Cultivating a Life Without Judgment: Day 5

Reading guide banner WEEK 4

     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 40

  • Read Psalm 40. What does this Psalm say about God helping us out of the muck and mire of life? (see v.2)
  • What is the most memorable lesson you’ve learned about the nature and character of God this week? 
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week?
  • Take 10 minutes to write out your own prayer to God today. 

Cultivating a Life Without Judgment: Day 4

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     Day 4: Receiving Judgment From God

Christians within our culture grow up with many different thoughts and teachings about God. But one of the things in which all denominations agree — whether Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics or others — is that the God of the Bible is a righteous God and a just God (See Psalm 89:14). As such, He will hold us accountable in this life, and in the next, for our decisions. How can we receive accountability and discipline from God in a way that will ultimately lead to growth? 

First, it’s essential to understand that God doesn’t look at our poor decisions in life and say, “What in the world is wrong with you?” Remember, our God is a God of GRACE first, and we must see Him in this light. So when we make a poor decision, God isn’t saying, “I’ll love you when you clean up this mess,” He’s saying, “I love you so much I’m going to help you clean up this mess.” He’s not a God observing from far away, but is right next to us, deep in the muck and mire with us. 

Second, it’s just as important to understand that God wants to see us grow. In the same way a parent wants to see their child do well in life, God is seeking to accomplish the same within our lives.

As you read today, consider this: How well do you receive judgment or discipline from God? 

READING:

     Deuteronomy 8:5-6; Job 5:17-18; Hebrews 12:5-9

How well do you receive judgment or discipline from God? 

Be honest: Do you normally think of God as saying, “I’ll love you more when you clean up this mess,” or a God who says, “I love you so much I’m going to help you clean up this mess?” Does this help you to see or think about the nature and character of God any differently? 

God is inviting you to change the way you see yourself. How will you think differently about yourself this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, once again, today’s reading has helped me to see You as a God of GRACE first, and not as a God of RULES. Thank you for Your unmerited favor. Thank You for loving me in ways in which nobody else can. Thank You for being with me, and helping me out of the muck. And thank You for disciplining me in order to help me grow. 

Today, may I continue to better reflect and represent the essence of who You are (a God of GRACE) to all I interact with. I pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Judgment: Day 3

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     Day 3: Receiving Judgment From Others

It’s hard to receive negative criticism from others. And when we do receive it, there are usually about three options in how we respond:

  • Get angry and offer excuses or blame shift 
  • Throw our hands in the air and say, “I don’t really care what anybody else thinks.”
  • Receive the criticism well, and grow as a result. 

Option 1 doesn’t work very well, and doesn’t help us to relationally connect with others well. Option 2 completely removes all capacity for connecting with others. If we never care what others think, we will eventually shut out feedback that may prove quite helpful. Option 3, of course, is the best path to choose. But what does it mean to receive criticism well?

This is a difficult question, but one step is to ask ourselves some tough questions. Is there any truth to what they said? If so, that doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person. It just means I made a mistake and I can grow as a result. Like yesterday’s reading, offering positive self-talk is perhaps the best step we can take. 

As you read today, consider this: How well do you receive judgment or criticism from others? 

READING:

     Galatians 6:1; Proverbs 27:6; Ephesians 4:29; Ecclesiastes 5:2

How well do you receive judgment or criticism from others? 

What does it mean to restore somebody gently? (Galatians 6:1)

A counselor once said, “If somebody treats you poorly and you continue to allow them to treat you poorly, you’re basically teaching them that it’s OK to treat you poorly.” What steps can you take to receive criticism from others, and help coach them on how they can share constructive criticism with you in a way that you will receive it well? 

God is inviting you to change the way you see yourself. How will you think differently about yourself this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, there are some people in my life who I feel comfortable receiving constructive feedback from, but there are others who often share feedback in such a way that leads me to anger. Provide me the wisdom I need to help others share constructive feedback with me in a way that will lead me to growth. This will be difficult, but I will continue to trust You throughout the process. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Judgment: Day 2

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     Day 2: Judging Yourself

Take just a moment to look back to the first week of this study. What is one thing that discourages or distracts you from growing in emotional and spiritual health? It’s possible your answer to that question has changed over the past few weeks. It’s also possible that your answer to that question — is you. In other words, it’s possible that you have such a low opinion of yourself, that you’re not even sure you can grow. 

Recent surveys have indicated that one of the most common things that prevents people from experiencing emotional and spiritual growth is Negative Self-Talk. And while women are generally more open to admitting they struggle with negative self-talk, men struggle with it just as much. 

I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe I forgot to put the garage door down after I got home. 

I can’t believe I forgot about that meeting today. I’m such a loser.

12,000 miles since the last oil change? Wow, I’m a moron. 

I knew we were out of groceries and I still didn’t go shopping, because I’m lazy.

As you read today, consider this: How often do you have negative self-talk? Has anything good ever come from it? 

READING:

     Ephesians 5:29; Galatians 2:20; Psalm 139:14; Jeremiah 29:11

How often do you have negative self-talk? Has anything good ever come from it? 

Case Study: You miss an important deadline because you’re overslept after being out too late the night before. How would you respond:

  • “I’m such an idiot!”
  • “That was a foolish thing to do. And here are some steps I will take so that I don’t make that mistake again later in life.”

God is inviting you to change the way you see yourself. How will you think differently about yourself this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess there are days when I think negative thoughts about myself. Continue to lead and guide me this week to see myself in the same way that You see me. Remove from me everything that may distract or discourage me to grow – Fear, Hurt, Worry, Judgment, Envy & Shame – so that I may continue to grow into the person You have created me to be. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Judgment: Day 1

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     Day 1: Judging Others 

Let’s be honest: it’s easy to judge others. It’s easy to judge how they drive. It’s easy to judge how they parent. It’s easy to judge how they work. It’s easy to judge how they dress. It’s just…easy to judge. 

But have you ever stopped to think about why we judge others? Some researchers have learned that the primary reason we judge others is because we think lowly of ourselves. In other words, research has shown that if we think we can convince ourselves that others have a more pathetic life than we do, then we’ll feel better about who we are. But guess what? It doesn’t work…EVER! 

What does work, is coming to the realization that we cannot grow if we regularly judge others. Why? Because we cannot grow if we think lowly of ourselves. And if we judge others primarily because we think lowly of ourselves, we just get caught in this vicious cycle.

While the solution sounds simple, it’s quite difficult to put into practice on a regular basis. Our culture has basically trained us to be judgmental towards others. Doing the opposite takes diligence, and a willingness to allow others to hold us accountable.

As you read today, consider this: Are you willing to give others permission to hold you accountable to being less judgmental?

READING:

     Matthew 7:1-5; John 8:1-8; James 4:11-12; Proverbs 27:17

Are you willing to give others permission to hold you accountable to being less judgmental. (Proverbs 27:17)

What do you think is the difference between judging others vs holding others accountable for their actions? In other words, when is it OK to hold somebody accountable, and when does it cross a line to judging them? 

Would you agree that we often judge others as a way to try to feel better about ourselves? Why doesn’t this work? 

God is inviting you to change the way you see yourself. How will you think differently about yourself this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that there are times in my life when I judge others and that I have done so just to try to feel better about myself. This week, I pray that You will continue to lead and guide me to see myself in the same way You see me. Not as someone who is of little value, but as someone who You valued so much that You sent Jesus to give His life for me. May this truth resonate deep within me! I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 5

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 55

  • Read Psalm 55. What are some things that may have led the author of this Psalm to be worried or afraid?
  • What steps did he take to experience growth and healing from his worries? (see v.22)
  • How will you continue to think differently about your worries, depression & anxieties in the weeks ahead?  
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week? About God? Other? 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 4

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 4: Renewal of the Mind

Have you ever heard your grandfather say, “Back when I was your age, we weren’t afraid of a little snow. In fact, we used to walk to school in 2 feet of snow!” He may have exaggerated the story a little bit more each time. But the main point was the same: we weren’t afraid of a little snow.

But today, we do worry more than we used to. We worry about allowing our kids to roam the neighborhood and play, concerned that something bad may happen. We worry about preparing a Holiday meal for the extended family, concerned that there won’t be enough or that it won’t be prepared well. We worry about what they’ll think of the house. We worry about what they may say. We worry about…far too much. 

Statistically, our kids are safer now than ever. We just worry more because we see news media that regularly shows bad things happening. As for the Holiday dinner…we worry because we care too much about what others think. In fact, some of us spend too much time worrying about what we think others are thinking! 

Bottom line: We need to change the way we think. As you read today, consider this: What steps do you need to go through to experience a renewal of the mind? 

READING:

     Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8; Ephesians 4:21-24

Some scholars have noted that a renewal of the mind isn’t something that happens overnight. Instead it takes time, and a lot of practice. Given your life schedule, what steps can you take to regularly practice and experience a renewal of the mind?

Of the three scripture passages you read today, which one resonates with you most? Why do you think that is? 

What are 2 – 3 things in your everyday life you can limit or completely remove that may help you to worry less?

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You once again for the truths communicated in Your Word. I’m grateful that there can be a renewing of the mind, and it’s my desire to commit to trusting You to help me get there. Continue to reveal to me Your good, pleasing, and perfect will, and may I reflect the essence of who You are as I interact with others today. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 3

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     Day 3: What Can You Control?

Take just a minute to write down the four biggest stressors you have in life right now. Of these four stressors, which ones do you have some control over? (Weight Loss, Diet, How you respond to marriage/family relational challenges, Debt, Time Management, etc.) And which ones do you have no control over? (Other people’s attitudes and/or decisions, work schedule, etc.)

Here’s how this plays out in our lives: we don’t provide the time and attention to the things we can control because we stress too much about the things we can’t control. We think things like, “Well, I can’t really do anything about my work schedule right now, so maybe I’ll eat out to feel better.” Or, “My extended family members are so far from God right now, I’m so worried for them! Maybe I should go shopping so I can stop thinking about it.” 

You see? Stressing about those things outside of our control hinder our ability to make progress in the areas we can control. Perhaps it’s time to be different. Write down those things that you know you cannot control, and set them aside. Put them someplace where you’ll see them often (a jar on a shelf) , and every time you see them you can remind yourself that God is in control. Then, you can better partner with God and focus your energies on those stressors in which you know you have some control. 

READING:

     Isaiah 35:4; 41:10; 1 John 4:18;  Psalm 23:4

What are the biggest stressors in your life in which you have no control over? Do you think that physically writing them down and setting them aside may help you remember that God is in control?

Read 1 John 4:18. What do you think it means that there is no fear in love? How would you explain this verse to a friend or relative who struggles with fear and worry? 

Have you ever found yourself failing to overcome the things in which you do have some control over because you gave in to worrying about the things in which you have no control over?

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today I’m grateful for the reminder that there are challenges in my life which I can control, but there are others that are fully outside of my control. Help me to grow by rooting out all of the weeds (things in which I have no control) so that even though I walk in darkness, I will fear no evil. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 2

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     Day 2: What Does Worry Lead To?

Some individuals have a natural personality of experiencing ongoing angst. In fact, the most common personality type according to the Enneagram personality profile (type six) regularly struggles with angst. 

But angst is a little bit different than worry, depression and anxiety. Angst is part of an individual’s normal personality. It’s being cautious and careful, desiring to see the big picture in any decision being made. If somebody cannot see the big picture, they experience some angst about the decision. This kind of angst is natural, and protects us from decisions that may lead to more harm than good.

Worry, however, is often a choice. Somebody may worry when there is no immediate threat, still perceiving that something bad or unfortunate is going to happen. The longer they stay in this pattern of believing something bad is going to happen, the more likely they are to experience depression or ongoing anxiety. 

As you read today, consider this: When you’re making a decision, are you more likely to dwell on the best possible outcome, or the worst? Why do you think that is? 

READING:

     Deuteronomy 31:8; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Romans 8:38-39

When you’re making a decision, are you more likely to dwell on the best possible outcome, or the worst? Why do you think that is?

Have you ever considered the difference between angst and worry? 

What are some things you have done that have helped lessen your worries, depression, or anxieties? Similarly, what are some things you’ve done that haven’t helped? 

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I thank You for inviting me to think differently about my worries and anxieties. Today, I invite You to point out anything in my life that may lead to ongoing anxiety, and to reveal to me the best next step I can take to remove them from my life. I also pray that You would present me opportunities to help ease the worries and anxieties of others by sharing with them the truth of Your Word. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 1

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 1: Why Worry?

In the movie Bridge of Spies, insurance lawyer James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) is required to defend an accused Russian Spy in court. The evidence against the spy is overwhelming. At various points throughout the movie, James Donovan asks his client, “You’re not worried?” Every time, the defendant responds by saying, “Would it help?”

The Russian Spy, Rudolph Abel, knew that he had been caught. He knew that the evidence against him was strong. He knew that he would likely be convicted, found guilty, and would either spend the rest of his life in prison, or perhaps even be sentenced to death. Despite all of this, every time he was asked if he was worried he responded the same way, “Would it help?”

In the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, character Newt Scamander is quoted as saying, “My philosophy is if you worry, you suffer twice.”

As you read today, consider this: What do you find yourself most worried about in life? Would you agree that worrying doesn’t help or simply leads to suffering twice? 

READING:

     Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 12:25

Would you agree that worrying doesn’t help, or simply leads to suffering twice?

Can you think of any circumstance in which worrying about the outcome would be helpful? 

Take some time to look up additional Scripture passages about worry or anxiety. Commit to sharing a verse you discover with a family member, friend, or another loved one.

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I want to move forward in life not being controlled by my fears and worries. Throughout this week, I pray that You would reveal to me the things that I worry about that lead me to unnecessary suffering. Help me to remember the truth Your Word, which says that if I cast my cares upon You, that You will sustain me. May my life always be sustained in You and in You alone. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.