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WHY WE SHOULDN’T FEAR THE STONECUTTER’S KNIFE

http://www.pbase.com/es839145/animated_water
http://www.pbase.com/es839145/animated_water

Last week was an amazing week with you, my sisters who are in this journey of having the stone idols removed from our hearts. We have WONDERFUL new sisters joining us — each a treasure in her own unique way.  God is on the move and I have a sense of the holy happening in our hearts. I want to recap what happened to Cyndi last week, because it fits perfectly into where the Lord is taking us this week in Jeremiah 2. In the beginning of Jeremiah 2, which we looked at last week, God describes how once Israel was a devoted bride who would follow her husband anywhere. I asked you to recall if you had ever been that kind of bride to your earthly or to your spiritual husband. Cyndi lamented she had never been that kind of a bride, but had always wanted to be in control. (I have found that the people who are most responsive to criticism are the people who have stopped lying to themselves — therefore when the Spirit points something out, they are already realizing it is true.) Cyndi saw the blackness in her heart and was willing to undergo surgery. She put it like this, referring to Lewis’s picture of Aslan taking the scales off of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

aslan-snow35I have to share with you friends that God is breaking my heart for my pride and self-reliance. I have always known is was wrong but never FELT in my HEART its blackness the way I am feeling it right now. I am sure it is your sweet prayers that have opened my heart to feel this for what it is. A very strong layer is being ripped off by our dear aslan, but his claws are so sharp and it hurts so much to know how much i have hurt my dear husbands heart!

Aslan’s claws are painful, but oh, we can trust Him. To prepare for our icebreaker, read this account from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

“Then the lion said… “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid of his claws, but I can tell you, I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it…. That very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’d ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”

Icebreaker:

1. Where, like Eustace, are you “pretty near desperate now” to have your scales removed?

2. In what ways has it hurt to have your scales removed?

3. Where, like Eustace, have you “felt the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off?”

I wrote to one of our dear friends who is a cardiologist. Steve had led Vince to the Lord, so Vince was one who spoke at Steve’s funeral. He said:”I could fix other peoples’ hearts, but not my own.” I asked Vince if my metaphor was true to cardiovascular surgery — is there such a thing as stones that cause trouble in our hearts and must be surgically removed? He wrote that there was and sent this wonderful link to a 22 second video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQJv-vuJ7os&NR=1&feature=fvwp

Vince said the above portrays an”endarterectomy,”  a procedure when the CV surgeon opens up an artery that is partially blocked with cholesteral plaque and removes it.  A person with blocked arteries should welcome an endarterectomy so he might live — and we should welcome the stonecutter’s knife so that we might live! The pain is temporary and then new and abundant life will flow, like streams of living water.

This Week’s Bible Study: Jeremiah 2:4-14

3. What question does God ask His people in Jeremiah 2:5a (a means the first part of the verse)?

4. What happens to people who go after worthless idols according to Jeremiah 2:5b?

5. In Jeremiah 2:6-7

A. What miracles and blessings have the Israelites forgotten, according to verses 6-7?

B. Name one way God is working in your life that you do not want to forget.

6. Again and again in Scripture, God recounts his pain at being forgotten. Underline or mark the phrases in the following that show not being remembered or being forgotten:

How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert!
They tested God again and again

and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember his power
or the day when he redeemed them from the foe…

Psalm 78:40-42

She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry,
and went after her lovers;
but Me she forgot,” says the LORD.

Hosea 2:13 (NKJV)

Can a virgin forget her ornaments

Or a bride her attire?

Yet my people have forgotten me

Days without number.

Jeremiah 2:32

7. What did the priests and the shepherds of the people forget according to Jeremiah 2:8?

8. What truth about idols does God repeat in Jeremiah 2:11b?

9. Meditate (and memorize) Jeremiah 2:13-14 and explain the two evils God’s people have committed:

W. H. Thomson, the 19th century classical Cambridge scholar comments:

The best cisterns, even those in solid rock, are strangely liable to crack…the water collected from clay roofs or from marly soil has the colour of weak soapsuds, the taste of the earth or the stable, is full of worms, and in the hour of greatest need it utterly fails.[1]

We forsake the Living Water and turn to wormy dirty water. We may be turning from God to destructive things to soothe our soul, such as drugs or immoral sex – but often what we do as believers is to turn from God to a good thing, making it an ultimate thing, a counterfeit god. We make food, family, friends, ministry, or another gift the source of comfort, security, and identity – and in so doing, we destroy the gift and our own lives.

10  Reflect on how we turn good gifts into “broken cisterns” when we substitute them for God, the fountain of living waters. Consider these two examples:

A. FOOD

  • Why is food a good gift and for what purposes did God give it to us?
  • If we abuse it and run to it instead of to God when we are sad or stressed, how can it become harmful, like a broken cistern?
  • In moments of temptation, what truth can you speak to your soul?

B. CHILDREN

  • What would be some red flags that you might be making your children idols in your life?
  • When you are tempted to cling too tightly, to despair over their lack of perfection, what truth might you speak to your soul?

Pastor Kevin Cawley of Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City says:

God is the only being who can satisfy the human soul. If you do not find your satisfaction in the God of the Bible, you will not find it anywhere. But if you find your satisfaction in the person and presence of the God of the Bible, you find your appropriate and proportional satisfaction everywhere.

11. If The Stonecutter is whittling away at an idol, at a good thing you made an ultimate thing, share a way you are beginning to enjoy that gift (food, family, facebook) in a way you had not before.

MEETING OUR BLOGGERS (During this study we’re meeting those who have been regulars for several months or more.)

tracyTracy is often one of the first to do her lesson, and often does it from beginning to end thoroughly. I didn’t realize until recently that Tracy attended my church in Nebraska for a short time after we joined. She remembers the day we joined. My daughter Sally then told me she knew Tracy — and that when Sally was going through one of the most painful times in her life that she met Tracy, found they shared a love of God, music, and art. Tracy made her some special music CD’s  to bring comfort. Tracy is one of our quieter members. She would be the one in a Bible study who would listen carefully to others, would seldom speak, but when she did, you would listen!

This is beautiful Tracy!

About herself:

I came to Christ when I started attending Trinity Presbyterian in Kearney, NE when I was in high school.  Before then I had not heard Scripture-based teaching and it opened my mind and heart to Christ’s love and sacrifice for me. My passions include singing, writing and fellowship with other believers.  I am currently on hiatus from college, but plan on majoring in journalism/mass media when I return. Whatever I do, I pray that God will use my life for His glory.

About idolatry:

Realizing that Christ is helping me replace my heart of stone with one of flesh has changed the way I deal with idols.  This may seem like a simple truth; however, it is often the small, perhaps overlooked truths that can impact our hearts the most!  I can sense Christ’s presence in new and exciting ways.

12. Could you bless Tracy in some way this week? Repeat something she has shared — or tell how you see Jesus in her — or a way she has blessed you.

[1] W. H. Thomson, The Land and The Book, (Harper, 1886) p. 287.


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243 comments

  1. Tracy I wanted to say thank you for venturing into a journalism/ mass media.
    How little represented believers are in those fields. I think that could be an excellent place for one who wants to be used for His purposes. Blessings to you!

    1. Thanks so much, Chris. I truly feel that God is leading me on this path!

  2. • Why is food a good gift and for what purposes did God give it to us?

    Food is delicious, there is such variety, it is a way to care for someone else by making them their favorite dish, to make them feel loved, a way to celebrate, food sustains us, gives us something to work at producing, and is something to be grateful for.
    We have such abundance in our country; it is easy to be apathetic about the starvation of others in the world.

    • If we abuse it and run to it instead of to God when we are sad or stressed, how can it become harmful, like a broken cistern?

    We exchange a vital relationship with God for a destructive one with food. Shoving down our souls cries for God with whatever our mouths have fixated on. The deeper in we get as the weight creeps on the more isolated we tend to be as fear & shame take control.

    One picture from Woman of Moderation that stuck with me strongly was that of manna and that when too much was collected it became putrid and rotten; yikes I have certainly felt that in my relationship with food & excess

    • In moments of temptation, what truth can you speak to your soul?

    Our pastor gave the analogy once of our sin being like a decomposing dead animal that his dog had found and proudly brought home. The thing was foul, and repulsive, but the dog wouldn’t leave it alone, treating as a treasure this hideous thing. He likened that to our preferring our sin to our relationship with Christ. I thought this a pretty powerful word picture.

    I can speak to myself that the drive I feel to go polish off that cake is a lie. I need to pursue the Bread of Life & Living Water.

    It is so easy to fall into the comfort of some favorite food, on my warm soft couch where no one can hurt me. For me this is one sin that so easily entangles.

    Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

    This verse implies effort, running to an idol is really easy.

  3. I have been thinking about what Dee and Rebecca were discussing earlier. I am having some difficulty replacing my idols with the Lord. I’ll think I have victory and then they will flare again. I thought today that my angst was greater than ever. So what if I just embrace the pain as I must embrace hunger when fasting? I mean what if I don’t look for relief but just wait for the Lord? I know that my idols are being removed not just by my own will but by His design. He is slipping them out from under me and has been for some time. As Rebecca said it is healing that we need, not relief or replacement. And I don’t think it will be instant. I know I am not being clear so I do look forward to our coming posts, especially given how the Lord is moving here.

    7. What did the priests and the shepherds of the people forget according to Jeremiah 2:8 They forgot God Himself. The shepherds quit looking for Him(and they were the first to hear the news of His first advent!). The experts in the law no longer knew Him. The rulers rebelled and the prophets prophesied by Baal. They followed useless idols.

    8. Idols are worthless.

    9. Meditate (and memorize) Jeremiah 2:13-14 and explain the two evils God’s people have committed: For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water. Is Israel a slave? Was he born into slavery? Why else has he become a prey? Israel did not just commit evil. They committed double evil. It sounds like more than multiplication here, rather more like exponents. Their rejection of Him was compounded when they tried to provide for themselves. In this evil they became slaves and a prey, but they were not born to slavery. They were born free and chose their slavery. Wow. That is sobering.

    The idea of slavery has a hold on me right now. I remember we talked about how a slave can be free positionally but remain a slave in his mind. He goes where he wants and does what he wants but occasionally something will happen to cause him to act as if he is not free. The reaction comes like a reflex and reveals his heart. He has the heart of a slave still.

    1. this was so good for me Anne “So what if I just embrace the pain as I must embrace hunger when fasting? I mean what if I don’t look for relief but just wait for the Lord?”
      When we fast purposely from food, or anything for that matter, we expect the grumbling, the desires, the cravings, and we know that to succeed, we must pray for help at the moment of craving, to persevere the temptation…but I had not been reminding myself to expect the same “craving” and struggle when I have been trying to give up controlling, critiquing, judging, complaining…and waiting on Him in the struggle. Good insight!

        1. Me too. Anne, I can relate so well..i think replacement is crucial though. I am thinking God doesn’t want my need for relief or healing to be my motivation for running to Him, rather he wants me to run to him because i love him. This has really stuck with me today…

        2. Rebecca, I see what you mean. Maybe we could be so close to Him that there is never that pain of separation.

    1. Love this dee, will be alert..

    2. That is so beautiful!

    3. This is beautiful Dee. Thanks

      1. I somehow missed this last night–but found it now, so timely as I see our sunset here now. Thank you Dee for giving me a new appreciation for the gift He gives!

  4. Lily fell and broke her arm very badly and jas neen on surgery for two hours.

    1. I will pray!

    2. Oh Cyndi, I’m so sorry….I am praying for her.

    3. So sorry for Lily & for you Cyndi, how did she injure herself?

    4. Oh Cyndi–just saw this and am praying–so so sorry!

    5. Prayers to you and Lily.

  5. God spoke to my soul this week when I woke up at 4am and couldn’t sleep. I prayed and got this intuition from Him that all 3 deep idols are entangling me… When I feel anxious or bad re: anything I start with control (supposedly to stem chaos) then migrate to comfort and them worry about approval- mainly from God but also people. This keeps me in this nasty pattern of overall mistrust in things to be ok bc I look to idols and need to seek God. I look at blessings as obstacles – ways to disappoint Him by my imperfections and sin– and forget that He wants good for me as my Heavenly Lover of my Soul! It was freeing and broke my heart simultaneously.

    Please ask the one true God to free me from this. I see where Aslan’s claws must work. I ache to be set free but know Christ can and will do it!

    1. Praying for you, Tracy

    2. Oh how this resonated with me. I too worry about dissappointng God and have real trouble enjoying my blessings.
      When I came to your statements;
      “He wants good for me as my Heavenly Lover of my Soul!”
      & “I ache to be set free but know Christ can and will do it!”
      I wept. I have such a struggle to believe he loves me.
      There is so much fear in me to trust him.
      I know that I need to draw near, but I run the other way.
      I wish I could cease striving, Ii sometimes feel perched on the edge of madness.

        1. Thank you Dee and Tracy…thank you

      1. Chris: I understand completely. I will pray for you! What God has said and is still saying to me is this — stop striving on my own and trust Him! No one is truer to me than Christ the heavenly Lover.

    3. I so appreciate your prayers! What God is telling me is to trade perfectionism for His grace because He can do for me that which I cannot do for myself. I’m not alone and the gifts of God are not ways for me to have to prove myself to Him, but instead are opportunities to praise And thank God. He loves me and gives me good things— I need only accept and this will please Christ!

      May He bless all of you richly for your prayers and love.

  6. Lily has 4 screws and a plate in her arm. The dr discribed her bone as egg shell,it was almost out of the skin broken in half witj the part by her elbow shattered! Thanks for your prayers……never a dull moment in our home, the toilet overflowed while we where here & had to talk luke through plunging it. Lol

    1. Cyndi, The smartest thing I ever did was buy a heavy duty toilet plunger for each toilet. 🙂 We use the one in the boys bathroom at least once a day. 😉

  7. 11. If The Stonecutter is whittling away at an idol, at a good thing you made an ultimate thing, share a way you are beginning to enjoy that gift (food, family, facebook) in a way you had not before.

    * With my children, especially my oldest two because they have been the most challenging for me in regard to control, I am enjoying them more. I am not stalking my oldest son’s grades online every day. 🙂 I have let it go and realized that while I need to keep track of it and encourage him to be more responsible I don’t need to control him. Now I am enjoying my time with him more when I pick him up from school every day. 🙂

  8. Tracy,

    I wanted to let you know that I so appreciate your sweet spirit, and am thankful you are here! Again, I do love how God has given you insight as you share here and the ability to communicate in such a way that is direct and to the point. That is a gift to me. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! 🙂

  9. Wow, am just reading my emails and read of lily…cyndi, this happened last night? Oh my has this been a long night for you all and lily..will pray….

    Tracy, loved hearing of your testimony-how God woke you up to show you!

    1. Although sleep would have been nice, what I got was so much better!

  10. Again, sisters, I thank you for your conversations, that help me to focus on God and delve into The Word!

    This morning, your discussions of using God instead of running to Him because you love Him, stuck in my mind. One of my constant prayers, in that He would be my focus and everything else would be so far removed, that there is a chasm between Him and everything else!

    I had a real life lesson, that seemed so petty at the time but I believe helped me to empathize with God, this week. The incident that I attempted to brush off left me feeling a bit jealous. I did a search in BibleGateway.com on jealous.

    Exodus 20:4-6 (New Living Translation)
    4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

    Our Creator loves us so much, that He will not tolerate our affection for any other gods because He is jealous!

    jeal·ous (jls)
    adj.
    1. Fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position.
    2.
    a. Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious: jealous of the success of others.
    b. Inclined to suspect rivalry.
    3. Having to do with or arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness: jealous thoughts.
    4. Vigilant in guarding something: We are jealous of our good name.
    5. Intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity; autocratic: a jealous God.
    (from the free dictionary by farlex)

    “Intolerant of disloyalty of infidelity” leads my thoughts back to our first lesson and metaphors!

    Again, words are standing out to me this week…

    I praise God not only for how He works, but most importantly because He is God! I am praying for all of you by name and look forward to our next lesson!
    Yours in Christ,
    Dawn

    1. Dawn – I just saw your post and you’re thinking about what Dee said, too! I love your definitions of jealous. I think there is a verse somewhere where the “j” in jealous is capitalized like that is a name for God? He is jealous for us in a good way!

  11. Catching up on reading everyone’s posts this morning. Was neat to read how God answered the prayer for Kim and the need for that shelving – not only provided, but an over abundance of it, too.
    I am sorry to hear about Lily’s breaking her arm, Cyndi… will be praying for healing.

    Yesterday morning I had an hour’s drive to a doctor’s appt. and was talking out loud to God and thinking about question 9. and the verse in Jeremiah 2:13-14. Okay, here God is saying that He is a fountain, a source, of living water, yet His people try to make a container for themselves to hold water and it is even cracked and can’t hold water!
    It made me think of the manna in the desert. God could still be feeding us with manna even today – He was never going to run out of manna for them. The only thing He wanted was for them to go outside each morning and look to Him to provide it for them for that day. He was the fountain of manna for them. Yet, almost immediately, they get the idea to try to store up a whole bunch of manna so they don’t have to collect it each day and they find out you can’t keep it – it rots and is full of maggots.
    But I think the issue with God is they didn’t want to go to Him daily – they somehow wanted to ‘store up’ His provision and blessing so they wouldn’t have to bother with Him every day.
    This digging a cistern thing is about the lie of being self-sufficient and independent of God.
    Maybe when I pray ‘really well’ on one day, and then for the next few days I neglect time with God, I’m trying to store His living water up in a cracked pot that’s leaking all the while, when I should be going to Him daily and looking to Him to help me and, as I read in an earlier posting by Dee – not just to “get” from Him or even for His help (to use God), but what about spending time with Him because I just love Him and want to?
    I loved what Dee said about the sunset over her shoulder was like God coming as a shy lover, and it led her to worship Him!

    1. Fantastic analogy (“I’m trying to store His living water up in a cracked pot”), Susan!

    2. “But I think the issue with God is they didn’t want to go to Him daily – they somehow wanted to ’store up’ His provision and blessing so they wouldn’t have to bother with Him every day.”

      I thought this was really good.

  12. 10. Reflect on how we turn good gifts into broken cisterns when we substitute them for God, the fountain of living waters. Consider these two examples:

    A. FOOD

    Food is a gift from God and He gave us a seemingly unending variety of colors, smells, tastes, textures, shapes and flavors. It nourishes our bodies and one of its purposes is to be shared and to help us fellowship with one another. One of the last things Jesus did was to share a meal with His disciples. We looked at the verse in Isaiah about God preparing a banquet for His children. We use food to show love to others by fixing their favorite foods and watching them enjoy it.

    If we abuse food, it harms us by damaging our health by being overweight or clogging our arteries and hurting our hearts with fats and cholesterol; it can even shorten our life span.
    It can become an emotional crutch that cripples us. It can lead to greediness and gluttony.

    Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. He also called Himself the Bread of Life and Living Water, inviting us to come to Him for food that will satisfy us.
    I can tell my soul, “Lets go to Jesus and get fed instead of eating ______.”

    B. CHILDREN

    Red flags that would show I’m making idols of my children is when my identity and purpose in life is wrapped up in them so that I feel threatened, depressed, anxious, angry, or excessively sad to see them grow up and become independent of me. Trying to hold onto them in unhealthy ways. Feeling anger when I can’t control their behavior or attitudes. Not really trusting God to take care of them.

    Tell my soul that these children were a gift to me and it is a privilege to be their mom, yet they were created by God and ultimately the One who has ownership over them is God!
    “For Adam, Ryan, and Melanie are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for them to do.” Ephesians 2:10

    I’ve been enjoying my oldest son being home from college this week. He moves back to campus tomorrow to begin his summer job on Monday in the chemistry lab. The other day we worked in the yard together for about an hour. My first inclination is to ask him to come sit down and talk to me, yet he’s a young man with energy, and I read somewhere that men are sometimes more communicative when doing something side-by-side with them. At first he acted like I was bothering him, but then we worked and chatted together. Yesterday I took him out to lunch and I got the chance to bless him by telling him something I admire about him, which is his sensitive spirit towards other people, being gracious and kind.
    On Easter Sunday at my sister’s, she had kept a tailor-made suit that belonged to her deceased son, my nephew, and she gave it to Adam, hoping that he would like to wear it. She was tearful and when I saw the suit I started crying, and Adam put his arms around both of us and told his aunt that he would like to have the suit and thanked her. I didn’t know what he really felt about the suit, but he acted with compassion and kindness.
    So he said to me, “Well, I’ve had a good upbringing”, and I said thank you, but you have a gift and that comes from the inside of you – it’s how God has gifted him.

    When we make idols of our children I think we’re quick to take the credit for their good qualities instead of giving God the credit. We may see them as extensions of ourselves, yet I am opening my eyes to see the unique people God has created them to be. Conversely, I can be quick to take all the blame when they act badly, like I did something wrong in raising them. Yet they are accountable ultimately to Him, not me.

    11. I think the above illustrates how God is whittling away at the idols I made of my children. My sense of life purpose and identity has been wrapped up securely in being a mom for 20 years now! It would be selfish of me to try and keep them from being independent and to tie them to me. They are supposed to soar, like arrows shot from a bow. I need to affirm, encourage and support them in their dreams, and to continue to point them to Jesus.

    1. Susan, I love what is happening in your family. Between you and your son and you and your sister. It sounds like she is softening quite a bit.

  13. 12. Tracy, I love what you described about the Scriptures opening your mind and heart to Christ’s love and sacrifice for you. As Dee said, you are a careful listener, and thoughtful, too, and God used that as you heard the word, you took it in and He opened your heart to Himself. Reminds me of Ephesians 1:13: “And you (Tracy) were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit..”

    You have a gift to express your thoughts in a concise and succinct way, yet in no way is it “dry” – you convey your love of Jesus and how He is changing you in a very meaningful way.
    The example Dee gave of the music CD you made for Sally shows your tenderheartedness towards others.

    I’m assuming you’re in your 20’s? You are a young woman with a heart for God and alot of wisdom to share. I’m glad you’re with us!

    1. Susan,

      What a neat message. Thanks so much for how it blessed me.

      P. S. I was 25 in that pic, am now 34. Not that I admit this to many people, you are now among few who know how old I am.:-)

  14. I have just joined this study last week and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Having lost an extremely close 16 year old niece in a car accident in March, I’m wondering if it is possible for grief to be an idol. I have never been a crier but I allow myself to “wallow in my misery” frequently when I know that I could choose a different train of thought. When I think of the all of the blessings from God they seem to come from my head and not with a feeling of joy or thankfulness (although I hate to even write it out, it is truly how I feel). I don’t feel as though I am turning away from God but I do find myself seeking comfort apart from Him, as though I deserve it after all of this pain.

    1. Dawn,
      Welcome, and I am so sorry for your loss of your niece.
      It’s been close to 2 years since my nephew died, and I was always close to him, too. I’m sure your heart is really hurting right now. Maybe that’s why a feeling of joy is hard to experience.
      I’m sure you’ll find support and encouragement here.

    2. Dawn, I am truly sorry for your loss. You encourage me by your search for truth, God is faithful to show us the road back to Himself.
      I can fall into a similar trap of feeling I deserve something because I have suffered, maybe I deserve to lose more weight than the scale shows because I have gone without desserts when my husband never gains a pound. Your post reminds me that I must speak truth to my soul. The truth is every time I go without dessert I can choose to feel bad or I can raise it up as an sacrificial offering to the Lord.
      The Word of truth says: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12

    3. Oh Dawn M.S., I am so sorry–I love my nieces and can’t imagine the pain you all must be going through.

      I am usually slow to recommend things at a time like this, after losing my father I remember not much of what anyone said helped! BUT, I do have to recommend Dee’s book, The God of All Comfort. It has been a tremendous blessing–a tool God has really used in my grief, and also in my marriage. I only wish I had read it sooner.

    4. Dawn,
      I am grieving mightly, this spoke to me, perhaps it will you too, its from John Piper preaching on Psalm 42;

      “His external circumstances are oppressing. His internal emotional condition is depressed and full of turmoil. But he is fighting for hope. And the really remarkable thing is that at the end of the psalm, he is still fighting but not yet where he wants to be. The last words of the psalm—and the last words of the next psalm—are “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He leaves us still fighting for the joyful experience of hope and freedom from turmoil. He is not yet praising the way he wants to.”

      I felt after hearing this that it is okay not to be okay yet. I too feel guilty for my lack of joy, but I know God doesn’t want me to be fake. I have hope I will feel better, but now I am just really sad.

  15. Dawn M.S. I don’t see grief as a stone idol. When my mother died I withdrew internally and no one or nothing could reach me for awhile. I think we all have to deal with our loss of a loved one in our own way. Give yourself some time, just the fact that you came here and expressed your feelings tells me you will be okay. God could not deny us of our greiving time. The joy will return with time. I remember for a long while I could not experience joy, I would turn my radio off if a fun song came on because I thought I had no right to feel joy. Time heals all wounds, God is with you and helping you through this time. Think of the poem “Footprints In the Sand” He is carrying you in this time of grief. Crying is a part of the healing process…this too shall pass. God be with you.

    1. I don’t think grief is an idol either. You need to let it out or it can wreak havoc with your soul. No matter what kind of grief it is— holding it in for a long time isn’t how God intended us to handle it, of this I’ve become certain.

      1. Thank you all so much. You have given me more encouragement than I have had in quite some time!
        I was giving some thought to the spring vs. the well. A spring is not man made and cannot be man made, it is just there continually giving sweet, cool refreshing water for the taking. While a well has to be worked at and dug out and you have to keep digging until you find water. The water that you do find is there because it leaked in from some other place. It can stagnate and harm you. It contains rust and things that should be filtered out and it eventually dries up, leaving you to dig another well.

  16. 10 A
    Why is food a good gift and for what purposes did God give it to us?

    Food is God’s creation that we are able to literally ingest—kind of interesting to me. It provides nourishment and fuel, and is often a part of fellowship. I think food is a profound metaphor of our spiritual needs. Physically and spiritually our life depends on His provision—on a daily basis. Last Fall I did a study on Exodus and was struck, as Susan mentioned above, by the requirement to go daily to Him for food.

    If we abuse it and run to it instead of to God when we are sad or stressed, how can it become harmful, like a broken cistern?

    It can provide a temporary fix—sort of numbs the pain, the longing that truly is meant to be filled by Him, becomes numb and our senses are dulled. We forget what it tastes like to be filled with REAL food, Living Water, and we become addicted to the temporary relief that comes from turning to food instead of Him. Food looses it’s rightful position and easily becomes something that takes over our mind, time, money…

    In moments of temptation, what truth can you speak to your soul?

    Is this really going to satisfy? Can I be patient and wait for Him to fill me instead—and trust Him to do it. Remind myself of how it feels to be filled by Him instead.

    B. CHILDREN
    What would be some red flags that you might be making your children idols in your life?

    When I hear myself say “if ____ would just stop doing ____, or start doing____then everything would be fine!” When I become so focused on one of their behaviors and search endlessly online for answers to the “problem” and forget who they really belong to. *When I feel embarrassed of their behavior because I see their behavior as a reflection of my parenting and my pride can’t take it.

    And honestly, the other side of the spectrum is when I can become overcome with fear about something happening to one of them that I sense I am not holding loosely.

    When you are tempted to cling too tightly, to despair over their lack of perfection, what truth might you speak to your soul?

    They are HIS. My job is to love them, pray for them, point them to Him—and then remember they belong to Him.

    11. If The Stonecutter is whittling away at an idol, at a good thing you made an ultimate thing, share a way you are beginning to enjoy that gift (food, family, facebook) in a way you had not before.

    God has been so patient with me, but I can feel now He is gently cutting away the idol I have made of my children, and my marriage. The other night my husband and I were talking about our daughter and the way she is so easily enticed by the world and influences at school. It was a discouraging talk and my husband said, exasperated, “so what do we do about all this?!”. I shocked us both by calmly saying, we pray for her and remember she is HIS. He loves her more than we do, He will take care of her.

    It’s not that I mean we will ever turn away from trying to instill Biblical truths to our kids, but rather I truly feel this release inside, like the air coming out of a balloon. I love my kids so much, but they are not an appendage of mine. They are unique, individual people created by God to bring HIM glory, not me. My job is to love, pray and teach His truth. But the choices they make, and to follow Him or not, are theirs to make.

    1. Elizabeth, I just love how the truth came out of your mouth at the perfect time to encourage both you and your husband. Apples of gold.

    2. Elizabeth your last sentence made me think of The Parable Of The Sower And The Seed (Matthew 13:1-23)

      You say, “They are unique, individual people created by God to bring HIM glory, not me. My job is to love, pray and teach His truth. But the choices they make, and to follow Him or not, are theirs to make.”

      I feel we as parents are the sowers of the seeds to our children. Being an example in how we speak, act and pray will help them determine as they become young adults what direction they will follow and what fruits will flourish in them. I have three adult children who all have chosen their personal path to their spiritual relationship with God as adults. My husband and I continue to sow seeds in them and our grndchildren which I see popping up and showing growth each and every day. I praise God for HIS goodness, glory and blessings for them. My sweet little 2 yr old grndson one day while on his way to my house realized our church was on the street coming and he said, “We go to church Daddy.” Oh how my heart leaped when I heard that. And one more sweet thing he said one day when he came in my house and saw me dressed up (I am usually in sweat pants and jogging suits since I own my in home day care) He looked at me all dressed up and he said, “Oh Nonnie, we going to church?”

      We sow seeds every day and it may take us years to see the fruits, and then again it may only take a couple of years as in Zak my grndson to see the fruits bear.

      Keep sowing those seeds~

      1. what a beautiful and inspiring testimony, Marie–thank you so much for sharing that!

  17. 10A. FOOD
    • Why is food a good gift and for what purposes did God give it to us? Food is a wonderful, awesome gift! Sometimes I think He gave it for pure delight. I don’t think nourishment is the highest purpose of food. When the Israelites celebrated their feast they were celebrating God and all that He is to them. When I list my favorite foods they are all fruit, except for cream but if I eat sugar in excess I don’t want them. (here comes my favorite word again) Now that is singular.
    • If we abuse it and run to it instead of to God when we are sad or stressed, how can it become harmful, like a broken cistern? When I eat for the purpose of filling my need for God it is almost never the kind of food that makes me feel good physically. Usually it is carbs and a lot of them. The way I feel after eating my fill of carbs answers that question. It is uncanny that it is called comfort food.
    The way food can be like a broken cistern is that it can actually harm us. I would even say it can be poisonous as the wormy foul water in a broken cistern must surely be. Somewhere I heard it said that it is much better for a body to eat too little than to eat too much. I have remembered that and from what I have seen in health care found it to be pretty much true.
    • In moments of temptation, what truth can you speak to your soul? Food is a gift from the Lord. Is my eating a celebration of Him or am I trying to replace Him? In other words, why am I eating? This could be tricky for me though because I can so easily lie to myself. I must also look at what I am eating. Is it healthy whole foods or processed food that will take away my appetite for the good stuff?

      1. That stuck with me too..Comfort food doesn’t really bring comfort. Loved that Anne.

  18. B. CHILDREN
    • What would be some red flags that you might be making your children idols in your life? Everyone did a very good job answering this. The red flag that I see in my life is that I worry too much about their salvation and walk with God. I beat myself up for my failures as if it was up to me to bring them to a walk of faith. While I do have responsibility to bring the word to them, my greatest is just what we are doing here, allowing the Lord to sanctify me. I can look at them with worry and despair or give them to Him, let go and trust.
    • When you are tempted to cling too tightly, to despair over their lack of perfection, what truth might you speak to your soul? I am going to memorize these verses to remember. I know I have shared them before but they blessed me again this morning.

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the LORD’S declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven, and do not return there without saturating the earth, and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.” You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands, Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up, and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up; it will make a name for the LORD as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed. Isaiah 55:8-13

  19. This Week’s Bible Study:

    3. What question does God ask His people in Jeremiah 2:5a?

    God asks his people, “When have I ever done you wrong?”

    4. What happens to people who go after worthless idols according to Jeremiah 2:5b?

    The people who go after worthless idols become a waste of a human being.

    The truth that I have squandered the majority of my life looking to idols instead of Christ Jeus kinda makes me want to stick my head in the sand-“Don’t look at me. I’m not worthy!”. But that would be a form of false humility and I don’t want to go there. I like breathing!!!

    5. In Jeremiah 2:6-7

    A. What miracles and blessings have the Israelites forgotten, according to verses 6-7?

    They had forgotten God had:
    1. Freed them from bondage to oppression and slavery.
    2. Taken care of them as he led them through the wilderness for 40 years. They ate life sustaining food which was provided by the hand of heaven. Their clothing nor shoes had worn out. (Deut. 8:4)

    B. Name one way God is working in your life that you do not want to forget.

    God, through the words of Paul in Galatians 5:1, is reminding me on a daily basis not to return to the bondage of illusion. I keep this verse taped by my mirror.

    “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

    6. Again and again in Scripture, God recounts his pain at being forgotten. Underline or mark the phrases…

    Rebelled
    Grieved
    Tested
    Psalm 78:40-42

    Went after her lovers
    but Me she forgot
    Hosea 2:13

    Yet my people have forgotten me
    Jeremiah 2:32

    7. What did the priests and the shepherds of the people forget according to Jeremiah 2:8?

    They forgot the truth of God’s Word. Had they been faithful to God, they would have been reminding the people of what was ahead for them-curses instead of blessings.

    8. What truth about idols does God repeat in Jeremiah 2:11b?

    Idols are not real so it’s useless to bow before them.

    9. Meditate (and memorize) Jeremiah 2:13-14 and explain the two evils God’s people have committed.

    For my people have committed two evils:
    They have forsaken Me the Fountain of living water
    and hewn themseves cisterns-broken cisterns that can hold no water.
    Is Israel a servant?
    Is he a homeborn slave?
    Why is he plundered?

    Israel has forgotten that she was created to be ‘the apple of her God’s eye’. He had not chosen her because she was big and mighty but because he wanted to use her as a testimony to all the nations of his faithfulness and truth. This tiny nation was suppose to be the example of how to live under the authority of the one true God. They exchanged their greatest treasure-knowledge of Yahweh-for nothing. Her choices had led her to live once again in a desolate and parched wilderness only this time she wanted nothing to do with her Shepherd who was trying to lead her to green pastures and cool water. She was as a stubborn sheep who refuses to be corrected. When a sheep gets to that point, the shepherd has no choice but to kill it before the whole flock is corrupted.

    10. Reflect on how we turn good gifts into “broken cisterns” when substitute them for God, the fountain of living waters.

    A. Food

    Why is food a good gift and for what purpose did God give it to us?

    Food is a good gift because it is the life-sustaining provision of our Creator.

    If we abuse it and run to it instead of to God when we are sad or stressed, how can it become harmful, like a broken cistern?

    This is an area I am highly experienced in. The good news is I have been maintaining a weight loss of 80 pounds for the past few months. I still have about 30 pounds to go before I reach my healthy weight. Overeating can cause a great number of health crises. It can cause poverty if you spend more on food than taking care of other financial obligations.
    When I was at my highest weight, I lived with shame and there were times I could feel the full effect of my weight on my body. I often wondered if I would die young because of my weight.

    In moments of temptation, what truth can you speak to your soul?

    Tammy, you CAN live without this piece of … at this moment. Remember, God is your portion. Taste his goodness.

    I don’t have children but I know how easy it is to become envious of those who do. I remind myself that I have been privileged to bear ‘spiritual children’. I also see in hindsight I was blessed to have been barren during my marriage.

    11. If the Stonecutter is whittling away at an idol, at a good thing you made an ultimate thing, share a way you are beginning to enjoy that gift in a way you had not before.

    I am enjoying the fact that I can indeed live without huge quantities of food. I have been paying attention to how I feel when I eat certain amounts of foods and am finding I feel better when I eat smaller portions. I am also accepting the truth that as I age my digestion system is changing and cannot tolerate certain foods anymore. Whenever anyone asks me how I have lost weight I share that it all began with a bible study called ‘Women of Moderation’. It’s slow going at times but I’m not giving up. I know one day I will achieve my goal.

    12. Could you bless Tracy…?

    Tracy you remind me of the breeze that comes through my window. A light wind at the right time to provide refreshment. Thanks for being honest and vulnerable. I can identify with your recent statement: “I sometimes feel perched on the edge of madness”. God Bless You my sister!!!

    1. Tammy, there is such wisdom in your answers–I loved this “you CAN live without this piece of … at this moment. Remember, God is your
      portion.”

      I also appreciated what you said about children. We tried for 10 years before adopting and remember well how hard mother’s day was and the envy. You are also wise to see how He protected you with barrenness in your marriage. I relate to that as well in seeing the protection in our long wait for children–God had so much to work out in us!

    2. Thank you for sharing. SO happy for your weight loss! I plan to get the book “A woman of moderation” Kindle doesn’t carry it which is okay since I will want it in my library. I love the comment about it being slow but you are not giving up. That’s exactly what God is showing me, to be content in the process. Bless you!

    3. Thank you for your kind words, Tammy!

      1. I can’t take credit for the madness quote– Chris said that!

  20. Tracy, I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing; your dream and your commentary about how you “look at blessings as obstacles” was poignant! May God bless all your steps 🙂

    1. Thank you, Dawn. God is helping me work thru that performance driven mentality more & more. It is not easy, though I must keep my mind on Him as He wants good things for us for our edification, enjoyment and overall well being in life. There is no condemnation in Christ!!!!!

  21. 11. If The Stonecutter is whittling away at an idol, at a good thing you made an ultimate thing, share a way you are beginning to enjoy that gift (food, family, facebook) in a way you had not before. I am in the process of letting go of God’s good things in my life. It started back in 2005 on a trip back to where I grew up. The light of this truth first flickered on that trip and is being fanned to a flame. My life is full of free gifts from God, but when I begin to own them is when they begin to own me. This morning my heart swelled with all of the wonder in my life, simple things that I have taken for granted and never truly seen. Family, pets, neighbors, friends and FOOD. My home and all the great things it holds, everything I need and more besides. I was feeling so blessed and I wanted to answer this question this morning but I also really wanted to go to the farmer’s market before it closed. Guess what? More blessing. I spent all 30 some dollars that I had and came home with such bounty. I got all kinds of great food but best of all was a grocery bag full of ripe peaches for 2 dollars.

    Tracy, you are such a blessing for us on this blog. I love your concise thoughts and your openness. It is wonderful that you seek the Lord so fervently at your young age (yes, thirtysomething is young). What a beautiful woman of God you are. I am praying that your health improves and that you realize your dream and more. Love to you.

    1. Thanks, Anne, for praying. I feel as if im just about to turn an important corner in life, healthwise as well as lifewise. So I appreciate prayer more than ever. I think I get frustrated way too easily with where I am vs where I want to be, and that makes my age seem older than it really is because of the delays. But God is good and I really do trust His plan even in vulnerable moments when I am feeling sad and even am weeping into my pillow at 3 am… joy will come in the morning, of this I am certain. A great blessing God has given me is a deeply loving Christian mom, and she says God has told her that He has great things in store for me.

  22. Chris S.,
    I’ve been looking for your post (in both last week’s blog and this week’s blog) where you asked if Marie and I would share our stories. Your posting came to my email, but I can’t find it here. I’m sorry–I’ve been buried in grading the past couple of weeks (next week too!) and will be out of town for work next week. Not sure how much I will be able to be on here. Feel free to email me at reneeoATbrookingsDOTnet.

    Reading through this week’s posts is making me antsy to get back 🙂 Thanks for what all of you have been posting.

    Tracy, your post about your age cracked me up! Your sense of humor will get you far in journalism/mass media 🙂 God’s blessings as you continue to seek Him.

    1. Thank you, Renee! I think my slightly off-the-wall sense of humor is one of Hod’s greatest gifts! Every day needs a touch of humor.

      1. Meant God instead of “Hod”— who knew Hod is even a word??

  23. I applogize for not doing better on the blog. I am going through a hard time now with my sister-in-law dying and trying to console my brother everyday and have a hot meal for him each day (He never learnt to cook) and baked things for him to take home, as his wife always had desserts for him. He is so thin and aged so much in the past several months. I pray the Lord would take Mary kay home with him as she is not able to speak or move or swallowing well. This is torture for both of them. He is with her everyday and evening and I am at the nursing home alot when Dennis isn’t here. He doesn’t want me to leave. He weeps everyday. It just seems to take everything I have each day to cope. It sounds like I’m making excuses, but Kendra is 24/7 for me and I’m in pain all the time. My 2nd back surgery is June 3rd. I am worried about Kendra having seizures again when she see’s mommy in the hospital and Dennis said he is worried about me and he doesn’t need anything else to worry about. But I have to take care of myself or I’m not going to be good for anyone. My husband will do everything he can to help too. God seems distant to me and I’m not studying like I should. I’m trying to do so much but seems like I get nothing done. I need God so much. I can’t sleep either. I would appreciate your prayers. I am praying for everyone here.

    Tracy, You are a treasure and I love you.

    1. Joyce, I just wish there was some way I could be there physically to help you! It is hard to read what all you have on your plate and not be able to help–but I know Dee is so wise, we will hold you in our prayers, He wants to carry your burdens. I am writing down June 3–praying in advance for your protection and for sweet Kendra.

      Know that you are so cared for~

    2. Thanks, Joyce. 🙂

  24. I too am struggling with my adult teens. I am just beginning to realize they are
    My idols after reading the lesson for the week. Where is the line between helping them learn how to live and not making them my idol? My daughter is out of control and I am trying hard to help her (and have been for the past year) but she won’t listen and continues on a path of destruction. She has a very low iq and can be led into anything (good or bad). I fear for her life often. God doesn’t seem to be near even though I study his word, go to church and participate (I am a liturgical dancer) and pray. Letting go of the control makes me feel like I am a bad mother because I shouldn’t give up, right? I’m so confused.

    1. Laura, I so relate to you. When my daughter was going through her teen yrs I never prayed so much. She put herself in harms way and I finally had to give it up to God. She had moved out of the house, into an area that I could not even feel safe in visiting her. I learned what tough love meant in those months she was gone. God did intecede and although something devasting happened, it brought her back to our family and to the Lord. She is now happily married living in Florida, I am in Ohio, and she battles bipolar/manic depressant. She has a loving husband and he and I communicate constantly helping each other maintain the strength and patience when she is off on taking her dosage of meds. He is a strong Christian man who had battles of his own getting to the place he is now. Through much prayer, and counsel I found there is a point we as parents have to love them, pray for them and allow them to find their own way. I was a very involved parent, so for me to learn to, let go and let God was very difficult. My daughter knew I loved her and would always be there to help pick up the pieces, but she also learned I would no longer enable her behavior. The hardest thing I ever did was pack up her entire bedroom and put everything including her bed and dresser in our garage and when she finally came home to announce she was moving out and proceeded to go to her room for her things I stopped her and directed her to the garage. It was an eye opener for her because I don’t think she ever imagined I was strong enough to finally make a stand. I made her a tape and told her to listen to it when she had the time. Once she returned home, she told me she listened to the tape and cried because she knew how much her decisions and behavior had hurt me, her Dad and our family. Her apartnment had caught fire, suspected arson, she happened to be at our house that day for Thanksgiving dinner. When I went to help her gather what could be resolved the Precious Moment bible we had given her sat completely in tact not a smoke damage to it.

      Just keep on praying because while she may not be listening to you, I guarantee God is. HE hears our cries, HE knows our heart and HE will answer our prayers. I will pray for you and for your daughter.

    1. Thanks, Dee. I certainly have moments of frustration & despair but try to keep my eyes on God.