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glasses

Introduction

glasses

God’s character is described in detail throughout His Word. Sometimes when we read Scripture, we have a difficult time reconciling the words that describe God with our own understanding of God. This may happen because our knowledge of God has been influenced by factors which caused us to develop a false view of Him. For us to grow in relationship with God, we must correct our false views.

Luke, age 30, grew up in an average middle class family. They attended church and Sunday school together every week. Luke has memorized Scripture verses which he quotes regularly and can name, in order, every book of the Bible.

Each of us is specially created by God with our own personality, temperament, gifts and abilities. We each live in our own unique environment. Our inherent traits combined with our environmental influences will determine how we interpret our experiences.  This is how we make sense of our world. However, we do have natural limits; not enough brain power to know everything or enough time to experience everything.  Our desire to protect ourselves emotionally conspires with our own sinfulness to slant our perception of reality. Past experiences will have an effect on our present point of view.  With different variables providing input, we do not always interpret our experiences correctly.

Luke has a very likeable personality, is outgoing and charming, and relates to women better than men. He is also very gifted musically. He sings and plays several instruments well. He is the minister of music at his church.

Unfortunately, our human tendency to misinterpret our experiences can affect our view of God as well. It is common to project the strengths and weaknesses of our parents onto God. It is also common to project other human characteristics onto God.  False views of God can make it very difficult to relate to Him. Because of these false views, many people are struggling to establish and maintain a healthy, Biblical view of God.

Luke’s father was distant and detached when Luke was growing up. He was a quiet, solemn man who rarely smiled.

Some of the common false views of God are a God who is impossible to please; a God who is emotionally distant; a God who is condemning; a God who is unreliable and a God who abandons.

Although Luke appears to have an excellent Christian walk, he views God as emotionally distant and impossible to please. He constantly feels as though he is letting God down and that God is not particularly interested in him. He secretly believes that he has failed God.  He has trouble referring to God as “Father.”

The situation is not hopeless. Once we are aware that our views of God are false, we can take some concrete steps towards correcting them.

Luke recently joined a small men’s Bible study with several men from outside his church.  As the group progressed, the men began to bond emotionally and share with each other more deeply. Luke became aware that many of the men in the group had a different view of God than he did. They were convinced God loved them and they seemed to have an intimate relationship with Him. Luke was surprised by this and gradually began to share his views of God in the group.

Identify False Views

The first step is to identify our false views of God. Exactly what false character traits are we assigning to Him? We must consider ideas that we wrestle with or ideas that we have trouble believing are true. It can be helpful to look at a list of false views that people typically have about God. Some of those are mentioned in the paragraph above, but this list is by no means exhaustive. It frequently happens that we have two competing views of God; the view presented in Scripture and the view based on how we have interpreted our experiences with God. It is as though we have a God we know with our thoughts and a different God we know with our emotions.

One of the older men in the group, Richard, helped Luke realize that his views of God did not line up with Scripture. He encouraged Luke to explore more fully his views of God.

The next step in correction is to identify the sources of our false views of God. How did these false views arise? It is helpful to realize that most of our false views are based on our early life experiences, mainly involving our families. After listing our false views of God, we must spend some time identifying and describing the feelings that these views cause. For some of us this will take some time, but for others the feelings will quickly surface. We must then ask ourselves some questions. “Have I ever felt these same feelings earlier in life? When and in what circumstances did I feel them?”  These experiences and the feelings they cause will often taint our interpretation of our experiences with God.

As Luke talked more about his views of God with Richard and the group, he began to feel sadness over the lack of connection in his relationship with God.  In a fairly short time, Luke was also able to connect those feelings of sadness to his relationship with his father. He realized that he had assumed God was just like his earthly father, cold and distant.

Reinterpret Our Experiences

The third step in correction is to reinterpret our experiences. We must look back at the experiences that contributed to the development of our false views of God and ask Him to show us what He was trying to accomplish in those times. We must also ask Him to reveal His heart towards us. We should try to use our head (scriptural) knowledge of God when asking Him for these revelations. Feelings can be unreliable and we need to be objective, so we may also need someone else to help us to see God’s perspective. It is important to be honest with God about our emotions during this process. If we are angry with God we should express that anger to Him. He knows our hearts anyway, and if we are honest with Him, He can heal our hearts.

As Luke continued to process his feelings, he leaned on Richard a lot for feedback and guidance. He realized that he was angry at God for the lack of connection he had with his father. He felt God had deprived him. Richard helped Luke express his anger to God. He helped Luke explore his past openly and pointed out instances where it had appeared God was there and caring deeply for Luke in the midst of his need. They prayed together for insight, grieved at Luke’s loss and talked for hours about God’s characteristics.

Determine And Reinforce A Right View Of God

The fourth step in correction is to determine and reinforce a right view of God. One important way to accomplish this is to meditate on the truth of who God is. We must read and study Scripture, think about it, ponder it and absorb it into our hearts and minds. We must ask others to help us recognize when we begin to rely on our feelings; feelings that are contrary to what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture. We must create new experiences to help us internalize God’s truth. This means that in spite of what our feelings may be telling us, we will make faith-choices based on the truth of God’s Word.

Richard became a substitute father for Luke during this time. Luke began to experience the way a connected father would interact with his son. Richard helped Luke learn for the first time how to read Scripture with his heart. He directed Luke to Bible passages that would tell him of God the Father’s love for his children.  Gradually, Luke began to let go of his false views of God and to develop a relationship with God that stunned him with its intimacy.

For some of us, correcting false views of God will be a relatively easy process. For others, the process may take longer and be a more difficult journey. Developing and reinforcing right views of God can make a tremendous difference in our relationship with Him. Right views of God will allow us to be more obedient to Him and more compassionate and loving to others. They will deepen and expand our adventure of living with God.

Luke is now able to say with absolute certainty, “God the Father loves me.”

 

Application:

• Looking at the Exhibit “Correcting False Views of God,” work through a false  view of God that you struggle with.

CORRECTING FALSE VIEWS OF GOD

Correcting false views involves several steps:

1) Identify false views of God that you have:

a. We often have two competing views of God.

b. One view is the one presented in Scripture.  The other is the one based on how we interpret our experiences with God.  (Note David’s change of perspective when he took his struggles to God in Psalm 73.)

2) Identify the sources of these false views:

a. Most false views are based on early life experiences, primarily involving our   families.

b. These experiences often taint our interpretation of our experiences with God.

3) Reinterpret your experiences:

a. As you look at the experiences that contributed to the development of your false view of God, ask Him to show you what He was trying to accomplish in those times and what His heart is toward you (Romans 8:28).

b. You may need help being objective since it is easy to just react to your feelings, which may be unreliable.  Ask someone else to help you see God’s greater purposes in your life.

4) Determine and reinforce right views of God:

a. Meditate on the truth of who God is.

b. With the help of others, recognize when you begin relying on your feelings   instead of what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.

c. Create a new experience to help you internalize truth.  This involves making a faith-choice based on the truth of God’s Word, in spite of what your feelings say.

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

conflict resolution

conflict resolutionWho likes conflict?

Hmmm, I don’t see any raised hands or hear any resounding “I dos.”

Yeah, I hate conflict too. It is painful and scary and it makes me feel out of control and vulnerable.

And yet, conflict is a part of life. God allows it, God assures us that we will have it and we have all experienced it.

We don’t learn how to cause conflict. We just automatically know. Even as little kids not able to talk, we know how to grab something we want from someone else, thus causing them distress.

Conflict. If there are people, there will be conflict.

How do you handle conflict? Usually we run from it, or pretend like it isn’t happening, or get angry, blow up and escalate the conflict, or blame someone else for causing the conflict, or do things we don’t want to do to please someone else and on and on. Anything but walk into the conflict, walk thru the conflict and walk out on the other side of the conflict.

Even though we don’t learn how to cause conflict, we can learn some ways to handle conflict. There are all kinds of instructions on “conflict management skills.”

Just google it. All the steps to resolving conflict are at your fingertips.

However, in order to implement those conflict management skills, I want to propose the idea of changing our thinking about conflict.  A new “conflict paradigm.”

So here are two ideas to begin thinking about conflict differently.

1. What if we begin to look at conflict as an opportunity?

Since we know we are going to have conflict, what if instead of dreading or dodging it, we began to see conflict as an opportunity. Because when I hear the word “opportunity” it sounds like a good thing. Like something positive is about to happen.

When people walk thru conflict together, tolerate the uncomfortable feelings, talk about the feelings, talk about the need to repair, confess their own wrong actions and come out on the other side of the conflict, they are usually more emotionally bonded.

Doesn’t emotional bonding sound like a positive thing?

Also, going thru something hard, like conflict, and coming out on the other side is character building. Having a stronger character sounds like a positive thing, right?

2. What if we begin to look at conflict as something to be redeemed?

Typically a positive outcome of working through conflict is that it gets resolved.

But think about the even more positive idea of conflict as being redemptive. We know our God is a Redeemer, so what does the idea of redemption really mean? To me it means making something good out of something bad.

If we look at conflict as an opportunity, we are already halfway there to thinking of conflict as being redeemable. Going into the pain of conflict, walking through it with others and coming out on the other side, will give us a new appreciation for the beauty of the process. We will see the positive results. We will bond with others and have a new appreciation for doing something hard and scary.

So, use your conflict management skills. Learn some new ones.

But consider thinking about conflict in a positive light and notice if your conflicts become more of a creative challenge than a fearful encounter.

What conflicts have you encountered that seem impossible to go through?

When are some times that you have successfully gotten to the other side of a conflict?

who am I?The deepest question we can ask ourselves is who am I?  From the moment we begin to live on this planet, we try to find our place in our world.  Maybe you are the only son of a single mom. Maybe you were one of 4 children lost somewhere in the middle of trips to soccer practice. I remember how frustrated my mom would get at use kids and started to call for me and instead started with my sister and running down the list of family members including the dog…Lisa, Dede, uhhh, Dean, Midnight…. dang it.. Buddy come here right now!

What if God had trouble remembering us in the line up of the universe.  “Adam, Abraham, Jacob, David, Joseph, Mary, Sue , John …. ah yes, Buddy, what can I do for you?”  No, our heavenly Father has known our name from eternity past and not only that has created us in His image!

So how does being created in the image of God change the way I view myself today? Does it matter that I am not just here by chance? A bundle or randomness?  Does it matter that I am not merely a product of my DNA and Genetics and every human has value?

This weeks pocket principle continues to look at what it means to be made in the image of God.  It also reminds us that we are not all that God has created us to be! We have fallen from our place of perfection to a place of brokenness. Understanding People begins with Understanding Myself. We are created in the image of God. Who we are effects how we treat others as well. This pocket principle helps us consider how others view humanity vs how Christianity describes us.

How does knowing that you are created in the image of God change how you view yourself and others?

Take time to read this week’s pocket principle  – Created in the Image of God – 2

If you need to read part 1 to catch up you can find it here.

Pocket Principles® are currently offered along with Guided Discussions. The content of the Pocket Principles® will reinforce truth learned in the group discussion. Each workbook is formatted for use in a small group, where pocket principles may read prior to each discussion.  Also, if a group member misses a meeting, he can read the corresponding Pocket PrincipleTM to review the information missed.

For more information visit the WDA Store.

When I was growing up, I dreamed of one day becoming a Nuclear Physicist.  To answer your question, yes, that does make me a gigantic nerd. I’m still not exactly sure where this dream came from, but I know that I was always amazed by the power that nuclear energy represented.  I remember being so intrigued by the idea that by manipulating this infinitesimal speck, an atom, you could power an entire city.  Another thing that always fascinated me about nuclear energy was the fact that such great power also comes with the possibility for great danger.  It’s not advisable for humans to be in the presence of radioactive materials unprotected, because they emit radiation that has the power to transform our bodies on an atomic level.  To be in the presence of a radioactive material is to change, but not for the better.  It’s effect on humans is sickness, mutation, cancer, and ultimately death.

In a very similar way, to be in the presence of God is to change.  God is the source of all power. His power is omnipotent, meaning it’s the power that powers all other powers; He is all powerful.  Nuclear power and the gigantic blazing torch that is our Sun are both tiny flickering flames in comparison to the Power of God.  Psalm 62:11 says, “Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God.” (NASB)  And much like radioactive materials, God’s presence has a profound impact on any who draw near to Him.  But by contrast, to be in the presence of God is to change for the better.  In Exodus 34, Moses goes up on a mountain and speaks to God, and when he returns the Bible says in verses 29 & 30, “His face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.  When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.” (NIV) As a result of being in the presence of God, Moses’ face shone with the glory of God.

But the Bible tells us that the glory of God eventually faded from Moses’ face, and everything eventually went back to business as usual.  The transformation was not lasting.  If you are in the presence of radioactive materials, you need special clothing to wear that will protect you from the harmful radiation; and in the same way, the Bible says that to stand in the presence of God, we must wear special clothing as well.  We must wear the clothing of righteousness.  But what’s incredible is that this is something that we can’t do for ourselves. Our best efforts at righteousness, or self-righteousness, always end up woefully short, and in fact, further complicate matters because we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are covered when we are not.  Imagine walking into a nuclear power plant with the special “Atomic Shorts” that you bought online, “Guaranteed Full-Protection or your money back!”  You’re not only in grave danger, you’re doubly lost because you don’t even know it!

But thanks to God, there is a covering available for us, and it is the one found in Jesus Christ.  In fact, Jesus is literally the covering himself!  Galatians 3:27 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (NASB) This covering is called the Atonement of Christ, which literally means a state of “at-one-ment” or joining, or unity with God. The word for atonement in the Hebrew is the word kaphar which in its most basic form means: to cover, and carries the connotation of being brought close in an embrace.

So in order to see transformation in our lives, we have to continually seek to be in the presence of God. The only way that we can remain in the presence of God is through the Atonement of Christ, wearing His righteousness as our covering.  When you repent of your brokenness and sin and put your faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection as the source of your righteousness, you begin that amazing transformation.  And what is even more incredible is that Christ is the actual result of the transformation as well.  Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”   This isn’t something that happens immediately, but it’s a process that involves actions that we take and miraculous things that God does.  As we daily “clothe ourselves with Christ” (see Romans 13:14) we become more and more like him.  That is the mystery and majesty of God, if you will just put yourself in His presence, you will change for the better.  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Then you may ask, “How do you ‘go’ into God’s presence?”  It may be a better question to ask, “How can you ‘leave’ God’s presence?” because He’s everywhere!!  David wonders in Psalm 139:7, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”  So in a very real way, we are always able to be in the presence of God.  The question is whether or not we will hear His voice when He speaks to us.  Hebrews 3 warns us against hardening our hearts to God’s Word and refusing to listen when He speaks. “As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'” Hebrews 3:15

While God can and does speak to anyone at times, the best way to learn to hear God’s voice is through His word, and specifically by reading and meditating on the words of Jesus.  Jesus perfectly heard His Father’s voice all throughout His life.  He also perfectly obeyed His Father at all times because of His love for the Father.  Jesus says in John 14:24, “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

Whether or not we obey the words of God is of huge importance.  But, it’s also of huge importance to note that we cannot get “closer” to God by obeying His commands, our faith in Christ is the only thing that allows us to approach God.  You cannot “earn” your way into God’s presence, or “work” your way into a better relationship with God.  But refusing to obey God’s Word is an act of rebellion, and that will naturally draw you away from God.  Also, as you obey God, you will come to know Him more, and trust Him more, and the Bible promises both present and future blessings for those who obey God.

Jesse Dukes is part of WDA’s Next Generation Staff and also serving as the Discipleship Minister and worship leader at Legacy Christian Church in Senoia, GA.

Part 1 of 2

This article is part 1 of 2 on the topic of transformation.  If this article has been meaningful to you consider the following WDA resources on this topic “Disciple Building: A Practical Strategy”.  You can visit a WDA Store under Leadership Manuals.  

 

The Apollo Project of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had been a stunning success. It had accomplished what no one had thought possible: putting the first men on the moon. The American public had become accustomed to hearing of one successful mission after another until everyone assumed it would always be so.

Apollo 13
Apollo 13

But Apollo 13 was destined to be an exception. One disaster after another plagued this mission until it seemed impossible to bring the astronauts back safely. The technicians in Houston became discouraged to the point of despair. The thought on everyone’s mind was finally stated: “This could be our greatest catastrophe!”

In Apollo 13  (the movie), a man of vision and action, seeing the situation from a different perspective, prophesied, “No, this will be our finest hour!”    Courageous, visionary leadership galvanized a heroic team effort that beat the odds and won the heart of America and the rest of the world.

Western Christianity, once a bastion of spiritual strength, faces a growing crisis as we witness the breakdown of the structures that have historically fostered morality and character. Our families have fragmented amid selfish individualism fueled by a consumer-oriented society. Our schools have exchanged biblical values for secular humanistic philosophies and eastern mysticism.  Government seems confused, wondering if there is a foundation of absolutes upon which to establish law and policy, or if shifting public opinion should shape public life.  And if that isn’t enough, the media seems bent on pulling down what remains of a biblical worldview in Western Civilization. Are we living, as Dickens observed in A Tale of Two Cities, in the “worst of times?”   The nightly news seems to be evidence enough.

But underlying the crisis in society is a crisis of character.

Though it may seem that all of these problems emerged overnight, this character crisis has actually been developing for some time and can be linked to a blindspot in Christianity.  For many years, the church has failed to produce men and women of character in significant numbers.  Without leaders of character, societies ultimately decline, and eventually fail.  Many of our churches have abandoned a biblical worldview altogether, and others have neglected spiritual nurture for programs in which success is determined primarily by numbers, effectively sacrificing maturity for members.  Ironically, this has produced a “revolving-door syndrome” in some communities, where people move from church to church, disenchanted with their old congregation,  searching for a place where they can find authentic Christianity.

Ironically, we live in a culture that is filled with spiritual needs but growing increasingly hostile toward evangelical Christianity.  Christianity in the West is progressively ceasing to be “salt and light” to the world, and is in danger of being “trampled underfoot by men.” But there is good news.

God is not unaware, or indifferent.  He is sovereign over the nations (Psalm 2) and Lord of His Church, and He will defend the honor of His Name and renew His people.  Throughout history, when it seemed as if the people of God were surely defeated, the troubles they faced often became the catalyst for renewal and victory.  Sometimes it requires hardship and defeat to refocus our perspective.  Romans 8: 28-29 affirms that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.”

But helping people become Christlike is not easy.  There are obstacles.  (It’s easy to see why Satan hates this idea.)  The way is difficult, at times hard-to-understand, and it requires humility and faith.  But the outcome is worth it, both for now and for eternity.  But we must be honest.  Current approaches for helping Christians grow to maturity are not working adequately.

We need a new approach, a new perspective.  Any new perspective requires a new way of thinking.  This in itself is challenging for some.  And it will require biblical balance.  The growth process involves both mystery and method.   God is in charge, but He expects us to do our part.  He is building a people for His own pleasure who are able to rise above the world, take on the characteristics of God Himself, and live significant lives that impact all eternity.  But like the courageous leader of The Apollo 13 Project, we need a proper perspective of His plans and strategies to fully appreciate the process He has designed to accomplish His objectives.

To learn more read WDA’s recent publication “Maturity Matters” at:  www.disciplebuilding.org/maturity-matters/