LEAD! B.11 From Gluttony to Self-Control

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In Which We Deny Our Bodies to Nurture Our Souls

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:10

While gluttony primarily refers to the excessive consumption of food, here we will define it more broadly as “seeking to satisfy our souls by indulging the appetites of the flesh.” This is in contrast to self-control, which is the ability to align the actions of our body with the desires of the spirit.

Importantly, for a Christian self-control is ultimately about being controlled by God’s Spirit; in fact, God sometimes lets us fall into sins of the flesh to teach us not to trust in our own willpower!

This is also why those who undergo persecution are considered “blessed”, or “lucky”, as it is obvious to them that they can’t pursue physical comfort and the kingdom of heaven at the same time.

For the rest of us, alas, the temptation is far more subtle…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 13. Courage under Persecution vs. Self-indulgence
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.1 (Self-control) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.10 From Lust to Purity

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In Which Our Desires Are Tamed As Our Hearts Are Purified

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” — Matthew 5:8

Though sometimes a synonym for sexual desire, or conversely any kind of consuming passion, we will define lust as the idolatrous pursuit of sexual/romantic excitement or fulfillment. In other words, trusting “eros” instead of God to validate who we are (our “name”).

Though far from the deadliest sin, lust is certainly one of the most popular, and (except for pride) the most difficult to defend against — especially, though not only, for men.

The opposite state from lust is purity, having a heart wholly focused on God. The pure heart is one that recognizes we can only find true wholeness by submitting to God’s name — which is essential if we are ever to see His face.

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 12. Pure of Heart vs. Lustful of Heart
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.7 (Wise) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.9 From Sloth to Fruitfulness

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In Which We Abide Fruitfully Instead of Vegetating Slothfully

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” — Matthew 5:6

Sloth may seem like an archaic sin in our busy modern world, but our frenzied activity is itself a sign of sloth, which can be defined as a lack of vigor in pursuing God’s name — His character and purposes. In fact, the self-centered pursuit of our own “name” — especially under the guise of religion — is actually the worst kind of sloth! (cf. Matthew 23)

The antidote is to empty ourselves of worldly pursuits so that we become truly hungry for faith, hope, and love. Only when we abandon slothfully seeking our own comfort — which merely results in restlessness — can we experience the divine dynamism and peace that comes from abiding in Him…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 11. Hungering for Righteousness vs. Satisfied with Sloth
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.5 (Trustworthy) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! Part C: Skills for Service

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As mentioned earlier, the LEAD! Bible Study is a tripod, built on three legs:

  • theological education
  • character formation
  • skill development

We are over half-way through, so Part B will be ending soon — and Part C starts a week or two after that, so I need to get ready!
Here is the initial outline I used:

  1. Personal Bible Study: Understanding Scripture for ourselves
  2. Warfare Prayer: How to shake the heavens.
  3. The Slow Fast: Emptying ourselves to be filled.
  4. Memorizing the Word: Sharpening the Sword for battle.
  5. Daily Journaling: Tracking God’s activity over time.
  6. Cultivating Spiritual Gifts: For what has God made us?
  7. Failing Courageously: Taking risks, making mistakes, and learning from them.
  8. Good Things in Small Groups: Building missional communities.
  9. Constructive Criticism: ‘Tis as important to receive as to give
  10. Counseling and Discipleship: Helping people reflect God’s glory and grace.
  11. Friendship Evangelism: How to get Jesus into people’s hearts.
  12. Public Speaking: Communicating clearly and concisely.

Here’s the list the church originally proposed:

  1. Daily Journaling
  2. Devotional Prayer & Bible Study
  3. Fasting
  4. Bible Memorization
  5. Relating to Spiritual Authority
  6. Developing Spiritual Gifts
  7. Spiritual Warfare
  8. Dealing with Failure
  9. Sharing Your Faith
  10. Counseling
  11. Public Speaking
  12. Leading a Small Group

The challenge is to find a book or two to use as background reading that covers (or at least is relevant to) most of these topics. Any suggestions from my loyal readers?
Read more for a review of some possibilities, after the break…
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LEAD! B.8 From Anger to Reconciliation

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In Which We Forgive Those Who Don’t Deserve It, Because We Don’t Either

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” — Matthew 5:5
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Anger is unique among the seven deadly sins in that, in general, anger isn’t even a sin (cf. Ephesians 4:26). At one level, it is simply an emotional reaction to having our boundaries crossed. And at the highest level, anger is actually a virtue, since it is a significant part of God’s character — i.e., the “name” to which we are being conformed!

At the same time, anger is also the name of one of the most violent and dangerous sins. We can define sinful anger as a self-righteous passion for punishing those who offend us. This is why anger is so empowering and so deadly: it magnifies the sins of others to the point where we ignore our own.

Because anger is so devastating, we need to combat it with both meekness — the ability to restrain our passions in submission to God’s rule — and peacemaking, which seeks restoration and reconciliation instead of revenge.

Of course, that is easier said then done…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 10. The Meek and the Peacemakers vs. The Anger-driven
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.4 (Gentle and healing) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.6 From Greed to Generosity

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In Which We Gain Power Over Money By Giving It Away

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” — Matthew 5:7

Even if we escape the pride of trusting completely in our own “name”, we still must guard against trusting in things instead of God. The purest form of this is greed or avarice, which can be defined as treating money as an “end” — i.e., an extension of the self. This is in contrast to generosity, which considers money primarily a “means” of showing mercy to others.   

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 8. Giving Mercy vs. Getting Things (Avarice)
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.3 (Righteous) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.5 From Pride to Humility

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In Which We Humble Ourselves Before God and Our Elders, Who Exalt Us

This week we shift our study of wisdom from the “theological virtues” (faith, hope, and love) to what might be called the “blessed virtues” from the Beatitudes. We will follow Peter Kreeft (below) in contrasting them with the Seven Deadly Sins, beginning with Humility vs. Pride:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:3

Pride is the first and deadliest of the deadly sins. It can be defined as “trusting our own name rather than God’s” — relying on our own character and identity as the ultimate authority.

In contrast, humility is recognizing the painful fact of our own poverty of spirit, so that we empty ourselves in order to receive our heavenly King.

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 6. The Beatitudes Confront the Seven Deadly Sins
    • 7. Poor in Spirit vs. Proud at Heart
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 8. Pride, Humility, and the Fear of the Lord
    • 3.2 (Truth) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.4 From Folly to Love

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In Which We Are Rescued from Our Folly by God’s Love

theo_love

Love is the primary virtue of the Heart. It is both a Decision that gives rise to Emotions, as well an Emotion that gives rise to Decisions — and it needs both to thrive. It can be defined as “the ability to pursue another’s glory — even at the cost of your own.”

Love is particularly needed by the Fool, whose emotional damage drives a cycle of self-punishment disguised as the pursuit of pleasure. The only way out is to purify our hearts by receiving God’s love and forgiveness, to the point where we love Him more than the false gods we’ve served — and discover what it means to genuinely love ourselves…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 5.C (Love) The Three Theological Virtues
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom

    • 6. The Fool

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LEAD! B.3 From Mockery to Hope

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In Which Our Souls Find Hope Amidst Suffering

theo_hope

Hope is the primary virtue of the Soul. It provides Reasons to encourage positive Emotions, and the Emotional energy to search for better Reasons. It can be defined as “the ability to joyfully pursue a higher purpose — even when painful.”

Hope is particularly needed by the Mocker, who is driven by both the need to control (due to fear) and the illusion of control (due to pride). Yet if they can unclench their soul enough to hope in God’s wisdom, Mockers may yet discover that true freedom comes from giving up control.

Though such learning usually only comes after great suffering…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 5.B (Hope) The Three Theological Virtues
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 5. The Mocker

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LEAD! B.2 From Simplicity to Faith

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In Which Unseen Faith Transforms the Visible World

Faith for the Simple

Faith is the primary virtue of the Mind. It enables us to base Decisions on Reasons, as well as to deduce Reasons from Decisions (axioms). It can be defined as “the ability to believe what is true — even when difficult.”

Faith is particularly needed by the Simple, who otherwise would only trust what they can touch and feel. Yet God’s invisible wisdom is in reality more powerful than all the armies of flesh and blood which rail against it. And thus pursuing that wisdom, in faith, is actually the most practical decision of all…

[click to enlarge image]

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LEAD! B.1 From Humanism to Wisdom

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In Which Our Character is Conformed to God’s Name, Via The Pursuit of Wisdom

In our first twelve-week series on Theological Foundations, we focused on what it means to be “baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit“, moving from sin to sanctification as the body of Christ entering into His Kingdom.

In this our second series, we focus on how we can appropriate that “name” in our own lives — as well as those of the people we lead and serve. This is the essence of Christian Character, the second leg of our “LEAD” tripod (the third and final one being “Skills for Service”, coming in Spring 2009).

The goal of character formation is to bring our “whole person” into alignment with the “whole name” of God — His identity, character, and purpose. We can define the whole person using the “triplet” model below, which has:

  1. Our Spirit at the center…
  2. … working through our Heart, Soul and Mind… (cf. Mark 12:30)
  3. … which together produce Emotions, Reasons, and Decisions…
  4. … that manifest in actions of our Body

person-new

While all models are imperfect, and there are many other ways to picture the human psyche, this diagram will help us understand the role of Wisdom in character formation — and how we fall short…

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LEAD! Part B: Christian Character

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As mentioned earlier, the LEAD! Bible Study is a tripod, built on three legs:

  • theological education
  • character formation
  • skill development

Having finished writing the lessons for Part A, we now turn out attention to the second trimester (which the class will start in January). This blog post is for the initial outline; as before, the final version will be part of the living syllabus at https://2transform.us/lead/
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LEAD! A.12 Christ’s Return

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In Which Christ Comes Back to Judge and Remake the Earth, and We Receive Our Reward

The End. Christ’s Return is the completion of our theology. Faith will be made sight, all nations will bow before Him, and we will dwell in the fulness of the Father’s eternal presence as His kingdom comes at last. Our sin will be no more, for the Spirit’s work of salvation and sanctification is finished as His bride is conformed to His character.

Though not everyone will be happy about it…

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LEAD! A.11 Christ’s Body

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In Which We Become the Church, As We Grow Into Christ Our Head Via His Gifts

Continuing the theme of Sanctification, we explore how we are discipled into the name of Christ through His body — the Father’s principle vehicle for forming His Kingdom, by His Spirit. Specifically, we see how the fact that we serve One God requires us to worship Him as One Church.

[Note: I am now using the New King James Version for my interlinear; hopefully this will increase the readability.]

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LEAD! A.10 Soul’s Sanctification

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In Which We Are Set Apart For Obedience to Jesus, And Suffer For It — Becoming Holy in The Process

This week we round out our discussion on salvation and conviction by focusing on sanctification, or holiness, words that include being both “set apart” and “made righteous.” The overall idea is forming God’s character in us the way we were originally created to be, before mankind was corrupted.

The process of sanctification is central to our calling as disciples and leaders, yet often poorly understood. Let us dig into God’s word to try to find out what all it involves…

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LEAD! A.8 Christ’s Salvation

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In Which We Receive the Gospel, And Are Saved By It

Our series so far — indeed, the first half of human history — is but a prelude to the coming of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have the word of God made flesh, the perfect revelation of God’s character, a tangible representative of the Trinity, and a reminder of what we were created to be.

Yet even more glorious than all that: Christ is Our Lord, and has become our much-needed Savior…

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LEAD! A.6 Father’s Kingdom

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In Which We See God Creating His World, and Our Place In It

The overriding theme of our journey has been exploring what it means to be “baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Having dealt (however superficially) with the ontological aspects of that “name”, we now focus on the narrative aspects. In particular, we will focus on the arc of “creation corruption and redemption” found throughout scripture (and literature), as manifested through the persons of the Trinity. Starting with the Father, and Creation…

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LEAD! A.5 God’s Tri-Unity

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In Which We Discover The Persons Who Make up the Godhead, and How They Relate to Us

Shield-Trinity-Scutum-Fidei-English We believe in one God, consisting of one substance — one name, one identity, and one character — sometimes called the Godhead. Yet, that name is expressed through three distinct persons, as illustrated by the classic diagram on the left. Theologians use the term “Trinity” to describe this paradoxical mystery, which is explicitly described in the New Testament and often alluded to in the Old.

In this lesson, we will be focusing primarily on the Economic Trinity (“How God Acts”) rather than the Essential Trinity (“What God is”). See the “Explore” section for other perspectives.

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