IF YOU ARE SURE YOU “GET” THE GOSPEL, YOU PROBABLY DON’T

 

THE GOSPEL IS NOT THE ABC’S OF CHRISTIANITY

 

IT’S THE A TO Z OF CHRISTIANITY

 

IT’S THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY

 

IT’S NOT JUST THE WAY TO GET IN

 

BUT THE WAY TO DAILY LIVE IN VICTORY

 

ANGELS PEER INTO IT, LONGING TO UNDERSTAND IT

 

IF YOU THINK YOU UNDERSTAND IT, YOU PROBABLY DON’T

 

IF YOU REALIZE IT’S DEEPER THAN YOU IMAGINED

 

YOU ARE STARTING TO SEE

 

 

IT’S A NARROW PATH, JESUS SAID


The path from Dee's cabin to her sister's cabin

 

 

STAYING ON THE PATH IS LIKE WALKING A FENCE

 

HOW EASY IT IS TO FALL OFF TO EITHER SIDE

 

PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL HATCHER

TERTULLION SAID

 

“THE GOSPEL IS CRUCIFIED BETWEEN TWO THIEVES:

 

ANTINOMINISM (AGAINST THE LAW) AND LEGALISM”

 


BOTH OF THESE ERRORS

 

THESE WAYS TO FALL OFF

 

ARE SELF-SALVATION STRATEGIES

 

Last Sunday night I went with my sister  to a “hymn sing” at her little Zion Methodist church. It was well attended, robust and wonderful singing of the great hymns for ninety minutes. My heart was moved. My sister touched my hand when we sang Be Still My Soul, knowing how that ministered to me after Steve’s death. And then, when we sang It Is Well With My Soul, she had tears again, remembering Steve’s funeral. I keep praying the gospel will be formed in her heart. She hears and sees everything through a filter she has been taught. She thinks the crucifixion and resurrection are metaphors. That the atoning blood is a primitive concept. That the church is a place for fellowship and to do good and to enjoy the beauty of the metaphors.

I love my sister. I have honestly felt all my life that she is made of better material than me. She is warm, gifted, giving, and lovely. This is not about my being better than she is — it is about wanting her to see how each of us is in desperate need of the atoning work of Christ. I need it. She needs it. Every person needs it.

I know there are wonderful Methodist churches that have not rejected their heritage. But many have. At this church, though their heritage was still visible — a cross at the front (with faded letters beneath: in the cross of Christ I glory), though there were hymnals and Bibles in the rack, though we were actually singing the hymns — I also know that all of these are now interpreted through a filter. Everything is a metaphor. The leadership of that church and many of its members do not believe in the literal resurrection of Christ or in the blood atonement — even though they were singing about it. The song-leader, a gifted man, assured people not to worry about theology. Last year he said, “These hymns are just part of our heritage, we don’t have to believe the words.” He became very uncomfortable when a visitor wanted to share a story about a hymn and what it meant to him. I also knew that my sister and her husband were uncomfortable when a visitor requested and we sang “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” The gospel, the heart of Christianity, is rejected.

How does the gospel break through? What causes us to realize we cannot save ourselves? How are the lies all around us overcome?

I know it can only come by the Spirit of God. The wind blows where it will. But I also know we are told to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us — and we must do it wisely.

It seems to be much harder today. Keller quotes Martin Lloyd-Jones: “The demon is in so deep.” We’ll listen this week to the first half of  a free teaching session from Keller on why the demon is in so deep, and next week, take careful notes on how to share the gospel wisely in times like these.

I also know that the Gospel is not just the way into Christianity, but it is the way to live every day. I can’t believe I missed that for so long, but I did. But now I am changing. I know I am still only glimpsing how it works in my life, but I see it better now than when I thought I saw it clearly! I understand better how it is the way to live, each day. I am understanding why Luther said, “All of life is repentance.”

I must never minimize my sin. My idols have been mushrooming these last weeks as I have run to them instead of God to deal with my anxieties about the video edit — allowing my anxieties to multiply, hanging up on my son’s fiance, standing in front of the pantry mindlessly munching tostida chips from the bag like a woman without a Savior… all of these are quite ineffective self-salvation strategies. And these”infractions” are not small — each is so bad that Christ had to pay with His own blood.

We’re going to finish Jonah in three, at most four weeks, continuing to use Jonah to peer into the gospel. This week we’ll get help from our own dear Anne. We have more than one Anne participating on the blog (such as my niece, Anne Meredith) but this Anne has been with this blog for years, and so we know her simply as Anne. (Anne with an e, which is appropriate for her for those of you who are familiar with Anne of Green Gables.) I’ve cherished her contemplative spirit. She’s a compassionate nurse, a woman who sees what we often miss in art or in poetry, and is such a gift to us on this blog.

(Please pray for me Sunday morning as I speak at a large conference at Wheaton College on Idol Lies. Quickening, please!)

Sunday/Monday: Icebreakers

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. How would you describe, with illustrations from your own life, ways to fall off the narrow road of the gospel?

Tuesday/Wednesday: Anne’s Story and Bible Study

Anne uses the story of the prodigal sons, and the beloved Rembrandt print, to help us peer into the gospel.

For many of you this is review, but you may still have to look back at the passages of Luke 15 and Jonah to answer these questions.

1. Falling off the fence on the rebel side:

A. How did the younger son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?

B. How did Jonah, in chapter 1, “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?

C. What do you know about the Ninevites (before their repentance) that shows they had fallen off the fence on the rebel side?

2. Falling off the fence on the religious side:

A. How did the older son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the religious side?

B. How did Jonah (after he had preached the gospel and the Ninevites had repented) fall off the fence on the religious side? (If you don’t get this, don’t worry –we’ll come back to it in a future week)

Anne’s Story

For all of my Christian life I have been either religious or irreligious. I started out religious but soon became discouraged and gave up because I realized that I could not be good enough. The worst 10 years of my life followed this decision and those were the irreligious years followed by more religious years. I was able to convince myself that I was pretty good if I didn’t look too closely but I never grew and I was not joyful. I was working hard but not experiencing the grace that is the key to becoming like Christ. The problem was that I was trying to save myself.

As I began to work with Dee here on the blog to gain freedom from idolatry, the Lord spoke to me about covering. He asked me to stop trying to cover myself before Him. I did not understand at the time but now I think I may. Idols covered me, keeping me from seeing my desperate need of grace. Turning from them was very much like surgery without anesthesia as Keller said, but very soon the Lord came near with His presence and gift of grace and oh how precious it has been to me.

Henri Nouwen made this point to me in his book about Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal. I may not remember it quite right but I think he said that we all struggle with being like the prodigal and like the legalistic older brother but that our destination, in Christ, is to be like the Father. Understanding just how desperately wicked I am and how costly the gift of grace that I have been given changes me. I lose fear because I trust He who has lavished so great a gift on me. I don’t tend to judge others because I know how great a sinner I am. Bigotry falls away too because I know I am loved therefore I don’t have to put others beneath to build up myself. This is the organic change that will make us like Christ. As I found out the hard way, I can’t do this myself, because salvation is of the LORD.

3. Comment on Anne’s testimony:

Anne asks:

4. I what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer.

Thursday/Friday First Half of Keller Message

This is a long message, and it is teaching instead of a sermon — so I’m going to have you listen to 44 minutes this week, and then the final packed 30 minutes next week. You will listen to his first three points:

  • Gospel Theologizing
  • Gospel Realizing
  • Gospel Urbanizing

Link: Click Here

5. What notes do you have?

Saturday

6. What’s your take-a-way and why?

COMMENTS (245) Post a New Comment ↓
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3. Anne’s testimony is beautiful. I love this: “Understanding just how desperately wicked I am and how costly the gift of grace that I have been given changes me”
The gospel has radically changed me too, Anne. Seeing my wickedness, albeit painful, has caused the root of legalism to be pulled out in me. I now see people who use to be beneath me as my peers, friends even. I am no longer better. Now this does not mean I have it down pat but it means when a judgmental thought comes I turn from it quickly. It sickens me for I remember His great grace towards me. This whole process of rooting out has made me more loving and useful to the kingdom.

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    Love this Kim: Seeing my wickedness, albeit painful, has caused the root of legalism to be pulled out in me.

    That’s tremendous.

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3. Comment on Anne’s testimony:

First of all, I just love Anne and have loved it when we have had our more contemplative discussions. I also admire her honesty with herself, and with God as He brings to the surface these things.

“Understanding just how desperately wicked I am and how costly the gift of grace that I have been given changes me.” -I SO LOVED THIS. The Gospel saves us from the penalty of sin but it also changes us daily.

And the Gospel has changed her this way:

“I don’t tend to judge others because I know how great a sinner I am. Bigotry falls away too because I know I am loved therefore I don’t have to put others beneath to build up myself.”

I loved all of what preceded these statements because falling off the fence on both sides caused her to struggle and He brought her here to open her eyes and she listened and He came to her.

I wonder if God hadn’t given her a desire for His presence-to pursue him if she would have even saw it in the first place or desired to even dive into our studies here. His power amazes me.

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Anne asks:

4. I what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer.

Great question! I had to think because I didn’t think I struggled with the ‘religious’ side, but I have and I am sure I do!

I guess at the beginning of this year I struggled with the religious side as I was seeing idolatry in my life, and then seeing it in the church. I struggled because others were in a blind season like I was. Instead of internally showing grace I judged and became frustrated..oh my! For example, when I tried to explain to a sister at church how the Song of Solomon can be applied to marriage, but God opened up a whole new dimension to me when He helped me see how He wanted me to apply it to my relationship with Him-the response I received was-how can men relate to it then, and then she said it might assume that God has a tendency toward homosexuality..Oh my..I responded back with some passages in Hosea and I said, how can men relate to being ‘the bride of Christ’ then? The rest of the conversation went well-no hard feelings or anything, but when I left I was very judgmental toward her inside-How can she be so short sighted? She wanted to go to lunch with me but I didn’t want to go. Then my judgmental spirit spread toward others.. That is when God had to reign me in through Dee’s studies and He showed me this truth was becoming and idol-He died for that. Show others the love and grace He has overwhelmingly shown me all throughout my life-in blind seasons too! He just said, “Follow me”..”Don’t look at others-that is my business.” :-)

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    That’s good, Rebecca. I so identify and good to read this.

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Take-away (early because I’m leaving town for over a week):

“Getting” the Gospel involves way more than a “PERSONAL relationship;” it involves much more than avoiding antinomianism or legalism. My motivation for staying on the “path” is knowing Him, who He is, His love for me — the cost He paid to free me.

In response, I follow… live out the Gospel. It’s so much more than what’s going on in my head — more than relationships with others in a church body. More than Him and me, more than Him, me, and my immediate circle. So much more than any program or simple answers on “how to do Christianity.”

The impacts of the Gospel are not only individual, but also corporate. The Gospel is evidenced when the body of Christ seeks to live out the kingdom of God on earth. That involves strategic and creative efforts to reach the world for Christ and is lived out both through right living and love of social justice. In light of Keller’s teaching, there would be 3 paths to avoid: antinomianism, legalism, and (something like) individualism/consumerism. When my focus is on avoiding the wrong path rather than on the Savior, I stumble. When He is my vision, the “right path” is right in front of me. What is challenging me now is “Where is my Ninevah?”

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1-2 I was such a big brother/jonah under the tree for so many years….I thought i knew how everyone should live and judged those who where “to stupid” to learn from their mistakes. I was like this until i had teenagers…they called me on it every time i would say something unkind about someone because of their woundedness. When my very good friend left her amazing husband and 4 children that i loved in order to follow her homosexual life style. it made me so angry and my kids heard and saw it and called me on it. this was my “Ninevah”
now this is my favorite song…it speaks to this part of my heart and helps me to get back to thinking like Jesus, i listen to it every morning to remind me of how much HE loves me and everyone else….
http://youtu.be/66zqQBxhUDA
at times im afraid that grace will lead to “missbehavior” but the more I am extended grace the more I want to follow God…..the more grace i extend the more my children are willing to listen to Gods truth, the more judgemental and leagalistic i get the more tempeted they are to rebel…its so backwards to me:-) but it has been proven in my life and in my parenting over and over again…..God knows what he is talking about after all…..go figure;)

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    Thanks for sharing this Cyndi.. Great song, and I hadn’t paid much attention to it. I checked out some of the lyrics… powerful!

    Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we
    judge the wounded
    What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and love like
    You did
    Oh Jesus friend of sinners
    Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
    Let our hearts be led by mercy
    Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
    Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours

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    When you raise your children well they do tend to call you on things! :-) Love this Cyndi.

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    Thank you!

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    Great, Elizabeth. Yes — thank you.

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This may be the only question I get to this week, but I wanted to answer Anne’s:
4. I what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer.
Well this week, I’m leaving any “religious” rules that say I have to do all my Bible study and enjoying the grace that is freely given! ;)
I have mostly religious tendencies. I do know the freeing truth of the Gospel, but still there are times when I act as though I don’t “deserve” to be treated a certain way, or suffer a certain trial. I remember years ago I was driving and I let someone in front of me. When they didn’t wave thanks, to my self, I said “you could say thank you”. When I heard myself, I was appalled—He could say the same thing to me a million times over. My lack of thanks, or my complaining spirit—my re-telling what all I did to clean or whatever…all ways that suggest I still in some way think its about earning/deserving. Thank You Lord You will never give me what I truly deserve.

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    Elizabeth, I am so sorry about all that you are going through. I am praying for you. I was reading comments in my email where I saw that you had asked about neurontin. Now I can’t find the comment but I did want to tell you that I have been taking it for several years. I only take it at night because it causes drowsiness but then I only need it at night because I take it for restless legs. It’s funny how it happened because I didn’t know I had restless legs until I went to a neurologist about my memory. He tested that and thought it was fine. He thought lack of sleep was my problem. He said I had neuropathy in my legs. It does help me quite a lot but I take it early, more than an hour before bedtime. I do recommend it for neuropathy.

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      Anne–thank you! can’t do better than first hand experience from a trusted friend and nurse ;)

        I answered above about it too, Elizabeth!!

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4. I can’t believe I said that I did not have us in mind when I asked this question. As I tried to answer it I realized that my thinking was as one walking right down the middle of the path. WRONG! I think that at times I act just as Dee described, like a woman without a Savior. A prodigal, full of needs looking for gratification. My life is harder when I cut out these gratifying ways and an aching empty space is left (until the Lord comes into it). Would I willingly go back to any of those things? Absolutely not! But I often catch myself defaulting back to them. I have to watch and pray. Maybe it would be easier not to fight the battle but I would never be happy because idols do not satisfy.

I think the religious life is harder by far. I work so hard and get none of the joy. I always wonder if it is enough and know that it is not. I am driven to more yet afraid to look too closely at myself. It makes me a very unfun person. I am serious and judgmental of others. Somehow, I can’t enjoy people because I can’t see beyond their shortcomings.

Renee, you mentioned the covering. It is something to think about and I have been doing that since the Lord spoke to me about it. I do think that idolatry is covering somehow. It is our feeble attempt to look and feel ok when we are not. I think it is in Ezekiel that God describes Israel as an abandoned newborn lying in the blood of birth and wounded. I don’t remember it exactly but it is not a pretty picture and I think describes us without Him. We try to cover our festering wounds and filth with idols and in the process separate ourselves from the One who would wash us, bind our wounds and adorn us with beauty. The sad thing is that when He does that she grows into a woman of beauty and turns to harlotry. This is the very real battle we face until we see Him face to face and are made new by the finished work of Christ. Oh, how I love the gospel!

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    Anne, Your use of the word “covering” struck me because I tend to want to hide from some people. For someone who used to be outgoing, I’ve become content being a hermit quite often. If I’m avoiding people, something is between God and me, too. Hard to clearly describe, partly because I’m not that clear myself.

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    Anne, I love your entire post here. I can so identify with what you said about not being able to enjoy people b/c you can’t see past their shortcomings. Oh. That is me, too. I have trouble just letting people be who they are and loving them at that point, instead, I want them to be and to act like I want them to, according to my thinking of what is the ideal.

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Anne and Renee, I liked both your comments and can identfly with both of you.

Anne I loved what God spoke to you about stop trying to cover yourself…That has really stood out to me. From the fall that started and really in our sin nature we do this in many creative ways don’t we? What a provoking thought!

4. I what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer. Living confidently in the middle, as IN Christ would leave us with much peace. Realizing to the core that we are utterly sinful yet loved more so and forgiven, redeemed, etc. Living in that place at all times would make life so much easier. That is why preaching the gospel to yourself daily or even moment by moment is so important.

Sweet little man always crys, I am good, I am good when he does something bad or is striving to behave. When he is disciplined, etc. Oh how this is ingrained in us from early on! I pray for his heart as well and he sees his deep need for a Savior.

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    Thank you so much, Angela. If you have recommendations on what you liked the best– please tell us!

      Oh they all are so good! I really liked Jenny Salt though never heard of her before. I was told too that the session by nancie guthrie Word based ministry to women was great. Have not listened yet but will. I did hear her talk on there at the bottom grieving a loss and it was really good I cried. I grieve often when a new “issue” is revealed to me about my daughter and disability. My friend asked her if they had any material on this sort of thing and she said they did not. :( However all the principles applied it is like grieving a death of a dream or hope I guess. Healing. Of course Keller and Piper were so very good and it was fun to hear Kathy Keller speak as well. So much depth. I liked Nancy Leigh Demoss too.

        Thanks Angela. Jenny Salt was at the conference last year and I heard her. I do like Nancy Guthrie and Kathy Keller is so interesting!

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5. What notes do you have?

This was wonderful and convicting. I do agree with Keller in regard to todays world-how the demon is in deep and the older ways we would present the Gospel are not working as well now.

This brought to memory of how God brought me to Him. If I hadn’t seen the love and beauty of Christ in my brother-if he had just given me the four spiritual laws, or just shared the Gospel with me I don’t think I would have believed God was real. It was through my brother’s transformed life-his changed actions of love and sacrifice of his pride toward me that got my attention. Then when I saw him reading his bible my first thought was-okay so this is what is changing Him-there is a God and he is powerful and real.

I remember answering a question about, ‘do you believe in heaven?’ when i was in a class in small community college. I raised my hand and said, “how do you know for sure? Until I see it, why should I just believe it is real?” Then a girl who was a Christian raised her hand and said she believes because the Bible says it is real, or something like that. I wondered why she didn’t talk to us outside of class but now I know why. I think she was uncomfortable around us, scared perhaps. I don’t know for sure, but perhaps it is because of her default mode as Keller points out in this sermon, and God is in the process of pounding the Gospel in as the penny hasn’t dropped yet. I have that natural default mode too so I understand now why she avoided me.

Dying to ourself is the sacrifice God is talking about. I like what Keller said here: “The Gospel goes in but the pennies haven’t dropped. Nothing like real character change is coming out. The world sees that you are scared, that you are justified by what people think of you, approval, success, money you are making, how well your children are turning out, or by your ministry. But what God has to do is pound and pound (the wonder of the Gospel)into you until the pennies start dropping.”

Listening to Keller can often be like drinking from a refreshing spring. The things that bother me about myself and about the church, he articulates so well-I couldn’t begin to even figure out what was bothering me I just knew something wasn’t right. Then he puts it all together for me.

Like when he said this: “Revivals are not programs. A revival, when corporately the pennies drop, in a church, country or culture of Christians-the wonder of the gospel, the implications of the Gospel they understand it etc.. everyone looks around and says how do we account for the incredible holiness, love, radiant character, servant hearts. The answer is the Gospel. Yes I know about the gospel but now we get it. Salvation is of the Lord.
A revival is when the wonder of the Gospel is recaptured. Instead of going through the motions, have my quiet time, go to church, evangelize..even though I hate my neighbors I have to evangelize them.” “Gospel realization from a John Newton Hymn: To see the law by Christ fulfilled and hear his pardoning voice transforms a slave into a child and duty to a choice.”

This is long enough so I will stop here. LOTS to chew and meditate on..I think some pennies may be starting to drop with me, but there are more that are stuck than I would like-God has a LOT more shaking to do that is for sure! My default mode is really frustrating to me.

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2. How would you describe, with illustrations from your own life, ways to fall off the narrow road of the gospel?

Well, I think you can start off on the wrong path without knowing. Years ago, I thought because I went through months of religious instruction and became a member of a particular denomination, that that was what being a Christian was. Then I tried as best I could to follow the rules. When I got frustrated and eventually left that denomination, I worried a few more years that I had somehow been lost because I had left that church.
Looking back I see now it was all self-salvation strategy. Freedom began to come when I read a verse in the Psalms that salvation belongs to the Lord. That told me it was His and it came from Him and He gave it to me.
Yet I still struggle. It is evident in my thinking when I do sin or mess-up in some way and I begin to think that God is mad at me or doesn’t even like me much. That’s when I’m basing my salvation on my performance. When I’m doing “good”, I feel accepted, and when I’m “bad”, I’m not.

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    Susan are you home now from vacation? I hope that the trip improved for you.

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Dear Elizabeth,
I am reading the comments, and I am so sorry that you are in so much pain! I will pray and I hope the new medication will help you, especially to get rest at night.

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Anne asks:
4. I what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer.

I struggled with how I was interpreting the question, at first I thought of religious as truly following Christ, I thought of how in my pain I did cast about in my mind for another way, how at that point without the hope of Christ, suicide seemed easier than going on. I did keep looking to him, where else could I go? Really after writing this I think He was at that point and still is the lifter of head.

I then thought of religious in the narrow, rule following, outward appearance, Pharisee sort of way.

I am reading the book Elizabeth mentioned A Praying Life. He talks about how many of us feel we need to pray as a sort of system, to do it correctly, instead hr encourages us to approach God in prayer like children, impetuous, dirty, needy, trusting as opposed to feeling like we have do it right. He talks about his own children and the delight we all feel as parents in relationship with our children, he encourages us to think of God as a real person who wants relationship with us during prayer.

So I am thinking of my inner prayer Pharisee, who tells me that I have to praise God first, then confess, then ask, that I must wash myself off a bit before I come, that I should be calm and trusting when I pray. In other words, you are doing it all wrong, so you might as well stop now.

I have been stunted in my prayer life since my trial, I am admit I afraid to pray big scary prayers, but now even as I tear up writing this, I prayed about it , nothing impressive, just Jesus please help me in this.

So I guess leaving my religious prayer life for a more real, honest, continuous discussion with my Father, believing He loves me and wants me to speak to Him even when I am a mess, will be easier than feeling like a prayer failure.

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    Love this analogy — approaching God as children

    I liked the Jonah prayer of crying out, looking toward temple, and commitment — seemed very natural — like children…

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    Chris,
    You share really beautiful thoughts here. I’ve read many of your prayers you’ve written and posted here and to me, they are not stunted prayers, but you really express what is in your heart for yourself, your family, and the prayers you’ve prayed here for the ladies on this blog.
    I can relate to that thinking that I have to follow the “P-R-A-Y” formula, and I too often fail to pray altogether b/c I think I have to have a huge amount of time and do all sorts of things during prayer. I so lack consistency in praying for even my husband and kids. I often feel I’ve been behaving so badly that what’s the use, God wont listen to me anyway.
    I think your last sentence lines up with what Scripture says to “pray without ceasing”. Kind of like an on-going conversation all day long. “Jesus please help me in this” – we don’t need to be wordy for Him to understand!

This Keller talk was so relieving to me. I have struggled so often with those boxed presentations of the gospel but not sure why…This makes so much sense to me!

1-the boxed approach just will not work in this culture.

2-Salvation is of the Lord. Jonah 2:9 If you think you understand the gospel you dont if you think you dont you do. it is a lifelong process of more and more realizing the gospel. OH Religion gives you control…Love that quote. True salvation is by grace alone, a gift.

3-strategic.

(would have had better notes but I had to stop this MANY times, I cleaned up 3 spills, answered a handful of questions, made breakfast, helped little man potty, and many other things! ha ha the life of moms with little ones!)

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    Angela did you end up meeting with the boys mother last week? How did that go?

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I fall off the path everytime I bring my idol of pride or trust my own heart into situations which require devinine intervention.
Sometimes I use secular thinking to solve spiritual problems.
In other words, my current situation will eventually change and in the meantime I have to learn to “be content in whatever state I am in”;trusting the Lord has my life in His Hand.

Here’s an anology:

I was watching my granddog Bella for a few days while my daughter, her husband and baby asher went on vacation.
Bella is a beagle, and if you know anything about beagles, they always have to be into something.
We were on a walk at the park and went a couple of time around the pond where the ducks were. Bella was sniffing the grass totally oblivious to the ducks. Beagles have a keen sense of smell, more so than other dogs because they the ancestrial backround of the beagle is that they were used to hunt rodants.

That night I let her out one last time into the yard. As soon as I slid the glass door to the patio, Bella took off after something, less then a minute she was sneazing running back to the glass door shaking her head non stop.
I open the patio door, and smell skunk! Bella got shot in the face full force by a skunk!
OMG, the house reaked and I had to give her 3 bathes. My daughter has a “de-skunk” shampoo made with natural enzyme which neutralizes dog, people, clothing, carpenting, and furniture.

I spent the whole morning cleaning the house when I should have been on the computer working.
But when I was done, I bought her a new collar and doggy cologne, because I love my granddog.
And that is how I feel how God sees me.

I pay no attention to the beauty around, the ducks or pond. But rather go after the things that stink!
He cleans me up, gives me new things and waits with the soap ( forgiveness) knowing it will only be a matter of time before I do something stinky.

lol…back to the lesson.
I did listen to the Keller sermon, but intend to listen again today because I was distracted.

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    Laura, that was so funny, but I know it was not funny to you at the time!!

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      no it wasn’t and bella knew i was not amused! lol

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    Oh Laura Marie — that’s horrible horrible! Great you have a sense of humor. Skunk is such a bad odor!

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    Laura Marie,
    I love your post! Yes, I can relate to using secular thinking to try and solve a spiritual problem. I think your analogy about the beagle was really creative and it is true – how you saw that situation and how we are the same. Yes, thankful that God is always there to clean us up!

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    Wow! How awful that would have been! I worry my dog will have the same thing happen to her! Funny that your daughter had that shampoo; does it happen often?

    Love the analogy about you being like the dog :)

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Please pray for the victims and their families in the Colorado shooting.

Dear Lord, I don’t understand the madness. How can these things happen in our country? This is America. Thank you for the kind people who helped others. Thank you for those who prayed in the theatre with each other. I pray that the families can find some peace through knowing you, God. Please help them to seek you. I pray in your name. Amen.

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    Laura-dancer, oh yes, this is so sad-thanks for encouraging us to pray!

    Lord, Sin is so ugly, so ugly, yet you so holy and radiant died for each one. This breaks our hearts, but breaks yours even more. I agree with Laura and ask also that you would cause these families to seek you-that those who don’t know you would desire to know you, and that those who do know you-they would run to you and cry out, and seek refuge under your wings. You are the God of all Comfort-full of Grace and Mercy, slow to wrath. Thank you for being so gracious and long suffering with us. In Jesus name, amen.

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    Praying for all the victims families and for the one’s still injured and for the family of the guy who done the killings…how hard this must be on them, too.

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      Amen.

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6. What’s your take-a-way and why?

I think falling off the fence either way can happen daily. I am learning to pay attention to my body signals, my thoughts. I am learning to listen to them and then replace them with truth. Not to be flippant, but there is a lot of shaking going on to get the pennies to drop. God is pounding the wonder of the Gospel deeper in, but I have to let go of my pride in thinking my thoughts are justified, and I have to let go of the comfort of retreat and let Him pound it in a layer deeper. It is daily!

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This snippet from Keller’s sermon popped in my head this morning after praying for the shooting. It stuck out to me yesterday too. My notes weren’t as good as the written notes Elizabeth gave us on that link, so I copied and pasted below:

Each person—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—seeks not his own glory but only
to give glory and honor to the others. Each one is pouring love and joy into the heart
of the other. Why would a God like this create a universe? As Jonathan Edwards so
famously reasoned, it couldn’t be in order to get love and adoration, since as a triune
God he already had that in himself. Rather, he created a universe to spread the glory
and joy he already had. He created other beings to communicate his own love and
glory to them and have them communicate it back to him, so they (we!) could step
into the great Dance, the circle of love and glory and joy that he already had.

I don’t know why, but the reality and the ugliness of sin has been breaking my heart lately both in me, my children and with the shooting, but what is written above is who God is-that was his intention in making us. The beauty is that sin has been paid for BY HIM. The beauty is that we can step into that great Dance now, albeit not perfect yet. It is wonderful that we can move closer in and higher up with him while on this earth, and better yet perfect in the future. All because of the price he paid.

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    I loved this too, Rebecca–the image of that Great Dance–beautiful–that we are allowed to participate in bringing Him glory, even in our wretchedness, so humbling

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I just read this this morning and it just struck me anew as beautiful–Romans 7:1-6 “Do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. ”

We have been freed from our union with the Law–we are His Bride now, under His authority, and He rules with grace.

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I am so enjoying everyone’s comments and how the Lord is working deep in our lives. I can see it in all of us. Dawn, your comment about being legalistic in our prayer life and thinking that we have to pray a certain way has kept me from prayer countless times. That was an eye opener for me.
We go to the beach this week. I am very happy because Al flies in this afternoon. Fred can’t go to the beach so we are not leaving until tomorrow afternoon so that he and Al can have some time together.
I listened to part of the sermon last night and I know that it will take several listens for me. The condition of this culture is depressing to me and I struggle to hold onto faith that He can cast even this one out. I am slipping into worry for my children.
I will remember you all in prayer this week and especially you Elizabeth.

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    So glad Al can be home for a visit:)

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    Anne,
    We just returned from the beach – the southern part of the Outer Banks in NC, near Beaufort. WE had lovely weather – I hope you have the same and enjoy your vacation.

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My take away? From Keller; how our sin is so deep. i think he used the analogy of the demon within the boy, when Jesus says casting it out was not enough. This called for prayer. Also, the story of abrabam and issac, when issac asks his father if there was anything he wouldn’t do for God. All my own words so pardon my immature language! I think I got them mostly right :) so much to learn and so little time on earth to learn it!

A gift from God……Sarah came with the family on a “date” tonight! We just went shopping and for ice cream, but how sweet it was! We had fun! Thank you Jesus!

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    Such a good take-a-way, Laura-dancer. And good about Sarah too.

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1. Falling off the fence on the rebel side:

A. How did the younger son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?

He went to his father and asked for his share of his inheritance, tantamount to wishing that his father was already dead, and then he left home and spent it all on “wild living”.

B. How did Jonah, in chapter 1, “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?

Jonah disobeyed God’s orders to go to Ninevah and preach repentance to them. Instead, he ran from the presence of the Lord, got on a ship, and headed in the opposite direction. He decided to run away from his calling and make a new identity for himself apart from God.

C. What do you know about the Ninevites (before their repentance) that shows they had fallen off the fence on the rebel side?

They are described as being wicked and practicing evil.

2. Falling off the fence on the religious side:

A. How did the older son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the religious side?

He represented the Pharisees in the story. He made sure he obeyed the rules, but it was not out of love for his father. It was to feed his self-righteousness, and it made him look down on his younger brother without any pity or mercy. He didn’t see himself as a sinner. When his younger brother received a party, it was clear that he was motivated by the anticipation of some kind of reward. His relationship with his father, his sonship, was worthless to him.

B. How did Jonah (after he had preached the gospel and the Ninevites had repented) fall off the fence on the religious side? (If you don’t get this, don’t worry-we’ll come back to it in a future week)

I think that a big evidence of being on the religious side is being unmerciful. The elder son had no mercy for his brother, and Jonah, even though at first he appeared to have a transformation – he went to Ninevah, ready to sacrifice even his life if it came to that – he showed no mercy for the Ninevites. He reveals his feelings in chapter 4. The Ninevites repent and turn to God, and Jonah becomes very angry. He is angry that God had mercy on them. He wants them to be punished, wiped out. He did not understand the grace of God; that he, if he truly got what he deserved, would also deserve God’s wrath.

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3. Comment on Anne’s testimony

Anne, what you shared was very moving. You have worded it so clearly and in a way that makes me feel like I’m following right along with you in your spiritual journey. I remember you sharing before how meaningful Nouwen’s book was to you, and I like how you brought the story of the prodigal sons into your testimony. You trace-out and articulate your thoughts so well. What really speaks to me is how you share that the Lord asked you to stop covering yourself before Him. Wow. Since the Fall, that’s what Adam and Eve first tried to do – cover themselves, and I guess we’ve found all kinds of ways to do it ever since.

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4. In what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer.

I don’t think this is exactly what Anne was looking for as an answer, but the past week I’ve had thoughts of “you should just chuck-it all (“religion”) so you can fit in”.
The men in the family had brought my daughter to tears with their teasing and impatience with her the first day of our vacation. I was really mad at them. Then my one son told me that the reason they get irritated with her is because I am raising her in my image to be like me, and they don’t like how I am – Christians are just mindless robots – and I am kind of the outsider in our family (because of religion). Now what mom wants to be the outsider in her own family? I told my husband what my son said, and he said “he just tries to get your goat”, but that really hurt. I love this son and I sure hope and think he loves me, but it makes me ashamed that he would say these kind of things to me even if he thinks they are somehow funny or just being sarcastic. It makes me feel like I must not have been a very good mom, or that I’ve made such a hash out of living out the Christian life that I’ve made it look totally unappealing and such a turn-off.
But over and over I see the word “FAILURE” flashing in my head. Failure as a Christian, failure as a mom. Makes me think I’m sure not doing something right.

I know turning away from God is not really the answer. That would make life more difficult even if it seemed the easier way to get along with everybody. And I guess feeling like a failure shows I’m on the self-salvation path a bit. I wish I could get on track on the right path and at least feel contentment.

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6. What’s your take-away and why?

I didn’t have time to listen to the Keller message but will get to it this week. I think my take-away is “like a woman without a Savior”. I think this pretty well sums up the falling off the path to either side. If I fall to the religious side, I am my own savior, working hard to obey and please God so He will accept me based on my performance. A woman without a (real) Savior.
If I fall to the other side, just give up and give in to sin and turning to my idols, I am still a woman without a Savior. Always looking for love, comfort, grace, peace, security, approval – in all the wrong places.

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