Monday, July 30, 2012

Lesson 24 - Living out God’s Promise

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?

Even in troublesome times, we can be confident in our faith in God’s character and His promises.

God’s Good Plan: Purging and Pruning
To prune:  (verb) such as a tree….cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, esp. to increase fruitfulness and growth

To purge: (verb) to rid of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, typically giving a sense of healing release.

God is faithful to use life’s difficulties to purge and prune us of all that does not contribute positively to the masterpiece He is creating.

What benefits does pruning promote in the growth of plants?

What benefits does pruning promote when it comes to your spiritual growth?

How did “pruning and purging” promote God’s good plan for the apostle Paul, as seen in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10?
1. He was pained with a thorn in the flesh…
2.  He kept Paul humble
3. Paul prayed earnestly to God for the removal of this sore grievance. He prayed earnestly and repeated his requests…So that if an answer wasn’t given to the first prayer, or the second….hold out till we receive an answer.
4.  We are given an account of the answer given to Paul….although the trouble was not removed, an equivalent would be granted:  My grace is sufficient for thee.

Though God accepts the prayer of faith, yet he does not always answer it in the letter; as he sometimes grants in wrath, so he sometimes denies in love.

When God doesn’t not remove our troubles and temptations, he gives us grace sufficient for us.  We have no reason to complain, nor say that he deals ill by us.

Grace signifies two things:
     1.  The good will of God towards us -- and this is enough to enlighten and enliven us, 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 understands our case, and knows our need, and will proportion the remedy to our trouble, and not only strengthen us, but glorify himself.  His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.

How did God say His process would benefit believers in 1 Peter 1:6-7?
Every sound Christian has always something wherein he may greatly rejoice.  Life itself is but for a little while, and the sorrows of it cannot live on. 

Are there any areas you have been reluctant to yield to God for purging and pruning?  Pray now to give them over to God.  Let the growth process begin!

God’s Good Nature
Look again at the four scriptures written out in this section in the book.  James 1:17,  Psalm 34:8,   Psalm 107:8-9,   Nahum 1:7  Memorize these words of truth and hope to give you comfort.

Then look in your Bible at the three additional references.  Note what they reveal about God’s goodness, and jot down the words and phrases that especially minister to you. 

            - Psalm 23:1, 6

            - Psalm 84:11-12

            - Romans 8:28

How can you remember God’s promise that His plan is for your good?  Remember that He is trustworthy and His nature is good -- 100 percent good!

Write out a prayer using the words and phrases from the seven verses referred to in this section as a reminder of God’s goodness and His care for you.

As you draw closer to God in prayer and focus on His goodness, He will bless you with His peace and the assurance of His love.

Looking to the Reward
Have you ever planned a vacation to mark the end of a long project or a special evening out to celebrate the completion of a difficult task?  Rewards are powerful motivators.

How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 rebuke you when you doubt the process God is taking you through?  God has an expected end.

How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 comfort you when you feel hopeless or depressed?  He has complete knowledge of our lives, a plan for us that is for good, and the ability to make that plan happen.

How does Jeremiah 29:11 encourage you as you wait for God’s promised and “expected end”?  No matter what, we are reminded we are going to get to the end -- where the reward is waiting.  And the end is going to be awesome!

Regardless of how you may “feel,” what are God’s plans for you, according to His promise in Jeremiah 29:11?  Now, how does that make you feel?  God’s greatest promise for His children is heaven.  Heaven is the expected end for all who have repented of their sins and have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Finally, let’s look to Psalm 16:11.

How does God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 help you stay positive in the midst of hard or trying times?

God has a destiny and a hope for you..

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lesson 23 - Becoming God’s Masterpiece

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 to Look at God’s Good Plan
When life is difficult, it’s easy to doubt God, wonder about His goodness, and question His wisdom.  The Israelites faced 70 years of exile in a foreign land.  

70 Years is a lifetime…that is why it was urgent for them to plant and build, to focus on the next generation…God’s promise of peace and restoration would be fulfilled through the generations to come.

How would you feel if you were told that you would never see your home again?

            If you had been one of the Israelites, what would your thoughts have been?

            Identify again the difficulties you are currently enduring.

            What thoughts do these hard times sometimes tempt you to think?

You might feel that …
                                    God was turning His back on you…
                                    He no longer loved you…
                                    He was no longer merciful or just…

These are incorrect thoughts about God.  To prevent this wrong thinking we have Jeremiah 29:11.

                                    Take God at His word…
                                    Believe that He will not forget you…
                                    Count on His promise of a better future.

Jeremiah offers all the security God’s people need in the past and in the future:  God has a plan for us.

Know that God is busy at work on His good plan for you.

                        His plan reflects His purposes
                        His methods
                        His timetable…not yours.

God’s Good Plan is an Adventure
What do these scriptures teach about God’s good ways, and how does each one encourage you?

            Jeremiah 29:11 -
            Romans 8:28 -
            Romans 8:32 -
            James 1:13 -
            1 Peter 5:10 -

Let your life be an adventure - try thinking about God’s plan for your life as an adventure.

Going on an adventure - think of a time where you had an “adventure”.

Riding the roller coaster of life - view your obstacles, disappointments, and oversights as an incredible adventure rather than as fuel for frustration.  Think of a time that seemed like a disaster at the time and you now reflect on it with laughter.

God’s Good Plan Is a Process
One reason many of us fail to enjoy the adventure of the Christian life is because it is a process.  I don’t know about you but I like the end result a lot more than I like the process that it takes to get there.

Sometimes Christians are tempted to think that God has planned something ugly for them, or that He is making a mess of their lives.  How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 correct these thoughts that are not true?

Looking through the eyes of an artist - Think of the marble that was delivered to Michelangelo’s art studio.  The apprentice simply say him destroying a perfect piece of marble whereas Michelangelo saw an angel that he “had to get him out” of the marble.

Looking through the eyes of the Master Artist - God sees us with the same kind of eyes as Michelangelo had for the marble.  He sees the image of Christ and He wants to set that beauty free.  The process of life involves plans for good and “not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Learning from the old masters - Just like those artists who first washed their white canvases with black, we can let God’s Word enable us to stand secure in the hope that when our life seems to be washed with black, when God completes His plans, our lives will have greater depth, more interesting dimensions, and remarkable intensity.

As you consider your present difficult situation, what do you see thus far in God’s process that you can be thankful for?

God’s Good Plan Is an Opportunity
Regard hard times as important to our spiritual and personal growth, not merely as something we have to endure.

Treat adversity as an opportunity.  This is not an encouragement to downplay or look away from the hard times of life or the pain those times bring, instead the message is to look boldly into the face of adversity and learn from it.

Difficult times are opportunities that God promises to use for our good!  They are exquisite opportunities to love God more.

List several ways spiritual and personal growth occurs as you treat adversity as an opportunity.

What do these verses add to your list?

            2 Corinthians 1:3-4 -
             James 1:2-4 -
             1 Peter 5:10 -

I encourage you to believe in Him - in His good intentions, in His everlasting love, in His power, and in His promises, especially His promise to bring us to an expected end…to make us a masterpiece!

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 live out God’s plan?            …to trust God’s promise?          …to love God with all your mind?

God has a destiny and a hope for you..

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lesson 22 - Bearing Fruit During Difficult Times

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?

The bible instructs us to count our trials and difficult times as joy - James 1:2.
There are benefits to be gained, blessings to be enjoyed, and lessons to be learned in our trials.

“The testing of your faith produces patience - let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (verses 3-4)

Remember our A,B,C’s?  A - Acknowledge God and His sovereignty   B - bloom where you are planted and bear fruit       C - Concentrate on God’s powerful and reassuring promises        D - Do something useful

Learning from God’s Servants
What messages do these saints offer you as you consider their usefulness in spite of difficult times?

            Joseph (Genesis 39:4, 22; 41:56) - served as a slave, a prisoner, and finally as an elevated official in the                  Egyptian government.

            He suffered betrayal by his brothers, separation from his father and family, condemnation and imprisonment because of false accusation, and unjust treatment.

            Joseph served…no matter where he was, what his situation, or who needed his service.

            Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) - endured beatings, stonings, death threats, imprisonments, and various other forms of suffering.

            He kept on preaching….verses 23 - 33)

            Paul focused on the object of his love -- the Lord Jesus Christ -- and kept on keeping on, even in pain.

            Remember Philippians 3:13-14.

            Paul desired to be useful to the Lord….wherever he was and whatever his condition.

What messages do these more modern-day saints offer you about bearing fruit during difficult times?

            Madame Guyon - imprisoned, in solitary confinement….wrote a 20 volume commentary on the Bible.

            When she was 16 years old, after turning down many other proposals, she married a wealthy gentleman of Montargis, Jacques Guyon, age thirty eight. During her twelve years of marriage, Guyon suffered terribly at the hands of her mother-in-law and maidservant. Adding to her misery were the deaths of her half sister, followed by her mother, her beloved son, and of her daughter and father who died within days of each other. Guyon continued belief in God's perfect plan and that she would be blessed in suffering. To this end she was, when she bore another son and daughter shortly before her husband's death. After twelve years of an unhappy marriage, Madame Guyon had become a widow at the age of 28.

            She believed that one should pray all the time, and that in whatever one does, one should be spending time with God. "Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of God. He tells us this Himself: "walk before me, and be thou perfect" Genesis 17:1. Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually."

            As she wrote in one of her poems: "There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer ... But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known ..."

            In the Christian dispute regarding grace and works, she defended the belief that salvation is the result      of grace rather than works alone.

            Mrs. Studd - served her missionary husband as his wife and manager.  When she grew ill and became an invalid, she continued to serve from her bed and invalid couch she formed Prayer Centres, issued monthly pamphlets by the thousand, wrote 20 to 30 letters a day, and planned and edited the first issues of the Heart of Africa Mission Magazine.

            She served in sickness as well as in health.

            Hudson Taylor - a missions founder.  When illness forced him to leave the mission field in China he used his “downtime” to found the China Inland Mission and was supported by this mission when he was able to return to China as well as being able to recruit new missionaries to accompany him.
            He suffered physically from illness, was persecuted and attacked in China, had his house set on fire, lost his wife and two children on the mission field in a raging cholera epidemic.

            He kept on serving, laboring, and praying….and believing God was in control and all things would work      according to His plan.          

Doing God’s Will
“What is God’s will for my life?”  Read Psalm 37:4, and walk through these suggested steps for discovering God’s will.

God calls us to serve Him even when we’re not where we want to be and when life is not easy.

            1. Delight yourself in God - What does “delight yourself” mean with respect to your relationship with God?

                        Seek pleasure in Him, make Him your true joy….indulge yourself in the Lord!

                        What is God’s promise?

                        What is the condition for participating in this promise from God?

            2.  Indulge yourself in God’s Word - What image comes to your mind when you hear the word “indulge”?
                        Ever notice that the more you are around someone, the more you become like that person?

                        This holds true with God’s Word.  The more time you spend reading and studying the Bible, the more you resemble God.

                        How would you measure your interest in God’s Word at this time?  Do you need to make any changes?

            3. Committing yourself to the Lord - Read Psalm 37:5.  Commit yourself and your activities to the Lord.

                        This involves the complete commitment of your life.  Trust God to take over your career, home, work, all circumstances, aims, and ambitions of life, and He will so mould events that your deepest and purest  desires shall find unmeasured fulfillment and life will be filled with utter satisfaction.                     

                        What are you to commit to God?

                        What else does God ask of you?

                        What is God’s promise to those committed to His ways?

God declares that He has a plan for you.  List what you can do to help your plans match God’s plans as stated in…

                        Proverbs 3:5-6

                        Proverbs 16:3

Based on your list, what specific changes or activities will ensure that you further delight yourself in the Lord and commit yourself to Him?

Delighting in the Lord, knowing His Word, and committing yourself to the Lord are ways to ensure that your plans and desires for yourself match God’s plans.

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 live out God’s plan?            …to trust God’s promise?          …to love God with all your mind?

God has a destiny and a hope for you..