Spiritual Formation Work Group
(God’s Great Desire for People)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17 TMSG
The Spiritual Formation Workgroup will begin 25 January 2018 from 10:00 – 11:30 A.M. in the education wing. All are welcome. We will be reading “The Me I Want to Be, Becoming God’s Best Version of You” by John Ortberg in 2018. Bring a friend. Reading The Me I Want to Be is your first step to becoming God’s best version of you. Join bestselling author and pastor John Ortberg as he guides you through the sometimes difficult but ultimately fulfilling journey towards a uniquely created spirituality. One designed just for you … one that will enable you to experience God more fully each day.
“Never worry alone. When anxiety grabs my mind, it is self-perpetuating. Worrisome thoughts reproduce faster than rabbits, so one of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend... The simple act of reassurance from another human being [becomes] a tool of the Spirit to cast out fear -- because peace and fear are both contagious.”
Your flourishing is never just about you. It is a “so that” kind of condition. God designed you to flourish “so that” you could be part of His redemptive project in ways that you otherwise could not. He wants you to flourish “so that” people can be encouraged, gardens can be planted, music can be written, sick people can be helped, or companies can thrive in ways they otherwise would not. When you fail to become the person God designed, all the rest of us miss out on the gift you were made to give.
The Me I Want to Be, chapter 2
PART ONE: FINDING MY IDENTITY
Your life is not your handiwork; your life is not your project. Your life is God’s project. God thought you up, and He knows what you were intended to be. He has many good works for you to do, but they are not the kind of “to do” lists we give spouses or employees. They are sign-posts to your true self.
Chapter 1 - Learn Why God Made You
Chapter 2 – The Me I don’t Want to Be
1. Of the five versions of counterfeit “me’s” noted in the chart, which one do you think you most gravitate toward? Why? What circumstances in your life affect this tendency?
2. God is highly concerned about you reaching your full potential, and He doesn’t get discouraged in the process. John Ortberg says that we cannot follow God if we don’t trust that He really has our best interest at heart. Can you relate to this thought? Why or why not?
3. Where have you seen F.T.T (failure to thrive) in the world? How about in your own life?
4. If someone were to ask you how your spiritual life is going, what factors would you consider in your response? How would you go about assessing yourself?
In “The Me I Want to Be”, Ortberg says that a wise man suggested answering this spiritual assessment by responding to two questions:
Am I growing more easily discouraged these days?
Am I growing more easily irritated these days?
How would you answer these questions today? And from your answers, how would you gauge your spiritual life? (Page 21).
5. If flourishing is being full of joy, peace, and curiosity and possessing an openness to learning and a desire to lean into challenges, then the opposite languishing—would mean lacking mental and emotional vitality and being uneasy, full of discontent, and self-focused. In a continuum, here you would place yourself between flourishing and languishing most of the time?
Have you ever thought yourself as too young, too old, or too ____________ (fill in the blank) to flourish? Is there any shift you need to make in your own perspective?
6. Have you ever undertaken a home improvement project? What was the end result? (share your responses.)
7. In restoring or fixing something, we can experience its full effectiveness and its full magnificence. Read 2 Corinthians 5:17: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
8. Becoming a new creation doesn’t mean becoming completely different but, as Ortberg explains, being “restored to [our] intended beauty.” What holds you back from leaning into becoming all God intended you to be? How does your hesitation in that area affect those around you? (NRSV)
9. Read Psalm 92:12-13: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.” (NRSV)
God is interested in your individual restoration and growth. If you were n acorn, God would not want or expect you to become a rosebush … He designed acorns to become oak trees. Flourishing is becoming more of what God made you to be.
Is there something you’re trying to be that God did not design you for? Have you given up (consciously or not) on some God-given dreams? What experiences, thoughts, or reasons have contributed to that?
What could you want more than to become the person God created you to be?
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Spiritual greatness had nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.”
COUNTERFEIT VERSIONS OF ME THAT I SOMETIMES CHOOSE:
The “me” I I try to convince people I am important while
pretend to be secretly fearing I am not.
The “me” I think I have a need to try to be someone I’m not,
I should be often motivated by comparison.
The “me” other I don’t feel free to be myself; I follow others’ agendas.
People want me to be
The “me” I’m afraid I lack the trust in God’s love and plan; I equate
God wants spiritual maturity with trying hard to follow the Bible’s rules
The “me” that I’m missing mental and emotional vitality, and my soul is weary.
fails to be
But the best version of me is …
The “me” I’m I am fully alive inside … and growing.
meant to be
Chapter 5 – Surrender: The One Decision That Always Helps
Chapter 6 – Try Softer
1. Ortberg, on page 60, says “Even when I am not sure what to do, I can place my life in God’s hands. John Calvin said that the only haven of safety is ‘to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever He leads. Let this, then, be the first step, to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God.’ To do this, we will have to face our greatest fear.” (page 60-61).
What do you fear?
Have you placed your life in God’s hands or are you still trying to direct your own life? What does it mean to you to place your life in God’s hands?
2. When I let Jesus drive, I am no longer in charge of my ego. I no longer have the right to satisfy every self-centered ambition. Now it is His life. (page 61).
3. Have I invited Jesus along for the ride, or is He driving? Who is behind the wheel? Jesus is very clear on this point: There is no way for a human being to come to God that does not involve surrender. (page 62).
4. Surrender does not mean being a doormat. Instead, surrender is the glad and voluntary acknowledgment that there is a God and it is not me. (page 62).
5. Jesus does not come rearrange the outside of our life the way we want. He comes to rearrange the inside of our life the way God wants. (page 62).
6. You receive power through the act of surrender that you cannot obtain any other way; you receive freedom through submission that you otherwise never know. (page 64).
7. In my life and in your life, there is always the question before us, who is driving? I can have a rebellious heart, telling God to stay out of my car altogether, … Or I can have a divided heart, keeping Jesus in the car, but driving myself. (pages 66-67).
8. True growth always s goes in the opposite direction of self-righteousness.
9. Incompetent and Unaware:
- The first cost of incompetence is always the inability to perceive incompetence
- In a room where one person is drunk and everyone else is sober, the drunk person is least aware of his intoxication.
- The danger is this stage is living in continued ignorance.
10. Incompetent and Self-conscious:
- The danger of this stage is that I will despair over my incompetence and give up.
11. Competent and Aware:
- These people are constantly thinking about themselves and their efforts at growth.
- The danger here is pride.
- The need here is humility.
12. Competent and Unself-awareness:
- When we truly grow, then obeying God no longer looks like something that requires an appreciation banquet. It just looks like what should come naturally, like something that needs to be done.
13. We do not progress through these quadrants strictly in a linear, sequential fashion in our daily lives. We can go back and forth all the time.
14. The best version of myself lives in quadrant four, where the skier effortlessly glides down the slopes, where the father graciously welcomes his son, where the servant joyfully delights his Master.
15. Try Softer!!
PART THREE: RENEWING MY MIND
Becoming the best version of yourself, then, rests on one simple directive: Think great thoughts! People who live great lives are people who habitually think great thoughts. Their thoughts incline them toward confidence, love, and joy. Trying to change your emotions by willpower without allowing the stream of your thoughts to be changed by the flow of the Spirit is like fumigating the house of the skunk smell while the skunks continue to live in your crawl space. But God can change the way we think.
Chapter 7 – Let Your Desires Lead You to God
Chapter 8 – Think Great Thoughts
1. Read the following Scriptures: Romans 7:5-6; Colossians 3:1-2; Romans 12:2:
5While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. Romans 7:5-6 (NRSV).
1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, Colossians 3:1-2 (NRSV).
2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NRSV)
What is the common theme in these passages? How would you define “set your mind”? How do you determine what to set your mind on?
What results will you experience when you are controlled by the Spirit, in what direction will your thoughts lead you? What kind of thoughts do you have if you are controlled by your sinful nature, by the “pattern of the world”?
As you reflect on these passages, what do you hear the Spirit prompting you to do in your own life?
2. In The Me I Want to Be, (page 81), Ortberg writes:
When we tell people they ought to do something, we can take that “ought” in two ways—the ought of obligation and the ought of opportunity. The first kind is our duty. You ought to pay your taxes. You ought to keep your dog on a leash. You ought to take your drivers’ test. The second kind gives us life. You ought to take a break. You ought to see the world. You ought to taste this cake.
The “ought” of Jesus’ message is mainly an ought of opportunity.
When we become aware of this, we feel guilty because our desire for God does not run deep enough—but we cannot make ourselves desire God more by telling ourselves that we should. God is so gracious and patient, wanting us to want Him, that He is willing to work with this kind of honesty. That is why we are invited to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Taste is an experimental word. It is an invitation from a confident chef. You don’t have to commit to eating the whole thing; just try a sample—taste. If you don’t like it, you can skip the rest. But the chef is convinced that if he can get you to take one bite, you are going to want the whole enchilada. (page 81).
Do you sometimes struggle with wanting to desire God? If so, how do you picture God and His demeanor toward you in that struggle?
Read Psalm 34:8:
8O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.
Does this verse affect your perspective on God’s heart toward you? How can enjoying all that God created help you to “taste abs see that the Lord is good”? Psalm 34:8 (NRSV).
Read James 1:17:
17Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 (NRSV).
Have you ever considered that desiring God can be receiving pleasure from the good gifts in your life? Ponder that wonderful thought for a moment.
3. Have you ever considered the lack of self-awareness to be dangerous? John Ortberg says, “We often don’t give serious thought to our character and purity and heart, in light of the way God would view those things--we have great self-deception and self-justification.” Why are self-deception and self-justification so concerning? Is it easier to see this deception in your own life, or in others’ lives?
How can you increase your self-awareness?
As you open yourself to the flow of the Spirit, you start to love God more and more—not because you should, but because you can’t help it—and this changes your desires.
We must train the pattern of our thoughts to be toward God.
4. To change the way we think, we must start by learning to monitor our thoughts. Two people in the same situation can have very different experiences, based on their ways of thinking (e.g. one may see something as a problem, the other may see it as an opportunity). Consider your thought life. Do you tend to be a “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty” kind of thinker? Explain your answer.
5. As we learn to monitor our thoughts, we must next set our mind—decide what we will think about. John Ortberg says that to “think great thoughts” is to have thoughts that incline us toward things such as confidence, love, and joy—things that move us toward God. Using the continuum below, assess your propensity to regularly think great thoughts:
Rarely All The Time
How can you increase your habit of great-thought-thinking?
6. To equip us to think great thoughts, we need to provide ourselves life-giving fuel. One highly effective tool in our thought life is God’s Word. God loves us whether or not we read the Bible, but he has given us the gift of Scripture too help us flourish. Without feeling guilty about your response, how often do you read your Bible? What factors contribute to your answer? What’s a practical, concrete action you can take to feed your mind with Scripture more regularly?
7. Freedom can mean different things to different people. What freedom do you personally treasure (e.g., to come and go as you please, no laws against practicing Christianity), and why?
What freedom do you have when it comes to your mind and thoughts?
There’s a spiritual battle being waged by the Evil One against you and your thoughts. What control do you have in this battle? What is the danger, to you and those around you, if you choose to not monitor your thought life?
God’s plan is not for us to be saved by grace—it is for us to live by grace. God’s plan is for my daily life to be given, guided, and energized by the grace of God. To live in grace is to flow in the Spirit.
Chapter 9 – Feed Your Mind with Excellence
Chapter 10 – Never Worry Alone
1. Our bodies are constantly being formed by what goes into them. We may not like this truth, we may not heed it, but we can’t evade it. Bodies get shaped by what goes into them. What do you feed your mind? What can you feed your mind with so that it flourishes?
2. Ortberg reminds us that “God loves me.” He further says, “When we learn that, our minds may keep returning to that thought the way they do to a surprise promotion. We can’t stop thinking about it.” What thoughts fill your mind?
3. Theology in culture tells us that we can gain a theological message from films, books, magazines, etc. The Bible tells us to look beyond just the Bible to feed our minds. What other sources do you access to feed your mind and what are the outcomes?
We are free to feed our minds from every good source, but there is no source like the Bible.
4. Eugene Peterson writes, “Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurture the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love.” (page 105).
5. We can learn much from the Bible if we just ask questions: Who is the author of this book? Who was the audience? Is the writing a parable, instruction, a letter, or history? How would the people to whom the words were first written have understood it? Often the biggest barrier to our becoming learners is what we think we already know. How do you study scripture? How do you engage it?
So when you read the Bible and you have doubts, don’t “try harder” to believe. “Try softer.” Let God know your doubts; He already knows about them anyway.
6. When it comes to the Bible, conversations become stilted. People are so concerned with making sure they get the “right” answer that everyone backs out of the conversation. What makes it difficult for you to discuss scripture with others? Do you find it easier with some people but harder with others? Why?
Ortberg says, the problem is not one of ignorance. The problem is one of knowing too much, but knowing too little. We would rather deliberate on what we do not know than actually do the things we know we ought to do.
People would rather debate doctrine or beliefs, or tradition or interpretation than actually do what Jesus said.
You already know more than you know.
7. It’s easier to be smart than to be good. You don’t need to know more from the Bible; you just need to do what you already know. How do you go about doing that, and how do you coerce some to live in the knowledge they already have concerning what scripture says?
8. Jesus was once napping in a boat with his friends when a storm came. They woke him up, terrified, and Jesus looked out at the storm and said, “Peace, be still.” And it was. Jesus was a non-anxious presence.
Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.
9. “There is no fear in love… perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18. When we live in the flow of the Spirit, we let the perfect love of God wash over us. Perfect love casts out fear. What can a person do to continually live in love and not in fear?
10. God does not give us a spirit of timidity. He gives us a mind of life and peace. He calls himself our Comforter, and he will be our refuge, our rock, our fortress, and our safety.
What are way in which you most readily experience the love of God, in which his love casts out fear in your body?
Often the Spirit will use other people to help cast out fear.
11. In an army, in a workplace, on a team, or in a ministry, negativity, fear, and discouragement are contagious. But courage is contagious as well. When was the last time you witnessed courage?
12. Jesus said that “out of your bellies will flow rivers of living water,” but that doesn’t feel like what is flowing out o f them the first time we are thirty feet up. (page 125). What was your reaction to this comment by John Prtberg?
13. Read the following Scriptures and reflect on how they speak to the subject of “Feed Your Mind with Excellence?”
a. Psalm 1:1-3.
b. Philippians 4:8.
c. Psalm 23:1.
d. John 13:34.
14. Read the following Scriptures and reflect on how they speak to the subject of “Never Worry Alone?”
a. Mark 4:39.
b. 2 Timothy 1:7.
c. John 16:33.
d. John 14:27.
e. Philippians 4:6-7, (TMSG)
PART FOUR: REDEEMING MY TIME
The goal of prayer is not to get good at praying, as many think. The goal of prayer is not to try to set new records for how much time we spend praying. The goal of prayer is to live all my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God.
Chapter 11 – Let Your Talking Flow into Praying
Chapter 12 – Temptation: How Not to Get Hooked
Chapter 13 – Recognize Your Primary Flow-Blocker
1. When we are desperate, we call out for God. When we reach the end of our rope, it is only human to reach out to God. When we are thrilled, we thank God. When we are crushed by guilt, we cry out to God.
If someone were to ask you, “How is your prayer life?” what would be your answer?
Is the state of your prayer life determined by how long you pray or how often?
Is it measured by how many people you are praying for, or how much faith you are praying with, or how many prayers get answered?
2. Is God in your conversation?
Have you ever spoken about someone, in their absence, with words you would not have used if they were present?
The reality with God is that we are never speaking or acting in His absence. (Read Psalm 139:7-8).
Do you ever drive differently when you see a squad car behind you? Why?
God doesn’t want forced compliance, God is so immense that if He were “too visible,” people would give forced compliance without expressing their heart.
3. The Bible has a lot to say about joy. And Ortberg says that being connected in relationship brings the gift of joy. Do you think joy differs from happiness? If so, how?
Reads Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 90:14; Proverbs 13:30; and Matthew 28:8.
10Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10 (NRSV)
14Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14 (NRSV)
30The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the body. Proverbs 15:30 (NRSV)
8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:8 (NRSV)
Why does joy matter in our lives, according to the verses you just read?
4. Ortberg says, “Temptation promises freedom, but makes you a slave.” How?
Ortberg also states, “We are not tempted by that which repulses us,” unless it happens in small, almost unnoticeable steps over time. How does awareness of your personality type help you guard against temptation?
5. When you do sin (because it happens to all of us), how easy is it for you to receive forgiveness? What can happen to your soul if you carry around a burden for which you’ve not been forgiven?
6. Read together James 4:7-10, TMSG:
7So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. 8Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. 9Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. 10Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.
In the above Scripture, do you see a passive or assertive response in the face of temptation? Explain.
7. Read Matthew 6:9-13, the “Lord’s Prayer.” 9“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us this day our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
What kinds of things does Jesus include in His prayer?
When you have extended time in prayer, do you tend to include praise, worship, confession, and requests? Is there one of those that flows most readily or least readily for you? Explain.
Now, read 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18:
If you were to pray the way that we are directed in this passage, would that change your prayer life? Does it seem possible, remembering that God is always present?
8. First Thessalonians 5:19 (in different versions) warns us to not put out (NIV),stifle (NLT), suppress (TMSG), or quench (KJV) the Holy Spirit in our lives. What makes you ignore or suppress the Holy Spirit’s promptings? When are you most open to the Spirit’s work in your life?
Read the apostle Paul’s words I 1 Corinthians 10:13:
13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
Have you ever wondered if God can truly relate to your temptations? How does this verse make you feel regarding God’s understanding of your struggles?
9. Do you ever struggle with a sense of hope that you can grow stringer in facing the temptations in your life? How does this Scripture affect your “hope quotient”?
10. Ortberg quotes a study which says that the first sign of incompetence is out inability to perceive incompetence. We deceive ourselves about our intelligence. We deceive ourselves about our talent. We deceive ourselves about appearance. How many of us have given serious thought to how we would measure in the eyes of God? Explain.
11. Sin is a word not often thought of seriously in our time. Neal Plantinga writes, “Nowadays, the accusations you have sinned is often said with a grin, and with a tone that accusations you have sinned is often said with a grin, and with a tone that signals an inside joke…” (page 145). How do you view sin today and does your perception of sin minimize the sin?
12. Ortberg states that we need a deeper understanding of sin. How do you quantify sin and do you ever find yourself trying to justify a little sin, why?
13. Ortberg says that the pattern of our sin is related to the pattern of our gifts. In The Me I Want to Be, John discusses Michael Mangis’ list of nine common personality types and their corresponding sin patterns. Take a few minutes to read through the information found on pages 153 to 154 and assess your personality type.
Do you see yourself as one personality type or a combination of two or three? Any strength taken to an extreme can become a weakness. Do you agree with the weaknesses connected to your personality type(s)?