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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?




The Tree of Life




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?


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  1. Ladies

    I really need some prayer… I am not doing very well at all, I have given into temptation twice.. my quiet times are awful and being too dependent on someone that i am not taking good care of myself.. I am either not eating hardly anything or eating so much that i feel sick. I am also not making good choices regarding my money.. spending money i shouldnt please pray!

    Love you all!

    1. Praying for you Meg. You are in a difficult season but the Lord is faithful. Cling to Him. Saying no to your flesh is not easy and will not come without opposition from our enemy. Greater is He that is us than he that is in the world!

  2. this is the facebook post of my friend. her husband is 45 and they have 7 children ages 3-20 please join me in praying for his recovery!

    While I’m home for a few hours to see the children I will update those who are praying for Mark. I can honestly say it is only by God’s perfect timing and the hundreds who are praying that Mark is still here. They had to shock him 15 times over the course of an hour last night. We were coming to the ER for a chest xray bc I thought he had pneumonia (which he does). He walked in and at one time even thought we should go home bc the ER was overkill. God has seen to have him at the right place at the right time. He is in a hypothermic state to preserve his organs and will start to be warmed up very slowly. Our biggest prayer at this time is that there is little to no damage to the heart and that his body responds well to coming out of the coma and hypothermic state. He is critical but stable right now. Your prayers are the only thing getting us through and we ask for continued prayers as he is not out of the woods yet. Thanks so much! God is good!

    1. praying right now cyndi

  3. I am sorry that I have not been able to be on this week. It has been a week where I have had almost no margin in my life and it has just been too much. I skimmed over some of the posts this afternoon, in between cleaning, and preparing for next week, when there will be 13 of us at our house for a few days. My heart is aching as I see so much pain in many of your lives and I am praying for you.

  4. I watched the movie again and I’m so glad I did. I saw so much more! Going to finish questions now.

  5. 6. After 2nd watching the greatest theme to me is the difference between law and grace and how each affects us.

    7. The way of nature wants only to please itself and it gets others to please it too. All I remember said about the way of grace is that no one who comes to it comes to a bad end. I thought that not necessarily so because bad things do happen to good people. Now I think it is definitely so. My thinking was too worldly to see it.

    8. It may seem weird but the sea creatures that were so ugly also possessed beauty and grace as they swam. It was an odd combination. Also, among the dinosaurs I saw both the way of nature but also the way of grace. The one dinosaur on the beach was mortally wounded probably by a shark. Then the next scene is a dinosaur lying in the riverbed. A different kind of dinosaur comes upon it but does not kill it, maybe because there was no reason to, but I did expect it to kill.

    9. The first time was when he was a toddler and wanted to throw a toy at his brother who was a baby. When he was older he was defiant and finally told her that he was not going to do everything she said. The last time she just didn’t say anything, but he knew and felt her disappointment. It bothered him but he was out of control. His father’s was the way of nature and he broke all the rules because he hated the law.

    10. The father’s idol was approval I think. He wanted to be admired for success. He also wanted to be loved by his sons. He tried to force them to love him. I saw it first when he was holding one of them as a baby. As they got older his idol became more demanding, especially after the disappointment with his patents. That was when his authoritarianism got really bad.

    11. I think it was love that awakened the father. I saw a turn in him after the incident with Jack in the garden. Something had destroyed the leaves of a crop and he was picking out the damaged leaves. Jack squatted down beside him and began to help. He loved his father by sharing his sorrow over the crop and his father responded. There was a big difference in him after that.

    After the death of the son he spoke of regret for having shamed that son.

    12. I don’t think the mother could have done anything different that would have changed anything. She could have stood up to him but I don’t think it would have changed his heart. It would just have been fighting.

    13. All through the movie we see the adult Jack trying to walk through wastelands, dry, rocky places impossible to walk in. In the closing scene young Jack calls to him. He follows him and comes through to wide open space on a beach where there are many people, including family and friends he grew up with. Then we see Jack back in his high rise with the first smile I saw on him and the movie was over. I think he found the way of grace by remembering what he knew as a child. At one point when Jack was a boy he realized that he had known God before he could name Him.

    I loved the part where the mother releases her son to God. I think those were angels ministering as she raised her hands in release.

    I have a completely different take away now. The way of nature is disobedience. The way of grace is love resulting in obedience. I loved this movie!

  6. All I can say about the movie is that I like your comments about the movie better than the movie. While the dad was authoritarian which is not the best parenting, he wasn’t what I would consider a bad or cruel father, he just wasn’t a good one. He loved them, hugged them and spent time trying to teach them what he thought was most important. The scene where the middle boy tells the father to be quiet was when I thought that the dad was going to cross the line and start beating them, but he didn’t. He just yelled, put them in their room and threw a fit (thank God there isn’t a camera in my house when I’ve lost it!). He would have been a good parent if he had later apologized to his children for blowing it and worked on his issues, but he didn’t and he suffered much for it later on.
    I thought that the mother undermined the dad behind his back by letting the boys do all of the things that he didn’t want them to do, even going so far as to let them mimic his voice and mock his authority. While her motive may have been to make their lives more pleasant when she could, it kind of came off as wanting to be the better parent in her boys’ eyes.
    I have to admit that my mind doesn’t do impressions and artistic themes very well, so I really had a hard time sitting through it. I guess I enjoy dialogue more that imagery.
    Thanks for all of your input because I think I now see what the writer was trying to convey that I just wasn’t getting.

    1. Thanks to both of you for your kind words. Dawn I appreciate your honesty. I am not proud of some times I have ‘gone off’ either, but since dealing with idolatry it seems to be much less if at all. Wow, there is a Thanksgiving praise for me and my family!

      You have a great point about the mother. She did have anger toward the father and may have been dealing with it in a passive aggressive manner. There was no intimacy for sure.