THINK GOOD//Leaders Guide
Hi! I'm so glad you've chosen to study THINK GOOD with a group. I'm convinced this study will draw you closer together and draw you closer to God. The following is a model for a 12 week study of THINK GOOD: How to Get Rid of Anxiety, Guilt, Despair & the Like to Finally Find Peace of Mind. 12 weeks allows for an introductory class meeting and a conclusion/review session. While most chapters in THINK GOOD are easy to cover in a single week, a few will be trickier to get through, particularly Chapter 9: The Dangerous Allure of Time Travel. Consider skimming the book and giving two weeks for chapters with multiple lessons/applications.
For each class session I'll offer a way to start class off, a few discussion questions, a scripture to read and consider, a prayer prompt and occasionally an exercise to do either in or after class. All of this material should be considered supplementary to the book. Group members will need books of their own (and will need to read those books) to participate fully in the class.
My prayer is that God would use this study to shape your heart and free your mind. Here's to good thinking!
Session #1 // INTRODUCTION
In this meeting your goal should be to help members feel safe with one another. Start with introductions and/or an icebreaker game that helps warm everyone up (feel free to use up to half the class time establishing relationships). Next, hand out books and give a quick pitch for why you chose this book to study and your personal goals for the class/gathering. You might read the introduction to the book together aloud.
What are your hopes and goals for this study? What are you struggling with for which you'd like to find help?
- Make a list on the board (or a piece of paper). It helps for everyone to see how much we all have in common.
Do you have good-thinking role models? People you wish you could be like in terms of keeping your thoughts under control and pure and good? How can you tell these people have healthy thought lives?
Read Hebrews 3:1
- What does it look like to fix your thoughts on Jesus?
- How often do you intentionally try to fix your thoughts on Jesus?
Nothing unites a group of people like prayer does. Take the opportunity today to pray for whatever your group members need. Ask members to share any concerns, struggles, needs or hopes. Pray over each request as it comes in (as opposed to praying one long prayer at the end).
Read Chapter 1 for next week. Be sure to do the exercises, especially keeping a 24 hour thought journal.
Session #2 // Chapter 1: ROGUES, RUFFIANS & RASCALS
Share your “favorite” fictional villains. What makes them so scary?
Which of Gerhardt’s personal experiences with bad thinking did you most relate to? How so?
Consider the quotes at the top of page 14. Do you feel like your thoughts are shaping your life? Give an example of how you’ve seen this principle at work.
Consider the two reasons Gerhardt offers for why you should get bad thinking out into the open:
- Bad thinking, hidden, blooms.
- Bad thinking, hidden, isolates.
Have you experienced this personally? Do you have thought problems that have bloomed into sin because you’ve kept them hidden? Have you ever thought, “No one else has thoughts like this?” Share with the group.
Check out the exercises on p.18, particularly naming your rogues, ruffians, and rascals. Give group members a chance to share the thoughts they’re most struggling to tame or evict.
Are you encouraged or discouraged when Gerhardt says taming your thoughts isn’t easy? Why?
Have you been trying to fix your thoughts on your own? How’s it going? Why do you think it’s so hard?
Read Luke 8:16-17 and I Corinthians 4:5.
If all thoughts and intentions will eventually be disclosed, what benefit is it to hide them now? How might exposing our thoughts now in the safety of community better prepare us for Christ’s return?
If members have shared their struggles with bad thinking, pray over those members, asking God for help with those specific problems.
Session #3 // Chapter 2: OUT OF CONTROL
Have you ever been behind the wheel of an out of control vehicle (car, bike, skateboard)? How does that feel? Describe the scenario to the group.
Consider the power of your subconscious. Were you surprised by any of the science in this chapter? Have you personally observed the power of your subconscious? Share your thoughts.
How did this quote from John Barge make you feel? Did you relate to it?:
“We all hold dear the idea that we’re captain of our own soul, and we’re in charge, and it’s a very scary feeling when we’re not.”
Read Matthew 15: 1-20.
- Does anything about this story surprise you? Interest you?
- Who do you relate to here? The pharisees? The disciples?
- What does Jesus’ insistance upon heart as source of thoughts/words/behavior mean for you practically and personally?
Explain the source of your thoughts and your role in managing your thoughts (in other words, summarize the chapter in your own words). How do thoughts work according to scripture and science?
Read the scriptures and go over your answers to the exercise on p. 28.
- What does the heart do?
- Who is in charge of the heart?
Pray asking God to reveal to you the states of your hearts.
Watch the BBC video about Blindsight mentioned in the book HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwGmWqX0MnM
Session #4 // Chapter 3: A HEART DIVIDED
Share your “I do not understand what I do” moments. Have you done anything this week that made you shake your head or ask, “What was I thinking?” Tell the group about it--especially if it's funny.
We said at the start of chapter 3, “We are all, to some degree, not yet what we were made to be.”
- Do you feel this tension?
- Is there peace for you in knowing it’s a common experience? Or does that make you feel more defeated? Explain your answer.
Later we said we’re all split between flesh and Spirit. Do you feel split? Give an example of a way or arena in which you feel torn. What’s the flesh saying? What’s the Spirit saying? If you don't feel split, give a reason why you think you're not.
As we worked our way through Romans chapter 7 we said that the law told the Israelites what was wrong but didn’t so much help them do what was right. We said, “This is how it can feel to be in a church that teaches rules but not the power of the Holy Spirit or the gift of grace. Everything is too hard.”
- Have you ever experienced this sort of teaching? Is it possible this is what’s responsible for your feeling overwhelmed and inadequate?
Did group members practice identifying the source of their thoughts? Ask them to share how it went and whether or not they felt like it helped.
How does it make you feel to know “not every thought is from you”? Did anyone practice saying “That’s not me” to your thoughts? How’d it go?
Have you ever let a bad thought or struggle with bad thoughts define you? Share with the group.
Have you given control to God? Do you feel like He has control right now? Are you living in accordance with His Spirit? Ask the group for help if you need it.
Read Romans 7: 15-25 and 8:1-17.
- Take your time. Ask the text questions as you go.
- Do you see anything confusing? Surprising? Refreshing?
Today, determine which of your members feel like they haven’t given God control. Give them the opportunity to re-commit to God and pray, by name, that their commitment would persevere.
Session #5 // Chapter 4: THE STRONGER WOLF
Together, read the Cherokee parable about the stronger wolf. Give a prize to the person who correctly identifies the Disney movie in which it appears.
Consider the Cherokee fable about the stronger wolf. Have you experienced this to be true?
- Think of some habits, appetites or desires you’ve fed in the past. What happened when you fed them?
How are your Bible reading habits? What do you think might be getting in the way of you reading regularly?
Have you ever had a period in your life that was characterized by a devotion to reading God’s Word? If so, what did that devotion do to shape your heart? Did you notice anything changing in you?
- Have you ever followed up a season like that with a season away from the Word? How did not reading the Bible (especially on the heels of reading it a lot) affect you?
Which of the three scripture reading exercises in this chapter is most familiar to you? Which are you least likely to try? Did you try any of them this week? Share with the group how it went.
How have you experienced the Spirit of God among the community of God? Have you ever felt fed by time spent with brothers or sisters in Christ? Think of a specific instance and share with the group.
Do you pray regularly? If not, what’s standing in the way?
Have you ever felt while you were praying like God had taken over your words? Have you ever been surprised by your prayers? Share.
How else (other than the ways listed in this chapter) might you feed the Spirit of God?
This week, try out one of our Bible reading exercises. #2 “Ask a question” is probably the best to try together. Choose any passage of scripture. Read it and ask it a question. Perhaps, “Who is God?” or “What does God want for His people?” Look for answers together.
This week pray that God would fill you with His Spirit. Pray that He'd grow in you the fruit of the Spirit. Ask for them one by one. If your group members don't know the fruits of the Spirit by heart, you could watch this video and practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymNuBZXCK20 (Sorry if the instrumentation bothers you. Couldn't find an online version without it.)
Session #6 // Chapter 5: UNDER SIEGE
Before you start this week ask members what they thought about the chapter. This chapter was the hardest chapter for Gerhardt to write. She occasionally yelled at the computer screen. Did any of your members have violent or surprising reactions to the content?
Gerhardt starts this chapter with a story from her own life about feeding the flesh. Have you ever experienced a similar time marked by excessive feeding of the flesh? How did it affect you? What did you do to get out?
How does this idea of laying siege to the flesh sit with you? Do you think it makes sense? Or does it seem unnecessarily harsh? Have you ever laid siege to the flesh yourself? Give an example.
To what sources of flesh food are you most vulnerable? Make a list together as a group. Think through your media, your relationships. You might walk through your day in your mind listening for the voice of the flesh.
Have you ever been surprised to realize what was outside you was getting inside you? Think of a time the flesh slipped out and you wondered, "Where did that come from?"
Try to link your thought problems and the outside stimuli that might be feeding those problems. Make a list of your thought problems together and then brainstorm various stimuli that could be causing or magnifying those problems.
Try the exercise on p.93 together. Pick a television show most everyone in the group has seen at least once.
Have you ever fasted? Did you notice a difference in your appetites or your self control after the fast? How might fasting help you lay siege to the flesh? If you don't fast, why not?
Read I Peter 2:11-12
- How does Peter describe his Christian brothers and sisters?
- What does it mean to be a "foreigner" or "exile"?
- How should our identity as foreigner shape our behavior in the world?
Look back at your thought problems and the stimuli you identified as feeding those thoughts. Pray for protection from those sources of flesh food. Ask God to protect you from the flesh. Ask God to reveal to you where you're most vulnerable to the voice of the flesh.
Session #7 // Chapter 6: TAKING CAPTIVES & TALKING BACK
In this chapter Gerhardt shared about her friend Emily's aversion to spiders. Do you have any "Not in my house!" aversions? Share with the group.
Did you relate at all to Glenn's problem with anxiety? What possible solutions/helps did you find in this chapter?
Gerhardt quotes her husband Justin on anxiety: "Anxiety is often essentially fear entertained... Anxiety... is a perverted fantasy about the worst case scenario." Did either of those descriptions of anxiety ring true to you? Which one? Why do you think that's accurate?
Do you regularly invite your bad thoughts in for coffee? What does that look like for you? How do you "harbor" or "entertain" wicked thoughts?
Look back at Jesus' temptation. Jesus uses scripture again and again to rebuke the devil. Do you do this? If so, give an example. If not, why do you think you haven't embraced the power of scripture to defy the evil one? Did you try it out this week? How did it go?
- Perhaps your group would benefit from looking up scriptures to use in their thought struggles. If that's a good way to use group time, do it. Provide index cards.
- Give a prize (grown ups like candy, too) to anyone who memorized a verse this week to use as a weapon.
Rehabilitate some bad thoughts together. Make a list of three or four and then change them to reflect the truth.
This chapter was based solidly in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. Re-read it together.
- What is the attitude behind this verse? Read it again out loud with the right attitude.
- Do you usually think of yourself as an armed warrior? How might you remind yourself of your toughness in Christ? Brainstorm practical daily reminders.
Pray 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. Change up the words a little to turn this verse into a request: "God, give us the weapons we need to fight, weapons not of this world..."
Session #8 // Chapter 7: SUCH THINGS
We start out the chapter with a reference to Walter Mischel's famous Marshmallow Test. Watch it together here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ
*This might be a chapter you decide to split into two weeks. If so, I'd suggest covering 112-123 in the first week and 124-136 in week 2.
Chapter 7 is largely about reframing our situation by finding a new way to see. Does this idea--that the way you see determines what and how you see--ring true to you? Have you ever experienced a change in your attitude or happiness as a result of changing your perspective? Explain.
On p.115 Gerhardt says, "You will Think Good when you see the unseen and recognize it not as less real but as more real, embracing the intangible and immaterial as solid ground, recognizing what seems crazy makes the most sense."
- Is this hard to do?
- Do you tend to prioritize what you can see or what you can't? Why do you think that is?
- What can we do, practically speaking to help ourselves remember the real-ness of the unseen?
We said in this chapter, referring to our baser instincts, "When bad things happen we look at the bad things."
- Do you find yourself doing this?
- Think of a time when something bad happened and you couldn't take your eyes off it?
- Have you ever been paralyzed by some hard thing?
How should the presence of God affect our reactions to difficult life circumstances? Why do you think God responds to our anxiety with nearness?
Have you ever, like Gerhardt, had the chance to do something you weren't very good at alongside a master, someone with all the skills and knowhow you could ever need, someone devoted to your success? Perhaps a father or mother? Maybe a benevolent boss? Share an example with your group.
We said in order to achieve peace, we should ask God for what we want and thank God for what we have. Which of those two is harder for you? Why do you think that is? What could you do (or stop doing) to better practice these two skills?
Did you relate at all to the story of Gerhardt's having to leave NYC? Have you ever felt that kind of loss before? How did you handle it?
In this chapter we said Thinking Good is a choice, one we have to make again and again in difficult circumstances. Think of a time you had to Think Good despite hardship. Share with the group.
Are you currently struggling to Think Good under trying circumstances? Share that with your group, too.
Consider the celebration and altar-making exercises on p. 129. Are you good at holy celebration? Share any way you've practiced these disciplines or any plans you have for the future.
Do you truly believe God can do the big things you need done? Did you feel convicted at all by the section on "Possibility"? Have you ever been guilty of limiting God? Share an experience with the group.
Read Philippians 4: 6-8.
- How do you see this passage afresh after reading chapter 7? Do you have any new understandings or realizations? Were you reminded of something you already knew?
Pray for members who're enduring difficult things and fighting to Think Good. Too, ask members for "big prayers,"things they've been avoiding asking God because they just seemed impossible.
Session #9 // Chapter 8: HIVE MIND
Do you have a space like Gerhardt's desk? Describe its state or contents to your group. A little vulnerability draws us closer. :)
Would you say your thoughts are loud, disorderly or chaotic? Have they ever been?
- If your thoughts were a party, what kind of party would they be?
In this chapter Gerhardt writes, "Hearing from God requires quiet." Do you find quiet hard to achieve? What are the hurdles standing between you and more time away from the hustle? What could you do, practically speaking, to make time alone happen?
Consider the thought-sorting exercises on p. 145-147. Which ones did you try? Which ones do you already practice regularly? Did any of them help calm your thoughts and give you peace? Which one did you find most helpful?
Do you find you find yourself filling your idle time with bad thinking? Are you more likely to think bad when you're bored or at leisure? What kind of work fills you with purpose and blocks bad thinking? How could you do that work more? Offer practical suggestions.
How did you feel about that quote on p. 150: "Remember humility. Humility is the inner attitude of indifference to oneself and freedom from oneself. If you are internally disquiet you may be assured you do not have humility?"
- Were you challenged?
- Do most of your thoughts revolve around you? As you considered your thoughts, were you surprised by the number that were you-centric?
- What do you think you could do to more pro-actively pursue humility?
Do you feel like your thoughts are working together to create beautiful things? Or are your thoughts more consistently destructive? Discuss why we need and how we might achieve more productive thinking and less destructive thinking.
Read I Thessalonians 4:9-12.
- What does this passage suggest to you about your thought life? What should we think about less? To what should we devote our thoughts?
- Is this passage challenging to you at all? How so?
Take five minutes and let members pray in silence during this session. Tell them they don't have to pray the whole time but they do need to sit quietly with their eyes closed the whole time. You might encourage them to pray for half of the time and try to listen the other half. You're not so much listening for "the voice of God" as you're letting what's deep inside you surface.
Session #10 // Chapter 9: THE DANGEROUS ALLURE OF TIME TRAVEL
Share your favorite time travel stories, movies, books, etc. What do you like about them? OR answer this question: If you could go back in time to when would you go? (Let's assume most people would want to see Jesus and take that option off the table.)
(Remember, this chapter is beefy. You may want to split it between two weeks.)
ON THE FUTURE...
How much time do you spend thinking about what's next? Do you spend too much time thinking about the future? If so, why do you think that is? If not, offer some of your wisdom to the group--how do you keep from thinking ahead too much?
On p. 156 Gerhardt writes about her own experience obsessing over the future: "Every moment I spent in my ideal future was a moment I wasn't spending building it in the present."
Which do you spend more time doing--building your ideal future or thinking about it? What's the difference between worrying about the future and preparing for the future? How does each one make you feel? What does each one accomplish?
We said in this chapter, "God only prepares you for today." Have you been trying to carry tomorrow's burdens? How's that working out for you?
What does it look like to welcome "daily bread"? Consider the story of Israelites collecting manna in Exodus 16. What happens when we try to hoard in preparation for tomorrow? Why does it matter to God that we only collect today's manna today? What's the lesson for us in that story?
How are your expectations of the future shaping your thoughts? Do you have the future in a chokehold? What expectations do you need to let go of?
Consider the assessment scenarios on p. 160. How'd you do? Which scenarios seemed the hardest to deal with?
How does it make you feel to read this sentence: "Nothing is yours"? Feel out loud for a minute. Do you think you've accepted this as true? Have you accepted it in practice, too?
ON THE PAST...
Are you ever tempted to believe the best days are over? Why do you think that lie is so easy to believe?
Are you tempted to try and hold onto things "just as they are"? Do you struggle to accept new methods or make new traditions? Do you dislike change? Why might that be problematic? What might it reveal about your heart?
Are you building new things? Think of something new you've done or tried recently, particularly something you didn't want to do at first. How did it go? Share with the group.
Do you struggle with guilt? Share your experience with the group. Why do you think guilt is so hard to shake? Did you encounter anything helpful or re-orienting about guilt in this chapter?
If you struggle with guilt, which of the four lies do you think you believe most often? Practically speaking, how might you rip up that lie by the roots?
Were you surprised at by the science of memory on p. 175? Discuss any reactions you may have had.
IN THE PRESENT
Is it easy for you to be present in the moment? What distracts you from being present?
Of the three suggestions for practicing presence--SEE, PRAISE & ENGAGE--which one do you most need to do more often? Think of ways you might live out each one.
Have you ever met anyone like Belinda, someone committed to making the most of the moment they've been given? Tell the group about her.
Read Philippians 3:12-21.
- What is Paul's attitude toward the past and future? What does Paul council us to do now?
- How does this passage dovetail with the message of chapter 9 in Think Good? What do you personally get from Paul's words?
- How might we follow Paul's example? What does it look like to forget what's behind? To not claim to have attained? To set our minds on heavenly things?
Have a member who struggles with living in the past pray for the folks who struggle with living in the future. Have someone who struggles with living in the future pray for the folks who struggle with living in the past.
Session #11 // Chapter 10: HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND
Name something small you think you might be wrong about (the best way to cook chicken, the right way to apply lipstick, whether or not you kid's common core math is from the devil...)
Try to explain in your own words (1) confirmation bias, (2) cognitive dissonance, and (3) motivated reasoning. Give examples from your day to day life.
In this chapter we talked about Peter changing his mind. What other Bible personalities change their minds? Make a list. Look at each case individually. What causes the mind change?
How often do you admit to being wrong? Think of the last time you said "I now realize" (or something like it). Share it with the group.
Do you feel like Facebook is affecting the way you interact with new or challenging information? Think back to a recent time when you had to deal with opposing viewpoints online. How'd it go? What was your attitude? What could you do to improve?
Can the church be a place where people disagree? Debate. With love. ;) If you decide it can be, how do we go about enabling that? And what does it look like to push and challenge one another while also welcoming and loving one another?
Back to humility. Humility is obviously one of the most important ingredients in good thinking, particularly as we try to open our minds. What would it look like to interact with others with more humility than you have now? Are you willing to enter discussions with the assumption that you might be wrong? Why or why not? Is that hard? If it is, why do you think it's so hard?
Which of the five steps toward changing your mind when your mind needs changing did you find most interesting? Challenging? Helpful? Discuss your reactions.
Read Jeremiah 7:21-28.
- What happens to people with stubborn hearts who don't listen to correction?
- While none (or very few) of us would choose to stubbornly deny God's call to obedience, some of us do deny it. Some of us probably are right now. How can we make ourselves more receptive toward God's reorienting voice?
Today, read the prayer on p.200 together out loud. Encourage members to read it first and be sure they agree
Session #12 // GOODBYE
Session 12 should be seen as catch-up and review.
- Encourage members to share the parts of the book that made the biggest impression. Which parts of the book are still rattling around in your brain? Which parts have you tried out? How's it gone?
- Have each member make a list of three things they intend to do to Think Good.
- Pray for each member, specifically addressing their unique struggles and goals.