WE HAVE BEGUN A JOURNEY WE WILL
BE ON FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES
STONES ARE BEING CHISELED
HEARTS OF FLESH RELEASED
TO LOVE, TO FEEL, AND TO EXPERIENCE
THE POWER OF GOD
This week, before the beauty of concentrating on Thanksgiving and Advent, we will review where we’ve been, and as part of that review, discuss a movie that portrays some of the themes we’ve discussed. The Tree of Life grapples with what Romans 6, 7, 8 calls the old nature (simply called nature in the film) and the new nature (called grace in the film) and with the difficult question of suffering, drawing upon the close of Job. The story of this Texas family shows how “nature” and its natural bent of clinging to idols destroys, and how “grace” and its gift of trusting God can overcome. I’ve received e-mails from those wondering why I would recommend this movie, and it true it is not a light movie, but I believe it to be one, when discussed, that may act as a hammer in the shattering of stones in your heart. I was so moved by it in so many ways. I sensed the quickening of God on the writer/producer — more than he may have even realized. To my knowledge, none of the lead actors are believers, yet God used them. (As He used Cyrus, “though he does not know me” to free the Jews.) It might be a movie to discuss over the holidays with people you love — even non-Christians.
Here is an excellent review from Christianity Today which I recommend that you read before watching. (They feel it is appropriate for children and I do too, though not the very young.) Here is that review:
When we began, I asked you to begin to identify a heart idol. Tim Keller, in Counterfeit Gods, identifies three primary heart idols.
So often in the past we have tried to work on the “near sin” but ignored the deep heart idol. For example, someone with the near sin of losing his temper might try to count to ten, but as long as he ignores his deep heart idol of control, he will not be likely to have victory. It isn’t enough to try harder, or to be a faithful church goer, but you absolutely must identify how you are trusting in something other than God. We all do it, for it is our natural bent.
In the same way, someone with a near sin of overeating, overspending, or oversleeping may get a better diet, budget, or alarm clock — but until she allows God to be her comfort instead of food, or shopping, or sleep, she will not have victory.
We may have never considered that we have an idolatry problem. We are simply living in a way that feels natural, or, as The Tree of Life puts it, “the way of nature.”The father in The Tree of Life loved his family, and yet he nearly destroyed them, and passed down his abusive ways to his eldest son. It isn’t until he loses the job that he gave his all to that he sees the clay feet of his idol. We may not realize we are living for power or approval or comfort — but seeing our idols and how they destroy is indeed, half the battle. Realizing they are not our friends can change our whole lives, as many of you have seen.
We also learned that idols cannot be removed, only replaced. We must allow, in faith, to allow God to be our approval, our comfort, our security, our control… That is a journey that happens as we abide in Him, and as we practice the habit of turning from the darkness of our idol to the light of the One True God. Repenting must become like breathing. The more you experience God’s love, the more you long for it, and your heart of flesh will continue to be released.
Sunday/Monday (Icebreaker and make plans to see the movie)
1. During our journey, name at least one heart idol you identified and ways that You saw the Stonecutter move in your life, both in chiseling the stone and in being to you what your idol could not be.
Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study
The prophets use the terms of idolatry and adultery almost interchangeably. Their point is that sin is not so much “breaking a rule,” but breaking God’s heart. Hosea was commanded to marry an unfaithful woman as a living parable for God’s people, that we might see the futility of running after our idols, how we are breaking God’s heart, and what He longs to show us about Himself.
When Kathy Troccoli and I were praying what book of the Bible we would use for the third in our trilogy about approaching Jesus as our bridegroom, Kathy wanted to do portraits of Christ from The Gospel of John. I wanted to do portraits of Christ from the prophet Hosea. After praying for God’s heart and likemindedness of two very strong-willed and different women, one night, I woke suddenly in the middle of the night thinking, “I wonder if we might see the same portraits of Jesus in both the writings of Hosea and the writings of John.” I could already see The Redeemer, The Lion, and The Bridegroom in both — but the most important portraits of Jesus in John are the eight great I AM’s, and I didn’t see THE GREAT I AM in Hosea. But I wondered… I went downstairs in the middle of the night and curled up with Hosea in my green leather chair — might I find THE GREAT I AM? During that reading I wondered if THE GREAT I AM might be seen, in the negative in Hosea 2:2. The next day I called Dorian Coover-Cox, a Hebrew expert at Dallas Seminary, and she confirmed it. She said, “YES! YES! He is saying, because of your infidelities, for a time, I am separating from you — and I AM NOT your husband. It’s temporary, to bring her to her senses, and He sees a day when she will again call Him her husband and He will enable her to keep her covenant.” Forever in Love with Jesus therefore shows the portraits of Christ that are in both Hosea and John,because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And it is filled with amazing portraits by Martin French done especially for that study.
2. Read Hosea 2
A. Why is the Lord going to “separate” from His people, saying I am not her husband, according to verses 1-2?
B. Why, according to verse 5, did she decide to go after her lovers?
C. What does she not realize, according to verse 8?
D. Describe God’s heartbreak in verse 13. How has this fact helped you resist your idols more effectively than approaches in the past? Be specific by describing the old approach and the new approach.
E. Why did God lead His bride into the wilderness? Meditate long on Hosea 2:14-15.
F. Describe a way that the failure of an idol in your life ultimately led to you hearing God’s tender voice.
G. In Hosea 2:16-23, describe how we will be truly changed when we see Jesus face to face. (“In that Day”)
H. What stands out to you from Hosea 2 and why?
3. Preparation for watching The Tree of Life
A. The movie opens with Job 38:4. Read this verse in context. What point is God making to Job with this verse and with the ensuing questions in the close of this magnificent book?
B. Suffering can turn our hearts to stone if we do not trust God, but God has given us far more evidence than Job ever had for us to trust Him. Name a few things that you can cling to when suffering comes.
4. The movie opens with the statement that there are two ways of life — the way of grace and the way of nature. Meditate on this passage from Romans 6:
12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
In terms of our Stonecutter study, you often have the choice during the day to present yourself to your idol or to trust God. What promise can you find in verse 14 and what does this tell you about “the way of nature/idols” and “the way of grace/God.”
5. There is a point in the movie where the eldest son is becoming abusive like his father and he quotes Romans – I do not do what I want to do, but I do what I hate. How have you experienced the power of sin spiraling you down — and how has God been able to reach down and rescue you?
REFLECTING ON THE MOVIE (Friday-Saturday)
6. WHAT CHRISTIAN THEMES STOOD OUT TO YOU FROM THE MOVIE AND WHY?
7. DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT WAS SAID ABOUT “THE WAY OF GRACE” AND “THE WAY OF NATURE” IN THE OPENING? COMMENT, IF YOU DO.
8. THERE IS A KALIEDOSCOPE OF IMAGES FROM THE CLOSE OF JOB AND THEREFORE CREATION IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE MOVIE. (NOTE THAT THEY TAKE PLACE IN THE SAME AREA THE BOYS PLAYED.) WHAT STOOD OUT TO YOU AND WHY? FAVORITE IMAGES?
9. The mother represents grace, but grace does not mean licentiousness or freedom from the law. Find examples of when she talked sternly to her eldest son about his abuse. When you are aware of a parent’s love (or God’s love) why is obedience more likely?
10. What do you think the father’s idol was and why? How was it bringing destruction?
11. What awakened the father to the futility of his idol? What evidence of repentance did you see in the father in his words to his wife after the son died?
12. Do you think the mother could have handled the situation any differently? Why or why not?
13. What did you think the closing scene represented?
14. Describe the forgiveness scene between the two brothers. Comment.
15. Why do you think the movie was called “The Tree of Life?”
16. What was your take-a-way from the movie — positive or negative?