Present Perfect – Group Study

Present Perfect by Gregory Boyd

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Week 1 – Now is Where God Lives

Key Lessons:

  • You must awaken to your surroundings and God’s presence in all things (pg. 10)
  • The present moment is all that is real. The past is gone. The future is not yet.  (pg. 14)
  • Remaining aware of God’s presence is the single most important task in the life of every follower of Jesus (pg.15)
  • Waking up to God’s presence in all of life’s situations requires nothing more than remembering  God’s presence each moment. (pg. 19)
  • Whatever task occupies you at any given moment, you’ll tend to do it better if you include God. Remaining aware of God’s presence doesn’t compete with our attention to other things; it augments it. (pg. 22)

Discussion Questions:

  • How does your self-centered mental chatter about the past or future keep you from seeing the glory of God that surrounds you? (pg. 14)
  • What challenges do you have to expand special times with God beyond specified times of prayer and worship into transforming every moment of our life into an actor of prayer and worship to God? (pg. 16-17)
  • Discuss the idea that the “present moment” is the single most important task of the Christian life and that no spiritual discipline is more foundational or transforming than this one. (pg. 18)
  • React to this idea that the challenge of staying present with God is not in doing the discipline, it’s in remembering the discipline (pg. 19)

Practice:

  • Find a spot in your yard, in a park or somewhere else out in nature and be still, clear your mind of all tasks and concerns and be present.  Open your ears and listen, open your eyes and see and take in the smells and all of the experiences of God’s creation. Be present and experience His creation in a new and intimate way. (pgs. 11 – 13)
  • The retraining of the brain to include God throughout the day is not instantaneous therefore post reminder in your calendar, use and app like “Yapp” to randomly remind you of messages, create post it notes strategically around you to bring your mind back to God’s presence and inviting him into your celebrations and trials. (pg. 21, 41)

Week 2 – Mere Christianity

Key Lessons:

  • A foundational aspect of “mere Christianity” is the idea of aspiring to remain awake to God’s ever present love
  • There is a force within the secular world that seeks to separate and compartmentalize “Spiritual” life from the rest of our life which puts God in a box in early morning bible study or relegated to Sunday morning at church which blocks us from experiencing his love, joy, peace and contentment in our “normal, secular oriented” life. (pgs. 28-29)
  • A prevelant and tragic misunderstanding that afflicts contemporary Western Christianity is that we make a vow to submit our life to Christ but then live 99% of our lives excluding him from our awareness (pgs. 30-31)
  • New Testament Discipleship: Seek the  Kingdom  first means we need to seek the Kingdom in each of the present moments that comprise our actual life. Living in the Spirit  is learning to cultivate a surrendered awareness of the Holy Spirit moment-by-moment. Remaining in Christ  is staying attached to Christ as the branch where he is the vine. Praying Continually  by making our life a sustained conversation with God not relegated to early morning or bedtime routines. Take every thought captive  by remaining aware of his ever presence and inviting Him into your thought processes. Every  disciple is the body of Christ  as he is the head we are his hands, feet and mouth. (pgs. 33-36)

Discussion Questions:

  • Surrendered life – Discuss this idea that at one point in our life we confessed our need for Jesus and pledged to surrender our life to him.  If you are assessing your walk over the years since you made this pledge and your current life how effectively have you surrendered to Christ moment-by-moment? Right now? (pgs. 30-31)
  • Discuss this challenge that is ahead of us to embrace God with all of our existence and the idea that the only thing that is real – and thus the only thing that is important – is “right now”. (pg. 37)
  • Discuss this idea of waking up to God. Many identify the best opportunity to worship, pray and meditate with God is early in the morning.  What is your experience?  Do you agree or have you found other routines that work of you?  What does your routine time with God look like? Big idea… learn from each other what might work better for you (pg. 39)

Practice:

  • Game of minutes – Bring Christ to mind at least 1 second of every minute throughout an entire hour when your mind is typically more dormant. Why? Become accustomed to remembering Christ when our mind is not engaged in order to practice on bringing Christ into our active mind. (pgs. 37-38)
  • Invite fellow travelers – Given that we are in process of retraining our brain that is accustomed to forgetting God when we leave our “sacred time” to working toward a life where we are seeking to remember him and invite him into our lives continually then we should seek spiritual accountability partners to help remind and encourage each other.  Who is that in your life?  Invite that person(s) into the journey. (pg 40)

Week 3 – Finding Home

Key Lessons:

  • All creatures require their basic physical needs for food and shelter be met, but humans are the only creatures that need to experience worth and significance, we need to feel like we matter. (pg. 44)
  • As Father, Son and Holy Sprit he longs for us to join in his eternal dance of perfect love.  Our insatiable hunger for a depth of life that only he can give is a sort of built-in “homing device” intended to lead us to him. (pg. 45)
  • False God = Anything that we strive for to feel worth and significance. Anything that we pursue to relieve our emptiness. Anything we hide behind or chase to give us a feeling of superiority. (pgs. 46-47)
  • Believing Jesus is Lord and surrendering to Jesus are two very different things. Embracing a belief is something you do in your mind. Actually surrendering your life is something you can only do with your will and the decision can only take place right now… moment by moment. (pg. 48)
  • Living in the flesh – 1) When we live as though we are lords of our life capable of meeting our needs; 2) When we treat people, possessions, or achievements as though they are a source of worth and significance rather than God. 3) Living as though God is not in the present, moment-by-moment (pg. 50)
  • The only way we can experience the fullness of Life is to give up trying to acquire it on our own.  We must surrender ourselves completely to God which means that we abandon our false gods which will feel like death. (pg. 52-54)

Discussion Questions:

  • Discuss the reality of this statement in your life and experience. “Our deepest hunger is only satisfied when we’re rightly related to God.  Only our Creator can give us the fullness of life that God designed for our life.” (pg. 45)
  • Most of try to sustain the illusion that we’re self-sufficient by denying our emptiness. What symptoms do you see of this inner emptiness in your life? What masks are you wearing? (pg. 49)
  • Discuss the following: While the true God lives in the now, false gods always live in the past or future. Chasing them to find our worth and significance always takes us out of the present moment. (pg. 50-51)

Practice:

  • Throughout the day, turn your attention to physical points of contact between your body and the physical world and allow it to give you deeper awareness of the greatness and presence of the  love of God based on his physical support of you.  (pg. 56)
  • Since our mind sees things as images, intentionally imagine God’s loving presence around you like an ocean, a warm glowing bubble, or a mist as you repeat truths of God. Ask the Spirit to give you a vivid way of representing God’s ever-present love and Life in your mind. (pg. 57-58)

Week 4 – Chasing the Son

Key Lessons:

  • Every passing moment is a kind of death.  Every moment is filled with possibilities, most of which we have to pass by, and most of which are goner good once we pass them by. (pgs. 62-63)
  • This isn’t how things were supposed to be.  The decay, death, and futility we experience in our life and witness throughout creation is not part of the Creator’s original design.  Rather, it’s the result of a curse we brought upon ourselves. (pg. 65)
  • While the reign of God will only be fully established in the future, we can make each moment of our life a moment over which God reigns, simply by submitting to him. (pg. 66)
  • Our physical and intellectual vitality, as well as the hope of being exceptional and fulfilling the dreams of our youth, become false gods when our core worth and significance are wrapped up in them.  Chasing and striving after thee things takes us out of the present moment, anchoring us instead in the past and future. (pg.67)
  • Freedom from anxiety is one of the surest evidences you are learning how to abide in Christ moment-by-moment (pg. 70)
  • Hunger motivation – If we are living in the flesh, the thing that drives us is hunger to feel significant by achieving, acquiring, or accomplishing things.  A person who has learned how to get their life from God each moment loses this motivation (pg. 72).

Discussion Questions:

  • The perpetual, relentless processor decay, leading inevitably toward death, fills man of us with a certain amount of angst.  How do you try to receive the dread (mind-numbing entertainment or chemical substances)? Do you try to live through others (kids, celebrities, etc)? Do you get addicted to new thrills (sexual escapades, falling in love)?  Maybe you just don’t think about it by pouring yourself into your work.  Discuss. (pgs. 64-65)
  • Discuss this idea that freedom is simply a matter of letting go of everything as a source of ultimate worth and significance as we surrender ourselves completely to our ever-present loving father (pg. 68)
  • Discuss this idea that when God’s love becomes our sole source of life  moment-by-moment, we will have no regrets about the past and no fears about the future, for we are fulfilled and are trusting God in the present (pg. 71).
  • Have you ever experienced this kind of life? We don’t regret the past or fear the future, of we’ve lost nothing and can gain nothing that affects our unsurpassable worth and significance.  We know that we are, in this moment, engulfed in a perfect love that never began and never ends, and all we do flows out of this center of peace and satisfaction (pgs. 74-75). Living in this way means that we never have to chase the sinking sun.

Practice:

  • Inhale/ Exhale Game: Begin by reminding yourself that the only thing that is real is this moment, and the only thing that ultimately matters is that you are submerged in God’s love right now.  Breath in God’s love that never ends and is never threatened; breathe in his presence.  Exhale everything else including your possessions, achievements, reputation, future aspirations, health, beauty, relationships and anything else that could possibly be a false source of with and significance to you, experience God in the present and allow the idols to evaporate in God’s presence (pas 69-70).
  • Letting Go: The decision to “let go” can’t be made in one moment and then set aside. It can only be done in each moment.  Start by holding your palms downward on you lap as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concurs you may have over to God (represent letting cares and concerns fall from your grasp into the hands of sovereign God of love who holds you in existence, moment by moment). Notice your breathing and envision every exhale as a further release.  Then turn your palms upward as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord as you wait for what the Lord would like to give you.  With every breath you take in, receive the fullness of life that comes from God. Breathe in his forgiveness, direct, peace and healing (pgs. 75 – 78).
  • Standing in Infinity:  Find a place where you can observe your surroundings likely outside in public, in the middle of nature but in a place where you can observe God’s virtual infinite extending around you and start to open your mind to the vastness of our world, universe, biological and astrological systems and how they work together.  Then put your problems in the middle of that reality to recognize how small our problems are in the middle of this vastness.  Then recall Luke 12:7 that God has every hair on our head numbered, Ephesians 1:4-5 that he chose you before the foundations of the earth, Joshua 1:9 that God is with you wherever you go. (pgs. 78-81)

Week 5 – Single Mindedness

Key Lessons:

  • The flesh-mind-set largely operates in the subconscious without us knowing it. And becomes part of our auto pilot and can run for the next several years. We can become semiconscious slaves to whomever or whatever programmed us (pgs. 85-86).
  • Surrendering to Christ during our baptism doesn’t automatically transform our flesh-mind-set that has been programmed in us since childhood. Even after being awoken to God’s presence in our life we are likely double-minded (James 1-6.8).  We are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. We live in a contradiction between what we believe is true and what we experience as real. (pgs. 87-89)
  • We must try to remain consciously anchored in the present.  When we remain awake to God’s loving presence in a given moment, we allow that moment to manifest God’s life rather than the preprograming of our flesh-mind-set (pgs 89-90).
  • We are single-minded insofar as every thing we think, feel, and do is done against the backdrop of God’s ever-present love. (pg. 90)
  • Caussade and Laubach each stress the importance of transforming everything we do as an act of service and worship to God.  This is the surest way to stay awake to God’s presence and ensure that our thoughts remain captive to Christ. (pg. 95)

Discussion Questions:

  • Take a moment to think about the influences in your life that have created the life that you now know.  How much of these influences were “set on the flesh” and conformed “to the pattern of the world” (flesh-mind-set) versus influences from God and the awareness of Him that has shaped your life and circumstances. Discuss (pg. 84)
  • Discuss the idea of becoming single-minded toward seeking God first.   Discuss the idea of submitting ourselves to God – not just intellectually, theoretically or abstractly, but truly (submitting ourselves in the now to God).  How? (pg. 89)

Practice:

  • Remain awake and honest to your inner voices and judgements of other people and circumstances and discover your pettiness, anger, judgmentalism, carnality, greed, lust and other “works of the flesh” in our brain.  As you bring these flesh-mind-set areas into our mindset, then calmly observe it while surrendering to the unconditional love of God that surrounds every moment. Do you start to feel the power of the flesh-mind-set losing power to define you? (pgs. 91-92)
  • Practice on a recent experience where you had a harsh or judgmental thought.  Maybe self criticism or degrading or hurtful feelings toward someone else. Now recall those feelings and observe  yourself having those thoughts but now you are immersed in and engulfed by God’s ever present love.  Do you experience power of the indicting thought dissipate.  Describe it. (pgs. 93-94)
  • As you engage in any task, commit to doing it for God, you will find that garbage in the mind tends to evaporate as you make every task an act of worship.  Form a habit of doing things with Christ “we” rather than for yourself “I” which will start to transform your identity as Christ centered as you include Him in your life (pgs. 95-96).

Week 6 – Living in Love

Key Lessons:

  • While knowledge may give us power in all other areas of life, it doesn’t on its own empower us to become more Christ like (pg. 98-99)
  • The challenge of living in the kingdom is not about figuring it out through knowledge, rather it is submitting to it and living as if we experience the Love of God that surrounds us every moment and our supreme goal is to surrender to it.  The question is will we do it (pg. 100).
  • God’s love compels us to do the things Jesus did and live out the things Jesus taught and it is utterly impossible to remain surrendered to God moment-by-moment and remain apathetic about things God is passionate about (pg. 101).
  • Our addiction to information includes us toward mentally stimulating material that requires no sacrifices in our life (i.e. latest news cycle, theism, hot topics) but if we aren’t living in love and motivated by love, Paul says all these things are worthless (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3) [pg 102].
  • Nothing could be more clearer in the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 6:27-35; 1 Corinthians 16:14) or more important to Kingdom people that these teachings about our willingness to love like Jesus is the main way we demonstrate to the world that we are his disciples and that he was truly sent from the Father (pgs. 104- 105).
  • We cannot possibly love as we are called in the bible with our own will  rather we can only love others as Christ loved us if we are in fact living in Christ’s love for us. Rather than focusing on ourselves and our struggle to love, therefore, we need to simply remain aware of, and submitted to, the loving presence that surrounds us at every moment (pgs. 106 – 107).
  • The quality of our Kingdom life isn’t determined by how much we know or don’t know.  Nor is it determined by what we did or did not do in the past. Nor is it affected by what we may or may not do in the future.  It’s determined by what we do or don’t do in this moment (pgs. 108-109).

Discussion Questions:

  • Discuss the idea that we spend so much time on learning and acquiring information through books, sermons and blogs to help us grow spiritually but very little time feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, welcoming outcast, visiting prisoners or engaging in the other activities that Jesus said should characterize Kingdom people.  Are we spiritually dead? (pgs. 98-99)
  • Discuss this reality that we are not brought under the reign of God by virtue of the fact that we know more about it and believe in it.  We are brought under the loving reign of God only when we are actually submitting to it in a given moment and that can only be done right now (pgs. 100 – 101).
  • The call of all followers of Jesus is to ascribed unsurpassable worth to all others, at cost to ourselves, the way God ascribes unsurpassable worth to us, at cost to himself.  How successful have you been with this call? (pg. 103).

Practice:

  • Creator died for them too…:  Challenge yourself to remain awake to the truth that each person you encounter has UNSURPASSABLE WORTH, not because of anything worth while you happen to see in them, but because their Creator thought then worth dying for (pg. 111).
  • When you notice your brain passing judgment, rather than judging those thoughts and creating more darkness, use it as motivation for reminding you to live in love and thank Jesus for dying for that person as well.  (pg. 112).
  • Volunteering for the Worst-Sinner Award: One of our main obstacles to remaining fully surrendered to God’s ever-present love is that we believe that we are better than others and we shouldn’t have to deal with them. However as Matthew 7:1-3 says that the sin of the other is a speck of dust relative to the plank in our own eye.  The challenge is then as we catch ourselves looking down on another person because of sin remember that it is but a speck of dust compared to a plank in your own eye.  But also remember the truth that you are forgiven and you are engulfed in God’s perfect love moment-by-moment as they are. (pgs. 113- 114).

Week 7 – Being Present

Key Lessons:

  • Jesus is the incarnate God that left heaven to become sin so that we could be blessed and share in the domain of heaven.  However, God is always embodying himself in the world through Jesus followers known as “the body of Christ” whom are God’s hands, feet and mouth in the world. (Pgs. 118-119)
  • Jesus reveals  that God is a God who is willing to set aside the blessedness of his own domain and become fully present to others. So too, we are called to be a people who are willing to set aside the comforts and conveniences of our own lives and become fully present to others (pg. 120).
  • Our judgments prevent us from agreeing with God that each person we encounter has unsurpassable worth, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus died for them.  Our judgement prevent us from seeing their unsurpassable worth and from imitating God’s incarnating love (pg. 122).
  • Because we don’t have the emotional energy and limited time it is important that we follow the Spirit’s leading to discern how, and with whom, we’re to invest that limited time.  If we remain awake to God’s ever-present love, we will find that every encounter, however trivial, becomes a sacred, incarnational moment (pg. 124).
  • As God was present to others every moment in Jesus, so you are called to be present to others every moment. And as you do this, God himself is present to others through you (pg. 125).

Discussion Questions:

  • How much do you see the life that you are living?  Like the character from the play “Our Town” that gets to go back and relive one day of her life and realizes how asleep everyone is.  How aware and present are you to the beauty around you and the presence of God in the moment? Discuss. (Pgs. 116-118)
  • What gets in the way of what God wants of his “Kingdom People” through his calling to get the fullness of life from him and die to our old, self-centered, perpetually hungry egos?  He calls on us to set aside all our self-serving judgments and simply love like he loves.  Why can’t we do it?
  • React to this statement, “If we remain awake and surrendered to God’s ever present love, otherwise trivial moments become sacred, filled with eternal significance, for they are moments that embody God’s Love.  This is how the reign of God grows in us and through us, moment by moment” (pg. 126).

Practice:

  • Seeing through Jesus’s unattractive disguises: Next time you are dealing with an irrational, irritable, unreasonable person; ask God to give you eyes to see the unsurpassable worth he sees in the difficult person.  And convince yourself that nothing matters more than reflecting God’s love to this child of God in the present moment, for the person is one for whom Jesus died (pgs. 126-127).
  • Imagine the Child: To relinquish all judgment and remain constant in a humble, compassionate frame of mind, envision hard-to-love people as little children (pg. 128).
  • Imagine the Prequel: When dealing with hard to love people ask God to show you a glimpse into a person’s history.  Everybody has a prequel that, if we knew it, would evoke compassion rather than judgment on our part. People get broken and sinful usually because an event or series of events.  Once we know their prequel fulfilling our role of loving and praying for them is no problem. (pgs. 129-130)

Week 8 – The Father is Always Working

Key Lessons:

  • The more tightly we cling to our religion, the more our judgements will blind us to the living God who is always active right under our noses. Traditions, doctrines, and ethics are important. But they help us enter into Kingdom Life only to the next they facilitate a loving relationship with God , ourselves and others in the present. (pgs. 133-134)
  • The Father is always doing his work, which means the time to look for the Father working is now.  The place to look for the Father working is now.  And the people in whom we must look for the Father to be working are ourselves and whoever we happen to encounter (pgs. 134-135).
  • When you consistently invite god into everyday situations, you begin to notice things you never noticed before and feel promptings of the Holy Spirit you’ve never felt before.  Your faith becomes alive, exciting, joyful and socially impacting,  As we tucked it the ever present spirit of God, we find ourselves acting like Jesus (pgs. 136-137).
  • Surrendering to God’s will takes us out of our self-focused flesh-mind-set and empowers us to see what God sees, love as God loves, and sacrifice for others the way God has sacrificed for us (pg. 139).
  • To live in love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us requires that we become single-minded in seeking God’s Kingdom in every moment.  Aware of God’s ever-present love, and surrendered to God’s ever-present will, we find opportunities to be used by God in every moment (pg. 142).

Discussion Questions:

  • Discuss the relevance to your life, “If we’re not careful, our own religion can blind us to the ever present God.  Instead of relying on the living God to give us the worth and significance we crave, we can easily start flying on religious traditions, doctrines, and ethical rules of life. (pg. 133)
  • Jesus was a social activist… he had no interest in trying to acquire political power, but he took strong stands against racism, classism, poverty, sexism, and religious oppression by how he lived.  As you have learned to surrender to God’s will moment-by-moment how has your life reflected Jesus interests in these types of social injustices? (pg. 138)
  • What does this statement mean in your life, “be the change you want to see in the world” as you reflect on the reality that when people try to fix the world before they themselves are “fixed,” they inevitably contribute to the world’s brokenness?

Practice:

  • Responding to God’s will in the moment: Ask the Lord throughout the Day, “What would you have me do?” At regular intervals face the palms of your hands toward heaven and open yourself up to whatever God may be trying to say to you that moment.  Remain aware of the ever-present love, notice any promptings you sense within.  If you sense something, don’t overanalyze it.  As long as what you feel pumped to do is consistent with love, act on it. (pgs. 143 – 145)
  • Stop over-the-rainbow thinking: Talk to God and discuss with friends ways you may be entrapped to over-the-rainbow thinking.  Is there any part of you that thinks you’d find more God if you were in a different place or in different circumstances? Is there any part of you that thinks you’d experience more fullness of life if only certain things hadn’t happened or weren’t happening? Is there any part of you that is hoping that you’ll experience fullness of life in the future, if only things go the right way? As you discover these things turn your palms down and release these illusions to God and Exhale the “if only” lies that keep you from being fully centered in the present moment.  Turn your palms up and breath in the truth that God is more -than-adequate to meet the longings of your heat and fill the emptiness of your soul. (pgs. 146-147)

In the kingdom, there is no waiting.  There is only now.

The time to be fully awake and fully alive is now.

The time to abide in Christ and to live passionately in love is now.

The time to live in God’s presence and let God be “all in all” is now, in this moment.

And now in this moment too.

And now…Are you Awake?

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