This is the fruit of obeying the command of Matthew 6:34.

Guideline 5 is trusting God to provide.

We must trust God to provide. We will find that whatever the challenge, task, trial, crisis, or interruption, God provides for us every step of the way.

He provides His wisdom -- James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

His strength -- Phillippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
We have need of strength from Christ, to enable us to perform not only those duties which are purely Christian, but even those which are the fruit of moral virtue. We need his strength to teach us to be content in every condition.

Deuteronomy 33:25 Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
The day is often in scripture put for the events of the day; and, taking it so here, it is a promise that God would graciously support them under their trials and troubles, whatever they were. And so it is a promise sure to all the spiritual seed of Abraham, that God will wisely proportion their graces and comforts to the services and sufferings he calls them out to. Have they work appointed them? They shall have strength to do it. Have they burdens appointed them? They shall have strength to bear them; and never be tempted above that they are able. Faithful is he that has thus promised, and hath caused us to hope in this promise.

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Knowledge of God, and faith in him, are the channel whereby all spiritual supports and comforts are conveyed to us; but then we must own and acknowledge God as the author of our effectual calling, for so he is here described: Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

Whatever we need -- Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

But still it is by Christ Jesus; through him we have grace to do that which is good, and through him we must expect the reward of it. Not of debt, but of grace; for the more we do for God the more we are indebted to him, because we receive the more from him.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lesson 7 - Focusing on Today

What meant the most to you from this chapter or helped you think more accurately about God’s character and the truth of His Word?

What offered you the greatest challenge or blessing, and why?

Looking at All of Life

Name the recurring issue or upcoming event in your life that is causing you the most anxiety today.

How can Psalm 118:24 encourage you today…and every day?

Looking at God’s Word

In Matthew 6:34, what behavior does Jesus forbid?

How should Jesus’ command affect the recurring issue or upcoming event you named above?

Looking at Today

Using your Bible, fill in Christ’s formula for winning over worry found in Matthew 6:34.

His command --
His insight --
His challenge for you today --

Guideline 1: Prepare
Prepare in the evening -- List the preparations you need to make tonight for what is most likely to happen tomorrow. What do you think is the final step in preparing for tomorrow?

Prepare in the morning -- Read Mark 1:21-34, and list the activities that filled a day in the life of Christ.

Now read Mark 1:35-38. After such a busy day, what was Christ’s first activity the next morning? By the time the first people reached Him, what had happened?

How would preparing in the morning help you when the day begins, reality sets in, and “everyone is looking for you”?

As you think about Christ’s example, what steps will you take tomorrow morning that will allow you to receive the guidance, perspective, strength, and grace you need for the day?

As time allows, pray and then design your ideal devotional time.

The time:
The place:
The length of time:
The material and focus:
The role of prayer:

Loving God…Even More

Read this section in your book again. As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…

…to focus on each day? …to win over worry? …to love God with all your mind?

Do not worry about tomorrow.