Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit - Group Exercise 11

For developing personal study skills - go back & review what you've already learned, by repetition we are able to set things more firmly in our hearts & minds.

Group Exercise

Read Proverbs 27:17 - put the principle in that passage to work in your discussion of the following.

1. Role of the Holy Spirit in Spiritual Fruit

2. Love - what is it, how is it expressed?

3. Joy - what is it, how is it expressed?

4. Peace - what is it, how is it expressed?

5. Patience - what is it, how is it expressed?

6. Kindness - what is it, how is it expressed?

7. Goodness - what is it, how is it expressed?

8. Faithfulness - what is it, how is it expressed?

9. Gentleness - what is it, how is it expressed?

10. Self-Control - what is it, how is it expressed?

Fruit of the Spirit - Study Worksheet 11

Study Worksheet

Read Chapter 11 Winning the Battle Within in the book The Fruit Of The Spirit along with scriptures given in the questions below:

1. From your reading in the book:
a. What is especially challenging for you? Why?

b. What did you find encouraging? How will it help you moving forward?

2. Reflecting on our study of the Fruits of the Spirit as a whole:
a. What would you most like to change in your life?

b. What new insights did you gain on the Fruit of the Spirit?

3. For each of the following: Read & meditate on the passage, pray, then record what the Holy Spirit is teaching you:
a. Galatians 5:23b-26

b. Romans 8:1-4

c. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

d. John 14:23-27

4. Moving Forward now that this study session is complete:
a. How are you planning to use what you have learned about Spiritual Fruit?

b. What have you discovered about yourself or about God that you plan to pursue further?

c. Is there a subject or a Book of the Bible that you'd particularly like to study next?

d. To what do you believe God is calling you at this season of your life?

Fruit of the Spirit - Group Exercise 10

For developing personal study skills - learning a passage by preparing to teach, also using scripture to understand scripture.

Group Exercise

First, by yourself:  Read the following pairs of scriptures, for each pair write a short paragraph - as if it were something you'd share with a friend in a letter.  Second: After you've spent some time on this, share with the others in your group what you have written.

I. Acts 24:24-26 & Jude 1:10-13 (this set is a warning):

II. 2 Peter 1:5-11 & Hebrews 12:1-3 (this set is an encouragement):

FYI: Acts 24:25 & 2 Peter 1:6 & Galatians 5:23 are the only scriptures containing "En Kratos" - the Greek word translated as Self-Control.

Fruit of the Spirit - Lecture Notes for Lesson 10

Opening Prayer: Oh Lord Help Us!! It is so easy for us to get distracted from what is Your best for us.  It is so easy to get drawn away by our own passions & dreams. Open our eyes, help us to see Your will, and help us to have the courage to do what You ask. Amen!

INTRODUCTION: I have a confession to make.  As I sat down to work on this lesson on Thursday I found myself, several times, being distracted - by the time these first few sentences were being formed I'd already been pulled away by multiple other things... so what was going on?  Honestly, I was struggling with self-control.  I could blame it on the fact that I had a cold and my thinking was muddled, but that's just an excuse.  I could explain that I'd been asked by a friend to create a custom charm for her to use along with her own handmade items, but that's just trying to justify myself... The real truth of the matter is that SELF was in the way!!

PRINCIPLE: The Spiritual Fruit of Self-Control comes by letting God have Control

What did I do that finally got me back on track?  I confessed my own inability, and asked God for His enabling.  After all I was sick & struggling, I felt a little overwhelmed, and desperately needed God's help.

I. Self-Centered or God-Centered

The Greek for what we translate as "Self-Control" is En Kratos (a single compound word in the Greek), which carries the meaning of Inner-Strength, being in control of one's life, or taking responsibility.  What I found interesting is that the word "Self", with all its current connotations, isn't in the original Greek.  I wonder if by calling this "Self-Control" we don't get the wrong concept, as if it is dependent upon our own strength.

I don't know about you, but without thinking hard I could list 3-4 areas of my life where I struggle with Self-Control - one that is obvious to those who have known me over the years has to do with food.  I love to eat, I have a hard time loosing weight, and I hate to diet.  I hate that I have this struggle, and I have given this struggle to the Lord time & again.  I get angry at myself, sometimes I get angry with God for giving me a body that loves to pack on the pounds & hates to loose them, and many times because of this struggle I feel ashamed & guilty.  Does God care about my physical body?  Yes!  But I believe He cares more about my heart, my mind, my soul...  Why do I feel ashamed & guilty?  Because I know it represents a personal failure on my part.

Why did I share about this?  Because when it comes to my physical weight I am the one in control of many aspects - in control of what I eat, in control of exercise.  But when it comes to this Spiritual Fruit of Self-Control that's a different thing, that's less about what I am able to control & more about what I hand over to God to be placed under His control.  It is about Submission to God & Obedience to His ways, as we lay our lives down the Holy Spirit is able to do a work in and through us.

I don't like the translation "Self-Controlled" because it feels like it's all about me, about focusing on myself, as if by my own ability I can somehow obtain it - and I know that I cannot, that if & when I try to "pull myself up by my bootstraps" I fail miserably.  In truth, focusing on myself just makes me Self-Centered, resulting in my attempts to be "Self-Controlled" being more about looking good to others (to man) rather than being of any use to God.  I desire to be more God-Centered, I think that as I become more God-Centered that this Fruit of En Kratos will grow to maturity in me.

Romans 8:13: "For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live."

PRINCIPLE: The Fruit of Self-Control grows out of Self-Sacrifice

God is glorified when we willingly lay down our own wants, desires, and agendas; instead becoming focused on His.  What is God prompting you to let go of in order to bring Glory to Him?  It may be that He is asking you to let go of what you're clinging to in order to replace it with something much better, something that advances His Kingdom.  Are you missing out on God's blessings because you are clinging to something that is hindering His work in your life?

II. Where the Wind Blows

Do you ever have one of those days when it seems like everything is competing for your attention, though you know you need to remain focused?  As I continued to work on this lesson it felt like there were forces at work trying to knock me off track, and this is a danger we face - especially when seeking to serve the Lord.

Ephesians 4:14 says regarding the mature in faith: "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming."

That maturing in the faith, that growing in Inner Strength, that is the Holy Spirit at work in us. This is the maturity that boasts in God rather than in self, that understands that without God we are nothing.  This mature faith is the faith that moves from being tossed by the waves, to one that is moving in step with the Spirit.

John 3:8: "The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

We must intentionally choose the way of the Holy Spirit, day by day, moment by moment.  I want my life to be one as described by John, others may not understand where God is moving me - but it is God doing the moving. 

PRINCIPLE: A Self-Controlled life is one that lives Intentionally for God

We either choose to be like the wind in that we're moved by the Spirit, or we'll end up being blown here & there by the winds of the world.

III. Finding Freedom by Choosing Bondage

It seems absurd to say we can be free by choosing to be bound, but when the bondage we choose is bondage to Christ (as Paul describes in Romans 1:1) then freedom is ours.

John 8: 34-36 tells us that by virtue of being sinners we are enslaved to sin; however, that if we are set free by the Son (Jesus) we are completely free.  

Again I am speaking about choices, choices both large and small.  Our first and most important choice is the choice of taking Christ as our Lord & Savior.  From that point on our lives involve daily choices, choosing daily to live for Him - and we can only do this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 7:6: "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."

You see, we are going to be in bondage to something - either to Sin or to the Spirit.  When we choose sin we are in bondage to it & it is a destructive force, but we have been given the Spirit of God to help us to remain free from that bondage & instead be bound to Christ, to bear His yoke - this is constructive.

I wonder if Bob Dylan had any idea how on target he was when he sang "well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but your gonna have to serve somebody".  We can choose to be enslaved to sin, living in the destruction that it brings, or we can ask God to control our lives - living in the freedom He brings.

Galatians 5:1: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Jesus died for us to have freedom from the slavery of sin, for us to experience an abundant life now, to know that joy of living for God.  This wasn't meant to be just another way for us to attempt (and fail) to follow the rules - mankind had already failed miserably at keeping the Law.  This was meant to be a life lived with the help of the Holy Spirit, submitting to God & leaning on His help to live a life that is beautiful and meaningful, a life that is profitable for His Kingdom.

In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus tells us "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it."

PRINCIPLE: When God is in Control we are Truly Free

I have noticed that when I am certain I am right where God wants me, doing precisely what He wants from me, that I am light-hearted - even when the situation is dire.  There is something so freeing about knowing that you're right where you should be.  I have heard an expression something like this: "you can be in or out of prison and be a prisoner - or you can be in or out of prison and be free", its a matter of the heart.

CONCLUSION: I don't know about you, but my life is much better when God is in control than when I am in control!!  What do I want?  I want En Kratos, the Inner Strength that comes when my life is laid down so that God is in control.

Closing Prayer: Oh Lord Help Us!!  As we learn more about Self-Control we are made all the more aware of how little we have, and that what we have is dependent on You.  Strengthen us in our weakness, so that our lives might bring glory to You!  Amen!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit - Study Worksheet 10

Study Worksheet

Read Chapter 10 Self-Control in the book The Fruit Of The Spirit along with scriptures given in the questions below:

1. What are some potential pitfalls of taking the "easy" path in the following areas:
a. Emotions

b. Personal Conduct

c. Finances

2. Share a News Story from the past week of someone demonstrating Self-Control.

3. Have you experienced God directly helping you break the bondage of enslavement?  If yes, and you're willing, please share.

4. What circumstances leave you feeling discouraged or out-of-control?  [When sharing, spend a few minutes praying for each other.]

5. Class Survey - please fill out the following as concerns people you personally know well.

                 How many? Number of those that attend Church regularly?
Abuse Alcohol
Abuse Drugs
Are Depressed/Stressed
Broken Families

6. How might God use our victory over sin/temptation for the sake of others?

7. What actions do you find helpful when you are:
a. Tempted

b. Emotional

8. What role does the Holy Spirit play in our Self-Control?

9. Read 1 Peter 5:8-10.
a. What is the enemy doing?

b. What are we instructed to do & how?

c. What are we promised God will do?

10. What warnings do you find in the following passages?
a. Galatians 4:8-9

b. James 1:14-15 

c. Romans 16:17-18

Fruit of the Spirit - Group Exercise 9

For developing personal study skills - this is for developing personal learning skills.

Group Exercise

Use a whatever resources you'd like, see what you can discover about our Tongues:

1. Tearing Down / Causing Pain:

2. Building Up / Comforting:

3. Slandering:

4. Glorifying God:

5. Foolish:

6: Wise:

Fruit of the Spirit - Lecture Notes for Lesson 9

Opening Prayer: Lord we know you desire us to be Gentle, as such help us to fully grasp what this means so that we might receive the blessings of producing this Spiritual Fruit. Amen!

INTRODUCTION: As I was going through scriptures for today's lesson I ran across the ultimate beauty tip, it promises to make anybody beautiful at any age & without fail.  Sounds too good to be true doesn't it?  You want to know what it is?  Here it is:
1 Peter 3:3-4: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

PRINCIPLE: A Gentle Spirit is of Great Value to God

Why is a Gentle Spirit (or the Spirit of Gentleness) so valuable?  I'm going to be spending most of the rest of this lesson trying answer this, and clearing up some misconceptions about Gentleness.  At this point I'm simply going to state that a Gentle Spirit is a spirit of willingness & obedience, a spirit that does not resist God's will or ways.

I. Clearing up what it means to be Gentle

I don't know about you, but when I started reading up on Gentleness, both in our book and in the scriptures, I was surprised how much more there was to Gentleness than I realized.  The word in the Greek for Gentleness, as used in the list of Spiritual Fruit, is Praos; there is another word that also gets occasionally translated as Gentle or Gentleness but it has a slightly different meaning - I'm going to focus on Praos in its various forms.  

The word Praos gets translated to the following words in English New Testament translations: Meekness, Humility, Gentleness (being meek, being humble, being gentle).  What more can we learn about this word Praos, more specifically what is this Spiritual Fruit that we call Gentleness?

Some other aspects of Praos / Gentleness that may help our understanding: Being even tempered, tranquil, unpretentious, and having passions under control.  Strength under control.  Understanding the strength of being tender.  Balanced & disciplined.  Approachable & kind.  Temperance in personal responsibility, conversations, and decisions.  Polite, tactful, and courteous. Touchable.  Treating others with dignity.  Calm & peaceful in a heated situation.  Soothing and diffusing anger.  Respectful.  Focuses on God & Others more than self (Selfless).

Some things Praos / Gentleness is not: Argumentative. Needing to prove themselves.  Trying to win over others or get ahead of others - Competitive.

Praos includes Biblical Humility, which is described as follows: Not belittling oneself, since we are precious treasures for which God paid dearly; but rather, exalting or praising others - especially God.  Understanding that by ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity, worthless; however, by virtue of belonging to Christ we are enabled to be more than adequate (this by the Holy Spirit), and of infinite worth & dignity.  True Biblical Humility produces Gratitude rather than Pride.  Biblical Humility is the opposite of angry harshness that grows out of personal pride and a dominating selfishness.

Praos also includes Meekness, a frequently misunderstood concept.  Meekness is Strength and Courage under control & coupled with Kindness.  It is rooted in the recognition that God is in control.

I found it interesting that Praos as used by the Greek speaking world of Jesus day would also be used of a wild horse who had been tamed (broken & trained) - how true this is of those who come to faith and grow in Gentleness, we must be broken and trained in order to have a Gentle Spirit usable by God.  How like wild horses we all once were, all needing to be broken to some extent, and all needing to be trained up by God.  How much God has to do to break us varies based on our resistance to Him, and how trained/disciplined depends on how quickly we choose His ways over our own.

PRINCIPLE: Gentleness develops as we submit ourselves to God

King David, the one called by God "a man after my own heart" (Acts 13:22), understood the need to be broken & submitted to God.  Psalm 51:16-17: "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise."

II. The Ultimate Example of Gentleness

Jesus is the clearest example of Gentleness acted out.  Jesus was gentle with people, even those who arrested / flogged / beat Him.  He was God, but did not use His power as God either to gain human power or to stop His crucifixion.  Wow!!

Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Jesus encourages us to take on His yoke, to learn from Him because He epitomizes all the facets of Gentleness / Meekness / Biblical Humility, and has a tender heart toward us.  He tells us that when we take on His yoke we will find rest for our souls - that the yoke He offers is easy, and the burden He asks us to carry is light.  He could be demanding & harsh, it is His right, but He chooses to be patient & tender with us instead - wanting us to experience life in Him to the fullest (Ephesians 4:13).

Let's take a look at a few examples of Jesus choosing to be Gentle (there are many):
  • When the people of Jesus hometown were angry & ready to throw Him off a cliff Jesus used His power, but not to harm the people, instead to walk through the crowd and leave. - Luke 4:28-30 
  • When a detachment of soldiers bearing torches & weapons approached Jesus to arrest Him Jesus used His power in a very controlled (and I think humorous) manner.  He simply said "I am he" when they asked for Jesus, and at his words they drew back & fell to the ground.  How simply amazing that a trained group of fighting men, who's very lives depended on their courage, were knocked down by the words of our Lord.  - John 18:3-5
  • Most beautiful to me, however, is His gentleness with those who were broken.  He reached out to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) who's life was so full of shame that she chose to draw water at midday.  He called to Zaccheus (Luke 19), a Jew who had turned against his fellow Jews for personal profit as a tax collector.  His protection of the unnamed woman caught in adultery (John 8), even the fact that she is unnamed guards her dignity.  And there are so many more!!
PRINCIPLE: Gentleness is a nature that imitates that of Christ

1 Peter 2:21-23: "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

III. Gentleness with People

We are called to be Gentle with others as Christ was, this will be demonstrated in both words & deeds.  I was tempted to do a whole section on our tongue, and the damage it can do, but for brevity's sake I resisted - we're going to do this as a Group Exercise instead.  Suffice it to say our words can either build up or destroy - Proverbs 10:20; 12:18; 15:2; 15:4; 18:21 (among many others).

I have an old friend who is an Atheist, there are times when he tries to lure me into arguments (on Facebook no less) - I have learned not to take the bait.  2 Timothy 2:25-26 tells us we must be gentle with these sorts of opponents, so that they might escape the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will.  We must be especially careful with our written Words.  This electronic age makes it tremendously easy to express ourselves widely with our written words; however, many misunderstandings have come from misinterpretations of what we have written.  If it's something sensitive try to be face-to-face, even Skype (which allows us to see people we're speaking to at a distance) doesn't carry the nuances that communication in person does.

All believers are called to be Gentle, Titus 3:2 tells us we are always to be gentle toward everyone. Gentleness is also a quality necessary for leadership within the church.  1 Timothy 3:3 tells us that Overseers must be Gentle.

PRINCIPLE: Our Gentleness attracts people to the Lord

Just as Magnets are powerful to attract & repel, our Words & Deeds are as well.  When we are living lives that are in synch with God we will grow the fruit of Gentleness that will attract people to the Lord.

James 3:13 Ties our Gentleness to Wisdom: "Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."

CONCLUSION: Were you aware that by growing the Spiritual Fruit of Gentleness we receive a very interesting promise from the Beatitudes?  This time Praos shows up as the English word: Meek.

Matthew 5:5: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."

This runs counter to what the "powers" of this world would have us think.  This world is currently controlled by those who are quite the opposite of Gentle. I'm not exactly sure what this blessing entails, but I for one will gladly pursue & accept blessings of the Lord!

Closing Prayer: Lord teach us to be Gentle, to demonstrate it in all our ways so that we might perhaps participate in your process of drawing unbelievers to you.  What an amazing gift it is to be included in the work you are doing in this world.  Thank You!  Amen!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit - Study Worksheet 9

Study Worksheet

Read Chapter 9 Gentleness in the book The Fruit Of The Spirit along with scriptures given in the questions below:

1. After reading the first section of our chapter:
a. How do you define Gentleness?

b. What new aspect(s) of Gentleness did you learn from your reading?

2. What sorts of circumstances require:
a. A Firm Response

b. Discernment regarding a Response

c. A Soft Touch

3. Grade your church in the following areas, give a reason for your grades:
a. Welcoming to Strangers 

b. Reverence (Worshipful Atmosphere)

c. Sincerity & Love for God

4. Read 1 Peter 3:15.  Why do you think it's important, when giving an answer for your faith, to do so with "gentleness & respect"?

5. What is the danger of an attitude of "peace at any price"?

6.  a. Under what circumstances are you prone to be defensive or find it difficult to accept correction?

b. Pray about this over the next couple days, asking God to reveal the root of your defensiveness, note what God reveals to you here:

c. When we need to correct others, how should we go about this?  Find scripture to support your answer.

7. What is the role of Forgiveness when demonstrating Gentleness?

8. Read the account of pastor Stu Weber (page 146).
a. What do you think was the root of Stu's problem?

b. What did you learn from the actions of his friend Steve?

9.  a. How does it feel to be on the receiving end of someone's rage or rude behavior?

b. How might you temper your response toward them?

10. Who do you like to learn from?  Why?