Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christian Atheist - Session 5 - When You Believe In God But Don't Think You Can Change And You Believe In God But Still Worry All The Time

The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group is going through the book The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.  A Christian Atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist.  If you are courageous enough to admit that sometimes you act like a Christian Atheist maybe along with us we can shed some of our hypocrisy and live a life that truly brings glory to Christ.  To hear the audio of the study group session click on the YouTube Thumbnail 

To get your copy of the book click this LINK or the image of the book at the end of my notes for the study.  

This week our chapters were 7 When You Believe in God but Don’t Think You Can Change, 8 When You Believe in God but Still Worry All the Time,

Identifying the Lie

Many Christian Atheists live year after year under the illusion that we simply can't change. Once we’ve forgiven ourselves for past mistakes, some surrender to present problems, never even hoping to overcome them. We may openly, even proudly, believe in God, but we honestly don’t believe he can change us.  Christian Atheists who’ve tried to change and failed, wrongly believe that God simply can’t change them.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:3 – 4).

The Greek word translated as strongholds is ochroma (pronounced oak-EW-ROH-muh), which means to fortify, lock up, or imprison. This is what our enemy tries to do to us. He lies to us until we’re convinced that we’re stuck and can never escape our Problems.

Admitting to the problem

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 6:14 NIV
“They’re imprisoned by false thoughts, all along believing they can never escape, never change. And then there are those who have serious problems but don’t even know it. They too remain locked in a prison they're not even aware exists.”
Whatever the challenge, the first step is often the most difficult, and That’s admitting that there is a problem.   Too many Christian Atheists won’t acknowledge their problem in the first place. I wouldn’t for years. We can always find plenty of excuses why it isn’t that big of a deal. But if we won’t admit our problems, we can’t change.

God Can Help You Change

Admitting our problems is only the first step. After that, we must invite God to work,
because he is the one who can change any problem.

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is  to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:24‭-‬27 NIV

With people, change maybe difficult, even impossible—but not with God. God is bigger than our problems, no matter what they are. If you’ve believed that you simply can’t change, acknowledge that that is a lie. With God, all things are possible.

Ask Yourself

When working with people who think they can’t change, I ask six simple questions.  If a person answers yes to three or more, chances are they have a problem.
Do your family and friends say you have a problem? Even though you might deny it, others can often see more objectively than you.

Do you continue even though you are hurting people? If you look at what some people claim has control over you, do you keep practicing or giving in to it, even when it affects others negatively? You don’t want to hurt people. But if they continue to suffer because of your actions, chances are good that you have a problem.
Do you arrange your schedule, priorities, or spending around it? If you make major life changes to get your “fix,” odds are, your fix has a stronghold on you.
Can you go one week without it? When I couldn’t go one week without work, it became obvious I had a problem. If you can't walk away from something for a week, you’re in bondage to that thing.
Is it driving others away? Once an addiction reaches advanced stages, it tends to isolate the one who’s addicted.  When your actions continually hurt, abuse, or neglect others, they tend to pull back.
Are you denying it is a problem or trying to keep it a secret? If you feel defensive, adamantly insisting that you don’t have a problem, you likely have a problem. If you’re hiding some behavior from others, there’s a reason. You need to address it head-on instead.

Can the Excuses

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
John 5:1‭-‬3‭, ‬6‭-‬7 NIV

This hurting man was offered the opportunity to see God’s power. But he had grown so accustomed to his condition that he was focused on all the reasons he’d never get better.

If you have any excuses talking you out of changing, capture those wrong thoughts and replace them with truth. Paul said, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3‭-‬5 NIV

Grab any thought contrary to God’s,  overtake it, and replace it with truth.  Remind yourself that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Phil. 4:13).

Remind yourself that you have the mind of Christ. God is renewing your mind daily (1 Cor. 2:16; Rom. 12:2). When you feel bad about yourself and start sliding into those all-too-familiar thoughts, remember that if you follow Christ, the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives inside of you (Rom. 8:9 – 11). You are created in God’s image (Gen.1:27). He knew you before you were born (Ps. 139:13 – 16). He has grand designs for your, great works that he planned in advance for you to do (Eph. 2:10).

Surrender to God’s power

If you believe you can’t change, you’re right—sort of. Your strength is limited. Your willpower isn’t bottomless. Your determination will eventually run dry. That’s why to change for good you need the power of the only one who is good—Christ!
In Colossians 1:29, Paul says,

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:28‭-‬29 NIV

The word translated as “strenuously contend” is the Greek word agonizomai (ag-oh-NID-zohm-ah-hee). It means to struggle or compete for a prize. It literally means to compete with an adversary—and win.

It’s important to notice how we’re supposed to struggle, to fight. The Bible says we agonizomai with “all Christ’s energy.” We change by his power, not by ours.

You can’t change in your own power. If you feel overwhelmed by something bigger than you, let the one who is bigger than all things be the power you need in your weakness.

Worry Is Not Your Friend

For Christian Atheists, our worry proves we don’t trust in God as we claim to. We think,
I know God’s a good God and all that, but I’ve got this situation handled. And when it turns out we don’t have it handled, then it falls to us—not to God—to fix it.

Worry is the opposite of faith; therefore, it’s sin.

But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Romans 14:23 NIV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6 NIV
hen we live by faith, we believe that God has everything under control. But if we start to worry, how we live says the opposite. If we are worried about losing our jobs, we are essentially saying that our jobs are our providers. But isn’t God our provider? What if God has something else planned for us? And what if, as unpleasant as it may be to think about, the path to that “something else” is through some pain?   Will we still trust in God to provide during that time?
Worry, in essence, is the sin of distrusting the promises and the power of God. It's choosing to dwell on, to think about, the worst-case scenario. It’s faith in the bad things rather than faith in God. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (NLT). In this verse, you could also easily translate “fear and timidity” as “anxiety, tension, and worry.” Fear doesn’t come from God. It’s a tool the evil one uses to distract us from our true purpose here.
In Matthew 6:25, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink;
or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” The Greek word Jesus uses for “life” is psuche (SUE-kay). It doesn’t just mean your breathing life, the force that makes your body go. It actually means every aspect of your life, taken together in total: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. It means your yesterday, today, and future life.  Jesus is simply saying don’t worry about anything.

Freedom from Worry

Two steps toward freedom from worry are to do what’s wise and to think on the right things. As Christians, we can be tempted to “overdo faith.”

God does give us responsibility, and it takes biblical faith to do those things in dependence on God. Scripture says over and over again, in as many ways as you can think to say it: do what’s wise. Proverbs 9:12 says, “If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you.”
If you do catch yourself worrying even after you’ve done what was wise, remember that God is bigger than our problems, and that he wants us to hand them over to him. Worry then becomes a signal alerting us that it’s time to pray.

When we tell God what we’re worried about or what we need, we are giving our burden to him. We still have responsibility to do what we can, but doing what we can’t isn’t ours anymore. Anytime we try to take back God's responsibilities onto our shoulders, we remind ourselves, Now that’s his problem. And we can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s part of that supernatural peace he promised  (Phil. 4:7).

When our minds begin to wander like that, we must learn to recognize and label worry for what it is. Itis the alarm calling us to pray. We can start by telling ourselves, This is not a God thought. This is a thought based on fear. Then we must capture that runaway thought and make it obedient to Christ. Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” As we continue to pray, we can shift our minds from fear-based thinking to faith-based thinking.

No Matter What Happens, Trust God

Who do we believe in more? Ourselves or God? Our actions and decisions will reflect that.
If God does what you think he should do, trust him. If God doesn’t do what you think he should do, trust him. If you pray and believe God for a miracle and he does it, trust him. If your worst nightmare comes true, believe he is sovereign. Believe he is good.
In Matthew 6:33 – 34, Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,   for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Godis outside of time. He has no beginning, and no end. That means he has no yesterday and no tomorrow. He just is. So for God, tomorrow is the same as today, same as yesterday.
Was God in control yesterday? Undoubtedly, yes. Is God in control today? You know he is. Then he’s in control tomorrow too.
Time is not an issue for him. He’s already present in tomorrow. So no matter what happens, trust God.
Listen to his promise: “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jer. 29:11).
Even if the future God chooses for you isn’t the one you would choose, trust him.

Bible Study Audio

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Christian Atheist - Session 4 - You Believe In God But Don't Think He's Fair

The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group is going through the book The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.  A Christian Atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist.  If you are courageous enough to admit that sometimes you act like a Christian Atheist maybe along with us we can shed some of our hypocrisy and live a life that truly brings glory to Christ.  To hear the audio of the study group session click on the YouTube Thumbnail 

To get your copy of the book click this LINK or the image of the book at the end of my notes for the study.  

Chapters 4,5, and 6

When You Believe in God but Not in Prayer
When You Believe In God but Don’t Think He’s Fair
When You Believe In God But Won’t Forgive.

God, have you lost Your senses? I’ve muttered those words. Mary has too. We know, because the gospel of Mark tells us,
When His family heard… they went to take charge of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind’. — Mark 3:21
God, are You crazy? There are those times when life doesn’t make sense, when all our expectations are shattered, and we wonder, we doubt, we question, we wrestle with this God who refuses to conform to who we want Him to be. God, are You really out of Your mind? We think so when we’ve prayed and prayed and the opposite thing happens, when we’ve trusted and obeyed and things just get worse. I’ve been there. Mary’s been there. Maybe you have too.
Have you walked that shadowed valley where truth is tainted with unmet expectations, where doubts are colored by old paradigms not yet broken, not yet remade? Perhaps you’ve read the promises and believed them. You’ve had faith, you’ve waited, you’ve trusted. And yet… It seems that God Himself has lost His mind, because the truth you believe does not result in the life you expect.
Who is this God?
And what do we do when He isn’t the God we’ve expected Him to be? Life doesn’t turn out as we expect. God doesn’t turn out as we expect. So we think He’s crazy. Maybe the Messiah has lost His mind. We need to set Him straight. We need to explain to Him the type of God He’s supposed to be. Sounds silly when we say it that way. But when our expectations are broken, we often look at God as if something’s wrong with Him. We lose faith because He hasn’t lived up to our expectations, He hasn’t conformed to our image of Him, He hasn’t acted according to our ideas of what’s right and good.
So what do we do when life as we experience it clashes with our expectation of what life should look like, how God should act on our behalf?
We glimpse God’s dream for us, we surrender our own dreams, and then our expectations paint a glorious picture of everything wondrous that life will be. But it isn’t.
Wait a minute! We believed. We surrendered. We know what is true. Yet life looks nothing like we thought it would. And God looks nothing like we thought He would! What then? What do we do when experience and expectation conflict?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that God explodes expectations.
He does not conform to our view, but instead He conforms us to His.
He is the God who breaks all expectations, who shatters preconceptions, who wants nothing more than to blow apart my ideas of who He is and replace them with a true vision of who He really is.
He is the God who calls us to leave our expectations at the door and come in to sit at His feet.
Excerpted from Wrestling with Wonder by Marlo Schalesky

Have you ever asked God, “Why do you let so many bad things happen?”

FAIR - free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice

DESERVING - worthy to receive something because of need, merit, or justice

SUFFERING - physical or psychological pain and distress

COMFORT - to provide consolation; relief from distress or anxiety

GOOD - having an upright and virtuous character; worthy of honor or high esteem

JUST - righteous; guided by truth, reason, and justice

Three things to remember when you don’t understand something about God:
        1. We don’t deserve good things.

Here is the common logic that leads people to think God is unfair: Bad things should happen to bad people and good things should happen to good people.
I am a good person so I deserve good things. Scripture counters this logic. In fact, the Bible states it is our inherent lack of goodness that made it necessary for Jesus to die for our sins:

Romans 6:23 (NKJV)23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you think you’re good, Jesus didn’t come for you

Mark 2:13-17 (NKJV)13  Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.14  As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him.15  Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi's house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.16  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, "How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?"17  When Jesus heard it, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."         
We are not good in the eyes of God

Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV)10  As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
11  There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."

Romans 6:23 (NKJV)23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
           2. Good things happen to bad people.  

It’s a good thing God is not fair because then he would give us what we deserve   Instead, he gives us grace.  God does not treat us as our sins deserve

Psalm 103:10-12 (NKJV)10  He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.11  For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;12  As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.         
         3. God is present in your pain.

When you hurt, your heavenly Father hurts with you and longs to comfort you

Isaiah 49:13 (NKJV)13  Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted.

God isn’t fair. He doesn’t give us what our sins deserve. He is higher. He is working in all things to bring about good.

Scripture affirms that God’s goodness is unchanging, that he is present with us when we are hurting, and that he is always working to redeem our suffering:

 The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him

Nahum 1:7 (NKJV)7  The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.

But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction
Job 36:1-15 (NKJV)1  Elihu also proceeded and said:2  "Bear with me a little, and I will show you That there are yet words to speak on God's behalf.3  I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.4  For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.5  "Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is mighty in strength of understanding.6  He does not preserve the life of the wicked, But gives justice to the oppressed.
7  He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous; But they are on the throne with kings, For He has seated them forever, And they are exalted.8  And if they are bound in fetters, Held in the cords of affliction,9  Then He tells them their work and their transgressions-- That they have acted defiantly.10  He also opens their ear to instruction, And commands that they turn from iniquity.11  If they obey and serve Him, They shall spend their days in prosperity, And their years in pleasures.12  But if they do not obey, They shall perish by the sword, And they shall die without knowledge.13  "But the hypocrites in heart store up wrath; They do not cry for help when He binds them.14  They die in youth, And their life ends among the perverted persons.15  He delivers the poor in their affliction, And opens their ears in oppression.

  [God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will

Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)11  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,


Fairness is an excellent principle when we’re good, but an unfortunate principle when we're not so good. And when it comes to God, we are pretty much always going to be on the not-so-good side of the fairness equation. But we can be glad that God is not fair; we don’t get what we deserve. Instead of punishment we get death-defying grace.

And we get God with us, especially in the midst of life’s most difficult and painful experiences.

I’m usually quick to ask why something bad happens. Rarely do I stop to ask why God might bless me with something good. The truth is, good things happen to people like you and me, people who are sinful and deserve death.  The Christian Atheist, page 105

The Bible is full of stories of suffering and how God miraculously snatches good from the jaws of evil. Perhaps one of the most powerful is the story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39 – 50). After being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt,
Joseph was just beginning to prosper when he was falsely accused of sexual assault and imprisoned. People who promised to help  him forgot their promises and he remained behind bars — for years. Eventually he came to the attention of the Pharaoh, who was so impressed with Joseph’s honesty and wisdom that he put this former slave in charge of his entire country.

God didn’t prevent the years of betrayal and pain Joseph experienced, but he was actively at work in Joseph’s suffering.

Genesis 39:2-3 (NKJV)2  The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.3  And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.

Genesis 39:21 (NKJV)21  But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Genesis 39:23 (NKJV)23  The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.  

After Joseph was reconciled with the brothers who long ago betrayed him, they asked his forgiveness and offered themselves to be his slaves. Joseph was deeply moved and reassured his brothers:

Genesis 50:19-20 (NKJV)19  Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?20  But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.             
Joseph didn’t deny the reality of the harm he experienced, but he affirmed how God Transformed intentional evil into exponential good. Have you had an experience in which God transformed something painful or bad in your life into something good? Ifso, how does that experience impact your ability to trust that God is at work in the things you struggle with now? If not, how do you feel about the idea of looking for signs of God’s activity and goodness in the painful experience you struggle with most?

Although there are some things we may never understand this side of heaven, the Bible teaches that, like Joseph, we do experience God’s goodness here on earth, but sometimes we have to wait.
Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)13  I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.14  Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Lamentations 3:25-28 (NKJV)25  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.26  It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.
27  It is good for a man to bear The yoke in his youth.28  Let him sit alone and keep silent, Because God has laid it on him;
According to these verses, there are times when seeing God’s goodness requires waiting.  The sense of the word used for “wait” in Hebrew is not a passive waiting but a hopeful, expectant waiting.

God is not fair, but he is good. And unlike fairness, there is no wrong side to the goodness equation when it comes to God. When you don’t deserve it, God is good. When you've messed up and need forgiveness, God is good. When you’re afraid and lonely,
God is good. When you’re hurting and life makes no sense, God is still good. God is good — all the time. All the time … (wait for it) … God is good!

Next week chapters 7, 8, and 9 When You Believe In God But Pursue Happiness At Any Cost

Bible Study Audio